Editorial from the July 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard
The recent manifesto by James Maxton (Chairman of the I.L.P.) and A. J. Cook (Miners’ Secretary) has received much notice in the Press, but only of a sensational kind.
The manifesto calls for a fight against the Capitalist system, but both the signers are supporters of the Labour Party, which has done its best to maintain and carry on the Capitalist system.
They claim that there has been a serious departure from the views of the founders of the Labour Party, such as Keir Hardie, but no evidence of that is offered or can be offered. Keir Hardie, Macdonald and other prominent leaders did not carry out a war against Capitalism and in favour of Socialism, but always stood for a long programme of reforms which would leave the system intact. Even in the early days of the Labour Party they ridiculed the principle of the Class Struggle, which lies at the root of the Socialist Movement—and the leadership, the policy and the programme of the Labour Party still ignore and gloss over the Class Conflict.
Cook and Maxton refer, with pride, to the thirty years’ work of the Labour Party, which they claim is now being destroyed. What is the thirty years’ work of the Labour Party? It is not as Cook and Maxton claim—work against the present economic system. For nearly thirty years the Labour Party have been recruiting the working class for a policy so much in harmony with the Liberals that several times they have called upon the workers to back up Lloyd George, Asquith and Co. in their Capitalist policies. Budget agitations. House of Lords’ Reform, Land Taxes, and similar anti-Socialist planks have been the common programme of Liberals and Labour. So much so, that to-day the Labour and. Independent Labour Parties’ cry is that the Liberal Industrial Report has been largely compiled from Labour’s Programme.
The Labour Government of 1924, endorsed by the I.L.P., is another example of what Maxton and Cook call, the “thirty years' work” against Capitalism. A Labour Government, maintained by Liberals, to carry on Capitalist policies!
What is the alternative suggested by those two advocates of the Labour Party? Simply that we should return to the policy of Keir Hardie and other founders of the Labour Party. This parade of sentiment about the pioneers ignores the fact that their policy was not Socialism, but actually so directly opposed to the Class Struggle of the workers that these "pioneers,” including Keir Hardie, supported the World War of 1914—a logical result of the anti-working class attitude of these alleged pioneers.
The objection raised by Maxton to the Mond Industrial Peace Conference ignores the fact that a majority of those taking part in the Conference with Mond and other employers are members of the I.L.P., and no action has been taken by the I.L.P. to expel or to repudiate them. A. J. Cook’s objection to the Mond Peace inference is not one of principle. More than once the journal of his supporters (the Communist Party)—The Workers' Life—has denounced Cook’s statement that he would not mind if only the Conference was representative of both sides, and had power to act.
At the Keir Hardie Memorial Demonstration, at Old Cumnock on Sunday, June 24th, Maxton defended the "Living Wage” Policy of the I.L.P., and completely ignored the fact that the "Living Wage” Campaign was simply a programme for the maintenance of Capitalism, with a series of minimum wage laws similar to the Trade Board’s Acts which legalise "sweating.”
There is nothing revolutionary in a policy which proposes to tax the employers in order to relieve slightly the employers' industrial victims.
It may be good election propaganda on the Clyde to talk vaguely about fighting Capitalism, but neither Maxton nor Cook have ever been prepared to lay down a Socialist Policy. They may be very useful to entice into the Labour Party those who are hoping that new leaders mean real changes. The workers, however, will still have to learn that new leaders and new catchwords do not take the place of sound knowledge and a Socialist Policy.