Fresh Meat !
The majority of our readers will doubtless recall how during the final stages of the “Great War to end War ” (which has been more aptly than elegantly styled the “Bloody Swindle ”), when the German “U” boats were disputing the sway of the British Ultra – hyper – super – extra – special-Dreadnoughts, there would appear to have been a shortage of food in the belligerent countries. The people here were at that time enjoined by flaming posters, and in other ways suitable to children, to Eat less Meat. Having in view this praiseworthy object, the chief articles of diet set aside for the consumption of the workers were various tasty, even if to some fastidious palates revolting, delicacies known officially and euphemistically as “edible offals.”
A trite little axiom informs us that “One man’s meat is another man’s poison,” so it may be permissable to accept the use of the term edible in relation to the delicacies afore-mentioned. While it is true that many patriotic members of the bourgeosie were at times discovered to have hoarded sufficient food (not “edible offals”) to provision a Labour Colony, knowledge is lacking as to the numbers of those who escaped detection at this laudable act of obedience to the “first law of Nature,” or of those who were so fortunately placed as to be immune from the risk of detection. In fairness, however, it may be stated that the bourgeoisie but seldom availed themselves of their undoubted right to “line up” in the “queue”—that culminating evidence of capitalist organising genius—and, moreover, they generously conceded the monopoly of this romantic adventure to members of the working-class. However, there is no doubt at all that at the time we have mentioned, as indeed, at all other times, the workers did not stint themselves of fresh meat—the ruling class saw to the stinting for them ! In other words, those who saw to the stunting also very effectively determined the stinting ! This shortage of meat was especially felt in France, as we shall see a little further on.
Now why is it that this delightful episode of war-time experience is once again obtruded before the notice of our readers? We will divulge the reason. The fact is we have just come upon a most piquant and illuminating passage in a newspaper which seems to provide an answer to a problem which baffled the ingenuity of the (alleged) most able economists and historians (and we should think also the most adept amongst the habitues of “queues” !)
“Where did fresh meat go to in the warring time?” Apologising to those who detect the travesty of a parody of the lines in the modern classic, and requesting the reader to bear in mind this very intriguing question, we append for perusal the following extract from the Daily Herald, dated March 31st, 1926, viz. :—
“That was how a certain French General gave an order for a Reserve Battalion to take its place in the front line, according to M. Fonteny, President of the National Federation of Republican Comrades of the War. He makes this assertion in the course of an article in which he argues that the High Command was responsible for the mutinies in the French Army during 1917, about which very little was allowed to be published here.
“The General Staff, M. Fonteny declares, paid little heed to the sufferings and the risks undergone by the troops, and often kept units in the line until they had been reduced by half.
“This article is published on the front page of the “Quotidien,” one of the most widely-circulated organs of the Paris Press.”
Send some fresh meat into the trenches ! What delicacy of expression ! How beautifully terse and expressive ! How naive ! Here is a pleasing candour such as is seldom imparted even from the lips of politicians ! Observe especially the absence of any sentimental stodge about heroes and saviours of civilisation ! Evidently this good General, whether from lack of guile or from sheer mutton-headedness, believes in “speaking his mind”—though, perhaps, he may not lack the caution to speak it to those who can be trusted not to tell the soldiers his opinion of them ! We cherish a fervent, if unwarranted, hope that the workers will note this new and dignified appellation conferred upon them by one of their cynical masters, and that they will compare the opinion so expressed with the plausible pretentions of goodwill towards them slobbered from the mouths of other members of the ruling class or their agents. In the piping times of peace and concord we unfailingly recognise our status as “hands,” and on occasions we do not feel insulted at being lumped together as the “mob” or “canaille,” or even, in the words of Bernard Shaw, as the “great unwashed.” At election times, it is true, our stature is perceptibly raised when we hear ourselves extolled as levelheaded, hard-headed (not bone-headed), free and enlightened citizens, etc., etc., but elections, however important, occupy but a brief interlude in the affairs of life. Henceforth in the more piping times of war we may regard ourselves as being in the category of “fresh meat” !
