Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Party Funds (1917)

From the September 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent debate in the House of Lords on the subject of the sale of parliamentary honours is of decided interest to those who are not acquainted with the inner workings of the political machine. Raised in debate by the Marquis of Salisbury, the ensuing discussion brought out some really delightful admissions of corruption in legislative channels. The admissions hardly come as news to seasoned Socialists, but this is one of the first occasions where the subject has been discussed at any length, many previous attempts to raise the matter, especially in the lower house, having signally failed.

The party funds, let it be here stated, are moneys contributed by financiers and rich business people for the purpose of securing recognition in “birthday honours" lists and the like for services rendered or expected. In the course of the discussion, however, mention was made as to the way in which the party funds were expended. Hilaire Belloc, a well-known character in jingo journals, has said that he resigned his seat in the Commons some years back owing to his disgust at party politics and “the party system generally".

In the course of his short career as a member of the Commons Belloc tried hard to raise the question of the expenditure of the party funds by asking for an audit, but needless to say, he failed. In his book The Party System is dealt with at some length, and much that we knew of legislative corruption is proved to the gaping world.

One of the richest morsels of the recent discussion came from Lord Curzon, who said with all the impudence possible:
  The idea of a commercial transaction, of disposing of a peerage like a parcel of goods across a counter, is a horror to all right-thinking men. When such things are spoken of some of us are moving, however, in a world of which we know nothing. I know no foundation for these public rumours.
—“Daily Express," 8.8.17.
His talk of “moving in a world of which we know nothing" may in a sense be true, for has not the great patriot Bottomley just said that “Sir Edward Carson is under the impression that the Rhine is the border of France and Germany” (“Sunday Pictorial,” 12.8.17), and that Mr. Balfour has “never beard of the kingdom of Bohemia” ? (Same source.)

Just previously, however, the noble earl had said:
   . . . that but for the aid of party funds he would have been unable to enter political life, as neither his father nor he at that time was able to afford a parliamentary contest .—Ibid.
From which it will be seen that if he did not know where the party funds came from and why, he was not altogether ignorant of where they went and why.

Evidence that elections are contested by means of such funds was handed out by another noble lord, for listen to this:
   Lord Charnwood said that he had contested several expensive elections and received help from the party funds, and was not in the least ashamed of having received it .—Ibid.
This, therefore, is the way the present-day politician rejoices in the sickening fraud of party politics. The average member of the back benches is merely a pawn in the political game, the real power coming from the front benches and the Ministers. In the matter of choosing the members of this front bench the workers have no part whatever. Small wonder that Ministers themselves were found describing the whole thing as “despicable.”

When will the workers awake to a consciousness of their surroundings and, taking over the political machine in their own interests, sweep the whole tainted system from public life?

The present brief criticism is but a detail. Pages might be written in condemnation of the stinking mass of corruption. I will be content with quoting that clever reflection of Oscar Wilde’s, who, upon the subject of “Critics and Criticism” said: “Surely in order to test the quality of a wine it is not necessary to consume the whole cask.”
B. B. B.

"Murder Will Out" (1917)

From the October 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is curious what strange instruments truth at times will find by which to express itself. This reflection is strengthened by a letter in that “organ of the Democracy,” “Reynolds's Newspaper" (Sept. 3rd.) from “Recruiting Sergeant" Ben Tillett to the members of the Docker’s Union.

This budding field marshal is reported to have said, among other things, in reference to the proposed International Conference:
  We are of the opinion that before any meeting it possible the organised Labour of each belligerent country should first of all define its attitude by democratic vote, that its representatives should be purely Labour representatives,and under no Government patronage, with a view of free expression of opinion.
  That this Conference upholds the rights of democracy to its share of representation in determining peace settlement, and invites the democracies of all the belligerents to co-operate with a view of ending the tragedy of the war.
“General" Tillett it greatly concerned that the labour representatives shall be “purely" labour representatives. This, to start with, knocks out all the “labour" members of the Government, and also all those who, during the period of the war, have assisted the Government—directly or indirectly, officially or unofficially—in the task of roping in the workers for war purposes, including Henderson, Hodge, and of course, Tillett himself.

