1900s >> 1906 >> no-28-december-1906

Hoist with his own petard

“The concessions, such as they are, which have been made have been much less due to our agitation than to the pressure of circumstances. . . Would the agitation have been carried on, would there have been any need for either agitation or concessions, if normal agencies—private charity and soon—had effectually grappled with the unemployed difficulty, and unemployment had not, in spite of these agencies, grown and developed into a chronic social disorder? Again with free education. Neither the first compulsory Education Act of 1870 nor the abolition of fees in elementary schools was the work of people who believed in the justice of either measure as an abstract principle ; and neither would have been adopted except that in no other way was it possible to remove that ignorance of even the bare elements of education which had come to be a national danger.

The same too with old age pensions and municipal trading. . . The trade unions are now, with practical unanimity, demanding old age pensions, and many of the great friendly societies are joining in the demand. Why ? Partly, let us modestly admit because of our agitation ; but mainly because of the impossibility of securing decent maintenance for old and incapacitated toilers in any other way. Why, in spite of the avowed hostility of the people in power to the principle of municipal ownership and municipal trading, have municipal ownership and municipal trading grown ? Partly, we may once more admit as a result of the persistent and active propaganda of our energetic minority, but very much more as a result of the utter failure of private enterprise. . . The latest case in point is the report of the Select Committee on the Bill for Providing Meals for School Children. That is a poor half-hearted report on a poor half-hearted measure ; but it does at least recognise the need for giving hungry children one meal a day. That is something; a concession made in the hope of winning over the Socialists, says Sir George Livesey. Partly perhaps. But the chief factor in bringing about this concession lies not in Socialist agitation, but in the circumstances that private enterprise has not been able, in this land of plenty, to prevent the horror and disgrace of the starvation of little children.”

H. QUELCH

And that is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. We reproduce it, despite its length because it may stand as a strong justification of our attitude in relation to reform agitation. We urge the danger and the stupidity of hitching working-class energies on to palliative propaganda. We emphasise the futility of anything less than Socialism and the necessity therefore for concentration upon Socialism alone knowing quite well that all other things will be added unto us either under stress of economic pressure, or because a growing working-class determination to be satisfied with nothing short of the whole product of their labour has struck fear for their safety deep into the hearts of the capitalist class and impelled them to offer anything, everything, but their power to rob, in an endeavour to turn the workers from their purpose. And we are sneered at therefore and are, if you please, “Impossiblists” on the word of Mr. Quelch himself and the Party he partly leads ! Mr. Quelch’s party has practically abandoned the revolutionary position of which we claim to be exponents, and become, largely under the direction of Mr. Quelch himself, a mere reform organisation. Yet Mr. Quelch and his friends continue to utter (on special occasions) the sentiments of revolution as though they had not strayed one hair’s breadth from the straight but narrow way and continue to pose (when it is good business to do so) as the stern relentless champions of the uncompromising policy. Mr. Quelch has framed a strong indictment of his own party’s methods—not to mention his own and as such we commend the article to the attention of our readers.

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