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Fake Labour Government. The puppet show

 The workers, the producers of wealth, are poor because they are robbed; they are

robbed because they may not use the machinery of wealth production except on terms

dictated by the owners, the propertied class. The remedy for working class poverty

and other social ills is the transfer of ownership of these means of production from the

Capitalist Class to society. That, in a few words, is the case for Socialism.

 

 The work of rebuilding society on this new basis cannot be started until power is in

the hands of a Socialist working class, and that cannot be until many millions have

been convinced of the need for change and are broadly agreed on the way to set to

work to bring it about.

 

 It is just here that the Socialist meets with an objection which is in appearance

reasonable enough. Many who would accept the foregoing remarks can go with us no

further.

 

 Is it not better, they say, in view of the certainty that Socialism cannot be

introduced at once, to devote much, if not all, our energy to making the best of

Capitalism, and getting "something now"? By "something now" they mean higher

wages, increased State protection against destitution through illness or unemployment,

and other like proposals.

 

 It may then come as a surprise to them that we also believe

in getting something now. We differ in that we are not willing to subordinate Socialist

propaganda to the demand for reforms of Capitalism, and in that we strongly hold that

the best way to get these things is by the revolutionary activity of an organisation of

revolutionaries. In other words, the quickest and easiest method of getting reforms

from the ruling class is to let them see that it will endanger their position to refuse.

 

 While we recognise that Socialism is the only permanent solution, we are not

among those who consider that the Capitalists are simply unable to afford better

conditions for the workers. A comparison between the total income from property,

and the petty cost of doles and relief, shows the falsity of that somewhat common

notion.

 

 On the one hand the workers would, if they ceased to struggle, soon find that

there is still room for a worsening of their conditions, and on the other hand were they

free from the mental blindness which prevents them from striking a blow when and

where it would be most damaging, they might, even within Capitalism, raise their

standard of living and diminish their insecurity. Unfortunately they do not yet see the

brutal facts of the class struggle, and too often allow themselves to be paralysed in

action by their belief in the supposed community of interest between them and their

exploiters, by their response to every deceitful appeal in the name of patriotism, and

by their lack of confidence in their own powers and intelligence.They will put up a

straight fight against their employers, but they have not yet seen through the more

subtle hostility of the newspapers, the politicians, and all the other defenders of the

employing class who pose as neutrals because it makes their influence more deadly.

 

 The employers and their hired defenders know well enough that your gain is often

their loss, and they therefore have good reason to persuade you not to seize the

opportunities that offer of raising your wages or reducing your hours. But many who

talk about the beauties of an "advanced programme of social reforms" seem not to

have realised that if such things are to be of any worth to you necessitate at first the

dipping into the profits of the other class. Various well-meaning persons may preach

arbitration and conciliation, but you know well enough that sweet words do not, as a

rule, charm employers into giving higher wages. They will not give up any part of

what they hold except under pressure one kind of pressure is fear; the fear that refusal

to spend part of their on reforms will encourage revolutionary agitation for the seizure

of the whole. There is supposed to be another way of getting "something now." It is to

assist into office a non-revolutionary party like the Labour Party.

 

 It is pleaded at the moment on that Party's behalf that it is "in office but not in

power," and that its weaknesses arise from that one fact due to causes beyond its

control. Within limits this is true, but why in such circumstances was office accepted?

It can hardly be questioned that an official opposition, 192 strong, bent on hampering

the Government could have influenced legislation not less than when actually in

office. In fact, however, the Labour Party was not free to choose. It dared not refuse

office; it dare not while in office attack the roots of Capitalist privilege, and had it

continued in opposition to Baldwin's Government it would not have dared to obstruct

as a means of compelling the granting of concessions. The reasons for its impotence

in each of these situations are the same. Its programme and policy, its supporters, the

basis of its organisation, and the ground upon which it chose to fight elections all

combined to commit it to the administering of Capitalism as distinct from treating the

present opportunity merely as a prelude to the fight for Socialism.

