Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Too Much Work (1976)

Book Review from the April 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Right to be Lazy, by Paul Lafargue. Charles H. Kerr, Chicago. New edition. $1.25.

Many people will be delighted that The Right to be Lazy has at last been reprinted. It appears at a time when “the Right to Work” is being demanded again. This was the slogan, put in currency in 1848 and persistent ever after, that Lafargue satirized. He urged the workers to raise their sights and demand something better: the right to take life easy.

The essay is part humane vision, part anger. Economists, philosophers, politicians and priests united in preaching the capitalist doctrine of “work, work, night and day”. Lafargue quotes them — and lashes the working class for acquiescing and making work its be-all. He describes the consequences the workers have brought on themselves.
Because, lending ear to the fallacious words of the economists, the proletarians have given themselves up body and soul to the vice of work, they precipitate the whole of society into these industrial crises of over-production which convulse the social organism. Then because there is a plethora of merchandise and a dearth of purchasers, the shops are closed and hunger scourges the working people with its whip of a thousand lashes . . . With pale faces, emaciated bodies, pitiful speeches they assail the manufacturers: ‘Good M. Chagot, sweet M. Schneider, give us work, it is not hunger, but the passion for work which torments us'.
The first version of The Right to be Lazy appeared in Guesde’s paper L’Egalit√© in 1880. In 1883 Lafargue, with Guesde and Dormoy, was sent to prison for six months for advocating social seizure of industries; and in prison he re-wrote it. It is not explicitly a plea for Socialism, though in the conclusion Lafargue says: “A citizen who gives his labour for money degrades himself to the rank of slaves.” He urged that the machine was “the saviour of humanity” and “the god who shall give him leisure and liberty”.

It is important to realize this view of Lafargue’s. Some commentators, uneasy at a possible gift to opponents of Socialism in the word “lazy”, have claimed that the title in its original French meant “the right to leisure”. This is not so: the title is “Le Droit √† la Paresse” — idleness — and when Lafargue means “leisure” he uses the word “loisirs”. His argument was essentially the same as Wilde’s in The Soul of Man Under Socialism, that machinery could and should do all the work. He says in The Right to be Lazy (somewhat optimistically):
Ploughing, so painful and so crippling to the labourer in our glorious France, is in the American West an agreeable open-air pastime, which he practises in a sitting posture, smoking his pipe nonchalantly.
He believed that conditions would improve for the working class if they did not, by their willingness to toil, make the human machine the cheapest one: “O, idiots, it is because you work too much that the industrial equipment develops slowly.” His assumptions about “labour-saving” under capitalism were mistaken, but that does not diminish the strength of his appeal for man to live more fully. The Right to be Lazy remains a lively attack on the mentality of capitalism, and a pointer to a future of fun and freedom.

This new edition is rather utilitarian in its production, but that is a sign of the publishing times. It has a useful historical introduction by Fred Thompson, giving an account of Lafargue’s life and the political background in nineteenth-century France. The introduction has also some interesting material about leisure in history and in the present-day world. The English price of the pamphlet (82 pages in all) is not yet known.
Robert Barltrop

Marx: According to Humpty-Dumpty (1934)

Book Review from the June 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard

What Marx Really Meant.” By G. D. H. Cole. (Gollancz, 5s. net.)
“It's a stupid name enough!” Humpty-Dumpty interrupted impatiently, “ What does it mean?" “Must a name mean something?" Alice asked doubtfully. . . . "When I use a word," Humpty-Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “ it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
Mr. G. D. H. Cole has the same impudent disregard for the ordinary meaning of words. The title of a book is usually expected to give some indication of the contents. When, therefore, a book has the title “What Marx Really Meant,” it is reasonable to assume that it will contain an account of Marx's theories. When the authority is G. D. H. Cole, however, one may wonder what are his qualifications to act as an interpreter of Marx, for he is not a Marxian, and has never given any evidence of beginning to understand Marx (even Mr. E. H. Carr, a non-Marxist, in his recently published biography of Marx, groups Cole among the pseudo-Marxians), but this does not alter one's anticipations regarding the subject-matter of a book with the title “What Marx Really Meant." In other words, the plain man will give words their plain meaning and expect to find in a book with this title a plain statement of what Marx meant. He will be sadly disappointed. There is no connection between the contents and the title. The title is a sheer catchpenny label for a book which has as little connection with Marx as it has with common-sense political understanding. The book is undiluted Cole, with Marx's name dragged in to catch the unwary.

