A word in season
The London society season is in full swing. It is an event of importance to the ladies and gentlemen of the class we work for—-when permitted. It is an event by which we can measure their prosperity and our poverty. In that respect it is of importance to you : as working men and women you have been taught to believe from childhood that they are so very clever, and brainy, working with their brains sort of thing (sic). There is, therefore, reason to believe that in your simplicity the following will appear to you evidence of their ability. The event, it says :—
“Is one which promises to be the most brilliant, and crowded, and interesting of any since prewar days. . . 300,000 people are coming to London. . . . They will be doing Henley, which is so very gay, and Ascot, which is so very smart, The Derby, the Horse Show, the Royal Tournament, all the fetes and functions, until they run off to Goodwood in tailor- mades and leave those green woods and scented Downs for Cowes and the “white wings” on the Solent” (“Sunday News,” May 8, 1927).
And very nice, too ! And what of you fellow workers? You will be doing the same old round of toil which makes such luxury possible. When, with the passing of the summer months, your masters and their ladies depart for the moors, the country house, or the Riviera, you will remain the occupants of the murky, mud-plastered cities of industry. Still, you will argue, who are we, anyway? They’ve got the brains. What is the real contrast? Indolence and parasitism—revelling in splendour. Usefulness and skill exercised in every department of wealth production rewarded with penury, insecurity, and often premature death. Chasing the seasons around the earth in a mad whirl of never-satisfying pleasure may exercise these people in many directions ; it is obvious that, miles from the seat of operations, they can play no part in wealth-producing processes. That part is the workers’ part, including the real directing, the organising, and even the collecting of the profits which flow on during their absence. Still, some sort of excuses have to be made as these contrasts become more pronounced. The contempt that the master class have for your political intelligence is shown from the following clap trap which appeared in a leading article (Westminster Gazette, June 13th, 1927) in the very midst of this welter of wealth. They say :—
“The fact is that no policy other than strict economy is possible for a country such as ours.”
One wouldn’t have thought it, would they ? Some may think that we overdraw the picture: that though there may be a greater flaunting of wealth, the worst forms of squalor have been removed from the workers’ life. Have they? Not a stone’s throw from London’s fashionable and wealthy centre are conditions that would disgrace savages. Seven Westminster citizens, headed by a gentleman who preaches the blessedness of poverty, visited 490 houses in the Victoria Ward (Rev. Francis Boyd, report Evening News, June 6th, 1927). Here are a few of the things that they saw in this rich residential area :—
“In Aylesford Street a woman, her son, his wife, and their boy of 14 were found all living in one room. In another house where four families shared eight rooms there were 14 adults and 10 children. In a court in Wilton Road a husband, wife, five daughters aged 20, 16, 15, 13 and 5 and a son aged 18, had only two rooms in which to live and sleep. Yet another instance in Gray’s Inn Court is given where, in two rooms were a grandmother, man and wife, girls aged 14, 13 and 7 and boys aged 10, 3 and 1.”
“The list could be extended indefinitely,” says the report. “Particularly numerous are the families of six, seven, and more members living in two rooms in tenement houses.”
Of an address in Alderney Street it says :—
“There are sewer rats so numerous that within 24 hours of the laying of a new board it was eaten through. The children are terrified of the rats and refuse to go to bed. One boy was sent to Westminster Hospital suffering from nervous exhaustion.”
And this after one hundred years of reform, within the precincts of the Houses of Parliament. Every London district and every large town could show similar plague spots. The workers being content with the scraps and the offal, the gloomy hovels, and excluded from life’s real pleasures, have allowed their masters to take full advantage of their contentment. Blame or sympathy in either case is waste of time : nothing but the recognition that the removal of all social evils is their mission, and theirs alone, can rid society of such glaring contrasts in wealth and squalor. Experience is a hard and often a slow teacher, but there are signs that it has slowly but surely been doing its work. Awaken, workers, to the possibilities of Socialism, so that you may join with us for the Social Revolution.
(Socialist Standard, October 1927)