Monday, January 23, 2017

Letters to the Editors: Aloof from the Workers (1967)

Letter to the Editors from the April 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sir: 

You state that the SPGB is not “aloof" from the working class movement. In effect, you say that the SPGB is the working class movement in Britain. This is obviously not the case.

Generally, the SPGB is regarded as Utopianist. And no wonder. The SPGB prejudges all organisations, without first having any real contact with them. This cuts two ways. Even if organisations do not start out as Socialist, the presence in them of persons of left-wing opinions can transform either the organisation concerned, or some members thereof. Anyway, if it becomes obvious to a Socialist party that an organisation to which it is affiliated cannot possibly become Socialist itself, then that party would be perfectly at liberty to disaffiliate.

The classic case of this was when the Labour Representation Committee was formed in 1900. Many organisations joined up with the LRC, in order to further their own non-Socialist aims. The Independent Labour Party joined in the hope of forwarding the progress towards Socialism. After years of dedicated struggle for Socialism, which brought a heap of anger and retribution upon its head, the ILP finally realised that it had been “had”. It disaffiliated from the Labour Party in 1932, after the Macdonald betrayal. At least the ILP has had a bash— and even today has the respect of a large minority of working class people.

Let the SPGB start off by contacting the Independent Labour Party, the true Socialist Party.
George Curtis (Wolverhampton)


Reply: 
The passage our correspondent refers to (Socialist Standard, February 1967) was in a letter which accused us of standing aloof from “main stream politics” — not the working class movement. Our reply said, “The Socialist Party, far from standing aloof, is actively working for Socialism”.

What is the working class movement in Britain? If it is the political movement which at present has mass working class support, then we make no claim to be in it. What we do assert is that, as the only organisation to stand for Socialism, we alone represent working class interests on the political field.

Of course this is regarded by many workers as Utopian —but then so is the ILP. And perhaps here they are nearer the mark; after all, Mr. Curtis writes to us urging us to affiliate with other political organisations, and then gives us an excellent example of the futility of doing just that.

It would have been better if our correspondent had given us some examples of our prejudging organisations without having any contact with them. The fact is that our opposition to other parties is always based on our examination of their policies and their records. If we decide that an organisation is Socialist in its principles, as we recently decided in the case of our new companion party in Austria, then we are only too happy to welcome another member of the Socialist international fraternity.

The present Labour government provides a good example of what happens to “persons of left-wing opinions” and shows how (even if they wanted to) they cannot transform organisations. There are many Labour ministers, once the hopes of the left-wing, now complacently applying Wilson’s policies.

Another example is the very betrayal Mr. Curtis mentions. Many members of the 1931 Labour government, including Macdonald and Snowden, were once left wingers and were, indeed, leaders of the 1LP.

It is clearly time for Mr. Curtis to ask himself why this sort of disappointment is always happening to left wingers but never to the Socialist Party of Gt. Britain. The reason is simple.

A Socialist party does not become involved in alliances and compromises with capitalist organisations. Parties like the Labour Party and the 1LP, which dabble in capitalist reformism, are not and cannot be Socialist. The Socialist Party opposes such parties. It does not fall for the promises and the vanities of leaders, whichever “wing” they play on.

Anyone who wants to abolish the capitalist social system should not waste their time trying to alter the basic nature of capitalist organisations. Their place is in the Socialist Party, helping with the work for Socialism.
Editorial Committee

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