English Labor Leader Lays Down Program for After the War.
Labor Will Demand State Control
REVIEW OF REVIEWS
English Labor Leader Lays Down Program for After the War.
IT is obvious to even the most superficial observer that Great Britain will face tremendous problems of readjustment after the war. If these problems can be solved without serious class conflict the brand of statesmanship employed will indeed have to be high. The nation is, as a matter of fact, already feeling the throes of readjustment and there have been sharp discussions of conditions to follow. One of the most notable statements so far made appears in The Contemporary Review from the Honorable Arthur Henderson, formerly a member of the War Council and the recognized spokesman of labor. He presents a statement of what labor will demand after the war, saying in part:
Our programme of reconstruction starts from the assumption that the individualist system of capitalist production has broken down. It was discredited by its results before the war; it was superseded when war came because it proved to be impossible to adapt it to national needs in time of war. But an economic system which degraded and demoralized its victims in time of peace and was found to be useless in time of war stands totally condemned. To attempt to restore it would be madness. Organized democracy does not want to restore it. We set our faces resolutely against any proposal which will have the effect of re-establishing this system of private ownership and competitive administration of land and capital. In its place we
seek to set up a social and economic order based on a deliberately planned co-operation in production and distribution which will guarantee the widest possible freedom for all classes and both sexes and involve the exploitation or subjection of none. As a first step in the direction of this new social order we claim for every member of the community the fullest measure of social protection it is possible to secure by means of the universal enforcement of a minimum standard of subsistence, of leisure, of health, of education. A beginning had been made before the war in the organization of this social protection by means of Minimum Wage Acts, Public Health Acts, Factory Acts, Education Acts, Compensation Acts, Truck Acts, and the like; we propose to carry that process to its logical conclusion by suitable amendments and extensions of such legislation. The first test of the policy of a national minimum will come with the demobilization of the fighting forces and the discharge of the munition workers. To flood the labor market with some eight million wage-earners—discharged soldiers, sailors, and munition workers — would produce an unparalleled dislocation and involve the whole wage-earning class in ruin. Unemployment will depress the standard of wages, the reduction of wages will bring about a terrible degradation of the workers’ standard of life. This calamity can only be averted by the deliberate prevention of unemployment by national organization. The labor party, therefore, insists that not only shall demobilization be gradual, but that suitable provision shall be made against any worker being turned adrift without resources when the munition factories cease production and the war trades languish and die. We also insist that the obligation to find work for the workers is national, and that until it is found the Government must maintain them. We shall expect the Government rigorously to maintain the workers’ wage standard, and to prevent capitalist employers tampering with wages; but also to take considered steps to prevent unemployment. Many urgently needed public works will have to be instantly taken in hand to this end—the building of houses for the rural and urban population whose present “homes” would be despised by an intelligent Hottentot; the remaking and improvement of roads, railways, canals; the reclamation of land, afforestation, the development of agriculture; further, the pressure upon the labor market will be relieved byraising the school-leaving age to sixteen, by shortening the hours of labor, especially for young people, and diminishing the amount of overtime. The governing consideration must be to distribute employment as widely as possible, to close every possible avenue of unemployment, and to use all the resources of the State to find productive work for every man and woman who needs it.
The effort to meet these demands, which admit of no qualification, will lead to that scientific organization of industry for which the labor party has always stood. We want to see industry organized on the basis of democratic control, with a consequent elimination of
“profiteering,” whether by individual capitalists or by great interests in more or less open alliance with the State. Neither State capitalism nor State socialism is our objective, but rather industrial democracy. We shall, therefore, resist every proposal to hand back to private hands the great industries and services which have come under the control of the community during the war. Not only large undertakings like the railways, shipping, and the mines, but many important processes and enterprises such as the purchase and distribution of raw material and of staple articles of food have been wholly or in part “nationalized,” and the labor party, far from wishing to relax this form of control or to reverse it, wishes to see it extended and strengthened. There are other things that are ripe for nationalization as w'ell as the great industries and services. Among them we place the profit-making industrial insurance companies, whose activities so wastefully and unnecessarily complicate the work of the departments which administer the Health Insurance Act, and the Friendly Societies. And we are wholly opposed to the creation of new “interests” like the proposed Electrical Trust. That the erection of a score of gigantic powerstations to generate electricity for industrial and social purposes is a wise and necessary measure we heartily agree; but it would be a disaster if such an enterprise were to fall into private hands. It must be a national undertaking, with proper arrangements for municipal co-operation in the local distribution of light, heat, and power at the cheapest possible rates; and this alone will create a miniature revolution in the homes of the people by the saving of labor and the elimination of dirt and waste that it would entail. All the reforms we advocate have as their ultimate object a general increase of social as will as economic freedom, a steady im-
provement in manners and morals, as well a: of material circumstance; and accordingly the labor party does not propose to allow the manufacture and the sale of drink to remain in the hands of those who derive profit from the encouragement of habits of excessive drinking. Our policy in this matter is to leave it to the people themselves to decide locally whether to prohibit the sale of liquor within their boundaries, or to reduce the number of licences and determine the conditions under which they should be held, and if they decide to grant licences to determine whether they shall be under private or any form of public control. We propose also to extend the activities of municipalities. The organization of such socially useful services as the supply of milk and coal, as well as the extension of local enterprise in housing and town-planning, the laying out of parks and public places for purposes of healthy recreation, are developments which we shall seek to foster in every possible way.
