Editorial: Lloyd George on Pledges

The recent wriggling of the War Minister on the subject of pledges was rather amusing to those who do not take life, oven in these serious times, too seriously. He told us (according to the “Daily Chronicle,” Oct. 25th.) that : “He did not mind saying that if the pledge had been given he thought the first consideration was the exigencies of the war” aud talked about giving “a rational interpretation of the pledge.” These are very statesmanlike utterances ; for statesmanship, after all, is simply the art of using the State in the interest of the class whose instrument it is, without consideration for anything but that one end.

However, cunning as the wriggle is, it is in effect an admission that a capitalist politician’s pledge is nothing when it has served its purpose. For if those pledges are to be revised and “interpretated” in the light of their needs—and this is exactly what Lloyd George’s statement amounts to—then the pledge is nothing but a lie and a trick to defraud its victims into acquiescing in action detrimental to their interests, which they might otherwise oppose.

How closely this “interpretation” of Lloyd George’s statement fits the case is easily seen by simply reviewing the lengthy series of pledges By means of which the workers have been pledged into the Army. The “widow’s son” pledge, the “one man business” pledge, the “conscientious objector” pledge, are a few in the list of “unredeemed pledges” which occur to the mind. Even more glaring cases can be found. The Registration Bill was passed under the pledge that it was not to be used for the purpose of conscription, yet upon what other register has conscription been carried into effect ? The support of the married was obtained for conscription for the single by means of Asquith’s pledge that not while he held his office would conscription be extended—the married have reaped what they sowed, but Asquith is still busy pawning his conscience.

The part played by pledges in breaking down working-class resistance to capitalist encroachments, in industrial matters no less than in military, is destined to take an important place among the agents of working-class enlightenment, and we thank Mr. Lloyd George for his statement that capitalist politicians’ pledges are of the pie-crust order—given for the purpose of securing certain ends, but subject a “radical interpretation” to meet capitalist needs. We shall find it useful in the fight that is to come.

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