The Kingdom of Shylock

The Kingdom of Shylock

“The triumphant nation of tomorrow will be that which defeats the others on the economic field, by reorganising the conditions of human toil, and by bringing more justice and happiness to mankind.” —“Zola” in “Truth” Page 171.

In days of old the feudal baronage sallied forth with sword and spear to levy toll upon terrorised producers. They were masters of highways and waterways, and in the name of their overlordship exacted tribute from the toiling people. They were the self-evident personification of tyranny. To rise against them, destroy them, escape their vassalage, was to leave an open road along which the products of free men could pass untolled. Organised resentment and bloody victory were the sole essentials for the spontaneous development of industry in its primitive forms.
But the days of primitive industry and primitive Radicalism are passing. Under the freest political institutions exist financial oligarchies more rapacious than the old-time baronies. They bleed, not with sword nor spear, but by subtle processes that leave a people impoverished, they know not how or why. The mechanism of robbery is complex and impersonal. The operators are out of sight. The public only know them as benignant gentry distributing tracts or charity by the wayside.
In theory the Labor Movement is a protest against Capitalism. In practice it is its endorser and subsidiser. Legislation is enacted to make the baronage of Capitalism bearable and acceptable to democracy, but the baronage remains. Its exactions, if less outwardly brutal, are none the less extensive and complete. Not in the least do we touch its sacred edifice, impinge upon its prerogatives, or limit the unseen power which predatory wealth exercises upon the political machinery of the State, the lives of the people, and the economic future of the Nation.
We see States and Nation governed by the machinery of past centuries. We have seen a Labor Government in N.S.W. upholding the absurdity of an Upper Chamber to nullify its own proceedings. We have seen Governments of working men upholding as rigidly as the most rabid Tories all the procedures, formalities, mummeries and ceremonies of obsolete forms of government. In the midst of a flood tide of economic and scientific progression the legislative and administrative methods of Governments stand petrified in the chamber of dead ages.