01 August 2016
The working classes only enter into the Gem and Magnet as comics or semi-villains (race-course touts etc.). As for class-friction, trade unionism, strikes, slumps, unemployment, Fascism and civil war - not a mention. Somewhere or other in the thirty years' issue of the two papers you might perhaps find the word ‘Socialism’, but you would have to look a long time for it. If the Russian Revolution is anywhere referred to, it will be indirectly, in the word ‘Bolshy’ (meaning a person of violent disagreeable habits). Hitler and the Nazis are just beginning to make their appearance, in the sort of reference I quoted above. The war-crisis of September 1938 made just enough impression to produce a story in which Mr Vernon-Smith, the Bounder's millionaire father, cashed in on the general panic by buying up country houses in order to sell them to ‘crisis scuttlers’. But that is probably as near to noticing the European situation as the Gem and Magnet will come, until the war actually starts. That does not mean that these papers are unpatriotic - quite the contrary! Throughout the Great War the Gem and Magnet were perhaps the most consistently and cheerfully patriotic papers in England. Almost every week the boys caught a spy or pushed a conchy into the army, and during the rationing period ‘EAT LESS BREAD’ was printed in large type on every page. But their patriotism has nothing whatever to do with power politics or ‘ideological’ warfare. It is more akin to family loyalty, and actually it gives one a valuable clue to the attitude of ordinary people, especially the huge untouched block of the middle class and the better-off working class. These people are patriotic to the middle of their bones, but they do not feel that what happens in foreign countries is any of their business. When England is in danger they rally to its defence as a matter of course, but in between times they are not interested. After all, England is always in the right and England always wins, so why worry? It is an attitude that has been shaken during the past twenty years, but not so deeply as is sometimes supposed. Failure to understand it is one of the reasons why left-wing political parties are seldom able to produce an acceptable foreign policy.