With regard to the next item, the motion in the names of Senators MacDermot and Tierney, I understand that as certain Estimates for his Department are being taken in the Dáil to-day, the Taoiseach will be unable to be present, but he hopes to be able to attend next week. In the circumstances, I would suggest, if the House approves, that the debate on the motion might be opened by the proposer and the seconder and any other Senator desirous of speaking to-day, and that the debate might then be adjourned until next Wednesday. The Appropriation Bill, I am informed, is likely to pass the Dáil this week, and we shall have that Bill for next Wednesday, in addition to the adjourned debate on Senator MacDermot's motion.
Extension of Vocational Organisation.
So far as I am concerned, I am entirely in agreement with the course proposed. I move:—
That in the opinion of the Seanad a small commission should be appointed by the Government to examine and report on the possibility of extending vocational organisation by legislative or administrative action.
When I say a small commission, I mean a commission of, roughly, ten members, because, my opinion, and it is an opinion born out by experience, is that when a commission gets much larger than that, it tends to become a debating society; people become slack in their attendance because there are so many others who they feel can attend; proceedings tend to drag out an unnecessary length of time; and there is procrastination and confusion. And so I should like to see the commission, if one is appointed, a small one, because I am perfectly satisfied that that would make for efficiency.
My principal object in introducing this motion is to lay a firm foundation for a vocational Seanad, but the motion has, of course, wider aspects than that, and before I come to deal with the question of a Seanad, I want to say a little about these wider aspects. The motion corresponds to a body of doctrine which has been growing in a great many countries of recent years. A large number of thinkers and writers have been arguing that our modern ideas, industrialism, capitalism and democracy as understood during the nineteenth century, had made too clean a sweep of those vocational organisations or guilds which used to exist throughout Europe, and, indeed, elsewhere than in Europe, and which fulfilled useful functions for many hundred years. It has been argued by those thinkers, of whom a particularly large proportion have been Catholic thinkers, that an attempt ought to be made to revert, in some degree at any rate, to the order of society when men were grouped more than they are at present upon vocational lines. The culmination of those teachings is reached in the well-known Papal encyclical Quadragesimo Anno of which the two central propositions, I would say, are, firstly, that it is the primary duty of the State and of all good citizens to abolish disputes between opposing classes; and, secondly, that the aim of social policy must, therefore, be the re-establishment of the vocational groups. The pronouncement of the Pope with regard to abolishing disputes between classes may be taken to be in the domain of morals and something which, I feel sure, everybody here would instantly agree with. As to his remedy for disputes between classes, the re-establishment of vocational groups, we get outside the domain of morals into the domain of politics and economics, and there can be no question of our having to accept that as infallible doctrine. Nevertheless, it is something which I am sure everybody in this country would wish to consider with respect in view of the source from which it comes.
Nor, as I have said, does the Papal pronouncement by any means stand alone. There has been a great body of argument or propaganda along those lines in various countries by men who have thought deeply on the subject. There has also been, I must admit, a great deal said and written along those lines that does not show much sign of deep thought or any effort really, to go into the subject. In this country, in particular, we have had, in newspapers and elsewhere, a chorus of general approbation of the views of the Pope about social reorganisation, but a great deal of that approbation seems really to derive from a desire to criticise France, Great Britain, and democracy as understood in those countries, and to put ourselves and some other Catholic countries on a pedestal as not having fallen into the errors into which they have fallen. I would say that the Encyclical in question has been much more praised in this country than it has been read, more read than it has been understood and more understood than it has been put into practice. There are some obvious questions that arise out of it that are not even being asked in this country.
If we are to get rid of what might be described as the horizontal division between classes, with employers on one side and labour on the other side of the horizontal line; if we are, instead, to have vocational groups in each of which will be included the whole hierarchy of grades of people who are occupied with the activities which that group represents; then, for instance, the question presents itself whether such a phenomenon as a Labour Party, which embodies, and tends to perpetuate, a differentiation between Labour as such, and the rest of the community, should be regarded as tolerable. We do not seem to have begun to ask ourselves whether the Labour Party, according to the teaching of these thinkers and the Encyclical, is not a sort of monstrosity that we should look forward to getting rid of, not, of course, by Government compulsion but by the education of public opinion. That is only one of the many problems that consideration of these subjects gives rise to.
I am not one of those who can claim to be experts on this subject nor am I convinced that any sweeping social reorganisation along these lines is practicable in our western countries. It is a matter on which, probably like a good many Senators, I have still a more or less open mind. The subject is beset by tremendous difficulties. The old guilds, of which we hear so much, had great advantages, but they had also disadvantages. They operated on the whole to ensure that a good quality of product was maintained and that the wealth that was created by the production of this or that article was reasonably fairly distributed between various classes of people engaged in that industry. But, as against that, these guilds were often terribly quarrelsome amongst themselves, almost as much inclined to scrap with each other as capital and labour are inclined to scrap with each other to-day. They also sometimes managed to secure to themselves monopolistic rights and privileges, even of a political character, that caused grave embarrassment to the Government of the State and prevented economic progress. When the French Revolution, for instance, swept away these guilds and corporations in France, there was a case for doing it. I do not say it was right to do it.
It is very much to be desired that, instead of going on complacently referring to the marvellous wisdom of Quadragesimo Anno and, at the same time not really troubling to go into the subject or doing anything about it, we should set ourselves to face the difficulties; and such a commission as I am proposing, which I think should be largely composed of people who have gone deeply into the subject and are enthusiastic about it, would help us very greatly. If they produced some concrete proposals for us to consider, it would be of great value. We should be much nearer to knowing whether these ideals were really applicable to our society here. The fact of the commission producing certain proposals naturally imposes no duty on us to accept them, but it is desirable that we should have an opportunity of considering them.
