Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Basis of Socialist Organisation. (1931)

From the December 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Lesson of the Election

The one thing that most clearly marks off the Socialist Party of Great Britain from the other organisations which claim an interest in Socialism, is our view that the only possible basis for a Socialist Party is an understanding of socialist principles. When the founders of the S.P.G.B. decided on our present Declaration of Principles as the minimum condition of' membership, they had already had long experience of alternative forms of organisation. They had seen the disastrous results of bringing together people without socialist knowledge who were attracted merely by one or other of a long list of political and social reforms. Such an organisation cannot be more advanced than its members, and therefore cannot take action for the furtherance of Socialism. Indeed, it can take action at all only with the greatest difficulty, for it rarely happens that all the members are agreed upon any one of the reform demands. Every attempt to be definite provokes internal friction or secession movements. The electoral success of such a party is its aim and also its undoing. For with office comes the demand from the members that steps be taken to fulfil all the promises. Of course they cannot be fulfilled; capitalism stands in the way. The elation of victory gives place quickly to angry criticism of the men or the programme. So every such party meets its fate sooner or later at the hands of the workers who gave it life and strength. The last election, coming after more than two years of Labour Government, shows us the internal contradictions of the Labour Party, working out to their necessary conclusion. Those who still cling to the belief that an organisation of non-socialists, brought together upon a programme of reforms, can work for Socialism should ponder over the Labour Party’s collapse.

"Forward," the Scottish I.L.P. journal, in its issues dated November 7th, 14th and 21st, published articles from a large number of Labour candidates in Scottish constituencies telling why they lost seats and votes. The collection is a very powerful justification for the position of the S.P.G.B. Below we give some brief extracts:—

Mr. Thomas Johnson (West Stirlingshire) : “We lost, inter alia, because about 15 per cent, of our abnormal vote in 1929 transferred itself to our opponents.”

Mr. T. Henderson (Tradeston) gives as one of the reasons for his defeat, “warring elements within the movement.”

Mr. Michael Marcus (Dundee) says: “Recent events prove conclusively that our first task is to convert certain socialists to Socialism.” He records that panic at the thought of a Labour victory seized even the poorest workers who had not so much as a few pounds in the Savings Bank.

Mr. James C. Welsh (Coatbridge) tells that the unemployed and their wives voted against him, although, as he complains bitterly, “ I think I can claim that nowhere have the unemployed had better services given them.”

Mr. D. N. Mackay (Inverness-shire) confesses that the electors voted for the National candidate because they still regarded MacDonald and Snowden as “typical Labourists ” and “their views were accepted as final.” But what a confession to make! To admit that the party supporters had been recruited simply on the name's of its former leaders.

Mr. John Winning (Kelvingrove) says that working-class voters, employed and unemployed, after two years of Labour Government, flocked to the poll "to protect their few pennies in the Savings Bank and Post Office from confiscation by a Labour Government ”: not only the old and decrepit, but also "the young and vigorous." He finds it a chastening thought, and wonders what is wrong with the Labour Party’s "socialist” propaganda.

Mr. R. Gibson (N. Edinburgh) found that the unemployed voted Tory because they were promised jobs, and, it seems, were more impressed by this than by the Labour promise to look after their unemployment pay. It is a saddening discovery for reformers that the workers positively dislike their particular brand of reforms. Mr. Gibson had the support of the local Liberals, and paints a touching picture of a "Liberal woman . . . pleading with a Communist to vote Labour.”

Mr. J. S. Clarke (Maryhill) says "Prominent members of the I.L.P., including the Glasgow organiser, not only abstained from voting for the Labour candidate, but conducted a virulent campaign against him.” Mr. Clarke is one of those who in the past have told us that we ought to get together with the great united Labour Party. But even if we wanted to, how could we now that it is "united” into several furiously battling fragments?

Mr. J. Pollock (Kilmarnock) attributes defeat to the Labour supporters having been won over to tariffs, and to the deadly blow administered to the local Labour Party in 1929 when the Labour Head Office forced a particularly anti-working class Labour candidate on the division.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Leith) says that in his constituency the workers felt that they had had just about enough of Labour Government "and it was time to see what another Government would do.” That is confirmation of our own often expressed view of the results of Labour Government.

Mr. J. Sullivan (Bothwell) lost his seat because he had quarrelled with the other reform party, the Communists, and they ran a candidate against him.

Mr. G. Mathers (W. Edinburgh) relates that certain of his own dissatisfied supporters, instead of helping him, came to his meetings "trying to concoct trick questions.” He saw with surprise that the unemployed, the teachers, and others who were affected by the National Government’s economy plans, nevertheless voted "Nationalist.”

In South Ayrshire, Mr. James Brown suffered from the effects of his own party’s propaganda. The Labour Party, having decided to be Free Traders, were promising to keep prices down, so the farmers and fishermen—who wanted high prices, not low ones—voted against the Labour Party,, which was expecting to get their votes.

Dissatisfaction With Labour Government.

Mr. F. Martin (E. Aberdeenshire) gives the following reasons for the shrinkage of the Labour vote :—
  The general scare; support for Ramsay MacDonald, which caused a certain number of Socialists to vote for the Conservative, and which also induced many abstentions; dissatisfaction with the record of Labour in office.
The chief Tory asset was, in Mr. Martin’s view, the prospect of tariffs.

In Galloway, Mr. H. McNeill was beaten by a combination of factors. There was a Mosley candidate preaching "scientific capitalism” (and seemingly some voters thought this must be better than capitalism badly run by the Labour Party). Numbers of Co-operators voted Tory "to save the pound, and at the same time their divi” from their Labour friends.

In Motherwell, which the Communists used to declare had a solid Communist majority (although they won it on the usual Lib.-Lab. reform programme), the Rev. James Barr was up against a Liberal who is chairman of the local football club, and therefore popular. Then, it appears, the electorate failed to realise that a National victory meant protectionist capitalism instead of free trade capitalism, and “they paid no heed to the warning of the 'Manchester Guardian.’ ” The Liberal candidate won other votes by declaring that the rich are having a bad time; he "gave out grossly inaccurate figures as to additional burdens imposed on surtax payers.” And finally he tried to take away Catholic voters from the Protestant Rev. J. Barr.

May we offer to this Labour candidate what would seem to be a simple but certain road to victory next time? Let him become chairman of a football club, declare himself a Protectionist-Free-Trader and a Catholic-Protestant, and train all his supporters to read the Liberal "Manchester Guardian.” Then, no doubt, we shall soon have Socialism!! The chief obstacle from the Rev. Barr's point of view is that, if he discovers a vote-catching stunt, his opponents will use it too.

Mr. J. Gibson (S. Lanark) was defeated because, among other things, the workers did not like what they saw of Labour Government. He says :—
   The Labour Government did not help us. It had attempted to operate capitalism only to find itself faced with a crisis that demanded Socialist action.
Mr. Gibson does hot explain how, having been elected to operate capitalism, they could have taken socialist action even if they know what it is and wished to do so. It was only the disgust of the voters that prevented Mr. Gibson from being returned like the others “to operate capitalism." That was what he was offering to do.

“They Had No Savings."

In Berwick and Haddington, Mr. G. Sinkinson had a different experience from some of his colleagues elsewhere. He found that the miners solidly resisted the panic about Savings Banks, “for the very simple reason that they had ho savings." Mr. Sinkinson does not explain what the Labour Government had been doing for over two years that the miners should have been thus pauperised.

Mr. J. Rankin (Pollok) describes the “huge Labour majorities of 1929 melting like snow upon the desert's dusty face." The fall in the Labour vote was due to the following: “The ongoings in the Labour Cabinet during the crisis." At every meeting he was asked, “Did your own Cabinet not agree to nine-tenths of the cuts you are now opposing?" He describes the election as being “simply a vote of confidence in MacDonald"; and like others who for years and years had been telling the voters to trust blindly in MacDonald, Mr. Rankin was caught in his own trap.

Miss Jennie Lee, in N. Lanark, failed to get the votes of electors in a new district, and suffered from “the general disappointment caused by the spirit in which the Labour Government had applied itself to its tasks." It will be recalled that Miss Lee, when she was elected in 1929 on a programme of reforms which did not so much as mention Socialism-, claimed her election as a “socialist " victory. Of course, neither her victory then nor her defeat now had anything to do with Socialism.

