1920s >> 1921 >> no-200-april-1921
The Wrong Box
Strenuous efforts are being made to cope with the problem of the starving unemployed ex-service men in Manchester and Salford. The big firms of the city are asked to organise collections among their staffs, the newspapers publish appeals for 3d. a day from those of us in work, individuals accost one on every street comer with collection boxes, and—we beat the Germans to a frazzle!
Manchester is by no means peculiar in its problem, but, as a fat man in spats said to me the other day, “London’s out of date, all the money’s made in Manchester now-a-days! ” Which possibly is true, and which placed in juxtaposition to the appeal for 3d. a day is very illuminating.
This is what comes of the specious promises made by the capitalist class in 1914. “Never again,” they said, “shall we see our returned heroes selling bootlaces on the streets.” And you quoted this when we pointed out what had been the fate of the Crimean and Boer War veterans. You even wanted to throw us into horse ponds because we told you it was just the bamboozling of the capitalist class anxious for your blood and energy to protect their wealth. But they do not trouble about promising yon anything now. You are not so much in request as you were then. You have to settle your own affairs now. But the pity of it is that you can’t seem to realise how you have been swindled. The bloody game of the capitalist class goes on in Ireland, in India, in Mesopotamia, and elsewhere. The clutching hand of Moloch is stretched toward the oilfields and markets of the East—you must deal with the starvation problem in Salford yourselves. You must be the ones to encounter with swelling hearts the queue of destitute waiting in Oxford Road for free soup; you it is who must organise your fellow workers into a regiment of collectors and send them out to beg from their fellow workers. And those “returned heroes” who are in work at, without exception, an inadequate wage, are expected to reduce that wage still further in order to keep their comrades from starving.
I tried hard to put the Socialist view to one of the collectors and I feel sure he went away with the impression that I considered that the spectacle of people starving was a pleasant one. He abused me because I endeavoured to point out the futility of the collecting box as a means of solving the poverty problem. I asked him if he could show me any justification for the fact that the class that produces all the food and wealth of the world is the class that suffers starvation and destitution—and he could not.
The collecting box is the wrong box to solve the problem of poverty. The right one is the ballot box, and we call on the working class of Manchester, Salford, and everywhere to contribute therein the coin minted of their own common intelligence backed by Socialist knowledge, and raise a fund of political force sufficient to settle all the problems born of the capitalist ownership of the means whereby we live by abolishing the system itself.