Typos p. 233: virture [= virtue]; p. 235: concommittant [= concomitant]
Chapter VI 1
Conservatives and the People
This significant passage in a recent Government publication states in a nutshell the difficulty confronting politicians of what colour soever, in the country to-day. The working population have been left to do so much for themselves, and are so intensely conscious of their achievements that now they are inclined rather to continue to rely on their own efforts for the future than to look to any class, from which their former rulers have hailed, for either guidance or protection.
When the writer had occasion many years ago to
1 The contents of this chapter have been drawn chiefly from two articles written by me for the Fortnightly Review (published in June, 1922, and April, 1923, respectively), entitled "The Conservative Programme A Suggestion", and "The Conservative Programme A Further Suggestion".
2 Report of the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry (1925), Vol. I, p. 109.
This attitude, regarded in the light of history, is comprehensible enough, and the principal political problem of the future is whether the confidence of the people can ever be redeemed by that section of the nation which hitherto has been loosely described as the governing class.
Before attempting to examine this problem more closely it will be interesting to give only one example of the kind of popular action which, in the past, has revealed to the ordinary people themselves the carelessness and incompetence of this governing class.
In 1854 the pitmen of Durham and Northumberland presented a petition to Parliament in which "they prayed for a law enacting that from 10 years of age till 14 no boy should work down the pit longer than six hours a day; that he or they may thereby be
1 Not that it is maintained that the average politician of the leisured classes necessarily masters these questions.
Now, it is surely obvious that, in a country where the working people themselves have been trained through the gross neglect of their rulers, to take action of this sort, confidence and respect must be seriously undermined; and when we learn, as we do, from the recent report of the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry, that the miners "are well aware of the history of their industry. Through reading and through family tradition, abuses which have been remedied and which may be forgotten by others, are kept alive in the memory," 2 we cannot wonder that an attitude of sullen distrust should have been adopted by the working-classes, and it is well to remember that it is much more the creation of their past rulers than of their own perversity. 3
1 Report of Royal Commission on State of Popular Education in England, 1861, p. 197.
2 Page 108.
3 Another flagrant instance of neglected duty on the part of responsible people whether Parliamentary representatives, the rural clergy or the agricultural landlords, or all three which still persists is the present condition of the agricultural labourer. Why is it that, in spite of the many highly skilled duties he has to perform (I say "highly skilled" in the sense that they are certainly more skilled than much of the work classed as "skilled" that is done by members of effectively organised and protected trades) he is still classed as an unskilled labourer? Why is it that whereas his inferiors in skill in many trades are allowed to enjoy the benefits of the National Insurance Act of 1911 in regard to unemployment, he continues to be denied them? (See Schedule VI of the Act, and also its various amendments.) The reply of the agricultural labourer himself is that he does not belong to a powerful Union efficiently organised like that of the
This is only one instance. It would be possible to quote hundreds more from the pages of existing Parliamentary papers dealing with industry. That is why we cannot too strongly deprecate the tendency, too general in the so-called "Capitalist" press and certain sections of the so-called "Capitalist" classes to-day, of always suspecting influence from Moscow,
Transport Workers and Miners. But from the Conservative and patriarchal standpoint, and from the standpoint of an ideal representative government, the real reply is that those who pretend to protect his interests, and to watch over his welfare the Members of Parliament for rural and agricultural districts, the clergy of these same districts, and the agricultural landlords, whether noble or otherwise, who draw their tithes and rents largely from his labours have failed to make his grievances known, have failed, in fact, to forestall his own independent agitation, and therefore have failed to secure his confidence and loyalty for many generations to come.
1 See page 126 ante.
It cannot be repeated too often, or too emphatically, that the present purely native force of proletarian distrust and suspicion, is abundantly adequate to account for every one of the symptoms that are too lightly and too easily ascribed to foreign and particularly to Russian agencies; and those sections of the press and of the governing classes, who are prone to refer to Bolshevistic interference as a sufficient cause of popular disaffection, simply hold themselves up to ridicule before the eyes of the people, who on this point are better informed. In order to assume such a position towards industrial unrest, a man must be not only ignorant of history, but also of the psychology of the people with whom he is dealing. Russian gold and Russian influence may now be accompanying and alarming symptoms of industrial unrest, but they are by no means its cause, and it would exist without them.
If now we deny and the present writer in various treatises has taken some pains to deny the ability of the masses to govern, guide, protect and direct themselves, with any hope of preserving the identity of the nation, the existence of the Empire, and even the general level of prosperity and happiness enjoyed at the present day, the question arises how can their confidence be regained in such a way as to induce them to abandon the desire for self-government, and
1 The fact that Russian gold and Bolshevistic propaganda both attempt to play a part in English industrial disputes at the present day cannot of course be denied, because both have been caught, as it were, red-handed. But the mistake is to regard such influences as anything more than external and confirmatory to native causes in the industrial populations themselves, which are quite sufficient, without Russian gold or influence, to account for all the trouble.
