Bounty babies

Smiling mothers everywhere, clasping their new arrivals as though they hadn’t a care in the world. Thus the highly coloured posters picture the thirty bob benefit, the “endowment of motherhood,” under the “People’s Insurance Act.”

In the black hells of mining villages, midst the smoky and dirt-ridden factory towns, and around the death-stricken courts and alleys of dockland—there faces you this poster. In foul St. Helens, in Dante’s Dowlais, in unprintable Canning Town—there is this cynical caricature displayed.

Mark the pink and glowing faces of the wives of workingmen, the mothers of the working class. There is no deathly pallor there, no line of sorrow or privation, no mark of haunting worry and anxiety. No, all these are wiped out by the hand that was going to “banish poverty from every hearth” in three years.

Provided they have paid in sufficient to clear administration charges, the doctor’s “eight and six,” the sanatorium’s cost, the druggist’s demands, the approved society’s levy, etc., and if they have enough then left, the mother is to get thirty bob ! But to win this she must do without sickness benefit for two weeks before and four weeks after confinement. The medical benefit also is withdrawn when the “thirty pieces of silver” come. The doctor is not supplied. He must be paid out of the money. So must the midwife, and all the other expenses. It is open to the approved society to provide these and pocket your thirty pieces. If the mother seeks the portals of the lying-in hospital, they get her money. If the child is still born, then it is a case for the referees, lawyers, medicos, etc. These are the joys that await the woman who presents her “marriage lines” to the commissioners and her babe to a grateful country.

The Liberal frauds even boast that one million mothers of the working class are going to be made happy with this thirty bob every year. It is a significant comment upon the prevailing social system that in the richest country in the world one million mothers stand in need of a thirty-shilling dole to enable them to bring their babies into the world. Think who it is that require this assistance. It is the wives of the workers, not of the idlers ; the toiling wives, not the won’t-work women, who need it—and who have to pay for it.

I have sometimes wondered what the result would be if an official called with a “maternity” benefit upon a parasitic partner—say Mrs. John Jacob Astor, the “Titanic” heroine, who brought the three-million-pound baby into the world, or Mrs. Vanderbilt, who gave birth to a millionaire child at Wimbledon lately. The idler’s wife would collapse with horror at the bare suggestion that she stood in need of such humiliating aid, and the footman would do things which hurt.

One million workers’ babies need bounties ! One million veteran and broken toilers need pensions for the December of their days. Thus confesses the Government. If the babes only knew ! If they live through the strife and struggle of the dozen years of childhood, what lies beyond ? They have to serve the sentence of close on sixty years hard labour—sixty years of servitude passed upon them by the owners, the robbers, of the world’s wealth.

Not only hard labour at bench, or machine, but hard labour in the weary, heart-breaking, never-ceasing round of visits to the slave exchange, the factories and workshops, begging a job.

There is the incentive. After sixty years of back-breaking toil they will stand in dire need of a pensioner’s dole. But the babies do not know, go they live on.

No, not all of them. Only some of the toilers’ children escape the clutches of Death. The Registrar General in bis report tells us that in the mining towns of Durham, in the Rhondda Valley, in the cotton-weaving town of Burnley, in the pottery town of Longton, and in many other places, 200 out of every 1,000 children born are done with life before they are one year old. What is being done to stop tbis murder ? Precious little, even in the face of the steadily falling birth-rate. As Father Ring and otbers have shown, as lying in hospitals have reported, the children of the transport workers died off like flies at the time of the strike because their mothers were starved by the callous scoundrels who own and control the means of life.

In textile factories, in dressmakers’ and tailors’ workshops, in pottery bakehouses, in chainmaking sheds, in jute mills and matchmakers’ mortuaries, there sweat the mothers of the toilers’ race. In creches, in nurseries, in open streets and blindalleys, and in locked rooms their loved ones must be left while they mint millions for the parasites and their pets. No wonder Lancashire doctors report that in time of strikes and lock-outs the early days are-marked by declining infant mortality and illness. This is because the mothers are set free to look after their little ones. True, as in East London,, when the dispute lasts long all this improvement is wiped out by the starvation that inevitably ensues.

