The word "referendum" comes from Switzerland. In one sense it is used as meaning the principle that Bills should not become Acts of Parliament before they have been submitted to the vote of the electors and received the consent of the majority. The other sense in which we use it is for a matter brought up not by Parliament but by the people. For instance, there are many people who have ideas for reform; there are also many medical discoveries and treatments unknown or not made available to the public* there are inventions and discoveries which would make this country quite independent in its food supply—but there is no effective means of bringing these things before Parliament, or of breaking through the rings of vested interests which prevent their u^e.
The general public need not understand the political? economic, or technical aspect of any case, but the principle of what they seek to accomplish is a thing which all can understand. In this connection a referendum could be taken on the principles involved, insisting upon an examination of the practical possibilities of the reforms or discoveries* If they can be used for national benefit they shall be debated
I ^PUBLIC WATCH AND WARD i37
irrespective of any private interest which might oppose
There are certain fundamental ideas of right and wrong
which all progressive people recognise. It is obviously
morally wrong—and under the P.C.L.P. would become
politically wrong—to destroy food, exploit people, and make
law such things as the Means Test. Seeing all matters of
national import in the light of the principles made law by
the P.C.L.P., all people would be in a position to judge and
instruct their M.P.s by means of these referendums. That
one man is more educated or more intelligent than another
is a moot point when dealing with principles which could
be understood by school-children. All the public would
require to know could be explained to them by the P.C.L.P,
or by their local C.L.C. 1
If a reform was required it would not be necessary for the people to discuss the technical details for putting it into operation. They would be provided with statistics showing that the nation's knowledge and productivity could provide the ability and the materials necessary for the reform. The people would be taught to demand that whatever is morally right, necessary, and physically possible shall be provided. 8
Parliamentary Bills and election programmes would
receive careful scrutiny. The possibility of public mis
understanding or political dishonesty would be obviated. 1
For instance, if a Bill or political programme seemed to I
promise, or actually promised, "That every man, woman, ■
and child shall be entitled to sufficient food, warmth, shelter, I
medical attention, education, etc.," its true worth would be |
revealed to the public by the local C.L.C. Man has always ■
been entitled to these necessities—but that has not guaranteed |
his receipt of them. The P.C.L.P. would then send out a |
Referendum through which the people would instruct the g
Government or the political party to change the words be
entitled to" to "shall receive." caches- I
138 A PEOPLE'S RUNNYMEDE
intention to carry out the promise by opposing the change in wording.
1 The political parties which have published their pro-grammes for post-war reconstruction using such terms as "All nations shall have access to raw materials" are as guileful as the above example of a political statement. Nations, like men, have always had access to raw materials and markets, if they have the "money" to buy and are willing to compete with each other. No post-war programme will ensure world peace unless it is so designed that it guarantees national needs on the basis of human requirements, such as we propose in our International principles. R The use of a referendum is often opposed on the ground that people are too stupid to judge vital questions of national and international import.
The objection is guileful. Such problems, if they are put before the public at all, are invariably couched in misleading terms and legal phrases which (as the Rt. Hon. Lord Hewart, late Chief Justice, has said) even our Members of Parliament do not understand. The P.C.L.P. will dispel the miasma of Whitehallese; will insist upon legal documents which can be easily understood; and create an informed public opinion^ through its forums, referendums, and literature. Based upon principles, the judgment of the people would be more sound and honest than those of the majority of present-day Ministers.
Let us now consider what would happen when the Government proposed to pass a Bill into law, first assuming that the eight Principles have been incorporated in the ■ British Constitution as the Supreme Common Law.
The Bill would first be considered by the P.C.L.P. The I electorate would be invited to attend the, local C.L.C-j where the objects of the Bill would be explained. It would be the business of the P.C.L.P. to see that the Bill was in accordance with the Supreme Law with which we have been dealing. The referendum would then be drawn "P by the Referendum Committee and passed on to the elector-
PiPUBLIC WATCH AND WARD I39
The referendum would contain only the salient objects of the Bill. 1 he people would then be made f\illy conversant with the Bill and any of its defects, and would be asked whether they wished to give their assent.
The referendum would, when the occasion warrants be drawn up in the form of an Assent and/or Enabling Act. It would give the Government permission to make the Bill law, and also state what must be accomplished. The Government woul^ be held responsible for any failure to obtain the object in view and would be required to revise its methods or plans for putting the law into operation until the desired results are obtained.
