H.M. Hyndman Justice, 27 August 1910
Source: Editorial, Justice, p.6, 27 August 1910;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
Bax has done well, I think, to put before us at the present time the limitations of Democracy. Fraudulent phrases, as Bronterre O’Brien pointed out 70 years ago, play a very important part in politics, and “intelligent Democracy” in the modern sense is certainly one of those phrases. As Bax truly says, Democracy gives no certitude of truth in human affairs, and a majority lends no sanction whatever either in theory or in practice. To give way to a majority settles nothing: it only avoids the immediate necessity for that resort to violence which always lies near or far behind any antagonistic vote. Nobody thinks of appealing to the majority in matters of science or philosophy. To do so would be obviously absurd. A small minority in a community also is always either very right or very wrong. If, as I have often said, the 1,500,000,000 inhabitants of the planet were polled today on the question as to whether the earth were round or flat, the “flats” would have it by an overwhelming majority. Yet that the world is round there is no doubt whatsoever, So, I say, Bax has again done good service in bringing to our minds the undoubted fact that Democracy is, after all, only a clumsy means for avoiding the tyranny of the few in public administration.
What, however, is even more important than the consideration of Democracy at the present moment is the growing power of Bureaucracy in this country. It is scarcely too much to say that Bureaucracy is the most pernicious form of government that has ever been invented; being a pestilent compound of arrogance and corruption in about equal measure. The late Lord Bramwell spoke of the liar, the damned liar, and the expert witness, which was pretty plain speaking, seeing that the judge’s own brother was the most celebrated expert witness of his time. We should paraphrase the great judges dictum in this wise: The tyrant, the damned tyrant, the expert Liberal Bureaucrat. We are now being overrun by a whole swarm of these latter vampires, specially appointed to dictate to us, not by Tories and Unionists, but by Liberals and Radicals. Nothing more nefarious has been done in our history than this pitch-forking of all the worst elements of faction life into highly-paid posts, in which they control the well-being of the People, as a reward for the dirty work which they have done for their party. It is calculated that in this way the Liberal Party has actually appointed, without any test of fitness whatever, tools of their own to supervise the Labour Exchanges and other departments, at the total cost of £400,000 a year. And this is the economic Government which cannot afford even £200,000 to be devoted to the useful organisation, of their unemployed countrymen!
An Emperor we should at once object to, and, if we could, overthrow. It is possible, however, that an Emperor might turn out to be a Trajan, who so well understood the social conditions of the time that he could give the beneficent initiative so sadly lacking in our present chaotic community. But a gang of petty expert bourgeois emperors, given their places as rewards for unavowable political transactions, must be a curse to any country. No wonder, therefore, that the “Nation,” which cannot be accused of not sufficiently supporting the Liberal Party, has spoken very strongly about what has recently been done. Mr. H.W. Massingham is not always so persistent in well doing as we could wish; but, in spite of his laudation of Liberalism and his warship of Mr. Lloyd George, he does now and then tell the truth about his own faction, and he has told it in regard to this monstrous bureaucratic job, which his leaders have done at our expense. The amusing part of the matter, if amusement can be got out of such a gross fraud on the public, is that the Radicals, when out of office, were never tired of denouncing Lord Halsbury as the Lord High Jobber, because he gave away many of the places under his control to members of his own family and his familiar friends. We hold no brief for Halsbury, who certainly did not add much lustre to the post of Lord Chancellor during his seat on the Woolsack; but he, at any rate, only appointed his personal retainers to posts already in existence, which did not directly bear upon the welfare of the mass of the people. It has been left for our precious Liberals and Radicals to invent posts wholesale, in order that they may carry on a system of political jobbery by the side of which Lord Halsbury’s misdoings appear as the highest type of satisfactory selection.
Surely, it is odd that at the very time when the French Republican Democracy is chafing under the restraint of the Bureaucratic system bequeathed to it I from the pseudo-democracy of the Empire, we in this country should be actively engaged in instituting that obnoxious form of rule from which the French are so earnestly striving to emancipate themselves. It is not too much to say that our present Cabinet shows, in every step it takes, a fear of the direct judgment of the people which, though no doubt fully justified, so far as they themselves are concerned, carries with it serious dangers for the future of our freedoms.
The education of this country is the worst in the world, regard being had to its wealth and historical development. There is, indeed, no more important matter at the present time, with the exception of the building up of the decayed physique of the people, than the proper training of their intelligence. The old directly-elected School Boards had their drawbacks. We all know that. But they were beginning to do really good work, and in some parts of the country, where capable men and women had been elected, our educational system was entering upon the road which has led to such remarkable success in Germany and our own colonies. What was done? The same pernicious influence which is creating the new Bureaucracy deliberately destroyed the School Boards of England and substituted an arrangement whereby the national education of our children has become of less importance than the question of tramway fares to the Municipal Councils.
Then the question of the unemployed was assuming a threatening shape, and there seemed even a possibility that the proposals of the Social-Democratic Party, formulated more than a quarter of a century ago, might be accepted by the people. What was to be done in this case? In the matter of education ignorance might have been swept away, and therefore education was municipally tampered with. In the other case unemployment and hopeless poverty might have been rendered impossible, and, therefore, the Liberals took good care to institute a method whereby even the beneficial influence of trade unions would be insidiously sapped. The one object of our present rulers is to retain domination by keeping the people ignorant and to maintain competitive capitalism by keeping the people unemployed.
It is true, as “Justice” has pointed out recently, that, year after year, we have argued in favour of Labour Exchanges. Yes, we have; but for Labour Exchanges under the control of the working people, not for wages-reducing bureaus kept up at public expense, under the exclusive management of such a crew of corrupt factionists as have been appointed by the present Government. The chief of all these kept persons has just declared that to do away with unemployment is impossible. He has not the slightest wish to do away with unemployment, He has, in fact, been appointed by his Liberal paymasters in order that unemployment should not be done away with. And the unfortunate out-of-works who apply to the Labour Exchanges for places are simply brought in to lower the standard of life and wages in the general skilled and unskilled labour market. It is high time that this capitalist plot, set on foot and organised by Asquith and Lloyd George, Winston Churchill and John Burns, should be exposed on every Socialist platform in the country. The Tories will be quite justified, on their return to office, if they cancel everyone of these scandalous appointments and send out their present tenants to study the problem of unemployment in the street. We hope they will.
P.S. – I regard the coming debate between Lansbury and Quelch on the Minority Report on the Poor Law as of great importance. This is another insidious attempt to strengthen the forces of bureaucracy, and I very much regret that George Lansbury should have been a party to such dangerous recommendations. I think he will regret it himself after the debate even more than I do. To my mind, it is essential that the S D.P. should set to work energetically to expose the harmful tendency of the whole Minority Report. H.M.H.