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J. Keir Hardie
Chapter 12. Two General Elections—Industrial Turmoil—The Brink of War


IN the two general elections of 1910, the man in the limelight was Mr. Lloyd George who has managed to retain that position fairly continuously ever since, though he has long ago made friends of his whilom enemies, and has thrust aside the semi-revolutionary ladder by which he rose to fame and power. The agitations over the land taxation budget and House of Lords’ reforms seem now very remote, and in view of recent jugglings with national finance extremely futile. But at the time I have now reached, it was an exceedingly noisy agitation and apparently sincere. Mr. George, with his lurid hen-roost oratory, and the peers, with their die-in-the-last-ditch constitutionalism, had, between them, created a decidedly class-war atmosphere, and there were timid people who actually believed that the nation was on the eve of great events foreshadowing, in the words of Lord Rosebery, the “end of all things.” The Labour Party in Parliament had naturally supported the land taxation proposals and also those for a super-tax on incomes, but only as initial concessions to the Socialist claim that all unearned increment should belong to the nation. Philip Snowden, now the recognised exponent of Socialist finance, made this unmistakably clear in a series of brilliant speeches at various stages of the Finance Bill. On the question of the House of Lords, the Labour Party stood for the abolition of that institution, but, as a matter of practical politics supported any proposal having for its object the immediate limitation of the power of the second Chamber. The Labour and the Liberal Parties were thus, though in principle far apart as the poles, in apparent accord on electoral policy—a state of matters not to the advantage of Labour. The strategical weakness of the Liberals lay in the fact that they had not, and could not have, any policy on unemployment to counter the attractive and strongly boomed Tariff Reform proposals of the Unionists.

In the election which took place in January, 1910, the Liberals lost one hundred seats and the Labour Party lost five. All the leading Labour men, however, held their seats, Hardie keeping his by a greatly increased majority, though on this occasion he had a second Liberal opponent, in the person of Pritchard Morgan, whom he had defeated in 1900, and who now, as if determined on revenge, conducted' the usual campaign of scurrilous abuse and misrepresentation. One very special lie circulated assiduously and insidiously, though not in print, represented Hardie as being a man of wealth, who owned an estate in Scotland and had sold the “Labour Leader” to the I.L.P. for £20,000. Up to the last there were credulous people who believed these stupid stories and pestered him for subscriptions to various kinds of ostensibly charitable objects. He, as a matter of fact, had refused to subscribe to local institutions such as football clubs and bowling clubs, for the sufficient reason that over and above his objections on principle, he had hardly enough income to meet the frugal requirements of his own household. The election campaign on this occasion was more prolonged and even more strenuous than the two previous ones, but need not be described here. The result seemed to carry with it the assurance that his position in Merthyr was absolutely impregnable. He had polled 13,841 votes as compared with 10,187 in 1906, and his majority had increased from 2,411 to 9,105.

An extract from his election address may be given as showing with what skill he raised the contest above merely temporary or local controversies. “There are issues that go deeper than any of those raised by the traditional parties in this contest. Mr. Balfour has said that he wants this election fought on the issues of Socialism and Tariff Reform. I accept Mr. Balfour’s challenge, and put my Socialism against his Tariff Reform. He wants to use the State for the benefit of the rich. I want to use it for the benefit of all. Socialism is the one system whereby man may escape from the dreary labyrinth of poverty, vice and beggarliness in life in which the race is now aimlessly wandering.”

He himself attributed his electoral success to the fact that Socialism had been made the supreme issue, and the following February, in his closing words as chairman of the Labour Party Conference, he affirmed adherence to that principle to be a necessary condition of success for the entire Labour Party. “Whether we like it or not, in every contest we wage, our opponents will see to it that Socialism is kept well to the front. Our candidates and workers will therefore do well to equip themselves for that line of attack. Socialism has no terrors for honest people. The caricatures and vile misrepresentation of Socialism fail entirely when the case for Socialism is put lucidly before the people. We do not want to see any vain beating of the air as is too often done in the name of Socialism, but it is imperative that every man who is put forward as a candidate under Labour auspices should be able to defend and expound Socialism when it is attacked by the enemies of Labour.”

It must be confessed that there have been, and still are, many Labour candidates whose qualifications do not conform to the standard set up by the founder of the Labour Party.

In passing, it should be noted that this year the British Miners’ Federation became affiliated to the Labour Party, and thus another decisive step was taken in the political consolidation of the working class.

All through the year the great constitutional controversy continued, and the people became so deeply engrossed shouting for or against Lloyd George that they forgot all about Sir Edward Grey, a much more fateful statesman if they had only known it.

The rival partisans debated hotly as to whether the House of Lords should be ended or mended, as to how many new peers it would be necessary to create to render that House impotent, or as to how many times a reformed Second Chamber should be allowed to throw out a Bill before it became law; and while this political comedy of “much ado about next to nothing” was proceeding, the diplomats and the Imperialists were not idle.

Lord Roberts continued his propaganda for compulsory military service, the introduction of which the War Office partially anticipated by encouraging railway companies and large employers of labour to make service in the Territorial forces a condition of employment. Mr. Haldane’s “nation in arms” was materialising in spite of protests from Hardie and his colleagues. The Admiralty was getting its Dreadnoughts built. .Germany was adding to its fleet. France was raising the peacetime strength of its army, and, more fateful than all, British and French financiers were investing their millions in Russia, and staking out concessions of industrially exploitable territory in that unhappy Czar-ridden country. In the midst of the evolution of a policy in which he took special interest and played a prominent part, King Edward died. His successor was enthroned. Liberals and Tories called a temporary truce. They mingled their tears for the dead monarch, combined their cheers for the living one, and then went on with the farce, “The Peers versus the People.”