In West Lothian Mr. Shinwell expected the shale oil workers and miners to be disappointed with the results of Labour Government whose “reforms" had, in fact, worsened their conditions. He saw the miners voting for a royalty owner, and Catholic workers voting for a Protestant Orangeman.

In Shettleston the Labour man was beaten by Mr. McGovern, who fought with the backing of the I.L.P. and its leaders (and the Catholic Press). The I.L.P. parent trying to kill its own overgrown child, the Labour Party!

In Bute and N. Ayr, Mr. A. Sloan attributed his defeat, partly at least, to the spectacle of the Labour Government putting its programme into operation.
  Frankly, I must say that the action or in- action of the late Labour Government had quite a lot to do with it. There was resentment in the minds of the workers that they had been badly let down by the Labour Government.
The Labour Government's "Means Test."

With regard to accusations against the Labour Cabinet that they had agreed to the economies, he says :—
   I have yet to see, hear, or read any reasoned reply to the accusation. I also struck the first fruits of the Anomalies Act. . . It is a means test of far reaching effect imposed by the Labour Government.(Italics his.)
Mr. Sloan gives it as his view that the Labour Government, if judged simply on its merits, would have had an even worse defeat at the polls. Only the unpopular National Government economies saved the Labour candidates some loss of votes.

In East Renfrewshire, Bailie Strain had to fight the “fighting marquis of Clydesdale," a popular sporting man, and also the I.L.P. The branch of the I.L.P. not only decided to take no part in the election, but refused to lend or hire out its hall for Labour meetings, this being done as “a protest against the actions of the Parliamentary Labour Party."

Bailie Strain, who was the Co-operative nominee, found himself up against Cooperative opposition. He says :—
   The Tories undoubtedly took full advantage of the elements, hundreds of motor cars and fine- dressed ladies, among whom were many prominent co-operators, helping to rush the electors to the polls.
Mr. A. Fraser Macintosh, at Montrose Burghs, gives a fine illustration of the dangers of depending upon leaders. His party has always told the workers to trust in MacDonald. So large numbers of Labour supporters continued to do so in this election. You cannot unmake a god in a few weeks. Other Labour supporters had become apathetic and would not vote, because the Labour Government had "let them down.’’ All that Mr. Macintosh and his helpers could do was to say that it was not the Labour Party which had betrayed the workers, but only its leaders. To which, as Mr. Macintosh confesses, the workers replied that you could not separate the leaders from the Party.
   Our little band showed them, but it was of little avail—we did not count, it was the leaders who counted, and they had let them down and would do so again.
The Labour Party cannot have it both ways. If they build a party on its leaders, they must put up with the devastating consequences when the leaders desert.

Reforms Which Hit The Miners.

Mr. J. Westwood (Peebles and S. Midlothian) was up against the opposition of the miners, whose sufferings had been aggravated by one  of the Labour Government’s "reforms.”
   There was also a feeling of bitterness amongst the miners at the inadequacy of the Coal Mines Act to deal with the problem of the mines, made more difficult by the short time worked, low wages received and recent reductions applied to our men in the Scottish coalfields.
There was also strong anti-Labour feeling, because of the Labour Government’s Anomalies Act, withdrawing unemployment pay from married women.

Helen Gault, the I.L.P. candidate for East Perth, lost 4,500 votes as compared with 1929. In that year she was official Labour candidate, and had the benefits of having MacDonald on her platform, and "generous financial assistance” from the trade unions. This time her official Labour Party endorsement was withdrawn, and with it the trade union money. She says  that the greatest factor in causing former voters to desert her was the action of the Labour Government—"My greatest handicap was undoubtedly the record of the Labour Government.” She makes the frank admission that, although she and her helpers knew that the charges against the Labour Government were true, they carefully refrained from admitting it.

The Same Thing Over Again.

The above extracts from "Forward” should serve to show what the workers actually think about the Labour Party, and how little they understand their class position and the socialist case. Here we can see the falseness of the I.L.P. and Labour Party belief that you can lead along non-socialist workers by giving them the "practical benefits” of Labour Government. Labour administration of capitalism antagonises the workers, just as speedily as Tory or Liberal administration. 

An incredible amount of work has been devoted to building up the Labour Party and I.L.P. on a basis of reforms, and when they have their chance of giving effect to their programme, capitalism simply smashes their fiddling schemes out of all recognition. It is obvious that in the election the complex jumble of plans and promises contained in "Labour and the Nation” had little effect on the voters.

They simply voted on what they conceived to be the issue of the moment. The Labour Party had been thrust through the natural unpopularity of being the Government, or had manoeuvred itself, on to the wrong side as regards electoral success. Now they are taking stock and preparing to get back again into office when the National Government also fails to solve the insoluble problems of capitalism. But the Labour leaders are not learning the real lesson of the election. They are not even aware that it has proved once more that the only basis for a Socialist Party is an understanding of Socialism. All they are doing is to mix up another mess of reforms, calculated to capture the largest number of votes.
Edgar Hardcastle

Do We Need A Five-Year Plan? (1931)

From the November 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Practical Importance of Theory.
It is no uncommon thing for Socialists to be met with the charge that they are only mystics, airy philosophers destitute of any practical notions of how to carry on the society which they propose to establish. The present writer readily confesses to having been struck dumb in his youth by a querulous critic who demanded to know, “Who is going to get the best joints of meat under Socialism?” and proceeded to hint darkly at the possible fate, under such a system, of obstinate wives who refused to sleep with their husbands. What struck me dumb was my amazement that such questions should seriously worry one whose choice of the food he consumed at cheap restaurants during the week was practically nil, and who, as a result of his closely-confined occupation, looked as capable of healthy sex relationships as of knocking out Carnera.

The charge of mysticism was recently made against Socialists by a contributor to a discussion on the Russian Five-Year Plan in the economics section of the (British Association Conference. The suggestion is not new. Max Eastman made it in his “Marx, Lenin and Revolution.” H. G. Wells put it forward in the first volume of “William Clissold"; and Marx himself had to meet similar attempts at criticism after the publication of his work on “Capital.” His reply to this is contained in his preface to the second edition.

Marx owed a debt to the German philosopher, Hegel, which he readily admitted; but he frankly abandoned Hegel’s idealistic standpoint and treated material conditions as the real basis of human society. He saw that these conditions changed and new forms of society arose as a result. He criticised capitalist society from this point of view, and demonstrated that it must give way to Socialism; but he never spent his time in mystical contemplation of the future. He left to others the task of writing out the menus for the Utopian equivalent of Lyons’ caf├ęs.

It is, of course, not surprising that this critical and revolutionary attitude fails to appeal to professional builders of “New Worlds for Old.” They get their living partly by writing about plans for the future, which are pushed aside by events which they fail to foresee. It is only to be expected that they should fall foul of a scientifically cautious mind, and remain apparently unconscious of the absurdity of denouncing Marx for mysticism in one breath and for failing to act as a prophet in the next. Such critics can be left to stew in their own juice.

Of more concern to us are those of our readers who allow themselves to be impressed by such bombast, and write to us complaining of our “destructive criticism” and our failure to propose “measures of reconstruction.” One reader, for example, wants a “Ten Years’ Plan formulated now! in order that the workers can be familiarised with Socialism as a practical rather than a theoretical proposition.” Our correspondent then proceeds to outline in quite a general way the “immediate measures” he considers necessary, and to propose certain “new departments” of administration, including one of “Co-ordination.” This proposal shows how easy it is to allow oneself to be hypnotised by important sounding words. Co-ordination is the special function of a general administrative body and not of a department.

The establishment of Socialism is essentially a practical proposition. It is the definite object of the Socialist Party, the goal of our activity. If the workers do not show any enthusiasm for this object that is not because it is "theoretical," but because they do not understand the need for it. They are quite prepared to accept their slave-status (are indeed unaware that they are slaves), and gladly leave planning to their leaders and masters.

The Socialist Party is not in any doubt as to what it has to do when it has conquered political power. Its job will be to convert the means of living into the common property of Society.

To be sure, that is only a brief statement of our "general, line," and our critic wants details. To his mind it is shirking the question to suggest that particular measures depend upon particular conditions. "Most of us," he says, "do not like to buy a pig in a poke.” Who does he mean by us? Unfortunately the majority of the workers are only too ready to buy a political pig in a poke. Any general election provides ample proof. What political party has ever tied itself down to matters of detail before election? The National Government asks for a "free hand" and cannot tell us even a month ahead what it proposes to do. Leading members of the Labour Party disagree considerably as to the form their measures of nationalisation or "public control" are going to take.

