Ethel Annakin, the eldest child of Hannah Hymas (1859-1928) and Richard Annakin (1860-1949) on 8th September 1881 at Pannal, near Harrogate. At the time of Ethel's birth, her father was working as a "general labourer" but 10 years later he was employed as a "Highway Inspector". Ethel had three siblings - Mabel Annakin (1883-1956), Florence Annakin (1884-1962) and Arthur Hymas Annakin (1888-1964). (1)
Ethel Annakin worked as a post office clerk begore going to Edge Hill College in Liverpool, to train as a teacher. In 1900 she was converted to Christian Socialism, when she heard radical preacher, Rev. C. F. Aked, give a sermon entitled, "Can a man be a Christian on £1 a week?" (2) She joined Aked's social work in the slums of the city. (3)
In 1903 Ethel Annakin moved to Leeds to take up a post as a schoolteacher and became a member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and the Fabian Society. She was also active in the Temperance Society. At the ILP she met Mary Gawthorpe and Isabella Ford, and the three women formed a local branch of the Nation Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. (4)
In 1904 Ethel Annakin met Philip Snowden at a Fabian Society meeting in Leeds. A member of the ILP, Snowden was a fine orator and travelled the country making speeches on socialism. He drew large crowds and and was considered one of the ILP's best platform speakers. "Snowden established a reputation as a fierce critic of the establishment. He eloquently contrasted the evil conditions resulting from capitalism with the moral and economic utopia of socialism." (5)
Philip Snowden's mother disapproved of the relationship and they secretly married at Otley Register Office. Ethel was 23 and her husband was 40. (6) The guests included Isabella Ford and Fred Jowett. "We were married quietly and without advertisement, because it had come to our knowledge that the West Riding Socialists, who were expecting the wedding to take place, were preparing to turn it into a Socialist demonstration. There were present at the wedding my wife's sister, Isabella and Bessie Ford, my cousin and boyhood friend John A. Whitaker of Bradford, and my close Socialist comrade Fred Jowett." (7)
At the time of her marriage Ethel Snowden was described by the ILP journal, The Labour Leader, as someone who could be compared to another great campaigner for women's rights, Annie Besant: "to her good gifts of dark eyes, golden brown hair and rich colour, Nature has added a sweet singing voice and musical ability of no mean order … she has won the affectionate regard of all those who have come into intimate acquaintance with her by her warm enthusiasm for the cause." (8)
As her biographer, June Hannam, has pointed out: "After her marriage Ethel Snowden resigned from teaching to concentrate on helping her husband's political career. She also continued to carry out propaganda for socialism and feminism, although the suffrage campaign increasingly became her main concern." As a member of the executive committee of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies Ethel Snowden lectured all over the country and also attended conferences in Europe organized by the International Women's Suffrage Alliance. (9)
Snowden, who had not previously supported votes for women, was persuaded by his wife's arguments, and over the next few years played an active role in the women's suffrage campaign and joined the Men's League For Women's Suffrage. However, like Ethel, he was totally opposed to the militant campaign of the Women Social & Political Union. "So long as these women confined their activities to such ingenuous performances as tying themselves to street lamps and park railings, throwing leaflets from the Gallery of the House on the heads of members, or getting themselves arrested for causing obstruction, the public were more amused than angry, though the opponents of women suffrage never failed to point to these antics as proof of the unfitness of women to vote. When they began to destroy property and risk the lives of others than themselves the public began to turn against them. The National Union of Woman's Suffrage Societies, whose gallant educational and constitutional work for women's freedom had been carried on for more than fifty years, publicly dissociated themselves from these terrorist activities." (10)
Philip Snowden made several attempts to enter the House of Commons. Snowden was defeated at Blackburn in the 1900 General Election. He also failed at the Wakefield by-election in 1902. Snowden was finally successful in the 1906 General Election when he was elected as the Labour MP for Blackburn. Snowden commented that after the declaration of the poll a woman forced herself to his side, and through her tears, joy and hope shone as she said, "Oh, Mr. Snowden, but you will fight for the poor, won't you?" (11)
Ethel Snowden's volatile personality, quick temper, and uncompromising stand on many issues caused her to be widely disliked in the labour movement. Ethel Snowden was described by Emanuel Shinwell as "the would-be Sarah Bernhardt of the party".Snowden led a long campaign against the use of alcohol in the Leeds ILP social club which was greeted with hostility by the male members. She eventually left the ILP when she felt it was giving only lukewarm support to women's suffrage. (12)
Ethel Snowden was a talented writer and in 1907 she published The Woman Socialist, where she claimed: "Socialism is the spirit of the age; a compelling spirit over which individuals have no control, and which is forcing them, consciously or unconsciously, towards the consummation of the Socialist hope.... We have already travelled far along the road which leads to Socialism. Each day sees some fresh application or extended application of its principles, Our most admirable and wonderful organisations are those which are conducted on Socialist lines. Socialist enterprise is the most distinguishing feature of the last fifty years. Men and women are thinking Socialism, speaking Socialism, acting Socialism, in their daily occupations, in their municipal life, and in their national undertakings." (13)
