1910s >> 2018 >> no-105-may-1913

Editorial: A Deadly Parallel

  “To-day you have greater poverty in the aggregate in the land than you have ever had.”
                             Lloyd George at Cardiff, December 1911.
  “Since 1905 the income of the Income Tax paying class has increased by £188,000,000.”—Mr. Chiozza Money in the “Daily Chronicle,” 18.4.13.

It is May Day again—a day symbolic of, and sacred to, all that the children of toil have lost. It is May Day—the day when the ghost of the departed joy of life stalks abroad for all working- class eyes to see, lest working-class minds, sepulchred in their grey stone prisons, forget. It is May Day, the day when, in old-time fancy. Nature balances her books and commences another busy round—therefore it is a peculiarly fitting day for our annual stock taking.
 
The two quotations at the head of this column might have been left to tell their own tale but for the circumstance that they serve a very useful purpose in our survey. They put the total at the foot of the balance sheet in figures that cannot be challenged. They cry aloud that all the ceaseless toil of those who do the work of the world results in nothing but dead loss to them, while the idlers become more opulent than ever!
 
“It is not that we are not making progress,” mumbles Lord Haldane to bis fellow parasites at the Eighty Club. It looks like it, indeed. Lloyd George confirms the statement when he assures the money-grabbers of the Kingdom in his Budget speech that despite the all-round increase in the cost of maintaining their thieves’ kitchen, no new taxes will be required to be levied — the growth of their plunder far outstrips the stupendous cost of their armaments, and the pimpling increase in their expenditure upon “social reform.”
 
Yes, our masters are making fine progress — there can be no doubt about that. But how is it with the working class ? What progress are we making ? Sixteen months ago the man who, from his official position, should know as much about it as anyone in the Kingdom, told us that we had “greater poverty in the aggregate” than we have ever had before. That “greater poverty’’ is the gift of our boasted civilisation, not to the idle and lazy, not to those who don’t work for their livelihood, but to the industrious, to those who toil in very weariness and pain. It is the fruit of all our wonderful invention, the offering of our conquest of the elements. We harnessed the wind to our wheels and made water turn our grindstones for us. We conquered steam for our purpose, and have entrammelled electricity. But every fresh conquest has made us work harder; every new outburst of the torrent of wealth has made us poorer; every addition to the good things which our hard hands produce has sent us hungrier to bed.
 
Those who think that against all this must be set what they are pleased to refer to as the “inestimable blessings of civilisation” may have those inflated blessings reduced to their true value in very short time.
 
Mr. Seebohm Rowntree made a calculation of the cost of the primary necessaries for a family of five persons. The dietary was too stringent to allow for beer, tobacco or butcher’s meat, and the limit of luxury was touched in tea—once a week. Here is the table :—
 
 
 
S.
d.
Expenditure on Food
12
 9
Rents and Rates
  4
  0
Clothing, including boots
  2
  3
Fuel
  1
10
Lighting, washing material, furniture, crockery, etc.
 
10
 
21
  8
 
Low as this estimate is, Mr. Rowntree found just upon a third of the total population of York, a typical provincial city, existing either below, upon, or very little above it. Mr. C. Booth found a like condition of things existing in London, while other investigators have shown that such poverty is general all over the country.
 
Now you who are looking for the “amenities of civilisation” have before you the condition of things as they affect nearly one third of the people of the richest country in the world, or rather, as they did affect them ten years ago, before prices had risen to their present height, and before “poverty in the aggregate” had the altitude at which Lloyd George finds it to-day.
 
But where are you to find the “blessings of civilisation” ? Are they in the first line: “Food 12s. 9d.” ? A farmer could not keep five pigs on the money. Are they in the second or third lines? A savage would scorn the stinking prison dens in which so many of our children are born and die, and would decline the responsibility of clothing five bodies on 2s. 3d. a week.
 
All the amenities for which these workers have exchanged the fresh air, the pure food, the leisure and natural freedom of their forefathers must be sought in the line: “Lighting, washing materials, furniture, crockery, etc. 10d.” Medicines and medical attendance, insurance, newspapers and books, postage stamps, bus, tram and railway fares, the cinema, the theatre, the bicycle, the country excursion, and the thousand and one other “blessings of civilisation” have to be paid for, in the case of nearly one-third of the people of wealthy, merry England, with what is left, after paying for soap, soda and candles, pots, pans and dishes, bedding, carpets and the piano, out of 10d. a week! Seven days of the amenities of modern civilisation for the surplus of 2d. per head!
 
Oh, if the workers would only understand that all this “progress,” which under the social system at present obtaining, runs to their masters, and leaves those who do the work every day in more abject poverty, could so easily be made to give every unit of society a full and a happy existence, free from the cankering anxiety of insecurity, free from the withering blight of never ending toil!
 
Ah, well! since the only way is through Socialism, it follows that it is also through the Socialist propaganda, and so long as this goes forward we can say with Lord Haldane—we are making progress.

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