By the Way

The month which has just closed has been a memorable one. With the renewed German offensive on the Western front, the reassembling of Parliament after the Easter vacation, and the introduction of the new Man Power Bill to facilitate the enlistment of the older men—who for so long have had a burning desire to assist in the speedy prosecution of the war and who have been regretting that they were “over age” and therefore only to hold the coats of others while they fought—these events have tended to create in official parlance a “lively interest.”

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The question of conscription for Ireland brought forth a storm of indignation from the Irish members. Incidentally I would add that to my mind this attitude seems somewhat inconsistent. The Irish party have supported the war and have assisted in fastening the yoke of conscription upon the inhabitants of this isle, and yet object to the Government (conferring the same obligation on them. Had their hands been clean, had they opposed the war and conscription of those in this isle, then they would have had some justification for opposing the conscription of Irishmen.

On this subject one Irish member (Mr. Dillon) stated that the Government have thrown this apple of discord into the public arena in order to divert attention from the disastrous failure of their strategy and their administration by fomenting trouble in Ireland, and escaping responsibility for the pass to which they have brought the nation’s affairs. There is, indeed, something to bs said for this charge, for undoubtedly the dust that is being raised over Ireland helps to obscure the question of the appalling sacrifices which are being made on the fighting front.

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Mr. Lloyd George, in introducing his Man Power Bill, made reference to the relative strength of the opposing armies, and then went on to talk of how the problem of the offensive had been closely studied by the military staff at Versailles, and how they had come to the conclusion that the attack would come South of Arras, and that it would be an attack on the widest front that had yet been assailed. He mentioned the approximate number of German divisions that would be engaged with the object of breaking the British line and capturing Amiens and severing the British and French forces. Then he added :

“That was the conclusion Sir Henry Wilson came to three months ago, and I think it is one of the most remarkable forecasts of enemy intentions that have been made. Another remarkable prediction was that the attack would probably succeed to an extent of half the distance of the front attacked.”—”Daily News,” April 10th, 1918.

From the above it would seem that Lloyd George and his military adviser far excel Old Moore and Mother Shipton in the matter of prophetic vision. But how comes it to pass that Lloyd George and his chief spokesman in the House differ so widely on such an important concern ? The night following Mr. Bonar Law spoke on the Bill and gave certain reasons why the House should pass this measure, and, replying to Mr. Asquith’s criticism of the application to Ireland of conscription, he went on to say :

“The sole test of the proposals was whether they would help us in the conduct of the war. There was no use attempting to conceal from the House the position. What had happened in France was not expected, and the Government were asked why it had happened. The fact was until the hour at which the battle commenced the balance of forces in every direction was not against the Allies on the Western front.” (Italics mine).—”Daily News,” April nth, 1918.

Some contradiction, this ? Perhaps this statement of Bonar Law would account for the frantic “S.O.S.” message the Prime Minister sent to America and the Colonies pleading for immediate help. At any rate there is an opportunity here for the National War Aims and enlightenment Committee to to disentangle the conflicting stories and give a long-suffering public the truth. What a change it would be !

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It was Bethmann-Hollweg, I believe, who gave utterance to the now famous words, “Necessity knows no law.” While there are many moneyed people here who believe that we are veritable saints and the “enemy” the vilest sinners, there steadily accumulates overwhelming evidence that our rulers are prepared to act on the above formula. The pledges and undertakings given so profusely have become so many scaps of paper. Their name is legion. The last “pledge” or “understanding” to be violated is difficult to understand because Lloyd George and company were apprised of what was going to happen “three months ago” in the “remarkable forecast” of Sir Henry Wilson. We have heard times out of number that the Germans were using boys and greybeards in their fighting line, and many people here have exclaimed with a shudder “We would scorn to do such things. Perish the thought !”

But wait. We have been aware from the beginning that quite a large number of boys here have been sent to the front, and after much wrangling in the House an “undertaking” was given that such practice should cease. Says Lloyd George:

“There was an understanding as to boys under 19 years of age that they should only be used in case of emergency. We felt that that emergency had arisen. In so far as those who were over 18 years, and had already received six months training, we felt it necessary that they should be sent to France.”—”Daily News,” April 10th, 1918.