According to Snowden the hostile mass media had provided a very different impression of socialism: "To the minds of many, even in these supposed enlightened days, the Socialist is a robber, an idle vagabond, who is seeking to steal from the thrifty their hard - earned store, or to take from the rich their rightly - inherited wealth. To some others Socialism is the negation of God and of religion. It would destroy the sacred ties of marriage, institute free love, give licence to immorality, pillage the churches and put to flight the anointed servants of the Most High. Another misconception of Socialism is that which associates it with wild anarchy. Use the word Socialism in the hearing of these people, and visions of bombs and dynamite, cruel assassinations and horrid explosions, maimed and mangled limbs and tortured bodies appear before their terrified eyes.... Socialism means none of these things. Not one of these is a part of the Socialist programme. Far from aiming at the destruction of private property its object is to increase private property amongst those whose property is so limited that they have a difficulty in keeping themselves alive. Not the sub-division of wealth but the sharing of it is the desire of the Socialist. A beautiful picture can be shared by all who look upon it, but its value is gone if it be cut up and divided amongst a number. A bloody revolution is not necessary for the advent of Socialism, nor will its coming mean the destruction of religion and the reign of lust and licence." (14)
Snowden criticised those members of the Labour Party who did not favour women's suffrage: "For the purposes of this book it is necessary to make one other point clear. Not only is it possible to conceive of the workers being little better off under a Socialist régime than under a Capitalist system, unless they be animated with something nobler than a fretful discontent with the existing order of things, but it is necessary to point out, and to emphasise the fact, that the position of women would actually be worse under a so-called Socialist system which neglected to give them political and economic equality with men. It is necessary to be strong on this point, since, to many calling themselves Socialist, the enfranchisement of women is unnecessary, or of so little importance that it can be postponed until all other reforms have been accomplished. This is a colossal error. A Socialist system which does not represent the feminine point of view as recorded at the ballot-box is no Socialism at all. It is the dreariest shadow of Socialism for men, and for women it is additional degradation. For it is simply the strengthening of masculine authority and masculine privileges to the more thorough and complete enslavement of women." (15)
Snowden attempted to explain why so many men were opposed to women having the vote: "It is because it is seen that the coming of women into politics will mean a much less comfortable time for themselves that so many men violently oppose the granting of the Parliamentary franchise to the sex. They will not be so secure in the indulgence of their vices. They see sex ceasing to become a purchasable commodity. They see a hundred problems of the streets brought before their guilty notice, with demands for an immediate solution. They see their vices stripped bare and their cruelties exposed. And they are afraid - afraid of losing their power, their indulgences, and their reputations... Socialists expect that, under Socialism, the terrible evil of prostitution will disappear. If it does not, it will be either because women are still denied political power, or because their votes have decided that the prostitute must remain." (16)
Ethel Snowden several pamphlets on the subject of women where she advocated co-operative child-minding and state benefits for mothers. "She (Snowden) argued that the state should assume major responsibility for the costs of childcare, including state salaries for mothers and advocated co-operative housekeeping and easier divorce. Influenced by the ideas of eugenicists she called for state control of marriage, believing that the mentally ill and those aged under twenty-six should not be able to marry." (17)
In The Feminist Movement (1913) Ethel Snowden argued that socialism and feminism shared similar characteristics: "Perhaps more has been written during the last few years on one aspect or another of feminism than upon any other subject, except Socialism; but, since Socialism is feminist in its implications, it can scarcely be considered as entirely unconnected with the subject under discussion. Socialism and the Socialist movement have always stood for equality of opportunity to men and women in every department of human activity where sex does not impose an unconquerable barrier. " (18)
Snowden used the example of Florence Nightingale to explain how attitudes changed over time: "Great movements, like great people, and those who have led forlorn causes, need the mellowing touch of time and the glory that comes from success to compel the world to recognise their worth and dignity. In the heat and clash of hot and bitter conflict, the innocent, like the guilty, become stained and spattered, and non-combatants, not knowing the meaning of it all, turn away from both in disgust; but the cry of approval, the shout of praise, the laurel-wreath, and the marble bust are their inevitable, ultimate reward, the gift of later generations, who enjoy the happiness for which those others strove. By a considerable part of the public opinion of her time Florence Nightingale was severely condemned as a woman of no refinement, who went out to the front to seek a husband: now our household goddess reigns supreme, and for ever, in myriads of British hearts and homes." (19)
