And so indeed it is. The peasant now has his foot on the degrees of the throne, and has only to step up, he and his mates of the mine, the forge, the foundry and the railroad—to step up and lay hand to the orb and sceptre.
If I had misgivings, and if those, when imparted to, were shared by an old friend of mine who still gives me six hours a day of his strength and skill when the weather and his rheumatics can hit it off together, I may say at once that though they were renewed in me by the late threat of the railwaymen arrogantly hurled at the only Government in my recollection which has made arrogance in asking almost a necessary stage in negotiation, they had been present for a long time—beyond Mr. Smillie’s wild proposals of direct action, beyond the Yorkshire miners and the flooded coalfields; back to the day when electricians refused to light the Albert Hall, and Merchant Seamen refused passage to some politician or another because they didn’t like his politics. One and each of those direct and unsteady actions made me shiver for the men with their feet on the throne’s degrees. And now a Railway Strike, which has injured every one and will throw back the railwaymen and their Labour Party for many a year! If these things are done in the green wood, I asked my friend, what will be done in the dry?
He couldn’t answer me but by asking in his turn questions which were but a variation of my own. He said: “Our people don’t seem to understand anything but ‘each man for himself.’ The miners hold up the country for higher wages, and the country has to pay them; the railwaymen do the same, and the country must find double fares and high freight. They hit their own class hardest of all, because dear coal and high tariffs touch everybody. And they don’t even help themselves, because directly wages are raised, up goes the price of everything. Now what I want you to tell me is how are they going to stop all that when they are the Government? For it will have to stop.”
He is right: it will have to stop; but I don’t see how the Labour Party is going to stop it. So far as I can make out, the Labour Party, as a responsible, political body, has no control whatsoever over the trade unions; and the trade unions, as such, none over their members. How, then, is one to look forward with comfort to the establishment of a Labour Government? It will take a readier speech than even Mr. Webb’s, a more confident than even Mr. Smillie’s to illuminate this smoke-blurred scene whereon we make out every trade union preying upon Mr. George’s vitals (which are, unfortunately, for the moment our own vitals), and with a success so disastrously easy as to make any prospects of a return to sane, honest, dignified or just government almost hopeless! Mr. George is destroying himself hand over fist, and the sooner the better; but one does not want to see England go down with him. I am all for anarchy myself when once it is thoroughly grasped by everybody that anarchy means minding your own business. But we are far from that as yet. Anarchy at present means minding, and grudging, other people’s business. Such anarchy is not government, but plundering with both hands.