2010s >> 1909 >> no-60-august-1909
Short Story: Those Reform Patches
Scene: the spacious offices attached to the large works of that well known firm, The International Industrial and Financial Co., Ltd. Several clerks are busy with the usual office routine. under the suprvision of the chief clerk. Mr. I. L. Peert, who looks spick and span and has a habit of casting covert glances at the large mirror over the mantle-piece, just to reassure himself that his appearance is respectable. Enter through door leading from workshop, the fitter and engineer of the works, S. P. G. Britten, who carries a piece of oily waste and a smell of grease about with him. as well as a grimy face.
Definitions: Old Boiler – Capitalist System ; Directors — Capitalist Class; Patches — Reforms; New Boiler — Socialism.
Britten : Good Morning, Mr. Peert.
Peert : Er —morning Britten. Do you wish to see me ?
Britten : Well, yes. I must see you or somebody about that Old Boiler.
Peert : Boiler ! What, again ?
Britten : Yes, Mr. Peert, again. It is rapidly falling to pieces; it is awfully hard work trying to keep any fire in at all, and as for steam, why, it does not supply the “hands” with a third of their requirements, work they ever so hard.
Peert : Ah ! it is a waste of good material even from the employers’ standpoint, not to meet the people’s wants. I must look up some statistics on the subject and elaborate them.
Britten : But you understand the urgency —
Peert : Oh, yes. I was going to say that meantime our Directors will be round this way I hope, and I will ask them to kindly consider the advisability of conferring with their friends, Messrs. Muddlem & Co., with a view to having another Patch or two put on the Old Boiler. Messrs. Muddlem will doubtless report in due course, and if we can only induce you to keep your demands within moderate limits, possibly we shall manage to keep things going —
Britten : Mr. Peert! What is the good of talking about more patches? I am continually telling you that nothing less than a New Boiler is of any use whatever. The old one is quite worn out; it has served its turn and done very well—for the Directors—but is now only fit for the scrap heap. It has been patched to such an extent that there is little room left for another, indeed, you have to keep Patching previous Patches, and as fast as you try to make good one defect it breaks through in one or two other places. I repeat that the thing is quite rotten, and it is useless and futile to mess about with it any longer. You know quite well that our men are in a bad way owing to its present condition.
Peert : Ah, yes. I quite agree, the Old Boiler is worn out and the men are suffering accordingly. But we must do nothing rash, Britten, or we shall spoil our ease and not get even another Patch, and so long as the thing will hold together we must accept the Patches, if offered, as the directors will not order a new machine. I really dare not approach them with such a request. As regards the men, you know that I do my best for them as secretary of the soup kitchen and bread fund.
Britten : But what in the world is the good of that? It is only tinkering with the effects and does not touch the cause of all the trouble. Here is a machine that is quite worn out and unsafe, and the only remedy is a new one. You have been Patching the Old Boiler for generations, and all the time it has been getting worse. The people have been so blinded with Patches that they are unable to see the defective and dangerous condition of the machine, but you, Mr. Peert, profess to see the defects and agree, in the main, as to the only real remedy, and yet you talk “Patches” like the rest of them. Its, folly. Sir, absolute folly.
Peert : No, Britten, you are wrong in not being more expedient in your methods. You will never get anything if you ask for it all at once ; you must learn to be more judicious. I have to be judicious or I would very soon lose my job and only ask for a part, and then you will possibly get some. Now every Patch is a step in the direction of a New Boiler.
Britten : What ! How on earth can the Patching of the Old Boiler, with a view to making it last longer, be a step towards a new one?
Peert : My friend, you are really too impetuous. If you only knew our Directors well as I do you would talk more reasonably.
Britten : I believe 1 know enough about the Directors, but possibly I know more about the workers and Boilers. Besides, Mr. Peert, do you not think that if you were more insistent in asking for a New Boiler you would then get your beloved but useless Patches far easier and in more often? Now just come along with me and have another look at the old crock, and you will see for yourself that—
Peert : Oh, I know it is in a bad way and I admit that you understand these things better than I do. But when one has to deal with influential men like our Directors, who cling to their constitution, which, by the way, you must admit is a better one than any foreign firm can boast of, why, one has to be careful.
Britten : Damn the constitution! The Old Boiler is rotten; the people are starving and degraded in spite of your bread and soup funds, and at the risk of losing my job, I tell you plainly, Mr. Peert, you are acting the goat in order to keep your already insecure place, and you are already currying favour with the powers that be, with one eye on the chance of your becoming one of those powers yourself. You are well aware that the Patches are a delusion and a fraud, and I for one, will have nothing more to do with them.
Peert : Well, there are plenty more who will attend to them, Britten.
Britten : Unfortunately that is so at present, but there will be fewer who will attend to them before I lay down my tools for good.
Exit Britten into the workshop to have another dig at the Old Boiler, while Mr. I. L. Peert turns to meet the disconcerting glances of his fellow clerks, muttering something about “a troublesome chap.”