One tragic interlude there was, turning public attention for a few brief hours to the realities of industrial life. This was the Whitehaven disaster. Following close upon the death of King Edward came the death of one hundred and thirty working miners under appalling and, as many people believed, preventable circumstances; repeated recommendations by special scientific investigators for the minimising of risks of explosions in mines having been ignored alike by the Home Office and by the mineowners chiefly because of the expense. The feeling raised amongst the mining community by the Whitehaven disaster was, if anything, intensified by what many of them regarded as the too hasty .closing up of the mine before all possible efforts at rescue had been exhausted. Hardie, ever sensitive where the lives of miners were concerned, gave public expression to his opinion that when the mine was bricked up the men were probably still alive; an opinion which Mr. Churchill, the Home Secretary, described as “cruel and disgraceful.” Hardie, of course, was not the man to rest under such an aspersion. He repeated his statement in Parliament, and in an interview replied directly to Churchill’s accusation, and raised the whole question of safety in mines. “Mr. Winston Churchill’s comment,” he said, “is characterised by righteousness which could only proceed from a total ignorance of what I said and of the facts of the case. In the course of the speech to which Mr. Churchill refers I gave it as my opinion, based upon my practical experience as a miner, that at the time it was decided to wall up the mine the miners were in all probability still alive. I adhere to that opinion. I further stated that had the spirit of the Mines’ Regulation Act been carried out in connection with the working of the mine, the disaster would not have occurred. The fire which imprisoned the miners took place in what was known as the bottle-neck, and apparently this was the only means of egress from the workings beyond. The bottle-neck workings branch off in five main levels, and it would have been an easy matter to have had a safety road laid from this to the pit shaft, so that in the event of the main haulage road between the shaft and the bottle-neck getting blocked up, the other would have been available for the men to escape by. I suggested that these were matters which would require to be investigated, and it is this suggestion which the Home Secretary characterises as cruel and disgraceful. Working miners of the country will have a different opinion. I hope Mr. Churchill is not more concerned about shielding the mineowner than he is about finding out the truth.” Whether Hardie was right as to the men being alive when the order to close up the mines was given, cannot now be proved, but his opinion had the support of men deeply interested in the matter, the rescue party having to be forcibly restrained from removing the brickwork and going on with their efforts to save life, even though told they would be throwing their own lives away.

This catastrophe occurred now eleven years ago. The mining community know best what improvements, if any, have taken place since then, and they also are best able to judge whether the kind of protests made by Keir Hardie were necessary or not. He never forgot that he was a miner, and a representative of miners.

In the endeavour to preserve some continuity in this story of Hardie’s life, the writer has up to the present found it difficult to bring into view one aspect of his nature which is, nevertheless, essential to form a complete estimate of the man. His love for and understanding of children was only equalled by the love of children for him. It was a case of “like draws to like.” Young folk were drawn to him as he to them, instinctively. He has spoken of himself as the man who never was a child, and that was true so far as his own literal experience was concerned. Yet it might be even truer to say that he was all his life a child. Perhaps, even, it was his childlike directness and straightforwardness that rendered him immune from all kinds of sophistry and double-dealing and made him a perpetual puzzle to men of the world playing the game of politics. Be that as it may, it was certainly true that even in the midst of the most serious work he could lift himself out of the hurly-burly and become as a little child. In the many households which he entered during his goings to and fro, the presence of children always put him at his ease and made him feel at home. There are many grown-up men and women in the Socialist movement who cherish as one of the unforgettable things of their bairntime the occasion when Keir Hardie took them upon his knee, or hoisted them on to his shoulders and made chums of them. He could tell them stories, _ wonderful stories—stories sometimes of the wise pit ponies that were his own chums in the days of his boyhood, or of the ongoings of “Roy,” the wise collie waiting to welcome him home far away in Cumnock, or of the Red Indians he had met in America, or, as often happened, a fairy tale made up “out of his own head”— that very head amongst whose grizzled locks the hands of the delighted youngsters were at that moment playing.

This love and understanding of children did not in any way interfere with or hinder his work for Socialism. It became part and parcel of it. In the 1910 volume of the “Young Socialist”—this very year when he and his colleagues were beset by so much political perplexity—there is a short story entitled “Jim” written by him. A story of a forlorn London slum laddie and of two equally forlorn London slum dogs—the only dogs in fiction I think that ever entered Heaven. It is a simply told tale blended of fantasy and realism, of humour and pathos, and of tender deep compassion. The literary world, of course, never heard of this child story by Keir Hardie, nor of others of the same kind which he wrote from time to time. They were not written to gain money, or reputation. They were written for the children of the Socialist movement. In the early years of the “Labour Leader” he, under the norn de plume of “Daddy Time,” conducted a children’s column and from week to week held homelv converse with the bairns. Around this weekly talk there grew a kind of young folk’s fellowship, which called itself “The Crusaders,” and out of this again there came the Socialist Sunday School movement, the mere sound and rumour of which has made the hairs of so many pious but ignorant people stand on end. Good men and women gave their time and love to the building of it. Miss Lizzie Glasier, the sister of Bruce Glasier, Archibald McArthur (known as “Uncle Archie”), Clarice McNab, now Mrs. B. H. Shaw, Alfred Russell, Robert Donaldson, Fred Coates, Alex. Gossip, John Burns (of Glasgow), and a host of others, but all deriving their inspiration from Hardie, who, to them, was literally the “Great Exemplar.” Thousands of young folks have passed through the schools and into the fighting and teaching ranks of the general Socialist advance. And so, in the words of William Morris, “the cause goes marching on,” and with it the name and the memory of Keir Hardie.

September brought the International Socialist Congress once more, this time at Copenhagen. This Congress is memorable chiefly for the proposal by the I.L.P., with the approval of the British section, that the General Strike should be considered as a means of preventing war. This proposal took the form of an amendment to the resolution brought forward by the Commission on Anti-Militarism. Hardie had endeavoured to get his proposal incorporated in the resolutions, and, failing in that, now moved it as an amendment. In view of all that has happened since, and of what is happening still in the efforts to reconstitute a satisfactory Socialist International, it will be wise to reproduce these resolutions here, with the “General Strike” amendment.

“The Congress, reiterating the oft-repeated duty of Socialist representatives in the Parliaments to combat militarism with all the means at their command and to refuse the means of armaments, requires from its representatives :—

“(a) The constant reiteration of the demand that international arbitration be made compulsory in all international disputes;

“(b) Persistent and repeated proposals in the direction of ultimate disarmament, and, above all, as a first step, the conclusion of a general treaty limiting naval armaments and abrogating the right of privateering;

“(c) The demand for the abolition of secret diplomacy and the publication of all existing and future agreements between the Governments;

“(d) The guarantee of the independence of all nations and their protection from military attacks and violent suppression.

