Friday, September 13, 2019

Truth or Libel? (1913)

From the January 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

On a previous occasion the men on the North Eastern Railway kicked over the traces. They were induced to return to work on the masters’ terms against their own wishes, through the negotiations of their leaders. They protested they had been sold. We said in the columns of the Socialist Standard that they had been sold, and were sued for libel in consequence.

On this occasion the men of the N.E.R. are induced to return to work after being fined for the days off they have had without leave. This time the “Daily Herald” says they have been sold, and adds “as usual.” Will there be another libel action, or is the “Daily Herald” not taken as seriously as the Socialist Standard?

The Latest Railway Treachery. (1913)

From the January 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

After repeated unsuccessful efforts to gain redress for some of their grievances, the Railwaymen, sick of the fraudulent Conciliation Boards, have, as a gage of defiance to the unholy crew who boss the N. Eastern system, once more resorted to the weapon of the strike.

The ostensible cause of the trouble was the insolent attempt of the masters to victimise a man against whom they had a grudge, but the real cause was a bitter resentment against the sinister attempt of the capitalists to regulate the leisure, as well as the working hours, of their men.

As is always the case when the working man chafes against the chains of his slavery, the paid liars of the Liberal and Tory Press have indulged in an orgy of insinuation and vituperation. The "Standard," shrieking in simulated indignation, declared it “a strike for the right to get drunk”; the "Pall Mall Gazette," anxious to contribute its quota of dirt, purloined the war whoop of the "Standard” ; the “Daily Mirror’’ mirrored its own dirty soul in a filthy cartoon; the "Daily Mail," aping the characteristics of its lord and master, asked in a tone of unctuous hypocrisy, "Do the trade unions of this country stand up for the right to get drunk ? "

The Liberal Press, not to be outdone in the use of the muck-rake, rose equally to the occasion, asserting that the strikers were “practically fighting for the right of the railway workers to endanger the safety of the public," and so on.

In every case the suggestion was that the men were blatantly in the wrong; that they knew they were wrong, and were simply trying to bluff through it; that an irresponsible mob were determined to upset everything until the right to get drunk was conceded; and that they had chosen one of the busiest times of the year to irritate and annoy a long-suffering public as much as possible.

We are not concerned here as to whether a man may get drunk or not. What we are concerned with is, first the sham pretence of safe-guarding the interests of the public offered by the railway company, as an excuse for their summary action in regard to Knox, and secondly the lesson to be learned from this latest manifestation of industrial unrest.

We are always told, on the occasion of a big strike, that the "public" must be considered. In the railway strike of ’11, in the Transport Workers’ strikes and during the Miners' strike, the capitalist Press at once struck this note, and used it to smash the men. It is always the "public" that have to be considered, and never the men on strike; and if one thinks for a moment one will find it a pretence reeking with hypocrisy. and deadly dangerous to the working class.

Why should we consider the “public" ? When have they ever considered us? When we were bullied and browbeaten, when we toiled in dangerous occupations, suffering daily loss of life and limb, when we sold the last stick and our little ones cried to us for bread, did the "public" help us? Did they think of us? Did they try ever so little to visualise for themselves our daily lives, or weigh in impartial scales our statements and our demands? Did they not, on the contrary, prejudge us from the statements of our enemies, and lose no opportunity to sneer at our attempts to improve our position? Why, then, should we consider the public about which the unclean Press is so deeply concerned, and which is in reality the master class itself, with its myriad soulless, toadying legal, political, and clerical hacks.

The real public, the 15 millions of workers, are never considered at all. If it is true that the railway magnates are so deeply concerned with safeguarding the interest of the real (as distinct from the newspaper) public, why don't they make a start with their own employees? One can see how little the railway capitalists are concerned to safeguard the interest of that large section of the real public it has under its immediate control, when one considers the number of preventable "accidents" which occur amongst railway employees. These have averaged nearly 500 (fatal) per annum during the last ten years, while the number of non-fatal "accidents" increased from 13,642 in 1902 to 27,848 in 1911.

It is common knowledge that this increase is due to the worsening of the conditions under which this dangerous occupation is carried on, and the murderous method of coupling and uncoupling. For over twenty years the railway companies have had at their disposal an automatic coupling which would reduce almost to zero the accidents under this heading, but they prefer to murder men wholesale rather than minimise their blood-stained profits.

Again, the net profits of the railway companies during 1910 were £47,356,000, and in 1911 they increased by another 1½ millions. During the time the wages paid by the fifteen principle companies to all their employees was £23,425,000 annually, so that while they publish figures showing that they can only pay a dividend of some 3½ per cent. (omitting the fact that this is on inflated capital), yet the actual rate at which the workers are robbed in this industry is 200 per cent. And yet when the men kick against the pricks the liars of modern journalism denounce them and use every weapon they can invent for the purpose of injuring their cause.

