By the Way

During the past month or two the subject of the homely “spud” has been well to the fore. The spectacle o£ long lines, mainly composed of women, waiting for hours on the footway in the glorious hope of obtaining a small quantity of this food, served under the vigilant eye of the man in blue, is, indeed, a unique one.

I have before me at the moment Lord Devonport’s appeal to the “well-off” to deny themselves the pleasure of this article which is not a necessity as they can command a greater variety of food.

The noble lord also informs us that “Prices have been fixed so as to keep potatoes within the reach of the poorer classes, to whom they are a necessary of life.”

Judging from local reports one has to have a pretty long reach to obtain a small quantity even so infrequently as once a week. It is almost like asking for bread and being given a stone. To be told that Germany is on the verge of starvation does not fill the inhabitants of this unhappy isle.

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I turn from the common or garden “spud” to what is termed “London’s Luxury Fruit.” In an epistolary missive sent by Lord Northcliffe I read :

“Luxury prices continue to be paid at Covent Garden for fruit. Two boxes of early hot-house strawberries from Worthing were bought this week by Bond Street and Piccadilly fruiterers at respectively 26s. and 32s. a lb.
If a couple of hundred of these boxes came into the market they would be bought up.”—”Weekly Dispatch,” March 18th, 1917.

After reading this I am forced to believe that the “economy” campaign has been a failure. To save now and spend after the war is all swank. We of the working class have to spend our all in order to exist. Our masters pay Excess Profits Tax and buy strawberries at 2s. an oz.

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The occasions are indeed rare when the daily Press publishes frank statements concerning the institutions of capitalist society. Just recently the Rev. F. H. Gillingham delivered an address and urged the need for the superannuation of the clergy. He said that “the Church was full of decrepit deans, tottering canons, and infirm incumbents.” Then he described how on the occasion of an air raid people rushed out of their houses, fell on their knees, and asked a curate to pray for them, and when the Zeppelin began to fall a mass of flames they were on their feet shouting “Tipperary” and “Rule Britannia”—without a single thought of God. One can, of course, understand this attitude when looked at from the point of view that the aerial visitor was destroyed by material means. However, the stinging sarcasm of the Rev. gentleman is contained in the following remark:

“We sing ‘Like a mighty army, moves the Church of God,’ but God help the army that moves like the Church of the present time.”—”Daily Chronicle,” March 17th, 1917.

This is what might be described as “the most unkindest cut of all.”

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While on the subject of the Church, I notice that some correspondence has taken place between the President of the Board of Agriculture and the Archbishop of Canterbury with regard to tilling the soil on Sundays. In the past and even to-day children are taught the Ten Commandments. Most explicit is the one which says “Six days shall thou labour and do all that thou hast to do,” and so on. But this latter day dispenser of Bible and bunkum throws completely overboard the Mosaic dispensation, and in reply to the question of Sunday labour says:

“As Minister of agriculture you assure us that such an emergency has now arisen, and that the security of the nation’s food supply may largely depend upon the labour which can be devoted to the land in the next few weeks. This being so we are, I think, following the guidance given in the gospel if in such a case we make a temporary departure from our rule.
I have no hesitation in saying that in the need which these weeks present men and women may with a clear conscience do field work on Sundays.” —”Daily Chronicle,” March 15th, 1917.

Faith in God seems to be a thing of the past with the sky pilot to-day. Years ago “Our Father which art in heaven” used to provide the children of Israel with manna from on high. Here I would add that in those days there was no gathering of manna on the Sabbath as it was to be observed as a day of rest. But in the 20th century reliance is placed on the applica¬tion of human labour-power to the soil, with a recognition that having ploughed, prepared, and sown the seed, the material sun will in due course bring it to fruition. Hence it would appear that it has dawned upon His Grace that to make sure of the time of harvest God must be relegated to the dim and distant past.

In pre-war days our Holy Joe and his tribe have strenuously opposed any suggested relaxation of Sabbath day observance as it might encroach on their preserves and they might lose their hold on the masses. To-day, however, a departure may be made “for the well-being of the people,” and some musty passage of Scripture must be found in order to justify (?) the same. Could cant go further ?

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One other item in connection with Holy Church. According to an announcement in the Press another man of Cod, the Dean of Carlisle, perhaps better known as Canon Barker, left £84,000 when he sweetened the earth by kicking the bucket. If the Scriptures be true a hot time awaits him in the next world.

