1910s >> 1916 >> no-138-february-1916

By The Way


Thumbs Up!
The week commencing Monday, 10th January, proved to be an interesting one in the English House of Commons. On the termination of a debate dealing with the prosecution of the war, the question of the suppression of a Scottish paper (‘‘Forward) came up for discussion. To those people here who are so fond of telling how the poor German is “spoonfed” by the Press and the authorities in his native land, the following notice issued by the Press Bureau may prove interesting reading :

  Mr. Lloyd George will address meetings at Glasgow, and it is particularly requested that no report other than the official version of his speech should he published.

The “request” on this occasion for silence on a question of such importance is significant of much. Doubtless it was a case of coming events casting their shadows before them, and the official eye had discerned that the right honorable gent, was in for a lively time. “Tell it not in Gath” that at long last the before-mentioned gentleman, whose silver tongue has so often been used to coat the bitter pills given to the workers, is found out. A careful perusal of the Official Debates reveals the fact that Mr. George does not stand alone in this connection, for we find that the Clyde workers “repudiate Mr. Arthur Henderson” and “Mr. Brownlie has been told the same to his face.” Possibly later historians will describe them as an unholy trinity.

I do not propose at this juncture to deal at any length with this subject. Suffice it to say that, perhaps, an extract from a capitalist paper would not prove amiss.

  If, as Mr. Lloyd George stated last night, the suppression of the Glasgow journal “Forward” was due to a series of unjustifiable articles, it was decidedly unfortunate that no action should have been taken until that newspaper had published a report of the Minister’s conferences with the Clyde munition workers. As the Press had been forbidden to publish any report other than the obviously one-sided “official” version of this meeting, the suspicion was not unnatural that “Forward’s” offence consisted in letting in too much light upon that adventure. . . It was a grave blunder to defer action by the Executive until immediately after the Minister’s visit to the Clyde. “Star,” 11.1.16.

The only supporter of Mr. Lloyd George was a military member who briefly addressed the House and stated that he rose “to support the Minister of Munitions, a man who, I must say, I have never supported before.” Of course, Tories and Liberals join hands when necessary to make a combined attack on the workers, just as the French and German rulers did when the workingmen of Paris revolted after the Franco-German war (1870-1). The priceless gem was found when Captain Campbell said :

 I tell the House frankly that if I had the Hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite) in my battalion at the front he would be strung up by the thumbs before he had been there half an hour. Official Report, Vol. 77., No. 142, Col. 1420.

Such language, addressed to an M.P., is too strong even for capitalist journals, for the “Star” (11. 1.16) commenting on this says:

  This is the sort of brutality that many people in Prussia and a few people here mistake for “firmness’’ and patriotism. If they were heeded we should soon revert to the era of the pitchcap and the thumb-screw, which left such a dark stain on Irish history a century ago.

The laughter and cheers that greeted Captain Campbell’s bully-swashbuckler threat makes it evident that the motto for conscription is ‘‘Thumbs Up!”

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Economy!
In the early part of the month of December three Cabinet Ministers addressed the “representatives” of organised labour on the need for economy. Reference has previously been made in these pages to the speeches then delivered. I refer now to this incident only to lead up to the further point that at almost the same time the Press was busily engaged in advertising the fact that the daughter of Mr. Asquith and his private secretary were being married also at Westminster. After reading how the bride was gowned (an interesting study for bourgeois ladies) the next announcement was that “Mr. and Mrs. Bonham-Carter have returned to London after their honeymoon tour in Southern England and Italy.” Evidently they are not concerned about economy in war time. One wonders how some of the munition workers would take to the idea of a trip to sunny Italy now, eh ?

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Made in Germany.
The old adage reads “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Whilst this may or may not be so, it would he well for those who are constantly declaiming against Germany and things of German origin to remember that technical institutes, labour exchanges, insurance acts (did not the Welsh Christ go specially to Germany to study for himself the operation of the insurance acts there?) pensions, all come from Germany, and, last but not least, are not our masters going to “crush German Militarism with that close imitation of German Militarism, Compulsory Military Service?

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Signs of the Times.
The Compulsory Military Service Bill which is before the House at the time of writing is bringing forth the usual crop of protests and resolutions from various sources. One of the things that stand out in noon-day clearness is the attitude of the “Labour” frauds. These gentry are so fond of getting on their legs at conferences and at other meetings and stating that “we speak for organised labour; ” “we represent hundreds of thousands of such-and-such workers.” The idea is preposterous. How often do these fakirs really consult the rank and file of their organisations to ascertain the views held by them? Very seldom. The present scribe happens to belong to one of these organisations, where certain individuals are elected “as delegates” from time to time to attend Trade Union conferences, etc., and where the idea of these said “delegates’’ receiving their instructions from the rank and file is entirely foreign to them.

However, as an illustration of the hopeless state of confusion that the present Labour Party are in, the following only needs to be stated for this to be at once realised. On the occasion of the First Reading of the aforesaid Bill there voted: against, l3; for, 10; and a number sat on the fence. A somewhat similar course was adopted on the motion for the rejection of the Bill at the Second Reading, but with a majority in favour of the Bill and only nine against. One brave old “labour leader” delivered himself as follows : “I would rather die a thousand deaths than allow a conqueror to rule over Britain.”

We read that the Executive of the National Union of Railwaymen have discussed this Bill, and their conclusions will, no doubt, shock many. I have noticed in the debates that many of those who are so fond of talking about spending the last farthing and shedding the last drop of blood (other people’s, of course) are very seriously concerned when such things as the Excess Profits Tax are under discussion. Imagine, then, what their feelings must be like when they read that the railway men have decided ;

  That any scheme involving the confiscation of the lives of men and leaving the material resources of the nation in the hands of a privileged class cannot be termed “National Service,” and should therefore be opposed by the united forces of Labour.
That unless the Government are prepared, as a preliminary step, immediately to confiscate wealth of all description, viz., land, shipping, money, and all other national assets, we are prepared by every means in our power to resist the confiscation of men whose only wealth is their labour-power, as we believe that if such a principle as that now proposed by the Government is once adopted it will mean the loss of liberties which are essential to effective industrial organisation and action, and will mean the permanent enslavement of our class. “Daily Chronicle.” 15.1.16.

In view of the lack of “unity,” as evidenced by the Labour Party and the “labour leaders” in the House and out of it, one is afraid that the pious resolutions passed by sections of the workers will avail them little until they realise their class position in society and, basing their action on that knowledge, they organise to overthrow the present system instead of tinkering with various manifestations of capitalism—then and then only will they come into their own. Organise, then, for Socialism.

The Scout.