The Friend of the People. No.4, 4 January 1851
The social and political development of mankind is a series of phases and stages, an unavoidable process through which the human race had to pass, and is perpetually passing, to arrive at a certain end.
Nations have arisen as it were from obscurity, they have been mighty and flourishing, and then passed to decline and ruin. At some particular periods war and anarchy have been so universal that the very existence of the human species has appeared to be at stake. Powerful empires have been swept from the face of the earth. The barbarians who have conquered and ruined them have carried the ruins and trophies to distant places and founded new empires. But though nations have been extinguished, exterminating wars and revolutions have taken place, the human race has survived them all, and has incessantly tended towards improvement and perfection. Every state of society that has been overthrown has furnished the material for the establishment of a succeeding one of a more progressive character: and every newly established state of society has been the necessary result of the preceding one. Every one, according to the degree of civilisation on which it was founded, has had its social and political organization, its religion and laws, its notions of justice; and every established system has at some particular period satisfied the wants of society, and corresponded with the claims that men made upon life.
Times of great commotions, anarchy, and revolutions, have always been the periods when the existing arrangements no longer answered the wants and necessities of the population. Whenever an existing state of things has ceased to satisfy the claims of society, the ruled have commenced to question the rights and authority of the rulers; men have questioned the propriety of their religion; society has begun to revolt; strifes, struggles, and battles have ensued between the oppressors and oppressed; and the ultimate result has been the dissolution of the old, and the establishment of a new, state of society.
Every new state of society has introduced its own peculiar mode of workship, one that has always been compatible with the mode of produce, with the manner in which the different tribes or nations of the different periods obtained their means of living. Thus the ancients had their gods and goddesses to whom they sacrificed a share of their acquisitions, consisting either of the fruits of the soil, or the booties of war and plunder. The feudal system (the mission of which was to compel savage and wandering tribes to settle in fixed habitations and pursue peaceable occupations in trade and agriculture, or to protect those who were already settled against the plunderings and ravages of their barbaric neighbours) had its "right divine," and its universal catholic church commanding blind and unconditional belief and obedience. Modern society, the state of free competition in art, science, trade, and industry, has its liberty of conscience, freedom of thought, and discussion, etc., in short, free competition in religious matters, and contemplations.
One of the principal features of all the changes that have yet taken place has been a change in the relations of property, from which all the social and political organizations have originated.
At all times when society has been revolutionized, the supporters of old systems, who had privileges and advantages over others, have prophesied that the world would be ruined if new systems were adopted. On the other side, those who happened to be the champions of progress, have imagined that their peculiar systems were the only true ones, that their principles were the only principles worth fighting for, that they were inherent in human nature, and if really established and administered would be an eternal source of happiness, making all future changes and revolutions unnecessary.
The same thing has been and is still repeated, over and over again. The men of the middle age accused the ancients of idolatry, and blamed their system of slavery. They proclaimed the emancipation of the slaves, and made the slaves of the Roman empire serfs and bond-men; forgetting at the same time that the ancient world had laboured for centuries to prepare the ground on which the feudal system could be erected. The modern bourgeoisie, the discoverers of the natural rights of men, have raved and are incessantly raving against feudalism, against serfdom, and bondage. They call it the age of anarchy and oppression; yet they have commenced business with the stock which they accumulated under the wings of feudalism; they have extended that knowledge and industry which they acquired under its protection; they have abolished serfdom and bondage for their own aggrandizement, and have created a numerous proletariat—modern slaves—who have to get a scanty subsistence by working for wages.
They have been mistaken; what they considered the natural rights of man were only the rights of men living in that particular state of society.
They have in their turn become as great tyrants as were the feudal Lords and Kings; and, like their predecessors, they have for their own security been compelled to create conditions under which not only a new progressive state of society is becoming possible, but compulsory.
Thus the bourgeoisie has fulfilled its mission in history, and no more.
