Editorial: An Infamous Lie

Many of our readers no doubt will recollect that, after the inquiry into the loss of the “North Briton” with her crew, we unequivocably and without reserve charged the murder of those seamen upon those responsible for the raising of the load line of ships. We need not repeat the facts in the case, for they were such as haunt the memory for many a long day. That emblem of Radical treachery, deceit, and humbug, to wit, “Reynolds’s Newspaper,” on September 28 recalled the tragedy in the following paragraph:

“Mr. J. M. Robertson, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Trade, referring at South Shields to the load-line question, said the latest figures regarding loss of life at sea decisively refuted the gross charge that a great Government department and political party had heartlessly been a party to a dangerous change in order to meet the commercial inter­ests of the ship-owning class. Mr. Robertson added that it was, moreover, a libel on the ship-owning class. The whole thing was due to the remark of a Magistrate with regard to one particular vessel. The Board of Trade was now having a thorough enquiry into the mat­ter, and on the conclusion of that enquiry the question of the load-line would be reconsidered. He thought it a disgraceful thing that they should be called upon to repudiate such calum­nies as these.”

Of course it is a disgraceful thing to be called upon to repudiate such charges, and what adds to the disgrace is that they should so signally fail to refute them when called upon to do so. Strange, is it not, that no account of the “latest figures” that purport to “prove black white, and red no colour at all,” has been given to the world ? Are we to take the word of this bought mouth-piece of “a great Govern­ment department and political party” that those figures do refute the terrible charge we have openly laid at their door ? Are we to be expected to be impressed with the assumed indignation of this hireling of “a great Government department and political parts ?” Are we to forget the records of this “great Government depart­ment and political party” in particular, as exposed at the enquiry into the tragedy of the “Titanic,” and the Whitehaven and other min­ing disasters? Are we to suppose that a “great Government department” wiaich neglects to pro­vide for the safety of passengers at sea, which permits mine-owners to flaunt with impunity the provisions of its own mining Acts, which supinely watches the butchery of hundreds of railway workers every year who could be saved by imposing automatic couplings upon the companies, is above suspicion of being the tool of powerful capitalist interests, and on Mr. J. M. Robertson’s bare word and simulated indig­nation ? Are we to believe, also, that the ship­owners (whom we are supposed to have libelled) are any better than the railway-owners, who cannot refute the charge that they prefer to see their men slaughtered rather than submit to the expense of means of safety, or better than mine-owners who refuse to ventilate their mines even in accordance with the requirements of the law, and so refusing, hurl hundreds of bread winners into eternity ? No, something more is required from the instrument of such a “great Govern­ment department and political party,” and the tool of such a skull and cross-bones class, with all their gory horrors so peculiarly fresh upon them, to induce us to modify the charge we have laid at their doors.

Mr. Robertson himself proves the case against himself and his paymasters when he says “the whole thing was due to the remark of a Magis­trate with regard to one particular vessel.” He does not deny the facts in that particular case, therefore, since he handles it, he admits it. He tries to escape on the question of degree, on the argument, that is, that the magnitude of the danger is exaggerated. This is showing the cloven hoof with a vengeance. It is capitalist calculation. It is the argument that the forty-odd men who went down in the “particular vessel” (the “North Briton”) were not so im­portant as the “1,000,000 tons added to the carrying capacity of our merchant fleet.”

That is the argument of “a great Govern­ment deparment and political party,” as blandly expressed by the Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Trade. It is not merely a coincidence that it is the argument also of the mine owners and the railway companies. They all admit that men are killed who could be saved by the means of safety at hand, and they all claim that it is the consideration of expense that prevents them adopting those means.

The question of how many working men’s lives those 1,000,000 tons of added carrying capacity are worth we utterly refuse to discuss. We leave that to the “great Government depart­ment” who are going to “reconsider” the question of the load-line when it knows exactly what the toll of working-class life amounts to. The principle of murder is not a nice thing to discuss, but the price of it is a particularly odious subject. Before we leave the matter to the “great Government department” whose busi­ness it is, however, and which is ao well-qualified to appraise working class life according to the capitalist standpoint, we would challenge the “latest figures regarding the loss of life at sea” now stewing on the hob in the “great Government [cooking] department.” When the cooking process is completed will they explain away the statements made in “Everyman” for August 29th to the effect that “out of 62 vessels foundered or missing between January 1911 and May 1912, 30 had had their load-line altered” ? And will it lessen the significance of the fact that, in reply to a question, in the House of Commons, the President of the Board of Trade agreed that “last year 3,000 seamen lost their lives in British ships, this being equal to 1 in 76 as compared with 1 in 106 and 1 in 112 for the two preceding years” ? And are these “latest figures,” when they are done to a turn, going to explain what has become of the “Amana” (left Leith Dec. 1911), the “Archton” (of London), the “Wingrove” (left Plymouth Dec. 1911), the “Cargo Largo” (sailed from Swansea April 16, 1911), the “Gulf Stream,” “Solway,” and “Bellwer.” All these were ships which had had their freeboard altered, and are either known to have foundered or have not been heard of.

These tragic names nail down the interested lie that the “whole thing was due to the remark of a Magistrate with regard to one particular vessel”—a lie chanced upon the old, old (but not entirely true) murderer’s axiom that “dead men tell no tales.” We, at all events, shall wel­come Mr. Robertson’s figures, confident that the more they are cooked the more easily we shall digest them, and certain that they will confirm everything we said a year ago under the heading: “Lloyd George’s Permit to Murder.”

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