We have to some extent already committed ourselves in principle on this subject, although we have stopped at that. In our original Constitution, there is an Article, Article 45, which says:—
The Oireachtas may provide for the establishment of functional or vocational councils representing branches of the social and economic life of the nation. A law establishing any such council shall determine its powers, rights and duties, and its relation to the government of the Irish Free State.
There was no need to insert anything of the kind in the Constitution unless there was some thought of development along these lines, or appreciation of the ideas to which the Article refers. That Article is repeated almost verbally in the new Constitution which we adopted last year. Article 15, Section 3, of the new Constitution says:—
The Oireachtas may provide for the establishment or recognition of functional or vocational councils representing branches of the social and economic life of the people. A law establishing or recognising any such council shall determine its rights, powers and duties, and its relations to the Oireachtas and to the Government.
Therefore, in both our Constitutions we have taken note of the proposal to establish functional or vocational councils, showing a sort of general approval of it, a disposition to do something or to see something done; but up to this moment we have, in fact, done nothing except in so far as we can be said to have encouraged the idea in what has been so far done about the Seanad. That brings me to the bearing of this motion upon the Seanad.
What is known as the Minority Report of the Second Chamber Commission, but what was in fact the only report conceived and brought to birth as an organic whole, was signed by eight members of that commission, including three members of the present Seanad, Senator Sir John Keane, Senator Professor Tierney and myself. The paragraph to which I wish to draw attention is this :—
"Selection upon a functional basis seems to us to be the most desirable method of composing a Second Chamber. Apart from its advantages as an adjunct to geographical democracy, this method would provide a diversification of type and a variety of expert knowledge which, it is generally agreed, should characterise a Second Chamber. Even those who do not approve of the general principle of organised functional democracy might agree to accept our recommendations as providing a method of selection which would minimise party conflicts and secure the services of persons who would normally remain out of public life, although exceptionally fitted for the task of criticising and improving particular types of legislation."
The principle there adumbrated was accepted by the present Government. The Taoiseach, speaking last year— the reference is Volume 67, column 56— said:
"We asked the Seanad Committee to sit, and I, personally, was pleased to find ... that the recommendation was that we should get a Second Chamber that, at least, would be of a character in which there would be represented men who would have special knowledge and experience of certain activities in our national life, and that, though we are not organised in a way that would make such a Seanad immediately practicable, nevertheless there was a germ of a suggestion which we tried to work up and to make practicable."
Again, speaking on the 1st June—the reference is the same Volume, column 1404—the President, as he then was, said:
"There was one method indicated in what was called the Minority Report—as Deputy MacDermot justly said, that was probably an inappropriate name for it—and that was to give us a Seanad that would be different in character from the Dáil and which, possibly, would have advantages which could not otherwise be got. Therefore, this is an attempt to give effect in general to the ideas put forward in that."
So that the Government accepted the general idea that the Seanad should be founded upon a vocational basis. As the Taoiseach said in that quotation that I have just given to the House, the difficulty was that the country was not yet sufficiently organised to make that an easy thing to do and, therefore, a sort of transitory and best-in-the-circumstances plan was adopted under which the present Seanad was elected. But an Article was introduced into the Constitution, Article No. 19, which, looking forward into the future and the possibility of something better later, said:
Provision may be made by law for the direct election by any functional or vocational group or association or council of so many members of Seanad Eireann as may be fixed by such law in substitution for an equal number of the members to be elected from the corresponding panels of candidates constituted under Article 18 of this Constitution,
Article 18 being the Article under which our present composition was determined. It is, therefore, plain that the principle of a vocational Second Chamber has been accepted and the question is how to put it satisfactorily into practice.
I am afraid that, if there are any who expect that vocational organisations will grow up in sufficient numbers without any kind of encouragement by Government action, they are over-optimistic. We are a young country in some ways, although a very old one in others. We find it necessary to do much more than most countries do, for example, in the way of encouraging new industries; and yet, where industry comes in, there is a profit motive that appeals to the individual. In the case of forming the sort of vocational organisations that we have in mind, it is a complicated task, a task to which the mind of the average citizen does not easily address itself, and I submit that, if anything effective is to be done, the Government will have to help. I do not mean by that that I am eager for the Government to force an elaborate organisation at high speed upon the country, breaking through all sorts of traditional habits and, perhaps, prejudices—by no means. Nor am I at all eager to have anything here, even remotely, resembling what is called the corporative State.
If there are any admirers of the system of Government existing in Italy and Portugal, for instance, among us, I am not one of them. I believe that western democracy is fundamentally right at any rate for us, and I do not want to see the corporative idea used here as it has been used in Italy, simply to buttress dictatorship, to give a facade of consultation with the people. I feel it is perfectly possible to give life and activity to the corporative idea without introducing anything that could possibly be called a corporative State, or without setting up above these associations anything resembling a dictatorship.
The reason that democracy has failed in some countries is because democracy was inefficient in these countries. If democracy is ever in danger here, it will be because it proves itself inefficient here. What I want to do is to make our democracy more efficient, not to bring it into danger, but to strengthen it by making it perform its job better. If there is any reason for fearing that the dictatorship system will spread over the world, will spread beyond the numerous countries in which it has recently been installed, that danger consists in the fact that the dictators are proving themselves more efficient than the democracies; and the best way to protect ourselves against the corruption of dictatorship is to do everything we can to make our democracies competent.
