Book Review from the April 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Diplomacy of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald by U. D. C (Price 3d. Labour Monthly, 162, Buckingham Palace Road.)
This pamphlet is a reprint of two articles from the "Labour Monthly." The writer, "U. D. C.," who appears to be well informed on the inner history of the Labour Party during its term of office, sums up the record of promises to the workers which were broken, and instructions from the exploiters which were obeyed. He writes convincingly of MacDonald's personal weaknesses, his vanity and idleness, and his all-round futility in detailed administrative work or complex negotiations. He shows MacDonald in an amusing light posing as the man of iron when he declared at a private meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party in a discussion of possible German opposition to the Dawes Scheme, "We shall make her accept."
He is said to have defended this treatment of Germany on the ground that "it was necessary to place a heavy Reparation burden on Germany in order to handicap German industries which otherwise might prove dangerous competitors" (page 11). This remark startled his listeners, for, as "U. D. C." points out, "Many had doubted the quality of his Socialism; but the purity of his Liberalism had always been counted above suspicion."
While there is a certain good purpose served by combating the silly hero worship to which the workers are so prone, one cannot but observe that "U. D. C.'s" own point of view is dangerously limited. Granted that MacDonald "funked" and never seriously tried to withstand the pressure to which he was subjected, would the outcome have been different if he had?
Does "U. D. C." really imagine that a "strong" Labour Premier placed in office at the pleasure of Liberals and Tories could have defied the orders of his capitalist masters? And what is more, would his own party have backed him up?
If, like "U. D. C.," we are to regard the matter as one of personalities, why should a place-hunting Labour Leader offend the capitalists when he knows full well that he has no solid class-conscious body of workers behind him to make his protest effective? Those, like "U. D. C." who look upon international politics as an affair of "strong men," in which loyalty to "open diplomacy," honesty and goodwill and all the rest of the liberal catch-words of the I.L.P. and the Union of Democratic Control will solve all problems, are as much responsible as MacDonald for the foolish hopes and bitter disappointment felt by working-class supporters of Labour in Office. They are, moreover, doing little to teach the real nature of the problems.
It is also difficult to see why "U. D. C." should write as if MacDonald's defection is a matter of surprise. To the serious student his actions after, during and before the war are all equally damning evidence that he was always a careerist, and never anything but a danger to the working class.