The Communist Party, it is true, has an elaborately detailed programme—which has not a ghost of a chance of securing political victory for the Communist Party. If the S.P.G.B. is still out in the cold, therefore, it is certainly not because the Party’s object is too vague for the practical disposition of the workers.

The political actions of the workers may, as our correspondent suggests, be "more powerfully affected by the emotions than by the intellect,” but that does them no good. The people who benefit are the ones who use their intellects to play upon the workers’ emotions, i.e., the master class. Our correspondent confesses that his "imagination reels" when he contemplates the possibilities of planning. Can the Socialist Party afford to enter the political arena with a reeling mind? On the contrary, we need all the concentration of which we are capable to think out the most effective way of getting our "destructive criticism" into the minds of our fellow-workers here and now. They need it.

When they wake up to the fact that they are slaves and that a change in the basis of .society is necessary, they will also realise that in future they have got to do the planning as they march along the road to their emancipation. They will not look to leaders to plan for them. On the other hand, there is no necessity for a small minority of the working class (such as the Socialist Party is at the moment) to anticipate the decisions of the majority which it will one day become. Certainly "there is no harm in speculation,” so long as it is recognised as such, and so long as the speculators do not attempt to force their speculations upon us as a necessary programme. Discuss, by all means (if and when you have nothing better to do) just what is going to happen in twenty or thirty years' time; but do not forget the fate of the practical programme drawn up by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto eighty-three years ago. In twenty-five years it had, in its authors' own words, become somewhat "antiquated” owing to the rapid pace of industrial development. The pace is even more rapid to-day. That is the main reason why the Socialist Party steers clear of so-called plans and programmes.

A further reason is that outsiders have a fatal knack of confusing a programme which, at its best, can only be a means to an end, with the end itself; or, to put it another way, the "programme" and not the object (i.e., Socialism) occupies first place in their minds. The result can be seen in the fate of the old Social Democratic Parties in this and other countries. Numbers were attracted into these organisations by the immediate programme, the sound Socialist element was swamped, and these parties eventually degenerated into step-ladders for political job-hunters, who in turn operated as tools for the master-class. The preference of the Socialist Party for scientific principles rather than for speculative programmes is thus not a mere foible, it is based upon bitter experience.

No substitute has yet been discovered for Socialist education. It is a slow job and not so exciting or remunerative as that of sweeping the un-class-conscious workers off their feet with stirring "practical measures”; but it has its compensations. There is a certain element of humour in the spectacle of the most practical politicians taking hedges in faultless style, only to land in the mud on the other side. The workers who have prided themselves on their practical commonsense, their superiority to the theorists of the S.P.G.B., are apt to view the situation rather tragically at the moment, having put their savings upon these much-advertised hurdle-jumpers in quite a literal sense. We have confidence that they will recover their balance and treat Socialist principles a little more respectfully in future.

When they have eventually overcome their prejudices in this direction the time will then arrive for practical programmes to take on a new and revolutionary character. Informed with the necessary fundamental knowledge derived from an effort to understand their experience, the workers will address themselves, with much greater energy and immensely superior organisation, to the necessary task of social reconstruction. We may guess at the plans they will make and some of our guesses may turn out to be accurate, but it is more satisfactory and immediately profitable to get on with the job of making Socialists.
Eric Boden

The Founding of the Socialist Party - Part 2 (1931)

From the October 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard
(Continued from September Issue.)
After the return of the delegates from the Burnley Conference, a meeting of London members of the S.D.F. was held on Sunday, April 24th, 1904, at Shoreditch Town Hall, to discuss the expulsions and matters arising therefrom. On the plea that they were no longer members of the organisation, Fitzgerald and Hawkins were excluded from the hall.

At this meeting there were two surprises: Jack Jones—now a Labour M.P.—who all through had given indications of supporting the so-called “Impossibilists,” backed down and supported the official group; Jack Kent, who was thought to be hand-in-glove with the Executive (of which he had been a member), gave the game away and told of the machinations to get rid of the more dangerous of the critics.

After several hours of heated discussion, the meeting supported the official attitude by a vote of 119 to 83.

The small group that had been working by means of economics classes, circulars, and discussions, in the endeavour to convince the members of the necessity of class conscious revolutionary political action, saw that the position was hopeless. As the S.L.P. was also in the mire, the only way left was to form an independent political party.

Closely following the Shoreditch meeting, a Protest Committee was formed, which issued a leaflet setting forth the grounds of dissatisfaction with the existing policy of the S.D.F. and was signed by 88 members, though some of these had in the meantime been summarily expelled by the Executive for protesting.

Summarised, the criticisms and proposals were as follows :—
   The expulsions were an attempt to gag or expel members who had been bold enough to criticise inside the organisation the policy pursued by representative men and more particularly by the late Executive of the S.D.F.
  It was a question of determining whether the tactics and policy in future should interpret Socialist principles, or whether the Party was prepared to resort to measures that would tend to sterilise the Socialist propaganda of past years of plodding exertion and self-sacrifice.
  The protestors do not believe in impossible political tactics, but assert that political action must be such as to awaken the workers of this country to full class-consciousness, and to the desire to abolish wage-slavery. They therefore feel the necessity of avoiding any action that would endanger or obliterate their Socialist identity or allow them to be swallowed up by a labour movement that has yet to learn the real meaning of a class struggle.
   The policy of permeating the Trade Unions had resulted in prominent members getting official jobs that precluded them preaching the class struggle. The policy adopted of voting Tory to dish the Liberals, and vice-versa, confused the workers and rendered propaganda difficult.
   The basis of the Party was undemocratic. It had been dominated for years by certain leaders over whom there was no real or effective control. The final clothing of the Executive with autocratic authority to expel without appeal showed it was no longer an administrative body, but, according to rules which can only be revised every three years, it is empowered to decide and entirely control the electoral policy of the Party. A man in his capacity of a Trade Union official is allowed to do what would render other members liable to expulsion.
  The Party has neither ownership nor control of the Party organ, Justice, which was mortgaged to the Trade Unions. The Party was called upon to officially endorse candidatures of non-Socialist Trade Unionists. Questions of policy could be, and were, decided in secret. Conference amendments on serious questions of organisation were not even discussed.
  Opposition to the official policy was denied free expression, and members were called upon to apologise for actions of which they were not guilty and which only existed in the imagination of their accusers, the climax of which was the unconstitutional manner of the expulsion of Fitzgerald and Hawkins. Many of those who voted for the expulsions did so in direct contravention of their instructions to vote for these members in the election to the new Executive. All who voted for the expulsions did so without any instruction whatsoever, thus violating the rules of the S.D.F. The vague charges made against the two members were only put forward to cover the intentions of the old clique to get rid of those who wanted the Party to adopt an uncompromising revolutionary policy, and were carrying on the agitation quite constitutionally within, the organisation.
The signatories to the leaflet then urged:—
  The adoption of an uncompromising attitude which admits of no arrangements with any section of the capitalist party; nor permits any compromise with any individual or party not recognising the class war as a basic principle, and not prepared to work for the overthrow of the present capitalist system. Opposition to all who are not openly and avowedly working for the realisation of Social Democracy. A remodelled organisation, wherein the Executive shall be mainly an administrative body, the policy and tactics to be determined and controlled by the entire organisation. The Party Organ to be owned, controlled and run by the Party. The individual member to have the right to claim protection of the whole organisation against tyrannical decisions.
Such was the position put forward by those who eventually founded the Socialist Party of Great Britain. Subsequent events made plain the correctness of the view of these pioneers. The Party they sought to clarify and were finally compelled to leave in disgust was afterwards swallowed up in the opportunist movement, and on the outbreak of war in 1914 sided with the capitalists and helped to drive English working men to slaughter their German brethren on the battlefields in the interests of the capitalists. Leading members of it, through the Labour party, became capitalist Cabinet Ministers, and it has finally taken its place as a warning and a lesson to working men of the fate reserved for those who give adherence to numbers in place of clarity of thought.

