A Socialist Survey

How this “industrial unrest” does spread !

If the said unrest is due to those “beastly agitators” it would seem that capitalism breeds agitators faster than it does contented slaves.

A report from Tokyo, Japan (“Daily Chronicle” 4.5.12) says :—

“It is practically impossible for the lower classes to earn sufficient for their bare needs.”

And that: —

“The number of convicts has increased from 20,000 to 80,000 in the last five years.”

Here we have cause and effect.

* * *

The staple diet of the Japanese worker is rice. So abnormally high is the price of rice that the income of the average family (Y.17 per month or 1s. ½d. per day) is not sufficient to meet the increased expenditure (quoted at Y.25 per month). Consequently :—

“There is a great amount of industrial unrest in the country, which is causing economists a lot of thought.”

Again cause and effect.

* * *

The price of the labourer in Japan, as elsewhere, is determined by the cost of his food and other necessaries. But the capitalist in Japan is exploiting fresh fields, and, like the early industrial capitalists in this country, will squeeze surplus value from the toilers until they die off like flies.

The unemployed, army in Japan will allow it. Cheap labour is plentiful, and so our capitalist can ignore the fact that to keep a slave class it is necessary to replace energy with energy.

The slave, however, is beginning to revolt—which fact, doubtless, is responsible for “a lot of thought.”

“It is a matter of serious consideration for the authorities,” goes on the report, “whether this unrest can best be allayed by the reduction ef the taxes on food or by religious congresses or charitable collections.”

The religious influence is on the wane even in far-off Japan, and a Mr. Izawa is endeavouring to found a new religious body, whose plan is to “gather a religious community around the Emperor, who is the direct descendant of the creator of the world, for the purpose of cultivating loyalty toward the Emperor and of elevating their moral ideas.”

* * *

When the religious bluff fails they will fall back on the “reduction of taxes” and by removing the tax upon rice enable the workers to live more cheaply, and so obviate the necessity of raising wages.

It is merely a repetition of the “bible and the big loaf.” The development of capitalism in Japan is so rapid that the whole list of reforms and “revolutionary” measures over which the workers fought for years in this country will be passed in as many months.

* * *

That the influence of the Church in England is rapidly declining is seen from the following figures anent the “largest individual church in Nonconformity” (vide “Morning Leader”).

“Including the whole of the 35 districts under the control of the English Wesleyan Conference, the total membership is 482,889. As compared with last year the decrease is 2,646. The total decreases for the past six years are as follows : 1907,2,034 ; 1908, 4,424 ; 1909,1,144 ; 1910, 2,299 ;_ 1911, 3,028; 1912, 2,646—total decrease in six years, 15,575.”

Says the editor of the “Methodist Recorder” (again vide “Morning Leader”):—

“We know the explanation that will be forthcoming—that other Churches are in like case, that figures are misleading, that our activities were never greater, that our energies are organised and systematised beyond all precedent, that social unrest is partly responsible, that we are suffering from wearisome discussion of the membership question, that we have more chapels than ever, and more workers, too, and so on.
But all these put together can no more alter the painful facts than any one of them by itself ; and all of them are unsatisfying.”

* * *

The religious communities are fast realising that their flocks are no longer so docile or so faithful as they were, and they are compelled to offer some better inducement than a short shirt and a tin trumpet after decease.

The Rev. Thomas Phillips at the Baptist Union Congress (25.4.1912) said :—

“Eighteen thousand men receive 12s. a week or less ; 50,000 men receive 18s. a week or less. Out of every fourteen workmen in London one is, or has been, a pauper at some period in his career ; one in every five dies in a workhouse, a hospital, or an asylum. One million of our men receive £1 a week or less, and toil at tasks which give them neither security nor comfort. We are here enjoying ourselves, but within 300 yards of this place thirty to forty families are living in two houses. Seven per cent. of our population are in chronic want.
“These things stagger a man’s faith in God and man. I wish that London was not representative of England, but Mr. Rowntree has told the same story of York, and two clergymen have said that, in some respects, Edinburgh is even worse than London.
“The villages are no better off. A writer in a recent number of the ‘Sociological Review’ stated that he had found that, out of 300 people living in the villages, 193 did not get sufficient food to keep body and soul together.”

