The Salvation Army and the Working Class II


“The army of friars should be absolute mendicants, keeping themselves sternly apart from all worldly etanglements . . . Within thirty years of Francis I death in 1226, the Franciscans had become one of the most powerful, wealthy and worldly corporations in Christ¬endom, with their fingers in every sink of political and social corruption, if so be profit for the order could be fished out of it. . . . Who is to say that the Salvation Army in the year 1930 shall not be the replica of what the Franciscan order had become in the year 1640” —T .H. Huxley, “Social Diseases and Worse Remedies.”

A Prophecy Fulfilled
In its haste get rich quick “for God,” the Salvation Army has literally fallen over itself, thereby justifying Huxley’s forecast with ten years to spare.

It must be borne in mind that the Booth trading concerns are a religious growth, carefully to be distinguished from those undertakings to which the “Social” Scheme has given birth.

“Each territory or country,” we are told, “has its own trade department, but that connected with International headquarters . . . buys and manufactures largely for oversea territories.” In the early days of the “Army” a penny song-book and monthly magazine were published. The latter afterwards became the “War Cry.” Later on “certain articles of uniform were required by our officers. These being difficult to procure elsewhere, we had them prepared and sold them ourselves. From these modest efforts the present trade operations—in their large and ever-increasing proportions—sprang.” (Salvation Army Year Book, 1907)

We are further assured that “trading is now a Salvation Army necessity,” and that “the ‘Army’ must buy and sell.”

Wage-Slavery for God
After this authoritative pronouncement, if any doubting Thomas yet remains, he is passified by being told that “the entire profits are devoted to the extension of the spiritual work. Sovereigns mean souls. The trading is done for God, and the aim of the ‘Army’ is that strict truth and righteousness actuate every transaction. Every Salvationist ought, therefore, to buy all he needs or can from the Trade department.”

Let us glance at what is being done “for God.”

In addition to religious publications and uniforms, the official list of articles sold includes among others too numerous to mention :

Women’s dresses.
Men’s and children’s suits.
Boots and shoes.
China and glass.
Pianos and organs (hire system).
Flannelette and “Non-Flam.”
Sewing machines.
Furniture of all kinds
Bicycles and mailcarts.
Printing, bookbinding and stationery.
Watches and clocks.
Bags and portmanteaus.
Bread—families waited on daily.
Tea, coffee and cocoa.
Etc., etc.

The Heavenly Whiteley
Here we have (in this extract from an official trade department catalogue) proof positive that the ‘Army’ thinks it is justified in competing with the ordinary tradesman in the supply of almost everything, by taking advantage of its peculiar position, reputation and influence.

Moreover it is not only to “members” that the goods in which it deals are supplied. The circulation of the “War Cry” and “Social Gazette” is mainly amongst a class of folk who, whilst perhaps in sympathy with the Salvation Army, are not actually members of that body. Specious advertisements in both the journals referred to, constantly invite the reader to apply for this or that particular trade list or catalogue. In these advertisements all the well-known catchpenny devices for attracting “business” are employed. The following is an example—one out of many. It speaks for itself (“Social Gazette,” Dec. 4. 1909).

Christmas is the season for giving. The custom has suggested our doing something for our friends which may add a drop to the cup of gladness which we hope will come full to the brim to all our customers this Christmas time. To make a direct gift would be impossible, however great the desire to do so. We propose to do something, however, that will, we hope, be regarded as almost, if not quite, as acceptable to those able to participate.
A. A pair of Trousers, usual price 11s, for 5s. 6d.
or B. A Woman’s Honeycomb, Jersey Blouse, usual price 5s. 6d., for 2s. 9d.
or C. A pair of Men’s ‘Fortress’ Boots, usual price 9s. 11d., for 4s. 11½d.
or D. A pair of Women’s ‘Favourite’ Boots, usual price 8s. 11d., for 4s. 5½ d.
or E. A Girl’s Winter Coat, usual price 7s. 6d., for 3s. 9d.
1. One of the Half-Price Articles supplied with every order not less than £1 in amount, not counting the half-price article, cash for which must be sent in addition. Customers may send as many £1 orders as they wish. For every such order is given the option to purchase one of the half-price articles.
2. The goods to be selected from our Uniform and Outfit Catalogue, or from our Christmas Sheet of USEFUL PRESENTS whhich will be sent FREE ON APPLICATION.

Under the cloak of religion then the strongest possible appeal is made to the prospective customer’s love of—not God, but—a good bargain.

