By The Way
A short time since columns of print appeared in the Press on the question of taking a Referendum in Australia with regard to the subject of Conscription. While the vote was being taken some reference to the possible result was made, and from a newspaper report I take the following:
The “Argus” looks on the result of the poll so far as a stalemate, and says the great mistake was made in taking a Referendum at all on the subject of Conscription.
“I am unable to express an opinion on the significance of the Poll as disclosed by the first figures, because, of course, I have been out of Australian politics for some time,” said Sir George Reid, M.P., formerly High Commissioner in London, to a “Daily News” representative yesterday. “None the less, I deeply regret the results to far disclosed by the figures. I have heard also that there is every possibility of a strong vote against Conscription I even among the men at the front.” — ‘Evening Standard’, Oct. 30th, 1916.
At this juncture I might add there was a large majority against, consequently one is not surprised to read that a “great mistake was made” in taking a vote. But oh! if the voting had only gone the other way, wouldn’t our wiseacres have said “we told you so.”
Hush! Hold your breath! worse follows. The final result was received in painful silence. Without trimmings of any kind appeared the following brief report:
The final figures of the Conscription Referendum are:
Yes . . 1,085,000
No . . 1,146,000
No majority 61,000
— ‘Daily News’, Nov. 23rd, 1916.
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We have just recently had the luxury of a National Mission, and in these somewhat dull days an outdoor procession organised by “Holy Church” even adds to the gaiety of nations. I recently came across one of these processions in my travels, and took it for granted that possibly owing to so many counter attractions there was a slump in church attendance, and that our spiritual guides, in order to boost their wares, were holding a sort of minor Lord Mayor’s show, or taking a leaf out of the book of the old showman, who, when giving an exhibition in some village or town, paraded the streets with big drum and such other lures as he had at command. On this occasion the “Bishop’s Messenger” was the star turn who was to endeavour to draw the people. And so I gazed upon the aforementioned person, who was supported by other gentlemen of the cloth, choir boys and men, with all the appurtenances of religious ceremony, cornet players, policemen (regular variety) boy sprouts, old women of both sexes, and, finally, a rearguard of special constables.
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What I was going to draw attention to is this: That I really think a special mission to the clergy is indeed necessary. A few days ago I was reading that at the annual meeting of the Bath Free Church Council an individual there made a vigorous attack on church teaching.
Mr. Wills said the reason why four-fifths of the people were outside the churches was because the ministers were not honest with the people. They did not preach what they believed. They were bound by chapel trust-deeds, and dare not speak their minds. Children in Sunday Schools were taught erroneous doctrines.
There would he a valuable revolution in churches if members of congregations were allowed to question the preacher at the close of a sermon. – ‘Reynolds’s’, Nov. 26th, 1916.
The latter suggestion, if carried out, would prove highly interesting, though perhaps a disastrous one to the gentry who have for so long enjoyed facilities of an exceptional character. It is worthy of notice that “children in Sunday schools were taught erroneous doctrines.” The acceptation of religion with all its dogmas depends upon a child-like faith, and on an attitude of open your mouth and shut your eyes and believe what the man of God tells you.
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The question of economy in foodstuffs brings in its train many and varied suggested reforms. The limit of 3s. 6d. for an officer’s meal must make many a woman with children turn green with envy when she has to make a like amount cover the entire week and provide other things besides meals. Really, how they manage to eke out an existence on the munificent allowance of a grateful country passeth my understanding.
The position we of the Socialist Party take up finds confirmation in many and even unexpected quarters. The poverty of the class to which we belong— the subject of our oft-repeated reference —has become a theme of intense import to our masters. On the matter of “meatless days’’ the following extract should he of interest:
So far as the mass of workers is concerned, it is a matter of indifference whether soup or hors d’ oeuvre is regarded as a course. In the same way, the establishment of meatless days once or twice a week will bring no change into the lives of the really poor, for many years most of their days have been meatless. – ‘Reynolds’s’, Dec. 10th, 1916.
These occasional allusions to the conditions of working class existence are significant and in themselves are a striking commentary on the anomalies of capitalist society.
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We live in a topsy-turvy world. Within the space of four days two very remarkable announcements appeared in the Press. They are worthy of notice. One refers to the demand for women’s high-legged boots, and reads u follows:
Prices for smart footwear range from two guineas to 65s. per pair. . . The average length of fashionable uppers worn to-day is from 10 ins. to 16in., while heels are from 2½ to 3½ ins. But women’s boots with uppers of bronze-coloured glace kid, measuring as much as 22 ins, were prominently displayed. The price asked was three guineas. – ‘Daily Mail’ Dec. 1st, 1916.
These are regarded in the light of necessities so that Lady Never Work may stroll about town in the latest mode, and perhaps, on occasion, dispense smiles and flags for a penny upwards.
The other, which relates to the “poor,” is somewhat brief. It states:
The Eastbourne Board of Guardians recommended poor people to buy clogs for their children. The Rev. H. V. Scott suggested that the fashion of going barefooted should be reintroduced. – ‘Reynolds’s’, Nov. 26th, 1916.