What is a Second Chamber for? There are people who say that any Second Chamber is better than none, even a bad one. I personally do not agree with that. I do not believe that a Seanad, which is a mere replica of the Dáil, is worth having. It is only one of those sham safeguards which are more dangerous than no safeguard at all. I think that the main arguments for a Second Chamber are two. One is that a Party majority, working with strict Party discipline in a single Chamber, can soon get into a terribly dictatorial habit of mind, into a custom of driving through all its proposals with very little regard to criticism or opposition; and if you can contrive a Second Chamber where measures which are being proposed can be considered from a different angle and with less Party pressure, you check that habit.
Clearly, if your Second Chamber is a mere replica of the Dáil, you do not get anything considered from a different angle; you get the same Party whips here as you do in the other Chamber, and you have the same type of members here considering what is put before them in very much the same frame of mind as the people in the other House. The second way in which I consider a Second Chamber can be of immense value is that it can bring into public life reserves of competence and ability that would not otherwise be at the State's disposal. It is very easy to make a kind of divinity of popular election. I believe in popular election up to a point. I am in favour of universal suffrage. I am in favour of electing public representatives by counting the noses of all men and women, whether very well educated or totally uneducated. But, I am only in favour of that if it is supplemented by something else. I think it is a valuable thing that every citizen, however humble, should feel that he has an equal say in the formation of a democratic Chamber with every other, no matter how wealthy or how exalted. But I am not prepared to pretend that election by universal suffrage is a sure way to get sufficient able men into public life. The qualities that enable men to get elected in a popular election are not qualities that are possessed by all able men, or even by a majority of able men. They are qualities that are valuable to the State, but they need to be supplemented by others.
A small country like ours is not very rich in men of great ability and technical experience. Can we afford to leave out of public life all those of them who are temperamentally unsuited to be members of a disciplined Party, or all who are unwilling to make speeches at the cross-roads, to canvass and to go through all the grind that all of us are familiar with who have taken part in popular elections? Are we so rich in ability and experience that we can afford to shut out men who have not got even a voice loud enough to make speeches on popular platforms and men who have not got time, for the very reason that they are so important in a particular economic sphere, to go into politics and take an active part in election campaigns? I maintain that we cannot afford to dispense with these reserves of ability and that one of the chief functions of a Seanad ought to be to put them at the service of the State.
Now, that means that, however a Seanad is constituted, it cannot be by popular election. It seems to me that there are only two ways of getting a Seanad such as I have described, very largely composed of experts. One is nomination by a prime minister, or by a president, or by some very small selection committee. There was a time when I was in favour of nomination by the Prime Minister, as, on the whole, the surest way of collecting together the best body of able men to make a Seanad. But the only other way that I can think of is the way that we have, in fact, adopted, that adopted in the Second Chamber Commission, and that is being adopted by the Government, namely, to get vocational organisations functioning in such a way that they return men here chosen, not for their Party affiliations, but for their special experience, and their professional or vocational eminence. Then indeed we would have a distinctive Seanad that would be of immense value to the State. I believe that that ideal is attainable.
There are some who say that any Seanad is bound to be a bad Seanad. It was rather implied on one or two occasions by the Taoiseach himself that there can be no such thing as a good Seanad, that there can only be a bad Seanad and a worse Seanad, and that the most we can hope for is to get as little bad a Seanad as possible. I call that sheer defeatism. I see no reason for taking that line at all. I think that, with a little trouble, we can achieve a good Seanad. If you exclaim with horror: "Who wants a Chamber merely consisting of experts?" I reply that, after all, the Taoiseach himself retains 11 nominations and he can leaven this body of experts by introducing people with more general political experience. Also, the Universities elect their representatives, who are usually men of general culture, of wide outlook on life, rather than experts. But, to have here a body of men who will look at every question that presents itself objectively and with knowledge, seems to me something worth trying for.
Anyone who looks through the list of vocational bodies which at present have a right to nominate to the electoral panels will perceive that in some domains of our life in Ireland there seems to be an absence of bodies that might be reasonably expected to exist, and that in other domains, the medical, for instance, there seems to be an unreasonable multiplication of bodies who, from the point of view of being represented here, would need to get together to form some body that could speak for all of them. These are the kind of problems that a commission would have to investigate. It would have to make recommendations to us as to how much could be done, if anything, by legislation, how much by administrative powers already available to the Ministry and how much merely by suggestion and encouragement. But that there will have to be something coming from on top to encourage the growth of vocational organisations seems to me quite certain. The Seanad, as it is at present, has not yet carried out the idea of the Constitution or the idea of the Second Chamber Commission: it is not yet the fully-fledged vocational body that it was designed to be. The present system of election tends indeed to have an adverse effect upon the attitude of vocational bodies towards representation in the Seanad, because it more or less compels them to put people on the panels who have political affiliations, who are not put on the panels because of vocational eminence but are put on because they are likely to get elected.
A vocational organisation will say "We want to be represented in the Seanad—what is the good of putting so-and-so on the panel if he has not any pull with the electorate? If we want to be represented our best chance is to put on somebody who has political pull." That is because the electorate which has been chosen for the purpose of electing the people in the Seanad is, we must admit, a thoroughly political electorate, political in the sense of being under Party orders. The headquarters of the various Parties have been in recent weeks hard at work on their schedules for the coming election and I dare say it is now, as it used to be in the old days when I was in the Dáil, when we were even sent a list from the Party headquarters indicating in exactly what order we were to distribute our preferences for all the people who had been put up for the Seanad.
