J.T. Walton Newbold


The British Government and the League of Nations

(9 January 2021)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 3, 9 January 1923, p. 34.
From International Press Correspondence (weekly), Vol. 3 No. 1, 16 January 1923, pp. 4–5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2020). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

During the first short session of the new parliament recently elected in the United Kingdom, there has manifested itself very clearly a tendency to attach increasing importance to the League of Nations. This is not only to be accounted for by reason of the greater numbers of the Labor Party, nearly all of whose members have an obsession for this most menacing institution of international autocracy. Every party in the House of Commons, except the party of which I am the sole direct representative, has shown a disposition to glorify the League and not the least among them being the spokesman of the new Tory Government and its supporters who, of course, constitute the parliamentary majority.

It may, at first sight, appear strange that the Tory Party, the party of reaction, should thus champion the cause of the League of Nations. Yet, in reality it is not so. It is as natural for the Tory Government to seek to enhance the reputation and extend the authority of the League as it is for is to seek peace and pursue a policy of “tranquility”.

The Tory Party, the party of reaction in Great Britain and in Northern Ireland, is not representative primarily of a class having its interests in great landed estates within the British Isles, but of a class whose landed property consists of town lands at home and of town and agricultural lands in the great self governing dominions of Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and in the great republics of the United States and Argentina. This class consists of persons who have sold or who have not further developed their family properties at home but have, joining together in mortgage, land and cattle ranching companies, become an impersonal and international type of land exploiters. They have, in order to be such landowners, to be capitalists. Being capitalists they own not only or even so much land, as railway stocks and shares at home and all over the world. They have taken their accumulated rents and bought government – British Colonial and Foreign – loan stock and municipal, mining and all kinds of miscellaneous international stocks and shares.

It is this class, a metamorphosed landed class, a class of passive rather than of active proprietors of both land and capital, that is represented by the Tory Party, the party now ruling Great Britain.

The passive proprietors of land and capital, having entrusted the custody of their possessions to the banks, the insurance and the finance companies, who handle their money transactions for them, are in truth in the hands of these concerns and, as politicians permit themselves to be advised and guided in home, colonial, and foreign policy in such ways as befit fit in with the interests of the great credit institutions.

The British Government, under the leadership of Bonar Law, reflect the interests and the desires of the great banking, insurance, and investment houses.

Lloyd George fell from political office because the interests which he represented had. from the autumn of 1920 to the autumn of 1922, become increasingly mortgaged to to these credit houses, had, in other words, involuntarily abdicated economic power.

Lloyd George, supported by Austen Chamberlain, the son and political heir of his great father, and by the Earl of Balfour, the one time leader of British Toryism in its heyday of imperialist militancy, stood for a policy of British ascendency in world politics, for all the old assertiveness of British imperialism, for the maintenance of British sea power, and British leadership, especially in the East.

The banks and their clients the tones, were, however, determined at all costs to maintain their class security and to oppose to the menace of Bolshevism, which they know will follow upon the collapse of Central European credit, a united class front of international, impersonal bourgeois property.

Having broken the jingoistic government of British imperialism and installed in its place a tranquility government, more acceptable to the reactionary bourgeoisie of France and America, they are busily strengthening the defences of international class domination. when, about the beginning of the century, the social democrats and the Laborists threatened, though their victory was still remote, to capture the old popularly elected local educational authorities, the Tories took steps to make direct working class control of education much more difficult. When, after the war, Laborists gained control over certain country authorities, the Tory elements in the late government removed from the county to the central authorities, control of the police forces and checked the activities of labor majorities on Poor Law bodies by the veto of the central government.

When revolution was striding across Europe the governing class, notably the Conservatives Earl Balfour, Lord Robert Cecil, and Viscount Grey – for he is, really, a Tory, – interested themselves in the League of Nations as a new form of governmental institution, in which these subtle serpents saw a means to check Labor from conquering power in sovereign independent states. They busied themselves about that delusion and deception, the International Labor Office.

They looked to and found support from the Labor leaders -those one-eyed politicians who, seeing a superficial antagonism between Geneva and Paris, thought the League of Nations must be the thing to advocate and advance. Now that, by the skilful use of their economic power, the credit houses have aggravated the difficulties of the industrial magnates whose capital, locked up in unprofitable and non-negotiable means of production, has become a liability rather than an asset and have put them into virtual if not always nominal liquidation, all economic power has passed into the hands of these same credit houses and their clients, the passive capitalists whom they use as political catspaws.

The passive elements in capitalism, whether mere investors or investment agencies, deal in the title deeds and mortgage bonds and war-loan certificates and share-warrants of properties situated all over the world and under any form of bourgeois administration.

To them, the League of Nations appears, therefore, the same admirable instrument as that “tranquility” administration which, entrenched behind lines and lines of policemen, they regard as the acme of domestic bliss.

To the Laborists, the League of Nations is that international counterpart of parliamentary government which to their myopic vision only requires themselves to be duly installed in a majority in every parliament, to realize the coming to earth amid trailing clouds of celestial glory, of the Prince of Peace.

It is probable, indeed it is almost certain that to maintain the illusion that the League of Nations is not a mere court of revision and of appeal from their own national “parliamentary” institutions, the British Tory and other bourgeois governments will not too openly associate themselves with its deliberations and its decisions.

The British Government, for instance, will continue the make-believe of keeping at arms length their back bench “critic”. Lord Robert Cecil. This aiming schemer, the most hypocritical, that the British bourgeoisie has at its beck and call, this is the man to watch.

It is not only those actually in office but those liaison officers of capitalist statecraft who, out of a job, are always doing a job, that one always needs to watch in order to know exactly the kind of rascality to which the British governing class is up to at any given time.

Last updated on 10 August 2021