Even Mr. Cole cannot live up to the impertinence of the title, and early explains that his book is “not meant either as an exposition or as a criticism of Marx's doctrines," but is intended “to disentangle from Marx's teaching, from what is dead or no longer appropriate what remains alive and capable of that process of growth and adaptation which is the prerogative of living things.” If that was his object, he ought to have called his book, “What Cole happens to mean—at the moment.”

He betrays a certain amount of nervousness at setting himself up as an authority on Marx, and at dragging Marx into the hotch-potch of his ideas. After asking his readers to make “due allowance for (his) shortcomings as a guide,” he attempts to forestall criticism with the following statement: —
   “Some Marxists will say that what I have been stating is not Marxism at all, but a radically different doctrine. Even if that were so, it would not matter, provided that mine was the better doctrine for to-day. But I think what I have written is in essence Marxist, in that sense in which Marxism is to-day a living force, and not the opium of the Socialist orthodox.” 
As a piece of impudent writing, this would be hard to beat.

Before dealing more in detail with the book, one other instance should be noted. Marx put forward a theory to explain the evolution of society. To that theory he gave a name, the Materialist Conception of History. He did so intentionally. He used the term materialist because that is what he meant, and Marxians have always referred to that theory by that name. Now along comes this writer of detective stories, and announces: “I shall write ‘realist' in place of 'materialist,’ for I can see no point at all in that form of servility which clings obstinately to a name.” It will easily be appreciated that after being connected with thirty different political organisations, Mr. Cole is not likely to cling obstinately to anything.

The book is a difficult one to review on account of the author’s method. He has jumbled up together his interpretation of certain of Marx's doctrines with a statement of his own political views. His aim seems to be to support those views by relating them to Marxian principles—or what he conceives; to be Marxian principles. Where he is expounding Marx he reveals such a complete lack of understanding of everything Marx wrote, that the doubt at once arises whether, notwithstanding the fact that he wrote an introduction to the Everyman edition of “Capital,” he has ever seriously read much more than the “Communist Manifesto.” It is inevitable, therefore, that what he claims to be A reading of the “signs of our times by a method which is largely that of Marx,” bears absolutely no relation to Marxian thought. No Marxian could be guilty of the errors of analysis contained in this book, while the recommendations of policy in it are, in the main, contrary to the whole of Marx's teaching.

As an example of the kind of statement in this book that raises a doubt as to whether the author is really acquainted with Marx's writings, the following may be quoted: —
  It is sometimes suggested that Marx did believe the coming of Socialism to be inevitable, and held that men could, by their conduct, only advance or delay its coming, or cause it to come in a more or less satisfactory form. It is quite possible that Marx did hold this.
If Mr. Cole knows what he is writing about, why this indefiniteness? Marx, of course, made specific statements which gave dear expression to his view. In the Communist Manifesto, he and Engels wrote:—
   The bourgeoisie produces its own gravediggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.
This passage was reproduced as a footnote to “Capital,” to which, as mentioned above, Mr. Cole wrote an introduction. (For footnote, see Everyman edition, p. 847.)