Obviously, if the electorate is a Party electorate, acting under Party orders and including county council representatives who are, perhaps, not in a position to know at all about the professional and vocational eminence of the candidates and to judge anything else except the political records of the persons who are submitted to them to choose from, then you are forcing the vocational bodies to take political motives into account when they are putting their men on the panels.
And so it is that up to the present not only has it been a question of the electorate acting from political reasons but the vocational bodies themselves have sent forward a political type of people, or they have submitted two candidates, one political and one not, and it has naturally been the political one who has been elected.
Consequently I say, without any disrespect to the present Seanad, that, with all its merits, it is not sufficiently unlike the Dáil; we are not the distinctive Second Chamber which alone is worth while. If we want to put at the service of the country the abilities that are available, if we want to have the security that comes from having every proposal that is made in the Dáil re-examined here in a somewhat different spirit by men who have through comparative aloofness from Party politics a different sort of outlook, then, I think, it is highly desirable that we should set up some such body as we propose in this motion.
Our object in bringing forward this resolution was not in the least degree to bring about a debate on contentious matters regarding the Seanad. Still less was it to try to score any sort of political point or to embarrass the Government or any political Party. Our object was to try to bring about a public discussion on a very important subject upon which there has been a great deal of rather vague and uncertain talk and upon which a great many people have widely differing opinions in order that we should focus the attention both of the Government and of public representatives and of the people as a whole at a moment when a new era seems about to dawn in Ireland, upon problems that are really fundamental to our whole social and economic position in this country. I listened last week to the debate in the Seanad on Senator Baxter's proposal to have a commission set up to investigate the position of agriculture and it occurred to me, as it has often occurred to me on previous occasions listening to such discussions, that this agricultural problem, or really agricultural problems, like a great many other problems of this country, are too much treated as if they were purely economic problems, when, in reality, they are much deeper and more far-reaching problems of a social character, which in order to be satisfactorily dealt with, must be brought down to the roots of our whole social organisation in this country.
It is possible that the meaning of this resolution which Senator MacDermot and I have put down has been misunderstood in certain cases, and I will just refer to that for the moment, because I have come across a certain amount of evidence that most people believed that what we are after was some sort of change in the system of technical education in this country or something to do with technical schools. That was, perhaps, by reason of the fact that we used the term "vocational" in our resolution. There are a great many ways in which such a subject can be approached and, indeed, a great many ways in which it can be misunderstood. It is not necessary, I think, to delay very long over that sort of misconception.
The problem we want dealt with is one that is much wider and more far-reaching indeed than the problem of technical education. I would like to emphasise that it is not at all identical or coterminous with the problem to which Senator MacDermot devoted a great deal of his speech, the problem of a vocational Seanad. Personally I take the greatest interest in that problem—I was one of the signatories of the minority report of the Second House of the Oireachtas Commission, to which Senator MacDermot has referred, and I do think that some progress towards getting a better system for the election of a vocational Seanad is highly desirable; but, at the same time, when we are discussing the whole question of vocational organisation, I think it would be, perhaps, a little shortsighted on our part to divert the discussion right at the beginning to what is, after all, only a secondary aspect of the matter.
The reorganisation of the whole country on vocational or functional lines is an object in itself and in many ways a higher and more important object than the organisation of a Second Chamber. In any case, it is irrespective of whether we have a Second Chamber at all or not, or whether we have a Second Chamber of some totally different character from one conceived on vocational lines. It would be quite possible to have the whole country thoroughly organised in this functional way and to have a Second Chamber created on the hereditary principle, or any other principle that might be found convenient. The two subjects do not at all coincide, and I do not propose to deal any further with this matter of a Second Chamber in any remarks I have to make.
As Senator MacDermot pointed out, this problem of vocational organisation in general has been widely discussed in other countries and a great deal has been published about it. I have here in my bag a large and very technical, semi-philosophical work on the subject, published a few years ago in Vienna, and there have been very important works published about it in France, in England and in other countries. Unfortunately, in this country we do not tend very much, I am afraid, to the making of theories on subjects of this kind. I have often thought that our tendency is to hit first and think afterwards, so that there is very little discussion at all so far on this subject from a purely Irish point of view. The functional organisation of society is, as Senator MacDermot has pointed out, the more or less officially approved Christian method of escaping from the dilemma which has been presented to the world by the anarchy of modern materialistic capitalism on the one hand and the slavery of Communism and the various other forms of dictatorships like National Socialism on the other hand.
Some time ago, those who were the first to draw attention in Ireland to the desirability of some attempt to study this problem in regard to our conditions and to advance perhaps along the lines of functional organisations were very freely accused of being Fascists or autocrats in disguise or wishing for some sort of political dictatorship which would do away with parliamentary democracy and abolish the liberty of the citizen. I think within the last few years things have improved a great deal in that respect, and it is now beginning to be better understood generally that what is proposed in this question of functional organisation is not the abolition of liberty or the destruction of democratic institutions, but rather the strengthening of both liberty and democracy against the attacks that are being incessantly made on them from two sides.
Those of us who are inclined to be partisans in the various questions that are distracting Europe are apt to maintain that the challenge only comes from one side, the side we dislike, but as a matter of fact, it is perfectly obvious that all democracies and liberties are being challenged at the moment by two mortally opposed types of politician. On the one hand, you have those wishing for a dictatorship of the political party, which is what National Socialism and such types of doctrine really mean, the dictatorship of a single political party, and on the other hand, you have the more philosophical, the more doctrinal type, who wish to bring about the so-called dictatorship of the proletariat, based on the encouragement and development of class warfare.
