British Socialism - An Examination of Its Doctrines, Policy, Aims and Practical Proposals
by J. Ellis Barker
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Voluntary armies of the British type are quite as objectionable to Socialists as are the national armies of the compulsory type raised on the Continent of Europe. "We are told that the advantage of our present military system is that it is not compulsory, that people are free to join the service or not as they please. The freedom of the average recruit to join the army is about on a par with the freedom of an unemployed workman to work for lower wages than the recognised rate of wages, or the freedom of the prostitute."[538] "Your soldier, ostensibly a heroic and patriotic defender of his country, is really an unfortunate man driven by destitution to offer himself as food for powder for the sake of regular rations, shelter, and clothing."[539] "A standing army of professional soldiers is the most effective instrument in the hands of the dominant class, the greatest menace to democracy and popular liberty, and the most effective barrier to revolutionary change that could possibly be devised. And surely, too, the antithesis to that is the Armed Nation—every citizen a soldier and every soldier a citizen."[540]

The ideal army from the Socialist point of view is the armed nation. It is, as we shall see in the following, an army composed of Socialist workmen and commanded by Socialist leaders. It is not an army for national defence, but one for attack on the existing order; it is a revolutionary army, an army of plunder. The very natural desire of Socialists to create such a force is, as a rule, disguised under the demand for a democratic army and universal military training. "We Socialists advocate the military training of all citizens and the abolition of professional armies, as ensuring the maximum of military efficiency and the minimum of menace to democratic principles and popular rights. We propose that every man should undergo a thorough military training so as to be equal to any other man. A professional army is maintained in the main for the defence and maintenance of the master class. A professional army is a specialised class or caste, divorced from civil life, hostile to the general body of the community, and maintained as an instrument to serve the purpose of the master class. That purpose is as often the suppression of popular movements at home as aggression abroad. If it were possible to abolish all military organisations, the remedy would be simple. But we have seen that that is, under present conditions, impossible. Therefore we urge that all citizens should be armed and trained to the use of arms, so that all reasonable military requirements may be met and professional soldiering be entirely dispensed with."[541] The fact that the abolition of the professional army would involve the loss of India and of other possessions to Great Britain is a matter of no importance to the Socialists. In fact the Socialists wish Great Britain to lose not only India but all her colonies, as will be seen by reference to Chapter XI., "Socialism and the Empire."[542]

Every attempt at improving the voluntary army of Great Britain is considered a blow at Socialism, and is therefore vigorously resisted by the Socialists. Hence the scheme of army reform of Mr. Haldane, Secretary of State for War, has been loudly condemned by them as reactionary and likely to strengthen the capitalists, and they entreat the workers not to oppose universal military training. "The capitalist class would be perfectly delighted that all the rest of the people outside themselves and their mercenaries should be peaceful unarmed non-resisters. Nothing could suit them better. We have Mr. Haldane's territorial army—on paper; and a more reactionary, militarist (in the worst sense), and anti-democratic system than that to which the present War Minister has had the effrontery to apply our term of the 'Armed Nation' could scarcely be devised."[543]

Whether Mr. Haldane's proposals give Great Britain a better army for national and Imperial defence, is apparently immaterial to the Socialists, for they criticise it merely from the point of view of intending rioters and revolutionaries. They complain: "The position of the Volunteers now is this, that they are not under military law, and cannot be called out as soldiers to shoot down workmen at the bidding of the capitalists. Mr. Haldane's scheme, however, destroys the civilian character of the Volunteers, and converts them into professional soldiers."[544]

Although most Socialists are in favour of a national militia, a considerable number oppose even a national militia of the Swiss type, fearing that it would refuse to aid the Socialists in overturning society as at present constituted. "We have been told of the readiness with which the Swiss militia have donned their uniforms and seized their rifles when called upon to act against strikers."[545] The Socialist delegates who accompanied the committee of inquiry which the National Service League sent to Switzerland in the autumn of 1907 were apparently less interested in the efficiency of the Swiss army for national defence than in its attitude during conflicts between labour and capital.[546]

Fearing that a national militia might not be willing to lend itself to revolutionary purposes, that it might become a patriotic force as is the Swiss militia, many Socialists condemn every kind of military service, and are quite ready to disarm the nation in the name of humanity and civil freedom. For instance, at the annual conference of the Socialist Independent Labour Party of 1907 the following was moved by a well-known revolutionary Socialist, Mr. Bruce Glasier:

"That this Conference believes that the time has come when militarism in every form should be denounced and resisted as alien to civil freedom and social progress, and expresses itself emphatically against compulsory military service, and the attempts which are being made to introduce military training in public schools or other public institutions, and views with alarm the purposes of Mr. Haldane's Army Territorial Bill, which, if passed, will make military service practically compulsory under officers drawn wholly from, the upper classes, will make industrial employment dependent upon military service, and, instead of promoting international unity, will foster and increase the spirit of militarism and aggression."[547]

In moving this resolution Mr. Glasier said that "he denounced militarism root and branch," and Mr. Keir Hardie, a Communist Socialist, in seconding, said: "The resolution was not only a declaration against militarism, but a special and specific condemnation of the Territorial Army Scheme now before the House of Commons. The Socialist party was bound to protest against a system of that kind. The particular feature which emphasised the danger was that there were to be county associations formed to have charge of the new territorial forces, and to have a majority of military men upon them with landlords and possibly employers of labour. A citizen army was as great a menace to an industrial population as a professional army. The new army would be recruited from the people, and officered by the enemies of the people, just as the professional army was. Children were to be taught that the flag was the great thing to value in life. They would find that a citizen army, officered by the rich and recruited from their own ranks, would be taught to regard the flag as something holy, while they shot down strikers and Socialists just as freely as the most exclusive professional army in the world could do. Patriotism was one of the weapons used by the enemies of the people to blind them to facts."[548]

The Trade Union Congress of 1907, disregarding the security of the country and the Empire from foreign aggression, also condemned military training of every kind. Commenting hereon, the "Social-Democrat," the organ of the Social-Democratic Federation, which favours a national democratic army, wrote: "The Trades Union Congress declares against conscription and also condemns military training, which is a totally different matter. To condemn conscription is purely negative. It would be very much more to the point if the representatives of the organised working class would formulate an expression of opinion on the actual military problem. Conscription, at the worst, is in the air; but the present-day military problem is not in the air; it is on the earth, practical and urgent. What have the trade unionists to say to it? Do they approve of the present system of a nominally voluntary professional soldiery, maintained as an instrument at the service of the capitalist class for suppression at home and aggression abroad?"[549] The trade unionists were urged to abolish the voluntary army and to create a national citizen army, which will assist the Socialist in overturning society.

A national citizen army, composed of Socialists and commanded by Socialists, is the ideal, and until such an army be created it is in the interest of Socialists to weaken the existing army and to undermine its discipline to such an extent that, in the event of a rising or a revolution, it will side with the revolutionaries. With this object in view, Socialists are trying to create dissatisfaction in the army by means of emissaries and literature. For instance, in a leaflet entitled "An Appeal to Soldiers," the Social-Democratic Federation says: "If you are to fight for patriotism and country, then let it be a national duty for all, wealthy as well as poor, to bear arms. Let not those who are called upon to fight remain a pariah class apart, bereft of the rights of citizenship—regarded by the upper classes as something to be avoided."[550]

In its official programme the Social-Democratic Federation demands, under the heading "Immediate Reforms," "the abolition of courts-martial: all offences against discipline to be transferred to the jurisdiction of civil courts."[551] Why do the Socialists demand the abolition of military law? Because, in their own words, "With the abolition of military law, upon which we have always laid the greatest possible stress, militarism falls to the ground."[552] Therefore the "Appeal to Soldiers" admonishes the military: "You are and will remain a class apart from the rest of the nation so long as you are compelled to serve under a barbarous military code called 'military law.' The system of trial by court-martial is a mere farce and a mockery. We of the Social-Democratic Federation intend to do our utmost to abolish it root and branch. Give us your support. Remember that the late War Minister, Mr. St. John Brodrick, compared the soldier to the Chinese coolie in South Africa. This is how you are looked upon by the very people who use you as food for powder in the interest of their class. Now is the time for all who wish you well to demand the abolition of military law, the civilising of military service, and the establishment of a national citizen force."[553]

In the autumn of 1907 a letter to the editor was published by the "Daily Telegraph" which contained the following statement:

"I do not think that many people, least of all the authorities, realise what a vigorous campaign is now being waged amongst the rank and file by the Social-Democratic Federation. Herewith I forward a leaflet which, I believe, is being distributed in thousands to the military stations in all the corners of our Empire. The one I enclose I found attached to a tree by the roadside during the recent manoeuvres near Aylesbury. Copies of the same leaflet have reached me from India and Belfast, where they were distributed during the recent strike trouble. It is no exaggeration to say that this leaflet is dangerous; the men of our army are peculiarly susceptible to the tenets of the Social-Democratic Federation. Officers and N.C.O.s will tell you what a serious effect such propaganda must have upon discipline.

