The Worker 1916
Source: The Worker no. 4, 29 January 1916 p. 5, by Watchtower;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
Fellow-Worker, The net is closing and it will be illegal soon to expose your masters. Conscription has been added to the Munitions Act, the way for which was cleared by the National Insurance Act. Considerable, progress has been made towards the complete suppression Of any complaint you might desire to make either through the press or public meeting and you may rely on this work being pushed forward in all possible haste.
With conscription safely delivered and in good health the Capitalists may now turn, to another line. If compulsory labour instead of voluntary labour, compulsory military service, instead of voluntary military service, why not compulsory saving instead of voluntary saving?
Your voluntary scheme of contributions to the war has been a miserable failure. Only a few Trade Unions handed over their funds. Some of them may have thought that it was just as silly to lend their fighting weapon for a period of 30 years to the Capitalist enemy as it would be to hire out the British Navy to the Germans during the period of the war. Of course, if Trade Union Funds are merely insurance of salaries to Trade Union leaders the War Loan is an excellent annuity.
Probably your individual subscriptions for 5/- vouchers was nipped in the bud by enterprising house factors and food merchants, but at any rate the sum subscribed by you directly for war purposes has fallen far short of serving the purpose in view.
You realise, of course, what that purpose is? In another year or less poor Britain, which had to enter on a costly war without a penny in its pocket, and some hundreds of millions of debt around its neck, will be due to pay at least £4,000 million pounds to the moneylenders who came to the rescue of civilisation at 41/2 per cent.
The interest alone on this money will mean 200 million pounds per annum, and this with an ordinary expenditure of 200 millions which the nation had reached before the war, and an annual contribution towards the repayment of the loan, and the maintenance of a huge standing army, which will be necessary, in order to save ourselves from militarism in the days that are to be, will give us an annual budget of taxation of at least 500 million pounds.
The housing reformer and other pests may survive the present struggle for liberty, and the soldiers who return from their continental tour may not be satisfied with slums and margarine. If they are to get cottage homes and pure food there may be seine little friction over the question of finding the moneylenders’ interest. Indeed the Clyde Workers’ Committee of the future may actually suggest that as this War Loan was subscribed by wealthy people to enable the nation, composed mainly of poor people, to go forth and prevent avaricious Germans from confiscating all the wealth of Britain the rich might be satisfied with what has been saved to them, and write off the 4,000 millions that saved them.
Should an evil notion of this kind enter the minds of the workers they will set a precedent in the commercial practices of the money lenders. When these men find the demands on the available wealth too great they call their creditors together and discuss with them the question of whether the composition by which a settlement of their debts is to be reached shall be 7/6in the pound or only 1/3.
You see the King’s commerce must be carried on, whether we can pay our debts or not. But money lenders are the very devils for security, and will leave nothing undone to guarantee to themselves a repayment in full of the money they have lent. No better guarantee can be obtained than a few working class shares in the debt.
Every Trade Union leader whose funds are invested will be a defender of the money-lenders against public confiscation. The owner of every 5/- War Loan voucher will be a canvasser for law and order.
If, during the next 12 months it can be arranged that in order to make it possible for us to beat Germany in what is now a financial exhaustion, each worker who earns £2 10s shall receive on Saturday 40s and a War Loan receipt for 10s, and soon be the happy possessor of National deposit receipts for £20 or £30. On this sum he will be promised and paid his 5 per cent. per annum, give an undertaking that some day in some century he, or his fortunate heirs and successors, will be repaid his £20 or £30. In other words, he obtains what appears to him a substantial share in the National Debt, and may God help the Clyde Workers’ Committee that comes along with a proposal to repudiate it.
The recent press pars. on the relative merits of margarine and butter, cats, and rabbits, horse flesh and beef, are but the scientific preparation of the public mind for the standard of living which is sure to succeed the unparalleled sacrifice which the workers are making.
There is, of course, the bare possibility that your tacketty boot may be used to upset the Georgian plot. If so, so much the worse for the money lenders.