After four and a quarter years of unparalleled slaughter of the working class; after, according to some present estimates, about 12,000,000 men have been killed, and about 60,000,000 crippled, maimed or ruined in their constitutions, the Government suddenly announces a General Election.
Why this hasty decision to consult an electorate that has been ignored for eight years?
The Conservatives claim in the words of Lloyd George that—
“It is a moribund Parliament. . . . We must get a mandate immediately. Somebody will have to go to the Peace Conference with authority from the people of this country to speak in their name. “—”Daily Telegraph,” Nov. 18th, 1918.
What cant and humbug! What “mandate” had they from the people to declare war? In whose name did they introduce D.O.R.A.—the most gigantic piece of oppressive legislation the capitalist class ever devised? By whose authority was Conscription—Military and Industrial—placed upon the working class ?
The same speaker indulged in his old clap-trap when, referring to the recruiting statistics, he said—
“I was appalled to find there was a much higher percentage of physical unfitness in this country than in France, Germany, or any other great belligerent country.”—Ibid.
Proof of the speaker’s hypocrisy is shown in his previous statements. Speaking at Birmingham, on October 26th, 1906, he said:—
“Here you have been tinkering for generations with reform, and the end of it all is slums, pauperism and great want in a land of plenty.”
He then went on to say that if the Great Liberal Party did not remove these conditions in three years they deserved to go.
In 1911—two years after the Liberals should have left office on the above contention, Mr. Lloyd George speaking at Cardiff, said:—
“To-day you have greater poverty in the aggregate in the land than you have ever had. You have oppression of the weak by the strong. You have a more severe economic bondage than you probably ever had ; for grinding labour to-day does not always guarantee sustenance or security. At any rate, that condition of things was foreign to the barbaric regime of the darker ages.” —”Christian Commonwealth,” Jan. 17th, 1912.
Not only had the Liberal Party failed to remove the conditions of poverty and misery, but, as admitted by Lloyd George, these conditions had become worse. Yet this man retained his seat and office in spite of these facts.
In a preface to Mr, Rowntree’s pamphlet on “The Labourer and the Land,” written in May, 1914, Lloyd George stated :—
“More than half the wage-earners in the most ancient, the most worthy, and the most vital
of our industries, are living on wages which do not allow them and their families the same amount of nourishment which they could obtain in a workhouse or a prison.”
This after eight years of Liberal Government, and five years after they should have left office according to Lloyd George.
And he has the brazen effrontery to say “he was appalled” at the amount of physical unfitness in the country after bearing witness himself to the existence of the conditions causing it. Well may the public house sign at King’s Lynn of “The Honest Lawyer” show an individual with his head out off.
With equal cant and hypocrisy Mr. Asquith opened the campaign on behalf of the official Liberal Party at Caxton Hall on 18th November. Referring to the fact that, owing to the short period allowed for the Election, large numbers of soldiers will not be able to vote, while the majority of those who will be able to vote will have no opportunity of learning the candidates’ views. He said :—
“A House of Commons brought into being at such a time by an electorate so truncated and mutilated will of necessity lack the moral authority to speak and act on behalf of the nation as a whole.” —”Daily News,” Nov. 19th, 1918.
What “moral authority” had the Liberal Government, with Mr. Asquith as its leader, “to speak or act on behalf of the people as a whole,” when they plunged this country into the most colossal war on record, places us under D.O.R.A., and passed conscription ? None whatever. Later he said—
“The restrictions upon personal liberty and the freedom of speech, or even to compulsory military service, for which I was as much responsible as any man in the country. They must come to an end.” —Ibid.
When ? If he meant when Peace is signed, then his remarks are a waste of words, as the particular Acts referred to already provide for such ending. If he meant before the Election so as to allow of free expression of opinion in the contest, why did he not move in Parliament for the abolition of these restrictions ? Either case convicts him of hypocrisy, but then what else was to be expected of one who, when Home Secretary, sent soldiers to shoot the miners at Featherstone, and held office as Premier when the military were used against the workers at Llanelly, Tonypandy, Dublin, etc.
With significant unanimity Liberal and Tory papers unite in placing the responsibility for this hurried election upon Lloyd George. In this matter real “unity” has been attained. Its purpose, of course, is to conceal the real authors from view and delude the workers as to the powers operating behind the scenes. To imagine for a moment that the job-hunting lawyer from Wales possessed such power would be absurd.
