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 The Scent That Captures That "1930s Moment"!

All material copyrighted to © 2014

or to the various credited sources © 2014

...Then, by the equally integritous George Lansbury, son

Of a Suffolk railway worker –who’d laboured as an emigrant

Journeyman in Australia between punishing periods

Of unemployment, then, as a timberer back in London;

Who rose up through the ranks of the Social Democratic

Federation, and then through the Independent Labour Party –

Stood for election unsuccessfully as socialist candidate

For Middlesbrough, then for Labour in Bow and Bromley

Where, on his second attempt, he made it into Parliament

In the 1910 election –led the party from 1932-

35, during which period he found time to pen and publish

Two polemical volumes, My England (Selwyn & Blount,

1934) –a treatise depicting a future socialist state built on

Revolutionary and evolutionary foundations– and Looking

Backwards and Forwards (Blackie & Son, 1935),

Before passing on the baton to slit-eyed Clement Attlee

Who turned out far greater than the middle-class gradualist

Manager he was purported to be (such promising glimmers

Already on display in his eloquent polemic parcelled

In Victor Gollancz’ Left Book Club scarlet card covers –

Today, mostly all shelf-paled to coral pink– The Labour

Party In Perspective, published in 1937, only two

Years into his leadership)… Both Henderson and Lansbury

Had been two of nine Cabinet Ministers in MacDonald’s

First Government to reject cuts to unemployment benefit

Proposed through expediency by Chancellor Philip Snowden

And his May Committee as a means to tackle the deficit –

The Labour Party promptly expelled MacDonald and his

Jackalish acolytes: decapitation of a Hydra-headed

Leadership, Henderson replacing J.R.M. as the leader

Of a Labour Opposition; but the beleaguered MacDonald kept

His grip on the premiership sans his party with the proposition

Of a National Government –the sprawling corpus of which

Would be composed mostly of Tory major organ donors,

Splenetic by degrees, and some Liberals’ woolly entrails –

With himself still at the helm, all under his “Doctor’s Mandate”

To find a ‘cure’ for the crippled economy… And the Public

Patient seemed to like this etherised prescription, supported it

At the ballot box in October 1931, returning MacDonald’s

Amalgamated Medicines Incorporated with a huge

Majority –a landslide which would tip Blighty into stagflation,

Chronic underconsumption and peaking unemployment…



Radical Anglican Clergy of England aside, over in Rome

Pope Francis –Argentina-born Jorge Mario Bergoglio–

Calls for the Catholic Church to put the poor first (cue

Much mute applause from the tea-cup-clasping laps of The Tablet),

A compassionate edict directly going against the grain

Of oligarchic governments and hedge-hegemonies

Of the Plutocratic Occident, whose Troika-caked decrees

Are uniformly geared towards arraigning the indigent,

Rhetorically re-pinning the ‘P’ for ‘Poor Relief’ back on

The worsted shirts of the twenty-first century’s epidemic

Crop of leper-spurned peasants and lumpenproletarians

(Modern compatriots of van Gogh’s muddy-coloured

‘Potato-Eaters’: urban labour surpluses who sup

On tinned pasta –tasteless as wallpaper-paste– for nightly

Repasts), although for their kind there’s precious little ‘Relief’

Left these days, save for workfare, vouchers, food banks

And alfresco soup kitchens –so the countervailing

Cloth can only be cut so far in this post-industrial loom

Of patched polemic, where there’s no room for compassion

Or empathic counter-patterns; guillotining tongues

Are portcullis-sharp at cost-cutting –and cheesewire-

Precise when it comes to circumscribing Swiss loopholes–

And being economic with the salami-sliced truth; and

Prevailing narratives stitch up the dialectical tryptich

Of thesis, antithesis and synthesis together in one

Knitting basket of intransigent stigmas (and often the only

Ones groping around for those slippery needles of elusive

Verity are more the woollier …); thus, in times of scarcity,

The Czars and Captains of society have a ball blaming

The poor and meek for their municipally apportioned lots

To take the knocks in red-top-pelted public stocks –in such

A punishing climate, all such churchly beseeches fall

Among the stones and thorns; conscience-pricking echoes

Which are –at least in England– so much water trickling

Off a duck-house roof, or frogspawn scooped up from a sludge-

Bloomed moat to the champagne-fluted, nickel-biting, liquid-

Lunching antinomians in suits, those pinstriped number-

Crunchers who play pinball with our rapidly depleting public

Services, punch holes in our communities from Whitehall…

Arthur Henderson
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