1920s >> 1926 >> no-264-august-1926

Birds of a feather

The recent Labour government took office as a gift from the Liberal Party. Their short term of “power,” with its attendant rewards, no doubt whetted the appetite of these Labour Leaders.

Philip Snowden, in an article published in Reynolds, June 6th, exhibits a hunger that is ravenous, and a contempt for the minds of his followers that is surprising,— even in a Labour Leader.

“The Coalition,” he claims, “Justified the contention of the Labour Party that in all fundamental matters of economic and social reform there was little or no difference between the Liberal Leaders and the Conservatives.”

Bear in mind for the present that Lloyd George was the leading light in the Coalition that justified the contention of the Labour Party that there was no fundamental difference between Liberal and Conservative. And of “disgusted genuine Liberals” Mr. Snowden says, “Many of these have gone over to the Labour Party, which they recognised has now become the inheritor of what was best in the Liberalism of the past.”

From the time of Bright, the bitter opponent of the “Factory Acts,” to Lord Featherstone Asquith, of conscription fame, and the Jingo Lloyd George, who led the workers, strictly in the figurative sense, through fields of waving bayonets, the history of the Liberal Party is one of direct opposition to working class interest. What was best in their bloody record Snowden does not say. However, the vile traditions of that Party does not disgrace the “inheritor.”

After pointing out, “That there is a large amount of Liberal opinion and sentiment in the country, which is disorganised,” this “Honourable Gentleman” asserts that “If any man can revive the fortunes of the Liberal Party, it is Mr. Lloyd George.”

For what purpose should Lloyd George organise the Liberals he has not already “disgusted” ?

Snowden answers : “Mr. Lloyd George knows that neither his magnetism nor his programme can ever revive the Liberal Party to the extent of giving the Party enough Members in Parliament to form a Government. He will have to depend upon the support of another party to carry out that programme.”

“Co-operation with the Conservatives for such an object is out of the question. A Labour Government is the only possible alternative to the continuation in office of the Conservative Party. There is nothing in Mr. Lloyd George’s programme which is in opposition to the Labour programme on these subjects.”

“His only hope of achieving his land and coal and power scheme lies in helping a Labour Government to get back to office, and in co-operating with them in the House of Commons. There is no sacrifice of independence in co-operating for a common purpose.”

That there is no sacrifice of independence is agreed, the guinea pig can’t sacrifice its tail. There is also no loss of dignity in this cringing appeal to Lloyd George for support. Fortunately for Philip Snowden Labour Leaders are not troubled with such a thing as dignity. Although occasionally they attempt to stand on it, but with results equal to that obtained by the spectator who stands on a cigarette paper to improve his view.

Anxious that it should be clearly understood there is no difference between the Liberal and Labour Party Snowden again refers to Lloyd George, who, he says :—

“Will carry the vast bulk of the Liberals with him on a programme which as an immediately practical programme for the next reform Government is little different from the Labour programme.”

The first point in Snowden’s article is that there is no distinction between Liberal and Conservative. And the second point, that there is no difference in the Liberal and Labour Party. And so the question arises, what difference is there between the Labour and Conservative Party? And the answer, as Snowden shows, possibly without knowing it, is that this difference, like their independence, has no existence outside the imagination of the misguided followers of these Political Sharpers.

A comparison between statements of Lord Birkenhead and Philip Snowden will further emphasize this fact. The Daily News, June 23rd, reports the former as follows :—

”I would never give way to a claim that an industry which is not on an economic basis is entitled to a subsidy when there are many members of the community working longer hours for a less remuneration.”

And in the same issue, the Daily News reports Mr. Snowden, who speaking at a luncheon given by the American Chamber of Commerce at the Hotel Cecil, says :

“The Trade Union idea in the past and to a very great extent to-day—has been one of antagonism to the employers.”

And so this antagonism is merely an idea and not the antagonism that is responsible for the existence of Trade Unions.

Having simplified matters by converting the class struggle into an idea, Snowden proceeds to comfort his “select” audience with soothing advice.

“We have got to change that,” he says, “and we have got to get the workman to realise that they are partners in industry, and that the depression of industry hits them probably more than it hits the employers. And we have got to realise that any progressive expansion of industry will accrue proportionately to their benefit.”

What a lot of difficult things Mr. Snowden has got to do. To end the antagonism between worker and employer would bring him up against the cause of that antagonism, that is the private ownership in the means of life, and to interfere in this direction would not be going the right way to persuade the Liberals to boot him back into office. To convince the worker hit by a depression, in the form of the sack, that he is a partner in the business will be a troublesome task, and the more so when he is hungry and can’t even get a snack at the Hotel Cecil. And when the “progessive expansion of industry,” with the introduction of improved machinery, etc., puts him outside the factory and a lever in the hands of the employer to lower the wages of those inside, the benefits of this ‘expansion will want a lot of explaining.

“I would like to see, therefore,” concludes Snowden, “The Trade Union policy changed in this respect, that the Trade Unions would not be merely concerned, regardless of the conditions of industry, in getting the highest possible wage they can screw out of industry, but rather helping to make industry thoroughly efficient so that the means will be there out of which the highest wages can be paid.”

No doubt his audience echoed the desire to see such an ideal condition for employers. But apart from the empty drivel, there is the same lying implication in Snowden’s remarks as there is in that of Birkenhead’s, viz., that the workers are poor, not because they are robbed, but because they do not produce sufficient wealth.

That the workers support an idle class in luxury, and that swarms of political and industrial vermin, non-producers, grow fat from the pickings that are the price of treachery, is sufficient answer to these insects that slander the workers.

But with an understanding of their class interest, the workers will be proof against the “magnetism” of the Lloyd George type and the pleading of the Snowden breed.

Knowing that their trouble is the lack of the wealth which they alone produce, and the only remedy, that they as a class shall own the tools and material used in its production, and as a result own the product, the workers will set themselves the task to overthrow the present owners—the capitalist class—by taking from them the only power they possess to maintain their position, that is the control of the armed forces, secured by persuading the workers to elect capitalist representatives into political office.

Armed with this knowledge the toilers will pass by the Labour dope in spite of the many attractions from the great Liberal showman, whose “Magnetism” draws gold better than iron. They will ignore the Communist Clown, who claims to perform wonders with an imitation red-hot poker. By united action the workers will secure political control and use the power it gives them to alter the foundation of society from private to common ownership of the things needed in the production and distribution of wealth.

E. L.

(Socialist Standard, August 1926)

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