April 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard
One cannot but sympathise with the exasperation of Labour Party members who were promised something new and striking when their party came into office, and now find themselves not even in the position of defending the Government’s actions against criticism, because the Government has, for all practical purposes, not committed any actions. It has just sat tight, apparently paralysed with fear of the consequences should it try to put its programme into operation. As Lady Cynthia Mosley complains, they have had to listen to the Liberal Party smugly reproving the Government for being unprogressive and for allowing itself to be scared into inactivity by the Conservative opposition. If the Liberal demand for action was bluff, as the MacDonald Ministry maintains, why not, she asks, call their bluff? Sir Oswald Mosley, who was a member of the Government, tried to goad .them into adopting his scheme for tackling unemployment. Having failed, he has finally taken the step of forming the “New Party.”
The Origin of the New Party.
In the Leader on March 10th, 1931, Sir Oswald Mosley tells the story of the Party’s formation :—
A year ago I and many other of the younger men began to see the economic crisis which has since struck this country. I was then a Minister, and I submitted a memorandum to the Cabinet showing this, and outlining an active policy to deal with it. What response did I get? I and my friends were laughed at as alarmists, who were always crying “ Wolf.”
We were told we were young men in a hurry, that there was no economic crisis, that trade would soon mend of itself, that it was silly and unnecessary to take any special emergency measures to deal with the situation. Not once, but again and again, Mr. Snowden, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, told us all that trade would mend; sometimes he said within a year, sometimes within six months.
Well, the year has gone by, and what do we see? This same Philip Snowden, Chancellor of the Exchequer, comes down to the House of Commons, and in a panic speech announces a crisis. All of a. sudden he has been converted to our view, and calls for sacrifices from all.
What does this phrase, “sacrifices from all," mean in plain language? It means simply wage reductions, reductions in all the so-called social services, it means less money for everybody. This is his way of dealing with the crisis.
The Mosley Programme.
Sir Oswald Mosley, in the article referred to above, and in the pamphlet, “A National Policy” (Macmillan’s, 6d.), sets out the principal points in the policy of his party.
Their first demand is for the reform of Parliamentary procedure:—
“Nothing can be done with that creaking, broken-down, antiquated old machine at Westminster.”
Secondly, they propose a National Economic Planning Council which would rationalise production and marketing with a view to eliminating waste, overlapping and inefficiency.
Thirdly, there would be Commodity Boards to control the importation of foreign goods which under-sold any home industry. The object of restricting the entry of cheap foreign goods would be to enable the home industry to be re-organised. Protected industries would have to pay an adequate wage; how much, he does not say.
There is to be “economic partnership with the Dominions and Colonies,” and trade agreements with foreign countries that are willing to help this country’s export trade.
Is Parliament Too Slow?
Sir Oswald Mosley’s first error is his.supposition that Parliament’s failure to do certain things is due to the machinery being out-of-date. The real explanation is that those who control Parliament are, on the whole, very well satisfied with things as they are, and do not want to make any fundamental change. And in this they accurately reflect the insufficient knowledge, lack of purpose and lack of agreement among the electors. If the electors, or a majority of them, wanted something done, the machinery of Parliament would not stand in the way. In 1912 an occasion arose when capitalist interests required a more stringent Official Secrets Act in order to make preparations for the coming war with Germany. The Speaker of the House said it would be contrary to every Parliamentary. precedent to put the Bill through as quickly as the promoters desired. Nevertheless, the Bill was pushed through the whole of the stages of the House of Commons procedure and given the Reyal Assent all within 24 hours. General Seeley tells the full story in his book, “Adventure.”
Rationalisation and Unemployment.
The new Party’s next proposal is merely a new version of the century-old demand for increased efficiency as a means of solving capitalism’s problems. Sir Oswald Mosley and his lieutenants do not so much as refer to the vital working-class objection to such schemes. Under capitalism the proceeds of the work of the working class do not belong to them. The products of the labour of farm workers and mill hands, railwaymen, clerks, sailors and others are the property of the employing class. Any increase in those products, however it may be obtained, is also the property of the employing class. It does not follow, either in theory or in practice, that the workers will have all or any of the increase in the amount of wealth which may be produced. In addition, rationalisation means the introduction of labour-displacing machinery and devices, with consequent growth in unemployment. (Sir Oswald Mosley promises to “rebuild the trade of this country,” but overlooks the fact that his schemes of rationalisation would enable still more wealth to be produced by fewer workers. Unless society is re-organised on a Socialist basis, the fruits of economy and greater efficiency will continue to be enjoyed by the propertied class. The Workers, when employed, will continue to get as their share wages based roughly on their cost of living.
There Is No Grave Crisis For Capitalism.
The new Party, in common with all the “old gangs” whom it criticises, accepts the fallacious doctrines that the workers are poor and many of them unemployed because of foreign competition, and that the decline in exports in recent years has left capitalist industry unable to afford higher wages.
The workers are poor because the capitalist class own the machinery of production and because they retain and consume a vast amount of the wealth produced.
The volume of imports and exports passing between capitalist countries is related to the total amount of wealth in those countries only in the same way that the exchange of goods between, say, London and Manchester is related to the wealth of the people living in those two cities. The fact that a Manchester firm may lose its London market owing to the opening of a London firm selling the same line of goods, and that a London firm producing some other article may lose its Manchester market to a new Manchester firm, does not mean necessarily that Manchester and London become poorer. If the change has been due to the utilisation of more efficient machinery and methods of production, the amount of wealth produced, and still more the amount capable of being produced, will be greater than before in both areas. But the workers may get none of the increase.
