Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Workers Elect - What? (1911)

Editorial from the January 1911 issue of the Socialist Standard

The excitement is over and the “most momentous question of modem times” is decided—for the second time. The fatuousness of the whole proceeding save from the point of view of those concerned to throw dust and gain time is indicated by the fact that the returns are almost identical with those of eleven months previously.

Of course, those fiends of darkness, the Lords, have been again soundly thrashed, and this time the road to the Liberal "Earthly Paradise” is to be unbarred. True, the noble creature whom Providence has granted the privilege of empire, the monopoly of work, and a big dinner once a year, has not betrayed that intense interest the occasion would seem to call for. But the wily ones know how to move him, and have judiciously prodded him to the polls — and for what ?

To place Britain at the mercy of the foreigner say some. To end or mend the Lords say others.

To bind his fetters tighter; to give his exploiters another lease of life; to check Socialism (Mr. Lloyd George—vide speech)—thus only can the Socialist answer.

The first have succeeded in roping in a large proportion of working cattle, but the wicked foreigner and his Radical allies are still at large.

The Liberals, on the other hand, are jubilant They have, in a measure, succeeded. True, they are still dependent upon factions to keep them in office, but they have what they asked for: a large majority to do things to the House of Lords. With this cry and a few minor promises they are returned fairly secure in office.

All these good people, Liberal, Conservative or what not, are quite honourable gentlemen, of course, imbued with a love of “British fair-play.” Consider, for instance, the way in which the spokesmen of both parties handle that old "Clarion” wheeze, the Referendum. The Tories with a great show of democracy, proposed to put the more momentous measures to a vote of the electors. Trust the people! was their election cry. The Liberals, however, the "People’s Party,” denounced it as unsound, impracticable, and revolutionary. The vaunted democracy of the latter is exposed in their attitude on this matter, while the sincerity of the Tories may be gauged from the fact that no sooner was it evident that they could not win than Mr. A. Chamberlain repudiated this extravagant “trust” in the people.

However, we are faced with a situation where the “People” are to come into their own. There are to be all kinds of democratic reforms, destined, it seems, to keep the Liberal party in power indefinitely. Some of these, they say, will have to be deferred ’til 1913—or, we suggest, 2013, so rapid is the age. But if the deluded proletarians will but examine the whole list,— "limitation of the Lords' veto," unemployment assurance, payment of members, and the rest — they will see that when all are enacted (if ever they are) their poverty-stricken, driven-beast existence will remain intact. "Down with the House of Lords” is even better as a vote-catcher than the more precise and much milder Asquithian phrase, and, as a trick to obscure the fact that a clean sweep of the House of Commons is required to make any real betterment in the condition of the workers possible, it speaks volumes for their devilish cunning, if not for their ingenuity.

No, friends, it is not because there is a Lords’ veto that we are in poverty and misery; it is because the means of livelihood are private property. Hence it is the whole social system, with its property basis, that we have to attack. And our line of attack is not through the Lords, but by working-class organisation —and through the Commons.

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