1920s >> 1921 >> no-199-march-1921

Bread Cast Upon The Waters

In the midst of the terrible want, disease, and stark misery that the workers of to-day are getting inured to, that they are generally acquiescent in as being a condition of things utterly inseparable from the existence of their class, it is interesting to notice how much money is being spent on various forms of education, and by whom it is spent.

For some time past, prominence has been given in the columns of the “Daily Telegraph” to an appeal for funds, under the patronage of the Prince of Wales, to effect general improvement in the organisation of the Boy Scout movement.

A casual glance down the lists of subscribers of sums of £5 and over, as published in the “Daily Telegraph” of Feb. 5th and 7th (to take two days at random) will reveal the fact that roughly three out of every four subscribers are large business firms.

Now this is rather startling, for it is a rare thing to find these “captains of industry” falling over each other to give money away, but astonishment evaporates when the inevitable reason for this “generosity” is disclosed.

Investigation shows that the various sums donated to this movement are, briefly, investments. They are expected to yield a profit.

No doubt a good many people would wonder how on earth a subscription to the Boy Scout movement can be called a profitable investment for these capitalists, but the words of the investors themselves, in fact the words of the Chief Scout, Baden-Powell, himself, will remove any doubts on that score.

Appealing for funds at a large gathering of business men at Manchester, “B.P.” said: “We will find from experience that the boys who cultivate the ideas and habits of the Boy Scouts prove more useful to employers of labour.” — (“Manchester Guardian,” 1.7.14.)—A cogent and potent reason, which resulted in substantial subscriptions from those interested in increasing the “usefulness” of future workers.

To-day, nearly seven years after the meeting and speech referred to, we find the “educating” of embryonic workers through the medium of the Boy Scouts has proved so valuable to employers of labour that they “part up” with subscriptions with an alacrity positively staggering to those unacquainted with the reason for such “free-hearted” stunts.

Another kind-hearted man by the name of “The Lord Dewar” (what a smell of whisky !) delivers himself of this :

  Sir,—I have pleasure in enclosing cheque for £1,000 towards what I consider a national cause of first importance, believing, as I do, that the Boy Scout movement is a sure foundation upon which to build the best ideals of citizenship, and the best medium to inculcate into the minds of the rising generation courtesy, discipline, courage, and resource. The results of this movement will be of inestimable benefit to the British Empire in future generations.—(“Daily Telegraph,” 5.2.21.)

This is a letter which reads at first sight as though £1,000 was a very casual and common gift, but which is pregnant with meaning to those who care to find it.

The “best ideals of citizenship” from the point of view of this purveyor of lunatic broth combine in the worker a keen intelligence in making the wheels of production run smoothly and prolifically, an unquestioning acceptance of dire poverty when further production is stopped by the master class because it does not pay, and a deadly dull and apathetic lack of understanding of the worker’s true position in society.

That Lord Dewar thoroughly appreciates the benefits that he and his class enjoy as a result of cheerful endurance and unquestioning obedience to authority on the part of the workers is shown by the magnitude of his “gift.”

There is every reason to believe that the brutal plainness of expression contained in the following extract from a letter is the cause of the writer’s desire to remain anonymous under the horribly suggestive and admissive pen-name of “Lone Wolf,” who writes thus :

  There is only one class in the scout movement, the best. That is what makes it so enormously superior in its results to trade unions and middle-class unions and leagues of nations. And the underlying secret? It is, I honestly believe, practically the only great movement of the present time which has realised the practical necessity of subordinating the personal interests of its members to the needs of the community. . . Most people who do not want other people taught to think for themselves have some very good reason for it,—that it is easier to prey upon ignorance, for instance.”—(“Daily Telegraph,” 5.2.21. Italics mine.)

Well, we know who the “community” is. Lliar George did his best to teach us at the times when the railwaymen and miners, besides several other combinations of workers, were doing their best to maintain the already poor standard they “enjoyed” by means of strikes. It was dinned into our ears incessantly that these men were fighting the “community.”

Apparently this bare-fanged “Wolf” is one of the “community” and is desirous of having the thoughts of the rising generation trained in the way he indicates.

And yet we find that, through some tortuous and peculiarly kinked up process of “reasoning,” the vast majority of workers fully believe that they are members of the “community” that the Welsh twister speaks of so glibly. The Georgian community is composed of people who matter in the present system of society, and the worker of to day who thinks that that includes him is indulging in a pretty but suicidal conceit.

Those capitalists who have not previously taken a long enough view of the enormous power that can be wielded through the Boy Scout organisation, in the manufacture of complaisant wage-slaves are shown where their interests lie in the following extract from an article published in the “Daily Telegraph” as part of the appeal for funds :

  No expression of approval is more welcome to those at the head of the Boy Scout movement than that which comes from business men (28.1.21).

Mr. Wilde, headmaster, Blakely Municipal School, Manchester—a gentleman not prone to making wild statements, writes, concerning the average Boy Scout:

  He subordinates his own desires to a sense of honour and of loyalty and obligation to authority. He perseveres, and does not slack off. . . Surely a movement that is worth developing (38.1.21).

Which is a strong recommendation—from the point of view of any exploiter of labour!

What a game !

In these days the close observer sees that no movement that is in the interest of the workers generally gets a free advertisement in the columns of the Press like this Boy Scout business does. It is not to be expected that the owners and controllers of the profit-seeking (yet “free”) Press will allow any thing to appear in their columns that is in any way detrimental to the interests of themselves as a class. That things do happen, too great to be ignored, yet against the interest of the capitalist class, is true.

Then subtlety gets full play, sometimes taking the form of bare-faced distortion of truth, sometimes “damning with faint praise,” again deliberately suppressing vital facts, and in ways scarcely discernible, the capitalist class guard their own interests all the time, even making their position stronger by spreading plausible misconceptions which ultimately take the aspect of absolute truth.

A worker who used his intelligence on his own behalf and has become class-conscious, that is, realises that the interests of the workers and the interests of the masters, or capitalists, are diametrically opposed, smells a rat as soon as ever he sees a thing boosted in the Press as this Boy Scout movement has been, and a short search soon discloses the object of the boost.

Penny-a-liners, journalistic place-hunters, religious and lunatic sufferers from “scribearrhoea,” soon have the grim features of their works laid bare by the worker of normal mind who has used his intelligence in discovering his own true position in the present terribly cruel system of society.

Then does the Boy Scout movement, shorn of all its ribbons, badges, and sentimental trappings, stand out in its true light as a highly developed organisation for the production of wage slaves whose minds will have been moulded to such a degree of complaisant obedience to authority that the woes suffered by the capitalists of to-day (as a result of the workers trying to think for themselves in even the vague, groping, inadequate way that they do) will be entirely eliminated from their scheme of things, and labour troubles will be practically unknown.

We, as Socialists, know to our bitter chagrin what a hard task it is to dislodge ideas that have been grafted into people during their earlier years, and to day we are face to face with a most successful effort to still further influence the minds of the young against their true interests, a fact hidden from the children and their parents with unscrupulous subtlety.

The prosecution of the Boy Scout movement has in view the cultivation of all the “virtues” in the minds of the boys, but never a word is breathed to them about the abominable evil of a system that ensures the whole of their future being insecure until death.