During the years since the war the exports from this country have heavily declined in value, due in part to technical developments in industry and agriculture which have made it more profitable for the capitalists of this and other countries to employ workers on the production of certain articles at home, instead of importing them. Imports and exports have fallen, but the wealth of this country has been increasing.
Mosley, like the Empire Free Traders, points to the fact that there are farmers in the Dominions who cannot sell their grain, and factory owners here who cannot sell their industrial products. He asks, Why not bring the two together? But what about the farmers here who cannot sell their grain, and the factory owners in the Dominions who cannot sell their industrial goods?
When Sir Oswald Mosley says that the position of the industrial capitalist “becomes daily more impossible," and that there is now a crisis which will smash Great Britain unless something drastic is done about it, he is talking nonsense. The capitalists' average rate of profit has remained remarkably stable since tire war at a level well above the pre-war average. (For figures, see March Socialist Standard.) The present two and a half million unemployed is no higher than the number recorded during the Lloyd George Coalition Government’s term of office. It is merely a sign of the periodical accumulation of goods which cannot be sold because the employing class have satisfied all their wants, although they still have vast purchasing power available. Now that production has been severely curtailed, the accumulation is being got rid of. In due course sales will revive and unemployment will fall to a lower figure. The Labour Government went into office gambling that unemployment would decrease. They backed the wrong' horse at that time. Mosley now appears to be gambling that it will continue to increase heavily. He looks like being disappointed.
The Mosley Party A Capitalist Party.
The Mosley Party may make headway among disappointed members of the existing parties, but it seems obvious that, in spite of a lavish expenditure of money on meetings and posters and talk of 400 candidates at the next election, they cannot hope to be in a position to apply their programme except by joining with some other party.
But even if Mosley did manage to get Governmental power, his programme would not solve the problems of the workers. The chief promoters of the Party have every appearance of muddle-headed sincerity, but they have explicitly ruled out the only solution of the workers’ problems, i.e., the abolition of capitalism. In “A National Policy” occurs the following declaration :—
Questions of the ultimate goal of society are excluded by the urgency of the problem which confronts us. (Page 6.)
Moreover, not only do they exclude questions of the ultimate goal of society, but they do not even admit Socialism—that is, common ownership of the machinery of production and distribution—as being a question at all. For them the question of the ultimate goal of society is merely the issue of State capitalism versus private capitalism—an issue of no concern to Socialists.
Mr. W. E. D. Allen, the Conservative M.P. for West Belfast, who has joined the Party, confesses that his object in joining it is "the adjustment of the capitalist system to the economic needs of the nation as a whole” (Star, March 9th), and he further says that his action is no offence against the "broad principles of Ulster Unionism ” (Manchester Guardian, March 3rd).
The Mosley Party and the Labour Party.
Most of the original support for the new programme came from Labour M.P.’s, the majority of whom, however, deserted Mosley when he actually formed the new Party. Those who went right through with it—Lady Cynthia Mosley, Mr. Strachey and Dr. Forgan—have all defended their action on the ground that it is not they, but the Labour Party which has deserted the Labour programme. They have stated explicitly that they still stand by "Labour and the Nation,” the programme on which they were elected. They also maintain that they are Socialists.
Mr. W. J. Brown, M.P., who left the Labour Party, but now declines to join the Mosley Party, although his name appears as one of the writers of "A National Policy,” and although he was billed to speak at meetings of the new Party, takes up a quite different attitude.
Although he also was elected as a Labour Party candidate on "Labour and the Nation,” he declares that "Labour and the Nation” is a programme of capitalism. This he did in a speech at the 1928 Labour Party Conference (see Conference Report, page 207). He said that its application would give "not Socialism, but a State-subsidised capitalism.”
From this speech and from Mr. Brown’s subsequent actions, two things emerge. The first is that in his view he and the other Mosleyites, as well as all the Labour M.P.’s, were elected on a capitalist programme. The second is that, whereas in 1928 he rejected "Labour and the Nation” and said he wanted in its place Socialism, he has since changed his mind. He still rejects “Labour and the Nation,” but, in common with the Mosleyites, he wants a different kind of capitalist programme, i.e., the Mosley programme which he helped to draft.
The Angry I.L.P.
The I.L.P. are furious with Mosley, not because the new Party is a capitalist party, but because it threatens to queer the pitch of the Labour Party and the I.L.P.
The I.L.P. are amazed, no doubts at the Mosleyites leaving the Labour Party. Seeing that the Labour Party are acting as "caretakers of capitalism" (as it was put by the prominent member of the I.L.P., Mr. Campbell Stephen, M.P., in the New Leader on March 13th), why go outside and form another party of caretakers of capitalism? The I.L.P. Members of Parliament, who form a majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party, are quite prepared to go on acting as caretakers of capitalism, but they strongly resent the action of the Mosley group who were, apparently, honest enough to leave the Labour Party when they found themselves no longer in agreement with it. The action of the Mosley group shows up the Maxtonites for what they are—a body of dishonest and cowardly time-servers, pretending to condemn the Labour programme as a programme of capitalism, but themselves seeking election on it, and painfully careful never to translate their words into deeds.
The Old “New Party.”
It would be a pity not to refer to a very cruel blow delivered at the new Party by a correspondent of the Manchester Guardian. He points out the marked resemblance between the new programme and the writings of Bishop Berkeley. Mr. John Strachey, M.P., a member of the Mosley group, confesses that Bishop Berkeley was one of his father’s favourite authors, and that the new Party is indeed indebted to the Bishop. But he asks (Manchester Guardian, February 28th), "Why should we deny it?" "Because a man lived 200 years ago, is he necessarily wrong?” We would ourselves like to ask the Mosley Party what reason they can urge against trying Socialism, especially in view of the great age of their own policy?