"Yours faithfully, "H.C. SMART, Editor, 'Army Graphic'" "October 7, 1907."

Socialism is carrying on a vigorous propaganda for destroying discipline in the army and also in the navy. Herveism has been imported into Great Britain, and is making rapid progress. "The Socialist," the organ of the Socialist Labour party, a party which at present is small in number, but which is most violent in attitude, in an article entitled "The Socialist Labour Party and the Citizen Army," quotes with approval Herve's saying: "The present countries are cruel step-mothers to the proletariat. There is at present no country so superior to any other that its working class should get themselves killed in its defence. In case of mobilisation the proletariat should respond to the call to arms by an insurrection against their rulers to establish the Socialist or Communist regime. Rebellion sooner than war! In case of an order to mobilise, we would seize the moment to attempt the revolution, to place our hands on the social wealth to-day usurped by a minority." The foregoing is printed in very large type. The article then continues, commenting upon Herve's advice as follows: "The soldier has been fed and clothed by the working class. His continued efficiency as a military automaton depends upon regular supply of food, clothing, and the necessaries of life from the same source. He has been transported to the field of conflict by the labour of a whole army of railwaymen. Let us suppose that the day of the final struggle has been reached. Suppose the capitalist attempts to stifle the revolution in blood; suppose he calls upon the army to crush the revolutionary working class by brute force. Let us suppose, too, that the revolutionary agitation has not penetrated the Chinese walls of military discipline (a most improbable hypothesis) and that the soldiers, instead of turning their guns against the capitalist murderers, cheerfully and willingly serve their masters in the attempt to crush the people—what then? We shall put the army in quarantine. We shall isolate it from the rest of the community. We shall cut off supplies of food, clothing, and fuel. The railway and telegraph service will no longer be at its disposal—and in this respect we are in a more advantageous position than our French and German fellow-workers, inasmuch as the Government ownership of the railways in these countries is used to deny the workers connected with them the right of organisation. The army would be in a state of siege, surrounded on all sides by implacable foes. That, coupled with whatever may be possible and necessary in the way of armed insurrection within and outside of the army, is the policy proposed by the Socialist Labour party and Industrial Unionism. Circumstances may, and probably will, modify it in many important details, but there is the main outline. Is it not more logical, more coherent, more likely to succeed than any 'citizen army scheme'?"[554]

Love of country has apparently no room in the Socialist's ethics. Its defence does not trouble him, since he is taught that his worst enemies are those Englishmen who happen to be better off.

Waste not your ready blows, Strike not at foreign foes, Your bitterest enemies tread your own soil; The preachers who blind ye, The landlords who grind ye, The gluttons who revel whilst ye are at toil.

Rise in your might, brothers, bear it no longer, Assemble in masses throughout the whole land; Teach the vile bloodsuckers who are the stronger When workers and robbers confronted shall stand. Through Castle, Court, and Hall, Over their acres all, Onward we'll press like the waves of the sea. Seizing the wealth we've made. Ending the spoilers' trade; Till Labour has triumphed, and England is free.[555]

In their desire to abolish the army, some Socialists argue that "The whole of your military system is entirely unnecessary."[556] Others falsify history and boldly assert that British wars, "in nearly every case have been waged for the suppression of liberty abroad, or from the irritating desire on the part of British statesmen to interfere with the internal affairs of other nations."[557] On the other hand, Mr. Quelch very sensibly argues: "Militarism is an evil against which we have to fight with all the means in our power, but to talk of universal disarmament at the present stage is mere Utopianism, a crying of peace where there is no peace, and where existing antagonisms make peace impossible. We have at first to eradicate the causes of conflict. To-day the unarmed nation offers itself as a temptation and a prey to some mighty brigand Power. War is the last argument of kings, and all Governments rest on force. So long as that is the case, it is only the people which is armed that can maintain its freedom, or can indeed lay claim to be a free people. An unarmed nation cannot be free. An armed nation, on the contrary, is a guarantee of individual liberty, of social freedom, and of national independence."[558] Mr. Quelch would have the same ideals as the National Service League, did not later utterances of his contradict sensible statements such as the above.

It is a curious and most interesting phenomenon that in France and Great Britain, two eminently non-aggressive countries, the Socialists do all in their power to disarm the nation, whilst in Germany, which can hardly be described as non-aggressive, the Socialists are patriotic and are ready to go to war, not only for the defence but also for the aggrandisement of their country. Numerous declarations to that effect made by the leading German Socialists are on record, and the following extract is characteristic of their attitude:

"That Germany be armed to the teeth, possessing a strong fleet, is of the utmost importance to the working men. What damages our exports damages them also, and working men have the most pressing interest in securing prosperity for our export trade, be it even by force of arms. Owing to her development, Germany may perhaps be obliged to maintain her position sword in hand. Only he who is under the protection of his guns can dominate the markets, and in the fight for markets German working men may come before the alternative either of perishing or of forcing their entrance into markets sword in hand."[559]

In the spring of 1907 the leading German Socialist paper wrote in a weighty article on the Peace Conference at The Hague: "The conception that war is only a product of human unreason is on the same level as the idea that revolutions are only mental aberrations of the masses. War is rooted in the opposing interests of the nations, as are revolutions in the opposing interests of the classes."[560]

A comparison of German Socialism with English Socialism shows that English Socialism is more violent and far less patriotic than German Socialism. German Socialists love their country. Most British Socialists apparently love only themselves.


[529] See p. 107.

[530] H.W. Lee in the Social-Democrat, June 1, 1907.

[531] Thomas Kennedy in Forward of May 25, 1907, reprinted in the Social-Democrat, June 1907.

[532] Quelch in the Social-Democrat for October 1907.

[533] Kautsky, Social Revolution, p. 4.

[534] Report on Fabian Policy and Resolutions, p. 11.

[535] See Appendix.

[536] Social-Democrat, October 1907, p. 588.

[537] Shaw, The Impossibilities of Anarchism, p. 25.

[538] Social-Democrat, June 1907.

[539] Shaw, The Impossibilities of Anarchism, p. 25.

[540] Social-Democrat, October 1907, p. 586.

[541] Social-Democrat, April 1907, p. 204.

[542] See p. 170.

[543] Social-Democrat, October 1907, p. 586.

[544] Social-Democrat, October 1907, p. 589.

[545] Ibid.

[546] See The Nation in Arms, October 1907, and Journal de Neuchatel, September 22, 1907.

[547] Independent Labour Party Report, 1907, p. 64.

[548] Ibid. pp. 64, 65.

[549] Social-Democrat, November 1907, p. 516.

[550] An Appeal to Soldiers.

[551] See Appendix.

[552] H.W. Lee in Social-Democrat, June 1907.

[553] An Appeal to Soldiers.

[554] Socialist, October 1907.

[555] Social-Democratic Federation Song Book, No. 30.

[556] Kirtlan, Socialism for Christians, p. 6.

[557] Smart, Socialism and the Budget, p. 6.

[558] Quelch, Social Democracy and the Armed Nation, p. 3 f.

[559] Sozialistische Monatshefte, December 1899.

[560] Vorwaerts, March 10, 1907.



The first of the "Immediate Reforms" demanded in the official programme of the Social-Democratic Federation[561] is the "Abolition of the Monarchy." That that demand has been made so crudely and that it has been given so prominent a position cannot surprise anybody who is acquainted with British Socialism. "Socialists are essentially thorough-going Republicans. Socialism, which aims at political and economic equality, is radically inconsistent with any other political form whatever than that of Republicanism, Monarchy and Socialism, or Empire and Socialism, are incompatible and inconceivable. Socialism involves political and economic equality, while Monarchy or Empire essentially imply domination and inequality."[562]

"As in the political history of the race the logical development of progress was found in the abolition of the institution of monarchy and not in its mere restriction, so in industrial history the culminating point to which all efforts must at last converge lies in the abolition of the capitalist class, and not in the mere restriction of its powers. The Socialist Labour Party, recognising these two phases of human development, unites them in its programme, and seeks to give them a concrete embodiment by its demand for a Socialist Republic."[563]

Most Socialists describe all monarchs as the drones of society, and habitually refer to crowned heads either as "loafers" or as "Royal paupers, able-bodied and outdoor."[564] "If the people were of my mind they would not tolerate for twelve months that the Royal paupers should wear robes and have every luxury, and the honest, industrious aged poor should wear rags and eat a crust or be imprisoned for being hungry."[565] (Has ever anybody in Great Britain, or in any other country, been imprisoned "for being hungry"?)

