Liberalism and the Social Problem
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LIBERALISM AND THE
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
WINSTON SPENCER CHURCHILL
HODDER AND STOUGHTON
These are the principal speeches I have made within the last fouryears. They have been chosen and collected with the idea of presentinga consistent and simultaneous view of the general field of Britishpolitics in an hour of fateful decision. I have exercised full freedomin compression and in verbal correction necessary to make them easierto read. Facts and figures have been, where necessary, revised,ephemeral matter eliminated, and epithets here and there reconsidered.But opinions and arguments are unaltered; they are hereby confirmed,and I press them earnestly and insistently upon the public.
We approach what is not merely a party crisis but a nationalclimacteric. Never did [viii]a great people enter upon a period of trialand choice with more sincere and disinterested desire to know thetruth and to do justice in their generation. I believe they willsucceed.
Winston S. Churchill.
33 Eccleston Square.
October 26, 1909.
The series of speeches included in this volume ranges, in point oftime, from the earlier months of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman'sGovernment to the latest phase in the fortunes of Mr. Asquith'ssucceeding Ministry, and forms an argumentative defence of the basisof policy common to both Administrations. The addresses it containsdeal with nearly all the great political topics of the last fouryears—with Free Trade, Colonial Preferences, the South Africansettlement, the latest and probably the final charter of tradeunionism, the Miners' Bill, the measures for establishing Trade Boardsand Labour Exchanges, the schemes of compulsory and voluntaryassurance, and the Budget. They possess the further characteristic ofdescribing and commending these proposals as "interdependent" parts ofa large and fruitful plan of Liberal statesmanship. Of this scheme theBudget is at once the foundation [xiv]and the most powerful and attractivefeature. If it prospers, the social policy for which it providesprospers too. If it fails, the policy falls to the ground.
The material of these speeches is therefore of great importance to thefuture of democracy in this country. Let me say a word as to theirauthorship. To a friendly critic they appear to present not only rareand highly trained qualities of statement and persuasion, but a unityand sincerity of thought which give them a place above mere partydialectics. Mr. Churchill's distinguished service to Liberalism hasnot been long in point of years, but it opened with the first speecheshe ever delivered in the House of Commons. No competent observers ofpolitical activities, and of the characters and temperaments whichdirect them, can have doubted from the first moment of Mr. Churchill'sappearance on the stage where his moral and intellectual sympathieslay and whither they would lead him. It is a true and, indeed, anobvious comment on his career to say that he began where his fatherleft off—as a Democrat and a Free Trader, and that on these inheritedinstincts and tendencies he has built what both his friends and hisenemies expected [xv]him to build. Mr. Churchill came to Liberalism fromthe same fold as Gladstone, and for the same reason—that it presentedthe one field of work open to a political talent of a high stamp, andto a wide and eager outlook on the future of our social order.Liberalism and Mr. Churchill have both had good reason to congratulatethemselves on that choice, and the party which failed to draw him intoa disastrous and reactionary change of view has no reason to resentit. Before he became a Liberal Mr. Churchill had taken the broad viewsof the South African problem that his father's later opinionscommended to him, and he was properly chosen to expound to the Houseof Commons the plan of self-government that embodied them.
If, therefore, the political groundwork of these speeches is soundLiberal principle, their meaning and purpose, taken in connection withthe Budget, and the industrial reforms for which it provides, signifya notable advance into places where the thinkers, the pioneers, themen in the advanced trenches, are accustomed to dwell. Let usacknowledge, with a sense of pleasure and relief, that this is newterritory. New, that is to say, for this country; not new [xvi]to the bestorganisations of industrial society that we know of. New as a clearlyseen vision and a connected plan of British, statesmanship; not new asactual experiment in legislation, and as theory held by progressivethinkers of many schools, including some of the fathers of modernLiberal doctrine, and most of our economists. What is there in thesepages repugnant to writers of the type of John Mill, Jevons, andMarshall? How much of them would even be repelled by Cobden? In themain they preach a gospel—that of national "efficiency"—common toall reformers, and accepted by Bismarck, the modern archetype of"Empire-makers," as necessary to the consolidation of the great Germannation. An average Australian or Canadian statesman would read themthrough with almost complete approval of every passage, save onlytheir defence of Free Trade. Nay more; the apology for property whichthey put forward—that it must be "associated in the minds of the massof the people with ideas of justice and reason"—is that on which thefriends of true conservatism build when they think of the evils ofmodern civilisation and the great and continuous efforts necessary torepair them. Who does [xvii]not conclude, with Mr. Churchill, that "a morescientific, a more elaborate, a more comprehensive socialorganisation" is indispensable to our country if it is to continue itsmarch to greatness? Back or forward we must go.
Mr. Churchill, indeed, has thought it wise to raise the specific pointat which, in the process of seeking a finer use and adaptation of thehuman material which forms society, the progressive and reformingstatesman parts company with the dogmatic Socialist. There is no needto labour a distinction which arises from the nature and theactivities of the two forces. British Liberalism is both a mentalhabit and a method of politics. Through both these characteristics itis bound to criticise a State so long as in any degree it rests on theprinciples of "Penguin Island"—"respect for the rich and contempt forthe poor," and to modify or repeal the rights of property where theyclearly conflict with human rights. But its idealism and its practicalresponsibilities forbid it to accept the elimination of privateenterprise and the assumption by the State of all the instruments ofproduction and distribution. Socialism has great power of emotionaland [xviii]even religious appeal, of which it would be wise for Liberalismto take account, and it is, on the whole, a beneficent force insociety. But as pure dogma it fits the spirit of man no more exactlythan the Shorter Catechism. As Mr. Churchill well says, both thecollectivist and the individualist principles have deep roots in humanlife, and the statesman can ignore neither.
In the main, therefore, these speeches, with all their freshbrilliancy of colouring and treatment, hold up the good old banner ofsocial progress, which we erect against reactionist and revolutionistalike. The "old Liberal" will find the case for Free Trade, for peace,for representative government, stated as powerfully and convincinglyas he could wish. Their actual newness consists in the fact that notonly do they open up to Liberalism what it always wants—a wide domainof congenial thought and energy, but they offer it two propositionswhich it can reject only at its peril. The first is that there can andmust be a deep, sharp abridgment of the sphere of industrial lifewhich has been marked out as hopeless, or as an inevitable part of thesocial system.
Here the new Liberalism parts with laissez-faire, and those whodefend it. It assumes [xix]that the State must take in hand the problemsof industrial insecurity and unemployment, and must solve them. Theissue is vital. Protection has already made its bid. It will assurethe workman what is in his mind more than cheap food—namely, securewages; it affects to give him all his life, or nearly all his life, amarket for his labour so wide and so steady that the fear of forcedidleness will almost be banished from it. The promise is false.Protection by itself has in no country annulled or seriously qualifiedunemployment. But the need to which it appeals is absolutely real; forthe modern State it is a problem of the Sphinx, neither to be shirkednor wrongly answered. And the alternative remedy offered in thesepages has already, as their author abundantly shows, succeeded even inthe very partial forms in which it has been applied. The labour marketcan be steadied and equalised over a great industrial field. Part ofits surplus can be provided for. What Mr. Churchill calls "diseasedindustries" can be cut off from the main body, or restored to somemeasure of health. The State can set up a minimum standard of healthand wage, below which it will not allow its citizens to sink; it can[xx]step in and dispense employment and restorative force under strictlyspecified conditions, to a small body of more or less "sick" workers;it can supply security for a far greater, less dependent, and moreefficient mass of labourers, in recurring crises of accident,sickness, invalidity, and unemployment, and can do so with