 

 From the circumstance that the bulk of the members of the Labour Party do not

accept Socialism as a present political issue, but at best only as a hope for the future, it

would be plainly suicidal for them to talk of throwing down a challenge to the

Capitalist Class. The only alternative is to do as the Labour Party are trying to do.

 

 They are trying to run the Capitalist system better than the older parties have done.

We can we can readily concede that as administrators the Labour men will prove

themselves no less intelligent and capable than their predecessors, and probably more

receptive of new ideas and methods than the men who made and mismanaged the war.

 

 But the essence of our opposition to this policy is that except in quite minor

respects there is only one way of administering Capitalism—the Capitalist way.

 

 Ultimately it is the economic organisation of society which dictates the broad lines of

policy and breaks those who ignore them. The problems which present themselves for

settlement, such as war, unemployment, poverty, arise from the very nature of the

present social system. They may be dealt with in more than one way, but they cannot

be treated in a manner satisfactory to the workers without first destroying Capitalism.

 

 Support of the unemployed at comparatively trifling cost is, from the Capitalist

viewpoint, a solution of the unemployment problem. Their problem is to avoid the

risk of riot and revolt and their policy succeeds. War is but an extension of ordinary

commercial competition, and poverty is both the effect and the necessary condition of

capitalist wealth and monopoly.

 

 Even where a Labour Government is able to introduce certain alleviations, these

must be paid for in the sacrifice of political independence. The removal of the "Gap"

is the price of consent to plans of the Conservative majority for the Navy and Air

Forces. To argue that these objectionable measures would have been carried through

by the last or any other Capitalist Government misses the point of our criticism.

 

 Capitalism produces certain evils. These evils, have, by their persistence, discredited

three Governments since 1918. A Labour Government which seeks to carry on is

certain not to be able to remove the evils, and under the added embarrassment of

having roused high hopes, will be discredited, too, and the unhappy sequel will be that

those who openly defend the present system will with some show of reason instance

the failure of the Labour Party as proof that there is no solution, and many of the

Labour men will drift or be forced into offering the same defence themselves.

 

 It is to the general situation and not to the weakness or cowardice of individuals

that we must look for an explanation of the actions of the Labour Government, many

of which have already given obvious displeasure to their more advanced supporters.

 

 Their term began with a strike of locomotive men, who, despite their solidarity,

were compelled to accept wage reductions. So far from intervening to obtain

"something now" for the strikers, Mr. MacDonald appointed as Colonial Secretary

Mr. J. H. Thomas, who quite openly condemned them and hoped and intrigued for

their defeat.

 

 The miners, too, are putting forward a demand that their wages be raised to the

1914 standard, but the Editor of the Labour Magazine (January, 1924), an official

Labour Party organ, can offer them no better assistance than an appeal in the

following terms:—"We are sure that the miners will not embarrass the first Labour

Government by pressing untimely demands . . ."

 

 It would appear at least reasonable for the miners to receive slightly more than a

starvation wage before the non-producers who own the mines should be allowed to

draw their millions of pounds of profits. Even if the Labour Party, like MacDonald,

are definitely committed to retaining the profit-making system, it cannot be doubted

that they would, if they conveniently could, raise the miners wages; but because they

are "administering capitalism" such a demand is of necessity an "untimely" one. What

the miners get, even if it be given legislative endorsement, will be the result of their

own organisation and action.

 

 When the Dockers came out on strike for increases which were generally admitted

even by some of the Dock employers to be long overdue, the Government had mails

unloaded by Naval ratings and had made all preparations for unloading foodstuffs,

etc., had the strike continued. This does not necessarily imply on their part a positive

wish to break the strike. What it does mean is that this is one of the duties inevitably

forced upon those, whatever their beliefs, who would undertake to administer

Capitalism.

 

 The strike had to be ended or countered. If the Labour Government had refused to

act it would have forfeited the right to govern. Through Mr. Shaw, therefore, pressure

was brought to bear on the Dockers' representatives to accept certain terms which

were actually slightly worse than those finally granted by the employers.

