Scissors & Paste

“Anything but pleasant are the reflections induced by reading the annual report of the Prison Commissioners. The number of prisoners under lock and key in English gaols during the year was 9,448 in excess of the previous-year’s total—the figures being 205,681 as against 196,233.
“Those continuously high numbers caused a great strain on the cell accommodation, and the Commissioners say that, if the numbers remain high, and keep pace with the growth of population, the question of providing more accommodation must arise in the near future.
“As to the causes of the growth in the number of commitments to local prisons the Commissioners are emphatic in their opinion that the principle one is unemployment.
“We cannot (they say) ignore the grave warnings of the report of the Poor Law Commissioners as to the effect of what they call “the new problem of chronic under-employment.” If, as stated, it is not only chronic, but increasing rapidly, and if we are to have an increasing aggregation of unskilled labour at our great ports and in our populous districts, we must be prepared for an increase of these minor offences against the law which are believed to be directly, or indirectly, the consequence of unemployment.'”—”Lloyd’s News,” 20.9.09.

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In face of the foregoing what becomes of the old idealistic cry that education would abolish crime ? Is it not again demonstrated that the dominating social factor is economic conditions ? It should be noted, moreover, that the chief increase in crime is in offences against property, which form an overwhelming proportion of the whole. Statistics for past years show that the growth of crime against property is not temporary, but persistent. This is traceable to the fact that while the master class is growing richer the workers are becoming poorer. The gross amount of incomes subject to the Income Tax has increased by over £300,000,000 since 1894 ; but for the workers it has been a tale of pauperism and unemployment, more intense exploitation, and wider-spreading poverty.

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The share of the workers in the growing wealth of “the country” is further indicated by the following facts regarding the increase of pauperism, which are culled from the Daily Chronicle, 15.9.09.

“A Local Government Board return states that in 1908 pauperism was higher than in 1907. On January 1, 1909, there were 959,848 persons in receipt of relief, as compared with 928,671 on January 1, 1908 — an increase of 3.4 per cent.
“The number of able-bodied men relieved on account of ‘want of work or other causes’ (6,374) showed the very large increase of 133 per cent., as compared with the figure (2,732) for the previous year. Besides the assistance granted to able-bodied poor, under the Poor-law, it should be remembered, says the report, that the Distress Committees, in London and the provinces, and the Central (Unemployed) Body for London afforded assistance by relief works, emigration, and in other ways. The total number of persons provided with work by provincial Distress Committees and by the Central Body in in the year ended March 31, 1909, was 88,190 while, 1,139 persons were assisted to emigrate.”

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Another point. While crime, unemployment, and poverty have become more rife, we learn that drunkenness is decreasing, and (according to the tables prepared by the late Dr. Dawson Burns) that the annual drink bill of the United Kingdom has declined continuously during the past ten years. Yet there are desciples of Ananias unpunished by the hand of God, who still maintain that drink is the chief cause of poverty ! The teetotal fanatic is hoist by his own petard, for is not his claim that drink is at the bottom of practically all poverty completely demolished by the fact that crime and pauperism have increased side by side with a considerable and continued decline in the consumption of alcoholic liquors.

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Mr. George Bernard Shaw, speaking on Oct. 20th at Walsall, said, among other silly things, that “the middle classes were the most heavily burdened people in the country, because they were not represented in Parliament” ! He went on to advise the “middle class” that “the only way for you to get properly represented is to take a leaf from the working man’s book and organise and subscribe.” As a peregrinating “middle-class” paradox, Mr. Shaw has a certain popularity, and it can only be the need of sustaining that popularity that caused him to make the ineffably silly statement that the “middle” class is the most heavily burdened in the country. Through the whole of Mr. Shaw’s buffoonery, however, there runs a constant serious purpose. It is to organise the “middle” class— not for any ‘ism—but for “middle” class interests as distinct from the rest. Socialism, in his mouth, simply means “middle-class” supremacy, government of the people by the “middle” class for the benefit of the “middle” class. It is a “Socialism” of the “expert” Fabian brand, with the workers left out in the cold.

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“Dr. Macnamara, in a strong speech, declared that Radicalism was irrevocably opposed to the principles on which Socialism was based.” Thus the Daily Chronicle of October 21st. And it is remarkable how closely the responsible Liberal agrees with his Tory compeer when it comes to a question of Socialism, Other prominent Liberals have made a point of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s of Mr. Balfour’s pronouncement on this matter. Mr. Alexander Ure, the Lord Advocate, is a case in point. After denying that there was any Socialism in the Budget he went on to say

“The people are beginning to discover that Socialism and social reform are two entirely different things. In this respect I adopt entirely the definition of the two things given by Mr. Balfour at Birmingham in 1907 :—

‘Socialism has one meaning and one meaning only. Socialism means, and can mean nothing less, that the community is to take all the means of production into its own hands, and that private enterprise and private property is to come to an end. That is Socialism and nothing else is Socialism.
Social reform is when the State, based on private enterprise and based on private property—recognising that the result can only be obtained by respecting private property and encouraging private enterprise, asks men to contribute towards great national, social and public objects. That is social reform.’

“I adopt these two definitions in their entirety. They could not be better put. I contend that our proposals fall under the latter description, and not under the former.”
“Daily Chronicle,” 1.10.09.

Exactly. There is not a grain of Socialism in the Budget. Far from being a measure intended to benefit the workers, it is one for strengthening private property and encouraging private enterprise ; and it is precisely from this capitalist private property and enterprise that the ills of the workers flow.

Prominent statesmen have rightly called social reform the antidote to Socialism, yet even as an antidote social reform must fail at last. Firstly because it is aimed not so much at relieving any of the misery caused by capitalist development as at enabling that development to proceed at a faster rate, and this brings a still further increase of exploitation and misery in its train. And secondly, because even if genuinely intended it would be impossible for reform to reverse the trend of economic developement; while the nature and interests of the ruling class is in itself a guarantee of the worthlessness of reform to the workers. It is inevitable that, under capitalism, the pressure upon the workers must increase ; for were one childish enough to credit the masters with trying to promote the interests of the workers, it would, nevertheless, have to be admitted that all that capitalists could do would be entirely insufficient to counteract the dire influence of the industrial development of their system. By whatever road he travels the worker is inevitably brought face to face with the fact that in Socialism, and in Socialism alone, lies the hope of his class.

F. C.

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