Another aspect of this matter is that, in spite of the spirit of comradeship and determination, the men have lost. They lost because. not having gained the knowledge they should have gained from the experiences of 1907 and 1911, they allowed the bosses of Unity House, the "leaders" who always lead to disaster, to take the conduct of affairs out of their heads. These “leaders,” annoyed that their requests had not been complied with, declared to the capitalist Press that the strike was "unauthorised and unrecognised," and while giving this information to the men's enemies (who naturally at once used it) they and their local understudies met in solemn conclave, and refused to give the men any information until the "settlement" was reached, when once again it was found that the men had been handed over to the masters bound and helpless.

True there was a Pyrrhic victory over the reinstatement of Knot, but that the men were thus justified in their action only completed the victory of the masters.

Let us look at the strange document the men's "leaders" have bound them to observe.

Clause 3 binds the men "to work amicably with and not molest non-strikers." Here you have officials paid to defend the principles of Trade Unionism, deliberately betraying them by insisting upon amicable working relations with the very men who render futile the efforts of other men to improve their position.

Clause 4 is even more dastardly. In this the "leaders" have deliberately agreed, without the slightest reference to the men themselves, to allow the company to penalise the men a week's pay for defending a cause that was admittedly just. Moreover, not content with this, they actually proceed to insult the men, telling then that they should not strike without giving legal notice to the company, refusing strike pay for the period of the struggle, and giving their personal undertaking that they will use their influence to prevent the men from striking. In a word, they agreed to every insult formulated by the masters, mindful of nothing else than humbling those who had dared to strike without their permission. If this is not one of the foulest betrayals in the history of Trade Unionism, then words have no meaning.

And this is the thing called a "settlement." No wonder the General Secretary of the A.S.R.S. expressed himself "greatly satisfied"! No wonder the men declared they were "sold again"!

How long are the men going to stand it? Are they going to take this kind of thing lying down? We hope and believe not. But while this is our hope, while we welcome every manifestation of antagonism by the workers against those who exploit them, yet we would ask them to remember that decisive victory does not lie in the direction of strikes, whether sectional, spasmodic, or general—the masters are for too powerful for that. For the forces placed in their hands by industrial development, the terrible army of the unemployed, the power of a menial Press, and the whole might of the armed State, always at their disposal if required, places strict limits upon the success of the strike. The weapon of the strike may gain a concession here and there, but not only is the advantage soon counteracted by the operation of economic development, but the strike itself never seriously jeopardises for one moment the system of exploitation, tyranny, slavery, and oppression pressing so heavily on the world’s workers to-day.

What, therefore, the railwaymen and all other workers must do if they hope for freedom, is to understand their position, to obtain a clear knowledge of the forces that keep them in slavery. When they understand this, when to this knowledge there is allied the determination to wrest from the hands of the masters the power which alone enables them to rule and mould men's lives to their own unholy purpose—the political power—then will the necessity for the strike cease, for the cause will have vanished.

And that cause, against which the workers must show a united purpose and a pitiless determination, is the domination of one class, an idle, useless, and vicious class, and the consequent degradation, poverty, and servitude of the useful workers.
Frank Vickers

1913. January the First. (1913)

From the January 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

Once again we reach the First of January. Once again we are deluged with the hypocritical cant and humbug of the phrase "Peace and Goodwill." As in the past, our ears are greeted with “A Happy and Prosperous New Year.” The whole world, from duke to dustman, mouths the meaningless nothing.

What are the prospects of a happy New Year for the working class? What room is there in capitalism for peace and goodwill, when the very prosperity of the one depends upon the ruin of some other? Happiness cannot come with hunger, and many must be without food. And why are not you one of these ? It is simply because circumstances have decreed that some other shall be idle instead of you.

The best that can happen for the underpaid clerk—his one hope of prosperity—is the death or discharge of his fellow employee who receives the higher salary he aspires to. The best that can befall the struggling tradesman is the failure of the man across the road who halves his trade and cuts his prices. During the season’s “boom” the factory has been working full time, and producing a vast store of goods, much of which will not be disposed of. After the "boom” someone must go, and each looks at the other with the good wishes on his lips, hoping against hope that it is the other man who will be discharged.

And we wish each other a prosperous New Year! What cant!

What have the workers to look forward to in 1913? Great increases in wealth production, doubtless, and the consequent unemployment that "over production” brings in its train. “Trade has been phenomenally good” our masters’ journals tell us. But how stand the producers of the wealth?

The Thames Iron Works closes its gates on the eve of Christmas, and thousands of families that arey always "on the verge” are pushed into desperate poverty. With all our growing prosperity and our "strength as a nation,” the workers —those who produce all things and who make the strength of the nation—are incapable of withstanding the smallest disturbance. The "resources of the nation’’ are practically without limit, but the resources of the toilers—"the backbone of the nation” as the political aspirant loves to call them, are nil.

"In the social world,” says one restless editor of the capitalist brand, "there is a growing consciousness of the duty of society to provide for those members of the community who, for some reason or another, have found it impossible to win a secure means of livelihood for themselves and their families.” It may be perfectly correct that the “social world” is growing conscious of its "duty,” but then what constitutes this "social world,” and what is its duty?

