1920s >> 1920 >> no-186-february-1920

By The Way

The master class and their satellites never weary in their campaign of extolling the “virtues” of practising thrift, increasing production, and diminishing consumption on the part of the workers.

 

That these things are the inevitable lot of working-class existence, and consequently the majority could not partake of the schemes for saving, even if they would, never seems to dawn upon those engaged in boosting appeals, so far are they removed from the actual facts of life.

 

On the other hand, while we are engaged in these slavish practices from economic compulsion, our bosses are enjoying themselves at “Victory Balls” or ski-ing at some Swiss resort.

 

Only a few days ago the National Savings Assembly held a meeting in London, and on this occasion a message from the King was read, from which I cull the following:

 

  It will be your endeavour to explain and to encourage the reduction of unnecessary consumption, and the increase of production, in order that the whole national standard of living may be improved. . . I am to express the King’s hope that both employers and employed will lend their support to increase the number of Savings Associations in the works and factories throughout the realm. —”Daily News,” January 17th, 1920.

 

One of the promoters of the movement, Sir Robert Kindersley, speaking at this meeting admitted the poverty position of the workers, though, of course, quite accidentally, when he said “there were still literally tens of thousands of factories and works throughout the country without a War Savings Association.”

 

How the “national standard of living is to be improved” we are never told, though the phrase is an oft-recurring one. Of course, during the early days of the war, when various bodies of workers were discussing with Lloyd George the questions of dilution, speeding-up of munitions, and so forth, he then suggested that this matter of a “higher standard” should be deferred until the war with Germany was concluded, and it was about this period that we were treated to the Lloyd Georgian slogan—”Audacity Wins.” However, it is demonstrably clear it was merely words, words, words.

 

That such a state of things is seriously contemplated is untrue, and can be easily proven, for even in the Government’s wages agreement with the railwaymen provision is made for a reduction of one shilling for every 5 points fall in the cost of living. This, then, is the way not to improve the standard of living.

 

To those who are continually shouting about the wave of working-class prosperity brought about as the result of the war a study of the conditions under which the workers live, move, and have their being would, indeed, be an eye-opener. In spite of the “fabulous” sums which we receive as wages at the end of the week, we, unlike the members of the idle, parasitic class, are unable to take ourselves to Monte Carlo and other fashionable resorts. No, these “high wages” merely suffice to keep us going just about another week, so with clockwork regularity we present ourselves at the bosses’ warehouses and factory gates in order to obtain the wherewithal to exist.

 

While our masters may gamble at Monte Carlo and elsewhere, we, the working class, are told by some who should know a little about these matters that we are too poor to have a flutter on premium bonds.

 

In this connection I would quote the following comment on premium bonds which recently appeared in the Monthly Review of the London Joint City and Midland Bank :

  It must not be forgotten that, great as have been the wage-increases of the community, they have, taken as a whole, barely kept pace with the still rising cost of living, and certainly do not yield a large margin for investment such as the advocates of Premium Bonds believe to be possible.

So once again is our diagnosis of the working-class position confirmed even by the “enemy” himself.

 

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In the far-off days before the war, Mr. Lloyd George (speaking of the “boon” he was confering upon those veterans of industry who had been so busily engaged in creating wealth for others to enjoy that at the age of three score years and ten they found the only haven of refuge was the workhouse), delivered himself of the following concerning old-age pensions :

 

  By this act of justice we have sweetened the bitterest thoughts of the poor and lightened the darkest hours of their existence. That which they most dreaded—old age—is now an anticipation of honourable ease. The workhouse has become the chimney-corner. The spectre has become an angel.

 

Beautiful swank ! We said at the time that it was mere humbug—a capitalist rate-saving device.

 

Having given the picture as portrayed by the author, let me give the facts as recited (one account of many) in that organ of Liberalism and Lloyd George, “Reynolds’s Newspaper,” (December 31st, 1919).

 

  The pathetic details of the death of two aged sisters who starved in a city of wealth and plenty w«re related at the inquest at Liverpool on Mary Gray aged 81, widow, and Ann Coyne, aged 74, spinster.
The women were found lying dead on the floor of their kitchen, and it was stated that they existed on their old age pensions and 7s. subscribed fortnightly by friends. There was no bed. Mary, who was blind, slept on an old armchair. A piece of dried crust was the only food in the house.
A doctor gave evidence that their clothing was simply rags. Ann evidently had fallen over a tattered rug and lain helpless through weakness, dying of concussion of the brain. Mary died more recently, and had sat in a chair for a day or two without anything to eat. Both were very emaciated.
The Coroner said it was a horrible thing that in a city like Liverpool these poor old women had died in this manner. ” —”Reynolds’s,” Dec. 21st, 1919.