As for the suggestion that the Conference upholds the “rights of democracy to its share of representation in determining peace settlement," the governing class will allow the workers as much voice in the peace settlement as highwaymen allowed their victims in the matter of their robbery.

But seriously, the desire of the labour “leaders” to take part in the function of cutting up the swag, shows that they either do not understand the slave position of the working class, or that they deliberately misrepresent it. In the first case they are fools, in the second case rogues, and in either case they are of no use to the workers.

It is the mission of the propertyless class— instead of seeking to participate in the division of the spoils—to see to it that there shall be no spoils. To do this they must put an end to the exploitation of the producers by the non-producers, i.e., the capitalists.

It is the duty of the workers to achieve a real peace—a peace guaranteed by the identity of interest of all the members of society in contrast with the “peace" hitherto prevailing. Such a peace can only be obtained by the realisation of the Object of the Socialist Party.

We are further told that “We can only end the war by striking at militarism” (not capitalism). But here comes the gem of the letter: “The genuine working-class movement must take its affairs out of the hands of political adventurers and parasites, take its destinies in both hands, and ask organised Labour in all lands to war against militarism, repression, and annexation, and to be prepared to enforce this should occasion arise."

This is a brilliant example of the devil rebuking sin, for what are Tillett and his colleagues but “political adventurers and parasites," out to lead the workers up a blind alley, where they may be the more easily victimised and exploited? Evidence of this can easily be found in the various issues of this journal, and also in our Manifesto.

An additional instance of this is furnished by Tillett himself in the final sentence of his epistle, in which he advocates the use of the “industrial and economic weapon," ignoring the political weapon.

It is reported in the “Daily Sketch" for September 1st 1917 that the Australian Government had suppressed the I.W.W. in Australia, and imprisoned some of its members. Can a better object lesson in the necessity for political action by the workers be needed ?

In a series of interviews during the T.U.C. Mr. Tillett is reported to have said re Stockholm, “How can there be democracy without a defined policy?” This, from a man of Tillett’s record, is almost Gilbertian, or would be if it were not so tragic.

Is it necessary to recall the famous prayer on Tower Hill, when Tillett hoped that “God" would strike the late food controller dead, and to compare that with his attitude since the war? During this period we find him using his energise to the utmost in the dirty work of getting other people to fight and kill each other, taking on this job under the auspices of a government a prominent member of which was his one-time enemy. Lord Devonport.

Is this Tillett’s idea of a “defined policy” ?

However, such contradictory actions are common to all reformers. Forever chasing will- o'-the-wisps, they are forever getting deeper into the mire of capitalism.

War Fever in America. (1917)

From the November 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

“Socialist" Activity.
Many leading "Socialists” supported the candidature of President Wilson because “he kept os oat of war." Now the same alleged Socialists are supporting him because be has declared war. Ever since the Socialist Party adopted a resolution at their St. Louis Conference (1917) criticising the war these “comrades" have bean resigning.

At the time of writing (September) the members of the Socialist Party of America are more active in other organisations than in their own. Scores of new reform organisations have been formed upon every pretext under the sun.

The “Intellectuals.”
A. M. Simons has long been known as a great "Socialist.” His Socialism (!) recently consisted of advising Congressmen of the necessity of ridding the Socialist Party of all opponents of the war and turning over to the Government inside information concerning party activity. He was expelled from the party. His co-worker in this “Socialist" work was W. R. Gaylord, the Socialist Party candidate for Congress from Wisconsin. The "intellectual" was also expelled.

Many others, however, who have been guilty of equally treacherous work, are allowed to remain in the party or else to resign with a great show of injured innocence.

John Spargo— Patriot!
John Spargo's actions ever since he made his home in America confirm oar position that reformers are dangerous to the movement. He has turned his energies continuously towards helping the enemies of Socialism. At one time slandering Marx, at another time endeavouring to give a religious twist to Socialism, he has latterly filled the Press with jingoism in the name of Socialism. He has now resigned from the Socialist Party because it has criticised the war. Loop inflictions from him fill the columns of the capitalist papers with the usual wails of of such jingoes.

