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First Labour Government Great Britain Essay

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PRESIDENT BURNS introduced the Speaker.

MRS. SNOWDEN.

Friends, (if I may say so),--I count it a very great honour to be the guest of two organizations of such distinguished reputation as those represented here this afternoon and I am glad to be in the presence of so many who can help me to achieve the more important part of what I conceive to be my mission, if mission be the right word, in this great and amazing country of yours--to learn what it is possible to learn in a limited time about Canada, its people, its institutions and its problems. There is grave misunderstanding of Canada in many parts of the homeland, and that misunderstanding is due in a very large measure to lack of that personal contact and personal knowledge which are essential for the proper understanding of anybody or anything. I take it from your choice of a subject for today's address that you agree with this point of view.

I am not so foolish as to imagine that you have chosen that I shall address you briefly upon the topic of the first Labour Government of Britain because

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Mrs. Snowden is the wife of the Right Honourable Philip Snowden, M.P., who was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the first Labour Government. She is the author of "Through Bolshevik Russia," "A Political Pilgrim in Europe." In 1920 she studied conditions in Russia and reported adversely on the Bolshevik regime. She is familiar with conditions in France, Palestine, Egypt, Switzerland, Germany and Austria, and has reported on them to the International Conferences.

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you are supporters of the principles and ideas which that Government represented; but I do not care in the very least about that. The only thing that matters is that the facts shall be known, and that if we cannot agree about those we shall-honest and sincere people all-agree to differ, which is almost the whole of the law and the prophets."

In dealing with this extraordinarily big theme in a very short time, it would be idle to pretend that I can do more than touch the very fringe of a very small number of points related to the main topic; but I should like to begin, if I may, by removing one of the misunderstandings that, in my travel across this continent, I have discovered to be fairly widespread--I mean the association of the British Labour Movement with the Bolshevik Party of Russia. Those who happened to be in Great Britain at the time of the last General Election are perfectly well excused for holding so wrong a view. The word "Bolshevik" was the word most frequently heard at that time. It was heard applied to so great a variety of personalities that it really was puzzling to the hearer to know what it really meant. I, myself, who have written more and spoken oftener against Bolshevism than any living British person was described in some quarters as a Bolshevik during this campaign. As a matter of fact, the use by most individuals of the word Bolshevik meant, at the election, what I am afraid it still means in common parlance, that the political or religious opinions or the social habits of the person to whom it was applied were not approved.

I may begin right away, then, by saying that the difference between cheese and chalk is not greater than the difference between the first Labour Government of Great Britain and the Bolshevik Government of Russia. I will give you here just two or three points of difference, for I expect to deal more full with the subject at tonight's meeting. In the first place, the Labour Government was evolutionary, democratic, parliamentary and educational in its methods. It did not believe, and it showed by its actions that it did not believe, in cutting the lifeline of ordered, evolutionary progress, nor of tradition where that was good. The Bolshevik Government, as you are aware, stands for the opposite of these things, for violent uprooting, force, tyranny and bloodshed.

Secondly, the Bolshevik Government confiscated the property of all the citizens of Russia and of all those foreign nationals who held property in that land. The British Labour Movement has no notion whatever when it acquires any public service or any form of property which it believes it is in the public interest it should hold, of doing other than paying a fair price for its new acquisition.

The third difference lies in this fact, not commonly known in this gathering, I should imagine, that whilst the Bolshevik Government is notoriously antireligious, the British Labour Movement is religious in its spirit, and is led by men of faith, who lead a body of men and women, on the whole of deeply religious feelings and outlook. I am not exaggerating when I say that probably seventy-five percent of the members of the British Labour Party are in the Party because of the implications of their Christian faith. Most of the public meetings of the Labour Party, especially those in the industrial north, are begun and ended with the singing of a hymn, which is taken from the popular Labour Hymnal. The one distinguishing characteristic of this selection of hymns is that they employ the "our" of the Lord's Prayer rather than the "my" of so many individualistic, but otherwise, excellent hymns of the older psalmody.

Nobody was more surprised than the Labour Leaders themselves when the first Labour Government came into being. Not one of them desired it; not one of them sought it. I know most of them personally and how real and deep is their sense of responsibility; and had the choice been theirs they would have preferred, on personal grounds, a little longer period in opposition before taking up the duties of Government. But it was not theirs to refuse the opportunity so amazingly thrown in their way. You know how it came about. The Prime Minister of the last Conservative Government, to the astonishment of many of his followers, threw away a majority of more than eighty, when he might have held office for the allotted span of...

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