Buy ’em out

The text for this article is the following abstract from a speech delivered by Mr. P. Snowden in the House of Commons, July 4th, 1910.

“Mr. P. Snowden (Lab. Blackburn), speaking as a representative of Socialism, said he was not appalled by the figures of the Budget ; on the contrary, he hoped to see the day when the Chancellor of the Exchequer would bring in a Budget for 3 or 4 hundred millions . . . The Labour Party supported last year’s Budget because it was a good beginning. He would not tax landlords out of existence, but would buy them out.
A Unionist Member: Where would you get the money ?
Mr. Snowden : That is a question often put by ignorant men at open meetings. (Laughter.) If they tried to float all the public-houses of the country as a trust with assurance that they would be free from increased taxation there would be no difficulty in obtaining the money. (Labour cheers.)” Daily Chronicle, 5.7.10.

Mr. Snowden’s claim to be a Socialist representative is soon disposed of. His election address and speeches at the last General Election, to say nothing of an analysis of the votes cast for him, amply disprove that claim. Goaded, possibly, bv the disaffection in the ranks of the I.L.P., he blossoms out, on occasion, as a ‘”Socialist representative.” This is part and parcel of the political game he and his colleagues are playing.

But I wish to deal with his piffle about buying up the land.

How Mr. Snowden and his like can rave to an I.L P. audience about the robber landlords whose ancestors filched the land from the people, etc., etc. Of course he knows his audience. He has to tickle their political palates in order to earn his lecturing fee, with one eye on a return engagement. But to a more “respectable” audience, such as the House of Commons, he adopts another tone. He appears to be quite unconcerned as to the lack of consistency (I had almost said lack of honesty) in raving at one time against the robbers and parasites on the body politic, and at another time admitting the claim and title to their monopoly by talking about “buying them out.” If this is not confusion, what is it ? To the Socialist, with regard to the land and ALL other means of capitalist exploitation, there is no question either oi “compensation” or “confiscation,” but simply RESTITUTION.

Again, taking Mr. Snowden’s remarks on the level of his own verbosity, which is not the Socialist level by any means, we observe his smart wangle in reply to an interjector who asked “Where would he get the money from ?” Possibly the writer is equally ignorant; anyway, I repeat “Where would he get the money from” to buy out the landlords ? Obviously such a transaction could not be concluded in the coin of the realm, as there is not sufficient coinage minted in this country with which to do it, and moneymanias will doubtless tell us that if such an enormous sum was specially minted for the purpose, when put into circulation it would swamp the money market, etc., so as to make it just about valueless. Therefore it would have to be done with scrip, treasury bonds, and the like, and to be of any value these bonds would have to be interest-bearing.

So, here you will see the drift. Here, with very little imagination to fill in the gaps, we can foresee the birth and result of a new side-tracking agitation for another “drastic reform.” Shout it from the housetops; sing it in the music halls. “Land Purchase.” “The Land for the People.”

Miles of fulminations and perorations on the platform and in the Press over a course of years, perhaps generations, would induce the landowning section of the capitalist class to “reluctantly” give way (with their tongues in their blasted cheeks), and accept in exchange for their rent rolls, treasury bonds bearing perpetual interest of certainly not less amount than their present incomes—the dominant political power, the capitalist class, will see to that. And the result to the gullible members of the working class who had been bluffed by the afore-mentioned perorations ? Simply, as you were. They would still have to provide the luxuries for the paraaities, the only difference being that they would be called “interest” now.

Let us suppose that “hand” John Smith’s wildest dream is realised and in consequence of this very revolutionary change he lives “rent free,” what happens ?

“Times are bad,” says the employer to John, “Business is rotten, and I really cannot keep this place going in face of the foreign competition unless you accept less wages. You can easily do this: you have NO RENT TO PAY now; therefore I must dock your wages 10s. per week.”

“But,” protests John, “my rent was only 5s. per week.”

“Indeed,” retorts the boss. “Then let us compromise and call it 7s. 6d.”

Of course John will fight, but after tightening his belt daily for a few weeks and watching his wife and kiddies starve while he is on strike, he will return to work at 5s. per week less than formerly ; meanwhile his boss has got rid of his surplus stock at enhanced prices and treats himself to a new aeroplane. John soon forgets, in his anxiety to get a living, all the balderdash he swallowed during the “drastic reform” agitation (unless the wicked Socialist is there to jog his memory). He has got the reform all right, but he has yet to learn that he and his class will never, while capitalism lasts, receive more on the average, than a bare subsistence.

Poor John ! Is it any wonder that some people think that he only get his deserts ? Well, he must thank, amongst others, Messrs. Snowden & Co. for the condition in which he finds himself, and in which he will remain until he learns the one grand lesson—that Socialism is the only remedy.

W. E.

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