"It was stated yesterday that the settlement terms follow the 'private suggestion' made

by the Minister of Labour last week, with the exception that July instead of June was

first proposed for the operation of the second shilling increase." (Daily News, 22

February, 1924.)

 

 As for the nature of the "private suggestion" referred to, the Worker (March 1st)

quotes as follows from Mr. Bevin's speech to the delegates:—

"The Government is responsible for the moving of the mails. They have refrained from

using soldiers, naval ratings, blacklegs or force of any kind. But they are being driven

up against it, and soon will have to take the choice of exercising their powers or

going out of office. That was the choice, and there is no need to beat about the bush.

We discussed the position with the Government . . . I want you to see the influence on

our judgment in the course of the developments that have gone on."

 

 With regard to the unemployed, Mr. MacDonald, in his opening speech on policy

in the House of Commons, made it quite plain that he is not going to assist them at the

expense of the propertied class.

"We are not going to diminish industrial capital in order to provide relief." (Daily

Herald, 13 February.). This was received with "renewed cheers."

 

 That attitude is explained by an interview MacDonald gave to an unemployed

deputation in Edinburgh, at which he is reported as saying,

"The possibility of financial panic was also a factor to be taken into account . . . For

the immediate future good administration was requisite to win the confidence of the

financial groups and ensure stability." (Worker, 9 February.)

 

 It is evident that to gain and keep the "confidence of the financial groups" rules out

all measures aimed at depriving the Capitalist Class of any part of what they hold,

except on terms pleasing to them.

Dr. Salter, in the New Leader, lays down a general principle on the wage question:

"It is quite certain that under present world circumstances and in view of the

competition in outside markets, no new and higher rates of wages in any industry or

in any locality should be imposed by law without careful preliminary expert

investigation." (7 March, 1924.)

 

 It would doubtless be "untimely" and "embarrassing" to suggest careful enquiry

into the need for supporting an idle class of property owners out of the product of

industry.

 

 But the question of armaments has shown up in its most glaring aspect the

weakness of the Labour Government, its complete dependence on those who pull the

strings, and the truth of the Socialist contention that those who accept office on such

terms can be no more than caretakers of the Capitalist system. In the first place it was

no accident that anti-working class imperialists like Lord Chelmsford and Brigadier-

General Thompson should have gone to the Admiralty and the Air Ministry

respectively. Labour members may be allowed to prattle about the Sermon on the

Mount, provided they keep the fighting forces up to the level require by the

international situation. Thus we have Mr. "Pacifist" Ammon at the Admiralty

announcing the intention of laying down five new cruisers and two destroyers, and

MacDonald actually defending it as a means of providing employment. Of the whole

batch of Labour men only one, the Rev. H. Dunnico, voted against the Government;

161 voted with them, and the rest abstained. Some of the latter will perhaps follow

Dunnico on the next occasion. The internal anarchy of the I.L.P. is well illustrated by

their inability to control the M.Ps. A message of congratulation to Dunnico was

passed unanimously by the 55 delegates attending the half-yearly conference of the

Northern Counties Divisional Council of the I.L.P. It conveyed to him "Heartiest

congratulations on being the only M.P. who stood loyally to the principles which our

party hold."—(Daily News, February 27th). It was left to Liberals like Kenworthy to

protest.

 

 The Government which will not "diminish industrial capital in order to provide

relief" for the unemployed has also agreed to "a big scheme of Air Defence,"

involving an additional expenditure of £2,500,000 for 1924-25, and with the promise

that "the total of air Estimates may be expected to rise for some years."—(Lord

Thompson, Daily Herald, March 8th.)

 

 The Herald uses the word "Defence" on its front page, yet in its editorial of the

same day it endorses MacDonald's view, supported by numerous "experts", that no

aircraft building can really provide any security whatever against hostile raids.

