“Peace” atrocities

At this time of universal carnage, when a working-class life is held by the powers that be as of rather less value than that of a fly, it is not to be expected that the general public will take any great interest in the life or death, or the conditions of life, of a few score or hundreds of its members. The “general public” may be said to comprise a vast conglomeration of work­ing-class units, the residue of those outside the working class being so small as to be practically negligible in point of numbers ; and these working-class units—or working men and women—are, in the great majority of cases, at present so embued with the spirit of their masters, the capitalists, so enslaved by the teachings and view-point of those who enslave them, that their whole outlook on life is nothing but a shadowy and more debased version of an already nebulous and debased system of conduct. Independence of thought and action are at any time hard to attain, and it requires a strong personality or some violent reaction to withstand the insidious doctrines used by the agents of the capitalists to mould, from early youth, the characters of the wage-workers.

So it happens that death to-day has become a triviality, and it looks almost as though working men and women will soon become as callous as their masters with regard to the ever more rapidly growing total of lives lost and broken, the casualties sustained not only in war, but in what people speak of as peace.

Perhaps, however, a short summary of a report that has come into the hands of the writer, appertaining to the conditions of life amongst which a section of the people of London exists, may bring home even to one or two people outside the Socialist Party the fact that peace has her infamies no less than war. We hear a great deal just now about war atrocities—of course, perpetrated by the “enemy” forces-—but neither now nor at any other time do we hear very much about the atrocities committed by Capitalism against the men, women, and children unfortu­nate enough to be born under its regime. A little light, therefore, on this subject may be profitable.

The Report in question refers to the Metropo­litan Borough of Bethnal Green, and has for title “Report on the Sanitary Condition and Vital Statistics during the year 1914 together with the Report of the Chief Sanitary Inspector,” compiled by George Paddock Bate, M.D.

With regard to “Overcrowding” the Chief Sanitary Inspector reports that he “was in receipt of various complaints made by the London County Council District Organiser of Children’s Care Work relating to alleged cases of over­crowding. The addresses given were in each instance in parts of the Borough inhabited by the poorest class, and upon a careful investi­gation of each it was not surprising that the complaints in some of the cases should be substantiated, but these cases were in the main very trifling. Squalid surroundings and intense poverty there were in abundance, the former, it is impossible to deny, so largely dependent upon the latter, especially where the earnings of the man are so small and infrequent as to call for the employment of the wife, thus making for neglect of children and home and destructive of all proper amenities of life.”

The following are some of the “very trifling” cases given :

S., Q——B——.

The inspector reports there are no insanitary conditions existing at these premises. Mrs. S. and her family occupy two rooms, the mother and two girls sleeping in the near room, and the four boys sleep­ing in the far room. The cubic capacity of the one room is 994 cubic feet, and of the other room 866 cubic feet, consequently there is no legal overcrowd­ing, and although, from a hygienic point of view, it is most undesirable that card-box making, or any process entailing the use of strong and offensive smelling glue, should be carried on in any dwelling, this is not—in the present state of the law—illegal, neither can this Authority interfere with it. The woman appears to be very poor, the children do not seem to have any change of clothes, and I under­stand they stop in the room naked while such clothes as they have are being washed.

T., R—— S——.

This family appears to consist of father, mother, and four children under six years of age. The father, I understand, earns about 18s. per week, out of which he pays 4s. per week rent. He is under notice to leave his present situation. The mother has been recently confined, and I am informed the baby is in a wasting condition, as one can well understand it would be, having regard to the poor standard of living obtaining here.
As regards overcrowding, the cubic capacity of the room occupied by this family is about 1387 cubic feet, consequently the overcrowding, if any, would only amount to such a trifle as would not justify interference.

R., G—— G——.

This family appears to consist of father, mother, and three children, the eldest of whom is 6½ years. The father, I understand, sells papers in the street, and is said to give his wife about 1s. 6d. a day. The rent of the room seems to be 2s. per week, and the cubic capacity is 708 cubic feet.
The sanitary condition of the premises is satisfac­tory, and although the room in question is over­crowded to some extent, the difficulty is what to do with people living in such poor and wretched con­ditions.

Re G——, S—— S——.

Adverting to your favour of the 2nd inst., and in further reply thereto, I beg to report that on these premises being visited it was found that the G— family occupy two rooms on the ground floor.
The family seems to consist of the father, mother, boys aged 16 and 11, and girls aged 13, 9, 4, 3, and 19 months. The father is a casual labourer only, and his earnings appear to be very uncertain and percarious. One of the boys earns 7s. a week, and the rent of the two rooms is 4s. 6d. The rooms are overcrowded.”

The following are some of the cases—the words “most interesting cases” are used— contained in the Report of the Chief Sanitary Inspector concerning “Verminous Children and Overcrowded Rooms” :

(a) C——Family, T——Street.

Father, Mother, and six children (ages from 2 to 16 years) in two rooms. Home exceedingly poor. Only one bed, such as it is, for the whole family, and that without clothes, except an apology for a quilt. Cir­cumstances deplorable. Father (a stickdresser) out of work.

(d) G——Family, C——Street.

Father, mother, and four children occupying one room, father done no work for four weeks, previous to which he was on short time and earned very little money. Previously had two rooms, but unable to pay rent. At present living on the charity of friends. One child ill, and should be in the hospital.

(g) P——Family, C——Gardens.

Two adults and five children in two rooms. One set of clothing and bedding only, which was being washed at the time of visit. Mother in bad health, shortly to undergo an operation. Circumstances unsatisfactory.

(h) P——Family, M——Street.

Family equal to four adults and five children. In two rooms. Man and wife only earning part wages, and for some time only 12s. or 13s. per week coming into the home, of which 5s. is for rent. Home con­ditions clean and very poor.”

There are many other cases in the report that I might be quoted equally as deplorable as the examples given, but enough has been said to show the tragic conditions of these “English­men’s Homes,” the “homes” we are implored to fight and die to defend. It is certainly some­thing of a change to read such accounts as the above after we have heard so much lately about the wonderful prosperity of the working class. Twelve or thirteen shillings a week to keep a family of nine people does not sound very pros­perous, and after deducting five shillings from this amount for rent it is hard to see how the remaining seven or eight shillings could very well supply the nine people with food and firing and clothing, and also buy those grand pianos and diamond rings that we are told are now a common feature in the homes of the workers.

It is also to be hoped that some of the well-fed, well-clothed, well-warmed ladies and gentlemen who are so indignant at the wasteful habits of the working class, will come down to Bethnal Green and impress upon the mother of the family designated as “R., G—— G——,” the vital necessity of economy in the spending of the one shilling and sixpence a day she is in the habit of receiving.

In reporting on “Verminous Children and Overcrowded Rooms” the pessimistic statement is made that “there seems to be no one Autho­rity having any real power to intervene and to do something effectual for children coming from such wretched ‘homes.'” Are we, then, to take it for granted that there is no remedy for this condition of things ? Apparently there is, and will be, no remedy forthcoming from those in control of the richest empire the world has ever known, those who willingly spend five million pounds a day for destruction. The Socialist, however, says that these abominations can and must be changed. First it is necessary to obtain the intelligent co-operation of the whole of the working class ; next, for the workers to use that intelligent co-operation in such a way as will enable them to hold and control the means whereby they live ; and then, holding, as they would, the power to order their own lives and destinies, so to use that power as to obtain the best results—the abolition for ever of slumdom and poverty, and all their multitudinous atten­dant evils. Then only will life in its true mean­ing and all the wide potentialities of life be possible to the workers. Until then we shall remain what we now are—poor and degraded, both physically and mentally, the victims of the ghastly god Capitalism.


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