Joy Unspeakable

Joy Unspeakable
And so the Trades Dispute Bill has passed the faithful Commons and has every prospect of getting through the Lords unimpaired. And there is merry-making in the camp of Progress. The independent existence of the “Labour” Group is justified—the bill could never have passed had the Government not been whipped from the outside. The existence of the Liberal Labour Group is justified—the bill would have never had a chance if they had not been with in the councils of the Government to inspire them. The Liberal Government is justified—the bill would never have been introduced at all if it had not been for the well known sympathies of Liberalism with the aspirations—the genuine aspirations of Labourism. The Tory Party is justified—with astonishing magnanimity they withdrew their opposition at the last moment and their leader endorsed the bill with a blessing. Everybody satisfied. Everybody happy. And the lion is at rest beside the lamb.

Suspicious Unanimity.
Which, when one comes to think of it, is rather suspicious. Why this unanimity ? Why is it that Capital is giving Labour what Labour is asking for and that almost without a murmur ? The question permits of two answers. (1) Capital’s hands have been forced and it is therefore making what virtue it can of a necessity. (2) The bill isn’t material and doesn’t affect capitalist interests. The “Labour” Party, of course, accept the first view and they have some ground for their belief. But while not concerned to deny that for their own purposes the capitalist Liberal Party have preferred to accept with good grace rather than oppose the measure forced upon them (and in so doing have attached to themselves some sympathy and votes which would probably have been diverted from them had they refused to deal with the matter), this at any rate is beyond question—the bill does not hit their interests hard; it is not material. Had it been otherwise; had there been any vital matter at stake, not all the “Labour” Party horses nor all the “Labour” Party men—what there is of them.—could have compelled them to capitulate as they have done in the case under notice without a struggle and probably a bloody struggle at that.

A Great Victory—Investigated
What, after all, does the great victory amount to ? It amounts in effect to practically no more than a reversion to the condition that Labour Unionism thought it was in up to the Farwell decision. It is a case of as you were—no more than that. Indeed, it is a famous victory. The working class can now, if they like, strike. They can peacefully persuade others to join with them. And the funds of the Union are not liable for unauthorised acts of Union members. But the strike is a feeble weapon and in the hands of class-unconscious workers, as most of those who use it are, absolutely useless except on very rare occasions. In a strike the capitalist class, because they own the means of living and control the wealth, can sit tight and smile. The striking workman consumes almost immediately what few resources he has and, with starvation glaring at him, submits or—goes under. Well. The bill permits him to keep on doing that; it permits the capitalist class to keep on starving the worker out. It simply doesn’t touch the economic interest of the exploiter and only in the remotest and infinitesimal way benefits the exploited. But it is- a famous victory. Hooray !

(Editorial, Socialist Standard, December 1906)

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