1920s >> 1927 >> no-278-october-1927

The franchise

Mr. Rimington writes again criticising the reply to an earlier letter printed in our July issue.

To the Ed. Com.
It is not that I have any fresh evidence to bear upon the subject above, as your wilful misinterpretation of that already submitted, that I write again.

You quote a string of figures from official sources, and because I do not enter into numerals, you imagine that I have discovered a “mare’s nest.”

Whatever may be said of the Capitalist Class as a Class, they are pretty astute, otherwise they would cease to be Capitalists, and I think that your assumption that they are a lot of “duds,” sheer self-complacency.

It may appear to be clever to say, as you do, “If those anomalies were abolished to-morrow, the great mass of the working class would still vote Capitalist candidates into Parliament.” Fortunately, you limit your prognostication to the next twelve hours; but it is a nasty get-out. By abusing the working class you shirk your responsibilities to safeguard and extend their powers of political expression. Because I do not give the name and address, etc., of my informant re the flaw in the Act, you refer to it as nebulous stuff. Why not investigate for yourselves and prove your statement?

You say that “the reference to the Proxy vote and the dead you do not understand,” and I would refer you to your reply, May, 1927, where you state that only those persons may vote by proxy who (a) are already on the absent voters’ list. Now persons who are already on the absent voters’ list are not exactly imperishable, and it follows that, unless they are replaced by others, ultimately there ceases to be anyone on the absent voters’ list. You may say that this is a quibble; nevertheless, without this explanation, it is obvious that absent voters must be a diminishing quantity. Of course, if the desire to strengthen the arm of working class political representation is opposed to your ideas of Socialist propaganda, it would be a pity to suspend it. Taking your own figures, which do not include the wives and families of the men registered for business qualification, I submit that, as a whole, they constitute sufficient in many cases to turn the scale at an election, for many candidates are returned by a few hundred or less. I wish particularly to draw your attention to the working of the Redistribution Act of 1918, taking Leicester as an example. Prior to this Act, Leicester was one Parliamentary area returning two members. It was then divided into three separate divisions, returning one member each. In most cases the owners of business premises live in another part of the town, so automatically they qualified for extra votes. That the issue is not so negligible as you imagine is, I contend, worthy of searching investigation, and in these days when the democratic principle is being attacked so frequently in the Press and on the platform, it is up to us to contest every plutocratic privilege. I enclose cutting from to-day’s Observer, which shews that the Divines are at it too, but these are quite mild to articles I have read by Gilbert Frankau and others.

In the words of Joseph Dietzgen, “Take care of the principles and the details will take care of themselves.”

Yours fraternally,



Mr. Rimington admits that he has no “fresh evidence.” I propose, therefore, not to follow him again into numerous side-issues, but would refer him to the reply to his first letter. He still does not attempt to disprove the figures which showed that the plural voting anomaly is of negligible extent. While there is a single person with a plural vote an anomaly can be said to exist, but we decline to interest ourselves in anomalies which are unimportant and do not debar the working class from achieving Socialism. Let us repeat the main point, in 1925 there were in England and Wales 19,167,275 persons registered as voters (Statistical Review, 1925, p. 81. H.M.S.O.). Of these 51,357 had University votes and 217,509 had business premises votes. Thus out of every 200 voters three persons had two votes which they could use at a general election. Of the 200 voters 170 (85 per cent.) were members of the working class (see May ” S.S.”). Thus the distribution of votes as between workers and Capitalists in about 170 to 43. Mr. Rimington asks us to get into a sweat about those three votes, and we reply that it is much more important to convert the 170 workers to Socialism. Incidentally, if Mr. Rimington is so anxious to break a lance, why not advocate the disfranchisement of all Capitalists? It would not be very much more difficult to achieve, and when it was done he would still have the great majority of the 170 working class voters supporting capitalism.


(Socialist Standard, October 1927)

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