1930s >> 1937 >> no-390-february-1937

A Question for Members of the Labour Party

The modern propertied class, like their slave-owning predecessors, get something for nothing. They can live without working. They live on the surplus products of the wealth-producers, while the latter obtain only a subsistence wage, more or less. The propertied class live on the backs of the working class, but they do not put it as crudely as that. They call it rent, interest and profit, and hedge it about with legal safeguards and moral disguises. They are full of promises of better things for those whom they exploit. They will, as Tolstoy said, do everything for the workers except get off their backs. The workers, therefore, must perform this parasite-shedding operation for themselves. They do not lack counsellors, prominent among them being the Labour Party. In endless pamphlets and speeches the Labour Party promises to put things right. It will do so, it says, by nationalisation, public control, State regulation, investment boards and so on. But all of this is to be subject to one condition which the Labour Party affects to regard as a rather clever strategic move. The condition is that the propertied class are to be compensated. The Labour Party’s programme of action, called For Socialism and Peace, says that “the public acquisition of industries and services will involve the payment of fair compensation to existing owners . . . the suggested basis of compensation, broadly, is the net reasonable maintainable revenue of the industry concerned.” Major Attlee, leader of the Labour Party, enlarged upon this in a speech at a luncheon of the British Railway Stockholders’ Union at the Hotel Splendide, Piccadilly, on January 14th 1937. He assured his audience of investors in the railways that the Labour Party would “like to make your securities more secure. We should like to turn you into holders of shares in the community rather than the railway companies” (Daily Telegraph, January 15th, 1937).

So the parasites are not to be shaken off, only made more secure. Tolstoy’s apt words have become out-of-date and must be rewritten: “The Labour Party saviours of the working class will do everything for the working class except get the parasites off their backs.”

It would be interesting to know what the rank and file of the Labour Party really think about this.

Edgar Hardcastle

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