§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion, moved yesterday, by Lord Sanderson to resolve, That in view 263 of the failure of the capitalist system adequately to utilise and organise natural resources and productive power, or to provide the necessary standard of life for vast numbers of the population, and believing that the cause of this failure lies in the private ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, this House declares that legislative effort should be directed to the gradual super-session of the capitalist system by an industrial and social order based on the public ownership and democratic control of the instruments of production and distribution; and on the Amendment moved by Lord Mount Temple to the foregoing Motion—namely, to leave out all the words after "That," and insert "this House, believing that the abolition of private enterprise in the means of production and distribution would impoverish the people and aggravate existing evils, is unalterably opposed to any scheme of legislation which would deprive the State of the benefits of individual initiative; and being convinced that Capitalism, which has proved itself capable of being adapted to the needs of the people, has immeasurably raised the standard of living of all classes, reduced hours of labour, increased wages, added to the amenities of life, raised the standard of education, declines to substitute for this well-tried system one which is purely speculative and would be found impracticable and oppresive in operation."
§ THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN had tabled the following Amendment:—To leave out all words after the word "That" and insert "this House, believing that the present depression and unemployment in all countries are primarily caused not by the failure of private enterprise, but by the dislocation of the world balance between supply and demand by economic nationalism, and that a programme of nationalising the means of production and distribution must inevitably end in the forcible suppression of all individual initiative and liberty, the replacement of the Parliamentary system by dictatorship and the lowering of the standard of living and the increase of unemployment by intensifying the present economic maladjustment, urges the Government to use its utmost endeavours to bring about a reduction in the international barriers to trade and in the meantime to provide work instead of doles for the unemployed 264 at home through national development undertaken as far as possible on a remunerative basis."
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, as perhaps your Lordships will have noticed in the Amendment which stands in my name to the Motion moved yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, I do not mention either the word "Capitalism" or the word "Socialism" because I venture to think that in reality the antithesis is much less sharp than it used to be thought and much less true in fact than it appears to be in practice. The real controversy, a controversy which will more and more appear, is between the two views of the Party which sits upon my left, between those who believe in what I may call "Liberal Socialism" and those who believe in "Marxian Socialism." That is the real issue in this country and not the rather academic question as between Socialism and Capitalism as we have read it for the last wenty years in the ordinary controversies.
§ I venture to think that the picture of Capitalism drawn by my noble friend Lord Snell yesterday is a great deal more antiquated than the picture of Socialism which he attributed to noble Lords opposite. He said their picture of Socialism was twelve years old, but as to Lord Snell's picture, the latest date he mentioned was 1880. I venture to think that the terrible conditions in his early life of which he drew so graphic and true a picture have been banished, at any rate from this country, for very many years and for good, and I do not think that in any real sense of the word those evils are inherent in a system raised on private initiative and private enterprise at all. I think that they are the kind of evils that grow up in the early stage of any great transformation of a human nature. If he wants to have a picture of the evils which exist in the early stages of Socialism, I would venture to call his attention to certain of the things that happened in the early days of Communism, in which millions of workers were exterminated, in which 600,000 coolies were destroyed in two or three years because they were in the way, in which, even last week, a thousand people were sent to Siberia, and in which in the last two years between 3,000,000 and 5,000,000 people have starved 265 to death because of the mistakes of planned society.
§ He may quite rightly say that these are the teething troubles of Socialism. If so, they are certainly not less serious than the teething troubles of the present Capitalist system. I venture to think that the system which rests on private enterprise, as many of your Lordships said yesterday, has produced very great benefits at any rate to the people of this country. It has beyond all question produced the highest standard of living for most of the community that has ever been known in history—beyond all question. On the other hand, that has been done under the influence of democracy, and I would emphasise democracy because without democracy I think Capitalism is a very grave peril. But once you have power in the hands of the representatives of the people, they do very rapidly begin to mitigate those evils which are inherent in an absolutely unrestricted capitalist society.
§ You have a long procession of measures for which the Party to which I have the honour to belong have a large degree of responsibility, beginning with the Factory Acts, going on through education and through insurance against the three gravest perils and evils and fears which beset the working man—insurance for old age, insurance against sickness and insurance against uemployment—and, finally, a very considerable mitigation of that other evil of the competitive system, the maldistribution of wealth. Mr. Karl Marx, who has been so frequently quoted in this debate, said that Capitalism inevitably made the rich richer and the poor poorer. There is not the slightest doubt that in this country during the last twenty years the poor have become steadily richer and the rich steadily poorer. Exactly the opposite process in practice happens when you begin to bring the influences of democracy and humanitarianism through Parliament to bear upon the evils which I admit exist in unrestrained and unregulated competitive Capitalism.
§ The real trouble in this country to-day is unemployment. I venture to say that never has the working man in employment been so well off as lie is to-day. The one great blot on British society is unemployment, and I would urge upon your Lordships that that is in no way 266 due to failure of the capitalist system as a system. There is no earthly reason why the immense progress which was made during the last century and up to the War should not have been continued if the individualist system, mitigated and restrained by democratic control, had been allowed to function. What prevented it? What prevented it beyond all question were the War and economic nationalism. These have, I will not say broken down the system, but produced those gigantic maladjustments which express themselves in 30,000,000 people unemployed in industrial countries. And why have economic nationalism, Capitalism and the tariffism to which noble Lords opposite are so addicted, produced, and why must they produce, those results? For the reason which Adam Smith pointed out in perhaps the most famous book ever written on economics: once you get a division of labour, once you get into a mechanised system, you must give free play to price in order to move capital and labour to those places where in practice they are making those things which in sum total are exchangeable against one another. That is an adjustment which my Socialist friends never think of. When, through economic nationalism, you interfere with that process, you inevitably get a complete maladjustment of supply and demand, and you get capital and labour in places where they cannot make those things which are exchangeable against one another.
§ Let me give one or two simple instances. Every Government in the world is using its political machinery to compel its own nationals not to make those things which are exchangeable with other countries but to make the same things. They are all insisting on making iron and steel goods. Only to-day we read of a further concentration of iron and steel production in this country through an addition to tariffs. They are all growing wheat, they are all growing the same agricultural products, they are all insisting on producing coal, they are all insisting on making ships, they are all insisting on running shipping services and if you look at them you will find that in every country unemployment is precisely in those industries because once every nation makes the same things they have nothing to exchange with one another. They simply sell the same 267 products in the same world market, with the result that world prices are below the cost of production and the people who are thrown out of work are unable to buy. Now that is beyond all question—started by the War and intensified by everything that has happened since—a major cause of the depression in which we live. It is not, as I said, due to failure of the individualist system, but to the fact that nationalism will not allow it to work. That is why in the Amendment which stands in my name I have ventured to mention that point, and to urge the Government and noble Lords opposite to reconsider the policy of high protectionism internationally, which is the main cause of our troubles, in favour of the reduction of restrictions on trade as the biggest single contribution which can be made to the abolition of unemployment.
§ Now may I turn back for a moment to the terms of the Resolution itself? I think the point at which the Liberal Party differs from my Socialist friends—for I venture to think that all the noble Lords are Liberal Socialists and not Revolutionary Socialists—is the point where they put forward universal nationalisation as the ultimate goal, as an end in itself, whether it is to be obtained by immediate and revolutionary action or by gradualism. I am going to ask a few questions as to what this policy really means. I have been reading through the document which the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, asked us to read. I read it some time ago, but I refreshed my memory of it last night. It proposes to nationalise the mines, the transport industry, the land, agriculture, and the banks. That is the first list in the gradualist process. Do noble Lords think that nationalisation of the mines or the railways will add one single man to employment? It has nothing whatever to do with the real problems which are confronting this nation and other nations to-day.
§ Let us take nationalisation of the banks. I will leave out the Bank of England because that is in a class by itself, but they have passed a resolution to nationalise the "big five." If they mean to apply the principle of sound banking that advances are made only to credit-worthy institutions, will the nationalisation of the banks make any 268 difference? Because banks to-day on the whole lend money to any institution which can satisfy them that it can pay back the advance and reasonable interest on the advance. Are they going to make advances on non-credit-worthy principles? If so, to the other crises which will occur they will add the bankruptcy of the banks within a very short terms of years.
§ Let me take another stage: They propose to pay reasonable compensation, on a rather doubtful basis, to all nationalised industries. Presumably that will rest upon the credit of the nation. You will have an immense addition to the National Debt. I rather doubt whether the capitalist who gets his 5 per cent. or 3 per cent. by lending money to the Government is a more worthy person than the capitalist who invests his money in industry and tries to make something better or cheaper for the community. But let us take the point they make, that you add to the National Debt the total capitalisation at a fair valuation of tile industries nationalised. Your Lordships will have observed that during the speeches made from the Labour Benches yesterday you heard reverberating through the Chamber the word "profit," but you never heard the word "loss." A very distinguished economist friend of mine once said, after reading the book written by Mr. Sidney Webb, now the noble Lord, Lord Passfield, on capitalist society, that it was curious that the word "profit" occurred 177 times while the word "loss" was never mentioned.
§ Everybody who knows anything about business knows that when the ordinary business man goes to bed he has no expectation of profit but fear of loss. How many of these industries when they are nationalised are going to pay profits? There are many instances of nationalised industries making losses. That is not merely because of the inefficiency of the bureaucracy—I do not take such a low view as that—but because it is very difficult to estimate public demand and satisfy it at a remunerative price. You will have immense losses to meet and very small profits. In other words, you will put a gigantic burden on the taxpayer without productive assets on which to base interest and sinking fund. You will have a, top-heavy society and bankruptcy. The fundamental fact is that 269 unless you go in for a Communist society, about which I propose to say a word or two later, the real problem is that economics cannot be judged on the assumption that industry is static. The difficulty is that owing to changes of taste and owing to changes in inventions every industry is in a continuous state of flux.
§ Very interesting figures were published in The Times based on official documents quite recently, which showed that between the years 1927 and 1933, one million people passed from declining industries into expanding industries and 900,000 people dropped out of declining industries. There were 600,000 fewer men in the mining industry and an immense expansion in the distributive and transport industries. Textiles were down and the motor industry up. The whole problem of economics is to bring about that kind of adjustment which is inherent in bringing about a rise in the standard of living as painlessly and easily as possible. In the same article it was pointed out that, whereas in 1922 a motor car produced by a well-known manufacturer in this country took fifty-five men to make it, it is made to-day by eight men. It is by reason of that fact that you have got cheap cars. If noble Lords want the standard of living to rise, which is what really matters, it will come about because of invention, and that means a continual change in the investment of capital and a continual change in the occupation of labour. When you get to that point there are only two conceivable ways in which you can bring about the movement of capital and labour to places where they are really needed so that they can make exchangeable goods. One is by Communism, the other is by the system of the free-play of prices. If noble Lords on the Labour Benches want to carry out their ideas they will have in practice to go in for Communism.
