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Coal Mines (Nationalisation).

Part of Orders of the Day — King's Speech. – in the House of Commons on 11th February 1920.

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Photo of Mr Charles McCurdy Mr Charles McCurdy , Northampton

Those doctrines are utterly repugnant to anything that Karl Marx taught, as my hon. Friend would understand if he had followed closely what I have been saying. That is the first aspect of syndicalism. It is a scheme under which the community as a whole, the State as a whole, is to be set on one side, and under which in every industry the producer, acting through a trade union as a political organisation, is to seize the means of production and hold the community to ransom.

The second feature about syndicalism—the French idea—has been this, that its objects are to be attained by what is known as direct action, by a general strike, by blackmailing the community by the armed forces of the minority. These are the doctrines which lie at the foundation of this so-called policy of nationalisation which is laid before the country at the present time. It is sometimes said that in the Coalition there are men of different parties and of different views. I venture to say that as between the most extreme sections of the Coalition there is really a hardly perceptible difference compared with the gulf that yawns between the discordant elements which make up the so-called Labour party—first the Trade Unionists whom we all know, God-fearing, sober Churchmen and non-Conformists, men who have never had the least sympathy with either Socialism or Revolution in any form and have no sympathy with it to-day. Then the Socialists, men like Mr. Ramsay Macdonald and Mr. Philip Snowden, Marxists and Collectivists, holding strongly for the transfer to the State of functions now exercised individually in the interests of humanity, and then the syndicalists who would make every little industry a state of its own, friends of the Bolsheviks, fomenters of strife.

The really important thing about the issue which is raised before the House to-night is that we as a people and as a House of Commons should venture to look behind the labels and should get at the facts. If we do get at the facts, what are they? They are these, that a claim for nationalisation is put forward by a body of men who are pleased to call themselves a party. They are men with divergent and conflicting principles, tied by one common bond. [An HON. MEMBER: "A Coalition."] Yes, a Coalition. Some of them interpret the word "nationalisation" in the sense of handing over the community as a whole, as, I think, the last speaker did. Others unquestionably use it in the sense in which it was used by Mr. Cole and Mr. Straker. I will not detain the House longer. I will only say this. It is perfectly true that of all the large industries in this country coal is the most important. It was by the discovery and development of the coalfields that this country developed from a poor agricultural country into a rich industrial country. Coal is the sole basis of its industrial wealth and commercial prosperity, and I venture to think that before this House or the country will tolerate any drastic revolutionary changes in the bases of that industry it will be necessary that they should be more accurately defined and much more clearly explained than the advocates are able to define or explain them at the present time.