The children of Carthage were sacrificed to Moloch, but the quick death of these was merciful, for all its seeming barbarity, by comparison with the lingering torture of the starved mites of the modern workers. The newspapers are full of sickening stories from the “homes” where the babies are brought to die. The present Tooting case, where five infants died within a week, is an example.

Again, the Southwark Coroner pointed out on November 12 that 600 children are burnt to death every year in England—mainly the tragedy of flannelette ! Flannel is not for the infants of the working class.

After infancy, school, for a meagre and begrudged apology for education, rushed through in the shortest possible space of time. The Board of Education tells us that of those fourteen years of age only 36 per cent. are at day school—the rest are at work !

The masters, however, want, the children before they are fourteen. The Interdepartmental Committee on the Partial Exemption of School Children (1909) said (vide Report): “It was most strongly represented to us by millowners round Bradford and Halifax that any restriction, on the supply is liable to cause inconvenience to employers.” The half-time system meets the masters’ demands in that it is cheap and the children are docile.

Ever since 1900 the number of half-timers has steadily risen. It rose from 74,000 in that year to 78,000 in 1903, 80,000 in 1904, 82,000 in 1906, 85,000 in 1908. At twelve years of age the boys and girls are busy in the heated sheds and mills, grinding out profits for those who own. Although the Board of Education states that over 60 per cent. of the children attending school are defective in health, Mr. W. Sykes, of the Teachers’ Union, stated that in 24 years’ experience he had never known a child rejected, as physically unfit, although some of them were not robust enough to be employed in the playground. (Before the Board of Education, Nov, . 4, 1907.)

What is the lot of the children working half-time at twelve years ? The Committee referred to told the Government that “their progress is retarded, if not absolutely brought to a standstill. The children come to school tired and sleepy. . . . They are unable to pay proper attention to their school work. The boy . . . loses a large part of his education . . at a time when the value of education ought to become greater to children.”

They tell us that “the results of several statistical investigations made in more than one half-time town indicate distinctly that the weight and chest measurement, and sometimes the height, of half-time children, are less than half those of full-time children in the same place and of the same age.”

What shall you think, then, of the Labour Party members who try to keep the little ones in the mills to be murdered ? Mr. Shackleton, before he got his present job, supported with might and main the maintenance of the half-time system, and his fellow Labour members resented any attack upon this masters’ man. Now Mr. W. A. Gill, a shining light of the Labour Party in the House of Commons, opposes the abolition of the hall-time system. In the half-time debate on April 26, 1912, he said he “agreed with those who believed that in letting them (the children) go to school half the day and be trained to work during the other half, they were doing what was best for their children.” One almost fancies one can hear the bosses telling him to say it.

Bad as half-time is for children of twelve and thirteen, the labour leaders have done their best to force the children into the mills and fields full time at those ages. In short, they have helped the murderers of the children in their nefarious work, and, like Shackleton, they will get jobs.

In May, 1906, Sir John Brunner, the millionaire chemical-factory owner, introduced into Parliament a Bill “to amend the Education Act.” This Bill bore the names of its backers, Mr. Will Crooks, of the Labour Party, and also Mr. Ramsay Maedonald, its secretary.

While Mr. Macdonald’s party were “pledged” to fight for the raising of the school age, he fought to lower it. Whilst twelve and thirteen were the earliest ages for partial exemption from day school, he tried to make them the statutory ages for total exemption !—conditional always, upon their being driven to night school to have their tired brains racked with education.

We opened with the blessings of childhood, but the blessings belong to those who do the children in—to the Penruddocks and the Wilesmiths ; to the Abkar Reformatory rulers and the Tooting philanthropists, the thoughtful factory owners and the rural lordlings. The blessings will fall upon the children when, through the triumph of Socialism, the power of property over human existence has gone for ever.


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