The noble Marquess was good enough to ask me a question yesterday. May I return the compliment? We have heard a great deal about profits. Will he explain what profits are got out of our magnificent road system?
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
There is no sort of dispute about that. If the noble Lord studies simple economics 270 from Adam Smith onwards he will find that there are certain things which are better conducted by public authority and not left to private enterprise. There is no dispute whatever about that. There is a large field in which Government has to work. The dispute arises as to whether private enterprise is to be eliminated altogether and everything nationalised, or whether on the basis of common sense and practical experience you are going to draw a line between the fields in which it is useful for the Government and useful for private enterprise to function.
Noble Lords have spoken of the chaos of competitive industry. Have they ever considered the great City of London in which seven million people have every variety of employment? Every day the products of the whole earth are offered to them in the shops of this City, and most of them to-day are in employment and therefore can buy. They are transported from one end of the City to the other day after day and night after night. They are given every kind of amusement, they are given news, the raw materials for industries are brought in with never an interruption. Products are sent all over the world so far as economic nationalism makes that possible, Can you conceive a more flexible and efficient system of enabling seven million people to live within thirty miles of this place? To talk of capitalist chaos is nonsense. I ask, can any bureaucratic body conceivably introduce greater flexibility and efficiency into that system?
We have heard a great deal about planning. If planning means anything in the sense in which the Socialist Party use the word, it must mean that the Government takes over all industries and plans everything. It must mean the complete suppression of private enterprise of every sort and kind. There is no half-way method by which it can be done. Why is it that if a valiant soldier on the battlefield charges out to attack the enemy on his own account lie is probably shot in the back by his own comrades? It is because by going out in that way he dislocates the General's plans. The Russians have tried twice to introduce some measure of private enterprise into the Communist system. The first was the N.E.P., the New Economic Policy. That broke clown and had to be reversed, 271 not because the system of private enterprise broke down, but because it was efficient and dislocated the national plans. Then, when they nationalised agriculture, they found that they had to abolish the kulaks because they were dislocating the national plans. If you are really going to plan society the only way in which you can possibly make the system work is by introducing Communism. Lenin, a very remarkable man, had no doubts whatever about that. That is why he was always so contemptuous of those who believed in Liberal Socialism and called themselves Socialists.
Finally, if you are going to nationalise everything there is no possibility of maintaining democracy in this country. Parliament and the Cabinet are already hopelessly overworked. If you add to their burdens the control of the national industries and the immense questions of wages and hours and every other industrial problem which would then come into politics, the only conceivable way in which you can run this country is through a dictatorship. For all these reasons, therefore, I venture to say that liberal-minded men are, and will continue to remain, opposed to Socialism as long as Socialism contains within it the words which are included in this Motion, that is to say:the public ownership and democratic control of the instruments of production and distribution.The noble Lord, Lord Snell, said last night in a very eloquent peroration that he believed that the issue was between Socialism and Capitalism, and that in the long run Capitalism would go and Socialism would prevail. If the issue is between the picture of Capitalism as he drew it and the picture of Socialism as the noble Lord who introduced this Motion drew it, I would agree with him, but I have some reason for thinking that that is not the real issue. The real issue is between liberty and despotism. If that is the issue, I am equally in no doubt whatever that, when the final conflict is ended, it will be liberty and not despotism that will prevail in this country.
May I say one final word on the last words of the Amendment standing in my name? I venture to think that, while this debate is illuminating and valuable, 272 we must not let it deflect us from the immediate necessities of this time. I confess, as a Liberal, that I do not expect to see so early an abatement of economic nationalism in the world as to produce a rapid restoration of international trade. The noble Lords opposite are, I venture to think, not as confident as they were that high protection and quotas are going to solve the problem of unemployment in this country. I can see no prospect of the two million unemployed disappearing merely by tightening our tariffs. Moreover, the most confident and optimistic of the noble Lords on my left cannot believe that the doctrines in the little Red Book are likely to be enacted and carried into force in the next five years.
We are therefore left with the practical question: What are we going to do in the next five years? That is, I venture to think, going to be the real issue that will be presented to the country at the next Election. There is only one remedy for this transitional period—transitional, because I believe that in time, before very long, the world will come to realise that the policy of high tariffs is as fatal as the policy of high armaments, and will begin to move the other way. But, in the meanwhile, can we allow two million people to have no other expectation than to live on the "dole" for the next five years? That is going to be the real issue. There is far more to be said for the policy of national development than most people admit. There is an immense amount of work that needs to be done in this country. In a very few years everybody in this country will have a motor car. You have only to go to America to see what happens in a country where a second-hand car can be bought for two or three pounds. When that day comes, the roads of this country will be found hopelessly inadequate. We are inadequately equipped with aerodromes and facilities for aeroplanes. There is an immense amount to be done in improving the railways and in electrification. As every noble Lord in this country knows, there is an immense amount to be done in agriculture, if only to restore the capital taken out of it by Death Duties.
On any sanely-devised policy of national development at least 50 or 60 per cent. of the expenditure will be financially remunerative it will pay interest and sinking fund on itself. Take even roads: 273 everybody pays a toll to go on to the roads in the form of the horse-power tax. Roads are built, on the whole, out of revenue. Road-making is financially remunerative as long as there is an expansion in the number of people going on to the roads. A great deal of the capital put into agriculture, roads and railways will be remunerative. On the other hand, every man taken off the "dole" saves the nation £70 a year. I believe that for every million pounds between six and seven thousand people are brought into employment on schemes of national development. The official figure is 4,000, but if the noble Lords are correct in their estimates of yesterday—that the well-paid working-man is fortunate if he gets £150 a year—then, inasmuch as most of the money that is spent is ultimately expended in wages, if £150 is an average, 6,600 people are given employment for every million pounds spent on national development. That is, therefore, really the important thing.
If we are agreed, as I think we must be, that there is no prospect of wiping out the two million unemployed either by the policy of the noble Lords opposite or by that of the noble Lords on my left, let us think seriously whether in the next five years, while we are clearing our minds, we cannot do something effective to lessen the number of unemployed, to give people hope and work, and—more important still—do something to stop unemployment from becoming a source of political corruption in this country, by entering into a programme of sensibly-contrived national development on a basis on which a great part of the expenditure will be remunerative.
My Lords, I welcome this debate especially, if I may say so, as it has proved how devoid both the mover and supporters of the Motion, in presenting or explaining it, are of practical proposals for solving the difficulties under which we are operating to-day. The mover of this Motion, so far as I can judge, has done nothing by his proposals to solve or to make any suggestions towards solving the questions laid down in the Motion—namely, the production and distribution of the products in this country and in other parts of the world. All we have listened to is the usual old hundrum exposition of Socialist theories 274 without any effort to show what would be the results of putting these theories into practical effect. Lord Sanderson told us that the doctrines of Socialism are very often misunderstood. I am not surprised, because most of them are not practical and they are nearly always contrary to human nature and to psychological effects.
The noble Lord, Lord Snell, who I see is not in his place to-day, in opening his speech said that this was not a Party question but only what he described in so many words as a friendly academic debate. But I suggest that we should not be deceived by those words. It is only the noble Lord's pleasant way—and he has a very pleasant way of doing these things—of concealing a nasty dose of medicine. Lord Snell did not take the trouble to tell us in such moving and bitter terms of his boyhood days merely for the sake of academic discussion. I venture to suggest that he did so with quite a different motive—namely, to use his personal and lengthy experiences, with which we all sympathise—indeed, I might say, after listening to them, that his presence in this House does greater credit to him—he used his experiences to add weight to a lengthy and often somewhat fierce denunciation of what he described as the capitalist system. Yet, later on in his speech he exclaimed that Capitalism was dying, and then he declared that Capitalism was now engaged in adapting itself to Socialism. If those two facts are so, why worry to raise this debate? What is the object of it? The real fact is that Lord Snell is trying to console himself with these phrases because he knows, as do his friends on those Benches, that Capitalism is not dying but in fact is a very long way from dying.
I venture to suggest that Capitalism is adapting itself, as it always has done in this country, to changing and modern conditions. Even Lord Snell told us that a good and well-ordered system would emerge from the capitalist system. Those were his very words. Of course it will. I venture to suggest to your Lordships that when this system which he outlines comes to pass, the capitalist system, as a system, will still remain. I agree, and I gladly hand it over as a present to the Socialist Party, that in recent years, 275 owing to the aftermath of the War, we have launched into measures which can rightfully be claimed by the Socialists to be approaching the lines of their main policy, but this only shows that Capitalism is variable, that it is changeable and adaptable, and that it is adaptable to new conditions as they arise. That is not a condemnation of Capitalism. I submit that it is a justification of Capitalism. It does not mean, as Lord Strabolgi said yesterday afternoon, that something is to be put in the place of Capitalism, but merely that Capitalism has to go on being adapted to changing conditions, both in the present and in the future. Do not let us in this country be led away into any experiments like that which has been taking place in Russia, for after a few short years this has proved to be such a disastrous failure that already, after the agonies through which they have passed, they are reverting to private enterprise. Private enterprise is being resumed in many directions, and through the seeking of foreign loans in other countries.
These circumstances are too well known to your Lordships to require any particular elaboration here this afternoon. But I venture to suggest that the real reason why the world is in such difficulties, to-day, is the Great War, not the capitalist system at all. If you go back one hundred years to the Napoleonic Wars, you see that after the Napoleonic Wars the world found itself, in a minor degree it is true, but still in very similar difficulties to those which we are experiencing to-day. Nearly all the ills from which we are now suffering can in my opinion be laid at the door of the late War. Many of the remedies, I agree, are still to be found, but in this country we have perhaps gone further than any other country in the world. At least we have found one great remedy, and that is the restoration of confidence, which I think your Lordships will agree has nearly, if not entirely, been achieved once more. Of this I am quite certain, that the worst remedy would be that which is suggested by noble Lords opposite, and it is a remedy which would result in a drastic change in our system of economic control—a system which has built up the Empire to what it is to-day.