"Is it possible that this degrading monarchical superstition can survive in England much longer? Has the schoolmaster now been abroad so long in vain? Will the English people never take their destinies into their own hands and close the long era of monarchical and aristocratic robbery? Are we never to have a Government that can hear the bitter cry of the outcast, and, hearing, act? We know the goal. The goal is the Democratic Republic."[566]

Many further extracts regarding English and foreign monarchs might be given, but they are so indescribably coarse and so offensive—even the late Queen is most shamelessly slandered, abused, and calumniated—that they are hardly fit for publication, and their authors shall be nameless.


[561] See Appendix.

[562] Bax and Quelch, A New Catechism of Socialism, p. 37.

[563] Platform, Constitutions, Rules, and Standing Orders, Socialist Labour Party, pp. 2, 3.

[564] See The Socialist Annual, 1907, p. 25.

[565] Glyde, Britain's Disgrace, p. 9.

[566] Davidson, The New Book of Kings, p. 107.



The opinion of most Socialists with regard to the British Parliament is well summed up in the phrase "Parliament a way to the Democracy? Why, 'tis not a road at all, but only a barricade across our road."[567] It will be seen in this and the following Chapter that Socialism means either to capture and hold that barricade or to pull it down.

Let us take note of some representative Socialist opinions on the British Parliament. "The House of Commons is a machine elaborately contrived by the exploiting classes to serve their own ends. In the race for Parliamentary seats the wisest and the best are nowhere. They are rarely even permitted to start. The prizes are for the richest, the most unscrupulous, cunning, and pushing. And without a complete revolution in our ideas regarding the objects as well as the methods of legislation, it must always remain so."[568] "Parliament is appointed, we are told, to fulfil the will of the nation. Then why doesn't it do it? If it has a job to do, why does it stand day after day, week after week, year after year, cackling, cackling, cackling about it? Can the mind of man conceive anything more intensely ridiculous than this spectacle solemnly presented for our admiration by the champions of the system, of six hundred garrulous old gentlemen making a set and formal business of cackling—cackling, cackling, cackling, with infinite pride in their own preposterous squeaking and nagging, and then filing out one by one at intervals, like a stately Lord Mayor's procession in the kingdom of the black and white penguins? What is to be done with such a museum?"[569] "Government by Parliament is a preposterous pretence—a delusion and a snare to the people. It is a gag imposed by the classes on the aspirations of the masses. Our Parliamentary representation is a fraud. If we could appeal directly to the whole people as to whether willing workers should starve, or little children suffer hunger, then something might be done. But how can the electors express their desires on this vital matter under our present electoral system?"[570]

Socialists complain that Parliament is run by a class. "It is colossal impudence for a party paper to talk against 'class representation.' Every class is over-represented—except the great working class. The mines, the railways, the drink trade, the land, finance, the army (officers), the navy (officers), the Church, the law, and most of the big industries (employers) are represented largely in the House of Commons. And nearly thirty millions of the working classes are represented by about a dozen men, most of whom are palsied by their allegiance to the Liberal party."[571] "The rich man's club at St. Stephen's is merely a committee of plutocrats—rentmongers, interestmongers, and profitmongers—assembled for the purpose of safeguarding the spoils which the 'classes' have theftuously contrived to heap up."[572] "The inequality of representation of classes in Parliament at present is somewhat startling. It stands as follows:

House of Lords

Capitalist members 614 Labour members 0 —- Total 614

House of Commons

Capitalist members 640 Labour members 30 —- Total 670

"That is, we have 640 members representing the interests of, say, 6,000,000 of persons, and 30 members representing the interests of 37,000,000."[573] "As recipients of rents, royalties, interests, and dividends, some 600 of the representatives of the people in the House of Commons are parasites upon the people's backs. The railway shareholders have 78 representatives; the railway workers, nearly 400,000 strong, have one. One hundred and eighty thousand landed proprietors have 155 members; 1,000,000 agricultural labourers have one. Coal-mine owners have 21; and 655,000 miners have seven members. The shipowners and builders have 22 representatives; the 200,000 sailors have none."[574]

"The social composition of the House of Commons is as follows: 124 lawyers, 108 manufacturers (including brewers, colliery-owners, &c.), 85 landowners, 64 merchants and shopkeepers, 37 army and navy men, 33 journalists and authors, 28 financiers, 23 professors, teachers, &c., 18 Civil servants, 18 newspaper proprietors and publishers, 16 heirs to the peerage, 67 of miscellaneous occupations and professions, and 50 working men. Thus the bulk of the present House of Commons consists of rent, profit, and interest mongers and their hirelings and hangers-on. The exploited masses of the people are only represented by fifty men."[575]

See your masters, how unceasingly they strive to keep you down, How they manage all your business up in Parliament and town; Well, it is not quite your business, for it really is their own. And that is why the millions of the toilers slave and groan.[576]

"On the top of all this political chicanery and impudent pretence of popular representation, there sits an autocratic, irresponsible, hereditary legislative body, consisting exclusively of idlers and parasites who reserve to themselves the right of rejecting all laws which do not clearly further their own exactions and monopolies! Then ask yourselves: Of what use is Parliament? Of what use can it ever be to the mass of the common people?"[577]

Parliament is not only useless to the worker, but is also, according to the Socialists, utterly corrupt and callous to the sufferings of the people. "Whenever an American is met abroad with the assertion that government in the Republic is corrupt, he can safely say that for one ounce of corruption in America there is a full pound avoirdupois in Britain."[578] "It is extremely doubtful, indeed, whether either slavery or the slave-trade would be abandoned in the British Empire if they still existed to-day, and their abrogation and suppression depended upon the English House of Commons. The hideous corruption in that assembly and the utter indifference of the majority of its plutocratic members and their retainers to the welfare of any people, at home or abroad, where money is to be made by neglecting the commonest rules of ethics, have never been so clearly manifested as they are to-day."[579]

"The suffrage in Great Britain is very unsatisfactory, as the following table shows:

Per cent. of the population having a vote. France 27.9 Switzerland 23.5 Greece 23.0 Spain 22.4 Belgium 21.5 Germany 21.2 Bulgaria 21.2 Norway 19.9 Austria 19.9 Portugal 19.0 Great Britain 16.5 Denmark 16.4 Servia 16.0 Holland 16.0

As to England, she occupies a very low place in the scale. But then the people here have not even got universal suffrage! And this is a 'democratic,' 'self-governing' community."[580]

Furthermore, "The time has come when members of Parliament will have to receive payment for their services in the House of Commons, because the people have realised that they cannot be adequately represented only by men of wealth and position who are able to pay their own expenses."[581]

The national Administration is quite as unsatisfactory to Socialists as is the national Parliament. "To-day honesty wears rags, and rascality and idleness wear robes. Every pint of beer, and every drop of wine or spirits the workers drink, every pipe of tobacco or cigar they smoke, every cup of tea, coffee, or cocoa they drink, every patent medicine they purchase, every dog they keep, every pound of sugar they use, even their playing cards and their insurance policies, are taxed to help to pay big salaries and pensions to the younger sons of the aristocracy, &c. The eldest sons live on the family estate; the younger live on the State. One becomes a lawyer, and will lie for anyone who will pay him well; another becomes an officer in the army or navy, and he will cut the throat of anyone in return for a good salary; another becomes a parson, and in return for a good stipend he will pray for anyone; the others are quartered on the consular or the diplomatic service, or are placed as clerks at 1,000l. per year in the Colonial, Foreign, or Home Office, &c."[582] The official Parliamentary Report of the Independent Labour Party for 1907 states: "Our short experience has been sufficient to teach us that it is as important to democratise our administrative departments as it is to democratise our Statute Book. We have found that the doors to the higher offices in Whitehall are closed to everyone who has not had a middle-class or aristocratic education, and recent changes have placed our Civil service more completely in the hands of the wealthy classes."[583]

In the foregoing statements we find some of the principal complaints of the Socialists regarding the national Parliament and Administration. Let us now take note of their wishes and proposals.

Among the "Immediate Reforms" demanded in the programme of the Social-Democratic Federation we find the following regarding Parliament and the Administration:

"Abolition of the Monarchy. Democratisation of the Government machinery, viz. Abolition of the House of Lords, Payment of members of legislative and administrative bodies, Payment of official expenses of elections out of the public funds, Adult suffrage, Proportional representation, Triennial parliaments, Second ballot, initiative and referendum. Foreigners to be granted rights of citizenship after two years' residence in the country, on the recommendation of four British-born citizens, without any fees. Canvassing to be made illegal. Legislation by the people in such wise that no legislative proposal shall become law until ratified by the majority of the people. Legislative and administrative independence for all parts of the Empire."

