Tuesday, June 28, 2022

50 Years Ago: A Labour Prophet has a Fall (1999)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the Labour Party Conference in May, 1940, when the Labour Party decided to enter the Churchill Government, Mr. Arthur Greenwood, M.P., made a prophecy about the outcome of the war:
“We shall have a trembling capitalist system which can never recover again. We shall have broken the back of the vested interests, and we can build a socialist commonwealth which will be a powerful factor in the world.” (Daily Herald, May 14th, 1940.)
On the 10th anniversary of the outbreak of war Mr. Greenwood gave a message to the Daily Mail (September 3rd, 1949) which included the following:-
“This peace has not yet been won, and Britain’s effort to-day must be directed towards the fullest use of all human and material resources, so as to play our part in the reshaping of the whole world.”
British Capitalism is indeed in a bad way, but what the Labour Government is now doing is to direct all their efforts to trying to put it on its feet again while urging the workers to refrain from making demands that would stand in the way of British capitalist recovery. The Labour Party’s latest pronouncement of policy is appropriately called “Labour Believes in Britain,” not “Labour Believes in Socialism.”

(From Socialist Standard, October1949)

Socialism in Coventry. (1904)

From the December 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialism in this city is of the sort one would naturally expect to find where its professors fail to recognise its basic principle. To this fact we may attribute the lack of proper enthusiasm, and want of adequate financial support which were conspicuous features of the Clarion Sunday lectures held last winter.

All the alleged labour and so-called Socialist parties here have identified themselves, time and again with one of the capitalist parties—the Liberals.

Some two years ago when Dr. Clifford brought his nonconformist conscience to Coventry, and spoke in the Corn Exchange to the kind-hearted Liberals on the monstrosities of the wicked-hearted Tories, the Independent Labour Party had its representative on the platform. Is Dr. Clifford in favour of, or will the Liberal Party grant, that Secular Education which the I.L.P. and other professedly Socialist bodies demand ? We know they will not. Then why this coquetting ? Is such a policy calculated to make converts to the Cause from amongst Conservatives who see professedly independent Socialists hobnobbing with their natural enemies, the Liberals?

The Liberal element was much in evidence during the Clarion Lectures referred to. Liberal members of the Town Council took the chair on more than one occasion, and I heard Mr. H. K. Farren express the hope that the Mayor (a Liberal) would see his way to preside at some future date. Yet only a few weeks ago this same mayor bluntly informed a deputation convened by the Trades Council on behalf of the unemployed, that “the general feeling of the Council was antagonistic to the Trades Council, and communications sent by the latter body “were invariably treated with contempt.

As a result of this unemployed conference, work was found by the Town Council for 90 men of the thousands standing idle. Val victis !
“See yonder poor o’erlabour’d wight,
So abject, mean, and vile,
Who begs a brother of the earth
To give him leave to toil ;
And see his lordly fellow worm
The poor petition spurn,
Unmindful tho’ a weeping wife
And helpless offspring mourn.”
So the capitalist-class flouts the claims of the worker and the only way for Socialists to checkmate them and effectually combat the evil tendencies which are the natural outcome of Bourgeois domination is by the maintenance of complete independence and of uncompromising opposition to both wings of the capitalist party. Complete independence must be the watchword of all Socialists, otherwise we cannot wonder at Conservatives regarding us as little more than a wing of the Liberal Party.
James Hutcheson 

Socialists and Liberals. Mr. Will Thorne’s view. (1904)

From the December 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

The “Stratford Express” publishes the following letter:-

“November 11th. 1904.

“Dear Sir—In reply to yours, with reference to attending at Mr. Crooks’ meeting to-night, I think it will be impossible for me to attend, as I have to attend a joint meeting at the Bricklayers’ Hall, Southwark, in connection with the sections engaged in the building trade.

“I should like to point out that by the compact made by the Liberal and Radical members of the West Ham Town Council with the Tories with a view of defeating the ends of the Labour Party, it has made it almost impossible for the advanced workers in the borough to render any assistance to the Liberal and Radical candidate for the north side of the borough. No doubt some of these gentlemen will say that the Socialist and Labour Party made a compact with the members of the Council in 1898.

“But I should like to point out that the compact we made was with the Liberals and Radicals and Irish Nationalists. Many members of the Liberal and Radical Party have been urging a compact between Liberalism and Labour, but it has never been suggested or thought of by the Socialists and Labour members with the Tories. You will, therefore, see that there is a great deal of difference between the compact made in 1898 and the agreement made between the Liberals and Tories of the West Ham Town Council for the election of Mr. Byford as Mayor, and for filling up the vacant aldermanic seats.