After the issue of the above-mentioned leaflet, events moved rapidly. The autocratic official group continued their expulsions from the S.D.F. A meeting of sympathisers with the policy outlined in the leaflet was held at Sidney Hall, Battersea, on May 15th, 1904, and at that meeting it was decided to launch a Party based upon Socialist principles and opposed to all other political parties. A meeting to formally constitute the Party was held at the Printers’ Hall, Bartlett’s Passage, Fetter Lane, E.C., on Sunday, June 12th, 1904. Such was the formation of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

The new Party was forced into existence without literature, offices, printing facilities or funds, apart from the contributions of the 120 members who took part in its formation. Its early Executive meetings were held in the bedroom of one of the members, his bed providing the main seating accommodation. However, they entered with enthusiasm and energy into the work of building up an organisation, and, with considerable personal sacrifice, had the satisfaction of seeing the first number of The Socialist Standard appear on September 3rd, 1904, containing on its seventh page the Object and Declaration of Principles that has guided the Party ever since.

The first Annual Conference was held at the Communist Club (now defunct), 107, Charlotte Street, London, on April 29th, 1905. The membership had by then reached 150.

From its formation the Party has been controlled entirely by its members, and many lengthy and stimulating discussions have been held on questions; of policy and detail work. All its meetings and discussions, apart from the period of martial law during the War, have been open to any who cared to attend and listen.

The soundness of the Party’s principles as a sheet anchor was particularly demonstrated on the outbreak of the War in 1914. While all the other alleged working-class parties (including the Socialist Labour Party) were entirely at sea as to what line to follow, and were gradually consumed by the war fever, the S.P.G.B., from the declaration of war to the armistice, never deviated from opposition to it as a capitalist war involving no interest worth the shedding of a single drop of working-class blood, and laying it down as a principle that any man who voluntarily joined the Army was unworthy of membership of a Socialist Party. The September, 1914, issue of The Socialist Standard contained our War Manifesto, and subsequent issues, brought out under overwhelming difficulties and in spite of Governmental raids on the Central Office, continued to oppose the War as no concern of the workers of any country. As far as our knowledge goes, it was alone in the belligerent countries in taking up that stand.

The result of this policy brought devastation for a time. Its members were scattered and some of them were hunted over the world. A good deal of the work at the Head Office was done by women members who ably carried out work the men were precluded from doing. When the Armistice enabled the members to gather together once more, it was a much decimated Party that emerged. But, in spite of the knocks it had received, the Party was sound, and the members proceeded with enthusiasm to rebuild the broken organisation, with such good results that it is now stronger and more firmly established than ever and has been the means of developing young organisations on a similar basis in other countries.

In the foregoing way was built up the organisation that is now attracting more and more of those who give serious thought to the problems that confront the working class.

Labour Party and the Crisis. (1931)

From the October 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

Duplicity of the Leaders
Since August 24th, when the National Government was formed, the Labour Party, under its new leader, Mr. Henderson, has sought to explain the collapse of the Labour Government as the refusal of the bulk of the Labour Ministers to sacrifice the unemployed to the demand of the banks and of the Tory and Liberal Parties. We are asked to believe that the Labour Party, innocent of any intention to compromise with the capitalist class or the openly capitalist parties, was suddenly invited by Mr. Snowden and Mr. MacDonald to enter into an unholy compact, and met this invitation with stout opposition and indignant resignation. So the Daily Herald has fulminated against the National Government's callous reduction of unemployment pay, and of the pay of policemen, teachers, soldiers and sailors, and Civil Servants. The Labour Party have proclaimed themselves the defenders of the workers and the upholders of independent working class political action against the parties of wealth and privilege.

It is a story which crumbles to pieces on investigation. Everything that MacDonald and his associates have done, the majority of the present leaders of the Labour Party were prepared to do. Not one word or one action of the Labour leaders in the National Government but can be paralleled from the history of the Labour Party and its present leaders.

Mr. MacDonald entered a Coalition Government with Liberal and Tory associates and depending upon their votes; Mr. Henderson and Mr. Clynes and others were members of the war-time Coalition Governments with the support of the Labour Party. In 1924, and again from 1929 to August, 1931, the Labour Governments held office solely on condition that their policy met with the approval of the Liberal M.P.'s on whose votes the Governments depended. Did Mr. Henderson protest? How could he when he was one of the Labour Ministers appointed for the purpose of carrying on formal negotiations with the Liberal leaders. (See Daily Herald, March 23rd, 1931.)

Moreover, the discussions and negotiations with Tories as well as Liberals were going on without a word of protest from Mr. Henderson or the Daily Herald for weeks before the National Government was formed. The Labour Magazine, official organ of the Labour Party, in its issue for September, records that members of the Government, on the instruction of the Cabinet, met the Liberal and Tory leaders for a joint conference on August 13th. Mr. Henderson and his associates made no protest and did not resign.

On August 14th, 1931, Mr. J. R. Clynes, who now denounces Mr. Thomas for entering into the National Government, made a speech at The Dome, Brighton, appealing for co-operation between the three political parties. The Times (August 15th) gave a report of Mr. Clynes's speech, from which the following is an extract:— 
   My sincere belief is that all of us attached to different parties. Conservative, Liberal, and Labour, are in earnest when we say that, although serving through parties, we are seeking to serve the country. Just as I believe that of myself, I believe the same of my political opponents. But at a time like this we want not separate, not single nor hostile and conflicting action; we want to act in co-operation in order that we shall guarantee that the nation’s interests shall be served by that united action which we know our condition demands. Parties must act co-operatively when the nation is faced with a financial crisis or a crisis of any other kind. The country has the right not merely to seek but to expect and to demand co-operation on the part of the three great political parties.
It is said that the Labour Government fell because the Trade Union M.P.’s threatened to form a new political organisation.

But by what right can the members of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress condemn the policy of collaboration with the representatives of the capitalist class? What of the negotiations for industrial peace carried on first with the late Lord Melchett and later with the organised employers? As recently as July 22nd, 1931, the News-Chronicle published an interview with Mr. W. Citrine, Secretary of the T.U.C., in which Mr. Citrine expressed views about industrial disputes resulting from attempts to reduce wages:—
   But Mr. Citrine, looking ahead, believes that these difficulties in the relation between capital and labour can be and will be overcome. The modern trend towards large industrial units, towards the separation of the ownership of capital from its administration, towards greater regulation of control, will make it possible. He looks forward to the time when great industrial units will be able to speak with the united voice of capital and labour, and actually bargain for trade on that basis.
   He refuses to accept the old definition of “capitalism” or the old dogmas about it. It has changed out of all recognition.
Mr. Citrine here repudiates the very basis of working-class organisation and looks forward to the time when the exploiters and the exploited will speak with a “united voice." Socialists appreciate the absurdity of this. But on what ground does Mr. Citrine denounce Mr. MacDonald for trying to apply the same absurd policy to politics ?

We are told that the late leader of the Labour Party has carried out the wishes of the City and the banks. True! But which of the Labour leaders is in a position to protest? As early as August 11th, on the instructions of the Cabinet, certain Ministers met the bankers (see Manchester Guardian, September 8th). The Hendersons and Lansburys, who now proclaim so loudly their detestation of consulting with the workers' enemies, made no sign of disapproval. They continued to cling to their highly paid posts, held at the pleasure of the Liberal Party.

On August 14th the Daily Herald reported, without any expression of disapproval, that the Cabinet were to place their economy proposals before the leaders of the other two parties. The Herald said:—
  Whatever steps are taken finally, the Cabinet is as one man on the policy which will govern its decisions. The Budget must be balanced on the basis of equal sacrifices by all. In this it has the complete support of the City. To this extent, also, it is certain it will have the concurrence of all Opposition leaders.
The Herald, it will be observed, had no objection then to a policy of .sacrifices from all, including the workers, so framed that it would have “the complete support of the City."

The Labour Party under Mr. Henderson self-righteously repudiates the policy of balancing the Budget at the expense of the workers and the unemployed. But for how long have they held these views?