Emergency, forsooth ! It matters little to the master class whether boys or old men are to be used as cannon fodder so long as capitalist society survives. The same paper the followinng day commenting on the above says : “The situation is not improved by the outrageous cant of promoting a measure in Parliament to enable the Government to do what they have already done in defiance of their plighted word.”

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A good illustration of the “unity ” that exists is evidenced from the following dialogue which took place on the Government asking leave to introduce a new Man Power Bill in the House :

“Mr. Lundon said he would tell the young men of his constituency that it was better to die on their own doorsteps than on the fields of France and Belgium on behalf of a gang of hypocrites. The Government might give orders to shoot, but the Irish people would shoot, too.
Mr. Stanton : You are getting into bad company, old chap. Bolo !
Mr. Lundon: I prefer to be in the company of my fellow-countrymen, fighting for the liberty of my own country, than to be allied with renegade Labour men, tricksters, and traitors who tell us they are fighting for the rights of small nationa­ities, while they deny those rights to the nation which is near at home.”—”Daily Chronicle,” April, 10th 1917.

It would seem that Mr. Lundon got in a “hammer-stroke” which will leave a very sore and tender spot in the too ample (considering we are all supposed to be on a war-time diet) regions where it fell.

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A sidelight on how capitalist politicians play the game was brought to light in the discussion on this all-absorbing theme of man-power. Mr. Asquith took several opportunities to speak against the Government’s proposal of conscripting Irishmen, but failed to take his courage in both hands and vote against it in the division lobby. In a windy apologia he says :

“Grave as was the situation on Tuesday it is far graver to-day. I am not using the language of pessimism or of panic. The most criminal folly that we could commit would be to blind our eyes to the extent and the urgency of the peril, and at this moment I could not be a party to proceedings in this House which, if they succeeded, must have the effect of preventing those—when every hour and every minute counts—who are for the time being responsible to the nation and the Empire and to our Allies for extricating the greatest of causes from the gravest of perils, from doing what it is in the interest of the world essential they should do—namely, continuously and unremittingly concentrate every hour of their time, every faculty of their mind, every fibre of their being on saving from disaster the cause of the Allies. I cannot take that responsibility. I am perfectly prepared to submit to any amount of criticism, and even approbrium, rather than do that.” — “Daily News,” April 13th, 1918.

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The writer of the paragraphs under the heading of “The Talking Shop, ” in “Reynolds’s” (14.4.18) lets the cat out of the bag nicely and shows up the “clean” methods of those who are babbling a lot about a “clean” peace. He writes :

“Then came a telling speech from Mr. Joe Devlin, one of the best speakers in the House. He retold the tale of the malignant and crazy conduct of the military authorities in Ireland at the beginning of the war, when the Irish were wild with enthusiasm for the cause of the Allies. One incident will illustrate the temper then prevailing. The late Mr. John Redmond tried in vain to get a commission for his son, and the young man, now a captain, who has won his promotion in the field, joined as a private. More than this, a distinguished Englishman, sent over to recruit in Ireland, was told by the Irish authorities ‘Do not recruit Papists, we don’t want them to join, and then it will be a good cry against Home Rule after the war that they did not.’ And it is after treatment of this sort that Irishmen are blamed for not rushing to the colours.”

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An interesting item of news from a recent issue of a daily paper : “’We know very little about the war out there,’ said a wounded soldier to me yesterday. ‘We look forward to our cigarettes and parcels from home, we go on fighting, wishing for leave, hoping for a wound, wishing the war was over, and feeling jolly glad we are not dead.'” (“Daily News,” April 20th, 1918.) Delightfully frank, is it not ? “Hoping for a wound,” or, as some of them describe it, a “Blighty touch,” in order to get away from the disgusting scenes of capitalist murder and anarchy.