Neither the P.C.L.P. nor the electorate, when acting in conjunction with it, need decide upon the details of the new law or reform, or in any way interfere with the policies of political parties beyond stating the principles under which they would be governed.
The right to call for a referendum will not be that of the Government alone or the P.C.L.P. Local Common Law Councils will have the right to question any social practice. If by a majority vote the question calls for some reform of social policy a referendum will be placed before the electorate. This would enable the public to take the initiative in calling for any needed reform. Such referendums may be local or national, and would be directed to the County or County Borough Councils; Borough, Urban District, Rural District, and Parish Councils accordingly.
The People's Common Law Parliament can become an
established part of our constitution simply by recognition,
practice, or function, and is, indeed, at present in the process
of such establishment. , ., I
The rules, regulations, methods of procedure, and the | obiects of the P.C.L.P. given in the Appendix are an outline 7lT^6on whicS is ^tf*^^£^
^™J^J^ «* di-Ct ?UbHC ^^ Unttl
14o A PEOPLE'S RUNNYMEDE
the laws and institutions they practise become part of the British Constitution.
The great distinction between local political party machinery and branches of the P.C.L.P. will be that the latter will not represent any party or section of society, but will work for the well-being of the nation as a whole and make the voice of the electorate the decisive factor in all decisions, and upon all issues.
It is a fact that electors to-day cannot override Parliamentary decisions because political parties have taken care to ensure that no effective means shall exist. The P.C.L.P. will rectify this. On purely moral grounds it will have an enormous influence on the Sovereign Parliament, because such a body of high-principled citizens, representing the nobler aspirations of their fellow-men, cannot be ignored in the face of the publicity which will be given to their representations.
Ho! All you thirsty come on to the waters; H
And you, without money, come buy corn and eat! i
Come! buy corn without cash, wine and milk £J
Without cost! I
Why should you pay money, and not have the bread ?
And why should you labour and never be fed ? a
Attend to and hear Me, and eat of the best, I
And nourish your lives on the richest of food!
A PERSONAL SECURITY ENABLING ACT
w js an example of how Supreme Common Laws could h out into effect by means of a supplementary law in the form of an Enabling Act. Neither this Act nor the suggestions for carrying it out are put forward here as a pahcy of the People's Common Law Parliament. We are only concerned that plans, emanating from the Government or any other source, for post-war reconstruction must fulfil the requirements of our modern expression of Common Law. The following example is given to show how a public demand for principles to be made law can be made to guarantee any desired reform without entering into the details of its application. The spirit of the Supreme Common Law is that every man, woman, and child shall receive a sufficiency of the necessities of life and that it is their right that the State shall provide them. Most reformers accept this principle as the object of their reforms, though they may quarrel over methods of carrying them out.
The Personal Security Act is designed to make this general Law operative in society. It could be debated in the Common Law Councils, then be submitted to the people m the form of a referendum for acceptance, rejection, or amendment.
All able-bodied British, subjects, of both sexes, on or after ^eaSe#°f eighteen years, may, as a continuation of their education, join a Vocational Training Guild preparatory to entering a Commonwealth organisation for a period of not less than eight years, to produce with a minimum of labour and a maximum of efficiency sufficient goods and services to provide the whole population with the Necessities of Life, and to distribute them free without sale or purchase to every subject of the Realm."
This Enabling Act seems simple, but the benefits flowing from it are manifold. When considering it in the Common
i44 A PEOPLE'S RUNNYMEDE
Law Councils the members would be asked to work out for themselves its prodigious advantages before beginning their customary hunt for disadvantages and, whether sceptical or enthusiastic, neither to accept it blindly for its dazzling promise nor to dismiss it summarily for any real or imagined difficulties of putting it into operation. | The sponsors would maintain that in the form presented the Act would:
preserve the best elements of socialism and capitalism;
abolish poverty by providing the basic necessities of life
free to everybody;
(c)provide a framework from which transition could be
made to further social development; and (J) in all these points conform to the principles of Supreme Common Law.
1 Having established the validity of the Act in the light of the Principles of the P.C.L.P. the sponsors would be free to expand their proposal and the members to discuss its implications and effect on the community.
i. The sponsors would show that in its proposed form the Act would solve the problem of unemployment. Unemployment Benefits, the Means Test, Widows' Pensions, Old Age Pensions, and costly Social Services, and all forms of charity, would become unnecessary. Saving for a rainy day would become an anachronism of the age of economic fear. Women would receive economic emancipation. -
2. The Act would enable young people to remain 3. school until the age of eighteen without becoming an economic burden to the parents, and afterwards take up their apprenticeship to be trained in their chosen vocation.
