Monday, February 19, 2018

Philip Snowden, M.P. (1910)

Philip Snowden
From the November 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Philip Snowden. M.P., has, we understand, sailed for a three-months' trip to the United States and Canada, chiefly with the idea of forming a Labour Party in the latter country. As we should not like our Canadian fellow-workers to fall into Mr. Snowden's trap we give the following details of his political career.

Mr. Snowden, as most people are aware, is a strong opponent of the “drink traffic." In common with most temperance fanatics, his language — as the following quotation shows — is almost puerile in its violence and intemperance. At a meeting of the Bradford Band of Hope Union he said:
  If we had not a drink-sodden democracy we should have an intelligent democracy; and an intelligent democracy would very soon solve its industrial and social problems. (Yorkshire Observer, March 10, '09.)
The absurdity of the lying statement which serves to express Mr. Snowden’s contempt for the class on whose backs he has climbed to his present eminence, is only equalled by the gratuitous insult offered to the very men he is, as Labour 1LP., ostensibly representing.

Mr. Snowden in 1908 appeared to have a touching faith in the good intentions of the leader of the Liberal party. Writing in the Christian Commonwealth in December of that year he said:
   There is nothing of the hypocrite in Asquith. He never prevaricates, as most of his ministers do, to escape from declaring the fulness of an unpopular truth . . . I do not believe there is a more honest man in politics today than the present Prime Minister. 
Does Mr. Snowden still think there is no hypocrisy, no prevaricating on the part of Asquith over the "Lords" question? Perhaps, however, there is more underlying this fulsome flattery than meets the eye. It will be remembered how John Burns defended the action of Asquith in using the military to shoot down the miners at Featherstone, and how he was subsequently rewarded for this and other services rendered to the Liberal party with a seat in the Cabinet. Mr. Snowden, taking a leaf out of Burns' book, has also defended the methods adopted by the Liberals at Featherstone and Belfast. Writing in the Sheffield Guardian, Aug. 23, '07 he said :
   Therefore, in any case, in the Belfast case for instance, the employment of the military must be justified on the circumstances of the case . .  . There is one lesson of this tragic affair which the workers should learn. We are hearing from some quarters the usual violent denunciation of the Government and the capitalists as murderers. Mr. Birrell is being put in the same chamber of horrors as Mr. Asquith, who happened to be the Home Secretary at the time of the Featherstone riots. The Labour and Socialist movement has got beyond such wild, irresponsible talk as this.
The last General Election gives irrefutable evidence of the same devious methods on the part of the member for Blackburn. The following was written by him a few months previous to the election.
   The action of the Labour Party in Parliament on the Budget has not tended to mark off that party as something essentially distinct from the Liberal Party. Unless the Labour Party has a distinct point of view on all public questions, unless it can show that it is anxious to go further than, or in a different way to, the Liberals, there is no reason for its existence as a separate party. (Christian Commonwealth, November 3, 1909).
This extract, taken in conjunction with the following item relating to the election at Blackburn, condemns both Snowden and the Labour Party out of his own mouth.
   On Jan 4th Mr. Snowden and Sir Thomas Barclay (the Liberal candidate) addressed a great anti-Lords demonstration, two halls being used simultaneously, the speakers crossing over from one to the other. At this demonstration  Mr. Bond, president of the trades council, ‘appealed to the electors of Blackburn to send two Progressives to Parliament” (see Northern Daily Telegraph, 5. 1.10.)
On other occasions (sec Blackburn Weekly Telegraph, 8.1.10, Mr. Snowden urged that the second vote be given to Sir Thomas Barclay, and he boasted in the Labour Leader of 21.1.10. that the advice had been "generally followed" and had resulted in 11,238 "splits" between himself and the Liberal.

Snowden's snobbish appeal for special treatment for imprisoned suffragists on the ground that they were middle class women may be cited finally as showing how anti working class he is.

Reflections on the Cotton Lock-out. (1910)

From the December 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

The cotton lock-out has been ‘‘settled," accompanied by the tedious Te Deums of our sycophantic clergy, the benedictions of our prosperous trade union organisers, and the “we are glad both sides are reasonable” sermons of our Liberal newspapers. To-day every strike and lock-out gives clear proof of the bankruptcy of trade unionism, of its utter inability to permanently raise the standard of the workers’ existence. In Lancashire the big unions are monsters of indifference, organisations bossed by mediocre bureaucrats, with a rank and file taking little interest in the working of the union, save when the mill “breaks down,” and they become entitled to a few week’s "break-down pay.”

