1930s >> 1935 >> no-375-november-1935

Editorial: Tenth Betrayal of the Working Class 1904-1935

Since 1904, when the S.P.G.B. started out on its task of pointing out to the workers that there is no solution of their problems except Socialism, and that there is no way of achieving Socialism except through independent organisation in a purely Socialist Party for the conquest of the powers of Government, there have been nine General Elections. This is the tenth. Nine times the politicians have sought and obtained a mandate for continuing capitalism, modified only in this or that small detail. Nine times—indeed continuously for 31 years—the S.P.G.B. has proclaimed that it makes no essential difference what is the label or programme of the political group which takes on the administration of capitalism. Nine times the workers have placed their trust in one or other of the non-Socialist parties, and nine times their trust has been repaid with poverty and distress instead of the promised prosperity, with the blood and tears of world-war instead of peace, with disillusion and despair instead of hope and progress.


Nine times the political leaders who were successful at the polls have solemnly pledged themselves to remedy those evils which now stare us in the face more menacingly than ever before.


In 1935 as in 1906: “Great Want in a Land of Plenty.”
In 1906 Mr. Lloyd George described the condition of the workers. It is a description which fits exactly the state of affairs to-day. He said that after “tinkering for generations with reform . . .  the end of it all is slums, pauperism, and great want in a land of plenty.” (Speech at Birmingham, October 22nd, 1906.)


Since 1906 we have had nearly 30 years more of reforms—reforms by Liberal Governments, reforms by Labour Governments, reforms by Conservative and Coalition Governments. The result is that we still have “slums, pauperism and great want in a land of plenty,” and still the working class have trust in politicians who solemnly pledge themselves to abolish these things by the vain method of reform.


In 1906 Mr. Lloyd George, on behalf of the great Liberal majority, promised a solution within three years. Five years after making the promise he confessed that “to-day you have greater poverty in the aggregate in the land than you | have ever had” (Cardiff, September 29th, 1911).


Another traditional promise of the Liberals was peace. After the struggle with the House of Lords, and the ensuing two elections which occurred in 1910, the Liberal Government kept their pledge of peace by landing us in the Great War!


A Land Fit for Heroes.
Re-elected in 1918 with promises to make this a land fit for heroes, Mr. Lloyd George’s Coalition Government collapsed in 1922 in an economic crisis which produced the then record number of 2½ million unemployed.


The pledges of 1906 were still wholly unfulfilled.


The Government which followed, with Mr. Bonar Law as premier, was the counterpart of the crisis Government of 1931-35. It came into office pledged to secure economy, to deal with the Budget and taxation questions, and to find a remedy for the unemployment arising out of the crisis. It went out of office having solved no problems of the working class.


At the next election, in 1923, the Conservatives, under Mr. Baldwin’s leadership, asked the electorate for a mandate to introduce tariffs. Failure to secure the desired mandate led to the formation of the first Labour Government in Great Britain. It ruled for a brief period during 1924 without solving any of the problems of the working class. The only change between 1906 and 1924 was that the pre-war Liberal Government, backed by Labour M.Ps., had given way to a Labour Government backed by Liberals. When that Liberal support was withdrawn, the short-lived Labour Government collapsed, leaving capitalism just as they found it.


Tory Social Reform, 1924-1929.
Then came five years of Tory Government, 1924-1929. The Tories were elected on a programme of promises of more and more social reforms—for the aged, the unemployed, and the sick. Their election address, under the heading “From the Cradle to the Grave” told how the capitalist State, with fatherly benevolence, watches over the welfare of the worker from, birth to death.


Throughout that period the workers remained poor, unemployment remained at about 1¼ millions, and pauperism at about double the level it had been when Mr. Lloyd George, in 1906, pledged his party to deal with it.


Labour Administration of Capitalism, 1929-31.
From 1929 to 1931 the second Labour Government was in power. The S.P.G.B. had predicted its inevitable failure, as it had the failure of every Government committed to the administration of capitalism. During those two years, every one of the Labour Party’s beliefs was discredited and its pledges broken. Wages fell, unemployment rose to a new high record, and Labour Party rule showed itself completely unable to prevent or mitigate the rising tide of capitalist economic crisis. When the Labour Government collapsed, and its leaders betrayed it to the National Government, it had earned the contempt of millions of workers who had voted for it with high hopes only two years earlier.


“National Government,” 1931-1935
The “National Government” came into being pledged to deal with the crisis which Labour rule had been unable to prevent. It was supported mainly by Tories, but was aided by Liberal and Labour groups, and had the biggest majority known in modern times. In five years it has done nothing except carry out the traditional capitalist policy of economising during a crisis in order to allow capitalism to take its normal course of recovery from depression. The panacea offered on this occasion has been Tariffs. After a long period of poverty under “free trade” the workers have now experienced poverty under “protection.” As a result, the working class are still poor; unemployment, after two years of trade expansion, is still 2,000,000; and the international situation is more threatening than at any time since 1914!


What of the Future?
Now once more, for the tenth time during the life of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, the workers are being asked to vote into power Liberal or Tory or Labour Parties, each of which will continue, with or without minor modifications, the capitalist system of society. Again, as on each previous occasion, the sole remedy that is being offered by those who wish to modify existing arrangements is a programme of still more social reforms to add to the fruitless accumulation of reforms of the past 100 years.


Only the S.P.G.B. stands simply for the abolition of capitalism and the institution of Socialism.


The S.P.G.B. makes no Pledges.
The history of General Elections is the history of new and ever more cunning methods of catching the votes of the worker by promises of reforms. It is a history of pledges made only to be broken.


The only Party which has never promised to solve the problems of the workers for them is the S.P.G.B. The S.P.G.B. does not promise to do something for you in return for your trust in us. The S.P.G.B. only assures you that your problems can be solved by you, and by you alone, just as soon as you have the knowledge, the will, and the political organisation to make your will effective. It is your task to understand Socialism, and then to join the S.P.G.B. to bring it about.


The Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, October 22nd, 1935.