The Forum: Mr. Garvey’s difficulties

Mr. Edwin Garvey writes thanking us for our “courteous and explicit” reply to his queries, and stating that his only remaining doubt is that “the workers may not, in the course of a few years, have the ‘overwhelming majority of votes’ they have to-day.” He claims that they live from two to twelve families in a house, and are “a floating populace, rarely ever holding a vote,” in view of which he thinks political action could not secure control of the political machine. Our correspondent thinks tliat therefore the only course open to the workers to secure their omancipation lies in the General Strike. He asks if an alternative policy of concentrating upon Adult Suffrage would not be advantageous.

As our correspondent does not inform us of the extent of his experience we are unable to judge the value of same. It is quite true that certain, sections of the working class are more of a floating population to-day than in years gone by, but this is not only not true of all the working class, but in the near future will not be true for a large portion of those “floating” to-day. The reason is simple. Combination among the large capitalists in various industries often results in a rearrangement of the factories and plants owned by such concerns. Certain works are closed down and others more favourably situated for their particular business are enlarged, or new ones built. This may occur without a combination, taking place when a firm extends its sphere of operations. Thus Humbers, Ltd., have closed their old Beeston works and centralised their business in huge new factories in Coventry. The L. & S. W. Railway are removing their locomotive works from Nine Elms (London) to Eastleigh in Hampshire, where they have already a large carriage factory. In these two cases there will be an increase in the number of relatively permanent working-class residents in these two districts. Other examples may be given, as Bournville and Port Sunlignt. During the period capitalist combination is reaching its apex the “floating” portion of the working class will continue to exist, but in steadily decreasing numbers owing to the higher centralisation of industry, and the grouping of particular industries in special places.

This, of course, will not apply to the whole of the working class, though it will cover a large proportion. Our correspondent’s fear on this point is therefore groundless. His alternative of the General Strike has been partly answered by our former reply. We assume that by “General Strike” he means practically the whole of the workers ceasing work. If they did that how would they live ? The workers’ resources are almost nil—the capitalist class has control of such stores as are in existence, and there being fewer of them, they could easily live while the workers were starved into submission. How this method could succeed in emancipating the working class we are unable to say. With reference to the last point our correspondent must remember that while the capitalists have control of Parliament it is they who decide what measures shall become law. Apart from matters in their own interests they will only give way on certain points when they are afraid of the workers’ growing consciousness of their own position.

Adult Suffrage has been advocated since the Chartist movement, and is little nearer to-day than then. A growing agitation by the working class for Socialism would wring this and similar concessions from the capitalists in a tythe of the time already wasted on such things. For in their growing fear they would throw sop after sop in their attempt to stem the flowing tide. Hence we preach Socialism and Socialism alone as the only hope of the working class.

J. F.

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