I do not know how you have felt during these years, but I have repeatedly turned over in my mind the question "Is there any place I can emigrate to where the population is not composed of fools and bullies?" Disgusted with his country, Fletcher of Saltoun emigrated to Holland when the Scottish Parliament sold Scotland to England. Disgusted with England, Professor Goldwin Smith some years ago emigrated to Canada.
I have thought of Holland sometimes of late years; but even there, in the home of William the Silent, the people have been showing the presence of Dutch cheese in the head by the fuss they have made about a chit of a girl bearing the absurd name of Wilhelmina. Canada again is the most hypocritically "loyal " of all our colonies, and was not ashamed to send a contingent to take part in this blackguardly war; Germany puts up with Kaiser Wilhelm and his prosecutions for lese majeste; France has had its Dreyfus case; Russia has excommunicated Tolstoy, and still consents to do without a Constitution; Italy, Austria, Spain, the Balkan States are all equally hopeless. Switzerland keeps itself fairly unspotted among the family of nations; and if one could make watches or knew about Alpine climbing and the keeping of goats, Switzerland might be worth taking into consideration. How to get away from the fools, that is the question one asks oneself; and the best answer seems to be to wait at home and try to ameliorate them, refusing to desert the field and leave the blockheads in possession of it.
That is one's duty, and although duty is sometimes a hard taskmaster, there has been much to console and hearten the friends of peace and progress during even the blackest hours of Britain's degradation. The prolonged and gallant stand made by those Dutch farmers in South Africa, and their surrender at last only upon terms, are a reproach to those who would weary in much easier well-doing. The very existence of a large minority of pro Boers openly professing their sympathy with their country's enemies was an absolutely new and unprecedented thing. It is true that during the American War we had politicians like Pitt and Burke and Robert Burns declaring their sympathy with the rebel colonists; that during the Crimean War John Bright opposed it; that, as already stated, we had Gladstone protesting against our warlike policy in '76-'78 ; and that our Egyptian War was received with protests in more than one quarter at home. John Bright resigned from the Gladstone Cabinet in protest, and Mr Seymour Keay's pamphlet, "Spoiling the Egyptains: A Tale of Shame," attracted considerable notice at the time and for some time afterwards. But never before have noblemen, party leaders, and a considerable section of the press, including several of the important daily newspapers, been opposed to a war waged by their own country while that war was in progress. The pro-Boer has run great risks and in many cases has suffered, loss and injury; but he has refused to outrage his own conscience and the Eternal Verities by approving a war, wicked, unnecessary, and inexpedient, as all war is, merely because it was waged by his own countrymen and kinsmen.
Nineveh was destroyed for want of ten good men; but in these late days almost any town in Britain would have escaped Nineveh's fate if courage and integrity under difficult and trying conditions had been sufficient. Isaiah held that Israel would be saved by a faithful remnant, and as Israel was not saved, we are left to infer that the remnant was not to be found. Israel had no "traitors." Her citizens were all loyal. And so Israel went down the wind. But a faithful remnant, and a considerable remnant at that, was all along to be found in our cities during the thirty months of war, and Britain may not only escape the fate of Israel, but by virtue of that remnant-the little leaven that leaveneth the whole lump-may well go on to brighter and juster conditions, when those who refused to bow the knee to the Baal of miscalled patriotism-that "last refuge of a scoundrel," as Johnson called it-will have their reward.
But in spite of Tory Government and Liberal weakness and faintness of heart, in spite of cant and khaki, in spite of loyal rejoicings over the advent of another Charles Second, in spite of the fustian gush about Imperialism, and the rapid emigration to new and poor countries of men and women who are badly wanted at home, one branch of the national life has shown quiet and steady progress through the years. I refer to the silent, irresistible, beneficent spread of Collectivism.
Need I tell a tale that has already been so often told? The tale, I mean, of how conspicuously public enterprise has beaten and continues to beat private enterprise! From the municipal history of every corporation in Britain I could give facts and figures showing how there is no useful function performed by the capitalist which the community in its organised capacity cannot perform infinitely better for itself. I could tell you of how you yourselves paid, under private enterprise, a water rate of 14 pence in the £ for an insufficient supply of "diluted sewage," but of how today, under corporation control, you get an abundant supply of pure and soft water from Loch Katrine for a water rate of 6d in the £, (A voice- Fivepence. The lecturer-Yes, fivepence and a penny.) I could tell you of how the gas consumers in Glasgow paid to the gas company 4s 7d per 1000 cubic feet, the gas stokers slaving 12 hours a-day on the two-shift plan, the consumers paying meter rents, and the shareholders bagging fat dividends ; whereas to-day under corporate management the price is, or was lately, 2s 2d as against 4s 7d, the stokers work eight hours a-day on the three-shift plan, the meter rents have been abolished, and the corporation makes an annual profit ranging between fifty and sixty thousand pounds, which goes into the public exchequer and comes back to the people in the form of relief from taxation.
