Tuesday, June 6, 2017

General Election: Manifesto of The Socialist Party (1910)

From the January 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

FELLOW MEMBERS OF THE WORKING CLASS,
Unlike the usual election manifesto, this is addressed to those who have not a vote as well as to those who have. Its object is to gain, not your vote, but your understanding. You think, perhaps, that the choice now before you is only between the various candidates clamouring for your support. But there is, as we shall show, another alternative that follows logically and inevitably from the position of the working class. And since a knowledge of this position is essential to intelligent political action, we shall deal briefly with it first, and ask you in consequence to give it a moment’s attention.

WHAT IS YOUR POSITION?
It is your lot to toil for a master while you can, and to starve quietly when you cannot. When you are in work to-day, you toil harder, and produce enormously more than ever before, — yet your wage barely suffices for your maintenance. Unemployment, with all the misery it entails upon you and those dependent upon you, dogs your footsteps. Of the total produce of your labour an increasing portion goes to an idle class, while, though you make all the good things, you are forced to consume the cheapest rubbish. Why is this?

Are you poor because there is not abundance of the necessaries of life? Is it because the means of producing them are insufficient, or because there are not willing hands to labour? No. There are hosts of willing labourers. And the instruments of labour become every day more perfect and more productive. Surely, then, with marvellous labour-saving machines and huge waste-saving combines, there should be increased wealth and leisure for all. Why, then, is it that wealth and leisure are only for a class, while poverty and arduous toil are the lot of the producers ?

You have noticed that when a labour-saving machine is introduced into a factory to-day, men are thrown out of work to starve. The toil and insecurity of those who remain in employ are increased, while only the owner of that machine reaps the benefit. Clearly, however, if those who produce owned the machine, the result would be entirely different; there would be shorter hours of labour and higher remuneration for them. It is, consequently, not the machine that injures us, but the ownership of it by the non-producer. Because the workers do not own and control the land and industrial machinery they are the hirelings of those who do own these things, and must sell their bodily energy to them. Thus the propertyless are compelled to cede to the capitalist class the whole product of their labour over and above their maintenance. That is why, so long as class ownership continues, greater poverty for the working class will accompany the increasing wealth and productivity of society.

The abolition of unemployment and the brightening of the workers’ lives can. consequently, only come with the abolition of wage-slavery and of class ownership in the instruments of production. The means for producing wealth must be restored to the workers; and this, to-day, can only be done collectively. This collective ownership and democratic control of industry scientifically organised is SOCIALISM.

And while there is admittedly no other remedy for unemployment and poverty, there is also no way to Socialism except by means of the conquest of political power by a Socialist working class. Your rulers expend huge sums to retain their control of Government in order to maintain and extend their exploitation. And in advancing to the conquest of the political machinery, we shall, consequently, always find the capitalist class our implacable enemy. As in the past, each side will struggle for its interests as it understands them, and the interests of the working class being diametrically opposed to those of all the capitalists, no quarter can be expected or given. Any alliance or compromise with capitalists in the political struggle can only be a working class surrender. Hence the supreme importance of adhering consistently to the fundamental Socialist principle of the CLASS STRUGGLE. For it is only when the wealth-producers control political power— only when the workers are victorious — that the work of transforming the means of production from ruthless instruments of profit for a few into the means of healthy life for all, can begin.

In the light of these facts let us examine the political parties which are begging for your support during the present election, taking first

THE TORY PARTY.
Tariff Reform, say the Conservatives, is just what you need. It will relieve the admittedly terrible unemployed evil, will improve the lot of the worker and increase his wages. These and similar Tory statements can only be described as “frigid and calculated lies.’" The position of the worker as outlined above holds good of every capitalist country, whether it has Protection or Free Trade. Poverty and unemployment are rife, and tend to increase, despite temporary fluctuations, under both fiscal systems. In every country the wage of the worker has a direct relation to his cost of subsistence, but none whatever to the presence or absence of tariff walls. Tariffs, at most, benefit one set of capitalists at the expense of another, but the toilers are wage slaves exploited to the utmost all the time. The 'Tories, indeed, are frankly our enemies; they stand for the present system of robbery in all its ugliness. 'Their antagonism to working-class aims has been proclaimed from the house tops, and by supporting them the working man stultifies himself and sets a seal on his slavery. Let us now turn to