 

I can just imagine how these old ladies’ “darkest hours were lightened” by the possession of such unbounded Christian generosity in the shape of 15 whole shillings per week. In similar circumstances I would far rather have the “workhouse” than the “chimney corner.”

 

Fellow worker, have you ever thought what your support of capitalist society means to you and your class? It means a life of toil and poverty, and at the end of the journey, when you are no longer useful as a profit-producing machine, the workhouse stares you in the face, or if you should reach the prescribed term of years a grateful country may allow you 10s. a week to commit suicide with. Is it worth fighting for? Think it over. If you desire something better, then come and join us and help to win the World for the Workers.

 

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At the time when the results of the Borough Council Elections were made known in November last there was much joy and jubilation because it had come to pass that Labour had captured many seats on the various councils throughout the country. After all, there is little cause for rejoicing, for Capitalism has won again. There is, indeed, much hard spade work yet to be done. It is Tweedledum and Tweedledee. True, according to the various “programmes” of the Labour Party which I have seen, they are going to try and make capitalism more bearable. The feeding of school children and the supply of milk to necessitous mothers, free libraries and mixed bathing for the unemployed advocated by them, have for long years formed part of the “progressive” ticket.

 

The fact that in society to-day there exists underfed school children and necessitous mothers is part of the indictment against capitalism and a strong reason for revolutionary action and not reform. Tinkering with the effects of the system is of no avail. The cause of poverty in the midst of plenty is to be found in the private ownership of the means of life. Social ownership can alone effect the change. And this the Labour Party does not stand for.

 

During the war period case after case could be cited to show that the Labour men were nothing but capitalist hacks. To all students of politics a whole host of names will readily suggest itself. Coming to a more recent date we have the notorious case of Manchester’s Lord Mayor, which is worth recording :

 

  Manchester’s Labour Lord Mayor, Alderman Tom Fox, uttered a stern warning to a deputation of unemployed on Saturday.
Vague threats of violence in the event of work not being forthcoming have been made. Such procedure was roundly condemned by Alderman Fox. “Thirty years ago,” he frankly said, “I was one of you, using the same sort of talk, but it leads nowhere!
It is time all this nonsense was knocked on the head.
Suppose anything of this happened, then you would come up against authority, and that authority in this city is vested in myself for the time being, as well as in the police force.
Then you are up against the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force—all in their full strength. There are a few of you. I know what would happen, and it is as well that you knew too.
There would be an appeal to the Lord Mayor for order, and I am prepared to take action with all the energy I am capable of, and don’t you forget it, my friends. I am the Lord Mayor, and I am bound to keep order, and as the Lord Mayor I would do it. Don’t make any mistake about it. ” —”Daily News,” Dec. 1st, 1919.

 

So there you have it ”naked and unashamed.” I, the representative of King Capital, will use all the forces of capitalism against you, the workers, if and when necessary. What think ye now, ye workers who voted Labour not understanding that Labourism is but another name for Capitalism ?

 

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A meeting was held in December last at the Mansion House for the purpose of laying the foundation of a movement for linking together in active co-operation all bodies and organisations—religious, social, or industrial—which are striving to break down the barriers between class and class and to establish relations of mutual confidence between employers and employed. Notwithstanding the efforts of these enterprising people, I feel bound to add that they have a big job on hand.

 

Judging from the weighty words of wisdom which fell from the lips of the Bishop of Peterborough, we have great cause for thankfulness, my brethren, that our erring Christian friend has at last grasped a sublime truth. He said : “Industry was made for man and not man for industry. We have had too much of the soul-destroying competition of the past.” Verily, we move.

 

Another gentleman of the cloth, the Rev. Father Plater, who evidently knew his fellow religionists well, stated that; “Religion was not praying into a top hat on Sunday morning with liberty to prey upon our neighbours the rest of the week.” (“Daily News,” December 10th. 1919.)

 

Why, oh why, my masters, is it now necessary, seeing that the world has been made safe for democracy, to form associations to “break down the barriers between class and class”? With wearying monotony throughout the last four years you have time and again told us that the war had accomplished this thing for you, and that the unity formed in the trenches would stand you in good stead in the days ahead.

 

No, sirs, you have been cherishing a delusion. It cannot be done. Look around you on every hand and you will see signs that there is an antagonism of interest between the two sections in the community— a class war—which can only be terminated by the abolition of classes in and through the institution of the Socialist Commonwealth.

 

The Scout