The Lies of Liberalism

A Record of False Pretence and Low Cunning

Without a Blush
In the course of his Budget speech. Mr. Lloyd George dwelt upon the wonderful extent of industry and trade. He indulged in the usual lies about working-class prosperity and foreshadowed “the better time coming,” in the following words :

“The commercial world everywhere is in better heart. There is more enterprise and everything makes the prospect much brighter. I am told, on authority, I cannot doubt, that we shall probably see a greater volume of trade this year and next than has ever been witnessed in the history of this country . . . All indications are that this year’s trade will be good, that next year’s trade will be better, that the people will be prosperous and that therefore the revenue will show an expansion.”

Will the people be prosperous ? If by the “people” is meant the workers we deny it and submit she following lesson from the past (provided by the Liberals themselves) as evidence in support of our point of view.

In the leading article of the Daily Chronicle (amongst other papers) for June 6th, 1903, we were told :

“Opportunely there are published this morning two official returns of great interest and importance with regard to British Trade. . . The figures tell a tale both absolutely and relatively of great prosperity. . . . They show that the whole volume of British Trade has increased from 764 millions sterling in 1898 to 877 in 1902 . . . we have such evidence before us that we are doing very well as we are.”

In the very same issue appears a report of the now famous speech delivered on the previous day in the City Hall, Perth, by Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman, who said :

“We know that there is about 30% of our population underfed, on the verge of hunger. . . The condition of the people is serious enough under Free Trade ; it is a question which haunts us, and surely the fact that about 30% of the population in living with the grip of perpetual poverty upon it, is and ought to be a sufficient answer to the Prime Minister.”

Our Splendid Civilisation

It was also in that “boom” year that Mr. Winston Churchill madee his speech at Edinburgh, during which he said :

“I have often asked myself whether our splendid civilisation really conferred blessings on all classes. Is it true to say that the poorest man in Scotland is not any happier than poorest Hottentot or the poorest Eskimo? I am inclined to think that he is not any happier but perhaps more miserable. He is homeless in the heart of great cities ; such as never was never seen on earth before and he suffers the privations of the savage with the nerves of civilised man.
“To compare the life and lot of the African aboriginal—secure in his abyss of contented degradation, rich in that he lacks everything and wants nothing—with the long nightmare of worry and privation, of dirt and gloom and squalor, lit only by gleams of torturing knowledge and tantalizing hope, which constitutes the lives of so many poor people in England and Scotland, is to feel the ground tremble underfoot.”

Despite the widespread poverty, the Liberal Party are very active just now, in claiming that unemployment is rapidly declining and that the conditions of life for all are improving because of the advance of commerce. But let the reader reflect on the facts given above showing the existence of terrible poverty at the same time as an unequalled increase in the amount of wealth produced and it will then be clearly seen that the claims of Liberalism are fraudulent.

A Fraudulent Claim Exposed
We are continually told that the recent legislation of the Liberals is beneficial to the workers. An examination of the chief items will show how groundless is this statement.

The Board of Trade Labour Exchanges (opened February 1st, 1910) have been hailed with delight in many quarters. Below we give the returns published in the April, May and June issues of the “Board of Trade Labour Gazette.” It should be understood that the number of applicants practically represents different persons, because renewals are not again counted.

During No. of applications for work No. of vacancies filled
February 216,813 12,628
March 126,119 20,395
April 116,523 23,858
May 100,392 24,025
559,847 80,906

These figures show how the Liberals have lied about unemployment and the influence of Labour Bureaux. What a fraud ! 80,906 jobs and 559,847 applications for them ! No wonder the number of applicants fell after the first month, seeing how few jobs could be had through them.

How greatly these Exchanges are opposed to the interests of the working class was indicated by recent instances in which they provided strike-breakers. One or two of these cases only are dealt with here, owing to this being an article and not a pamphlet.

Strike-smashing Up to Date
A London firm of cabinetmakers recently refused to pay the union rate to their workmen. The men were called out by their union but the masters applied to the Labour Exchange for “hands.” (It is true that the regulations require all applicants to be told if a strike is on at the firm applying. But the regulations only exist on paper.) The Exchange wrote the firm asking whether a strike was proceeding as they had been informed so by the union. But the very morning that the letter arrived, and before a reply was sent, men arrived from the Labour Exchange and were taken on.