As the above demands are somewhat vague, it is worth while to take note of another and clearer statement of the political demands made by the Social-Democratic Federation. "We of the Democratic Federation demand complete adult suffrage for every man and woman in these islands, because in this way alone can the whole people give free expression to their will; we are in favour of paid delegates and annual conventions, because by this means alone can the people control their representatives; we stand up for the direct references of all grave issues to the country at large and for the punishment as felony of every species of corruption, because thus only can tyranny be checked and bribery be uprooted; we call for the abolition of all hereditary authority, because such authority is necessarily independent of the mass of the people. But all these reforms, when secured, mean only that the men and women of these islands will at length be masters in their own house. Mere political machinery is worthless unless used to produce good social conditions."[584]

A widely read Socialist writer formulates the Socialistic demands regarding Parliamentary reform as follows: "(1) The suffrage should not be given to a man's house or his lodgings, but to the man himself. I believe in adult suffrage, male and female. (2) Constituencies should be numerically equal, each having three members, one retiring annually by rotation. (3) Cabinets should be chosen annually by the members of the House of Commons, to whom alone they should be responsible. (4) Payment of members and election expenses. Members should receive reasonable 'wages' according to the ancient practice of the Constitution, while all election expenses (not strictly personal to the candidate) should be defrayed out of the rates. (5) The Monarchy. If we are to have more kings or queens, their cost ought not to exceed that of the President of the United States, viz. 10,000l. a year. 'The office of a king in this nation is useless, burdensome, and dangerous, and ought to be abolished' (Resolution of the Long Parliament, 1649). (6) The House of Lords. 'A House of Peers in Parliament is useless and dangerous and ought to be abolished.'"[585]

The Fabian Society proclaims: "To complete the foundation of the democratic State, we need manhood suffrage, abolition of all poverty disqualifications, abolition of the House of Lords, public payment of candidature expenses, public payment of representatives, and annual elections."[586]

"The problem how the Lords are to be abolished is of easy solution. They cannot present themselves at the Gilded Chamber without writs, and these a democratic Ministry could and would peremptorily stop. Should they come without writs, Inspector Denning could be instructed to take charge of them. Or the House of Commons could simply revive its resolution of January 6, 1649, decreeing their abolition."[587]

Many Socialists are opposed not only to the House of Lords but to all second chambers. "When the hereditary House is abolished, the demand which will be made by reactionaries for a representative second chamber must be sternly resisted. True, most nations have second chambers in imitation of our pernicious example; but there is not one of them, however constituted, whose history is not a conclusive argument against such institutions. The second chambers of Europe and America are nothing more than standing monuments of the gregarious folly of mankind. Nations can no more have two wills than individuals. A second chamber at one with the first is superfluous, in opposition it is noxious."[588]

A large number of Socialists do not think that the democratisation of the House of Commons and the abolition of the House of Lords will suffice. They fear that party politics and party intrigues may become more pernicious in a Labour Parliament than they have proved to be in a middle-class Parliament. They fear that adult suffrage may not improve matters, and that impecunious professional politicians may prove worse than the class of politicians who up till now have sat in Parliament. "We stand in England at the parting of the ways. One leads to the payment of members and the creation of a class of professional political adventurers; the other leads to the referendum and initiative."[589]

"In the Republics of France and the United States the electors are virtually endowed with male adult suffrage, and Labour representation is facilitated by State payment of members and of their election expenses. Yet the French Chamber, with its Panama and Southern Railway scandals, in which the patriots have gorged their servile lusts, has stood for many years before the nations as a monument of infamy. The United States Congress has not a single Labour representative within its walls, and the Government of the country is become a vile synonym for corruption."[590] "In America the compensation of each Senator and each Representative is fixed at five thousand dollars, or one thousand pounds per year. In addition to this the members have special fares on the railways, and many other perquisites. Yet the American 'Encyclopedia of Social Reform,' edited by W.D.P. Bliss, says, on page 325, 'Congressmen, notoriously, do not represent the people, but special interests and great moneyed corporations. The Congress is almost the only great national legislative body owned wholly by the well-to-do. In the British Parliament, even after the Conservative victories of the last election, there are thirteen Labour men. In Congress there is not one."[591] "Better the stupid British hereditary gentleman than the cunning politician-for-a-living. Better a Cabinet of Chamberlains and Gladstones than a circus of conflicting unscrupulous demagogues on the make."

"The Parliamentary system tends, not to the summoning of thoughtful patriots to their country's service, but to the exaltation and glorification of plausible windbags."[592] "The panacea of Labour representation will not remedy those defects. It is in the eternal nature of things that in the electoral competition of rival personalities the scum must rise to the top. So long as self-seeking is rewarded by the highest honours self-seeking will flourish."[593] "A Parliament of Labour members would develop just the same tendency as any other to division into parties commanded by rival ambitions, between which the democratic vote would, as always, annul itself."[594] "If there were five hundred delegates of Labour, if the whole of the Cardiff Trade Unions Congress could be suddenly translated to Parliament and power, there might still be some envious, spiteful braggarts subterraneously scheming and gnawing to undermine and engulf a rival, though a people's cause were wrecked in the catastrophe. Leaders are always dangerous. The workmen have too many leaders. Their first political necessity is to get rid of the politicians. Therefore I would like to see abolished all Legislative Chambers, Senates, and Councils of State."[595]

Views identical with the foregoing are held by many Socialists, and therefore a Socialist writer has asked: "Why cannot the people, even of a populous and extensive country, vote upon all laws?"[596] "Instead of representation we shall have what is technically called the referendum, or submission of all proposed measures to the people, who must signify their approval by vote before the measures can pass into law. This has been practised already to some extent in Switzerland, both in national and cantonal affairs. It was first proposed by Robespierre when he advised the king of France to say: 'My people, here are the laws I have made for you. Will you accept them?'"[597]

Another Socialist says: "It is impossible that any delegate should completely represent the desires of ten or twenty thousand electors. No two human beings are agreed about everything; and, in every election, electors, in order to express approval of one cherished principle, are driven to adopt half-a-dozen others which they bitterly disapprove."[598] "The way to true democracy will never be found through delegacy. The only safe way is through direct legislation—through the referendum and initiative. The referendum and initiative does not mean more laws, but fewer, shorter, simpler, and more understandable ones."[599] "What is wanted is neither aristocracy, plutocracy, nor demagoguecracy, but democracy—the one governing system which never has been tried. The people must learn that the game of politics is not an unfathomable science, but a struggle of rival interests in which no delegate can so well represent their needs as themselves."[600] "The referendum quite changes the character of the Federal Assembly. It ceases to be a Parliament, and becomes merely a drafting committee. In other countries the initiative comes from above; the Parliament and the King are together the legal sovereign. In Switzerland it comes from below, for the legal sovereign is the electorate."[601]

Other Socialists are strongly opposed to the referendum: "Democracy, as understood by the Fabian Society, means simply the control of the Administration by freely elected representatives of the people. The Fabian Society energetically repudiates all conceptions of democracy as a system by which the technical work of Government administration, and the appointment of public officials, shall be carried on by referendum or any other form of direct popular decision. Such arrangements may be practical in a village community, but not in the complicated industrial civilisations which are ripening for Social-Democracy."[602] "The people can only judge political measures by their effect when they have come into operation; they cannot plan measures themselves, or foresee what their effect will be, or give precise instructions to their representatives; nor can any honest representative tell, until he has heard a measure thoroughly discussed by representatives of all other sections of the working class, what form the measure should take so as to keep the interests of his constituents in due subordination to those of the community. It is to be considered, further, that intelligent reformers, especially workmen who have grasped the principles of Socialism, are always in the minority; they may address themselves with success to the sympathies of the masses and gain their confidence; but the dry details of the legislative and administrative steps by which they, move towards their goal can never be made interesting or intelligible to the ordinary voter. For these reasons the referendum, in theory the most democratic of popular institutions, is in practice the most reactionary."[603]

Other Socialists are in favour of a reformed Parliament which is to be a glorified trade union congress. "Each industry would have adequate representation in the Parliament of Industry, and this Parliament would connect and harmonise the affairs of the whole. In the future society the descendant of the union of to-day will be the centre of social life and the administration of things. Let 'workers of all trades unite.'"[604] Others, again, call for a Parliament of a frankly revolutionary type which is characteristically called a "National Convention." "What is the use of the suffrage? It has but one use—to enable the workers, as a class, to take peaceful possession of the power of the State, so as to use that power for social purposes. But to do this you must have paid delegates from your own class, not timeserving unpaid representatives from the classes which rob you; you must put your servants, not your masters, at Westminster; you must have a National Convention of the People, not a House of the Confiscating Classes."[605] Readers will no doubt remember the French National Convention and its reign of terror and crime which culminated in the execution of Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette.

