The following is the second chapter, “Economic Development,” of William Joyce’s Twilight Over England.
THE reader may have innocently hoped at the close of the last chapter, that the historical discussion had come to an end. In this life, the innocent are often maltreated and the hopeful disappointed. Our brief general survey was intended to prepare the ground for consideration of those issues which are of major importance today: but no such consideration can properly exclude the subject of England’s economic development during the last century: for modern capitalism must be traced to its roots before its nature can be understood.
At the end of the eighteenth century the population of the island was about one fifth of what it is today: and the land was capable of maintaining it. Poverty certainly existed: but it was due to maladministration and to a defective scale of social values, not to any inadequacy of natural wealth. If England had fewer than ten million people to support today, her economic position would very certainly be different from what it is. One must try to understand that the Industrial Revolution meant a transvaluation of all values. People had hitherto been content to live on the land and draw from nature their simple but, in general, adequate needs: with the rise, however, of the great towns, they began to long for the relatively high money payments which, in the first instance, were used to lure the healthy peasant population into the factories. We should doubtless call these wages ludicrously low: but to the country people they at first seemed high, because they were used to handling very little money and did not appreciate how expensive town life would be, having been accustomed to living on food from their own land, they were unable to visualize the snares of urban shopping.
It was not, however, the desire to handle more money that was solely responsible for the fateful transmigration that occurred. Another powerful factor was the destruction of the cottage textile industry by the overwhelming competition of the factories. The genius of men like Crompton and Arkwright had rendered possible a greater, a more rapid, and a more uniform supply of spun and woven goods: but it had, for obvious reasons, put the cottage weaver and spinner out of business. Thus Goldsmith’s Deserted Village was not so much a description as a prophecy. Agriculture grew weaker every day: and as the old landlords found themselves in ever increasing difficulties, the Liberal or Whig industrialists determined to make an end not only of their political power but also of their economic existence. Many years of propaganda were required to prepare the way for the Repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846: but once the Liberals were firmly in the saddle after their victory of 1832, it was only to be expected that the policy of importing cheap foreign food would be adopted, whatever the consequences to the British farmer, who was no longer regarded as the backbone of the country but rather as a sort of pendulous abdomen that kept one warm in the winter but hindered locomotion all the year round.
To understand the passion for Free Trade, characteristic of industrial Liberalism, it must first be appreciated that the employers wanted cheap food for their employees, not in order that the latter might have it in large quantities but for the sole purpose of keeping wages as low as possible. Indeed, in most factories in the earlier part of the last century, it was a practice to pay either the whole or a part of the wages in kind, chiefly in the form of food. Otherwise, shops were set up in the factories, and the employees received coupons with which they could and must buy the goods obtained by the employer at the lowest prices he could discover. Anything which tended to raise the price of food meant that he had to pay more in real wages: for it was necessary to keep his workers alive. Any worker who expected more than a bare subsistence was deemed a most dangerous revolutionary and was accused of godlessness or drink, or both. Anyhow, the greatest emphasis was laid on the desirability of cheap labor. In the end, Parliament was compelled to pass various acts forbidding the payment of workers in kind. Evidence given before a Royal Commission showed that workers used to have to wander into a barber’s shop with cans of beer and ask him how much he would drink in return for cutting their hair.
On the other hand, if the rustics were bitterly disappointed with the conditions of industrial life, they were no less appalled by the payment they received than by the length of their working day. A farmer, of course, is used to long hours, but not in a coal-mine or in a filthy factory of the kind established in the early days. Men were expected to work 16 hours a day: and in the first decade of the nineteenth century, Parliament passed a benevolent act whereby women could not be compelled to work for more than 12 hours a day in a factory. In some coal-mines, women were used instead of pit ponies. Children from the age of six upwards were forced to work for long hours in these factories and were flogged almost to death if their work appeared to be slack or negligent. Almost without exception, the employers were good Chapel or Church goers who preached the glories of freedom and democracy, and denounced the country gentlemen as reactionary Tories. Those exploiters of Slave Labor were never tired of mouthing the slogans of the French Revolution about Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. As yet, there still lingered the idea that birth and breeding rather than money should prevail in the government of the country. There lingered, also, the idea that agriculture might be saved. These ideas were repugnant to the lords of the new democracy. The aristocrat, the country landlord, the idealist was represented as the enemy of the workers, who would ever threaten their freedom. In this atmosphere of God-damned cant there gradually grew up that school of political philosophy which licensed Mr. Chamberlain to say, on the 3rd of September, 1939, that England was declaring war on Germany in defense of liberty.
