The Church and the White Slave Traffic
The snuffling humbugs of the Churches have been busy offering cynical “good wishes” to the International Congress for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic which has recently met at Caxton Hall, London. Anglican, Catholic, Nonconformist, and Jewish, they have all lipped their annual contribution of lies to the sickening catawaul. The dignitaries of all the Churches alike regularly mouth this cant about the “crusade” being ”the knight errantry of the twentieth century,” and about the “serried ranks of qualified and capable persons determined to put, it” (the White Slave Traffic) “down.” There is no need to offer them the jibe that it is on “sin” that they batten, and not on “virtue.” That fact has been rendered patent by their skulking conduct in face of what they know to be a growing evil.
If the White Slave Traffic were not a growing evil it is not at all likely that the master class would spend time, money, and energy in pretending—for it is only pretence—to put it down. We do not say that they would not wipe it off the face of the earth to-morrow if it were an evil that could be obliterated without pulling something else down with it, for the White Slave Traffic is of little more use to the capitalists at large than it is to the workers.
But they know, these sanctimonious churchmen and high born dames, in spite of their calculated efforts to draw a line between the two, that the White Slave Traffic and prostitution are inseparable.
The Countess of Aberdeen admitted this when she spoke of “poverty and want and low wages” as the causes “which were driving girl victims into the hands of the procurer.” For this does not mean that these girls are trapped, and decoyed, but that they are forced by the pressure of their economic wants; it does not mean that White Slavery is something different from and apart from prostitution, and which therefore can be separately attacked and eradicated, but that it forms the most convenient entrance to that life of shame into which “poverty and want and low wages” drive girl victims, with or without the aid of the procurer.
This, of course, puts an entirely different complexion on the matter. It explains why, of all those sleek and well-fed priests of every denomination, every one of whom knew as well as the Countess of Aberdeen that it is “poverty and want and low wages . . . which were driving girl victims into the hands of the procurer,” not one dared to declare that the true procurers are those who impose the poverty and want, the true criminals those who pay the low wages.
It was not to be expected that any of the trained sycophants should have been so indiscreet as to have given vent to this home truth The cur doesn’t bite the hand that feeds it. No pillar of the Church is there in all this Christian land but lives on these poor girls’ shame, for they are paid to keep silent, or to confuse and perplex with cunning tongues as occasion may demand. And if hard facts had tongues, some poor girl victim might cry out from every mouthful of bread these fat and cosy preachers eat: “This is my body !” and from every cup they raise to their lips: “This is my blood.” The princely salaries which are paid to these holy men are nothing but their price for keeping their mouths shut concerning these things, their bribe for lying confusion concerning the social sores which arise from capitalist domination. One need not wonder that they often complain that the pay is insufficient for the job !
We solemnly declare that prostitution is a pillar of capitalist society, and that these churchmen, these delegates from all ends of the earth assembled, these spokesmen and spokeswomen of the “voluntary societies” of the rich, know it. We solemnly declare that the shame of the White Slave Traffic rests finally on the annointed heads of kings, the surpliced shoulders of bishops, the jewelled brows of countesses, the opulent founders of Vigilence Associations, the sanctimonious “knight-errants” of “womanhood, ignorant, misled, decoyed.” For all these have their fortunes founded on our sisters’ shame.
(Editorial, Socialist Standard, July 1913)