Many Socialists, like most Anarchists, are utterly opposed to Parliamentary government and majority rule, preferring rule by violence to rule by argument. "What has hitherto been called the will of the people, or the will of the majority as manifested in the modern constitutional State, does not express any act of will at all, but the absence of will. It is not the will but the apathy of the majority that is represented."[606] "The preaching of the cultus of the majority in the modern State is an absurdity which can only for a moment go down with the Parliamentary Radical who is wallowing in the superstitions of exploded Whiggery."[607] "The Socialist has a distinct aim in view. If he can carry the initial stages towards its realisation by means of the count-of-heads majority, by all means let him do so. If, on the other hand, he sees the possibility of carrying a salient portion of his programme by trampling on this majority, by all means let him do this also."[608]

The Women's Suffrage problem has lately come to the front, and it is characteristic and noteworthy that it has been taken up with the greatest energy, we might almost say with hysterical energy, by Socialist women. They tell us, "We desire the stain removed from our womanhood. Remove the hateful stigma from your mothers, your wives, and your daughters, which places the noblest and the best of them in a lower position than the most uncultured and immoral specimen of the male sex who pays his rates and taxes."[609] According to a woman Socialist, the Votes-for-Women problem is "the greatest moral and spiritual problem that has torn asunder the souls of men since the fall of Adam and the coming of Christ."[610] "Society has no brighter hope, humanity no larger promise than her coming, radiant with health and happiness, love and liberty shining from her eyes, the beautiful, high-souled, sister-mother of the men that are going to be."[611] "The State cannot spare from its high councils the deep wisdom of its mothers and the comradeship of its wives."[612]

It is obvious why Socialist women demand the vote with almost frenzied fervour, and why the various Socialist societies and parties support their agitation. Socialists believe that their wives, and the women workers in general, will vote for Socialism, and that most other women will be indifferent and abstain from voting. Therefore we learn: "Socialism in the only true sense of that term, in the only wise conception of that state, can never be brought into the fulness of its being until women have been made equal with men as citizens."[613] "The benches of the National Chamber may yet be seen accommodating three hundred and thirty-five intelligent women."[614] In referring to the elections in Finland, Mrs. Snowden writes: "To Socialists, an interesting point is the fact that, in spite of the women voters, who are supposed to be retrograde in politics, by far the largest number of party votes recorded were for the Socialist party."[615]

The claims of women for the franchise have been supported by large majorities at important meetings of Socialists. The resolution of the Independent Labour Party, "That this Conference declares in favour of adult suffrage and the political equality of the sexes, and considers that the right of suffrage should immediately be extended to women on the same conditions as men," was carried by 236 votes to 24.[616] The Social-Democratic Federation resolved: "That this Conference declares that the time has arrived when equal rights of citizenship be extended to all women and men of full age; urges all members to take advantage of the present suffrage agitation to focus public opinion upon the only logical solution of the question, viz. the abolition of existing franchise qualifications and the establishment of universal adult suffrage; and calls upon them actively to work for this practical measure of reform." This resolution was carried by 42 votes to 9.[617]

The recent clamour of "Votes for Women" emanated not so much from philosophic Radicals who had read John Stuart Mill as from Socialists, and many non-Socialist women have become their dupes. Socialist women hope that they will have the voting all to themselves. Therefore they, and most men Socialists also, would very likely resist to the utmost all proposals which would make voting compulsory for all women.


[567] Thompson, Hail Referendum, p. 3.

[568] Davidson, The Old Order and the New, p. 99.

[569] Thompson, Hail Referendum, pp. 4, 5.

[570] Thompson, The Referendum and Initiative in Practice, p. 4.

[571] Blatchford, Britain for the British, p. 152.

[572] Davidson, The Gospel of the Poor, p. 59.

[573] Washington, Whose Dog art Thou? p. 14.

[574] Thompson, The Only Way to Democracy, p. 8.

[575] The Socialist Annual, 1907, p. 43.

[576] Neil, Songs of the Social Revolution, p. 21.

[577] Thompson, Hail Referendum, p. 7.

[578] Davidson, The New Book of Kings, p. 118.

[579] Hyndman, Colonies and Dependencies, p. 9.

[580] The Socialist Annual, 1907, p. 58.

[581] The Reformers' Year Book, 1907, p. 121.

[582] Councillor Glyde, Britain's Disgrace, p. 30.

[583] Report Annual Conference of Independent Labour Party, 1907, p. 52.

[584] Socialism Made Plain, p. 7.

[585] Davidson, A Democrat's Address, p. 4.

[586] Fabian Essays in Socialism, p. 187.

[587] Davidson, The Book of Lords, p. 78.

[588] Davidson, The House of Lords, Useless, Dangerous, &c., p. 13.

[589] Thompson, The Only Way to Democracy, p. 11.

[590] Thompson, Hail Referendum, p. 8.

[591] Thompson, The Only Way to Democracy, p. 10.

[592] Thompson, The Referendum, &c., p. 3.

[593] Ibid. p. 1.

[594] Ibid. p. 16.

[595] Thompson, Hail Referendum, pp. 8, 9.

[596] Gronlund, Co-operative Commonwealth, p. 130.

[597] Ibid. p. 129.

[598] Thompson, The Only Way to Democracy, p. 4.

[599] Ibid. p. 15.

[600] Thompson, The Referendum, &c., p. 5.

[601] Ibid. p. 11.

[602] Report on Fabian Policy, p. 5

[603] Report on Fabian Policy, p. 13.

[604] Kessack, The Capitalist Wilderness and the Way Out, p. 3.

[605] What Use is a Vote? p. 1.

[606] Bax, The Ethics of Socialism, p. 120.

[607] Ibid. p. 128.

[608] Ibid. pp. 127, 128.

[609] Ethel Snowden, The Woman Socialist, p. 20.

[610] Ibid. p. 19.

[611] Ethel Snowden, The Woman Socialist, Introd.

[612] Ibid. p. 93.

[613] Ibid. p. 97.

[614] Ibid. p. 92.

[615] Ibid. p. 98.

[616] Independent Labour Party Report, Annual Conference, 1907, p. 45.

[617] Report of 27th Annual Conference, 1907, Social-Democratic Federation, p. 26.



From the Socialist point of view there is for all practical purposes no difference between the two great parties. Both are representative, not of the people, but of capitalism. Both are hostile to labour.

"The difference between Liberalism and Toryism is merely a question of phraseology; there is no fundamental clashing of principle. Both stand for the private ownership of the means of life. They both support a competitive state of society with its inevitable exploitation of the wealth-producers."[618] "Both the Conservative and Liberal parties are agreed in supporting private ownership in the instruments of production for the purposes of profit-making. Their differences are merely superficial and their programmes admittedly offer no solution of the problems of poverty. The Independent Labour Party regards them both as equally the enemies of labour, and in fact merely as two sections of the entrenched forces of plutocracy."[619] "There are not really two parties in the State. There is but one great party, that of privilege, divided into two factions, labelled Whig and Tory, or Liberal and Conservative. Both do much the same things in office. The mimic warfare which they wage with each other, no shrewd observer takes seriously. It is merely a pleasant game of which the stakes are the spoils of office and patronage. An 'organised hypocrisy' is but a mild description of an English Government, whether Liberal or Conservative. The Liberal and the Conservative are the two thieves between whom the people are evermore crucified."[620] "Neither of the political parties is of any use to the workers, because both the political parties are paid, officered, and led by capitalists whose interests are opposed to the interests of the workers. The Socialist laughs at the pretended friendship of Liberal and Tory leaders for the workers."[621] "There's no difference whatever between Bannerman, the Scottish landowner, and Balfour, whose uncle made 200,000l. out of army contracts in India in four years. These people are entirely antagonistic to the worker."[622]

The assertions of the Liberals that they are the true friends of the people, that they have always fought for liberty and democracy, that they have given the vote to the people, and that they trust the people, are treated with derision and contempt. "Liberalism has historically opposed itself alike to Toryism, landed interest, and democracy, working-class interest whenever that interest appeared as a distinct political party."[623] "Since 1832 the Liberals had eight opportunities to give justice to the voteless multitude. In every election from 1832 to 1865 solemn pledges were made by the Liberals that a Reform Bill should be introduced as soon as they were elected, and each time these pledges were ignored after they had secured power and position."[624] As regards the giving of the franchise, the Conservatives have not been much better than the Liberals. "Neither party can claim much credit for its Reform Bills, extorted as they have been, not by belief in democracy, but by fear of the opposing faction. Even now the citizen is tricked out of his vote by every possible legal and administrative technicality; so that more than one-third of our adult men are unenfranchised, together with the whole of the other sex. Neither the Conservative party nor the self-styled 'Party of the Masses,' gives proof of any real desire to give the vote to this not inconsiderable remnant; but both sides pay lip-homage to democracy."[625]