“The International Socialist Bureau will support all Socialist organisations in this fight against militarism by furnishing them with the necessary data and information, and will, when the occasion arises, endeavour to bring about united action. In case of warlike complications this Congress re-affirms the resolution of the Stuttgart Congress, which reads :—

“In case of war being imminent, the working classes and their Parliamentary representatives in the countries concerned shall be bound, with the assistance of the International Socialist Bureau, to do all they can to prevent the breaking out of the war, using for this purpose the means which appear to them to be most efficacious, and which must naturally vary according to the acuteness of the struggle of classes and to the general political conditions.

“In case war should break out notwithstanding, they shall be bound to intervene, that it may be brought to a speedy end, and to employ all their forces for utilising the economical and political crisis created by the war, in order to rouse the masses of the people and to hasten the downfall of the predominance of the capitalist class.

‘For the proper execution of these measures the Congress directs the Bureau, in the event of a war menace, to take immediate steps to bring about an immediate agreement among the Labour parties of the countries affected for united action to prevent the threatened war.’ ”

It is easy now to make comment upon the inherent ineffectiveness of these proposals. They were, however, the outcome of years of deliberation by men of various nationalities who were sincerely desirous of two things, the abolition of war and the establishment of Socialism, and the real secret of their inutility may, perhaps, be found in the fatalism expressed in the preamble, which declared that “war will only cease with the disappearance of capitalist production.” A belief in the inevitability of war is not a good foundation upon which to build measures of prevention. These proposals relied upon Parliamentary action to prevent war, and presupposed a much greater possession of political power on the part of Labour than has ever existed; and they certainly did not contemplate a world conflagration involving nations that had no parliamentary institutions whatever.

The I.L.P. amendment proposed extra-parliamentary action; direct action in fact, on an international scale. It was as follows : “This Congress recommends the affiliated Parties and Labour organisations to consider the advisability and feasability of the general strike, especially in industries that supply war material, as one of the methods of preventing war, and that action be taken on the subject at the next Congress.”

The next Congress would be in 1913, and we can now see that if in the intervening years, the preparatory steps for enforcing this proposal had been taken, there would yet have been time for putting its efficacy to the test in August, 1914. In moving this amendment, the British section believed they were making a thoroughly practical proposal for the preservation of international peace. Somewhere there may be in existence a verbatim report of Hardie’s speech. A very brief summary, mainly taken from the descriptive account of the Congress by Bruce Glasier in the “Labour Leader,” will suffice here. Hardie began by stating that he desired that the position of the Socialist and Labour movement in Britain should be understood by their foreign comrades. It had been much misrepresented. The British Labour Party took a very definite stand against war. They were not only anti-war but anti-military, which was not quite the same thing. A standing army was an indication that the State was founded on force. Militarism and freedom could not exist side by side. It was a source of great pleasure to him to find that the Socialists of Denmark and Norway were not only against large expenditure in armaments, but were opposed to armaments altogether and had moved for their complete abolition. There was, he declared, a big place in history for the nation which has the courage and faith to disarm itself. No country, not even despotic Russia, would dare to attack an unarmed nation. Dealing with the argument used in the capitalist press for a large navy, he said that the refusal of the Hague Conference, in obedience to the British Government, to abolish the capture of merchandise at sea, did much to excuse, though it might not justify, that argument. He dissociated the British movement from the articles by Blatchford and Hyndman in the capitalist press, and in “Justice” and the “Clarion.” He believed that the S.D.P. delegates would endorse his statement that on this question these men spoke only for themselves, and that every section of the Socialist movement in Britain disapproved of their utterances and their conduct in taking sides with the capitalist press. Ledebour, without knowing the difference between the German and the British Budget, had attacked the British Labour Party for voting for taxation, and Hardie replied. To vote for the rejection of the entire Budget, would be to vote against the provision of money for Old Age Pensions, against the payment of wages for the servants of the State, and against every social undertaking of the State. The I.L.P. in Britain were arranging for a great campaign against war. Jaures and Vandervelde were coming to speak, and he hoped that Ledebour himself or some other German comrade would come also. Turning to his own amendment, he offered to Ledebour (the mover of the official resolution) to withdraw the addition, provided he would agree to the Bureau circulating a paragraph embodying the amendment. The French, American and South German delegates on the Commission agreed to support that, but Ledebour, on behalf of the Germans, declined. It was true that a general strike against war could only come by the international agreement of the workers. But did they not know that the miners at their recent International Conference had actually agreed that this very question should be referred to their Executive in order that it might be considered at their next Conference. The miners alone could prevent war by withholding supplies. We must give the workers a great lead. He did not expect that the workers were at present ready to strike against war. But they never would be ready to do so unless we helped to educate them by pointing out to them their duty.

The value, for us, of this utterance, even abbreviated, lies in the fact that it is illuminative. It throws light on the mental attitudes on both sides in the discussion, and we are forced to the conclusion that all these men were actuated by the highest motives and were sincerely striving to find a solution for the problems confronting humanity. The Germans would not mislead the Congress by voting for a resolution which they thought impracticable. Their Marxian theories of economic determinism made it easy for the Imperialist and Militarist forces to pursue their policy. They were like the rabbit paralysed by the serpent, but they honourably told the Congress that if a war came they did not believe that a general strike could be made to stop it. The “Time Forces” were against the International leaders. Capitalism and Imperialism were developing faster than International Socialism and proletarian power.

On this question it was not found necessary to divide the Congress. The resolution was carried on the understanding that the amendment should be considered by the International Socialist Bureau, the German section agreeing to this.

This was not Hardie’s only visit to the Continent during this year. In May, he had been to Lille, in France, as chief speaker in a propaganda crusade organised by the National Council of the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon and the Brotherhood movements of Great Britain. To some scoffers the idea of British Nonconformists teaching continental workers how to spend pleasant Sunday afternoons was not without its humour; but that aspect did not appeal to Hardie. To him it was another opportunity for preaching Socialism and international goodwill, and He made full use of it. His name and fame brought together a great assemblage of working folk, and besides speaking in the great hall of L’Union de Lille, he had to address an overflow meeting of some six thousand in the Square, delivering an oration which, by its religious fervour and idealism, made him more than ever a man of mystery to the scientific Socialists who found in the materialist conception of history the only key to the explanation of every problem. What kind of a Socialist could he be who said, “Behind nature there is a Power, unseen but felt. Beyond death there is a Something, else were life on earth a mere wastage,” and who declared, “I myself have found in the Christianity of Christ the inspiration which first of all drove me into the movement and has carried me on in it. Yet this man was an advocate of the general strike. They could not understand him. Nor could the commercialised professors of Christianity. To both he was an enigma.