* * *

“These things” staggered our faith in God long since, and working-class faith in the power of parsons is by no means firmly rooted.

Mr. Phillips wants “Christian business men to devote their energy and power of organisation to settling this tremendous social difficulty.” The Christian business men will support the Christian business when they can see that it pays them, and the churches to-day are not the chloroforming agency that they once were. As Mr. Fleming Williams said at the Congregational Congress (9.5.12):—

“The people are developing a social conscience in the exact ratio in which the Churches are neglecting to cultivate it. The inevitable result will be our Churches will be left high and dry. The world will go on forgetting our existence. They will leave us to discuss our little theological conundrums which hardly affect the great needs and wants of the world.”

* * *

What the “Christian business men” want is a meek and docile wage-slave, and when the Churches cease to assist in supplying their demand they will take their “energy and power of organisation” and their contributions to a more productive agency.

The empty churches (and small contributions) are worrying the clergy to a far greater extent than the “labour unrest,” and as the Bishop of London said when presiding at a meeting at Grosvenor House (6.5.12):—

“Many were breaking down, not from their work, but from the anxiety of keeping their churches going.”

* * *

The following advertisement in the “Daily Chronicle” (4.5.12) is significant of the uses for which the Church is needed :—

is engaged daily in working for the improvement of the moral and spiritual life of
By the blessing of God the work is a potent factor for the upbuilding of sterling character, for the lessening of crime, and for the prevention of the outbreak of anarchism. 400 missionaries at work all the year round. Your help in this effort to spread the Gospel among the poor and artisan non-Church-goers of the Metropolis is earnestly solicited.”

* * *

“I am the last person to underrate all these questions of what is called distribution—the distribution of the produce of the world. But speaking for myself, I do most seriously hold there is a yet greater problem to be dealt with, and that is the amount you produce. The progress of mankind must fundamentally turn on the amount it produces, upon its growing control over the forces of Nature, upon all that science, invention, and industrial organisation enable it to do, to add to the daily produce and daily consumed wealth of the world. And important, vital if you please, as is the question of how what we make is to be distributed over the whole community, or among those who make it, behind all that there lies the yet more fundamental problem of how much you can make, and how you can increase the amount you are already making.”

The above statement was made by Mr. A. J. Balfour at a meeting on “Syndicalism and Industrial Problems,” held under the auspices of the Sociological Society (30.4.12).

It is typical of Balfour to spin long sentences meaning nothing on the subject under discussion and then to tail off with some definite (?) statement quite apart from the point.

The problem is not one of production but of ownership, and none knows that better than the ex-leader of the Tory party.

That there is sufficient wealth to-day to provide for all is undeniable, and even were it not so the enormous amount of raw material ready to hand, the vast tracts of uncultivated land, the over-supply of labour-power ready to be applied to that raw material and uncultivated land to produce more wealth, dispose at once of the absurd notion that the population has outgrown the resources of nature.

With the growing command by man over natural forces no fear need be entertained that the civilised, world will ever know famine again. Man’s struggle with nature for the means of life is over—and man has won. The struggle to-day is between man and man, between master and slave, between the plutocratic parasite and the propertyless producer.

* * *

While one section of the community are struggling to exist on from 5s. per head per week, another section can squander and waste an enormous amount of wealth at some silly freak show. The two following cuttings, both from the “Daily Chronicle,” show clearly who waste the “wealth we produce,” and how unevenly such wealth is distributed :—

“A letter has been received by the Russian Famine Committee in London from the members of the Famine Committee of the Free Economic Society, one of the oldest institutions of the kind in Russia, appealing for help.