Behind this mountebank marionette stands the Imperialist section of the capitalist class, composed of both Liberals and Tories, who are striving to extend their dominion and power of robbing the working class, over larger areas of the globe. It was to protect their interests that this country entered into the war. When two years ago the military situation looked serious for the Allies this section looked for a more pliant tool to take charge of the Government. One was at hand possessing a glib tongue, always ready with large and extravagant promises, quite unscrupulous, and able to sway crowds with his clap-trap. A dirty political shuffle took place and Lloyd George became Prime Minister.
Of course he wishes to retain the office. He wishes to pose as the head of “the Government that won the war,” and wishes to be at its head when it “Reconstructs the Empire.” He put his wishes into words at the Central Hall when he said :—
“All the life of a nation has got to be reconstructed and reorganised for war, and I claim that if the Government could do that for war, it could do it for peace.”—”Daily Telegraph,” Nov. 18th, 1918.
Not his wishes, however, but the interests of the Imperialists, whose agent he is, demanded this Election. The signing of the Armistice has brought an immense relief after the long strain of the war, accompanied by a great thankfulness at the cessation of the horrible maiming and slaughter.
On this wave of feeling and relief the Imperialists hope to ride into full power, and to be able to carry out their economic schemes.
Not that they are quite sure of the result. The nervousness and anxiety of all the capitalist parties from the Conservatives to the I.L.P. is revealed in their official statements.
Despite all his swagger and bounce Lloyd George screams out for “unity of every party, every section of the community,” in the Coalition.
His programme is so wide, so varied, so contradictory, that even the “Daily Mail” (18th November, 1918), usually so regardless of either logic or consistency, is afraid the fraud may be seen through, and says: —
“The programme is just a little too comfortable. It adjusts the views of the extreme Tories and those of the advanced Liberals. It is a counterpane that covers everybody, and it does not quite carry conviction.”
Mr. Asquith shows his nervousness when he declares that even if the Coalition is returned to power it will “lack moral authority”—which he so highly prizes when out of office.
At the public meeting, held at the Albert Hall, on 14th November, by the Labour Party after their decision to withdraw from the Coalition, speaker after speaker voiced the fear that the Labour Party would lose some of its seats as a result of this withdrawal—a clear confession that they hold these seats by permission of the Liberals and Tories.
Philip Snowden in the “Labour Leader” (7th November, 1918) says:—
“The action of the Tories in taking an election in 1900 was a mild offence against public morality compared with the action of Mr. Lloyd George in forcing a General Election under existing circumstances.”
The reasons for this nervousness among the capitalist parties are easy to see. Over the Continent of Europe a wave of Revolution is passing. Beginning in Russia, it has spread to Bulgaria, the Austrian Empire, and even to iron-drilled Germany. Its echoes are heard in Holland, Denmark, Switzerland, and other countries. While it is true that a Revolution seldom, if ever, occurs in a country just victorious in war, factors of unrest exist here to a degree that render the outlook distinctly uncertain. While prices of necessaries are still rising thousands of munition workers are being discharged, tens of thousands are working short time, and, according to Lord Curzon—
“In a few weeks’ time there would be a million people out of work.” —”Daily Telegraph,” Nov. 21st, 1918.
And this is only the beginning. Further unemployment is bound to occur, while such demobilization as will be carried out will add to the number vainly seeking work. Wages will fall as a result, though prices may remain up for some time, and poverty and misery will increase as a consequence through out the land. The scandalous treatment of discharged and disabled soldiers, over 100,000 of whom have not received a penny piece in either pension or allowance, and the way in which the wives and widows of soldiers have been dealt with, add to the seething discontent and unrest now existing. These factors tend to have a cumulative effect, and there is no special virtue in the English channel that can prevent the wave of Revolution reaching here if the conditions on this side are ripe. There is at any rate the likelihood of widespread trouble, with riots, perhaps, breaking out in many parts.
It thus becomes important for the master class to have a “mandate” for the purpose of meeting the crisis. As Bonar Law put it: —
“We are going to be faced with problems the nature of which we cannot foresee . . . and we ask you to give us authority to deal with them, not as delegates, but as representatives of the people of the country.” —”Daily Telegraph,” Nov. 18th, 1918.
