Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Cobdenism & Socialism (1919)

From the September 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard


In the issue of "Common Sense" dated 16th August last, Mr. Philip Snowden, Chairman of the Independent Labour Party, in the performance of his function as a capitalist hireling and misleader of the working class, tries his utmost to traduce Socialism and identify Socialist principles and policy with those of his capitalist masters. He opens his column-and-a-half of lucrative trash with the cynical statement that "The superficial Cobdenite and the superficial Socialist would probably declare that Cobdenism and Socialism are the antipodes of political and social theories."

The implication is, of course, that Mr. Snowden is not either a "superficial Socialist" or a "superficial Cobdenite." He is right. Qualify the Socialist and the Cobdenite in any way and to the very utmost limit that will leave them still a Socialist and a Cobdenite respectively, and you have not the political likeness of the Chairman of the I.L.P. in either. Both the Socialist and the Cobdenite, superficial (whatever that may mean) or otherwise, must declare that Cobdenism and Socialism are the very antipodes of the social and political spheres. It is only the pretenders, the twisters, the hired assassins of working class thought, that try to reconcile the one with the other, and the sordid and sickening motives that lead them to do so protrude like the stinking members of a half-buried carcase from the slime of some pestilential pool.

When Mr. Snowden says that the "aim and purpose of Cobden and his school" as he understands it (sic), "is precisely the aim and purpose of Socialism," he lies. He does not understand the aim and purpose of Cobdenism to be "to secure the largest possible measure of individual liberty in a well ordered State and in a well-ordered world." No one knows better than Mr. Snowden that the school of Cobden are not at all concerned with the liberty of the individual where that individual is a worker; no one knows better than Mr. Snowden that Cobden and all his school and disciples—yes, even as he understands them—cling with might and main to the capitalist State, the capitalist world, to the last pinch of gunpowder and the last loyal bayonet; and no one in all the wide world knows better than Mr. Snowden that, except from the capitalists' point of view, the capitalist State and the capitalist world can never be well ordered.

When Mr. Snowden says "Cobden differed from modern Socialists in his ideas as to the best method of attaining that desirable state of complete individual liberty, but there are certain fundamental conditions of attaining to that state of liberty, without the practical application of which neither Socialism nor any other plan of social organisation will achieve the purpose," he is simply resorting to "Words that weary and perplex, and pander and conceal." The fundamental condition under which alone the Cobdenites can realise their aspirations is the slavery of the workers based upon the class ownership of the means of living. The fundamental condition for the achievement of the aspirations of the Socialists is the abolition of class ownership—of private ownership in any form—of the means of living, and the establishment of society upon a basis of common ownership, as the only method of setting the workers free from the domination of those who own the means whereby they live.

Brought face to face with this aspect of the case, the Chairman of the I.L.P. would have to admit its truth. This in itself proves the falsity of the implication of his statement concerning the probable declaration of the "superficial Cobdenite and the superficial Socialist." The Cobdenite stands for the abolition of private property. These two things ARE "the antipodes of political and social theories," all the bought and paid for capitalist servants of the I.L.P. notwithstanding.

"It has been customary previously, whenever any reference was made by Socialist writers and speakers of fiscal policy, to dismiss the controversy between Free Trade and Protection as a quarrel on the most effective method of enriching the exploiting classes," our confusionist goes on. "But when Mr. Chamberlain made the issue one of practical politics the Socialist realised that the matter was one which vitally affected the welfare of the wage-earning classes."

The argument that that which, when it was merely in the merely controversial field, was "a quarrel on the most effective method of enriching the exploiting classes," could, when it was made a question of "practical politics", become a matter vitally affecting the welfare of the workers is the argument of the opportunist twister. What he really means is that as long as the Protectionists did not seriously threaten to impose their fiscal fetters upon the Free Traders, Mr. Snowden and those of his kidney, for and on behalf of whom he lays claim to the title "Socialist," could afford to tell the truth about the question of Free Trade and Protection, but as soon as the question became an "issue of practical politics," a rallying cry for party leaders, a plank for party platforms, an inscription for party banners, a bait to trap the votes of workers in their exploiters' interests, then the pretenders became involved. They had to enthuse. They had to discern in the question something that had never revealed itself to them before. Why? I will tell you.

Some time ago Mr. Snowden declared that the Labour Party is not a Socialist party, and that its fucntion is to keep the Liberal Party in office. The inwardness of the statement provides the explanation for his brotherly feeling towards the Cobdenites. He himself is no stranger to the Labour Party, which is the medium for providing £400 a year for certain twisters who are ready to keep the Liberals in power when they are in power, and to help get them into power when they are under a cloud. Mr. Snowden is simply trying to get his bread buttered—that is all.

Refuse to be the victim of the labour sharks any longer.
A. E. Jacomb

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