3- Each year fresh relays of young men and women would leave the Vocational Training Guilds to give their services in an industrial organisation. An endless flow of goods and services would leave their hands and be distributed over the entire population to provide everybody with all the Necessities of Life.
PERSONAL SECURITY ENABLING ACT 145
The organisation of Young Workers in the public
rvice together with their leaders and older volunteers,
would'be called the " Commonwealth," to distinguish it
from the national activities where goods and services are
produced, bought, and sold for money. ■;
5. Having completed their patriotic public service and earned their economic independence whilst still young, they would graduate from apprenticeship to Full Citizenship. Thenceforward they would be free of all economic obligations to society and would receive from those who had replaced them in the Commonwealth a full supply of goods and services constituting the Necessities of Life.
Having earned economic emancipation they would be free to do as they wished with their lives. They may pursue the activities of commerce outside the activities of the Commonwealth—that is, work for a wage or salary. The Full Citizen may engage in the pursuit of fame, leisure, sport, trade, culture, pleasure, or any other aim that attracts him or her. H
Commerce would be free to produce and to trade in motor-cars, aeroplanes, gramophones, wireless sets, cameras, silks, tobacco, fine furniture, antiques, gems, furs, foreign travel, and a thousand and one things. Some men would work for profit, but they would not impair anyone's security. Others would work for wages, but as the money would not be required for necessities it would constitute a cultural or luxury income. Some would go back to the Commonwealth as leaders and technical experts, where they would receive a salary. Others would follow a profession of the fine arts. Everyone would have equal opportunity.
Money would be used in commerce to produce and to trade in luxuries, and in raw materials and surplus manufactured goods and services over and above those needed by the Commonwealth to provide the Necessities of Life for the population, and for export.
Money would not be used in any activity of the Commonwealth. Necessities would not be bought and
146 A PEOPLE'S RUNNYMEDE
sold; they would be free to all, not in money, but in actual goods and services, i.e. food, clothing, shelter, light, warmth, domestic utensils, medical treatment, travel, and transport. The only exceptions would be the salaries of the directors, teachers, etc., and pocket-money for the workers.
io. These necessities would constitute the social inheritance earned by the Full Citizen whilst in the Commonwealth. He alone would be entitled to them; he could not be robbed of them; they could not be transferred, sold, or given away. Business failure or trade depression would not endanger his security; since this would be practised voluntarily on his part and would have no connection with his inheritance.
ii. The organisation of the Commonwealth could be on a voluntary basis. All British citizens would be given the opportunity to work in the service of the State for eight years to earn lifelong security.
12. Some young people would wish to be free to work for a salary at an occupation outside the sphere of the Commonwealth. There would be no reason for not granting this freedom of choice so long as there were sufficient volunteers to produce the Necessities of Life. Arrangements would also be made to enable people to enter the Commonwealth at a later age than eighteen years. Everything should be done to provide for individual freedom of choice, relying upon youth's loyalty and sense of public duty to serve the common good. Patriotism would have a new meaning. When any gaps in the ranks of the Commonwealth threatened to hinder the production and distribution of necessities, men would flock to the public service to fill the breach. The call to the colours would be to preserve life and security, not to destroy them.
13. It would be claimed that this dual form of society would be based upon the ideals of true social service, with its duties, freedom, and absolute security; and the variety and benefits of normal commercial activities without their evils-It would establish a planned and efficient national organisation for the production and distribution of the Necessities
I PERSONAL SECURITY ENABLING ACT 147
of Life without the evils of bureaucracy; and commerce without the exploitation of human life for private profit.
14. In the Commonwealth an army of strong, lively, and well-trained young workers (and those who wish to offer their services, say at the age of twenty-one or later, because of the need for a longer period of vocational training, or for some other reason), with their teachers, technical experts planners, and directors would provide the nation with its essential goods and services.
15. Progress would be made possible by using up-to-date machinery and organisation and by the nation's able-bodied citizens working in one grand concerted effort. Hundreds of inventions and discoveries and high-speed machinery now awaiting use would be utilised by the Commonwealth organisation, and would not (as now) be held back for lack of capital or be bought up or shelved by firms to prevent their rivals using them. The waste, confusion, competition, graft, and corruption of our anarchic industries would cease. Production would be organised on a scientific and efficient scale. The workers would multiply output a thousandfold by performing the normal day's work of six hours which would be expected of them under any form of society, and earn full citizenship and lifelong security after eight years.
