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The Ex-Service Man and His…


The Ex-Service Man and His Organisation. IT used to be said of Czarist Russia that where three men met together four political parties were represented. And it seems to us that much the same remark could be ap- plied to our own ex-service men and their organisations these days. Just whether it is desirable that the ex-service men, whose legitimate interests as such are essentially similar, should so partition themselves is a question for themselves. It is not to be set- tled by priority in the field, but by a con- sideration of the end to be striven for, and the machinery that will best accomplish the attainment of that end. That a hundred and one misconceptions of the purpose for which organisation is primarily desirable should have been imported into the confused dis- cussion is what is to be looked for in the early stages. Fawned on by a sycophant press, and petted by politicians who have nothing to learn in the art of flattery during the years that the press and politician need- ed the soldiers' service; uniformed off, se- gregated from, and disciplined off the main stream of the national life of a period of strenuous, unusual years, it is not to be wondered at that the immediate aftermath has been a conception of aloofness from the general life of the nation, and the conse- quent belief that apart from but inside of that general life, the ex-service man has some special interest to serve. He is taught that in some inexplicable way he has se- parate interests from the rest of his fdlow townspeople in the administration of his municipality; that in some way his political problems are capable of disassociation from those of the nation, and so he is taught to partition himself into a separate entity on the one hand, and on the other to adopt the old Irish Nationalist devise of political bar- gaining. And unfortunately he believes these things, and consciously or uncon- sciously he enters the arena of local and na- tional politics with a new but false concep- tion of his mission. Consequently every differing view about politics within his own ranks resolves itself into an organisation quarrel-and from every diverse opinion a new combination springs. It may be that by a clever coup a temporary association of a group of these organisations may succeed in bargaining a concession, but when we re- member that the Irish Party with a finer, more unified, and much more conscious or- ganisation and object than he has has wan- dered in the wilderness chasing this very will-o' -the-wisp since its inception we arc #comj>elled to regard such a happening as about as likely as a repetition of the miracle of Balaam's ass. Moreover, a compulsory bargain wrung under such conditions is not a safe foundation upon which to found a cause. Justice alone will serve as the basis. What then does justice demand ? It de- mands that the pensions that are paid to in- capacitated soldiers and sailors and to their widows and children shall be adequate to ensure to them a full measure gf human life; that if from any cause they came to to be adequate then they shall be revised and made adequate; justice demands that the handicaps engendered in the nation's service" shall be minimised so far as is hu- manly possible by the nation; justice de- mands that the land and aims for which those sacrifices were made shall be conceded as the price of those sacrifices. Justice de- mands these things for the ex-service man, but justice unfortunately is not an abstract something that is recognised and respected at sight. Justice is meted out according to the strength with which the opponents of that justice can be opposed. Self-interest will overcome the claims of Justice, unless justice can command power. But what power? The power of the vote expressed once every five years or so is not sufficient. The power must be continuous and readily mobilisable. It is, candidly, the power of self-interest. In the first place the ex-ser- vice men must command the Pensions Com- mittees that deal with their' cases by full direct representation. That problem is es- sentially theirs to deal with and solve. But to ensure their solution they must command something. What is that something ? It is the same thing that the ex-service com- mands as a trades unionist-his economic- political power welded into a proper weapon. If he attempts to separate him- self into two conflicting interests he will completely defeat himself. His organisa- tion must not attempt that impossible task. Success lies in welding his whole power into one homogeneous whole. If his ex-service organisation clashes with his trades union- ism then the one will be used by self-inter- est opposed to his other organisation to en- compass his defeat in either or both. His ex-service organisation should complement, not combat his other organisations, and they should be available for ensuring to him a straight deal as an ex-service man, in the problems that his associated ex-service or- ganisation has collated and stated. Whether he belongs to the Labour Party or not, the ex-service man is assured of the Labour Party support, because it is contrary to the whole working-class interests that an un- derpaid, poverty-stricken element should be in the working-class ranks as a constant menace to advancing life. But if he is sensible to his own interests he will not allow his touch with Labour to depend upon mere sentiment or unrelated policy, but will link himself definitely with the Labour Forces in which he is engaged as a trades unionist. He will take an. active. part in it. No matter whether his organi- sation be called Federation, Association or Union—there lies his power, and sane self- interest would dictate affiliation. So far in Merthyr the Federation has rigidly observed a non-partisan, non-political, non-sectarian attitude. The question that the men have to debate and solve for themselves is that of abstention or participation; and so far as we are concerned our columns arc freely open to them to discuss this knotty point. The best interests of the man himself is what matters.

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