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In Britain

V. I. Lenin

The British Liberals have been in power for six and a half years. The working-class movement in Britain is becoming stronger and stronger. Strikes are assuming a mass character; moreover, they are ceasing to be purely economic and are developing into political strikes.

Robert Smillie, the leader of the Scottish miners who recently showed such strength in mass struggle[1], declares that in their next big fight the miners will demand the transfer of the collieries to state ownership. And this next big fight is approaching inexorably, because all the miners of Britain are perfectly well aware that the notorious Minimum Wage Act cannot bring about any appreciable improvement in their conditions.

And so the British Liberals, who are losing ground, have invented a new battle-cry in order once again to induce the mass of the electors to trust the Liberals for a while. "You can't sell without cheating" is the commercial slogan of capitalism. "You can't get seats in parliament without cheating" is the slogan of capitalist politics in free countries.

The "fashionable" slogan invented by the Liberals for this purpose is the demand for "land reform". It is not clear what the Liberals and their expert in humbugging the masses, Lloyd George, mean by that. Apparently, it is a question of increasing the land tax, and no more. But the idea that actually lies behind the resounding talk about "restoring the land to the people", etc., is to collect further millions for military adventures, for the Navy.

In Britain, agriculture is conducted wholly on capitalist lines. The capitalist farmers rent medium-sized plots of land from the landlords and cultivate them with the aid of wage-workers.

Under these circumstances, no "land reform" can in any way change the conditions of the agricultural workers. In Britain the buying-out of landed estates might even become a new method of fleecing the proletariat, since the landlords and the capitalists, who would retain state power, would sell their land at exorbitant prices. And the price would have to be paid by the taxpayers, i.e., the workers again.

The fuss made by the Liberals about the land question has done good in one respect: it has roused interest in organising the agricultural workers.

When Britain's agricultural workers wake up and join together in unions, the Liberals will no longer be able to get away with charlatan "promises of reform" or of allotments for farm-hands and day-labourers.

Recently a reporter of a British labour newspaper visited Joseph Arch, the veteran agricultural workers' leader who has done much to rouse the labourers to a class-conscious life. This could not be done at one stroke, and Arch's slogan—"three acres and a cow" for every agricultural worker—was a very naive one. The union he founded fell to pieces, but the cause he fought for is not dead and the organisation of the agricultural workers in Britain is once again becoming an immediate issue.

Arch is now 83 years old. He lives in the same village and in the same house in which he was born. He told his inter viewer that the agricultural workers' union had managed to raise wages to 15, 16 and 17 shillings a week. And now the wages of agricultural workers in Britain have again dropped—in Norfolk, where Arch lives—to 12 or 13 shillings a week.

[1] Lenin is referring to the miners' strike in the spring of 1912, which involved about a million miners.

Published: Pravda No. 89, August 12, 1912.
Signed: P.. Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1975], Moscow, Volume 18, pages 270-271.
Translated: Stepan Apresyan

eSource: Marxists.org - Marxists Internet Archive
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