1940s >> 1944 >> no-481-september-1944

By the Way

Of Mice and Men—or Rich Tabby

A Boston lawyer has left $100,000 for the maintenance of his pet cat. He has also cancelled seven bequests of $20,000 each to seven relatives “because of their contemptuous attitude and cruelty towards my cat.” (Daily Mail, August 5th, 1944.)

He left $40,000 to his housekeeper, to ensure that she is in a position to maintain “Tabby.” This reminds us of the Pekinese dog that was left a few thousand shares in a British company some years back.

The workers in the concerns where the $140,000 is invested may now have the pleasure of slaving to maintain the governor’s pet in luxury, after the bloke himself has snuffed it. This is only a difference of degree; we doubt not that the cat has far more intelligence and is much more useful than some of the “film-stars” (? !), chorines, dancers, and others whom wealthy men frequently marry, especially when one dies, leaving the producers of their wealth, the workers, to maintain and fawn upon them in ridiculous opulence. The bequeathing of large chunks of labour productivity to animals and “pets” is the final epitome of the irrational and obsolete capitalist system, where the best portion of society toils unnecessarily for a few largely idiotic parasites, to the detriment of both.

* * *

One of the Four Freedoms
From the Daily Mail of August 15th we learn that the Registrar-General announces that a complete scheme of National Registration is in preparation for use after the war.

“Under a peace-time National Register everyone throughout life would have, in addition to a name, a code number.”

This, he thinks, would abolish bigamy and be necessary for operating the new social services.

We have had occasion to point out previously, and it is no discovery of the Socialist Party, that this sort of “temporary” war-time legislation is always much more difficult to get off the Statute Book than to put on.

As capitalism is allowed by politically ignorant workers to develop further in the direction of State centralisation, it becomes more obvious that we are approaching the conditions described by Mr. Hilaire Belloc in his book “The Servile State.”

This was a state of affairs where every citizen was numbered and docketed like a parcel, and every intimate personal action supervised by a board of State bureaucrats, with endless cards, numbers, permits, etc.

This is not Socialism. A genius like Oscar Wilde was much nearer the mark when he wrote in his “Soul of Man under Socialism” that only “with Socialism could we reach real individualism.” Wm. Morris expressed the same idea.

In the early days of the working-class movement nothing in Continental despotism was so roundly denounced as the reactionary passport system. The yellow spot of the Jew was a similar measure. Labour Liberals of two decades back poured the bitterest invective on the reactionary oppression of the Tsar’s secret police, with its individual passport system. It has taken a war for the Four Freedoms to shackle the working class with the National Service officer and a code number, like a convict, for life. Socialism will not be servile neither will it be a State.

The State is a private property institution which under Socialism will wither away. Freedom will be inevitable because economic equality of all will be the basis of society.

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German Women to Work Harder
From the Times, July 29th, 1944 : —

“It is announced from Berlin that as a part of Goebbels’s efforts to secure total mobilisation women and adolescents will be directed into war work to the fullest extent. Curiously enough, the German press points out that while Russian women and children served unstintingly in Leningrad during the siege, and British women work as dock labourers and in all sorts of arms production, German women have hitherto contributed far less to the war effort. Why should they be exempt, the newspapers ask, now that the German homeland is being besieged ?
One of the first changes is that women will release men for the forces by becoming motor drivers.
Goebbels issued his first total mobilisation decree yesterday. According to an announcement by the German wireless last night, the decree is aimed ‘at all persons liable for work who have fulfilled their labour duties in appearance only, persons who through family or other connection have obtained a labour contract enabling them to lead an easy life far away from the nation’s common strain of war’.”—Renter.

After a terrific fanfare of the usual boloney, Goebbels is now announcing the measures to be introduced to find more men for the shambles. British readers will probably be somewhat surprised to read that one of the drastic “total” totalitarian war schemes is that women are to release men by becoming motor-drivers. Really ! Dr. Goebbels ! the poor old, worn out, effete democracies did this years ago. Apparently Mr. Bevin can give the Nazis ten yards start in a hundred at this game, and beat them any time. The stories the British Ministry of Information told us about “Hitler’s slaves” don’t sound so good any more either, if it has taken all this time for them to check up on “dodgers” (who seem to manage pretty well in England, too, if they’ve enough money), and tell the women to start driving motors.

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New Curtains, Fruits of Victory
There is probably no clearer indication of the real frame of mind of the capitalist class than the advertisements which the directors of various large firms are publishing just now. All sorts of concerns are stating their post-war intentions. Motor manufacturers advertise the advent of a world with wide motor roads and better “So and so’s” cars. The I.C.I. state that their view is that the post-war world must be international. Makers of toffees and wireless sets, building societies, brewers, tobacco manufacturers, textile firms—all strike the same note.

