The only formidable enemies of freedom in Europe at the present time are extremists who invariably begin by describing themselves as democrats, said The Luton Reporter in its leading article on April 1st, 1919. They say they want the people to rule and, as the population of a country is never of one mind, they mean that they want the majority to rule.
That cry serves very well while they have a colourable pretext for asserting that the majority is not ruling and, if it did rule, would agree with the extremists. But they are very soon weary of the cry when the majority unmistakably exercises its power and disagrees with them.
Then they invariably edge their way into the position taken up by tyrannous fanatics ever since human society has had a recorded history.
The sophistry that excuses the tyranny is familiar to every student, and may be stated thus: “The majority does not support us. Therefore, it is either incapable of judging rightly in the present case or is deceived. Why should we allow the majority's mistake to prevail to the ultimate detriment of the majority itself? We know better than the majority. We must take power to act on our certitude of being right, we must not let our enlightenment be frustrated. We must rule the majority, because we cannot possible let ourselves be over-ruled.”
And there are always plenty of knaves with axes to grind ready to support the fanatics in making trouble amid which thievish designs have fine chances.
We saw the fallacy of the fanatics and their friends at work in the suppression of the Russian Constituent Assembly and the ensuing usurpation of power by the Bolshevist minority. We have seen it at work in the Spartacist rebellion in Germany. It is operating vigorously in Hungary and other lands clouded by defeat.
And we need not listen very intently to hear the murmurings of those who echo the fallacy in he victorious countries of the Entente, and not least threatening within these shores. A clique of theory-ridden malcontents, directed and dominated by calculating and ambitious schemers, is striving with might and main to prevent the machinery of trade union politics from genuine democratic use and make it the means of bringing about a disastrous revolution which only a sprinkling of men in the Labour world desire and which would completely wreck the commerce, credit and finances of the country and certainly involve the atrocious bloodshed of fratricidal strife.
These sowers of sedition have only one strong ally among the mass of working men – the fear of unemployment. The British wage-earner of the national type is not naturally a revolutionary by temperament and predilection. But he can be goaded into becoming one by fear of economic disaster in his home.
The scourge of unemployment afflicts the just and the the unjust alike among wage-earners. The working man means to take his stand in future as a human being, not as a mere economic unit, and politically he is master of nine-tenths of the constituencies in the country.
The other classes have to meet him fairly and squarely on this issue, and in order that they may be able to do so the nation must have an economic system which it can adjust to its needs, and must discard the system which leaves every industry and every worker open to the untempered blasts of economic hazards.
That is the purport of the pointed observation made by Mr Bonar Law in the House of Commons that the most vital of the vested interests which have to be considered in our fiscal reorganisation is high wages. The unregulated competition that cuts down wages is also the force that pushes the workman out of employment.