In June a strike arose at Newport Docks, and Messrs. Houlder Bros, had the good fortune to be supplied with strike smashers by both the Labour Exchange and Mr. Collinson’s Free Labour Association ! Down at Napsbury Pauper Lunatic Asylum, another wing is being built to accommodate the increasing number of workers whom the present system mentally cripples. The contractors for the work sought, in true capitalist spirit, to wring more unpaid labour out of the labourers, paying them 5½d. per hour. . The toilers, directly provoked by this starvation rate, remonstrated on June 15th, and were thereupon paid off. Before many hours had passed strikebreakers arrived from a London Labour Exchange, and supplanted the men on strike.

According to their own account, no mention of there being a strike down at Napsbury was made to the strikebreakers.

Another motive our Liberal capitalists had in establishing these Labour Exchanges. A quotation from Leaflet No. 16 (“Rough on Rates”) issued by their Budget League, illustrates this :

“These Labour Exchanges will contain accurate lists of unemployed men and women. By means of telephone a man will be able to find out if there is a job for him in a distant town without going on tramp to the town itself. This means that casual wards maintained by the ratepayers’ money will fall into disuse and large sums of public money will be saved.”

Bearing in mind that it is the property owners and not the workers who pay the rates, we can see whose interests this measure protects.

The same reason causes them to favour unemployment insurance, as the following from the pamphlet quoted above tells us :

“The principle of insurance is that you pay money when times are good and receive it back when times are bad (!) This scheme means therefore that during periods of depression, money will be put into circulation, thousands of families kept off the rates,” etc., etc.

A Hair of the Dog that Bit Him
The Road Development Bill has been produced to lessen unemployment, we are informed. The real position is that commercial progress accompanied by the revolution in modes of transit from the horse-drawn vehicle to the motor, makes necessary to the capitalists the laying of roads more suitable for the heavier traffic of commerce and the pleasure cars of the idle rich.

The method is to have roads that will not need the constant repairing that the present ones do, and the alterations are brought under the control of the national executive of the capitalist class to ensure more economic maintenance, and results in less work being needed to keep the roads in good condition. To quote again from that Liberal bill:

“Improvements will then be effected at the charge of the Treasury, which would otherwise necessarily add to the rates of certain districts, and special attention will be devoted to laying down a more durable and less dusty surface to our highway. This again will relieve local rates.”

Here the old lesson is recalled, that economies effected under capitalism increase unemployment.

After the report of the Royal Commission om Home Work, the Trade Boards Act was passed, setting up minimum wages boards. Hence the cry of the Liberals : “Look what we have done for Labour !” They point out quite jubilantly, that this Act has been welcomed by many of the largest employers !

What actually results from this measure is the alteration of the methods under which exploitation is carried on. Large employers find it less profitable to employ home workers than before. They bring young and more energetic workers into their factories, where the latest wages saving machinery and “speeding up” methods are introduced under carefully adjusted systems of division of labour. The small manufacturer is forced out because of the advantage of the large factory with the big purse behind it. The older workers, who did manage to scrape along by taking work and slaving in their “homes” instead of in the factory, now find it impossible to get work. Thus on every hand these measures prove detrimental to our class owing to wealth being produced under the new methods with fewer workers than before. The larger output for less wages means accentuation of poverty all along the line. The Singer Sewing Machine Co. issued to clothing manufacturers in the North of England, a circular on “The Wholesale Clothing Trade and Labour-Saving Machinery,” drawing attention to an exhibition at Leeds of many wonderful new machines. An extract from it runs :

“The display has already been visited by large numbers of the clothing manufacturers of Yorkshire and Lancashire and more distant parts, and readers interested in the manufacture of clothing may be recommended to learn by a personal visit and inspection, what the new methods and these improved machines may mean to them, especially in view of the now Trade Boards Act which is now coming into operation.”

The Housing and Town Planning Act is also instanced by the Liberals as beneficial legislation and it therefore calls for a few words to show its essentially capitalistic character.

The trend of commercial development is to need wider streets and more luxurious surroundings for the emporiums of the capitalist class. Consequently under the above, as under other housing acts, the workers are driven further away from the main thoroughfares, slums are abolished in one place merely to arise elsewhere. The rents of the buildings erected on the sites of the slums (to yield greater profit to the property owners) are generally higher, and the workers, unable to pay more rent, are forced to turn to other quarters, and thus slumdom becomes intensified. In the model dwellings erected by “ten per cent, philanthropy” associations and municipalities, severe strictures are often made as to the number of persons and children per room. This leads the evicted of the slums to resort to worse tenements on account of their lack of resources and therefore the workers are made more uncomfortable than ever. This is the logical result of housing reform under capitalism. Most of the reforms touched upon in this article exist in Germany. Labour Bureaux, Unemployment and Invalidity Insurance, Housing Reforms—all have flourished for some time past over there, yet the Liberal Press and politicians are telling us that the condition of the workers is worse than here. So much for their “blessed” reforms.