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One must confess a little disappointment that the “Holy Willies” are to be excluded from the new Military Service Act. After hearing their laudatory observations on the righteousness of “our” cause, their cocksureness that God is on the side of the Allies, combined with their warlike attitude in the pulpit and their generally good physique, one would have thought that they would have proved the right sort of material for stopping the “hosts of sin advancing.” However, it was not to be. Our brother in the Lord, the Archbishop of Canterbury, told us, when addressing the Lords spiritual and temporal, that “now that the proposal was dropped widespread disappointment was expressed among the clergy. He was arranging immediately a meeting of the bishops to consider how they could provide for voluntary enrolment.” It is to be hoped that as the result of this that they will roll up in their thousands. Let us now sing “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

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The oneness of the capitalist class the world over is to be seen quite clearly by those who care to read the Press without their master’s spectacles. Further point may be given to our leading article of last month wherein we drew attention to the fact that the bourgeois party in Russia were “calling upon friend and foe to deliver them out of the hands of the Bolsheviks.” Now we read that—

“General Mannerheim, the Commander of the White Guards, has published an order of the day, which states that at the request of the Finnish Government detachments of Germany’s victorious and powerful army have landed on Finnish soil to help drive out the Bolsheviks and their murderous adherents.
“In bidding Germany’s brave warriors welcome to Finland I therefore trust that every man in the Finnish army will prove his appreciation of the great sacrifice which Germany’s noble people are now making for our country at a time when every man is needed for their own country’s war.”—”Daily News,” April 11th, 1918.

Here we see the bourgeois party of Finland joining hands with their confreres of Germany in order to put down the revolutionary element in their midst. How often will the international working class require this object lesson brought to their notice ere they profit by it ! When they grasp this salient fact—that when the interests of the ruling class are threatened by an uprising of the revolutionary working class, then the master class will drop their petty squabblings and unite in order to smash any endeavour on the part of their slaves to free themselves—they will realise the need for organising on class lines internationally for the purpose of capturing political power and ending for ever the domination of an idle and useless class. Speed the day !

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To-day we have to depend upon capitalist newspapers, which in turn only print what the censor lets them, for items of news from other lands. But from tit-bits which occasionally find their way into our masters’ journals we get just a glimpse of what is being done and said abroad. For instance, quite recently I strayed across the following:

“Herr Edward Bernstein, one of the members of the Minority Socialist Party in the Reichstag, publishes in to-day’s “Neue Zurcher Zeitung” the first of a series of articles dealing with the inner history of the Social Democratic Movement during the war.
He mentions that before the Committee of the Socialist Party issued their statement on the eve of hostilities to the effect that the war was in defence of German Kultur against Russian despotism, they circulated a fiery appeal among the German working classes declaring : “Not a drop of the blood of a German soldier must be sacrificed to the Austrian rulers’ lust of power or for the interests of Imperialists.”
Herr Bernstein adds : “In spite of this urgent call of the Social Democratic Party, Social Democracy granted the credits for a war which was to cost oceans of the blood of German soldiers. It is now clear that this vote of credit was an opportunist move, and it was natural enough that after the mental fog of those August days had lifted and the true nature of the war stood revealed, a section of the party should endeavour to return to the old policy. Hence the beginning of the Independent Socialist movement.”—”Daily News,” April l0th, 1918.

Now from the foregoing it would seem that many of these German Social Democrats correspond exactly to our own Labour Party here—in a word, are non-Socialist—hence the confusion of thought which leads them to support war credits and generally the ruling class. It is refreshing, however, to note that there appears to be the nucleus of a party approximating more nearly to our own. Our manifesto, published at the earliest possible moment after the declaration of war, where we declare that “no interests are at stake justifying theshedding of a single drop of working-class blood,” and so on, bears witness to our faith in the international working-class movement.

Who with any pretension to Socialist understanding and knowledge would accuse our pelf and place-seeking labour opportunists of being Socialists ? It is the veriest moonshine. Yet we find quite a number of people ready at all times to swallow holus-bolus the statement that these said individuals are Socialist because they occasionally give lip-service to revolutionary phrases. Deeds, not words, are the test. “He who is not for us is against us,” and this aptly excludes them from any claim to the title of Socialist.

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We have grown accustomed to reading all sorts of appeals which have for their object a facilitation of the working of the war machine. A recent one says: “Stop house-painting and decorating” ; goes on to state that at this season of the year “there is generally a perfect orgy of white paint and whitewash,” and concludes thus :

“All this should stop. Just now there is an increased demand for cottages for munition workers in various parts of the country, and this demand will be seriously interfered with if the labour is diverted to other schemes. Dirty walls and ceilings are in these days an evidence of patriotism.”—”Daily Chronicle,” April 3rd, 1918.

Once upon a time we heard repeated with monotonous regularity that “Cleanliness is nest to Godliness.” Evidently dirt and patriotism are now interchangeable terms in our masters’vocabulary.


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