Some male critics of feminism feared the "extinction of male qualities in men." Snowden argued: "Custom and habit, it is true, have separated the virtues and the vices, classifying them as masculine and feminine respectively; thus strength, vigour, courage, and honesty are regarded as characteristic of the typical man, whilst tenderness, grace, softness, and modesty are the commonly allotted attributes of the natural woman. Similarly greed, lust, and cruelty are more often and more commonly attributed to men than to women; and craft, dishonesty, and dissimulation to women than to men." (20)
Snowden insisted that these stereotypes were unhelpful: "The world has many men whose tenderness is more than the tenderness of the most loving of mothers. The immortality of the world's greatest spiritual leaders rests more upon their divine tenderness than upon their astounding courage. And the world has known many women of exalted courage and wonderful physical strength, whose great gifts of this sort in no wise detracted from their charm as the tender mothers of little children. Feminism does not seek the extinction of strength and courage in men, nor of beauty and softness and tenderness in women, but the recognition that these fine and lovely qualities are the heritage of men and women alike - human qualities which all human beings have in germ, and which all human beings are entitled to cultivate and to use without question or reproof." (21)
Snowden was aware of the work of Havelock Ellis, the author of Man and Woman: A Study of Human Secondary Sexual Characters (1894) and his wife, Edith Lees, who had written several articles for the feminist journal, The Freewoman. "Mrs Havelock Ellis well expressed the difference between men and women in these matters when she said: 'Man's need is woman, women's need is man's need of her.' That is to say, when a man loves a woman and the impulse of fatherhood holds him, no physical barrier interposes between them and the end of their desires. When a woman loves a man but is not loved nor wanted by him, honourable motherhood is denied to her. She depends upon his love and desire for the honourable achievement of her natural ambition. And the exercise of her special function of maternity involves a sacrifice of personal freedom from which no human ingenuity can contrive to save her, and which it may safely be said, she scarcely desires to avoid. The father, if he be a genius, finds domestic responsibilities a clog upon his efforts, but the ordinary, average father is not so hampered as is every woman who is a mother. He is free to come and go. The current of his life is not materially altered. His daily occupations are not necessarily interfered with. These are facts of everyday observation and experience, and as natural as the rising of the sun." (22)
Ethel Snowden explained: "The freedom for which the feminist yearns is not freedom from the cares and obligations following upon the carrying out of woman's special and particular work as woman, nor freedom from the glorious responsibilities and deep sufferings of motherhood, the greatest profession in the world, the bearing and rearing of the race. She asks for freedom for women in the exercise of those gifts and in the use of those qualities of soul and mind which are apart from the consequences of the sex-act. She objects to the forcing of woman's interests into one groove, the pressing down of woman's personality into one channel, the directing of woman's emotion, with its specially rich quality, to one end, the confinement of woman's genius to one achievement." (23)
In the book Ethel Snowden outlined the history of the struggle for women's suffrage. She pointed out that the 1832 Reform Act stipulated that in all Acts of Parliament "words importing the masculine gender shall be deemed to include the feminine unless the contrary is expressly provided." (24) This encouraged women in London to form a discussion group called the Kensington Society that dealt with the subject of women's suffrage. Nine of the eleven women who attended the early meetings were unmarried and were attempting to pursue a career in education or medicine. The group eventually included Millicent Garrett, Elizabeth Garrett, Barbara Bodichon, Jessie Boucherett, Frances Power Cobbe, Emily Davies, Elizabeth Wolstenholme-Elmy, Francis Mary Buss, Dorothea Beale, Anne Clough and Sophia Jex-Blake (25)
Ethel Snowden acknowledged the help that MPs such as Henry Brougham and John Stuart Mill gave in passing legislation that addressed women's rights. "Though the women were defeated in the Commons in 1867, and in the Law Courts in 1868, the discussion which arose out of these two events resulted in the creation of a more enlightened public opinion upon the question of the status of women. Many doors were opened to them, not without much effort on their part, which were previously closed. In 1869 the Municipal Franchise was restored to women, and in 1870, by the passing of the Education Act of that year, they were made eligible for membership of School Boards, to which several brilliant women were at once elected. The first Married Woman's Property Act, which gave a married woman the right to her own earnings, was passed in the same year, 1870. In 1867 and 1871 University education was made possible for women, and in 1876 the medical profession was, by Act of Parliament, thrown open to them." (26)