On Monday, August 14th—a week before the resignation of the Labour Government—the Daily Herald came out with this great thought:—
   Nobody likes tightening his belt. But the British do it better than most people. They will do it cheerfully if it is plain beyond doubt that they are engaged in a common effort in a common need.
The Labour Press Service, issued by the Labour Party and the Trades Union Congress, in its issue dated August 19th had the following :—
   The nation’s Budget must be balanced. The task is urgent; success depends upon sacrifice, and sacrifice is seldom agreeable. But the Government cannot shirk its duty because of the disagreeableness of the task. The Labour movement would not desire it to shed its responsibility ; on the contrary it will be more confident of a just and equitable handling of the emergency if it knows that its own trusted leaders are in control.
The “sacrifices" agreed to by the whole of the Labour Cabinet included the reductions in the pay of teachers, the police, the Army and Navy, the Civil Service (5-point drop in cost-of-living bonus), increased unemployed insurance contributions, and the imposition of a “needs test" to transitional unemployment pay after 26 weeks. Mr. J. H. Thomas in the House of Commons on September 11th showed that the proposals of the old and the new Governments differed only in respect of the 10 per cent. cut in the amount of unemployment pay. (See Hansard of that date.) The lame reply of the Labour Party opposition was that they had only agreed “provisionally,” i.e., they were still bargaining with the Liberals and Tories and the bankers about their economy programme. Moreover, a clear majority of the Labour Cabinet had agreed to the 10 per cent. cut in unemployment pay. The Daily Herald on August 24th gave the names of the minority of eight Ministers who opposed the cut, leaving a majority of twelve who supported it. The Times of the same date also gave these figures. On the following day the Herald apologised for omitting one name from the minority. 

Let it not be forgotten, too, that these economy cuts had all been prepared for by the former Labour Government and its supporters. The Economy Committee under Sir George May was set up and its members chosen by the Labour Government. The two Labour Party members on it, Mr. Arthur Pugh and Mr. Charles Latham, in their Minority Report, specifically recommended lower pay for Government industrial employees, and a 12½ per cent. cut for teachers (the National Government announced a 15 per cent. cut subsequentlv reduced to 10 per cent.). They also endorsed the majority’s acceptance of further reductions in Civil Service pay in accordance with falls in the Ministry of Labour Cost-of-Living Index.

The seven Labour Party members of the Civil Service Commission likewise endorsed the recommendations which fixed the pay of the lower grades at a level about 9 per cent. below that at which it stood when the Commission commenced its work.

One of the Ministers who resigned was Mr. A. V. Alexander, who as a representative of the Co-operators gave tacit endorsement to their policy of reducing the wages of their employees earlier in the year, justifying the reductions on the ground that prices had fallen. This was the excuse used by the National Government.

As recently as July, 1931, the Labour Government itself introduced the so-called Anomalies Bill, which was for the purpose of reducing expenditure on unemployment pay by £5 millions.

In short, the Labour Party does not differ in any important respect from those of its leaders who joined the National Government. The difference merely is that one body of leaders found that their policy was leading them into conflict with the workers and Trade Unions, without whose support their careers would be endangered. They were willing to carry on capitalism and to do all that that implies, so long as the workers could be hoodwinked into accepting the results of that policy. At signs of revolt, Mr. Henderson and his supporters withdrew into safety. Mr. MacDonald and his associates either interpreted the workers' state of mind differently or have got beyond the stage of needing the support of the Trade Unions and the Labour Party.

The Labour Party remains what it always was, a party composed of all sorts of reformers, only agreed in being prepared to accept the continuance of capitalism.

Their withdrawal into opposition was hailed by them as a timely re-uniting of dissident groups. Actually it disclosed once more the rotten foundation on which the Party is built. Just as the National Government contains capitalist elements whose interests demand free trade, and others whose interests demand tariffs, so also the Labour Party is divided on this question of two alternate methods of conducting capitalism. While Lord Beaverbrook’s Evening Standard (September 10th) was holding out an invitation to the Labour Party Protectionist group to join forces with him, Reynolds's Illustrated News (September 6th), the organ of the Co-operators and strongly Free Trade, was denouncing tariff advocates as “the enemies of the people." The same issue of Reynolds's confessed that tariffs have powerful advocates among the Trade Unions and their leaders. To meet the activities of the Labour Party Protectionists, the Free Trade Labour M.P.’s have now formed their own Free Trade group inside the Parliamentary Labour Party. (See Manchester Guardian, August 22nd.)

The Labour Party is not a Socialist Party. It is not even united in its views as to the best way of running capitalism. Its record shows that its leaders are willing and able to use it against the interests of the workers. Workers who take to heart the lessons of the recent crisis will abandon it and join the Socialist Party. 
Edgar Hardcastle

The Founding of the Socialist Party. (1931)

From the September 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fifty years ago books and pamphlets dealing with the fundamental problems of social life were neither so plentiful nor so accessible as they are to-day. The principal writings of Marx, Engels and others were hardly known outside the few in this country who had a knowledge of languages other than English. Consequently when the Social Democratic Federation was founded in 1881 as a professed Marxian organisation (though Engels would have nothing to do with it) very few of its members were acquainted with the writings of Marx. The new organisation had the merit, however, of pushing the name and works of Marx before groups of working men. Although the few well-to-do people who were at its head, sought to keep it in their pockets as a private concern of their own, the information they made available bore fruit after a number of years and led to much questioning of principles and finally to an attempt to clarify the basis and policy of the organisation to bring it more into harmony with the political needs of the working class movement.

A good deal of the early policy of the Social Democratic Federation consisted of urging the adoption of measures of reform supposedly designed to ameliorate certain outstanding grievances of sections of the working class. These ameliorative measures were not sufficiently embracing to meet the aspirations of a group of radicals who had become dissatisfied with the Liberal Party, but wanted a programme that would appeal to the so-called “professional classes." This group, therefore, formed the Independent Labour Party in 1893. Still there was a feeling that even the new programme of remedial measures was not nebulous enough to attract the large body of people desired, so the leaders of the new party, assisted by certain trade union officials, took part in forming in 1900 yet another new organisation—the Labour Party (known until 1906 as the Labour Representation Committee). From that time onwards the problem of uniting these three parties occupied a good deal of the time and attention of their respective officials and members, and periodical “Unity Conferences” were held. The idea put forward being that they should present a “United Front” to the “Common Enemy”—an idea that still befogs many who claim to be acting in the interests of the working class.

In the meantime dissatisfaction with the equivocal policy and hero-worship of the Social Democratic Federation had been growing, and a small group of critics developed who determined to try and tie the organisation to class conscious political action, and induce it to cut away the self-destructive reformist policy.

At the 1903 Conference the discussions were lively, and at the Conferences during the following two years they were livelier still. On the one side was a small, youthful group endeavouring to keep the class basis of the party clear, and on the other side the official group of older men (mainly well-to-do) who wanted to rule the party and broaden its basis to include all “sympathisers who were against social injustice,” and were straining hard to achieve unity with other non-socialist bodies. Another bone of contention was the equivocal "attitude of the Party Organ, “Justice,” edited by H. Quelch, but owned by a private group over which the party had no control. At one time it opposed the I.L.P. and the Labour Party and their leaders, and at another time it patted them on the back. At one time it denounced Hardie, Snowden, and others, and at another time urged members and branches to help in the election of these people to Parliament. The members who objected to this policy and urged genuine independence, were dubbed by Quelch "The Impossibilists.”

In August, 1902, a paper commenced to appear in Scotland published by Scottish members of the Social Democratic Federation, with the title "The Socialist." The third issue contained an attack on the leaders and policy of the S.D.F. signed "Impossibilist.” Subsequently the attitude of the paper gradually became more hostile, until in 1903 its adherents formed the Socialist Labour Party, copying the American organisation of the same name. This party was crippled at birth, however, with the fatal platform containing "immediate demands.” At first the new party held to the position that the immediate object should be the conquest of political power, but later, under the influence of its American parent, it was swept away by industrial unionism. In fact it soon became apparent that the members of this party had really only changed their idols; Hyndman, Quelch and company were deposed, and De Leon and Connolly took their places.

From 1902 until 1904 the columns of "Justice” contained a good deal of correspondence from members criticising the attitude of the party and its leaders, and much impatient denunciation by Hyndman, Quelch, Lee and Max Beer. At the 1902 Conference there were some heated discussions on the political arrangements with Liberals, Tories, Labour, & co. There were also some caustic remarks made about the public banquet to Hyndman to which people of all political persuasions were invited, and at which they all indulged in back-patting, in spite of previous mutual denunciation as sworn enemies.

During 1902 a member (P. Friedberg) wrote a criticism of the party and its leaders which, as "Justice" did not publish it, he sent on to the American "Weekly People” (the organ of the American Socialist Labour Party). For this action the Executive expelled him and, later, expelled his Branch (Finsbury Park) for supporting his action. The matter came up at the 1903 Conference and, under the influence of the ruling clique, the expulsion was endorsed and another member (G. S. Yates), who supported the action, was also expelled by the Conference on account of articles in the "Socialist” criticising the S.D.F. It is interesting to recall that E. E. Hunter (a member of the present Labour Party) was at that time a fervent supporter of independent class conscious political action; defended Friedberg, Yates and the others, and wrote articles on similar lines for the "Socialist.” 