It is undoubtedly true that, as Mr. Cole states, Marx, if he had been alive and writing to-day, would not have written "exactly as he wrote in 1848, or 1859, or 1867, or 1883.” but that is no justification for claiming for non-Marxian ideas the support of Marx's name. Despite Mr. Cole's disclaimers, to suppose that Marx would have propounded the theories foisted off on him by Mr. Cole is “the rankest injustice to Marx.” Mr. Cole uses the following specious arguments for putting forward his own ideas as being related to those of Marx:—
  If the structure of classes has changed since Marx’s day, as I have tried to show that it has, the theory which Marx formulated as appropriate to the class conditions of his day can no longer be adequate to meet the needs of the present time, at all events until it has been modified and adapted in conformity with these changes. Every Marxist is compelled by his Marxism to be a “revisionist ”. . .  no Marxist can escape revisionism without denying the dialectical principle.
It is sheer sophistry to pretend that the dialectical principle which requires that things should not be treated and considered as though they were static, and insists that everything is in process of development, necessarily implies that ideas originated, say, seventy years ago, must be inapplicable to-day. In that case the dialectic view would itself be obsolete! Even if the dialectical principle did require a modification, it would not follow that revision should properly take place on the Labour Party lines followed by Mr. Cole. Further, the major premise of his argument is false. If he had properly appreciated what Marx meant by capitalists and proletariat, and by the class struggle between them, he would not have been deceived into believing that "the structure of classes has changed since Marx's day.” Far from changing, that structure stands to-day even more clearly discernible and defined than when Marx wrote. There can be no doubt now that in capitalist society there are but two classes, one dependent upon the possession of property, the other property-less and dependent upon .the sale of its labour power. Like all "intellectuals,” Mr. Cole tries to blur the clear-cut distinction between the two classes. For him the proletariat consists “in the advanced parliamentary countries of Western Europe . . . of a central mass of manual workers and their families, shading off at one end into the unemployables, and at the other into the 'black coats' of the middle class.'' In the world of Mr. Cole there appear to be a large number of classes, for he writes of “the middle classes, that is, the classes between the governing groups of the bourgeoisie and the wage-earners,” who “have increased markedly as a percentage of the entire population,” and who have “assumed the new character given to them by the increased wealth of modern Societies." Patronising snobbery prevents Mr. Cole plunging himself and his fellow “intellectuals" down among the “manual workers," so he puts forward concepts of middle classes which have no basis in reality. Unless the existence of only two classes is denied, the whole case of the “intellectuals" falls to the ground and they cease, as a group, to have any special political significance. Mr. Cole claims that an alliance “of the proletariat and new petit bourgeoisie against the large capitalists and the reactionary petit bourgeois groups . . . is the only possible way of achieving Socialism by peaceful and constitutional means, and probably the only way of averting the spread of Fascist dictatorships." The fact is, however, that whenever the proletariat (by which is meant what Marx meant, namely, all those who are dependent upon the sale of their labour power), want to achieve Socialism they can do so by the use of their own unaided power, and without the advice or leadership of " intellectuals."

How far Mr. Cole is from understanding Marx’s analysis of Capitalism is revealed in his remarks about Russia, of which the following are samples. He writes: "The U.S.S.R. . . . has already thrown Capitalism over . . . under the new Russian system it is utterly impossible for the characteristic dilemma of Capitalism ever to arise . . the Russian system does ensure that as much as they can possibly produce will find a market, so that over-production and under-consumption and also unemployment, save as a temporary consequence of friction in the process of industrial change, simply cannot arise." (Pages 61 and 70.) It is difficult to say whether that displays the greater ignorance of Marx or of conditions in Russia. Capitalism in the sense in which Marx understood it, as a system of society based on the exploitation of a class of property-less wage labourers exists to-day in Russia, just as much as in England. Unemployment has certainly not been banished. The Russians have also been faced with the problem of over-production. Like other capitalist producers, they have had to curtail production because they could not sell various products in the world market at a profit during the depression.

It may be wondered how people like Mr. Cole contrive to achieve their reputations as authorities on Marx, in face of their patent ignorance. It is to a large extent the result of mutual back-scratching. For example, that other self-constituted authority on Marx, Professor H. J. Laski reviewed Mr. Cole's book in the Manchester Guardian, and praised it as providing "a really admirable summary of the Marxian theory of value." Unwary readers may be impressed by Professor Laski’s judgment, but others will know that this Professor of Political Science does not understand Marx’s economic theories, and has confessed as much. When he wrote his "Communism" (see review in Socialist Standard, July, 1927), so little was he able to deal with this aspect that he borrowed his  "criticism" of the Labour Theory of Value from a book called "Karl Marx's Capital," written by Professor Lindsay, and Lindsay knows no more about the subject than Laski or Cole.

That is by the way. Here it is impossible to examine in detail Cole's summary of the theory. Whether the Marxian Theory of Value is right or wrong, nobody who had mastered even the first few chapters of "Capital" could ever believe he was representing Marx's ideas in writing: "Marx's 'value' or ‘exchange value' is, then . . . purely and simply objectified use value. It is the real amount of objective utility which a commodity possesses as a result of the labour bestowed upon it." What this all means only Cole and, presumably, Laski, know. Fortunately it is not Marxian.