It will now be attempted to offer a few answers to this difficult question. But it is not pretended that all of them are equally valuable or helpful, or that their practical application will immediately achieve the desired result. It is only hoped that their statement may act as a stimulus and clue to a wider and better solution.
In the first place, then, it is suggested that the Conservative Party is the only party that can, through its traditions and principles, logically shoulder the burden of this undertaking not so much because its history is free from any participation in the blunders which have created the present situation; for we are unfortunately too well aware that this is not the case; but because its fundamental position, as described in the opening chapters, constitute it the only party that has the necessary philosophic outlook for attaining to the desired goal, and because among many mistakes in the past, it has at least upheld a higher standard than any other party in caring for the welfare of the people and the permanence of the nation's greatness.
The line of cleavage in English politics is not, as many suppose, between the possessing classes and the working-classes. And gratuitously to label these classes as representing Law and Order on the one hand and Socialism and Revolution on the other, is an insult to the working-man. Historically, the line of cleavage in English politics is between the Tories plus the people on the one hand, and the Liberals plus the manufacturers, the big traders, and the exploiters of the people on the other. Mr. Churchill's
As I have already pointed out, Conservatism is not to be allotted in this way to a horizontal stratum of the community, although Liberalism certainly may be. Large sections of the working-classes in this country are still Conservatives. They still have the pride of country and of race, although we may have done our best to shake them free of both; and it is these working class elements in the nation which, together with the Tories, should form the opponents of the Liberal and Socialistic party.
Besides no good can come of thus opposing an unbroken front of prejudice and hostility to Socialism. Socialism represents only a body of ideas, and the way to fight ideas is not to present to them an unbroken front of stubborn opposition, but to oppose to them another body of ideas, better solutions and better and nobler prospects than they can promise. Ideas are not fought with machine guns, but with intellectual weapons. To slay those who advocate them, merely makes them breed faster. If Socialism is right in its ideas, by all means let us have it. If it is wrong and we believe it is wholly wrong then we must offer better solutions.
Our reason for placing the Liberals and Socialists
It is, therefore, in the present impotence of Liberalism that we find the best demonstration of the claim that the Liberals and Socialists are allies; and the fact that Truth predicted only the other day that Mr. Lloyd George will ultimately join the official Socialist Party is further evidence favouring the same conclusion.
The line of cleavage in English politics cannot, therefore, lie between Capitalism and Socialism. It
Thus, if any party is to reconstitute itself the leaders of the people, the Conservative Party is the one that is indicated, and the only difficulty before us is to devise a policy which will help to recover the popular faith that has been largely sacrificed, and without which no party can possibly lead. It is now for the Conservative Party, therefore, to discover in what directions they must seek for conditions which, while they bear oppressively on the nation as a whole, call for high qualities of statesmanship for their modification or removal.
It is suggested here that there are five such possible directions, in none of which the people at large can be expected to effect any useful reforms by their own unaided efforts. There is, apart from the constitutional or other reforms already recommended, which lie peculiarly within the province of Conservatism: (1) The Health of the Nation; (2) the Education of the masses; (3) the Question of Over-population;
(1) The conditions prevailing among the majority of the population, both as to their food and its preparation, are incredibly bad. Few people have any idea how bad they are. A mere glance at them would provide matter enough for a dozen chapters, and the supply of milk alone would afford ample opportunities for beneficent and valuable reform. During several sojourns in Dorset, for instance, the writer has been appalled by the condition of things, not only in the supply of milk, but also in its scientific treatment before being despatched to the consumer. The fact that the total deaths from tuberculosis in Dorset are twice as great in proportion to the population, as they are in Kent, Sussex and Devonshire, where the same conditions do not prevail, is probably only one aspect of this problem. Indeed, this disparity has for a long time been occupying the attention of the municipal authorities all over the county, and yet nothing appears to have been done or attempted in this department by the Ministry of Health. Rich as the county is in pasturage, it is impossible at the present moment, despite the herds of cows that abound, to obtain a pint of milk or a pound of butter that is really protective food against tuberculosis, unless a private source of supply is at hand. And the huge organisation for the supply of milk to big centres like Bournemouth and London, leaves but very few private sources of supply available. 1
The abuse of tinned food and proprietory foods is so common in rural districts throughout England that at the present moment, in the southern counties, with
1 The milk conditions in Dorset were described in intimate detail by the writer in his novel, The Taming of Don Juan (1924).
