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

Jottings

Commenting on the ridiculous demands of the French and British plunderers in connection with the reparation clauses the “Hamburger Volkzeitung” (31.1.21) says: “Let those pay who can. Let the conscienceless bourgeoisie of all countries settle their accounts between them. It is their concern that is going bankrupt. The workers can renounce the inheritance. Their account is on another page.” Very nicely put and very true. We have been saying this for years.

 

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Mr. Gilbert Frankau, a person addicted to writing novels, is, despite his name, a British patriot 100 per cent. pure. So much so that he gets quite frantic about it. Loving his country as he claims to do, he is bound to see a menace in almost everything. Writing week after week in the “Sunday Herald,” he has covered almost every phase of human activity, and sees in each and every one a menace to the British Empire. But writing on politics and economics is not like writing novels Even his colleague, Robert Blatchford, has had to remonstrate with him as to the accuracy of his statements. But apparently he is not particular as to his facts so long as space is accorded him in which to let himself go. Of course he had to lash himself into a fury when dealing with Karl Marx and Lenin (who, for some strange reason, he couples together), but his knowledge of both must be very scanty indeed if what he has told the “Sunday Herald” readers is all that he knows. In the issue for Feb. 6th he deliberately states that Marx was a lunatic and that he died in a lunatic asylum. This absurd lie Marxists can, of course, afford to laugh at as emanating from an ignoramus, but for the fact that a great portion of the working class bases its whole philosophy of life on the contents of the Sunday papers. This being so, it often falls to the Socialist to correct the erroneous views disseminated by such papers. Karl Marx is accredited, even by capitalist historians, with having written a masterly analysis of capitalist society in which he laid bare the whole system by which the workers are robbed and kept in subjection. It is admitted that “Das Kapital” had the influence that Darwin’s “Origin of Species” had, and this from a lunatic ! It is a scientific study of industrial conditions, and from these investigations the theory is maintained that materialist conceptions have guided the history of man. The theory of surplus value is also deduced, that the workers’ wages tend to fall to the minimum of subsistence and that all profits, etc., are part of the value the worker has produced but hasn’t got—are, in fact, surplus value.

 

Karl Marx died in 1883, at 8 Maitland Park Road, London, in full possession of his faculties, though he died in broken health, probably accentuated by the death of his wife, whom he loved dearly. Like others of his kind, he was persecuted to his dying day by the Frankaus of his time. But it says much for his teaching when, nearly forty years later, people can work themselves into a fury simply because what he taught has been verified over and over again.

 

“When the tool arose the tool-less men became the slaves of those who owned the tools.” That was stated by Marx, and was never more applicable than at the present day in this glorious new England of ours—or rather, Frankau’s—where men and women who fought and worked that the British Empire might be extended to accommodate a lot of gluttonous robbers, are waiting day after day in long queues for a dole of bread and soup from their masters who own the tools, and upon whose permission they must wait before they can use them. If these lines should be read by any of Frankau’s readers they may perhaps stimulate them into enquiring a little further into the writings of Marx, when they will easily be able to distinguish which is the lunatic—Marx or Frankau.

 

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The impression that Liberalism and Labour possess identical aims seems to be a pretty general one. During the anxious times of a bye-election when Coalition meets Liberal there is a dread on the part of Labour that Coalition might win. If the candidate opposing the Coalition happens to be Labour similarly Liberals are agitated lest their favourite be beaten. Sir Hamar Greenwood couples Liberals and Labour in his denunciation of those who would besmirch “the fair name of England.” Greenwood’s opponent, Joseph Devlin, appeals to Liberals and Labour to arrive at some modus vivendi to clear the “fair name of England.” Mr. George Lansbury, the spotless champion of the British proletariat, likewise appeals to Liberals and Labour to combine. “Let us all— Liberals as well as Labour men and women— work together to throw out this Government which is a disgrace not only to England (that fair name of England, how useful everybody finds the gag!) but to the world ” (Albert Hall. 15.2.21). Finally an examination of the new economic and industrial policy issued recently by the Executive of the National Liberal Federation discloses hardly any point of difference from the policy of the Labour Party. Indeed, the “Manchester Guardian” claims that “the new Liberalism has stolen not a little of the Labour thunder, and has even taken some hints from the Guild Socialist” (28.1.21). Thus all bourgeois-loving Labourites can—and no doubt will—give the new Liberalism their full acquiescence and support without in any way endangering their status.

