Our shifty paymasters
The debate on the Finance Bill in the House of Commons on October 13th was a typical expression of the shuffling methods of our masters. Those who call the tune were quarrelling over the payment of the piper.
The course of this debate exhibited, as usual, the truth of the Socialist’s contention that economic interests are the prime factors in all historical movements, no matter how much idealistic puff is put into the movements. The attitude of the international money-bags has shown the mercenary motives at the bottom of the present war, in spite of the “sanctity of small nations” twaddle.
Here, in this debate on the distribution of the expenses of the war, we have the clashing interests of all sections of the capitalist class.
The business was opened by a certain Mr. Lough, whose main bone of contention appeared to be the Excess Profits Tax, and he proceeded to set forth the views of our masters on business generally, which views are very enlightening ! “Profits in business,” says he, “seem to me the same thing as victories in war.” The noble gentleman was not far wide of the mark that time, and he evidently adheres to our position that the profits of the masters are made out of the blood of the workers. Further on he says : “It is a serious thing to plunge into the question of measuring too closely with a 12 inch rule the exact profits that have been made during the few months since the commencement of the war.” We should say not ! It might, perhaps, awaken some suspicion in the minds of those who are giving their blood—for what ? “Trading Companies are generally collections of poor people” ! ! Such as the Northcliffs, the Liptons, the Brunner Monds, etc., etc. !
Further on he says, tearfully: “It has been suggested that the bloated people in the trading concerns of the country are not doing their duty in the war. I repudiate the suggestion altogether. As far as I know, every one of the great trading concerns has its Roll of Honour. A large percentage of their men have gone to the front, and many of them have paid the penalty.” How truly blind the trading community really is. They have sent their men (their wage-slaves) out to die.
Here is another gem: “Profits are the wages of our class and wages are the dividends of another class.” There is one difference—wages are on an average the smallest sum that will suffice to keep together the body and soul of a worker and reproduce the necessary working-power, while dividends are anything up to millions of pounds. One is the price of a worker’s labour-power, and often of his life ; the other is the idler’s revenue.
“Do not take a weapon that will damage interests of the greatest importance,” he wailed, but not a word of regret as to the damaging of human flesh and blood.
The sycophantic Philip Snowden then rose and delivered a long address, taking great care not to tread on anybody’s corns; in fact, he comported himself as a “thorough gentleman.” In the course of his remarks this professional toady said: “I am very glad to be able to join in what is the universal testimony and tribute of this country to the sacrifice of life which both the middle and aristocratic classes have made, but in the matter of wealth they are not paying their fair share of the cost of the war.” Fancy thanking our masters for the paltry few who have risked anything in their war in comparison with the myriads of wage slaves ! This is the man deluded workers once called a “Socialist” !
Sir G. Younger also objected to the Excess Profits Tax on the ground that it would put English firms who are now on war work in a disadvantageous position with American firms at the end of the war.
T. M. Healy, in the course of his remarks, made the following enlightening statement with reference to the Income Tax: “You are charging those unfortunate professional men, clerks and others, with incomes of £2 and £3 per week. The Government are going to call upon them for £2, £3, and £5, out of their incomes, and all in connection with a war from which they gain no practical benefit, and these people in Ireland belong to the very classes who have given their sons and brothers to fight.” Tim had better be careful as he is sailing very close to the wind in his excitement. Healy makes use of the above to appeal for a fair share of munition work on behalf of the Irish manufacturers, who, he is afraid, are likely to lose in competition with the English. What he is really out for, of course, is cheap labour, being of opinion that increased taxation will mean higher wages.
Sir Alexander Henderson let out a wail of woe on behalf of the poor devil who, through the proposed tax, would be compelled to exist on the paltry sum of £1,800 per year ! Listen, O ye slaves, to this tale of woe ! “The man that has £4,812 a year would find it, and does find it, very difficult to reduce his expenditure down to the reduced amount of £3,600. If he is only to spend half of that and his expenditure, which was £4,812, is to be reduced to £1,800, take the figure of £5,000 as an example to us how impossible is the suggestion. All a man’s plans in life are more or less made up and fixed according to the income he has had for many years, and to suggest that an expenditure of £4,800 can be reduced to £1,800 is a practical impossibility.” Of course it is ! The idea is simply absurd. Now you starvelings of the workshop and factory who are only called upon to give your life blood in the business, surely you will have pity on the noble lord in his dilemma ! £3,000 a year to be chucked overboard ! Why, it’s preposterous.
After Sir Arthur Markham (shareholder in mines) had suggested that all working men ought to be taxed during the war (their lives are not enough !) in accordance with their ability to pay, urging that “there are many working men earning very high wages who can well afford to make a contribution towards the expenses of the war,” (think of the poor, povery-stricken £1,800 a year merchant, and weep !) our old friend, Mr. Samuel Samuel, rose on behalf of the trading section. “We are the wealthiest country in the world,” says he, and a little further on, “I am sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer will appreciate that the wealth of the nation is in the main the wealth of the individuals who make up the nation,” (what marvellous insight and subtlety !) “those people who spend their lives in business (Lipton, Rothschild, Duke of Devonshire, Duke of Sutherland, etc.) and who by their industry give employment to the millions of working people..” Dear, kind, benevolent souls ! Further on he says: “If you take away not only the surplus profits during the period of the war, but impose large taxes besides, then, when the time comes and we have to enter the markets of the world in competition with other countries, the industrial and commercial classes will be unable to meet that competition with any prospect of success.”
It is strange what things leak out when the thieves are squabbling. Lough pointed out that the Cabinet were not taxing themselves under the excess profits tax, and Sir Alfred Mond drew attention to the “fact that a deputation of a certain number of English motor-car manufacturers waited upon the officials at the Treasury in order to press for a Protective Tariff,” and asks if the new motor tax is the result. Lough also said: “We know that motor-cars are being taxed because of a certain motor-car which is imported into this country from America, with which at the present time English motor-car manufacturers are not able to compete, and consequently British manufacturers require protection against that import until the time comes that they will once more be able to compete with it.” (What is the difference between Free Traders and Protectionists ?) He also pointed out that the “Evening News” had vigorously defended the tax on films imported into this country and pointed out that one of the Directors of the Association that owns the “Evening News”—Mr. Tod Anderson-has 3,000 shares in Regal Films Ltd. This is letting the cat out of the bag with a vengeance.
(All the above quotations are taken from “Parliamentary Debates.” Vol. 74, No. 101.)
Thus the debate went on. Each interest squabbling sordidly as to who shall bear the least part of the expenses of the war—each trying to shift the burden on to other shoulders. If space would permit and the patience of the readers held out I could quote enough to fill columns showing the cold-blooded, mercenary spirit of the masters throughout this debate. While they are spending hours shifting the burden of payment, the latest returns show, according to Mr. Outhwaite (Parliamentary Debates. Vol. 74, No. 103, p. 1571) that British casualties up to 10th Oct. in the Dardenelles alone amount to 96,899 !
Such are the men who run “our” Empire; and such are the exalted views that guide them !
Now, fellow slaves, what are you fighting for ? Think !