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The Workers' Political Programme.
WE WANT ADULT SUFFRAGE, PARLIAMENTARY AND MUNICIPAL.
Why? If you don't know why, you are no true Radical. The Women must have a voice in the making of the laws, because the women work under the laws; pay for the laws; and have to submit to the laws. And the paupers must vote because, since, if the laws were just there need be no paupers, the paupers have the first right to a voice in altering the unjust laws by which they are the greatest sufferers. As to the incorrigible idlers, they are mostly rich people who have not one but several votes apiece already. Remember that in the language of politics, people who have no votes are roughs, scum, dregs, mob, riff-raff
, and residuum ; but people who have votes are “ Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,' “Independent Electors," "Men of England,” or “Friends and Fellow Citizens." We want all Adults to be “ Fellow Citizens.” One-Man-one-Vote, registration reform, polling on the same day throughout the kingdom at general elections, and payment of the Returning Officer out of public funds, though they make up the total of the proposed Liberal measure, will be only minor business details in the true Workers' Franchise Bill.
PAYMENT OF MEMBERS AND OF ELECTION EXPENSES. Why pay Members ? Simply because there must be genuine workers inside Parliament to uphold the interests of the workers outside; and they cannot live on air whilst they are doing this. Working-class members cannot now afford to go into Parliament because their constituents cannot afford to keep them there, having barely enough to live on themselves. Even if members were paid so much per day, as they are in France, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Greece, Portugal, the United States, Canada, Newfoundland, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, New Zealand, &c., the expenses of standing for Parliament at present are enough by themselves to keep poor men (i.e., working men) from even thinking of it. A candidate has usually to guarantee the rent of an office, and the salaries of one or two clerks some years before the election, to work up the register and defend it against the objections lodged in the interest of the other side. When the election comes off, he has to pay for the printing of his election address, its insertion in the newspapers, and its distribution at the houses of the voters. He has to pay for the halls in which he holds meetings, and for the printing and posting of bills to make these meetings known. He has to pay his share of the expenses of the Returning Officer, which may anaount to several hundred pounds; and even then, he has to pay in addition the cost of notifying to each
* Numerous details of the Programme receive further notice in the Questions which follow this general statement.
elector the places of polling. Few men will venture to face a parliamentary candidature, even when they can depend on a good deal of voluntary help, unless they can afford to spend a thousand pounds on it. If we had adult suffrage ten times over, working men could not get into Parliament if they still had to bear these monstrous expenses for doing the work of the public. Nothing but Parliaments of rich men can come out of such a system. At present there are five adult male wage-workers to every one gentleman in the country; but in Parliament the proportion is fifty-five gentlemen to one working-class representative-a pretty result of the Liberal and Tory Reform Bills which gave working -men the vote without abolishing, as Radicals demanded, those pecuniary barriers to the House of Commons which have practically the effect of a heavy property qualification. That House is now full of men who live upon Rent and Interest. The less of the national produce goes in Wage
the more is left for Rent and Interest. That means that the House of Commons is full of men with a direct pecuniary interest in keeping wages as low and workmen as submissive as possible. In future, we must fill Parliament and the Local Governing Bodies with men who know what it is to work for wages ; and they must have enough to live suitably upon whilst discharging their public duties. The registers should be made up at short intervals by public officers responsible under penalties for the omission of any duly qualified voter. All necessary expenses of election should be defrayed from public funds; and any attempt on the part of a candidate to supplement these by private expenditure should be deemed a corrupt practice. And in order that the paid members may be called to account for their work at short intervals, there must be no seven-year sinecures. No Payment of Members without Shorter Parliaments.