In the matter of bread also there is ample room for reforms of a drastic and far-reaching nature. It ought to be possible for every working-class woman to purchase a pure wheaten loaf at her local baker's. To-day, unless she is equipped with expert knowledge, she cannot do so, and even when she is so equipped she may find it difficult.
The question of the drink of the nation also urgently needs investigating. The fermented beverages sold are poor in quality, and owing to the manner of their preparation are devoid of protective properties. 2 Probably much of the dissatisfaction and misery of the proletariat is due, not so much to sordid conditions of life for these are the first that cease to be noticed when they are habitual but to the lack of that inner contentedness which is bound to supervene when the body obtains what it requires in food and drink. Many of us who have lived in circumstances very much more distressing than those of the poorest working-class family and who have retained our good spirits notwithstanding, can vouch for the fact that this inner contentedness is of far greater importance than the outward comfort secured by the appointments and surroundings of the home.
There is also vast scope for beneficent reform in
1 This was already clearly noticed twenty years ago by various witnesses before the Inter-Departmental Committee on Physical Deterioration (1904). See the evidence of Sir John Gorst, Mrs. Close, Mr. Henry James, and Mr. G. H. Fosbroke, pp. 432, 118, 84 and 261.
2 This is admitted by the Medical Research Committee's Report on Vitamines (1919). See p. 61.
Now all these are matters about which the majority of the population can know nothing. They are unequipped to trace a good measure of their ill health, their chronic constipation, and their frequently stubborn debility, to the food they eat, and the beverages they drink. And since either the natural indolence, or the excessive labours of the women of the working classes in particular, incline them inevitably to the proprietory or preserved food, because it is as a rule more easily prepared and dished up than fresh food they even prefer it, both for themselves and their families, before food in its natural state which requires more careful preparation. Thus it is not at all uncommon to find in lower middle class and working-class families at a time when greengrocers' stalls are cracking under the weight of fresh fruit of all kinds, the housewife providing tinned pears, tinned apricots or tinned pineapple for her husband's and children's meal. These tinned products are more expensive than the fresh fruit in season, but they are easily dished up.
This ignorance, which leads to much bad health,
Furthermore the whole system of drilling young children and of teaching them physical exercises and violent games should be carefully and scientifically revised. The fact that it has been noticed that a large percentage of children deteriorate soon after they start going to school, 1 may not be unconnected with the misuse of themselves, 2 in exercise of all kinds, dances and drilling, imposed by the school curriculum; and the teaching of exercises, drilling and dancing ought therefore to be examined from this standpoint.
1 See the 1924 Report of the Chief Medical Officer of the Board of Education, where it is stated that the physique of numbers of children degenerates while they are at school, and Sir G. Newman's comment on this fact is as follows: "It would seem that there must be conditions in the school as in our educational system which are favourable or perhaps even produce, some of the physical effects which are found."
2 It is impossible to enter here into the explanation of this misuse of self. For a full treatment of this point I would refer the reader to my Man: An Indictment, Chapters X and XII.
(2) In the realm of education, too, how much could not be effected by beneficent reforms, undertaken with a clear grasp of the objects in view. It is too late now perhaps to place elementary education once more upon a voluntary footing and to restore to parents their financial responsibilities in this matter, no matter on how small a scale. But in any case the whole of the elementary education of the country badly needs modification. The curriculum ought everywhere to be ruthlessly cut down, and the fundamental and minimum requirements of a sound mental life given a very much more important place in the school programme. 2 The children of England ought at least to be taught English, their native tongue. It
1 See my Chapter on the proofs of Progressive Physical Deterioration in Man: An Indictment.
2 See my False Assumptions of Democracy, Chapter VI, where I have worked out in the minutest detail how the present curriculum of the Elementary Schools could be modified in order to allow for the reform I suggest. Very soon after publishing this book, the measures of reform outlined in this chapter were warmly recommended in two official publications.