 

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We have been repeatedly told by those who profess to be our leaders in matters industrial and political, that we, the workers, and constituting the largest portion of the community, bear the largest share of the burden of taxation. If this be true, then obviously any reduction or relief in taxation should redound to our benefit. When Mr. Will Thorne asked the Minister of Transport who would reap the advantage of a reduction in railwayman’s wages consequent on the fall in food prices Sir Eric Geddes answered the taxpayer would. He meant by this that the increases of wages to railwaymen—and presumably those of other industries where “control” has been exercised—have been borne by the taxpayers, and that therefore any reduction should revert to them. If we, as workers, are also taxpayers, we should expect to find the sum total of all these reductions, or nearly all of it, spread out over the whole of the working class. What I want to know is, if a reduction in wages is going to find its way back into our pockets, will any Labour leader now come forward and discourage any resistance on our part to wage reductions ?

 

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Even if the worker be not sanguine that he will experience a return of the suppressed portion of his wages indirectly there are yet many who believe that there is some justification for the complaint of the master class that high wages are responsible for high prices. At any rate the bluff appears to have done its work. At Roubaix and Tourcoing in France, where the same gag was tried, the workers in all the mills, including those whose wages were not immediately threatened, decided to cease work as a mark of their resistance to any reduction. If any protest is offered in this country the plan seems to be to stop the job for a week or two on some pretext or other, and then in the interval put up a notice inviting those who are prepared to start back at a reduced rate to give their names in. The real facts, of course, are that owing to the vast numbers of workers looking for jobs and the prospect of destitution staring them in the face, they are compelled to accept. Apart from the quick realisation of profits there is nothing more desirable to the master class than to have a decent-sized army of unemployed always on hand. This it is that tends to keep wages low.

 

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All the same, it is rather pathetic to find some workers anticipating the wishes of their boss and asking for a reduction ! It marks a very low stage indeed in the development of knowledge of the factors governing industry. One such case has been extensively advertised in the Press recently, presumably to encourage others in a like course. It occurred at a mill in Manchester, and the method of approach was something like this: “Your employers have decided to approach you with the suggestion that our wages be reduced by 10 per cent. We hope that this offer will be accepted, as it is felt that the present high cost of living exists primarily owing to the very high cost of production.” Needless to say, their hopes were quickly realised, along with the satisfaction of knowing that a strike was not necessary in order to enforce their demands.

 

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Enforced leisure, as a rule, is not exactly pleasant to think about when applied to the case of the worker. But I often wonder if a thought is given any time to the way in which our “betters” spend their leisure time. Do they (the workers) ever read the reports of “our special correspondent in the Riviera,” who appears to be having a posh time recording the doings and the latest fashions in vogue among the wealthy Britishers out there? Just now Nice, Monte Carlo. Mentone, and the other places are simply packed with people who have gone to escape the rigours of the English climate. Back here at home those who look after interests are busy trying to dope us with the tale that unless wages are reduced they will have to shut down because they simply cannot carry on!

 

Judging from the reports, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of money on the Riviera ; and all this, mind you, represents profits wrung out of the toil of the workers. Other things remaining equal, any increase of wages must come out of their profits. Consequently if they can get the workers to accept less wages, they will have more profits to spend in the Riviera and elsewhere. Whilst the workers here are walking the shoes off their feet looking for jobs and wondering how their children are going to be clothed, or even where the next meal is coming from, these parasites are promenading in straw hats or minx coats, or magnificent sables costing a thousand pounds apiece. One lady appeared at a ball in a dress made up of feathers of humming-birds obtained at “stupendous expense.”

 

Think of this, you ex-warriors, when next you or your wife take up your position in the queue waiting for your dole of bread.

 

The latest report says that black is de rigueur—which means no class—probably because it is a colour affected mostly by the working class —when they can get it. They need it most. What are described as “wonderful” silk stockings at £4 a pair are very fashionable. It is wonderful—why it is allowed to go on.

 

Tom Sala