By the Way

Comment has from time to time been made in this journal of the causes leading to the disasters which occur on the railways of the United Kingdom. Such contributory causes being bad coal, which has meant an extra amount of oiling of the engine ; overloading of the trains, and other such-like details which inevitably means an added strain on the driver and consequently greater risk of failure to observe the necessary signals. Yet in spite of the lessons of the past the Board of Trade omits to force the adoption of the necessasy preventive measures on the companies, contenting itself with making recommendations to them, because, forsooth, some expenditure of money would be incurred by the shareholders, and profits might be reduced.

Having thus introduced this subject I notice that a report of a recent accident was dealt with in the Press. On this occasion the cause of the derailing of a goods train on the Glasgow and Paisley Joint Railway was being enquired into, and I observe the following observations :

“Major Pringle draws attention to the fact that a boy of 16 was acting as fireman with the driver. The boy was intelligent, but it could hardly be expected that he would have the requisite knowledge of signals. Major Pringle attributed the accident, however, to the misreading of signals by the driver.”—”Daily News,” 10.11.1916.

Here we are again, no condemnation of the company or the Government (for has not the Government stateized the railways for the period of the war) for permitting the employment of a mere lad on such responsible work. Maybe the “combing-out” process has resulted in the “combing-out” of the ordinary fireman. And the driver has to watch signals, instruct “the boy” on feeding the fire, and take the blame when an accident occurs. ‘Twas ever thus !

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An event of some importance to the ruling class took place during the past month. I refer to the procession and banquet of the incoming Lord Mayor of London. Doubtless the tramp through the streets of a large number of the naval and military forces, together with a few relics captured from the “enemy,” is to be regarded in the light of work of “national importance.” After the procession, the banquet and the speeches. In this connection I notice that a few weeks previously mention was made that “Mr. Asquith has intimated that he will be pleased to attend the usual banquet, but he suggests that in view of war conditions it should be of a simple nature.”—”Daily Mail,” 4.10.16.

Perusing the newspaper the day following this announcement caught my eye:

“War economy was observed by those who drew up the menu for the Lord Mayor’s banquet at the Guildhall last night. … It was called a banquet for the sake of tradition ; but as a matter of fact it was a very simple meal. A little turtle soup, fillet of sole, game done in the casserole, cold roast beef, salad, a jelly, and an ice—these were the items of the feast.”—”Daily News,” 10.11.1916.

And very nice too ! as the wag might have added. We would not mind a few such “simple meals” ourselves. The economy campaign is a huge hypocrisy and only fit for simpletons.

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One other reference to this matter would, perhaps, not be out of place. The “Daily News” writer of the 10th says, as above, that “War economy was observed,” and “it was a very simple meal,” while he flatly contradicts his confrere who, in an unguarded yet truthful moment, the day previously in the same paper, stated “There is really no reduction in the menu at to-day’s Lord Mayor’s Feast.”

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The readiness (?) to fight of those who have in the past been conspicuous on the recruiting stump cajoling others to step into the ring should now be patent to all who have eyes to see. One remembers how prominent a part the Trade Union officials have taken in this direction. Further light on this subject is to hand from a recent issue of the daily Press.

Another “deadly parallel”:

“In Great Britain the way is clear. Compulsion is the law of the land, and if the present Government dare not take the soldiers the country needs we must find another Government which will. . . . Ireland to her great detriment has been excluded from the law of compulsion. . . And then into the midst of things comes that eminent “patriot,” Mr. Redmond. . . . We have things of far greater import to consider than Mr. Redmond’s position, and it is only the man’s mischievous egoism that makes it necessary for a while to remember him.” —”Blackwood’s Magazine” (Musings Without Method) for November.”—”Daily News,” 9.11.16.

“Mr. J. H. Blackwood, the London editor of “Blackwood’s Magazine,” sought exemption from military service at the City Local Trinunal yesterday. He claimed that he was indispensable. His duties, he said, consisted of dealing with contributors, and in the supervision of an important book trade. The chairman said he recognised that the magazine was an important one, but we were at war, and the claim must be disallowed. The military would be asked not to call him up for a month, Mr. Blackwood announced his intention to appeal”.—”Daily News,” Nov. 8.

So the business goes on: men may fight and die while editors and others sit at home in their armchairs and glibly talk about “men, more men, and still more men” for cannon fodder in order to crush Prussian Militarism, whilst militarism (British variety) is more firmly established here. One sometimes wonders how it is that those people who are forever clamouring for a more speedy prosecution of the war (possibly because they are over the age limit or have some form of exemption) do not understate their age and seek enlistment in order to give some substantial backing to the cause they devote so much lip-service to. Ay, there’s the rub !

