Shepherds and their piping

Speking on Social Unrest at the Baptist Union recently, the Rev. Newton Marshall said that “private property does not exist ; it is God’s property.” Now we know why the armed forces are necessary they are looking after God’s property for him !

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Mr. Marshal contended that “capitalist extravagance, ruthless exploitation of the poor, and other evils of individualism were hostile to the Gospel ethics of Potestantism”. But the capitalist evidently does not think so ; he bears in mind the parable of the talents, and by no means buries his wealth in the garden or hides it under a bushel. He puts it out to interest : i.e., exploitation, as witness the following from Mr. Marshal’s speech :

“No matter how the prosperity of our country increases the lot of the worker becomes more irksome every day. Our prosperity during the last twelve years has never been equalled. Last year our foreign trade increased by a hundred million, but wages to-day are practically where they were twelve years ago, although during the last five years the working-man’s sovereign has dropped in value by from four and sixpence to five shillings.”

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The reverend gentleman quoted above is to be commended for his lucidity, a quality seldom found in divines. But the following figures tell the story with even greater clearness They bear, too, the official stamp of the capitalist State, and those apologise for their hideous system can hardly dispute their own figures.

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Taxed incomes financial year ended March.
1900 ….. 792,000,000
1905 ….. 912,000,000
1911 ….. 1,046,000,000
Increase in 11 years ….. 254,000,000
(Chiozza Money in “ Daily News,” 10.10.13.)

The total effect of the wage movement during the period of 1893-1912 has been a net gain of £467,000 per week or (assuming full employment) £24,000,000 in a year. (The Board of Trade’s report on changes in rates of wages and hours of labour in the United Kingdom in 1912.)

This is how the wages system works out for the wage-slaves. In spite of all the unrest, of strikes that have been common to nearly every trade and occupation ; in spite of the “generosity” of the Liveseys and Levers, who share their (increased) profits with their slaves ; the working class, during nineteen years of struggle have barely increased their nominal or money wages (and “assuming full employment” at that) by twelve shillings per head per year. And meanwhile the average increase per head of the capitalist class has been over forty-two pounds a year over a period less by nine years. The lion of the Church Congress was the Bishop of Winchester, who discoursed on “The Principles of the Kingdom,” the “Equal Value of Every Human Life” being one, which he proceeded at once to show has no existence by referring to “all those patient, toiling, and suffering multitudes who, from treadmill lives unrelieved by change, uncheered by the prospect of better things, unbrightened by art and beauty, without margins of pleasure, and in constant danger of calamity and pauperism.”

“The equal value of every human life” a principle of modern society ! What blasphemy against the truth ! With “thirteen million living or below the poverty line,” and five or six million taking nearly two thirds of the wealth produced by the workers, to dissipate in idleness and luxury !

The capitalist system is the sink-hole of the ages for principles. It nourishes all that is false, mean, and sordid. Corruption and vice, adulteration, robbery and murder are excused and defended by evangelical politicians and Christian pharisees whose pretended function is “the moral education of the people.”

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Dr. Talbol, by faithfully portraying normal industrial conditions—without referring as he did to the white slave traffic and Putomayo horrors—might easily have discovered that, “the equal value of every human life” is simply twaddle. Mine owners have the power to send miners down into pits “known to be fiery and regarded as dangerous,” at the risk of their lives, for profits. Every capitalist concern places dividends first and the lives of their slaves second—or nowhere. The very fact that those who produce the world’s wealth are nothing but merchandise, sorted and priced to suit the requirements of the capitalist market, gives the lie to the bishop’s first principle.

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With his next principle, if it can be called such, the bishop is equally unfortunate. “The supremacy of love—the Greek ‘agape,’ so untranslatable in the English tongue.” And as he quickly proved, absolutely unobtainable in any capitalist country. But let the beershop speak for himself:

“Alas ! that the power is illustrated with sinister eloquence by the effects of its absence, where class thinks of class, Capital of Labour, and Labour of Capital, in terms of general and indiscriminating aversion—when, in other words, two sets of God’s people, equally human both in virtue and in fault, treat each other as though they were respectively the enemy.”

Such a statement disposes at once of the bishop’s second principle, for every human being in modern society falls into one of these two camps. Two classes exist to-day—the capitalist class and the working class. Between these two there can be nothing but hatred, because their interests are opposed in everything that is essential. “Material interests dominate all human actions,” and when the workers demand higher wages or better conditions, the masters refuse to accede to the demand because it would affect their profits. The workers make observations and comparisons, then draw conclusions ; class hatred is the result, and the bishop and the rest of his species are hired to pour oil on troubled waters—a task as hopeless as it is contemptible.

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The growth of class hatred is the bugbear of political as well as ecclesiastic parties. Labour leaders refer to the class war as a shibboleth ; but the antagonism increases daily, and the frequency of actual conflict on the industrial field gives them the lie. Dr. Talbot is not the only one that has discovered—perhaps by accident—what is already apparent to men of intelligence. Ten years ago to speak of “Capital and Labour” suggested a harmonious combination of forces for the purpose of wealth production ; to-day they are associated with strikes and lock-outs, and, as the bishop truthfully remarked, “think of each other in terms of general and indiscriminating aversion.”

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It is the business of the Socialist to see that they continue to do so ; that the working class, at any rate, are placed in possession of the knowledge that will enable them to fight out the class struggle on scientific lines, instead of merely “kicking against the pricks,” as they do to-day.

Mr. Stanley Machin, speaking at a meeting of the London Conciliation and Arbitration Board said : “Industrial war is the greatest drawback we can possibly face, and we are coming to see that, whichever side wins, it must be disaster in the long run.”

Let the working class bring about that disaster as soon as possible : it only means the abolition of the two things—capitalist ownership and working-class slavery. The human race will be none the worse for this dual abolition—on the contrary, it means freedom. For men and women can live and satisfy their needs without the division of classes that exists to-day —one class incessantly toiling, while the other continually appropriates and enjoys the fruits of their labour.

F. F.

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