"Socialist” Exports to Russia.
As soon as things looked doubtful for the continuance of the war by Russia the American Government, like their English pattern, proposed sending a Commission of friendly advice to Russia— just as though Russia had not suffered enough without having to endure delegations from the autocrats of the West— Lloyd George and President Wilson.

To lend a political touch to the Commission the President, of course, selected a “Socialist." Needless to say, the chosen one was one of the most notorious jingoes of the party, Charles Edward Russell. He has since been expelled for joining the Commission without the party consent.

Nationalist "Internationalists."
Upton Sindair and his wife rose to fame with his book "The Jungle,” and later by his exhibition of starvation as the road to happiness. Ha has again sought notoriety by resigning from the Socialist Party, attaching a long, wild screech about the necessity of joining the Allies in the fight for "World Democracy.” Our millionaire "comrade” J. G. Phelps Stokes, and his wife Rose Pastor Stokes, have also joined the “struggle for liberty” and resigned from the party.

William English Walling, W. J. Ghent, (ex-Rev.) Geo. D. Herron, Robert R. La Monte, and Allan Benson (Presidential candidate), are among the number of the (in)famous supporters of the war in America.

All Workers Unite—Except Germans!
Most of these “comrades” seized the opportunity of the Russian situation to send a telegram to the Russian Soldiers and Peasants Council, begging the workers of Russia not to make a separate peace. In the name of “World Democracy” and of Western liberty they beseeched them to keep in the fight to smash Germany and free Europe of the honor of future war! Mrs. Jack London consecrated (!) her husband’s memory by signing the reactionary message. Spargo is now calling upon them to form a new party—a “real Socialist party” on the lines of the nationalist body that H. M. Hyndman adorns in England.

Several new papers have sprung into existence to voice the views of each section. Louis M. Boudin, author of “Theoretical System of Karl Marx,” objected to the telegram sent by Victor Berger and Maurice Hillquit to President Wilson at the outbreak of war. This telegram begged the President to place an embargo on all boats in the danger zone.

Boudin claimed this was pro-German. At the St Louis Conference he quarrelled with some of his fellow members of the S.P. Executive, and has been active ever since combatting the views of Hillquit.

One notable recantation he made at the St Louis Conference was that he withdrew his support of national defence at the end of his book on Socialism and War.

"The Class Struggle.”
Boudin and others hove started a new monthly —"The Class Struggle”— to express their aims. In the main it is against the war, but it supports the growing Industrial Unionist movement without explaining its real value. Many of the contributors are also connected with the “New International,” the monthly paper of the Socialist Propaganda League. This is an organisation of the self-styled “left wing” of the Socialist Party of America. Their advanced teaching consists mainly of supporting "direct action” by means of Industrial Unionism. This anti-Socialist propaganda is carried on in conjunction with “The International Socialist Review.