It is to be hoped that nobody will be enticed into buying or reading the book in the belief that it is a statement of Marxist principles. It is nothing of the kind. It is a vastly irritating sermon on Labourism by a man who, incidentally, has now discovered that his fellow "intellectuals" were wrong when, a short time ago, they proclaimed that Capitalism was in ruins and unable to stand the burden of paying for further reforms or an extension of social services. At any rate, he writes that "the history of the past few years has very plainly illustrated the toughness and resisting power of Capitalism . . . even in face of prolonged world depression; and who is bold enough to say that the present depression, deep and long as it has been, will not pass and be succeeded by a phase of capitalist revival?"

Another author, with whom Mr. Cole claims some acquaintance, is Wm. Cobbett, for he wrote an introduction to Cobbett's "Grammar." Cobbett has a passage which can be fittingly applied to this book:—"the pompous tone, the self-conceit that is manifest from the beginning to the end, forbid us to give (the author) credit for sincerity when he confesses his deficiencies, and tell us that the confession is one of those clumsy traps so often used with the hope of catching unmerited applause."

There is some advice in Mr. Cole's book which we can heartily endorse, contained in the last paragraph: —
Having presented in this book my conception of what Marxism really means, I can only ask the reader, if he is in any doubt, to go and study for himself what Marx wrote, and not merely what others have written about him.
In conclusion there is one thing that should be made dear. The S.P.G.B. has been described by Cole as a "body of rigid Marxians." (Enc. Brit., Vol. 32, Page 507.) It might have been thought, therefore, that the author of a book supposed to deal with Marx would be particularly careful to ensure that it was sent to us for review. This book has not been sent to us. We wasted 5s. on buying it.
B. S.

About Books (1953)

Book Reviews from the February 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

Unfortunately, or maybe, fortunately, we are not on the lists that book publishers use for sending out free copies for review. Being members of the working class we are unable to acquire all the books that are published, and very few books when they are first published. Further, being members of the working class, we have limited time for reading. Invariably we wait until we learn something about a book before we give it a scanning and refer to it in these columns. That means that some books are in their second or third, or even later, editions before we get round to them.

Such a book is “Cry, the Beloved Country,” by Alan Paton published by Jonathan Cape at 10s. 6d. This book was first published in 1948 but the recent film of the story has drawn a lot of attention to it.

It is a story of what may be termed the industrial revolution of South Africa. It deals with the final destruction of tribal life among the African negroes and the drawing away of the younger men and women from the rural areas to. the industrial centres where they become wage workers. It emphasises the difficulties that these people experience in adapting themselves to the conditions of a rapidly expanding capitalism and the crimes that follow from their abject poverty.

The story centres mainly in Johannesburg where theft, prostitution, drunkenness, rape, robbery with violence and murder are rife. The author tells us in his introductory note that his story is a compound of truth and fiction. He says that his account of the boycott of the buses, the erection of Shanty Town, the finding of gold at Odendaalsrust and the strike of the miners is such a fiction-truth compound; that in some respects it is not true, but “considered as a social record it is the plain and simple truth.”

The whole theme is worthy of a better approach. The events narrated are viewed through the eyes of a religious humanitarian and the story is plastered with religious quotes and sentiments. There are passages that reveal a clear understanding of the process that is taking place in South Africa, but the idea that permeates the book is that the solution to the negro workers' problems is to be found in a kinder, more Christian and humanitarian approach, especially on the part of the white population. This is overdone and spoils the reading. This is a book worth reading if it should come your way, but it is not worth going out of your way to read it.

Another book first published in 1948 is “Men, Machines and History” by S. Lilley and published by the Cobbett Press, 10s. 6d. This is volume seven of a series entitled “Past and Present” which is being published under the guidance of an impressive editorial board of professors. We learn that it was the publisher's original intention to complete the series with about forty books but they seem to have petered out after number eight. The eight books of this series that we have read are good. “Men, Machines and History” is exceedingly good.

Fundamental to an understanding of the socialist case is the knowledge that it is the continuous improvement in the tools that man uses that is fundamentally responsible for the changes in the structure of the society of which he is a member. Human society has travelled a long way since the days of the flint sickle and stone hammer—to the days of jet-propelled transport, radar and the release of atomic energy. At certain points in that journey we can observe how a particular discovery or a group of inventions have had an outstanding effect upon the prevailing method of production. We can, for instance, see how the invention of gunpowder hastened the end of the rule of the feudal baron protected by his armour and his castellated walls. We can see how the discovery of steam power released a flood of subsidiary inventions and gave impetus to the industrial revolution in this country, and the social changes that followed it.

