Palliatives and Practical Politics: An Indictment of Reform

We are in the throes of another great agitation. The popular pulse has been quickened, the popular mind has been stirred, the popular spirit has revolted against the latest flout of the popular will and the popular fiat has gone forth in a yell of popular execration “Death to the House of Lords! Death!” Wherefore all the forces of progress have formed up in lighting array ; the progressive pulpit, the progressive press, the progressive politician, have all leaped to arms animated by one great popular principle, united in one great popular party, and have gone forth with “practical politics” inscribed on their banners to do battle with the pallid peers or, parenthetically, perish in the process. For the “Over the Bridges” Tramway Bill, fashioned by the mediocrity of Spring Gardens, after many exhibitions of practical statesmanship on the part of the L.C.C. M.P’s., has been incontinently kicked out of the House of Select Thieves after having passed


by the casting vote of that memento of mediaevalism, Mr. Speaker.

Hence these tears. Hence these wild and whirling words. Hence this display of frenzied determination on the part of professional politicians out of office, who, scenting the spoils from afar and calculating upon the short memories of the working-class, have rushed into the public places of the land in an endeavour to create a popular turmoil that will assist them into position.

How many of these great agitations for the same old and hoary object are contained in the memory that can encompass the last 25 year ? And how many times have the working-class risen like gudgeon to the bait, only to find their energies wasted and their interests sold in the result?

As though the House of Lords mattered. As though it were not an institution built up upon the same system of


buttressed by working-class ignorance to which can be directly traced all the economic evils that working-class flesh is heir to ; an institution that must go down with the system upon which it depends, before the pressure of an educated, well organised proletariat.

The House of Lords, the Monarchy, the State Church and the rest are all so many embellishments of the capitalist system, so much embroidery of the ugly basal fact. The destruction of such embroidery would not effect the working-class position in the smallest degree. The abolition of the House of Lords would not necessarily have effected the passing even of a trumpery Tramway Bill. If the measure was one that materially affected capitalist interests, in the event of the non-existence of the House of Lords, it would never have passed the House of Commons. As it is the House of Lords plays the game of the capitalist members of the other House. The latter know that their titled confreres can lie relied upon to


and therefore under some circumstances they will indulge in something that savours of working-class legislation, and secure the kudos of enhanced political standing in the eyes of a purblind people. In other words they succeed in conveying the idea that they are friends of the working-class, and so strengthen their position at the hustings what time their non-elective fellows in the House of Lords look after the swag. And then with tongue in cheek they conduct abolition of the House of Lords agitations while the workers cheer them on.

Well, the workers will cheer until they understand. And until they understand, that cheer is all the cheer they will get. lint presently they will appreciate the fact that they are poor and wretched because they are robbed, and they will know that the


sit in the House of Lords and the House of Commons alike, and on both sides of both Houses.

There is no greater barrier to working-class emancipation therefore in the House of Lords than exists in the House of Commons. It makes no difference to the working-class whether their exploiter is the Lord Dudley or the plain Mr. Smith. Plain Mr. Aird was no less an exploiter than .Sir John Aird now is. Consequently an educated and well organised proletariat would concentrate upon the central fact upon which all else depends, and the measure of their determination will be the measure of the concessions they will obtain. Subsidiary obstacles to working-class advance, such as the House of Peers is supposed to be, will be removed by the capitalist-class in the hope that the glamour that once magnified them into matters of importance in the eyes of the working-class will still lie sufficiently strong to dazzle their understanding and induce the belief that the capitalists are prepared to make large sacrifices for the benefit of their poor brethren of the lower orders.

That is the position of THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN, both in regard to


We hold, and can produce evidence ad nausiam to show, that to focus the working-class mind upon two or three or a dozen palliative proposals, simply plays the game and saves the face of the capitalist-class. Every palliative measure (when they are such) can be conceded to a working-class so concentrated, without endangering the central position. Because, except the workers are class-conscious, they will, and do, treat such concessions as evidences of the friendliness and concern of capitalism for labour. The class position is, for a time at any rate, abandoned. The class struggle is obscured. That is the lesson that the history of reform movements teaches. That is the reason, and the only justification for the existence of parties claiming to be socialist. Moreover, and this point merits all the emphasis that can be applied to it, many of these palliatives are directly advantageous to capitalist interests. In such cases the workers are at


of being seduced from their class position and being the more easily manipulated as instruments of profit production.

