Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Inkslinger Brigade (1914)

Editorial from the October 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard

The inky patriots, the Labour "leaders" and pseudo-Socialists, are rushing to the assistance of the capitalist class in their frantic efforts to obtain cheap recruits and, as in the past, it is left to the Socialist Party to state the working-class position on the matter.

From our platform and in our Press, in face of all opposition, we have always given the only advice that is consistent with class-conscious action.

In "piping times of peace" we have told the workers of this country that their interests are irrevocably bound up with the interests of the workers the world over, and that their enemy, the capitalist class, os one and indivisible whenever and wherever capitalist interests are in any way jeopordised  by the organised working class. In time of war, of international crisis and financial panic, we have the same story to tell, because that story is true and indisputable.

The gang of ink-slingers hired by the capitalist Press to write just what is in the interests of their paymasters, are urging the workers to fight. Their leading articles, their psalms and songs are all to the same effect. The miners who in 1912 were described as "scum" by the same leader writers; the builders' labourers who were locked out to starve for 27 weeks in an attempt to force them to sign away their right to resist the demands of the bosses; the transport workers who were so recently batoned into submission; the Irish whose relatives and friends were ruthlessly butchered in Dublin because they dared to strike; even the South African workers, scarcely recovered from the wounds received in reply to a demand for a living wage, all are now urged to fight.

"The King and Country needs them"! What a different story is now told! The "scum" are heroes. Those who, when fighting for bread for wife and child were "cowardly agitators" are now Brave Britons when appealed to to fight in defence of the landlord's property and the capitalist's trade.

Fellow workers, why is it you are so easily cajoled by such obvious twaddle as the "honour of Britain" and are still more sacred mumbo-jumbo, "the integrity of small States," so soon after the Johannesburg slaughter and the lesson of Transvaal?

You are indeed "brave boys" when you are wanted to defend the right of the "British" landlord to levy toll; to risk your lives that British capitalists may dispose of the surplus values they have robbed from you. And when master says "turn," you all turn. When it was to the interest of the boss to curse the Boers you cursed them and screeched your desire to wring the necks of Kruger and his generals. But the scene changed and Master wanted the Boers to suppress the white miners, and then—well, you obliged and you cheered the Boers. When the mad Kaiser came to this country to confab with his worthy cousin, you lined the streets and shouted yourselves hoarse with cheers for the German Emperor, while now the Kaiser and all his best are but the spawn of hell.

While yet the cries of horror resound, cries of righteous indignation at the brutal atrocities of the Congo, and "red rubber" stained with the blood of the people for the profit of Leopold, King of the Belgians; and ere the outcry against "Bloody Nick," the Tzar of all the Russias, is forgotten, you cheer the "brave Belgians" and point to the "civilising" influences of the Muscovite hosts, the gentle Cossack, our allies.

Does the secret lie in the Press? Each and all the rags that are published for the delectation of the workers tell the same tale, and so used are the workers to "putting their thinking out," that the story, with sundry trimmings and speeches of gore, garnished with sentiment and cheap melodrama, has only to be repeated times enough in order to be believed, while editors and leader writers are to be found galore, ready to sell their pens for any dirty work. "It is in your interest to kill the German worker," they reiterate, and on the other side of the Channel the same tale is being told except that it is the English worker who is to be butchered. So the German worker turns out with the rifle to meet the British worker similarly armed, and Master downs the pockets of both.

Those who turn out to think for themselves and find no honour in trade wars or glory in slaughter; who see only butchery of men and starvation of children, whose interests are not served in the "game of kings"; those who endeavour to voice and pen to rouse the working class to a sense of their responsibility; those who tell the truth as they know it because it is the truth and not because it pays; they should be suppressed, should be torn to pieces by the well-dressed hooligan mob mad with jingo fever — if the writers of the jingo Press had their way. Ah, yes! such is the freedom of the Press.

As instance "The Globe." "The Globe" is a patriotic paper and is owned by patriotic Britishers. It tells us (Aug. 28th) that it "has nothing to say against Socialists as such," a rather frank admission based, no doubt, upon the sad experience of one of its owners, Mr. Samuel Samuels, who proved that he knew nothing about Socialism in a recent debate with a member of this Party. We are further informed that "some of these detestable creatures, who have degraded and disgraced the Socialist leaders, are still haranguing small mobs in Hyde Park in language which, in times of peace, we are accustomed to pass over with contempt." That explains why Samuel "debated" with us. They could hardly have treated us with more contumely had they sent the office boy.

Then these inky patriots tells us that they "have heard of speakers who tell their audiences that they owe no allegiance to either King or Country, that they as soon be governed by the Kaiser as by King George, and that the struggle in which we are now engaged does not concern the working classes in the least." In response to this horrible doctrine we would expect the editor or the office boy at "The Globe" to tell us what the workers have to gain by war and why they should fight each other, but they don't—which goes to further prove that "they have not a word to say against the Socialist." And having no argument they resort to the gutter in a vain attempt to silence us. The dirty suggestion is that "it might perhaps be undesirable in the general in the general interests of public order that the business should be left to the crowd." It might perhaps. There is the direct incitement to rush the platform and do by numbers what they cannot do by argument. The advice has been taken and one local doctor who, judging by his intelligence, is a reader of "The Globe," attempted  to rush our platform at Hyde Park and who, when faced with a man half his size with his coat off, scuttled away like a rat.

These brave patriots are ready to sling ink by the quart, and to advise others to do the fighting: they will urge an excited crowd to pummel one with whom they disagree, but suggest that they fight, and they run like rabbits.

Where we are holding large and successful meetings the local Press and platform are being used for the same purpose: to incite a crowd to silence us by any dirty method. There is, however, but one way to silence us. They may rush our meetings with the aid of hired hooligans, but our work among the workers will still go on. They may suppress our paper, but we shall still preach Socialism. When they show our facts to be fiction and our conclusions to be false, then and then only will our voice by still.

In the meantime they may deafen the workers with the ringing of bells and blind them with the wagging of flags, but time is with us, and sooner or later the still small voice of Truth will be heard amid the babel of tongues, and the inkslingers and their like, who stir up the ignorant to assist them in their dirty work, will meet their just deserts.

2 comments:

imposs1904 said...

I retained the original spelling of 'just deserts' from the editorial. It was just deserts before it became just desserts.

ajohnstone said...

A powerful condemnation of the war, indeed.