It is true the accomplishments that have been made under the bourgeois regime surpass those of all former ages; but they could not have been made without having all the previous acquirements as a foundation for them. The declarations of our bourgeois politicians and economists that the essence of the present state of society is eternal, and that a deviation from it will lead to ruin and barbarism, are the more absurd, since the revolutionary volcano is continually threatening to swamp the whole system, and whatever they undertake to put a stop to, has only the effect of pouring oil on to the fire.
The events and commotions that have lately occurred are the most unmistakeable signs that the existing state of bourgeois society is in its last stage, and is verging towards ruin and dissolution. When our statesmen say that socialism and communism will lead to ruin, they are in so far right, as socialism and communism stipulate the annihilation of bourgeois society, its relations of property, its mode of appropriation, distribution, and exploitation. But mankind will not be ruined. Production and distribution will be freed from the shackles that are imposed upon them; they will not be dependent on the avidity, for gain, of some individuals, who are at present known under the denomination of "manufacturers," "merchants," "shopkeepers," etc., etc., for at present the lust of gain is the only stimulant to production, distribution, and exchange. The farmer does not cultivate the soil because society is in want of agricultural produce, but because the market price is higher than the cost of production. If society could not afford to pay that price, the farmer would abandon his land, though the majority of the people might die for the want of food. We read very often, indeed, complaints of low prices caused by over-production or abundant harvests, while in one and the same paper we read reports of people being utterly destitute of the necessaries of life. Times of disturbance and dissolution have generally been accompanied by a comparative amount of misery and destitution, for it is misery and destitution that drive the masses to revolt and rebellion. I say comparative, because the wants and necessaries of mankind vary with the degree of civilization. What a Russian serf would consider comfort, an English proletarian might deem misery.
There has been for some years past an amount of misery in existence which is continually increasing. The "Manchester school" politicians, and economists, have told us a great deal of late about "the comparative well-being of the working classes." By what standard do they compare this alleged well-being? Why, by the standard of 1847—a time of universal stagnation in trade, with a famine into the bargain. A very strong argument indeed in favour of existing arrangements, that the working classes are better off in a year of unexampled prosperity than in a year of famine and commercial stagnation. Some weeks ago the Economist was highly gratified at the comparative well-being of the working classes, manifested in the increase of population and marriages during the last quarter. I very much doubt whether the increase of population and marriages, is in all cases, the result of well-being. Many a young couple join in holy matrimony, because their earnings do not enable them to live single. Their "issue," therefore, is not the result of well-being but of misery. With all the ostentatious boast of increasing trade and prosperity, our profit-mongers have not been able to reclaim more than 38,770 able-bodied paupers out of 166,828, from the 1st July 1848, till the same date 1850. On the 1st July last, society had still to keep 128,058 able-bodied paupers in the workhouses, in spite of "prosperity." Besides these there are hundreds of thousands who only get half a living, and prefer starving at home to going into workhouses.
The increase of friendly societies is also taken as a proof of increasing prosperity among the working-classes. Our Manchester politicians are greatly mistaken. The increase of friendly societies merely proves that the spare pennies of a great many are wanted to help one in case of need; and that working men are disgusted with applying for parish relief. The New Poor Law, and the cruel treatment of "in-door Paupers," do much toward increasing the number of friendly societies. They may as well tell us that our workhouses, our poor-law system, and our convict establishments, are emblems of the well-being of the working-classes. Without pauperism and crime, there would be no occasion for workhouses, poor-laws, and convict establishments. And without the wretchedness prevalent among the working-classes, there would be no occasion for societies for mutual relief and support.
Mr. Porter pretends to prove the wealth of the working-classes by the increase of the deposits in the Savings' Banks. He states that the amount of deposits in 1846 was in England, Wales, and Ireland, £ 29,669,384,—being equal to 24 s. per head,—while in 1821 the amount only averaged 12s. 8d. per head. I will not inquire how far these deposits belong to the working-classes, (the picture of pauperism just exhibited corresponds very badly), but whatever the amount belonging to working-men may be, it only shews that their earnings are not sufficient to invest them otherwise, and that their circumstances are so precarious that they are afraid to spend on luxuries and comfort that little of their income which is over and above their bare subsistence. Besides, the Savings' Banks are principally an accommodation for governments and the bourgeoisie.
