1930s >> 1937 >> no-399-november-1937

Notes by the Way: The Low-down on Dictators

The Low-down on Dictators

The famous pamphlet, “Killing No Murder,” published in 1657, might have been written to-day for its acute analysis of the ways of dictators. It was a direct incitement to the assassination of Oliver Cromwell and is believed to have been written by Colonel Sexby, a leveller who had gone over to the Royalists. Here, in an abbreviated form, are his fourteen points on Tyrants, derived, as he admits, from Plato, Aristotle, Tacitus and “his Highness’s (Cromwell’s) own evangelist, Machiavelli.” (It is not for nothing that Mussolini, too, is an admirer of Machiavelli).

1. “Almost all tyrants have been first captains and generals for the people, under pretences of vindicating or defending their liberties.”
2.  “Tyrants accomplish their ends much more by fraud than force. Neither virtue nor force (says Machiavelli) are so necessary to that purpose as . . .  a lucky craft . . . Their way is . . . with cunning plausible pretences to impose upon men’s understandings, and in the end they master those that had so little wit as to rely upon their faith and integrity. It is but unnecessary to say, that had not his Highness had a faculty to be fluent in his tears, and eloquent in his execrations; had he not had spongy eyes, and a supple conscience; and besides, to do with a people of great faith but little wit, his courage, and the rest of his moral virtues, with the help of his janissaries, had never been able so far to advance him out of the reach of justice that we should have need to call for any other hand to remove him but that of the hangman.”
3.  “They abase all excellent persons, and rid out of the way all that have noble minds . . .  they purge both Parliament and Army, till they have few or none there that has either honour or conscience, either wit, interest, or courage, to oppose their designs. . . .”
4.   “They dare suffer no assemblies, not so much as horse-races.”
5.   “In all places they have their spies and dilaters . . . to appear discontented, and not to side with them, that under that disguise they may get trust and make discoveries. They likewise have their emissaries to send with forged letters. . . . ”
6.  “They stir not without a guard, nor his Highness without his Lifeguard.”
7.   “They impoverish the people, that they may want the power, if they have the will, to attempt anything against them. His Highnesses’s way is by taxes, excise, decimations, etc.”
8.   “They make war to divert and busy the people, and besides, to have a pretence to raise moneys, and to make new levies, if they either distrust their old forces, or think them not sufficient. The war with Spain serveth his Highness to this purpose, and upon no other justice was it begun at first, or still continued.”
9.  “They will seem to honour and provide for good men—that is, if the ministers will be orthodox and flatter, if they will wrest and torture the Scriptures to prove his Government lawful, and furnish him with title, his Highness will likewise be then content to understand Scripture in their favour, and furnish them with tithes.”
10.   “Things that are odious and distasteful they make others executioners of; and when the people are discontented, they appease them with sacrificing those ministers they employ. I leave it to his Highness’s major-generals to ruminate a little upon this point.”
11.    “In all things they pretend to be wonderful careful of the public, to give general accounts of the money they receive, which they pretend to be levied for the maintenance of the State and the prosecuting of the war. . . .”
12.    “All things set aside for religious uses they set to sale, that while those things last they may exact the less of the people. . . .”
13.    “They pretend inspirations from God, and responses from oracles, to authorise what they do.  . . .”
14.    “Lastly, above all things they pretend a love to God and religion. . . .”

It is unnecessary to point to the abundance of parallels in contemporary Europe under Hitler, Mussolini, Schuschnigg, Stalin and the rest. Except with regard to religion, which is not so useful a handmaiden as it was, the nature of dictators and dictated seem to have changed but little.