As there approached, during the last century, the final struggle to eliminate everything that did not reek of materialism, it was only natural that the Liberal Industrialists should found a college of Propaganda. This was the Manchester School of Economics. Tenth rate philosophical hacks were bought and assembled with instructions to invent the science of economics and justify the abominations which the craw-thumping Radical plutocrats were each day practicing on the masses of the people. The doctrines of this so-called school were very simple. The great and eternal verity of economics was announced in the golden words: “Buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest”. This commandment being devoutly accepted, every other grace necessary to salvation would follow of its own accord. Hallelujah!
How Jewish it all sounds. It followed, of course, that human flesh and blood must also be purchased in the cheapest market and its products sold in the dearest—for the benefit of the dear kindly old employer who erected outside his sweat-shops a tin tabernacle to which his workers must, under pain of dismissal, go every Sunday to thank God they were poor and hear sermons on the blessedness of their simple condition and “station in life”. Then, of course, another grand precept was that of Free Trade. England had a start of almost 50 years ahead of the Continental countries in the matter of this Industrial Revolution.
And one of her cardinal misfortunes is that she should have based so many of her calculations on this preliminary and transient advantage. For half a century she was practically without a rival in the manufacturing industries. Napoleon, despite his attempt to blockade England—an attempt as foolish as the English attempt to blockade Germany today— shaved with Sheffield razors at a couple of guineas a pair, his armies were clad in Yorkshire wool, and many thousands of his troops marched on English leather. It is indeed a matter for wonder that he was permitted to obtain these supplies: but the wonder vanishes when one asks whether the new plutocrats put their profits or their country first. As it is today, so it was then, and so it ever will be, whilst Liberal Capitalism lasts.
Of course, the Napoleonic Wars were a blessing to the English merchants, nicely rounded off as they were by the Rothschild speculation over the battle of Waterloo.
“Speculation,” I have written, although “swindle” would be a much more appropriate word. Europe was torn and devastated by strife, no European land was safe from invasion, and England, secure in her insular position, defended by her Navy, could proceed apace with the development of her new manufacturing industries, congratulating herself on the fact that almost every nation in the world was glad to receive her exports. Rosy as this outlook seemed, it had two very grave defects. First, it was regarded as certain that England would forever remain the work-shop of the world: and no illusion could have been more dangerous. Secondly the vastly increasing prosperity of the few was not reflected in the conditions of the masses.
Workers who sought better conditions were regarded as traitors, and even, at times, butchered as at the famous massacre of Peterloo.
Still, it suited the Manchester School to chant the everlasting virtues of Free Trade. At first the theory was that the merchant must ransack the whole world for the cheapest materials he could find, in order that he might make a high profit or at least, through remorseless competition, drive out of the market any rivals, British or otherwise, who might challenge him. Gradually there crystallized the conception that the prerequisite of good business was cheap labor: and thus the merchant princes of Britain sought the products of slave labor, or at least underpaid labor, wherever it could be discovered; and in the end the glorious democratic principle of Free Trade became synonymous with the oppression of the masses in many countries of the world, in order that the Liberal plutocrats of England might get their materials as cheaply as possible. In these circumstances, there emerged also the doctrine that Free Trade was essential to the policy of international investment. From what we have already seen of the new plutocracy, we should scarcely suppose that its members would be especially anxious, out of pure patriotism, to invest their money in Britain.
Such a concept would savor much too strongly of nationalism. Investment for them was a glorious means of making money, knowing nothing of national boundaries, national obligations, or national rights. The only rule was: “Invest your money or that of other people wherever, in safety, you can get the highest dividend. Even sacrifice safety if necessary.” Thus arose the school of international finance, in which the Rothschilds and other Jewish money-lenders were very able teachers. In fact the mentality of England was developing in such a direction as to enable the Jews to prepare for the blessed day when Britain would be one of their colonies. These three principles—ruthless competition, free trade at any cost, and the investment of money without any regard to blood, nation, or race are fundamental to the international capitalism in the interests of which Britain has mobilized her forces to destroy National Socialist Germany. They are the basic axioms of the old order, and they must be kept clearly in mind during the rest of our argument. Later, it will be possible to elaborate this thesis, when we come to that time at which several generations of money and comfort had converted the descendants of the old plutocrats into imitations of gentlemen: or possibly it was that by force of their wealth they were able to alter the meaning of the word “gentleman”, which is regarded with the deepest suspicion in English society today.