Some of these unions resemble the mediaeval guilds; jobs are handed down from father to son ; it is sure that one must possess family influence, either lineal or collateral, to be able to enter the union and learn the trade. At their best these unions are looked upon as attempts to preserve the status quo to try to preserve, if possible, even the present "heavy and varied condition of the operatives' breakfast table.”

The boisterous crowds whom we read of as patrolling the streets of Oldham during the first day of the lock-out were not enthused and noisily happy because of a coming fight on some vital question with their bosses, but simply because they were confident of the "give and take” policy of their leaders bringing the lock-out to a speedy end.

Their leaders! What an array of altruistic capacity passes before our vision when we think of the men who “led” the workers during the lock-out! Working-men J.P.s ! Is there anywhere such another anomaly ? In Lancashire they flourish abundantly. These leaders conceive it to be their duty to punish the small, petty, found-out thieves who are the natural product of capitalism. "Justice of the Peace” is almost a synonym for "labour leader" in Lancashire. If the workers put their trust in such mental small fry, what wonder that their condition shows no sign of alleviation!

In the Manchester Guardian of Oct. 5 1908, referring to meeting of "Oddfellows” at Nelson, Mr. Shackleton's constituency, that gentleman in the course of speech is thus reported:
  “Alluding to the presence on the platform of Mr. Wilkinson Hartley, chairman of the Nelson Cotton Manufacturers Association, Mr. Shackleton said that he and Mr. Hartley had often met before, and had had some tough battles. That night they could shake hands and welcome each other as brothers desirous of furthering a great movement. As long as they could get on with men like Mr. Hartley, there was security for the peace and well-being of Lancashire, and its principle trade might be carried on to the best advantage of the community.”
In the same paper of Dec. 28, 1908 a photograph was published of Mr. Shackleton occupying the position of chairman at a meeting of the Labour Co-partnership Association, with Mr. A. J. Balfour and Sir. C. Furness on his right and Mr. Henry Vivian and similar "men of thought who waged contention with their times decay” on his left. One understands Mr. P. Snowden’s remark, in a speech to his constituents during the lock-out, that "He had followed this dispute, and he could not call to mind any form of industrial dispute in which one side had showed a disposition to be reasonable, to compromise and to make sacrifices in order to avoid a stoppage of work to the extent that the operative leaders had.” (Manchester Guardian, 10.4.10.)

The results obtainable from the capers of these leaders of the Lancashire operatives are manifested in that speech of Mr. Snowden’s. Continued penury exists in spite of Labour M.P.’s teetotal sermonising; an inability to improve their economic position to even the least extent is inevitable when the workers’ leaders fraternise with their enemies the bosses on so-called neutral platforms, and truckle and accept defeat when any dispute is in "progress.” Strange that a Socialist platform never becomes a "neutral ” one !

Let the labour leaders learn from a bourgeois historian. "The warfare of capital and labour in England has been more prolonged than any other historical struggle. Dynastic wars, wars of religion, wars on behalf of balance of power, wars for supremacy in commerce have been waged in Europe for lengthened periods. But none has been so lasting as that between employer and labourer. The history of the contest is to be extracted from the Statute Book in laws long since repealed or modified, or become obsolete.” (Prof. T. Rogers, “ Economic Interpretation of History". Vol. 1.. p 23)

After such an admission by a Liberal of the type of Thorold Rogers we reach the limits of inanity when it is seriously contended that our labour leaders are on the road to Socialism! There is no class struggle! say those gentlemen. Well then, we may ask. what has your class fraternity led to but the tighter grip of the capitalist on the means of life?

Other lines of thought are stimulated by this lock-out. Our "Industrial Unionist" friends seem to expert miraculous results from a “unified” working class bound together in a few large trade unions. I ask, what if these unions continue to be collared by leaders whose only qualification is their safe mediocrity and the extraordinary vitality of their tongues? What if the working class is still non-Socialist ? Given a non-Socialist proletariat we can bind them, or they can bind themselves, into either a dozen large unions or a thousand miniature ones, but the leaders would still be Shackletons, Snowdens and Gills, and the promised land would still be afar off, for not even Industrial Unionism can make bricks without straw, or create the Socialist Commonwealth without Socialists.
John A. Dawson