There was nothing enigmatical, however, about his action a few weeks later, when, in the House of Commons, he was attacking the Home Secretary and the War Minister for having sent police and military into Wales during a miners’ strike. This dispute had originated in the Rhondda Valley, where 11,000 miners had come out on strike, demanding an equalisation of wages with other collieries—demanding, in fact, a minimum wage. There had been some disturbance at Tonypandy, due, as Hardie alleged, to the importation of police from outside the district. In addition to the imported police, military had been sent into the district, and also to Aberaman, which was in Hardie’s constituency, where he maintained there had not been even a semblance of riot or disturbance. In the strike district the police had interfered to prevent picketing, which he contended was still lawful, and, in fact, he charged Mr. Haldane and Mr. Churchill with using the forces at their disposal to protect blacklegs and help the masters against the men. In proof of his assertion that the rioting was due to outside influence, he pointed out that at Pen-y-craig, where there were no imported police, there had been no rioting, though there had been picketing and demonstrations of the kind common to a labour dispute. There was not even a window broken in this district. In raising this matter in the House, Hardie was, of course, supported by the Parliamentary Labour Party, and also by his Liberal colleague in the representation of Merthyr, Mr. Edgar Jones. A debate ensued, followed by a division, the only effect of which was to emphasise the fact that, in a quarrel between labour and capital, Liberals and Tories were united on the side of capital. From Hardie’s point of view this was worth while. Every time this was demonstrated, the need for Labour representation was also demonstrated. This might not be the class war according to the Marxists, nor brotherly love according to the churches; but it was one of the roads to Socialism according to Hardie. He might, with some truth, have claimed that he was a better Marxist and a better Christian than either of them.

About this time he produced a scheme for the starting of a Socialist daily newspaper, the need for which had long been recognised, and had so far proceeded with his plans as to justify him in the hope that the first number would appear on May 1st of the following year. Another General Election, however, intervened, absorbing all the energy and spare cash of the Party, and later there emerged from the Labour Party a more ambitious, though not, in the opinion of the present writer, a more useful, scheme. The “Daily Citizen” was the outcome.

Night after night in Parliament he continued questioning and compelling discussion on the state of matters in South Wales, always producing fresh evidence in proof of the barbarous methods of the police authorities, and demanding an impartial inquiry into the whole circumstances of the dispute, until in the first week in December there came the General Election, and the transference of his activities to the actual scene of industrial strife. The strike was still proceeding. There was much distress in the Rhondda and in parts of the Merthyr constituency, and, in view of the action of the Government in the dispute, the Liberals did not dare to put up a candidate against him. There was a Unionist candidate, but without even a hope of success, and for Hardie the result was never in doubt. He polled 11,507 votes, and his majority was 6,230. It was the end. He did not know, nor could he nor anyone know, that he had fought his last election contest, and that that night he had heard for the last time the crowds hail him victor. His death was to cause the next Merthyr fight. And by that time Merthyr had changed; the whole world had changed.

The calamity which he dreaded, and which he fought so hard to avert, had come to pass. It was at least in keeping with his life that his last political campaign amongst the Merthyr miners should have had for its first and immediate issue the well-being of his class and craft.

In the outcome of this election the Labour Party more than regained its position. It went back to Parliament forty-two in number. Of these, eight were I.L.P. nominees, the most outstanding amongst the newcomers being George Lansbury and Tom Richardson; the latter’s return as an I.L.P. nominee being a significant sign of the advance towards Socialism on the part of the North of England miners.

The Liberal and Tory Parties had exactly two hundred and seventy-two members each. The Liberal Government was therefore dependent for its continuance in office upon the Irish Party and the Labour Party. In these circumstances, had it not been that Liberal and Tory were alike Imperialist, there might have been no war in 1914.

It is strange 'to reflect that during the whole of this General Election the subject of war was never mentioned. Foreign policy was never mentioned. Armaments were never mentioned. Yet a Government was elected that took this country into the most terrible war the world has ever seen. As a decoy-duck Lloyd George was a success. He attracted the fire that should have been directed against Grey and Haldane and the British war-lords. Only the Socialists were alive to the impending danger. During November, the I.L.P. had carried through a strenuous anti-militarist campaign, holding big meetings in all the large centres of population, and in December, right in the middle of the election, and without any pre-arranged connection therewith, there took place in the Albert Hall, London, the great International Socialist Demonstration organised by the I.L.P. with the view of strengthening the solidarity of Labour in all countries against war. At this meeting Hardie was in the chair. France was represented by Jaures; Germany by Molkenbuhr; Belgium by Vandervelde; Great Britain by MacDonald and Anderson; America by Walter T. Mills. The talk was all of peace and goodwill, and of the power of organised labour to preserve Europe from the scourge of war. Jaures, the greatest of Socialist orators, spoke like one inspired— Jaures, marked out as one of the war’s earliest victims; yet happier was he than Hardie, for he was to fall quickly and suddenly and to be spared from beholding the full international collapse and the betrayals that followed it.

At least, they were there, the Socialists of France, Germany, Belgium, Britain, the nations that were, even then, being drawn into the whirlpool of blood; they were there, these Socialists, doing what could be done to prevent the catastrophe. But the people never heard them. The people were singing the “Land Song.55 They were listening to Lloyd George and “waiting and seeing," or rather, waiting and not seeing, what Mr. Asquith was going to give them; and the second General Election of 1910 ended like the first, in the achievement of nothing, except the blindfolding of the British people and the election of a House of Commons with neither political principle nor foresight.