Those are the glaring examples. This book, “Men, Machines and History,” takes us from the time of Palaeolithic man with his primitive tools of stone, bone and ivory through the 7,000 and more years to the end of the last war and the release of atomic energy. It refers to many hundreds of inventions between those times and gives us a little of the mechanics, a little of the technology and a little of the social effects surrounding many of them.

The author says that he has made his references to social conditions very brief because other books in the series will provide the social background at greater length. All the same, his references are extremely pertinent.

He tells us of the discovery of copper and the inventions that followed from it and how, by 3000 B.C. it had produced a decisive change in the social structure.
  “The simple communities of more or less equal farmers had been replaced by states in which the vast majority of the inhabitants lived at subsistence level, often as slaves or serfs, while all the surplus product of their labours was used to provide a luxurious existence for a small class of kings, nobles and priests, as well as supporting the civil services and armies which formed the mechanism for extracting from the masses the products of their work. Class-divisions had become the basis of social structure." (Page 11.)
Mr. Lilley then goes on to tell us that a given social structure, having been thrown up by a level of technical development, can then become a retarding influence on further technical advance. He instances the great slave empires that arose in Greece and Rome following the division of society into classes. The stagnation of technique that prevailed at that time was not due to lack of problems to be solved but to the make-up of society into, broadly speaking, two classes; the down-trodden peasants, slaves and serfs who did all the productive work and received only the bare necessities of life in return, and the small ruling class of priests, nobles and kings who did no productive work but lived in privilege and luxury on the fruit of the work of others.

The working class had knowledge and experience of the tools and techniques that were then in existence. They could quite simply have invented improvements, except that they had no incentive to invent since any increase in production would be taken away from them to add to the wealth of their masters. Further, as they worked to the utmost, they had no leisure time to devote to invention.

The ruling class, on the other hand, had no contact with the process of production, was ignorant of the technical deficiencies and had no practical knowledge and experience to effect improvements.

Yet, in this period of stagnation progress did not altogether cease; we learn of the invention of the spoked wheel, improvements in military equipment and the diffusion of the use of bronze over large parts of Europe.

So we can proceed through the middle ages, the industrial revolution and two world wars marvelling at the ingenuity of man. The book is splendidly and copiously illustrated and carries graphs and charts showing relative invention rates and other interesting data. Right at the end of his book the author betrays a sneaking regard for Soviet Russia and boosts the rate of progress in that country. We can overlook that against the excellence of his work.

In “Retrospect and Summary” at the end of the book the author arrives at two complementary conclusions: 
   “. . . the form of society has a very great effect on the rate of inventions . . .  a form of society which in its young days encourages technical progress can, as a result of the very inventions it engenders, eventually come to retard further progress until a new social structure replaces it.”
  " . . . technical progress—invention and the spread of the use of invention—is a fundamental factor in determining social structure and in bringing about the necessity for a change from one social structure to another."
We could not agree more. Hasten the day when the capitalist social structure gives way to the socialist one.
W. Waters

Notes on Party History: The Trade Union Question (1954)

From the July 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Trade Union question was a very thorny one in the early years of the Party. Some of those who founded the Party had a leaning towards industrial unionism, whilst others were inclined to regard the trade unions as only another facet of Capitalism. These conflicting views were reflected in disagreements over policy that were brought to a head in 1906 when a number of meetings were arranged to discuss the Party’s attitude to Trade Unionism..

Before reaching this discussion we will relate some of the events that led up to it.

At the Inaugural Meeting a motion had been carried instructing the E.C. to convene a special meeting of members as soon as possible “to discuss and determine the attitude of the Party towards trade unions.” The E.C. arranged for this special meeting to be held on the 9th July at the Food Reform Restaurant in Furnival Street. Lehane, Anderson and Neumann, were appointed as a sub-committee to draft a resolution on trade unions to be submitted to the meeting.

The sub-committee reported that they were unable to come to agreement. The following resolution and amendment were then submitted to the Executive Committee meeting. We are giving them fully because they became the motions discussed at the special meeting. 

