From the September 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard
"On horror’s head horrors accumulate"; Man’s inhumanity to man, after nineteen centuries of lip-service to a God-given command for “Peace on Earth, and Good will towards Men,” deepens in intensity and widens in scope.
Hitler’s bloody axe, Stalin "purges,” unnameable horrors in Spain, supply raucous harsh accompaniment to “the still sad music of humanity,” which arises from the frustrate ghosts of the past-hope unemployed, the sacrificed mother, and the starved child—butchered to make a capitalist holiday.
It is only too easy in these days for the working class to fall for ill-considered appeals for “action,” to succumb to the promises (not a few made in all sincerity) of “leaders” of "vanguard” organisations; it is quite understandable that uninformed impatience may mistake the calm argument of the Socialist Party of Great Britain for lack of “sympathy,” even for sheer philosophical callousness.
The Labour Party dismisses the S.P.G.B. as "armchair philosophers”—where does the present policy of the Labour Party on the question of war inevitably tend? Its proposed course of “action” leads to war; it has two strings to its bow, “Collective Security” and “Bluff Calling.”
“Collective Security,” as far as the vague phrase can be interpreted, means alliance with "democratic” and “peace-loving” nations. Only as far back as the ’nineties of last century (older men will recollect) the English Press was severely upbraiding France with anything but "peaceful” intentions towards England when the “Fashoda” incident revealed the fact that France was anxious to have a part in the general carve-up of Africa, which was going on at such a merry rate in the days of Victoria the Good (peace, Mr. Greville, you and your nasty memoirs!); “democratic” is a joke. There is some appreciable content to the word as far as England and elsewhere is concerned, but Russia!!
As to the policy of "calling Hitler’s bluff,” “presenting a firm front," etc., etc., are the leaders of the Labour Party certain that one Dictator will not be prepared under stress of circumstances, to risk everything on one big throw? What a cool-headed Napoleon did is not unlikely with the screaming Berlin neurotic.
And . . . let it not be forgotten that War means immediate deprivation of modicum of “democratic” rights, virtual Dictatorship, with a liberal supply of Labour toe-rags, who will ably assist the capitalist class in their dirty work, as did the Barnes’ and the Hodges in 1914.
The I.L.P. attitude in the present series of ever-recurring crises is relatively sound. At least, it is not whooping for the fray, it opposes National Service, exposes the futility and cunning of "A.R.P.,” but a glance at any New Leader will reveal the chasm that separates the I.L.P. from the S.P.G.B.—the unbridgeable chasm that yawns between Socialism and Reformism; the cartoon of March 17th (high art in the cartoon line; arresting; austere of line and content), but . . . the title! “The murder of Spain.” Apparently the I.L.P. stands for Nationalism.
Worse remains behind. The issue of March 3rd calls on the working class for “Direct action” to “save Spain,” and makes the astounding statement that, in 1920, action on the part of dockers stopped intervention in Russia—which is not in accordance with the facts. In any case, behind "Direct Action” lurks the danger of blood-baths for workers who are so ill-advised as to mistake big phrases and “slogans” for practical politics.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain, in 1939, as in 1914, stands by the policy implicit in its Declaration of Principles. Clause 6 states that “The working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of Government.” It repudiates uncompromisingly the suggestion that our class can be shepherded by an Attlee, a Bevin, a Stalin’s “Fifth Column” into Socialism.
It may appear drab, unattractive to the throaty politicians who think the walls of the capitalist Jericho can fall to the sound of leaders' trumpets and “mass” shouting, but the Party challenges any alternative as a firm basis for final Socialist triumph than the “conscious” political action of the working class. . . . socialist knowledge is the keystone of the future Socialist edifice.