To Our Readers in Reading

Toilers and moilers who live in Reading you have every reason for getting thoroughly infuriated. It is unfortunate that one of your shopkeepers should have been so mysteriously murdered. It has made your town notorious for a while.

For this notoriety you are primarily indebted to the stunt press, ever ready to seize upon tragedy as a means to increase the profits of their shareholders.

What have you to say, however, to the way in which that respectable sheet, the Times, describes your behaviour when the news came out that Mr. Drew, the actor and suspect, was acquitted? Let us quote their comment : —

“An unbalanced rabble has also treated him as a hero. To observers at a distance, as no doubt to the more judicious citizens of Reading, this exhibition of popular hysteria on so serious an occasion as an inquest on a murder must be thoroughly repugnant.” (Times, Oct. 11th, 1929.)

We regret that it is difficult for us to influence your behaviour—the subscribers to our official organ, THE SOCIALIST STANDARD, being relatively small. In this respect the Times will probably share our complaint, comparing its sales with those of the penny papers. We can call to mind, however, that in August, 1914, a Serbian prince was murdered. The whole of the organised rabble on this occasion tumbled over themselves in their attempts to make heroes and corpses of every mother’s son throughout the world. Several, no doubt, came from Reading.

You were not even consulted about the honour which was then thrust upon you.

The history of that colossal tragedy may well be brought to mind.

That the joyless nature of existence which the working class are forced to lead under Capitalism should make them so regardless of murdering one another in Capitalist wars, is also to be regretted. Such conduct, however, is explained by the conditions of Capitalist society, with its permanent unemployment, its poverty, its monotonous drudgery and insecurity of life. To many workers in 1914 war appeared almost as a relief. It could not, they thought, be much worse than the ills they knew. The part which the Capitalist Press plays in time of war is too well known.

For them—the Times among the number —no act was too low in vile cunning; no scheme too diabolical and murderous to secure the approbation of those whose business it is to send “dumb heroes up the line to death.”

We Socialists in 1914 did not join the Times in its support of that mad, murderous slaughter. We did not ask that the world should be made a graveyard to satisfy the money lusts of the class which the Times champions.

Then as now, we appeal to you to try and catch the inspiration of our message. At present men and women are hardened and embittered by the needless competition for employment which is an essential feature of Capitalism. They are, moreover, when Capitalist interests demand it, perfected in the arts of mass murder. Then, finally, they are denounced by their masters’ Press because they exhibit in 1929 some of the qualities which the Times found so laudable fifteen years ago.

In contrast with the preaching of the Times, consistent only in the respect that it always serves Capitalism, we offer the message that you should organise with us for Socialism, a system of society in which production would be carried on co-operatively in the interests of the whole of society, not for the profit of a few, as it is to-day.


(Socialist Standard, November 1929)

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