|The Prime Minister made much play last night with the rights of the individual and the dangers of people being ordered about by officials. I entirely agree that people should have the greatest freedom comparable with the freedom of others, There was a time when employers were free to work little children for sixteen hours a day. I remember when employers were free to employ sweated women workers on finishing trousers at a penny halfpenny a pair. There was a time when people were free to neglect sanitation so that thousands died of preventable diseases. For years every attempt to remedy these crying evils was blocked by the same plea of freedom for the individual. It was in fact freedom for the rich and slavery for the poor. Make no mistake, it has only been through the power of the state, given to it by parliament, that the general public has been protected against the greed of ruthless profit-makers and property owners.||As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|Excessive resort to committees tends to slow down action by discussion of matters which should be decided by Ministers themselves. In fact, it may tend to a reluctance by Ministers to take decisions in matters within their own field||As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|I had long been persuaded that a small Cabinet was essential in time of war. We started with five. The subsequent numbers varied but never rose above eight.||As It Happened – C R Attlee|
We are fighting the battle of civilisation against barbarism. To do that successfully we must bring to our aid the spiritual forces in all countries. We must see to it that in this contest we do not allow the evil things which we fight to master our own souls.
Our aims must be such as commend them to the conscience of mankind. If we seek a peace wherein moral principles are to prevail, we must carry out those principles ourselves. If we are conscious all the time that our practise is not in accordance with our precepts we shall be weakened.
|As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|If we really believe in the supreme value of every human individual, and this is the core of our democratic faith, we must change a system of society which does not express this in its institutions. We still live in a class society. The recognition of equality opportunity for all has yet to be attained.||As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|One of the most difficult problems in war is to maintain civil liberty while ensuring the safety of the country||As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|We have to plan the broad lines of our national life so that all may have the duty and the opportunity of rendering service to the nation, everyone in his or her sphere, and that all may help to create and share in an increasing material prosperity free from the fear of want. We have to preserve and enhance the beauty of our country to make it a place where men and women may live finely and happily, free to worship God in their own way, free to speak their minds, free citizens of a great country.||As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|It is essential to remember that civilisation takes long to build and is easily destroyed. Brutality is infectious.||As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|The Labour Party owes its inspiration not to some economic doctrine or to some theory of class domination. It has always based its propaganda on ethical principles. We believe that every individual should be afforded the fullest opportunity for developing his or her personality. The founder of our Party, Keir Hardie, always made his appeal on moral grounds. He believed that the evils of society were due to the failure to put into practice the principles of the brotherhood of man.
The struggle for freedom of the individual soul takes different forms at various periods. Here in Britain we have achieved freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, freedom of speech and action within the law, freedom for workers to come together. They are victories which we will not allow to be reversed, but the fight for freedom continues.
The Labour Party is the expression of the revolt of men and women against a materialist system of society which condemns to a narrow and stinted life the majority of our citizens and gives rewards to the greedy and acquisitive.
The Labour Party’s object is the building of a new world on the foundation of social and economic justice.
|Labour Party||As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|Labour’s policy of socialism and peace was a whole which could not be divided into unconnected compartments. ‘You cannot have one policy for foreign affairs and run a policy at home on entirely different principles,’ I said ‘I want us to devote ourselves to making people realise that if they want peace they must have social justice at home’.||Connection – Domstic &
|As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|On President Benes:
“He always seemed to me to be too optimistic and too ready to think his diplomatic skills would get his country through all the dangers which faced it, but he was a good democrat and a good European”
|International policy / War||As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|“The threat from the Nazis was already developing, but Benes, as always, displayed great optimism. He always seemed to me in his dealings both with the Germans and later with the Russians to put far too much confidence in his own cleverness. He did not seem to realise how long a spoon was needed to sup with the devil.”|
|“No doubt it had many failings, but it was the best Government Spain had had for many years. We recognised at once that General Franco’s movement was part of the conspiracy against democracy and most liberals and some Conservatives agreed with us, but, on the whole, the Conservative Party tended to regard Franco as a saviour of society. In this way they ran true to form, for hundred years previously they were supporting Don Carlos against the constitutional Government of Queen Christina.”||International policy / War||As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|“I also inspected the British contingent of the International Brigade; this was an impressive scene in a Spanish village by torchlight. The Brigade had saved the Republican cause in Spain. Serving in its ranks were men of diverse views, but animated with courage, self-sacrifice and devotion, united in the fight for freedom. It was tragic that all the time the Communists were intriguing and seeking to divert the contest into battle for Communism.|
|“…Whatever arms are required, they must be for League policy and the fist condition for any assent to more arms is that the Government shall be following a League policy … I say most emphatically, speaking on behalf of this party, that we shall never agree to piling up armaments and following a policy either of imperialism or of alliances, but only collective security through the League.”
