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A company of soldiers numbers from eighty to a hundred
The allowance of food to each man is žib. of meat and Ilb. of bread. But besides that each man pays 3d. a day for "groceries," consisting of tea, coffee, milk, vegetables, and extra bread.
Now, if each man had a separate kitchen and cooked his own meals, that would mean a great waste of room and money and time, and it would also mean very poor feeding:
But each company strikes a man off duty as cook, and there is a general kitchen, where the cooks of the whole or sometimes half of the battalion prepare the meals. The result is better and cheaper messing and less labor and dirt.
Take, again, the case of a sergeants' mess. The sergeants have the same ration-iib. of bread and alb. of meat a day, and they pay about 6d. a day for “messing." One sergeant is ap pointed “caterer," and his duty is to expend the messing money and superintendent the messing. He is, in fact, a kind of temporary landlord, or club steward.
I often filled that place, and I found that when, as occurred on detachment, we had only five or six sergeants in mess, it was very difficult to feed them on the money; but at headquarters, with thirty in mess, we could live well and afford luxuries on the same allowance per head.
With these facts in our mind, let us go back to our Manchester street of one hundred working-class families. Suppose, instead of keeping up the wasteful system I described, we abolish all those miserable and imperfect drying-grounds, wringing-machines, wash-kitchens, and kitchen-ranges, and arrange the street on communal lines.
We set up one laundry, with all the best machinery; we set up one big drying-field; we set up one great kitchen, one general dining-hall, and one pleasant tea-garden. Then we buy all the provisions and other things in large quantities, and we appoint certain wives as cooks and laundresses, or, as is the case with many military duties, we let the wives take the duties in turn. Don't you see how much better and how much cheaper the meals would be? Don't you see how much easier the lives of our poor women would be ? Don't you see how much more comfortable our homes would be? Don't you see how much more sociable and friendly we should become?
So with the housework when we had simple houses and furniture. Imagine the difference between the cleaning of all the knives by a rapid knife machine tnrned by an engine, and the drudgery of a hundred wives scrubbing at a hundred clumsy knife-boards.
I need not go into greater detail; you can elaborate the idea for yourself. Let us now turn from domestic to commercial waste.
Commercial waste is something appalling, The cause of commercial waste is competition. The chief channels of commercial waste are account-keeping, bartering, and advertising. If we produced goods simply for use instead of for sale, we should save all this waste. But consider the immense number of cashiers, bookkeepers, clerks, salesmen, shopmen, account. ants, commercial travelers, agents, and advertisement canvassers employed in our British trade.
Take the one item of advertisement alone. There are draughtsmen, paper-makers, printers, bill-posters, painters, carpenters, gilders, mechanics, and a perfect army of other people all employed in making advertisement bills, pictures, boardings, and other abominations-for what ?
To enable one soap or patent medicine dealer to secure more orders than his rival. I believe I am well within the mark when I say that some firms spend £100,000 a year in advertisements.
And who pays it? You pay it; you, the practical, hardheaded, shrewd British workman. You pay for everything, you silly fellow.
There is another element of waste, which consists in the production of useless things; but of that I will speak at another time.
I will also show you, in a future letter, how the same competition which causes waste causes also a wicked obstruction of progress. At present just consider these questions. Why do gas companies oppose the establishment of electric-lighting companies? Is it because they think gas is the better light? Hey, John ?
I said just now that we would consider the question of how to employ the leisure we should secure in a well-ordered state. Let us get an idea what that leisure would be.
At present less than one-third of the population are engaged in producing necessaries. This one-third of the people produce enough necessaries for all.
Now take the sum in two ways. If one-third produce enough for all, then three-thirds will produce three times as much as we need. Or, if one-third produce enough for all by working nine hours a day, then three-thirds will produce enough for all by working three hours a day.
So we shall have plenty of leisure. What are we to do with it?
One use for it is the acquirement of knowledge. I will give you two very striking examples of the kind of work that needs doing.
Take, first, the germ theory of disease. I am a very ignorant man, and can only offer hints. Read this:
“If the particular microbe of each contagious disease were known the conditions of its life and activity understood, and the circumstances destructive of its life ascertained, there is great probability that its multiplication might be arrested, and the disease caused by it be abolished.”
Consumption, typhoid and typhus fevers, cholera, and many other plagues are said to be spread by small creatures called microbes. “At present we do not know enough about these microbes to exterminate them. That is one thing well worth find. ing out.
Take next the subject of agricultural chemistry. Read this:
“In studying the utilization of vegetable products for obtaining the various animal matters which are used as food, etc., agricultural chemistry enters into a higher and more difficult field. Although many useful practical results have been obtained, this department of our knowledge is extremely incomplete."
You remember what I told you about the yield of the land. Given a thorough knowledge of agricultural chemistry, and there is no doubt that we might produce more food with less labor. So that is another thing worth knowing.
Now I know your absurd modesty, John Smith, and how ready you are to despise your own efforts; and I can almost hear you saying, “What can ignorant men like us do in these difficult sciences ?"
