The By The Way column from the March 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard
Our old friend (!) Lord Soapsuds has been busy of late advocating his pet scheme of a six hour day as the solution for industrial unrest. Writing recently in a journal called "system" he said that "what is called industrial unrest is, in my opinion. a healthy sign; it means that the worker is reaching out, is using the betterment of yesterday as a stepping-stone for something higher." I hope this "healthy sign" will develop, but not exactly along the lines laid down by the Soap King. He wants to run his machines and their attendants practically the whole 24 hours by a system of several shifts. No, we do not want to turn night into day in the factory hells of England. If Leverhulme and the class be represents will do night work we may later consider the other portions of the day.
However, this propagandist of the new order really surpassed himself later on. He is great on the subject of "kidding." Mark what follows :
"There is no finer material than the British workman, and if he is treated properly there is no finer producer in the world. We must reduce his hours of labour and increase his rate of pay. He must have a good home—a piano if he desires it, houses with gardens, and, if he wants it, a motor car." —"Daily News," January 15th, 1919.
Now there you are, my fellow wage slave, doesn't that sound nice? No more will you be told that you are "too old at forty," for our soap magnate says that capital and labour are the Siamese Twins of productive enterprise. Of course it really would be interesting to learn what part of the productive process he is engaged in. For instance, whether he contributes the socially necessary labour in the soap-making or the margarine department. As most people know, he has just bought the island of Lewis, but the chronicler omitted to state what portion of the earth's surface fell to the lot of the twin brother. Doubtless his allowance is in France.
An example of our rulers' business ability was recently brought to light. Small wonder that there was an outcry about the shortage of ships. Let me quote:
"SAND SENT TO EGYPT.Two stories of official ignorance or stupidity were related by Mr. W. H. Garrison on the occasion of the Royal Colonial Institute Christmas address to a juvenile audience at the Central Hall. By order of the War Office a ship wholly laden with sand was sent out during the war to Egypt ! The sand was there put into bags in order to bank up trenches. One could hardly imagine the disgust of the men told off to unload it." —"Daily News' January 4th, 1919.
On Tuesday, February 11th, the new Parliament was opened. A great portion of King Capital's speech was devoted to the C 3 homes of the C 3 population, and my Lords and Gentlemen were informed that "We must stop at no sacrifice of interest or prejudice to stamp out unmerited poverty, to diminish unemployment and mitigate its sufferings, to provide decent homes, to improve the nation's health, and to raise the standard of well-being throughout the community." After a passing reference "that the gifts of leisure and prosperity may be more generally shared throughout the community," I observe the following, which seems to be troubling our capitalist masters : "It is your duty, while firmly maintaining security for property and person, to spare no effort in healing the cause of the existing unrest."
We have often been told that slavery cannot exist under the Union Jack, and the type of free and enlightened Britishers who wear anti-German badges and penny flags in their coats really believe it. But let us look at this picture taken from the sister isle :
SWEATED BELFAST WOMEN.Mr. Devlin regards the demand for a 44-hour week in the shipyards as a most hopeful sign, and he believes the movement will succeed, but it is to the shocking case of the sweated women workers in Belfast, the women out of whose misery and ruined health the great linen industry has been built up, that he intends to devote much of his energy during the coming year. These women, about 20,000 in number, work on an average 56 hours a week under the most trying conditions of moist heat. Many start work at 6.30 in the morning and do not finish till 6.30 at night. A large proportion, little better than children, are half-timers, doing three days at school and three in the mills for a wage that is insufficient to keep body and soul together. "The patience of these poor creatures and their dumb acceptance of a life that has little to offer but bitter drudgery are wonderful, and inspire one at the same time with anger and profound admiration," Mr. Devlin testified. —"Daily News," January 24th, 1919.
Doubtless the man who won the war made the world safe for democracy, and commenced to "cleanse the land of poverty and want" some ten years ago by speech-making, has been prevented from studying the conditions of the Belfast workers owing to his activities as strike-breaker.
The following advertisement appeared a little while ago in a Liverpool evening paper :
"Discharged young soldier (one with foot off may suit), to assist in light trade; must be able to stand without crutches for an hour or two ; hours 9 to 7; wages 15s," — "Daily News," January 25th, 1919.
Needless to say, the appearance of the above led to a demonstration by some disabled soldiers, who went to interview the advertiser. After informing him that they had a suitable man they enquired as to whether he considered the money offered a living wage. The advertiser explained that it was a future partnership he had in mind, The crippled soldier was called in and was offered 30s. a week if he would take an interest and give all his time to the business, but the terms were refused.
The quotation given below appeared in the International Notes of the "Labour Leader,'' and emanates from Italy.
"When will Socialists learn that capitalism is by instinct predatory, that no true League of Peoples is therefore possible, except under Socialism, that Socialism will only be established by Socialists, and that Socialists must place the whole of their faith and reliance in themselves, and not in any capitalist or despot, however benevolent."
The above would have read better and been more precise had it appeared thus: "When will the pseudo Socialist," etc. However, I commend it to the Thornes, Lansburys, and others of that ilk who delight in labelling themselves Socialist, but spend their time bolstering up capitalism.
That inveterate gas-bag, Windy Churchill, is finding some of his chickens coming home to roost. There was a time when he blustered about digging the German Fleet "out like rats." But the British Fleet, for the maintenance of the efficiency of which Windy had been responsible previous to the war— at a good many thousands a year—had its chance, and Admiral Jellico has been compelled to issue a "defence" showing why he did not seize his opportunity. The Admiral compares the instrument which had been provided him by the windy braggart with that of the despised German, and the result must make many worshipper of the hero of Sidney Street wonder what he, as First Lord of the Admiralty, took his thousands for. The Admiral says that the British ships were out-classed in search-light power, inferior in range-finders, insufficiently provided with destroyers, not so well protected against dropping fire, and so on. In short, the egregrious failure of the war had proved such a failure preparing for war that the British Admiral dared not close with his enemy.
Yet this guy, who went on from blunder to blunder, from Antwerp to Gallipoli, till even his thick hide could not save him from the public's jeers, and who, in order to rehabilitate himself, had finally to resort to that magnificent piece of bluff—the melodramatic reminder to the military authority that "my regiment is in France"—this fellow who had to fly to the funk-hole for shelter from the derision brought down upon his head by his own clumsy incapacity, is one of the chosen few who alone can "carry the country through the difficult times ahead." "There is something rotten in the State of"—capitalism when such empty-headed noodles are the best the country can find to run the show. The "directive ability" superstition which our masters are so fond of talking about gets a nasty one on the snout here.