The danger of the present political situation is that we have an electorate, large sections of which do not know, and have never been taught their native language. Their English is the babble of babes, their vocabulary that of a Hottentot. This electorate does not know how to listen to words spoken, or how to read and understand words written. Such a statement will probably strike the reader as exaggeration. But, if he understands by the knowledge of a language, that ability to distinguish between words that have a definite and practical meaning and those which are susceptible of but the vaguest definition; if he also understands by the knowledge of a language the power to read and listen with some capacity for criticism, he will probably be more ready to agree. At present the bulk of the proletariat are at the mercy of the glib speaker and the glib writer, because they have not the equipment wherewith to check or
With an electorate composed largely of elements that do not even know their own language, in this sense, it is possible for a very Saviour of mankind to be set aside in favour of one who is unscrupulous and agile enough to exploit this ignorance for his own ends, or at least, to put it mildly, it is impossible to prosecute reforms which are insusceptible of being presented in the accepted "stunt" or popular form. But what then becomes of any programme, however wise and however desirable, that a truly patriotic and honest party might wish to carry through? Suppose through its lack of tinselly sentiment and fair-booth phraseology it failed to "make a hit" at the hustings? Should the party in question have to bow to the inevitable and relinquish its opportunity in favour of men better practised in the buffooneries of a "revue"?
The Programme of any Conservative Party which does not wish to confine its work to what can be put into an attractive headline in the Daily Press, must give a prominent place to the reform of elementary education. The people must be taught their own language whatever else may fail if only with a view to equipping them with that ability to be clear about ideas and principles, and less dependent than they are at present upon decoy words, catch phrases and claptrap.
(3) The question of over-population is one which urgently requires to be faced by a brave and resolute party, but it is not denied that it is a thorny one. As
It does not appear to be sufficiently understood how heavily the evils of over-population press upon all alike in this country, hopelessly destroying much of the happiness, comfort and health of the present generation. No matter whether we examine the problem of housing, of food distribution and supply, of excessive urbanisation, of traffic difficulties, of nervous exhaustion, of unemployment, or even of insanity, we are always led back sooner or later to the fact that England is over-populated, and that all our efforts to overcome any difficulties connected with the problems just mentioned, can only amount to patchwork, so long as the fundamental problem that of population is not faced and dealt with.
Like most other problems, that of population can be approached from two standpoints. It can be dealt with quantitatively, and those practical means can be considered by which the size of the population can be adapted to the country's resources and needs, either by encouraging multiplication if it is insufficient, or by developing industry, relieving distress, and promoting emigration if it is excessive; or we may deal with it qualitatively, by contriving means whereby the efficiency of our people may be enhanced, and their energy spared and increased if they are inferior from the standpoint of human desirability.
Needless to say that, in practice, the two standpoints
The Malthusians, who, for over a century, have been calling attention to the evils of over-population, are, as a rule, summarily silenced with the reply that their whole standpoint is based upon error, and that there is no such evil as over-population. Their opponents argue that modern methods of food supply, in conjunction with the large tracts of virgin soil that still remain unexploited, allow for so vast an increase of human life that, if at any time food threatened to run short, the precise moment when this is likely to occur is still too far distant to be regarded as a present or pressing problem.
But to those who point to the still unpeopled areas of Australia, Canada and the Argentine, to the still unexplored resources of mineral wealth in many parts of the world, and who draw the inference that there is room for the indefinite expansion of the human race, Mr. Harold Cox, in a recent book, 1 replies wisely enough: "That inference cannot be maintained. However great the still untouched resources of the earth may be, beyond question they are limited. Therefore, if the expansion of the human race con-
1 The Problem of Population (Jonathan Cape).
And to those Socialists and Communists who frequently pretend that their schemes will abolish all problems, including that of population, Mr. Cox points out very cogently that "if the institution of private property were abolished, and all were entitled to draw according to their needs upon the common stock, to which all would contribute according to their capacity, then it would become apparent to everyone that a high birth rate was incompatible with a high standard of living". 2
Thus, after showing that emigration cannot possibly keep pace with the increase of population for, while the Government scheme only allows for the removal of 80,000 persons a year, the increase in England and Wales for the year 1921 alone amounted to 390,000 (which figure represents the excess of births over deaths) Mr. Cox can see no other remedy for the existing state of affairs than systematic and universal birth control, with a League of Low Birth Rate Nations to support and organise it.
Now, admirable and courageous as Mr. Cox's analysis is, not only do we fail to see in it any attempt to identify the qualitative and quantitative standpoints in the manner suggested above, but also we are bound to join issue with him on the remedy he suggests.
For unless those who advocate Birth Control take the view that the State has the right to determine who shall and who shall not have offspring and we do not read this extreme standpoint in their works all birth control depending upon the voluntary use of contraceptives must inevitably lead to racial suicide. And why is this so? Because, in the first place birth
1 Op. cit. pp. 35, 36.
2 Ibid. p. 112. See also pp. 111, 119.
Secondly, it cannot be too emphatically repeated, that the law of heredity is such that even the most desirable parents may be unable to bring forth the best possible combination of each other's qualities in their children unless nature is allowed a wide range of trials, enabling her to effect the greatest possible number of permutations and combinations with the stock attributes. I understand that the advocates of Birth Control would be in favour of no one having more than three children, and that this rule should be applied all round. 1 But this would be fatal. Because even if parents were specially selected for breeding, it is impossible to be certain that their best offspring will necessarily come among the earliest born.
