The “White Slave Bill”
has passed. Liberals and Tories, Peers and Commons, parsons and priests, have united to the end of getting it passed, and they have accomplished their task.
The Bill is passed into law, with the approval of the sweaters of female labour, for whom it plays the friendly part of fixing the blame for the degradation of women on less guilty shoulders—but the “white slave” is as much in evidence as ever.
After clamouring for the Bill, “the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill,” that organ of the Tory party, “The People,” has thought fit to tell the truth about the “traffic.” In its issue of December 15, 1912, it printed a special article on “White Slavery and its causes.”
Under the heading “The Root of the Evil” we were told:
“The truth cannot be shirked that many recruits have joined the army of ‘white slaves’ through the monotony of ill-paid lives of virtue compared with the larger gains easily earned in the service of vice. . . . All the time the market is over-supplied with female labour wages will remain low, and consequently the attractions of a life of easy virtue will be correspondingly greater.”
This is almost exactly the language of the Chicago Commission on Vice which last year enquired into the question.
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“The People,” an organ of the anti Socialists, has to make the farther confession that
“the economic or wage question to every large extent is the root of the social evil. . . . The sad fact cannot be ignored that the ‘sweating’ of women is an evil that flourishes very actively, and many firms of high repute grind down their employees to a shameful degree. Hence the market price of virtue is very cheap at the present time.”
Thus is the fraud of capitalism made plain. The hypocrisy of the “Pass the Bill” campaign is confessed, for the measure contains not a single provision designed to stop the “sweating of women.” The “white slaves” will remain and increase in number until the wage system is ended. But that would be the end of the “flogging” fanatics, as well as of the “procurers”—the makers as well as the patrons of the modern Magdalene’s trade.
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It will be recalled that last year the Home Secretary, Mr. Winston Churchill, at the demand of the factory owners, passed a Home Office Order (No. 360, April, 1911) permitting boys sixteen years of age to work in factories all night making artificial silk fibre. Prior to his action the lowest age for night work was fixed by the Factory Act of 1901 at eighteen years for this trade. Such was the industrial progress of “Dear Winston,” and his kindly consideration for the employers. If the workers’ children suffer, well, there is always the sanitoria of friend David George, or the free funerals furnished by “honest John’s ” Poor Law!
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Much criticism was aroused by this action, as aforetime the Home Secretary appointed a committee to enquire into (who said whitewash?) the question of nightwork for boys. Their report has just been issued (Cd. 6,503). They tell us that
“they realise that it is essential in necessarily continuous processes in certain industries at the present time, in order to avoid unreasonable loss through waste of fuel or valuable materia], and that in considering the question of prohibition of night employment of boys, regard must be had for what measure of further prohibition is practicable without imposing any serious disabilities on the industries of the country.“
They ask that permission should be given where “stoppage causes such waste of fuel or material as would entail financial loss likely to materially damage the business.” What the continuity of the processes has got to do with the reduction of the age limit they do not say. Processes can be continued by the ever-increasing number of men seeking work —but that wouldn’t do. Boys young boys —are so much cheaper.
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“Serious disabilities” and “unreasonable loss”—of life may be imposed upon the children of the workers, but the sanctity of capital must not be touched. The children must “sleep” by day and slave by night to make the masters’ millions grow. Who dare speak of “breaking up the home and family life” after this?
Dealing with the glass manufacturing trade, where boys have been given permission to work all night at the age of fourteen for regular spells of 14 hours, the committee says:—
“We recognise, however, that owing to the large proportion of boy labour in the trade, and to the fact that foreign competition still presses heavily on our manufacturers, though in a less degree than formerly, it is not desirable to do anything that would cause too suddien a disturbance of trade conditions”
This despite the fact that they admit that it is the most deadly of all, and that dozens of leading witnesses gave evidence as to its disastrous effects. The number of boys in the trade far exceeds that of men. The committee, speaking of the machine, says:—
“Though it seems likely that, by the introduction of labour-saving machinery, the necessity for employment of boys is likely to be greatly reduced, any such change is likely to be very gradual. Unfortunately the increased use of machinery often tends to displace the skilled workman rather than the boys.”
