The General Election: Our Manifesto to the Workers
FELLOW MEMBERS OF THE WORKING CLASS
Once again the various political parties are seeking your support in a General Election. The Liberal Government, who are appealing to you to retain them in office, were boasting in January last of their “great victory” at the polls. They pointed to the anti-Lords majority of 120 as a proof of their clear mandate and sufficient backing to abolish the Lords’ veto. Yet within a few months of this “great victory”, they are again asking you to return them for the same purpose.
Hardly had the Liberals been elected when Mr. Asquith admitted that he had not got the “guarantees” without which he promised at Albert Hall he would not hold office.
The history of the Liberal party shows that the House of Lords has nothing to fear from them. Besides acting as a trysting place for their financial supporters, it does duty as an excuse for their broken promises and procrastination. They have raised the bogey election-cry of “Down with the House of Lords!” ever since the rejection of their 1832 Reform Bill, but though in power a dozen times since then with large majorities, they have not once joined issue with the peers. Instead of “ending or mending”, they have been extending, the Second Chamber. A far greater number of peers were created in the 19th century by the Liberals than by the Tories, and they are well ahead, with a total of 40, in the 20th century. In fact, the necessity of rewarding with peerages the great contributors to the party’s funds is, doubtless, one of the reasons for the Dissolution.
After indulging in the most violent denunciation of the Lords the Liberals arranged to patch up their quarrel by holding a conference, which, after five months existence, has been abandoned “for the present” – to use Mr. Asquith’s phrase. During these months a truce was called and we told not to disturb the little game of coddem evidently being played by the wily “eight”. The Government, if returned again, obviously intend to continue the sham-fight ’til the Coronation, when we may expect another General Election – or another conference.
Although the Liberals admit that the reform in the composition of the House of Lords means strengthening it against the people, the preamble to the Government Veto Bill states that “it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists, a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of a hereditary basis”. This Bill gives the Lords power to reject every bill twice. Even one of their own members has admitted the hypocrisy of his party. Writing to the Daily Chronicle (June 20th) the Hon. J. Martin, Liberal M. P. for St. Pancras, said: “The Government have changed front several times on the House of Lords question, and on account of their wobbling since the Election, I have no hesitation in saying that I have no confidence whatever in them.” During the Dissolution debate (18.11.10) he said: “I do not believe the Government are in earnest in their fight against the Lords. With a majority of a hundred members like myself to stand by them, I do not believe there was any need for a dissolution.”
All this goes to show how fraudulent the Liberals are; but even were they sincere on this question of the Upper Chamber it would not concern you, fellow-workers. Mere political changes do not affect your economic condition. The Liberals say that there is not such a reactionary Second Chamber abroad as the British, yet you know that poverty and unemployment abound there as here.
The poverty and insecurity from which you suffer has its roots, not in political forms, but in the class ownership of the means of life. No reform, whether of Tariffs, Franchise, or Poor Law, can touch the cause; consequently the effects persist though social reforms are continually passed.
Even Lloyd George confessed, in his City Temple speech (17.10.10), that “before we succeed in remedying one evil, fresh ones crop up. We are hopelessly in error”. That is a very significant admission. But the very reforms that fail to touch the evils they are supposed to remedy are, the “wicked Lords” notwithstanding, being made the issues by the Liberals at the present election.
Very Old Age Pensions for those on the verge of the grave (adopted because they are cheaper than Poor Law relief); Labour Exchanges (organised to smash strikes and reduce wages); a specious promise to qualify the legal effects of the Osborne judgment (a sop to catch the votes of the trades unions): these are the futilities with which the Liberals mock the care-worn wage-slaves of capitalism.
The Labour Party, as we have continually pointed out, is merely a wing of the Liberal party. It is composed of job-hunters who, like Shackleton, are seeking office in Liberal administrations. Said their chairman in the House of Commons (18.11.10): “It was because the Labour Party believed the solution of the House of Lords question would be a step forward that they supported the Government”.
Your masters are seeking your suffrages in this election because upon their control of the political machine their supremacy depends. Liberal and Tory alike are out for the maintenance of this system, which means for you a continuation of your slavery. While pretending to be in deadly enmity, they are united as one against you when you try to better your lot. They combine in Masters’ Federations and try to starve you into submission by locking you out when you seek to make your wages cover the increased cost of living – as in Lancashire. They bring the armed forces into your midst to bludgeon you and menace your very lives – as in South Wales. Through their political supremacy your masters control these forces of repression, and if you are to change the conditions under which you work and live, you must fight to get control of the machinery of Government.
In that fight you cannot take sides with any section of the capitalist class, because it is to their interest to maintain this system which means luxury and idleness for them. Neither can you support those parties which, like the Labour Party and the Social-Democratic Party, are parties of compromise and reform. (The latter of these organisations has, in its election manifesto, advised the workers to stultify themselves by voting for the Tories. Their only candidate is a champion of “a strong navy”!) Your interests, being opposed to those of the capitalists, must lead you to ally yourself with a working-class political party waging an uncompromising battle against all the forces ranged in opposition to your class.
Your emancipation can only be achieved by converting the instruments of production from the property of the few (who use them to exploit you) into the common property of society, so that they can be used to produce the requirements of life in abundance for all; in a word, Socialism must be established.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain is the only party in this country that consistently works for this end: and as the realisation of Socialism depends upon the conversion of the workers, your place is within its ranks, striving to bring your fellow-workers into line, helping to hasten the day when the fratricidal warfare of capitalism is supplanted by the fraternal co-operation that Socialism alone can ensure.
Pending the time when the workers rally in greater numbers to the Socialist Party, and so enable it to take its proper place in electoral contests as the only working-class political party in this country, it has no candidates in the field. Hence all candidates before you at this election, whether they be openly and avowedly capitalist, or slink at the heels of the Liberals under the title of I.L.P., S.D.P., Labour or Socialist, stand for the maintenance of capitalism, and from the position we have outlined your duty is plain.
ABSTAIN FROM VOTING
on this occasion, and, lest the enemy impersonate you, go to the ballot-box and inscribe “SOCIALISM!” upon your voting paper. Above all, the work that lies before you is to enlist the support of your fellows in the fight for Socialism, for that alone can deliver you from the misery which to-day you endure.
THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN
(Socialist Standard, December 1910)