By the Way

In the days of long ago—that is to say in the period before the murder campaign on a colossal scale was launched— a Liberal government introduced and passed a Bill having for its object the “amelioration” of the poverty problem. With a great fanfare of trumpets Lloyd George was, by his insurance Act, going to lead the workers to the green pastures and beside the still waters. The festering sore of poverty, generated by capitalist wage-slavery, was be coming acute. So the Welsh magician started off with his social reform entertainment. The poverty of the working class under capitalism was so intense that they needed State health and unemployment insurance, maternity benefits when a new and potential wage slave was ushered into this vale of tears, and old age pensions when the aged worker, the human sucked orange, could no longer be profitably exploited, and therefore could no longer earn a wage.

Such was the position of the working class a few years ago. To-day, in spite of the fact that large numbers of them have been killed or incapacitated, and instead of the workman running after the employer the position has been reversed, the poverty of our class stands out above all else, showing in all its nakedness the callousness of capitalist greed.

The thinning of the ranks of the workers caused by the war, combined with their intensified poverty, has given our masters occasion to pause and think: What of the morrow ? Therefore in order to prepare the way for the future wage slaves and prospective cannon fodder, “we,” the master class, must act. In this connection I read that the Child Welfare and Maternity Bill which Mr. Hayes Fisher introduced in the House recently

“is to secure the provision of milk for expectant mothers, and of more creches where infants may be properly looked after.”

Thus in Christian England in the year of disgrace 1918 are the Scriptures fulfilled, viz.: The poor ye have always with you. Fellow workers, stop and think ! What does your support (active or passive) of capitalist Society mean for you and others of your class ? It means slavery, poverty, and early graves.

Come, then, let us reason together and realise that the interests of the workers are one. Mate, it’s up to you !

* * *

Much hubbub was created some time ago on the question of the Proposed Stockholm Conference. Such a gathering of allied and “enemy” working men to discuss the war and peace was too awful a thing for our masters to contemplate at that time. They were strengthened in their attitude by the threat of Havelock Wilson that his seamen’s union would not transport any English representatives. The following seems to have passed almost unnoticed.

“Lord Willoughby de Broke had a question on the Order Paper of the House of Lords yesterday calling attention to a statement in the “Times” of March 1 that General Smuts had met Count Mensdorff (formerly Austro-Hungarian Ambassador to Great Britain) in Switzerland, and asking the Government to explain the episode. Earl Curzon said he had come without hesitation to the conclusion that a question of this sort if put might lead to a discussion, which it was highly undesirable should take place. The subject alluded to was mentioned by a member in the House of Commons, and the Foreign Secretary. Mr. Balfour, took the same view of the matter as he did, and declined to make any reply. If the noble lord persisted in putting the question, he should feel compelled to decline to answer it. Lord Willoughby de Broke withdrew the question unreservedly.” (“Daily News” March 15th, 1918.)

Once again the good old gag, “Not in the public interest,” is pressed into service.

* * *

The Select Committee on National Expenditure have issued a report on the work of the Ministry of Pensions, and the figures given show what a costly thing is the aftermath of war. In one part of the report the niggardliness of the ruling class is well portrayed. The newspaper from which I quote says—

“At the same time the Committee sound a warning note against the grave danger that “a natural sen­timent of benevolence and sympathy may cause a system of war pensions to expand into a widespread system of excessive grants at the expense of the taxpayer.” They point out that the root cause of much expenditure that ought to have been avoided has been the admission into the Army of men of low physical categories, who have been put to work for which they have been unfitted.”—”Daily News,” March 16th, 1918.

Up to the present I have not noticed any indication of excessive “benevolence and sympathy” on the part of the ruling class toward their bruised and battered “heroes” when such happen to have been enlisted from what are frequently termed the lower orders.

* * *

On this question of pensions and grants one cannot fail to notice the difference in the treatment meted out when the recipient, or the relatives of the recipient, belong to what is known as the “uppah suckle.” Quite recently an account appeared in the Press of the death of Lieut-Gen. Sir Stanley Maude, and shortly after an announcement was made that Parliament had voted a small gratuity of £25,000 to Lady Maude as a slight recognition of the services rendered to the country by her late husband. I have no fear whatever that her ladyship will start competing with her poorer sisters, who, too, have lost their husbands, in doorstep or office cleaning. No, emphatically no, the small emolument granted by a grateful country will endure unto the end. We have heard of late quite a lot of chatter about “equality of sacrifice” ; we wait to see some semblance of equality of reward.

* * *

One other item in this connection. In the early days of the war a campaign was inaugurated for a pound a week pension and extra allowances for children. Mr. Asquith was in office at the time, and he appointed a committee to revise the scale of pensions. After Mr. Asquith had informed the House of the composition of this committee some discussion took place and two extracts here would not be at all inappropriate.

