Editorial from the February 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard
We are on the eve of great events—at least, Mr. Garvin, of the Observer, says we are!
“The reason is that to-morrow in this country will see the end of the last purely Conservative Government—none of the same name is ever likely to exist again—and will instal the first Socialist Government in its place."
We really must take exception to this constant tying of the labels “Socialist” and “Marxian” to the Labour Party. It is not fair. Mr. 'Ramsay MacDonald has frequently pointed out that the Labour members are thorough gentlemen, that they do not propose to disturb seriously existing relations, and that “moral flourishes” will be one of the principal weapons. And is not Dr. Addison one of their pillars?
Anyone in doubt about the policy to be pursued by the Labour Government can obtain fruitful information from the columns of the New Leader. In the issue of January 4th they make the following remarks, under the heading, “ Labour’s Agenda: Suggestions Invited ” :—
“All of us are discussing the items which may find a place in Labour’s programme, when it takes office, as it almost certainly will, before the end of this month. Everyone understands that many of the bigger changes to which we are committed are excluded by the composition of this House or by the conditions of national finance. As to the main lines of our policy, there is no doubt or division of opinion. We must (1) substitute work for doles, which involves a Housing scheme; (2) recognise Russia and bring to suffering Germany the promptest rescue we can devise; (3) clear up the dangerous tangle over oil, stop the Singapore dock, and drop the territorial claim to Mosul; (4) apply our Labour policy to the urgent case of agriculture as fully as the House will allow."
Can anyone, with even the most powerful microscope, find anything Socialist in these “main lines’’? Capitalism, the present social system, involves the private ownership by the capitalists of the means of wealth production and signifies the enslavement of the propertyless workers, the mass of the population. Socialism involves the common ownership, by the whole of the population, of the means of production, and signifies the end of slavery. The change from Capitalism to Socialism is a revolutionary one and admits of no piecemeal policy. The “main lines” of Socialist action, therefore, are revolutionary ones, definitely laid out to uproot the capitalistic foundations of the existing social system.
The attempt by Garvin and others to identify the ideas of Socialism with the Labour Party’s policy is a convenient method of curbing the workers’ desire for freedom and increasing the Confusion already existing. The tendency of the workers to see in capitalism the real source of their miseries is dangerous from the point of view of the upholders of the present system. Garvin and his kind are astute, so they endeavour to fix the workers’ attention upon the Labour Party as the representatives of the new social idea. In due course the Labour Party will fail at the same obstacles—unemployment, and so forth—as the older parties. The Garvin group will then point triumphantly to this failure as an illustration of the incapacity of Socialism to solve economic problems. They bank on the idea that disappointment will breed apathy. This is one reason why we are so anxious to dispel any illusions the workers may have about the advantages to be expected from a Labour Government.
The Labour Party is not a Socialist body, and it repudiates the views of Marx. It is a snare set for dissatisfied but unwary workers.