1930s >> 1936 >> no-386-october-1936

Lady Eden’s Appeal, and Ours

Lady Eden, in common with many other women, lost two sons in the last War. This, however, was the only thing she had in common with those other women, the vast majority of whom were women of the working class. In the News Chronicle of July 6th, 1936, she says: —

   “I have the deepest sympathy and the greatest respect for the unemployed, especially the miners,” she continued, “ but I do feel that among the younger men who are workless idleness is encouraged.
   “One does feel that here is a big opportunity to join up in the Territorials instead of doing nothing.
   “The Army is a fine profession and every man who joins it is all the better for it. I appeal to mothers to encourage their sons to join the Army and not to be sloppy about it.”

The appeal to those who have nothing, to fight for those who have everything, to protect and conserve property which does not belong to them, is the last word in effrontery. Working class women should feel particularly infuriated at this titled woman’s allusions to their “sloppiness.” Private property has left a trail of misery and tears which the workers of to-day are still following. Many women have expressed their indignation in the Press, but not one of them voiced her resentment from a class standpoint. Resentment is not enough. We have to make it effective. We can only do that when we understand the cause of the trouble, namely, the class basis of society. The class that Lady Eden represents is the capitalist class. They own the means by which we, the workers, live. The vast machinery of industry is the private property of a small section of the people. The huge majority must, in order to live, get a job for wages from one or other group of the property-owning class. From when we leave school to the time when we receive a pittance called an old-age pension, this urgent necessity is ever upon us. We produce millions of tons of commodities for our masters’ markets. When those markets are oversupplied we are put on short time or are out of work. Lady Eden does not suggest the capitalist class foregoing any of its profits, in order to reduce hours whilst increasing wages, as a means of keeping young workers in work. Her plan is to use the whip of poverty to drive us into the military machine. Well, by the grace of capitalism, even that cannot be done wholesale. Because capitalism undernourishes the workers, 36 per cent, of those who have jumped to the crack of the whip and presented their puny bodies for the Army medico’s examination have to be rejected. The Army is a fine profession, says Lady Eden. Certain ribald songs and verses composed by the rank and file express things rather differently. Desertions from the ranks are fairly common, and much persuasive literature has to be used to get recruits. Whether or not the Army is a better or worse job of work doesn’t matter, however. The Army is a weapon which serves to protect the private property of the master class. The appeal to the workers in time of war is couched in different words from that in times of peace. Then we are called upon in the names of liberty and freedom. Our homes (those nasty little council houses), our wives and children, surely, we are asked, these are worth fighting for? Honour and glory, patriotism, and a host of other timeworn fancies, strut upon the stage and are frantically applauded. These are but the preliminary to the bloody murders to follow. But now, in time of peace, the Army is to be the keeper of the morale of the unemployed. The real facts are so very obvious, even though the veneer has been laid on thick. India, China, Africa, and the Mediterranean, are some of the places where British capital is invested. There you will find the English Army, Navy and Air Force in times of peace. The armed forces are used to protect English capital at home and abroad. Incidentally, although the Police Force is usually adequate, the masters have no hesitation in using the State forces in order to quell industrial disturbances at home. The Air Force is particularly useful in quelling disorder that arises in places in the Empire difficult for soldiers on foot to reach. The master class both amass their wealth and protect it by means of the working class. When we withdraw our support from them their system will collapse. The master class in this country adopt the policy, as far as they can, of getting the willing support of their dupes. Capitalists in other countries have less polished methods, but always the result is the same. Upon the efforts of the workers the whole structure of society rests. When we decide that no longer will we support a non-producing and useless class, then can we reorganise society upon sane lines. We will establish Socialism, and women in particular will gain much from this change. Women out at work find life drab and uninteresting. The married woman’s life is even worse. The cares and responsibility of the home and family make her old long before her time. Enclosed within four walls her life lacks change and interest. She becomes an echo and a shadow of that poor male who becomes a master, in his imagination, when he leaves the factory gates and enters his own door. Lady Eden has addressed her appeal to the mothers, so do we. We want them in the Socialist movement. We want them to reply to Lady Eden, that they are not prepared to urge their sons to support the capitalist class in any sphere. Let them reply that there can be no peace while one class is dominated by another. The class war is on all day and every day. They can urge their sons to fight in that, by voting with their fathers, mothers, sisters and wives for Socialism.

May Otway

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