Margaret Sanger, "The Boy Scout Movement," 6 Apr 1912.

Source: " Il Proletario , Apr. 6, 1912 Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Collected Documents Series C16:21."


The Boy Scout Movement

About five years ago an organization was started in England called "The Boy Scouts". It was originated by Mr. Baden Powell during the Boer War. It was very quickly imported to America and seized upon most enthusiastically by America's grown up boy scout, Theodore Roosevelt.

"Delighted" indeed was he to fasten this military idea upon the American people, and together with the Young Mens Christian Ass'n and the Young Mens Hebrew Ass'n they grasped this new prop, which will in time of need, help to keep the Capitalist Class and private property a little longer standing.

A great deal of opposition was met with in this country at first because mothers objected to military training given to their sons, but behold - this objection will soon overcome, voices shouted from the house tops that this was " [one word torn] its essence strictly non-military movement", that the real idea [one word torn] the organization is to develop the individuality of the boy. One of the essential laws of the Boy Scouts [one word torn] that he shall "show respect to those who are his superiors". Now [one word torn] to the individuality let us see just how they go about to develop [one word torn ] "To be a boy scout, a boy must learn to OBEY the orders of the patrol leader, scout master, and scout commissioner."

He must learn to obey before [one word torn ] can command. He should so learn to discipline and control himself that he will have NO THOUGHT but to OBEY the Orders of this Officers.

Mr. Baden Powell on a visit [one word torn] this country in February still insisted that the whole object of the Organization is to develop "Individual character and initiative".

Let us go on a little further [one word torn] the by-laws, for far be it from us [one word torn] judge without proof. "A scout [one word torn] loyal to the King, to his Officers, to his County and to his Employers. - THIS IS THE VERY ESSENCE OF GOOD CITIZENSHIP."

And again:

"A Scout obeys Orders to anyone placed in authority over him, must obey orders INSTANTLY and WITHOUT QUESTION."

These rules and by-laws should settle the question of the individuality any boy can develop in the Boy Scout Movement. Many parents against are appealed to through the camp life which the boy can lead. The boys themselves having only one glorious idea of freedom in the woods, pictures of running streams, lovely forests, tramping, running, playing, good companions, and a lot of good fun, all of which appeals to any healthy boy at this critical period of his development. Hundreds of boys answer to this call of out-door life just as thousands answer the call of the sea and enlist in the Navy, where in glowing colors trips in China and Japan and all Countries are viewed to them. To catch the young men in their "down and out" financial state, imagination does the rest and off they go to join the Navy. In Powell's own words he says: "To seize the boys character in its red hot state of enthusiasm." That has been the idea of the Catholic Church too, they understand the value of influence at this crucial age. How cowardly and base to take advantage of the undeveloped youth, to use him, to mold his life and actions for the benefit of their class: the Master Class. There is only one step from the boy scout to the Army. This has been foreseen and planned by all who support it, and it behooves all who are far sighted enough to see and understand the real significance of this movement, to attack it, to crush it and stamp it out for once and all. We should lay more stress on the underlying motive of this fiendish organization, and expose it. We are not doing our duty to the Working Class when we calmly sit by and watch this movement grow into an army. It has increased in United States in the last four years at a tremendous rate, it is increasing daily, and it is time for the working class to ACT.

Wherever the Church is, they are organizing, there they find fertile soil. They are joining their forces for the final battle, and we are allowing them to do so without a murmur. There are over 40000 boys in this country being trained to scab on the working class, there are over 40,000 boys in this Country being trained to murder the Working Class.

The following speaks for itself:

"Accordingly - Employers of labor seeking trustworthy boys service will look first among scouts, knowing that they will find boys broken to discipline."

And yet in the face of all these remarks and statement issued by Powell himself, they try to fool parents by saying it is a movement to develop ideas in a healthy mind. In the first annual report of the Boy Scout by Powell, he states: -

"Appreciation from a Chief Constable who states that the boy scouts in a town are worth 20 extra constables to him". Should there still be a mother who doubts the real intention of the movement, let her read the message from King Edward to the boys at their first Annual parade.

"Please assure the boys that the King takes great interest in them, and that if he should call upon them later in life, their sense of patriotic responsibility and happy discipline, which they are now acquiring as boys will enable them to do their duty as men, should any danger threaten the Empire". The two words "patriotic responsibility" are plain enough for anyone to understand and don't let the "happy discipline" escape your notice. Think it over. The Capitalists have had much to contend with in the last few years in finding the two essentials, patriotism and discipline, fast dying out. They realize that the species which exhibit a trace of patriotism is almost extinct, and the growing youth does not love discipline--consequently they invent a new kind of discipline--a happy one--and with this they feed the scouts.

Too well to do they realize that it is not the love of country which sends young men into the Army or Navy, but absolute necessity drives thousands of others into the factories. Too well they know this, and knowing they cannot instill patriotism into the man--they take a chance on the boy and take him before he begins to think--then they have for their motto "I do not think--I obey".

It is all the same to the Capitalist to what use they put the children of the workers - millions into human machines--and millions would they gladly put into the army to develop into human murderers.

Parent, your duty is plain - develop in your child a CONTEMPT for soldiers in uniform: a contempt for anyone would train in the art of murder: a contempt for anyone who prances up and down monkey like at the orders of another. Teach him the words of George Kirkpatrick who says "I refuse to kill my father, or my sisters, sweet heart, I refuse to kill any member of the working class and hide my blood stained hands in the folds of ANY FLAG."

Margaret Sanger.


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