From the March 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard
On November 11th last year, there appeared in The People an interview with Mr. Ernest Thompson, the retiring Mayor of Louth, a "bustling" little town in Lincolnshire. Louth is a remarkable place for these pagan times. It is supposed to "bustle" with the Christian spirit. Mr. Thompson is also a Christian, but it is not the ordinary brand of Christianity. Mr. Thompson is a practical Christian. He believes that practical Christianity is the only remedy for present-day problems. "Not your so-called religion,: he says, with a frank smile, "but practical Christianity—applied to every-day life, can solve all our problems—even that of unemployment."
At last the saviour! After nearly two thousand years of searching, the true Christian doctrine has been discovered, and we have to thank the Mayor of a "bustling" little town in Lincolnshire.
Of course, Mr. Thompson must have told The People that the reason why the workers are poor is because they produce the wealth for the benefit of the master class, and not for themselves. Surely he pointed out that the profit-making nature of this system restricted the production of wealth and reduced millions of workers to the aggravated poverty of unemployment. There can be no doubt that he urged the establishment of a social system where goods shall be produced for use, and not for sale. What else could he say? Alas, no! What he said was:—
If employers would use their capital and possessions as Christ would have them used, then there would be no money lying idle in the banks and men would be trooping back to work . . .
And how? As Christ had no possessions and despised them, the answer is obviously a lemon. But Mr. Thompson has solved the riddle. Mr. Thompson, you see, does not keep all his eggs in one basket. He is a contractor as well as a practical Christian, and from all accounts he is a very practical contractor. He has begun work on a new housing scheme to provide work for the unemployed, because he has been "guided by God" to buy the land for that purpose . . . And here is the gem—the master-stroke:—
The men I have employed are all working with the Christian spirit in their hearts—and that alone is going to have a sound practical result . . . It means that they are working harder and better than ever would have done. They are building the houses faster, and consequently, more cheaply than usual. And that means I shall be able to sell them at a lower price and develop the estate further . . .Councillor Thompson smiled. "You see," he said, "Christianity can be practical . . . "
Such simplicity is positively staggering. Mind you, no mention is made of profits. But, remember, Mr. Thompson insists that the necessary condition for producing cheaper houses is harder work from his wage-slaves. Strange as it may seem, the Practical Christian, like any other sort of employer, wants to squeeze the utmost out of the workers. If this pious gentleman is only eager to find work for the unemployed in Louth, he would give them a five-hour day and urge them to take it easy. What should it matter to the Practical Christian if he gets no profits on his capital so long as it is used to make people happy? . . . "I do not profess to be a saint," said Mr. Thompson, "but I am convinced that here is the solution the world is looking for . . . "
Mr. Thompson is certainly no saint. He is just a plain, simple, ordinary capitalist exploiter.