1920s >> 1927 >> no-276-august-1927

Birds of a feather

Forward (July 9th) has an article charging Havelock Wilson with carrying on “anti-working class propaganda.” This has, of course, long been our opinion also, but we cannot in our momentary agreement with Forward go beyond the point of condemning Havelock Wilson. The ground of condemnation used by Forward is Wilson’s association with Sir Arthur Wheeler, whose firm (Arthur Wheeler & Co.) has issued a circular supporting Wilson and inviting subscriptions for the Industrial Peace Union, of which he is the Director of Publicity. If this circular is evidence that Havelock Wilson is anti-working class, what are we to say of another effort of Sir Arthur Wheeler’s, issued this time in support of a cause to which Forward is devoted? Forward and the parties it supports, the I.L.P. and the Labour Party, are advocates of nationalisation—so is Sir Arthur Wheeler. In June, 1924, his company, a well-known firm of Leicester stockbrokers, issued to its clients a circular letter on nationalisation. Below is a passage extracted from it :—

“It is no exaggeration to say that, as a group, colliery shares have been neglected for some considerable time because of the fear caused by the thought of Nationalisation. But this attitude is based upon first thoughts rather than mature consideration. A thorough examination of the actual position soon reveals how little justification exists for these apprehensions.
A short time ago, in conversation, a number of influential colliery proprietors, brought up this question. It was to be expected that these men, who presumably had most to lose from nationalisation, should fear it greatly. Their conversation revealed just the opposite. They were agreed that supposing it became practically possible, it would be the best thing possible for themselves. They actually looked forward to its realisation.
Again and again, past experience proves that when a Government Department enters into a business agreement with private traders, the latter invariably get the best of the bargain. We, therefore, can assume the same would result if and when the Government took over the control of our mining industry.
Colliery shareholders would receive from the purchaser (i.e., the State), new stock in place of their original holdings. The industry would be guaranteed by the whole taxable capacity of the nation. Hence the new stock would be of the same nature as all gilt-edged stocks, with both capital and interest a Government obligation. The risks of labour troubles and foreign competition would be taken from the present shareholders and placed on the broad back of the State. This, in the main, is the reason why colliery proprietors do not fear nationalisation.”

Forward and the Labour Party and the I.L.P. and Sir Arthur Wheeler and his coal-owning friends are all supporters of nationalisation—the Socialist Party alone is opposed to it. Sir Arthur Wheeler supports it because it will be a very good thing for his class, we oppose it because it will be a very bad thing for our class. Why Forward supports it heaven onlv knows.

H.

(Socialist Standard. August 1927)

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