By the Way

As everyone knows, our masters declared war in 1914 in order to uphold tbe cause of “right” against “might,” and to “put an end to militarism.” Have not the Daily Distresses and the Scaley Crocodiles told us so ? Those of us who have managed to survive until the year of disgrace 1917 know how successful our rulers have been in the before-mentioned noble ideals. With our pedigree and birth hanging up in the workshop and factory, and the voluminous documents we have to carry about with us in order that we may have the “liberty ” to walk about, we cannot but rejoice to think that the employing class have engaged in such a lofty task as the “ending of militarism.”

If further information on this subject was required plenty is at hand. The “right” against “might” theory has been seen in the bamboozling methods obtaining in the early days of recruiting right down to the passing of the unfit under the system of conscription. How “might” has prevailed against “right” is to be found in the violation of pledges to the “Widows’ Sons,” the agreement that youths under 19 should not be sent to the front, and so on.

Having thus touched on the subject of “right,” I come now to the question of “truth.” Recently Mr. Macpherson gave evidence before the Select Committee on the Military Service Act (Review of Exemptions), and in the course of the examination he endeavoured to draw a distinction between a “secret” and a “confidential” document. How “militarism” has triumphed here may be gathered from the following :

“Mr. Shortt, K.C., reminded him [Macpherson] that in January he had told the House that no secret instructions had been issued with regard to rejections, and he replied that he had done so on more than one occasion.
Asked whether he had made inquiry as to the issue of such instruction without his knowledge before that time he answered : “Yes. Any question affecting recruiting would be taken from the Blue Book circulated among the members by the Department of the War Office called C. 2. It would be sent to the Director of Recruiting, and I am cornpelled to rely upon any information I get from that Department.
The Chairman : You now know of the secret instructions sent out by Sir A. Keogh in 1916?—”I heard of that for the first time since this Committee has been sitting, and never saw the letter except in print. It would not come before anyone on the civil side of the War Office. It was sent out by Sir A. Keogh, acting, no doubt, on instruction.”
In answer to Mr. Pringle, who asked if he had been deceived, he said it was not a question of being deceived or misled. He gave the answer he received.
Mr. Shortt, KC.: “If you had known that this document existed, would you have given the same answer?”—He admitted that he would not.
It all depended upon the view the military authorities took. They distinguished between a “secret” document and a “confidential” one. His mind did not go to the niceties of these documents, but in military circles there was a great distinction. . .
Mr. Shortt, K.C., said that in case the Committee had more military witnesses, they would like to know what the military people called “secret” and “confidential” documents. To my lay mind the term “secret document” would certainly cover this letter.—”Daily News,” August loth, 1917.”

The sublime ignorance of the Under Secretary for War on this and kindred subjects is truly amazing, and the endeavour to hide by such a shuffle the mean and despicable attempts of his department to obtain recruits shows how arrogant militarism has become.

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In spite of all the big talk that we have heard since the beginning of the war in connection with the discharged soldiers and sailors and a grateful country’s treatment of them, signs are not wanting that large numbers are being left to “go the same way home.” Once again the soothsayers are wrong. From a news item I learn as followeth : “A national disgrace: 21 discharged fighting men in Portsmouth Workhouse.”

“It was reported yesterday to the Portsmouth Guardians that there were 21 discharged men from the Army and Navy in the Workhouse as casuals. Eleven had been discharged from the services as medically unfit.
It was considered a national discredit that such things should exist. One speaker said that men discharged as medically unfit were left to roam about the country. It was also stated that there were men back from the front discharged with pensions of 4s. and 5s. a week only.
Manchester Guardians yesterday protested in the strongest possible manner against the scandal and disgrace of pauperising sailors and soldiers who have lost their reason on active service. The Government were pressed to provide for such men without bringing them into contact with the Poor Law.”—”Daily Chronicle,” August 23rd, 1917.

One is now reminded of the poster which was lavishly displayed two years or so ago, depicting the cottage standing in its own grounds with, the words “Isn’t this worth fighting for ?” At this juncture it seems to be a case of ” What do you lack, Sonny ?”

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From another source there is to hand a case slightly different in detail, but illustrating the same fact that when a man is no longer of fighting value it does not matter to our benevolent bosses what becomes of him and his family. This case stands out more prominently than some for the reason that the man had many years’ service to justify a claim for considerate treatment. However, let me quote :

“’S.B.’, an ex-corporal in the R.G.A., who had served 14 years when the war broke out, writes:
I volunteered for the front in September, 1914, and was sent across for the defence of Antwerp. Later on I fought near Ypres, and was striken with malaria, which I originally contracted in India in 1905. I was invalided home, and became instructor at my depot until 1916, when I had to report sick.
Last August I was discharged medically unfit. I had been removed from hospital totally disabled on a pension of 4s. 8d. a week, with a wife and four children. After eight months the pension was increased to 9s. and 4s. 6d. for the children, or 13s 6d. in all. I am still in bed, and am still applying to Chelsea for the total disablement pension. Last Tuesday they asked for my record, though I have written them every week for a year. As one of the “first hundred thousand,” I think I deserved better treatment.”—”Daily News,” August l0th, 1917.

How’s this for generosity ? Six people committing suicide on 13s. 6d, a week ! Verily the workers are a long-suffering lot. When will they arise from their slumbers and proceed to end this hellish system of capitalism with all the evils that arise therefrom ?

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A newspaper correspondent writing from the front a few days ago gave a description of the fighting which had just taken place. He wrote : “This area north-west of Lens has already seen some of the bloodiest struggles of this war, but none perhaps so bloody as it saw this morning.”—(Perry Robinson in the “Daily News,” 22.8.17.) Of course, the usual reference to the heaps of German dead appeared, though what satisfaction this can be to those who, by a geographical accident, were born on British soil, and have lost a relative, none but the arm-chair prosecutors of the war can appreciate.

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The pantomime performance of the Labour Party would indeed be a fit subject for hilarity were it not for the seriousness of the workers’ position, which is supposed to reside in their keeping. As in the days before the war the Labour Party, or at least a portion of that party, move amendments or resolutions, as the case may be, and then vote against them. Recently the Corn Production Bill was before the House, and embodied in it was a proposal of 25s. a week wages for agricultural workers. Some of the Labour members moved an amendment to increase the wage to 30s., yet, strange to say, another member of that party, Mr. G. H. Roberts, who has just been rewarded for faithful service to the capitalist government, voted against the 30s. amendment. One wonders whether the agricultural workers of Norfolk will keep their eyes on “their” member in future.


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