“Mr. Bonar Law hoped the committee would be of such a strong character that the Government would accept its findings and carry them out. He thought it would be unwise and against the interest of the women themselves to endow widows with so much of the public money that they would never have to work.
Mr. Asquith said he was more or less in complete agreement with Mr. Bonar Law. . . . The scale was more liberal than that of any of our Allies. He thought it would be unwise to create a class of persons who could live in ease without ever having to work.”—”Reynolds’s,” Nov. 22nd, 1914.

Such is the policy of the ruling class when dealing with the dependents of their butchered workers. The dignity of labour is a fine thing—for the labourers ; but the masters are not having any share in the dignity. It reminds us of the old lady who. on hearing the old saw : “Honesty is the best policy,” remarked, “Thank Gawd I’ve done without it.”

* * *

While we continue to hear a great deal about this war being waged for democracy, signs are not wanting that this tall talk is all moonshine. How little the ruling class care for the democracy was clearly evidenced a short time ago in the Peace Debate which took place on the King’s Speech (why they call it his speech I do not know) when the question of some of the secret treaties was referred to.

Judging from the official replies to this question, it is abundantly clear that these matters are such that the democracy should not enquire into them, their duty being not to reason why, but to prepare themselves to do and die. Several passages are really worth recording because they show up so nicely how our gallant allies are animated by the desire to obtain reparation for the wrong done to poor Belgium—and to obtain some of the plums of the war for themselves. Says Lord Robert Cecil:

“ . . . I must not spend too much time on the second great subject alluded to to-night, the question of the secret treaties. It is evident that I am in a great difficulty. We are bound by the treaties which we make not to divulge them. The Government represents the nation.
Mr. Hogge : It does not.
Lord R. Cecil : The undertakings of the Government are the undertakings of the nation [Hon. Members : No, no!] The late Government made these treaties, and we accept them as I hope every British Government will accept international obligations. … In any case, as long as those treaties exist, I say to the hon. member for Elland (Mr. Trevelyan), absolutely as long as those treaties exist, we are bound by them. When they ask us to repudiate treaties, it seems to me that these pacifists do not understand the elements of their creed. How are we ever to make any progress in international affairs unless we regard international obligations as sacred ?”

Some digression here took place on the question of the treaty with Albania, and Lord R. Cecil continued—

“. . . It is not only that we are bound by these treaties, but those treaties were entered into for certain definite objects and reasons—
Mr. Outhwaite : Annexations !
Lord R. Cecil: Not at all. They were entered into as part of war measures for this country.
Mr. Outhwaite : Annexations !
Lord R. Cecil: We obtained certain definite advantages. We obtained the assistance of Allies in our battles with our German enemy, and now we are asked, having obtained all we entered into treaties for, by those honourable gentlemen—those honourable gentlemen—to repudiate and discard those treaties. I know quite well how much these treaties lend themselves to misrepresentation and abuse in the country. I know they are not popular. I deeply regret it, but I do not deny it. I say that a government which, rather than incur unpopularity, would do the thing which those hon. members want us to do is unthinkable.”—Ofiicial Report, Parliamentary Debates, February i8th, 1918. Cols. 229-30.

It is interesting to read that these treaties were entered into for “certain definite objects,” and yet withal though “we” are animated with the loftiest of motives and singleness of purpose—just a sincere desire to make the world safe for democracy—the the story of these secret commitments must forever remain hidden away from the public gaze, away from the eyes of those who are called upon to fight, and if need be, to die for them.

* * *

The Women’s Liberal Federation recently held their annual council meeting at Westminster. From a newspaper report before me (“Daily News,” 15.3.18) I read that Lady Aberconway, in her presidential address said that a great campaign was to be started in the Liberal interest against the evils from which the country suffered. “They were out for the abolition of poverty, ignorance, dirt preventable disease, vice and crime.” I fancy that I have heard similar things before. In the year 1910 the Welsh wizard, Lloyd George, was “going to cleanse the land of poverty and want.” Notwithstanding the fact that the Liberal party had been in office nine years at the time war was declared, the cleansing process had not proven very efficacious. Liberalism has been weighed in the balance and found wanting. The party that could only find money enough for a paltry old age pension of 5s. per week at 70, and a miserable allowance for sickness and unemployment, can spend roughly five million pounds a day for war purposes. Truly remarkable, is it not ?

* * *

Mr. Ramsay Macdonald and a few other pacifists were the guests at a luncheon of the Cannibal Club (a really appropriate name for supporters of the present orgy of slaughter) in order to show whether they were “pacificists at any price.” In the course of his remarks Mr. Macdonald said :

“We have been wounded, and nearly all the wounds were below the belt. Some people say I am in favour of a peace on German lines. … I am in favour of a peace on democratic and liberal lines. I am not satisfied with any terms the Germans have yet offered. (Cheers.) Certainly not. There is not a proposition made by Germany yet that affords the foundation of a satisfactory peace.”