The "Socialist for President.”
Allan Benson of the Socialist Party was boomed as the great anti-war Presidential candidate of the Socialist Party in Nov. 1916. Workingmen throughout America objected to sending a capitalist with Elihu Root’s black record as chairman of the U.S. commission to Russia. Allan Benson showed his revolutionary conceptions by issuing the following to the Press from Yonkers, N.Y., on May 4th:
  If the German submarines are sinking 400,000 tons of shipping a week it doesn’t make any difference whether we send Elihu Root or Billy Sunday to Russia. Elimination of the submarine is the thing of paramount importance, overshadowing everything else. I never regarded Root as a good exponent of democratic principles, nor do I now regard him as such. But I have no sympathy with any opposition to Root which is really more of an attempt to bring about a separate peace between Russia and Germany than it is to prevent Root going. I would infinitely rather have Root go on the commission than have some man go who might work for a separate peace between Russia and Germany.
The Call of the Wild.
One of the carious documents of the war is Upton Sinclair’s resignation statement sent to local Pasadena (California) of the Socialist Party. Below is an interesting extract taken from the “New York Call” (July 18):
  I say that this war must be fought until there has been a thorough and complete democratization of the governments of Germany and Austria, and I say that any agitation for peace which does not include this demand is, whether it realizes it or not, a pro-German agitation. The argument that we have no right to say under what institution the German people shall live seems to me without force. The Germans did not scruple to make war on the French and to set up a republic in that country. They did this because they believed that a republic would be less formidable from a military standpoint; and it is now on the cards that the world shall do the same thing for the Germans, and to the same purpose.
  For these reasons, Comrades, 1 cannot follow you in your declaration that this is "the most unjustifiable war in history,” or in your policy of mass opposition to the draft. But I would not have you think that I have gone over bag and baggage to the capitalist system. I believe that there is a work of enormous importance to be done by the forces of radicalism in the present crisis.
The Blind Leading the Blind.
On May 12th the capitalist Press was ablaze with the long telegram to the German Socialists sent by some of the prominent “Socialist” jingoes. I reproduce below the essentials of the traitorous message:
  The democratic peoples of the world now in league against the kaiser and kaiserism will be compelled to continue their war against Germany and her autocratic allies until the kaiser and kaiserism are overthrown. The German Socialist faction that opposes the Government has already realised that both an early peace and German liberty require that the power of the kaiser should be rigidly and immediately curtailed and they have announced the following program as a core for kaiserism:
   Responsibility of the government to the reichstag, reichstag control of peace and war; equal reichstag election districts; abolition of the upper houses of the states and the empire, as well as equal suffrage in Prussia—now apparently on the way to accomplishment tho not yet promised even “after the war.”
     This program is fundamental and excellent—so excellent, indeed, that it is extremely unlikely to be granted without a protracted series of overwhelming German defeats. It is fully half of what is needed. But it is not enough. The Hohenzollerns must go.
     The rest of the world realises, whether the German people realise or not, that liberty in Germany and peace in the world must remain a sham as long as the Hohenzollerns and their supporters retain any real power.
      But whether Germany prefers a republic or a constitutional monarchy the Hohenzollerns' tradition and prestige must not only be reformed—it must be broken.
     The kaiser himself claims that kaiserism is to be democratized and strengthened in its fight against the other nations. It will be difficult if not impossible, to convince the democracies of the world that a reformed kaiserism is anything else than an effort of the Hohenzollerns to make the German people more willing tools of his foreign policy. Nothing but the overthrow of the autocrat can prove finally to the world that the German people repudiate his past crimes and refuse to have any share in the crimes he is planning for the future.
      There is only one way to bring the war to an early end —the kaiser must go.
Signed to the cable were these names:
Wingfield R. Gaylord, “Socialist” candidate for congress from Milwaukee; Robert Dives La Monte, Socialist author and editor of Connecticut; Charles Edward Russell, Socialist candidate for governor of New York, 1914 ; A. M. Simons, world-renowned Socialist, editor and author; J. G. Phelps Stokes ; Rose Pastor Stokes, author ; William English Walling, author and Henry L. Slobodin, formerly national secretary of the American Socialists’ committee.
An instance of the treachery can be gathered from the following cutting from the daily papers in America of May 4th:
  WASHINGTON, May 4.—German Socialists in the United States who attempt to force or influence a separate peace between Russia and Germany will be dealt with to the full extent of American laws.
  The state department indicated this today following publication of charges by J. G. Phelps Stokes, that some of the German wings of American Socialists are trying to force such a peace.
   Such efforts are considered extremely treasonable acts.
  The new censorship will be applied vigorously to prevent the socialists communicating with the Slav leaders.
An indication of the attitude of the coming party is revealed by the following:
  Expressing Socialism in terms of American life and experience, this new party . . .  will not cling to formulae and let the substance of the Socialist hope pass by unnoticed. . . .  It will make its appeal not to one class alone, but to all men and women of good will and social vision. It will be a party of toilers, not because it sets them apart and panders to them, but because its principle carried into effect must bring their emancipation.—(John Spargo in the “Philadelphia Public Ledger.”)
Thus the English reader will observe that the language and methods of the traitor are curiously similar, whichever hemisphere they belong to. Their dainty stomachs revolt at the idea of the class struggle, while they bawl for butchery by nations.
Adolph Kohn