SECOND BALLOT. In France and Germany, no member is elected unless he polls a clear majority of all the votes cast in the election. In England, if the progressive vote is split by two candidates (say a Radical and a Liberal), the Tory may get in, even when the majority is progressive. The fear of this prevents the advanced Radicals from trying their strength at elections. For example, in a constituency of 2,000, a Tory minority of 800 could bring their candidate in if the Progressives split their vote and polled 500 for a moderate Liberal and 700 for an advanced Radical. But if there were a "Second Ballot," the Radical, being obviously the choice of the party, would stand whilst the Liberal withdrew. The Radical would then poll 1,200 votes, and beat the Tory. This is what happens in France, where Opportunists, Radicals, and Socialists all run candidates, and in every case at the Second Ballot the united Democratic vote is given to the highest candidate amongst the three parties. This, the only genuine Democratic method of voting, would not only set the vanguard of the Radical party free to put up a candidate without fear of letting in the Tory, but it would put a stop to the game of the bogus “labor candidate " taking Tory money to split the Liberal vote.
TAXATION OF UNEARNED INCOMES.
Besides Perpetual Pensions, which the Radicals have already driven out of existence, four hundred and fifty million pounds sterling, or more than a third of the annual income of the nation produced by the annual toil of the workers, is consumed, not by them, but by landlords and shareholders who do not, as such, perform a single stroke of work for the nation in return. Two hundred millions of this is rent: the other two hundred and fifty is called interest. This is the estimate made in the interest of the idle classes themselves; and therefore it is well under the mark. It does not include employers' profits, or the large incomes derived by educated or “highly connected” men from employments which are practically closed to the working class. In order to recover this large sum for the whole community, and at the same time free ourselves from the Customs duties which now fall upon our scanty wages through the dearness of the taxed goods we buy, we want to have it taken for public use by such means as a Land Tax (Taxation of Ground Values), largely increased Death Duties, and a progressive Incometax upon unearned incomes. How high do we want to tax them ? Twenty shillings in the pound-i.e., Complete Nationalization of all unearned incomes—will satisfy us. But we will take an instalment to begin.
MUNICIPALIZATION OF LAND AND LOCAL INDUSTRIES.
It is useless to tax unearned incomes or nationalize rent as long as you have no place to put the money except the treasury of a central government that can do little with it except spend it in gunpowder and international mischief. The Imperial Parliament cannot deal with local industrial difficulties or with the pressing question of the unemployed in bad times. At present, no Municipal Authority can engage in the organization of industry, even for the supply of gas and water, without a special Act of Parliament. We want the Town and County Councils, elected by adult suffrage, and backed with the capital derived from the taxation of unearned incomes, and with compulsory powers of acquiring the necessary land upon payment of a reasonable consideration to the present holders, to be empowered to engage in all branches of industry in the fullest competition with private industrial enterprise. We want to drop the old political cant of pretending that the tyranny that keeps the London tram-slave away from his home for seventeen hours a day, seven days in the week, is the tyranny of Priest or King, or House of Lords, or anything but what it really is-viz., the tyranny of the Board of Directors, elected by the votes of private shareholders, whose only care is to get the biggest dividend that can be sweated out of their employés by long hours and low wages. We want to recognize that until these employés and their like are transferred from the employment of private capitalists to that of the Town or County Council, which they and their fellow workers control through their votes, their claims as men can never meet with adequate consideration. Local Self-Government can be but a
mockery to the poorer workers until it means the democratic control and administration not merely of a park or a sewer, but of the shops and factories in which the worker has to earn his living. Therefore, we want to overthrow that infamous system of Protection to Private Enterprise by Prohibition of Public Enterprise, which has hitherto prevented the people from using their political organizations as industrial organizations, and thereby escaping in THE ONLY POSSIBLE PEACEFUL WAY from the slavery of private employment to the freedom of democratic co-operation. We want to substitute free and honorable municipal employment for charity, and to put a stop to the national wickedness of deliberately making our workhouses prisons, and our prisons hells, lest the wretched laborer should try to get into them as being preferable to the sweater's den, or the nail and chain forge. And we want to RESTORE the land and industrial capital of the country to the workers of the country, and so realize the dream of the Socialist on sound economic principles, by gradual, peaceful, and constitutional means.
