The Auckland Star: WITH WHICH ARE INCORPORATED The Evening News, Morning News and The Echo.
FRIDAY, APRIL 2, 1909. A PAINFUL EXHIBITION.
For the cause that lacks assistance, For the wrong that needs resistance, For the future in the distance. And the good that we can do.
We do not suppose that the doings of the Auckland Trades and Labour Council ever produce much impression on ifchc other side of the globe. This reflection has suggested itself to us after reading the exceedingly depressing account of Wednesday's meeting of the Council, as reported in our yesterday's issue, and we trust that our readers will find some consolation in it. For it would be most unfortunate for the reputation of this country if the world at large formed its opinion of the intelligence or the moral a.nd physical courage' of New Zealanders from the remarks made by several of the speakers at this meeting on the subject of national and Imperial defence. We have no grievance against the Trades and Labour Council for objecting to the Premier's offer of a warship to England. Whether the offer was necessary or advisable, and whether Sir Joseph Ward took an unconstitutional course in making it, are matters of opinion, on which Messrs. Henry, Long, and Aggers are quite entitled to their own views. But we ffiink that every man and woman In the Dominion has a right to resent and repudiate the thoroughly contemptible sentiments to which some of the speakers gave utterance in expressing their sense of duty toward their own country and to England.
We cannot hope to do full justice to this remarkable discussion within narrow limits of space, but we may point out that one of its most amazing fea-i tures was the assumption made by several of the speakers, that the workers, are in some mysterious way distinct! from the country, the Government, or the State. Mr Henry tells us that hej would not fight lor a country that would' not pass a right to work bill for him,. and the sentiment 6eems to have been vigorously applauded. Who, may we ask Mr Henry, governs the country ifj not the workers themselves? And who will suffer most from the perils of war: and the devastation wrought by a vie-
torious enemy, if the country makes no effort in its own defence? Mr Long improved upon Mr Henry by .dragging an unfortunate millionaire into the discussion, arid declaring that the workers were not gping to build fleets to protect that sort of man. Is it conceivable that any sane man solemnly believes that the British navy is maintained to defend only the Royal Family and a handful of nobles and plutocrats? We have always been under the impression that the chief objection urged against war by Socialists is that it brings misery and death, not upon princes, but upon the rank snd file of the people—the unfortunate workers, who are not responsible ior the quarrels of kings. Surely in a democratic land like our own it should not he necessary to point out that the workers themselves are country and government in one, that j national defence is for them tfterely self-1 preservation, and that by neglecting , it j they are exposing not kings and million- j aires but themselves and those dear to them, to the risks of famine, desolation, and ruin. It is nob for us to supply Mr. Long and Mr. Henry with the logic they so obviously lack, but we may point out as some excuse for their incoherence and confusion of mind that at the back of their heads is always the "fixed idea" of Capitalism and the Capitalist. It is a moat unfortunate fact that so many people who call themselves Socialists nowadays without understanding what the word means are haunted constantly by this nightmare of capitalism. Mr. Long and hw friends find it just as hard to keep the capitalist out of their speeches as the genial old imbecile in "David Copperfield" found it to keep King Charles's head out of his memorial, and the effect in the two cases is equally ludicrous. We cannot argue about capitalism just now with Mr. Long, but we may remark in passing that the furious diatribes so constantly levelled against the capitalist by so-called Socialists of the present day are mostly baeed on pure unmitigated ignorance. But we regret to say that ignorance—sheer, muddle-headed stupidity and lack of acquaintance with the ordinary facts of life—was a prevailing characteristic of several of the speeches of our self - styled Labour leaders at this meeting. Mr Aggers talked about Parapara iron, and suggested that we should build our own warships and make our own guns, calmly oblivious of the cost of navies, which is the whole question at issue. If New Zealand cannot afford one Dreadnought, how is she likely to afford the twenty or fifty that migfft be needed to defend her shores if the British navy iwere not maintained? Mr. Aggers does not tell us; but apparently he shares the conviction .of another speaker that it will be all right soon, because Mr. Keir Hardie and twenty British workmen are going over to Germany to straighten things out. Seemingly we are asked that all that is really required to settle the differences between Germany and Ertgland is for Mr. Keir Hardie to put the Socialist case, M'ith his usual studied moderation, before the Kaiser and the German people. It is difficult to characterise strongly enough such deplorable ignorance as this, which would Be simpi'y ridiculous if it were not at the same time dangerous and demoralising. But we have not yet touched upon the most painful and deplorable feature i of this extraordinary debate. We ha'v.e very few illusions left about some of the people who call themselves Socialists,! Ibut we must confess that a go£d deal of astonishment was mingled with disgust and contempt when we read some oi the speeches at the Council meeting Not only did Mr, Henry declan that he would not fight for a country which did not pass the kind of laws hi wanted, but he ventured the astoundinj assertion that jt would not make mucl difference to New Zealand if Englani were under Germany's rule. We are b; this time tolerably familiar with th tirades of Socialists against the whol established order of things, but we hai not yet realised that any section of ther had progressed so far beyond the ac cepted traditions and beliefs of the Bri tish race as to repudiate all responsi bility for the defence of their kinsfol] and their country. It is possible tha our ideas are simply antiquated and ou of date, but we can only say that w cannot imagine a more thoroughly cor temptible and degraded view of life tha this. If love of country and pride c race and patriotism and everything tha they have meant to humanity are to g by the board —if henceforth it is to b understood that anybody who please may come along and establish himse] in authority over us, and that we wi peacefully accept a foreign master rathe than go to the expense and troulble an risk , of fighting to retain our freedomif this is to be the accepted creed o •England and New Zealand in future, i seein3 to us that the eooner we are wipe oft the roll of nations the better fo ourselves and the world at large, Ti their credit be it recorded, the Germai Socialists, through their leaders, hay publicly repudiated such a view as tha of their.duty to their Fatherland; and i is only fair to add that a chorus of die Bent greeted the utterance of this deplor able sentiment at the meeting of tb Trades and Labour Council, ever from delegates who disapproved o the offer of a Dreadnought. Thi sense of duty towards one's countr; is the most fundamental and primlHv of human instincts, even among bar barous peoplee. In ordinary life the mci who will not venture to defend them eelvos or those dear to thorn agaiusi oggresslon and spoliation are rightl; branded as deg-onerato cowards; am that, it teems to üb, is the only appro priate title for tho people who, whethe: they call themselves Socialists or Lubou:
leaders* or peace leaguers, disown their responsioUitieß to their-country and give noticp to aliens that rather than trouble about fighting, they are (prepared to deliver themselves up as prey to the spoilers.
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