“If this thing is going to continue, then it seems to me that the gulf which exists between Liberalism and Labour will become very much wider. I trust that you will have a very successful meeting. I was thinking of writing a letter to the Press about the compact made by the Liberals and Radicals and the Tory members on the West Ham Town Council.
“Yours truly,
“Mr. W. Wadley
“68, Hampton-road, Forest Gate, E.”

[Increased destitution] (1904)

From the December 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

In conversation with the directing officials of the Church Army, at its headquarters last Monday a representative of the “Morning Advertiser” learnt that the exceptional distress now prevailing had very greatly increased the stress of work which the organisation has normally to bear at the present season of the year. During the month of October the applicants at headquarters for help exceeded by 61 percent. the total of those who similarly applied in the corresponding month of 1903. It is noticeable, also, the representative was told, that many of these destitute persons came from a superior class.

Socialism and Individualism. (1904)

From the December 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

The polemicists of reaction set themselves up as defenders of Individualism.

According to them Socialism will be the sacrificing of the individual to Society.

Is there any foundation for such a statement?


Socialism is not an obstacle to the physical, intellectual, or moral development of man.

On the contrary, it is to-day the only social order capable of assuring the preservation of the individual.

Not only is capitalism the opponent of Individualism but it is its most redoubtable enemy.

Bourgeois society has sacrificed the living to the dead, the productive majority to the parasitical minority. It has made man a slave to the Rich. It has turned against the individual all the forces that have been forged to conquer Nature.

The individual has nothing to hope for, but everything to fear from a continuation of Capitalism.

The exploitation of man by man, of which the defenders of capitalism demand the continuance, is a powerful factor of organic degeneracy.

Denial is impossible.

Under capitalism man loses his means of action and development.

The iniquitous social system deprives him of the most primitive rights, refuses him the means of wealth production, the products of his hand and brain, condemns him to live in slavery, poverty, and ignorance.

Under this régime man weakens, deforms, and wastes.

The degeneration of the people, submissive to capitalism, is not controvertible.

It is proved – we have established it elsewhere – by a decrease in height, weight, muscular force, fertility, sight, hearing, smell, memory, etc., and by an increase of professional maladies, bodily deformities, accidents, lunatics, etc.

The cause of those evils is known, it is the exploitation of man by man.

The interest of the individual demands the abolition of social inequalities, the microbe of all degeneracy.

Socialism demands:

The integral development of man, physically, intellectually, and morally, the free growth of the individual.

Scientific Individualism – Individualism in the highest essence – is SOCIALISM.

Let us prepare its triumph.

(From the French of Désiré Descamps by A. W. Pearson )

Correspondence. (1904)

Letters to the Editors from the December 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

(To the Editors)

Our comrade Hawkins forwards a copy of the following letter which he has received:

“Draviel, 15.11.04
Dear Comrade,—I have just received No. 3 of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD, containing your interview, and I am glad to find that you have given a very full and faithful account thereof.

Trusting that the paper will be successful and with my best wishes and our kind regards to Mrs Hawkins and yourself.
Yours fraternally
Paul Lafargue.”

#    #    #    #

12, Shelgate Road,
Clapham Junctn., S.W.


Just a few lines of congratulations. I am glad to see that a straight, uncompromising Socialist party has at last entered the political field. If ever there were need of such party it is at the present time. When one looks around and sees the so-called Socialist parties wobbling about, advising the workers to do one thing one moment and the opposite the next, it is no wonder that the workers are in a chaotic state. It is no wonder that they are apathetic. Therefore, when almost at the last moment as it seems, a straight party springs into existence, I cannot but feel that every success should meet its progress. I think that if you continue as you have begun, the workers will wake up from their apathetic mood and support you wherever you lead. I am heartily pleased with the SOCIALIST STANDARD, and wish it every success. I, at any rate, will do my best to advertise the paper and forward the Cause.
I remain, yours fraternally,
H. T. Davey.

Answers to Correspondents. (1904)

From the December 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

F. M. (Hamburg). — Your note to hand. Shall be pleased to hear from you further at any time.

C. F. (Kentish Town). — Hardly suitable, but try again.

H. C. (Canning Town). — You are quite mistaken in supposing that we should not welcome the provision of adequate maintenance of all school children. Nothing which we have ever said or written could bear any such construction. What we do believe is that nothing in the shape of adequate free maintenance will be given by any section of the capitalist party, and that anything short of adequate maintenance is not worth fighting for. When we have the working-class of this country organised on a Socialist basis and as a Socialist political party, we shall deal with all these matters as part of a regular revolutionary programme, but at present we can gain nothing by soliciting reforms and favours from a class against whose material interests it would be to grant them. We shall treat of this matter fully in a subsequent issue.

