Blatchford Under the Harrow
Between the nether millstones of the Socialist attitude upon the question of invasion, and the Liberal Manchester Guardian’s answer upon the facts of the present German scare, Robert Blatchford has been rather pitiably pulverised. The Socialist Party derides Mr. Blatchford’s passion for lamp-black and lightning, and repudiates his attitude upon war as upon other working-class questions; and the Manchester Guardian, with a single splutter of the pen, has killed the only alleged fact upon which Mr. Blatchford built up his war scare articles. His 200,000 Germans practising embarkation are now, as he himself admits, as dead as doornails. It is true Mr. Blatchford admits his error (as to the 200,000). There was. indeed, nothing else for it. But he still holds to the idea that we are in danger of invasion.
From a working-class point of view, of course, it doesn’t matter two straws whether we are or not. There is no reason for supposing that a German capitalist is worse than one of the bull-dog breed, and this is the only question that affects the workers in this connection. The casual person would be justified in concluding from the outcry of scare mongers of Mr. Blatchford’s mould, that the Germans were a semi-barbarous horde who, having conquered England, would either put the whole 40 millions of us to the sword and have done with us in one great blood orgy, or would enslave and reduce us to a state of wretchedness inconceivable. In point of fact the normal German is at least the equal of the normal Britain in intelligence, and standard of comfort. If, therefore, the hosts of the Teutonic capitalist overran us and imposed German conditions and a German standard of comfort, there would be no material change in the case of the working class. As for any attempt to appreciably reduce the standard of living, that is clearly impossible. The working class of this country have plumbed the deeps of misery and poverty. They have, as a class, no further to go if they are to maintain anything approximating to working efficiency.
Therefore the intelligent working-class answer to the lay of the Clarion minstrel is, that, as they have nothing to lose but their chains, they are supremely indifferent to the possibility of a Prussian descent upon the English capitalist’s coast. If Germany wants good old England, they may have it for us. It doesn’t belong to the English working class. Why should the English working class worry about preserving it for others? If the others want it, let them fight for it. and if they manage to eat one another in the process, all the better.
The only thing that matters is the development of a consciousness of working-class solidarity, born of appreciation of the common cause of the working-class misery and its common remedy. Socialism is the answer to every question of working-class import, and— Socialism knows no frontier. It matters nothing that England may be peopled as to one half by Germans, or by any other proportion nameable of any or all nationalities on the capitalist globe. That would make no difference to the movement of the working class towards the world-embracing Co-operative Commonwealth. The workers of all nations make common cause against the common or capitalist exploiter.
Therefore, if invasion is coming, let it come; and if Mr. Blatchford wants to don his old uniform and go out to fight, let him fight. It will he no more than one foolish entry on his own record – -and what is one among so many! Upon questions of this sort he is suspect. His reputation is known. He is weighed in the balances. He is of the stuff that the patriot is made—the patriot of the music hall—however he may protest to the contrary. He has worn regimentals and they have got into his blood. For this cause he gives himself over to the imagination of vain things (one of them being that he can speak with authority upon military matters). Wars and rumours of wars are (with the lust of adulation), meat and drink to him. He may quite honestly hold himself to be a man of peace but,—it is no more than a delusion he hugs. What reason he has, goes to the four winds at the tap of a drum. “My country right or wrong,” is the essence of Jingoism, and that was openly, blatantly, the attitude of Blatchford during the Boer War, however much he may attempt (as he has so often attempted), to disguise it to-day by quotations from other articles of that time, capable of bearing other constructions. He went “off the handle then, and his unfortunate daughter played, so he told the world, the “national” anthem (or was it “ Rule Britannia”?) every evening at his command. He was Sergeant Blatchford of the Dublin Fusiliers then, and he would be Sergeant Blatchford once again. He has very much in common with Kaiser Bill —whom he despises.
Well, the Socialist movement cannot afford to have a Sergeant Blatchford of the Dublin Fusiliers. He would be dear at any price.
But it must be a bitter pill for if the word is pardonable – so “cocksure” a gentleman as Mr. Blatchford to have to make public confession of error.
A. J. M. Gray