I wonder if noble Lords opposite, and those who speak for Socialism in this 276 country, really appreciate the conservative nature inherent in the mass of the people in this country. I wonder whether they really appreciate how little the mass of the people will welcome violent or radical change. Sane and gradual evolution is always welcome to them, but I feel sure that revolution would be anathema. We sometimes hear that the programmes of the Socialist Party and the Communist Party are quite distinct. but I should like to turn to what occurred at a recent by-election, in which the Socialist Labour candidate, Mrs. Gould, was asked by Mr. Pollitt, who is, I believe, a very distinguished member of the Communist Party, whether what she understood by Socialism was as follows: "The end of the rule of the employer, banker, and landlord; the end of the exploitation of rent, interest and profit"; and her direct reply to that question was "Yes." That is the policy which has been outlined in yesterday's debate by various noble Lords sitting on those Benches, and so they will agree, and I am sure your Lordships will agree, that there is really no difference in the programmes of those two Parties.
I will admit that there is a difference in this respect, that the Socialist Party is seeking to achieve this programme by means of what I might call a bloodless revolution, and on the other hand the Communists would be prepared to put it into force by a, bloody revolution. What the people want, so far as I have been able to judge over a number of years of close political connection with them, is active evolution on sane lines. That is the policy which the National Government are giving them, to-day, and the policy which has been accentuated during the past four or five years, since they came into power. I should like to have entered into various other points raised in the debate yesterday, but I feel that the advantages which have been achieved by Capitalism have already been so fully dealt with by various other speakers, that it is unnecessary for me to delay your Lordships by going over them again. I would only add that I think the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, has perhaps done a useful service in raising this debate in your Lordships' House, because many of the fallacies with which his policy is surrounded have been laid bare before your Lordships and before the country.
§ LORD MARLEY
My Lords, it is only fair to admit that there are good arguments against Socialism, and I think the speech we had from the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, is the type of speech containing arguments which we must meet if we are effectively to put our position. Of course there are a great many bad arguments against Socialism. For example, I was speaking to a noble Lord yesterday in the Princes Chamber, and I asked if he thought that he would be influenced in any way by this debate, and he said he was not such a fool. Well, he is quite right, because he has everything to gain, from the system of private Capitalism which gives him the advantages which he possesses. That of course accounts for a letter which I had from a member of your Lordships' House who invited me to subscribe money to the Anti-Socialist and Anti-Communist Union, of which the noble Lord, Lord Mount Temple, is the Chairman. The letter was from the treasurer, and the line he took was this. He said: "You can help the union in the effort it is making on your behalf. Your interests are at stake. Your investments will be imperilled. Remember the debts the Socialist Government left behind. A Socialist Government may mean ruin for you and your family." The appeal, then, is a purely selfish one. The appeal is to support the Anti-Socialist Union, not because it is good for the country, but from ale point of view of preserving the private possessions and investments of those to whom the Union appeals.
Then they use the familiar method of frightening those to whom they appeal by telling people that the whole country will be starved within six months of a Socialist measure being passed. That is the sort of argument which I believe to be a bad argument, and one which in point of fact does not advance the case of the private capitalist. Equally I think it is a bad argument to quote the railways. I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Mount Temple, yesterday said that there were very few State railways which had ever shown a profit to the State, and Lord Lothian raised this same point of profit and loss. Here I want to say that Socialists do not measure profit merely on a money basis. We try to measure the profit of an enterprise by the service it renders to the community, and you will find that the railways which do not 278 show a monetary profit have always been those which were driven through sparsely populated areas, where there are not enough people, and therefore not enough traffic, to show a monetary profit, but which, nevertheless, serve the purpose of linking up distant parts of the Empire.
§ LORD MOUNT TEMPLE
Does the noble Lord refer to the State railways in France Are they linking up sparsely populated areas?
§ LORD MARLEY
—though I have no doubt the noble Lord would like to see an extension into Europe. But be will remember no doubt that the majority of the serious accidents in France have not been on the State railways, but on the southerly railways, and, as far as I can remember, there have been no serious accidents in recent years on the State railways. If we take the railways in Australia, those railways may not have shown a profit, but they have served to link up the thinly populated areas in that Dominion. In Canada, the Canadian Northern Railway under private enterprise came to smash and had to be taken over by the Canadian Government, in order that it might be run successfully and for the good of the people. It is the same in South Africa, and I would recall that the Indian Government is buying up all the private enterprise railways. I think I am right in saying that it recently completed the purchase of the last railway in India run by private enterprise because it was necessary to run those railways in the interests of India as a whole.
Even in this country during the War it was unsafe to leave railways under private enterprise. They had to be taken over by the State in the national interest in order that they might be run for the good of the country. The noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, asked whether by taking over the railways you would give any more employment. I think you would give less employment, and it would be the object of Socialism to run our industries with the minimum necessary labour and make use of that advantage to give more leisure to the whole of our people. With 279 that we couple an extension of our educational services, so that our people may learn to use that leisure more profitably. That of course is the real way to look at the question of profit and loss. We do not measure profit and loss by money; we measure it by the good of the community as a whole.
Precisely the same argument applies to shipping. We are told that all shipping lines have failed when run by Governments, and the case of the Commonwealth Line of Australia is quoted. Let me remind noble Lords that lines of that kind are run by our great Dominions to serve the purpose of linking up the Empire. A classic example to-day is the Canada-West Indies service. Of course it does not pay, but do we want to hand over the West Indies to the United States? Do we not want to retain the economic link with the West Indies within the Empire? Of course the service of that line is to link up distant parts of the Empire.
The noble Lord forgets that as far as that service is concerned, it is linked up with the trade agreement, under which certain products of both countries are exchanged.
§ LORD MARLEY
I did not interrupt the noble Viscount when he was speaking and I do not think that interruption was really worth while. It merely tends to prove my point, that we may have to use services which cannot be made to pay in a monetary sense, merely for the good of the Empire. And what have we to say about private enterprise in shipping? What about the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, in which millions of pounds of the shareholders' money was lost by the stupidity, the imbecility and the fatuity of private capitalists? It is exactly the same with the Cunard-White Star. Only recently we were having to give the taxpayers' money to keep up a private enterprise which is maintaining a type of North-Atlantic service which is completely out of date. Capitalism has not proved itself flexible in meeting the modern needs of this country.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY)
Is Socialism going to be more successful?
§ LORD MARLEY
Of course it will, and that is why we are Socialists, because 280 Socialism is common sense—a quality singularly lacking, I am afraid, among those who blindly oppose Socialism. Of course there are sincere and thoughtful opponents of Socialism, and we welcome their opposition and their reasoned arguments Then there is this loss that we hear about. What would the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, say of the loss in the world occasioned by thirty million unemployed? Think of the vast potential productive capacity if these thirty million people were all at work—and they never will be under private Capitalism. That loss is almost incredible when we think of it. Even in this country we have learned to accept two and three-quarter million unemployed as the normal state of affairs. What about this destruction of wealth so hardly produced—the burning of wheat, the burning of coffee, the destruction of fruit and fish at a time when millions, literally millions, of people in the world are not getting enough to eat? I came across a report on the fact that, inside our own Empire, as the result of starvation in India thirteen or fourteen million people died during the year 1918, the year of the great influenza epidemic, because owing to shortage of food they were unable to resist the disease. Thirteen million people died within the bounds of the British Empire through shortage of food and hunger!
Even our own inquiries into this loss are significant and pregnant with figures which must affect your Lordships. We have here the Report of the Macmillan Committee on Finance and Industry in which they pointed out that in 1928 £70,000,000 of shareholders' money was invested in companies all of which had ceased to exist at the end of the year. I have no doubt some of your Lordships have pockets considerably lighter than they were at the beginning of that year as the result of investing in these bogus companies which are so common under the system of private Capitalism.
Then we, have the awful business of Russia. We always have to mention Russia with bated breath in this country; but why do not more noble Lords go and see for themselves instead of taking second-hand reports from obsolete societies like the Anti-Socialist Union or from The Times correspondent, who lives at Riga outside the boundary of the 281 Soviet Union and who gets his news about as hot from the press as would a correspondent in Ottawa giving news of what happens in your Lordships' House, because that is what it amounts to. Some noble Lords on that side of the House have visited Russia, have been to see it for themselves. Why do not noble Lords ask their colleagues what they have got to say about what they have seen? If they did I am quite certain we should have a great deal less rubbish, literally rubbish, talked in this country about developments in Russia. It does not mean, when we look at Russia for what we can learn that her methods are necessarily applicable here, but I do say that we have a great deal to learn from the organisation which is going on there. We know that Russia emerged from the chaos of private Capitalism under the Tsarist régime, a system of cruelty which inflicted misery and suffering upon millions and millions of people, and they emerged from the period of the War, a period during which that suffering was immensly increased, and then we had tie intervention period during which noble Lords subscribed £200,000,000 in an attempt to defeat and crush the present Government in Russia, and they failed.
The intervention period was probably the most potent element in consolidating the present régime in Russia. The noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, talked about the New Economic Policy. He will for-give me for saying that that was not an attempt to establish Capitalism within Socialism. That was an attempt to enable private traders to build up according to a system to which they were accustomed in Russia during a transition period, and as soon as that period had been developed sufficiently that system was stopped and the first Five-Year Plan took its place.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
I merely used that as an illustration of what I believe is a fact that either Communism eats up private enterprise or private enterprise destroys Socialism in the Marxian sense. The two are incompatible.
§ LORD MARLEY
I entirely agree, and I am on the side of the anti-Capitalists. I am not afraid of the word "Communism." It is only a term of abuse in the minds of most people. To my mind Communism means common sense and 282 nothing more. But we are not debating Communism we are debating the contradictions between Capitalism and Socialism, and Communism does not come into our debate. I do want to remind the House that there has emerged from the Russian position an industrial development, despite the opposition of the whole of the rest of the world, which has secured that while capitalist countries find their production going down, in Russia production has been going up. At least there is no such unemployment problem in Russia as we have in the rest of the world. We hear about Russian debts. It is entirely wrong to say that Russia has not paid her debts. The present régime in Russia—and let me say it with the utmost emphasis I can command—has paid every debt contracted by the Russian Government in full and with no delay whatsoever. That is categorical, and it is known to anyone who has studied the facts. I do not think any noble Lord would deny that.
§ LORD MOUNT TEMPLE
I certainly deny it. The present Soviet Government refused to pay any of the debts contracted by the Tsarist Government.
§ LORD MARLEY
Of course we know that, but we are saying that the present Soviet Government cannot be responsible for debts contracted by a previous Government to whom they were entirely in opposition. If it is a question of repudiation of debt, let us remember that the classic example will be our own country which has refused to pay its debt to the United States of America. We are the defaulting country, certainly not the Soviet Union.
That is surely not correct. We have not refused to pay our debt to the United States of America. The noble Lord should withdraw that statement. We have not refused to pay, though it is true we have not paid.
