1920s >> 1920 >> no-196-december-1920

A Look Around

From a recently published book, “The Mirrors of Downing Street. By a Gentleman with a Duster,” which has excited a great deal of interest, I take the following quotation concerning one of our greatest and most versatile actors, Mr. David Lloyd George, the Welsh Wizard.


The occasion was the early part of the war, when those interested in its prosecution were shrieking out that if more and more munitions were not forthcoming “we” should lose the war and civilisation would be retarded for a hundred years. The government had arranged a meeting of the principal armament manufacturers with the object of persuading them to part with their trade secrets.


Quite naturally, the assembled capitalists demurred at this. They certainly wanted to win the war, but didn’t care to jeopardise their advantages in any future commercial prosperity. To the insistent demands of the military and Government officials they simply returned a verdict of “nothing doing.” At this despairing moment, when all appeared to be lost, our hero leaned forward in his chair, very pale, very earnest, and very quiet.


  “’Gentlemen,’ he said in a voice which produced an extraordinary hush, ‘have you forgotten that your sons at this very moment are being killed—killed in hundreds and thousands? They are being killed by German guns for want of British guns. Your sons, your brothers, boys at the dawn of manhood ! They are being wiped out of life in thousands ! Gentlemen, give me guns. Don’t think of your trade secrets. Think of your children. . . . Help them ! Give me those guns.’ . . . His voice broke, his eyes filled with tears, and his hand, holding a piece of notepaper before him, shook like a leaf. There was not a man who heard him whose heart was not touched, and whose humanity was not quickened. The trade secrets were pooled.”


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Quite a contrast to his attitude towards the miners, where he denies the justice of their claim for another two shillings, and calls upon the country to “resist this attack with all its strength,” is given by the writer in the same book, wherein he states that in conversation with Mr. Lloyd George during the war, he (the writer) suggested that probably one cause of the unrest existing in factories was the fact that “boys could earn fifteen or sixteen pounds a week by merely watching a machine they knew nothing about, while the skilled foremen, who alone could put those machines right, and who actually invented new tools to make the new machines of the inventors, were earning only the fixed wage of 50s. a week.


” ‘What does it matter,’ Lloyd George exclaimed impatiently, ‘ what we pay those boys as long as we win the war? ‘”


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The ethics of capitalism are altered to suit time and place. But property is a sacred institution anywhere and any time— under capitalism. When the war was on our “heroes,” whether they knew it or not, were fighting simply in defence of capitalist property. War or no war, the same legal machinery is used to protect property against all comers, be they miners, Bolsheviks, Sinn Feiners, Americans, or what not. The point was nicely brought out the other day when an ex-soldier got fined for shooting rabbits, despite the fact that, as the soldier pointed out, he got a Mons Star for shooting Germans !


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There are many people who assert that what is needed in order to bring about a better state of life is a Labour government. Others pin their [hopes on the] the efficacy of the League of Nations. Those who use their intelligence and take a longer view have faith in neither. The adoption of either or both does not threaten the existing basis of society. We have it on the authority of Mr. J. R. Clynes, M.P. that even under a Labour government a League of Nations will be necessary, although “the more we have capitalist government the greater the need for the League.” (Putney, 7.11.20.)


It would thus appear that what is necessary to the administration of the political machinery of the capitalist class will be utilised also by the labour fakers in the event of their being placed in power. Does it suggest their belief in identity of interest between capital and labour ? Ask Brace.


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Speaking of Labour governments, it seems we are to have one before long. Preparations are being made to pull it off at the forthcoming General Election. The unemployment situation must have affected the Government. Jobs are very scarce and the Labour Party is sore in consequence. Even the adherents of the Labour Party are beginning to lose faith in their patron saint, Mr. Lloyd George, and to wonder why it is they have been so uncharitably turned down after throwing the whole of their resources into winning the war for the British capitalists. Now they are determined that they will show the country how a government should be run.