Snowden insisted that during this period that propaganda provided by groups such as the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies helped to change public opinion: "There is little doubt in the minds of those familiar with the history of events in the women's movement of the last century that these great measures of justice were largely the outcome of the woman suffrage propaganda. They were in the nature of sops, thrown to the women to induce them to forgo the larger privileges. It was hoped by a partial recognition of grievances and a partial removal of disabilities to make the demand for the Parliamentary vote less justifiable than it otherwise would appear in the eyes of the public. This behaviour on the part of politicians might, and does, effectively deceive the average citizen, who, seeing Parliament interesting itself in women's questions, feels his sense of justice satisfied. But not so those who have worked in the political women's movement. They have never felt tempted to give up their demand for full citizenship; partly because they know how hard it is for an unrepresented class to wring beneficial legislation from those not answerable to it; partly because they know that the privileges and rights they have won are not secure without the power which the vote carries to protect them; but most of all, because they look upon the vote as a symbol of deep spiritual things and the hall-mark of their individuality." (27)
Unlike her husband, Philip Snowden, Ethel was not unsympathetic to the militant tactics of the Women Social & Political Union: "In size and importance, the only rival to the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies is the Women's Social and Political Union, founded in 1908, by Mrs Pankhurst. This organisation has become notorious for the use of violence in the prosecution of its campaign; but it did not begin its existence in this way. When first the 'militant' suffrage movement came into being it was the proud boast of its leader and founder that its members cheerfully offered themselves to the violence of others, but committed no violence upon other people. They made martyrs from amongst themselves, but declined to make victims of other people... The argument which the militant suffragists use in defence of their behaviour is that nearly fifty years of lawful methods have produced no result; that Governments are amenable only to pressure; that men have always adopted methods of violence and destruction before each Reform Bill was enacted; that the public, through its indifference, ought to be roused by attacks on its property, which is the thing it cherishes the most; that for whatever is done by the militants, the Government is responsible, and that the end, in this case, justifies the means." (28)
Ethel Snowden was a pacifist and refused to support Britain's involvement in the First World War. Ethel and Philip both joined the Union of Democratic Control (UDC). The UDC soon emerged at the most important of all the anti-war organizations in Britain and by 1915 had 300,000 members. Frederick Pethick-Lawrence explained the objectives of the UDC: "As its name implies, it was founded to insist that foreign policy should in future, equally with home policy, be subject to the popular will. The intention was that no commitments should be entered into without the peoples being fully informed and their approval obtained. By a natural transition, the objects of the Union came to include the formation of terms of a durable settlement, on the basis of which the war might be brought an an end." (29)
After the outbreak of the war two pacifists, Clifford Allen and Fenner Brockway, formed the No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF), an organisation that encouraged men to refuse war service. The NCF required its members to "refuse from conscientious motives to bear arms because they consider human life to be sacred." Snowden became the NCF's chief spokesman in the House of Commons. His principled stance was unpopular with the public, but it helped his political career. He returned to the national council of the Independent Labour Party in 1915 and was its chairman from 1917. He wrote a weekly column for its main journal, The Labour Leader, from 1916 and championed its continuing role in the Labour Party. (30)
Ethel Snowden rejoined the ILP early in 1915 because the party supported demands for a negotiated peace. Ethel became a member of the executive of the Women's International League. She undertook speaking engagements all over the country in favour of an early and just peace settlement. According to Sybil Oldfield "courageously, she ran the gauntlet of police bans and violently hostile crowds as she constantly traversed the country." (31) Inspired by the Russian Revolution Snowden joined with other socialists to establish the Women's Peace Crusade. She was both secretary and treasurer of the organization. (32)
Between January 1919 and January 1921 Ethel Snowden continued in her campaign to achieve a successful peace settlement. She argued that "total disarmament by all the nations is the only rational solution of the problems of peace and war." (33) She attended the International Congress of Women in Zürich in 1919. She was also a delegate to the Labour International at Bern in February and to the League of Nations conference in March 1919. In 1922 the Manchester Guardian described her as "internationally the best-known British woman." (34)