Even the Drains are Muzzled in Italy

Mussolini, like Hitler, boasts that he has the population behind him. Mr. Harold Brust, in his book, “Plain Clothes” (Stanley Paul, 18s.), tells of the elaborate precautions the Fascist leader has to take to postpone the day of reckoning. The following is from a review of the book in the Daily Telegraph, October 12th: —

  Italian police, he says, apart from attending to such duties as examining the food supplies to the Duce, carefully inspect all his correspondence, and particularly parcels which might explode by the mere cutting of the string.
Before Signor Mussolini enters any vehicle it is rigidly inspected, for on one occasion a bomb was found affixed to his motor car. More than 300 plain clothes “shadows” look after him, in addition to many Fascist and military guards.
During his short journey from his home to his office the route is closely guarded as his car flashes past at high speed. Sometimes he rides his motor cycle, goggled and crash-helmeted, and he always drives furiously.
When he is scheduled to make a public appearance the police inspect all lamp-posts, and householders are compelled by law to bar access to the roofs of their dwellings. All along the kerbs the drain slits are covered with a fine mesh to prevent the concealment of a bomb.
When Signor Mussolini is making a public speech he always uses a balcony or a specially erected tower. Once a would-be attacker was discovered at a window with a rifle that was fitted with a telescopic sight.

Poverty and Squalor under Fascism

Colonel T. F. Tweed, Mr. Lloyd George’s experienced political adviser, recently toured Italy to find out conditions there. This is what he says: —

  “But for Mussolini’s imperialistic astigmatism Italy might have avoided economic collapse,” Colonel Tweed told a reporter, “but the cost of that war, not yet fully met, and the heavy sacrifices demanded in maintaining the illusion that an impoverished agricultural people have become a first-class military power are proving too great a strain on the Italian internal resources now that foreign loans are no longer forthcoming.
“The middle class are learning to dispense with even modest luxury, but the artisan and the agricultural population, much the lowest-paid in Europe, are compelled to forego simple necessities like butter and meat, because of scarcity and price. In every province and commune one heard the same comment, ‘Too mucha da macaroni,’ which is as near to criticism as most dared permit themselves.
“Mussolini has achieved a remarkable psychological rehabilitation for Italy and at the same time reduced masses of its people to a subsistence level only comparable in squalor and monotony with the standards of Asia.”—(Manchester Guardian, October 4th, 1937.)

If in Fascist Italy there is no butter or meat for the workers and peasants, in Nazi Germany the Minister of Agriculture is appealing to the people to eat less bread and make up with potatoes.
(Manchester Guardian, October 4th, 1937.)

The dictators—and their democratic capitalist rivals—show a remarkable similarity in their threefold policy of luxury for the capitalist, guns for the army, and poverty for the worker.

“I’m Chosen by God”—Mr. Aberhart

The Social Credit Premier of Alberta, Mr. Aberhart, after two years’ failure to keep his promise of an extra £5 a month for all, is hankering after dictatorship. His latest revelation is that he has God behind him, the implication being apparently that he should not be fettered by newspaper criticism, which he proposes to suppress by legislation:—

  I believe God wants me to occupy my present position. I shall not be moved by any other consideration.—(Daily Express, October 11th, 1937.)

It was observed centuries ago that would-be dictators have a habit of claiming divine guidance and assistance. But why can’t Mr. Aberhart, with God’s help, produce that promised £S a month?

No Unemployment in Germany?

Dr. C. R. Fay, Reader in Economic History, Cambridge University, has just toured Germany and was amazed at “the real joy of everyone in their life . . . no trace of unemployment, the spirit of confidence and unity on every face.” His letter relating this was published on October 7th by the Daily Telegraph and Morning Post.

Surely, as the Doctor saw the complete absence of unemployment with his own eyes, it must be so?

Only, unfortunately for Dr. Fay, Hitler, two days earlier (October 5th), had officially opened the German Winter Aid, which is a vast compulsory-voluntary collection of money, food and clothes for the relief of the unemployed. The opening speech was fully reported in the Manchester Guardian on October 6th, 1937.

