The By The Way Column from the March 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard
The number of bye-elections which have lately taken place has caused a lively interest to be taken in things political. Perhaps the contest at Paisley has been the election most in the public eye, owing to the fact that one of the candidates was the “hero of Featherstone,” H. H. Asquith. Liberalism having of late received a set-back, the eyes of the “Wee-Free Liberals” were turned toward Paisley in the hope that the honourable Herbert would re-declare the Liberal faith and, if possible, help once again to close up their scattered ranks.
However, the point to which I desire to draw attention is contained in a question addressed to Mr. Asquith at the conclusion of one of his electioneering speeches and the reply he made thereto. The following is the dialogue
An elector asked if when he was Prime Minister he considered 12s. 6d. a week sufficient to maintain a soldier’s wife, and why he didn’t take steps to increase it ?
Mr. Asquith: I believe the figure yon quote is correct, but it was done with the concert, co-operation and advice of Mr. Arthur Henderson.—“Daily News,” Jan. 28th, 1920.
Though this reply of the wily one was smart and possibly might have the effect of telling against his “labour opponent,” yet the mere fact that the prominent labour leaders, from the very commencement of the war down to the ratification of the “peace” treaty with Germany, were assisting the capitalist politicians to maim and kill other members of the working class, carries with it joint responsibility for all acts done in furtherance of the war.
The question and answer quoted above reveals a specific instance of this joint responsibility, and is another illustration of the treachery of these self-styled labour leaders.
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At another public meeting addressed by the ex-Prime Minister a somewhat new type of question was addressed to the speaker. Indeed, it is a welcome change from the question of the ordinary kind where the questioner wants to know why we cannot have pensions at 65 years of age, or should co-operators' “divvy” be subject to taxation, and so on. This kind of question may be interesting from some points of view, but it presupposes a continuance of capitalist conditions.
To return to the subject of the question, I note that on this occasion most of the interrogations were handed to the chairman in writing, and the first was:
If the people want Socialism, can they get it ?
That, replied Mr. Asquith, depends on the electorate.
—"Daily Express,” Jan. 20th, 1920.
Now we of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, want Socialism. We want it because it is the only “ism" that can and will abolish the struggle for existence. It will remove the anomaly of starvation and misery in the midst of plenty. It will end the day of the wage-slave and the slave master. In society to-day there are two classes, the master class and the working class: the former owning the means of wealth production and the latter alone operating them. While we, the working class, socially produce the things needful for man's use, at the conclusion of the operation the product is individually owned—by the capitalists. The capitalist class, therefore, waxes fat on the unpaid labour of the working class. The reward of the workers for their toil is a bare minimum of existence while they are young and vigorous, and when they get old, then, in the words of Mr. Claude Lowther, of the Anti-Socialist Union, “the goal of honest toil is the workhouse”
We seek the co-operation of our fellow workers to hasten the day of our emancipation.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, exists as a propagandist organisation preaching Socialism to the multitude by word of mouth and by the printed page. To all those who are asking a similar question to that quoted above we say: study Socialism, and if you desire it come and join us and help to secure it. While you remain unorganised your identity is obscured. Organise, then, with others of your class and help to spread the light.
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Our masters and pastors who so jauntily set out in 1914 to “make the world safe for democracy” and to dethrone Prussian militarism, are “getting the wind up" rather badly now that their noble aims have been achieved.
During the “fight for freedom" we had frequently dished up in the Press many phrases which did service as a stimulus to recruiting. We were told that war brought out the best that was in us (the bad was quietly and conveniently forgotten), and many went into ecstasy when dilating on the “purifying flame of war.” Now that the war “over there” is a thing of the past, and the one-time heroes have returned to industrial monotony and a vain endeavour to find an employer to exploit them, our bosses are getting a little perturbed at the prospect of these “new’’criminals applying Army methods to civil life. In this connection the following extract is illuminating:
Not only does war not “purify”: it eats like a cancer into the morals of all the nations engaged in it, victorious or vanquished. Its effect upon sexual morality is too obvious to need more than a mention. And now, too, we begin to note its reactions upon the minds of many whom it has trained to brutality and violence.
Let us remember these things—and indeed we shall be constantly reminded of them by the facts of daily life when next a patriotic stay-at-home rises in some newspaper pulpit to tell us that war purifies the world.—"Daily Mirror," January 26th, 1920.
How wise are we becoming now, and how bold! What attitude did the writer of the above take up three years ago when the young working men were being “trained to brutality and violence," and when vice was being made easy and as “safe” as can be for “our" glorious troops? Then everything done by “us” was right, and any man who dared to speak to the contrary was pro-German and in eminent danger of being treated to a dose of “mailed fist argument". Now that these things are being brought home to the patriotic stay-at-homes they are hemming to squirm, and their henchmen in the Press are once again writing according to the signs of the times.
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The evidence being given at the Industrial Court which is inquiring into the Dockers’ claim for a higher wage, and which, of course, is perfectly in order seeing that we, the workers, have been told so often by Lloyd George and his satellites that we were to have a “new world” on the cessation of hostilities, is exceedingly interesting. Take the following, for instance:
Mr. Bevin asked what, assuming a docker worked . 44 hours a week, would be his present rate of earnings in Liverpool.
Witness (Sir Alfred Booth): £3 4s. 6d.
Do you really suggest that is a living wage?—Yes.
Could you maintain your family upon it?—No, I could not.
Is it right to ask a man to maintain himself on what yon would not dream of maintaining yourself on?— It is not a question of what I ask him to live upon, but what economic conditions allow.—"Daily News," February 13th, 1920.
How dare any man suggest that members of the master class try and live on such fabulous wealth! Why, the idea is preposterous! It would not be the price of one night out! But it is quite good enough for a wage-slave. Who now would be bold enough to tell us that there are not two classes in society ? True, during the war they tried to kid us that we were one, but when the masters' quarrel is over, then the class war reveals itself again in all its grim sordidness. Higher Wages? What? No, economic conditions will not permit of it. The bosses want their pound of flesh.
Why tinker with the system? Let us end it!
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If we wanted to find evidence in support of the statement that the Labour Party is unworthy of the support of the working class the task would certainly not be a difficult one. Within the last few months that party has gained quite a number of ex-Liberals who, while ‘professing sympathy toward the labour movement, are still staunch supporters of the capitalist system of society, A change of name after all matters little. Actions speak louder than words.
Only recently Lord Haldane informed us that “Labour has captured the heights,” whilst Liberalism is in the plain, from which one would gather that as Liberalism fell lower the office-seekers chances would rise correspondingly higher through the the medium of a profession of Labour ideals.
How little a Labour government is to be feared can be instanced by the praise which is bestowed upon Labour officials in many quarters. A short while ago Lord Riddell was presiding at a Lecture given by Mr. T. E. Naylor on “Trade Unionism and Output," and from a newspaper report I cull the following:
Paying a tribute, to British trade anion leaders, Lord Riddell said he would not fear a Labour Government.—“Daily News," February 26th, 1920.
No, the Labour movement is not out to stop the robbery of the workers, but only to endeavour to increase the masters’ plunder. Support of that party means support for Rent, Interest, and Profit.
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To-day's headlines:—Ideal Homes.Public's Last Chance to see them.
So ran an announcement in the “Star” (24.2 20). Yes, in spite of all the flowery talk about “a land fit for heroes,” and “better houses for the workers,” it would seem that with the closing of the above exhibition all opportunities of the workers obtaining even a glimpse (at 2s. a time) of the Ideal Home will have vanished into thin air. Strange, is it not, that the workers produce Ideal Homes and yet content themselves in hovels whets the master class would not house their dumb animals.