A look round
At a time when the capitalist Press—Liberal and Tory alike—are engaged in a stupendous campaign for the purpose of obtaining likely recruits to assist in the slaughter of their fellows on the Continent, it is somewhat refreshing to take a peep into the dim and distant past. Before unearthing a few extracts from our masters’ periodicals, it is well to keep in mind the various adverts, which we see all around us: “Your king and country need you”; “Is your conscience clear ?” ; “What will you say when your boy asks what part you took in the great war ?” etc. To-day, as always, the workers are vitally necessary to the master class, and so we find their paid agents and hangers on using every device to enlist the support of the workers to “crush the German hordes.”
A few years ago when conscription was “in the air” a radical paper devoted a leading article to the subject, half a column of which was occupied in stating that this form of military service was obnoxious to the working man. Knowing the short memory of the average “horny-handed son of toil,” let us quote fully :
“The conditions of life among British workers precludes them from taking any interest in their country. Their whole time is spent in making sufficient money to keep them alive. Millions of their number exist on the edge of the abyss of pauperism. During this exceptionally prosperous year there have never been less than 300,000 men and women out of work . . . Men, woman—and children, too, to our eternal shame—are sweated nearly to death in factories for wages which do not provide them with a sufficient quantity of the actual necessaries of life. Luxuries they dare not dream about. Under our present system, workers’ lives are wasted as recklessly as they are ever wasted on the field of battle. A shunter on the railway runs thirteen times more risks than a soldier did in the South African campaign. In 1911 there were 4,306 workmen killed and 167,000 injured. [This in the piping time of peace.] Ponder on these figures and then try to imagine what the average workman who daily runs the risk of losing his life or limbs must think when he is asked to vote for compulsory military service, so that he may help to repel a foreign invader. No, it will not do. This cry of foreign invasion does not rouse democracy. The democrat thinks of past wars and wonders what he got out of them. The duty of British Statesmen to-day is … to make life worth living for the millions who now exist under sordid or horrible conditions of poverty and filth. Physical degeneration is due … to the long hours, the unhealthy surroundings, the congestion of towns, and the steady drain on the stamina of the people due to woman and child labour. Let the Government alter these conditions, give the worker an opportunity to enjoy a decent, rational, human life, make it worth his while and then see whether he is prepared to defend hi» country.”—”Reynolds,” Dec., 1, 1912.
The foregoing is an illustration of the fact that our masters occasionally permit the truth, to leak out. More brutally stated it is an admission of the truth of our contention that the average worker has no property to defend, nor any country to call his own He is born a wage-slave and dies as such. From early years, when he delivers the milk or the morning newspapers, onwards to the time when he is informed that he is too old, he sees but very little of “our” country of which we now hear so much. The delights of our 20th century civilisation are to be found in early rising, a dash for the workmen’s tram or train then to perform some monotonous round of toil, finishing up with another struggle to return to the “cottage homes of England,” and on the way getting a glimpse of “our” country.
Our radical rag-time journalist says : “The democrat thinks of past wars and wonders what he get out of them,” and we have wondered, too. We remember having seen a monument with the inscription : “Soldiers, your labours, your privations, your sufferings, and your valour, will not be forgotten by a grateful country.” But what are the actual facts. We have before us a collection of Press cuttings, all of a similar character, one of which states that:
“Wearing the Indian Mutiny medal and minus an eye, George Goldsby, aged 84, . . . told a pathetic story of his sufferings. ‘You are not very well off now?’ suggested Dr. Waldo. And the old soldier silently acquiesced. ‘Were you wounded at all ?’ ‘Yes, Sir ; four times.’ ‘I suppose a grateful country has rewarded you. What pension do you get ?’ ‘Ninepence a day, Sir.’ The coroner proceeded to enquire how the old man was faring, and the pensioner said that, having paid his rent, he had 4d. a day left of his pension. He augmented this by selling matches. . . . The coroner (to the jury): ‘I should think a grateful country should have provided a comfortable home for an old Mutiny veteran like this.”—”Reynolds,” 15.11.14.
During the recent discussion on pensions and allowancess our masters’ servants in the House gave us an opportunity of measuring their gratefulness to their heroes and their dependents. “He (Mr. Bonar Law) thought it would be unwise and against the interests of the women themselves to endow widows with so much of the public money that they would never have to work.” He added, “that after the war every position in employment for which an ex-soldier is suitable shall be given to an ex-soldier.” Mr. Asquith delivered himself of the following: “He thought it would be unwise to create a class of persons who could live in ease without ever having to work.” Such is the generosity of those who prate about their patriotism. The capitalist class may, in certain directions, find some employment for the ex-soldier with a view to enriching themselves at his expense, as a result of the slight pension which he may be entitled to receive.
With a view to hastening the day when war shall be no more, and peace and plenty shall abound for all, we invite our fellow-workers of this and other lands to study Socialism.
S. W. T.