There is no doubt whatever that democracy and liberty everywhere are being challenged by both these opposing types of idea and types of action, and even in this country we do not escape entirely from the consequences of the struggle that is going on, pretty well all over the world. In one way or another we are ourselves being involved in that struggle not merely in the form of the danger that continually threatens, of being involved in some kind of war, but in the form of a continually underlying threat of social trouble, social disorganisation and anarchy here at home, and the great difficulty is again, as Senator MacDermot has pointed out, that in this struggle against that two-fold attack, democracy is certainly weakened by its own history and character, and by the fact that it has come in modern times to be so much bound up with a particular type of materialist individualism which, itself, is in many ways in the end one of the greatest opponents of human liberty and human dignity, and which in many ways itself, although widely identified with democracy, is tending to dig the grave of democracy wherever it has been rampant.
The greatest impetus was given to the movement for functional democracy by the Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno issued by His Holiness the present Pope, in 1931. Senator MacDermot has quoted one sentence from that Encyclical which seems to me to give justification for a resolution of the type that we have put before you to-day. I refer to it again, because it seems to me to constitute not merely a justification, but a clear call for action to all statesmen who claim to be Christians and democrats. I will quote only one sentence in which the Pope says that “the aim of social legislation must be to re-establish vocational groups.” Now it is true that that sentence does not, of course, imply any kind of moral imperative. It is a matter for the people to discuss, consider and make up their minds about, but at any rate an injunction of that kind, stated in such clear language, does constitute an enormously important challenge to the statesmen and the leaders of all Christian countries, and most of all to the statesmen and leaders of a Christian country like Ireland.
His Holiness has pointed out in language which only gains in force from the fact that it is simply a repetition of language used by one of his predecessors, Pope Leo XIII, as long ago as 1891, that the inevitable outcome of the capitalist system, which was inaugurated in the industrial revolution and which has been spreading all over the world since that time, has been, and continues to be, class warfare: in other words, a state of continual and permanent unrest, of anarchy almost, within every country that has come under the influence of that revolution. The Communists and the followers of the Marxist doctrine elevate class warfare into one of the great principles of human history. Marx himself worked out a doctrine in which class warfare is in fact the instrument of a kind of Divine change which ultimately will bring about a sort of Heaven on earth. The doctrine laid down by two Popes which is, of course, entirely identical with the doctrine always preached by the Church, from the very beginning, is that class warfare should be eliminated, that it is something in itself criminal, and something that should not be tolerated in any Christian society, and that Christian doctrine holds that, where class warfare has been made possible by any development or any set of institutions, that that development and these institutions should be at least carefully examined with a view to securing their amendment—securing their correction —so that class warfare, instead of being believed in as a sort of Divine machinery for the destruction of society, as we know it, and the creation of Utopia, should be banished altogether by the exercise of statesmanship, prudence and sense in social affairs.
We are all familiar, I take it, with our own claim in this country—we have heard a great deal about it in any case—that we are the inheritors of a distinctive Irish civilisation, a civilisation at once in harmony with our national character and with the doctrines of Christianity to which we are so profoundly attached. We have always maintained that the purpose for which we sought national freedom was not merely freedom in itself but that we had a higher aim than that: that we wanted to use our freedom to escape from the clutches of that materialist capitalist system which holds almost every other country, certainly every other civilised country in the world, in its power and grasp. Unfortunately, we have, as yet, done very little except tentatively and superficially to bring about a real social revolution on the Irish and Christian lines which our national claims for a long time back have clearly envisaged. Right down from the Proclamation of 1916, all the statements of our national leaders have included in them the declaration that we wish to abolish the evils of materialism and capitalism in this country, and get back to a more Irish and more Christian social system.
It is a rather sad commentary on those claims that a good many years ago a distinguished ecclesiastic, himself of Irish origin, writing in an English journal, lamented the fact that Ireland had done next-to-nothing to give a lead to the world in pointing the way towards a more Christian system, and that the initiative was left to countries far less favourably placed, as events since that time have only too lamentably shown, that we are, countries like Austria and Portugal. Our present happy position in this country gives hope that we may now be able to seize the opportunities that we have so far neglected in this respect. Some of us are perhaps prone to imagine that a special dispensation of Providence, with no effort on our part, will free us here in this country from the grave and increasing dangers that are undoubtedly inherent in the system under which we live.
Some of us are even inclined to think in our innocence that we in this country are free altogether of the evils of the capitalist system: that we have no such thing as materialism in private or public life, and that we are free from the grasp of the unholy thirst for money which is the greatest infliction of the modern world. We are so innocent and primeval that, in our simplicity, according to the notions of a great many of us, we do not have to concern ourselves with these problems at all. The fact that so many of us are capable of thinking like that is really due to our ignorance of our own situation, to the fact that we have not studied or analysed our present-day social and, sometimes, individual psychology in the light of institutions and psychologies of other periods in history when the outlook of people in general was entirely different from our own outlook now. We are accustomed to continual denunciations of phenomena that have their root in, and are entirely associated with, that capitalist system, phenomena, such as the widespread extension of the cinema, the abuse of dance halls, and so on. These phenomena are themselves the direct outcome of that capitalist, individualist, materialist system under which we, like every other people in the world, are living.