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Time and time again the writer has commented on that body of sharks and charlatans known as the Labour Party, who have used the workers’ pence and political ignorance in order to gain place and power. Their utter worthlessness to the workers should now be apparent to all who have eyes to see. How they have handed over the working class to the master class on each and every occasion during the last three years is a historic fact. And now, when one would at least expect a little consideration to be shown to the men who have been persuaded to join the armed forces by this body of “leaders,” we find that on a most important occasion, when the welfare of the men incapacitated in the war was to be discussed in to be discussed in the House of Commons, not more than four Labour members were present at any time during the Pensions Minister’s speech. Let me quote :

“Bearing in mind that Mr. Barnes is Labour Minister and that he was dealing with a problem intimately affecting the future of men broken in the war, and the welfare of their families, it was reasonable to expect that the Labour members would have been present in the House in force to-day. The contrary was the case. At no time were there more than four Labour members in the House, and only one, Mr. O’Grady, sat through the speech of the Minister of Pensions. This lack of interest in the human wreckage of the war is not creditable to the Labour Party.”—”Daily Chronicle,” March 7th, 1917.

Such, then, is the evidence of the indifference of this gang of tricksters who batten on the apathy and ignorance of the workers. Take heed, therefore, fellow workers, and see to it that never again shall you place yourselves in the hands of these betrayers of working-class interests. Study your class position in modern society understand the message of Socialism, and the day of the “labour leader” will have passed away.

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The question of pensions and grants for the men discharged from the Army and Navy is an interesting one, and recalls to the mind the questions and answers which have from time to time been asked and given in the House. On several occasions when the point had been raised as to the taking of men for the Army who were obviously unfit, the official reply was a denial of the alleged fact. Last May Mr. Tennant, in reply to Colonel Yate, delivered himself as follows :

“There was no foundation for the suggestion that the lame, the halt and the blind had been recruited to swell the numbers of the Army. The Army Council did not desire that men unfit for general service should be passed into the ranks.”—”Daily Chronicle,” May 26th, 1916.

If time and space permitted many cases could be cited to prove the falsity of this. But better still is the admission, long overdue, of the exact position with regard to the taking of unfit men. I will give a quotation from Mr. Maclean, M.P., Chairman of the House of Commons Appeal Tribunal. He says:

“We now know that the Army has had to discharge 100,000 men, physically unfit, owing to their having been sent into the Army when in a state of low physical efficiency, and I am sure that there are another 100,000 men who will have to be discharged as unfit.”—”Daily News,” March 7th, 1917.

Doubtless many of these men who have now had to be discharged appeared in the “Derby” figures as “slackers” when that great conjuring performance was at its height. It would appear from the evidence that the idea of the authorities was to kill or cure. Concerning these men whose imperfections had been aggravated the Pensions Minister said :

“Of medically unfit men there are now 100,000. Should they have a pension ? Mr. Hogge says, Yes ; Mr. Barnes, emphatically, No. “They will not get it,” he declared, “while I am in office.” These men had been passed into the Army owing to the great pressure at which doctors had to work in the early days.”—”Daily News,” March 7th, 1916.

Those believers in, and supporters of, this so-called Labour Minister, as well as those more directly affected, would do well to ponder over these words : “They will not get it !” Although having been passed for service by the Army’s medical advisers, when their ailments developed as a result of service and they are of no further use in that capacity, they must be shunted at the lowest possible figure. A weekly paper comments on this as follows :

“Perhaps one point on which Mr. Barnes was unconvincing was in his defence of the plan by which a man discharged as medically unfit gets no pension, but only a lump sum, which in no case may exceed £100. Of the 10,000 who came into this category, many who ought never to have been taken into the Army are now hopeless physical wrecks. If they had not been forced to undergo the rigors of a military life they would probably have been valuable citizens for years. Is even £100 any adequate compensation in such a case ?”—” Reynolds’s,” March 11th, 1917.

What an acquisition Barnes is proving to the master class. He is earning his blood-money thoroughly well.

