Friday, January 29, 2016

Blatchford, Jingo & Patriot. (1909)

From the May 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard
Where He may lead I'll follow,
       My trust in Him repose,
And every hour in perfect peace
        I'll sing, He knows, He knows.
When Pope Blatchford issues his encyclical he obtains explicit obedience from his followers. No matter what fad Blatchford for the moment may patronise, he is humbly supported by Messrs. Suthers, Thompson, Dawson and Beswick. When father says turn they all turn. Blatchford is a great one. He is the Hero as prophet. Clarionettes claim that he has made more Socialists than any other living Socialist, that he has effectually smothered Christianity, and of course is the editor of a Socialist (!) weekly “possessing a larger circulation than any other Labour or Socialist newspaper." Blatchford preaches “Socialism" without having studied Marx and Engels; he teaches Determinism without having read Mill and Bain; he initiates a campaign against Germany with remarkably finite assets in the way of facts. “Since God is responsible for man's existence he is responsible for all his acts.” (Bottom Dog.) Poor God! To be held answerable for R. B.’s mental twists! Socialism learnt from Thoreau, Dickens and Emerson! Tactics learnt at the feet of Hyndman and Grayson! But our business in this article is to examine briefly Blatchford’s latest—the supposed coming German invasion.

He claims that over four years ago he drew attention to the "German Peril" and our unsatisfactory defences on the East Coast. And Hyndman, Quelch and other S.D.Peers have ever since been asserting it with a great weariness of repetition. Let us examine the quality of Blatchford’s "evidence." On one occasion after a sinister reference to miles of quays and wonderful harbours capable of holding 200 torpedo boats, he made the reader's hair stand on end by a yarn that 200,000 soldiers had practised embarking at Emden. Obviously the preliminary steps of a mighty invasion: history was to repeat itself with a great German Armada. But the Liberal Manchester Guardian took upon itself the task of abolishing this legend. It traced the story back beautifully to its source—the National Review and Toby of Punch. What had actually occurred was a single regiment practising embarkation. Four days Jater Blatchford humbly apologised, admitted that he had been duped, “had felt at the time all the difficulties," but “had confidence in his informant," and so on ad nauseam.

But what an experience for a Socialist! To see a Liberal organ with dearly a larger knowledge of the subject calmly, and with much real dignity, rebuking a popular “Socialist leader” for his commonplace jingoism. I say jingoism. Take this as typical: “In the old days, when war threatened our fathers, it was the custom to light beacon fires upon the hills. I light my fire to-day, and it shall not go out if I can keep it burning." When Blatchford, the creator of that outburst, was at Burnley a few months ago, he was raucously cheered for five minutes by six thousand Social Democrats, I.L. Peers., and the like. And this man is referred to as the actual potentate of Socialism in this England of ours. Last week's circulation—81,000. Eighty~one thousand what? Jingoes, sentimentalists, altruists, cyclists.

Blatchford speaks of “ this hour of national peril" Mark, national peril, not class peril. Anyone who was the proprietor of a universal store in Liverpool, and there was a danger of the precious pile being shelled by the German fleet, could rationally be rhetorical about national peril and beacon fires. But from the worker's point of view the capitalists who exploit “this little isle in the silver sea" are of the same calibre as the capitalists who extract surplus-value in the Fatherland. Hasn't Hyndman always been a defender of German working-class conditions against the charges of the Liberal Free Traders? The British Board of Trade, after an elaborate investigation into the condition of the German working class, concluded that it was equal to three-fourths of the English standard. And if the Germans had made an examination into English working-class conditions it is probable that they would have issued a like bulky report with the opposite as a conclusion. Why, then, this Clarion hysteria ? Surely we have evolved past the stage where it is believed that Kaiser William or Edward Rex govern their respective domains? They occupy the position so long as their respective ideas are in harmony with capitalist interests.

Then let Blatchford spout and rave and declaim. Let us not be gulled with passionate sentiment about national sentiment and defensive wars. Hervé has well shown that where capitalist interest are concerned it is impossible for the workers to know which country is the aggressor in case of war. Germany as a rapacious nation may be all that Blatchford makes her out to be. So the British lion is rapacious, the American eagle, the Russian bear, and all the other atavistic symbols of birds and beasts of prey. The attitude of the worker should be one of deliberate detachment from all national perils and quarrels. The ties and attachments we will defend are those created for us by economic development and the class struggle, namely: unity and solidarity among the oppressed toilers of all lands. The Hyndmans and Blatchfords must not be allowed to lead us into the arms of the workers’ common enemy, the international capitalist class. Divide and rule has ever been the oppressor's motto, and when the S.D.P. and Clarion crowd seek to set British and German workers against each other they play the oppressors’ game, and thereby become our enemies, for they are misleaders of the working class.
John A. Dawson


1 comment:

imposs1904 said...

FYI, Hervé is quoted of approvingly in this 1909 article, but he became a French version of Blatchford a few years after.