The Here and There column from the February 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard
J. B. Firth, reviewing the sixth volume of Mr. Lloyd George's War memoirs in the Daily Telegraph (October 26th, 1936), quotes from Mr. Lloyd George as follows:—
In the grand army that fought the World War the ablest brains did not climb to the top of the stairs, and they did not reach a height where politicians could even see them. Seniority and society were the dominant factors in army promotion. Deportment counted a good deal. Brains came a bad fourth.
It is a fitting commentary on the traditional snobbery of our ruling class when engaged in a life and death struggle that promotion depended upon social standing and deportment (!) before brains.
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“If you should see a flock of pigeons in a field, and if (instead of each picking where and what it liked, taking as much as it wanted and no more) you should see 99 of them gathering all they got in one heap, reserving for themselves nothing but the chaff and refuse, keeping this heap for one, and that the weakest, perhaps the worst, pigeon of the flock, sitting round . . . and devouring and wasting it, and if one pigeon more hardy or hungry than the rest touched a grain of the hoard, all others instantly flying upon it and tearing it to pieces; if you should see this you would see nothing more than what is every day practised and established among men."—From Moral and Political Philosophy, by Archdeacon W. Paley.
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Misleading Housing Statistics
The Housing Act of 1935 lays it down that an excess of 2½ occupants per room to a house constitutes overcrowding—children counting as ½. The Manchester City Council (Manchester Guardian, December 9th) considered this standard too narrow, which is not surprising. They therefore adopted a standard of their own for statistical purposes (for argument’s sake, so to speak). The Manchester standard assumed a house to be overcrowded when it had more than 2½ persons to a bedroom. Even this standard, which allows for a living-room, does not err in being a too-palatial conception for working-class houses. Slight though the difference is in the basis of calculation in the Manchester standard and that of the Housing Act, it was found that under the Manchester standard overcrowding in Manchester was five times greater than under the Housing Act. Even under the Manchester standard nine persons, including three children, could occupy three small bedrooms, providing there was a kitchen or a scullery which could be described as a living-room, and still not be classed as overcrowded. The real housing conditions of the workers are obscured rather than brought out by the figures used as the standard by Government statistics.
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In an article on the depression in America, the Daily Telegraph (January 19th, 1937) New York correspondent estimates unemployment in America as being between 8,000,000 and 9,000,000. He also quotes a statement by a prominent Chicago administrator who believes that there will still be 7,000,000 unemployed in America if the peak production figures of 1929 are reached and a minimum of 4,000,000 unemployed even if the production figures of 1929 are “materially exceeded.” The unemployed are provided for by an inadequate relief system which leaves the unemployed and their many millions of dependants in a state of intense poverty and privation. Despite this, however, things are brightening for the American capitalists. Production is expanding, profits and Stock Exchange prices are rising. “Confidence” is being restored and money is being spent more freely.
And how ?
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The Amusements of the Ruling Class
The Daily Mirror (January 18th, 1937) shows us how by condescendingly giving us a peep at the refined pastimes of our superiors. It gives a report of a party given by Miss Elsa Maxwell “in honour" of Mrs. Laura Corrigan and Mrs. Randolph Hearst at a New York luxury hotel. There were present prominent members of English and American society. The hotel was transformed into a country farmyard: "Squealing pigs, mooing cows, chickens and a donkey wandered over the floor. There were goats, too—but before the party began they were sprayed with scent. A model cow that yielded champagne instead of milk and a well containing frothy beer were two more novelties.” Just another novelty was a large pair of lady's Victorian bloomers which hung across the ballroom. The animals were apparently scented to obliterate smells. The climax of the party was reached when the scented animals were released and chased the “horrified” (scented) ladies. It is just possible that the animals scented a natural and mental affinity.
Another report (Daily Express) tells us that Mrs. Peter Widener gave a party for her 17-year-old daughter. It occupied three floors and 1,500 rooms of a luxury hotel; cost £20,000 and £2,000 for music. The same newspaper announced another party to be given by Mrs. Evelyn Maclean, "owner of the famous Hope diamond." This, however, was to cost a mere £10,000 or thereabouts.
If evidence were needed that the capitalist class do not owe their privileged position to intellectual superiority, that idleness and wealth is often the breeding ground for debauchery, mental stagnation and crass stupidity, then the capitalist Press provides it.
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Magic Words by Roosevelt
I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meagre that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day.
We are beginning to abandon our tolerance of abuse of power by those who betray for profit the elementary decencies of life.
And here is one comment on that piece of eloquence by the Evening News (January 21st, 1937)
Probably no inaugural address by a President of the United States has made so great a sensation as that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In Wall Street, the nerve centre of a nation, traders bent over the tape machines scanning the speech as it appeared in instalments.
What was it that sent stocks sky-rocketing as the President’s words became known? Just this— that first impressions among the men of money in Broadway’s canyon were that the speech consisted solely of high-sounding and harmless generalities.
