The Latest ‘Unrest’

Trade Unionists in this country, or at least that section of them who are roused to passion when the obvious comes with unexpected suddenness upon them, are beginning to boil with “righteous indignation” over the illegal deportation of trade union officials and strike leaders from South Africa. Most of these trade unionists can remember as far back as the South African War, and it might do them good at this moment to pass in review the emotions that possessed them in that time of “Maffiking.” Are they as much wiser as they are older ? Alas! it is to be feared that they are not.

The relation of things is plain, and that the rank and file of the workers of the country fail to discern that relation shows they are very little wiser in 1914 than they were in 1899. These are the facts, When the Transvaal was an independent country a British government did not deem it beyond its province to resort to the test of arms, ostensibly because certain wage-slaves were as vote-less as millions of men in this country are to-day. The map is painted red. It is realised that local circumstances render the “labour problem” open to rather different treatment to that ordinarily depended upon at home. In order that they might be able to disclaim all responsibility for what is coming, the Liberals give the South Africans “autonomy.” They realise the unfortunate necessity of having to leave “Imperial” troops in the country in order to keep down black, white, and brown wage-slaves, but they say to their colonial agents : “For God’s sake don’t use these forces until your own are no longer able to control affairs, for we shall be having a general election here shortly, and the Labour Party may not have time to wash the taste of it out of the workers’ mouths.”

And it is this Liberal Government, who aids and abets the mining magnates and others to smash the workers in South Africa, that the Labour Party supports and saves from defeat time after time.

This, really, is the most disquieting aspect of the whole affair—that those very keen judges, the traitors banded together in the Labour Party, who hold their seats by working-class ignorance, know very well that they have nothing to fear from clinging to the Liberal party, They know how little the workers will learn from the incident—thanks largely to the confusion created by their own corruption—and how soon they will forget the little they do learn— thanks again to the Labour Party red-herrings and side-trackings.

We have been over the whole ground recently in these columns, but it is worth while to reiterate certain points. First among these is the naked manifestation of the class struggle in the way in which legality is set at nought when it is the mine-owner and his agent acting against the miner, and in the way that tame legality is the refuge of the home Government when it is called upon to defend the workers against the illegal acts of the capitalists. Another point is the enormous power the ruling class have in their armed forces, and the futility of the Syndicalist nostrum of “direct action.”

(Socialist Standard, March 1914)

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