Ethel Snowden made many enemies in the Labour Party. Snowden visited Russia and upset a large number of party members with her report entitled Through Bolshevik Russia (1920) that was highly critical of Lenin and the Bolshevik government. This especially upset Beatrice Webb, who had welcomed the Russian Revolution. She claimed that Snowden was no longer a socialist and was upset when she was elected to the National Executive. Webb wrote in her diary that "Ethel Snowden... is a climber of the worst description, refusing to associate with the rank-and-file and plebeian elements in the Labour Party." (35)
Ethel Snowden was invited to stand for one the Leicester constituencies in the 1922 General Election, but she decided to devote her energies to help Philip Snowden win his seat at Colne Valley and to concentrate on her work for world peace. She also took up the cause of the Jewish community in Europe: "The outrageous anti-Jewish propagandawhich is being conducted all over the world is a disgrace to our modern civilisation." (36)
Ethel Snowden came to the conclusion that socialism was the answer to the world's problems: "I believe that the system called Capitalism will have to give place some day to a collectivist internationalism which shall secure life and the fruits of the earth to its populations in proportion to their needs... Such things as are fundamental to life itself - land, minerals, and means of communication - should not be at the disposal and under the control of a small number of private persons." (37)
In January 1921, Margaret Haig Thomas, Lady Rhondda, launched the Six Point Group of Great Britain. "We have recently passed the first great toll-bar on the road which leads to equality, but it is a far cry yet to the end of the road, and our present position is not yet altogether a satisfactory one from the point of view of the country as a whole. We have, as a fact, achieved a half-way position, and that is never a position which makes for stability." (38)
Lady Rhondda argued that women were moving in the right direction yet still had some way to travel on the long road to equality, she was placing a special responsibility onto newly enfranchised women (who now constituted over a third of the electorate) to complete the task that others had started for them. (39)
The group focused on what she regarded as the six key issues for women: The six original specific aims were: (i) Satisfactory legislation on child assault; (ii) Satisfactory legislation for the widowed mother; (iii) Satisfactory legislation for the unmarried mother and her child; (iv) Equal rights of guardianship for married parents; (v) Equal pay for teachers and (vi) Equal opportunities for men and women in the civil service. (40)
The Six Point Group (SPG) was formally inaugurated on 17th February 1921. It had monthly meetings at its headquarters on the top floor of 92 Victoria Street. Ethel Snowden was appointed vice-president. Other members included, Elizabeth Robins, Cicely Hamilton, Stella Newsome, Rebecca West, Helen Archdale, Frances Balfour, Charlotte Marsh, Theresa Garnett, Winifred Mayo, Winifred Holtby and Vera Brittain. The SPG Parliamentary committee of supportive MPs was chaired by Philip Snowden. At the time there were only two women MPs: Nancy Astor and Margaret Winteringham. (41)
On 22nd July 1924 Ramsay MacDonald agreed to head a minority government, and therefore became the first member of the party to become prime minister. He had the problem of forming a Cabinet with colleagues who had little, or no administrative experience. MacDonald's appointments included Philip Snowden as Chancellor of the Exchequer. According to his biographer, Duncan Tanner: "His policy was cautious but constructive. He argued that progress could be sustained only if industries affected by excessive competition were modernized. A commission on trade and industry was set up to discuss industrial rationalization. Snowden himself stressed the modernization of electricity generation. Land taxation, a little-studied fixation of Snowden's, was planned but not implemented. He reduced expenditure on armaments, cut import duties on various staple foods, and expanded subsidies for building council houses, but shelved the idea of a capital levy. Moderates inside and outside the party welcomed his first budget - a remarkable achievement, given his limited economic training." (42)
It has been argued that Snowden established a relationship of mutual respect with the leading civil servants. His critics say that he simply adopted their views. One of his opponents in the House of Commons, the Conservative Party MP, Winston Churchill, commented: "We must imagine 'with what joy Mr Snowden was welcomed at the Treasury by the permanent officials... The Treasury mind and the Snowden mind embraced each other with the fervour of two long-separated lizards". (43)
Another one of his political opponents, Frederick Smith, stated: "Honest, visionary, implacable, a theorist in his very inconsistencies, he is a man who has fought a hard battle with life and health and won it - and in doing so has raised himself by his conspicuous courage and abilities to one of the highest places of a State in which he sees so much to disapprove." (44)
The 1924 General Election was deeply influenced by Tory owned newspapers running the story of the Zinoviev Letter. The Conservatives won 412 seats and formed the next government. Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of the Daily Express and Evening Standard, told Lord Rothermere, the owner of The Daily Mail and The Times, that the "Red Letter" campaign had won the election for the Conservatives. Rothermere replied that it was probably worth a hundred seats. (45)