Advocates of Birth Control are too prone to forget that if the families of Charles Darwin, Wellington, Rembrandt, Nelson, Napoleon, Bacon, Boileau, and Joseph, had been contented with three children these eminent people would never have been born. And these are only a few names selected at random.
Birth Control applied all round, therefore, would obviously be most undesirable. We want the least possible number of children, dwindling to none at all, from the undesirable, and the maximum number from the desirable. Only in this way can nature and heredity be allowed to do their best work. Only in this way can humanity advance. The very lavishness of nature's provision in the matter of germ cells lends
1 This is certainly true of the Malthusian Society, for I have consulted them on the matter.
What is wanted then is control on a differential basis, and the ideal maximum in a family made to depend upon the desirability or the reverse of the parents and their stock (a most "unpleasant" measure, which no one nowadays would have the courage to carry through).
For these reasons alone, apart from many others, both psychological and physiological, into which it is impossible to enter here, we therefore disapprove of the remedy for over-population recommended by Mr. Harold Cox and the other advocates of birth control, including Marie Stopes and Dean Inge. And we suggest that, since voluntary birth control on a three-child basis all round is inadvisable, since emigration is inadequate, and since, moreover, at the present day we are witnessing an orgy of expenditure on public assistance which cannot well be exceeded, 1 we are driven to the only remaining alternative, which consists in approaching the matter merely from the qualitative or race-improvement standpoint.
The future of a nation is potential in the quality of every generation of its citizens. It is possible to reply: "Après nous le déluge!"; but it is precisely because our ancestors of the nineteenth century made this reply too often that we are now compelled to confront a situation which Mr. John Martin calls
1 A writer in The Spectator estimates the expenditure at £225,000,000 per annum. See issue for February 3rd, 1923.
To those whose argument with the Malthusians still consists in a denial of the evils to which they say over-population leads, the modern investigator can retort: "Yes, but can your claims in favour of unlimited populations be valid in regard to every kind of human life? Can it ever be anything but an evil if every increase in population is to show more than a proportionate increase in degenerate beings?"
The present state of degeneration in this country is appalling. Progressive physical deterioration is established, and has been established for a considerable time. 2 It surely cannot be a good thing to allow population to increase if its quality is bad.
Moreover, seeing that the burden of human incapacity and wreckage which has to be shouldered by each new generation rests quite as heavily on the hearty and sound among the masses as upon the more desirable members of the. governing classes, and must, owing to centralised organisation, hamper the whole machinery of national endeavour more or less equally, the question is one which may be considered on a plane above all class rivalry and antagonism.
It must be obvious that any nation which, from generation to generation bears upon its shoulders the great mass of human degeneration and wreckage detailed in my book, Man: An Indictment, which absorbs its energies and its wealth, without yielding any corresponding benefit, must in the end show signs both of exhaustion and revolt. For when it is remembered that in the statistics that may be collected to prove degeneration, only the extreme cases are given, and by no means a complete picture of the
1 Fortnightly Review, January, 1923, p. 48.
2 For statistical and other proofs of this see my Man: An Indictment. Chapter VIII. The Proofs of Progressive Physical Deterioration.
When in January, 1921, for instance, there were 158,764 men, boys, women and girls unemployed in London, it should be observed that in addition to the 22,129 pauper lunatics in London asylums, and the 24,453 defective children on the roll of London schools, a vast and fluctuating mass of children and adults, with their thousand and one varieties of debility and chronic disability, were simultaneously making claims upon the resources of the metropolis, for which no one either in London, or elsewhere, obtained the smallest return.
It is difficult, and it would also be inaccurate, to disregard these heavy burdens in tracing the causes of trade depression and unemployment; and when we consider the imperative necessity of relieving the distress of the sound and able-bodied, and of continuing old age pensions to widows and orphans, and innumerable other forms of public assistance ultimately unproductive or at any rate unavoidable we are compelled to enquire what steps, if any, we may take to reduce the burden of our obligations in that direction which constitutes a dead loss to the nation as a whole.
