Page 8, 21st May 1937

21st May 1937
Page 8
Page 8, 21st May 1937 — NOTES AND COMMENTS

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Since it has abated nothing of its dictatorial methods in practice at home, it has left little common intellectual basis for the alliance beyond atheism and anti-tradition alism. Unfortunately this seems to be enough for most of our Left-wingers.

Viscount Snowden

Philip Snowden first became a national figure as the " sea-green incorruptible " of the Labour Party which he had helped to create. He ended his career in the House of Lords fighting a rear-guard action for an outdated Cobdenism, but he remained in the general estimation uncorrupted. No responsible person took literally the assertions of Labour extremists that he had sold himself to the master class, and the more discerning observers of politics recognised that in abandoning his Labour colleagues he had not so much changed his opinions as manifested them and preserved his political identity by reverting to type.

For he had been brought up a Cobdenite Radical and had remained one at bottom. His Socialism was bred of sick-room reading out of the bitterness of an invalid after his 'bind had already been formed, though it was sincere so far as it went and enlivened by a genuine passion on behalf of the poor.

Monetary Orthodoxy

Those, therefore, who accuse him of betraying his Party, should ask themselves whether the fault did not lie rather with the Party, which had so signally failed to think out its position that until a crisis came it Was indifferent to, if not unconscious of, fundamental intellectual differences between its own leaders.

The Party had all the less excuse because the sphere of national finance, in which the crisis arose, was the one in which Snowden had most unequivocally manifested his real convictions. As Chancellor of the Exchequer he had worked with the Bank of England and the Treasury officials during two spells of office, not only without friction, but with a positive enthusiasm for the monetary orthodoxy of the nineteenth century. Even in the interval in opposition, when the reversion to the gold standard was being consummated and Parliament was being asked to pass what was practically a revival of the Bank Charter Act of eighty years earlier, he made no objections in principle.

The Lone Furrow

If, therefore, the City's notion of monetary possibilities is to be taken as final, there is much truth in The conventional verdict that the Labour Party in 1931 was pursuing social policies that were financially impossible, and Snowden rightly broke with them when he could not check them. But it would be much 1racer to say that at that time no one with authority in the Party had thought seriously about monetary questions or investigated the possibility of adjusting the monetary system to meet social needs instead of adjusting social policies to fit the old system. Hence came a split in which the bulk of the Party were left with policies which it could not make work financially, and Snowden was left to carry the old financial orthodoxy into more congenial quarters. But even there his consistency was too much for his associates, for he held to the rigid free trade views that properly go with Bank of England finance. Eventually he treated the National Labour group to the scathing invective with which he had lashed the main body of the Party. For Mr. MacDonald he reserved the bitterest words of all and went to deplorable lengths in his revelations of confidences in the printed pages of his autobiography. For him, at least, politics were not a game.

The Socialist League Dissolves

The Socialist League has been so much in the public eye of late that it comes as a surprise to learn that its membei ship at the end of last year was only 1,600. The fact is that its publicity, like its finances, has rested almost entirely on the shoulders of one man, Sir Stafford Cripps. Furthermore, since he is the only member of the League in Parliament, the decision of the Labour Party to expel members of the League is tantamount (so far as Parliament is concerned) to a decision to expel Sir Stafford Cripps if the League remains in being. Logically enough, the League has

cut the knot by dissolving itself. But the Daily Herald and The Times join hands in somewhat vindictively insisting upon the necessity of still keeping an eye on the individual activities of ex-members within the Party.

Who Will Think for the Labour Party ?

The offence of the League is, of course, that it has joined in a United Front with two other minute bodies, the I.L.P. and the Communist Party of Great Britain. We can sympathise with the Labour Party in its desire to keep the Communist Party at arm's length. We would like to congratulate it also on bracing itself to set limits to the vagaries of its members and to bring some coherence to its policy. Unfortunately there is nothing to show that its present action reflects any positive intel lectual position. On the contrary, the Socialist League, meagre though its membership was, probably contained as many persons capable of contributing to an intellectually coherent policy as all the rest of the I.abour Party. And the real controllers of the Party are Trade Union officials whose horizon is limited by wage bargains and " benefits."

Yet the Catholics in the Labour Party are many times more numerous than the Leaguers ever were. Why have they not helped to formulate a consistent programme for it? The fault does not lie with Catholicism, which is the best possible

basis for coherent thinking. Presumably the explanation is that in politics they do not think as Catholics.

" Independent " Egypt

The negotiations at Montreux have been carried through with remarkable speed and a plan for the gradual abolition of all extra-territorial rights in Egypt has been accepted by all parties. Italy has duly played her new role as protector of Islamic peoples, France has foreborne to press for a longer transitional period, and Egypt has given undertakings, which have been annexed to the Treaty, not to use her new status to discriminate against foreigners.

And now Egypt, regarding herself as once more independent, is awaiting her admission to the League of Nations. Remembering the sequel to the last admission of an African State to the League, we might add absit omen. And, indeed, there can be no doubt that, should a military emergency arise, the British Government would not hesitate to resume a free hand in using the country as a military base as she did during the Great War. For matter of that, a British army remains stationed in Egypt even under the present regime, with nothing but military expediency to justify it. This may be ethically defensible, but let us at least be honest about what we are doing and, furthermore, let us apply the same standards when judging other nations.

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