1920s >> 1929 >> no-300-august-1929

A Look Around : The army of today

When we point out to so-called Communists and others that as a prelude to emancipation a Socialist working class must control the political machine in order to give them control of the armed forces of the State, we anticipate certain stereotyped objections. These we have met again and again in these columns. So far, no evidence has been produced to show that our policy understood by a majority of workers would not enable them to deal with any eventuality that might arise in the future. One of the stock objections raised is that the Army and Navy is officered by members of the capitalist class, and will therefore refuse to take instructions and orders from a Socialist-controlled Parliament. Apart from the fact that those who get control also get control of the finances upon which the whole Army must depend, the bulk of the Army and Navy officers are today not members of the capitalist class. By the time also that a considerable Socialist opinion has developed among the working class, it is reasonable to assume that soldiers drawn as they are from working-class homes will be more or less permeated with Socialist opinions.

The Capitalists of today are a numerically small class, and are compelled to have their Army, Navy and Air Force officers trained in the same way that they have to train their managers, organisers and specialists. Just as the latter have grown more numerous than their masters’ requirements, so is the Army officer landed in a similar plight. When, for various reasons the master class no longer require the services of their “gentleman” officers, they become the most helpless section of the numbers who go to swell the growing army of the unemployed. Let the Communists note well the following :—

“At Clements Inn alone over 2,000 ex-Officers are registered as unemployed, and these are only a part of those who, apart from work, need food and clothing. Ex-Officers there are with University honours, who are compelled to perform menial tasks in lodging houses in order to earn money for food. In a similar plight are men from all the leading Universities, men from Eton, men from Sandhurst, members of the Institute of Civil Engineers. (Letter to the “Daily Telegraph,” 9/7/29, from W. E. Southgate”, Capt., ex-Officer Unemployment Committee.)


“Socialism does not mean confiscation. Labour protests against the misleading suggestions of its opponents that it attacks private property and preaches class war.” (Mr. Arthur Henderson, at Blackburn, “Daily Chronicle,” 27/5/29.)

We have always claimed, and proved, that Socialism necessarily involves the conversion of capitalist private property into the commonly owned property or means of life of the whole of society. Such a revolution we also claim would remove the antagonism in society which arises out of the capitalist ownership of the workers’ means of living and their consequent enslavement. That antagonism of interest is the class struggle, eventually manifesting itself as a struggle for emancipation. Mr. Bernard Baron, a wealthy capitalist, apparently understands this, and sees that only Socialists will ever struggle for emancipation.

He knows that the Labour Party cannot be a Socialist Party without Socialist supporters, and that in their own words they are a “bulwark against revolution.” Other capitalists who support or join the Labour Party know likewise, and that the political ignorance which such a party reflects will also preserve the system which enables them to filch nine-tenths of Labour’s product. Need we be surprised, then, when we read that “Mr. Bernard Baron forwarded to Mr. Arthur Henderson a cheque for £5,000 for the Socialist (!) Party funds? Mr. Baron contributed a similar amount at the General Election of 1924” (“Daily Herald,” 10.5.29.). We also are entitled to protest against the “misleading suggestion” that the Labour Party is, or ever was, a Socialist Party.


Sir Herbert Samuel is one of those brainy Liberal gentlemen who, like the rest of his lawyer-like tribe, can prove black is white as occasion arises. People who don’t handle the truth carefully, should, as the maxim reminds us, cultivate retentive memories, otherwise “bright young people” may discover that these gentlemen are nothing but political charlatans. After the following we need not wonder either, how it is that Liberal lawyers like Sir W. Jowitt can go to bed Liberal and wake up “Labour.” No wonder Ramsay wrote “I have often wondered what there was of any substance which really divided us.” (“Times,” June 8, ’29.) Says Sir Herbert number one: “In the Labour Party’s manifesto Socialism was relegated to the background. For the most part it was a Liberal programme which Mr. Macdonald and his colleagues advocated” (“Times,” May 2, ’29). Says Sir Herbert number two : “The Labour Party declares itself to be definitely Socialist. The speeches of its leading members, the resolutions passed by its conferences, have made this clear beyond the possibility of doubt.” (Article in “Answers,” May 25, ’29.) Without doubt Sir Herbert Samuel would also find no more difficulty in turning a political somersault than Sir W. Jowitt.


