Notes on the Elections

By William Morris

Entry 8752


From: holdoffhunger [id: 1]


Revolt Library Anarchism Notes on the Elections

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(1834 - 1896)

William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) was a British textile designer, poet, novelist, translator and socialist activist associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement. He was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of production. His literary contributions helped to establish the modern fantasy genre, while he helped win acceptance of socialism in fin de siècle Great Britain. (From:

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Notes on the Elections


The elections for the new Parliament form by this time a somewhat stale subject, our readers may think; nevertheless, a word in season may be spoken about them, and the prospects of the new House, before those prospects are all muddled together by the cowardice, irresolution, chicanery, and downright lies in action, which after a little while swamp all parliaments (with whatever promise of better things they may have first met); under the strange institution of party government—an institution, be it said, which would be a permanent and striking failue, if it were the business of parliament to do anything: but which as it 1s the business of parliament to do nothing, must be considered a very fair success.

But party government does at last seem to be breaking down; and under the influence of that breakdown the present parliament really does not promise anything— except gradual drifting towards that shade of opinion in the country which is most colorless and fatuous, i.e. the modern Whig-neo-tory policy. Although the Gladstonites are pledged to bring in a Home Rule Bill, and though before the elections they had but that one plank in their platform, they are reads preparing for a strategic movement on that side: and they will run away from Home Rule if they dare. For this they have an excuse in the one thing that has made the elections of 1892 remarkable—to wit, the weight that the instincts of the working men as working men have had in the polling.

It is true that the labor party of three will be able to do nothing in parliament; and would be able to do little more there if they were twenty instead of three. Nevertheless, the elections in several places, which made the official Liberals and Mr. Gladstone at their head so wild, are significant enough of the change which is coming over working-class opinion; for they must be looked on by everyone not blinded by party politics as a protest against the organized hypocrisy of the two great (?) political parties; and the Liberals see this and are dismayed at it, while the Tories, seeing it also, think they can use it for their advantage. Let the working men look to it to belie that hope!

For us Socialists this obvious move forward of the class-feeling is full of real hope; for we cannot doubt that it is the result of the last ten years of Socialist agitation. Therefore, now once more it is incumbent on the Socialists whose ideas of Socialism are clear, who know what they are aiming at, to clear the essentials of Socialism from the mere passing accidents of the new form of the struggle between labor and capital. It is our business to show the workers that the essential thing is not an improved administrative machinery, which without the spirit of true Socialism would only better the condition of the workers as slaves of the middle classes; that it is not a more perfect form of joint-stock enterprise than at present. That it is not a system of understanding between masters and men which would raise wages when the markets were good; that it is not mere amelioration of the conditition of certain groups of labor, necessarily at the expense of others. Furthermore, that our aim is not to level down and level up till we are all of us sharing in a poor life, stripped of energy, without art, research, or pleasure; as I verily believe many of our opponents do genuinely suppose our agitation tends to. But that the essence of our aim is the destruction of poverty of all kinds, by means of the reorganization of work for the benefit of the workers only, and each and all of them. And let us remember that if this is not possible, no permanent and real amelioration of the life of the workers is possible. Rise of wages, shortening of hours of labor, better education, &c., all these things are good, even in themselves; but unless they are used as steps towards equality of condition, the inconvenience they will cause to the capitalists will be met by changes in the markets, and in the methods of production, which will make the gains of the workers mere ames, and give once more the whole advantages to the capitalists.

The workers have to choose between slavery, however its chains may be gilded (or galvanized, more likely) and freedom—that is, equality political and economic. When the workers understand that this is their true aim, every step they take will be a real gain never to be taken from them.


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