Lloyd George’s Land Campaign. Another Liberal Swindle

At long last the Right Honourable Lloyd Jaws, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has made his “great” speech on the Land Question. Many of his followers are disturbed and there is mur­muring in the camp, for the promised programme has not been brought forward, and the foolish hopes of those who can learn nothing even from the bitterest of bitter experience have not been realised.

A great and rousing campaign is, however, foreshadowed, and once again Labour is to be bamboozled. Four years ago the Budget was trailed before the workers’ eyes, and since then both the Lords’ Veto and Home Rule have been dexterously exploited to draw the attention of the workers from the real causes and the only remedy for their poverty-stricken and miserable condition.

But these two wheezes have lost, or soon will lose, their efficacy, while the need for a political red-herring, with the workers’ miseries steadily increasing and with the line of class cleavage being so frequently illuminated by police bru­tality and military massacres, and even more vividly by the wholesale slaughter in prevent­able mine disasters, was never greater than it is to-day. And apart from this there are other reasons, and even more important ones, perhaps, from the Lloyd-Georgian point of view, for embarking upon this campaign.

In the first place, when the fructification of the Home Rule measure takes from the Liberal camp the bulk of the Irish support it has for so many years ranged behind them, it will be ne­cessary for the Liberal party to find other allies. They can hardly expect the old decoy duck—the Labour Party—to rise to the occasion, for their impotence in the great Railway and Trans­port strikes, and their cowardly silence and in­difference in the face of working-class butchery at Llanelly, Belfast, Dublin, the Rand, and other places, have opened the workers’ eyes thoroughly to the fact that the “Labour” representative is nothing but a sneak Liberal. Therefore they must try and turn the scale in the country constituencies by appealing to the farmer and the agricultural labourer.

One more reason. The Liberal party is pre-­eminently the political party of the manufacturing capitalists. They play their part well in labour disputes, as history from Featherstone to Dublin shows. Their legislation is in the direction of cheaper and more efficient labour-power, as witness their Free Trade policy and their Unemployment Insurance, Labour Exchanges, and other reform measures.

To the industrial capitalist the landowner is a useless parasite. He sits idly by and waits for unearned increment. If the old aristocrat had an overwhelming contempt for “trade,” the plutocrats of the factory return that contempt wholeheartedly upon the aristocrat in his capacity as landowner. And if the lords of the land at one time thought it nothing less than Divine justice that all the expenses of running the State should fall upon “trade,” the manufacturing section of the master class are wide awake to the desirability and the opportunity of imposing the whole burden of taxation upon “the land” to-day.

The present campaign, therefore, besides be­ing a counter-attraction to keep the workers in confusion, and a red-herring to catch the votes of the man on the land, is another blow at land-ownership, not in the interest of the agricultural labourer, or even of the farmer, but of the indus­trial capitalist. It is an incident in the struggle between rent on the one hand, and profit and interest on the other—and Lloyd George speaks, as he did at the railway “settlement” and else­where, for Profit, and Interest.

Gradually the Liberal party is getting their followers familiar with the manufacturing capitalists’ view of the “land monopoly” and land­lordism, the diabolical wickedness of “unearned increment,” and the parasitism of the landowner as such. Gradually they are preparing the way for the final triumph of the industrial capitalists—the placing of all taxes on land.

It is quite clear, however, that as the workers are neither land-owners nor capitalists, as far as the “Land Campaign” is a struggle between these two, they are not interested in it in the slightest degree.

The actual details of the Cabinet’s proposals, as far as anything definite has been said, seem to centre around two main points—security for the farmer and a minimum wage for the labourer. There are minor points, such as housing the workers, “fair rents,” etc. It is no part of our task to go into the question of security for the farmer, but it is quite easy to see that when the large landowner sees agriculture advancing, the land yielding more, and himself unable to reap the benefit, compensation or no compensa­tion, the farmers will have to go. Bailiffs will take their places, and the landowner will farm the land himself through them.

It is admitted that tenant farmers have only been suffered because the landowner could, in general, rob them of all they produced beyond their living (the statement of Mr. Chiozza Money that “nearly the whole of the farmers of the United Kingdom earn less than £160 per annum.” [“Riches and Poverty,” p. 17] supports this), and to attempt to deprive landowners of this power of robbery, so far from giving the farmer security, will simply turn him into the landlord’s bailiff.