Mr. Porter also attempts to disprove the position often assumed,—that the rich are becoming richer, and the poor poorer. He does so by shewing that the revenue liable to the income tax, has since 1812 increased nearly three-fold greater than the population during the same period. But Mr. Porter says nothing about the poor, whether their income has increased at the same ratio. According to his statement, the income of the bourgeoisie has increased something like five-fold. Allowing the population to be nearly double now what it was in 1812, if the income of the proletariat had increased in the same proportion, every working-man who had one pound a week, in 1812, ought to have two pounds ten shillings now. I beg Mr. Porter's pardon for maintaining that the income of the proletarian has rather shewn a tendency to decrease below the pound; and therefore Mr. Porter's figures prove nothing else but that the rich are becoming richer, and the poor poorer. The breach is becoming wider and wider; and the building must soon fall to the ground.)
The Friend of the People. Nr.5, 11 January 1851
Every state of society admits of certain improvements called reforms. These reforms are either required by the interest of the whole ruling class, or they are only for the benefit of a particular fraction. In the former case they are carried without much agitation; in the latter, that fraction for whose benefit they are to be carried, call themselves reformers; these form a distinct party, and appeal to the oppressed (they call it to the nation) to aid them in their endeavours.
If the object to be achieved is a political one, like the Reform Bill, the franchise and other good things are promised, and the poor are drawn into the agitation. When the object is gained, the alliance is abandoned, generally from above, and the concessions made to the allies below, are so curtailed, as to amount to something like nothing at all. If the reform is merely of an economical character, other baits are held out to the oppressed, such as "a big loaf;" but at the time of the anti-corn-law league, the fish, though hungry, wouldn't bite.
Such reforms, however, are generally carried when the whole government machinery appears to be at a stand-still, and when the oppressed are threatening to attack the state.
The reformers, at such times, point at the imminent danger that would arise from further resistance; thus they frighten the conservative fraction to surrender. If the oppressed have a demand for their own particular class-interest, and are sufficiently organized to agitate for it, these bit by bit reforms become really conservative measures, since the execution of them deprives the extreme party of the chance to animate that part of the body politic, who side with every thing in the shape of reform, and who are generally indifferent to political matters as long as they have got a crust to gnaw at. Whenever such a reform is carried, peace is restored, the machinery of the state gets again in motion, and all seems well. This restoration of peace, however, is of short duration. Hostilities are not abolished, they are only suspended, and soon recommence. The most progressive fraction of the ruling class is again compelled to propose reforms, which are the more extensive and energetic, as the time of dissolution is drawing nearer. These reformers generally pretend that a real radical reform would set all things right, and prevent further disturbances and agitation. Of course these reforms are all to be carried by "legal and constitutional means!" But however extensive and radical these reforms may be, they alter nothing in the fundamental system of an existing state of things. They only remove grievances, which are impediments to that very state of society, within which they are carried out. Therefore one of the reforms must be the last one, beyond which there is no possibility of reforming without changing the state of things entirely.
Our present state of society is one that will not admit of much further "reform." The reform scheme, which is at present occupying the public mind, and which will arouse the official John Bull at the next crisis, is the last one that can be carried out without laying the destroying axe to the root of bourgeois society. All the improvements that may be carried out within the existing state of society in England, are comprised in Parliamentary and Financial Reform; beyond this there is no alternative.