Speaking of the Labour Party’s war aims memorandum he said “it challenged German democracy to speak behind the backs and over the heads of their Government. We are criminals if we do not try 24 hours a day, seven days a week, four weeks a month, and twelve months a year. If we fail our men in khaki are still there doing their job. We have to try to bring this home to the German people.” (Cheers.) The report concludes by stating that in reply to further questions he answered “The whole of Bolshevism is against my nature. I am a law-and-order man.” From the foregoing it will be readily seen how much Ramsay Mac is opposed to the war.

* * *

We read from time to time some amazing pronouncements uttered by those who govern us. Bearing in mind the statement that we have heard so often, namely, that Lloyd George had taken unto himself all the “big brains” of the country to assist him in running the war, one is at a loss to understand how it is that all these great men are continually contradicting one another. A recent case in point will illustrate this. Lloyd George in addressing the Free Church Council said :

“There is no hunger. There is less hunger than there was when the first cannon shot was fired. There is less hunger in the land. There is no privation.
There is no lack of abundant food to sustain the strength of the people. There is, I am glad to be able to tell you, no prospect of such a deficiency.”

So much for the Premier’s statement. Now for that of the Food Controller, Lord Rhondda, whose views are expressed in the self-same issue of the paper—

“The outlook in bread and meat is not quite so happy as that of bacon. There was no cause for alarm, but there was cause for considerable anxiety. I should like to postpone or, if I can, avoid the rationing of bread.”—”Daily News,” March 14th,

Just one more. The President of the Board of Agriculture, Mr. Prothero, speaking a few days later added another warning note. He says—

“As the war goes on and the death grapple stiffened, the issue turned more and more upon food. Food was the pivot of all activities, and food at the present moment trembled in the balance. That was why they appealed to the farmers to do their best.” —”Reynolds’s,” March 17th, 1918.

Coupons being required for bacon and the price prohibitive, doubtless our masters can feel “happy” regarding this commodity. But what of cheese ? This seems to have almost vanished. And as regards meat, well, have we not a whole one shilling and threepence worth, including bone, per week. To what a pass capitalism has brought us ! Let us end it.

* * *

Speaking at the conference of the Fabian Research Department a short time ago, Mr. George Bernard Shaw delivered himself of the following: “One thing to be provided for in Labour Party organisation was the education of the members. One could get a tremendous electioneering organisation, and men who are extraordinarily keen and up to the dodge of keeping the register. There were such men in the country, but in his opinion they were the most ignorant. Nineteen out of twenty won’t know what trade unionism means, and ninety-nine out of a hundred won’t know what Socialism means.”—(Reynolds’s, March 17th, 1918.)

Of course we readily admit the truth of what the speaker stated concerning his friends who are continually obscuring the issue by designating themselves Socialists when they are at most social reformers or State capitalists. We Socialists have to thank Mr. Shaw for making this plain. To those who want to study Socialism—read the SOCIALIST STANDARD.

* * *

Last month, we quoted in this column an extract from a London daily paper concerning a lecture delivered by Mr. Horatio Bottomey. Since its appearance we have seen a reference to the matter in “John Bull,” which is interesting because he, Bottomley, admits practically the whole of the case against him. Writing to the Editor of the “Star” he says :

“My attention has been called to your issue of February 20th in which you publish certain figures relating to a lecture I delivered at Swindon from which it is made to appear that I received the sum of £87. 12s. as against the sum of £27 10s handed over to the Soldiers’ and Sailcors’ Fund whilst the Government apparently also got £38 9s. 3d. by way of Entertainment Tax. Even if all these figures were correct, I should not feel that I had any thing to be ashamed of. Having regard to the enormous pressure under which I work, and poor as I am, even £87 12s. would not tempt me in the ordinary way, to give up my week-end rest. Perhaps, however, you will permit me to mention that the lecture was arranged through a recognised agency, which had to defray the printing and advertising expenses, and which also took a substantial percentage of the receipts ; whilst personally I had to meet railway and hotel charges. The net result was that, in the end, a sum of £37 came to me, out of wnich I repaid myself the hotel and travelling exhenses, handing practically the whole of the balance, namely, £25, to the Business Government League, the entire financial burden of which at present falls upon my shoulders.”

Now this is a very pretty story. In order to boost this zealous patriot and “friend” of the soldiers and sailors, an advertising agency had to “bill” the great Horatio, and this, of course, costs money. This item of expenditure was incidental to his visit, as likewise were the hotel and railway charges also. Even after these claims had been met Horatio admits that “the net result was that, in the end, a sum of £37 came to me.” And very nice too ! Only a few paltry shillings short of the amount paid to the fund whence some of it may dribble down the leaky channels of “charity” even as far as “our gallant heroes.” And when Horatio says that he paid over the sum of £25 to the Business Government League, that is the Bottomley way of saying that he changed it from the right-hand pocket to the left. “Wheerfor I larf, I dew, I larf.”


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