From the March 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard
The following reference to the S.P.G.B. was published in the December issue of “The Word” which describes itself as “an organ of the United Socialist Movement, edited and published by Guy A. Aldred.”
“There is also the attitude of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, who issued a manifesto urging people not to vote until everyone had joined the S.P.G.B. or became a Socialist. This curious attitude— which approaches Anarchism—was the result of the 1950 experience at the ballot-box. Carefully analysed, the attitude of the S.P.G.B is seen to be one of futility and hypocrisy. Instead of uniting at this time of crisis in a stand against war and rearmament, which could have been done without a single sacrifice of principle and actually with a great advantage to the propaganda status of the S.P.G.B., members of this stupid and stagnant party wrote ‘S.P.G.B.' across their ballot papers.”
Mr. Alfred, who contested Glasgow Central constituency in October, 1951, is angry because the S.P.G.B. did not support him. He described himself as a “Peace and Independent Socialist” candidate.
Let us deal first with the several inaccuracies in his statements. Of course the S.P.G.B. did not issue a manifesto “urging people not to vote until everyone had joined the S.P.G.B. or became a Socialist.”
The S.P.G.B. does not commit the absurdity of advising non-Socialists how to vote or the equal absurdity of telling Socialists who know it already, that Socialist votes should go only in support of Socialism and that it is useless to vote for Capitalism. What our Manifesto did—a very different thing from Aldred’s misrepresentation—was to point out to Socialists and to nobody else that in the absence of S.P.G.B. candidates “you will be able to register your vote for Socialism by writing ‘Socialism’ across the ballot paper. This will serve to advertise the number of those who have realised that the use of the vote to support any other candidate no matter how he describes himself, is a vote for capitalism.”
Then Mr. Aldred tells his readers that this “curious” S.P.G.B. attitude “was the result of its 1950 experience at the ballot-box.”
The S.P.G.B. was doing this right from its formation in 1904, which means that it was doing it at the time when Mr. Aldred applied for membership of the S.P.G.B., and in 1928 when he offered to give his support to S.P.G.B. candidates on certain conditions. And although he calls it “curious” he has himself in the past committed the decidedly curious action of standing as an “anti-Parliamentary” Parliamentary candidate, and in the article from which we quote he declares that abstaining from voting “is sound expression of both Socialist and Anarchist principles.” If it is sound Socialist principle to vote for Socialism or to abstain from voting (two views which Aldred professes to agree with) it is hard to see why the S.P.G.B. line should strike him as curious.
But then consistency was never Aldred’s strong point. In his article he calls the S.P.G.B. “stupid and stagnant” but declares that he wanted our “stupid and stagnant” support, and that if it had been given, “ a Peace vote . . . at Central Glasgow, would have been a tremendous event” It recalls his declaration in 1928 (“The Commune” July, 1928), when, after denouncing the S.P.G.B. (quite falsely) for advocating “the nationalisation of the l.L.P. under which the wage-labourer remains a wage-labourer,” be offered to support S.P.G.B. candidates at elections; but not on the condition that we abandoned our purely imaginary advocacy of nationalisation, but on the condition that we pledged ourselves to challenge the oath of allegiance!
Elsewhere in Aldred’s article in “The Word” he tries to explain his own policy and his attitude to the Labour Party, I.L.P., Communist Party and Anarchists, a group which for some curious reason he believes to represent “ the Socialist and working-class organisation of the country.”
His chief complaint is that they “substituted Toryism for Capitalism, as the enemy.” It seems to have surprised as well as angered him. But anyone who imagines that the above-named group ever stood for the abolition of capitalism and who can describe them as “Socialist” is capable of being surprised at any normal demonstration of their anti-working class activities.
He even falls for the nonsense of supposing that the Communist Party which runs capitalism in Russia is all right, and it is only their communist stooges in Britain who are no good. He writes: “Surely it is time that the Communists in the Soviet countries realised what a worthless, inept and inadequate bunch the Communist Party is in Britain.”
How the Russian Communist Party would laugh at such simplicity.
And while Aldred takes these other parties to task for lighting Toryism instead of lighting capitalism (as if they didn’t know that their chances of getting elected depended on doing just that!) he himself does the same by substituting “war and rearmament” as the enemy, instead of capitalism. He writes:—“I stood for the recognition of Communist China and the Five Power Peace Pact.” He wanted “Unity on the part of the Pacifist and Socialist thinking groups,” and “a Peace vote, a definite anti-war vote.”
Since he attaches so much importance to the recognition of Capitalist China why didn’t he support the Labour Party which gave that recognition over a year ago, or even the Tory Party which made no statement about rescinding it? If he waits long enough he will probably find Tories and Labourites uniting to support more Five Power Peace Pacts (or 25 Power Peace Pacts), and all the Capitalist Powers including Russia and China getting together to cut the cost of armaments—and of course capitalism all over the world will be as strong as ever, and just a little more firmly established through the confusion spread by people like Mr. Aldred.
*See also June 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard