What Lloyd-George Promised In 1906
“Bungler or Rogue?”
Mr. Lloyd George has made a definite pledge that if returned to power his party will “reduce the terrible figures of the workless in the course of a single year to normal proportions.” (Lloyd George’s address to Liberal candidates on March 1st, 1929.) The unemployed are to be absorbed in road and bridge work, in land drainage, telephone development, house building and other schemes, financed by means of a big loan. By “normal proportions” is meant the pre-war 4.7 per cent., “representing something over half-a-million unemployed.” (See “We Can Conquer Unemployment,” p. 6.) It is, of course, not impossible for capitalist governments to put some or all of the unemployed on camouflaged relief works and call this the abolition of unemployment. We are, therefore, much more concerned with an earlier, comprehensive, and totally unfulfilled pledge, which was given by Mr. Lloyd George in 1906. Speaking at Birmingham on October 22nd of that year, Mr. Lloyd George referred to signs of widespread unrest among the workers, and said:—
The new movement represented a real upheaval, due to the impatience of the people of the slow progress made by existing parties, in redressing wrongs. . . . No wonder the people asked “why all this tarrying and dallying?” They said to the old political parties, “If you are in earnest you are bunglers; if you are not in earnest you are rogues! ”
What the Liberals would do in three years.
Mr. Lloyd George confessed that past “reforms” had failed to cure the evils for which they were intended as a remedy.
Here you have been tinkering for generations with reform, and the end of it all is slums, pauperism, and great want in a land of plenty.
He then gave his definite pledge that the Liberals would achieve something material in three years or forfeit their claim to the confidence of the electorate
The answer rested with the Liberals during the next three years. . . . The people had said to them “We are going to give you your chance, but it is only a chance.” The whole future of the Liberal Party depended upon the practical answer they gave to the expectations of the people.
The Pledge Broken.
So much for the pledge. Now for the performance.
Speaking at Park Hall, Cardiff, on December 29th, 1911, that is five years after the giving of the pledge, Mr. Lloyd George said
To-day you have greater poverty in the aggregate in the land than you have ever had. You have oppression of the weak by the strong. You have a more severe economic bondage than you probably ever had; for grinding labour to-day does not always guarantee sustenance or security. At any rate that condition of things was foreign to the barbaric regime of the darker ages. (Supplement to Christian Commonwealth, January 17th, 1912.)
The Futility of Reforming Capitalism
More than 20 years have passed since then. Numerous “reforms” have in those years been placed on the statute book, By Liberals, by Tories, and by the Labour Party, yet the position has become so much worse in many respects that Mr. Lloyd George can actually dazzle the eyes of thousands of working-class voters by promising to reduce unemployment to its pre-war level, that is to take us back to the condition of “normal” poverty and insecurity depicted by him in 1911.
This is capitalist “progress”; the natural fruit of Tory, Liberal, and Labour reforms of capitalism. Only Socialism will remove the causes of working-class poverty by abolishing the private ownership of the means of producing and distributing wealth. You are poor, whether in work or out, whether trade is good or bad, and whether capitalism is organised in independent companies, in combines, or in the State capitalist or nationalised undertakings so beloved of the Labour Party.
You are poor because the capitalist class own and control your means of living (the land, factories, railways, etc.) and live on the wealth you produce. This is capitalism. Why not end it?