Editorial from the November 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard
WHO ARE THE "IMPOSSIBILISTS”?
It has been an argument of long standing among Labour Party supporters that the activities of their party, even if not directly concerned with Socialism, are justified because they are leading towards it. They have ridiculed our policy of working directly for Socialism as “ impossiblism. ”
Mr. Ramsay MacDonald repeated this justification for the Labour Party at its Conference held at Llandudno in October. He said:—
The Government’s pledges were those of Socialists convinced that the capitalist system cannot be made to work. If his opponents objected that the Government had not reached the Socialist goal, he answered, “ No, we haven’t, but we are going to get there.”(News-Chronicle, 8th October.)
Mr. MacDonald’s statement is hardly compatible with Mr. J. H. Thomas’s admission at the Conference of the National Union of Railwaymen on 5th July, 1929, that the Government proposed to tackle the unemployment problem while “accepting the present order of society.”
Nor does it fit in with the significant fact that the Liberals put the Labour Government into office, keep them there, and are carrying on friendly secret discussions with them. Are we to believe that Mr. Lloyd George and his party would support a Government which is going towards Socialism ?
A direct negative to Mr. MacDonald’s claim has been made by one of the members of the Labour Government, the Earl de la Warr, who is Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Speaking at Crewe on October 12th, to a meeting of farmers and landowners, he dealt with the plea that the Labour Government is "going to get ” to Socialism. He said :—
The first criticism of the [Labour Government’s] Marketing Bill . . . was that it was a step to Socialism and involved nationalisation of the land . . . “Really,” said the Earl, “I must confess that for sheer drivelling nonsense and attempted appeal to prejudice I have never read the like of this.”(Daily Herald, 13th October.)
MR. MORRISON'S “CAPITALISTIC SOVIET."
Then there is Mr. Herbert Morrison, Minister of Transport. Under his London Traffic Scheme the railways, buses, tubes, and trams are going to be placed under the control of a statutory public body. The organisation is to be managed by
a small board consisting of persons of proved business capacity . . . such as would command the confidence both of the investing public and of the users of transport in London . . . Such a board should function as freely as possible from political interference.(Daily Telegraph, 3rd October.)
The shareholders are, of course, to be given shares in the new organisation, in place of their present shares; they are to lose nothing.
The official statement from which the above extracts are taken, was issued by Mr. Morrison, and in it he justifies his scheme by referring to the precedent of the Port of London Authority.
It is not so long ago that Mr. Herbert Morrison explained just what sort of thing the Port of London Authority is. In a letter to the Daily Herald on July 30th, 1923, he protested against Labour supporters showing approval of the P.L.A. He wrote :—
The Port of London Authority was established by Mr. Lloyd George some years ago to enable the capitalists of the Port to have the advantages of public credit and to do for themselves collectively what they and a number of private companies had been unable to do with success individually. . . . The Port of London Authority is a capitalistic Soviet . . . the constitution of which is thoroughly objectionable from the Labour and Socialist point of view, and which has certainly not been as friendly to the workers of the Port of London as it might have been.
In face of the actual legislation carried out and proposed by the Labour Government, it is difficult to understand how its members can still believe that they are moving towards Socialism. Once in office they have found, as we foretold, that the capitalist system cannot be run except upon principles which, save in matters of detail, are the same as those which guided the Conservatives and Liberals when they were in office. To retain capitalism is a practicable policy, although an unsatisfactory one from a working class standpoint. To abolish capitalism and establish Socialism will be practicable as soon as the working class have been won over to Socialism. The Labour Party has sought to justify a third policy, which is that of trying to abolish the evils of capitalism while keeping the system itself. Events are proving that the task is an impossible one.