By the Way

During the past month several conferences have been held in various parts of the country, and the reports appearing in the Press of their deliberations, though brief, are somewhat interesting reading. For instance, I gather that at the closing meeting of the British Association at Newcastle the subject for consideration was that of industrial fatigue. On this occasion one, Dr. Hunter, declared that the question of fatigue had been very much exaggerated, and he went on to say that :

“In yards where they worked four and a half days a week of 37 hours there could not be any over-fatigue in the ordinary sense, but it was found that if men combined hard work with drinking whisky then over-fatigue might and did come in.
Men who did not take drink worked longer hours in his works and did not suffer in health or com plain of over-fatigue.”

Presumably Dr. Hunter would have us believe that the men engaged in the shipbuilding yards only work 37 hours per week, and that the main cause of the trouble in whisky drinking. How many more times is the drink gag to be trotted out as the first and last reason of the failure of capitalist production? One has only to recall the shortage of munitions in the early days of the war to recollect that then there was the same outcry of drinking and shirking. The concluding remarks of the speaker are exceedingly interesting. He continues:

“If men took a more intelligent interest in their work and worked harder they would feel very much less fatigue. The effort to work slowly was really very fatiguing.”—”Daily Chronicle,” Sept. II, 1916.

Of course, all those wage slaves who have had the good fortune to write daily time sheets and the privilege of punching the clock when they start and finish a job will be able to appreciate to the fullest extent the reference to “a more intelligent interest in their work.” Delightfully funny, isn’t it ?

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A reference to the foregoing conference in another paper states that “Dr. Oliver said that industrial fatigue did exist and played a very important part in the number of accidents that took place.” There you are, you pay your money and take your choice. This quotation is from the “Daily Mail,” same date.

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The Chief Officer of the Board of Education has recently issued his annual report and has emphasised the value of open-air training for children. This is not in the least surprising when one takes into consideration the hovels that vast numbers of the working class have to inhabit from sheer compulsion. What with the dark and gloomy basements to the barrack-like “model dwellings” where the sun’s rays hardly ever penetrate, is it to be wondered at that our children require open-air treatment and social welfare centres !

That the subject is a serious one, and particularly so in view of the wastage of war, may be gathered from the fact the Chief Officer states:

“Not less than a million children of school age are so physically or mentally defective or diseased as to be unable to derive reasonable benefit from the education which the State provides.”

This in itself is a sufficient condemnation of capitalist society. Miss Margaret McMillan, commenting on the above, says: “That is a very low estimate. I should have said that the number of such children was two millions—rather more than less.” Think of it you who toil and slave and who consciously or unconsciously support modern capitalism, what your apathy means to your children and your class. You labour that others may have ease, you build houses but live in dens where your masters would not put their dogs. Such are the legacies resulting from the private ownership in the means of life.

The lady above referred to cites a fact from her own experience in Deptford as to the condition prevailing therein the following words :

“We once examined 147 children who were sent to our clinic to see if they were suffering from something other than the complaints for which they had come to be treated. And we found that 71 of them had weak backs and that 42 of these cases were so serious as to place the future lives of the children in jeopardy. Yet not one of these children had been sent to us as suffering from this complaint at all.”

We ask you to study these things for yourselves, to get at the why and the wherefore of them, to recognise the continual slaughter of the innocents, and when you understand the cause of these abominations to join with us that an end may be put to a system of society which means poverty, misery and want for the vast majority, and assist in ushering in a new society wherein these horrors may be eliminated. Isn’t this worth fighting for? (Quotations from “Daily News,” Sept. 16th, 1916.)

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Reference to the above is also made in “Reynolds’s” (17.9.16) and may perhaps add further to the point. The writer asks: What are we going to do about it ? The importance of the question to our masters is not overlooked as may be judged by this reference.

“Time after time “Reynolds’s” has pointed out the menace to the future of the nation which the neglect of children and child-bearing mothers means. Perhaps now, when the flower of our young men is dying on the battlefield, we may find widespread recognition of the importance of making the best of our children. . . . But the greatest blame most be borne by the democracy, which has not insisted long ago on the sweeping away of many causes which make such a report as Sir George Newman’s possible. Some of the evils are not preventible, but many of them are, and it is only ignorance and apathy which have allowed us to remain quiet while so little has been done.”

Many of the “evils” are “preventible,” then, if so, why not prevent them ? Only the Socialist holds the remedy. Capitalist politicians and reformers have tinkered about with them, long enough, and in the words of Lloyd George stand condemned, for has he not stated that as soon as they heal one social sore another one breaks out. Thirty-bob at birth, sickness and unemployment benefit, and old age pensions at 70 fail to touch the spot. Arise, then, ye workers !

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Still they come ! Another object lesson in the way patriotism is rewarded is to be found in a newspaper report to hand of a man who was in the 13th Essex Regiment and has been discharged “as being no longer physically fit for war service.” The report states that the man threw up a good job early in 1915 to enlist. He was not a conscript, and he sacrificed between £2 and £3 a week. Passed as medically fit for active service he eventually began training and at last took up the work of a cook. He said:

“We used to get our clothes soaking wet through at the field ovens, but there we had to stick, no matter what sort of weather it was. I have been at it … many times in rain, snow, and blizzards. At Northampton in January it was awful.”

The result was that his health broke down and ultimately he was discharged. The allowance his wife had been receiving was also stopped and he himself on the 10th of August received the following intimation :

“I am directed to acquaint you that the Commissioners of this Hospital [Chelsea], having fully considered your case, have decided that you have no claim to a pension.”—”Star,” August 25th, 1916.)

As this decision stands it serves to show the cold and callous indifference of those who in times past have framed the necessary regulations governing the grant of pensions. May it prove to be a means of opening the eyes of those who are used as cannon fodder to realise their true position in society.

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The Trades Union Congress recently met at Birmingham, and an idea of the revolutionary nature of this body may be gauged from the fact that they were received by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Mr. Neville Chamberlain. In his opening speech he “emphasised the need for effort all round, and made an eloquent plea for the preservation of that national unity which the war has brought us. He admitted the claim of working men to take a greater share in the organisation of industry than they have hitherto enjoyed, and did not attempt to gloss over the fact that the conditions in many trades in the past had been bad, and that every man who did his best deserved to obtain decent conditions of life and work and the opportunity of bringing up his children under cheerful and healthy conditions.” How nice and kind our masters are when it suits them for the purpose of swanking the workers. Tell them part of the truth, how in many trades in the past conditions had been bad (as if they were not now), but for heaven’s sake don’t let them realise how they are fleeced.

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In the same article the writer tells us that “the secret of industrial peace lies not in attempts by labour to squeeze capital or by capital to squeeze labour, but in the working together of employer and employed against the competition of outside forces.” Here again we have the old bogey trotted out, the robbed and the robbers are to work amicably together in order to fight against “the competition of outside forces.” That there will be “competition” for jobs here is religiously omitted from the article in question, and the writer says that the fear of a flooded labour market with the disbanding of our great armies is very largely “illusory.” How simple all are !


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