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Concerning Ourselves.I

IRandom Jottings from Bargoed.I


Random Jottings from Bargoed. SOCIALIST FLUTTER WITH A CLERICAL DOVECOTE. A Flutter in the Dove-Cotes. I have just returned (Tuesday, March 5) from a meeting held in Caersalen Chapel, Aberbar- goed, to protest against the proposed alterations of the marriage-laws. As I arrived late, I can- not say what those alterations are, or are repre- sented to be, but my readers will probably have their own opinion of the truth and justice to be expected of the clerical opposition. What de- c-ided me at last to go, was the hope of moving the following amendment: "That this meeting demands ,first of all that the government de- clare all houses of vice out of bounds for British soldiers, as the American Government has done for American ones; and that this meeting de- clines to recognize, as guardians of either public or private morality, those who do not do as much to secure this, as against the Bill." Bu.t no amendment was allowed (from which my readers may draw their own conclusions), Though I was allowed to put the question What were they doing, or did they propose to do, a bout the houses of vice and the British Army ? They pro- fessed all sympathy, and to he doing all they could; but I tried in vain to get any promise or I pledge out of them to do as much as they were doing against the Bill. They gave me the im- I pression of wishing to appear to make nt eater concessions than they really did. I got two 01'1 three gems. One cieri(?a-I ?.;aid that if the Bill passed, it would be their duty. in that respect, to separate themselves from the Staite. So they are ready to become conscientious-ob- jectors themselves, now that they have found a cause in which they are in no danger of being imprisoned or even fined. He spoke also of the high esteem in which woman is held in this country. How does that square with their own admissions about the prostitution cam]*? Also. Walter Lewis, I thing it Was, remarked that. -Nfo,fw, was not such an opportunist as a modern labour leader. With which most of Ib, I sus- pect, will most heartily agree Why Not? I My complaint of public meetings in general, is that only one side is allowed a hearing, which makes them apt to be uninstructive and uncon- vincing. Whereas in the United States, so I understand, the rival candidates go about the constituency together, and hold a series of public debates, which might be applied to other things also! A Measure of Faith. I Also. I have come to measure people's faith in their own cause, by the amount of hearing they allow to the other side. As remarked by a certain Irish contributor to the Daily News "The way to deal with the devil is to hear hun out, he will then mostly be found to answer him- se lf," or, I mig-ht add, to give himself away. Compare, also, Carlyle's character-sketches of Danton and Hobespierre, to the effect that over- tolerance is the noble weakness of the strong, while intolerance is the mark of conscious weak- ness. I have also seen it stated somewhere, that Kossath and Mazzini (I think it was) were pecu- liarly patient and tolerant of contradiction, just because they believed so absolutely in their own respective causes. A Reverend Opponent. I I have been told sine? that the rector was for refusing a hearing altogether, and that it was the rev. gentleman of Penartb who obtained one for me. Also, I believe I have heard the rector, privately, give a very different account of local morals from the idyllic picture which made me inclined to warn the audience to beware of the flatterer I believe, to do him justice, he has also preached it. Also, while one of the speakers ",as expressly urging early marriages, I don't remember that he urged any precautions against rash and hasty marriages, which the parties might repent, and which might be the very way to bring marriage into discredit. An Indictment. I Local comrades are already asking what is be- hind this new move of the clergy. Arc they try- ing to draw off public attention from the war, fiom the food-shortage, or from themselves? Well, are they men enough to beard the Govern- ment over the houses of vice? As usual, the laity show themselves braver and more honest; I have been surprised at the amount of support I got from them. But the clergy, with a few [grand exceptions, some of whom, "not to know them, argues oneself unknown what stand have they made against the. war, against con- scription, against the talcing of the widow's last son, against the forcmg of the halt, the mained, and the blind into the army, and against the persecution of those who followed Christ further than they did? For that matter, the fiercest denunciations of the churches that I can remem- ber, came from the two greatest Christians of the times, Whittier and Tolstoy. The Religion of Democracy. Curiously, this has been followed by Councillor Syd Jones, of Argoed, lecturing here (Sunday, March 10) on The Religion of Social Demo- cracy." Comrade Moses Price, in the chair, told us something of the growth of the I.L.P. It I has now over 10,000 members in Scotland alone, and branches have recently been established in Ireland also. The agricultural districts, long regarded as hopelessly backward, are now waking up and joining-up. But we want still more members here. Syd Jones then gave his lecture. Sentiment and emotion (lie urged) were not everything, the proof of a theory was in its application. It was a stock-charge against religions, that they put off human