§ LORD MARLEY
I think that is a distinction in which I cannot see a difference. The noble Viscount is no doubt very expert on that sort of distinction, but I am afraid I do not see it. We on this side of the House think a little more directly than the noble Viscount. The last point I want to make is this: the question of the responsibility of the capitalist system for war. We are convinced 283 that inside the system of private Capitalism war is eventually inevitable, and that if we are to stop war we must establish a system of Socialism which we believe will make war impossible. The noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, said that the Great War was the cause of all our troubles. With regard to that we say that private Capitalism was the cause of the Great War.
Let us see how it arose. We know that under the system of private Capitalism the means of production are owned by private enterprise, by private individuals. The workers begin to organise and press for a better share of what they produce. The employing classes then proceed to rationalise their industry, install machinery, cut clown their wages bill, and seek to sell a much greater volume of production, but, having cut down the wages bill of the workers in the country of origin, those workers cannot afford to buy, and consequently we have to seek for markets overseas. From that in the last century arose the British Empire. We were well ahead of any other Empire, and consequently we got our markets overseas without a very great deal of trouble and became the richest country in the world. But other countries, starting later, also had to find markets overseas for their increased production, and in consequence you got the contradictions of the capitalist system, the contradictions of the various Empires growing up, which resulted in the wars of the latter part of the last century and particularly in the Great War of 1914. That War was due to the growing economic power of Germany and the fear on the part of other Empires that Germany would interfere with their development.
To-day we see exactly the same thing developing. The reason for the recent Note by Germany, and the reason for the German Government's decision to rearm, is that Germany, the most highly industrialised nation in the world, has found herself deprived, as a result of the Versailles Treaty, of any share in those oversea markets which are essential if she is to live at all. That is an inevitable part of the capitalist system, and we see it developing in the Far East in exactly the same way. The Japanese need for expansion, for a market for goods oversea, has resulted in the clash of Imperialist interests seeking to share in the great market of China. If it is 284 the case that war is inherent in the system of private Capitalism, and we believe it is, then infinitely more are we justified in attempting to persuade this House to support the system of Socialism under which war is no longer necessary because we are able to divide, by orderly world planning, production, sources of raw materials and the markets of the world.
§ LORD DICKINSON
My Lords, I have been puzzled to discover for which one of these Motions I shall vote, and I cannot help drawing the attention of your Lordships to what seems to me a feature of all the Resolutions on the Paper. It is that they are not really Resolutions at all, but expressions of opinion upon various and complicated questions of political economy which would far better find a place in books on that subject than be engrossed on the records of your Lordships' House. I cannot vote for either the Resolution before your Lordships' House or for the Amendment, because they contain statements that I believe none of us can assert to be absolutely beyond contradiction. Lord Sanderson proposes that we shall express our conviction of "the failure of the capitalist system adequately to utilise and organise natural resources and productive power." I do not think anyone can say that the failure to develop natural resources in this country or in any country is due to the capitalist system. And still less do I think, with reference to the Amendment proposed by Lord Mount Temple, that any of us are really prepared to assert that "the abolition of private enterprise in the means of production and distribution would impoverish the people." We may believe that to be the case, but it is very difficult indeed for us to lay it down as a statement of fact.
Again, in the Amendment which the noble Earl, Lord Peel, has put forward, we are asked, in effect, to say that the doctrines which we are discussing must increase unemployment, while the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, asserts that "a programme of nationalising the means of production and distribution must inevitably end in the forcible suppression of all individual initiative and liberty" and "the replacement of the Parliamentary system by dictatorship." I really wonder what the noble Marquess means by that 285 assertion. It seems to me that your Lordships' House is really being called upon to assert that the process of Socialistic administration has come to a point at which it ought no longer to be continued. We are asked to place upon our records an assertion, in one form or another, that Socialistic administration is a mistake and a danger. I cannot help thinking that there are very few of your Lordships who will assert that the experiences we have had in this direction have done anything but good to the nation.
Lord Snell gave a touching account of what happened at the time when he was a child. I cannot look back to such an early period in my life, but I can to a period of about fifty years ago when the Progressive Party on the London County Council first came into power. At that moment London was handed over entirely to private enterprise. The trams were run by private enterprise, the water was supplied by private enterprise, telephones were under a private company, the docks and the Port of London were managed by private enterprise, all the tramways and all the railways were in the hands of private undertakings. The London County Council, during the first twenty years of its existence, set itself to socialise, if I may use that word, or to municipalise all those undertakings, and I myself took a very intimate part in all those movements during that time as a member of the County Council and also in the House of Commons. We carried through our proposals in the teeth of constant opposition. We were always opposed on the grounds that our proposals were Socialistic.
One of the earliest things that happened, as perhaps some of your Lordships may remember, was that a tramway company on the south of the Thames was taken over by the London County Council which was empowered to take over with it some little red horse-omnibuses that ran from Westminster Bridge to Charing Cross. The omnibus companies proceeded against the County Council to prevent them from exercising that power and they won in all the Courts. We applied on two occasions to Parliament for power to run these omnibuses. We were refused, and refused on the ground that that proposal was of a Socialistic nature. Now, with the consent of a 286 Conservative majority in the House of Commons, we have arrived at a point at which we are not refused permission to run a few omnibuses, but are allowed to have the whole transport system, including the local railways, placed under Socialistic—I use the word advisedly—administration. We have transferred from private enterprise the whole of London's passenger transport, the water supply, the telephone system, the Port of London and the greater part of the work of housing the working classes.
I will give your Lordships two figures which I think will show the magnitude of the change. When the County Council came into existence the municipal debt of London was £30,000,000. It is now over £300,000,000. What does that mean? It means that Parliament and the public generally have been content to transfer from private enterprise these great undertakings. What has been proved thereby? Two things, in my opinion. Firstly, it has been proved that the policy has been successful. Nobody suggests that we should go back to the old system. The socialisation of these services has worked well, and there is no reason to think that the socialisation of other services will not work just as efficiently. The second thing that has been proved is that a large body of people in this country have become accustomed to this kind of administration, and, in particular, many amongst the Conservative Party. In the old days we were continually having to fight members of that Party in the House of Commons. Now that Party contains a very large proportion of men who are as willing to transform our system of administration by private enterprise into administration by public action as are members of other more advanced Parties.
The only people, as far as I can see, who are not converted are our friends the Liberals with whom, for many years, I was proud to co-operate. We have had two or three speeches from the Liberal Benches. The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, and the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, both accepted the past but refused to go on in the future. They said there must be a line drawn, and they asked where is that line to be drawn. I believe that it is impossible to draw a line across the path of progress. We ought to beware before we let it go forth that we think the 287 electorate of this country should be divided between pro-capitalists and anti-capitalists. I cannot believe that when we go to an Election the Leaders of the Party to which I am glad to belong at the present moment will go forward with a policy of anti-Socialism pure and simple. I cannot help thinking that in their literature we shall find great credit taken for a very large amount of Socialistic work which has distinguished them during the last few years in housing, roads and other matters. I hope that we may not find ourselves forced in an Election to follow the lead of those who assert that there is no compromise to be found between those people who are anxious to go forward on Socialistic lines and those who are anxious to maintain the position and greatness of the country. They are not inconsistent. They are absolutely consistent. I hope, my Lords, that we shall not allow it to go forth that this House is antagonistic to any advance of a Socialistic nature.
§ LORD CRANWORTH
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to me to listen to speeches in favour of Socialism. They afford me pleasure, whether they are delivered in the dulcet tones of the mover of the Motion now before us or in the more robust manner of our parks and market places. The noble Lord, Lord Snell, told us that he was about to give us a speech in the more robust style, but I must frankly say that I myself missed one or two epithets which I am accustomed to hear in those more densely thronged assemblies. There always seems to me—and I do not think this debate has provided an exception—a sort of family likeness between speeches favouring Socialism. The speakers always begin, and very rightly and truly, by pointing out the disabilities, the inequalities, the hardships that exist under what they call the capitalist system. They gloss over, or indeed never mention, the marvellous improvement that has taken place in the last thirty years in the standard of life and the social amenities of the people of this country, an improvement which I believe is without comparison in any other country, or any other century. They go on to bring forward their own special theory of Socialism which cures 288 all the troubles which they mentioned at the beginning, and they end by saying that their own special theory is the only true and authentic brand of Socialism.
These arguments appeal with the utmost force to our hearts. I am not quite certain that they appeal with such force to our heads. If some quite unbiased and unprejudiced individual—and I think he would have to come from a world outside ours—were determined to investigate this problem and to come to a just conclusion, I wonder what this visitor (shall I say from Mars?) would think when he heard the speech, say, of the noble Lord, Lord Snell. I suggest to your Lordships that he would say something like this in reply: "Thank you very much. I think I quite understand your position. You live in the most prosperous country with the highest standard of living in Europe; you find that your system of government does not meet the present needs of your population, and you propose to change it for one which will do away with hardships and give far better opportunities to everybody. Naturally, some such system must have been tried out to the full by some less happy country than yours, and I will now sit down and you shall tell me all about it." But would he be told all about it? Have your Lordships been told all about this system operating in some other countries? We have not heard much about Socialism in operation in Spain, or about National Socialism operating in Germany or operating in Italy. In fact, for some reason which I have never been quite able to understand, that particular form of Socialism does not seem popular on the other side, as, indeed, it is not with ourselves.
And what about Russia? We have not heard very much about Russia, though I was glad that Lord Marley brought her in. If this debate is to serve some other purpose than merely to give oratorical opportunities, surely we must look to the great State of Russia—one-fifth of the inhabited portion of the globe—which alone can give concrete foundation to what is otherwise a paper edifice. What of Russia? We have been told of the advantage she had in introducing her system, owing to the immensity of her territory and the fact that she was self-supporting. She had other advantages as well. We know that with a stroke of 289 the pen she abolished her debts; internal and external. So far as I know, that policy does not come into any of the theories of Socialism held by noble Lords on the other side; I do not think that it even comes into that twopenny serial of which the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, is apparently the retainer. Russia had those advantages, and she had also the advantage—and the great advantage—of having a population who were inured to hardship, who had never known liberty, who understood starvation, who were accustomed to sudden death. Those advantages, which luckily our people do not enjoy, are extremely useful to those who bring a new kind of government into a country.