Hardly had the election cries subsided, when there came the news in the last week of the year of another great mining disaster, this time in Lancashire at the Hulton collieries, known as the Pretoria Pit disaster. Hardie5s last task for the year was to write an article for the “Labour Leader," similar to so many he had written in the course of his life, protesting against the callous indifference of the Government and all in authority to the continued needless sacrifice of the lives of the miners. Only those in close daily intercourse with him knew how these recurring calamities filled him with wrath almost to blasphemy. There was the usual coroner’s inquest, inculpating nobody. There was the usual inquiry, followed by recommendations six months later, but valueless without Home Office compulsory powers. We do not require to remind ourselves that Parliament was dominated by the vested interests.

During all this time the Rhondda strike continued and the distress amongst the miners and their dependents increased.- 1911, it will be remembered, was a year of industrial upheaval almost unprecedented in its universality. In nearly every industry the workers were at one time or other in revolt, but the outstanding disputes were those which produced the great railway strike, and prolonged this heartbreaking struggle in the Rhondda. In both of these, Hardie, by sheer force of circumstances, could not help becoming a prominent figure. His protest against the intervention of the police and the military in the Welsh dispute has already been recorded. It was the same cause, more tragically emphasised, which compelled the Labour Party to raise the matter of the railway strike in Parliament. The full story of the dispute need not be retold. The fundamental cause of the quarrel was the refusal of the railway companies to recognise the Railwaymen’s Union, a refusal in which the companies had the encouragemnt of the Government. Even before the outbreak of hostilities, and while negotiations were proceeding out of which a peaceful settlement was possible, the Home Office, with the concurrence of the War Office, two departments of which Mr. Churchill and Mr. Haldane were the chiefs, had guaranteed to the companies the use of the forces of the Crown, and did actually implement their promise to such an extent that at one time it was estimated that every available soldier on home service was held ready for action. The result was what might have been expected. The railway directors stiffened their backs. The strike took place. Non-union blacklegs were given military protection. Men were shot down, one fatally at Liverpool, two fatally at Llanelly in Wales. In both cases the victims were wholly unconnected with the dispute.

The fact of the Government’s preliminary guarantee to the companies was well established in the course of the parliamentary discussions, and the manner of their interpretation of their powers by the military was clearly illustrated by the evidence at the Llanelly inquest given by Major Stewart, who repudiated the suggestion that blank cartridges were fired, and declared that he had instructions from the War Office, empowering him to fire without orders from the magistrates: a state of matters which meant in effect, that a condition of martial law had been established without the sanction of Parliament, but with the sanction of a Liberal Government, or, in any event, of a Liberal War Minister.

The strike was settled ultimately by the full recognition of the Union and the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the railwaymen’s grievances. In the course of the discussion on the settlement, Mr. Lloyd George made a violent attack on Hardie for having stated that the Government had, while granting the aid of the military, made no attempt to bring pressure upon the directors to meet the men. Hardie had made this statement, referring to a declaration of the Prime Minister previous to the strike, but Mr. George, with his customary slim dishonesty, sought to make it appear as if Hardie’s remark applied to a subsequent stage, when the Government had belatedly endeavoured to bring the parties together. Hardie, of course, held to his original statement, the truthfulness of which was testified to by the following resolution passed by the Railwaymen’s Joint Executive : “This Joint Executive body repudiates the unwarrantable attack by the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon Mr. Keir Hardie for using arguments which each of the forty representatives present at the Board of Trade feels were quite justifiable after the language and attitude of the Prime Minister. We further extend the best thanks of the Joint Executive, representing all railway workers, to Mr. Keir Hardie and the Labour Party for their splendid service in helping, both to bring the men out, and get them back again when the truce was called.”

Another Labour dispute in which Hardie was very directly interested, and in which he rendered invaluable service to the workers concerned, was that which occurred at the Dowlais Ironworks in his own constituency. This dispute had features in common both with that of the Rhondda miners and the railwaymen. It was a demand to have the rates of pay equalised with those paid by other firms in the same industry, and it was also a demand for recognition of Trade Unionism. On both points the men won after a protracted struggle, but not before Hardie in Parliament had brought such pressure to bear upon the Government for the enforcement of the Fair Wages’ Clause in Government contracts that the firm, Guest. Keen and Nettlefold, Ltd., were compelled to concede the demands rather than lose their contracts with the Government of India and with other Departments. This was the kind of object lesson in the value of Labour representation which even the most nonpolitical worker could appreciate, and the part played by Hardie enhanced his already very great popularity with his working-class constituents. Incidentally also it illustrated Hardie’s remarkable capacity for assimilating knowledge in connection with other forms of industry than that in which he was himself expert. He showed himself able to discuss details and technicalities in connection with the steel and iron trade as familiarly as if he had been bred to the forge instead of the coalface. This adaptability applies to every other branch of industry in connection with which he had a case to uphold or defend. He was very thorough, and always made sure of his facts.

It will be perceived that during the whole of this session his time was spent alternating between the House of Commons and South Wales, and, as we shall see, in the former place there were other things than industrial strikes demanding attention. Meantime it should be noted that he was writing assiduously, and, in addition to occasional articles in the “Labour Leader” and other papers, was supplying two or three columns weekly to the “Merthyr Pioneer,” a weekly paper which the local I.L.P. brought into existence in March of this year. In this journal he found once again the medium for the expression not merely of his opinions, but of his personality which had been the chief characteristic of the “Labour Leader” in its early days. Almost till the day of his death he made use of the “Pioneer” in this way.

With all this industrial strife and turmoil, and with an Insurance Bill and a House of Lords’ Veto Bill to talk about, it is not surprising that the general body of the people had neither eyes nor ears for foreign affairs, and were not aware that the nation had been brought almost to the brink of war, though there were whispers that the possibility of the troops being required for service abroad had hastened the railway strike settlement,

The crisis over Morocco arising out of the rival interests of French and German financiers in that country, in which the influence of the British Government was manifested on the side of France, took place in June, but it was the end of November before, on the Foreign Office vote, a parliamentary statement could be extracted from Sir Edward Grey on a question which had so nearly involved the country in war., In the debate which followed, Ramsay MacDonald pointed out that it was the Socialist Party in the German Reichstag whose influence had prevailed upon the German Government to refrain from an immediate retort to Lloyd George’s provocative Mansion House speech, and had thereby in all probability preserved the peace of Europe. MacDonald rejoiced that he belonged to a Party which was in this country the equivalent of the German Social Democratic Party in its efforts to avert international war.