Now as the dreary priests of despair intoned the damning law that wages must never rise above the level of mere subsistence, some reaction was bound to occur. So strong indeed was this propaganda and such was the ignorance of the people that a certain monstrous theory gained general acceptance after a while. This theory was that millions of men and women come into the world to drudge, drudge, and drudge without any moral right to better their positions otherwise than by cleverly parting others from their money. This horrible notion, still today strongly entrenched in the minds of British capitalists, postulates the idea that the masses of the people must be poor and that they are lucky beyond all their deserts if they succeed in getting enough to keep body and soul together and pass out of the world as poor as they came into it.
Exceptions, of course, would be allowed. If some member of this slave class showed exceptional acumen in slave-driving, if he amassed just enough money to enable him to extract more from somebody else, if he showed a thorough sympathy with the sacred rules, he might find a patron and eventually be adopted into the Order of Mammon. He was said to be a prudent fellow, with a good business brain. Neither physical strength, creative intellect, nor nobility of character was needed: all that was required was a sound appreciation of the laws of profit and loss and the psychology of fools. Such was the path of transition from the hovel to the palace: and such it is in England today. Only those who have lived in England without money or influence know the utter hopelessness of the system for those who have nothing but physical strength, mental ability, or character to offer. The man who offers his services to the community is spurned outside the Labour Exchange every day: and he is spurned in a thousand other places as well.
Now even in the middle of the last century, there was a reaction to this code of perpetual servitude. Great philosophers like Thomas Carlyle and evil Jews like Karl Marx had much to say on the subject. The Marxian manifesto of 1848 was written in essentially the same language and with fundamentally the same outlook as the treatises written on behalf of Liberal Capitalism. Marxism was just the obverse of the capitalist coin. The capitalists wanted all private property for themselves. Marx said that there should be none at all. They used religion to cloak the vices of their conduct, and Marx replied by denouncing religion altogether, as the “opium of the people.”
They demanded unreasonable profits, and Marx invented the cumbrous theory of surplus values as the answer. In his gross materialism, he was completely at one with those whom he attacked. The result of his and other such efforts was the so-called class struggle, a bestial phenomenon exalted to the level of a supreme virtue. Then, as the merchant princes began to use patriotism as a weapon of propaganda, when it happened to suit their own purposes, the result was to create a reaction amongst the poor in favor of internationalism. This result could not be very displeasing to the disciples of international finance. Thus international Socialism came into being—a thing as barren, as unimaginative, as grossly materialistic as the evil system which had called for an answer from the workers. The negative, destructive, soul-destroying doctrines of the French Revolution added fuel to the flames: and soon there was to be seen the pitiful spectacle of a huge working-class being taught by the political Liberals to demand freedom from the remnants of the aristocracy, whilst the industrial Liberals were grinding them down with the Iron Law of Wages. No wonder the stupid Conservatives did not know the answer to this riddle! And so the current of English political thought was turned awry for decades and awry it remains today.
Men like Carlyle could speak with the tongues of angels: but once the bitterness of class-war had infected the soul of the nation, hatred began to well up, very slowly at first, more vigorously in this century, and now, at any moment, the gentle welling may turn into a cascade or a torrent that will sweep all before it. Nobody knows, least of all those who made war on Germany. In the next chapter, an attempt will be made to trace some of the major political consequences of this fratricidal tendency which the Industrial Revolution introduced into English life.
Economically, however, the main tragedy was that nobody saw a way of reconciling private property with a just distribution thereof, nobody saw a way of identifying the individual with the state, nobody was able to perceive the necessity for national as opposed to international investment, nobody could distinguish between profit as the reward of organizing ability and profit as the pirate’s booty: last but not least, nobody saw the vital necessity of striking a just balance between agriculture and manufacturing industry. There was nobody powerful enough to save agriculture from its fate, and what that fate meant to England will yet be written large in the letters of history. The power of money had conquered and had dimmed the vision of nearly all but those philosophers who warned, like Cassandra, not to be heeded.
Slowly and very painfully there emerged a Trade Union Movement, which fought inch by inch to gain a little more money and slightly better conditions for the workers. It was not, however, until the end of the last century that these Trades Unionists saw that the Liberals who had drugged them with Chartism, democracy, and every kind of ideological soporific were in fact the storm-troops of Capitalism itself. Then they could only form a Socialist Party infected with the same materialistic fallacies as the Liberal Party which they had resolved to discard. All this time, the Conservative Party was bumbling about aimlessly, without any real policy, banging the drum of patriotism, occasionally protesting against the fate of somebody like Gordon, whom the Liberals had betrayed: but of this, more in the next chapter.
