Monday, October 23, 2017

"Temporising and Reactionary" (1906)

From the November 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Prominent S.D.F. Member's Criticism of S.D.F. Methods.

133, Goswell-road, E.C.

To the Editor, The Socialist Standard.

Dear Comrade

Could you please find room in your forthcoming issue of the Standard for the following letter of resignation of my membership of the S.D.F., addressed to Comrade F. B. Buckeridge of the Southampton Branch, S.D.F. I have cancelled all my lecture engagements with the S.D.F. branches.
Yours fraternally,

P.S.—I should be obliged to be supplied with a membership form of the S.P.G.B.

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133, Goswell-road. E.C.

To Comrade F. B. Buckeridge,
St. Andrew’s-road. Southampton.

Dear Comrade.

I had delayed writing to you before, with regard to your request that I should lecture for you on September 9th. next, because I wanted to give you an answer in the affirmative. 1 have, however, after a careful study of the position. come to the conclusion that the S.D.F., mistaking numbers for efficiency and popularity for sound economics, is not a workers’ party. I regret, therefore, that I can no longer speak from the S.D.F. platform; and shall at once resign my membership, and as soon as possible settle my dues to my branch, thus leaving the party in an honourable manner. I shall apply to the Socialist Party of Great Britain for membership.
Yours fraternally,
Guy A. Aldred.

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133, Goswell-road. E.C.

To the Editor, The Socialist Standard.

Dear Comrade,

After having been, during my membership of the S.D.F., one of the most vigorous opponents of the Party of winch the Standard is the organ, and having opposed that Party's Principles in a debate with Comrade Fitzgerald, I feel I owe an explanation to your readers for having accepted its principles, even though 1 may not be allowed to join its ranks. As a matter of fact, however, my acceptance of the revolutionary principles for the inculcation of which your organisation alone among Socialist organisations avowedly stands, represents the maturity of those ideas that first led me to join the S.D.F., and, subsequently, in disgust, to throw up Parliamentary correspondence for Justice. I now see quite clearly that a revisionist policy is incompatible with a revolutionary policy and it is because of that fact that the S.D.F. is so unsatisfactory an organisation. I have got about a good deal among its rank-and-file during my membership and I was surprised to find two distinct sets of feelings existing among its members. On the one hand there were the frankly revolutionary spirits, good, earnest, and sincere comrades; on the other, tame revisionists and mere social reformers. This being so, the organisation, as such, could have no policy, and hence could not be "class-conscious.” Now, Comrade, in the past I have accused your Party of merely mouthing the Class War, and have stated that I could do that on the S.D.F. platform. There may be an element of truth in that, but further study has revealed to me this fact, that if I speak on the S,D.F. platform I ought to subscribe to its constitution; and if I did so subscribe, I should have to subscribe to temporising and reactionary political "tactics” such as find practical expression in the case of Mr. W. Thorne, M.P. I cannot honestly do so and preach the Class War; so. although not yet a member of the S.P.G.B. 1 feel I can no longer honestly mount the S.D.F. platform as a supporter of S.D.F. tactics. Again; recently I initiated a correspondence in Justice on why Socialists could not philosophically believe in the capricious effects of prayer nor be Christians. Justice indulges in the old cant about "private religious belief.” This betrays a desire to negate Marxian economics and philosophic Socialism in order to secure the support of “class-conscious Socialists ” save the mark ! —like the Rev. Conrad Noel. No! Socialism is not to be established, the workers are not to be emancipated by the revisionist and respectable tactics of official S.D.F.ers. Only when the workers have realised the meaning of class-consciousness will they be emancipated. Meanwhile the class-controllers may be depended upon to delude by granting palliative "reforms” to soften the suffering occasioned by capitalistic and class-control of the necessities of existence.

Just now I am I booked up for several engagements with comrades in the S.D.F. I admire and respect for their devotion to the cause of working-class emancipation, a devotion wrongly employed in the interest of the revisionists at the head of the S.D.F. 1 find it hard to cut myself adrift from these colleagues ; but I feel I must be true to myself.

In conclusion, therefore, Comrade, let me thank those comrades of the S.P.G.B. who have so persistently brought under my notice the logic of the revolutionary position and also the official abuses existing in the S.D.F. Whatever the future may have in store for me, I shall remember, with gratitude, the services they have rendered me. Thanking you in anticipation, Yours fraternally,
Guy A. Aldred.
(Late Parliamentary Correspondent to Justice.)

