The Charlotte News
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 23, 1938
More About Bumble and:
The British Ruling Class
--Distrust, by W. J. Cash
Site ed. note: For an earlier Cash article on Mr. Leigh's book, Conscript Europe, and its portent for France and Germany, see "Dog Eat Dog Is Rule in Europe Now" - June 26, 1938.
Cash's original neologism, "Mr. Bumble", refers to Neville Chamberlain and his appeasement "peace in our time" policies vis á vis "The Heel-Housepainter", culminating in the Munich Pact in September, 1938, the month before this article was written.
And all of which naturally and inevitably leads one to question whether John Lennon had something of the same notion here uttered by Cash via Mr. Leigh in mind when in 1967, albeit during Mr. Harold Wilson's Labour Party reign as Prime Minister, Mr. Lennon struck the line for "A Day in the Life", "Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire..." Maybe, being for the benefit of the tax man, Mr. Heath?
THE story keeps on growing in the world that the reason Mr. Bumble surrendered at Munich was his fear that world war would mean the end of the present ruling class, to which he belongs, in England. Whether it is true or not I can't say. But if it were true, it is not necessary to conclude that Bumble is either a villain or a traitor. It is quite possible to argue that another world war means the end of democracy and civilization in all Europe--and not only in Germany and Italy, where both are already as dead as a brontosaurus. Many people do argue so, most dogmatically. And that is perhaps not certainly true--still, Bumble is not necessarily the villain or traitor. For Bumble himself undoubtedly shares in the smug conviction common to the ruling class in England--that they are themselves England, and that, if they are overthrown, England is overthrown with them. To save England, therefore, that class must be saved.
But if on that ground we can excuse Bumble from the imputations cast against him by his radical foes, it is not necessary to hop to the opposite conclusion and decide that he is right. For, as a matter of fact, the value of this ruling class to England is very dubious. And for proof of it, I can refer you to Mr. Randolph Leigh's excellent "Conscript Europe."
Nearly everybody assumes that this ruling class is an aristocracy of blood and brains coming down in old line from the natural masters of the earth. But Mr. Leigh says it is not so, and establishes that by quoting the following facts:
Of the 751 existing peers, 381 were created in the twentieth century; 270 were created in the nineteenth century; 80 were created in the eighteenth century; 44 were created in the seventeenth century; sixteen were created in the sixteenth century; 23 were created before that.
Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of these titles were bought precisely as seats to the United States Senate or United States Cabinet posts were bought--by "fat cats" who paid in great sums to the campaign chests of their party, mainly the Tory Party, of course.
Well, and in addition to believing that these peers are aristocrats of old line, most of us seem to believe also that they are people with a highly developed sense of social responsibility. And even if we don't believe that, we believe that the lesser portion of the ruling class, the untitled gentry which makes up the House of Commons for the main (in Tory times, of course) is distinguished by this sense of responsibility. About that Mr. Leigh says something which is interesting:
That in 1937 there were two bills which made a great debate in the House of Commons. One of them was a bill to prevent the exportation of old horses to the Continent to be butchered to make food for people too poor to buy beef. The second was for a thorough-going investigation of a great coal mine explosion, and the condition of the people who worked in the mines. The first commanded the full support of the Tory benches, and set off no end of sentimental eloquence from the "horsey" set. But only ten per cent of the Conservatives were present when the second measure came up, and it failed ignominiously--in face of the fact that the Solicitor General had left no doubt that the conditions under which the workers had to labor caused the explosion and the death of several hundred of them.
HOW well these people govern is shown by other things Mr. Leigh quotes, too--as for instance:
That in Durham there are 6,000 men, formerly employed in the colleries, who have been unable to get work for five years. And that 48 per cent of the population of that city had been out of employment for six months when his book was written.
That the Lancashire cotton mill industry now employs only 350,000 people as against 600,000 in 1914.
That 50 per cent of the miners of South Wales are unemployed.
That general employment in the country has increased about 20 per cent over 1932, but their production is up 40 per cent and profits 52 percent, while wages are up only six per cent.
That child labor is so on the increase that there are 180,000 fewer pupils in the elementary schools in England than in 1936.
That, indeed, England leads the world in child exploitation, with 810,000 children under fifteen engaged in factories and mines.
That tobacco, tea, sugar, and alcohol--in which the poor attempt to drown their misery -- bear one-forth of the tax burden of England.
That since the war the arable area in England--horribly near starvation in all times--has been reduced by two million acres (one-fifth of the whole), as a result of neglect and bad agricultural practices on the part of the land-owning gentry.
That, as a result of this, the total of persons directly employed on land has fallen from 810,000 in 1931 to 649,000--just twenty per cent of England's population--in 1937.
That Parliament presented each duly registered unemployed person in the United Kingdom with two shillings on the occasion of the Coronation, and that the total just about equalled the $350,000 annual bounty voted Queen Mary.
And so on and so on. Reading Mr. Leigh, you do not feel any too convinced that civilization would be likely to suffer irreparable loss even if Mr. Bumble's class were kicked out of power.
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