“I told the house that in my opinion the Government had ‘destroyed the League of Nations as an effective instrument of peace … None of the small States of Europe are going to trust any more in collective security under the League if they know that the League will not stand by them.”
|International policy / War||As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|When Anthony Eden and lord Cranborne resigned from the Chamberlain Government early in 1938, as a protest against the Prime Minister’s decision to open conversations with Mussolini whilst Italy was carrying on intervention in Spain and anti-British propaganda, I told the House that the policy of the Government was ‘an abject surrender to the dictators’ and that ‘the government, instead of trying to deal with the causes of war, had always been trying in a feeble way to play off one dictator against another. That’ is a policy which sooner or later leads to war.’||International policy / War
|As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|The following passage sets out what I considered to be the socialist approach to the economic problem.
“Why was it that in the war we were able to find employment for everyone? It was simply that the Government controlled the purchasing power of the nation. They said what things should be produced; they said ‘We must have munitions of war. We must have rifles; we must have machine guns; we must have shells; we must have ammunition; we must have uniforms; we must have saddles.’ They took by means of taxation and by methods of loan, control of purchasing power of this nation, and directed that purchasing power into making those things that are necessary for winning the war.
Today the distribution of purchasing power in the nation is enormously unequal. I recall a speech by the present Prime Minister, in which he said that one of the greatest reforms in our national life would be a better distribution of wealth among the individuals composing this nation. I entirely agree with him.”
“That is what we are demanding shall be done in time of peace. It is possible for the Government, by methods of taxation and by other methods, to take hold of that purchasing power, and to say that, exactly as they told manufacturers and workers that they must turn out shells and munitions of all sorts to support the fighting man, so they must turn out houses and necessities for those who are making the country a country of peace.”
|State: Economics & Social Policy||As It Happened – C R Attlee
|It may not be without interest to recall that twenty-seven years afterwards in my General Election broadcast I struck the same note when I said:
‘… The Labour Party believes that if you want certain results you must plan to ensure them; that in peace as in war the public interest must come first, and that if in war, despite the diversion, and despite the shortage of supply imposed by war conditions, we were able to provide food, clothing and employment for all our people, it is not impossible to do the same in peace, provided the Government has the will and the power to act….’
|Instead of deciding on a policy and standing or falling by it, MacDonald and Snowden persuaded the Cabinet to agree to the appointment of an Economy Committee, under the chairmanship of Sir George May of the Prudential Insurance Company, with a majority of opponents of Labour on it. The result might have been anticipated. The proposals were directed to cutting the social services and particularly unemployment benefit. Their remedy for an economic crisis, one of the chief features of which was excess of commodities over effective demand, was to cut down the purchasing power of the masses.|
|“Our powers to deal with the housing situation were limited and there was not much space for buildings, but we did what we could. It was, however, possible for us to get existing houses repaired. We appointed a number of extra sanitary inspectors, made a complete survey of the borough, served over 40,000 legal notices on house-owners to repair their property and we saw that they were enforced.
In another field great progress was made. Infant mortality had long been high. We instituted health visitors, ante-natal clinics, etc. and brought the death rate down to be one of the lowest in London.
|State: Housing & Health policy||As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|“But the fighting core of the party was the I.L.P whose leader, Keir Hardie, was now reinforced in the house of Commons by MacDonald, Snowden, Clynes and others.
Without the I.L.P it would have been possible for this attempt to form a new Party to have failed, as had happened before. The I.L.P was a remarkable organisation which enlisted the devotion of thousands of men and women. It was not rigidly dogmatic. It was inclusive rather than exclusive and preached a socialism which owed more to the bible than to Karl Marx. It was indeed a characteristically British interpretation of socialism.”
“As a contrast, the Social Democratic Federation was completely Marxist and preached the class war. Its outlook was more materialist than the I.L.P”
|The Labour Party – Formation & Nature||As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|“The various strains in the Movement found their echo in our branch meetings and we used to discuss vehemently such topics as the advantages of revolutionary and reformist tactics and the question of industrial, as opposed to political, action. I am sure that a substantial apprenticeship in the ordinary work of a local branch is of great value to anyone who is destined to play any part in political life, especially if he is to become prominent in a national sphere.”||The Labour Party – representation & local involvement||As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|The Conservative Party remains as always a class party. In twenty-three years in the House of Commons, I cannot recall more than half a dozen from the ranks of the wage earners. It represents today, as in the past, the forces of property and privilege. The labour party is, in fact, the one party which most nearly reflects in it representation and composition all the main streams which flow into the great river of our national life.||As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|Referring to work at a boys club:
“It was astonishing how wide were the interests of the boys in all kinds of subjects. Sometimes they produced very good aphorisms. For instance, we were discussing friendship one evening. One boy summed it up by saying. ‘A pal is a bloke wot knows all about yer and yet loves yer.’ Another time we were discussing the qualities of a gentleman. One said, ‘A bloke what does no work.‘ Another said, ‘A rich bloke.’ Young Dicky, a bright lad said, ‘I reckon a gentleman is a bloke wot’s the same to everybody’
|As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|In the local association of Care Committees we used to have great fights against the adherents of the Charity Organisation Society who believed in the Poor Law principle of deterrence. I recall a parson who advocated giving children only burnt porridge served at the most inconvenient place and time.||Government Benefits / Support Systems||As It Happened – C R Attlee|
|Poverty and the Law:
The problem of poverty caused growing public concern during the early 19th century. The existing system for looking after those unable to care for themselves – the old, sick, disabled, orphans and unemployed – was based on a series of Acts of Parliament passed during the later Tudor period. These laws imposed an obligation on every parish to take care of its poor, though this had much less to do with compassion than with the need to preserve order and stability.
