The parliamentary manoeuvres

The results of the elections call for little comment. With the assistance of a couple of most effective war-cries the Liberals have successfully played upon the credulity of ignorance and have been returned to power in rather greater numbers than was anticipated. The meaningless piffle of “Hands off the people’s food,” when so large a number have no food and the remainder barely sufficient to maintain their efficiency as profit-producing machines; the hypocritical indignation carefully simulated against Chinese Slavery in South Africa while the wage-slavery of old England passes unnoticed—these two, augmented by a few subsidiary cat-calls anent Education (having reference to the squabbles of rival religious bodies entirely), the Drink Traffic (treated not as a problem resulting from poverty but as the exact and absurd opposite), and the like, have inspired the working class to one more exhibition of well-nigh unmixed folly (a rather greater exhibition than usual), and have encompassed the overwhelming triumph of almost everything capable of standing on two legs and wearing a Liberal label. On the flood, a few dozen persons, mostly made up so as to resemble as nearly as possible the genuine Liberal article, have floated into political position, and will doubtless use their best endeavours to qualify for eulogy as men of “moderation of demeanour, decency of manner, free from swagger and assumption, and with respect for the audience they address in the House of Commons,” which, on the authority of Mr. John Morley, are the characteristics and qualities of the “Labour” representatives who, by the grace of capitalism and the stupidity of their working-class constituents, were able to affix “M.P.” to their names during the life-time of the last Tory administration.


The Liberals have gone in absolutely programless and unpledged, and may be relied upon to abide by the conditions of their election. Certainly it will not be possible to fairly accuse them of violation of the solemn (!) undertakings of the hustings if, at the end of their tenure of office, they have no more than a small, clean sheet of working-class legislation (so-called) to show for their alleged labours. The working class, whether they were conscious of it or not, have, as a matter of sober fact, presented them with the blank cheque for which they appealed, and though it will doubtless occur that some of the “Labour” representatives, if they get the opportunity and can do so with becoming respect, will bring forward some of the reform propositions with which their election addresses were mildly besprinkled, and although the Liberal Party, being astute enough to understand when the moment may be considered opportune for a graceful concession, may be pleased to accept such measure (duly modified, of course) they may be relied upon, having the blank cheque, to spend it mainly in the maintenance of the status quo. And as the status quo means, on the showing of capitalist statisticians, abject poverty for at least a third of the entire working class population, and precious little more for the other two-thirds, and as the great bulk of the reform measures the most advanced candidate advocated when seeking election may find a place upon the statute book without appreciably disturbing the status quo, the wealth producers are unlikely to find, even in the most favourable circumstances, that their last state is better than their first was. Then perhaps they will in time-honoured fashion particularly if the Tory party have managed to find an attractive cry—return again the “Peace with Honour” gang, as distinguished from the “Peace, Retrenchment and Reform” crew. But that is on the knees of the gods. Meanwhile it will be our business to continue to combat by all the means at our disposal, the forces of stupidity and knavery which have operated to produce the confusion of working class thought manifested so unmistakably in the election results, confident in the knowledge that the pressure of economic circumstances must sooner or later, and sooner than many suppose, compel the consideration of the issue we alone of the political parties of England present, must effect the adoption of the attitude we alone take up.


With characteristic honesty the principal organ of Nonconformity was at pains to delude a sufficiently deluded electorate into the belief that the issue of the elections was to be Social Reform versus Tariff Reform—Social reform being, as every perfect ignoramous in political history will be aware, a Liberal party speciality implying great happiness and prosperty for the working class ; Tariff Reform, spelling poverty and wretchedness for the working-class, being the sole objective of the Conservative Party. This issue the “Daily News” argued should impel every member of the working class to oust Toryism and all its apostles and instal Liberalism surely upon the Governmental benches.

Unfortunately for the “Daily News,” however, every student of political history knows that the Liberal Party’s record of reforms does not at all compare to the disadvantage of the Tory Party’s. Unfortunately too, the Liberal Party of to-day has no programme of Social Reform at all. The Pawky Bannerman in his much be-lauded pronouncement of policy at the Albert Hall, well maintained his reputation as the compleat shuffler (or if the term pleases better, political engineer) talking airily round a number of subjects without giving anything in the nature of a definite undertaking regarding any of them, preferring, statesman-like, to leave it to his enthusiastic followers in Press and on platform, to construe his remarks as they thought fit. Unfortunately still further, it would signify exactly nothing if the Liberal Party had a set programme of reform measures just as it signified nothing when the famous Newcastle programme was elaborated and upon which the Liberal Party last secured power. If anybody was in doubt before that election as to whether the programme was manufactured for the purpose of catching votes or not, the subsequent action of. the “Party of Progress” in deliberately breaking the promises they unquestionably had full power to redeem, must have entirely removed that doubt. And unfortunately once more, even if they had been honest enough to pass their reforms, the working class would not under the conditions then and now existing,—have benefited tuppence. All of these reforms have been passed in other capitalist countries without result and all of them will doubtless be passed, after many of the usual sham-fights between the two capitalist factions, in England.

Therefore, the “Daily News” in endeavouring to convey the impression (1) that the Liberal Party is the Party of reform. (2) That the Liberal Party’s programme is the programme that the “Daily News” in somewhat ambiguous terms set out. (3) That the Liberal Party’s alleged programme if carried would beneficially affect the working-class and that, therefore (4) the issue was Social Reform v. Tariff Reform was guilty of misrepresentation on all counts and flat lying on at least two of them. For the intelligent working-class the issue was and is poverty versus comfort, misery versus happiness, slavery versus freedom, Capitalism versus Socialism and the overthrow of the first and the realization of the second will involve the extinction of all political parties reprresentative of capitalist interests including even the great Party of Progress, the Liberal Party itself.

(Editorial, Socialist Standard, February 1906)

Leave a Reply