Mr. Lloyd George sums up.
In an address to the Liberal M.P.’s, delivered at the National Liberal Club on June 13th (See “Manchester Guardian,” June 14th, 1929), Mr. Lloyd George gave his view on the position of the Labour Government. Apart from the obvious incorrectness of his statement that the Labour Party is pledged to destroy Capitalism, his summing up is worth noting.
We shall await with considerable interest the forthcoming declarations of Ministerial policy, but we must declare that as far as lies in our power the mandate of the Government ends when it fails to pursue a Liberal policy.The very hour the Ministry decides to become a Socialist Administration its career ends, for it has no authority from the nation to embark upon Socialistic experiments. It could only then be kept in power by Tory votes or Tory indulgence. It will be an interesting Parliament, but there will be no more edifying spectacle than that of a Socialist Government engaged in strengthening and perpetuating the economic system their party is pledged to destroy and fortifying that system in the most effective way by carrying through a series of reforms that will remove the evils of that system — a truly Liberal performance. (Cheers.)
It only needs to be pointed out that their own past experience ought to have convinced the Liberals, as Mr. Lloyd George himself has admitted, that evils multiply under Capitalism faster than the reforms which are intended to palliate them. The condition of the workers in 1914, after many years of Liberal reforms, was not anything to cheer about.
The I.L.P. in Parliament
The “New Leader,” of June 14th, tells us that, including 37 Labour M.P.’s whose candidature the I.L.P. financed, “over 200 of the members of the Parliamentary party belong to the I.L.P.” This is more than 70 per cent., which represents a higher percentage than in the last Parliament, or in the 1924 Parliament. Its significance lies in the fact that it makes the I.L.P. fully responsible for every action and policy of the present Labour Government. The selection of the officials of the Parliamentary Labour Party including its leader Mr. MacDonald, the policies of that body, and all the measures supported by the Labour Party in the House, can be brought home to the I.L.P., since its members are in the clear majority and can by their votes elect what officials they like and pursue what policy they like.
The same was true in 1924, but by some subtle reasoning the I.L.P. officially tried and still tries to repudiate responsibility for the acts of its members who constitute the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
In actual fact, if the I.L.P. tried to control the actions of its members in Parliament it would find itself completely unable to do so. Since every single one of them owes his or her election to Labour votes and the backing of the Labour Party and the Trade Unions, the Labour Party is in a position, if it wishes, to compel the I.L.P. M.P.’s to do its bidding and in a conflict of policies to repudiate their own I.L.P. programme and Conference decisions. While claiming that its object is Socialism, the I.L.P. has been built up by recruiting members on non-Socialist issues, and by securing the election of its members to Parliament on non-Socialist programmes supported by non-Socialist votes and financed by money from non-Socialist trade unionists and others. Outwardly an imposing and powerful body, it is in fact utterly impotent to support a Socialist policy or to carry on Socialist propaganda.
A Case in Point
This has been very clearly illustrated by the I.L.P. Conference decision on War-credits. At the 1929 Conference (reported in the “New Leader,” April 5th) a resolution was passed, after a short discussion, by 160 to 125, “instructing all I.L.P. M.P.’s to vote again War-credits.”
Mr. Shinwell, M.P. (who is not only a member of the I.L.P. but is also financed by them at elections), promptly protested and declared that whatever Conference might decide he would act just how his electors pleased.
I say, quite frankly, as an I.L.P. member, I will take any decision that requires to be taken from my constituency and not from this Conference.
The officials of the I.L.P. knew quite well that other M.P.’s would follow Shinwell’s example, for the simple reason that to carry out Conference instructions would lose them Labour Party support and consequently their seats. When someone challenged Mr. Maxton to show courage, he replied :—
If I were to come to you at the next Conference and tell you that there were only half-a-dozen I.L.P. M.P.s left, and that they were out of the General Labour Movement, would you call that courage or folly? —(“Daily Herald,” April 3rd.)
