The Cabinet has taken the opportunity of the opening of a new parliamentary session to congratulate itself upon a partial industrial recovery, the supercial and transitory character of which is assumed by the Government's own statisticians. Concerning the persistence of mass unemployment on a Vast scale there is not a single word in the King's speech and the only allusion to the nightmare conditions of life in the distressed areas is a formal mention of the re-enactment of a measure under which those conditions have remained practically unaltered since it first became law.
Yet the greatest of all offences against the unemployed is to take their existence for granted and to prattle about palliatives while doing nothing to cure the disease that is rotting whole communities in this country. " Poverty in the midst of potential plenty " is a phrase that has been used often but never often enough, for it represents a reality that should be burnt upon the brain of every responsible minister.
It is not as if it represented an unalterable fact. It has been shown over and over again to those who are willing to listen that mass destitution in the midst of potential plenty is only an unalterable fact if the existing monetary system is regarded as an unalterable fact. It is something entirely against the order of nature, brought about by inhibitions based on a view of money that has no relation to contemporary realities. It is allowed to continue simply because in this matter of money Parliament is not master in its own house. Questions may not even be asked in it concerning the Bank of England though the action of the Bank can affect the economic conditions of the whole population of the country more swiftly and tinescapably than any Act of the But the Government, like all its predecessors, accepts this abrogation of its authority with all its bitter consequenceF for the helpless poor and parades a series of measures to alleviate some of the moric. alarming symptoms of the social decay whieh it permits.
In particular it has taken fright at the appalling physique revealed by the percentage of rejections among army recruits. It talks loudly about improving it, and offers as a first instalment the entry of boys and girls into National Health Insurance when they leave school so that they may get the attention of the panel doctor two years earlier! Presumably a few shillings worth of drugs and diagnoses between fourteen and sixteen is to make up for fourteen years of underfeeding and insufficient warmth and clothes and for the physical and moral decay induced by years of idleness to come.
We do not wish to be understood as saying that all the Government's proposals are bad in themselves. It is in relation to underlying causes that they' are bad, because theyignore them and treat symptoms only. Ccnsidered in themselves most of them are good so far as they go. The King's visit to India is good and may do scmething to allay the passions that will by then be seething in the new Provincial legislatures. The request to the whole House to join in framing legislation to deal with potential private armies is good, though it would be far better if Parliament asserted its authority to uproot the evils which are the soil in which private armies flourish. For here again there is grave danger that symptoms may be dealt with--in this case merely repressed—while deep and well-founded grievances fester unremedied.
As for foreign policy, the paragraphs devoted to it are so inept that it seems scarcely decent to speak of it. The Government will continue to base it on an organisation the futility of which it has itself done as much as anyone to demonstrate. It " will persist " (pathetic . phrase) in seeking a five power Conference when three of the five States concerned have made it plain that its original basis has disappeared. On an insufferable note of patronage Spain is promised ambulances for her combatants and a scrupulous avoidance of anything that might look like recognition of the justice of either cause.
The other day Mr. Baldwin deplored the coining into British politics of causes for which men were prepared to die. He may take comfort. So long as he is in office there will always be at least one political programme before the country for which no man will be prepared to die.