THE LIBERAL PARTY.
Equally with the Tories they stand for capitalism, and make no secret of their hostility to Socialism As Dr. Macnamara said, “Radicalism is irrevocably opposed to the principles on which Socialism is based.” [1] Mr. Asquith, Mr. Ure, and Mr. Churchill have been equally definite. Take the present Budget over which so much bother is being made. The increased expenditure is due, above all, to huge armaments for the protection of capitalist interests and property. It is a Budget of exploitation. Its disputed taxes have been advocated by Tories, and are in operation in other countries with no benefit to the workers. The only valid grounds for the Tory objections are the exigencies of party politics, and the possibility that the new sources of revenue may postpone the necessity for a tax on imports.

Mr. Lloyd George rightly summed up the overdone Tory opposition and showed what the Budget really is when he said [2]
   When I come along and say to the landlord: “Here, the State wants money to protect you and your property your landyour mansionyour rights your privileges: we want money to protect you; you must pay ,£15 out of £150 —they say Robber!"
And do they intend to abolish the House of Lords? Mr. Asquith said: [3]
   You will be told that the issue lies between government by two chambers and government by a single chamber. That is not the case. I myself, and I believe a large majority of the Liberal party are in favour of what is called a bi-cameral system.
Thus the Liberals do not intend, and, indeed, never have intended, to abolish the House of Lords. That institution is regarded by the capitalist class as a great bulwark of the “rights of property," and any reform of the Upper House, put forward by the Lords themselves, the Tories, or the Liberals, can only result in strengthening it against the people. The Liberal party would, moreover, be impossible without the Lords as a foil. It is their perpetual election cry and universal excuse for broken promises. Indeed, while pretending to protest against usurpation, the Liberals have deliberately canceled new privileges. After saying that to dissolve at the dictation of the Lords would be to capitulate, they have deliberately capitulated. Instead of making use of the undoubted rights of the Commons, or using the power which Lord Courtney [4] has shown that the Government possesses over the Lords, the Liberals have given the Upper House the powerful precedents and privileges of rejecting a Budget and compelling a dissolution; precedents which even the ultimate passing of the present finance bill will neither destroy nor weaken. Even the Church Times was moved to remark that “There is only one true description of the situation—ministers have capitulated to the House of Lords." [5] It is seemingly part of a great conspiracy to strengthen the Upper Chamber and humbug the people. There is every reason, therefore, why your attitude toward Liberal candidates should be one of uncompromising hostility.

But we have not quite finished with the Liberal party. There is still a section of it which claims our attention. We refer to

THE LABOUR PARTY.
(which includes the so-called Independent Labour Party). The Labour M.P.s cannot be completely separated from the Liberals in politics, for their political independence is non-existent. “My Budget," says Mr. Lloyd George. “My Budget," says Mr. Philip Snowden. [6] They are "whole heartedly" for the capitalists’ Budget. And it is amusing to find them trying to assure the murmuring rank and file that no understanding with the Liberals exists, in face of the withdrawal of “Labour" men in favour of Liberals, and of Liberals in favour of “Labour" men. One does not. of course, expect to find a written compact. It might become awkward evidence while, as the Times says. “With friends who understand each other so well it is unnecessary.” [7] Quite so. The compromise of the last General Election, in fact, is being repeated on a more complete scale.

The legislatively impotent “Labour” members claim as theirs measures passed by the Liberal majority, and are now engaged in booming the bogus agitation over the Lords and the Budget, and in rallying the workers once more to the support of the Liberal section of the exploiting class.

That there is no Socialism in the “Labour” group is proven by the welcome given them by the anti-Socialist Liberals. Mr. Churchill said: [8]
   Don't let there be any division in our ranks at this juncture. I know that the Lords and their backers are counting on divisions between Liberal and Labour But I think they are likely to be a little bit mistaken.
Several of the newer candidates have been speaking plainly of the pressure brought to bear on them to force them to retire in favour of the Liberals. Mr. Vernon Hartshorn made a vigorous protest. He said : [9]
  I would have gone on in spite of this, but I have been reluctantly compelled, from circumstances of a very personal kind, to conclude that the whole machinery of the Labour Party throughout the country is under the control of the Liberals, and as the latter did not approve of a fight in Mid-Glamorgan, the former are left with no option but to submit to their masters, and I am left with no option but to surrender.
Of such is the “Independence” of the “Labour” Party. The workers pay the piper and their misters call the tune!