Whilst England was thus immersed in internal strife, whilst workers struggled for bread and financiers for supremacy, almost all Englishmen had been hypnotized into the belief that England was the strongest, grandest, freest, and most prosperous country in the world. The stiff-necked generations of the City were so full of self-righteousness and self-admiration that they failed to see a most fateful revolution that was taking place before their very eyes. Whilst they were still piously filling their coffers, the rest of the world decided that England should no longer have a monopoly in the manufacturing industries. Other nations, who were now living in peace, reasoned that they might just as well produce for themselves, with their own labor and to their own advantage, the goods that they had formerly imported from England. Little by little, England’s former customers became her competitors, first in their own territory, then in the international markets, and finally, thanks to Free Trade, on English soil itself. Thus the very basis of England’s manufacturing supremacy began to crumble. Needless to say, it did not break up in a day or in a decade: but the process of disintegration, once begun, continued in increasing measure until, during the last few years, Britain could export only half as much as she imported. Then, as the crazy edifice of her finance was tottering over its broken foundations, Mr. Chamberlain chose war as the sole method of hiding the facts: for war is a destroyer of values and a great confuser of issues.
Amongst the nations that demanded the right to manufacture their own goods, the German States were prominent. As the three different Zollvereine became more closely coordinated, German economic strength grew: and when Bismarck lit his famous cigar on the field of Sadowa, he was also kindling the envy of the Jewish-minded English plutocracy. When, in 1871, the German Empire was proclaimed in Versailles, the god-fearing profiteers of the City of London began to suspect that a serious commercial rival had appeared. The influence of Queen Victoria was entirely in favor of friendship between the two countries: and the masses of the two peoples felt a natural and instinctive friendship for each other—a psychological kinship which not even two wars have been able to destroy. But Queen Victoria’s son and heir, Edward, Prince of Wales, began, as soon as he was physically capable, the dissolute life which was destined to make him the royal client of Jewish moneylenders and place the whole of his influence at the disposal of men like Speyer and Cassel.
By reason of the policy of international investment which had now become firmly established, Free Trade maintained its dominion over British commercial policy: but every single day that passed, the major premise on which its theory rested became weakened. Well before the end of the last century, it should have been easy to foresee that geography and science alike forbade the possibility of England’s remaining the workshop of the world. But greed and clearness of sight do not go together. Instead of wisely concentrating on her own Empire, England formed the fatal resolve to regard as enemies those who preferred to keep their markets for themselves.
Accordingly, realism was held at bay: and already the Jews had proceeded very far with their conspiracy to enslave the world in the chains of international finance: and no instrument was more suited to their purpose than England. When Britain acquired shares in the Suez canal, Disraeli naturally went to the Rothschilds for the money. Their rate was higher than that of the Bank of England: but they were already too powerful to have any reason to fear the wrath of the taxpayer. They were so powerful, in fact, as to be the real government of the country.
So Free Trade remained as a holy principle: with the same stubborn rigidity as they had resisted the claims of humanity, the merchant princes refused to adapt themselves to changing circumstances. Confident in the power of money to buy everything, spiritual and material alike, they believed that they could resist all change: and to this end British foreign policy was directed.
One last feature of English nineteenth century pseudo-philosophy requires a few words. That is the conception of the state. In the earlier part of the century, the Manchester School had taught that the less the Government did, the better. This is the classical concept of Liberalism. John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham, and numerous other quacks asserted that the function of the state was to be a mere watch-dog. Ostensibly the motive of this doctrine was to allow as much freedom as possible to the individual. Actually the intention was that the Government should not interfere with the methods of the capitalists but should provide a sufficient force to deal with the workers, if they became troublesome. In other words, the plutocrats regarded the state as a police-force designed to protect their private property at home and abroad. Patriotism consisted in using armed force to defend or extend foreign investments. Meanwhile, the masses of the people were looking in vain to their Governments to rule more vigorously and to regulate social relations in the interests of justice. Carlyle has expressed the situation in these words:
In these complicated times, with cash payment as the sole nexus between man and man, the Toiling Classes of mankind declare, in their confused but most emphatic way, to the Untoiling, that they will be governed: that they must, under penalty of Chartisms, Thuggeries, Rickburnings, and even blacker things than those. . . . Cash payment the sole nexus: and there are so many things which cash will not buy! Cash is a great miracle, yet it has not all power in Heaven, or even on earth.
Thus with Free Trade, unrestricted competition, international investment, the subservience of the State to business, the materialistic conception of history, hideous poverty, incipient Marxism, decaying aristocracy and declining agriculture as their retinue, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse prepared to ride once more.