Whether we like it or not, we here in holy Ireland, with our great traditions of saints and scholars, are quite as much in the grip of that kind of materialism as any other people in the world. It is true that our problems are smaller in the quantitative scale, and that the tolerance and charity of our people are capable of softening the worst evils of any system. We are, I think, on the whole, a very easy going, patient, charitable and tolerant people. I do not think it is in the least degree self-praise for us to recognise that, but at the same time we have other qualities which sometimes conflict a little with these highly desirable qualities, and we are not at all as virtuous or as immune from the evils which we hear continually denounced by the greatest moral authority as we sometimes like to imagine.
There is no doubt at all that the whole European world, the whole world, in fact, as far as it has been civilised from Europe, is hastening towards a series of catastrophes, not merely in the shape of international wars but in the shape of internal disturbances, due to the strained, unstable and uncertain state of society, of which the Pope has spoken so clearly in that encyclical, Quadragesimo Anno. The evils that threaten every State in the world at the present moment—that are peculiar to the present time—and that derive entirely from circumstances that had their origin in the last one and a half centuries, are two-fold. On the one hand, there is the individualist anarchy arising from that race for wealth and from that doctrine of “enlightened self-interest” which has penetrated more, possibly, into our minds than we are aware of. It has given us the slums in our great cities and brought about here, less than 100 years ago, the great famine, which has halved our population, and it has subjected almost all cultural and spiritual activities in the world to the empire of money. On the other hand, over against that type of individualism and materialist anarchy, there is the attempt to cure that anarchy by the unique action of State machinery, while leaving the individualist basis of society untouched and unreformed.
That attempt to use the State for curing these evils is very often honestly made. It is made with the best intentions in the world, but it is clear to anyone who looks a little into the matter that it has met with only very moderate success. It has largely failed to abolish the worst evils of that anarchical capitalism of which I have been speaking, and where it has succeeded at all the success has been more than counterbalanced by the extent to which that very State action has turned whole classes of the community into dependents of the State. In addition to that, the State itself has been injured in the process of trying to cure these evils. To quote the Pope again, the State has been "submerged and overwhelmed by an infinity of affairs and duties" owing to the fact that it has become encumbered with all the burdens once borne by associations rendered extinct by the State itself.
So far as this process of the swallowing up of Society by the State—in other words, by politics—has proceeded, there have been frequent, grave and justifiable complaints of the encroachments of the State not merely on associations and on functional organisations of the kind we are speaking of, but even on the family itself, the most vital organ of civilised life. One of the most obvious evils and dangers of our time is the extent to which State machinery has been extending its control over the very heart of all society—the family itself. In some countries it has practically abolished the family or turned the family into a piece of machinery for the State. The way of escape from all these evils is the way the Pope has laid down—the re-creation, in some such manner as will fit them into the new conditions of our time, of the functional orders of society which have everywhere been suppressed by the State or rendered obsolete by the dangerous economic developments of the past century.
It is not at all a question of trying to turn back the hands of the clock and retreat into the Middle Ages, as some people are inclined to suggest. It is not a question, for example, of reviving the old Guild system, as is very often thought. It is a question of trying to equip society with new organs which shall be capable of taking over, at least, a proportion of the work which the State itself is now trying to do, in order to curb and cure the evils of that excessive capitalistic anarchy of which I spoke. It is not suggested that this programme is an easy programme, that it is the sort of thing you can do in the course of a few years or that you can put into operation overnight. It is far more than a mere programme of political action; it is a programme of mental conversion. It is a programme which demands the widespread education of the people about the evils under which they live and about the most appropriate means of dealing with those evils.
In its ultimate essence, this programme, which calls for the re-establishment of vocational groups, must mean that the State will, in time, abdicate into the hands of such groups many of the powers that it has seized for itself during the past century and a half. There, again, the creation of these groups is, in a certain sense, so difficult as to seem impossible at first sight. What is called for is the creation, by more or less artificial means, of organs of society which normally should have grown up organically and as a matter of history. Unfortunately, that sort of artificial creation or re-creation is dictated to society in present times by the amount of destruction in these regards that was done during the last century and a half by the industrial revolution, the French Revolution and the progress of liberal and individualistic ideas. Modern social theory has tended, more and more, to look on society as a mere aggregation of individuals, a mere list of ciphers on a statistical paper set over against an all-powerful State with the State machinery growing greater and greater and absorbing more and more of these statistical individuals every year. There is no doubt at all that if that theory continues to work itself out, as it has been working itself out in this country and everywhere else, the ultimate end will be that the whole of Irish society will be found dwelling in one enormous and inefficiently-conducted city, with slums occupying a very large part of it, and that a greater and greater proportion of the population will make its way into the ranks of a badly-paid Civil Service. So far as I can see, with the population of the cities continually increasing—Dublin added 60,000 to its population in ten years—while the population of the rest of the country is either stationary or decreasing, and with the continual enrolment every few months of new candidates for the Civil Service, the logical end will be that Ireland will become one big city in another century and that half, or more than half, of the population will be enrolled in the Civil Service. That is the kind of logical and historical term which cannot be avoided unless some energetic measures are taken to stop the process. It arises naturally and inevitably out of the process in which we, like every other community, have been caught up.
Our whole idea of political democracy in this country has been deeply infected with this view of society as a group of statistical individuals over against an all-powerful State. When we speak of being in favour of democracy, when we speak of trying to strengthen democracy, what we mean is that democracy must shed some of the characteristics which it has taken over from the materialistic individualism of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It must do that not merely if it wants to keep its democratic form or to maintain the human liberty for which it stands but also if it wishes to keep society alive in any civilised form whatsoever.
