By the Way

It has been pointed out in the columns of the SOCIALIST STANDARD time and time again to what uses the Labour Exchanges of a benign Liberal Government might be put. Quite recently I note from the pen of the Labour Representative in a capitalist journal, that once again the much-boomed Exchange has been used for the purpose of paralyzing any attempt on the part of a section of the organised workers to improve their, or rather to maintain something like a decent, standard of existence. Let me quote :

“A very bitter feeling has grown up amongst the ranks of organised labour owing to the action of the Isle of Man Labour Exchange being used as the medium of supplying blacklegs in connection with the dispute at Fleetwood and Heysham, especially when it is remembered that the seamen and firemen involved offered arbitration prior to the stoppage. This was refused by the railway companies, and during the past week twenty-four men have been sent by the Isle of Man Labour Exchange to “sign on” on boats involved in the dispute. Clearly this action by the Government Labour Exchange is foreign to anything intended when the Exchanges were set up, and is at variance with every promise given on the subject by the Board of Trade.” —”Reynolds’s,” June 4th, 1916.

From the concluding portion of the extract it would appear that another “pledge” has gone astray and that this and similar promises were made to be broken. “How long, oh ! Lord, how long” will it take the workers to learn the lessons of the past, and, instead of worrying about another paltry shilling a week, organise for the overthrow of the system of wage-slavery which to them means lives of grinding toil and poverty, and to the employing class idle existence in the lap of unparalleled luxury.

* * *

In perusing some Trade Union journals, and also capitalist newspapers, lately, one has been compelled to notice the fact that there is a growing dissatisfaction with the labour leaders who blossom forth as labour politicians. Signs are not wanting that some workers at least have their optics on these labour fakirs, and that henceforth the latter will have to toe the line or “get out and get under.” From the information gathered it would seem that there is an awaken­ing in the ranks of organised labour, which should be developed. To those who at last are beginning to see how their “leaders” have taken advantage of the political ignorance of the political ignorance of the workers and on whose backs they have been carried into political significance, I would recomend a study of the Socialist Party’s literature. To-day these “leaders,” instead of being the servants of the unions, are the bosses thereof, and time after time betray the workers.

* * *

I have before me a report of the Conference of the Postmen’s Federation, which was recently held at Manchester. Some of the views ex­pressed bear out the contention in the above paragraph. A motion was submitted (but voted down) “That the Federation cease affiliation with the Labour Party.” The mover of the resolution in the course of his remarks said :

“The Labour Party had never done any good to postmen, and he advised his comrades to have nothing more to do with twisters and political thugs.
The seconder referred to the attitude of these quack medicine vendors in the House of Commons on the occasion of the Compulsory Military Service Debates. He reminded the Conference that
‘The Labour Party voted for conscription.’” —”Reynolds’s,” June 4th, 1916.

A speaker in support of the motion mentioned that discipline in the Labour’Party was non-ex­istent, doubtless having regard to previous utterances of Labour members who attended another conference at the inception of the Conscription Bill, and who openly declared that whatever conclusion the Conference might come to, they would go to the House and vote as they thought fit.

* * *

During the past week a little diversion was introduced into our humdrum existence. On opening our morning rags, commonly called newspapers, we were informed by a large headine that a “Labour M.P. bursts into tears.” Whether or no he was rehearsing for the cinema we are not yet permitted to know ; but at all events the news imparted was that “Mr. Will Thorne, M.P., completely broke down towards the end of his speech, and was too overcome with emotion to resume.” This unfortunate occurrence took place at a dinner of the National Union of Gas workers and General Labourers, and really the actor should have reserved this little episode for some more fitting occasion. Gentlemen, weeping at a dinner is entirely out of place.

* * *

The report goes on to state that this gentleman, who is in the habit of making silly remarks in another place, said : “You have been told that you have a secretary who is an uneducated man. No one knows that better than myself. . . .” Then he wept. (Quotations from “Daily Sketch,” 14.7.16.)

Having read, I believe it was in the Licensed Vehicle Workers’ Journal, of a hint being given to the beforementioned gentleman that he should look out for another situation, as some of those who had hitherto supported him were getting a bit “fed up” with his recent performances, I can partly understand this bit of acting at the dinner. Try again, Bill, you may eventually succeed on the pictures.

* * *

We have heard much in times past on the subject of German atrocities, but the revelations vouchsafed to us in connection with the Dublin revolution leaves the question a very debatable one as to whether the ruling class here are any better than elsewhere. The shooting of Sheehy Skeffington and two other journalists affords an illustration of the point. The details are rather significant, particularly the second shooting of Skeffington, when it is borne in mind that the officer who gave the order is declared insane. The reports of the court-martial to be found in the columns of the “Daily Chronicle” for June 7th and 8th are highly interesting.

* * *

One of the interesting items of last mouth was the announcement by the War Office that attested married men should enrol at the chief recruiting office for munition work. Think ye ! what this means. The Press informs us that crowds of men between the ages of 36 and 41 hurried to answer the call. These noble patriots who had received an armlet and possibly 2s. 9d., and had been so keen on maintaining the “voluntary” system, and were anxious to kill Germans for King and country, now desired not to shirk but to help “their” country at a respect­able distance from the actual scene of operations. One quotation on this topic will suffice :

“The rush to obtain positions in this class of work was again undiminished, the first arrivals taking their stand as early as 3 a.m.”—”Daily Chronicle,” June 7th, 1916.