In 1926 Ethel Snowden was made a member of the BBC Board of Governors. She became friendly with an old enemy Beatrice Webb who visited her at her home: "I took her round the garden and she insisted on confiding to me, very deliberately I thought, that she might be suffering from an internal complaint. She is at the turn of life and obviously feared cancer, like nearly all women do at her age. And she added 'very confidentially' that she had never 'lived with' Philip and that as she was a 'normal woman' her lot had been very hard. Which I can well believe; it excuses a good deal of her search after social prestige and the agreeable excitements of the smart set." (46)
In the 1929 General Election the Conservatives won 8,656,000 votes (38%), the Labour Party 8,309,000 (37%) and the Liberals 5,309,000 (23%). However, the bias of the system worked in Labour's favour, and in the House of Commons the party won 287 seats, the Conservatives 261 and the Liberals 59. Philip Snowden was once again appointed as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was a strong believer in laissez-faire economics and disliked the proposals to increase public spending. MacDonald had doubts about Snowden's "hard dogmatism exposed in words and tones as hard as the ideas" but he also dismissed "all the humbug of curing unemployment by Exchequer grants." (47)
Cole later recalled: "Philip Snowden held a strong position in the Party as its one recognised financial expert... MacDonald nor most of the other members of the Cabinet had any understanding of finance, or even thought they had... The Economic Advisory Council, of which I was a member, discussed the situation again and again; and some of us, including Keynes, tried to get MacDonald to understand the sheer necessity of adopting some definite policy for stopping the rot. Snowden was inflexible; and MacDonald could not make up his mind, with the consequence that Great Britain drifted steadily towards a disaster." (48)
Philip Snowden wrote in his notebook on 14th August that "the trade of the world has come near to collapse and nothing we can do will stop the increase in unemployment." He was growing increasingly concerned about the impact of the increase in public-spending. At a cabinet meeting in January 1931, he estimated that the budget deficit for 1930-31 would be £40 million. Snowden argued that it might be necessary to cut unemployment benefit. Margaret Bondfield looked into this suggestion and claimed that the government could save £6 million a year if they cut benefit rates by 2s. a week and to restrict the benefit rights of married women, seasonal workers and short-time workers. (49)
Snowden came increasing under attack from England's leading economists. John Maynard Keynes criticised Snowden's belief in free-trade and urged the introduction of an import tax in order that Britain might resume the vacant financial leadership of the world, which no one else had the experience or the public spirit to occupy. Keynes believed this measure would create a budget surplus. (50) Others questioned the wisdom of devoting £60m to paying off the national debt. (51)
Philip Snowden presented his recommendations to the Cabinet on 20th August. It included the plan to raise approximately £90 million from increased taxation and to cut expenditure by £99 million. £67 million was to come from unemployment insurance, £12 million from education and the rest from the armed services, roads and a variety of smaller programmes. Most members of the Cabinet rejected the idea of the proposed cut in unemployment benefit and the meeting ended without any decisions being made. Clement Attlee, who was a supporter of Keynes, condemned Snowden for his "misplaced fidelity to laissez-faire economics". (52)
Frederick Pethick-Lawrence and Susan Lawrence both decided to resign from the government if the cuts to the unemployment benefit went ahead: Pethick-Lawrence wrote: "Susan Lawrence came to see me. As Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, she was concerned with the proposed cuts in unemployment relief, which she regarded as dreadful. We discussed the whole situation and agreed that, if the Cabinet decided to accept the cuts in their entirety, we would both resign from the Government." (53)
Arthur Henderson argued that rather do what the bankers wanted, Labour should had over responsibility to the Conservatives and Liberals and leave office as a united party. The following day MacDonald and Snowden had a private meeting with Neville Chamberlain, Samuel Hoare, Herbert Samuel and Donald MacLean to discuss the plans to cut government expenditure. Chamberlain argued against the increase in taxation and called for further cuts in unemployment benefit. MacDonald also had meetings with trade union leaders, including Walter Citrine and Ernest Bevin. They made it clear they would resist any attempts to put "new burdens on the unemployed". Sidney Webb later told his wife Beatrice Webb that the trade union leaders were "pigs" as they "won't agree to any cuts of unemployment insurance benefits or salaries or wages". (54)
At another meeting on 23rd August, 1931, nine members (Arthur Henderson, George Lansbury, John R. Clynes, William Graham, Albert Alexander, Arthur Greenwood, Tom Johnson, William Adamson and Christopher Addison) of the Cabinet stated that they would resign rather than accept the unemployment cuts. A. J. P. Taylor has argued: "The other eleven were presumably ready to go along with MacDonald. Six of these had a middle-class or upper-class background; of the minority only one (Addison)... Clearly the government could not go on. Nine members were too many to lose." (55)
Ramsay MacDonald was only able to persuade three other members of the Labour Party to serve in the National Government: Philip Snowden (Chancellor of the Exchequer) Jimmy Thomas (Colonial Secretary) and John Sankey (Lord Chancellor). The Conservatives had four places and the Liberals two: Stanley Baldwin (Lord President), Samuel Hoare (Secretary for India), Neville Chamberlain (Minister of Health), Herbert Samuel (Home Secretary), Lord Reading (Foreign Secretary) and Philip Cunliffe-Lister (President of the Board of Trade). (56)