emancipation to another world, and were at least lukewarm to attempt to realize it in this. The workers had always been looking for Rome Messianic deliverer; sometimes when they might have put their own shoulder to the wheel. So it came about that some regarded religion as a convenient sop to the people, and missionary- effort as a capitalist dodge. But most of the fol- lowers of orthodox religion were working-class. Certainly orthodox religion was a check on free discussion. It was not altogether the fault of the preachers, nobody can .? mentally free who is not economically free. Plenty of journalists will confess, privately, to writing what they don't believe, for papers they don't agree with, and 90 per cent. of one's actions may well be dictated by economic motives. But there still remain 10 per cent. to be accounted for. And the question remains, whether religion has been a dynamic force, or a block or drag. He urged that, as a regular thing, belief was inversely as knowledge. Ancient philosophers made the good, the beautiful, and the true, their objects— but only for the leisured class, for whom the other-- had to work. (It occurs to me that all the great religions seem to have originated among peoples of simple and leisurely habits, which gave even the working classes plenty of time to think, instead of their time and energies being consumed, as now, in a struggle for bare existence, or wasted in a struggle for luxuries. See Henan on the Apostles.) He urged us to avoid religious prejudices and appeals to religious bigotry, and to treat Socialism simply as an economic question, for we had often been led off the real issue by secularism as well as by theo- logy. Capitalists Ijave their conspiracies and spies, as Governments have. It was urged that I if the workers had been solid they would have prevented the como-out, and so prevented the war also. Man was at present a tool of his tools. I Men were more superstitious when they were without machinery—.(Bernard Shaw, I be lieve, denies this and considers this as the most super- stitious age on i-ecoi-(I),-and war was then more frankly brutal, to-day pretexts and colours have I to be found for atrocities that used to be com- mitted as a matter of course. Unemployment was set down by orthodox economists to laziness, ignorance, drink, etc. Ruling-class religions were essentially static and conservative, aiming to keep things as they were. Morality (as Car- I lyle reminds us) simple means customariness, so stock-exchange-speculation was regarded as moral by those who were used to it. An in- stance of capitalist morality being itself immoral, by any absolute standard. Also many, perhaps most, people were for patching up rather than prevention, hence the proposed reconstruction schemes did not touch private property in land; and the poor house, Ministry of Health, etc.; were all only palliatives. We were accused of aiming to destroy the home, but it was Capital- ism that really did so by taking away the mother to work to support it. We were accused of 1.r"-H..g extreme, but truth was always extreme. The workers needed leisure to prevent them from being mere machines. Capitalism was perhaps a necessary stage to exploit nature, and thus prepare the way for the workers. \e were op- posed by the unbelief, make-belief, and mis- belief of the existing system. There was a time when the Church owned a third of the land. (If I remember right, the Monks were much better landlords than the upstart nobles who succeeded them at the Reformation. See Latimer's ser- mons thereon.) The French revolutionaries were against the Church, but, once in power, they became conservative and themselves re-estab- lished it. Many preachers, who were a little more thoughtful than the rest, if not prepared to go all the way with us, could not afford to preach what they really believed; but there are some who make sacrifices. The machine-break- ing of the Luddites was a mistake it was not machinery that was the menace, but private property in them. Moralty, as well as religion, was ever changing; plenty of "eternal prin- ciples had vanished like mist. Questions being invited, someone asked if we did not need an ideal of s«tne sort. Agreed, Out of what sort. Some beliefs were put on and taken off like Sunday clothes. The belief that tended to emancipate was the best. Some say wages and social conditions are not for Sundays. (But they are expressly referred to in the New Testament as well as the old.) Morgan Jones then asked if religion was merely a "stunt" or a "red-herring." It was used by capitalism but was it therefore merely capi- italist-ic? He did not know many Catholics; but some of those he knew were as devoted to social progress as anyone. It. had been borne In on him more and more during the course of. the war that the materialistic theory of history was not everything, emotions and ideals had to be rec- koned with as well-a balance was needed be- tween the material and the spiritual. As an in- stance munition-workers might be actually bet- ter off for going into it, but see what unrest there was and had been among them for want of their homes, their husbands, etc. Syd Jones agreed with a great part of that. He added, in conclusion, that workers were now less instinctive than the rebels under John Ball, and their actions and plans were more conscious and thought-out. Next Sunday (March 17th) we are to have the Rev. Stanley B. James, of London, on How to win a Worker's Peace." Bargoediax.

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