Lehane and Jackson moved:
   “Whereas the private ownership by the master-class of the means whereby the people live produces in the field of industry, as the inevitable outcome of the very conditions of modern society, an unceasing conflict between the propertied idlers and the propertyless workers, a conflict manifesting itself in the form of strikes, lock-outs and general social disturbance, and
  “Whereas the workers in their endeavour to resist the encroachments of the exploiting class, or to secure higher wages, shorter hours, better conditions of labour, have largely organised themselves into Trade Unions, and,
   “Whereas, the capitalist class in its desire to wring more profits, rent, and interest out off the labour of the workers, has for years been organised into rings, combines, and trusts with the object of controlling markets, raising prices, limiting production, reducing wages and intensifying labour, and,
   “Whereas, the capitalist class through its judges has recently seized Trade Union Funds and shows its intention to further confiscate the property of the Trade Union organisations, thereby forcing members of the latter to turn their attention to political action.
  “The Socialist Party of Great Britain, in General Meeting assembled, realising that this twofold organisation of the hostile classes in society is preparing the way for the transformation of capitalist property into common ownership by limiting competition among the workers on the one hand and by combining and concentrating capital on the other, recommends its members to join the unions in their respective trades in order that by the spread of socialist enlightenment the members of the working class organised in Trade Unions may be enabled to prosecute the class struggle with the efficiency which results alone from clearly defined class-conscious action and taught to translate the industrial conflict into the field of politics, calls upon the Trade Unionists and all other wage workers in this country to join the Socialist Party in order that they may proceed to the conquest of the powers of Government as the indispensable preliminary to the overthrow and dispossession of the capitalist class and the establishment of a society in which the means and instruments for producing the necessaries, comforts and luxuries of life will be the common and democratically controlled property of the whole people."
To this resolution Anderson and Neumann moved the following amendment:
  “Whereas the Declaration of Principles of the Socialist Party of Great Britain is one of hostility to all other parties in the political field, and,
  “Whereas the Trade Unions have definitely taken up a position other than that of the Socialist in that field.
 “The Socialist Party in General Meeting assembled declares that while through other circumstances its members may be compelled to belong to such organisations, such members and any others who may deem it advisable to be in Trade Unions shall simply use their position therein to reiterate the Socialist position, but shall in no case accept any official position where their actions would be controlled by the Trade Unions instead of by Socialist convictions.” 
At the Executive Committee the Anderson amendment was carried by six votes to two. It was submitted to the General Meeting and Lebane’s motion was moved as an amendment. After considerable discussion the General Meeting carried Lehane’s amendment by twenty votes to nineteen and it then became the resolution. An amendment to it was proposed, but as it was too late to take it. the meeting adjourned with the request that the Executive Committee arrange another meeting.

The adjourned meeting on Trade Unions was continued on the 7th August. The following amendment to the Lehane's resolution was moved by Hawkins and Jacobs:
  “The Socialist Party of Great Britain, recognising that the working class must be organised both politically and economically for the safe-guarding of working class interests and the overthrow of Capitalism, declares nevertheless the ultimate uselessness of any economic organisation not based on the principle of working-class solidarity and recognition of the class-struggle.
  “The Socialist Party of Great Britain, seeing that the trade unions of this country are sectional in character and unconscious of the historic mission of the working-class, cannot give unreserved support to these organisations, which have been frequently manipulated to suit capitalist interests. Members of the Socialist Party who belong to non-Socialist Trade Unions are therefore required not to accept any political office whatever in their Trade Unions, nor any office or position in the execution of the duties of which they may be required to take political action. They are, further, advised to form Socialist groups inside their unions for the purpose of common counsel and joint action to counteract any abandonment of working-class interests and to educate their fellow members in the principles of the class-struggle.
  “The Socialist Party recognises that the Trade Unions are essentially economic organisations and that when based upon and informed by correct principles they are capable of fulfilling their function as such. It demands from the Trade Unions a similar recognition that the political action of the working-class must be revolutionary, and the function of, and can only be taken by, the Socialist Party.
  "The political and economic organisations of the working-class should work together, in harmonious cooperation, and the Socialist Party desires, to this end, the affiliation of such unions as shall recognise the necessity for ending the wage-system and establishing the Socialist Republic.”
This amendment was lost by twenty-five votes to ten.

