Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A. J. Cook Returns To The Fold (1929)

From the April 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Last year Mr. Arthur Cook joined with Mr. Maxton in publishing a document called “Our Case,” in which these two “rebels” explained their dissatisfaction with the Labour Party.

In “Our Case” they made it perfectly clear that, in their view, the Labour Party’s programme is not a Socialist programme. On page 17, they say :—
“Does the new Labour Party Programme aim at the speedy transfer to the State, under the control of the workers, of the great basic industries of the country, and the development of these industries towards a Socialistic system of production for use? Not in our opinion. If every measure in the Labour Party Programme was carried, then we would not have Socialism but rationalised capitalism, in which the main industries of the country remain in the hands of the exploiting capitalist class, supplemented by State ownership of the transport, electricity supply and coal-producing services with a view to giving the owners of capitalist industry a cheaper service in respect of transport and power.”
On page 23 they continue with their denunciation of the Labour programme :—
“We believe that the Labour Party should scrap its existing programme and develop a vigorous Socialist Programme. That is our case, and we leave it to the working class to judge whether it is a good one or not. We do not enter upon this campaign light-heartedly, but having entered upon it we mean to go through with it to the end. We are engaged in no merely emotional campaign. If the workers accept our policy then they must work to make it the policy of the Labour Movement by electing to positions of trust those who support this vigorous Socialist policy. The fight within the Labour Movement to-day is a fight between the forces of Socialism and those who have fallen under the influence of capitalism." (Our italics.)
Since the writing of that pamphlet no essential change has occurred in the economic or political situation, nor in the contents of the Labour Party’s programme. Yet we find Mr. Cook writing in the “Miner” (March 9th, 1929) as follows:-
The only Party whom we can look to for help and support in time of need' and trouble is our own Labour Party, which is pledged to repeal the Eight Hour Act, amend the Compensation Act, secure pensions at 60, raise the school age, institute a minimum wage and safety in the mines, with a practical scheme for the nationalisation of the mines, minerals and by-products. We know this cannot be accomplished in the twinkling of an eye, but will take time, but they are the only Party who can and will do it. Therefore it is the bounden duty of all of us to put on one side disagreements or personal differences and work for a majority Labour Government at the next General Election.
Mr. Cook calls himself a socialist, yet he tells us that the only party deserving of working-class support is that party whose programme, in his own words, means “rationalised capitalism.” Naturally, Mr. Cook’s change of front has brought on his head wild denunciations and charges of “treachery” from the communists who so recently were backing him. But in truth it is not Mr. Cook’s lack of knowledge of the elementary principles of socialism which is the real source of injury to the working class, nor his quite natural inability to resist the pressure of his colleagues even when he vaguely sees the unsoundness of their policies. The real source of danger is the state of mind among the working class which permits them to put their trust in the Cooks, or the Baldwins, or any other political leader, and for this the communists who now direct their man-hunt against Cook are as much responsible as any one. The power for harm of Mr. Cook or any leader depends directly upon the amount of trust placed in him. Those who teach the working class to trust in leaders are thereby preparing the ground in which are sown harvests of treachery or disillusion. If Mr. Cook had no following of people in the habit of placing implicit and uncritical trust in his judgments, his change of front would have no particular significance. As it is, however, those who have followed Cook in the past will now either follow him again and give their support to the Labour Programme, or perhaps allow their disappointment to disgust them with any kind of political activity. Our method, and the only effective method of building up a genuine socialist party, is to base our organisation on socialist knowledge, and the clear grasp of socialist principles by each member. Such a party is incapable of being harmed by the defection of individuals due to whatever cause.
Edgar Hardcastle

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