Editorial: No Change

At last ! After paltering with the destinies of an imperial race for more years than the Liberal party care to remember, Mr. Balfour has resigned and the great Unionist Party has gone out of office. At last ! After fretting in the shades of opposition for a decade, Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman has assumed control of the reins of Government and the Great Liberal Party has gone into office. The most capable, the most industrious, the most earnest, the most successful Government of modern times (vide the Tory Press) and the most disgraceful, the most useless, the most fraudulent, the most shameless Government in the history of mankind (vide the Liberal Press) has decided to take a well-earned rest from its laborious endeavours (Tory Press), or has been forced by the pressure of a disgusted public opinion to vacate its position (Liberal Press), and an impossible government of mutually warring elements that cannot by any chance conduct the affairs or in any adequate way discharge the responsibilities of the English people (Tory Press), or a Government representative of the brains of the Empire, a sound and workmanlike Government that can unhesitatingly claim to voice the aspirations of every section of the nation (Liberal Press) has taken its place. The people of England may have which view they like for their ha’penny, and doubtless by far the majority of the people of England will have and unfortunately share, one or the other of them. We would it were otherwise. It would be otherwise if we could get the intelligent ear of the people of England—or the working class of England, for we are concerned with no other section. We would have the working class understand that, as a matter of fact, despite all the emphatic assurances of the Capitalist Press to the contrary, there is no real change in the Government. It is the same Government representing the same interests, aiming at the same object, actuated by the same motive. True it is a Liberal Government to-day, whereas yesterday it was a Tory Government. But that is only a change of label. It has a Bannerman at its head, vice a Balfour, a Burns at the Local Government Board, vice a second Balfour. But that is only a change of name. True also the change of name and label may involve a slight change of method. It has doubtless become necessary to make a concession to a slowly awakening working class opinion and a departure from the more usual course in the selection of a man for ministerial position who, to the slow-moving working class mind, would be regarded as a champion of working class interest, has been made. But this “Labour” representative has been carefully selected. By years of faithful service which the dirtiest of work has not affected he has demonstrated his trustworthiness and devotion to the interests of his employers. A change of names, of labels, of methods—that is all. The interest represented is still capitalist interest. The object still the retention of the means of life in the bands of the capitalist class, still the subjugation and exploitation of the working class. In no single material respect has the Government changed.

BURNS, P.C., M.P., L.G.B.., L.C.C.

In regard to the appointment of Burns to the Local Government Board, we have just a few words to say, A considerable bulk of nonsense has been spoken and written on the subject by those who claim to represent Labour, mostly to the effect that it is desirable to suspend judgment on the man until he has had a chance to show what he is prepared to do. Now these Labour representatives must know quite as well as we know, why Burns has been selected for the position and the conditions of the appointment. He is selected because be is a “safe” man, because he has acted jackal to the Liberal Party for years, and because he has rarely, if ever, during tlie course of his Parliamentary career, raised his voice in championship of the interest of the class from which he sprang, but has, on the contrary, always been at the disposal of his capitalist friends to defend any act, even acts of palpable atrocity, committed by them. His association with that cold-blooded mediocrity, Asquith, in the murder of the Featherstone miners, and his plea for the use in such cases of the deadliest bullets obtainable, placed him for ever without the pale so far as we are concerned. But notwithstanding his record, his proletarian origin has given him a standing with the ignorant working class which the entire capitalist press has endeavoured, successfully, it must be admitted, to strengthen. To reward him with a well remunerated post was therefore to secure a large measure of working class support which the pressure of adverse economic conditions and the inability of capitalist governments to touch even the fringe of the trouble were tending to alienate. These are the reasons for Burns’ elevation. The conditions are that he shall do what may with safety be done to ensure the continued support of the working class to the Liberal Party. There is no question about this at all. Everyone who understands the working class position understands that this is the only condition upon which a capitalist government would consent to the inclusion of an ex-working man in their counsels. Knowing this we do not require to wait for what Burns may do. We know what he will do and why he will do it—just as the Tory St. James Gazette knew when, in commenting upon his appointment, they asserted that he could be relied upon to deal with the “whining wastrelism” known as the unemployed.

(Editorial, Socialist Standard, January 1906)

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