The necessity of facing and dealing with the problem of degeneration is, therefore, both urgent and imperative, and it falls naturally within the province of Conservative policy to undertake this task, because Conservatives are primarily concerned with the preservation of the nation's identity. While the result may
Can Conservatives with any pretence of sanity allow the multiplication of thoroughly undesirable human material to continue any longer unrestricted in the country? Must they wait until disaster is imminent before taking steps to avert it? Is it not possible that, by the elimination of degeneracy in all its forms, the desirable end the reduction of population may be achieved without the necessity of proceeding to such measures as the imposition of Birth Control as a practice upon the population as a whole? For we take this occasion of observing that, while emigration is inadequate as a means of relieving over population, it is also a potent contributary cause of national deterioration. While the increase of degeneracy proceeds apace, emigration, by skimming off some of the cream of our population every year, adds to the influences which disturb the proper balance between the desirable and undesirable at home. A visit to the Emigration Department at Australia House, where the health conditions insisted upon in Australian immigrants can be examined, would alone suffice to convince any reader that, while quantitatively emigration may serve some minor purpose, qualitatively it can and must be both a dysgenic and degenerative measure.
Now the failure that has attended previous attempts to deal with the problem of population qualitatively has been largely due to the fact that those sections of the House of Commons which were strongly in favour of this method of approaching the difficulty
The first step, therefore, is to draw wider public attention to the possibility and urgent necessity of approaching our population problem from the qualitative standpoint. 1 Secondly, it should be borne in mind that the measures to be framed should have these two definite objects they should aim at reducing and eliminating degenerate and undesirable stock, and they should protect existing sound and normal stocks from the chance of pollution and deterioration through misalliances and contact with decadent or polluted elements in the population.
At first those cases alone might be dealt with which, while they are not acute enough to find their way into asylums and homes, nevertheless constitute a threat to the race if allowed to multiply; and it might even be necessary to increase for one or two generations the expenditure on public assistance, in order to isolate and segregate large numbers of people certified to be half-witted or tainted with some kind of hereditary ailment, either of the eyes, ears, or general constitution, which would make the propagation of their kind undesirable.
To those who would start the cry that we who
1 This task the present writer has long been engaged upon, and Man: An Indictment is only the last and most important of a long series of publications in which he has endeavoured to achieve this end.
Concurrently with these efforts, and usefully supplementing them, a vigorous attempt might be made to disseminate among the people a taste and a moral bias, which, based on the conclusion here advanced, would educate a large body of public opinion to regard all procreation of unsound and tainted offspring as despicable and revolting. To argue that this taste and moral bias are already present is worse than disingenuous. Neither among the poor nor among the rich is it at all customary nowadays to encounter any influence whatever approaching a sound check on the love impulses, proceeding from a wise discrimination of desirability in the mate. Here the reformer has practically a virgin field for his operations and the highest possible sanction for carrying them out.
No campaign of this kind, however, could possibly succeed which was not accompanied by a rigorous investigation of the thousand and one influences which, with our intensive urbanisation and other modern conditions, tend, apart from hereditary evils, to sow the seeds of debility and ill-health, in every fresh crop of human beings.
We have a Ministry of Health, which, so far, has accomplished hardly anything in this direction. But the lethargy shown by this department of Government cannot be wholly due to the bad will of the officials
Conservatives, therefore, would do well to identify themselves with a sound and vigorous policy precisely on this question. The time is ripe. And it is not unlikely that they would be astonished by the enthusiastic support with which their proposals would now be met.
(4) Closely associated with any scheme for purging the population of its degenerate elements and for promoting the national health, are two objects which should always take a prominent place in every Conservative programme the arrest of urbanisation, and the encouragement and development of agriculture. In view of the known evils of urbanisation, which have been sufficiently widely proclaimed, it is incredible that a large and inflated city like London, for instance, should be allowed to continue to spread like a cancer, north, south, east and west, swallowing up the countryside all round it, and increasing the area covered by streets of houses, gas-works, factories, etc. It is difficult, in view of what is at stake, to understand the indifference of the various Governments to this two-fold blight of modern England the wanton destruction of green fields and lanes, and the spread of the urban cankers. Is England to become one long ugly succession of streets, full of ugly, toothless people, living on tinned food, tea, margarine and white bread?
No Conservative Party of the future can possibly remain indifferent to the pressing nature of this problem. Some policy will have to be framed in regard to it, and those who frame the policy will have to recognise that they are faced with a two-fold evil. It is not only the increase of population which is intolerable, but the concommittant reduction of rural areas, which accompanies every increase, however slight, of the present areas covered by bricks and mortar, paving stones, and macadam.
No policy framed to deal effectively with this evil, however, can be complete, which does not embody measures for promoting and encouraging agriculture, and if possible the luring of urban populations back to the occupations connected with that industry. Not only from the standpoint of self-support in matters of food, but also from the standpoint of the national physique and sanity, an extensive revival of agriculture is greatly to be recommended. The Protectionists, who opposed the repeal of the Corn Laws during the anti-Corn-Law agitations of the middle of the last century, made a strong point of the ill-health that
1 Dr. Bueb, of the Stickstoff Syndikat, Berlin, whom I consulted on this matter in January, 1926, assured me that although these changes would be necessary, they could easily be effected, and indeed have been with perfect success in Germany.