On the other hand, with the workers educated and organised on the basis of their class position and alive to the perennial, irreconcilable antagonism of interest existing between them and their exploiters, any palliative measure secured would mean the strengthening of their position and the facilitation of their advance.

To the objection that the working-class are not prepared to assimilate the whole Socialist philosophy and must be brought along on the milk of reform before they can be fed on the strong meats of revolution, the answer is that the comprehension of the simple facts of Socialism involves no great mental exertion. Indeed, the absorption would have been an exceedingly simple process for the normal pet son had not an army of half-loaf politicians and reformers with the baseless fear of the inability of the average mind to understand more than their


in their .hearts, spread their wares like the pedlars they were, before the untutored gaze of the workers. Honestly or otherwise they manufactured a man of straw, a bogey, and having done so, called upon all good men concerned for the true advancement of the poor to scream with affright. And to this day honest and dishonest reformers and palliators have screamed and fled before the miserable straw-stuffed effigy they themselves created.

Small wonder therefore that the workers, fed for so long upon the diluted wash that answered for mental food with propagators of procrastination, should regard with suspicion the real and satisfying viands (to persist with the food simile) the Socialist offers them.

Had it been otherwise, had the real causes of, and only remedy for, working-class poverty been preached clearly and consistently by those who knew the truth, ire should have


to tell to-day. Our tale would have been of a rapidly growing and solidly welded working-class party such as few if any countries could excel.

1 repeat that the normal mind, cleared of the confusion that the dissemination of futilities has largely caused, can easily understand the simple proposition that the poverty and misery within their daily experience, is due to the fact that the wealth they create is not theirs; that it is not theirs because the land and machinery by the aid of which they have been enabled to produce and distribute wealth, are in the private possession of a comparatively few people ; that the non-possession of these means of life (by and through which alone they can produce the things necessary to their existence) reduces them to the necessity of selling the only thing they have their power to work—to those who do possess the means of life; that therefore they are themselves


(because they cannot dissociate themselves from the labour power which they sell) and are bought and sold as other commodities are bought and sold ; that just as the price of other articles is determined by the supply of and the demand for those articles, so is the price of labour power determined ; that just as competition causes the price of other articles to revolve about the cost of their manufacture, so does competition cause the price of labour power to revolve about the cost of its manufacture (which is, of course, the cost of the keep of the worker and his family); that therefore the existence of the unemployed is necessary to capitalist interests because while the market is flooded with labour, competition for work will keep the price of that labour (wages) low, and because if labour was scarce its price would rise, to the detriment of course, of profits ; that therefore the capitalists, whatever their professions, will never do aught to materially affect the, unemployed problem. And finally and because of this.


for working-class poverty and the unhappiness arising from it is the destruction of the system of the private ownership in the means of life upon which the whole evil rests, and the substitution of common ownership and control, that is ownership and control by the whole people, of those means.

This, we claim, is simple enough for the wayfaring man, though a fool, when his mind has been cleared of the stumbling blocks assiduously created by the agents of the capitalist-class, acting in that capacity unconsciously or deliberately. Among these agents we include of necessity


and all others who by act or word contribute to working-class confusion because they, in so doing, are buttressing the capitalist system which depends upon working-class ignorance.

And that is briefly the explanation of the clause in our Declaration of Principles (at which so many cavil) which says that we are in opposition to all other political parties, whether avowed capitalist or alleged labour, because all as we show—as we have shown—(see the Manifesto of  THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GHEAT BRITAIN, just published) contribute in act or word or both to working-class confusion.

Therefore are we opposed to farcical anti-House-of-Lords agitations and the like.


.We show that the capitalist as such can never have interests in harmony with the worker as such. We hold up Socialism as the only hope of the workers. We urge the futility of palliatives (except to the class-conscious worker) while the central fact remains unaffected. We refuse to be scared by the wretched bogey which reformers have created. We are out to keep the issues clear as a pike. We preach Socialism— we, THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN.

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