That fraction of the bourgeoisie, who have made it their special mission to carry out this scheme, have not failed to represent it as comprising the interest of the whole nation. They appeal to the nation in general, and to the proletariat in particular, to aid them in their struggle. The franchise, education, plenty of work and good wages are promised; but the cloven-foot peeps through everywhere, and the proletarians are accordingly very backward with their co-operation. The Manchester politicians are honest enough to tell us, as a matter of course, that the money price of labour will go down, when provisions become cheaper; but they add that "the real recompense will rather increase than diminish." They show how comfortable we might be, if we would but abstain from drinking spirits, and the indulgence of other "sensual gratifications." Our present income, they say, will admit of plain and substantial living and how graceful (!!!) they allow us to spend six pence per week, in "good, useful, and cheap literature," such as the cotton lords choose to furnish through the medium of "John Cassel's library," that we may get a true (?) knowledge of the factory system, and the injurious consequences (?) of the Ten Hours' Bill! Education is set forth as a prime necessary of life (and I am convinced it really is), but as far as it is promoted by the Manchester school, with regard to the working classes, it merely means that if we received a good education in the true Manchester principles, we would come to the belief that we have no reason to grumble about our lot. The same benefactors of the working class, tell us that if we only would be parsimonious, we could save many a shilling. As the best means for investing our savings, they advise us to join the freehold land societies, and purchase a vote, that we may vote for a Financial Reform candidate at the next election. Mr. Cobden seems to be rather grieved that the wages slaves do not avail themselves of the opportunity of purchasing a freehold and a vote, "for (as he said at the London Tavern) half the money spent in gin would win all the counties." What a pity that working-men won't listen to advice.
Now with regard to parliamentary reform, and the pretended concessions made in the programme of the National Reform Association; before we believe that these concessions are made for us, we must investigate them, and enquire whether the parliamentary reformers are really in want of our co-operation or not. The little Charter contains no concession to the working classes. Those points which appear as such at first sight, are so necessary, and so useful to the Manchester school, that they can scarcely do without them. The qualification of electors, set forth in the first paragraph is a tax qualification: hence money not the man would be the elector. The second point, vote by ballot, is necessary for rescuing the farmers and little tradesmen from the control of the aristocracy. The shortening of the duration of Parliament, is compatible with the interest of mill-owners. An equalisation of the electoral districts, according to the population, is the only means by which the manufacturers can send a majority of financial reformers into the House of Commons. It is the medium through which the supremacy of the industrial bourgeois is to be legally established, and the influence of the aristocracy in the legislature paralysed. The last point, "no property qualification for members of parliament," which has been particularly proclaimed as a concession to the proletariat is without the payment of members not worth a straw to the working classes; while for the profit-mongers it is exceedingly useful. By means of this point the mill-owners could manage to have a host of their scribes, lecturers, Chartist renegades, and other humble servants returned, who might be called on duty whenever their masters required their aid in the house. Such are the concessions of the National Reform Association!
To working-men the most essential point of the programme is the qualification of electors. As it stands in the programme of the "Reformers" it certainly seems as if it would put a vote within the reach of many a workingman; but before it can become the law of the land it will have to go through parliament, where it will be shaped in such a manner as to deprive the working class of the chance of returning even a small number of representatives, whose principles might be antagonistic to the rule of capital. Then, the little Chartists will lament, on public platforms, that the five points have not been carried in their original integrity; but for the sake of legality they will advise us to put up with the new "reform," and be satisfied that we have defeated the aristocratic foe, in some measure. A mutilation, in which those pretended Chartists will concur, can thus be attributed to aristocratic hostility and arrogance!
Our bourgeois progressists, in England, are too well versed in political economy; they understand their own class-interest and the antagonism between labour and capital too well to entertain such foolish notions as the republican ideologists across the channel, who believe that universal suffrage is compatible with the rule of capital. They are fully aware that even a strong proletarian opposition in parliament would be injurious, if not fatal, to their interest; hence, for the sake of their own preservation, they will be compelled to withold the franchise from workingmen as much as possible.
The end of parliamentary reform is, to make the supremacy of the manufacturing interest the law of the land. Though for the last twenty years all vital questions have been decided in favour of that interest, and the mill-owners have, in fact, ruled the destinies of the empire, yet there is no legal guarantee for their supremacy. By the existing constitution of the House of Commons, the nobles have not only the means of strongly resisting the measures of their rivals, but they have the legal power to reject them altogether. Hence, the mill-owners, who consider themselves the sole benefactors of society, have, to their great annoyance, either to beg the nobles to consent to their measures, or to frighten them into consent by agitations. To avoid this humiliation and trouble they must establish their supremacy by law, i. e. they must paralyse the political power of the aristocracy, and make themselves masters of the legislature; they must conquer the constitution.
