By the Way

In carefully perusing the daily press unique opportunities are afforded the student of current events to observe the amazing contradictions recorded there from time to time. When one bears in mind the statement which has been repeated on so many occasions that the present conflict is a war of liberty and to secure the rights of small nations, etc., etc., it is exceedingly difficult to reconcile this view of things with the violation of all the pre-existing conditions. One is obliged to ask : What of the suppression of various newspapers, the placing under arrest of those against whom no charge has been preferred, the threatened deportation of political refugees, and a hundred and one other similar questions.

In view, therefore, of these things one wonders when the workers will take the blinkers from off their eyes and endeavour to see things as they actually are, instead of seeing them as labour leaders and other hirelings of the master class represent them to be. A few weeks ago a new and freakish organisation, the British Workers’ National League, organised a demonstration, and, according to a comic cuts or picture paper report, we read that Mr. G. Wardle, M.P., delivered a rousing speech from which I cull the following:

“I believe that out of the evil of this great war there is arising for the democracy of all the countries a new era. Oppression and militarism are already dead. The people of the Allies are all determined that as a final result of this great struggle there shall be throughout the world a better day for all men—the day of liberty, the day of democracy, the day of the people.—”Daily Sketch,” July 15th, 1916.

Doubtless the remark “a new era” is perfectly true. An era of intensified suffering for many, an era of desolation for many thousands of homes and an era of struggles for those left behind to make a miserable pittance stretch over the weekly period. The sentence “oppres­sion and militarism are already dead” is decidedly rich, but maybe Mr. Wardle has just awakened from a long sleep. Oh, the pity of it !

* * *

Perhaps the before-mentioned gentleman in his wakeful moments may have been in the House a few days later when a question was asked regarding the punishment meted out to a driver in France for very slightly exceeding the speed limit, and who was “awarded 90 days’ field punishment, entailing being strapped to a wagon in full view of the troops for two hours a day, and a loss of 90 days’ pay, and the loss to the man’s wife of his allotment.” The official reply was “that the court-martial was quite within its rights in awarding the punishment named. Very strict regulations have been laid down to prevent reckless driving in France the authorities there having had their attention called to a number of cases where children had been injured owing to that cause.” One week after this case was again referred to and the same minister replied “that the G. O. C. remitted a month of the sentence, and it was afterwards wholly remitted. The effect of this was to restore to the man his pay, and also the allotment to his wife. The War Secretary did not see his way to make any alteration in the law in respect to field punishment.” (Quotations from “Daily Chronicle,” Aug. 2nd and 9th, 1916.) The headlines referring to this case are also an interesting study. On the first occasion I notice, “Field Punishment. Strapped to a wagon for two hours a day.” Second, “Degrading punishment of soldiers.” Sooner or later it may possibly dawn on the hon. Mr. G. Wardle that “oppression and militarism” are far from being “dead.”

* * *

A good illustration of precept and practice was brought to the notice of the House the other day on the subject of the soldiers’ pensions. In the course of the debate Mr. Will Crooks told of a soldier discharged with a pension of 7s. 6d. a week, and the letter he received from a lady who knew of the case. An extract is highly interesting reading. It runs as follows :

“I heard vou speak in ——. You said that every wounded warrior would be properly looked after by his country. You are a liar (laughter.) And you knew you were a liar when you said it. (Renewed laughter.)”—”Reynolds’s,” August 20th, 1916.

The agitation which is gradually growing on this question is, of course, somewhat serious, particularly to the labour members who in the earlier days of the war placed themselves unreservedly at the disposal of the powers that be and stumped the country in aid of “voluntary enlistment,” the while telling the workers that a grateful country would look after those broken in the war. The columns of cases of hardship grow day by day and these patriotic labour leaders are now seeing that the promises so glibly made are being falsified by later events, and thus tend to place in jeopardy their future career. Hence the vim and vigour they are placing in their united efforts to obtain some measure of recognition for a more generous scale of pension. To show I am not exaggerating the position let me quote another labour man (Mr. G. N. Baraes) in an interview with a representative of “Reynolds’s.” Pointing to a sheaf of correspondence on his desk, he said:

“These things are getting on my nerves. I simply cannot sleep for them. They all refer to the same subject—men broken since they joined the Army and discharged without the slightest provision made for them or their families in the immediate future.” (Same paper, same date.)

One could fill an issue of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD quite easily with cases taken at random from our masters’ Press. Only the other day the “Daily Express” devoted a portion of its front page to the case of a man who was disabled and, owing to the gratefulness not having reached maturity, was obliged to take out a barrel organ in order to maintain a wife, three children and himself. Such is the generosity of our masters. War time or peace time we are sucked like an orange and then discarded.

* * *

In my perambulations recently I noticed several exhortations to “postpone your holi­days,” which advice in many cases, including my own, is superfluous, or as Cabinet ministers would reply: “the question, therefore, does not arise.” But about the same time I read :

“The Hon. Mrs.——left for Kilmarnock.
Lord——left for Rufford Abbey.
The Earl of——left for Burton-on-Trent.
Lady——left for Edinburgh.
Etc., Etc.”——Evening News,” August 8th, 1916.

