Editorial: Peace At Any Price!

On February 12th Mr. Ramsay MacDonald made his first speech in Parliament as Prime Minister. The Daily News, commenting on the policy outlined in this speech, made reassuring remarks directed to those who feared revolutionary action might be taken by the “Labour” Government.

“The proposals put forward in general terms by the Prime Minister are such as any liberal-minded man should welcome sympathetically and without, misgiving. . . . The vast problem of unemployment is not to be approached by dangerous short cuts, necessitating ‘the diminution of industrial capital,’ but through a policy aiming first and foremost at the restoration of trade.” (Daily News, 13.2.24.)

The view of this Capitalist paper is quite sound; the Capitalists have no need to fear any radical change in their profit-making system whilst the Labour Party occupy the seat of power. In fact, the former can congratulate themselves at being relieved of some awkward jobs. The strike on the railways threatened to interfere seriously with business, so the Labour Government stepped in and was instrumental in settling the strike. At the moment of writing a dock strike has been declared and the Labour Government are again moving in the matter. The aim of the Government is to “settle” strikes as they are so “inconvenient” to a newly elected “Labour” Government. The outlook of the Government in such questions is suggested by the following quotation :

“The Minister of Labour (Mr. Tom Shaw)’ says: ‘The proposals of the Government to overtake shortage of some types of building trade labour are not in any sense intended as an attack upon either the trade unions or the employers. The object of the Government is to secure goodwill and co-operation.’ ” (Daily News, 4.2.24.)

This benevolent neutrality; this desire for “heavenly harmony” between the robbers and the robbed can hardly be supported as a sound outlook, on the part of the self-styled representatives of the working class, by the staunchest supporter of the Labour Party, unless such a supporter is outside the ranks of the workers.

The Editor of the New Leader laments the occurrence of the strikes and hopes for speedy settlement of the dock dispute. His comments are so instructive as an instance of the Labour Government’s outlook that they are worth quoting :—

“It is well that the railway strike is over, but our congratulations on this event go primarily to the mediators of the General Council who worked so patiently for peace. Whether the men have gained anything which they might not have won without a strike seems doubtful. Their gain in any event is a small thing to set off against the moral and material damage of this conflict.”

After referring to the dissensions of the Railway Unions the editor goes on :—

  “Another of them underlies the threatened dock strike. Again, the competition of two Unions and two sets of leaders have brought upon us the tactics of emulation, and here also they may involve a stoppage of national trade which would thwart the efforts of the Labour Government to deal with unemployment.
“In this case, however, we are confronting one of the tragedies of industrial life, and the whole movement, political and industrial, will back the demand for a prompt solution. The more hopeful way is, however, as George Lansbury argued last week, to tackle the problem of casual labour at the Docks and to aim at the guaranteed week.
“Mr. Bevin has allowed a little more time than Mr. Bromley did for mediation, and the openings for diplomacy are in this case wider. A way out must be found. Nothing would end the experiment of a Labour administration so surely as an epidemic of hasty strikes.” (New Leader, 1.2.24.)

Could Lloyd-George speak fairer—on behalf of the masters? The writer of the above can well afford to talk calmly of “mediation” and hasty strikes; he gets £1,000 a year for h& editorship. If the railway man and the docker were in a similar position perhaps they also would not desire to “thwart the efforts of the Labour Government.” Note the refrain that is becoming the common inducement to “let things remain as they are”; sit tight and in semi-starvation until the Labour Government have had a chance! Don’t embarrass them by action to increase wages or for better conditions!