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“It’s never too late to mend,” says the old saw, and it would seem that at long last wisdom is dawning on our rulers. Major Godfrey Collins recently expressed the view in parliamentary debate that the revolution in Russia had been brought about through the scarcity of food and transport facilities, which was largely due to men being withdrawn from productive industries. He asked : “Could we not gain some experience from this ?” Further, he said, “The gaunt spectre of famine is stalking through the world. Let us be on our guard against it in this country.” In reply

“Mr. Bonar Law said the Cabinet had had departments before them and in every case agreement had been arrived at. It had been made clear to the War Office and to the Board of Agriculture that in this particular case the Cabinet regarded the production of food as more important even than sending men to the Army.”—”Daily Chronicle,” March 17th, 1917.

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In our December issue in this column comment was made on the case of a gentleman who was seeking exemption from military service, and in whose journal compulsion had been advocated. A short extract from my quotation of “Blackwood’s Magazine” for November would, perhaps, not be out of place here. It reads : “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.” Just recently I came across another reference to this case, which affords a good illustration of “Equality of Sacrifice” in practice.

Mr. James H. Backwood, of the firm of well-known publishers, was granted an extension till July 1st by the House of Commons Appeal Tribunal yesterday. He mentioned that the circulation of “Blackwood’s Magazine” had considerably increased since the war began.”— “Daily Chronicle,” March 10th, 1917.

One wonders whether, if the applicant had been some ordinary worker, or a member of the S.P.G.B., engaged in increasing the circulation of that far more important journal, the SOCIALIST STANDARD, he would have received such generous treatmernt.

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The revolution in Russia and the attitude now adopted by the war party in this country toward the new government of Russia affords an interesting study to the detached onlooker. For thirty months the “speedy prosecution of the war” party have referred in glowing terms to “our gallant ally, Russia,” and a lickspittle Press has given her the necessary puffs periodically. We have in the past heard how she was animated by noble ideals, and so forth, which are akin to all the allies. Now much of it is changed ; with the revolution, lo and behold ! we are informed that the Tzar was week—was influenced by the German-born Tzaritza—the Court corrupt, and those in control were trying to bring about a separate peace with Germany. Strange, is it not, that when previously rumours were in circulation here with regard to a separate peace, the war party repudiated any such intention on the part of “our gallant ally.” To¬day Parliament and Press are applauding the overthrow of the Tzar and his Government, whom they have been allied with so long, and telegrams of congratulation are sent to the new President of the Duma.

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“Motor cars of visitors to Gatwick races recently used about 2,500 gallons of petrol, according to an estimate which is to be brought to the Premier’s notice in Parliament on Monday.”— (“Daily Chronicle,” March 24th, 1917.) Whether the estimate of the number of gallons of petrol used is correct is a minor matter here. The point of interest to us is : Why are not these people engaged upon work of National Service ? Have they not heard the call ? Or does it blare forth only for the human cattle, the working class ?

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On the subject of National Service and the sloppy methods of advertising this department, the “Daily Chronicle” (22.3.1917) says : “Why encumber the registers by enrolling ineligibles. like Lord Rhondda, who has been exhibited as a model volunteer, and use labour in sifting them out ?” And again : “The department pours out leaflets and posters by the million, and pays thousands of pounds for advertisements of general appeals, which should be unnecessary after two months publicity.” I have wondered what kind of work Lord Rhondda would be suited for, other than that of a decoy.

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A letter recently appeared in the Press over the signature of T. E. Naylor, Sec. of the London Society of Compositors, drawing attention, to an order issued by Mr. Neville Chamberlain which prevents a man between the ages of 18 and 61 from obtaining employment unless he is enrolled as a National Service “volunteer.” Mr. Naylor says :

“The Director-General of National Service … is surely adding to his burdens in attempting to introduce a form of limited compulsion in this way. There is little reason and less justice in bringing the-pressure of starvation to bear upon a man in order to force him, whatever his circumstances in life, to transfer his labour whenever the Employment Exchange chooses to pounce upon him. What about that other class of man who, independent of the necessity of learning his own living, is nevertheless doing nothing for the good of his country ? Has Mr. Chamberlain no Order for him ?”—”Daily Chronicle,” March 21st, 1917.

Mr. Naylor winds up by saying that if this Order is to stand, then he and his friends must “hand back their briefs or be prepared to defend a partial and invidious measure of compulsion.” The surprise of these labour blighters at the position their treachery has placed them in is the comic thing of the day. What do they think they have been defending all this time under the name of voluntary service ?


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