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Mr. Sydney Buxton and Dr. Hunter have to do these bits of pioneering work. In the Sheffield programme we have opposing principles of government, such as compensation to town leaseholders for unexhausted improvements and the creation of a new class of freeholders, jostling heedlessly against each other, while Mr. Rowlands boldly reintroduces a Leasehold Enfranchisement Bill on the old lines, in flat contradiction of the report of the Town Holdings Committee. In the House of Commons the average Liberal cheerfully supports land purchase in principle and votes against it in detail, declines to allow the Irish peasant to buy his land with the help of British credit, but is willing to let him do it on very much worse terms with his own. This is sheer intellectual muddlement, which will have to be resolved one day, but which I take to be inevitable when parties begin to leave the old ruts for new paths.
But, difficulties or no difficulties, the new path will one day have to be taken, and there is an obvious reason for striking it to-day in the fact that at every recent bye-election—notably at Kennington, at Eccles, and at Hartlepool—the Liberal candidate has found it necessary to link Home Rule with a social programme designed to attract the new voters who failed to come to the poll in 1886. The latest example of the advance of election pledges is Mr. Furness's proposal to reimpose the 4s. Land-tax-in other words, to nationalise £40,000,000, out of our total rental of £200,000,000 —so as to provide a pension fund for aged workers, a suggestion, by the way, totally ignored in the London Liberal Press. But even if things were more backward than they are in the Liberal party—and I believe there is progress as a party on fairly concentric lines of political thought—it is clear that there are no corresponding signs of growth among the Tories. There is even a dispositionin which I devoutly pray that the Unionists and all the Whigs we have left us will help them—to take up the tradition of laisses faire.* In any case we are in better educational trim than they are. We are at all events bound to democratise politics, and make the working man's vote effectual, and therefore we are in a more favour
* I must except one brilliant, though isolated, instance in Sir John Gorst's admirable and most suggestive speech at Chatham--a speech full of the best kind of statesmanship, as the two parties, now almost equally dominated by capital, understand statesmanship.
able position for voicing his call for a new Charter. For this I believe the moment is historically ripe, and towards it, as somebody must begin, I offer the following modest "points.”
I. The Land for the People.
V. The Free Commune.
Of course, these are phrases. Let me hasten to expand them, premising that, while suggested by the old Charter, they are little more than a crossing of the “ t's” and a dotting of the “i's ” of the average Liberal's election address, and of the programmes of Metropolitan Radical Federations, London Councils, and the like, Point I. would include allotments at fair rents (the half-acre plot as a beginning), full national control of the land monopolies, such as the railways, with the municipalisation of the local tram and train services, and the regulation of their fares (on the zone system), in the interest of the town worker in his suburban home, and of wages
and hours in behalf of the railway employés. Of course, it would cover the municipalisation of land values. The starting point of II. would be the proclamation of a normal working day for State, municipal, and monopoly employés, the extension of the Factory Acts to the men, women, and children employed in the sweated industries, and the cautious adoption of a system of local option in hours for the fully organised trades. The Educational Ladder would begin with free elementary, evening, and continuation schools, coupled with technical instruction, and would lead by the path of scholarships from the Board Schools to the Open University. The People's Parliament involves the payment of its members, and, as a basis, the vote of the adult nation, irrespective of property or residence, guaranteed by the State officials, so
as to carry with it a fair representation of the proletariat, who now claim less than one member for a million workers. The Free Commune implies open District and Parish Councils, endowed with their proportion of the tithe, and with powers of land administration, the effective municipalisation of the services of light and heat and water, the regulation of the liquor traffic, the gradual re-housing of the poor, and the enlargement of the public sources of health and pleasure, much of which could be effected in London, and in most flourishing townships, by taking over yearly the unearned increase of land value. Point VI. may be attained by freeing the people's breakfast-table, and replacing the food taxes by municipal and equalised death duties on real property, and a graduated Inconie-tax, equitably levied on earned and unearned revenues. Finally, Points V. and VII. would realise the essential idea of the Poor Law, apart from its needlessly debasing elements, and without at once interfering with voluntary thrift, would freely restore to the outworn toiler, in a degree of inodest dignity and comfort, the unexpended value of his life's work. And with a view to putting the new machinery into motion, let us by all means create out of the chaos of authorities -Home Secretaries, Boards of Trade, Factory Inspectors, and the rest—which now have the labour problem in hand, a regular Ministry of Labour.
Within these lines, as many of us think, lies a very day-spring of hope for the masses, whose lot, subject to small and fleeting ameliorations, is permanently depressed by the excessive claims of rent and interest. As for a new Charter, this paper is fruitless if it does not emphasise the ease with which useful advances can be made, if only they are in the right direction. If working men cannot get all, they will take a part. They will avail themselves of Mr. Morley's and Mr. Haldane's progressive leanings, of Mr. Schnadhorst's friendliness to labour representation, and their leaders will help to give scientific form to the growth of “social compunction” wherever it is to be found. Provided they are fairly and honestly met—if statesmen will go down to them, learn of them, share their crosses, mould their dim aspirations into a definite synthesis, work for them, and finally lead them—they will not be ungenerous ; contrariwise, they are bound to play Miching Mallecho with Liberalism. And I suggest that it will be better for the Liberal party to begin this work of lifting the burden of life from the toilers to-day—to let it govern them as fixed principle, instead of allowing
it to sting them as vague impulse—to begin Bill-making, programme-building-anything—now—than to put it all off to a more convenient season, when they will most assuredly find the workers savagely distrustful or permanently alienated. For, as Mazzini told the Opportunists of his day, what humanity wants is first a principle and then a way to incarnate it in action—for us to practise our ideals as Faith until we realise them as Love.
H. W. MASSINGHAM.
MISTAKEN LABOUR LEGISLATION.
N labour legislation fault has begotten fault. If Edward
III. and his Council had not promulgated the decree which Parliament subsequently endorsed and enacted a statute, namely, the Statute of Labourers, we should never have had the Statute of Apprentices in the early reign of Queen Elizabeth (5 Eliz., cap. 4). If those Acts, and other Acts of a like kind, had never been passed, it is very doubtful whether we should have had to-day what is called the “labour problem,” a question so mixed in its elements, and so vexatious in its surroundings, that statesmen and philanthropists alike dread to touch it more than any other. Nor is it surprising that it should be so. The interests involved are so vast and varied that measures like the Irish Church Act, the Irish Land Act, and other far-reaching attempts at what is called heroic legislation, pale into insignificance by the side of the diversified complications which surround the labour question. This fact is soon impressed upon the minds of those who really study the subject, simple as it appears to those who have only touched its fringe and then imagine that they know all about it.
Of course, it does not follow that the matter is incapable of solution. Remedies are proposed from time to time, some of a drastic kind, others tentative in their character. The political quack is ever ready with his universal panacea for all the ills that industrial flesh is heir to, warranted to cure all sorts of discases, from the top to the bottom, or vice verså, of the social scale. Some of the “ remedies” proposed would certainly produce stupendous effects, whether by curing or killing is quite another matter. " Clutching Capital by the throat" is one of the methods suggested: to what extent it would, or could, change the condition of things for the