The highways of slaughter
The daily slaughter of the workers on the railways, in the mine, in fact, throughout industry, has almost become a commonplace. Being a commonplace, it excites little more than passing sympathy, and the usual flood of nauseating Capitalist cant. But a new peril has arisen : “The Slaughter of the Highway.”
“There were 25,342 street accidents in the metropolitan area of London alone, during the quarter ending June 25th. Fatal injuries were inflicted on 226 people, 191 of them by motor vehicles (quoted, The Ratepayer, August). 73 casualties occurred in England and Wales from motor accidents for the week-end September 13-15th, 1925, of which number 26 were killed” (Daily Express, September 15th 1925).
The above figures only allow a very small estimate of the toll of human life throughout the country, but it might cause the workers to ask a few pertinent questions. Whose is the commercial motor? Is it not the property of the speeding-up-profit-grinder?—whether it be the heavily laden motor-lorry or the traffic grabbing ‘bus combine. Whose is the Rolls Royce and the Daimler? Is it not the expensive toy of the class for whose pleasure and profit our class are murdered on the sea, the battlefield, in the mine, and now upon the very streets we walk? Dare their apologists deny it? They cannot without lying. They can only whine lest you realise at long last that the pleasures and the profits of the few are the fruits of your sacrifice in every department of life. Hear them :—
“It would be a grievous thing to the life of the road and of the community if hatred of motorists follows in the wake of the daily toll of accidents that are collected by the Press” (Westminster Gazette, September 21st, 1925.)
Would it? What a grievous thing if the workers realised that the toll of the road, bad as it is, is as nothing to the toll of human misery the Capitalist system engenders for them. The community, indeed (sic). In their sense it is merely the cant word for Capitalist Class. Did that class consult the “community” over that stupendous event, the war? Do you think they will bother about a mere handful of you in comparison with the loss of life that the war was bound to involve? No. Just as in a mining disaster they rush their black coated clerics to the scene lest the tragedy arouse your hatred of them and their hellish system, so their prostitute journalists rush into print in an effort to lull you into the belief that the ever growing motor peril is incidental and passing. But even in their efforts to bluff you they belie themselves as they invariably do in other matters concerning Working Class life. The same writer admits that even after precautions and penalties have been scientifically enforced :—
“We shall still have to accept a residuum of yearly accidents as an average. That price must be paid for the boon which motoring has brought, just as a similar price has to be paid for transport by sea, railroad, or air” (Ibid).
We ! To whom has motoring brought the boon? And who are the “we” that must ”pay the price” ? As Socialists we welcome all means to shorten toil and extend pleasure. But just as the vast improvements in machinery, transport, and scientific methods of producing wealth bring their harvest of disasters and poverty under Capitalist private ownership, so the motor, both commercial and pleasure, in the hands of the Capitalist highwaymen extends the inconveniences and the dangers of your already here-to-day and gone-to-morrow poverty existence.
(Socialist Standard, October 1925)