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side of Chartism, but to the "existing monopolies of machinery,
“ of land
of the means of travelling and transit . . . all arising from class legislation.” Of course, it was this same " class legislation” at which the Chartists directly aimed, and which the six points—manhood suffrage, the ballot, annual Parliaments, payment of members, the abolition of property qualification, and equal electoral districts—only one of which, by the way, has been fully conceded-were designed to cure. But, though there was
, some confusion as to methods—e.g., on the land question, as to tactics, such as the relations between the Chartists and the Whigs (the new Unionists, by the way, are in precisely the same difficulty), and on other points, no thinking Chartist ever disguised from himself the fact that he desired freer control of the machinery of the State in order to use it for the social emancipation of his class. In a word, the working men of England have in the history of Chartism a real, though, perhaps, not too compact, body of Socialistic opinion, which must needs furnish an apt historical mould for their new ideas of federation and of a common cause for skilled and unskilled labour.
The first Chartist movement died away. Free Trade and the fall of prices killed it. The Factory Acts made England less of an industrial hell for some children and women and for certain classes of skilled and organised workers. Political reform was easily obtained, and the unions were partially protected against the irruptive ferocity of the judges. What did the working man gain ? More freedom, cheaper food and clothes, and, above all, after 1870, a chance of culture. Economically, he got little. Rent has risen enormously for the town worker, until to-day the docker must frequently disburse a third or a fourth of his weekly wage for the hire of a couple of rooms. The capitalist had the lion's share of Free Trade, unaccompanied as it was by a drastic reform of taxation, and the worker found himself still a prey to the four abiding evils of his lot-overwork, uncertain employment, an insanitary life, an old age of penury.
Nor has he himself developed any substantial remedy for his woes. Co-operation, excellent as a moral and industrial training-ground, has chiefly succeeded as a combination of consumers, and has been left far behind by private and joint-stock enterprise, and even by municipal ownership. Saving is a mockery to men who save by pence and shillings—and a third of them never save at all, or slip into the paupers' ranks. Meanwhile the capitalist saves by thousands of pounds sterling, and secures his economic future by obtaining command of all the great new enterprises—the labour-saving inventions, the railway extensions, the shipping services, the monopolist syndicates. Profit-sharing, as generally understood in this country, is, I am afraid, often an abuse of words, a trick to stereotype wages, and sweat a new profit out of the workers, while in such a case as that of the London gas-stokers it has been used with the plainly sinister intent of abolishing, or qualifying, the right to strike. Moreover, the working man cannot claim that the State, as a taxing agency, has been particularly kind to him. Within the Free Trade period we have taken not far from £2,000,000,000 sterling in the shape of indirect taxation, the bulk of it out of the pockets of the industrious classes, while the owners of rent and interest have made the most astonishing accumulations in the history of the world, and have escaped with an utterly inadequate public toll. What indirect taxation at its worst means to the poor man is very forcibly shown in a recent number of the Forum, by Mr. Shearman, who gives the following table, showing the distribution of income by families in the United States.
Now, the 180,000 rich families can save two-thirds of their incomes; the rest cannot save one-fifth of theirs. Therefore the State, clipping 15 per cent. off the expenditure of all these classes, takes 228,000,00odol. from the rich and 960,000,00odol. from the poor. Without applying these calculations too literally to a country where partial Free Trade is the rule, where the Income-tax is a fiscal reality, and where some portion of the rates does eventually fall on rent, it is enough to say that we still raise £50,000,000 a year, or not far from four-fifths of the Imperial revenue alone, from trade and industry;
that, to take a special instance, we still, under Mr. Goschen's scale, tax the very poor man's inferior tea 100 per cent., and the rich man's vastly superior article 11 per cent.; that we make no distinction between earnings and accumulations; that we let off the ground landlord in life, and fail to ease him at death. Yet the mass of these overtaxed workers are toiling at an average yearly wage of £35, and 40 per cent of those who reach the age of seventy are in the workhouse or in receipt of public relief. The labourer's days, shortened by excessive hours of toil, and by evil conditions of home life, close under the shadow of a social disgrace which our own class instincts do not enable us to realise, but which permanently embitters the lot of the poor. The other day I was in a Norfolk village, one of the most prosperous in the Eastern counties. I got a glowing picture of an Arcadia—high wages, low rent, regular employment. “But how does it all end?" I asked. Mostly in the poorhouse or on the parish,” was the reply. The righteous impatience of working-men leaders at the gloom, the futility, the injustice of this unequal and grievously burdened lot is quickened by sad experience of the limits of mere Unionism, new or old. Thus Mr. Mann, after heroically pulling the dock labourers out of the mire, finds that he has to choose between closing his union books with a snap and suffering the average wage of the docker to sink to something like the old level. The problem therefore is how the worker, having gained a little time to think, a little material for thinking from his newspaper, his club, and his union speeches and lectures, a little prosperity in the better times, and with that a slight draught -God knows how slight-from the cup of life as the leisured classes have always tasted it, is to find a way to keep what he has got and to get more. Like the Alpine climber, he has—with kneegrip and hand-grip and foot-grip and axe-grip-won a foothold. Now he has a mind to go higher and to make his Parliament man help him.
