Once again we reach the First of January. Once again we are deluged with the hypocritical cant and humbug of the phrase “Peace and Goodwill.” As in the past, our ears are greeted with “A Happy and Prosperous New Year.” The whole world, from duke to dustman, mouths the meaningless nothing.
What are the prospects of a happy New Year for the working class? What room is there in capitalism for peace and goodwill, when the very prosperity of the one depends upon the ruin of some other? Happiness cannot come with hunger, and many must be without food. And why are not you one of these ? It is simply because circumstances have decreed that some other shall be idle instead of you.
The best that can happen for the underpaid clerk—his one hope of prosperity—is the death or discharge of his fellow employee who receives the higher salary he aspires to. The best that can befall the struggling tradesman is the failure of the man across the road who halves his trade and cuts his prices. During the season’s “boom” the factory has been working full time, and producing a vast store of goods, much of which will not be disposed of. After the “boom” someone must go, and each looks at the other with the good wishes on his lips, hoping against hope that it is the other man who will be discharged.
And we wish each other a prosperous New Year! What cant!
What have the workers to look forward to in 1913? Great increases in wealth production, doubtless, and the consequent unemployment that “over production” brings in its train. “Trade has been phenomenally good” our masters’ journals tell us. But how stand the producers of the wealth?
The Thames Iron Works closes its gates on the eve of Christmas, and thousands of families that are always “on the verge” are pushed into desperate poverty. With all our growing prosperity and our “strength as a nation,” the workers —those who produce all things and who make the strength of the nation—are incapable of withstanding the smallest disturbance. The “resources of the nation’’ are practically without limit, but the resources of the toilers—”the backbone of the nation” as the political aspirant loves to call them, are nil.
“In the social world,” says one restless editor of the capitalist brand, “there is a growing consciousness of the duty of society to provide for those members of the community who, for some reason or another, have found it impossible to win a secure means of livelihood for themselves and their families.” It may be perfectly correct that the “social world” is growing conscious of its “duty,” but then what constitutes this “social world,” and what is its duty?
The “social world” of the writer whom I have quoted is the capitalist class, and the society to whom they owe any duty is—themselves. Society, in their conception, is the taxpayer and the business man, who are as distinct from the worker of England as is the “heathen Chinese.” The “social world” does not understand the proletariat, and cannot legislate in its interest, neither does it desire to do so. What is happening is simply that our “social world” is realising that there is an unmistakable stirring within the mass that the “social world” lives upon ; that the “mob,” hitherto so easily suppressed, is striving to find a way out of its horrible conditions of existence. Toe “populace” is calling for light in its abysmal darkness; and our “social world” is not desirous of helping it to see, is not in the least in sympathy with its demand for illumination. Our “social world” is uneasy and afraid—afraid of something incomprehensible, and afraid largely because, not understanding that which they fear, they do not know what to do.
Their pastors and ministers and others who batten upon their fears, are holding aloft the the misery of the mass, telling of the desperation of the starving multitude, in order to wring from them donations for the soup kitchen, the missions, and the Church. It is upon these and similar institutions that the parsons and their pals get their fat and easy living. Pro Salvationist and anti-Socialist turn out their begging letters by the million, using the “coming revolt” as a bogey wherewith to frighten the “prosperous citizen.”
These donations are regarded by the panniky bourgeoisie as being in the nature of “good investments.” It is the modern obedience to the ancient injunction to “cast thy bread upon the waters.” For the well to do are told by the bishops and the smaller fry of the Church, what is the undoubted truth, viz., that “the East End would not take things so quietly were it not for religion,” and that these institutions are a “strong ‘barrier” against the “Godless Socialism” they so much dread.
The lot of the artisan and the labourer is no better to-day than it was ten or twenty years ago. In the words of Mr. Bonar Law
: “In spite of a vast increase in the wealth of the world and of the United Kingdom, the condition of the workmen in this country has not improved. It has grown worse.” (Glasgow, 22.5.12.)
From all sides we get the admission, not only that “wages have not increased at all between 1900-1910, but that, indeed, they have suffered a depression in the interval.” (“Daily News.”) The “Daily News,” which represents the view of the party in power, tells us in a leading article (17.9.12) that, despite the glories of Free Trade, they are forced to “arrive at the disquieting fact that the net result to labour of an industrial prosperity which is unexampled is that the working-classes are substantially worse off than they were in 1900.”
This significant conclusion arrived at by such defenders of capitalism as Mr. Bonar Law, Mr. Lloyd George, the “Daily News,” and other prominent people and leading papers too numerous to mention, does not take into consideration an all-important condition that must be taken into account. That is that during the period mentioned, those who have been engaged in actual production have had their labour vastly intensified. Year by year new machinery has been introduced to compete with and speed up the labourer. Year by year new methods are taken up with the object of eliminating those rapidly diminishing moments of rest which the workers are able to snatch from their toil. Day by day the machine is driven faster, and the result has been that a gigantic amount of energy is sucked out of the worker in a shorter working day.Even such a defender of “reformed” capitalism as Mr. Thomas of the railway servants, is compelled to admit that “more passengers and goods traffic could now be handled in eight hours than formerly could be handled in ten.”
To keep up this mad and increasing pace a greater amount of food and leisure is rendered necessary in order that the worker may be able to maintain himself in the required state of physical and mental efficiency. Some recreation is necessary in order that he may keep sane. The worker is to-day being burned out faster and more ruthlessly than ever he was. The pitiless, insatiable maw of the capitalist Moloch is ever grasping for more profits, and the blood of the toiler, it is very certain, will be even more greedily sucked in this new year now opening than it has been in the past.
And even though those benighted wights, the Labour reformers, with their multitudinous drops and pills and ointments, were both in power and in earnest the evil could neither be reformed out of existence nor held in the leash. It grows too fast for the first; it springs too irresistibly from the foundations of the prevailing system and method of wealth production for the second.
Is there, then, no hope? Can nothing be done to stem the tide of wasted life and labour? Is there no way of escape for the struggling wage slave, befogged and befooled by notions of trade and tariff? Stern necessity compels the answer—NONE. The very first step most be to clear the worker’s mind of the cobwebs— of every befogging capitalist notion.
“You cannot redeem those below except by the sacrifice of those above.” Thus spake Mr. Lloyd George not a great while ago. The words are true—let us adopt them, for in them lies the workers only hope.
SACRIFICE THOSE ABOVE. Pull them down. Overthrow their stronghold and trample on their privileges. Turn out the capitalist liar and fool, knave and bully. As a capitalist he must go. While he is above he will feed on those below, and. fellow workers, WE ARE “THOSE BELOW.”
The only hope for the wage slave is to abolish the wage slavery, root, branch and twig, and to take control of the things that are necessary for the lives, comfort, well-being, and happiness of those we hold dear. So lend a willing hand, fellow wage-slave, to this imperative task, in the year 1913. Learn to give intelligent utterance to the “unlearned discontent” that is within you, for only those who KNOW can ever hope to remove the barrier which alone bars our progress toward freedom, a full life, and happiness.
The determination to acquire the knowledge essential to this undertaking, to befit oneself to be an instrument for good in the great struggle for human emancipation, to make oneself an efficient and capable judge in the day when the whole future of humanity shall depend upon the wisdom of the working class, is the best of all possible New Year resolutions for working folk.
T. W. Lobb