There is one curious thing about Russia which no doubt your Lordships have noted: that of those who go out to investigate Russia, at least ninety per cent. come back having found exactly what they hoped to find. If, before they went, they were dislikers of the social system adopted there, they come back with tales of sad faces, of haunting fear, and so forth. If, on the other hand, they were believers in that system, they come back with news of glad faces, of fine factories and of well-being. I cannot help thinking that such evidence is not very conclusive, but is in fact rather suspect. I would prefer as evidence that of a man who went out with one opinion and came back with another. That is why I should like to introduce to your Lordships—and should have especially liked to introduce to the noble Lord, Lord Marley, if he had been here—the sad story of Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown was a workman who held Communistic views and worked in a big motor factory, of whom the principal was a member of your Lordships' House. He came out one night and gave vent to his views in favour of Communism. His employer, hearing him, ventured to say lightly to him that he thought that if he had some practical experience of Communism he would riot hold those views; he also offered to pay his passage out so that he might investigate conditions in Russia. Mr. Brown was a man of independent spirit and did not want any beastly capitalist's money; he said that if he wanted to go he would and his own money himself. Mr. Brown found his money, Mr. Brown went out, and Mr. Brown, as an independent-minded man, 290 made his own personal investigations. He used at least as scathing language—I should like to tell the noble Lord, Lord Marley—about personally-conducted tours in Russia as he used about his capitalist employers. In due course Mr. Brown came back, and this is the gist of what he said. He said that he was bound to confess that he found conditions in Russia very different from what he had anticipated. He said:I found that the condition of a skilled mechanic on full pay is a lower one than that of a man living on the 'dole' in England.And he added these words:I ought to know, because I have been on it long enough.Now, my Lords, I think that unless that evidence can be rebutted, it should have some weight with a visitor from Mars!
I, like some of the noble Lords opposite, was brought up on the left side of politics. I had not the advantage—none of us had—of this much-discussed man Mr. Karl Marx, but with the material at our disposal we did our hest. We used to sing a song with a rousing refrain which began "God made the land, the land on which we stand;" we sang it with great gusto and went home mightily comforted. But when I came to years of discretion I thought that those words, true as they were, were not a very good argument in favour of nationalisation. Although it is perfectly true that the Almighty made the land, it was human society which provided the buildings, let alone the fences, drains, gates and, so forth. In my part of the country there is hardly a farm that would fetch in the open market as much as it would cost to put up the buildings on it, let alone the drains and cultivations. It sometimes seems to me that the Socialist Party are so busy seeking for votes, and all the fruits that come with the acquisition of a sufficient number of that commodity, that they overlook certain facts of considerable importance. As an example, in every week-end someone gets up on a platform in the town and says that if only the land were nationalised, great advantages of comfort, of money, and of everything else would accrue to all connected with it.
Such speakers omit to notice that to all intents and purposes the land of this country has been nationalised for quite a few years. I, my Lords, am a blood 291 sucking parasite—a landlord. I would add that I am quite a small one, if that is any mitigation. I ask myself sometimes: What are the powers and privileges that I maintain to the harm of the people who live on the land? I cannot turn out a tenant, I can only buy him out. I cannot force him to cultivate in any way; if he grows nothing but weeds I can only refer him to a committee of his peers, in the certain knowledge that they will declare against me. In the same way, as a landowner, I cannot turn a man out of a cottage—or, at any rate, it is practically impossible for me to do so. I may not prevent anyone from going over my fields. Have I, indeed, any privileges left? Yes! I have one. My privilege is to lend the capital to industry at an average rate of 1½ per cent. Now I always think that political claptrap is not very nice, but when I hear ignorant people being told that the greatest benefit that will come to the man who works on the land is that he will be able to borrow money at 4 per cent. instead of 1½ per cent., it seems to me to become rather nauseating.
I must confess that I sometimes wish, as I have no doubt other noble Lords here wish, that the terms "Capitalism" and "Socialism" had never been invented. If they had not, we might do what so many of us wish to do: examine each measure to see whether it would be better carried on under the State, or whether individualism would run it better. I venture to suggest that that is why the present Government were put in. I cannot help thinking that to a certain degree they must have been rather successful, because on the one hand you have Mr. Winston Churchill and his henchmen—or his henchwomen, I should say—declaring that they are more Socialist, decadent and white-livered than the Socialist Party themselves; and on the other hand we find Mr. Lansbury, and even some of the noble Lords opposite, saying that they are just as reactionary as the most diehard party that ever ruined this country. I think they must be congratulated on being both at the same time.
I have only one suggestion to make in conclusion, and it is this. I think that one is entitled to assume that the objects of a good Government should be to provide the greatest measure of security, the 292 greatest measure of good, and especially the greatest measure of happiness, for the greatest number of people who are the governed, and the suggestion I make is this, that in the British nation ordinarily the greatest measure of human good and happiness demands the greatest measure of human liberty.
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
My Lords, I think everyone will admit that we have had two days of very interesting discussion, a discussion that really has covered a question that is occupying the attention of the country very closely, and a discussion in your Lordships' House, where, with a greater calm, perhaps, than elsewhere, a dispassionate investigation can be made. I have listened practically to the whole debate, and I have been very much interested and struck by the speeches on both sides. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Sanderson upon initiating this discussion, because it really was entirely his own suggestion that the debate should take place. I fell in with it, and we all felt it would be very appropriate. I have been scribbling on pieces of paper during the last two days and I covered so many of them that I had to tear them all up, because I found that so marry arguments occurred to me as I listened to the various speeches. To-day there has been a very rich crop of arguments on both sides.
I want to confine myself to some of the salient points which have emerged during the course of the debate. The first point that I want to make—it deals with what we call an extreme argument, but we have got to deal with extreme arguments as well as reasoned arguments—is that we do not look forward to the millenium, or to Utopia. We know perfectly well that the governance of mankind is not going to be solved by mankind in the course of the years before us. It is going to be an ever-changing problem to which new minds will have to be bent, and it will present new problems, so that it will baffle poor human nature continually; but we believe that you can do a good deal better than you are doing now. We do believe that a social injustice can be stopped. We do believe that exaggerated poverty can be very greatly mitigated, and we feel pretty sure that unless a considerable change 293 is made, this country may find itself drifting into a very disastrous position.
That is why we think the matter is urgent, because new circumstances are arising. Only a century ago the population of this country was very little over sixteen millions; now it is over forty-five millions. That in itself shows one that the old methods, and going along the old road with the same system, may not be advisable and may not be wise. In the lifetime of even young men the changes which have taken place in our social habits, and in industry throughout the world at large, because of the ingenuity of man and the marvellous inventions of science, have been of such a disturbing character that they have entirely dislocated our outlook, and left us wondering as to where we are going. We believe that those things must be faced, and that we must go at a very much quicker pace if we are to keep up with the course of events.
The noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, in his very interesting speech said that there was a state of flux, that nothing was static, and that we had to be constantly adjusting our views to deal with entirely new and unforeseen circumstances; but when he said, with regard to the further extension of public ownership and popular control, that there was no dispute—he repeated it several times—may I respectfully say to him that there is very hot dispute. I am sure he was in the House when the Electricity Bill, the Petroleum Bill and the Transport Bill were brought forward, to get some sort of measure of popular control, and they were all hotly contested. We have got a long road to march, and even in these early steps we are finding difficulty in getting even an adjustment of the present system. During the course of the debate there really has been far too much of the idea that there is going to be some sort of central bureaucratic organisation, which is going to manage railways, iron and steel, and electricity, that Whitehall is going to be extended, and that we are going to wake up one fine morning to find everything already done. That is really absurd, and not merely our British nature but our human nature prevents anything so dislocating happening.
A great deal has been said about the improvements under Capitalism. We acknowledge them. There have been improvements 294 since the days which Lord Snell mentioned, and of which he had personal experience in his youth. There have been improvements undoubtedly, but let us bear in mind that the qualitative improvement is very much counterbalanced by the quantitative fact that a very much larger number of people now are living on the borderline of destitution, and in extreme poverty—
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
In this country, certainly. You must remember that within the last century the population has been a great deal more than doubled. It was sixteen millions and now it is over forty-five millions. When you think of the state of affairs now, with the great advance in civilisation, the marvellous inventions and exhibitions of appliances for cooking and so forth, and then—not in the eighties but to-day—walk through the slums of Sheffield, not a few yards, not one hundred yards, but through square acres and square miles of desolate gloomy houses, many of them for years condemned, in which men, women and children can hardly live a decent life, and when you remember that like conditions exist up and down the country, in the great centres of population which we are so proud of increasing and whose gigantic size seems to fill us with a great deal of satisfaction—then I say that quantitatively, considering what civilisation is to-day, the state of a very large section of our population is a disgrace to our civilization.
In that connection the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, and the noble Lord, Lord Rhayader, last night emphasised their belief in freedom, and said that the Socialist system would destroy freedom. In fact, the words in the noble Marquess's Amendment are: "the forcible suppression of all individual initiative and liberty." Now let us examine this freedom. Are the people in the circumstances and the surroundings that I have described free to choose their house? Are they free to choose their work or their profession? Are they free to have work? Are they free to get the best sort of education? What is this freedom? Noble Lords know perfectly well that by economic pressure these people are subjected to a gloomy, dull life of toil from which they have not got the liberty to 295 emerge. We do not consider that that is a good system of society. We believe that these people should not be subjected to these conditions, and we are surprised that even those who have not the opportunity of coining into touch with the poorer part of our population should lack the imagination to understand that a great many of their fellow countrymen are living in such conditions.
The noble Lord, Lord Templemore, talked about the grafting of Socialism on the present system, and Lord Allen of Hurtwood also emphasised that point. I admit that up to a certain point it is possible to adapt Capitalism and graft Socialist improvements on to it, but that is only true to a very limited degree. I quite see that with the long extension of Conservative Government, and a good forceful Labour and Liberal Opposition, the Conservative Government would be driven, as they have been driven, to adopt measures of Socialism. In fact, they are accused by their supporters of being far too Socialistic now, but only up to a point. We want to go a great deal beyond that point, and we do not believe that grafting is the right description. We believe that you must get rid of the old buildings and the old ruins and dig the foundations of an entirely new edifice.
There has been a great deal of talk of how it is going to be worked, because it is said the details seem very difficult. How, we are asked, are you going to take over the railways? Who is going to administer them? Who is going to represent them in Parliament and so on with all the other industries and services which would be nationalised? It may seem to us very difficult now, but it is extraordinary how in the passage of time those things get solved. How difficult and how impossible almost it would have seemed to our ancestors in the early eighteenth century that there should be such a thing as the London Fire Brigade. Your Lordships know the little tickets and metal signs on houses showing how each house came under a particular insurance company, and that insurance company had to be communicated with by messenger to send their own special fire brigade. We laugh now at such a system, and we know that the London Fire Brigade and its various branches, and the admirably organized 296 service it gives are there for the protection of the whole population. But that would have seemed beyond the bounds of possibility to our ancestors.