Hence the hurry of this Election. Before the deluded workers awake to a realization of how they have been duped, despite their “victory” over Germany, the master class wish to be in possession of a “mandate” so that they can claim the allegiance of the armed forces should it be considered necessary to use these forces against the workers during troubles or disputes, as when aeroplanes were used to drop bombs on the workers in Italy when they asked for bread. One strong reason for the Coalition’s expectation of being returned is the fact that, outside the ranks of the Socialists, no effective opposition is placed against their programme.
The only difference between the Coalition and the Liberal programmes is that the Coalition programme promises more than the Liberals.
Speaking at the Albert Hall on Nov. 14th, 1918, Mr. Adamson
, chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, stated that the first and most important plank in the Labour Party’s platform was :—
“That the men who did the fighting and are broken should be treated justly and humanely, and their wives and children should be cared for.”
The Coalition programme promises this just as strongly.
Mr. Snowden, Mr. W. C. Anderson
and Mr. Ramsay MacDonald have all issued manifestoes on behalf of the I.L.P. The nearest approach to a definite statement in these manifestoes—apart from the appeal for money—is that of Mr. Anderson when he says:—
“We make war on slums, on pauperism, on poverty and slavery—on the cause of these evils—land monopoly and capitalist monopoly.” —”Labour Leader,” Nov. 14th, 1918.
There is here no threat of a war on Capitalism, but only on monopoly. Every Liberal is against monopoly—or says he is—while Lloyd George’s Limehouse and other speeches are quite as strong a protest against “land monopoly” as Mr. Anderson’s. There is no real opposition in these manifestoes to the Coalition programme.
Against all these supporters of Capitalism the Socialist Party of Great Britain wages war.
We fight to abolish the CAUSE of poverty, the CAUSE of wars, the CAUSE of our enslavement, namely, THE PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF THE MEANS OF LIFE.
While the capitalist class own these means of life the working class are their slaves. The capitalist class retain their mastery of society so long as they control the political machinery, the real instrument of their power. Once deprived of this they become themselves subject to those controlling that machinery. Hence their frantic appeals to the working class to vote them into Parliament. Look at the sinister unanimity of all these parties upon the necessity of maintaining the existence of the capitalist system. Mr. Lloyd George appeals for unity in face of the grave perils ahead. Mr. Asquith states that though he is a Liberal—
“That will not prevent me, nor ought it to prevent anyone, from giving hearty support and fullest co-operation to any Government, by whatever name it is called, which grapples with the problem of reconstruction on progressive and democratic lines.” —”Daily News,” Nov. 19th, 1918. .
Mr. Ramsay MacDonald says : —
“Now Europe has gained peace through, destruction, and the nations threaten to stagger out of war into anarchy. We are again called upon to help and save what is good in the remnants and rebuild on good foundations.” —”Labour Leader,” Nov. 14th, 1918.
Who is calling upon the I.L.P. ? When were they called before ? We are not told, but their avowed opposition to Revolution shows their friendship for Capitalism.
Fellow-workers. Every vote given to the candidates of these parties—Coalition, Liberal, Labour, or I.L.P.—is a vote cast for the retention and extension of Capitalism, in support of the cause of wars, and therefore of their recurrence in the future, despite all the lies told about the League of Nations. It is a vote given for the continuance of poverty, of unemployment, of want in the midst of plenty, for the working class.
The Coalition programme, the Liberal platform, the Labour Party’s pronouncements, the I.L.P.’s manifestoes and President Wilson’s points of peace are all schemes to steer the capitalist system safely through the stormy seas ahead. Therefore the working class should REFUSE TO VOTE for any of these candidates.
For this Election the Socialist Party are unable to put forward candidates. But the workers can still vote for Socialism if they desire it. Let the workers go to the polling booths and write “SOCIALISM” across their ballot paper as shown on our front page.
True ! this will not prevent the master class from being returned to power, but it will indicate how many are desirous of obtaining Socialism. It will surprise and wake up the scattered and unorganised Socialists to the need for joining the Socialist Party, to assist in its work, to extend its sphere and influence, and so make it possible for us to run candidates at another election.
We claim the WORLD FOR THE WORKERS and call upon you to fight for SOCIALISM.
The Executive Committee of The Socialist Party of Great Britain,
28, Union Street, London, W.1.
December 1st, 1918.