1920s >> 1926 >> no-257-january-1926

A look round

THE SKELETON AT THE FEAST.
Capitalist cant usually has a field day at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet. After the reams of lying literature scattered broadcast during the war, exhorting us to go and exterminate the “German beasts” and the “Hunnish swine,” the following makes fine reading for the cynical philosopher. Mr. A. Chamberlain, proposing the toast of the foreign ministers, threw the following pearl before our masters’ one-time “swine” :—

“My Lord Mayor thanks to your hospitality I have drunk to-night of your loving cup with the German Ambassador. What I have done this evening may our nations do to-morrow. We will work in the spirit of Locarno that the peace of the world may be kept and civilisation recover from the wounds that it has suffered.”—(Times, November 20th, 1925.)

Admiralty, War, and Air Ministers then responded to the toast, and emphasised the activities of their departments in preparation for peace and for civilisation’s recovery. Earl Beattie spoke regretfully :—

“It is not the fault of the Admiralty that the impetus of war had added vastly to the complexity of the technique of naval warfare, that new weapons had been evolved and the scope of existing weapons expanded beyond imagination.”

Sir Worthington Evans spoke assuringly :—-

“We had taken some risks which were only justi¬fied on the assumption that the Army was up to establishment, well trained and well equipped. He could assure those present that the Army would fulfil all these conditions.”

Sir Samuel Hoare spoke in a querulous tone :—

“. . . during the last twelve months our Air Force had been substantially strengthened. The London Auxiliary Air Force squadrons were already in being. . . . We are certainly anxious to make the fullest possible use of inventions and discoveries. . . . Was the discovery to which generation after generation had devoted its untiring efforts to prove a Frankenstein Monster that would destroy civilisation.”

So, seven years after “the war to end war,” we have a navy grown beyond imagination, an army ready to jump at any nation’s throat, and an air force which, it is hinted, may settle war (and the unemployment problem) for some considerable time by the destruction of civilisation. What cheerful news for the Christian peace cranks, who will continue to mouth peace platitudes until the next war arrives—when they will, as of yore, out-jingo the jingoes. It is also striking confirmation of our claim that while capitalism lasts the struggle for trade advantages will bring wars and preparation for wars.

Capitalism without armed force is unthinkable. It is a force the working class must politically control before they can achieve emancipation.

The acceptance of the position embodied in our principles is the only sane and safe attitude for the workers.

* * *

THE GREAT MAN BOGEY.

“Born in one of the worst slums in Nottingham and beginning work at nine, Mr. Samuel Ward, a Liberal member for Nottingham City Council, was yesterday elected Sheriff. He was an illustration, he told the Council, of how, under our democratic constitution, the poorest boy could rise by industry, thrift, and sobriety, to the highest positions an important city could offer. ” —(Daily Chronicle, November 10th,” 1925.)

The fact that the Chronicle gave prominence to the above shows clearly enough that such occurrences are not commonplace. The “Great Man” theorists would have you believe that the long and tedious struggle of mankind through countless unknown generations serves no other purpose than that some may derive an easy existence as Capital’s functionaries or henchmen. Capitalism will reward comparative ignoramuses like General Booth or Lloyd George with their wealth and approbation, while a man of Marx’s mental calibre, acclaimed by his opponents a genius, was compelled to live half his life in poverty. Throughout the large towns thousands of boys have never had a job since leaving school two or three years ago. The following bears witness to the “splendid opportunities” available for the workers’ children :—

“Thirty-five per cent, to 40 per cent, of the children who are admitted to school at five years of age bear with them physical defects which could have been either prevented or cured.”—(Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer, Board of Education, for 1922, p. 36.)

In 1924 a similar report finds 38 per cent. of the entrants to school in London require medical treatment, and an increase over 1923 in cases of malnutrition.

“There is one feature of the findings of the School Medical Service which is very significant. Every year there appears to be the same tide of disease, the same burden of defect requiring treatment.”— (Sir Geo. Newman, Annual Report of School Medi¬cal Inspection, 1924).—(Daily Telegraph, November 14th, 1925.)

