1900s >> 1909 >> no-55-march-1909

Editorial: The Opening of Parliament

On the morning of the opening of Parliament, the Morning Leader, after its usual panegyric of Liberalism, added that “Mr. Asquith has declared the question of the House of Lords to be the dominating issue in politics to-day ; and assuredly no programme and no line of policy which ignores or disregards that issue for a moment can end in anything but disaster.” In another part of the same issue the Morning Leader also says “Parliament is opened to-day, and, in the words of the Premiers summons to his followers, matters of ‘grave and urgent importance’ will arise. Chief of these should be the opening of the campaign against the veto of the House of Lords.” Yet the King’s speech, which outlined the Liberal policy for the coming session, contained no word of reference to this “dominating issue.” One could almost hear the spirits of the faithful Liberals fall. Even Lord Lansdowne could not help remarking on that notable omission from the King’s speech. The dominant issue, indeed, seems to be the raising of cash, for the speech contained the following significant statement. “The provision necessary for the services of the State in the ensuing year will require very serious consideration, and, in consequence, less time than usual will, I fear, be available for the consideration of other legislative measures.” Rather cold comfort, this, to the deluded electors who rose a while back to the bait of “Peace, Retrenchment, and Reform.” But to those who know the Liberal Party it is merely the fulfilment of their expectations. Liberal peace is the shooting down of strikers; Liberal retrenchment is returning to the Treasury money voted for the unemployed, and to out-Tory the Tories in matters of naval policy ; while Liberal reform is typified by the mis-called Education Bill and the Bill for the disestablishment of the Church in Wales (neither of which is of the slightest good to the workers) and in the transformation of the Poor Law (of which the old age pension scheme was the first step) in order to reduce the cost of poor relief by providing quite inadequate provision for the physically incapable, and penal colonies for the rest.

 

Labour Bureaux.

 

One of the measures that may engage the attention of Parliament is that concerning Labour Bureaux—which again is typical of the true Liberal policy of serving the masters. Labour exchanges, when controlled by the Government, directly or indirectly, become recruiting offices for blacklegs. If a man on the books dares to refuse a job because the pay is too bad, be forthwith becomes a “won’t-work” in the eyes of the officials, and is treated accordingly. Government controlled labour bureaux thus become instruments of the employing class for decreasing wages and breaking the worker’s spirit. Apart from this there is, moreover, the very obvious fact (which seems to escape many) that as stated by Mr. Chiozza Money in a morning paper on Feb. 16th, “the establishment of a Labour bureau does not create a single hour’s more work.” Broadly speaking, this is undeniable, and shows the absurdity of the claim that labour exchanges would alleviate unemployment.

 

Afforestation.

 

Now that the Commission which sat on this question has reported, the unemployed may be cheered to think that a solution of their difficulties is soon to be found. If they take the advice of their friends of the S.D.P., anyway, this is so. The fact that the Commission discover that the land available for this purpose, however, can only find employment for some few hundreds of men, does not point to much relief—far less solution—that way. Perhaps that is why the S.D.P. usually couple the reclaimation of foreshores with their afforestation proposals ; although it certainly seems to be building one’s hopes on sandy foundations. Mr. Chiozza Money is concerned with the aspect of railway rates in connection with any Government proposals along the lines of the Commission’s recommendations, but new factors might easily be introduced into the question by the time the trees have grown.

 

It is interesting to speculate on the future of the S.D.P. if the Government continue to take the wind out of its sails by adopting its most exclusive proposals. With old age pensions, free feeding of school children, afforestation and so forth, the party which has claimed a monopoly of the advocacy of these “palliatives” for 28 years will either have to be absorbed into the party which adopts them, or drop them altogether and seek fresh fields and pastures new. It might, of course, remember that it is professedly a Socialist organisation, and adopt that as one of its items; but in that case, too, it should allow itself to be absorbed into the party which has been doing so, if not for 28 years, at any rate since its inception. But that course would be too logical to be expected from the S.D.P., from what we know of that body, if the Liberal Party continue to adopt S.D.P. proposals at the same rate as recently, the 50 or so proposals of an immediate and practical nature will certainly have to be extended to assure the continuance of that body. This may have been already recognised, and is a possible explanation of the reconsideration of the programme now being conducted by the committee appointed by the last Conference.

 

The Socialist Party has no fear that its only proposal will be adopted by any capitalist party and is not afraid of concentrating its whole attention on Socialism as the only solution of problems incident to capitalism and the only policy that can logically be adopted by a revolutionary working class.