In the same way if you were told in fifty years' time that in these days half a dozen milk carts could be seen in the early morning going down the street, competing with one another in order to distribute milk—a good deal of it of a very inferior quality—to the population you would laugh, for by that time there will be municipal distribution of milk, and the best milk possible, and within everyone's reach. Things like that seem so difficult before you approach them and tackle them, but when you come to close quarters the good sense of the people finds a way by which they can be solved. At present art, literature and science are within our reach, if not within the reach of the poor. We do not want to see art and science the servants of profit-making industry. We want these great treasures of the past in which this country is so particularly rich to be within the grasp of everyone. It may be said that there are magnificent public libraries. Well, that is so, but unfortunately there are not enough people who have got time to read, who have got ability to read, who have got leisure for that sort of relaxation. They are deprived of it by their lives of continuous toil, which is thought by most people to be the decree of Providence.
"The crisis" was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Hurtwood, and he deprecated this talk of a crisis. We do not want a crisis. Naturally, we want to bring our reforms in with the utmost smoothness, with a majority behind them and with no difficulty at all. We have not talked of the crisis, but we have always been told that a crisis would be created, that the advent of the Labour Government into power will mean by itself a crisis before we lift a finger to do anything.
§ LORD ALLEN OF HURTWOOD
May I say that I definitely quoted a statement, not by one of the noble Lord's opponents, but by the Deputy Leader of his Party, and that Deputy Leader of his own Party said that he envisaged the coming of Labour into power as a crisis.
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
That is just exactly what I was saying. 297 I took the trouble to re-read that quotation, so that I should not make a mistake. I envisage that too. I envisage a crisis because of the opinions, the declamations, the intentions, and the plans of the Party opposite. It is perfectly clear that they are going to make a crisis, and we have to be prepared for it. It is no good saying: "Oh, this is all going to be plain sailing. Of course, when they get a. majority they, like other Parties, will submit to the rule of the majority." They are not going to do anything of the kind. They are going to fight for their lives. Of course, we envisage a crisis. The supporters of the present order have got some very powerful weapons—do not let us mistake that—and the most powerful of all are patronage and charity. By patronage and charity they can get a subservient, acquiescent class to put up with the present situation, whatever their personal feelings may be. This patronage and charity are administered with the greatest possible skill and the greatest possible kindness. You will find that temper is smoothed and political activities are somehow mitigated. If it is not by members of the plutocracy or the aristocracy, then by members of the industrial section of the community there will be playgrounds very properly given, and club houses and all the soothing patronage which prevents that spirit of righteous indignation which makes a man revolt against conditions for himself and his fellows which are not the decree of Providence but which can be altered by a different organisation.
A word about the class war. Again the noble Lord, Lord Allen, deprecated the use of the term "class war" and the waging of the class war. We do not want a class war; it is the last thing we want. But, do not let us make any mistake about it, the class war exists. That is the trouble. The trouble about me is that I am a traitor to my class. I am reminded of that on postcards, in letters, n platforms, in speeches, and when I put up for clubs or even for non-political associations. I am a traitor to my class, and as a traitor I am able to see, perhaps, the whole of the battlefield rather more clearly. It is the deepest thing, this class feeling. It does exist, and it is no good ignoring it; and the Labour Party, without any particular intention or organisation, have managed to unite 298 within themselves the largest number of these various strata of society that has ever been known in any political Party. We comprise landowners, soldiers, sailors lawyers, journalists, bricklayers, engine drivers, shop assistants—the whole range—and therefore we do not want any class war.
I am accused of being a traitor and also I am scoffed at for masquerading as a working man. I am not doing anything of the kind. I have not known myself what it is to walk the streets uncertain of my next meal. I have not known what it is to live in crowded slums. I have not known what it is to be deprived of educational facilities. I have not known any of these disadvantages. I have had every conceivable advantage, and it is for that very reason that I am in the Labour Party in order, with the small abilities I have, to see if I can obtain an equality of opportunity for the same advantages for the great mass of my fellow countrymen. My noble friend Lord Marley said a word about the reasons for war, and he elaborated how their economic origins were due largely to the capitalist system. I only want to touch on that for a very short time. I only want to say that what we aim at is the solidarity of the workers throughout the world, because they have no quarrels with one another; and yet their interests are never consulted. Without their aid war cannot be waged, and they are inevitably the victims of war. We believe that once they understood that it is not their quarrels, it is not their interests which are at stake, they would stand together throughout the world with a solid Socialist creed that would be the very best possible guarantee for peace.
I desire now in just a few sentences to summarise the position as I see it. Socialism, as I said, will not be brought about in a single Act of Parliament so that the capitalist system of Saturday will not be superseded by the Socialist system on Monday. Socialism does not depend on the passage of a Bill. It is a method of organising, as much as by administration as by legislation, a populous community largely industrial, a method towards which thoughtful opinion is turning year by year more and more. It is a method of preventing not only the deplorable waste which at present exists of necessary commodities, which has been 299 dwelt upon by several of my noble friends, but more seriously the loss of human capacity which is not allowed to emerge. It is a matter of substituting harmony and co-operation for the present conflict and antagonism, a conflict and antagonism which exist and which makes the class war the conflicting interests of the employer and the worker, instead of their working together towards the same end. It is a method of securing something more near to equality of opportunity for the individual and preventing the loss of liberty which I just now described and to which a large section of the people are now subject by economic pressure; and it is a method of abolishing the exploitation of the workers, not in every ease, of course, but in too many cases, by those who under the present system have the liberty, or rather the licence, to amass wealth for private profit at the expense of others.
Such a new system cannot be inaugurated in a day, of course, but examples are continually arising showing the superior advantages of placing necessary public services under national ownership and public control, and the further extension of this principle is inevitable. But the power of money, the determined neglect of education, the reductance to experiment and, more especially, the stubborn opposition of the privileged few to the abandonment of their advantages and the power which their wealth gives them, combine with what I referred to just now as the tame acquiescence of those who prefer to submit to the patronage and charity of their so-called social superiors. These are formidable obstacles which still have to be overcome.
The Labour Party is hardly a quarter of a century old. It has set itself the task of pursuing this ideal in order to save the country from the collapse which modern developments of machinery, of transport, and of communications are likely to hasten in a community if it remains stagnantly opposed to equivalent developments in the arts of government and the reorganisation of society. While ingenuity and invention have been proceeding apace, organisation and the arts of government have remained absolutely stable, but in spite of misrepresentation and opposition the justice of our appeal has been recognised 300 more rapidly than the early champions of our movement ever expected. But the most difficult section of our course has yet to be run. It lies before us. We are full of hope, and with a majority of the people behind us, as they will be before long, we shall set to work with determination, for we believe that the matter is urgent. Our expectations are high because we are convinced that the future is ours.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, it falls to me this evening to reply to the debate which has taken up two days of your Lordships' time, a period which I feel none of us have regretted. The debate has ranged over a very wide territory, and has been, I am sure you will agree, of a very interesting character. But I think I am right in stating at the outset, like my noble friend who spoke from this Bench early in the debate (Lord Templemore), that I am not giving a reply for the Government but am putting forward my own opinions and opinions which I know are shared by a great many noble Lords who sit on this side of the House. It is quite true that there may be differences of opinion on these subjects amongst those who are members of the National Government, and the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Hurtwood, in his very interesting speech, made a complaint against the Leader of the Conservative Party in that, in giving expression to an opinion, he told the country that at the next Election we should have to fight against Socialism. I think those were the words used. I believe that at the next Election we shall go before the country as a National Government, and I feel sure that in doing so we shall receive the approbation of the majority of the citizens of this country.
The truce which exists between us on this side on these questions, in regard to which we do not see eye to eye, will certainly continue, but I do not think any of your Lordships need labour under any misapprehension as to the tactics and manœuvres of our opponents. The Labour Opposition is comprised of men who were unwilling to join in the national effort of some four years ago, and they will devote all their ingenuity, all the mechanism, and every manœuvre they can think of, in order to concentrate the attention of the people 301 of this country upon Socialism. They will put forward Socialist doctrines in the most glowing terms, and when my right honourable friend the Leader of the Conservative Party stated that at the next Election Socialism will be one of the issues, I think he was right. I hope the noble Lord who sits behind me (Lord Allen of Hurtwood) will recognise that I am addressing myself to that point.
§ LORD ALLEN OF HURTWOOD
May I interrupt the noble Marquess for a moment? What the Leader of the Conservative Party said was riot that that would be the issue. He referred to the issue as "the devastating creed of Socialism." I personally regret that as much as I do the statement, which I challenged, of the Leader of the Opposition.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I need not pursue that argument further with the noble Lord. What I would like to say is that one of the doctrines which we shall have to fight at the next Election is the doctrine of Socialism. That doctrine has been put forward by noble Lords who sit opposite and who represent the policy of the Socialist Party. The noble Lord, Lord Dickinson, propounded a doctrine or policy with which I am bound to say I do not find myself in disagreement. He showed very conclusively that the trend of events over the last few years has caused the people of this country to recognise the increasing necessity of Government control of certain activities, and the people of this country have been willing to surrender what I may call their personal sovereignty in the belief that this control by the Government is beneficial to the community. The noble Lord who has just sat down has told us about Socialistic legislation, and some of us have been told that we are really Socialists. I have no doubt that as time goes on the Government may be called upon to increase its activities, and to exercise further control in various respects.
Where I join issue with noble Lords who sit opposite and with my noble friend who sits behind me (Lord Allen of Hurtwood) is that whereas they hope that the eventual development of this policy will mean the removal from individuals of the power and liberty which they at the present moment enjoy, and believe that such a state of affairs would 302 be beneficial to the people of this country, I do not. It seems to me that our whole strength and foundation rest upon that liberty and independence which are based on the exercise of free will as far as that free will is compatible with the best interests of the country. The debate to which we have listened, as I have ventured to say, has wandered over a wide field. Some of those who have addressed your Lordships have told us that the speeches we have heard were somewhat out of date. I would venture to say that, while not all the speeches which we have heard from noble Lords opposite were out of date, none of them, not even the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down, ever came into touch with realities. We heard very little mention of Russia. That is one of Lord Marley's particular subjects, and he certainly spoke of Russia. But I do not think we heard any mention of the Leader of the Socialist movement at the present moment, Sir Stafford Cripps.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, in his speech, traversed a very wide country, and he may have just mentioned Sir Stafford Cripps among the multitude of subjects to which he devoted his attention, so I will apologise to him for making that statement. But say that neither Sir Stafford Cripps and the creed which he puts forward, nor the conditions which exist in Russia, were dealt with as a subject of serious study by noble Lords opposite. In my privileged position of replying to this debate, or in more familiar phraseology, winding up the debate, I feel that I am not entitled, much as I should like to do it, to comment on all the arguments that have been raised. Like the noble Lord who sits opposite me, I have sheets of notepaper covered with arguments, all of which I should certainly like to develop before your Lordships, but I feel that the exigencies of time will not allow me to do so. I have been waiting to hear from noble Lords opposite how they think this new scheme—new in operation though old in discussion—is going to meet all the difficulties with which we are faced at the present moment, and to solve all those 303 problems which, at the present time, are unsolved. But I have heard nothing of that.
The noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, in the mildest phraseology, moved his Resolution. Whilst I am quite willing to accept the statement that he brought this Motion forward of his own volition, I am inclined to think that the speeches which we have heard here are the preliminaries of the speeches which will be made at the conference to be held at Brighton. I think that noble Lords, in order to become entitled to the tickets which will gain them admittance to that conference, have had to make the speeches which we have had the opportunity of hearing during this debate. The speech delivered by the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, might be described by those of us who have belonged to another place as coming under the description of what we call "gas and water legislation." I am sure he did not do it wittingly, but he certainly withheld from us any indication of the tremendous upheaval which the change over from the system now in being to the Socialist system which he advocated would involve. He did not explain to us that the change would be one of a tremendous and far-reaching character. In kindly terms he spoke of compensation for any individual who would be expropriated from what we consider is his rightful property. He told us that this lucky individual could expect an annuity. He did not go on to tell us that probably the taxation of that annuity would be something like ninety-nine per cent. I am almost inclined to think that the noble Lord is one of those philanthropic Socialists, if I may use the expression, who do not think that the doctrine put forward by Sir Stafford Cripps can ever come to pass. He spoke of the small capitalist, and he said that he had no objection to an individual owning a house and garden. There are many people who own small houses and small gardens, and unless the Socialist Party obtain their support at the poll, they will hardly get that majority which they think will be theirs at the next General Election.
The noble Lord, Lord Snell, made, if he will allow me to say so, a most interesting speech, but it was the speech of an obvious fanatic. I know, however, 304 that your Lordships always look on fanaticism as most refreshing and sometimes most illuminating. The noble Lord is quite convinced that all the evils of the world are due to the capitalist system, but if he will allow me, I should like to point out that he himself is a most conspicuous example of how a man under the capitalist system can prosper, develop and attain a meritorious and honourable position. Under the system which he decries so eloquently, the noble Lord has been able to surmount all difficulties, and to stand before us, if he will allow me to say so, as one of the most respected individuals, not only in your Lordships' House, but in the country. Nevertheless, as I have said, the noble Lord is quite convinced that all the evils of society are due to Capitalism. He seemed to suggest that all the reforms of the last century were brought about in the face of the opposition of the industrialists, and that they were the work, not of the Labour Party, because it was not in being, but of those who, if there had been a Socialist Party, would have been members of it. I think it is well within the recollection of everyone that Lord Shaftesbury, who one could hardly imagine would have been a member of the Socialist Party if it had been in existence at the time, was responsible for many of the reforms for which we are grateful to-day.
My time is short, but I would venture to say to the noble Lords opposite, that it is no use speaking in language which suits the times in which we are living, and trying to make it apply to the circumstances of a hundred years ago. There are many things in the history of the last century which we deplore. We were then at the beginning of the industrial age, and people in their sentiments and thoughts were far behind the position in which we are at the present moment. For all that, I think that the history of the last century, taken as a whole, is one of great honour to the people of this country. It was then that we passed factory legislation, it was then that our industries took the foremost place in the world. Before the War, we had enacted social legislation of which we have every reason to be most justly proud. To say that that was done by people who might have been called the Socialist Party is really a travesty of what actually occurred. In every class 305 of society there were people who took some hand in framing that social legislation.
As I have said, I cannot reply to all the speeches that have been made, but I cannot refrain from making reference to the speech delivered by the noble Lord who has just sat down. The noble Lord himself never attempted to prove how this new system, in which he believes, is going to meet all those difficulties with which we are faced, and how it is going to do better than the system under which we exist at the present moment. The indictment which the noble Lord brought was an indictment against the whole of humanity, against the whole of the world, not against the system under which we exist. He was speaking of inequalities which exist all through the world, and his strictures could have been applied to all sorts of systems, which have been in vogue for many years, almost from the beginning of humanity. But, his speech, if I may say so, was a very bewildering speech.
He also spoke of the crisis, concerning which the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, yesterday asked me the specific question: What is the crisis? Who is going to make the crisis? That question can be answered in a very few words. If there is a change in a system which has been in operation in this country and which is, as I believe, consistent with the character of the people of this country; if that system is uprooted, the crisis come from outside. The crisis which occurred in 1931, such as it was, was a crisis which came from outside. The idea of this country, changing all its habits, all its methods—which, after all, have been the model for a good many countries throughout the world—for a system which, as far as we know, has been a failure in all parts of the world and, as a gamble, endeavouring to set it up in this country: that would create a crisis which would not require any individual or any propaganda to bring it to a very serious state of affairs.
It surprises me, and it shows that there are very few, if any, amongst the noble Lords who sit on the other side of the House to whom I would venture, even in my most charitable frame of mind, to offer the conduct of the smallest business 306 in this country. That is a view which I put forward, and which I would extend to the Front Bench that sits in another place. I think that if the suggestion were made that any of those individuals should be placed in the chair of one of our great industries in this country—which, after all, are the life blood of this country as it exists at the moment—it would receive no favour from any of those at present responsible for those industries. I say this notwithstanding the reference of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, yesterday to certain engineers, not by name, but simply as a number of engineers—I do not know who they are—who supported his Party and believed in this complete upheaval and this change over to a system of which none of us know anything. The business heads of this country would unanimously condemn the experiment which noble Lords are endeavouring to bring about.
But we have all met Socialism, from the moment in which we first entered public life, from the time when some of us first endeavoured to influence constituencies to return us as their members. Socialism in those days—twenty-five or thirty years ago—had a somewhat crude character. It was just an appeal to the lowest instincts of the electors to bring about a redistribution of wealth. That campaign was countered by the argument that if the accumulated savings of one particular individual, who was usually singled out, were distributed among the people of this country, that contribution would be some very small fraction of a penny. That answer will also apply to the redistribution of wealth on the lines on which it is advocated from street corners and in Hyde Park, and of which the noble Lord, Lord Snell, told us that he was an exponent.
This form of Socialism, with its obvious appeal and with its Party label, united many of those who at that time owed no special allegiance to the Party ties which were connected with Liberalism and Conservatism. In this way a new Party was gradually formed, under the banner of so-called Socialism, which recruits like the noble Lord who sat with me in another place readily joined. Its policy, however, was more one of opposition to the doctrines of the two historic Parties than a carefully thought-out specific programme. The Socialist doctrine of to 307 day, the doctrine of Sir Stafford Cripps and his followers, has left all these doctrines behind, and is now the direct antithesis to the mild and philanthropic Socialism which furnished such valuable perorations to so many of the Socialist speeches of those earlier days. Many of the Socialists of those early days, I believe, stand much closer to Conservatives than to the advance guard of their own Party under Sir Stafford Cripps.
What, then, is the real and essential difference between the Capitalistic and the Socialistic doctrines? In my view the Socialist outlook is a very narrow and very confined one, because it aims at the betterment of the condition of what are known as the working classes. This is a theme with which none of us disagree; it is the object of every one of us; it is certainly going on in every direction under the system which is called the capitalist system, and it will obviously develop as time goes by. But the Socialist Party is essentially a class Party, and naturally the noble Lord in his speech spoke of class warfare. That has been the object which the Socialists have had in view. It has always been their aim to create a horizontal division between the people of this country so as to isolate what are called the "upper" classes from those whom they call the working classes or Labour, and for whom they claim to speak.
The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, spoke in sneering terms of charity, in a portion of his speech which I think noble Lords will agree was an unfortunate portion in which to do so. Does the noble Lord really believe that the charity which exists in this country in every form, throughout its length and breadth, is carried on for the political purpose of seducing the people of this country from the ideals which they ought to have in their minds by the allocation of a few elements of charity? Is that what he believes? Does he believe that all the contributions to hospitals, all the individual efforts which are made by people in this country, are made with the sinister purpose of altering political opinions? If the noble Lord thinks that, I am bound to say that he will receive a minimum of support in this country from the great majority of its people, who know that this great fountain of charity is one of those things of which 308 we have every reason to be most justly proud.
But, my Lords, the Conservative Party is the true party of democracy. The Conservative Party embraces all classes; it is as wide as the nation itself. Conservative Labour is as much a fact as Socialist Labour, and working-class Conservatism has as much right to speak for Labour as the Socialists who have arrogated to themselves the title of the Party of Labour. What, then, is the difference that divides us? It can be put to your Lordships, I think, in a very few words. We Conservatives desire to preserve that element of private or individual profit in our affairs which Socialists have marked down for removal as destructive of and inimical to the common good.
I take this from an introduction by Sir Stafford Cripps to a recent Socialist pamphlet entitled: Distribution in the transition stage to Socialism:The prime problem of our time is the problem of distribution; to discover how we are to enable the mass of the people to obtain their share of the great abundance which we are now capable of producing. The solution of this problem is, we believe, impossible within Capitalism. So long as the motive for production is the earning of private profits, it is impossible to provide the consuming power adequate to absorb the production of which the world is to-day capable.A very sweeping assertion which is not supported by facts or proofs. He goes on to say:More and more as mechanisation advances in industry and agriculture do we witness the growth of wealth at one end of the social scale and unemployment and poverty at the other. It is only by adopting the principle of production for use and not for profit that this problem of distribution can eventually be solved.He does not say how this is to be done.The Labour Party is pledged to attempt to bring about this very fundamental economic and social change in a democratic way.I think the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, showed that under these doctrines put forward by the Socialists which must be Communism in the end, we shall hear very little about democracy or the democratic way. Sir Stafford Cripps continued:It has been proved by the great Russian experiment that such a change can be purchased at the price of bloodshed and revolution; we desire to accomplish it peacefully.309 Is there any more useful, more honourable, more legitimate stimulus to men or women in their work than that of private profit for the promotion of their own welfare and the welfare of those immediately connected with them—their families. We hold that a man's first and most sacred care is the care of his wife and children. In the event of misfortune the State may certainly be called in aid, but it is a fundamental principle of Conservatism that the proper guardian of a man's family is the man himself. Why, then, should it be art evil and a wrong thing for a man to make it his first duty to work for the benefit and advancement of his own? This is what no less an authority than President Roosevelt has to say on this question of private profit:No wise man has any intention of destroying what is known as the profit motive, because by the profit motive we mean the right to work, the right by work to earn a decent livelihood for ourselves and for our families.We freely admit that this element of private profit must be governed and controlled, and like every other right must only be exercised so far as it is useful and not detrimental to the progress of the whole body politic. But, unlike the noble Lords opposite, we think that its elimination would result in an immense loss of human happiness, of human energy, and of industrial productivity.
