But a short while ago the agents of the master class were busily engaged informing the inhabitants of this isle of the “perilous” condition of “our” troops in Russia.
Now it would appear from what one sees and hears that the average man at that time was somewhat disinterested about the internal condition of Russia. It seemed to him a scrap between the Bolsheviks and those who would restore the monarchy ; and consequently he did not rush to embark for Russia to preserve law and order and, incidentally, of course, allied interests. Consequently a good “stunt” was the desideratum to act as a fillip for recruiting. What better idea could the wily ones hit upon than that “our” troops were in peril? This, together with special engagement fees, it was hoped would secure the men. And so it came to pass that whilst trade unionists and other bodies were “protesting” against British intervention in Russia, the authorities were quietly shipping the men away. The plea of the masters for men to extricate their “comrades” was successful. We must now adopt the Asquithian policy of “wait and see” whether “our” troops will be withdrawn when rescued from the ”perilous” condition, or, having whetted the appetite for another campaign, like Oliver Twist, they will ask for more.
How beautifully staged was the departure of these troops who were so nobly setting sail to act as rescuers of those in “peril,” including in a special sense, British and French bondholders! Picture papers gave us a glimpse of the stirring send-off accorded to the men, and the penny-a-liners also entered into the spirit of the thing. Let me quote a passage-—
“A magnificent public send off was given at Southampton last evening to a contingent of troops bound for North Russia. It was the first occasion during the war on which civilians were permitted to witness the departure. The Mayor addressed the men just before they sailed, bidding them God-speed and good luck.
The transport was named the Tzar. . . A band played “Auld Lang Syne” as the transport cast off.
Nearly 2,090 men embarked at Newcastle yesterday on the troopship Czaritza.
Many of the men carried miniature flags in the muzzles of their rifles, and on |the carriages bringing them to Newcastle were chalked waggish inscriptions, such as ‘The Trotsky Stormers,” First Stop Russia,” “The Old Red Army,” and” Who fears the Bolshies?” —”Daily News,” May I3th, 1919.
I remember reading somewhat similar vapourings nearly five years ago. Then it was “Non-Stop-Berlin” chalked on the army paraphernalia. In those days the Russians were gallant fighters, fighting with “us” for truth and righteousness, and the “Times” military correspondent told us daily of the mighty movement of the “Russian steam roller,” and how it would be in Berlin by Xmas, 1914.
I should have thought that those people who possessed the directive ability and large business brains which are peculiar to the Lloyd Georgian Government would not have permitted so incongruous a thing to happen as the jollification afforded by the departure of troops for a new campaign and a statement in the House on the same day regarding the peace celebrations. It is decidedly a rotten joke. In the self-same paper that records the previous extract appears the following:
“Mr. Bonar Law told the House of Commons yesterday that the Government proposed shortly to make a statement of their views on the whole question of the peace celebrations. Whether it would be possible to hold them at Whitsuntide depended on the events of the next few days.
Asked whether it was proposed to celebrate peace while half Europe was still fighting, he replied that, personally, if a treaty were concluded with our chief enemy, he thought it would be a subject for rejoicing. The Government were considering the suggestion that Marshal Foch should be invited to be present.”
An interesting item: “Mr. C. B. Stanton
the Labour member, hoped for the resumption of the pre-war Royal garden parties, where their Majesties met members of the House of Commons and leading men and women from all classes—”Daily News,
” May 16th, 1919.
After the “horrors” of the “Germ-Hun” and the “Bolsheviks” come the_massacres of the Jews by the Poles. An item of news from a New York correspondent stated that one hundred thousand Jews participated in a protest last night in Madison Square Garden and neighbouring streets against the Polish pogroms.
“Mr. Charles E. Hughes, who was the principal speaker, declared that he had verified the reports of Jewish massacres by the Poles and found them true. His denunciation of the anti-Semitic attacks by the new nation, which owes its being to the benevolence of the Great Powers, created a profound impression.” —”Daily Express,” May 2yd, 1919.
What will the self-righteous “Big Four” say now?
It does seem paradoxical that it should be necessary for the men who have been fighting the “country’s” battles (I prefer to call them the capitalists’ battles) to have to range themselves inside various organisations, all purporting to be in existence for the purpose of assisting discharged and demobilised soldiers to obtain what is due to them from a grateful country.
Likewise almost every capitalist rag has its bureau, or correspondence column, to explain to the unwary who have been enmashed in things military how to obtain some grant, or gratuity, or pension, etc., which seems to have been overlooked or diverted to the wrong channel, and also to explain when a pledge is not a pledge, and for other kindred Purposes.