Even if the land were municipalised the rents would be maintained, for the industrial capitalists, who are the power in the land, are deter­mined that as far as possible, and as soon as possible, the land shall bear the burden of the State expenses, either through taxation under private ownership, or through rent under land nationalisation. If the Liberals cared about the “man on the land,” and especially about the small “man on the land,” they have had ample opportunity of showing it as the landlords of thousands of acres of Crown land. But instead, it is the constant boast of Liberal Ministers, that since their Allotments and Small-holdings Acts have come into force, since, that is, a portion of these lands have been parcelled out to small men, the rent derived from the Crown lands has considerably increased.

Much of the Chancellor’s verbiage has been expended upon the old, old cry of increasing the fertility of the soil—making “two blades of grass to grow where one grew before.” Of course, if food can be produced with less expenditure of human energy the price would fall, and the immediate effect of this would he to re­lieve the pressure of the “labour unrest” which is so sorely troubling the capitalists at present, and must do so until wages readjust themselves to the high, prices of necessaries, or until these prices fall.

As all that is left of the worker’s product after he has met the expenses of living, becomes rent, profit, and interest, passes, that is, into the poc­kets of the exploiting class, it is easy to see how desirable it is, to those Lloyd George speaks for, for the farmers to produce cheaper food for the workers. To get the farmers “out of the hands of the landowners” (which means, eventually, land nationalisation) and to speed them up (the real purport of the wily Welshman’s remarks on what will done with the had farmer) is just to remove the exploitation of the farmer from the landed gentry to the factory lords. Instead of slaving to swell a noble’s rent-roll, he is to toil to enable factory lords to feed their human cattle more cheaply.

But does more abundant and therefore cheaper food supplies in the markets mean more food for the workers ? If other things remain con­stant it certainly does. But other things do not remain constant. As Lloyd George himself used to point out (to the masters—he had a different tale for the workers) when he was prosecuting his campaign for National Insurance, the better nourished the workers are, the more can be got out of them—the greater that is, becomes their efficiency and the possibility of intensifying their labour.

Now greater efficiency and intensification means fewer required for production and more unemployment. More unemployment means less food as a first result and greater competition for work and falling wages as a second. Lower wages again means reduced purchasing power and less food. So it is demonstrated that in the long run the cost of food is a question that no more concerns the worker than does the cost of fodder concerns the horse. In both cases efficiency is necessary to the master, and it is he who must provision it. He will not provide for more than he requires, be food never so cheap or never so dear.

As regards the promised minimum wage Act for farm labourers. We have had samples of Liberal Minimum Wage enactments, and know exactly what value to place upon such promises. But really a Minimum Wage Act in regard to agricultural workers would be no bad stroke for the factory capitalists, and doubtless they know it. Consider the difference between Colonial and English farming—the advanced machinery in use in the former countries compared with the latter. Why are not these perfect machines in common use in this country ? Simply because the agricultural worker is so cheap.

To raise agricultural wages, therefore, would but enforce the adoption of more economical machinery. The agricultural worker would be speeded up. He would, by means of improved machinery and methods, be made to produce more in a given time, and since value, and therefore prices in the long run, are not deter­mined by the amount of wages paid to the pro­ducer, but by the amount of labour-time needed to produce the goods, food being produced with less labour, will be cheaper—which is what our masters want.

Then, with our rulers straining every nerve to stop the “hemorrhage,” to prevent the depletion of the rural population, and even to increase it, the agricultural labourer will find himself, with his “reasonable hours” and “Minimum Wage” (if he gets them) in very much the same stew of competition as his fellows of the factory—made redundant by machinery, and thus made to suffer the hardships of increased unemploy­ment and insecurity.

There is neither allieviation nor remedy for the poverty and misery of the workers of the farm, factory, or workshop in the proposals of this Liberal hack, and the working class are earnestly exhorted by us, their fellow workers and fellow sufferers, to refuse to be led into any enthusiasm for them. The only remedy for the evils which afflict the workers in common—you as well as us—is Socialism. The rich, who are rich because you are poor, and can only be rich so long as they keep you poor, tell you Socialism is wrong ; but we, who have nothing to gain ex­cept we gain it with you, and who must be poor while you are poor, tell you Socialism is right, and ask you to study it.


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