Hitler mentioned in his speech the German Freedom Party, an organisation of anti-Nazis which has lately been conducting propaganda in Germany. Hitler, therefore, unlike the simple Fay, does not believe there is unity on every face in Germany. Fay, doubtless, did not look at the right faces, in prisons and concentration camps.

A Catholic Priest Wants Press Censorship

Father F. Woodlock, addressing the congregation at Farm Street Church, W., on October 10th, said that he would welcome a temporary censorship of the Press, because statements criticising the dictators might annoy them and provoke war (News Chronicle, October 11th, 1937). But Father Woodlock expressly confined his remarks to the anti-Fascist Press and to Hitler and Mussolini; he does not ask that his Catholic friends be prevented from annoying Stalin. (This is an unintended compliment to the latter, who, while he suffers from that occupational disease of all dictators, known as “conspiracy mania” apparently does not also experience periodic outbreaks of “international jitters” like Hitler and Mussolini.)

Father Woodlock does not like anti-Fascist newspapers making cruel, contemptuous and insulting remarks about sensitive dictators, but he is hardly in a position himself to throw stones at others. His method of Press controversy against his opponents is about as irresponsible as it could be. On September 18th, 1936, The Times published a letter from him in which he related that he heard, “on excellent authority,” that an Anglican clergyman (name not given) visited a Communist Sunday School (date and place not given). “He found that, not only were the children being taught blank atheism, but, at the end, they filed before a picture of Christ and spat upon it. . . . Can any of your readers supply reliable information as to the number of these ‘Sunday Schools’ at work in England to-day and the number of children attending them?”

Note the disingenuousness of all this. Father Woodlock did not himself witness this alleged incident. He did not even get it from the alleged Anglican clergyman, but only third-hand from an unnamed “excellent authority.”

Perhaps the incident happened; although Father Woodlock’s informant may well have been misinformed. Such things do occur, even to “excellent authorities.” But even if it did happen, even the most uncompromising opponents of the Communist Party (i.e., the S.P.G.B.) could not believe them capable of making a deliberate policy of something so infantile and harmful to themselves. But observe the consequences of publication of the letter. Nobody could write to The Times denying it because nobody knows where or when it is supposed to have happened. So, in default of repudiation, thousands; of Times readers will now believe that it happened, is typical of Communist Sunday Schools, and is not denied by the Communists.

The real offenders are The Times for sinking so low as to give currency to such stuff. The Times editor would, of course, reply that The Times impartially publishes letters from all sides; but the claim is, none the less, patently untrue.

The Times, like other newspapers, is guided by the political outlook of the letter and the social position of the writer. Father Woodlock is an influential person, with a great organisation behind him. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that The Times received from a nobody a letter stating that, at a certain Catholic institution, in the year 19—, at —— , it was customary for the authorities to wink their eye at the fact, known to them, that supplies they received at a very low price were stolen. “And can any reader supply reliable information as to the number of such institutions at work in England to-day?”

Would The Times publish it? They would rightly say that it was an underhand and cowardly attempt to blacken an organisation in such a way that it could not defend itself.

Father Woodlock, on reflection, should recognise that his zeal against the Communists led him to overstep the mark.

The Unco-operative Co-ops.

The Co-operative Wholesale Society, which is nearly as far removed from Robert Owen’s conceptions as Hitler’s “National Socialism” is from Socialism, declines to go to arbitration over a claim by the employees for a ten per cent. increase of pay, so the latter threaten a strike.

Simultaneously a proposal was made that the directors be given increased salaries, but this was rejected by delegates from the retail societies at a meeting at Manchester on September 25th, 1937. The proposed directors’ scale of pay was £875 on commencement, rising by five annual increases of £50 to £1,125 (Sunday Express, September 26th, 1937). Delegates from Barkworth and Eccles Cooperative Society contended that £1,000 should be enough for any director.