And what kind of help does he want? For even though Parliament cannot give him all he asks for, it is no use offering him reforms which he deliberately sets down as useless. Judging by his votes in his own Labour Parliament, he does not believe in measures for the further distribution of property on its present basis, such as
peasant proprietary or leasehold enfranchisement. These measures every year retire further to the background at the Trades Union Congress. And for obvious reasons. The first proposal is seen to have no practical relation to the farm labourer without capital ; the second, while it appeals to a small saving class, who have tasted the pleasures of some form of co-operative life, is equally out of the average worker's scope, and is opposed to his growing sense of the economic injustice involved in the private appropriation of land values. I do not say that he has clearly thought out the alternatives, but, as it happens, his vague social ideals accord with the hard necessities of his lot, and what seems beautiful and just to him as a member of a class also presents itself as the only way out of his personal troubles. He must always be largely a Socialist in the making, vaguely hoping and believing, for he is pushed in this direction by the associative tendencies of life among the poor, by its pathetic helpfulness and mutual dependence, and he is constantly stirred to a remembrance of the incidents of his own lot as a worker by appeals for help from the fighting members of his class, appeals to which he is rarely deaf. Naturally, when he comes to apply his mind to politics his embodied desires easily tend to be collective. He will go for municipalised services, for communal trams or trains, water and gas, parks and people's palaces. He is for human brotherhood as an ideal, and he is quite free to vote a graduated Income-tax as a practical method. In trade matters he is also collective. He goes for“ fair” wages, at union rates, if he is a town worker, and for a half-acre communal plot at a “fair” rent if he is an agricultural labourer. He does not care a toss of a coin for what capitalists-not he-call“ free" contract, for the simple reason that it means for him "blackleg" labour, and therefore cheap, unregulated, and ill-paid labour. As a reasonable being, looking before and after, he sees, as I have already pointed out, that his children can have little better chance in life than he has had, and that the utmost limit of hoarding capacity stored up in his limbs and muscles will go to provide him a decent burying, to save him a very few years' rent for his cottage, and to start his widow with a pound or two in her pocket. We of the professional classes, who know how hard it is to save out of incomes
that are beyond the wildest dreams of the artisan, can guess what margin remains even out of a steady income of £70 or £80 a year, from which the worker has to deduct club and union moneyboth of the nature of bare insurance against the hourly risks of his lot. Now, however, owing to the franchise and the new instinct for working-class federation, he is able to bring a certain aggregate force to bear on Parliament, and he is, therefore, in excellent train to formulate a demand for a new Charter, and to support it by massed conventions, such as accompanied the old Chartist movement, such as signalise his annual meetings at the Trades Union Congress, and such as he has recently used to enforce his claim to an eight hours day.
And his second inquiry is, “ To whom shall I go? Who will open to me a passage to this new life which I covet ?" Still, I think, his answer must be : "To the Radical party.” Not that the prospect of a revivified democratic programme is at this moment over bright. The year 1890 will be known in working-class history as the period of the capitalist rally, following on the great proletariat revival of 1889. Within our own circles—and I must honestly say through no fault of the party managers—there has been something of a Whig rally. In the course of it the London movement, once the most promising feature of the situation, has largely lost its go and pith, and while it has never been properly worked out as a legislative programme, has died down to a trivial, insincere, and purely mechanical recital of formulæ. Attempts to define and practicalise the promising, though vague, Sheffield programme are taboo at hcadquarters, and though there are the materials of twentyor thirty good Bills in it, the one poor bit of legislation which has found favour on the front Opposition bench is registration reform, and “One man one vote.” No Budget is introduced but a splendid opportunity offers for laying down sound democratic principles of taxation-witness Mr. Goschen's shameful gift of half the Probate Duty to the country landlords—and yet the merest outlines of a people's Budget are wanting, though Mr. Henry Fowler could very well supply them if he chose. Mr. Fowler as a Budget maker suggests Mr. Mundella for an amendment of the Factory Acts, and Mr. John Morley for working-class insurance and the Poor Law; but