One witness is quoted as typical of the objections to night work:—
“Dr. Ridley Bailey, certifying surgeon for Bilston, was of the opinion |that during the period of active growth, when the tissue changes are going on, work at night, which is very heavy in his district, must tend to interfere with the physical development and the physical faculties. He found the boys had some times to sleep during the day in beds that had been occupied during the previous night, and stated that owing to the street noises and the sounds inseparable from the carrying on of household routine during the day, it was impossible for sleep to be so sound and refreshing as it would be in the night. He considered it a very serious matter that boys should be placed in such a position.”
This servile report of the Departmental Committee is signed by William Waldorf Astor, M.P
., and among others there is, needless to say, the representative of the Labour Party, Mr. Arthur Henderson, M.P.!
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At Aberdeen (29.11.12) the Welsh Revivalist and Latter Day Saint, Mr. Lloyd George, lectured on Miracles. He told his audience that a blacksmith would get two hundred pounds and a consumption cure thrown in for a few shillings under the last “Act of the Apostles.”
At Birmingham, however. Sir James Barr, President of the British Medical Association, said (6.12.12):—
“He knew no greater legislative farce than the method of dealing with tuberculosis under the Insurance Act. You must get tuberculosis before they begin to stamp it out, and then a totally inadequate sum is allowed for the stamping out process.”
If Sir James thinks any Liberal or Tory politician will really wipe out the main cause of tuberculosis, viz., poverty, he must have enough faith “to move mountains” —and as much real knowledge of the capitalist world as “a grain of mustard seed.”
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The Postmaster General has opened automatic telephone exchanges in various parts, the last being at Hereford. Many others are being built. The feature of them is that no operators are required, each subscriber being his own connector. The extension of the system is to save a great deal of money, and the girls will be dispensed with. They may “seek fresh fields and pastures new” — be shipped to Buenos Ayres or “Walk down the Strand” and ponder over the “wonders of science” with the “white slave trader.”
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An American paper also informs us that dairymaids are damned by an automatic milking machine that is proving very successful over in Yankee land. The increasing use of the Dictaphone in offices here is pronouncing the death-sentence of the shorthand writer, and things all round look blacker than ever for the fair sex of the slave class. First it was “Good-bye, brother, come in, sister! “Now it is “Good-bye, sister, enter, Science, and save my wages bill! ”
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Canadian capitalists are doing well. They have offered the British Government seven millions to build three Dreadnoughts to guard “our shores.” The prosperity of the owners of the “Golden West ” was the theme of the Premier of Alberta at the Royal Colonial Institute in London on December 4th. He said that
“A huge tract of land that was at one time only inhabited by Indians and buffaloes was on the point of becoming an important part of the country. To-day there were 14,000 miles of railway line completed and working at a cost of 80 millions, most of which bad come from the City of London.”
He also said that Canada is “a splendid place for the emigrant who is prepared to take off his coat,” but he quite forgot to remind the emigrant that he must keep his coat off until he is worked out and then make way for the newer and cheaper emigrant.
The Canadian toilers have taken off their coats so much in the past that when a railway has to be built most of the money has to come from the City of London, where they don’t take their coats off. The workers of the West are so industrious that the Premier pointed out that “there is an unlimited scope for safe investment.” The chap who takes his coat off has no money to invest, but he can invest his time in Socialism with happy results for the future.
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“Spite of all the efforts of the Salvation Army, the Church Army, and countless other organisations, the morass of squalor shows no visible dint. The tide of crime and pauperism ebbs and flows sullenly in dependence upon the trade cycle, with little change in the general level. The drunkard still abounds, though drinking has decreased. The shelters of the Salvation Army and other organisations are always full, yet the casual wards are more crowded than ever. The average number of vagrants relieved in 1906 constitutes a record. The number of persons actually houseless in London and passing the night in the open is probably greater than before, and is certainly very considerable.”
The terrible indictment I have quoted is from “The Social Work of the Salvation Army,
” and is written by W. H. Beveridge
, Director of the Labour Exchange Department, Board of Trade.