“The Army and What it Offers”

In a wild endeavour to obtain more abundant supplies of “food for cannon,” the British Gov­ernment has flooded the country with a booklet bearing the above title, the special object of which is to furnish reasons why the young men of the working class should forthwith enlist in the Army.

Strange to say, this appeal—for appeal it is—is entirely different to every other that has been issued. Previously we have been appealed to through our patriotism. We have always been invited to take up arms on behalf of our “glori­ous heritage of freedom,” and the “noble tradi­tions of our race,” and the like of that. A few years ago to be a patriot was to possess all the virtues while to say a man was unpatriotic was to bring the worst possible charge against him.

But times are changing. Just as the deve­lopment of the weapons of precision has com­pelled our war-mongers to abandon the gorgeous trappings of war in favour of prosaic khaki, so industrial development has forced them to aban­don the blood and glory kibosh that lost most of its effect in our fathers’ young days.

Persistent starvation and hardship, the clearer dernarkation of the gulf between the workers, the ever-greater certainty of the truth of the new adage “Once a wage slave always a wage-slave,” and the growing use of troops, both as blacklegs and to protect blacklegs, in industrial disputes—these are not the things on which romantic ideas of patriotic duty are nourished. In addition to these things, Socialist propaganda has had a powerful influence in making the workingman realise that he has no country to fight for, and that those to whom the country and everything in it belong are the people who should do the fighting.

This progress of thought manifesting itself in a decrease of the Territorial ranks, the war-agents of the master class realise the young Briton of the working class to-day knows quite as much about it as the wise ostler of the May­pole Inn. And when the modern Joe Willet to the recruiting sergeant’s “For King and Country” answers “For bread and meat,” the up-to-date War Office says, “Exactly ; let us talk about on that basis.” And they do.

With consummate impudence they tell the young Briton what he already knows (perhaps only because he knows it)—that he has no hope of anything more than 25s. a week in civil life, and that when he has paid for his lodgings and other necessaries he will have nothing left. This candour destroys all possibility of again harping on the old string, “For King and Country.” It is an acceptance of Joe Willet’s bald statement: “Needs must where the devil drives, and the devil that drives me is an empty pocket . . .” This acceptance in itself is a welcome sign of the times.

Having pointed out the hopelessness of his economic position to the young worker, the War Office recruiting literature proceeds to build up an appeal on the basis of the advantages which a military life offers in comparison with a civil life. It tells him that, “during his service he is never out of a job and slackness of trade can never rob him of hin income.” It tells him, in effect, that it he, a member of the class who pro­duce all wealth, will leave “honest toil” for the life of a hired assassin, he need never go to bed hungry, or shiver in shameful rags, or want where to lay his head a—significant assurance to have to give a well set-up young wealth pro­ducer in this opulent age !

Of course it does not tell him of the purpose to which he is to be put—the blacklegging and strike smasing—the bayonetting and shooting of his own fellow workers, at home as well as abroad ; the oppression of his own class.

Besides the truths which the masters’ agents are using to attract the men they want, there are some absurd lies regarding the prospects of a soldier’s career which will serve to trap but few, while a false attempt is made to mask the difficulties of the soldier’s return to civil life, and to gloss over employers’ well known prejudice against employing old army men. The mistake is made, however, of neglecting to point out that the workhouse is always ready to extend the old soldier a kindly welcome, and the pawn­broker to receive his medals.

G. J. S.

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