Christian theory, on the other hand— and, in this respect, it is merely the inheritor of Plato and, with him, of the best political thought of ancient times—looks upon society as a hierarchy not of atomised individuals but of functional activities regarded as vocations. There is nothing more striking than the way in which that theory, as put forward in the Middle Ages, and as preached by Plato and the other great thinkers of antiquity, coincides with the finest products of what one may call European civilised thought. The re-creation of a hierarchy such as that, in Ireland or anywhere else, is a task of such magnitude that it is difficult to contemplate. We, in Ireland, are very seldom conscious of our exact situation in this matter of social organisation or social policy. We present the probably unique spectacle of an ancient people whose own native and traditional social institutions—social institutions which whether we like it or not, have moulded the lives of every Irishman and Irishwoman down to our own time, social institutions enormously powerful and into which this idea of hierarchy entered very largely—have been entirely battered away by centuries of storm, and which has taken over in a very attenuated and superficial form institutions not made for it but rather impregnated with ideas and doctrines entirely at variance with its natural instincts and with its whole historic past. We have, therefore, to begin almost at the beginning. Before we can make any progress, we must, with the utmost intelligence of which we are capable, survey and mark out our ground. This need for an intelligent and careful survey is the justification for our resolution here to-day.
Doubts have often been expressed by those who have gone deeply into such matters whether the State is the proper organ to initiate such a movement. Events in other countries have given rise to fears lest the activity of the State in this regard may only intensify the tendency towards autocratic control which is already so surprisingly widespread after the victory of the side which stood for democracy 20 years ago. There is no question but that these doubts and fears have a certain substance to justify them. The State has encroached upon liberty, not merely in autocratic countries, but in every country in the world and, if we contemplate action with regard to social reorganisation, the position is such that everything will depend not upon the machinery, but upon the spirit in which the whole problem is approached.
Personally, while I have the greatest distrust of the State and of bureaucratic action, I have always been convinced that, in this country, at any rate, very little, if anything, will ever be done to remedy the evils from which we suffer, in common with other peoples, without some degree of State initiative. The amount of such initiative contemplated in this resolution is small. It involves no more than the setting up of a commission of inquiry. In that step no real danger of excessive State interference is involved. It would, of course, be possible for a group of private individuals interested in these problems to come together, study them and put the results of their study before the public, leaving it for them to say whether they would act upon these results or not. That is, probably, the form in which such a movement as this would eventuate in England, for example, because there there are large numbers of private individuals who have the leisure, the means and the instinct for that kind of organisation. This country, however, is not England, and we are often misled in such matters as this by making the assumption that things will operate in this country as they do in England. The form which our democracy will take will have to be different from that of England, if only for the reason that we have not anything like the wealth or the leisure that the English people have. In this country the danger would be that such a group, merely by reason of its private nature, would lack the authority and persuasive force which the gravity of the problem demands. A small commission of ten or 12 experts, chosen by the head of the State by reason of their acknowledged competence, would be in a position, in the first place, to approach sources of information inaccessible to purely private persons and, in the second place, to present a long-distance plan of action in which every aspect of the subject might be covered. Collaboration is, of course, essential. Even this sort of preliminary survey is the kind of work that can never be done by one man. It is not at all unfair to say that no single individual possesses, and probably not even four or five individuals between them possess, the knowledge and the acquaintance with various phases of our social and economic life that is needed for this far-reaching survey.
It might be well to indicate briefly one or two of the subjects that would come before the commission we have in view. I do that rather by way of illustration than with any intention of entering into the problems to which these subjects give rise. Probably the greatest would be the problem of agricultural organisation, the functional grouping of our farmers on lines at once local and national. That is a task which surely should no longer be left to chance or to the caprice of energetic but, perhaps, misguided individualists, and least of all should it be left to the machinations of Party politics. I do not think anyone will come to the conclusion that it is an insoluble problem.
It is a question of people with the knowledge, the intelligence and the ability getting together and studying that problem in itself, and trying to survey the various methods by which it can be approached. I would go so far as to say that the solution of that problem, the creation in this country of some sort of coherent and strong economic functional and vocational organisation for agriculture would render it unnecessary ever again for any Senator or member of the Dáil to call for commissions on agriculture from the Government or from the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Another problem of far-reaching importance would be the place of our trade unions in a functional system, and that in itself would involve the whole ideal relation between employers and employees. Senator MacDermot has very soundly pointed out that the question of the existence of the Labour Party would be involved in this problem, and I have no hesitation in saying, as one who has given a little attention to the matter, that I do not believe either a Farmers' Party or a Labour Party is a normal healthy product of political democracy. They are the effects of diseases in the social body, and they would never have come into existence in the form they have taken, for instance, in this country—half political, half economic, and hardly at all functional—if it were not for the diseases and drawbacks which have been inflicted upon our society by that terribly one-sided development of capitalist individualism during the last century and a half. Their true nature is shown by the fact that neither the Farmers' nor the Labour Party has given any proof of capacity to exist as an economic or functional body. They are really political bodies with a thin functional disguise in so far as they have existed in this country up to the present, and I believe that in a properly devised democracy there would be no place for such Parties, and the work which the Labour Party, for example, undertakes to do would be carried out much more naturally and much more thoroughly by some healthy organ which dealt with these problems from a purely functional and non-political point of view.
The basic idea of the functional movement is the eradication of class warfare from the social system and the re-erection of the concord of orders, as the Pope calls it, the harmonious hierarchy of different activities in society. It is obvious, of course, that that is an enormously difficult task, but what I should like to emphasise here is that that task is not solved by simply shelving it and pretending it does not exist. Either it must be met—and now, I think, we have a very favourable opportunity for meeting it—or it will continue to arise in one form or another so long as it is left without being dealt with.