A way out was therefore soon found. As soon as Mr. Maxton and others indicated the difficulty which would certainly arise if the I.L.P. tried to compel its members to abide by its policy, the Standing Orders Committee recommended, and Conference agreed, that the Chairman (Mr. Maxton) be given, “discretionary powers in applying today’s decision,” The sequel is amusing and instructive.
Mr. Shinwell has been made Financial Secretary of the War Office in the Labour Government. Other I.L.P. Members of Parliament may be expected to take this lesson to heart.
Communists not a working-class party.
We have often pointed out that the principles and policies of the Communist Parties are not in line with the interests of the working class. Mr. Saklatvala, writing a May Day message in the “Sunday Worker“ (April 28th), put this beyond question. He wrote:—
But we must remember on our platforms that our slogan is now no longer merely “Proletarians of all countries, unite!” but “Proletarians and oppressed peoples of all countries, unite !”Not only textile workers in Bombay and Calcutta, miners in India and China, and steel smelters in Bengal, but millions of oppressed peasants in India, China, Egypt, and the African colonies are now with us in our fight against the common enemies of imperialism and reformist Labour.
Behind that innocent-looking but conveniently ambiguous word, “peoples,” the Communists carry on their anti-working class campaign in support of the Indian, Egyptian, Irish and other Capitalist nationalists. Those struggles are struggles between sections of the Capitalist class and victory either way is of no gain to the workers. The Indian workers will learn, as the Irish have learned, that Capitalism administered by native Capitalists is not essentially different from Capitalism administered by Britishers.
Capitalism in Russia
It is one of the delusions of the I.L.P. that Capitalism ceases to be Capitalism where it is administered by people calling themselves ”Labour.” An equally pathetic delusion is held by the British Communists with regard to Russia. A correspondent, writing to the “Sunday Worker“ (June 9th), held this common but mistaken view. He argued that the wages system in Russia cannot be called “Wage-slavery” because the terms of employment are “dictated by the workers’ government.” It is true enough that the Bolsheviks would like to abolish Capitalism if conditions allowed, but conditions do not allow. What they have been able to do is to foster the growth of State Capitalism and limit the growth of private Capitalism, thus following the example of Australia. But from the worker’s point of view the difference is little. Capitalism is based on the exploitation of the workers, whatever form that exploitation may take. In Russia there is a new and rapidly growing Capitalist class drawing property incomes from private trading, and from investments in the Co-operatives and the Russian State Loans.
In the Co-operatives the total share and reserve capital amounted in 1927 to £97 million. (See Soviet Union Year Book, 1928—P. 183.) While in October, 1926, Credits borrowed at home and abroad by the Co-operatives amounted to 108 million Roubles. (Ibid—P. i93.) The rate of interest is not given.
But the most important form of Russian Capitalism is the new National Debt.
Since 1925, State loans in Russia have been used exclusively for financing industry. (See Soviet Union Year Book— P. 391.) Between October, 1925, and February 1st, 1929, the total debt grew from 367 million Roubles to 1,983 million Roubles, or nearly £200 million. (See Review of the Bank of Russian Trade a Soviet Bank publication, May, 1929.)
The interest rates on these loans vary from 5 per cent. to 12 per cent., and must average not less than 10 per cent.
In addition, there is a “floating debt,” whose amount is unspecified.
The land in Russia is privately worked for private profit, and the new Capitalist class of investors have first claim on the proceeds of the State factories, railways, etc. Russia has the usual features of Capitalism. Not only are the means of production privately owned but inequality also exists, as it is bound to. Hence the introduction by the Soviet Government of a graduated Income Tax, Excess Profits Tax and Inheritance duties.
When the writer in the “Sunday Worker” states that in Russia the terms of employment are dictated by the Workers’ Government, he forgets that conditions compel the Government to make those terms such as will permit the Capitalist system to function and develop.