Wednesday, 26 September 2012

John Maryon autobiography (5)

John Maryon as bus driver -
at Wilson's Corner, Brentwood

The Political Conversion of John Maryon – Part 5. Post War

By John Maryon, at the request of his sister.  [Copied with the permission of his son, Tim Maryon.]

So I returned from this to my home in Billericay, to find my father was out of his farm, it having been sold over his head, with vacant possession.  In fact he had notice to terminate his year lease soon after the farm had become a shambles from German aircraft and attendant crowds the year previously.  I was home in time for the farm sale and there I met pre-war acquaintances, men who, although fit and of military age, never felt the urge to defend King and Country, or if they did, they lay down until the urge went.  Some of them acknowledged me, but had little interest in my experiences.  They had come with eyes open wide for a bargain.  In fact, horror stories from the front were becoming boring.  The farm had been bought by a Billericay horse dealer, farmer and corn, hay and horse buyer for the government.  This latter was most lucrative of them all, for there was considerable scope for fiddling.  He interpreted his new overlordship harshly, and when my father asked for certain justifiable compensations, he was threatened with farm dilapidations.  My father, wherever he resided, always planted a few fruit trees, and grafted apples and roses, and he was seldom in a place long enough to get any fruit.  He had planted perhaps a dozen apple and pear trees when he first took the farm, which the new owner promised to pay for, if they were left.  He received nothing.

He went off to live in a house vacated – for the duration of the war – by my uncle, and I went back to the war, where I served until the eventual armistice. There is little doubt that my experiences at Ypres, together with the reduction of my father, or anything to come back to after the war had a deep effect on me, together with the callous attitude to the returning soldier, by both government and populace.  The difference is the promise of grand reward, if it went – two packets of cigarettes weekly which was quickly forgotten – in my case, and the mean interpretation by the medical authorities toward disabled soldiers.

I was demobilised in Jan 1919, with a bounty of 14 Pounds, and from this I had money deducted for the loss of army clothing.  The woollen socks we were issued with, shrunk through being on my feet immersed in water for days, and to get one pair off my feet, I had slit my socks down the front.  I paid!  I purchased a civilian outfit ready made, and of imperfect fit for 10 Pounds.  This left me very near bankruptcy.  In March, my father got a job with a man who was a wool broker, and farmed a small area of land as a hobby.  He bought this to avoid army service.  In spite of being described as a farmer, it cost him 100 Pounds in bribes to a Hornchurch builder, who was on the tribunal.  I learned afterwards that he cleared 20,000 Pounds on the London wool exchange during the war.  He would speak of farming with contempt, and spoke about making 1,000 Pounds at the stroke of a pen.  I was lousy for at least two years of my army service – on 1/- per day.  ‘Tis true we were fed and clothed – thank you for the food and clothing.  They also caught us on the rate of exchange – paying us in what were known as army francs, at the rate of five a week.  It would be interesting to know the cost of printing these.

Our woolbroker was a pig to work for, and I soon rejoined the army (but not in the infantry).  There were about 2 million ex-servicemen on the dole, and It was pointed out to those lucky enough to have a job – how lucky they were.  So I served in the Mechanical Transport R.A.M.C. for a couple of years, and came home again and worked for a heavy-haulage firm.  My instinct from early life was to eschew any form of trade unionism of the joining of sick clubs.  My father always said, “Be your own trade union”.  Well, I was sacked from this transport firm, mainly because the foreman disliked me because, having heard I was applying for work as a driver on the London buses, he said, “You can now have the time to seek a job at your leisure”.  I got the job, and after a month’s tuition and pass out by the London police, I became a busman.  The bus company informed all new recruits that, although a man could please himself, they preferred him to belong to the appropriate union.  My previous foreman and other factors prepared my mind to join my fellow workers to protect our interests in the union.  But I only became a card member at 9d per week.  I never attended any meetings until after the General Strike of 1926.  The strike generally, the unscrupulous propaganda against the strikers, of which I was one, the shameful settlement by phoney leaders, leaving the miners on their own, brought me to political consciousness.  Before this time I loathed all politics – but voted Conservative.  By 1928, I was a member of the Labour Party, and enthusiastic.  After the betrayal of this party by its leaders, at the great depression, I abandoned all support of any of the political parties and became a devotee for the abolition of the system, which has one small section owning the means of production and distribution, and the majority having only their brain-power to sell for a wage.  This set-up produces the terrible crisis and war, associated with the present economic situation, which is known as Capitalism.  Whenever I was on strike, I felt I was in combat with the men who profited by the war while we, the in general dispossessed, struggled, fought and suffered to protect the status quo, which persecuted and exploited us both in peace and war.  Millions of contemporary young Europeans took the same road for the communal ownership of the means of production and the ending of the wages system, the accumulation of great wealth in the hands of the minority – in fact capitalism – and it started with me in Flanders mud and will end in the crematorium.


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