Throughout 1903 the volume of criticism against the autocratic attitude of the Executive Committee and its compromising policy grew stronger and more articulate.

At the 1904 Conference at Blackburn matters were brought to a head. The Conference met on Friday, April the 1st, and immediately protests were called forth by references in the E.C. report to "Impossibilists,” and a warm discussion followed. The next day (Saturday) the Conference had hardly assembled when Herbert Burrows asked for and was granted urgency to move that those who were constantly criticising the E.C. be called upon to apologise to the Conference and pledge themselves, without any reservations whatever, to cease such conduct in future. This was carried by 56 votes to 6. The six were then called upon for an explanation or an apology. None of them apologised. After hearing their explanation two of them were summarily expelled and left the Conference. The two expelled members, J. Fitzgerald and H. J. Hawkins, were candidates for the new E.C., and some of the delegates present (who had voted for their expulsion) had been instructed to vote for them to the E.C. In speaking to the expulsion resolution, H. Quelch had accused Fitzgerald of fostering discontent by means of economics classes!

The official group complained that the "Impossibilist” movement was a campaign of calumny and intrigue against old and experienced members and therefore against the entire body. They appealed to the Conference on the sentimental grounds of age, connections and years in the struggle, assuring the members that their experience had justified the necessity of political arrangements, "broadening” the basis of membership, and of supporting political representatives who did not share their basic views. Many of the delegates were members of the E.C., past members of it, and personal friends of E.C. members. It was with the assistance of these delegates that the E.C. secured a vote giving them full powers to expel without appeal any member or Branch who did not fall in with the E.C.'s view. 

The two members expelled were delegates from Branches who had received instructions to vote on certain items on the Agenda dealing with questions of policy, but they were expelled before the items came up. The significant fact was that both had been nominated for the E.C. by several Branches, and therefore constituted a menace to the old official group. In fact, at a subsequent meeting of London members, J. Kent (since Conservative Mayor of Acton!) stated that he was present on the evening when the expulsions were arranged by Hyndman, Quelch and company around the tea-table on the evening of the first day of the Conference.

After the Conference the Watford Branch wrote to the Executive asking why their delegate (Fitzgerald) had been expelled. They were informed, that unless they too complied with the Conference findings on the question of criticism they also would be expelled. This was an example of the method that was being adopted all round. The majority of the members of the S.D.F. were unclear on principles; the Executive deprecated discussion on principles, claiming that "we are all Socialists, we want to get on with the practical details." It was alleged that narrowness had hindered the growth of the S.D.F., which "was no longer a sect surrounded by hostility." It was sought to "broaden the base" and unite all "progressives" on temporary objects. The official group carried a packed Conference with them, and secured a vote giving them power (for three years) to expel members and Branches who were not prepared to give unqualified support to the compromising and reformist policy that was being followed.

The Socialist Party and War (1931)

From the August 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

The threat of war casts a shadow over all who witnessed the last great conflict—civilians as well as combatants. Death and mutilation, the loss of health, the breaking up of homes and the frustration of hopes and plans; years of anguish while the war dragged on, and when it was over a heritage of sorrow which will last for the lives of millions of the present generation. Nearly nine million men killed, with refinements of cruelty unknown in pre-civilised times; 21 million wounded and hundreds of thousands of men and women suffering from permanently impaired health brought about by the aggravated want which war and blockade inflicted upon the working-class. To this appalling list must be added the lies, the hatreds, and the bestiality that are inseparable from modern warfare. In face of the cost there can be few who want war for its own sake. As Mr. Duff Cooper, now Conservative M.P. for the St. George’s Division, has aptly said, “was anyone going to argue that an Englishman or any other human being liked sitting in a waterlogged trench with the prospect of being blown up by a gun fired miles away, and thinking that his home and family might be destroyed by bombs dropped from the sky? Bring him an Englishman who liked that, and he would endeavour to have him certified as insane and placed in a lunatic asylum.”

But if, as is true, men and women of all parties hate war and are sincerely anxious to prevent it, why cannot we all get together for that purpose? What need can there be for a distinctly socialist attitude towards war? The answer is simple and final. The sincere desire for peace shown by the capitalist parties is nullified by their over-riding will to maintain the capitalist system of society. Did they not with equal sincerity talk peace and want peace before 1914? Did they not seek to justify that war by the most hollow of all claims—that it was a war to end war? And do they not now, with protestations of peace on their lips continue to build up still vaster and more destructive forces on land and sea and in. the air? Mr. Hoover, President of the U.S.A., in his speech on Armistice Day, 1929, said :—
   “The men under arms, including active reserves . . .  are almost 30,000,000 in number, or nearly 10,000,000 more than before the Great War.”
Mr. Lloyd George quoted and endorsed President Hoover’s words in a speech in the House of Commons on December 4th, 1929 (see Parliamentary Report of that date), and then said :—
   "The weapons of destruction . . .  in number and in power, are five times more shattering than those which the whole of the armies had when they went into battle on 4th August, 1914."
The Socialist Party of Great Britain has nothing in common with the parties that preach peace but continue to prepare for war.

Our opponents defend their actions with talk of the need for security. We must, they say, guard the integrity and independence of the nation. They differ among themselves only as to the amount and kind of armaments necessary, for security. They argue the respective merits and costs of the battleship, the submarine, aircraft and poison gas. There are some who urge that the nations should agree to gradual and mutual disarmament, and there are even pacifists who claim that the best of all guarantees of security is for this country to disarm completely without waiting for the rest of the world.

The Socialist Party does not agree with any of these points of view.

For us it is not a question of deciding which is the. best method of achieving security, but a question of deciding whether the security referred to is of any real concern to the working class. We recognise that the capitalists have a real interest at stake. It is in the nature of the capitalist system to perpetuate conflict between the classes and between the nations.

Commercial rivalries set capitalist states and empires one against the other. The class which has property and privilege must maintain armed forces to protect their property and to make secure the social system which affords them their privileges. They need armed forces at home for use when occasion arises against striking workers; they need armed forces abroad to seize and to hold territories rich in raw materials, to protect merchant ships on distant trade routes, to guard vital links like the Suez and Panama canals, and to defend India, where they have £1,000 millions invested, and similar sources of profit. It is for this that armed forces are maintained and set in motion. In 1914 the German capitalist class sought to improve their commercial position by gaining control of ports on the Channel and by extending their colonial empire. The British capitalists saw that their interests were threatened and were prepared to sacrifice the lives of hundreds of thousands of men in order that the danger to British capitalism might be averted. The capitalists and their politicians do not consciously seek war as a means of snatching wealth and power from their rivals but they are driven by the forces at work in the capitalist system to follow policies which bring them into conflict with each other. The employing class in each country strives desperately to sell abroad the superabundant wealth that is surplus to the demands of the home market. The governments are called in to further the interests of the national groups of capitalists. First it is the influence of the trade departments exercised in the form of polite representations to foreign governments. But, ultimately, when commercial rivalry has provoked fierce hostility, there will be charges and counter-charges of “dumping," of unfair discrimination under the cover of taxes or laws, of infringements of “spheres of influence,” and various other resented practices that veil the economic war. Then, when the secret threats of the diplomatists fail to be of use, recourse is had to the armed forces, and war is declared. Under the cloak of patriotism and national defence, with the blessing of the church, the press, the labour leaders and the politicians, millions of workers are thrown against each other in battle. They do not know that they are fighting to defend or to extend the interests of the class that lives by robbing them of the fruits of their labour.