In no case did I notice that anyone left for—munition works. No, that is left for we workers!

* * *

I have been much interested of late in reading about cases before local Tribunals. Just picture the scene for yourself. Council chamber, and local bumbledom (all impartial gentlemen) with all the pomp and circumstance attaching to their high office, about to hear claims for exemption from military service. Recently I came across the following under the heading of “Wisdom of Mr. Solomon” :

“At the Aldershot Tribunal, Mr. Robertson, the chairman, asked : “What is a linotype operator?”
Mr. Solomon (a member of the Tribunal and a camp furnisher) : “One who lays lino on the floor.” —”Evening Standard,” August 11, 1916.

Were it not for the fact that I read this again in a morning newspaper I should have taken it an a joke on the part of the “Evening Standard.” What an exhibition of profundity ! And is this a specimen of judges of domestic or conscientious objections ?

* * *

It appears as if one of the results of the war will be to crush out of existence as such the small capitalist, and force him into the ranks of the workers. That there is some legitimate ground for this belief is evidenced from time to time in the papers. A recent illustration is to hand in an aunouncemeut issued the other day that the London Unionist members received a deputation from the small shell makers round London, who converted their plant, formerly used to make sewing machines, bicycles, etc., to the national uses.

“They cumplain that the subsequent establishment by the Government of great arsenals which can be run more economically has cut into their production, and that they are threatened with bankruptcy.”—”Daily News,” August l0th, 1916.

Here, then, we observe the pathetic wail of the small capitalist who is threatened with death and destruction—not as a result of the establishment of Socialism, which has been asserted by some to he the end of all things, but by the development of capitalism in itself.

* * *

A question regarding the cost of pauper indoor maintenance was recently asked in the House of Commons. The questioner desired to know “the average cost per head of pauper indoor maintenance on 31st March, 1913, 1914, 1915, and 1916 respectively ?” The reply was as follows: “The estimated average cost per indoor pauper in England and Wales for the year ended March, 1913 was £3 12s. 10¾d., and for the year ended March, 1914 £34 9s. 4¾d. Complete returns lor the later years are not yet available.” (Official Report, Cols. 2188-9, Aug. 22nd, 1910.) An old age “pension” of 5s.per week, or £13 per year, is a grand thing for the capitalist class. The economy campaign com­menced before the war. See what you save the master class by holding out your hand for a dollar a week to spend the evening of your days in your own chimney corner,

* * *

A case of exceptional hardship was given some prominence in a recent issue of a Sunday paper. The facts, according to the report, briefly stated are :

“The breadwinner in a military gaol because he remained with his wife when she was in the valley of the shadow.
Separation allowance; stopped.
Windows and door of the tenement removed by landlord’s agent.
Every pawnable possession gone for food. Parish rations.”

The item of news goes on to say that “some may be uncharitable enough to say that her husband should not have overstayed his leave, and then all this trouble would not have befallen his innocent wife and children. But there is no true man who, in similar circumstances, would not be where Private Price … is to-day. About nine weeks ago Mrs. Price risked her life to bring another little Briton into the world.” It continues by stating that the husband obtained leave to be near his wife, whose recovery was not rapid, and that he was confronted with the following dilemma :
(1) Return to duty and leave his wife with children to care for, and without relative or friend to aid her.
(2) Stay with her and chance the consequences.
“He chose the latter and when he returned to barracks was awarded 56 days’ detention.” We are further informed from this Press report that a representative of the “Illustrated Sunday Herald visited the woman and her children “at their cheerless home” and “he found a spectacle which for sheer desolation and grief could not be found elsewhere in London.” A reference is made to the family subsisting on the following parochial fare:

1 tin of treacle.
1 tin of condensed milk.
2 loaves of bread.
1 lb. of rice.
issued every two or three days”—“Illustrated Sunday Herald,” Aug. 6th, 1916

This from a capitalist paper in every sense of the word patriotic is a striking commentary on the patriotism of our masters.

* * *

The answer to the question with regard to the employment of soldiers at the Llanelly Steel Works, their rate of pay, etc., came somewhat as a shock to some of the labour men in the House when it transpired that these men were doing civilian work for soldiers’ pay, the War Office appropriating the difference. So concerned were the Labour Party that they met to discuss Dr. Addison’s reply, and

“Mr. C. W. Bowerman, M. P., said yesterday that Dr. Addison’s own confession rendered it impossible for labour to ignore such a serious infraction of the arrangements which had been previously made, and he predicted that if parliamentary action did not avail Labour would consider other ways of stopping it.”— “Globe,” August 9th, 1916.

Is this Industrial Conscription ? At last the Labour fakirs wake up, and, they bark. To interfere with the freedom of the men in the matter of the disposal of their labour-power is poaching on the fakirs’ preserves, and if anything like that’s a doing, why, they have got to be paid THEIR price.


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