The "social world” of the writer whom I have quoted is the capitalist class, and the society to whom they owe any duty is—themselves. Society, in their conception, is the taxpayer and the business man, who are as distinct from the worker of England as is the "heathen Chinese.” The "social world” does not understand the proletariat, and cannot legislate in its interest, neither does it desire to do so. What is happening is simply that our "social world” is realising that there is an unmistakable stirring within the mass that the "social world” lives upon ; that the “mob," hitherto so easily suppressed, is striving to find a way out of its horrible conditions of existence. Toe "populace” is calling for light in its abysmal darkness; and our "social world” is not desirous of helping it to see, is not in the least in sympathy with its demand for illumination. Our "social world” is uneasy and afraid—afraid of something incomprehensible, and afraid largely because, not understanding that which they fear, they do not know what to do.

Their pastors and ministers and others who batten upon their fears, are holding aloft the the misery of the mass, telling of the desperation of the starving multitude, in order to wring from them donations for the soup kitchen, the missions, and the Church. It is upon these and similar institutions that the parsons and their pals get their fat and easy living. Pro Salvationist and anti-Socialist turn out their begging letters by the million, using the "coming revolt” as a bogey wherewith to frighten the “prosperous citizen.”

These donations are regarded by the panniky bourgeoisie as being in the nature of “good investments.” It is the modern obedience to the ancient injunction to "cast thy bread upon the waters.” For the well to do are told by the bishops and the smaller fry of the Church, what is the undoubted truth, viz., that “the East End would not take things so quietly were it not for religion,” and that these institutions are a “strong 'barrier” against the "Godless Socialism” they so much dread.

The lot of the artisan and the labourer is no better to-day than it was ten or twenty years ago. In the words of Mr. Bonar Law: “In spite of a vast increase in the wealth of the world and of the United Kingdom, the condition of the workmen in this country has not improved. It has grown worse.” (Glasgow, 22.5.12.)

From all sides we get the admission, not only that “wages have not increased at all between 1900-1910, but that, indeed, they have suffered a depression in the interval.” (“Daily News.”) The “Daily News,” which represents the view of the party in power, tells us in a leading article (17.9.12) that, despite the glories of Free Trade, they are forced to “arrive at the disquieting fact that the net result to labour of an industrial prosperity which is unexampled is that the working-classes are substantially worse off than they were in 1900.”

This significant conclusion arrived at by such defenders of capitalism as Mr. Bonar Law, Mr. Lloyd George, the “Daily News,” and other prominent people and leading papers too numerous to mention, does not take into consideration an all-important condition that must be taken into account. That is that during the period mentioned, those who have been engaged in actual production have had their labour vastly intensified. Year by year new machinery has been introduced to compete with and speed up the labourer. Year by year new methods are taken up with the object of eliminating those rapidly diminishing moments of rest which the workers are able to snatch from their toil. Day by day the machine is driven faster, and the result has been that a gigantic amount of energy is sucked out of the worker in a shorter working day.

Even such a defender of "reformed" capitalism as Mr. Thomas of the railway servants, is compelled to admit that "more passengers and goods traffic could now be handled in eight hours than formerly could be handled in ten."

To keep up this mad and increasing pace a greater amount of food and leisure is rendered necessary in order that the worker may be able to maintain himself in the required state of physical and mental efficiency. Some recreation is necessary in order that he may keep sane. The worker is to-day being burned out faster and more ruthlessly than ever he was. The pitiless, insatiable maw of the capitalist Moloch is ever grasping for more profits, and the blood of the toiler, it is very certain, will be even more greedily sucked in this new year now opening than it has been in the past.

And even though those benighted wights, the Labour reformers, with their multitudinous drops and pills and ointments, were both in power and in earnest the evil could neither be reformed out of existence nor held in the leash. It grows too fast for the first; it springs too irresistibly from the foundations of the prevailing system and method of wealth production for the second.

Is there, then, no hope? Can nothing be done to stem the tide of wasted life and labour? Is there no way of escape for the struggling wage slave, befogged and befooled by notions of trade and tariff? Stern necessity compels the answer—NONE. The very first step most be to clear the worker’s mind of the cobwebs— of every befogging capitalist notion.

“You cannot redeem those below except by the sacrifice of those above.” Thus spake Mr. Lloyd George not a great while ago. The words are true—let us adopt them, for in them lies the workers only hope.

SACRIFICE THOSE ABOVE. Pull them down. Overthrow their stronghold and trample on their privileges. Turn out the capitalist liar and fool, knave and bully. As a capitalist he must go. While he is above he will feed on those below, and. fellow workers, WE ARE “THOSE BELOW.”

The only hope for the wage slave is to abolish the wage slavery, root, branch and twig, and to take control of the things that are necessary for the lives, comfort, well-being, and happiness of those we hold dear. So lend a willing hand, fellow wage-slave, to this imperative task, in the year 1913. Learn to give intelligent utterance to the “unlearned discontent” that is within you, for only those who KNOW can ever hope to remove the barrier which alone bars our progress toward freedom, a full life, and happiness.

The determination to acquire the knowledge essential to this undertaking, to befit oneself to be an instrument for good in the great struggle for human emancipation, to make oneself an efficient and capable judge in the day when the whole future of humanity shall depend upon the wisdom of the working class, is the best of all possible New Year resolutions for working folk.
T. W. Lobb