‘Poor relief’ was not the responsibility of central government, but of the local parish, the main part of local government. A ‘poor rate’ or local tax paid by parish householders was used to help the poor in two main ways. In the 18th century those who were too ill, old, destitute, or who were orphaned children were put into a local ‘workhouse’ or ‘poorhouse’. Those able to work, but whose wages were too low to support their families, received ‘relief in aid of wages’ in the form of money, food and clothes.
Need for reform
New legislation attempted to improve aspects of the Poor Law, but left everything to local initiative. By the end of the 1790s there were clear signs that the system was under severe strain. Increasing numbers of parish poor were seeking assistance and the cost to ratepayers of maintaining the system was rising alarmingly, especially as payments were linked to the rising costs of bread and the size of families. There was also evidence that poor law payments were being used by employers to ‘top up’ wages.
In the early 1830s outbreaks of rural violence in southern England and complaints from hard-pressed ratepayers made it clear that urgent reform was essential. But opinion in Parliament and in the corridors of power was divided over how the Poor Law system could be made to work more effectively and less expensively. The main question preoccupying many MPs was whether it was right for the state to take some responsibility in such matters.
|Appendix – for the above|
|In 1832, the government appointed a royal commission to investigate the workings of the Poor Law and make recommendations for improvement. The commissioners sent out questionnaires and visited over 3,000 parishes (out of a total of 15,000) collecting information.
One of the leading commissioners, Edwin Chadwick, was already convinced that the system needed to be brought under rigorous central control in London. It also needed to be reformed in such a way as to deter people from making unnecessary demands on public funds.
The commission’s report and recommendations were published in 1834 and received wide support in Parliament. The commissioners had come up with a way of providing an efficient government cure for the problem, yet one which ensured a minimum of state interference and cost.
The Poor Law Amendment Act was quickly passed by Parliament in 1834, with separate legislation for Scotland and Ireland. It implemented a major overhaul of the old Poor Law by adopting all the commission’s main recommendations. A ‘Poor Law Commission’ (a new government department, in effect) was set up in London employing inspectors to supervise the work of local officials. Instead of an administrative system based around parishes about 600 locally elected ‘boards of guardians’ were set up, each board having its own workhouse.
Outdoor relief – the financial support formerly given to the able-bodied – was no longer to be available to them so as to compel them to work. Outside assistance was widely available to the sick and elderly. But in many areas assistance was only given within the confines of the workhouse where the regime was deliberately harsh and often cruel.
The new Act was pioneering in introducing a role for central government in the care of the poor, and remained in force throughout the Victorian age. But, as social commentators remarked, the treatment of genuine hardship caused by economic circumstances beyond the control of the individual had been ignored. By the 1880s, greater understanding of poverty and its complex links with economic conditions (such as low pay and unemployment) slowly began to change opinion in Parliament.
|This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.
It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one – no matter where he lives or what he does – can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.
Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr’s cause has ever been stilled by an assassin’s bullet.
No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason.
Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily – whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence – whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.
“Among free men,” said Abraham Lincoln, “there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lose their cause and pay the costs.”
Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire.
Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.
Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.
For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.
This is the breaking of a man’s spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all.
I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered.
We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers.
Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.
We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children’s future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.
Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution.
But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.
Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.
|Society, People, Violence & government||In His Own Words
Robert F Kennedy
|An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind||People & Society||Mahatma Gandhi|
|“Did you ever run for political office?’ he asked.
‘No, of course not’ Said the young man
‘If you had,’ said Mason ‘you’d realise what a fickle thing the mass mind is.’
‘What do you mean by that?’
‘Simply that there’s no loyalty in it; no consistency in it,’ said Perry Mason
|Erle Stanley Gardner – The Case of the Howling Dog|
|‘I has everything to do with it,’ Perry Mason said. ‘A jury is an audience. It’s a small audience, but it’s an audience just the same. Now the playwrights who are successful with plays have to know human nature. They recognise the fickleness of the mass mind. They know that it’s incapable of loyalty; that its incapable of holding any emotion for any great period of time. If there hadn’t been a chance to laugh after the dramatic scene in the play you saw, the play would have been a flop.|