The Worker January 1916
Source: The Worker no. 4, 29 January 1916 p. 8, by DM & J.S.C.;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
I have always marvelled how the average man pays so little attention to the novels of Charles Dickens, because that most versatile of 19th century novelists had a keen scent for humbug and imposture. The prototypes of nearly all the arrant knaves and fools who have for generations, deceived the workers may be read in the pages of Dickens. We must bear in mind that our cute little Welsh lawyers, our political “Medicine men,” our “self-made” employers of labour, our corrupt editors, and the kaleidoscopic gang of ecclesiastical thimble-riggers, who keep the eyes of the unintelligent workers directed on spiritual things while the bosses pick their pockets, are no new discoveries. Those two gentlemen, whom Dickens named Dodson and Fogg, and whose consciences – if they may be said to have any – were on a sort of adjustable scale, though they are “dead yet speaketh.”
The lawyer, in the main, holds the truth but lightly, he is a juggler with words, like Sergt. Buzfuz, and he never means what he says, and vice versa. The modern legal man, especially if he is a member of Parliament, is keen on binding up the workers with the red tape of agreements. All the fulsome flattery indulged in by the little Davids has this end in view. Tony Weller advised his son to “beware of vidders,” the workers must beware of the lawyers.
The Honourable Mr. Slumkey in Pickwick Papers seeks to gain favour and votes by kissing babies, and shaking hands with all, and sundry. The keynote of this gentleman’s life is never to displease anyone, promise, if you like, the moon or anything else handy, but never be definite. The ground and lofty tumbling of the Right Honourables, more especially on the question of compulsion, is a sad commentary on the results of keeping bad political company.
To think that our poor, old friends, should now be reduced to political scavenging, and forced to wear the P.C. armlets is too much. The workers are being conscripted, their wages are being taxed, and this in the workers’ case is a damnable doctrine, because his labour is only a commodity and, one would think, should conform, like other commodities to the law of supply and demand. “For God’s sake” say the politicians “don’t ask for more wages, remember that there must be equality of sacrifice, and please don’t forget that the unfortunate rich are being taxed through their profits; keep on working, we shall see that the proper safeguards are applied.”
Chorus of Labour P.C.s: “Hear, hear.”
There is sacrifice at the present time, and the lamb that is led by the shearers, seems to have a proletarian look about it.
Come we now to the Mr. Bounderbys, the self-made employers of labour, the heroes of the pages of the late Samuel Smiles. With dramatic fervour they bleat about their energy, their grasp of details, their power of organisation, their accumulation of capital, “ the reward of abstinence, my boy,” and like the Greeks of old they lay all their treasures at the feet of the State—for a price. The State which is run by another gang of Bounderbys, with different clothes on, accepts the gifts. Bear ye one another’s burdens. Theft in conjunction with the lawyers, the political soothsayers, and the editors, they tell the beasts of burden the “tale,” and provided the deed is carefully done it will deceive many.
When Dickens visited America, that glorious country of liberty received him gladly, until he told it the truth, about its progress, its politicians, and its press. As Dickens saw it the main purpose of the press was to be sensational and oblivious, of abstract theories of truth or justice, and money could make it do anything. Modern journalism has not improved since Dicken’s time, nay, it has grown more degraded. it is but one of the tools used by our masters for our oppression. Think of the mass of unreliable matter printed in our “democratic” organs, the appeals to all that is basest in mankind the flattery of trade union officials – also too often successful – the appeal to be patriotic at a time when the patriotic advertisers in the press and the capitalist harpies are fleecing the people in the most bare-faced way. Mr A.J. Balfour once told the House of Commons that he seldom read a newspaper, an in this matter, at least, he is a sound judge.
The Rev. M. Chadband in Bleak House, is described as “a large yellow man with fat smile, and the appearance of having good deal of train oil in his system.” The pseudo religious Chadbands are the gilders of the pills, “they are of the same kidney as the others, they deal out the fat smiles, and the greasy philosophy, and they imagine themselves useful members of society.
The faithful in the Trade Union and Socialist ranks are wondering whether this Punch and Judy show is fated to continue much longer. Are we too optimistic in believing that a goodly number of the Clyde workers have already found out the “Codlins and Shorts,” and that in future industrial organisation, inspired by the rank and file, will find growing favour in the district? We have been tricked, threatened, cajoled, and flattered, because we have dared to believe that the future lies with the worker, the producers of all, the source of the Empire’s strength, and the stern judge of the failings of the exploiters, whose reign is fated surely to end, and give place to a nobler, freer, and juster society.
The married man who imagines himself secure from the “clutching hand” of military despotism merely because the latest piece of Prussian legislation – Military Service Bill No. 2 – leaves him out of account, is living in a fool’s paradise. The Government has magnanimously doled out a dollop of verbal pledge’s, one of which is that “there will be no extension of compulsion to married men.” Likewise before the war Germany promised (pledged) to respect the neutrality of Belgium. But when war was declared the promise became “a scrap of paper.” Why? Because, in the words of Major Murray, of the Gordon Highlanders, “treaties (pledges) only remain binding so long as the conditions under which the pledge was made remain unaltered.” That phrase sums up all the history of almost all the broken pledges, treaties, promises, contracts ever made. If a contractor in civil life undertakes to do a particular job for a specified sum, his contract is legally binding. But if, the day following the making of the contract, the price of his raw materials increases by fifty per cent. he will naturally break his contract and the law will uphold him. Conditions have altered.
When the supplies, which the Military Service Bill intends to secure, have been swallowed up at the rate of 30,000 per week – conditions will have altered. Will the present Government keep its pledge to married men, pack the war up, abolish the Munitions Act, and stand up before the world as the example par excellence of a bond-keeping government? You will be a crowd of jackasses if you think so. No! married men; they will be after your bodies and damn the pledges. Your position and your duty is clear. Fight with the single men now to prevent this dastardly act from becoming law. The single man’s fight is your fight. Help to save him and you will save yourself – and Britain.