Socialists say that the claims of the Liberals to the gratitude of the masses are hypocritical. Their policy has not been based on philanthropy, but on a sordid selfishness. They attacked the landed interest not in order to benefit the people, but in order to make themselves supreme in the State and to fill their own purses. Liberalism, with talk of liberty of the individual and of freedom of trade on its lips, is in reality the representative of capitalism of the most heartless kind. "The political power of the landed classes was to be broken; the capitalists were to be allowed to do as they liked with their own; a state of individualism was to be established; it was to be a fair field for all and devil take the hindmost. So far as politics and the law are concerned, this ideal of Liberalism has been realised. Land is no longer supreme. Money ranks with it. Everyone has a chance of obtaining money. Ergo, we are a democratic nation."[626] "With the change in economic conditions, with the growth of manufacture, the rise of the bourgeoisie meant the downfall of feudalism. The plutocrat supplanted the baron, capitalism became king. The 'old nobility' of England to-day are successful brewers, bankers, and traders, and the Nonconformist Conscience dominates in the place of Holy Mother Church."[627] "The representatives of this class in Parliament repealed the Corn Laws, securing cheap bread for their workers at the expense of the landlords and the farmers. The new masters opposed the Factory Acts, championed by Tories such as Lord Ashley, Thomas Sadler, and 'King Richard' Oastler, They fostered railway development, at the public expense, so that they might have quick and cheap transit for their manufactures."[628]

The Liberals have shown their selfishness, heartlessness, and greed by opposing the greatest boon to workers, the Factory Acts. "Was it the Liberal party which initiated the Factory Acts, which were certainly the greatest step towards the elevation of the working class that was ever taken in the course of the last century? Oh, no! So far from the Liberal party initiating the Factory Acts, we know perfectly well that the Liberal party—leading members of the Liberal party, like Mr. John Bright and Mr. Richard Cobden—fiercely and bitterly opposed the Factory Acts. We know that no one fought more strenuously against the ten-hour day than Mr. John Bright. We know that all these canting Liberal hypocrites—I can call them nothing else—said with regard to the ten-hour day, just what they say now about the proposal for an eight-hour day—one of the proposals we put forward in order to get rid of this hideous difficulty of the unemployed. The argument was put forward then, that the restriction of the hours of labour would ruin our industries. Precisely the same argument was put forward when it was proposed to put a stop to the terrible over-work of the children deep down in the bowels of the earth. Women and children were mercilessly driven by brutal overseers at their task, and this was maintained by your Liberal party in order that they might obtain large profits out of their white slaves. Only let the Liberal party appeal to history in its claim for working-class support, and then the working class will arrive at the conclusion to which many of us have already come—that the Liberal party, so far from being entitled to our support, is entitled to our greatest loathing and hatred."[629] "As to the Factory Acts, it was not a question of Messrs. Bright and Cobden alone, but of the whole organised body of the Liberal party, which opposed the Factory Acts, and they were only carried by the hostility of the Tory party to the Liberals for having dared to interfere with the Corn Laws. The Factory Acts were passed in retaliation by the landlord party against the capitalist party."[630]

"Mr. Gladstone was the only member who endeavoured to delay the Bill which delivered women and children from mines and pits; and never did he say a word on behalf of the factory children until, when defending slavery in the West Indies, he taunted Buxton with indifference to the slavery in England."[631] "If I were to draw a comparison between the Liberal and the Tory parties, I should say that the Tory party has done more in that direction than the Liberal party has done."[632] Mr. Blatchford wrote in the "Clarion" that "the Liberal party has never helped the trade unions," and proved this assertion by giving a detailed statement of the trade union legislation, which showed that modern trade unionism was constantly opposed by the Liberals and was created by the Conservatives.[633]

In consequence of its record, Socialists see in Liberalism not a friend, but an enemy. "Liberalism stands for individualism, and the Liberal capitalist and trader are bitterly opposed to the trade union and co-operative society. They found that these bodies, however, were beginning to exercise an important, if indirect, influence upon their party. Liberal leaders, alive to the importance of vote-catching, began to angle for the support of the working-class organisations."[634] "We have no reason for supporting the Liberal party any more than the Tory party. Men do not gather grapes from thorns, nor figs from thistles. The Liberal party is to-day what it has always been—an organisation of capitalists formed to serve the interests of the capitalist class."[635]

Liberalism, with its championship of exaggerated individualism, stands not for liberty, but for administrative anarchy. "The trouble with nineteenth century Liberalism is that, by instinct, by tradition, and by the positive precepts of its past exponents, it 'thinks in individuals.' It visualises the world as a world of independent Roundheads, with separate ends, and abstract rights to pursue those ends. Nineteenth century Liberalism is, in fact, axiomatically hostile to the State. It is not 'little Englandism' that is the matter with those who still cling to such views; it is, as Huxley and Matthew Arnold correctly diagnosed, administrative Nihilism. So far as political action is concerned, they tend to be inveterately negative. They have hung up temperance reform and educational reform for a quarter of a century, because, instead of seeking to enable the citizen to refresh himself without being poisoned or inebriated and to get the children thoroughly taught, they have wanted primarily to revenge their outraged temperance principles on the publican and their outraged Nonconformist principles on the Church. Of such Liberals it may be said that the destructive revolutionary tradition is in their bones; they will reform nothing unless it can be done at the expense of their enemies."[636]

"The question is frequently put: 'Why are Socialists so much opposed to Liberalism?' But a little serious reflection will explain the circumstance. Liberalism is really more conservative than Toryism. This is not a paradox, it is a fact. Toryism stands for government, and it does not necessarily follow that it stands for bad government. Liberalism, on the other hand, admittedly seeks an unrestrained operation of the individual will. It is opposed to government. It does not consciously subscribe to the recognition of our social being. It regards individuals as self-contained units operating in separate spheres. The less government we have the better, is the keynote of Liberalism. This was Emerson's theory, and Emerson was an anarchist."[637] "The modern Conservative candidate is politically a man without prejudices. No abstract principle forbids him to listen sympathetically to any proposal for reform. Hence he seems on the platform less belated than the nineteenth century Liberal with his stock of shop-soiled principles at full price."[638] "In many people's minds the terms 'Liberalism' and 'insincerity' are held to be synonymous. Lacking a central idea of its own, and necessarily failing to nourish on borrowed ones, there is nothing before the Liberal party but decay. For progress in the future we must look to a party which has an ideal and is prepared to stand by it."[639]

Before the general election of 1906 Socialists wrote: "The political force of Liberalism is spent. During the last twenty years its aspirations and its watchwords, its ideas of daily life, and its conceptions of the universe, have become increasingly distasteful to the ordinary citizen as he renews his youth from generation to generation. Its worship of individual liberty evokes no enthusiasm. Its reliance on 'freedom of contract' and 'supply and demand,' with its corresponding 'voluntaryism' in religion and philanthropy, now seems to work out disastrously for the masses who are too poor to have what the economists call an 'effective demand' for even the minimum conditions of physical and mental health necessary to national well-being."[640] "For the last twenty years the Liberal party has been trying to fit itself with a new programme. It took up Home Rule for Ireland, but found that split the party; it took up temperance reform, quite a deviation from its old policy of individual liberty, and again found itself divided; it avowed friendliness to Labour, and frightened off still another batch of supporters. The Party of Progress finds itself now in the unhappy position that its basic idea is old-fashioned, and when it tries to assimilate a new one it becomes a case of putting new wine into old bottles. That is the sad plight of the Liberal party. The party is merely living from hand to mouth as an anti-Tory party, hoping to profit by the mistakes of its rival. The party has split up on temperance, on labour, on the war, on Imperialism, on education, simply because there is no central vivifying ideal to bind together and shape the policy. Can the party adopt a new ideal? is the great question. Can it drop its fundamental idea of individualism and take up the idea of co-operation? and the answer is emphatically 'No.'"[641]

The philosopher of British Socialism thinks that, owing to the principles and attitude of the Liberal party, Liberalism and Socialism are deadly enemies. "Liberalism, in so far as it aims at maintaining the liberty of private property, is reactionary and false to the principle which it has always implicitly or explicitly maintained, of the right of each and every individual to a full and free development. In so far as Liberalism does this, in so far as it assumes as axiomatic a state of society based on unrestricted freedom of private property, and proceeds to adjust social arrangements solely or primarily in the interests of the owners of private property, in so far Liberalism and Socialism are death enemies."[642] The leading Fabian organ stated: "A party subsisting on illusions, concealments, and hypocrisies, could hardly survive in the atmosphere engendered by a real fight like that between plutocracy and Socialism. For some time it may contrive to subsist by telling the electorate that the only true way of resisting Socialism is by means of Liberal reforms, while at the same time (with doubtful consistency) asking for Socialist support on the ground that it goes 'part of the way.' But its best chance is probably to divert public attention from Socialism to other matters, and this the Prime Minister evidently feels. The existence of the Liberal party is incompatible with the existence of intellectual honesty in its leaders. And with all his faults Sir Henry is too fundamentally honest a man to lead it effectively at the present juncture. The reins had better be handed over to Mr. Winston Churchill, against whom no such objection can be urged."[643]