In order to achieve this conquest, only one point of the programme needs to be executed, that is, the equalisation of the electoral districts. According to the present state of constituencies, 353 more or less conservative members are returned by little more than 227,000 electors, the remaining 297 by something above 823,000 electors. Again, 25 of the smallest constituencies with 9,153 electors, return 50 members, while 25 of the largest with 229,365 electors, return also 50 members. An equalisation of the electoral districts would produce the following results:—The 297,000 electors, who at present return 23 members more than a clear majority, would return something like 141 members; and the 823,000 electors would return 509 members. The 25 smallest constituencies would return 5 members, while the 25 largest would return 142. Thus we see that an equalisation in the electoral districts would completely swamp the protectionist, and other more or less conservative constituencies, without a single elector being added to the present register; and the aristocracy would lose all power and influence in the House of Commons. Now with regard to an extension of the suffrage, vote by ballot, and no property qualification for members; these are mere measures of convenience, which, of course, will add to the success of the scheme. But even if the number of electors should be increased 50 per cent., which would be an additional number of about 525,000, very few of the working men would get a vote, except such as are "good boys" and have no political opinion of their own.
The Friend of the People. No.6, 18 January 1851
It is beyond doubt that the bourgeois reformers neither want an extensive alteration in the constitution, nor the co-operation of the proletarians as a class, for the accomplishment of their "reform". Indeed, an ally like the proletariat, whose social position is so entirely antagonistic to that of the bourgeoisie, must be very dangerous. But as the little chartists are all known to be practical men, who are not likely to take much trouble about things which cannot be turned into hard cash, they must have some reason for their big-hearted generosity in proposing to extend the franchise to working-men, etc. The reason is obvious. They are afraid of proletarian ascendancy, and their pretended concession to the working-class is merely a lure by which they endeavour to entrap the proletarian lion, lest he might do mischief to the profit-mongers' cause. As the bourgeois is in the habit of having all his work done, and fortunes heaped up, by the proletarian, so he expects, whenever he is at variance in politics with his aristocratic com-rogue, that the wages-slave should fight it out, and leave the spoils of victory to his master. Whether the great bulk of the working-class will answer this expectation in the coming struggle the future will tell.
The promises of pecuniary advantage, ease, and comfort to the working-classes, resulting from financial reform are equally fallacious. Why do our manufacturers agitate for financial reform and direct taxation? Because they have an interest in having their work done at the cheapest rate, and employ as few men as possible. The government is no more than a committee, who manage the collective affairs of the bourgeoisie.
The ministers, and all the minor government officers, stand in the same relation to the bourgeoisie as the directors, and minor servants of a railroad company, stand to the shareholders. It is, therefore, the interest of the bourgeoisie to make government affairs as simple as possible, to employ as few men as possible, and pay as little as possible. Indirect taxation is one of the complicated affairs which requires a great number of men, who consume a considerable part of the gross revenue. Besides this, many, who under a system of direct taxation would have to contribute a considerable part towards defraying the expenses of the state, are comparatively low taxed, and finally it makes the revenue of the state very uncertain, and enhances the price of food. A heavy budget makes a great part of the capital of a country unproductive. A great amount of capital remains in the hands of stock-jobbers without producing anything, merely going out of one pocket into another; this makes it difficult for the manufacturer to borrow money; it also enhances the rate of interest on capital. The taxes which the working people have to pay in the price of their food must be paid by the employers in the form of wages. All this is against the interest of the manufacturers. The interests of manufacturers require that the budget should be at the minimum, because there would be less chance for heavy loans, and the stock-jobbers would be obliged to lend their money to manufacturers at a low rate of interest. Food should not pay taxes of any kind, then the workmen could work cheaper, and the manufacturer would be better able to compete with the foreign rival who must be undersold in his own home market.
