June 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard
It is fairly safe to assume that never before in the history of the civilised world has such a profusion of literary slosh been printed as during the present period of human slaughter. The worker is, on one hand, lauded to the skies as a very fine fellow and on the other, roundly cursed as a drunkard and slacker. Thousands of letters bristling with puerility find place in the Press dutifully heaping up the gigantic confusion already created by their professional brethren. Hundreds of oratorial geniuses—so-called—find free expression for their doubtful eloquence; reports of their speeches being eagerly devoured by those whose mental equilibrium, never at any time strong, collapsed quite early-on under the extraordinary avalanche. To quote from such mountains of piffle extensively would serve no useful purpose, indeed, it might quite easily lay the present writer open to affront, but no actual apology is needed in introducing just one extract from the "London Mail," dated Nov. 3rd, 1914. It reads: "I suppose foreigners will never quite understand the incurable habit that our soldiers and sailors have of persisting in believing even this frightful war as the biggest bit of fun they have ever enjoyed." The advocates of compulsory military service are having the time of their lives in proving the essential truth of the dictum that "old men love to give advice because they are no longer in the position to set a worse example."
But it is upon the public platform that one also is enabled to perceive the growing intellectual bankruptcy of the master class with even better results. One good lady who has suddenly found herself famous owing to her relationship to someone of military magnitude, speaking in the North of England said: "Trust them!" (the great leaders) "They know, we don't!" "They are more clever than we!" Placed alongside reports of the incompetence of certain officers in the early stages of the war, such as Joffres notes on the Mons defeat, the statement suffers somewhat. This delightful "we are it" attitude is, however, very characteristic of the master class. But where, pray, may we find evidence of this expression? I have before me an official circular issued by a State department. In this circular there appears a paragraph headed, "Awards for Suggestions," and details follow explaining how money is distributed for suggesting affecting improvements in plant and economy. This circular is addressed to the whole of the staff. During April, 1915, some 19 suggestions were awarded a total sum amounting to £13. The appeal itself throttles the very life out of our sentimental charmer's prattling remarks: "They know! We don't" "They are more clever than we!" Birket Foster, whose praises are seldom heard, was born in humble circumstances in the unsalubrious town of South Shields. His water-colour work is truly glorious. One biographical dictionary actually says, "he sketched before he walked." Did not the great Jean Millet, the painter of pastoral subjects, die in poverty, standing testimony to the world of the great versatile ability of the international working class.
Epictetus, the slave Stoic philosopher, had such respect paid to his memory that when he died the lamp by whose light he was wont to study was sold for a considerable sum. Then last but by no means least, we have cherished memory of the great genius of Treves, Karl Marx. Speaking of Marx, Chambers' Biographical Dictionary says "at the British Museum he acquired his marvellous knowledge of economic literature and the economic history of modern Europe," and later adding, "Marx was a man of extraordinary knowledge which he handled with masterly skill." But 'tis merely part and parcel of the huge game of keeping the intellectually starved proletariat in subjection, these tales of the superior brain force exercised by the master class.
With the certain conviction that the working class are a fitting instrument for their emancipation once they grasp a class-conscious attitude, we affirm our determination to carry on the fight. Renouncing with loathing and contempt all efforts to defile the Socialist case by the pseudo-Socialist and labour poltroons, we stand now patiently working our way along the road that leads to the Red International.
B. B. B.