Saturday, July 13, 2019

Opinions and Interests. (1926)

From the May 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

“The rise of the Labour and Socialist movement in this country is the greatest miracle in political history.” Thus spake Mr. P. Snowden at a dinner of London Labour Mayors at the Florence Restaurant, on the 19th March. "Socialists,” he continued, "are the most pronounced in their views. 'They bold a great variety of opinions.  . . . But I have never had any concern about differences in the Labour Party. They are a sort of safety valve.”

Complacency of this sort is to be expected of a successful Labour leader like Mr. Snowden. Staggered by the sheep-like trustfulness on the part of the workers which has elevated him to a place in the seats of the mighty, he can only describe it as a miracle,—something unnatural, something providential, something to thank God for! Mr. Snowden knows that whatever the differences in the Labour Party between right, left and centre, none of them are sufficiently vital to disturb the utility of the Party in helping to preserve the system which enables Mr. Snowden to get paid handsomely for his prostitute pen, not to speak of occasional Cabinet jobs.

The workers who expect to obtain some material advantage for their class through the agency of such a Party, however, need furiously to think.

Unanimity on points of detail is, of course, not to be expected of any group of human beings. Even the Catholic Church fails to enforce it. A political party without a common object, clearly defined, a general principle commonly accepted by its members is nevertheless only a snare for those who have not yet learned to think clearly.

What is the object of the Labour Party? No one knows. Some of its members assert that it is one thing, others emphatically contradict them. Even on the term. Socialism, they cannot agree. What principle forms its basis? Again, no one knows. While its more prominent leaders avow and disavow the class struggle, the rank and file spend their time in deciding which clique of leaders to trust. No wonder that the Liberals and Tories entrusted them with office.

The claim is often made by Communists and others that the Labour Party is entitled to respect as, with all its faults, it represents the workers. Actually it only represents some of the workers, possibly fifty per cent. These workers, however, are by no means agreed as to what they want nor how they are to obtain it, and it is therefore logically impossible to regard their opinions as expressing their interests. The interests of the working class are identical with Socialism, and we challenge anyone in or out of the Labour Party to contradict us. The opinions of the workers being mainly hostile or indifferent to Socialism are identical with those of the master class who, in fact, provide those opinions ready-made through the agency of the Press.

While this is the case, we of the Socialist Party have no ambition to represent the ignorance of the workers. We seek first to bring their opinions into line with their interests. All our propaganda is directed to this end. Upon details from time to time we may be divided, but upon the central facts of the working-class position and the policy logically flowing from those facts there is no division within our ranks.

“Yes,” retorts the Labourite, “and you are in consequence but a few hundred strong, while we have organised millions behind us.” The greater the weight of numbers, however, the greater the power, "What have you done with your millions?” is our reply. “Have you lifted the wealthy oppressors one inch from the backs of their slaves? Have you wrung so much as one miserable sop from the masters to appease our hunger or shelter our bodies?" No! So little respect have they for you and your miracles that they let you in to do their dirty work at home and abroad, and when they had finished with you for the nonce they turned you adrift again. Even now they are intensifying the misery of the workless, and all you can do is hold up your hands in affected and hypocritical horror (as you started the job) and whine like the old women you are. Already you have had chance after chance to justify your existence to the working class, and the net result is that the parasites laugh you to scorn while the workers continue to suffer. Practical men, are you? Very well, by your practices we judge you.”

And what of the Communists who helped Mr. Snowden and his kidney at the last election? These “men of action.” Where are the fruits of their five years of whirl-windy jargon and weathercock antics?

The Russian traveller, in the legend, cut down one of his horses to feed, and thus check, the wolves by whom he was pursued. Have the followers of the Communists any meat to show? No! But then they are merely sheep in wolves’ clothing !

Only when the workers know will material gain be theirs. It is our mission to spread knowledge !
Eric Boden