From the April 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard
Few journalists of the capitalist Press have exhibited such insight into the character of contemporary politicians as Mr. W. Purvis. This gentleman, in an article (“The Man Who Saved France”) setting forth the merits of the late Adolphe Thiers—one time President of France —gives vent to the following gem of political wisdom:
There was something of Mr. Lloyd George and a great deal of our English Premier in Adolphe Thiers. In his unconscious and amusing egotism he reminds one often of our Minister of Munitions; and he does so, too, in the case with which he could turn on the tap of poetic and patriotic eloquence, as well as in certain flashes of poetical inspiration.“Sunday Chronicle,” 16.1.16.
How far this comparison is true may be gathered from the following extracts from the character sketch of M. Thiers given in Marx’s “Civil War in France” :
Thiers, that monstrous gnome, has charmed the French bourgeoisie, . . . because he is the most consummate intellectual expression of their own class corruption. . . . The massacre of the Republicans in the rue-Traumonain, and the subsequent infamous laws of September against the Press and the right of association were his work.
This is particularly appropriate in view of the Featherstone massacre, and the fact that Asquith is the head of, and Lloyd George a member of, the government which has suppressed more journals in the interests of capital than any other of recent years. “Thiers was consistent only in his greed for wealth and his hatred of the men that produce it. Having entered his first ministry under Louis Phillips poor as Job, he left it a millionaire.” Lloyd George started with nothing; he now gets £5,000 a year and still is in his own opinion “a comparatively poor man.” (Marconi affair.) He is getting on.
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We are sorry to hear that the original inventor of Kinematography, Mr. Friese-Greene, is to-day living in absolute want. “John Bull,” Jan. 22, 1916.
The same old story of the inventor under capitalism. He wears his brain away and rots in poverty while the capitalists, having cheated and robbed him, realise the full fruits of his invention. How many fortunes are to-day being built up through the medium of the Kinema industry? Yet Friese-Greene has to be dependent upon charity—the statement above quoted being followed by an appeal for his support, addressed with unconscious irony to those “who are to-day benefiting so largely in connection with the moving picture industry.”
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The manner in which the “standard of living” of the workers is “rising” is illustrated by this cutting from the “Daily Dispatch" of 4th Feb., 1916. “Those who find beef or mutton beyond their means will be at least interested to learn that horseflesh may now be bought at properly-equipped butchers’ shops.” This, mind you, from a paper that is continually informing us of the extravagance of the working “classes” in this time of high wages, war bonuses, etc., etc., of which an example is seen in the next column of the same paper of the same date:
A woman who was stated to earn 13s. 1d. for a week's work of 61 hours at Salford applied in vain at the Manchester Munitions Tribunal yesterday to be allowed to go to another firm. . . . The firm’s representative, in answer to a question by Mr. P. W. Atkin (the Salford stipendiary) regarding the girl’s total wages, said she worked a normal week 50½ hours and 8¾ hours overtime, making a total, including the extra payment for overtime, of 61 hours. Her total wages with the war-bonus were 13s. 1d., which the firm considered was fair remuneration having regard to her age and experience. . . The Chairman, whilst remarking that the firm might consider giving the worker more wages, declined to grant the certificate.
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The tendency to supervise more strictly that which the worker sees, hears, and reads, and only to allow that which is considered, “good for him,” is increasing. The Altrincham licensing magistrates have decided that “in future all licences would be endorsed to the effect that anything to 'educate the young in a wrong direction,’ or anything which is likely to produce tumult or a breach of peace,’ should not be shown.’ Daily Dispatch,” Feb. 4, 1919.
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At a moment of unexampled anxiety the Treasury are faced with the virtual bankruptcy of the National Insurance Scheme. The Government are heavily in debt to the panel chemists, while the remuneration of the doctors — generous enough at the outset—has, upon one pretext and another, been reduced almost to the level of the old Friendly Society terms. Meanwhile, instructions have been issued that only cheap medicines, and not too much of these, shall be prescribed.“John Bull,” 12.2.16.
The doctors are kicking, the chemists are kicking, but the workers, the dupes of the scheme, where are they? They go blandly along — “forepence a week he gives, forepence a week,” but not for ninepence.
R. W. Housley