But, John, I don't flatter you, as you know, but you have brains, and good brains, if you only had the chance to use them. Sometimes a few of you do get a chance to use them. There .was William Smith, the greatest English geologist, he was a poor farmer's son, and chiefly selftaught; there was Sir William Herschel, the great astronomer, he played the oboe in a watering-place band; there were Faraday, the bookbinder, and Sir Humphrey, Davy, the apothecary's apprentice, both great scientists; there were James Watt the mathematical instrument maker, and George Stephenson the collier, and Arkwright the barber, and Jacquard the weaver, and John Hunter the great anatomist, who was a poor Scotch carpenter. Those men did some good in science; and why not others ?
Ah! Why not? That is the question. The common people are like an untilled, unwatered, and unweeded garden. No one has yet studied or valued the capacities of men. We know that some few of the Hunter and Herschel stamp have come out well, and some of us think that when a man has brains, he must come out well; but that is a mistake. Only here and there, chiefly by good luck, does one of our clever poor men succeed in being useful, and in developing his force-or part of it.
I will speak from personal experience. I know several men, poor and unknown, who have in them great capacity. I have now in my mind's eye a young Lancashire man, who might
have been a very fine writer. But he is poor, and he has no knowledge of writing, no knowledge of style or grammar, and if he had would find it very difficult to get work.
I once knew a blacksmith, a man of strong character, of great probity, a born orator, a man of intellect. Often I have heard him, as he beat on the red iron, beat out also, in rough homely language, most beautiful and forcible thoughts. John, he could not read or write. He was of middle-age, he had a large family, he did not suspect th
was clever. Take my own case. I became a writer by accident-by a series of accidents-and not that until I was thirty-four. And I have done fairly well, and have been very lucky. But I am sure I should have done better at a quite different kind of work. And I am sure that if my mother had not taught me to read and encouraged me to love literature, I should never have been a writer at all.
But suppose my mother had died when my father died, or suppose she had been an ignorant woman, or a careless one. Where would Nunquam have gone to? He would probably be now in the grave, or in a prison. Yet he would have taken with him to the churchyard or the treadmill the same mind that is now struggling with this task-a task too great for it—the task of persuading John Smith, of Oldham, to do his duty as a husband, as a father, as a citizen, and as a man.
So consider, what chance have the poor? Education is so dear. The sciences and the arts are locked up, and the privileged classes hold the key; and down in Ancoats and the Seven Dials the wretched mothers feed our young Faradays and Mil. tons on gin, and send them out ignorant and helpless to face the winter wind and the vice and disease of the stews.
It makes me angry when I think of it, and I must be calm and practical, because you, John Smith, are such a shrewd, hardheaded man-God help you !
John, John Smith, of Oldham, remember what noble men and women have come from the ranks of the common people.
Now, at present the working people of this country live under conditions altogether monstrous. Their labor is much too heavy, their pleasures are too few, and in their close streets and crowded houses decency and health and cleanliness are wellnigh impossible.
It is not only the wrong of this that I resent, it is the waste, Look through the slums, John, and see what childhood, girlhood, womanhood, and manhood have there becomo. Think what a waste of beauty, of virtue, of strength, and of all thą power and goodness that go to make a nation great is being con summated there by ignorance and by injustice.
For, depend upon it every one of our brothers or sisters ruined or slain by poverty or vice is a loss to the nation of so much bone and sinew, of so much courage and skill, of so much glory and delight.
Cast your eyes, then, my practical friend, over the registrargeneral's returns, and imagine if you can how many gentle nurses, good mothers, sweet singers, brave soldiers, and clever artists, inventors, and thinkers are swallowed up every year in that ocean of crime and sorrow which is known to the official mind as
the high death-rate of the wage-earning classes." Alas, John, the pity of it!
Well, I want to stop that waste, my practical friend. I want to give those cankered flowers light and air, and clear their roots of weeds.
And in my “Merrie England” there will be great colleges for the study of science, and the training of the people, so that the whole force of the national mind may be brought to bear upon those important questions of agriculture, of manufactures, and of medicine, which are now but partly understood, because it is the rich and not the clever who consider them, and because they only work selfishly and secretly, in opposition, instead of in mutual helpfulness.
CHAPTER VII. Who MAKES THE WEALTH, AND Who GETS IT? The old original capitalist who has rested from his labors, and whose works do follow him-creative, frugal, and laborious-he looms ever “at the back of the beyond. It is a beautiful conception, this of the first capitalist, and only shows that poetry, like hope, springs eternal in the human breast-even the economical breast. Like Prester John and the Wandering Jew, he has a weird charm about him that almost makes one love him. But our reverence for an old legend must not blind us to historical fact, to wit, that the real origin of modern capital is to be found in the forcible expropriation of, the peasantry from the soil, in oppressive laws to keep down wages, in the plunder and enslavement of the inhabitants of the New World and of Africa, in the merciless overworking of children in factories, etc., etc.Belfort Bax.
As soon as land becomes private property, the landlord demands a share of almost all the produce which the laborer can either raise or collect from it. His rent makes the first deduction from the produce of the labor employed upon land.
As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent, even for its natūnal produce.
- Adam Smith. How contempt of human rights is the essential element in building up the great fortunes whose growth is such a marked