As the improvement and increase of the productive powers, particularly of machinery, has made considerable progress in foreign countries, it has become imperative to the English manufacturers to produce and sell their goods at a much lower price. To accomplish this, all commercial impediments, financial grievances, etc., must be abolished; every shilling that can be made productive must be turned to account. Of the collective bourgeoisie there is but one fraction whose interest is at variance with the general interest of the class, the fundholders and stock-jobbers, whose speculations will be greatly diminished by financial reform. All the rest, be they farmers, merchants, or manufacturers, can no longer suffer a profligate aristocracy to enjoy pensions and sinecures for nothing. They can no longer allow an extravagant priesthood to waste twelve millions annually to no purpose. They cannot tolerate a dissipating system of government with such a complicated system of taxation like the present, where there are so many chances of finding situations and places for friends and favourites, who form a host of idle and mischievous retainers.
The growth of English industry demands that the affairs of government be made pure and simple; that royalty should be stripped of all the remnants of barbarism pressing heavily on the public purse.
The next commercial stagnation will, no doubt, frighten whigs and tories, beefeaters, stock-jobbers, and fund-holders to surrender, and the radical reformers will begin their sway. But will their "radical reforms" change the fundamental system of bourgeois society? Certainly not. The fundamental system of bourgeois society is the rule of capital, and the consequent antagonism between labour and capital, between the wages-slave and the capitalist, between the working poor and the sluggish rich. Parliamentary, financial, and all the bourgeois reforms, will not ameliorate these hostile relations in the slightest degree; on the contrary, they will rather aggravate them.
The reforms, however sweeping and radical, do in reality, only strip bourgeois society of the feudal and barbarous ornaments inherited from the middle age. They are, therefore, for the advantage and preservation of the ruling class.
All the pompous speeches at ticket and public meetings are mere humbug with regard to the working classes. The interest of the capitalist, his mode of accumulating wealth, in short, the entire state of society, is at stake at every moment that industry fails to afford sufficient to the working classes to prolong their slavish existence. As the dissolution of the existing state of society is tantamount to the emancipation of the working millions, the working classes are interested in promoting it as speedily as possible. If, therefore, financial reform really will afford some ease and comfort to the working classes, they will not receive it as a favour from the hands of the bourgeois reformers, but merely as a means by which the latter will endeavour to impose quietness upon the former. But what will be the general results of financial reform and direct taxation? If a competition, more or less limited, has hitherto tended to create a revolutionary proletariat, can it be imagined that when commerce and industry shall be freed from all fetters, it will be less effective in the same direction? By no means. Who are the chief supporters of royalty and government at present? The beef-eaters, the pensioners, the sinecurists, the stock-jobbers, the fund-holders, the numerous government and church officials, and place-men; above all, the standing army. These again command the support of all the little tradesmen and shopkeepers with whom they deal. Let them do away with pensioners and sinecurists, let them reduce the fund-holders and government officials, let them separate the church from the state, and all these parties, with their dependant tradesmen, have no longer an interest in supporting the government. Let them reduce or abolish the standing army, and they will abandon the weapons by means of which they impose their laws upon society. But then it will be said there will be no cause to grumble when all these grievances are removed. When once parliamentary and financial reform is carried, royalty and government will be stripped of all their aristocratic and feudal splendour and retainers; and our bourgeois grumblers will lose the chance of laying all the causes of social misery and degradation to the account of a wicked and profligate aristocracy; the curtains will be removed, behind which the tyranny of the capitalists is partly hidden. The rule of capital will appear clearly before the light of day, and its tyrannical character will be recognised by even the indifferent and the ignorant. Thus, while the interest of the bourgeoisie demands that their own government must be reduced to its simplest form, they are obliged to deprive it of the main pillar of its stability, and reduce it to that level on which it can be conquered by the proletariat.
The Friend of the People. No.7, 25 January 1851
The power of merchants and manufacturers consists in the amount of capital at their disposal, and in the amount of commodities which they can purchase or command.