In other words, the market soared because Roosevelt said nothing.
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Hero Worship in Russia
The wives of Russian army officers attended a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, at which Stalin was presented with an address from them. It read : —
Dear and beloved Comrade Stalin, with immense excitement we have come to Moscow to gaze upon our well-beloved friend, teacher and leader. . . .
We come to you carrying in our hearts the fullest and warmest gratitude any human heart can contain, for your tender care of us, for the life which now so brightly blooms on Soviet soil. . . .
Wherever we may be—on the Pacific Ocean, in the frozen North, on the sands of Central Asia, on our Western frontier—everywhere we feel the majestic breath of your Government, the powerful rhythm and the never-equalled genius of your leadership.—(Daily Telegraph, December 22nd, 1936.)
The adoration in that address resembles a prayer to a deity. The imagination staggers at the thought of the extent to which the teachings of Marx have been emasculated by the Russians to permit of religious fervour of this kind side by side with the claim that they are Marxians.
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Workers’ Conditions in India
According to the Daily Telegraph (December 22nd, 1936), 208 workers were killed in a mining disaster at the Poidih Colliery, Bengal, on December 18th, 1936. Among the victims were 63 women. The disaster was reported without dramatic headlines, appeals for funds, or unctuous leading articles deploring the employment of women in mines. As it happened in India, the disaster aroused no exceptional interest. Industrial development in India is a century behind England. Its growth will result in the development of the working class and struggles for a better standard of living. Meanwhile, the conditions of the Indian workers are characteristic of those of the English workers in the days of early capitalism here: long hours, low wages, and the vicious exploitation of women and children. The Daily Telegraph gave a strong hint that the regulations governing the employment of women in the Indian mines had callously been ignored by the employers. One is reminded of the English capitalists of the early nineteenth century, who, under the pretence of apprenticeship, bought workhouse children for exploitation in the factories.
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The Daily Telegraph (January 6th) quotes from a report issued by the German Institute for Business Research, which gives the figures spent on armaments by the various capitalist countries to-day in comparison to 1914.
The figures are : —
1936 : £2,500,000,000 to £2,900,000,000.
Another comparison is given: In 1913 the outlay for armaments accounted for 4 per cent. of the world’s net industrial production. In 1936 the figure was at least 11 per cent.
The more armament production grows the louder is the protest that it is for the maintenance of “peace.” Whether war is averted or not, the constant increasing use of their surplus wealth in production of armaments, which bring no return, is likely to create more problems for the capitalist class in future.
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Purpose of Kingship
Writing in the Evening Standard (December 28th, 1936), Mr. Winston Churchill, commenting on the recent abdication, and Mr. Baldwin’s handling of it, says:—
It is now clearly his duty, whatever his inclination, to watch over the inauguration of the new reign and the Coronation of a King and Queen, upon whose success British hopes are centred, and British fortunes in no small measure depend. (Italics ours.)
There it is. British fortunes are the measure of the British capitalists’ interest in the Crown. “For King and Country” is obviously a much better slogan than “For Capitalists’ Markets and Profits,” when gullible wage-slaves need persuading to give their lives in their masters’ interests. So also do the capitalists use the Crown as a soporific in all parts of the earth where they require obedience and fear in their wage-slaves.
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Poverty and Profits
The following quotation is taken from The Times' Literary Supplement (November 28th, 1936), who quote it in reviewing “A Short History of the Future,” by J. Langdon Davies
Natural causes have again improved the wheat position, when schemes for the artificial raising of prices failed. In 1934 the drought in the United States assisted producers to obtain more remunerative prices, and in 1935 adverse weather conditions in Argentina resulted in a further improvement in the world wheat situation.
The statement originally appeared in The Times’ Annual Financial and Commercial Review for February 11th, 1936. The reviewer in the Supplement takes Mr. Davies to task for reproducing it several times in his book as an ironic comment upon capitalism. He himself sees no contradiction in the fact that scarcity is considered an “improvement” by capitalist economists—and that in a world where millions are in need.
It's a mad world.
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Fascist Bread and Circuses
There is food shortage in Germany. In order to discourage the German people from buying certain foods, shopkeepers have been ordered, under penalty, not to display cooking fats and other foods. According to The Times (December 22nd, 1936), “three million poor children were entertained by the National Socialists at Christmas parties throughout the Reich.” They were given presents (doubtless having propaganda value) and an address on the joys of Nazism by Dr. Goebbeb, who represented Hitler to be some kind of semi-divinity.
In Italy, developments follow similar lines. In order that the poor can attend the theatre and enjoy operas, plays and musical comedies, “Theatrical Saturdays” are to be inaugurated throughout Italy (Times, January 5th, 1937). The prices of admission will be from 1½d. to 6d. Ten per cent. of the total number of seats are to be distributed free by the relief committees to those who cannot afford even 1½d.
Just a few examples of Fascist window-dressing to offset the intense poverty of German and Italian workers.