Labour Governments and Wages

Nothing brings out so clearly the uselessness of trying to administer capitalism for the benefit of the workers than the attitude of the Labour Govenments towards strikes and demands for higher wages. In 1924, just before the first Labour Government took office, their official organ, the Labour Magazine (January, 1924), made this appeal to the miners: —

We are sure that the miners will not embarrass the first Labour Government by pressing untimely demands. . . .

Notice the tell-tale phrasing. Those who undertake to keep going the system based on the exploitation of the workers by the capitalists are necessarily “embarrassed” by the demands of the former, and regard them as “untimely.”

Similarly, in France, we had Blum’s Popular Front Government, after the first gains the workers made through their stay-in strikes, appealing to them to give up the strikes and agree to a “pause” in their demands for a higher standard of living. After the appeals came the threats of the use of force to eject strikers.

Now, in India, we see the same attitude on the part of the Congress Party towards Indian workers’ demands. Pandit Nehru, the Congress leader, who calls himself a Socialist, has just warned his followers against the belief that Congress Government automatically means higher wages. These are his words:—

The Bombay Labour organisation has lost much of its vigour by its overindulgence in strikes. Workers get their wages out of the profits of the industries, and if the industries suffer the millowners will have no alternative but to close the mills. The management of mills has a right to dismiss inefficient workmen.—(From a report of a speech telegraphed from Calcutta on October 11th. Daily Telegraph, October 12th, 1937.)

It will be noticed that the minds and words of Labour leaders in East and West are as like as two peas. Perhaps Pandit Nehru is not uninfluenced by the fact that his Congress Party obtains much of its funds from the mill-owners.

Labour leaders who try to administer capitalism are “embarrassed” by the workers’ demands. This is nothing to the embarrassment the workers will cause them when they see through the Labour leaders’ policy of continuing capitalism.

Shadow-Boxing about the Former German Colonies

When the German ruling class feel strong enough they will doubtless try to grab their former colonies and anything else they think they can get. At present, however, they are in the preparatory stage of arming and of working up German public opinion. So Hitler and his British rivals are full of arguments about “rights” and “wrongs,” and other irrelevant considerations.

British apologists led off with the remark that colonies are worthless, anyway, just a white man’s burden. Hitler countered smartly by calling this “drivel,” and said: —

    They say colonies are of no value, but in spite of this they will not in any circumstances give these worthless things back to their rightful owners.— (Speech at Berlin on October 3rd. Times, October 4th, 1937.)

As the mention of “rightful owners” reminded many people that, presumably, the rightful owners ought to be the native population living there, the British apologists fell back on the latter’s right to be consulted. Imperialists, like Mr. Amery, trotted this out, and some of them actually claimed that, although it is true that the natives are not allowed to decide that question, or any other, for themselves, they are making advances towards self-government under British rule.

Then General Hertzog, Prime Minister of South Africa, made a speech at Pretoria on September 28th (The Times, September 29th, 1937), telling the natives in plain language what their rights in the land of their birth really are: —

Natives must obey the white man’s law. Referring to criticism of the Government in dealing with the natives, the Prime Minister reminded the people that natives were living in a land of the white man, where the white man’s law ruled. If the native did not obey the white man’s rule he would be forced to obey, even if this had to be carried out by the imposition of more rigorous punishment or by stricter supervision of the native’s freedom of movement. He warned natives not to expect equal authority with the white man.

The muddled Labourites and Communists, who are already speaking of war against Germany in defence of native population’s democratic liberties, may wake up one day to find Hitler and Mussolini posing as defenders of the natives against South African white tyranny, and if the German workers are as silly as some of their British fellows, they may fall for it.

On the other hand, some influential South African politicians have declared that if Germany tries to recapture German South-West Africa they won’t raise a finger to prevent it. The explanation of their attitude is that they fear, more than anything else, the growth of a native movement demanding Africa “for the rightful owners,” and look with favour on the return of the German dictatorship to Africa to help keep the natives in subjection. They prefer Germany to France because the absence of a colour bar in French African territory puts ideas into the African mind.

Edgar Hardcastle