Thursday, July 7, 2016

“WHAT WOULD WE DO WITHOUT LEADERS?” (1929)

From the January 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

On October. 22nd, 1928, Mr. Andrew Fisher died; peacefully, and "full of years and honour." Three months later occurred the death of "Jerry," an old ram well known in one of the great American stock-yards. Mr. Andrew Fisher, affectionately known as "Andy," and the old ram were both "leaders." Mr. Andrew Fisher was a "Labour” leader, "Labour” Prime Minister of Australia in 1914. He achieved fame by coining a phrase which was well known, if not exactly cheering, to the troops during the Great War. This was his pledge, on behalf of Australia and the Australian workers, to fight to "the last man and the last shilling.” Some 200,000 Australian Trade Unionists enlisted, and many thousands were killed, wounded or missing in keeping Mr. Fisher’s pledge. Mr. Fisher was not one of these. He preferred pursuits less strenuous and dangerous than war. We are told by a writer in the "Manchester Guardian" (October 23rd) that "the only relaxation he allowed himself was an occasional game of golf." The German humorist who said that the pledge meant England’s determination to fight to the last Scotchman, evidently did not know that Mr. Andrew Fisher was a Scot.

"Jerry" was a leader of sheep. He used to lead them to the slaughter-house, just like "Andy,” but he was one up on his Labour colleague. Whereas "Andy" at most only sent 200,000 Trade Unionists into the Army, "Jerry” scored some 7 million among his kind of sheep. And while some of Andy’s victims came back, more or less whole, none of Jerry’s sheep ever escaped to tell the tale. On the other hand it has to be admitted that Jerry only succeeded in getting his sheep to commit suicide. Even Jerry might have failed to get them to murder each other, as did the world’s workers in their masters' war.

Jerry and Andy were both highly esteemed by the Capitalist class. Jerry was valued and popular in the stock-yards, and Andy was offered (but refused) a knighthood.

Jerry and Andy both died peaceably in their beds.

Mr. Siegfried Sassoon, in a poem called "Base Details,” has portrayed the type of non-combatant military "leader” :—
If I were fierce, and bald and short of breath,
   I'd, live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death,
   You’d see me with my puffy petulant face,
Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
   Reading the Roll of Honour. “Poor Young Chap,”
I’d say—"I used to know his father well;
   Yes, we’ve lost heavily in this last scrap.”
And when the war is done and youth stone dead.
   I’d toddle safely home and die—in bed.
And any workers who "don’t know what they would do without leaders ” and are wondering how the Capitalist class will get their "cannon fodder” for the next great slaughter, will be relieved to learn that Australia soon found a suitable successor to Mr. Fisher. Less than two weeks after Andy’s death, Mr. Theodore, director of the Australian Labour Party’s campaign in the elections, referred to the action of his party in supporting the last war, and added:—"No one can impeach the Labour Party on its loyalty to Australia, Great Britain or the Crown. Whenever the test has been applied. Labour has never flinched from doing its duty.” ("Manchester Guardian,” November 18th, 1928.)

What would the Capitalist class do without "Labour” leaders?
Edgar Hardcastle

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