In some sections of the capitalist Press special point was made of this offer of munition work not applying to the “unattested married shirker.” Further comment is superfluous !

* * *

The German paper “Vorwaerts” publishes a report of a speech by Herr Hofer in the Prus­sian Lower House, which was delivered a few days ago. The fact that portions of it were reprinted in English Press is alone significant, seeing that the speaker took some pains to emphasise the capitalist nature of the war. There is the further point also that in spite of what is generally stated here with regard to the absence of liberty of thought and speech in Germany, they appear, at all events, to have quite as much of these liberties as we who happen to have been born here. Perhaps a few extracts would not be amiss.

“We shall continue to spread our [Socialist] ideas, and I have little doubt that the seed which we sow will find ready acceptance in the furrows which the war has ploughed, and which have been fertilized by the blood and tears of the nation. . .
You ruling classes are surprised at the patience of the people. But fermentation has already begun in the masses. If you listen, you will hear them saying, ‘It could not have been worse, even had the Russians come to Berlin.’
And now you begin to fear that the flame of indignation, the revolution, will strike out of the glimmering sparks of knowledge which the people are beginning to acquire as to the reasons and objects of this slaughter of nations. . . The people now know that they must starve at home and be slaughtered at the front in the interests of a small clique of capitalists. —”Daily Chronicle,” 14.6.16.

As was pointed out in a paragraph in last month’s issue, it is strange that the British Press should take some pains to search for and reprint items like the foregoing from Germany, whilst for those here who are taking a similar line of action no epithet is bad enough.

* * *

The niggardly meanness of the capitalist class has often been a theme of reference in these columns, particularly of late with regard to their treatment of “wounded heroes.” On this occasion it is from a somewhat different aspect that I view it. It happened like this : The House of Commons were a short time ago dis­cussing the question of American securities and Mr. McKenna had asked holders of these said securities to either sell or lend them to the Government. Some responded to the invitation, while others held back. In the meantime Mr. McKenna decided that the shy ones needed a spur to wake them up, and, therefore, proposed putting an extra 2s. in the pound income tax on the dividends of all American securities in this country not lent or sold to the Government.

The writer of the column headed “The Talking Shop” in “Reynolds’s,” commenting on this, says that another M.P. (Sir F. Banbury) was much upset by this, and even described it as “particularly bad” and “shocking.” He goes on to say that :

“It is rather amusing to me to notice that Sir Frede­rick has not the least objection to compelling men to give up their lives by forcing them into the Army, but he raises a piteous outcry when it is proposed to touch so sacred a. thing as property.” — “Reynolds’s,” 11.4.16.

A fine specimen of the patriot, eh ? Too old to fight and a really conscientious objector to paying others to fight for him.

* * *

On reading the observations in a weekly paper in connection with the death of Lord Kitchener I turned up an old cutting from the same paper of some years ago. It is interesting also as it touches on the question of discharged soldiers. This is how they read :

“The messages from all over the world on the death of Lord Kitchener show the unique estimation in which he was held as a soldier and an organiser. No other British soldier had anything like his prestige. The whole Empire realises how big a man has gone. But it is thankful to know that his greatest task was accomplished. Other hands may carry on work which the could not have commenced”—”Reynolds’s,” 11.6.16.

“Those incompetent warriors, Kitchener and Roberts, who had the audacity to take £150,000 of the nation’s money for disgracefully mismanaging the war, have been going about the country appealing to private employers of labour to do what they can for returned soldiers. Yet how can private individuals be expected to give work to ex-soldiers when the Civil Service authorities themselves refuse to do so ?—”Reynolds’s,” after the South African War.

This is a specimen of capitalist journalism ! They play a different tune as and when occasion demands. At one time one thing, at another something different. All for the purpose of keeping the workers’ minds rivetted on some­thing of minor consequence, and tending to draw their attention away from the only thing that matters—the robbery of the workers and the way to prevent it.

* * *

It has been frequently stated in these pages that municipalisation is no panacea for working-class ills, and neither is it Socialism, as some soothsayers would have us believe. The benefits that do accrue are all to the advantage of the robber class. The further development of municipalisation would still leave the exploited and the exploiter. Further evidence of the advantages to the capitalist class of this form of ownership is to be seen in the following extract:

“It is not many years since every suggestion to municipalise public services was regarded as Quixotic, or Utopian. Now many public services are munici­palised. The profits from gas, tramways. and electricity of Nottingham last year reached £60,350, which meant a reduced rate of 5d. It would seem as if the remedy for all the evils of municiplalisation is plenty more of it. -“Reynolds’s,” 14.5.16.

Municipal or State ownership merely means more poverty for the workers, for with the abo­lition of overlapping, the higher development of organisation and the scientific methods of production, fewer workers are required in the various undertakings so municipalised, and the result is a gradual worsening of conditions generally. Organise, then, for Socialism—which means the common ownership of the means of life.


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