There is, however, another organisation, which need not be given a distinct heading We refer to the SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY. This organisation talks of the Class Struggle, but denies it by its every political act. and does not otherwise differ from the “Labour” Party, which it jealously emulates. One of their number. Mr. Will Thorne, was elected in 1906 as a “Labour” member under the auspices of the Labour Party, and is a candidate now under similar conditions. In the present instance the political worthlessness of the S.D.P. may be gauged by the fact that in their official organ, while they denounce the campaign against the Lords as a mere "stage fight,” and assert that the “ Liberals do not wish to abolish the veto of the Lords,” on another page they publish as leading article “A Plea for Unity,” in which they say : [10]
   We are inclined to accede to the claim of ministerial journals and politicians that in the present contest we should be content to waive every other consideration and make the question of the House of Lords the supreme issue, and therefore avoid on this occasion all division of the forces which might be arrayed against the House of Lords. We are all for showing an undivided front against them.

And they conclude this touching appeal by suggesting to the Liberals that they refrain from opposing their candidates and help to get them returned. If the S.D.P. has not “got on” it is not because it has any principles that stand in the way. It “waives every other consideration," including every vestige of Socialist principle, in order to get into Parliament, and offers to aid the Liberals in what it confesses to be a bogus agitation.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
It is evident that from your standpoint as wage-workers none of the foregoing parties is worthy of your support. Not by voting for any of them could you strike a blow for your class. Indeed, from the position laid down it is obvious that the only party you should support must be in direct contrast with these parties. Your party should be democratic. It should have Socialism as its programme and the Class Struggle as its guiding principle. Its candidates should be controlled by the rank and file. It should devote its energies to converting the workers to Socialism, and to organising them for the conquest of political power for its realisation. It should never compromise with capitalist parties, and should refuse to barter away the workers’ salvation for crumbs that profit not. 'That is the party that you should support, and for its candidates alone could you logically vote. Only one party answers to that description in this country—the SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN. But since the ground must be well tilled before the good harvest can be reaped, that party is putting no candidates forward during the present election. Even the poverty which impedes the activity of the working- class party is in itself only a reflex of the present unreadiness of the electorate. Therefore the principles of Socialism must be more widely propagated and the workers more fully organised, before candidates of the Socialist Party can usefully enter the Parliamentary arena. And if you agree that your position is as we have outlined it; if you realise that your policy must be distinct from and hostile to all capitalist politics, and that Socialism alone can help your class, then it is your duty to join the Socialist Party and take a democratic share in its work; thus advancing the day—not far distant—when it will place its own candidates— your candidates—in the Parliamentary field to wage uncompromisingly the fight for Socialism. But until you can thus vote for yourselves and strike a blow against exploitation, it is clearly your duty to ABSTAIN FROM VOTING.

To do otherwise would be to-stultify yourselves and to support the system that crushes you. Go to the ballot box by all means, but only to write Socialism across your voting paper; for if you cannot vote now for what you want, it is folly to vote for what you do not want. The vote, like the razor, is an instrument for a purpose. If you cannot for the moment use it to your advantage, it is madness to cut your throat. And by voting for your enemies, for traitors and charlatans, you are surely cutting your throat.

Above all, however, whether you have a vote or not, realise how much depends upon you and how much remains to be done. A vote, even for a candidate of the Socialist Party, is of no value unless it expresses a Socialist consciousness. Understanding must precede action, for Socialism is impossible until the workers become class-conscious Socialists. There is, therefore, work for you to do. There are outlets for your energy infinitely more profitable to your class than voting for the defenders of exploitation. The army of Socialism must be recruited, and your place is within the ranks of the organisation of your class, taking your part in the battle for the emancipation of your fellows from wage-slavery.
                             THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF 
                                     THE  SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN

NOTES
[1] Daily Chronicle, Oct. 21.
[2] Carnavon (italics are ours).
[3] Albert Hall, Dec. 10.
[4] House of Lords, Nov. 30.
[5] Quoted Daily Chronicle, Dec. 6.
[6] Portsmouth Dec. 3.
[7] Dec. 9.
[8] Crewe, Dec. 9.
[9] Quoted Daily Mail, Dec. 8.
[10] Justice, Dec. 11 (italics are ours).


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