The merits or otherwise of going barefooted I do not propose to enter into, but it is sheer humbug and hypocrisy for these well-fed, well-housed, and well-groomed folk to thus talk to the producers of the world s wealth. I seriously suggest to the rev. gentleman that he should make a start by applying his recommendation to himself. Practise would be much better than precept.
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Whilst one observes posters on the walls appealing to women of all classes to undertake munition work, etc, and help win the war, it is exceedingly doubtful whether many recruits are gathered in from what might he termed the idle rich. Recently there was held a Dog Show (whether dog breeding is regarded as work of “national importance” or a “certified occupation” the reader must investigate for himself) and from the list of exhibitors appearing in the papers it is evident that they were, in the vernacular of the man in the street, “not having any” war work.
From the description given of the accommodation it almost makes one wish that one had been born a dog. I notice that—
The most precious dogs of all were in glass cases hung with little ribboned curtains. Other dogs reclined on silken cushions in show pens converted into Lilliput boudoirs. One proud and prize Pekingese had his “bench” decorated with ancient Chinese embroidered hangings of great worth. The hall was warm nay, hot after the biting air of Kennington Road, but two toy spaniels, wrapped in a soft and fleecy shawl, still shivered. – ‘Daily Mail’, Dec. 2nd, 1916.
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The antithesis of this function might be quoted. An inquest was held on a little girl who met her death as the result of her dress catching fire whilst playing before an unguarded grate. The report says
The mother, the English wife of a German interned at Alexandra Palace, said that the Government allowed her £1 0s. 3d. a week and her husband was able to earn about 3s. To augment her income she took in washing and minded a neighbour’s child, although the had five children of her own. She had no fireguard, having had to sell it twelve months ago to obtain food. – ‘Reynolds’s’, Nov. 26th, 1916.
To-day the pleasures and pets of modern society take precedence, but in a sane system the humans will take priority.
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More light on the Old-Age Pension Act. Even at seven shillings and a tanner it is cheaper for our masters to give this dole rather than have the old people go into the workhouse house. Therefore read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the following:
We hear many complaints as to the inadequacy of the assistance given to old-age pensioners to make up for the increase in prices. Local conditions differ, but some Committees are acting with great harshness, and we have heard of cases where only 1s. extra was given, though the pensioner was only kept from starvation by the charity of neighbours. The object of the Old-Age Pensions Act was to keep aged men and women out of the workhouse. The object of many of the local Committees seems to be to drive them inside. — ‘Reynolds’s’, Nov. 19th, 1916.
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A further item on the subject of Pensions would not be amiss. Two extracts were recently given in one of the papers as hereafter follows:
The King has been pleased to grant to Sir Walter Phillimore, late one of the Lords Justices of Appeal, an annuity of £3,500 for life, commencing from Oct. 12.
The memorandum (of the Treasury raising the total means of married pensioners to £1 a week and of single pensioners to 13s a week) concludes by impressing on committees that the additional grant is only intended to meet cases of special hardship and emphasising “the paramount importance of economy at a time when the Exchequer has unparalleled burdens imposed on it.” — ‘Daily News’, Oct. 25th, 1916.
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It would indeed be interesting to hear in explicit terms what are the exact objects for which the Allies are fighting. Much has been said and written of Belgium and the “grievous wrong” that she has suffered. While in times past we were informed that “we” were fighting in order to obtain justice for that country, of late more than one reference has been made to the designs of the Allies for other territory. One newspaper correspondent writes from Petrograd thus:
“Only this morning does the Petrograd Press deal in detail with the passage of the Governmental declaration to the Duma which referred to the question of Constantinople and the Dardanelles. The Novoe Vremya says :
This proves more clearly than anything else the determination of the Russian Government and the Allies to carry on the war to the end, that is to say, to that moment when the capital of one of our enemies passes by right of conquest into Russian hands. In these conditions there can be no question at all of any half peace. Since Saturday the Turks must know that the war is for them not a matter of life, but only of death.”
The article continues:
“The Bourse Gazette asks whether it is any longer possible to believe that the smallest particle of mistrust towards Russia exists in the minds of England, France, and Italy, and continues:
“Together with the Dardanelles agreement there has entered into international relationships a new factor, the grandeur of which it is difficult to estimate. If England and Russia have succeeded in agreeing so cordially on this most acute and cardinal point which for so many decades had been a stumbling block in their relationships, if at an even earlier date Russia with the assistance of M. Sazonoff worked out with England a complete agreement as to the Middle East which finally liquidated all misunderstandings with regard to Persia, if with the co-operation of the same Sazonoff and the support of England we succeeded in laying down the foundations of a future alliance with Japan, which opened for us a new era in the Far East, then it is evident that there has begun to live and act in the world a new international grouping, the heart of which will be Great Britain and Russia united in common ideas.” ‘Daily Telegraph’, Dec. 5th, 1916.
From which I gather that the Allies are animated with other ideas than the freeing of Belgium from German oppression.