1920s >> 1924 >> no-238-june-1924

The Fraud of Reform

In spite of the manifest failure of the “Labour” Government to solve the problems facing the working class the majority of its supporters still seem to cling to the idea that such a government contains their only hope. The failure is excused on the ground that the Labour Party are in office but not in power, and it does not appear to strike those who echo this excuse that it is in itself an admission that the Labour Party is prepared to depend upon the support of sections of the master class in turn and to give the necessary services to that class in return. The execution by the “Labour” Government of various items of policy inherited from.their Tory predecessors is overlooked and we are asked to be grateful for the abolition of the gap, promises of increased pensions and the reduction of indirect taxation.

The Labour Party’s supporters appear to consider these acts as real measures of improvement of working class conditions, and that with a “Labour” majority in the House of Commons more blessings will descend on their patient heads. Let us examine the grounds for such assumption.

Take the abolition of the gap. The present writer recently heard one unemployed leader declare that even if the Government had done nothing else, this act alone entitled them to working class support. Yet, why was the unemployment insurance established in the first place? Was it to make existence easier for the unemployed? If so, then Lloyd George is entitled to support rather than the Labour Party, who have merely modified one of his measures; but the object of National Insurance in all its forms for that matter was no piece of Capitalist philanthropy. The master class have not yet commenced to give us something for nothing.

Shortly before the abolition of the gap, the chairman of the Glasgow Parish Council gave away the key of the situation. In an interview with the Minister of Health, reported in the Daily Herald, he stated that the gap cost his Council £200,000 in outdoor relief. The Minister in the House of Commons announced that the abolition of the gap would cost the State an additional £500,000

Thus, it is easy to see that two-fifths of the amount laid out by the State will be saved by the Glasgow property owners alone. Two other cities, saving similar amounts would wipe out the outlay and show a profit for the ‘‘nation” of £100,000. The unemployed are merely transferred for the purpose of relief from the local to the national authorities because such centralisation is cheaper.

The same remarks apply to pensions. When Lloyd George introduced old age pensions, he pointed out that it cost more to maintain old slaves in workhouses than to give them a State pension. The State simply relieved the local authorities of part of the increasing financial burden caused by the increase of poverty among the workers. The Labour Party propose to carry the process a step further. They propose that a still greater share of the burden shall fall on the National Exchequer knowing full well that this will result in a reduction of the amount paid out by the master class as a whole in proportion to the number of slaves pensioned.

What working man can seriously consider that the miserable pittances suggested really relieve poverty. If the intention is to make the pensioned ones comfortable and free from care, how are we to explain the scantiness of the means? Remember, fellow slaves, the millions squandered to make your masters’ property safe by means of four years of carnage before you repeat the silly lie that there is not enough wealth to do it.

What applies to old age pensions, of course applies equally to mothers’ pensions and so on. Mr.. Arthur Henderson, during the Burnley bye-election, stated that the Government’s object was to prevent needy mothers applying to the Poor Law authorities.

Generally we find the same dodge on the part of our masters. They pretend to give with one hand something but it is less than they take away with the other.

The anxiety of the Labour Government and its supporters to justify their existence in the eyes of the property owners was well exemplified in the debate on the administration of the Poplar area. The Minister of Health showed that the inability of his predecessors to enforce the Mond order proved that the Poplar Guardians had (in spite of accusations to the contrary) kept relief down to the minimum possible in view of the extreme destitution in the area concerned. George Lansbury proudly claimed that they had kept the peace in the East End for years. Who for? There is only one answer. The masters see in the rising tide of destitution a standing menace to the security of their property. The more starving men and women there are, the more danger there is of theft and other such crimes being committed. The choice is between increased protection in the shape of an additional police force and so-called “relief.” It is cheaper to dole out a few “bob” per head to the hungry than to feed, clothe, house and equip a large staff of extra police, and so we find that as the years go on and the army of the unemployed mounts from hundreds of thousands to millions and the general scope of destitution grows larger, the dole has to be enlarged and the need for economy in its administration becomes more keenly felt by the masters, from whose coffers it must come.

Hence we find centralisation schemes being adopted, extended and revised as experience and growing pressure dictates to our rulers. There is no “new spirit” embodied in the Labour Party’s policy in this matter. All the pious bosh of Ramsay Macdonald and his gang merely accentuates their disgusting meanness and contempt for the interests of the class in whose name they profess to act. Their “Socialism” is merely the bourgeois variety mentioned by Marx and Engels in the “Communist Manifesto” which professes with its lips to serve the workers but in its actual practice simplifies and economises Capitalist government.

The reduction of taxation in any shape or form cannot benefit the workers as a class for the simple reason that their energy is a commodity, the price of which is based on the cost of living. Even if we grant for sake of argument that taxes affect prices in the long run, the reduction in the cost of living involves no improvement in the general condition of the workers. It only provides the masters with an opportunity and excuse for reducing wages. In fact, the greater part of the existence of the workers on the economic field may be summed up thus :—Fighting for a rise when prices go up and fighting against a reduction when prices fall.

Yet, in spite of these perfectly obvious facts, we have sentimental humbugs proclaiming themselves the workers’ saviours because they have taken fourpence off tea. We are not impressed. They are merely imitators. Their Liberal precursors have given us our stomach-full long enough ago.

Fellow workers, so long as a small class possess the means of life, you will toil in poverty for them; and reforms will do nothing to lift the burden. Socialism alone will do that. Organise for the common ownership of the earth and all that the workers’ hands have wrought.

Eric Boden