Editorial from the September 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard
UNEMPLOYED TO EMIGRATE.
When the MacDonald Cabinet came into office the Countess of Warwick, who presumably knows what level of intelligence meets the needs of the members of her class, proudly claimed for her political friends, the Labour Ministers, that they are the “party of brains." Far be it from us to dispute her claim. Still less would we deny that they are industrious seekers after knowledge. Have they not during one short year appointed nearly 40 Royal Commissions and Committees of inquiry? Are there not hundreds of members of these committees closely cross-questioning other hundreds of expert witnesses and reading millions and millions of words of evidence? And has not the Premier appointed a very special Economic Advisory Council, composed to a large extent of prominent Liberal and Tory economists and captains of industry? With this great machinery pouring out facts and opinions is it possible that our rulers will miss even a single small grain of useful knowledge? The answer, we regret to say, is that they are not likely to learn anything whatsoever which will prove beneficial to the working class.
The general result of these inquiries could be foretold in advance. The terms of reference of the Commissions and Committees and their composition preclude the barest possibility of a Socialist policy being recommended. Does the anti-Socialist professorial muddler of economic theory abandon his prejudices when he secures appointment to the Economic Advisory Council? Does the company director come there to devise ways and means of abolishing the capitalist system which gives him his power and privilege? Or, are the Liberal Party leaders, with whom the Government is holding private discussions about unemployment, likely to do so.
And if a miracle could take place, and if the capitalist thistle of a committee of inquiry did produce a fig in the shape of a recommendation in favour of Socialism, what would the Labour Government do with it?
What could they do? Elected by the votes of non-Socialists, a minority at that, they must do what their predecessors did—run the capitalist system as best they may and fob off the discontented electors with one excuse after another as long as they can. The expedient of setting up Commissions of Inquiry in order to postpone the awkward admission of failure to carry out Election promises is a time-honoured device of Governments. It is also the rankest dishonesty. When the Labour Government has supplemented its own knowledge with the false theories of all the economists, all the business experts, all the intellectuals, and all the politicians in all the capitalist parties, the truth will still remain that capitalism can only be run on capitalist lines, and will continue to produce poverty, unemployment and insecurity for the workers.
Unemployment is a problem which well illustrates the ignorance and trickery of the Labour Party. The Party in its literature and in the speeches and writings of its leaders has at different times adopted and proclaimed as their own unfailing remedy every nostrum of their Liberal and Tory opponents. For a time we were told that “high wages” in America had solved the unemployment problem, but Mr. William Green, the President of the American Federation of Labor, told the Senate Commerce Committee in April last that for 2¼ years the unemployment among the Federation’s members had never been less than 9 per cent. Last winter it rose to 22 per cent.—one in five out of work! Other Labour leaders told us that agricultural co-operation on Danish lines was the cure; but Denmark has unemployment as severe as our own. They pointed to Rationalisation as the painful operation necessary in order that work might be found for all; yet Germany, that much rationalised nation, has this year had 3 million men and women vainly seeking employment. The Labour leaders were also parties to that most colossal of post-war frauds, the greater production campaign, but now their spokesmen admit that the world is being stifled with over-production. They have preached shorter hours, but Mr. Snowden has just told the industrial employees of the Government that they must wait until times are “more favourable." These and many other useless or harmful schemes have been handed out by the Labour leaders to a credulous electorate. Then last year they tried a dose of J. H. Thomas at £5,000 a year, but the unemployment figures promptly leapt up to more than two millions. Now finally, they are reverting to the old and exploded scheme of migrating the unemployed to other Empire countries.
We recall how the Labour Party cried to heaven when Tories and Liberals told the unemployed to get out of the country and look for work elsewhere. Mr. Tom Shaw, at present Minister for War, was suitably ironical eighteen months ago concerning the "ecstasies" of the Imperialists “about the development of distant parts of the Empire." . . . (Article in the Morning Post, 18th February, 1929.) The last Conservative Government set up a transfer board to move unemployed miners to imaginery areas where jobs were vacant. How the Labour Party scoffed at the idea of solving unemployment by moving the unemployed from one depressed area to another!
But now the Labour Government, according to the "Daily Herald" of 12th August, is considering a big Empire settlement plan by which the unemployed will be employed on development schemes in the Dominions. Mr. George Lansbury says that he feels “positive that there are tens of thousands of young men in this country who, if they were certain of a proper chance of a decent and self-respecting livelihood in the Dominions, would jump at it." Mr. Lansbury, who is himself in receipt of £2,000 a year for his post in the Government, explained a day or two earlier, that he thought it a most terrible tragedy that these young men “should be able for years of their growing lives to live on a sort of public allowance." (“Daily Herald," 11th August.) It is pertinent to remind Mr. Lansbury that his “sort of public allowance" was given to him because he was going to assist Mr. J. H. Thomas to solve the unemployment problem. His and Thomas’s expensive labours produced nothing, and there are nearly a million more unemployed. The young men are out-of-work because Mr. Lansbury and the Labour Government have utterly failed to find them the promised jobs. But Mr. Lansbury, the £2,000-a-year failure, deplores that they should be getting paltry unemployment pay. His alternative is that they should be found work in the Dominions. The “Daily Herald,” on the following day, unkindly sent this new-old fraudulent remedy into the rubbish heap with the others, by informing us that Australia has its own unemployment of “alarming proportions". “Thirteen per cent. of trade unionists are now out of work, in addition to thousands who do not belong to any unions. Those who know, estimate that there are at least 150,000 unemployed.” (“Daily Herald,” 13th August.) The correspondent of the “Daily Herald,” writing from Australia, added that “there is strong opinion that the stimulation of migration far exceeding the nation’s power of absorption is the principal cause of the present unemployment problem. With the stoppage of this flow of emigrants a return to normal conditions is confidently expected.”
And after Australia, Canada! Two days subsequent to Mr. Lansbury's optimistic views on emigration to the Dominions the “Daily Herald’s” correspondent in Canada announced that a bar had been put up against assisted immigrants owing to the heavy unemployment. Canada only wants immigrants with some capital. (“Daily Herald," 15th August.)
So Mr. Lansbury and the Labour Government have nothing else to offer to the unemployed than to ship them off to the Dominions, in spite of the fact that the Canadian Government and the Australian Labour Government are faced with alarming and continuous unemployment of their own, and firmly declare their determination not to receive Great Britain’s surplus workers.
The Labour Government has no policy except to try to administer capitalism in a way which they hoped would be better than administration of capitalism by Liberals and Tories. In many respects they have actually made the position worse. So little do they know of economic theories and the workings of the capitalist system, so bereft are they of any constructive ideas, that they can do nothing but desperately tread once more the pathways worn by their predecessors in office, pathways which lead to disillusionment for the workers.
This is what happens when a “party of brains” takes on the task of patching up the capitalist system. When the working class wake up to the realities of the situation they will apply their intelligence to a different task, the institution of Socialism. They will seek to understand their own problems instead of elevating the MacDonalds, Thomases and Lansburys into positions of power from which to broadcast pitiful nonsense copied from the programmes of the other parties of capitalism.