According to the “Daily Chronicle,” (10.7.29), there are 1,142.400 out of work, an increase of 24,593 on the previous week. The total on July 1 comprised 889,000 men, 28,300 boys, 199,500 women and 25,500 girls. In the same paper, same date, same column, we also read under the sub-heading of “Society Acrobats” that:

“The diverse activities of well-known people have been keeping the photographers exceptionally busy, according to this week’s issue of that bright review ‘The Sketch.’ Half the social world appears to have skipped over to Le Touquet for the golf tournament of Buck’s Club, while the other half was either at the Peterborough Foxhound Show or the extraordinary circus held in a West-End mansion. Polo and a water party at Roehampton claimed many notable people, some of whom are seen doing complicated ‘physical jerks’ on Major Paget’s lawn to time set by gramophone ” (Ibid).

We are not kill-joys, nor are we much concerned with these antics about which the tripe journalists write so much trash. What we do object to is the humdrum existence we, like the rest of the workers, have to submit to because they do not understand the ease and comfort possible for all if the present means of wealth production were commonly owned and utilized for that purpose. If the pleasures of these idlers appear somewhat inane and trumpery, it is mainly because they are only the pleasures of a pampered few which in the present system is based upon the slavish and joyless existence of the many. An intelligent race of men and women would require more elevating enjoyment than baby parties, freak dinners or society circuses. When the working class begin to realise that the ushering in of a system free from stupid social absurdities and contradictions depends entirely on their own efforts, the end of this capitalist pandemonium will be well in sight.


In these days when everything in the political world is dubbed Socialism, those desirous of obtaining knowledge should ever be critical even of those claiming to be Socialists. One would hardly expect the late Prime Minister to air Socialist views, yet in a leading article in the Daily Mail ” (June 10, ’29) we are seriously informed that:—

“Mr. Baldwin has contributed as much to the growth of Socialism as Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, for he is a Semi-Socialist. His speeches and his pronouncements have frequently been indistinguishable from those of avowed Socialists.”

Of course, this is only eye-wash for the working class. Our masters and their agents know that the Socialism that they dread is that which is in line with the teaching of Karl Marx, a Socialism founded on Science. It is because of our masters’ need to know the real enemy, and not the bogey used to frighten the workers, that we sometimes get the truth in strange places as follows :—

“It is of little purpose to point out that the Socialist condemned (by the Pope) is Marxism, and not Fabianism or its analogues in various countries.” (Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol. 14, p. 67.)


The futility of the policy of waiting for “Somebody to do something” is illustrated in the following. In the House of Commons it appears there is a catering department the staff of which receives the following enormous wages : Waiters, 31/6 (with food), barmaids (after 10 years’ service), 29/-; cash desk attendants, 24/-; kitchen hands, 20/- per week. Remembering that we have in office a Labour Party for whom eight million people voted, it is instructive to note that, in answer to a question in Parliament, a Mr. Compton, Labour member and Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, stated that : “An immediate revision of wages could not be entertained” (“Daily Chronicle,” 18.7.29.). After all it might set a bad example to cotton operatives, railwaymen, and others to concede wages to these people on a level with the cost of the keep of paupers and convicts (sic). Perhaps we shall be told that the Labour Party is not yet in power.


“The workman who owns his own house and has saved enough to assure himself at least of bread and butter for his family is one of the rocks against which the doctrines of revolution will always foam in vain.” (“Evening News,” 13/7/29.)

Although apparently this thrifty individual becomes a householder, he still remains a workman. Only a very small percentage of the millions of the workers own their own houses. If house ownership could form rocks against revolution, we wonder why our masters don’t rush to pay wages that might enable the majority to buy a shelter. Let us suppose, only suppose, mind you, that they did. Would not the wicked revolutionary creep in with his insidious economics and point out that, with an all-round removal of the cursed rent item, a lowered cost of living would mean lowered wages? He would ! True, numbers have to save, scrape, and mortgage in order to buy a house; they could not get one in any other way to-day, but it requires more than a house or a Post Office Savings account to secure the worker against the insecurity of modern times. None but a fortunate few manage to save even sufficient to provide for an emergency or old age, and irony of ironies, millions who have toiled their lives through piling up wealth for others pay a few coppers insurance per week to save them from the stigma of a pauper’s grave.


(Socialist Standard, August 1929)

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