We still hear the Liberals repeating the old lie—Free Trade means security for the worker. We have shown from the returns of their own Labour Exchanges how prevalent unemployment is under capitalism. Yet this unemployment exists in spite of the fact that more people emigrated from and fewer immigrated into Great Britain last year than for many years past. The figures in the June issue of the “Board of Trade Labour Gazette” relating to emigration from Great Britain and immigration into Great Britain to and from countries beyond Europe are :

1909 1908
Emigration 474,374 386,411
Immigration 261,325 342,922

The brutal conditions imposed upon the workers by the employing class, Liberal and Tory alike, force them to leave the land of their birth, to scour the world in search of a job. They leave Great Britain, where unemployment, insecurity of life, and poverty press upon them, to face the same old “problem” thousands of miles away. It’s the old vain hops of expecting to do better in a strange land. More than half the emigrants went to America. The poverty of the workers there was depicted in the May issue of the SOCIALIST STANDARD.

The Liberal papers have been filling pages with glowing accounts of the fine opportunities supposed to be awaiting the workers in the colonies, with special reference to Canada, where the workers (they say) are welcomed with open arms. Earl Grey, on his recent visit to this country, has been telling the same tale. How fraudulent this emigration campaign is may be appreciated by noticing the fact that on March 10th, 1910 the Canadian Government issued a new notice making entry into the country more difficult than ever. The new rules, while making more strict the medical and civil examination, demand that emigrants should be possessed of from 25 to 50 dollars per head (“their absolute property”) according to the time of the year. Surely if they were really pining for more wags-slaves in Canada they would not impose these onerouss conditions. Since the new regulations were made scores of British workers have been sent back to this country. The great miners’ strike at Glace Bay and Spring Hill should show how real the class struggle is in Canada.

Concerning Australia, we have the testimony of social reformers (Mr. Ben Tillett and Mr. Tom Mann, for example) who on returning from there, told of the fierce struggle to live out there in spite Labour Ministries, wages boards, compulsory arbitration, and many other reforms that misled workers are advocating here. The strike of miners at Newcastle and Broken Hill, of the State employed Sydney trainwaymen (to mention only a few) serve to illustrate the fact that the worker who emigrates merely exchanges misery in one place for misery elsewhere. The May No. of the “Board of Trade Gazette” states that unemployment is rife in many leading industries “down under.” “United South Africa” offers little prospect for the worker. There the black slave has supplanted the yellow one, and the white slave is not required because the colored is cheaper.

The policy of the Liberal Party is made up of measures all quite as fraudulent as those we have criticised. Throughout their history they have been the consistent enemies of the working class, just as much as the Tory party. To-day both parties are crying “reform.” This eagerness of the capitalist class to pass reforms sheds light upon the real nature of reform under capitalism. Reforms are favoured by the ruling class for two reasons: firstly, because their immediate material interests are thereby served, and secondly, because they can be used to deceive workingmen and induce them to support capitalist parties. “The Repeal of the Corn Laws” was passed for capitalist ends, yet it was used to rally to the side of the Liberal Party, millions of workingmen. Richard Cobden said:

“The great capitalist class formed an excellent basis for the Free Trade Movement, for they had inexhaustible purses which they opened freely in a contest where not only their pecuniary interests, but their pride as an order was at stake.” (Morley’s “Life of Cobden.”)

The evolution of the present system proceeds faster than the enacting of reform, and even any slight benefit going to the workers is soon more than cancelled by the operations of capitalist development. The working class must learn the simple lesson that while one class own the means of producing the necessaries of life, the rest of society is enslaved to that class. The Liberal and Tory parties alike stand for the maintenance of capitalism, and must therefore be opposed by us. The members of the working class must join the proletariat army fighting for political control: the power required in order that those things necessary for producing wealth may become the common heritage of all —be owned in common and administered in the interest of ALL. They must come into the fireing line and usher in a bright and joyful future for themselves and the race that is to be.

A. K.

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