November 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard
It gives one quite a start when one is thinking of the Derby winner, or speculating on the prospect of a day or two next summer at the sea-side, whilst travelling home from work, to be asked for one’s ticket. What a blessing it would be, I sometimes think, to pay once and for all and have a ticket for a lifetime—just one punch and the trick is done—and then to keep it under a glass case as a proof to the coming race that we lived in ticket-of-leave times.
Tickets for trams, trains, ’busses; tickets for soup, coal, blankets; State Insurance tickets, Labour Exchange tickets. Trade Union tickets, pawn tickets; tickets to stand up in the theatre, tickets to sit down in the park. Tickets for the widow of Jack Thomas, who worked hard all his life, but died and left - what? Nothing of value in this private property system—just nine children!
What a life! At one tune our forebears wore the brass collar to let all and sundry know that they were the property of some overlord. Now we are ticketed and numbered and punched and shelved and stamped and cut and trimmed to a nicety. How old are you? Where were you born? What was your father? How many children have you? How long have you been out of work? Some working men think they are free. Probably they have the childish notion that it is a fine thing to carry tickets and to have people think they are somewhat above Blatchford's bottom dog.
But after all it must be a question of your servile position in society. Even the person who is lucky enough to be able to purchase a season ticket must feel a certain amount of pride in passing the ticket puncher with the noble utterance — "Season.” Now it must be that the more we are ticketed and labelled the more we are chained to the Juggernaut car of capitalism. How would you have it? You want a decent meal, a good suit of clothes, a pretty home for your wife and children. What prevents you having these things? This—you have not the right ticket. You have not the ticket that gives you the power to say to this man "go!” and to that man “come!” Your ticket is the ticket of the slave. And therefore, as might be expected, you work like a slave and live like one.
You have only been concerned up to now with sending the slave owners to Parliament— the place from which are sent all the things that hurt you, because those who control at the seat of government are the masters’ agents. Comical to relate, you got quite excited over placing your enemy where he could injure you without showing his hand. For every movement of troops, every movement of police, are controlled by the dominant class whose power was gained with your help.
But when you are forced to look idly on at blacklegs taxing your ticket of leave to work off the check board, that is the time you tell us you are fighting the masters. How you must hurt them! Perhaps it is you who drive them “out of town”—down to Ascot, to Henley, to the Alps and the Riviera, to Cairo and Khartoum. But when you understand that the Government is only an instrument for conserving the masters’ interests you will not have the cheek to say you are seriously fighting the masters while you elect them to Parliament, to control the political machine, to wield the forces that subdue you while they deliberately starve you and your wife and children. You would realise that you are only playing at war.
No, it is not fighting —it is just suicide. Life is too short to “wait and see.” Just fight them hardest when they coax you most, when they call you sons of the Empire, and so on. That is at election times. Have the right ticket for yourselves then, and back it with all the strength and intelligence at your command. You will be then be on the road to putting all the other tickets on the fire, and bidding adieu to many forms of vice and crime which go to the make-up of getting a living,