“Our” Fair Inheritance
“It was natural and inevitable that many of us who have hitherto thought ourselves citizens of the world, being unable and unwilling to leave our country during the period of the war, should have been surprised by a sudden love of England.
“Indeed, it is one of the good consequences of the present bad conflict that after ten, fifteen, twenty, even thirty years spent abroad at various intervals of our lives in search of health or pleasure we should have been compelled to realise that England is the best country in the world for an Englishman to travel in.
“Greater and grander things there are elsewhere to incite to higher raptures, but since the automobile has penetrated into the deep valleys of Cornwall and Somerset . . it is good to feel that our beautiful green England, is after all, the fairest land the sun shines upon.
“And as we pass over it on these bright spring days . . which of us does not tell himself that, us long as there remains one man or woman of British blood above British soil, this England shall be ours—ours and our children’s ?”—Hall Caine in “Reynolds’s,” 30.5.15.
If it is one of the “good consequences of the present bad conflict” that those who have been able to spend years abroad in search of health or pleasure, should have been compelled to realise that England is the best country in the world for them to travel in, it would undoubtedly also be a good consequence if those who never journey further from their poverty-stricken haunts than to the mine, field, or factory, were made to ask themselves why they should not be partaking of the things that incite to higher raptures. It would be a good consequence if the working class were at last to claim their share of the good things of the earth. For it is obvious that the war, whatever its issue, will not only not lift the working class from their miserable condition, but will leave them in a more precarious position than before.
That the working class is not in our masters’ schemes, except to afford the latter riotous luxury and, in time of war, providing food for cannon, is abundantly evident, but we have to thank Mr. Hall Caine for bluntly stating the fact. No worker who has been the dupe of other capitalist agents could possibly by deceived by the above. We are not left in the dark as to the meaning of “Britain for the British” and “ours.” Indeed, by making it perfectly clear that by “we” and “us” are meant those “citizens of the world” whom only a world-war prevents making their accustomed voyages de plaisir, and by thus ignoring and showing his contempt for those who spend their lives in labouring for capitalist profit, the author assures that “Ours and our children’s” will not be understood to include the working class. And in this is the difference between the above and most of the ordinary “appeals, that the ‘ours'” is openly identified with the possessing class, and unmasks the professional scribes for the vulgar satellites of the bourgeoisie that they are.
But even if one or other of Capitalism’s servants did not occasionally, in a momentary return to honesty, make it clear that by “the interests of the nation” are to be understood the interests of their paymasters, the capitalist class ; even if our masters themselves did not from time to time strikingly proclaim that their interests are far from being identical with those of the workers (instance : the employers’ £50,000,000 scheme to smash strikes) ; even if the capitalist Press, pulpit, and platform never departed from their ordinary game of bluff and hypocrisy, that worker must be dense indeed whose suspicion is not aroused at the mere assertion that the powers that be are concerned about the welfare of the working class. Have the master class of Britain, for example, ever been concerned about the millions of English people who have been rotting in their slums? While there are thirty-nine million poor in the country (Sir Chiozza Money) and one-third of them are continually on the verge of hunger (Sir H. Campbell- Bannerman) the masters have enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and amassed huge fortunes.
In the face of such facts as these, that is to say, when it is so very obvious that the real enemy of the great mass of the people constituting this or any other nation, lurks within the gates of their native land. (“Poverty is not the fault of Providence,” to which admission its author would certainly have added another, namely, “nor is it the fault of the foreigner”), the position of the working class—the poor—fighting their fellows abroad, is, to say the least, supremely grotesque. Besides, what greater misfortune could befall, and what greater injury could be inflicted upon the working class than the enemy within their gates has been and is responsible for ?
Verily, it would be one of the good consequences of the present tragedy, which, after all, is only the measure of the beauty of capitalism, if it compelled the realisation on the part of the European workers, that this enemy is not one of race but of class. For such recognition is the only safe guide for a sound, working-class organisation ; only the organisation on class lines, in deadly opposition to the international master class, is capable of drawing the workers of all tongues together, and will finally secure the world for the workers.
Fellow workers, the world is beautiful, let us secure it for ourselves.