Before the Liberals set to work in 1906, Mr. Philip Snowden wrote: "It might be said that in the next Parliament the Liberal party is on its last trial."[644] That trial has had, as far as the Socialists and the Labour party are concerned, an unsatisfactory result. Before the general election Socialists asked themselves: "Will the Liberal party come into power with a clear mandate for reform which even the House of Lords will not dare entirely to obstruct, or will it shuffle into power on the misdoings of its predecessors and carry out a halfhearted policy in the hope of not estranging any of its moderate followers? If it takes the latter course, it will win the undying contempt of all real reformers; it will be the last time that a Liberal Administration holds sway, and Labour will be left the only really progressive force in the country."[645] Twelve months later, in a review of the activity of the Liberal Government, "The Reformers' Year Book" stated: "The story of Chinese labour in the Transvaal during the year 1906 has been one of continuous perfidy on the part of the Liberal Government at home. Returned to power largely on account of the opposition of the people of this country to Chinese slavery in any shape or form, they have burked the main issue at every point, and only carried out a few minor changes which have been totally ineffective, retaining all the while a hypocritical devotion to the popular ideal."[646] "The Liberal Government has failed entirely to justify the confidence reposed in it by the electorate, not only upon the newer questions as they have arisen—such as the war in Natal—but on the very matters upon which it was returned to power, of which the chief was the continuance of Chinese labour in the Transvaal."[647]

Socialists think that the Liberal agitation against the House of Lords is insincere and hypocritical. "Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's brave talk about fighting the House of Lords sounds very much like blarney when we call to mind the fact that he has beaten all records in the creation of peers. He has not yet been two years in office, but he has managed to make no less than twenty new peers. They include a tobacco man, a whisky man, a newspaper man who sold his journal to the Tories, several usurers and company promoters."[648]

The assurance of the Liberals that they are the friends of Labour is doubted in view of the attitude of the party towards Labour candidates. "Liberals are continually saying that there is no quarrel between Liberalism and Labour. Why, then, do we have the constantly recurring spectacle of a middle-class Liberal being run against a popular and capable man who can claim to directly represent the people who live by the work of their hands and heads as distinguished from those who live upon rent, dividends, or interest? Are there not even upon the Liberal side plenty of landlords, railway directors, bankers, stockbrokers, and employers of labour, that a seat cannot be spared to a workman till he wins it in despite of Liberal and Tory opposition alike?"[649]

An amalgamation of the Liberals and the Socialist-Labour members is impossible. "Liberal-Labourism" is a delusion. "Labour men and capitalist Liberals are beginning to see that individualism and co-operation will not mix. If Liberalism to-day swallows Labourism, it will have a severe attack of indigestion. Mr. Keir Hardie in the Liberal ranks would do more to disrupt and destroy the Liberal party than he can possibly do from the outside. Labour, it is true, might capture the Liberal party, and this is advocated by some, but if this took place the party would wither away. The capitalist element would drop out and Labour would be left alone. Labour might just as well build up a new party outside. It is no use capturing a weapon which crumbles to pieces as soon as you grasp it. Better make a new weapon."[650] "The Labour party in the House of Commons is as yet not disliked only because as yet it is not feared. Until it has made itself both disliked and feared, it will be far short of having fulfilled the objects of its very existence. It is not saying too much to say that in the very near future the measure of the Labour party's effectiveness will be its unpopularity in the House of Commons. Acrimonious as are the feelings often evoked by political controversies, they are urbanity itself as compared with the passions aroused over economic issues. The limits of Liberal concession must needs soon be reached. The Liberal-Labour candidate is but a transient phenomenon of our time, and with his disappearance the storm will break."[651]

The great Liberal majority was created by accident and it is rapidly dissolving. "The Liberals succeeded to power through no merit of their own, but merely through the errors of their opponents. Liberalism is shedding its supporters at both ends, and is rapidly on the way to becoming a mere caput mortuum."[652] It is true that "at the general election many Socialists climbed into Parliament on the backs of the Liberals,"[653] but Liberal-Socialist co-operation is not possible.

Many Socialists believe that Liberalism and Socialism are fundamentally antagonistic, and that therefore Socialism must fight its battles unaided. "In Great Britain, as in France, Belgium, Germany, and Italy, the cleavage has now been definitely marked between capitalist Liberalism and Socialist Democracy."[654] "Political power, properly so-called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another."[655] "All political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party."[656] "We shall see Liberals and Tories working together in cordial agreement, as they do in Germany, to prevent the election of the only politicians who can really profess to go to the poll on the broad ground of citizenship—labour done by hand or brain for the community, as apart from idleness and pleasure-seeking supported by rents, dividends, and interest taken from the community."[657]

"As the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic."[658] "The property question is the issue which is creating a new political cleavage in the State. Somewhat dimly at present, but with growing clearness of vision, the worker begins to see that he will remain a menial, outcast and forlorn, until he has made himself master of the machine he tends, and the soil he tills."[659]

"The only true position for a genuine working-class party is that of open hostility to all who support capitalism in any shape or form. This is the safe, sure, and scientific position."[660] "Liberals will declare and do declare in most pathetic tones that they have done more, and will do more, for the workers than the Tories have done or will do. And Liberals will assure you that they are really more anxious to help the workers than we Socialists believe. But those are side issues. The main thing to remember is, that even if the Liberals are all they claim to be, they will never do as much for Labour as Labour could do for itself."[661]

Oh heed not the talk of those fat agitators. Who prattle of Gladstone, or Churchill, or worse; Expect not your rights from professional praters, But manfully trust in your courage and force.[662]

Onward! Sons of Labour! nerve ye for the fray; Soon shall beam the dawning of a brighter day. Keep the red flag flying, herald of the free— On yourselves relying, on to liberty.

See! the coming glory streams across the plains. Soon the Sons of Labour shall take up the reins. Then in every nation shall our Cause increase Till it reigns triumphant—pledge of joy and peace.[663]

On the other hand, there are Socialists who think that Socialism cannot succeed if it cuts itself adrift from the great national parties and pursues a purely Socialistic Labour policy. "A member of an Imperial Parliament is an Imperialist in spite of himself. A party which concerns itself with sectional interests only will soon cease to be a party; it will degenerate into a group, and as such it cannot hope to receive serious backing in the country."[664]

Many Socialists feel confident that they will conquer power by conquering Parliament. "Parliament has always governed the country in the interest of the class to which the majority of its members belonged. It governed in the interest of the country gentlemen in the old days when they were in a majority in the House of Commons; it has governed in the interests of the capitalists and employers since they won a majority by the Reform Bill of 1832; and it will govern in the interest of the people when the majority is selected from the wage-earning class."[665] "No sooner shall two hundred Labour members be firmly seated upon the cross-benches of the House, than both parties will approach them with bended knee, bringing gold and frankincense and programmes."[666] "There is a fine impartiality about the policeman and the soldier, who are the cutting edge of the State power. They take their wages and obey their orders without asking questions. If those orders are to demolish the homestead of every peasant who refuses to take the bread out of his children's mouths in order that his landlord may have money to spend as an idle gentleman in London, the soldier obeys. But if his orders were to help the police to pitch his lordship into Holloway Gaol until he had paid an income-tax of twenty shillings on every pound of his unearned income, the soldier would do that with equal devotion to duty, and perhaps with a certain private zest that might be lacking in the other case. Now these orders come ultimately from the State, meaning in this country the House of Commons. A House of Commons consisting of 660 gentlemen and 10 workmen will order the soldier to take money from the people for the landlords. A House of Commons consisting of 660 workmen and 10 gentlemen will probably, unless the 660 are fools, order the soldier to take money from the landlords for the people."[667]


[618] John Burns and the Unemployed, p. 1.

[619] Independent Labour Party, A Statement of Principles, p. 3.

[620] Davidson, The New Book of Kings, p. 7.

[621] Blatchford, Britain for the British, p. 151.

[622] Casey, Who are the Bloodsuckers? p. 16.

[623] Bax, Outlooks from the New Standpoint, p. 70.

[624] Councillor Glyde, Liberal and Tory Hypocrisy, p. 12.

[625] Fabian Essays in Socialism, pp. 39, 40.

[626] Penny, The Political Labour Movement, p. 2.

[627] Quelch, Economics of Labour, pp. 9, 10.

[628] Leatham, The Evolution of the Fourth Estate, p. 11.

[629] Should the Working-class Support the Liberal Party? p. 10.

[630] Ibid. p. 19.