Hardie, in the same debate, spoke with grave sarcasm of the self-confessed puerility of high State officials. “He did not know how the rest of the House felt, but when the Foreign Secretary was telling them how on one occasion the German Ambassador called upon him, and Sir Edward Grey asked for some explanation about the presence of the German warships at Agadir, the German Ambassador replied, ‘I shall not tell anything about Agadir until you have explained Lloyd George’s speech,’ and the Foreign Secretary replied, ‘I shall not explain Lloyd George’s speech until you have told us about the pres'ence of the warship at Agadir’—he could not help feeling that two statesmen of international repute were behaving like school children. Yet those were the men whom the two countries concerned were asked to trust implicitly with the control of foreign affairs.”

In this same speech he went to the root of the matter. “Let them take the whole of the agreements concluded during the last five or six years between this country and other countries, about Egypt, about Morocco, and about Persia, and they would see what we were concerned with was not the promotion of the liberties of the peoples of those countries, was not the protection of the honour of the people of this country, but the protection of profits and dividends.”

The situation, both in Morocco and Egypt, as it appeared to the I.L.P. leaders, and to other thoughtful, peace-loving people was fraught with peril, not only to this country, but to the whole of Europe.

We may well regret that this debate was not allowed in June instead of in November. That it was not, shows that the Foreign Office had definitely made up its mind to conceal events from Parliament and hoodwink it should a crisis arise.

These casual extracts from the many utterances of MacDonald and Hardie, however, are placed here to show that for the ultimate catastrophe, they, and those for whom they spoke, were free from responsibility. That in the midst of all their other work, in Parliament and in the country, they should have been so vigilantly watchful in a sphere of politics to which the people in general were indifferent, was due, of course, to that belief in the international unity of interests which is inherent in the very spirit of the Socialist movement, .They also knew far more than most Members of Parliament, and were better able to see what was coming and how to avert it.

MacDonald, at this very time, was himself passing through the Vale of Sorrow, the death of Mrs. MacDonald in the previous September having bereft him of a companionship which could never be replaced, and which had been invaluable to the Socialist movement.

These last years of Keir Hardie’s life—for we are now nearing the end—are very difficult to describe in such a way as to make vivid the environment, political, social and intellectual, which encompassed him. These years are so near to us in time and so unripened as to their harvest, that it seems like writing about current events, and yet they are separated from us by an intervening history so immeasurable in its effects, that they appear to belong to almost another epoch than ours. To recover the social and political atmosphere, to reconstruct the conditions, to appreciate the motives by which people were actuated in those days seem well nigh impossible. Yet that is what we must do if we are to have any conception of what those closing years were to Keir Hardie. We must see the world as it appeared to him in those days. How many of us, for example, can recollect or revisualise what was happening in 1912, much less recall what we were thinking about at that time.

In 1912, it will be remembered, occurred the great national miners’ strike, which resulted in legalising, for the first time, the principle of a minimum wage for miners. 1912 was the year of the bitterly fought London dock strike, in which the workers were defeated, humiliated and actually starved into submission, with Mr. Tillett, the dockers’ leader, praying theatrically on Tower Hill that God might strike Lord Devonport dead; the same Lord Devonport with whom, and with whose class, Mr. Tillett was in enthusiastic accord only two years later. 1912 was the year in which Tom Mann, Fred Crowley and Guy Bowman were imprisoned for advising soldiers not to shoot their fellow-workers on strike, little thinking how near was the time when workers would be shooting workers on a scale unimaginable to those courageous protesters against working-class fratricide. 1912 was the year when there were hundreds of women in prison, hunger-striking and enduring the tortures of forcible feeding and unable, of course, to foresee how soon political right, withheld from them when claimed on grounds of justice, would be thrown to them as a bribe, or as a reward for war service—the very kind of service for which they were said to be unfit. 1912 was the year of the Irish Home Rule Act which never became operative. It was also the year in which Cabinet Ministers encouraged, and to some extent organised, rebellion in the North of Ireland, and when Mr. Bonar Law declared, blind to the possibility that South of Ireland rebels would hearken to those brave words and act upon them, “I can imagine no length of resistance to which Ulster will go which I shall not be ready to support.” It was thus the memorable year when the leaders of the Unionist Party declared, and carried their Party with them in making their declaration, that a class which finds itself outvoted in Parliament may resort to arms and revolution to undo what was done through the ballot box. This was the year of the Unemployment Insurance Bill giving legislative recognition to the State’s liability for the condition of the people. 1912 was the year in which the I.L.P. and-the Fabians joined forces in a great “War against Poverty” campaign demanding the establishment of a minimum standard of life, and submitting proposals for the achievement of that purpose.

We have only to mention these movements and events to understand what would be the attitude of Keir Hardie towards each and all of them. His principles were fixed, his record was open. By his past conduct you could always tell what his present or future conduct would be in any given set of circumstances. In much that was happening in the industrial world he could see the outcome of his own past labours. The national strike of miners : what was it but the outward and visible sign of that unity in the .coal industry which he had advocated as far back as 1886 when he became the first Secretary of the Scottish Miners’ Federation? The Insurance Bill: what was it but one of the fruits of his long years of agitation in and out of Parliament on behalf of the unemployed ? It was not what he wanted. It was not the “right to work.” He described it as a slipshod measure and sarcastically commented that its beneficiaries would still have plenty of opportunity for the cultivation of habits of thrift; but makeshift though it was, it was better than nothing. In essence, its second part was an admission of the workless man’s right to live, and it would not have been there but for Keir Hardie.