The answer that the Socialist Party gave in 1914 is the answer we shall give to all capitalist wars. What we said in our Manifesto in 1914 represents our views to-day. It is a document of historical interest and is reproduced below:—
The War, and the Socialist Position. 
  Whereas the capitalists of Europe have quarrelled over the question of the control of .trade routes, and the world’s markets, and are endeavouring to exploit the political ignorance and blind passions of the working class of their respective countries in order to induce the said workers to take up arms in what is solely their masters’ quarrel, and
   Whereas further, the pseudo-Socialists and labour “leaders” of this country, in common with their fellows on the Continent, have again betrayed the working-class position, either through their ignorance of it, their cowardice, or worse, and are assisting the master class in utilising this thieves' quarrel to confuse the minds of the workers and turn their attention from the Class Struggle.
   The Socialist Party of Great Britain seizes the opportunity of re-affirming the Socialist position, which is as follows:    That Society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.
    That in Society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a CLASS WAR, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.
    That the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exist only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers.
    These armed forces, therefore, will only be set in motion to further the interests of the class who control them—the master class—and as the workers' interests are not bound up in the struggle for markets wherein their masters may dispose of the wealth they have stolen from them (the workers), but in the struggle to end the system under which they are robbed, they are not concerned with the present European struggle, which is already known as the “BUSINESS” war, for it is their masters' interests which are involved, and not their own.
    The Socialist Party of Great Britain, pledges itself to keep the issue clear by expounding the CLASS STRUGGLE, and whilst placing on record its abhorrence of this latest manifestation of the callous, sordid, and mercenary nature of the international capitalist class, and declaring that no interests are at stake justifying the shedding of a single drop of working-class blood, enters its emphatic protest against the brutal and bloody butchery of our brothers of this and other lands who are being used as food for cannon abroad while suffering and starvation are the lot of their fellows at home.       Having no quarrel with the working class of any country, we extend to our fellow-workers of all lands the expression of our goodwill and Socialist fraternity, and pledge ourselves to work for the overthrow of capitalism and the triumph of Socialism.
The World For The Workers!
The Executive Committee.
August 25th, 1914. 
Wage Workers of the World Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains, you have a world to win!—Marx,
The consequences of the war have fully justified our attitude of opposition to it. The nations which waged war in 1914 were all of them capitalist nations. The Allied group used their victory to further the interests of their capitalists by seizing colonial and other profitable territories that had belonged to the ruling class in the defeated countries, and by imposing heavy financial burdens under the name of reparations. What difference has this made to the working class? Capitalism remains as secure in 1931 as it was in 1914. The working class are still a subject class. Their economic position in the victorious countries is no better than before, and in the defeated countries no worse. In England and in Germany the workers' standard of living is practically at the same level as in 1914. Prices are higher, but wages have increased roughly in the same proportion. It is the German capitalists who have had to pay the reparations out of their profits. The average rate of profit in Germany is now appreciably less than in Great Britain. Germany’s millionaire class almost disappeared as a result of the war. Victory meant victory for the, British, French and American propertied class. Defeat meant defeat for the German propertied class.

For the working class in all countries every death, every wound and every hour of suffering was in vain. The war solved no working class problems, and from a working class point of view, was a crime.

Let us now compare the attitude of the Socialist Party with the attitude and actions of other parties whose claim it is that they are concerned particularly with the welfare of the workers. Little need be said of the Liberal and Tory parties. They are admittedly prepared to go to war and admittedly uphold capitalism which is the cause of war in the modern world.

But what of the Labour Party?

In the opening month of the war we were told that:
  "The Head Office of the Party, its entire machinery are to be placed at the disposal of the Government in their recruiting campaign." ("Labour Leader," September 3rd, 1914.)
Three years later the position remained unchanged. Mr. W. F. Purdy, Chairman of the Labour Party Executive, in an interview with a correspondent of the “Manchester Guardian" (7th June, 1917), said:
    “As Chairman of the E.C. of the Labour Party I am not going to meet or sit in conference with the representatives of the enemy countries while we are at war. I mean to carry out the policy of British Labour as laid down by our representative gathering. That policy is to pursue the war to a successful termination, which means to a complete victory over the enemy.”
One prominent member of the Labour Party, Mr. Arthur Henderson, M.P., took an active part in recruiting and was given a post in the cabinet when the Labour Party joined in the war-time coalition government. It was Mr. Henderson who in 1916 urged that the strike leaders be deported from the Clyde area.

The Independent Labour Party in 1914 allowed its members to support the war and engage in recruiting. Mr. J. R. MacDonald and the late J. Keir Hardie both took part in the recruiting campaign, although at the same time criticising the past conduct and policy of the Liberal government which was responsible for the entry of this country into the war. I.L.P. members in Parliament were permitted to vote war credits, and throughout the war the I.L.P. remained a constituent part of the Labour Party. 

It is important to remember that these organisations have not abandoned the beliefs which in 1914 led them to support the war. At the 1925 Labour Party Conference Mr. Arthur Henderson, on behalf of the Executive Committee, opposed a resolution pressing for disarmament. He said :
   "If France continued in the frame of mind she was now in, had they to overlook the possibilities of defence? They could not afford to ignore this question of defence.”—(Report of Proceedings. Page 232.) .
In 1924 and again in 1930 and 1931, the Labour Government continued to maintain and even in some cases to increase the strength of the armaments of this country.

The Labour Government is still prepared in certain eventualities to wage war in defence of British capitalism; if not against the German enemy of 1914, then against Mr. Henderson’s French enemies of 1925, or some other enemies of the future.

It must not be forgotten that in each of the two Labour Governments a considerable number of Ministers as well as a clear majority of the Labour Party M.P.’s were members of the I.L.P. so that the latter body cannot escape responsibility for all that has been done in respect of the maintenance of armaments.

We would place on record the words of Mr. Arthur Henderson, uttered in reply to the charge that he supported the war. Mr. Henderson said (“Daily Herald,” 10th January, 1929) that “he was not in the least ashamed of his war record.”

The Socialist Party of Great Britain is also not ashamed of its war record. But we can add, as Mr. Henderson cannot, that our attitude then and now is in line with the interests of the working class.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Mosley Party. Old Fallacies Re-Furbished. (1931)

From the April 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

One cannot but sympathise with the exasperation of Labour Party members who were promised something new and striking when their party came into office, and now find themselves not even in the position of defending the Government’s actions against criticism, because the Government has, for all practical purposes, not committed any actions. It has just sat tight, apparently paralysed with fear of the consequences should it try to put its programme into operation. As Lady Cynthia Mosley complains, they have had to listen to the Liberal Party smugly reproving the Government for being unprogressive and for allowing itself to be scared into inactivity by the Conservative opposition. If the Liberal demand for action was bluff, as the MacDonald Ministry maintains, why not, she asks, call their bluff? Sir Oswald Mosley, who was a member of the Government, tried to goad .them into adopting his scheme for tackling unemployment. Having failed, he has finally taken the step of forming the “New Party.”

The Origin of the New Party.
In the Leader on March 10th, 1931, Sir Oswald Mosley tells the story of the Party’s formation :—
  A year ago I and many other of the younger men began to see the economic crisis which has since struck this country. I was then a Minister, and I submitted a memorandum to the Cabinet showing this, and outlining an active policy to deal with it. What response did I get? I and my friends were laughed at as alarmists, who were always crying “ Wolf.”
  We were told we were young men in a hurry, that there was no economic crisis, that trade would soon mend of itself, that it was silly and unnecessary to take any special emergency measures to deal with the situation. Not once, but again and again, Mr. Snowden, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, told us all that trade would mend; sometimes he said within a year, sometimes within six months.
  Well, the year has gone by, and what do we see? This same Philip Snowden, Chancellor of the Exchequer, comes down to the House of Commons, and in a panic speech announces a crisis. All of a. sudden he has been converted to our view, and calls for sacrifices from all.
  What does this phrase, “sacrifices from all," mean in plain language? It means simply wage reductions, reductions in all the so-called social services, it means less money for everybody. This is his way of dealing with the crisis.
The Mosley Programme.
Sir Oswald Mosley, in the article referred to above, and in the pamphlet, “A National Policy” (Macmillan’s, 6d.), sets out the principal points in the policy of his party.

Their first demand is for the reform of Parliamentary procedure:—
“Nothing can be done with that creaking, broken-down, antiquated old machine at Westminster.”
Secondly, they propose a National Economic Planning Council which would rationalise production and marketing with a view to eliminating waste, overlapping and inefficiency.

Thirdly, there would be Commodity Boards to control the importation of foreign goods which under-sold any home industry. The object of restricting the entry of cheap foreign goods would be to enable the home industry to be re-organised. Protected industries would have to pay an adequate wage; how much, he does not say.

There is to be “economic partnership with the Dominions and Colonies,” and trade agreements with foreign countries that are willing to help this country’s export trade.

