From the January 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard
The possession of wings is a mixed blessing to an organisation, though it may be the means of keeping afloat those that possess little else. However, it is certainly a very popular complaint nowadays and afflicts alike Tory, Liberal. Labour, I.L.P. and Communist Parties. Its growth was slow at first, like all malignant diseases, but the example of Russia has given it a tremendous boost in post-war days.
At present the disease has reached an acute stage in the I.L.P., and the inevitable disintegrating process has set in. One by one the "intellectuals" who held sway in the past are leaving the ship, and intellectuals of the present are taking control of the ship.
The difference in essentials between the latter-day misleaders and their forerunners would require the liberal use of a microscope to discern.
The basic difference in policy may be summed up as follows: In the early days the policy was "Good old Keir Hardie"; in the middle period it was "Good old Ramsay MacDonald"; in the latest period it is "Good old Jimmy Maxton," the pirate who is stealing the laurels of the older warriors. The reason for these various policies is simple. The I.L.P., in the main, is concerned with men and not principles.
The official organ of the I.L.P. is a good illustration of this fact. Week after week it publishes pictures of "prominent" people in the "Labour Movement," and gushes over the doings of one or another. In its issue for November 23rd its front page contained photos of twenty of its contributors as an inducement to the workers to buy it. And this supposed to be the inauguration of a new policy.
But, as mentioned above, the wing trouble is becoming acute. Maxton, like his predecessors, is finding it difficult to keep his feet in two camps at the same time. However, the fight for popularity between Maxton and the older gang is bringing forth some rather useful information of the uselessness, from the working-class point of view, of the reactionary policy of the I.L.P. Here are two informing items:-
I made a statement at the Conference that at the present time there is not a single constituency in the country where there is a majority of convinced Socialist electors. We have plenty of districts, such as Bermondsey, where there is an overwhelming Labour majority, but it is a sheer delusion to think that the greater number of these people understand what we mean by Socialism. They neither understand it nor want it. (Dr. Alfred Salter, in a letter to the "New Leader," 12th October 1928.)
Now it must be admitted that that is a very frank statement from a man who, on his own confession, has been elected to Parliament by the votes of non-Socialists. If the voters for Dr. Salter neither understand nor want Socialism, then obviously any action in the direction of accomplishing this end would be contrary to the wishes of his supporters and would jeopardise his seat. Dr. Salter, then, on his own admission, did not get elected through professing any Socialistic ideas.
He wrote another letter (or article) to the "New Leader," which appeared on December 7th. In this he said:-
Many of us who are long-standing members of the I.L.P. have been distressed during the past two or three years at what we regard as the disastrous leadership of the N.A.C. We know first-hand that the membership of the Party is decreasing seriously, that old stalwarts and supporters are resigning, that branches are disintegrating, and that finances are declining. We know that the Special Effort Fund this year is practically a failure owing to numbers of the usual subscribers refusing to contribute. We see the I.L.P., to which some of us have given the best years of our lives, going down to utter wreck and destruction.
A pleasant state of affairs, this, after half a century of "gradualness" and the "little by little and bit by bit" policy! When we have urged the necessity of advocating Socialism, we have been told by I.L.P. protagonists that we were in too much of a hurry and that their policy of Socialism "in bits" was the way to build up a strong organisation. It looks like it!