Beatrice Webb wrote in her diary: "Just heard over the wireless what I wished to hear, the the Cabinet as a whole has resigned, J.R.M. accepting office as Prime Minister in order to form a National Emergency government including Tories and Liberals; it being also stated that Snowden, Thomas and alas! Sankey will take office under him. I regret Sankey, but I am glad the other three will disappear from the Labour world; they were rotten stuff... A startling sensation it will be for those faithful followers throughout the country who were unaware of J.R.M.'s and Snowden's gradual conversation to the outlook of the City and London society... So ends, ingloriously, the Labour Cabinet of 1929-1931. (57)
On 26th September, the Labour Party National Executive decided to expel all Labour Party MPs who had supported the National Government budget, including Philip Snowden, Ramsay MacDonald, Jimmy Thomas, John Sankey. Malcolm MacDonald, William Jowitt, George Gillett, Ernest Bennett, Holford Knight, James Lovat-Fraser, Craigie Aitchison, Samuel Rosbotham, Archibald Church, Richard Denman, Frank Markham and Derwent Hall Caine. As David Marquand has pointed out: "In the circumstances, its decision was understandable, perhaps inevitable. The Labour movement had been built on the trade-union ethic of loyalty to majority decisions. MacDonald had defied that ethic; to many Labour activists, he was now a kind of political blackleg, who deserved to be treated accordingly." (58)
The 1931 General Election was held on 27th October, 1931. MacDonald led an anti-Labour alliance made up of Conservatives and National Liberals. It was a disaster for the Labour Party with several leading Labour figures, including Arthur Henderson, John R. Clynes, Arthur Greenwood, Charles Trevelyan, Herbert Morrison, Emanuel Shinwell, Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, Hastings Lees-Smith, Hugh Dalton, Susan Lawrence, William Wedgwood Benn, Tom Shaw and Margaret Bondfield losing their seats.
Beatrice Webb wrote: "MacDonald... had been aided and abetted with acid malignity by Philip Snowden... The Parliamentary Labour Party had not been defeated but annihilated, largely, we think, by the women's vote... Whether new leaders will spring up with sufficient faith, will-power and knowledge to break through the tough and massive defence of British profit-making capitalism... I cannot foresee...What undid the two Labour governments was not merely their lack of knowledge and the will to apply what knowledge they had, but also their acceptance, as individuals, of the way of life of men of property and men of rank. It is a hard saying and one that condemns ourselves as well as others of the Labour government. You cannot engineer an equalitarian state if you yourself are enjoying the pomp and circumstances of the city of the rich surrounded by the city of the poor." (59)
Philip Snowden did not stand in the 1931 General Election but did take part in the campaign. Snowden contributed a bitter election broadcast, which attacked his old colleagues and described Labour's new policy as "Bolshevism run mad". He also attacked Labour's "capitulation" to the TUC during the crisis, and his colleagues' "dishonest" accounts of cabinet discussions during this period. In November 1931 he was appointed to the House of Lords. (60)
Viscountess Snowden remained as a Governor of the BBC but she continued to clash with the Director General, John Reith, who wrote in his diary: "What a poisonous creature she is". Reith's biographer, Ian McIntyre argues in The Expense of Glory: Life of John Reith (1993) that she was "fearsome when crossed, with an unerring knack of squeezing the last drop of drama out of the most trivial incident". (61) Although the relationship improved Reith was 'profoundly relieved' when she was not reappointed in 1932. (62)
In 1935 Philip Snowden advised voters to support the Liberal Party, where it put forward a candidate. He supported David Lloyd George in his campaign for policies similar to those being implemented by Franklin D. Roosevelt. As Duncan Tanner has pointed out: "Lloyd George's ‘new deal' was an updated version of the Keynesian proposals advanced by the Liberals, and derided by Snowden, in 1929. (63) Snowden explained his enthusiasm for this programme as a return to his long-standing economic principles. (64)
Philip Snowden died of a heart-attack on 15th May, 1937, at his home, Eden Lodge, Tilford in Surrey, and was cremated at Woking. He left £3,366. 13s. 11d. to his widow, Ethel Snowden. (65)
After her husband's death Lady Snowden played an important part in the revival of the Covent Garden Opera and was chair of the women's council of the Council of Action for Peace and Reconstruction. She continued to write and speak, largely for the temperance cause, and during the Second World War her main concern was declining moral standards, in particular among service women. (66)
In 1947 Ethel Snowden suffered a stroke and was confined to a nursing home, and she died of a second stroke on 22nd February 1951 at 28 Lingfield Road, Wimbledon. She left effects valued at £23,279. 6s. 1d. (67)
A great logician once said that if we would only define our terms well there would be no need to argue. Whether this be strictly true or not, it is quite certain that much bitterness and stupid misunderstanding might be spared, and many differences removed, if the meaning of the terms used in any discussion were made perfectly clear one to another by the disputants.
