15 JUNE 1929, Page 5

The Real Cleavage

31R. RAMSAY MACDONALD'S Cabinet has had a good Press. The only dissentient voices, so far as we can see, are the French Nationalists, with " Pertinax " at the head, who see the claim of French military hegemony fading away into the clear light of a real League of Nations. And the reason why the new Government has been hailed with something like acclamation—there has not even been a repetition of the ephemeral City scare of 1924—is crystal-clear. The Ministers are, without exception, stalwarts of the Labour movement who put solid constructive work for social welfare, whether of the nation or of the inter- national community, before allegiance to party shib- boleths or obsolete traditions. We like especially the shaping of the Ministry of Employment—who knows whether the use of the positive term is not half the battle ?—which, after the manner of the War Cabinet, will ensure the co-ordination of the ever-increasing activities of the modern government in point of social services. The Prime Minister has been chided by some people for including no representative of Labour's Left Wing—not even Mr. Wheatley, whose ability if not his judgment, few will question. We consider that this decision to brave the storm of the extremists is a most statesmanlike act. It shows that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald is in earnest in his appeal for a stable government, and, just as he refused to be governed by the party caucus in the choice of his Ministers, so, we are convinced, he will not flinch before the Thunder on the .Left which such a decision is bound to evoke. He has learnt the lesson of 1924-25, and he intends to give no handle to the irresponsible, out-of-date Conservatives (and Liberals) who see Socialist bogies behind every door to progress.

But this is no less the lesson of the 1929 election. Anyone with ears to hear must recognize that the party which won the election was the Labour party, not the Socialist. (We know that the party cherishes the dual epithet, but we are not speaking now in terms of labels.) On the one hand the " workers," at least in the industrial districts, voted solidly for " their own people," and were not interested in any high-falutin Socialist dogma. The large section of progressive voters, on the other hand, made their choice, not because they had any faith in the power of Socialism—or any other ism, for that matter—to achieve the desired ends, but because they saw no sense in emulating Mrs. Partington, and in the present state of the Liberal Party no other course seemed to them to offer a prospect of stable government and sure progress.

Because it has signified its readiness to support Mr. Ramsay MacDonald's Government, the Spectator has been accused by one correspondent of turning -Socialist. We deny the soft impeachment, not because the label has any terrors for us—it is perhaps our most proud tradition that we have at various times in our history been so difficult to label—but because to our mind the fundamental issue in this country, and indeed in the world, to-day is grossly misrepresented as a conflict of Socialism and anti-Socialism. Time was when it was perhaps necessary for those who saw the urgent necessity for the social' reforms which lubricate the wheels of our democratic civilization 'to tie on the Socialist label. But in this sense, indeed; " we are all Socialists now." 'Perhaps the most remarkable feature of recent years is the way in which Conservative Governments have been forced along the' road of democracy and progress. It would almost seem that - the Zeitgeist took a malign pleasure in arranging that Home Rule should be conceded to Ireland after the fierce thirty years' war by Conserva- tive Ministers ; or that pensions should be extended and the net of the franchise spread wider under Mr. Baldwin—for all the Conservative opposition to the whole theory of maintenance and the popular vote. We agree entirely with Mrs. Corbett Ashby, who writes in the Manchester Guardian :— "The electorate as a whole is interested only in one broad line of political cleavage—that is to say, between the more and the less progressive points of view."

We welcome, too, unreservedly, a letter from the veteran Unionist, Mr. Henry Hobhouse, in the Times of June 6th. Making due allowances for party pugilistics, he empha- sizes the degree of common agreement, and says " putting aside extremists (Die-hards, Protectionists and Free Traders, Socialists and Individualists) it was on most subjects a question of degree and pace rather than of principle." We earnestly hope that his plea for co- operation in Government will not go unheeded, and we too would like to see greater independence in Parliament and less drill by Whips, as if men were no better than " sheep or goats which nourish a blind life within the soul." In short, let us hear no more of the nonsense about a united Imperial Party to meet the Socialist challenge, and let us call a halt to the practice of rigid party dictatorship.

It seems clear that in the present state of the Parties minority Government can work perfectly well, provided only that Mr, Ramsay MacDonald insists on a reasonable and common-sense attitude to the Liberal rump. To begin with, he should certainly not refuse the Commission of Inquiry on the question of Electoral Reform, although for our part we do not see that any system of Proportional Representation will make a ha'porth of difference to the position in Parliament. Whatever may be the professional view with regard to the latest eminent -Labour recruit, Mr. W. Jowitt, his constituents know that his ideas and aspirations have always shown a considerable affinity with those of the Labour Party, and the country knows him to have long been a personal friend of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald. No doubt it is bad luck on the stalwart fifty-seven at the present juncture, but we are confident that the real cleavage in our political life will soon be recognized by all. And this means that the majority of Liberals, certainly, will range themselves on the side of progress. We shall then have the two genuine Parties, the Progressive (which will no doubt for some time retain the badge of Labour), strong in the strength of Free Trade because of its up-to-date conception of the organized world community, and for the same reason ready to pledge this country to a permanent system of arbitration for inter-State disputes ; the Conservative in the strict sense (including, no doubt, some of the present Labour-Socialist party) which would be bitten by the microbes of Protection and a short-sighted Imperial policy as against the League. As Conservatives, more- over, they may obstruct the " rationalization " of industry and will be shy of financial experiments. But at least, leaving on one side the small minority of fanatical theorists" and sentimental busybodies, we shall once more be back at the two-Party system which responds truly enough to the intimate needs of the national psychology. Is this a distorted vision of the next few decades ? At any rate the more intelligent Socialist leaders are now facing up to the problem of guaranteeing production and stickling for public control rather than public ownership, and we can see very little difference between the new economic Socialism and the stabilized and regulated Capitalism, which is' the order of the day.