Friday, February 24, 2017

By The Way (1918)

The By The Way column from the November 1918 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Lloyd. George in his Manchester speech once again crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s of the Socialist propagandist. It was in dealing with the lessons of the war that the Prime Minister told his hearers that “the State must take a more constant and more intelligent interest in the health and fitness of the people.” Why this interest was to be manifested was in order to maintain the Empire, and because the war and the need for fighters had shown what a pitiable caricature capitalist society had reduced its wage slaves to. The speaker went on to say— '
I asked the Minister of National Service how many more men could we have put into the fighting ranks if the health of this country had been properly looked after. I staggered at the reply. It was a considered reply. It was, “At least one million.” . . .  Here we are combing out the essential industries . . . and yet you had a million men who, if the State had taken proper care of the fitness of the people, would have been available for the war. . . . I solemnly warn my fellow-countrymen that you cannot maintain an A1 Empire with a C3 population. Unless this lesson is learned war is vain.—“Daily News,” Sept. 13th, 1918.
Now, I submit that this is a pretty strong indictment of capitalism. Strange, is it not, that it should require a world war to bring home to our rulers the truth of our contention of the indifference, even to the point of callousness, in the treatment meted out to the workers in the piping times of peace by the master class? Mate, it’s up to you! Is capitalism worth fighting for? Think it over!

* * *

Next our glib-tongued orator turned his attention to unpacking a box of red herrings, termed in these days reconstruction. The question of housing reform was an essential feature in improving the health of the people; healthier conditions of workshops, and wages which will sustain life in full vigour; more attention to be paid to the schools, encouragement of production and national assistance: all these things are offered as tempting baits to the unwary to lure them into further support of capitalist apologists. Coming to close grips with this specious thing, he adds—
  Let us have it when the nation is riding the chariot of a high purpose ere it comes down to the dusty road. That is the time to reconstruct, that is the time to build —when there is the spirit of fraternity throughout the land, when there is no longer rich and poor, one party or other, but one people, one spirit, one purpose, one soul—to lift our native land, not merely above the menace of a foreign foe, but above the wretchedness, the squalor, the horror, the misery which so many men and women and children who live on the hearthstones of this old land have been enduring. I have been amongst the people and I know it, and I want to see this thing righted after the war.
All these things are offered to the credulous if they will but bow down and worship him. But let us pause for a moment and ask if he will really “deliver the goods.” What of the promises made years ago? What of the land campaign, the 1909 budget, the easier and pleasanter road, the road through fields of waving corn, and the benefits to be conferred on long-suffering humanity by the insurance act. Long years of office and a total inability to deliver the goods in the past emboldens me to say that these fine words are but empty vapourings.

* * *

In these days when shortage of shipping is a continual cry, the following announcement is illuminating,—from South Africa this time—
  A boat arrived here the other day with motors and racehorses for Solly Joel, but no mails or anything of any use to the general community. No ships can be found for wheat, wool, hides, and a thousand and one things that are wanted at home in England, but a ship can be easily spared for Solly Joel's racehorses, motors, etc.—“Daily News,” Aug. 28th, 1918.
Cheerful news this for those who “spot” winners and “back” horses. But what matters it for those who lack the necessaries of life so long as we maintain this glorious form of sport ?

* * *

More business ability! Recently Mr. J. M. Hogge, M.P., was speaking at Liverpool, where he read the following letter received by a discharged soldier—
   The Minister of Pensions has decided to continue your pension at the rate of 22s. 9d. a week from July 31,1918, till January 31,1919, then at the rate of 19s 6d. for life, at the expiration of which you will again be medically examined with a view to consideration of your claim for further pension.
Funny, isn’t it? Evidently the age of miracles is not yet passed.

* * *

Whilst so many people are busily employed with the mote in the German’s eye regardless of the beam in their own it is interesting to read President Wilson’s Proclamation condemning manifestations of the mob spirit. I read:
  There have been many lynchings, and every one of them has been a blow at the heart of ordered law and humane justice.
  No man who loves America, no man who really cares for her fame and honour and character, or who is truly loyal to her institutions, can justify mob action while the courts of justice are open and the Governments of the States and nations are ready to do their duty.
  We are at this very moment fighting lawless passion. Germany has outlawed herself among the nations because she has disregarded the sacred obligations of law and has made lynchers of her armies. Lynchers emulate her disgraceful example.
   I say plainly that every American who takes part in the action of a mob, or who gives it any sort of countenance, is no son of this great democracy, but its betrayer. “Star,” Sept. 3rd, 1918.
In this “land of the free” we are also acquainted with the mob spirit. One has only to call to mind recent happenings at Plumstead Common and Abbey Wood. And we have no recollection of seeing any condemnation of such tactics by those who are alleged to be the custodians of the rights of small nations.
The Scout.

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