“The procession of protracted death”
When the average working class child comes into the world it is faced with circumstances that are a foretaste of the miseries to come. The poor food that is the best its parents can provide destroy the digestive system. The poor houses into which it crowds, cramps and deprives it of the necessary light and fresh air. The sordid surroundings develop a miserable outlook on life-—an outlook from which the hills, the seas and the flowers are excluded. How many children there are in the large industrial towns that have never seen the sea, that know not the delight of a flowery field or the wonder of lovely mountains !
At school the child is crammed with knowledge it cannot assimilate, knowledge that as a rule is of a kind to make the child a good work beast, not of a kind that would make it a happy. Its playground is generally the street, where it plays marbles, football or tops, whilst dodging the traffic.
Though still a child, its “education” ceases at twelve, thirteen, or fourteen years of age, and it enters some factory hell to learn how to endure poisoned or broken fingers; to forget play; to answer the hooter; to swear and tell filthy stories, and to work until the eyes ache and the limbs tremble, all for a few shillings a week.
Childhood passes into manhood in the midst of the degrading and toilsome struggle
for a livelihood. The form is cramped and twisted and wasted in the struggle to keep pace with the machine. Alternating periods of furious toil and idleness, take the elasticity out of the frame and the youthful zest for life out of the brain.
A few short years and the child becomes a hopeless and depressed work beast without even the desire for anything better.
If the frequent accidents, diseases, or starvation that are the products of modern industrialism do not bring life to an earlier end, the heavy hand of industry crushes the life out of the worker when he should be in his prime, and his life closes in the grave before he has had an opportunity of reaping benefit from his toil.
How many workers escape this curse of their inheritance? Their lives are but a procession of protracted death. But they could be something different.
“Civilisation,” “Progress,” the boast of modern politicians, is but the sweating and the destruction of workers. Yet, it need not be so.
The capacity of production is tremendous, but this capacity is utilised to make easeful and joyous the lives of useless idlers. When the workers demand and obtain control of the means of production, their lives will cease to mean a living death to them but will be for all a procession of protracted pleasure. It is for this that we are working and struggling.