I frequently read these agonising questions and answers, and am compelled to agree that the gentleman seeking Parliamentary honours was correct when he addressed his audience as “hard-headed sons of toil.” Hard-headed they must be to tolerate the insults hurled at them and the miserable treatment meted out to them ty those whose vile interests they have been defending.
The following, by a “Service correspondent,” is typical of many of the items tbat appear from time to time:
PROBLEM OF THE DISABLED.
It is a crying shame and disgrace to see the huge number of crippled, maimed, and smashed men lined up any day outside the Labour Exchanges. Many of these unfortunates are obviously unfit for labour of any sort, but owing to their ridiculously inadequate pensions they are forced to hunt the streets looking for jobs. Those men have come back broken in the country’s wars and are the first claim to be met by the State. Employers who were among the first to wave the flag and induce their staffs to enlist now seem among the last to play the game to the returned crocks. The right to live or work must be demanded and secured, and if the disabled man is unfitted for the labour market then adequate pension has got to be made without delay to see that he shall spend the rest of his career in comfort and decency.”
—”Daily Herald,” May 22nd 1919.
The pitiful lack of understanding displayed by these folk of each and every phase of capitalist activity is amazing. Through apathy and indifference to the things that really matter—working-class education and the way out of the wages system—they were easy prey five years ago to the tricksters who were leading them to the shambles. So, used to looking at things through capitalist spectacles, they turned and vilified other workers who presented a different point of view. Now, at long last, they are learning the bitter truth by experience. The songs and sayings of nearly five years ago—”We don’t want to lose you, but we think you ought to go.” “What do you lack, Sonny?” and similar piffle—have now been relegated to the limbo of forgotten things. The bald facts now stand out clear and plain for all to see: they have served the masters’ purpose and, like the orange that has been sucked dry, they are flung out into the highways as of no further use.
Perhaps ere long these maimed and physically wrecked members of the working class will see the need for studying their place in society and join with us in the attempt to usher in the dawn of a better day.
I am glad to observe that the War Office is not devoid of humour. How’s this?—”Some conscientious objectors are informed on their discharge papers that if they attempt to join the Army again they will be liable to two year’s hard labour.”—”Daily News,” May 20th, 1919.
A dinner took place a short while ago in connection with the Industrial League, when a number of employers met a gathering of labour leaders and shop stewards and evidently discussed low they could more efficiently exploit the workers. On this occasion Mr. Clynes
delivered himself of the following gem :
“Trade unionism is now twice as strong in numbers as when the war began, and several times stronger in point of authority and power of insistence on its demands. They did not recede one inch from the right of the organised worker to use his organised power: but they had no right as poor people to rob the rich of what was theirs, as the rich had no right to rob the poor of what belonged to them. Changes sought must be through democratic institutions.”
—”Daily News,” April 26th, 1919.
Exactly, Mr. Clynes. We seek a change from the private ownership in the means of living to common ownership by democratic action, that is, by a majority of the workers first understanding the need for a change, and, secondly, organising with the Socialist Party to effect it. But with regard to “poor people robbing the rich,” well, sir, it is a physical impossibility. The poor are poor simply because they are robbed of what they produce by the class you, sir, so ably defend.
The discussion on the “peace terms” makes interesting reading. The following titbit from a special correspondent is distinctly good. He says :
“There is a good deal here to provide food for reflection. What was once called annexation is now termed “acceptance of a mandate under the League of Nations.” The two things may be practically identical, or they may be—as they should be—poles apart.” —” Daily News,” May 20th, 1919.
As the Allies all desire some plums the arrangement for “mandates” seems to be an eminently suitable one.
In the early days of the war we were constantly being told that “we” (the capitalist class of this country) were unprepared for war. To use the vulgar vernacular, the Germans done the dirty on us. To those who were not mentally asleep this sort of thing had little effect. They knew it was not true. Plenty of evidence has since come to light to prove this point. But more especially do I notice the following from Lord French’s book on the war, published in the “Daily Telegraph” (April 29th) :
“The British and French General Staffs had for some years been in close secret consultation with one another on this subject. (The point of concentration for the British forces on their arrival in France.) The area of concentration for the British forces had been fixed on the left flank of the French, and the actual detraining stations of the various units were all laid down in terrain lying between Maubeuge and Le Cateau. The headquarters of the Army were fixed at the latter place.”