16. School training would cease to prepare Youth merely to earn a livelihood—this would be a function of the Commonwealth. The purpose of education required by our principles of Common Law would be to train Youth in citizenship, to awaken and to develop its latent genius, and to discover what each individual can do best and to make that his or her life-purpose, enriching both the life of the individual and the community. Without the care of seeking to fit Youth for a livelihood, education would train him or her | to live nobly, to develop character and individual life to its fullest and fit him to use to the best advantage the endless opportunities which the new form of society would oSer
When the sponsors had thus outlined the objects of the Act, and the benefits it would confer, some people might
148 A PEOPLE'S RUNNYMEDE
feel that the Act should make it obligatory upon all youn citizens to serve their apprenticeship in the Commonwealth before entering into commerce. Others might prefer the freedom of choice for which the Act provides. Some might object to the dual form of society which allows work for profit to remain. In this case the President of the Council would remind the members that the Act should be considered in its relations to our Principles, which when, made Law would prohibit the making of profit at the loss or injury of another. Also the sponsors would point out that under the Act no one could profit by the production or distribution of the Necessities of Life. Tariffs, private monopoly, foreign entanglements, and political interference would cease to endanger the people's security—the Supreme Common Law, Constitutional Rules, and the international ^Principles and Personal Security Act would abolish these evils. Financial exploitation, greed, the lust for power, banking rates of interest and usury, trade booms and slumps, inflation and deflation, and the whole of the iniquitous practices of the financial system would cease to gamble with man's life—his necessities. No man or group of men would have power by their commercial activities to injure their fellows or the nation. These explanations would, no doubt, cause the objections to be withdrawn.
One of the first problems of reformers is to ensure that poverty shall be abolished and that the element of injurious competition and profit shall be removed from the production and sale of necessities. To-day traffic in human life is (supposed to be) forbidden by Law; traffic in human necessities—which amounts to the same thing—would be abolished by the Personal Security Act.
This Act suggests a method of introducing a great reform with a minimum of dislocation.
After full discussion and clarification of the proposed Act a referendum would be taken. On receiving popular consent the Act could pass into Law in its original for&.
PERSONAL SECURITY ENABLING ACT i49
If, however, any of the above objections were revealed the necessary changes could be made by alteration or amendment to the Act. Or popular opinion might agree that the required changes be made on notice being given from the C.L.C. after another referendum had been taken, when the general reform, had been in operation for a trial'period The success of the plan having been demonstrated, it might be decided that further spheres of production and distribution be taken over by the Commonwealth.
At all stages, the operation of the Act and further developments or changes would be subject to close examination in the Common Law Councils and in Sovereign Parliament where close co-operation would be attained through the Members comprising the Referendum Bloc. Public apathy and political incompetence would be replaced by constructive criticism and informed and enlightened enterprise, at once sensible of caution and appreciative of initiative.
At any moment the public could require further revision
or reforms by referendums, without the necessity for a
political campaign or waiting five or more years for a change
of Government. I
Under the watchfulness of the Councils, machinery would be set up when necessary to deal with any individual hardships or local dislocations or anomalies arising from the incidence of the Act.
The pToposed scheme having passed the test of the Supreme Common Law principles and obtained the people's consent, the constant vigilance of the C.L.C. would guard against the possibility of its application in any way or at any time defeating its original purpose.
In the same way, if at any time, or in any change of
circumstances, its repeal or revision were deemed desirable,
this would be discussed in Council and be accepted or
rejected by consent of the people on referendum.
Ve i»« «.«"^r,"c%^TL,wJAm«a and
Councils in action as an
Jw;We endeavoured to give, without being too tedious^
15o A PEOPLE'S RUNNYMEDE
stitution. The objection might be raised that the people have not sufficient knowledge to decide on affairs of State We would remind the reader that the people would only decide upon the principles and objects of reforms. We would also point out that the majority of Members of Parliament lack the necessary knowledge. Both the people and their rulers have to be taught to consider all questions from the basic principles of human welfare and by this means define the object and provide the frame of reference for reform. Then men and women selected for their integrity and ability could be appointed to work out the details of the reforms within the frame of reference thus provided.