At all events, whether the idea I suggest, of beginning with an intensive cultivation of pasture land. is advisable or not, some sort of revival of agriculture seems to be very urgently needed, and Conservatives, whose traditions connect them chiefly with the land, should not fail to include this important object in any programme they may frame for future legislation.
(5) The need of obtaining some economic security for the great mass of people represented by the wage-earners of the nation, is the last but by no means the least important object which should be kept in view by any far sighted Conservative Party, anxious to recover the confidence of the country. For it is quite obvious that this is the next great development of a sound civilisation.
As Mr. Noel Skelton observes, "for the mass of the people, political and educational status have outstripped economic status" 1; and since this is a condition that cannot endure, and is indeed not enduring, it is incumbent upon the Conservative Party to pave the way for, and if possible establish, a new era in this connection.
The structure of our society has become unbalanced, because equality before the Law and equality in political power tend very soon to leave economic inequality in conspicuous and egregious prominence. When the two first privileges have been won, it is not likely that the third disparity will be calmly endured
1 Constructive Conservatism, p. 17.
It is, however, readily admitted by the most ignorant and covetous of agitators that economic equality is an impossibility. To make it possible for one second of time is the utmost that could be achieved. Sixty seconds later economic inequality would be re-established, and the old conditions would be restored.
This fact, however, undeniable as it is, will not prevent the occurrence of the sedition which Aristotle regards as inevitable in societies which, though based on political equality, yet reveal gross disparities of wealth. Indeed, we already behold the beginnings of this sedition about us to-day, hardly fifty years after the establishment of political equality.
It behoves us, therefore, to enquire in what way we can forestall sedition, by proceeding to measures which, though not directed towards the fantastic and
1 Politics, V, 1302a.
That is why I suggest, and in my suggestion I agree with Mr. Noel Skelton, whose short treatise has already been quoted, that the most urgent need of all is to give some kind of economic security to the wage-earners. Mr. Noel Skelton says "until our educated and politically-minded democracy has become predominantly a property-owning democracy, neither the national equilibrium nor the balance of the life of the individual will be restored." 1
This is undeniable. And the granting of economic security to the majority of wage earners is more particularly desirable from a Conservative point of view, because not only will it greatly stabilize the nation, but it will also restore to the workers that independence, thrift and self-reliance which, until the Industrial Revolution, were always the principal and most coveted characteristics of the English people.
Gradually and step by step, the money which is now intercepted on its way to the pockets of the wage-earners, and spent for them in various works, many of which are wastefully and badly performed, and a large number of which would be unnecessary if the army of their sick, their degenerate, and their crippled, were reduced, must be devoted to securing higher wages, and ultimately to creating a property-owning working class, which will insist upon the right of responsibility and independence the moment their improved economic condition is experienced.
The fantastic experiment of keeping a class which, as far as this world's goods go, is certainly dispossessed, and of making it politically equal to the
1 Op. cit. p. 17.
For this reform, however, there is yet time. Nothing points to the necessity of finding an immediate or prompt solution. And yet a solution must be found before long. Here there is a further opportunity for the Conservative Party of displaying that hypermetropic wisdom, which in politics is so rare that possibly only the Holy Catholic Church and a handful of European monarchs have ever exhibited it. Five preliminary steps will, however, be necessary before any practical attempts can be made to secure the end desired: (1) The working-classes must be protected from the alien poor, who will swoop down in their thousands the moment prosperity increases. (2) The working classes must be protected from the burden and contamination of degeneracy. (3) The most stringent economies will have to be observed in every department of the Government, to reduce as far as possible the burden of taxation. (4) Steps will have to be taken to prevent waste of earnings among the poor themselves. (a) The custom of buying clothes
1 Speech on Conservative Principles, April, 1872 (Selected Speeches, Vol. II, p. 525).
1 It is doubtful whether the so-called "tally men" who carry on this business are obliged to register as money-lenders, but they certainly transact loans on a large scale, although they advance articles of clothing, gramophones, furniture and pictures instead of cash.
