Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Socialist Survey (1914)

From the August 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard

We were taught at school that England is a free country. On reaching maturer years, however, we discover this to be a distortion of the truth. It all depends upon a person’s economic status, if he is rich he is free — comparatively. He is free to sweat and grind his poorer “brethren,” to maim and murder them in mines and pits, to butcher them in shunting yards, to drown them in over-burdened ships, to torture and burn them in rubber forests, to run them down and leave them mangled on the highways, and to starve and outrage and seduce them at will, within very wide limits and at a very low price. If he is poor, however, he possesses no freedom in any sense of the word. He is not free to work; he is not free to starve; he is not free to beg; he is not free to steal. He is even “pinched” if he tries to get off the earth.

I am reminded of this by the case of a man named Carter, aged 53 (far too old to work according to capitalist employers, and far too young for an old age pension according to those employers’ politicians), who was charged at the Salford Quarter Sessions with “wandering abroad to beg alms.” This, of course, was a heinous offence, and he was asked to retire under the care of His Majesty for a period of twelve months!

* * *

All that is necessary to ensure the success of any scheme of a “charitable” nature is to back it up with the name of some big figurehead of society, royal or otherwise. One of the latest schemes for parting fools from their money is that known an Alexandra Day. Hardly had the wage-slaves clutched the miserable pittance known as “wages,” when they were asked to “spare just a copper” for the odiferous cause of charity. And the way in which thousands of poor fools tumbled over each other in their eagerness to respond would be amusing were it not so tragic. It is estimated that in Manchester alone the receipts from the sale of roses totalled nearly £4,000. What a lot of plasters this sum will buy for the covering up of capitalist sores!

* * *

It is the fashion now a-days when performing some public function or other, for our noble masters to make some reference to the social conditions of to-day. They pretend a knowledge even when they don’t possess it. A few carefully chosen, high sounding words usually serve the purpose that of impressing their hearers (especially the Press) with the profundity of their “knowledge ”

Earl Grey, in laying the foundation stone of a new institute at Liverpool recently, must have taxed his cerebral tissue to its utmost capacity in order to treat the gathering to the following: “Those who believed that the ownership of property was a trust whose administration was of vital importance to the prosperity and progress of the country, were under a special obligation to take a share in the task of finding solutions for the social and economic problems which confront us.”

Sounds all right when you say it quickly, doesn’t it ? All the same, I don’t see that it matters whether they do or not. The task of finding a solution is not so difficult as the noble windbag seems to think. As a matter of fact, the solution is already found, without the help of Earl Grey or the property owners. The “social and economic problems” are problems no longer as Earl Grey and bis class will discover before very long. Has he never heard of Socialism ?

* * *

Speaking in his constituency a few days ago, Mr. J. R. Clynes referred to the “enormous taxation” borne by the workers. “Session after session,” be avowed, “the Labour Party have put forward in connection with the Finance Bill, proposals to wipe out the whole of the duties resting upon common foodstuffs such as tea, sugar, and currants, and which amount to about ten millions sterling, mainly coming from the pockets of the working class.”

No wonder the capitalists support the Labour Party if this is what they stand for. Abolish the food taxes and you render a great service to those largest of wage-payers—the manufacturers and distributors-since it would enable them to reduce wages.

Mr. Clynes’ point of view is wrong, of course. If it were true that the workers paid taxes, then they would be ten millions in pocket from the abolition of food taxes alone. Is Mr. CIynes prepared to make this claim ?

* * *

Mr. Will Thorne has got the same complaint. Speaking in the Newton Division (Lancs.) he stated that the Labour Party had never moved from their determination of putting the burden of taxation on the rich. They had declared for the abolition of all food taxes, and they intended to keep “banging away” until they bad got them removed.

It is hard to believe that these people do not know that it is the rich who pay the taxes and not the poor. In any case they are people who ought to know better. While such are allowed to stand in the limelight, so long will the workers be dazzled by the rays which emanate from these “lights,” and which, after all, are only the reflections of capitalist economics. Hence the confusion.

* * *

Mr. Emil Davies, the Nationalisation expert,’’ has been propounding for the benefit of the “Daily Citizen” readers, a scheme whereby will be secured what be calls “a just wage” for the worker. As usual, it is a State project, based upon ethical lines.

Mr. Davies believes that “municipalities or State departments are, in a large measure, released from the necessity of making big continuous profits, and are freer to consider the interests of those who are working under it."

A scheme based upon such a belief as this would have just about the solidity the “Daily Citizen" and its dupes look for. But enquiry of the Leeds and other corporation employees might disturb the equanimity of those who hold that municipalities are “freer to consider the interests” of these who work under them.

* * *

A writer in the “Daily Chronicle” (29/7/14) outlining the probable results of the threatened war says: “perhaps the working classes, hitherto so loyal and patriotic, will turn savagely against the powers that be. Let us all, whatever our party, stand together and do what we can to avert this coming disaster."
Tom Sala

1 comment:

imposs1904 said...

At the time of writing Sala was an SPGB member active in the Greater Manchester area. (Stockport). Hence the North West references in the article.