When, in 1918, the “Hang-the-Kaiser— Make-Germany-Pay” Election was being fought, the S.P.G.B., in their Election Manifesto, warned the workers of the line the development of the then existing conditions would take, and the real reason for an election at that moment.
It was pointed out in the Manifesto that :—
“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 of people out of work.” 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 throughout the land.
Before the deluded workers awake to a realisation 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. “
The plan succeeded. The people “who made the mess” were returned “to clear it up.” They had, however, less trouble with the working class than some of them anticipated.
Weary of the war, and thankful for the relief of the Armistice, the workers accepted wage reductions and worse conditions with a minimum of protest. Wherever resistance was offered it was of a sectional, and often spasmodic, character, that the masters were able to defeat with comparative ease. It was not so much lack of will or courage to resist, as ignorance of the fundamentals of their class position, that was responsible for the attitude adopted, for the majority could see no way out at present, and little hope in the future.
Freed to some extent from fear of trouble at home, the sections of the capitalist class among the Allies found more time to fight out their quarrels over the spoils of the “Great Victory.” These quarrels reached a crisis in the Near East. Two sections of Imperialist financiers came to grips over the routes, areas and resources of the East. One section controlled the British Government, while the other section controlled the French Government. The situation, however, was somewhat awkward. Officially Britain and France were still Allies. It would be difficult openly to come to blows over the difference of interests in the booty, so each side put forward a “catspaw” for the purpose of pulling the chestnuts out of the fire. The British Government put forward the Greeks, while the French Government supported the Turks.
It would be sheer folly to imagine that the British Government had any regard for the Greeks’ “lawful aspirations” in Asia Minor, or the French Government any noble ideal of helping the Turks to their “freedom.” Only those ignorant of the workings of the capitalist system could imagine such a thing. Whichever side may be acclaimed the winner, it will find that it can only move, organise and govern as its paymasters decide. At the moment of writing the Greeks have been driven out of Asia Minor, and the British section of Imperialist financiers have suffered a setback. Of course, the people concerned keep in the background. It is not they who will be blamed for the expense and trouble in the East. As a matter of fact, they always keep in the background, and allow their tools and puppets to take such praise or blame as may be coming in any given crisis. More, they are quite indifferent as to the fate of these puppets, once they have served the turn required.
The Imperialist financiers have always crowds of job-hunters waiting to take office as soon as any particular occupant is turned out. In the present case, almost all the mouthpieces of the capitalist class are united in putting the blame for the shaky situation in the East upon the shoulders of Lloyd George; but not one has whispered whose orders he obeyed when he made such “blunders.”
In December, 1918, we described the position Lloyd George occupied in the following words :—
“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 claptrap. 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.” . . .
Not his wishes, however, but the interests of the Imperialists, whose agent he is, demanded this Election. “
And, now, having failed to carry through their scheme successfully, Lloyd George is “sacked” with as little ceremony as an ordinary day labourer, by the Imperialist gang. He will be the “scapegoat” for the failure and will form a useful figure upon whom to put the blame, not only for the immediate trouble in the East, but also for the bad trade, unemployment, the chaotic exchanges—and the atmospheric storms that hindered the astronomers from making full observations to test Einstein’s theory !
The great advantage of such a “scapegoat,” is that the attention of the mass of the workers will be diverted from studying the facts of the situation, into dwelling upon personalities. Yet even the sacrificing of a notorious tool can hardly conceal the emptiness of the alternatives offered.
The Liberals are far from anxious to take office, as is shown by the statement of the Daily News for October 20th, 1922 :—
“Whatever Government succeeded the Coalition could not but be an improvement, and in that one respect the events of yesterday are a matter for unreserved congratulation. “
While further on in the same article we are told : —
“There are obviously the gravest possible reasons against an immediate General Election “
It is easy to see from these paragraphs that the Liberals would prefer to let the Tories handle the muddle that exists.
The Tories seem clear on only one point : That public expenditure on any “unnecessary” legislation and administration must be reduced or abolished. Thus the Daily Mail, October 23rd, 1922, says :—
“The country is anxiously waiting to hear from him [Mr. Bonar Law] what relief it may expect from the heavy loads which the late Government has laid upon it. and from the anxieties in which recent divagations of policy have placed our country. “
The Daily Express, October 23rd, 1922, which claims to be independent and “bound to no party,” declares that it:—
“Intends to support that Conservative Party during the course of the General Election and to recommend the electors to return it to power.“
Among the reasons given for this attitude we are told : —
“Mr. Bonar Law can be trusted to pursue a safe and saving course at home as well as abroad. There would be an end of those ambitious schemes which cost millions, tax industry, depress credit and end in a financial fiasco.“
To prevent confusion, however, the same article hastens to remark :—
“In saying this the Daily Express shows no hostility to Liberalism.“
And Mr. Bonar Law, himself, at the meeting of the Conservative Party that elected him leader, is reported as saying :—
“What the country wanted was quiet and a reduction of our commitments, with little interference from legislation and administration” Evening Standard. 23/10/22.
But Bonar Law is no less a tool than Lloyd George. The Imperialist gang will give him orders as to their requirements, and he must take those orders or go. Already some of those orders are beginning to be formulated in such a way that even the man in the street can see their trend.
Thus the Observer, October 22nd, 1922, under the heading “Russia Still the Acid Test,” says :—
“British policy ought to throw the whole weight of its influence into the scales in favour of full Russian participation. If we do that our policy will prosper. It will never look back in the sphere of foreign affairs either East or West.