The great battles of the future will, however, not be fought upon these issues, in regard to which there is scarcely any opposition that can be called intelligent; but in the matter of national finance and methods of taxation. Here the labor party, as the party of the people, have a duty and opportunity more onerous in the degree to which it is faithful to the underlying democratic idea of equality and mutual service upon which its policy is consciously founded. It is not necessary to dwell upon the difficulties that will face the Chancellors of the Exchequer who will in future have to raise revenue to meet the annual charges of a public debt of something like 7,000 millions, not to mention the expenses of central and local government which may probably reach the total of a thousand millions a year. By the measures the various parties will propose to meet the financial obligations of the war and the cost of reconstruction the public will be able to judge which of them places national interest above the claims of classes. Our policy is fixed and dear. We stand for a system of taxation which will place the main financial burden upon the shoulders of those best able to bear it. No proposals for a system of protective tariffs which would increase the price of food or any necessary commodity will receive countenance from the labor party, and we are at once with the farmer and the manufacturer in opposition to taxes which will inter-
fere with production or trade or hamper transport and communication. All such methods of finance, however skilfully devised, ultimately mean an increase of the cost of living for the common people. To that we are unalterably opposed. We advocate as a method of raising the greater part of the revenue that will be required the direct taxation of incomes, and for the payment of the national debt the taxation of private fortunes. Indirect taxation, we hold, should be limited to those commodities which are strictly luxuries, and those of which it is desirable to limit, perhaps to extinguish, the consumption. We maintain that assessment for income tax should be calculated upon the family rather than upon the individual income, as at present, and that the unduly low limit of taxation must be raised. Above the level of the incomes necessary to meet the necessary cost of family maintenance taxation should be graded to an even greater extent than at present. The retention of the Excess Profits Tax in some appropriate form is necessary; the steadily increasing demand for the taxation of land values; a steeper graduation of death duties; and finally a direct levy upon capital, chargeable like the death duties on all property, but leaving the smallest saving untouched, and graduated so as to take only small contributions from the small people, and much more from the extremely wealthy —these are the measures by which the labor party seeks to secure that equality of sacrifice which has been so flagrantly disregarded in the financial policy of the Government during the war.
In this matter of financial policy, as clearly as in the general social programme of the labor party, the emphasis is upon the idea of public right, and not of private interest, upon the good of the whole people, and not the claims of a class. The professional classes, the small traders, in fact, the bulk of those living on earned incomes which permit of no extravagances, are at one with the manual wage-earner in the demand that the heaviest burden of taxation shall be borne by the largest income and the biggest private fortune. These classes will combine to support the party which scutinizes jealousy every financial proposal from this point of view.
and pledges itself resolutely to resist the employment of those ingenious and intricate methods of raising revenue which in the end mean that the poor pay and the rich evade payment. Our proposals will, no doubt, be regarded by the wealthy classes as purely confiscatory; but, indeed, future Chancellors of the Exchequer, whether they belong to the orthodox parties or to the democratic party, cannot avoid the necessity of adopting methods of raising revenue which the small owning class will stigmatize as predatory finance. It is in the use that the community makes, or fails to make, of the surplus wealth produced by the mighty energies of its working population, above the amount necessary to sustain a decent standard of life for all, that the quality of its spiritual life is revealed. Before the war the senseless extravagances of the very rich and very smart and the indigence of the bulk of the people were a scandal. The spectacle filled every observer with alarm. It may be said that the war has caused such a vast destruction of the accumulated wealth of the nation that we shall not see again the insane expenditure upon luxuries by individuals. But we know only too well that during the war colossal fortunes have been heaped up, and the one-tenth of the nation that owns nine-tenths of the riches will, as a result of the war, actually be richer than ever before unless steps are taken to expropriate them and to use the surplus for social purposes. This is the declared and definite policy of the labor party; we mean to take the surplus wealth for the improvement and extension of the various enterprises of the community, to provide for the sick, the aged, and the infirm, to establish a national system of education, to improve the lot of the common people, and to equalize social conditions, so that never again shall we be confronted by that awful paradox of overflowing wealth on the one hand and blank and utter wretchedness and want on the other hand which shocked and shamed every thinking man and woman in the years before the
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