{Subsequent to the receipt of the foregoing an article by our correspondent appeared in Justice which conveyed the impression that the writer had not clearly apprehended the position of the S.P.G.B. He was written on the subject by the General Secretary of the Party and the following reply was received.}

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133, Goswell-rd, E.C.

To Comrade W. Gifford,
Gen. Sec., S.P.G.B.

Dear Comrade,

Your letter of the l4th inst to hand. In reply, I would beg to state that the letter that appeared in Justice above my name was sent some days previous to the letter I addressed to the Southampton S.D.F. and a copy of which I addressed to you. At the same time as I addressed this copy to you I addressed another copy of the same letter to the editor of Justice, and it is this letter to which reference is made in the editorial comment. When I noticed this fact I addressed a further letter of complaint to the editor of Justice ; but was informed, by Comrade A. A. Watts, in the communication I enclose, that Quelch could not publish it. These are the facts.

Coming to my attitude at the present time. Briefly. it is this: Socialism, standing for the complete revolution of the present state of Society, can only be realised when the proletariat are educated up to class-consciousness and are thus able to obtain their own emancipation. In the meantime, it is unnecessary for Socialists to ask for or to seek to obtain palliatives, since the directing of attention to these palliatives must inevitably divert attention away from the end at which we aim. .Socialism is therefore opposed, not only to both capitalist parties, but also to the humbug of the present Labour Party; the existence of a Parliamentary Labour Party without a Socialist programme and a Socialist proletariat being more or less a farce. Furthermore, seeing that Trade-Unionism tends to perpetuate the present system, and by its standing for a minimum wage, tends to play into the hands of the Capitalistic Class who need but reply by increasing the cost of the necessities of existence, Socialism must attack and denounce it as being ineffective, and tending to create an aristocracy of labour, since the unskilled do not and cannot benefit by its workings, so long as Capitalism endures. I stand therefore, for anti-revisionism, anti-palliationism, and clear and straightforward revolutionary Socialist propaganda; and am opposed to voting for either Liberal or Tory party under any circumstances. I am also opposed to the placarding of any district with bills, by a Socialist candidate for either municipal or Parliamentary office that would lead other than class conscious electors to vote for such a candidate. I also feel that many members of the S.D.F. do not understand economics. These facts notwithstanding, I have withdrawn my resignation, since 1 feel that to leave under present circumstances would be of no service to the cause. Among S.D.F.-ers it would be thought that I had been “huffed” into resignation over the religious question, whilst it seems to me that the S.P.G.B. comrades would be doubtful about my sincerity. I also find that whilst the rank and file of the S.D.F. includes many tame and inane revisionists, it also includes many avowed revolutionaries. I also find that there is nothing in the constitution forbidding one to preach revolutionary, clear-cut Socialism. Rather than be misunderstood, I propose to use the S.D.F platform for placing before members these revolutionary ideas, and where it brings me in conflict with other members to, without hesitation, oppose these members; then, if I am expelled, members and comrades will be in no doubt as to the reason of my expulsion. So far as organised representation is concerned, I will only add that, in my opinion, the S.P.G.B. embodies, in its constitution, the best organised expression of class-conscious Socialism. But under present circumstances, although I gain nothing by so doing, I believe, in order that I may not be misunderstood, it is best for me to at present expound clear-cut and uncompromising "impossibilism" on the S.D.F. platform.

With best wishes, and giving you full permission to publish this correspondence. I remain, fraternally yours,
Guy A. Aldred

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Twentieth Century Press. Ltd.
37a, Clerkenwell Green,
London E.C

Sept. 10th, 1906.
Dear Comrade

H. Quelch asks me to write round to you to say he cannot publish your letter.

Regarding your later note, respecting the article on Egypt, he would he very pleased to have it if you will send it in.
Fraternally yours,
A. A. WATTS. Sec.


ajohnstone said...

I believe Guy Aldred much later in life tried to deny that he ever sought membership of the SPGB

Imposs1904 said...

I believe there was some correspondence - or at least some ill-tempered articles - in the Standard and The Word (Aldred's paper) on that very subject in the 50s. I guess I'll get round to putting them on the net soon enough.

I understand that he didn't stick around in the SDF for long after the above correspondence.