Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Notes From The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists - Slavery

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell was written a hundred years ago and described as 'a classic representation of the impoverished and politically powerless underclass of British society in Edwardian England, ruthlessly exploited by the institutionalized corruption of their employers and the civic and religious authorities'.

This series of blogs is from the notes I made from the book.  This one examines what the main narrator (Owen) says about slavery and how the workmen for Rushton are treated worse than the slaves:

"It would have been much better for them if, instead of being 'Freemen', they had been slaves, and the property, instead of the hirelings, of Mr Rushton. As it was, he would not have cared if one or all of them had become ill or died from the effects of exposure.  It would have made no difference to him. There were plenty of others out of work and on the verge of starvation who would be very glad to take their places.  But if they had been Rushton's property, such work as this would have been deferred until it could be done without danger to the health and lives of the slaves; or at any rate, even if it were proceeded with during such weather, their owner would have seen to it that they were properly clothed and fed; he would have taken as much care of them as he would of his horse.
      People always take great care if their horses. If they were to overwork a horse and make it ill, it would cost something for medicine and the veterinary surgeon, to say nothing of the animal's board and lodging. If they were to work their horses to death, they would have to buy others. But none of these considerations applies to workmen. If they work a man to death they can get another for nothing at the corner of the next street. They don't have to buy him; all they have to do is to give him enough money to provide him with food and clothing - of a kind - while he is working for them.  If they only make him ill, they will not have to feed him or provide him with medical care while he is laid up.  He will either go without these things or pay for them himself. At the same time it must be admitted that the workman scores over both the horse and the slave, inasmuch as he enjoys the priceless blessing of Freedom. If he does not like the hirer's conditions he need not accept them. There are no ropes on him. He is a Free man. He is the Heir of all the Ages. He enjoys perfect Liberty. He has the right to choose freely which he will do — Submit or Starve. Eat dirt, or eat nothing."

Today, it is the low paid in work, the poor, the sick, the unemployed who are being treated in this cavalier way by the DWP and their paid private stooges.  With not enough jobs and/or benefits to go round, we can see how both the worst of the private companies and governments can exploit the vulnerable.

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