As a preliminary we are presented with an outline of what will happen in “the England of to-morrow” which is put forward by Mr. J. H. Thomas, M.P., a prominent Labour Party official and one of capitalism’s greatest assets. Mr. Thomas tells us all about it in a book which he has published under the highly apprehensive title of When Labour Rules. After paying a handsome tribute to the Prince of Wales as “a unifying factor to the Empire as a whole” he sets out the proposals which are expected to be realised when the Labour Party comes into power. They may be taken as embodying the aspirations of that part of the British public known as “organised labour,” and whose political expression is the Labour Party.


First of all there would be an hereditary constitutional Monarchy with an Upper Chamber (sigh of relief from George) ; Purchase of the Liquor Trade by the Government based on a pre-war value of 350 millions, all profits to be devoted to the lowering of taxation (broad smiles on the faces of the big-bellied landlords); Old Age Pensions at 60 (“Thank God!” exclaim the old folks) ; Nationalisation of Mines, Railways, etc., so as to promote efficiency in various supplies and reducing prices by limiting profits (chorus: “Wot ! prices coming down!)


“There will be” says Mr. Thomas, “when Labour comes into power, I hope, only one tax —income tax. . . . We should not be lavish in our expenditure for a fighting machine. But there would have to be an Army and Navy capable of backing our decisions, (note this) and these would be maintained.” (Sure ! Col. Ward, Col Thorne, and other Labour militarists will want jobs, won’t they?) As to finance, a capital levy would be instituted, probably realising 1,000 millions. Industrial questions to be solved by “collective bargaining between the organised workers and the employers.” The fiscal policy will be Free Trade “for the sake of the workmen and the sake of peace.” As regards the position of women under Labourism, legislation will be sought to abolish all night work for women in industry. It will be Labour’s object “as far as possible (!) to wipe out the necessity for married women working at all. When Labour comes into power, however, women will be greatly encouraged and helped in every way to enter Parliament, to join Cabinets, even to the extent of a woman becoming Prime Minister of England if she be eminently suited to and the right person for that position.”


And more to the same effect. No doubt the right persons will get the right jobs. But to those who will occupy the humbler walks in life we can offer Mr. Thomas’s consolation that “there is nothing gives so great a feeling of security and pride and stability as the owning of even a small cottage.”


By far the best feature of the book is its price—ten shillings—which is prohibitive.
To sum up, we find that under a system of Labour Government there will exist capital, exploitation, wage slavery, armies, navies, police, prisons, women labour, industrial problems, old age pensions, unemployment, wars, kings and queens, House of Lords, parliaments, prime ministers, profits, taxes, poverty, plutocrats and parasites of all kinds, either stated or implied.


All of which entitles one to ask in comparing it with the present capitalist system of government : “What is the difference ?” If this is all the Labour Party can do, compare it with the Socialist object to be found in our columns, then ask yourself is it worth while bolstering up these fakers even through your trade union affiliation.


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More and more does the Municipal Election take on the character of a Parliamentary Election. Labels are more or less definite and the programmes are based usually on the lines of a “national” appeal rather than a local. In the recent election a great deal of attention was paid by the “non-progressives” to such questions as Bolshevism, Sinn Fein, Socialism, Pro-Germanism, High Rates and Taxes, Unemployment, ”Squandering of the People’s Money,” etc., attributing all these “evils” to the activities of Labour representatives both inside and outside the national and local administrative bodies. Whether these had any effect on the “hard-headed and clear-thinking British working men and women” to whom the appeal was made, or not, the fact remains that out of 747 candidates put up by the various Labour organisations in 70 leading boroughs, only 199 were successful. In some of the big industrial centres like Liverpool and Bradford (where 23 in each city stood for election) not a single one was returned.


Clearly something more is needed than “Labour” has to offer if the feeling of reverence for the master class and its institutions is ever going to be eradicated from the minds of that same “clear-thinking” working man.


Tom Sala