[631] Diack, Socialism and Current Politics, p. 10.

[632] Should the Working-class Support the Liberal Party? p. 19.

[633] Clarion, February 16, 1906.

[634] Penny, The Political Labour Movement, p. 2.

[635] Should the Working-class Support the Liberal Party? p. 13.

[636] Twentieth Century Politics, p. 4.

[637] Russell Williams, The Difficulties of Socialism, pp. 3, 4.

[638] Twentieth Century Politics, p. 6.

[639] Penny, The Political Labour Movement, p. 4.

[640] Twentieth Century Politics, p. 2.

[641] Penny, The Political Labour Movement, p. 3.

[642] Bax, Outlooks from the New Standpoint, pp. 69, 70.

[643] New Age, October 10, 1907.

[644] Daily News, January 20, 1906.

[645] The Reformers' Year Book, 1906, Preface p. 6.

[646] Ibid. 1907, p. 104.

[647] Ibid. Preface.

[648] Clarion, November 1, 1907.

[649] Leatham, The Evolution of the Fourth Estate, p. 14.

[650] Penny, The Political Labour Movement, p. 13.

[651] Socialism and Labour Policy, p. 14.

[652] New Age, November 7, 1907.

[653] Ibid.

[654] Clarion, January 19, 1906.

[655] Marx and Engels, Manifesto, p. 22.

[656] Declaration of Socialist Party of Great Britain, see Appendix.

[657] Leatham, The Evolution of the Fourth Estate, p. 16.

[658] Declaration of Principles of Socialist Party of Great Britain.

[659] Keir Hardie, From Serfdom to Socialism, p. 30.

[660] Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, p. 16.

[661] Blatchford, Britain for the British, pp. 148, 149.

[662] Social-Democratic Federation Song Book, p. 30.

[663] Clarion Song Book, p. 21.

[664] Socialism and Labour Policy, p. 3.

[665] What Socialism Is, p. 3.

[666] Leakey, Co-operators and Labour Platform, p. 16.

[667] Shaw, The Impossibilities of Anarchism, p. 26.



Many Socialists, especially the Fabians, hope to introduce Socialistic principles and Socialistic rule into Great Britain rather through the local than through the national authorities. They are strenuously exerting themselves to bring about that result, and so far their exertions have been by no means unsuccessful.

"Socialists to-day are working in the towns with a twofold object. (1) To level up their districts. If Glasgow has municipal telephones, there is a very good precedent for Liverpool, Manchester, Bradford, Leeds, &c., doing likewise. If Liverpool owns a municipal milk-supply, London, Manchester, Bradford, Leeds, must be brought into line. Each town must adopt the good points from every other town. (2) To urge their districts to launch out into something new."[668] "The property held and worked and controlled by municipalities already exceeds 500,000,000l. sterling in value, and is being added to yearly. This process has but to continue long enough to ensure that every industry will pass under public control, and thus State Socialism will become an accomplished fact by a gradual process of easy transition."[669]

"The proper sphere of municipal activity includes everything a municipality can do better than a private company."[670] "The immediate object should be to municipalise all those services which are necessary to a healthy life. Food, fuel, clothing, shelter—these are required by all—and no man should have the right to deny them to any worker. We must not stop at municipal trams. We must not stop at municipal gas. We must not stop at municipal electricity. These are only stepping-stones. Not until we can say that poverty and disease and unemployment are abolished out of the land shall we have the right to discuss the limits of municipal trading."[671] "The economic forces which replaced the workshop by the factory will replace the private shop by the municipal store, and the private factory by the municipal one."[672]

According to Socialist teaching the destruction of private enterprise by municipal undertakings will be a blessing to all citizens. "Where a city supplies its own gas there is no 'middle-man.' The corporation stands in the place of the 'middle-man,' and as the corporation is elected by the citizens the people are thus in the position of getting their own gas made and paying for it in their own way. Some of the citizens are makers of gas, or workmen; most of the citizens are users of gas, or consumers; and all of the citizens are owners and managers of the gasworks and of the gas supply."[673]

The suppression of the "unnecessary middleman" sounds so very plausible that it is certain to prove an excellent election cry. But has the middleman really disappeared when a city corporation takes his place? Does the corporation-middleman supply gas gratis? Are the private middleman's profits not distributed to a host of corporation officials in the shape of substantial salaries? The transfer of gasworks, &c., from private hands to a city corporation is no doubt very beneficial to those who draw the corporation salaries. It may be very profitable to the local politicians and their hangers-on. Jobs may be had as a reward for political support. But the citizens may find the gas to be no cheaper and the rates to be considerably higher after the suppression of the "unnecessary middleman." And will it then console him that he is the "owner and manager of the gasworks and of the gas supply"?

Under the heading "The Justice of Abolishing the Private Trader" one of the leading champions of municipal Socialism writes: "Is it unfair to take away the living of the private trader? Then it is unfair to take away the living of the unemployed, the twelve millions on the verge of starvation, and the thousands slain annually by poverty and preventable disease. I say that the welfare of the nation must be considered before the profits of the monopolists and the wasteful freedom of the small trader. Under the present system a large proportion of the population have so deteriorated in health and stamina as to endanger the existence of the nation. Private enterprise and competition are responsible for nine-tenths of the misery and suffering of our twenty million poor. But we must not attempt to alter the conditions because the small private trader would be ruined. Nevertheless the system is going to be altered, whether the small trader likes it or not."[674]

The foregoing are typical Socialist arguments. In the first place, the writer grossly exaggerates existing poverty by speaking of "twenty million poor." Then he boldly asserts that all poverty is due to private enterprise and that municipal enterprise will abolish it. So far municipal enterprise has not even succeeded in diminishing poverty. On the contrary, with the phenomenal growth of municipal enterprise in Great Britain pauperism, actual and percentual, has also grown at an alarming rate. It is significant that poverty and distress have increased most rapidly, and have become most acute, in those localities in which municipal enterprise has been most active and in which Socialist councils have held undisputed sway, as, for instance, in East and West Ham and Poplar. Municipal enterprise, by increasing the rates—and, with the rates, the rents—has increased the general cost of living without at the same time increasing production. On the contrary, it has driven factories away through high rates. Therefore municipal enterprise has increased the expenditure of the general body of workers without increasing their earnings, and consequently has directly increased the existing poverty which it has promised to abolish. Municipal enterprise has succeeded chiefly in giving from the rates high wages to municipal employees at the cost of all other workers.

Municipal Socialists rather rely on force than on justice in dealing with private business men. "For private traders to fight against municipalisation is a short-sighted policy. One thing is certain—they have to go. 'What! Compete with us with the ratepayers' money? Our own money? What injustice!' says the small trader."[675] This just objection of the ratepayers is answered with a contemptible quibble. "The small trader is mistaken. The municipality does not use their money, and would not use their money, under the supposed circumstances. If the London County Council decided to open 1,000 bread-shops, how would they raise the capital required? Not by taking the ratepayers' money, or the private traders' money, but by going into the money market and borrowing on the credit of all the citizens. Suppose 100,000l. were required? Not a penny would come out of the rates. The credit of all the citizens of London is so good that they can borrow all the money they want without any difficulty."[676] In other words, the Social-"Democratic" politician claims for himself the right of arbitrarily depriving citizens who possess property of that property and to ruin them by underselling them. They borrow the money they require for these undertakings on the credit of the very property-owners whom they wish to ruin, not on the credit of "all the citizens," as Mr. Suthers pretends, and then they have the impudence to assert that the corporations do not ruin the citizens with their own money but only with money borrowed on their credit—as if the one were not identical with the other.

The objections to municipal enterprise on a Socialist basis are twofold:

(1) That it increases the rates and the municipal debt, and therefore the rent of houses and lodgings;

(2) That it is, on the whole, unprofitable, being undertaken without due regard to sound finance, efficiency, and economy.

Socialists intend to "tax the rich out of existence." Therefore they endeavour to increase as much as possible not only the Imperial taxation but also the rates. Owners of house property are used to a certain income. If the rates are put up, they put up the rent. Therefore every increase in the rates leads, as a rule, automatically to an equivalent increase in the rent. The fact that a rise in the rates leads to a rise in the rent of houses and lodgings, and that the Socialist policy of waste and squander falls therefore most heavily not on the capitalist but on the working man, is boldly denied. "Generally speaking, the reduction of rates is of no benefit whatever to the working class. Rates are levied upon property.—Q. Do not the working class pay the rates and taxes? A. No. Rates and taxes are paid out of the surplus value taken from the workers by their exploiters. As already explained, the return to the workers, their wages, is determined by their cost of subsistence, regulated by competition in the labour market; consequently they have nothing wherewith to pay taxes, and whether these be high or low, or whoever has to pay them directly, the position of the worker remains the same. He gets, on the average, his subsistence, that is all."[677]

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