Is Parliament Too Slow?
Sir Oswald Mosley’s first error is his.supposition that Parliament’s failure to do certain things is due to the machinery being out-of-date. The real explanation is that those who control Parliament are, on the whole, very well satisfied with things as they are, and do not want to make any fundamental change. And in this they accurately reflect the insufficient knowledge, lack of purpose and lack of agreement among the electors. If the electors, or a majority of them, wanted something done, the machinery of Parliament would not stand in the way. In 1912 an occasion arose when capitalist interests required a more stringent Official Secrets Act in order to make preparations for the coming war with Germany. The Speaker of the House said it would be contrary to every Parliamentary. precedent to put the Bill through as quickly as the promoters desired. Nevertheless, the Bill was pushed through the whole of the stages of the House of Commons procedure and given the Reyal Assent all within 24 hours. General Seeley tells the full story in his book, “Adventure.”

Rationalisation and Unemployment.
The new Party’s next proposal is merely a new version of the century-old demand for increased efficiency as a means of solving capitalism’s problems. Sir Oswald Mosley and his lieutenants do not so much as refer to the vital working-class objection to such schemes. Under capitalism the proceeds of the work of the working class do not belong to them. The products of the labour of farm workers and mill hands, railwaymen, clerks, sailors and others are the property of the employing class. Any increase in those products, however it may be obtained, is also the property of the employing class. It does not follow, either in theory or in practice, that the workers will have all or any of the increase in the amount of wealth which may be produced. In addition, rationalisation means the introduction of labour-displacing machinery and devices, with consequent growth in unemployment. (Sir Oswald Mosley promises to “rebuild the trade of this country,” but overlooks the fact that his schemes of rationalisation would enable still more wealth to be produced by fewer workers. Unless society is re-organised on a Socialist basis, the fruits of economy and greater efficiency will continue to be enjoyed by the propertied class. The Workers, when employed, will continue to get as their share wages based roughly on their cost of living.

There Is No Grave Crisis For Capitalism.
The new Party, in common with all the “old gangs” whom it criticises, accepts the fallacious doctrines that the workers are poor and many of them unemployed because of foreign competition, and that the decline in exports in recent years has left capitalist industry unable to afford higher wages.

The workers are poor because the capitalist class own the machinery of production and because they retain and consume a vast amount of the wealth produced.

The volume of imports and exports passing between capitalist countries is related to the total amount of wealth in those countries only in the same way that the exchange of goods between, say, London and Manchester is related to the wealth of the people living in those two cities. The fact that a Manchester firm may lose its London market owing to the opening of a London firm selling the same line of goods, and that a London firm producing some other article may lose its Manchester market to a new Manchester firm, does not mean necessarily that Manchester and London become poorer. If the change has been due to the utilisation of more efficient machinery and methods of production, the amount of wealth produced, and still more the amount capable of being produced, will be greater than before in both areas. But the workers may get none of the increase.

During the years since the war the exports from this country have heavily declined in value, due in part to technical developments in industry and agriculture which have made it more profitable for the capitalists of this and other countries to employ workers on the production of certain articles at home, instead of importing them. Imports and exports have fallen, but the wealth of this country has been increasing.

Mosley, like the Empire Free Traders, points to the fact that there are farmers in the Dominions who cannot sell their grain, and factory owners here who cannot sell their industrial products. He asks, Why not bring the two together? But what about the farmers here who cannot sell their grain, and the factory owners in the Dominions who cannot sell their industrial goods?

When Sir Oswald Mosley says that the position of the industrial capitalist “becomes daily more impossible," and that there is now a crisis which will smash Great Britain unless something drastic is done about it, he is talking nonsense. The capitalists' average rate of profit has remained remarkably stable since tire war at a level well above the pre-war average. (For figures, see March Socialist Standard.) The present two and a half million unemployed is no higher than the number recorded during the Lloyd George Coalition Government’s term of office. It is merely a sign of the periodical accumulation of goods which cannot be sold because the employing class have satisfied all their wants, although they still have vast purchasing power available. Now that production has been severely curtailed, the accumulation is being got rid of. In due course sales will revive and unemployment will fall to a lower figure. The Labour Government went into office gambling that unemployment would decrease. They backed the wrong' horse at that time. Mosley now appears to be gambling that it will continue to increase heavily. He looks like being disappointed.

The Mosley Party A Capitalist Party.
The Mosley Party may make headway among disappointed members of the existing parties, but it seems obvious that, in spite of a lavish expenditure of money on meetings and posters and talk of 400 candidates at the next election, they cannot hope to be in a position to apply their programme except by joining with some other party.

But even if Mosley did manage to get Governmental power, his programme would not solve the problems of the workers. The chief promoters of the Party have every appearance of muddle-headed sincerity, but they have explicitly ruled out the only solution of the workers’ problems, i.e., the abolition of capitalism. In “A National Policy” occurs the following declaration :—
   Questions of the ultimate goal of society are excluded by the urgency of the problem which confronts us. (Page 6.)
Moreover, not only do they exclude questions of the ultimate goal of society, but they do not even admit Socialism—that is, common ownership of the machinery of production and distribution—as being a question at all. For them the question of the ultimate goal of society is merely the issue of State capitalism versus private capitalism—an issue of no concern to Socialists.

Mr. W. E. D. Allen, the Conservative M.P. for West Belfast, who has joined the Party, confesses that his object in joining it is "the adjustment of the capitalist system to the economic needs of the nation as a whole” (Star, March 9th), and he further says that his action is no offence against the "broad principles of Ulster Unionism ” (Manchester Guardian, March 3rd).

The Mosley Party and the Labour Party.
Most of the original support for the new programme came from Labour M.P.’s, the majority of whom, however, deserted Mosley when he actually formed the new Party. Those who went right through with it—Lady Cynthia Mosley, Mr. Strachey and Dr. Forgan—have all defended their action on the ground that it is not they, but the Labour Party which has deserted the Labour programme. They have stated explicitly that they still stand by "Labour and the Nation,” the programme on which they were elected. They also maintain that they are Socialists.

Mr. W. J. Brown, M.P., who left the Labour Party, but now declines to join the Mosley Party, although his name appears as one of the writers of "A National Policy,” and although he was billed to speak at meetings of the new Party, takes up a quite different attitude.

Although he also was elected as a Labour Party candidate on "Labour and the Nation,” he declares that "Labour and the Nation” is a programme of capitalism. This he did in a speech at the 1928 Labour Party Conference (see Conference Report, page 207). He said that its application would give  "not Socialism, but a State-subsidised capitalism.”

From this speech and from Mr. Brown’s subsequent actions, two things emerge. The first is that in his view he and the other Mosleyites, as well as all the Labour M.P.’s, were elected on a capitalist programme. The second is that, whereas in 1928 he rejected "Labour and the Nation” and said he wanted in its place Socialism, he has since changed his mind. He still rejects “Labour and the Nation,” but, in common with the Mosleyites, he wants a different kind of capitalist programme, i.e., the Mosley programme which he helped to draft.

The Angry I.L.P.
The I.L.P. are furious with Mosley, not because the new Party is a capitalist party, but because it threatens to queer the pitch of the Labour Party and the I.L.P.

The I.L.P. are amazed, no doubts at the Mosleyites leaving the Labour Party. Seeing that the Labour Party are acting as "caretakers of capitalism" (as it was put by the prominent member of the I.L.P., Mr. Campbell Stephen, M.P., in the New Leader on March 13th), why go outside and form another party of caretakers of capitalism? The I.L.P. Members of Parliament, who form a majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party, are quite prepared to go on acting as caretakers of capitalism, but they strongly resent the action of the Mosley group who were, apparently, honest enough to leave the Labour Party when they found themselves no longer in agreement with it. The action of the Mosley group shows up the Maxtonites for what they are—a body of dishonest and cowardly time-servers, pretending to condemn the Labour programme as a programme of capitalism, but themselves seeking election on it, and painfully careful never to translate their words into deeds.

The Old “New Party.”
It would be a pity not to refer to a very cruel blow delivered at the new Party by a correspondent of the Manchester Guardian. He points out the marked resemblance between the new programme and the writings of Bishop Berkeley. Mr. John Strachey, M.P., a member of the Mosley group, confesses that Bishop Berkeley was one of his father’s favourite authors, and that the new Party is indeed indebted to the Bishop. But he asks (Manchester Guardian, February 28th), "Why should we deny it?" "Because a man lived 200 years ago, is he necessarily wrong?” We would ourselves like to ask the Mosley Party what reason they can urge against trying Socialism, especially in view of the great age of their own policy?
Edgar Hardcastle