In 1932, a Freedom Bulletin was produced which took aim at the state of the economic crisis in Britain, calling on workers to cease listening to the lies of the political class — it almost could have been written yesterday.
The article, produced when Freedom consisted of Tom Keell (pictured and most likely the author) and his partner Lilian Wolfe following the collapse of the Press, has a few differences inasmuch as welfare alone is no longer enough to avoid starvation, and high unemployment has been replaced by precarious labour that doesn’t pay enough to live. But the mantra of “wait, trust us and things will improve,” now 90 years older, hasn’t changed a bit. Nor has the desperation of the search for work, nor the cause of that desperation.
Wait! Wait! Wait!
Freedom Bulletin, June 1932
The rulers of this country are a very astute and cunning crowd, probably the cleverest ruling class in the world. They have always shown an amazing capacity for hoodwinking and fooling the people, and their hand has not yet lost its cunning. With millions of unemployed workers who, with their families, have been living in a state of semi-starvation for some time, and who see no reasonable prospect of a job in the near future, there is danger of a rising tide of indignation and anger sweeping away the wealthy class and all their age-long power and privileges. They have always claimed credit for any prosperity which has blessed this country, but now they attribute all our misfortunes to the wicked foreigner or to “ forces over which we have no control,” as we have been told so many times of recent years.
The politicians ever say, “Wait, wait, wait!” and the people wait, wait, wait. They seem to have an infinite capacity for waiting and being fooled. The people are always looking to the government — whether Tory, Liberal, or Labour — to get them out of their misery, and to provide them with work and bread. Their leaders cry aloud about the miseries of the workers, who are always poor, but, as William Morris said, “… the complaint of the poor the rich man shall heed, even as much and no more as he who lieth in pleasure under the lime-trees in the summer heedeth the murmur of his toiling bees.”
The poor have always been content to work for the rich, and only grumble when the rich pay them low wages, or refuse to give them work. The present system lias lasted so long that both rich and poor think it will continue for ever. The workers know to their cost that today the capitalist system has broken down and is unable to provide them with the work and bread which they beg for, but do not realise that as long as capitalism and landlordism last they will always have, to suffer. They left their bones on countless battlefields in the war of 1914-1918, when they fought “to save their country,” as they were told. But it is not their country; it is the country of their masters, who own everything worth owning — the land, and everything on it or under it, the rivers and the seas, the mountains and the valleys, the broad and fertile meadows and the woods and the forests. No man may dig or delve or build himself a habitation without the permission of the lords of the earth, who take from the workers all the wealth they produce, giving them in return just sufficient to keep them strong enough to produce more wealth, and turn them adrift when they no longer require their services.
Today the air is full of cries about the gold standard, the bank rate, currency, credits, debts, tariffs, and all the other jargon of the economists. These cries are simply a smoke-screen to hide the struggle between the rival groups of financiers and exploiters of all countries, who are fighting to save themselves at the expense of the others.
The misery of the workers does not trouble them in the slightest and never enters into their calculations. They regard the workers as willing tools in carrying out any plans they make, even to the extent of going to war again, if that were necessary, to protect their wealth. The utter helplessness of the workers today is due to the fact that their access to the natural resources of the land is barred by a comparatively small minority of their own countrymen. Unfortunately, up to the present, the workers have not recognised the connection between unemployment and land monopoly. The, unemployed factory hand thinks only of a job in a factory, an office worker of a job in an office, a mine worker of a job in a mine, though most of the unemployed miners probably will never see the inside of a mine again, and the other unemployed men and women never again see the inside of a factory or an office.
It is not possible that these unemployed, especially the younger ones, will be content to live for years as social outcasts on the pitiful allowance given them, just sufficient to keep them from starvation, whilst the politicians go on endless pleasure jaunts to discuss, not how to relieve the misery of the workers, but how they can protect the privileges and profits of the rich and, incidentally, hold on to their own jobs. The rich will do anything for the poor but get off their backs, and if the unemployed have any backbone and any spirit left, if they have any of the courage which their masters praised them for during the War, they will I go “over the top” against land monopoly and break down the fences which bar them from access to the means of life which should be for the free and equal use of all.
This is not only a question for the unemployed manual worker, but also for all those who are employed in the “higher ranks” of industry and commerce, and who are just as much exploited as their poorer brethren, though they may not recognise it. The scientist, the inventor, the architect, the commercial traveller, the factory manager, all the comparatively well-paid professional men and women, today find their jobs in jeopardy and life more insecure than they have ever known it to be. Economies and rationalisation have cut the ground away from under their feet, and many thousands find themselves in almost as hopeless a position as the men and women who haunt the Labour Exchanges.
If these people would but recognise that their interests are linked up with all those who work in the fields, in the factories, in the mines, or on the railways, and would join with them in considering ways and means of ending the present hateful system, they would be irresistible. They are the real productive forces of the world. They control the system which exploits them , and it rests with them whether that system shall be smashed and a new and better one built in its place. None of the governments of the world has any plans for the future which are likely to ease the open sore of unemployment. None of them is likely to put forward any proposals, either at Geneva or Lausanne or Ottawa, or anywhere else, which will use the natural resources and the productive capacity of the world for the benefit of all.
Surely it is now recognised that governments exist but for the protection of the interests of the rich and to maintain the present system by which they exploit the workers. Anarchists have tried for years to drive home this lesson. Today it should be obvious to all. But unless this lesson is learned and acted on, the future can bring nothing but further misery, further ware, and further intensification of the struggle for bread in a world which can provide food and leisure and well-being for all.
The rulers of the world know that their system has broken down, and are fighting for time in which they can readjust the machine and maintain their powers and privileges. Will the workers save their exploiters or will they save themselves? Let them decide quickly!