Incidentally, the commercial cause of agreements, like the Urquhart Concession, would be promoted to the gain of employment. Otherwise, economic chances still open to ourselves would be transferred to foreign powers.
If the new Government did not resolve to settle fully with Russia, that issue would soon play its big part in sweeping them out. We desire to put that warning on record.“
On the same page it is also stated that :—
“Henceforth our only substantial security for any legitimate British interest connected with the Straits is friendship with Turkey and with other nations.”
These points are supported by the Daily Mail, Daily News, Daily Express, Evening Standard, etc.
Here, then, the instructions are beyond doubt. Commercial relations with the East must be established, full and soon, to prevent British oil and shipping interests being beaten by the Americans and Japanese. A General Election will afford a good means of introducing this change of policy and of getting rid of a tool who has failed to carry out their orders as they wished.
So an Election is arranged for November 15th. The Tories put forward the programme referred to above. The Liberal Party make numerous promises as usual, and vaguely refer to “Liberal Principles” without running the risk of defining them. The Labour Party promise to show the people how to save money by spending it, for in their official programme they say :—
“Labour attaches the utmost importance to economy in the public administration. But we do not believe in starving the public services.”—Daily Herald, 26/10/22.
Especially those that have provided so many jobs for Labour Leaders. Another staggeringly original statement is :—
“Unemployment and low wages, caused largely by the policy of the Liberal and Unionist Government, have brought distress to the bulk of the working people.“—Ibid.
Had such “unemployment and low wages” been caused by the policy of a Labour Party, are we to assume there would have been no “distress?” One of their remedies for unemployment is “the national organisation of production,” but they attach “the utmost importance to economy in the public administration.” National organisation of industry should certainly be more economical—that is carried on by fewer workers per unit of service—than organisation by private individuals. So the remedy for unemployment is to reduce the number at work by “national organisation !” Seems to be a catch somewhere ?
All of them, however, are united in condemning Lloyd George. In this they are assisted by the Communist Party, who, with their usual blindness to facts and their ignorance of the real forces moving in Society, follow the capitalist press in placing responsibility upon Lloyd George. In the Communist (September 30th, 1922), is a certain cartoon on the front page wherein the workers are advised to ”Dump Him,” and on the centre page we are told “David must sweat for this.” In their issue of October 14th, 1922, a displayed paragraph warns us to “Watch Lloyd George,” and we are told :—
“His one hope of saving his position, his place, and his emoluments is a war.“
Five days later this terrible, powerful person, who could “make war,” is tumbled out of his job neck and crop.
To-day, Lloyd George is trying to gather around him the remnants of his scattered crew to form a “Party” that, unhampered by any fixed principles or programme, will hold itself free to support or oppose any Government or Cabinet, till it can once more, it hopes, secure recognition from the chiefs of the capitalist class. One of his most rabid supporters—J. I.. Garvin—promises him this recognition, with greater power than ever, if he will only wait a few years. But a flare fire wants continual replenishing, and a very few years would see the slimy Welshman snuffed out of political life.
Whichever Party contesting this Election obtains a majority, it will leave the workers in their present state. The unemployment, want, hardship, and insecurity of existence that afflict the workers in all capitalist countries, will not be abolished either by war with Turkey or peace with Russia; by changing Lloyd George for Bonar Law or A. Henderson ; by voting for Tory candidates instead of Coalition ones; or for Labour candidates instead of either.
Because these things are not the CAUSE of the workers’ misery. That cause is the private ownership of the means of life. Under capitalism the master class owns the raw materials, the means of transport, the machinery and factories requisite for wealth production. As a result they own the wealth that is produced. Hence the workers are a propertyless class, and can only live by permission of the capitalists. To put it shortly, they are SLAVES to the owning class.
This is the crucial test. Liberal, Tory, Coalition, or Labour Parties all stand for the retention of capitalism—therefore, for the continuance of the slavery of the workers. With the developments in machinery and the increasing applications of science to industry, with the elimination of competition by the further formation of Trusts and Combines, the effective demands of the world’s markets are met with a constantly decreasing number of workers employed to produce a given amount of wealth. Hence, apart from temporary fluctuations, unemployment is bound to in crease.
Peace in the East, business with Russia, cannot result in more than a temporary fillip to trade compared with the world’s production. Reduction of taxation is of no concern at all to the workers. The only solution to their troubles is the abolition of the cause—the private ownership of the means of life. Until they decide to carry this abolition through, their position as a whole is bound to grow worse by the operation of the factors given above.
To abolish their slavery; to establish the common ownership and control of the means of wealth production and distribution, the workers must first seize the governing machinery of society. This is the political machinery, with its centre in Parliament.
At any General Election the workers can do this, because they have the vast majority of the votes. But behind the vote is needed knowledge. Only when the majority of the workers understand they are slaves will they be in the position to end their subjection. Until then they will remain slaves.
In this election how few are the workers who understand their class position is shown by the fact that not a single Socialist candidate will be seeking election.
This will not prevent those desiring Socialism from voting for it. They can go to the polls, write Socialism across the ballot paper, and thus add their quota to the factors making for working class enlightenment.
When a sufficient number are enlightened then we shall see the workers organise into the Socialist Party, putting forward their delegates and voting them into Parliament. With this control they will be able to enter into possession of the means of life, and end not only wars, Eastern or Western, but abolish the misery and hardship of the present system, and replace by the system that will secure comfort and happiness to all— namely, SOCIALISM.
Socialist Party of Great Britain,
(Socialist Standard, November 1922)