I could tell you of how Glasgow municipalised its tramcar service, sweeping off its streets the old unsightly trucks, run by the private company, on which men slaved a minimum day of 14 hours; of how the corporation halved the fares all over the system, reduced the men's hours to ten a-day, increased their wages, and supplied them with uniforms ; of how they abolished advertisements from the sides and ends of the cars-those announcements of Pears' Soap, Colman's Starch, Reckitt's Blue, Nixey's Black Lead, and Eno's Fruit Salt which made it so difficult to pick out the nameboard indicating the destination of the car; and finally of how the first eleven months' working showed a profit of £24,000, upon which every year since then has shown a steady and, in the aggregate, enormous improvement. I could tell you of the seven Corporation Lodging-Houses with their £4000 profit, and of the Municipal Tele phones with their £13,000 profit for nine months' working. In all of these concerns which can be compared with private enterprise the results show a striking improvement under collective control as compared with private management. The producer is better as producer-he has higher wages for less work ; the consumer is better as consumer-he has better service at less cost; and the ratepayer is better as ratepayer since the profits made in these public departments came back to him in public improvements or in relief from taxation.
Now, the believers in the Co-operative Commonwealth maintain that if the public can supply itself thus advantageously with gas and water, there is no reason why it should not supply itself with coal and milk. As matter of fact, Bradford has just decided to provide itself with a municipal coal store. The motion adopted on this head was moved by a member of the Independent Labour Party, who pointed out that the coal burned in the Mayor's Parlour of the Townhouse cost 11s to 14s per ton, whereas the current price outside was 2ls. . If a corporation can run trams and tele phones it can manage the baking of bread, the building and letting of houses, cab-hiring, the slaughter of cattle and the sale of butcher meat-so long as we continue to eat dead animals ; in short, the State, the Municipalities, and the Parish Councils could carry on any and every species of business worth while. By putting an end to the warfare of competition, which wastes more wealth in a year than lethal strife wastes in a century, we should become richer to a degree which is at present incalculable.
By becoming gradually and steadily the sole landlords and the only capitalists the Municipalities and the State could make an end of rent, interest, and profit. All the idle hands and heads would in the course of a few generations be forced to turn to work. By the closing of unnecessary shops and offices enormous body of clerks and shop assistants would be set free for useful and really necessary work-the making of things instead of the mere selling of them or the writing about the sales. With distance practically annihilated, the population might be scattered over the countryside, men travelling three or thirty miles to and from work daily. If we continue to have towns and cities as places of residence they will be garden towns and cities, with wide streets, plenty of open spaces, and palatial buildings. They will be as different as possible from the present congeries of stone and brick boxes, with slate lids, which passes for a city. And the insides of the houses will be as much improved as the outsides. Instead of the present collections of gimcrack and veneer furniture, of dusty bulrushes and peacocks' feathers stuck in vases on the mantelpiece, china dogs, wax apples in glass cases, with antimacassars on the seats, and plush-covered brackets and framed calendars on the walls, the interiors of the future will be roomy and comfortable, and genuine art, both in furniture and decorations, will be the rule, since there will no longer be any motive to produce shoddy or jerry work, and the people will have the wherewithal to buy genuine products.
Our capitalistic system has enormously increased the output of mere commodities; but much of our production is rubbish, made to sell at a profit rather than to use and enjoy. For the rest, our capitalistic system has produced that joke the millionaire. That is all. The workman is pretty much where he was. The difference even between 15s and 50s of a weekly wage is a bagatelle in comparison with the increase of our wealth-producing power. The workman got a subsistence wage a century ago, and if his wage is doubled, and its purchasing power has also greatly increased since then, it is but a subsistence wage still. Yet the increase in productive power is any thing from two to twenty fold or more. In Professor Leone Levi's "Work and Pay " we read that "Seventy years ago, with the old-fashioned handloom, one weaver could produce six yards, narrow width, per day. With the steam-power loom to-day at Accrington a weaver attending to four looms can produce 160 yards every day-that is, the amount of labour is 1/27th now of what it was 70 years ago."
This is more or less typical of the improvement in production which has been going on all round ; but what all this has chiefly meant has been the creation of fortunes for the possessors of the machinery. Clearly the moral, then, is let the whole people get possession of the machinery. The conquest of the means of labour, which are the means of life-that is, in brief, the specific method by which the Hope of the Ages, the most important thing in the world, is to be realised.
The community in its organised capacity has simply to carry on the process it has already begun-extending its sphere of control and administration steadily, gradually, without confiscation, without violence done to vested interests, without dislocation of industry, commerce, or social life. The Revolution is even now in progress.
The pharisees were told that the Kingdom of God cometh not .with observation ; but the coming of the Co-operative Commonwealth may be observed by many tokens, and to the latter-day inquirer we may indeed say "Lo here and lo there " for the beginnings of it.
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