There is a clever piece of duplicity used by the ruling class when they require an extra sacrifice from their victims—the working class.
It is usually phrased in some such terms as “let us pull together,” or “let us bear the burdens equally.” There is usually a strong flavour of brotherly love and Christianity about it. And the entry of this country into war brought forth a spate of such sweetness. But an examination of the facts show that such assurances are as hollow as a drum, and are only boomed out for the purpose of enchanting the simpletons who believe them.
Are the capitalists sharing the burdens ? If so, they are having the lion’s share of wealth while those who are conscripted are having the donkey’s share of risk, work and trouble.
Compare a soldier’s wage with the income of the leading lights of business, or of the Church and State, and see then if the, burdens are really being shared. Or compare the amount allotted to soldiers’ and workers’ children and put it against the sum spent on the children of royalty.
This disparity of “sharing” was brought out recently by a question asked in Parliament. Sir John Simon was asked if the old age pension could be increased, as large numbers of pensioners were on the verge of starvation. The reply was to the effect that the country cannot afford it. And yet Simon receives a salary as much as hundreds of pensioners put together. Now the pension is to be increased the increase is hedged about by restrictions and it only occurs after prices have substantially increased. Here we have a typical example of the cold-blooded hypocrisy of the capitalist way of thinking. What was meant was that the ruling class would not afford it. After all, of what use are aged and poverty-stricken workers to the capitalist ? They have already been sucked dry. Away with the nuisances. They shouldn’t have lived so long.
When the old age pension was introduced by a Liberal Government, in which Simon took an active part, it was hailed as a “crown of comfort for the aged.” And hordes of sentimental slobberers and snivelling humbugs of all sorts chanted hosannas in its praise.
The S.P.G.B. pointed out then that it was merely a dodge to save the capitalist the expense of keeping old workers in the workhouse. The few shillings a week given was less than the cost of erecting and maintaining large buildings and staffs. Besides, the old people in receipt of pensions could sponge on their grown-up family, and the burden of old age and poverty could be shared. That is what the capitalist really means by “sharing the burdens together.” It means putting a bit more on the workers.
Only when the means of life are comrnonly owned and controlled by the whole people will it be possible to speak of sharing and bearing one another’s burdens. But then the burdens will be only those imposed by nature. The real burden— a parasite capitalist class—will disappear.