From the March 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard
Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, and so does humour. For instance: Magistrate (at Willesden, of course) :
"What is your occupation?"
This was selected by the newspapers as a police court joke. So it is, but there is more humour than meets the eye. Another magistrate: "What is your occupation?"
Prisoner (or should we say defendant here): "I am a gentleman.” No! there is no laughter here, not even a smile.
Here is a Labour Government in the seats of the mighty, pledged to abolish unemployment. They are not a sad-eyed, melancholy party. Jollity oozes from their joints and mirth gushes from their mouths. How they laughed when the Liberals said they would reduce unemployment to normal (whatever that is) in a twelvemonth. How the unemployed must laugh at this date, to think what the Labour' Party has done for them. Mr. Thomas has been to Canada and several dinners, Mr. MacDonald has been to America and several luncheons, Mr. Snowden has been to Paris and several tea-fights, and Mr. Henderson has been to the Hague. And they all wear optimistic tall hats.
After all, life is very jolly, isn't it? Look at jolly old George Lansbury. He is papering the parlour with photographs from the papers, showing him at school treats, and looking at sites for Lidos, and sites for tarpaulin doss-houses, and considering other solutions of the poverty problem- There is no need for gloom, or despondency. Sir Oliver Lodge is helping. He has withdrawn his gaze from the interstellar spaces, and comes down to earth with jovial George. We believe this is the first occasion when a learned man of stifling profundity has collaborated with a real, red, one hundred per cent., out-and-out, raging, tearing revolutionary.
Such a jolly idea, too. The proposal is that those of our fellows who cannot find a master, and in consequence have no home, shall be allowed to pass the hours of darkness in the public parks. The possibility of rain is provided for by the intervention of a tarpaulin sheet between the homeless and heaven. You see how practical they are. Something now, that is the idea. None of your waiting until everybody votes for socialism. Free dosshouses in our time or in our parks, everyone can appreciate that.
But really, if it wasn't for humour, where should we be? Someone suggested the other day that if we all wore our shirt tails six inches longer, we should abolish depressions in Lancashire. Of course, as usual, people thought it was a joke. You wait till George, the practical revolutionary, sees the idea. He and Sir Oliver ought to do something between them.
While we are on the subject of humour, it may be news to you that the recent great war was one long side-splitting joke. Books like "All Quiet on the Western Front," "Undertones of War," "Goodbye to all That," and so on, filled as they were with blood, brains and mangled bodies, lice, filth, disease, and death, were calculated to give the impression that modern war was no joke. That would never do. What about a crop of heroes for the next little quarrel? So out comes the Evening News with a daily page of Cockney stories of the war. One huge joke, from start to finish. The only wounded were those whose heads protruded above the trench through laughing so much. There may have been a bit of blood about in some parts of the battlefield, and one or two nasty accidents, but bless you, the Cockneys did not mind. They just laughed and carried on.
And that suggests an idea. Perhaps it will strike Mr. Lansbury too. Could not the new lotus-eaters of Lansbury Lidos (tarpaulin section) be supplied with a copy of the Evening News each evening? Before they closed their eyes in slumber they could read of the lovely times the "boys" had in France, and sigh for the next orgy of humorous slaughter. They could mitigate the rain blowing in at the sides by reading the reports of company meetings, and gathering that industry is not doing very badly after all. And possibly, they might discover a picture on the back page of Mr. Lansbury having a swing. It is a great world.
W. T. Hopley