“‘There has been an almost complete failure of crops (it says) in twenty provinces of Russia, covering the whole region from Nizhny-Novgorod to Astrakhan, as well as South Ural and Western Siberia. At least one half of the 40 million inhabitants of those provinces were doomed to starvation, for few of them could hope to find employment in other parts of Russia in the winter.
‘The population have been brought to ruin and despair. Many become insane and commit suicide. Some among the Mohammedans sell their children to harems, that they may not see them suffer and hear them cry for bread.
‘Typhus and scurvy are rapidly doing their deadly work among them.'”
“Daily Chronicle,” 13.5.12.

“The latest freak entertainment was given here to-day at the Hotel Vanderbilt in the shape of a dog banquet. The idea was originated by Mrs. A. L. Holland, the wife of a multi-millionaire, who gave the banquet in honour of her Pekinese dog, and sent out invitations to eight other Pekinese canines of the ‘smart set.’
“Without exception the dogs turned up, accompanied by their mistresses, and the nine ladies and nine dogs sat together at a table gorgeously decorated in the Chinese fashion, while a Chinese orchestra rendered weird selections of native music.
“Luncheon was served for the ladies, while special attendants catered for the wants of the principal guests, who had silver basins of bread and milk set before them, followed by cut-up biscuit and choice morsels of chicken. Only the breasts of chicken were served to these pampered animals.
“The dinner was voted a great success, and as a souvenir of the affair each dog guest was presented with a silver collar with his name engraved on it. Nothing like to-day’s freak entertainment has been seen since the pony banquet, or the dinner given in honour of Consul, the intelligent baboon.”
“Daily Chronicle,” 18 5.12.

* * *

Were there anything like an equal distribution of the world’s wealth there would be no difficulty in satisfying the needs of those who were for the time being deprived of the means of life by some failure of crops, or disaster of any kind. It is quite possible that the dividend of the multi-millionaire which provided the dog feast was wrung from the labour of the Russian workers who are suffering, quite unnecessarily, the pangs of starvation.

Quite recently the strikers of the Lena gold-fields were mowed down in hundreds for demanding better conditions, because to grant better conditions to those Russian workmen would mean lower dividends for some cosmopolitan financiers and inferior chicken for their Pekinese pups.

* * *

The labour unrest will continue while these conditions are allowed to remain. The demand of labour, the world over, is merely the demand for a living. To quote Jerome K. Jerome, speaking at the Cambridge University Liberal Club .—

“The human labourer in 1912 is, after all, only demanding what has been acceded to without question in the case of the ox and the ass since prehistoric times. I never heard a farmer suggest that the price of corn being what it is, he is quite unable to give his horse more than half its proper rations. The horse has a very effective way of insisting on his minimum wage. The horse does not go out on strike, he just lies down and dies ; and the farmer finds it cheaper—whatever may be the state of the agricultural market—to accede to his demands.

“Practically speaking, the farm labourer does get his minimum wage. He can’t live on 12s. 6d. a week and bring up a wife and six children. It can’t be done. Charity has to step in and make good the difference. Where the minimum wage is not paid—the wage that enables a man and his family to live—the charitable public has to make good the difference. It is a good thing for the charitable public ; it is a good thing for their morals, it is good for their hope of a future reward.

“But it is bad for the labourer ; it turns him into a pauper, it robs him of his self-respect. It is bad for the employer ; it makes him also nothing else than a pauper, going round to the charitable public, cap in hand, whining, ‘Help me to pay my wages. Have pity, kind gentlemen, on a poor employer of labour.’ It makes the employer also a pauper ; and, if it doesn’t, it ought to rob him of hia self respect.”

* * *

The employer, as an employer, has no self-respect. He has but one object—to obtain a profit, to get dividends ; and he will struggle to the last to prevent the workers from reducing that profit. Just as the worker, in factory and in field, is but a machine with but one purpose of existence, so the employer, the financier, and the capitalist generally, are sponges absorbing the wealth the worker produces. There is no self-respect in a sponge, just as there should be no desire in a machine. But the worker will not always remain a machine. He will soon want to be a man and to take a man’s part in the enjoyment, as well as in the production, of the world’s wealth. He will, in time, give intelligent purpose to his growing dissatisfaction, and when he does—well, the occupation of the sponge will be gone.


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