For British Socialists the time was one of high hopes, alternating with almost paralysing fears. The hopes lay in the evidences of the growing solidarity of organised labour; the fears had their source in the ever-present danger of an outbreak of war in Europe which would overwhelm all plans for human betterment. In Hardie’s mind, on the whole, the hopes overbalanced the fears. In the case of the Morocco crisis, war had been arrested. It might be so again and again until the sheer stupidity of having recourse to such a method of settling disputes would become universally recognised and the means of preventing it by international action would be strengthened. He was naturally an optimist and fain to persuade himself that the power of international Socialism and the common sense of humanity would be stronger than the Imperialist and capitalist forces making for war, It was well for him at this time to be able to cherish, even doubtfully, such a faith. Otherwise he would have had little zest in life during these remaining years. Unlike some other Socialists, he could find no compensating comfort in the theory that a European war, with all its evils, would at least precipitate revolution. For him, the possible fruits of a revolution were not worth the terrible price that would have to be paid for them. He had always believed, and still believed, that Socialism could be ushered in without violent and bloody revolution. That was why he was in Parliament. That was why he favoured the general strike. That was why he strove to destroy the militarist idea in association with the Socialist movement and opposed resolutely all “citizen army” proposals. For him, a war-engendered revolution was no gateway to any promised land. Though he knew well what kind of war the Great War would be, if it came, he refused to admit that it was inevitable, and in this frame of mind he went on with his work.

This year, much to the satisfaction of Hardie and his South Wales supporters, the I.L.P. Annual Conference was held at Merthyr, the object being to mark the general movement’s appreciation of the stalwarts who, in the darkest hour of the Independent Labour Party had sent its leader to Parliament and had steadfastly stood by him ever since. The chief subject of debate at the Conference was Parliamentary policy, involving the vexed question which had troubled the movement ever since the formation of the Parliamentary Labour Party, as to whether that Party, and especially the I.L.P. members of it, should vote on every question on its merits, ox should be guided by the general political exigencies which the Party had to face from time to time. The latter policy was endorsed by the Conference, Hardie speaking in support of it; but as a matter of fact, on this occasion the Conference itself was a secondary function, compared with the public manifestations of Socialist feeling in the constituency and personal attachment to Hardie. The local comrades were proud of their Member, and he was proud of them. Francis, Davies, Morris, Barr, Stonelake, and all the others who had done the spade-work and the fighting, took pride— as they were well entitled to do—in their, past achievements, and were full of confidence for the future. He would have taken great risks who would have suggested that anything could ever happen to dim the popularity of their hero in Merthyr Tydvil. To their credit and honour these men all stood firm when the hour of trial came. They came through the fire like fine gold. At that moment such a trial seemed so far off as to be impossible. Yet it was near at hand.

During the parliamentary session he took his full share of the work, and with George Lansbury was specially active in protesting against the vindictive treatment of the suffragist women in prison, whilst as usual he was also very much in evidence on the propaganda platform, and in various ways showed himself to be full of life, and vigour. In the early autumn, preparatory to going to America for an eight weeks’ tour in support of Eugene Debs’s candidature for the _ Presidency, he spent a short holiday in Arran with his wife and daughter.

A rhyming note which he sent from there in reply to some birthday congratulation in verse reveals him as being in good health and spirits.

“Dear Comrade, if you flatter so,
You’ll make an old man vaunty :
I’m six and fifty years, ’tis true,
And much have had to daunt me.
“But what of that? My life’s been blest,
With health and faith abiding-;
I’ve never sought the rich man’s smile,
I’ve never shirked a hiding.
“I’ve tried to do my duty to
My conscience and my neighbour,
Regardless of the gain or loss
Involved in the endeavour.
“A happy home, a laving wife,
An I.L.P. fu’ healthy;
I wadna’ swap my lot in life
Wi’ any o’ the wealthy.”

“—Keir. Arran, Aug. 15th, 1912.”

Mere holiday jingle, of course, and meant only for Tom Mackley of Woolwich, who had sent the birthday epistle, but indicating that the agitator “off the chain” was enjoying himself.

The American tour, like Debs’s candidature itself, was simply Socialist propaganda. He addressed forty-four meetings^ including four in Canada. He was well received everywhere, and well reported by the American press. The enthusiasm which he aroused in such places as Chicago, Pittsburg and Indianapolis must be taken as a tribute to his personality, for he was no platform “spell-binder” such as American audiences are said to be fond of. He had never aspired to the reputation of being an orator. At Chicago he reminded his audience of this. “Those who know me best are aware that I am never much of an orator. If I have any reputation at all it is not that of a talker, but it is rather this : that during the thirty odd years that I have been out in the open for the class to which I belong, whether in Parliament or out of Parliament, I have stood by that class through good report and ill.”

A good deal depends on what is meant by oratory.

Hardie could not play upon the emotions of an audience by means of voice modulations and inflections and dramatic gestures, but he could, nevertheless, sometimes set the heart of his hearers beating in perfect tune with that of his own. He was guided by no rules of elocution except that which enjoins clear enunciation. His sentences nearly always ended on a rising note, which in an insincere speaker would have sounded like querulousness, but from his had the effect of intense earnestness. When closing a speech on a note of passionate appeal the last word of the last sentence would ring out like the sound of a trumpet, and call his auditors involuntarily to their feet; they knew not why except that they had to get up and cheer. For lucidity in definition and explanation of principles in oral speech he was unrivalled. He was never obscure. You always knew what he meant. Take, for example, the following reference to the State in this same Chicago speech : “The syndicalist starts from the assumption that the State is a capitalist institution. The State, however, is nothing of the sort. At the present time every State in the world, and every kingdom in the world, is capitalist. Why is that so? Because the workers elect the capitalist class to govern the State. The State itself is neither capitalist nor anti-capitalist. The State is simply a good old donkey that goes the way its driver wants it to go. When the capitalists rule, of course, the State serves the capitalists. When the workers get sense enough to stop sending capitalists, and send Socialists drawn from their own ranks, to represent them, then the State becomes your servant and not the servant of the capitalists.”

He sent home, as was his custom, a series of articles descriptive of industrial and social conditions in America, very valuable at the time, but not so interesting for us now as the accounts of his meetings with old friends from the home country. At every stage of his journeyings they seemed to have gathered round him. His tour took him through many of the coal-mining districts, and we hear of social evenings with comrades of his youth now, like himself, growing grey, but fain to shake hands and be merry with him for auld lang syne. We hear of “Hardie singing ‘Bonnie Mary o’ Argyle* and ‘Robin Tamson’s Smiddy/” and of “big Bob Macbeth in ‘The Battle of Stirling Brig!” and of “Barney Reilly dancing an Irish jig with as clean and light a step as he did thirty years ago in the ‘Quarter.’”

