Cases from the Courts
RE-WRITTEN for THE SOCIALIST STANDARD. (The original reports appeared in the “Evening Standard” of July 3rd and 24th.)
Sambo, the curly-haired negro worker, was not drunk. His work consisted of playing the guitar to theatre queues. But he had stolen one bottle of gin and one of whisky. He was sent to prison for a month.
Another gentleman did not steal any whisky. He did not need to, for he was a company director. The evidence added that he was a good-living, religious man. But he had some whisky at the house of a friend, and was later charged with driving while under the influence of drink. He was fined £5 (which he could afford) and was disqualified from driving for a year.
It will be noticed that Sambo’s offence was one against property. Hence the comparatively sever sentence of a month’s imprisonment. No to turn to the other case. Anyone driving a motor vehicle under the influence of drink is a potentia manslaughterer. But human lives under capitalism are not valued very highly. Hence our friend the director got away with a nominal payment plus the inability to drive his own car for a twelvemonth. (Of course, there are chauffeurs!)
Under capitalism it is evidently much better to be a company director than to be a queue musician. We hope that Sambo, after his month’s rest cure, will line up for the blood transfusion test.
An old man, 76, entered the court. He was charged with being poor. The technical charge was “wandering and failing to give a satisfactory account of himself.” A policeman had found him sleeping on a bench in a park close to Mayfair. Asked if he had any money, he said, “No.” The policeman invited him to go to the London County Council institution at Charing Cross, but he refused to go, saying, “We don’t get enough to eat there.” (What do you say to that, Herbert Morrison?) In court it was disclosed that he lied when he said he had no money on him. Actually, he had twopence and a pair of scissors ! Nothing else. “A week in custody won’t do him any harm,” said the magistrate. So that was the end of Edward—for the time being. Capitalism—and the Law—had got out of their quandary.
This was the case of a man who, despite his poverty, had declined to be regimented into the meshes of the P.A.C., and preferred the comparative liberty of the streets, the parks, the pubs., and the police courts. Capitalism, however, is such that a poverty-stricken old man cannot choose the three former to the exclusion of the latter. Notice, incidentally, how he was not even allowed to sleep in peace in a public park.
(Socialist Standard, September 1939)