A dish of tripe. Selected from “Lansbury’s Weekly”
Although the dictionary does not mention it, there are two kinds of tripe. One is an article of food prepared from the stomachs of ruminant animals. Cooked in milk and seasoned to taste, it forms a light and nutritious meal—for those who like it. The other tripe is a euphemistic expression applied generally to soft and sloppy utter¬ances, or expressions of unusually foolish opinions. Take Lansbury’s Labour Weekly, for instance. When we say ”take” it, we speak figuratively. Refrain from so doing if you doubt your ability to distinguish tripe from treacle. Only a particularly vindictive newsagent would deliver it in mistake for a newspaper. We have done him no harm that we remember. Fortunately he relented after the one deadly stroke and we have seen no more since the issue of September 26th.
The cover and get up are strongly suggestive of that other organ of culture, John Bull. The same buff cover, with a shockingly drawn carpenter holding a flag of some sort, instead of the tun-bellied, pugnacious dog-fancier who adorns the rival journal. Inside we find the same flamboyant headlines, the same “open letters” to selected public officials, many of the same advertisements, the same type, and the same printers. The reading is different, naturally, as a separate twopence is required for each journal. You may judge if the twopence would not be better spent on an ice-wafer after sampling the following spoonfuls. They are as typical as spoonfuls of such a dish can be.
Problems of Real Life are answered by “Martha.” They make one sigh for an “unreal” life, whatever that state might be. These are the problems that are racking the revolutionary readers of Lansbury’s Labour Weekly. Need an illegitimate child produce a detailed birth-certificate when obtaining a job? X.Y.Z. asks if she is still legally married after having given the wrong age. Answer : “Forget all about it and go and see your mother.” A Comrade writes that because he has not matriculated he cannot become a Sanitary Inspector. “Another example of Tory unfairness,” he says. “Not at all,” says “Martha,” “read Jack London’s books.” H.T.C., a miner, is horribly fed up with coal getting, writes poetry, and wonders if he will ever get out of the mine. “Yes,” says “Martha,” “you won’t stay in your mine. I think you will write some day. . . I have a suit in good condition that would fit a very big man. Send me a p.c. if you think you would fit it.” Another Comrade who has just married a man with four children, is appalled at the amount of food they eat. Answer: “Martha” knows that workers have more right to sirloins of the roast beef of old England than shirkers, but they simply can’t afford it. “Make good, nourishing stews,” says “Martha.” And suet pudding. It certainly has a “filling” effect. Lastly, we come to “Morning Sickness.” “Several husbands have written about this subject, saying how it distressed them.” Ye gods! Husbands with morning sickness. We have heard some in the Labour movement referred to as “old woman,” but never in our wildest dreams guessed it was so literally true. It is a painful subject, though, physiologically interesting. Let us hurry to Lansbury’s Editorial. He is pleased to inform his readers the number contains “two articles by myself. The second one you owe to the fact that on two Sunday evenings I sat at the feet of Dr. Annie Besant.” He does not say whether she stroked him or patted his head. The article itself is redolent of its origin. He should be old enough to know that no good writing is possible sitting at someone else’s feet. Seated, more rationally, at a table or desk, the blood gets a chance to flow to all parts of the body without hindrance, and may possibly even reach the brain. No one with a properly functioning cerebrum would pen such unqualified flatulence as “for me there is no better teaching than that we can all learn from the prophets and seers of all the ages” ; or, “Our great Movement . . . sometimes appears like a flock of sheep without a shepherd.” The other article, “Empire Trade” (in big letters on a background of soldiers, black men, colonists, and bales of goods), almost defies analysis. If we give it its true name we shall have to quote samples : and our space has some value, anyway.
There is the usual advertisement in Labour journals recently of the Co-operative Investment Trust, a company in which Emil Davies, the New Statesman’s financial tipster, is the guiding light. Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills find the “comrades” fruitful soil, as likewise does Sister Smith with her Massagene. The mind of the eager reader is safeguarded from congestion consequent on the high informative tone of the paper, by two very diverting tales—illustrated. Each of the illustrations depicts that dignified and ennobling spectacle, one man smashing another on the jaw. This should attract readers in great numbers, especially from those high-brow centres of classic learning where jaw-smashing is a regular nightly entertainment. You will be glad to learn that the first jaw-smasher eventually got the other man’s job, whilst the second face-batterer participated in a purse of £2,410. As Annie Besant is quoted : “There can be no peace, no real content without religion.” It is uplifting stuff.
Then Mrs. Leonora Eyles lets herself go on that well-tried topic : the slums. She has made some astonishing discoveries in the Potteries. There, one learns, there are slum houses, but no slum people. “Their Nonconformist consciences have kept them rigidly respectable and God-fearing as far as their homes go. Yet at the same time the illegitimate birth-rate is well above the average.” . . . One notes that the Nonconformist conscience is much like the ordinary conscience, and does not extend below the equator. Wherever Mrs. Eyles goes to-day she finds the workers talking revolution, she says. Our experience is that most of them are talking of rheostats and megohms. She observes that if you herd people in miserable hovels, revolution follows as a natural corollary. This is only very partially true, but Mrs. Eyles draws a curious conclusion from it. She wishes she could shout it in the House of Commons and in comfortable people’s drawing-rooms. What for? They would only start a new Labour Weekly. Numbers of earnest people have contracted “clergyman’s throat” in the House of Commons and many more have induced dyspepsia by drinking tea in comfortable drawing-rooms, airing the agony of the workers. The rich will do anything for the workers, except get off their backs. Shouting won’t shift them. We propose shaking them off.
We do not propose to go through the remainder of the paper seriatim, but hope enough has been given to dissuade any member of the working class from wasting his time and his money. As we have said in this journal with tiresome iteration, the working class has but one problem, and but one solution. All else is fustian and illusion. All other questions melt and dissolve into it. The working class is a slave class. It must end its slavery. There is one way, and only one way, to do it. The workers must grip and conquer the political power that holds them down. There is no “step-at-a-time,” there is no “something-now,” there is no “half-loaf,” that will or can satisfy them. They cannot even remain as they are, be they never so craven. Capitalism moves inexorably on towards the day when its overwhelming plethora will spell universal over-production and economic chaos. The beginnings are here. Who would have thought, seven years ago, that a highly developed country like Great Britain would carry an unemployed surplus of over a million for a period of years? What will happen when all Europe and America and then the at present backward races start producing wealth in immense quantities? When their only markets will he each other, and each has battered its working class down to the lowest practicable limit? When labour-saving machinery and devices have thinned the essential workers to still slenderer limits? We suggest that the workers do not wait until that time. We suggest it is not only desirable, but immediately possible, for the workers in this and every other well-developed capitalist country to inaugurate a new and higher system of society. They must abandon their Micawber attitude of waiting for something to turn up, and organise, definitely and at once, to capture the political power of the State. The next General Election would do, if the workers but understood. Once in possession of political power, the workers can re-organise society upon the lines we have so often sketched out. To the producers, all they produce. He that will not work, neither shall he eat. To each according to his need; from each according to his ability.
W. T. H.
(Socialist Standard, November 1925)