 

 Much has been made by Labour Party apologists (e.g., New Leader, March 14th)

of the fact that the gross expenditure on the three services is less than last year, but as

Lansbury points out, this is merely due to the changing technique of warfare:

"It is said we are to spend less on armaments as a whole; it is true, because the more

deadly weapons, such as bombs, gas, aeroplanes and submarines, are cheaper and

yet more deadly than the obsolete Dreadnoughts and other costly weapons." (Daily

Herald, 15 March.)

 

 Lansbury's further reply to those who pretend to see something different in the

Labour Party's attitude to armaments is equally forcible.

"But far more important is it to realise that exactly the same kind of speeches as are

being made to-day from the Government benches in defence of armaments, were made

during the years 1906-14 by Sir E. Grey, Lord Haldane, Mr. Winston Churchill, and

Mr. Lloyd George." (Ibid.)

The belief, which is now the bedrock of the Labour Party's policy, that peace can

be ensured by preparing for war, is not new, and it has not exactly been confirmed by

history.

 

 The truth is that competition in disposing of the surplus products of each Capitalist

country in the world's markets, and rivalry in the struggle for possession of raw

materials and trade routes, lead inevitably to war. The Labour Government are now

busy considering schemes for reducing the cost of production in the Empire's staple

export industries. In a capitalist world that means more embittered competition, and a

consequently increased probability of early war with those who feel themselves being

throttled in the commercial struggle. Those who have taken on the administration of

Capitalism must also face the responsibility of preparing for the conflicts that are the

product of Capitalism.

 

 The true cause of modern wars was bluntly exposed by a French General, Marshal

Lyauty, speaking at a Banquet of the National Congress of Councillors of Foreign

Trade at Marseilles in October, 1922.—(Star, October 31st, 1922.)

"French soldiers are fighting in Morocco to acquire territory in which rise rivers

capable of supplying power for electrification schemes which will prove of great

advantage to French trade. When we have acquired the last zone of cultivatable

territory, when we have nothing but mountains in front of us, we shall stop.

"Our object is commercial and economic. The military expedition in Morocco is a

means, not an end. Our object is the extension of foreign trade."

 

 Without foreign markets capitalist industry in Great Britain perishes. Without

protection by dominant armaments those markets are prizes to be had for the asking.

 

 Those Labour men who believe that they can promote capitalist trade without needing

to arm in order to hold what they gain, are living in a fool's paradise. They have to

build cruisers and bombing planes to overawe and if need be to shatter the forces and

cities of whatever States come into conflict with Great Britain.

 

 We Socialists see that wars are unavoidable if the interests of the Capitalist Class

are to be protected, but we are not concerned in protecting them. We recognise that

under Capitalism the workers have nothing to lose in war except their lives and

nothing to gain, and so we urge them not to support Capitalist wars or the preparation

for them.

 

 Our aim as Socialists is the destruction of the Capitalist system of society, and we

are therefore unalterably hostile to all political parties which seek to gain control of

Parliament for any other purpose than the establishment of Socialism. The Labour

Party is such a party; it has gone into office in the custody of the Liberal Party; its so-called

Socialists are puppets dancing on the strings of the industrial and financial

capitalists behind the scenes; its Pacifists are merely decoys who will allay suspicion

while the militarists prepare for war; its wild men are a convenient buffer to receive

the blows of the workers so soon as they tire of waiting for something to be done to

relieve their misery.

 

 As has been well said, the Labour Party has taken over a bankrupt concern; not, however, to wind it up, but to carry it on. As well as the troubles of previous administrations, the present Cabinet is threatened with a

promising crop of revolts. The men of peace grown suddenly stiff-necked and highhanded

in office will surely come into early conflict with those of their late

"comrades" who were too honest to desire or too insignificant to be offered posts in

the Government. The genuine disapproval of the former and the ill-concealed venom

of some of the others are likely to make for turbulence rather than tranquillity. So that

even if our first Labour Government is only a Puppet Show, it should merit the

distinction conceded by one observer, of being the best show in London.

 

(April 1924)