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With the coming into operation of the Conscription Acts one would have thought that those limelighters who have sung aloud the praises of the so-called “voluntary” system of recruiting—that system of join up or be sacked, enlist and we will offer you a job when you return, attest or we will introduce compulsion—would at least have had the decency to crawl into their shells and stay there. But with some of them it appears to be a case of “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” A recent instance of this may be gathered from a report of a sermon by the Right Reverend the Bishop of London, I will quote the whole of it as it is in no wise lengthy :

“The Bishop of London, preaching at St. Clement’s, Fulham, declared that when one nation was determined on war God could not stop it, but He produced the next best thing—5,000,000 men in this country who voluntarily offered to fight for the rights of smaller nations.”—”Daily Chronicle,” 23.10.1616.

Now I say without any hesitation that any man—Bishop or otherwise—who gives utterance to such piffle is either a fool or a liar. If he is not conversant with the facts of the case then he is the former for expressing any opinions on the subject ; if he knows anything at all about the question, then he stamps himself as the latter for making the statement that “5,000,000 men . . . ‘voluntarily’ offered to fight.” Perhaps this is what St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, calls lying for the glory of God. But even so it is somewhat rough on God; the Omnipotent could not stop war, says his earthly ambassador, but He produced the next best thing. Why, oh why, my lord Bishop, detract from the majesty of the Master ? Why rob Him of the glory, praise and honour of a full and complete intervention on behalf of His children in this vale of tears ? If He intervenes to the extent of producing the next best thing—”5,000,000 volunteers”—why not complete the business and thereby save the wretchedness and suffering of untold millions ? No, we are aware that the age of miracles is past. They used to occur in the dim and distant past; but to-day “we” do not carry our God into battle like the Israelites of old in order to ensure victory, but “we” put our trust in men and munitions as “we” have so often heard of late.

That there will be war after the war we have it stated by no less a person than the Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, who recently addressed a welcome to the new pastoi of a Welsh chapel in London, in the course of which he delivered himself of the following :

“At present, he remarked, there was much of the gospel of Cain mixed up with the Gospel of Christ.
The question had been asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper ?” Well, if the brother was in poverty, in want, in oppression, as, for example, in France, Belgium or Serbia to-day, it was their duty to help and succour him. Every man in the church should make it his business to see that he was his brother’s keeper. “Say it in war,” proceeded Mr. Lloyd George, “say it in peace, and when the terms o£ peace are concluded, remember it will only mean the end of one war and the commencement of another.
“There will still be war, but in another form—war against poverty and against social evils.”—”Daily Chronicle,” 37.10.1916.

While he thus dilates on the churches in time of peace and war, it is apparent to all who have devoted any time and attention to the matter, that the Church in the past has been coldly indifferent to the conditions of the life and labour of the working class. Is it conceivable that in pew-rented, fashionable churches the parson would get into the pulpit and admonish the sweaters of labour, those who toil not neither do they spin, yet live on the fat of the land ; the white-slave traffickers, and so forth ?

Yet we read in Holy Writ that “Whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother hath need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him ?” I commend the chapter from which the above is taken to those who are so frequently preaching war to a decisive conclusion—the Christian crush Germany party.

The gospel of “peace on earth” with all its frothy vapourings has long since given place to the doctrine of blood and iron. After 2,000 years of the gospel of Christ we have one of its nominal supporters informing us that after peace is concluded with the “enemy” abroad there will still be war at home—”war against poverty and social evils.” And I would add that the only way to prosecute this war to a successful issue is by studying the aims and objects of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, and joining with us to help bring into being the Socialist commonwealth.

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I recently read that Philip Snowden addressed a peace meeting and after referring to the German Chancellor’s speech, which he described as a basis for negotiation, stated that in view thereof the continuance of the war was a crime. From the report before me I cull the following interesting item:

“If negotiations were not entered upon soon it was his intention to vote against all war credits in the future.”—”Labour Leader,” 10.11.1916.

If Mr. Snowden is honestly opposed to the war he might at least have taken the same course of action as Dr. Karl Liebknecht, of the minority German Social Democratic Party, and voted against the war credits in the House of Commons. Also we remember his speech in the House in February when he said “We who are supposed to take an unorthodox view of the origins of this war . . . are at one with the rest of our fellow-countrymen in earnestly desiring that the noble aims for which these men have offered their lives, and for which the country has made, and appears to be willing to continue to make, unparalleled sacrifices, shall be securely established.” Now you cannot have it both ways, you either support the war or are opposed to it. And if you are in the opposing camp you cannot logically be found voting sums of money for the dealing out of death and destruction. Moreover, the latest piece of window dressing will not harmonize with the talk about “noble aims,” etc., “shall be securely-established.”


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