Auger and Fitzgerald then moved that the following addendum be incorporated with the Lehane resolution:—
  "That this meeting is of opinion that the only solution of the Trade Union problem will be found by forming within each union, in which we have members, groups which shall consider such unions constituencies for propaganda and electoral purposes and be under the full control of the Executive Committee of the Party, and resolves that the Rules of the Party shall incorporate this principle.”
This addendum was carried by seventeen votes to nine, and was followed by a further amendment moved. by Hawkins and Anderson:—
  “That the Socialist Party of Great Britain, recognising that the Trade Union movement as at present constituted is organised on an unsound basis, declines to take part in its action until such time as these organisations shall be brought into line with the Socialist principle. In the meantime, members are permitted to join Trade Unions where compelled by economic circumstances, pending the organisation of Socialist Trade Unions.”
The amendment was lost by nineteen votes to sixteen.

The meeting had now reached closing time without it being possible to put the Resolution on account of the many amendments. It was obvious that the disagreements were too sharp to enable a useful conclusion being reached. The meeting adjourned after passing the following curious resolution, which is some reflection of the nature of the discussion:—
  "That this meeting adjourn until a decision is arrived at as to whether Trade Unions are political organisations and therefore if our relations thereto are covered by our Declaration of Principles.”
The E.C. appointed a sub-committee to report on this resolution. The sub-committee submitted a statement which they suggested should be recommended as a preamble to the Lehane resolution. This statement pointed out that organisations of workers in various trades being primarily formed for economic action were not covered by that section of our Declaration of Principles which declares hostility to all other political parties. The suggestion was carried by six votes to five.

At the September General Meeting Lehane’s resolution was replaced by an amendment which was carried and then carried as the substantive Resolution with only a few dissentients. This resolution, moved by Hawkins and McNicol, was as follows:
  "The Socialist Party of Great Britain declares that Trade Unionism is a necessary form of working-class organisation, but also declares that unless such unions are based upon the class-struggle they become useless and reactionary. Therefore members of the Socialist Party, as Trade Unionists, must work for the conversion of their trade organisations to the sound economic position which alone fits the Trade Union to co-operate with the Socialist Party for the overthrow of capitalism.
  "As a matter of tactics the Party considers it advisable that Socialists should not hold office in non-Socialist trade societies where such office involves political action, and in all cases members of the Party must resign office whenever continuance' therein would require deviation from the political action or policy of the Socialist Party.”
It is worth noticing that this resolution was put and carried after the members had been discussing the question for seven or eight hours and most of them must have been too weary to realize the full import of what they were voting on.

At the following E.C. meeting a resolution, moved by Anderson and Crump, was carried, which stated that as the resolution on trade unions carried at the General Meeting was in conflict with the Declaration of Principles it be held in abeyance until the whole party has been consulted on the question.

On September 25th a Special General Meeting was held to discuss the Trade Union question. At this meeting the resolution at the previous General Meeting, by Hawkins and McNicol,, was rescinded. After some motions had been put forward and rejected the meeting finally adjourned without coming to any decision.

At the General Meeting on 3rd December a resolution was carried that our Declaration of Principles is sufficiently clear to be a guide to members of the Party under any possible contingency and therefore no resolutions explanatory of our principles are necessary.

No further progress was made on the Trade Union question until the Annual Conference on the 20th April, 1905. At the Conference the following resolution by Watts and Harris was carried:—
  "Whereas the Trade Unions, while being essentially economic organisations are nevertheless in many instances taking political action either to safeguard their economic existence or for other purposes, and
   "Whereas any basis of working class political action other than that laid down in the Declaration of Principles of the Socialist Party of Great Britain must lead the workers into the bog of confusion and disappointment, be it therefore
   "Resolved that this Conference of the Socialist Party of Great Britain recommends that all members of the Party within Trade Unions be instructed to actively oppose all action of the Unions that is not based on the principles of this Party.”
There the discussion ended for the time being. It was brought up again as a result of a controversy over the action of the Bexley Heath Branch of the Party and a series of discussions were held from May, 1906, onwards, which were fully reported in the Socialist Standard at the time. Before considering these discussions we will explain the Bexley Heath controversy as it had a bearing on the discussions.