Since the inauguration of the tribunals under the Military Service Act, the public has had an opportunity of witnessing the absolute “impartiality” of those who fitly grace such tribunals with their presence. I have read of members of these tribunals stating their views of conscientious objectors in the following manner : “You ought to be shot,” and “You ought to be hanged.” Even military representatives can be found who exclaim: “You have not the pluck of a mouse,” and, “Filled up with the madness of insane views” ! But the choicest gem of all is found in the following question asked in the House of Commons:
“Mr. SNOWDEN asked the President of the Local Government Board what action he proposes to take upon the conduct of Councillor Hopwood of the Shaw, near Oldham, local tribunal, who told an applicant for an exemption on the ground of conscientious objection, on 7th March, that he was exploiting God to save his own skin, that he was a deliberate and rank blasphemer, a coward and a cad, and nothing but a shivering mass of unwholesome fat ; and if he will ask the council who appointed this member to the tribunal to exercise their powers under the instructions to dismiss a man who has shown himself incompetent for the duties of his office ?”
The reply was as follows :
“Mr. HAWKS FISHER: The question of revoking the appointment of any member of a local tribunal rests with the local authority appointing it, and I think I can safely leave the case in their hands.”
Of course the reply is a mere shuffle ; but it does not say much for the claim put forward by the powers that be that the claims of conscientious objectors would be considered by a judicial and fair-minded body !
A Member of the Old Red International
The gentleman who claims the above title was referred lo in the pages of the “S.S.” last March. For an example of bitter narrow-mindediness I would refer readers to the speech of the Hon. Mr. C. B. Stanton in the House on the 16th March. Coming from an “old red internationalist” it is distinctly rich. As it is obviously impossible for all who might desire to read the whole of his diatribe to do so, let me quote a few extracts :
“Who are these conscientious objectors ? In times of peace we had to put up with all kinds of faddists, but in time of war, when our Empire (capital E, Mr. Printer for “our” Empire, please) is in danger, surely it is the wrong time to tolerate them. It is a wicked and devilish conspiracy. . . . They go about to denounce me and the likes of me, and say we have betrayed the Labour cause because we dare to be true to our country and our king. These people should not be tolerated in this house. . . . I warn this house that the time has come when we must put an end to this sort of thing. . , . They are not British. I say they are no men. If they wish to be martyrs, let them go and get themselves crucified. … It would pay the British Govemment to let them go to some little South Sea island so that they could start there a little hell or harem of their own. Here they hamper progress, and they hamper every chance that we have.” Col. 2411-2.
Enough. Gawd forbid that I should quote more. If you require more the price of the Report is 3d. There is value for money in this issue, and I do not receive a commission on sales. “They denounce me” and “hamper every chance that we have.” You’re spotted, eh, Mr. Stanton ?
Suffer Little Children . .
The mere repetition of the word “war” seems to be a justifiable excuse for the departure from all normal practices in the eyes of our governing class. During a recent discussion at Westminster on the Civil Services Vote on account, it was officially stated by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, in reply to a question as to how many children of school age have been withdrawn from school, that a return was about to be issued, but, perhaps he might be allowed to summarise it by saying “that the number of boys between 11 and 12 years of age who have been withdrawn throughout the country is 143, and the number of girls is 1. In the case of those between 12 and 13 years of age the number of boys withdrawn is 4,208, and the number of girls 13 ; between 13 and 14 years of age, boys 3,511, and girls 78.
That there is no need whatever for this wholesale taking away of children from school is clear and plain to all those who have eyes to see. It is merely a question of pounds, shillings and pence. Our patriotic, liberty-loving, cheap-labour bosses do not like parting up the money necessary for the upkeep of an adult wage slave. So the kiddies of the working class must be procured by a side-wind and the war offers a good excuse. There have already been serious accidents to young boys in sole charge of a team of horses, and in two cases it is believed with fatal results ! A speaker during the debate stated that he was a member of a local education authority and he let fall the following remarks:
“We thought that was going far enough, and some of us reluctantly agreed to it. This year a resolution was passed, by 6 votes to 5, that children of 11 years of age could be withdrawn from school. At the same time the Board of Agriculture have issued a notice to farmers that they can have soldiers who have been accustomed to agriculture to assist in farm work this spring at 4s. per day, and there is not a single farmer who has asked for a single soldier in that district. I say that this is proof positive that these safeguards which the Board of Education talk about have never been carried out at all.”—Offl. Rpt. 2nd March, 1916. Vol. 80. No. 10. Cols. 1274-5.
Perhaps it is worth while to note that there is a Labour Member connected with the department of education, Mr. A. Henderson. What is he doing for the children of the working class ? The point that soldiers can be spared at a certain wage per day for farmers, whilst at the same time “we require more men and still more men” for the army, I leave to others to reconcile.
S. W. T.