The Socialist seldom strays into the misty and flatulent realms of conjecture, but on this occasion we feel justified in asking our readers to apply this General’s description of his subordinates, who were also members of the working class, in relation to other incidents which occurred contemporary with, or immediately after, the “great war.” Take, for example, the Recruiting campaign to induce workers to “join up” for the capitalist war. Who does not remember how the hoarding were beautiful with aesthetic proclamations bearing the interesting tidings that “Kitchener needs more men”? Surely better results would have accrued if something like the following had been perpetrated : “Bludger wants more fresh meat for the trenches” ! After all, honesty is the best policy, and as a means for ending the war quickly we feel assured that this method could not be improved upon. Again, with regard to General Elections, how effective and inspiring would have been an appeal during the 1919 “Martial Law” Election to vote for those who would make the country “a land fit for fresh meat to live in !” Who could resist such a stirring appeal ! But we fear that, although at times Generals and such like may be candid, the senti¬ments of politicians are more candied in their composition. Apropos, we could apply the method in relation to the rites and ceremonies performed over the “Unknown Warrior.”
Now we will suppose that similar phraseology had been employed by some Socialist speaker or writer. What howls of wrath and execration would have assailed the ear-drums of humanity ! A Texas lynching would comprise all the pleasures of a hashish debauch by comparison with the fate that would threaten such an odious and despicable exponent of muck-raking ! Even Dora with all her myrmidons of might and majesty might fail to vindicate her prerogative of bringing to book such an offender, and be relegated to a temporary position of inferiority during the turbulent proceedings of mob “justice.” But space vetoes further elaboration of this theme.
We doubt not that our apostles of the “brotherhood of man,” our “Peace snufflers, and our “League of Nations” enthusiasts will be able, through their inverted genius for detecting paradox, to find confirmation of the utility of their respective creeds in the words of the French General. For our part we find in them a vindication of the position in politics taken up by the Socialist Party, which has since its inception emphasised the reality of the class antagonism that exists in modern society.
Let us revert once again to that matchless sentence of the anonymous General, to whom history has denied the notoriety accorded to a kindred spirit—General Gallifet: “Send some fresh meat into the trenches.” Urgent and imperative is the need for fresh meat ! The little machine-gun bullets are whining; the big “five-nines” and the hungry “nine-twos” are roaring for sustenance ! Send more fresh meat into the trenches ! The quality of the meat deteriorates and must be sent back continually to be “doctored” so that it may become fresh meat again. When the supply is consumed more and more fresh meat must be forthcoming for the feast of Moloch ! Scour the parched plains of wasted Africa and the innermost recesses of the jungles of Senegal ! Tear the bewildered peasant from his paltry plough ! Hale the “apache” from his foetid den ! “Comb-out”—like vermin !—the workers from the factories, workshops, mills, mines, and offices ! Send along the halt, the maimed, the blind, and the witless ! Empty the gaols of their rightful inmates ! Send the widow’s only son and the stripling torn from his mother’s arms ! In the sacred name of capital, whose commands must be obeyed ! Should the fresh meat prove to be too “fresh” and inclined to murmur at the prospect of being too speedily devoured, then cannot some good English meat be procured for a Barmecide (or Bemersyde?) feast at Passchendaele?
And when the butchery is over? The rival master butchers can then retire from business borne down by the weight of swag and swagger. Quaffing from loving cups is now in order. The joy-bells ring—hey, ting-a-ling, and the fresh meat on hand can be put back into cold storage until such time as another boom overtakes the meat market.
It is often repeated that “familiarity breeds contempt.” This can be understood with respect to the ruling class, who have certainly had long acquaintance with the slave minds of the workers. But cannot it be said that the workers are equally familiar with loathsome conditions of poverty and servitude, and with the gross mismanagement of society by their masters, the capitalist class? When will their too-prolonged familiarity with the latter find expression? Only when Socialism has breathed into the mere meat its life-awakening purpose and endowed it with the knowledge of its own invincibility. Then will the resultant giant arise and calmly survey his puny enemies. To such as our General he will cry exultantly, “Muck, the broom awaits you !” One flick and the path is clear! Then onwards to the goal of the Classless Republic, wherein all who aid in producing wealth may enjoy without, hindrance the entire bounty of the earth. The road that must be trod is the political road—for political power is the essential power.
(Socialist Standard, August 1926)