PROVISION OF EDUCATION AT PUBLIC COST. We want a national system of education, Secular, Compulsory, and Technical, at the public cost, for all classes alike. But it is not enough to provide "free" schools, and "free" books, and s free teachers for the children of our present population. We must feed them before their brains will work properly. We want to begin with one good meal a day for all children at Board Schools; and, if that is not sufficient, as much more as they need. The future welfare of the State depends on the health and education of its future citizens; and, since our system leaves the parents individually too poor to look after them properly, the parents collectively, i.e., THE STATE, must.
NATIONALIZATION OF CANALS AND RAILWAYS. Whatever hampers the traffic of the Nation hampers its Commerce, and so diminishes its prosperity. Nothing hampers traffic more than a system of railways and canals, broken up into separate sections, in the hands of separate bodies of shareholders, caring for nothing but the bigness of their dividends. They consider that the railways were made for the shareholders. We consider that the railways, equally with our public highways, were made for the nation, particularly as they were made originally, and are daily renewed at they wear out, not by the shareholders, but by wage-workers and salaried engineers, such wages and salaries being produced by other wage-workers, and intercepted by the shareholders as rent or interest before being passed on-less what the interceptors consume themselves- as wages paid out of capital. We want these interceptors paid off, and the railway and canal system assimilated to the postal system.
EIGHT HOURS DAY.
We want the working day for wage-workers in all government and municipal offices and places of employment and in all monopolies to be limited to Eight Hours by statute. We want an Hours of
Labor Bill which will enable labor organizations to obtain, by government intervention, relief from 'excessive hours of toil as soon as a majority of them desire it, without resorting to the barbarous and dangerous expedient of a strike, with all its attendant tumult, its stoppage of work, its expense, its privations, its waste of savings, dismantling of homes, and its black harvest of ill-feeling between employer and employed, striker and blackleg. Experience shews that whilst the present competitive-individualist system lasts, such Acts are necessary to prevent employers from inhumanly abusing their powers, and workers from working overtime with no permanent benefit to themselves. As soon as the people are free enough to feel them as a restriction of their own liberty, they will be free enough to repeal them without opposition as obsolete statutes. But at present the hours of labor imposed on the more helpless classes of wageworkers are literally murderous, and must be restricted by law.
We want Parish Councils for the sake of the Agricultural Laborer, to whom the County Councils are of no use. At present, with his eleven shillings a week, and his enforced servility to the parson and to the farmer or squire, who have four-fold power over him as his employer, his landlord, his poor-law guardian, and his magistrate, he keeps down the standard of comfort for unskilled labor to the lowest point. In a recent London strike, the employers defeated the men by sending to the country for a body of agricultural labourers to take their places; and one of these poor blacklegs, on being remonstrated with by a picket," said “You can go where I caine from and have my one and sixpence a day if you like.” This shews how important it is for the town workers to help the country workers to better their position, so that they may no longer be tempted to crowd into the towns and lower wages by competing for work there. The first thing to do to help them is to establish a democratic council in each parish to administer the public schools and the public provision for the aged, the sick, and the orphans; with compulsory powers to acquire land for allotments and for building cottages on; and with power also to engage in co-operative farming, so as to enable the laborer to get his living and his homestead by working for a public body controlled by his vote and those of his fellow workers. He would find this a good deal pleasanter than living in a sty and touching his hat at every turn to the men who profit by his starvation and squalor.
Home Rule is not a distinctively Radical measure : it is a Nationalist measure. For instance, Mr. Parnell and Mr. Davitt are both Nationalists; but in an Irish Parliament, Mr. Parnell will lead the middle-class Whig party against Mr. Davitt, who is a working-class Radical. The principle of Radicalism is Equality of Rights, economic as well as political, so as to secure as far as possible equality of opportunity. The principle of Nationalism is the determination which every people bearing a distinctly marked national character shews, sooner