1910s >> 1918 >> no-170-0ctober-1918

By The Way

During the last four years of what is termed the “war to make the world safe for democracy,” we have been presented with many “keys to victory.” All those that have gone before have somehow failed to achieve the desired object, but now this latest “key” is really “it,” for no less a personage than Marshal Foch hath spoken the word. “Coal is the key to victory.”

 

* * *

 

Now, as the days are getting shorter, and likewise the atmosphere much cooler, coal is an interesting subject. I pray thee, therefore, tarry awhile with me. In times past we have been regaled by yellow Press journalises shouting in their Press that the mines were full of ”slackers” (what a horrid joke to suggest that “slackers” would rush after such tedious and dangerous work) and “comb them all out,”, and so forth. And so it came to pass in April, after the Allies’ reverse, that our “great business government,” assisted by all the “great business men” of the country, forthwith proceeded to put the before mentioned “comb” in action. It may be noted here that earlier in the year the coal mining industry had been called upon by Sir Auckland Geddes to provide 50,000 men. Then the oracle from Wales cum Manchester added that—

 

“The military needs will necessitate the calling up of another 50,000 men from this industry. We are convinced, after entering into the matter very carefully, that these men can be spared without endangering the essential output of coal for our national industries.”—”Daily Chronicle,” September 10th, 1918.

 

It is the same old story of muddle and hustle over again. The experience of the past with regard to the engineers, shipbuilders, munition workers, agricultural workers, and others has not yet taught our “business” government the lesson and the folly of their “all-into-the-Army” campaign.

 

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The announcements of all the belligerents concerning their air raids are couched in similar terms, and with wearying monotony they inform all and sundry that the “objectives” were reached. Strange indeed, is it not, that the following paragraph should find a place in a paper a short time ago.

 

“It is rather curious that while the German official communiques are busy belittling the effect of the air raids on the Rhineland, the German illustrated papers should be allowed to undo the good work by publishing pictures showing the havoc wrought by the bombs. One of them depicts the wreck of the Provinzial Museum at Treves. It certainly looks as much a ruin as some of the ancient relics in the town.” “Daily News,” 28.8.1918.

 

This achievement can hardly be termed a military objective or a railway junction. To put it mildly it would approximate to vandalism.

 

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The new cinematograph film of Lloyd George should surely be called “Through Terror to
 Triumph.” A part of it will depict this gentleman as an “objector” to war and military service fighting for liberty during the Boer War, and how he escaped from the Birmingham Town Hall through a surging mob of patriots who were threatening his destruction (some terror, this!), then how he triumphed disguised as a policeman. Yes, audacity wins !

 

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We have time and time again called attention to the parsimony of the ruling class in their treatment of the discharged ”heroes” of the war, as likewise their callous indifference to the used-up and discarded wage-slave. While we have conscription of men’s lives, voluntary subscriptions, or what is termed in the vernacular as passing the hat round, are good enough to meet the claims of those who have been battered and bruised in the masters’ service.

 

There is now established an old boots and clothes depot to equip these saviours of the empire ere they return to the home battle-front—the office or the factory. The announcement informs me that

 

   “Y.M.C.A. National Council appeals for clothes or boots for men discharged from the services who are seeking employment. When the men are discharged they are provided with a suit of mufti, or given a sum in cash, by the War Office. Frequently, however, the first suit is worn out, and many then applying to the Y.M.C.A. for work or help cannot start on new employment, even when it has been found, because of their shabby appearance. The Y.M.C.A. re-equips such men, and they are able to face life with renewed hope.
Those who cannot send clothing are invited to send donations. For 6s. a very serviceable pair of repaired old army boots can be bought. Dress suits are required for men anxious to become waiters, but all kinds of clothes will be welcome.” “Daily News,” August 34th, 1918.

 

Almost at the same time John Hodge, the Minister of Pensions, launches his cadging appeal for helping discharged and disabled sailors and soldiers. The fund is to be “the symbol of a nation’s gratitude.” And we are informed that “no system of State aid could ever meet the varying requirements of thousands of disabled officers and men.” Think of it, ye valiant warriors, your needs are to be met by an appeal to the alms-giving public, for “no system of State aid could ever meet the varying requirements.” By a stroke of the pen Dora’s help can be invoked when the interest of the ruling class is threatened, but not so when it should be a case of generous treatment of those who have “offered all in the fight for honour, home and liberty.” The State can find money and pour it forth like water when death-dealing instruments and the other paraphernalia of war are required : the restoration to health, the training of the blind, and kindred matters can be left to haphazard Charity. Think it over!

 

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It is a treat these days to read the speeches of those red-herring merchants, the Labour ministers. Just recently Mr. G. H. Roberts was speaking on reconstruction after the war, and he went on to say that

“we shall not tolerate any haphazard dealings with the problem of reconstruction. I should prefer to retain these splendid fellows in the army much longer than they themselves think necessary rather than they should be released in a haphazard fashion simply to swell the ranks of the unemployed. We are going to release these men only when we have a reasonable assurance that industry is capable of absorbing them and that they can be permanently resettled in civil life.” (Daily News, 9.9.1918.)

 

Now this in itself is a tall order, for signs are not wanting already that industry is not yet capable of absorbing these “splendid fellows.” In case there should be any doubting Thomas’s, let me here interpose an observation of John Hodge, another Labour minister, who is advocating “compulsion” for what he terms “skunk employers.” He says:

“The employer with a big heart and mind would willingly take back all the men he had promised to find jobs for, but the mean man, who was always after money, would shirk his responsibility. He thought, therefore, that for the protection of the good employer it was necessary that the ‘skunk’ be compelled to toe the line and do his duty.” (Daily News, 27.8.1918)

 

Presumably, therefore, I imagine that at this moment there are a number of men who have not yet been “permanently resettled in civil life.”
In the same speech of friend Roberts there is another interesting item, namely, “that employment should be given by preference to the married as against the single men, and to tbe volunteers as against conscripts.” So there you are, my lads, when you go to some other “lordly fellow worm” and ask his leave to toil, a kind of shorter catechism will take place, when the “superior” one will ask: “What did you do in the great war, sonny ?” The applicant might afterwards ask such a one what HE did ? and whether he fought and bled, or only held the other fellow’s coat while he got on with the business. A very pertinent question this. Why not?

 

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There seems to be no ending to the tosh trotted out by these Jacks-in-office. This brainy one from Norwich is perturbed about the horrors of the class war. He says:

 

 “There are some who want to get rid of this military war in order to embark on what they designate as a class war.
If military war is simply to give way to class war or industrial strife, our recovery from this war will be rendered almost impossible, and it will affect not one class of the whole community, but particularly the working class.”

 

Does Mr. Roberts mean to suggest that he is not aware that inside society as at present constituted there are two classes, namely, a capitalist or master class who owns the means of wealth production; and a working class who operate those tools of production by whose labour alone wealth is produced? That, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle. Despite the fact that Mr. Roberts puts the telescope to the blind eye and exclaims that he does not see these two opposing forces, the truth is that his paymasters realise them. Why the sudden appeal, late in the day, by a section of the master class to their friends for a more “humane treatment” of their wage-slaves, “better houses” for them to live in, and an opportunity for a “fuller life”? These are signs of an awakening of the working class and the desire of the master class to stave off the day of reckoning a little longer by disgorging a portion of their ill-gotten gains.

 

The Scout.