Vanguard October 1915

Thistle Stings

Source: Unattributed, Vanguard, October 1915, p. 1 (damaged page, some words missing);
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Unattributed “Thistle Stings,” Vanguard, October 1915, p.1, (946 words) (damaged page, some words missing)

That this is a free country was again amply demonstrated by the government’s action the other day. The N.A.C. of the Independent Labour Party, and the E.C of the British Socialist Party had appointed delegates to attend an International Socialist conference, which was being held in Switzerland for the purpose of promoting peace but when the these delegates applied to the Foreign Office for passports they were refused. Sir Edward Grey when questioned on the matter in the House of Commons defended this action by his department. If the Government imagines that by petty obstruction of this kind the movement for peace is going to be kept back it is making a vast mistake. The size of this peace movement at the moment is no criterion of its future consequence. Every day the war continues strengthens the feeling for peace. Now, it is not only true Socialists and militant trade unionists who demand a cessation of hostilities but also vast numbers of citizens who are usually passive but whom the extraordinary events of to-day have stirred out of their customary apathy. Even the dullest people are beginning to see, after over a year of warfare that the idiotic cries of the gutter press for a “march on Berlin” or the crushing of German Militarism,” are simply so much hot air. The stern reality of this conflict will yet force on the attention of all European peoples the plain fact – that this War will not be ended by military victories or defeats, but by the universal disgust of the involved nations. If our forecast of events proves to be correct, then the half-hearted attempts of Sir E. Grey and his colleagues to imply Prussianism is the (words illegible) will be seen in their proper light. (words illegible) with the desires of the masses of workers, but should (page torn, words missing) attitude of the workers undergo a change and our rulers (page torn, words missing) to impose their wills on an insurgent class, then their (page torn, words missing) littleness will become apparent. Our governors would like to appear in the character of Gods ruling the storm, when (page torn, word missing) they are but driftwood, floating on the surface, and tossed about hither and thither in the clash of the waters.

* * *

At a Newcastle Munitions Court, some weeks ago, a worker was charged with the awful crime of staying off his work for one day. His righteous and patriotic employer in whose nostri1s profit stinks), desired that the man might be punished for this dereliction of duty. The “impartial” judge would probably have imposed the usual fine or imprisonment but for an unfortunate fact slipping into the evidence. The criminal had worked one hundred hours the week before he lay off. The judge rejected the case. He, being more far sighted than the ordinary capitalist, could see that punishment in such a case as this would simply play into the hands of the Socialists. The employer, on the other hand, being a man of one idea (no need to tell intelligent readers what that idea is), would only see (words illegible), Act, and proceed to use it against his employees, not having sense enough to understand that the oppression of the working class, nowadays, is carried on by all up-to-date and progressive men, with some subtlety and ingenuity.

* * *

At Edinburgh a man made application to a Munitions Court for a transfer on the grounds that he could not stand the foreman’s tyrannical treatment. The application was refused. The workers are wage-slaves but many could not understand that because they used to have the illusory freedom of moving from one employer to another. This Edinburgh case should help to remove the scales from their eyes. “But,” some will say “it is only for the duration of the war.” Is that so? We do not see the matter in that way at all. Here are the employers, finding year by year the political liberties of the working class more and more of an obstacle in the way of the development of capitalism into the “servile state.” In ordinary times they would find themselves faced with the unanimous opposition of the working class if they attempted to interfere with the worker’s liberty of moving from one firm to another. In fact they dare not make the attempt. But the war, the glorious war, gave them the opportunity, the excuse, the opportunity, the pretext they desire. Because then, the workers are divided, many are so chloroformed by the existence of a state of war as to have lost that healthy class instinct by means of which the labour movement of this country, despite the lack of theoretical knowledge, has moved forward. This large body repeat parrot-like the ideas current in the capitalist press, and allow their action to be determined by the shallow talk of ministerial demagogues. And so the capitalists fancy that now, when the workers are weak because disunited, they can rivet the chains more firmly upon the producing class. But perhaps this disunity of the workers is more apparent than real. Perhaps the capitalists are just rather premature in their rejoicings.

* * *

There is a demand that the miners in Lanarkshire should work six shifts per week instead of five. One week, shortly since, the miners employed at the Bellfield Colliery, Coalburn district, lost two shifts, in succession for want of waggons. And this is happening quite commonly, all over the country. In the words of Robert Smillie, it will be time enough for the miners to consent to work six shifts when the owners can guarantee some regularity in working five.