How it is done
It is moreover the duty of the “field-officer” (wage-slave commanding a religious corps) to take a lively interest in the trade, push it and try to increase it as much as possible. He must announce the visits of Trade Headquarters’ representatives . . . and afford every facility . . . for getting into touch with his soldiers and friends. These poor wretches are so badly paid (18s. a week if unmarried and 27s. a week if married) that they are forced to push the sale of goods. (Orders and regulations for Field officers. 1904)

For this they receive commission. And mind you, the wages are only paid after all the local expenses of the corps have been met. In case the unfortunate officer, for some reason or other, is unable to meet the weekly expenses, he gets practically no wages at all. A pretty picture, forsooth. Enough to make one’s blood boil. The harassed victim of the malpractices of Booth & Co., forced to undersell and cut the price of commodities which have themselves been produced by sweated labour. And this in good “Salvationese” is called “earning a sovereign for the Kingdom of God” !

Booth and Boots
Apropos of underselling, a quotation from the “Army’s” boot and shoe catalogue makes interesting reading :

“The following argues in favour of the low price of our boots :
The representative of a manufacturing firm remarked recently that we were selling a certain class of their boots 1s. 9d. per pair less than they were to be obtained at several shops mentioned by him. We were ignorant of the prices of any of the goods sold by the retailers mentioned . . . Any idea of “cutting” the price was, therefore, quite out of the question, showing that either we buy better or are content with smaller profits.”

The official apologist does not tell us which of these two factors—the ‘Army’s’ ability to buy better or its being contented with smaller profits—determines the price of boots.

Possibly a jocular remark made by “General” Booth when about to leave for America (Sept. 1907) may throw a little light on the subject.

“If you are not willing to be sweated,” said he, “don’t have anything to do with the Salvation Army.”

The pious old jester referred to the “field-officers” in the religious work, but inasmuch as we are told that “the trading is done for God” it is quite likely—if the truth were known—(not so easy to come at, that same truth) that the workers and distributors in the “Army’s” trade departments are not paid such handsome salaries as obtain in shops and stores, where profit is the primary consideration and “God” has to be content with a back seat (or shelf) for six days in the week. These factors will probably be found to have some bearing, not only on the price of the “Army’s” boots, but upon its successful competition with the ordinary labour market.

And at this point we are brought face to face with the crux of the whole matter.

The Cheap-Jacks of Religion
Is the Salvation Army able to create a new or increased demand for the commodities it supplies through the agency of its huge religious staff ? If it is not, then the effect of its participation in the production and distribution of such commodities must necessarily diminish the demand for goods which are produced under the ordinary conditions of the labour market.

In proportion as the “Army” increases its production of those commodities more workers will be employed (by the “Army”) under especially bad economic conditions, and fewer will be the number of those employed (by the ordinary capitalist) at ordinary wages.

The following is taken from the cover of a juvenile clothing catalogue issued by the “Army,” and will serve to give some slight idea as to whether the “Army” is creating a new demand or merely competing with and underselling the ordinary market:

“I am a representative of the Salvation Army Outfit department … I am glad that I belong to the Salvation Army, as people will not only listen to what I say, but will know they can believe what I tell them. I am devoted to the selling of children’s clothing. Every moment of my life, night and day, is given up to it. I am in every way up-to date, although it is myself that says it … I am not afraid of the keenest competition. Compare my prices with those of other sellers of juvenile clothing. I shall like it, and have no doubt about my coming out on top.”

With the “Army’s” launching out into the wholesale and retail tea and coffee business—its incursion into many other departments of trade—we have, unfortunately, no space to deal. For fuller details of this interesting subject we must commend on readers to Mr. Manson’s work.

The “Flannel” Fraud
But as a final illustration of the lengths to which this hydra-headed monstrous fraud is prepared to go in its desire to “sell,” the story of the “flannelette” is too good to be passed over. We accordingly rescue it from an undeserved oblivion, leaving it to our readers for judgment.

On September 22, 1906, a column advertisement appeared in the “Social Gazette.” This took the form of an “Open letter to Parents” signed by Lieut.-Col. Simpson (the “Army’s” trade Secretary). Big black capitals were splashed all over the page directing urgent at¬tention to the dangers incurred by little children from the use of ordinary flannelette— “1,500 children burned to death in 1905—Save the little ones,” etc., etc.

“Your duty then is plain,” said the worthy Colonel, “send for the Army’s ‘Non-Flam,’ an excellent safety flannelette . . . Your duty is plain . . . Not to use for the precious little ones the dangerous fabric, which has been the cause of so much suffering and death.”

Now the colonel’s own department had been selling ordinary flannelette for years before the date on which this advertisement appeared. It is, to say the least, remarkable that his department continued to advertise it even after the discovery and adoption of “Non-Flam.” Six months later we find a drapery catalogue advertising—yes—”Non-Flam,” but giving precedence and nearly three times the space to—flannelettes at 2¾ d to 8½d. per yard !

None of these were described as non-inflammable. People were even urged to write for patterns of these dangerous materials as being “of exceptional value”—”cheaper than many leading drapers,” etc.

Apparently Colonel Simpson’s principles were his own and could, therefore, be sacrificed. The remainder of the flannelette was Booth & Co’s. and could not !

(To be continued)


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