We know the difficulties of matching supply with demand, production with consumption. We are as fully aware as the noble Lords opposite of the increasing necessity of planned economic organisation to which the noble Marquess has referred. We wish to relieve industry and trade of wasteful competition. We know at the same time of the dangers that may well arise if the fundamental industries and services upon which the very life of the community depends fall in the unrestricted power of a few individuals or corporations, but we know, and we have proved, that these problems of control are not beyond solution by legislation.
Noble Lords who have supported this Motion have drawn attention to the unemployment, to the inequalities, to the difficulties which after all are, and always will be, inherent in any system for the control and the regulation of human beings. Their endeavour has been to show that these are the concomitants, the 310 direct results of the capitalist system. I disagree entirely. All these blots on civilisation are but the common heritage of our humanity. We cannot get rid of the inequalities and accidents of life. We can only do our best to alleviate them. Why should we supplant our present economic system and replace it with a plan which, as I have said, has never stood up to any test, of whose operation we have no experience, a plan which, When it has been attempted, pursues lines so thoroughly antagonistic to the character and political beliefs of the great majority of the people of this country? I need not remind your Lordships of the disastrous consequences of the last Socialist régime—and that was only the Socialism of a Minority Government.
If it could be, said that under this régime—the capitalist régime of the present National Government—this country were bankrupt, or in a state of serious unrest and dissatisfaction, then indeed there might be some justification for promoting some other policy which had as its object the restoration of peace and prosperity. But whatever can be urged against the capitalist system, we find here, in an unparalleled period of world depression and difficulty, that this country is the richest, the most peaceful, the most orderly, the most powerful, the most responsible, and the most respected of the nations of the world.
This great British nation of ours is at heart a Conservative people. Our Constitution is a thing of very slow growth and motion, broadening down from precedent to precedent. We hate revolution even more than we hate war. It was their profound consciousness of this vital British characteristic that persuaded the more prudent Socialists of twenty years ago to adopt the policy known as the "inevitability of gradualness." But, though many of the mild Socialists of that gentler age are happily with us still, the Socialist movement of to-day has passed to other leaders and another policy. We are now face to face with men who promise a revolution within the lifetime of a single Parliament. This is certainly not gradualness, and I am happy to think that it is certainly not inevitable.
Looking back now, the one inevitable thing that I can see was the ultimate abandonment by the Socialist Party of 311 the "inevitability of gradualness." They were too inclined to talk of tyranny, and to use the language of war. Political Parties which indulge in strong language and military similes usually end by the adoption of violence. When I first entered Parliament the tyrant was said to be the landlord. There was no crime which the landlord was not accused of committing by the present Leader of the Opposition and his friends. Yet these same gentlemen, these apostles of freedom, have steadily condoned the methods of peaceful picketing and the tyranny of the trade unions. When the noble Lord talks of the toiling masses, with no happiness, no outlet, and no outlook, I would remind him that a great deal of that is due to the tyranny of trade unionism. But I do not agree with the picture which he draws. I feel that a tremendous change has come over the position of the workers in this country, and whilst their standard of living is by no means what we should like it to be, when he talks of large numbers of people on the verge of destitution I join issue with him entirely, and I say that the whole level of living in this country is far higher than it was even in our recollection.
For some reason or another the doctrines of Socialism, however mildly enunciated here in your Lordships' House, seem in these days to require the assistance of threats and violence in the constituencies, and I am sure that Lord Snell in his Hyde Park days never condoned that sort of thing. But now it is almost impossible for the opponents of Socialism to obtain a hearing in many of the Parliamentary divisions of the country. At the same time we find the older Socialists sadly disillusioned but unwilling to confess the follies of their younger days. They remain outside the National Government to hamper and hinder the proper development of a higher standard of living for the working classes under the present capitalist system. They cling pathetically to the tails of the Socialist movement long after that movement has become far too rapid and dangerous for them. In my view threats and violence are bad arguments in British politics. They lose votes. They certainly do not gain them. Yet these are the chosen methods of the leaders of modern Socialism.
312 My answer to them is that they have gravely mistaken the character of the people with whom they have to deal. Lifelong and convinced Conservative that I am, I fear them and their violence less than their more patient but more insinuating predecessors, who, as the Motion before your Lordships plainly shows, equally deny those rights of individual ownership and control which, within certain well-defined limits, we on this side regard as fundamental in the proper structure of human society. For these reasons I have no hesitation in recommending your Lordships to vote for the Amendment which stands in the name of, and has been so ably moved by, my noble friend Lord Mount Temple.
§ LORD SANDERSON
My Lords, I need not take up much of the time of the House at this late hour, because my noble friends behind me have filled up most of the gaps which I left in my initial speech. I am glad I put down my Resolution, because I think it has given us a very interesting, and I hope also a useful, debate. I think we have had the best of the argument, although noble Lords opposite have had the majority of the speeches. The debate a little reminds me of a story I once heard of two Scotsmen who were travelling from London to Edinburgh and talked the whole way. When they got to Edinburgh, one man said: "Well, we have had a first-rate talk. You have listened to all my arguments, and I have heard all your assertions." Well, I do not say the debate has been quite like that, because, as Lord Marley said, we have heard very good arguments against us. Bat I think we have answered them all. The noble Marquess opposite appears to be rather worried about my mildness, the feebleness of my phraseology, and the "gas and water" nature of the policy I advocate. Well, if I can get the policy I advocate through in the course of the next few years, I shall be very well satisfied. As to my phraseology I must go and take some lessons in Hyde Park, I suppose.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I must ask the noble Lord to pardon me if I gave him the impression that I was impugning his phraseology. I had no intention of that kind.
§ LORD SANDERSON
No, the noble Marquess was sorry it was not more 313 violent, and yet he raised objections to the violence of those whom he described as the present-day leaders of my Party. So I am rather in a difficulty as to the kind of language I am to use in this House. Perhaps when I come back from Hyde Park I shall have acquired some of the nouns and adjectives which the noble. Lord, Lord Cranworth, would like to hear. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Mount Temple, for his very kind words about my speech. He complained of the milk and watery nature of my speech and my policy—not "gas and water" in this case—but as he went on I came to the conclusion that he was disappointed that we were not going to confiscate all his property without compensation. I can assure him that we have made a note of that, and we will give him special consideration when the time comes.
There is just one point I should like to correct in the speech of the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian. When I spoke, about a workman being forced to work for three pounds a week all his life, I did not mean to suggest that three pounds a week was an average wage. I took the case of a rather fortunate working man. In England the average wage is considerably lower than three pounds a. week at the present time. To my mind there are two fundamental questions to which we really have not received satisfactory answers. They are these. Why should people, merely because, they own property, be allowed to obtain incomes from the labour of other people? That is one fundamental question. The second one is this: Why should all the best things in life be reserved for a comparatively few people, and denied to the many? We have not really had answers to those questions, and there is no answer to them, except the answer we give, namely, that you must build up—and we are going to work to build up—a society where such a state of things will not exist. We wish to take the Motion to a Division.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, possibly, as there is not only a Motion but also live Amendments, it may be convenient if I as Leader of the House indicated what I fancy my noble friend on 314 the Woolsack will do with regard to the Questions. There is first of all the Motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson. The Amendment moved was to leave out all words after "That" and I presume, therefore, the first Question which will be put from the Woolsack will be whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Motion. In that event those who are in favour of the Motion by the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, will vote "Content" and the rest, those who are not in favour, will vote "Not-Content." Assuming, if I may be sanguine enough to do so, that the noble Lord's Motion is not successful and that the Question whether the words shall stand part is defeated, then I imagine the next Question from the Woolsack will be whether the words proposed to be put in shall be there inserted—that is, the words of the Amendment by my noble friend Lord Mount Temple. On that Question those who are in favour of the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Mount Temple will vote "Content," and those who are not in favour will vote "Not-Content." If that be carried, then that becomes the substantive Motion and the other. Amendments cannot be moved. If, on the other hand, that were defeated, then presumably each of the successive Amendments would be put until there was one which the majority of the House accepted. Theoretically, there might be a third Division—namely, on the Question whether the substantive Motion, as amended, shall be agreed to, but I do not anticipate that there will be a Division on that. I thought it would be to the convenience of the House if I indicated what I considered might be the procedure.
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
I am sure the House is very much obliged to the noble Viscount for explaining what is sometimes a matter of some puzzlement to noble Lords.
§ THE LORD SPEAKER (THE EARL OF GRANARD)
The noble Viscount has exactly stated the matter as it will be put from the Woolsack.
§ On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Motion?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 10; Not-Contents, 81.315
|Allen of Hurtwood, L.||Marley, L. [Teller.]||Sanderson, L.|
|Arnold, L.||Noel-Buxton, L.||Snell, L.|
|Hay, L. (E. Kinnoull.) [Teller.]||Olivier, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Esher, V.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Goschen, V.||Hutchison of Montrose, L.|
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Hailsham, V.||Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)|
|Bath, M.||Sidmouth, V.||Kilmaine, L,|
|Crewe, M.||Ullswater, V.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Exeter, M.||Leigh, L.|
|Addington, L.||Luke, L.|
|Airlie, E.||Alness, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Biddulph, L.||Marks, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Castlemaine, L.||Monson, L.|
|Feversham, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Mount Temple, L. [Teller.]|
|Ilchester, E.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Iveagh, E.||Clwyd, L.||Palmer, L.|
|Lichfield, E.||Conway of Allington, L.||Pentland, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Cornwallis, L.||Portal, L.|
|Lytton, E.||Craigmyle, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Cranworth, L. [Teller.]||Redesdale, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Danesfort, L.||Rhayader, L.|
|Munster, E.||Digby, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Rothes, E.||Dunleath, L.||Rockley, L.|
|Scarbrough, E.||Elphinstone, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Eltisley, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Ernle, L.||Stuart of Castle Stuart, L. (E. Moray.)|
|Ypres, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Templemore, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Gainford, L.||Waring, L.|
|Allendale, V.||Granard, L.(E. Granard.)||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Bridgeman, V.||Greville, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Elibank, V.||Heneage, L.||Woodbridge, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.