Editorial from the May 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard
The few days previous to going to press have been full of moving incidents, none of which can be given the attention they merit owing to the little time and space available—and other things. A grave armed revolt in Dublin against English rule is raging at the time of writing. It is a revolt doomed from the outset, both because of the futility of its narrow nationalist aims, and the utter hopelessness of such a revolt against the mighty organised force of the political State. It is, apart from the fact that Socialism alone is worth fighting for, yet another illustration (if such were needed) that the organised Socialist conquest of the political power of the State is the only way, and that mere mob violence plays into the hands of the oppressor and strengthens the gyves that fetter us.
Such a revolt, however, is the natural result of centuries of alien oppression, which has forced the ideas of Irishmen into nationalist channels and blinded them to its futility. And it is at the same time a fitting commentary on the perfervid declarations of the British champions of "honour” and "righteousness” that "they” are fighting, above all, for the "rights of small nationalities”!
Contemporaneously with the above there have been secret sessions of Parliament, and following these have come proposals for body-snatching on a wider scale, and a renewed farce of "voluntary” enlistment for the married, even more farcical than those pilloried in our April issue. At first sight it was astonishing that proposals which had apparently been agreed upon were rejected by all sides as soon as put forward in open sessions, in favour of something even more drastic, but a closer inspection reveals again the deliberate fraud. The whole question has been staged again on an elaborate scale only in order to make complete conscription inevitable. And it has succeeded.
Nevertheless the role of the Labour Party has been particularly despicable. Many of its apologists have claimed that secret diplomacy was the cause of the war; yet they are the servants of State tyranny who actually demanded a secret session! Was it to cover their hypocrisy and enable them to argue, in favour of "Prussianism,” that military tyranny is necessitated by the grave needs of the situation about which they must not speak? Socialists will draw the obvious conclusion.
And what are the pseudo-Socialist organisations doing? Their conferences have just been held, and the brief news of their proceedings available at the time of writing sufficiently indicates their position. The letter of the National Council of the Independent Labour Party to the Zimmerwald International Anti-war Conference is significant. In it they say:
The Independent Labour Party neither condemns or condones the action of those who have voted the war credits. It realises that the pressure of circumstances in each of the belligerent countries, the different situations of the Socialist Parties, and the Parliamentary and military systems can only be fully understood by the comrades in those countries.
Such is their contempt for the fundamental principles of Socialism!
In the business of the Newcastle conference of the I.L.P. the same contempt is visible. The following weak resolution was proposed in connection with those prominent members who openly support and advocate capitalist murder for profit:
This Conference expresses its regret that certain I.L.P. members of Parliament have acted and voted in opposition to the declared policy of the Party regarding the war and Conscription, and instructs the National Council to inform these members of Parliament that a continuance of this opposition to the I.L.P. will make it impossible for the Party to support them at the next election.
On this there were some "brave words,” and then Mr. Ramsay Macdonald spoke :
He admitted that the man who was responsible for the recruiting campaign was responsible for the imposition of Conscription! (Cheers.) The recruiting campaign had encouraged the Government to undertake policies which could not be carried through except by Conscription. But he was not going to say that men who had participated in the recruiting campaign should be turned out of Socialist organisations. (Hear, hear.)
Whereupon the I.L.P. expressed its own rottenness by voting down even that mild censure of anti-Socialism and treachery, by passing to the "Previous Question” by an overwhelming majority!
Next, in view of the open flouting of every Socialist principle by the Labour Party, of which the I.L.P. is a part, and by the Labour Ministers that it supports, the expected also occurred. A resolution to reconsider the affiliation of the I.L.P. to this Labour Party of infamous memory was also defeated by an "overwhelming majority."
The anti-Socialist attitude of the I.L.P. on the war in particular has been exposed in past issues of this journal, but even the increasing hardship, the growing tyranny, and the ever more obvious anti-working class objective of the war advocates does not succeed in opening the eyes of the leader-ridden and reform-blinded rank and file of the I.L.P.
The so-called British Socialist Party is another case in point. By “British” many of them mean anti-German. And they are still falling to pieces. The more extreme war advocates, led by H. M. Hyndinan & Co., have seceded to form a “National” Socialist Advisory Committee. Is its advisory function to further advise the authorities regarding unpatriotic members? As was stated when we abandoned the S.D.F. twelve years ago owing to the ineradicable pro-capitalist nature of that body, it was hardly necessary to expose it because its inherent rottenness would kill it. And so it is proving. It propagates chiefly by fission. Indeed, it appears likely to continue to do so until its only remaining organised phase will comprise Hunter Watts and Hyndman as amateur auxiliaries to the organisation of Scotland Yard !
In direct contrast to all the above was the Easter Conference of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. It was well attended both by delegates and members, the public also being admitted. But although a report is not available at the time of writing, the important point may be mentioned that there was not the slightest division on matters of Socialist principle. Regarding the attitude naturally and inevitably taken up by the Socialist Party in complete opposition to all capitalist war, and against every manifestation of capitalism as such, there was no difference of opinion and consequently no discussion, except on points of administrative work. This is a fact of which the Party may well be proud. But that the Party is most keenly alive to its responsibilities was proved by the interest taken in, and the sharpness of, the discussion on the Report of the Executive Committee a discussion which centred largely on questions of organisation and the correct procedure to be used in cleanly and democratically ridding the Party of any who may choose to play fast and loose with the principles of Socialism. The earnestness that prevailed may be gathered from the fact that an extra session of over four hours beyond the appointed time on the Saturday evening was required to conclude this discussion on the important problem of Socialist organisation.
In all respects the conference was a business meeting of Socialists; no electioneering claptrap was indulged in, nor window-dressing resolutions put forward. Indeed, it was clear that the Party regards itself in the most serious light as the nucleus of the revolutionary working-class, and is determined to keep its house in order and its principles free from all entanglement, so that it may adequately fulfil the historic role that lies before it.
This, then, is the ray of hope-that cheers us. And it is not idle to mention further that this cheerful confidence in the future of the working class in the midst of its blackest trouble was reflected even in the great gathering of members and their personal friends who filled the large hall of the Fairfax Halls on the occasion of the Social gathering of Good Friday evening. Never had the hall been so filled, and never with a more cheerful or kindly gathering. And so the new year of party activity opens with good hope. The Party faces the trying times to come absolutely united, fully conscious of the great difficulties to be faced, and of the great distance to be traversed. But it faces the future determined to prosecute the essential educational and organising work in the great class war for Socialism with the utmost intelligent vigour in spite of the difficulties and dangers that surround it at the present time.