This was Keir Hardie as the party politicians and press interviewers never knew him, but as he was known in hundreds of I.L.P. households throughout Great Britain and also to the delegates at I.L.P. conferences in the social hours when the day’s work was done and the controversies forgotten. On such occasion, to look upon Keir Hardie and Bruce Glasier letting themselves go in a foursome reel was, as the Scotch phrase has it, “a sicht for sair een.” This, his last American trip, seems to have given him very great pleasure, a fact the knowledge of which has a measure of consolation for some of us who know what time and fate had in store for him.

Hardly had he arrived home when the Party was called upon to face the troubles for international Socialism created by the war in the Balkans. A special international Congress had been summoned to meet at Basle. The separate Balkan States had united against Turkey, and there was very great danger that the war would not be confined to the Near East and that the much dreaded European conflagration would break out. So imminent was this possibility that the International Socialist Bureau had already cancelled the arrangements for the 1913 Congress due to take place in Vienna. The contiguity of Austria to the theatre of war, and the ambitions of its rulers and diplomats and its interests in the balance of power in the Balkans, made it seem certain that, if the struggle were prolonged, Austria would speedily be involved and would drag the others in also. Europe was again on the edge of the precipice. So, when the Congress hacf to be postponed till 1914, it was decided to call immediately an emergency Congress in Switzerland. We know what happened in 1914, and why it came about that this at Basle was the very last Congress before the break-up of the International. It should be noted that the British members of the International Socialist Bureau were strongly opposed to the postponement of the 1913 Congress and were alone in this opposition. Who can tell but that if it had met, it might have been able to radiate sufficient moral force to prevent the calamity of the following year? To be wise after the event is, of course, easy, and these postwar conjectures may seem futile; yet it is natural for us to regret what seems a lost opportunity for a last great effort for the prevention of the world-war.

At the Basle Congress, twenty-three countries were represented by five hundred and fifty-five delegates, Great Britain sending thirteen. By the time the Congress met, the Balkan States had effectually defeated Turkey and an armistice had been declared with the Balkan League holding the mastery of the situation. This had not lessened the danger of war in Central Europe. Not only was there the likelihood that in the settlement the Great Powers would intervene and come into collision with each other, but there was also the danger, which realised itself only too speedily, that the victorious Balkan States would turn and rend each other. The actors on the Balkan stage were too much puppets controlled by the rival Powers who plotted, bribed and egged on from behind the scenes.

The Basle Congress was a magnificently impressive International Socialist demonstration against war; but that was all it could be. It drafted and issued a manifesto to the Socialists of all the countries represented, defining what measures they might take for the preservation of peace. This manifesto, the last issued by any authoritative International Congress, might well be republished. It sets forth in vivid detail the conditions and international relationships out of which the .Great War eventuated, conditions and relationships which, if re-established, whatever the grouping of the different interests may be, must produce the same evil results.

There was deep seriousness at this Congress, and, at the great peace demonstration in the Cathedral, high and noble utterances by Bebelt Jaures, Adler, Hardie and other international representative men. It was an historic Congress, in a sense of which none who participated could have any knowledge. None of them could know that this was the last. Nor could Bebel and Hardie know that this was their final meeting. But so it was, Bebel, now in his seventy-third year, had only a few more months of life, and happily did not see his beloved German Social Democratic Party first voting war credits and then torn to pieces. Hardie looked almost as venerable as Bebel, but had greater vigour. Basle wound up an old generation, ended an old chapter, was the close of many hopes.

The Rev. James Wallace of Glasgow, who was one of the British delegates, has preserved for us a very pleasant glimpse of Hardie in the streets of Basle. “After the excitement of the public meeting,” says Mr. Wallace, “I accompanied the tribune of the people on a tour to see the ‘uncos’ of Basle, and, as in Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ Hopeful had to fall back on Christian to translate the writing on a pillar ‘for he was learned,’ so I proved of service to Keir Hardie in the case of French or German sentences and specially by enabling him with some ease to make a purchase of a keepsake for Mrs. Hardie in a small jeweller’s shop. Blessing on the honest Swiss saleswoman whose shop seemed so fragrant with honesty that we both felt completely at home, and the desire for gain or profit was simply nowhere with her compared with the full play of human kindliness and good feeling. Whether she recollects the two Scotsmen or no, I cannot tell, but to the two Scotsmen her shop with its fragrant honesty was a green spot in our memory. As we passed along the pavements we admired the noble street architecture of the old city, but Keir Hardie was also much interested in all the different kinds of dogs, large or small, that crossed our paths. The most contemptible ‘tykes’ attracted the great man’s notice. During the whole course of our peregrinations working men broke into smiles at the sight of Keir Hardie, and kept him very busy pulling off his cap in reply to their salutations, while an Egyptian, with a profile exactly reproducing the features of his ancestors on the monuments of Luxor four thousand years ago, approached us with all eagerness to complain of the high-handed acts of British officials in the land of the Pharaohs. Keir Hardie listened to him very sympathetically and offered to air his complaint in Parliament; but so far as I could judge there was a want of definiteness about his statements, as if they were rather the expression of a general restiveness of his country under the regime of Britain, and might even be fomented by German intrigue. Very naturally our footsteps gravitated towards the Art Gallery of Basle. ‘There’s Jaurks,’ said Keir Hardie, and went forward to shake the great Frenchman’s hand. A man more unlike the typical Frenchman as depicted in our comic papers it would be impossible to find. Indeed, take a shrewd farmer from the Ayr or Lanark market, and there you have a Jaures. It was the last meeting of these two great men on earth. What sphere have they now for the exercise of their beautiful energies? ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made oL’ ” Mr. Wallace was wrong. Hardie and Jaures were to meet again before the end.

And so the year 1912 drew towards its close, with the war-clouds hanging dark and threatening over the nations, and the minds of all Socialists full of foreboding. “The moment is critical/’ wrote Hardie, “and European war will almost certainly lead to European revolution, the end of which no man can foresee”; yet was he still an optimist. “It was a great gathering/’ he summed up, speaking of the Basle Congress, “and full of significance for the future of our race. For those gathered there represented not so many nationalities, but the disinherited of all lands. These have now no country : they are the mob, the proletariat, the oppressed. These are the ties that bind them. The International is uniting them in their fight against bondage.” He was great of heart, and he needed to be.


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