Tuesday, March 31, 2020

I.L.P. Foolery. (1920)

From the March 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

When we proclaim from our platforms that we are the only Socialist party, and expose the trickery and treachery of other organisations claiming to champion the cause of the working class, we are told that we are only hindering progress, that petty differences in details of policy should be forgotten and an effort made toward a more united action against the common foe. "After all, we are all out for one thing," is a common remark used to round off the plea.

Now this sounds very plausible and pleasing to those who find it difficult, or who are too apathetic, to go below the surface and examine things with something like thoroughness.

The Socialist Party calls for unity among the working class, but the difference between our call and the wail of the organisations which we attack and expose is that our appeal for unity is made as a result of a scientific examination of the facts of working-class experience in modern capitalist society, while theirs is, at the best, merely a manifestation of ignorant enthusiasm and impatience.

We lay it down that the condition of our class is one of wage slavery ; we recognise the antagonism of interests manifesting itself as a class struggle between those who produce but do not possess and those who possess but do not produce, between the employed and the employers, the robbed and the robbers.

This struggle is what is known as the class war, and it is upon a recognition of these fundamental principles that our actions are based.

How, then, could we ally ourselves with such a hotch-potch of confusion and calculated treachery as constitutes the I.L.P., who, at the Amsterdam International Congress in 1904, while voting for a resolution extolling the "tried and victorious policy based on the class war," declared on their return to England that the class war was a "shibboleth" and a ''reactionary and Whiggish precept, certain to 
lead the movement away from the real aims of Socialism." —"Labour Leader," 26.8.04.

Further, listen to what Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald says : "The Socialist movement knows no class, but is drawn from all classes.  . . . So I sum up the Labour Party is not a class, but a community  party."—"Labour Leader," 21.6.09.

Again : "I want the serious men of the trade unions, the brotherhoods, and similar movements, to face their duty. To such men it is enough to say 'England has need of you' and to say it in the right way."—"Daily Chronicle," 14.9.14. This was in a letter to a major in charge of a recruiting meeting.

Here we have direct repudiations of the class war and treachery of the vilest kind. Nevertheless they call themselves "Independent." Why they should tack this word on to their title the Lord High Hobo only knows. It means, seemingly, that they are independent of principle, quite free to say what they like, bargain with whom they like, betray when and where they like.

They I.L.P., however, do perform very useful functions—for the master class. They form a convenient hothouse for budding aspirants to fame and position in the Trade Union movement and the ranks of the Labour Party ; and as a means of spreading confusion among the working class, on questions which vitally affect their interests, such as politics, trade unionism, etc., there is no doubt that they merit the support which they obtain from the finances of the master class.

With these few introductory observatations I come to the pith of my argument. In glancing through the "Labour Leader" for February 12, last, we find a pronouncement urging I.L.P. branches to organise "large demonstrations" for the following objects :
  1. To protest against the monstrous terms of the Peace Treaty.
  2. To demand the drastic revision of its terms.
  3. To affirm the solidarity of the Party with the Socialist Parties of the World.
  4. To assert that the I.L.P. opposed the war because of its International policy, and stands for a JUST and LASTING Peace.

The first two items, notwithstanding the wishes of the I.L P., will be decided in accordance with the interests of the victorious capitalists. The terms of the Peace Treaty, even if they were known, are no concern of the working class whatever. It is a capitalist peace and as such concerns only the capitalist class, and they obviously, as long as they have the power, will continue to arrange things to suit their interest. The "monstrous terms" are imposed by one set of capitalists upon another set, and just as the workers of this country will have no share in the plunder, so will the hardships of the toilers of the defeated nations be not increased or diminished, whatever the terms imposed upon their masters. A man cuts his horse's rations to the lowest point it can drag its burden on, and consequently gets fined for working the animal in an unfit condition. Can the horse pay the fine? This protest is, therefore, purely a stunt on the part of the I.L P. to seize an opportunity to advertise themselves and switch the minds of the working class off the things that matter.

Item 3—It has already been shown that, by their repudiation of the class struggle the I.L.P. have alienated themselves from the Socialist movement. Their desire, therefore, to affirm their "solidarity with the Socialist parties of the world" is empty phrase-mongering.

Item 4.—The first part is a direct lie, and goes to show to what depths they are prepared to sink and how insanely credulous they consider the rank and file are.

Most of the prominent men in the I.L.P. assisted in the recruiting campaign ; moreover, the Labour Party, to whom the party are affiliated, supported the war and assisted in recruiting, and in the organisation of "patriotic" meetings.

Further, their delegates to the Conference of "Socialists" of the Allied Nations in 1915 supported the resolution that the "Socialists" were "inflexibly resolved to fight until victory is achieved." When some of the delegates protested at the 22nd Annual Conference, Mr. Bruce Glasier said "the members of the I.L.P. who were present at the gathering were not there as representatives of the party, but as members of the International Bureau."

Again, in the official I.L.P. pamphlet entitled "How the War Came," occurs the following: "Obviously the war must be finished now."

And finally, at the 23rd Annual Conference Mr. Bruce Glasier said: "They had dissociated the party from the political recruiting campaign, but they had left it to every member to recruit if he thought well to do so, and, if he thought it his duty, to ask his neighbour to recruit."

Just notice the charming "independence" that prevails. And this is the organisation which is going to achieve working-class emancipation ! The ruling class are safe as long as they can encourage such confusion of thought.

The resolutions which the I.L.P. branches are urged to move at the demonstrations referred to are just as weird and ridiculous. They state, for instance, that the meeting ''affirms its belief in the ideal of Human Brotherhood . . ." These are mere glow words. No such thing can exist under capitalism, not even in the I.L.P. They say it with their tongues in their cheeks. Then the resolutions go on to talk about securing "equal rights of social and economic development to all nations, to adjust all differences of boundary and race in the light of the permanent interest of civilisation and the mutual rights of all peoples."

There is displayed in these resolutions a gross ignorance of the laws operating under capitalism. The development of the means of production is the deciding factor, and it is only when society becomes a harmonious organism, i.e., when social, instead of private, ownership of the instruments of labour complements social production, resulting in social appropriation of the labour products, that human kind will be able to enjoy the fruits of their industry.

Until that time arrives, until the economic forces have developed to the point where the Social Rovolution becomes an inevitable necessity, the task of the Socialist Party will be to prepare the minds of the people for the great event—for the birth of the new social order; to organise the workers on the political field for the capture of the powers of government

Blazoned on its banners will be, the watch words : "Workers of the World, unite ! You have nothing  to lose but your chains ; you have a world to win."
O. C. I.

1 comment:

Imposs1904 said...

Hat tip to ALB for originally scanning this in.

That's the March 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard done and dusted.