(5) Legislation will have to be introduced to protect the consumer and the producer from the parasitic, non-productive and very onerous profits of middle-men of all kinds. It is impossible here to deal with every aspect of this difficult question and to trace the ramifications of parasitism right through the supply and distribution of vital commodities in this country. But, if we consider coal alone, it is obvious that a major part of the difficulty of procuring (a) adequate wages for the miner, and (b) tolerable purchase prices for the consumer, is due to the perfectly gratuitous interposition of middle-men at every possible stage between the two. The fact that a ton of domestic coal costs 20s. at the pit head, and is sold at 50s. to the householder in London, is sufficient to show that something very serious is wrong, and it is our opinion that the Coal Commission took a very much too timid and moderate view of this aspect of the problem. It is not enough to say "there do exist between producer and consumer substantial margins of profits or expenses, which might be narrowed to the advantage of one or other or both of them". 1 It is not helpful to add: "It ought to be possible either to reduce the price of coal to the consumer, or to raise it to the
1 Report of the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry (1925). Vol. I, p. 92.
Thus, even before we proceed to organise means by which the wage-earners can acquire economic security equivalent to their political and educational privileges there is much that will be required to be done; and seeing that powerful vested interests will probably be met behind every abuse, the difficulties that will require to be overcome must not be minimised. But all these reforms, far reaching and complex as they are, cannot now be undertaken or thought out by the active politicians of any party. These men are much too busy and too greatly harassed for that. To-day the field is too vast, and the limelight of the executive stage is not favourable to the careful and profound study of any problem, however simple. Moreover, the active politician has neither the time, nor the peculiar gifts, which would qualify him for the part
1 Ibid. p. 93.
Henceforth, therefore, the road to success in politics must lie in the collaboration of active politicians with an unofficial body of men, related to the party, who know and who think, and who know because they study, and who think because they have the necessary peace and leisure.
The lesson to be learnt from the success of Liberalism from the time of the General Election of 1905 to the end of the Great War, is this, that at the present day a political party cannot survive that is not supported by an independent body of students and thinkers, from which it can obtain its ideas, its policies and its programme, as it were ready made.
In the case of Liberalism this thinking body was, of course, the Fabian Society. And although, by falling back on this storehouse of ideas, the Liberal Party ultimately wrecked itself, because it was compelled by its borrowings to move so much to the Left as to abandon its proper position altogether, the fact that it nourished for a while even on borrowed thought, proved what an immense advantage such an ideological background is to the theatre of active politics. If only that ideological background had been purely of Liberal manufacture, if only the men responsible for its creation had been inspired by the general faith and objective of the Liberal Party, and not by a faith and an objective which was very much more suitable to an extreme Labour group, we should still be able to behold a great Liberal Party in existence to-day, capable of asserting its independence against the Labour Party and the Conservatives.
What is true of Liberalism is also true of Conservatism. The weakness of the Conservative Party, ever
The official Conservative Party, as represented by its old and even its younger figureheads, is as devoid of any constructive policy or programme as it ever was. It has nothing to oppose, except the resistance of self interest, to the programme of reforms recommended by Labour. Of the ideas which could be used both for attack and defence, it is entirely guiltless. And yet there never was an Age which required more brilliance, more depth, and more courage, in its leaders, than the present. It teems with difficulties that demand solution, and with abuses that must be bravely fought. To scout the chance of a successful campaign now may be to lose the opportunity for ever.
Nevertheless, the framing of a Conservative policy to meet the needs of the Age, to correct the abuses that have not yet been tracked down, and to avert the disasters that threaten in the future, is not an impossible task, it is not even an undertaking demanding superlatively high genius. But it certainly depends on one condition, which, so far as can be judged, no Conservative leader, or member of the rank and file, has hitherto seriously contemplated, and that is the immediate formation of a body of men who will be
Let it not be imagined for one moment that the only function of such a body would consist in restocking the intellectual arsenal of Toryism, although this would indeed be one of its principal aims. Like the Fabian Society, it would have wider duties to perform than the mere purveying of ideas. It would require to undertake that which is the direst need of modern times, both in England and in every quarter of the civilised world, and that is the re-education of public opinion in the matter of sound and realistic political and economic doctrine. For a hundred years and more now the world has been flooded with the literature of the parties that stand for social disintegration. No organised protest, no systematic and flat contradiction, supported by wise doctrine, has come from the other side, in spite of the fact that before such a systematic and flat contradiction, the disintegrating parties must collapse. All the weight, all the energy of argument and emotional appeal, has been on the side that desires disruption, or which is blindly pursuing a policy that will achieve it.
Thus in the field of public education alone, a body of students and thinkers, working along Conservative lines, would find more than enough scope for the exercise of its functions; and seeing that the ultimate constructive reforms, with which it would fill the Conservative programme, would be of little use unless the ground were prepared for their reception, it is probable that for some years (as in the case of the Fabian Society) this body would find itself engaged in little else than the re-education of public opinion.
Nothing but the totally unjustifiable self-confidence