Such is our democratic constitution. It would be a lie to say that the bulk of the workers’ children ever have a ghost of a chance to rise from the position in which they are born. Consider the industry and thrift of the Monds, the Derbys, and the Rothschilds, and then reflect that a capitalist statistician has said of the wealth producers : “The poor within our borders to-day are as large in numbers as the entire population of 1867” (Chiozza Money, “Riches and Poverty,” p. 52). Such is the reward for the industry and thrift of the workers whose class ignorance keeps them the drudges and the doormats of the capitalist few. The Great Men of to-clay are mainly the ones who, by adaptability, can give expression to the requirements of our rulers. Cunning and assertive impudence are surer of a place than that which may be of service to present and future generations. The recent remarks of a popular music-hall artist aptly illustrate the age we live in : “Cater for the scream,” said Mr. Billy Merson. “If people screamed at a show, that was the chief point. Some world-famous composers died in poverty, while writers of tripe drove about in motorcars. If the people want tripe, give them tripe ” (Daily Mirror, October 26th, 1925). When all have equal opportunities, there will be some talent or ability worth considering in those who become conspicuous by their achievements. In any case, when the interests of all are alike (as would be the case in Socialist society), those of any individual will be best furthered through society’s welfare, and not through the subjection and misery of others, as is the case to-day.

* * *

A COMIC INTERPRETATION OF HISTORY

“There was a tendency to-day to believe that history must only be studied from the point of view of economics and industry. It was a degraded view of humanity to believe that the poorest had no interest but that of livelihood. The assumption was reactionary. . . . The point of view from which to study history was that of love of mankind.”— (Lord Eustace Percy, Morning Post, November 9th, 1925.)

No doubt hunger appears an absurdity to a well-fed body. That view is also consistent with the idea that it is reactionary for those whose lives are spent in one long battle with poverty to concern themselves with the economics of that poverty.

The gaiety and the luxury of the parasitic capitalist class is only made possible by their monopoly of the wealth the workers produce. The absurd claim that it is they who exercise “directive ability” is shown not only in death, but in life. Whole-page advertisements recently appeared in the Times and the Daily Telegraph, inviting “you” to winter at such resorts as Cannes, Mentone, Monte Carlo. Says one : “Spend your winter in the island of Madeira. Winter season from October to May. Society’s winter rendezvous.” No degradation there, miles from the source of the pro¬duction of their, wealth, where others, members of the working class, exercise all the ability necessary to produce wealth, including that of a directing and organising nature. Degradation !—it is yours, in the gloomy city amid the din, the dirt, and the ceaseless round of toil. No wonder your masters can talk of love, of humanity while you pander to their every whim with such sheep-like docility.

Attempt, however, without intelligent class organisation, to threaten the institution of private property, and their sickly words of love will turn to brutal ferocity. Let any worker read a truthful account of the Paris Commune, with its lurid story of the slaughter of the Communards, and they will realise the love that the masters have shown the workers in the past. Paris was literally converted into a charnal house for no greater crime than that the workers attempted to control their own affairs in the most democratic and orderly manner Paris ever knew. Says Lissagary, in “The History of the Commune of 1871” :—

“The struggle over the Army transformed itself into a vast platoon of executioners. … A chief of battalion standing at the entrance surveyed the prisoners, and said : “to the right,” or “to the left.” Those to the left were to be shot. Their pockets emptied, they were drawn up along a wall and slaughtered (p. 383).
Women and children followed their husbands and their fathers, crying to the soldiers : “Shoot us with them !”—and they were shot.
What then will this justice say when those shall be judged, who methodically, without any anxiety as to the issue of the combat, and, above all, the battle over, shot 20,000 persons, of whom three-fourths had not taken part in the fight?” (p. 390).

Fellow-workers, by all means study history. You will find it a struggle everywhere between classes. It bears worldwide witness to the Capitalist and Labour lie about our “community of interests, “our” common humanity,” and shows the antagonism between the exploiters and their victims.

(Socialist Standard, January 1926)

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