Five years after the official ending of the “War to end War” we find the successful ones still unable to agree upon an amicable division of the plunder. So fierce have been their quarrels that one of the “defeated” countries, Turkey, has emerged from the turmoil stronger, economically and territorially, than she was before the War !
Among the Allies France has been the only one with a direct and clear policy. This policy is the apparently simple one of smashing Germany and stealing the ore and coal areas of the Ruhr, the Saar Basin and Silesia. That, of course, will mean “no Reparations.” But the ruling class in France are not much concerned over that. The policy mentioned suits them best.
France is more than half an agricultural country, but her peasants are scattered, difficult to organise, and slow to move together. The Industrial capitalists, on the other hand, are compact and well organised, and so easily retain control of political power, which they wield for their own purposes. At present the peasants are cajoled with the tale of “Germany must pay,” while the small business man is deceived by the yarn that the expensive Ruhr occupation is only for the purpose of proving whether or not Germany can pay. As taxes are relatively light, trade fairly good, and those who would otherwise be unemployed are called up into the army—a point Mr. Garvin carefully ignores—the big Industrialists can carry on their schemes without much protest.
The furtherance of these schemes includes the allowing of Monarchists to gather stores of small arms for their “loyal” bands, and to assist, nay even organise, gangs of criminals and slum rabble, to proclaim a “Rhineland Republic” in the name of “self-determination.” To balance this, however, workers striking for a living wage are ruthlessly shot down. As the rest of the ”Loving Allies” cannot agree upon a : common policy, France pursues her course unchecked.
In England one section of the master class, who fear the competition of a restored Germany, are supporting the French policy, while another section, who hope to find markets for their goods in Germany, call for intervention to prevent the total breakup of that country. Germany is on the brink of chaos, and, to prevent that, rapid action is necessary. But what action should be taken?
Twelve months ago the Conservative Party was returned to power to deal with three main problems : Russia; The Situation in Europe ; Unemployment. They proposed to deal with these questions by the method of “Tranquillity.” The present Dissolution is an admission of their complete failure either to solve these problems or find tranquillity. Apart from the attempt to revive “Protection” as an issue, the situation has some peculiar points.
We do not rate Mr. Baldwin’s intelligence above the mediocre, but we would not dare to place it so low as to imagine for a moment that he believes that his half-baked, ambiguous, Protection proposals could have the slightest real effect upon so serious a situation. He must have known that these proposals would split the Conservative Party, while the throwing over of Austen Chamberlain and Lord Birkenhead cannot be explained away by gossip of Undersecretaries.
Consider the position of the two men. Both are front rank platform propagandists, but there the similarity ends. Birkenhead is a very useful and entirely unscrupulous political tool, but that is all. Chamberlain, on the other hand, is a big industrial magnate, possesses considerable influence, and carries a name still of considerable power with certain people. He is almost the last man the Conservative Party would throw over for an Under-Secretary—or a dozen of them. Further evidence of the peculiar situation is given in the leading article in the “Daily Telegraph” (16/11/1923), where, in careful language, the impression is conveyed that not only will the Conservatives be likely to sustain defeat at the polls, but that is probably the best thing that could happen in the circumstances.
These factors seem to point to the conclusion that Mr. Baldwin and his colleagues wish to evade the responsibility of attempting to deal with the menacing situation in Europe and so, under the smoke screen of “Protection,” they hope to escape from office and leave someone else to try and wade through the morass. But who is to take their place?
The Liberal Party, despite all the stale promises about peace in their programme, carefully avoids saying how that peace is to be reached. When that programme a read through it will be found that, apart from a few vague generalities, the Liberal Party proposes to leave things in all essentials just as they are now. That Party is no more anxious than the Conservatives to come to grips with the realities of the situation.
The Labour Party’s programme contains a most imposing array—of Promises. Their chief plank is the section for dealing with the unemployment, where a large number of expensive schemes are put forward for the purpose of finding work for the workless. Expensive schemes, however, cost money, while the Labour Party are pledged to “Relief for the Taxpayer.” To fulfil this lateter pledge they propose to reduce Income Tax, Food Duties, Entertainments Tax, and the Corporation Profits Tax. How then can they pay for schemes of work? Quite simply. They propose to institute a “War Debt Redemption Levy”—which sounds so much nicer than “Capital Levy”—and from the saving effected, accompanied by the necessary increase in Taxation of Land Values, all the money required will be found. In other words, the Labour Party proposes to reduce Taxation by raising the Taxes !
For the working class the problem takes on a different aspect. Even if the “victorious” capitalists compose their particular differences over the plunder from the Great War the cause of unemployment, and national wars, would still remain.
While wealth is produced for private profit only that number of workers will be employed that is required to produce for the effective demands of the market, plus those attending to the personal wants and pleasures of the capitalist class. With improved means of production—and war accelerates the improvement of these means —fewer workers are required to turn out a given amount of wealth. As these improvements are brought into being far faster than either the growth of population or the waste of the master class can keep pace with them, it is evident that, apart from temporary fluctuations, unemployment is bound to increase. Even the temporary fluctuations tend to decrease as capitalist control becomes more highly organised in International Trusts or Rings.
None of the political parties at present represented in Parliament desire the abolition of the private ownership of the means of life. Conservatives, Liberals and Labourites openly repudiate any such intention, while the Communist Party by its support of, and endeavours to crawl into the Labour Party, shows its readiness to support capitalism in practice, contradictory though this may be to Communist theoretical claims.
Only by abolishing the cause of unemployment, wars and misery can the workers achieve health and happiness. The workers must give their attention lo the abolition of this cause —the private ownership of the means of life.
The master class rule to-day because the workers have voted them into Parliament —the great law-making and fund-raising portion of the political machinery. With this power in their hands the masters can dictate terms of living to the workers, because with the forces mentioned above at their disposal they can not only keep the workers away from the means of production but also from any wealth already produced. The workers lives are thus under the control of the capitalist class. In other words, the workers are slaves.
And slaves they will remain until they acquire—first the knowledge that they are slaves ; then the will to attain freedom ; and build up the organisation necessary to capture political power.
The only organisation capable of reaching that object is a Socialist organisation. Until that organisation is sufficiently strong to put forward its delegates as candidates, it must continue its educational work of making Socialists.
There is a Socialist organisation in this country—THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN—the only organisation that works for the emancipation of the workers. As a sufficient number of the working class is not yet desirous of establishing Socialism to permit of any candidates being put forward at this Election, we call upon all those who wish for Socialism to express their wish by going to the ballot-box and voting for socialism by writing it across the ballot paper. Among other things this will help to advertise the number who wish to see Socialism established. Any use of the vote to support any of the candidates in the present Election would merely be a vote for capitalism.
STUDY SOCIALISM. BECOME SOCIALISTS. THEN ACHIEVE YOUR EMANCIPATION.
S.P.G.B., Nov., 1923.
(Socialist Standard, December 1923)