Around the word Socialism has formed an obscuring cloud of ignorance and prejudice, which the strongest searchlights of truth and of eloquence are scarcely able to dispel.
We have already travelled far along the road which leads to Socialism. Each day sees some fresh application or extended application of its principles, Our most admirable and wonderful organisations are those which are conducted on Socialist lines. Socialist enterprise is the most distinguishing feature of the last fifty years. Men and women are thinking Socialism, speaking Socialism, acting Socialism, in their daily occupations, in their municipal life, and in their national undertakings. Socialism is the spirit of the age; a compelling spirit over which individuals have no control, and which is forcing them, consciously or unconsciously, towards the consummation of the Socialist hope.
Yet, in spite of all this, the grossest misconceptions of Socialism amongst large masses of the people still prevail. To the minds of many, even in these supposed enlightened days, the Socialist is a robber, an idle vagabond, who is seeking to steal from the thrifty their hard - earned store, or to take from the rich their rightly - inherited wealth. To some others Socialism is the negation of God and of religion. It would destroy the sacred ties of marriage, institute free love, give licence to immorality, pillage the churches and put to flight the anointed servants of the Most High. Another misconception of Socialism is that which associates it with wild anarchy. Use the word Socialism in the hearing of these people, and visions of bombs and dynamite, cruel assassinations and horrid explosions, maimed and mangled limbs and tortured bodies appear before their terrified eyes. Equally uninformed are those individuals who think that Socialism means an equal division amongst its inhabitants of the world's wealth; or that it involves the destruction of private property.
Socialism means none of these things. Not one of these is a part of the Socialist programme. Far from aiming at the destruction of private property its object is to increase private property amongst those whose property is so limited that they have a difficulty in keeping themselves alive. Not the sub-division of wealth but the sharing of it is the desire of the Socialist. A beautiful picture can be shared by all who look upon it, but its value is gone if it be cut up and divided amongst a number. A bloody revolution is not necessary for the advent of Socialism, nor will its coming mean the destruction of religion and the reign of lust and licence.
False and ignorant as are these conceptions of Socialism there is some justification for their existence. Socialists themselves are not a little to blame for their origin. Such amazing errors have been committed, such crimes of tongue and pen been perpetrated in the name of Socialism by those of its advocates whose hearts are better than their heads that the wonder would have been had no misunderstanding occurred. A prominent Socialist was, to a certain extent, quite right when he said that "Socialism would be all right if it were not for the Socialists!" But a cause is always better than its supporters, a principle greater than many of those who profess it.
Again, although Socialism is not atheism nor confiscation, not division nor revolution, it has something to say upon all these questions and a thousand questions besides.
Socialism is a principle, the co-operative principle. Belief in that principle is bound to affect our opinion upon every other subject. The Socialist need not be an atheist, but his Socialism will not permit him to look at matters of religious import in precisely the same way as does his individualist friend. There is nothing new in this idea. It applies to every ideal which fills the breasts of men. The ideal may be lofty or low, but it will colour the world for the idealist. Our gods are what we make them, and we are the servants of self-chosen masters.
Should the main idea in life be the making of money, every activity will be subordinated to that purpose. Religion, morality, education, politics, habits, friends�all will be looked at from the point of view of their usefulness. Will it pay to belong to that party? Is it profitable to attend that church?
Likewise a belief in Socialism, in the great principle of co-operative ownership and control as opposed to private monopoly and extortion, throws new light upon a hundred problems read before "through a glass darkly," and but dimly understood.
Socialism protests against an order of society which permits the few to live in idleness and luxury whilst the many toil in hopeless and degrading poverty. Socialists claim to have discovered the cause of the painful inequalities of our modern civilisation in the fact that land and capital, upon which the very lives of the people depend, are in the hands of a comparatively small number of people. By reason of their monopoly of the means of life the few are able to dictate to the many the terms upon which they shall live. A veritable slavery of the workers is the result; economic bondage of the many to the possessing few.
The purpose of Socialism is to destroy this bondage; and this it is proposed to do by making the tillers of the soil and the workers of the tools the owners of the machines they work and the land they cultivate. State or municipal management is to supersede private management, and national or civic ownership to take the place of private monopoly of the land, and of all the wealth produced by the land in return for the energy expended upon it. Under such a State everybody will be provided with the necessaries of life in proportion to his need, and in return for service rendered according to his ability. Production will be for the use of all and not for the profit of the enterprising few. All will be found employment, and each will have every opportunity for the development of his individual powers and peculiar genius.