“Bigger and Better” this, or that, is what it practically amounts to. One of the most fantastic actually says : —

My Peace Terms.

“Freedom for the oppressed people of Europe. . . . New curtains in the sitting room . . . and back to fresh butter, honey, and lovely—Cream Crackers! (Daily Telegraph, July 26th, 1944.)

One can only conclude that people who can write of “Freedom for the people of Europe” in the same breath as curtains for the sitting room have been rather seriously affected by the buzz-bomb.

The hollow mockery and revolting hypocrisy of this mentality is the strongest possible proof of the real aims of the Capitalist Government in war. They have no more concern for the people of Europe than those of anywhere else. Their idea of Freedom is a new pair of curtains.

That’s all right—as far as it goes—but when they want us to believe it’s for freedom for the oppressed people of Europe or somewhere—Well, Donald Duck has a word for it’

* * *

“Pay Them Well”
Thus the Daily Mail for August 4th, 1944. They refer to the fighting Services. Lord Rothermere and friends are quite indignant with the Pensions Minister and the Cabinet for being niggardly with Services pay and “huckstering” about pensions and allowances.

That it is utterly outrageous that the wife of a soldier killed in battle should get less than the wife of a soldier still lucky enough to survive, the Socialist is the last to deny !

But, says the Mail with lordly (“Press-Lordly”) disdain, “A copper or two granted here, a readjustment made there is considered sufficient.”
“The costly policies initiated by the Government (free public schools, public health services, social security) are the hall-marks of the twentieth century.”
The “pay per day” method is a relic of the times when soldiers were mercenaries—mere casual labourers of the battlefields. It should be abolished, just as it has been abolished in the docks. The modern fighting man is a highly trained combatant and a skilled technician. He should be paid a salary and a good one.” (Italics ours.) (Daily Mail, August 8th.)

What the Mail calls a “good salary” for soldiers it carefully refrains from saying. We know men who would not do it for all the tea in China. Certain it is that, like working for the Socialist Party, nobody does it for what he gets in money—which is a joke, even for the officers.

Two things about the Daily Mail’s viewpoint interest us as Socialists, apart from the fact that the British capitalists, having raked in big profits during the war, feel at the moment—but only at the moment—like a man at the last course of a magnificent banquet—(“Gentlemen, you may smoke”), and are ready to chuck a pound in the plate for the waiter.

One is the statement that the “costly policies of the Government are the hall-marks of the twentieth century.” In other words, it is the considered policy of the capitalists to-day to give up a little, in the shape of reforms for the workers, to try to avoid having to surrender the lot to a discontented, Socialist, working class. As Socialist knowledge spreads among workers, and Labour leaders find it more difficult to convince them that reform of capitalism is “instalments” of Socialism, Lord Rothermere, Sir Samuel Courtauld, Lords Mcgowan and Nuffield will shower reforms, like the Beveridge Plan and More Pay, upon them to keep them occupied—and quiet. Even if it is reforms you want—which we Socialists do not—it is better to plump for Socialism.

But more important than this—the Mail points out that the one-time mercenaries who sold themselves for the King’s shilling—the “scum of the earth” of Rudyard Kipling and Billy Bennett—the old beer-swilling sweats—the “poor bloody infantry” of the past—like their civilian counterparts, the unskilled labourer, have become “highly trained skilled technicians.”

Modern fighting men, unlike their predecessors in history, are simply modern working-men put into uniform for organised scientific technical mass killing.

Some historians declare that the hired mercenaries of the Middle Ages fixed up representative conferences the night before “battle commenced” to arrange terms, and that sometimes battles did not start until the generals had agreed to “the rate for the job.” On other occasions armies just transferred during battle to the other side for more money.

But modern complicated capitalism, handling immense armies of millions at war, with colossal modern scientific equipment, can no more work on these methods than a man can pilot a plane without instruments.

Modern soldiers, or workers, in the world of 1944 are becoming highly trained skilled technicians; they are rapidly becoming producers of modern super-abundance in control of mighty complex engines which subdue and transform the forces and resources of nature—in other words, the result of the development of capitalism—is to make the working man of to-day a potential Socialist. But only potential; the ground is getting richer for the reception of the seed; the job of the Socialist Party is to implant it, deeply and firmly— it is certain to grow and multiply.

As workers and soldiers become still more highly educated, they will more easily grasp the futility of illusory scrambles for pennies or shillings extra, and fix their eyes on the real goal—abolition of private ownership—not large salaries, but what they produce. Lord Rothermere can pay as well as he likes. It will avail him nothing.


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