We have referred in our resolution to "legislative or administrative action." Our purpose in doing that was to mark the bounds of the inquiry we proposed, and to keep it so far as possible within the limits of what the State can do. We did not propose to institute, or to have instituted by the State, an inquiry into this problem with no limits to it at all; at the same time, I think it would be a pity if the hands of such a commission as this were to be too tightly tied, for there may be very many valuable aspects of the vocational question upon which the State's initiative would be either hardly required at all, or perhaps even injurious, and it would be well to have some of these aspects carefully examined. There would probably be many aspects of it upon which the mere existence of a report of the kind we envisage would itself serve as an incentive to patriotic, high-minded and intelligent citizens all over the country to take action, without calling in the State at all, and in a great many cases all that would probably be needed would be some sort of enabling Act, going a little further than the provision in the Constitution to which Senator MacDermot has referred, to give these bodies certain powers or functions at law, if and when they are instituted by individual initiative.
We are appealing for this inquiry in an entirely democratic spirit. There is no question about that in Senator MacDermot's case, but there may be some in my case because I have often been accused before this of being a Fascist, but in this resolution we have no idea whatever of interfering with the normal processes of a healthy democracy in this country. We realise that the task we propose for a commission like this is a long one, and that the only way it can be successfully faced in a democratic community is by the process we suggest, a process of getting together people who understand something about the problem, having it discussed and proceeding to educate public opinion upon it. It may well be that if our wishes are acceded to, we may find an answer to these problems which will be an Irish answer, a democratic answer and a Christian answer, which will meet and finally solve that great question which to-day so insistently threatens both Christianity and democracy, and the Irish people in common with their brethren in every other country, that great dilemma, that awful choice between anarchy, on the one hand, and the servile State, on the other.
I have listened with the greatest attention to the very able speeches of the proposer and the seconder, speeches so able indeed that I find myself unable now to make up my mind as to the wisdom or otherwise of this motion. The terms "vocation" and "vocational," it seems to me, may have various meanings and may be taken in various senses. Agriculture has been mentioned, and agriculture would, I suppose, be our largest vocation in this country. Agriculture is divided into many activities, each of which might be considered a separate vocation. I am not greatly concerned with what professions or occupations should be considered as vocations, but as a governor of the Mount Street Club —the interests of which I represent in this House—I am deeply concerned that a very large body of our people should not be excluded. I refer to the able-bodied unemployed. The State, no doubt, has done, and is doing, a great deal for the unemployed, but we in the Mount Street Club feel that a great deal can be done by public effort. We look on this great army as of great potential value to the country, in the same manner that the wise industrialist, when his machinery is not working, keeps it well oiled and ready to start at the word "Go." We feel that this great potential asset, the man-power of the nation, the men in reserve, should be kept in such a mental and physical condition that they will be fit to take their part when reabsorbed into industry. Therefore, if vocationalism should ever come to this country, as a result of this motion or otherwise, we in the Mount Street Club are anxious that the man in reserve should not be overlooked, but that he should be considered vocationally.
Bhí a lán trácht againn ar an rud seo agus ba bheag an méid a cuireadh in úil dúinn. Gidh nár labhair an Seanadóir deireannach chó fada agus labhair na daoine eile, bhí roinnt poinntí ina chuid cainte. Sé an poinnte ba mhaith liom a chur os cóir an Tighe: nach bhfuilimíd réidh go fóill sa tír seo an gléas nua seo do thogáil. Níl saoirse againn ach le tamall beag agus ba chóir dúinn bheith aireach maidir leis an togha a dhéanfamaid. Ba chóir dúinn fanacht go ceann tamaill go dtí go bhfeicimíd goidé mar bhéas an scéal againn. Is fearr dúinn na bóithre achrannacha do sheachaint. Tá againn, mar adubhairt an Seanadóir, na Totalitarian States, ar aon taoibh amháin, agus na Soviets agus a leithéidí, ar an taoibh eile, agus ba cheart dúinn bóthar nua a bhéas oiriúnach dúinn féin do ghearradh amach.
Maidir le ceist na feilmeoireachta, dar ndóigh, ba cheart fiosruchán do chur ar bun faoi sin. Níl ceist na talmhan socruithe nó leath-socruithe go fóill sa tír seo agus ní bheidh aon tsocrú, maidir leis sin, go dtí go mbeidh i bhfad níos mó de roinnte agus go dtí go mbeidh an talamh i seilbh na ndaoine a oibreodh é— feilmeoirí dáríribh a dhéanfadh an obair ar an fheilm in ionad lucht na mbullán. Ba chóir fiosrúchán do chur ar bun faoi'n gceist seo agus táim ina fhábhar go mór. Ina theannta sin, bfhéidir go gcuirfá fiosruchán ar bun chun cheist na daoine atá díomhaoin do scrudú ach isé mo bharúil láidir nach bhfuil aon mhaith ins an fhiosruchán geinearálta atá sa tairisgint. Ní dheanfa sé tada dúinn agus, dá bhrí sin, táim i gcoinne an rúin, mar atá sé. Isé mo bharúil go mbfhearr dúinn bheith foidhneach agus fanacht go dtí go bhfeicimid goidé an toradh a thiocfas as an méid saoirse atá againn.
If no other Senator desires to speak at this stage, I shall take a motion for the adjournment of the debate.
Shall we meet on Wednesday next if there is no other business?
There will be other business.
We are not meeting to-morrow?
There is no business for to-morrow.
The Seanad adjourned at 5.20 p.m. until Wednesday, 20th July, at 3 p.m.