Therefore, whatever increases their capital, or tends to reduce the price of commodities, must increase their power, and hasten competition. When indirect taxation comes to be abolished, the trading capital of the merchants and manufacturers will increase to the extent of the amount of commodities purchased for the same money. For instance, the same amount of money which brings one cwt. of tea or tobacco to market now, will bring four cwts. when the tax is taken off, consequently the power of those who deal in these articles, or their command over social products will increase four-fold. If the consumption of these articles does not increase proportion-ably, part of the capital now invested in the tea and tobacco trades must go into other channels, and increase competition and speculation. If no opportunity offers for investing the surplus capital in other speculations, the wholesale merchants will employ it in the retail trade, and become to the little tea-dealer what Moses and Nichol are to the honourable tailor, that is, the workers of his ruin.
The power of manufacturers will increase in proportion as labour and the raw material get cheaper. An actual reduction in the budget will increase their productive capital, and facilitate their credit. The inevitable result of all this will be over-production, mad speculations, industrial and commercial panics, which will far exceed all former convulsions of a like character.
The wages of labour will follow the same course as they have hitherto done. As the "reform" measures are not likely to be carried at any other time than in that of commercial stagnation, wages will come very near to a direct taxation level before ever these beneficial measures come into operation. The reduction of manual labour will do the rest.
But there is one particular set of operatives and tradesmen in this metropolis who will feel the blessings of "financial reform" more than any other in the United Kingdom. These are the operatives and little tradesmen of the west-end whose welfare depends on the aristocracy, pensioners, sinecurists, and officers in the army and navy. Any one who is acquainted with business at the west-end, knows that the principal customers of tradesmen and shopkeepers, are nobles, officers, and aristocratic retainers of government. These folks pay high prices, and run up large bills. They live like improvident workmen who spend their week's earnings before Saturday comes, and are always in debt. If the pensions, etc., are taken from them they will lose their credit, and the tradesmen their customers.
If the already much encumbered aristocracy lose the chance of putting their younger sons in the army, and other lucrative situations, and pay taxes into the bargain, they will be obliged to be more parsimonious in the expenditure of their revenues, the prosperity of the west-end shopocracy will be at an end, and the loyal "special constables" of 1848 will get into a rather precarious position. Thus, what hitherto could not be accomplished, will perhaps succeed under a Manchester school administration, i.e., to make London, and particularly the west-end (the most reactionary corner in the kingdom) a centre of political agitation and revolutionary movement.
We see that parliamentary and financial reform will produce none of the beneficial effects so largely predicted by the free traders.
It will neither change the antagonistic relations between labour and capital, nor permanently ameliorate the condition of the suffering millions. The material advantages that are promised to the working classes are illusory, for they will vanish before the labouring population can take possession of them. The real importance of the movement consists in the fraud and illusion it carries into certain democratic regions. The joy of the conquest, as far as the working classes are concerned, will last until they find that illusion and enthusiasm do not fill their stomachs, then they will get sober, and look at things as they really are. However, as I have already stated, whenever these financial grievances shall be removed, there will be no more chance of leading the oppressed astray, and concealing the real foe behind pompous speeches and false promises.
As far as the reform scheme will clear the battle field of rubbish, behind which some interest opposed to the labour-interest might be concealed, it is to our advantage to help the reformers into office. But neither as allies, nor as friends, only as foes. If we co-operate with them, we give all command of the course to be pursued, into their hands, we submit to their dictatorship, and whenever they chose to stop short we must stop too. As friends or allies we can only form the tail of a deceitful and treacherous head, and whenever this head choses to stop it must put the tail into confusion, and when the field would be ready for us, we should find ourselves disorganised. This is precisely what the little Chartists would like to see. If, on the contrary, we help as foes, and have a good organisation for our own class-interests, we can drive them farther than they wish to go themselves. We have an interest to get them into office, because that is the only favourable ground on which we can conquer them. In defeating the most progressive fraction of the bourgeoisie in office, we defeat the whole host. It is, therefore, important that the working classes should be well organised for their own party purposes; that they may be ready to attack their antagonists the moment their bill is carried, then we may force them to make some concessions. Besides, a good proletarian agitation would induce the conservatives much sooner to surrender, since they would look upon the proposed parliamentary and financial reform as a conservative measure compared with the charter and something more, which must soon follow the triumph of bourgeois "reform."