A. M. (Manchester). — 1. We think you will find the matter discussed at length in Giffen’s “Essays on Finance.” 2. Mulhall covers too short a period. We hope to be able to furnish the figures in some future issue when we have time to work them out.

J. C. T. (Birmingham). — 1. The facts may be as stated but the source is so very unreliable that you cannot quote without some independent evidence. 2. We can afford to display indifference.

J. B. (Plymouth). — We shall consider the matter.

R. T. (Newhaven). — Anyone can join The Socialist Party of Great Britain by signing our Declaration of Principles as shewn on page 7. We can send form to anyone who wishes to join. It is, of course, more interesting to have a Branch in the locality to which you can belong, but failing this, you should belong to the Central organisation pending the formation of a Branch. We shall be pleased to furnish any further information either direct or through our columns.

From Our Branches. (1904)

From the December 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard
Reports from Branches for insertion under this heading must be in before the 20th of each month, otherwise they cannot appear.

Another month of good work well done fitly sums up our position here. Since our last report although three meetings had to be abandoned owing to the rain, nevertheless we have held four meetings in Waltham, four in Edmonton and three in Tottenham. These meetings have been very successful and, as a result, the Edmonton Branch is not only stronger in every way but a sound Branch will soon exist in Tottenham also.

On Sunday, November 20, we had a field-day, the meeting at West Green Rd. lasting nearly four hours, during which five critics—two from the Temperance Party, two from the S.D.F. and one from the Primrose League—had each a turn on the platform. Needless to say the criticism, which was more or less friendly and certainly courteous—in striking contrast to that which greeted us in the evening at Edmonton—was effectively answered, so much so that a resolution thanking The Socialist Party of Great Britain for the addresses delivered and pledging the meeting to work for the realisation of the object of that Party, moved and seconded by two of the audience unknown personally to any of us, was carried unanimously by the meeting. A good sale of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD and an increase of three to our membership were also pleasing features of an all-round good meeting. In the evening at Angel Road, Edmonton, we proceeded to hold our usual meeting, but before half-an-hour had elapsed the local S.D.F. had planted their platform on the edge of our audience and commenced a series of antics that compelled almost everyone to laugh. We have entirely failed even yet to learn what was the matter with them. They put up Mr. Thomas, Mr. Pearson, and Mr. Mercer, each of whom had two trials to take the attention of the audience from our speaker but in this they absolutely failed ; abandoning their platform they tried to break up our meeting by entering the audience and trying to incite a portion of it to riot. In this they failed also and eventually when close upon 10 p.m. the police, as usual, had to make us close our meeting, it fell to the lot of the revolutionary Social-Democratic Federationists to cheer the police and to exhort them to “lock the–––up.” However, the police are not yet the servants of the S.D.F. no matter how anxious one of the latter evidently is to become the servant of the former.

Still, be those things as they may, the Edmonton Branch of The Socialist Party of Great Britain is in high spirits and full of confidence. We have no desire to bluff ourselves nor yet another body, but the steady sale of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD and the foolish tactics of those who, to suppress an opponent, would jeopardise the right of public meeting by trying to turn orderly meetings into bear-gardens, will yet, and we believe very soon, show effectually that our Party is right, that our Party is justified and alone worth of the confidence of the working-class. Speed the day!
A. Anderson.


The meetings we have held here have been successful from the numerical standpoint, and the sales of our paper have been fairly good considering the large number of men there are unemployed in this district. The week-night meetings that we hold at Fulham Cross at 8.30 on Wednesdays are better attended than the Sunday morning meetings and have been very successful. Once the summer comes again (as the poet sings) this branch will be placed on a firmer footing. We are getting well known now and a good number of men are beginning to undertand which is The Socialist Party
E. J. B. Allen.


With the departure of the last leaves of autumn and the arrival of hoar winter with his chilly blasts comes a falling off in the attendance at our open-air meetings. Too great are the temptations of the cheery inglenook and the fireside’s genial glow. No longer do the opening buds of spring, the full-blown flowers of summer, or the many hued leaves of autumn bring the people out to the parks clad in their dainty raiment. No longer the proletariat dons his “Sunday best” to stroll through the thronged avenues——[We have cut out thirteen foolscap pages of similar matter to the above.—EDITORIAL COMMITTEE.]

So we may explain to ourselves the falling off both in the number of our meetings and in the number of the audience at those meetings. We have, however, done something in this direction and shall continue while the weather allows. We are somewhat hampered in our work by the fact that a number of our members are working in enforced overtime. It is not for us to point out the anomaly of such overtime in view of the number of people at present unemployed. Suffice it to say that it is this very unemployment which the capitalist employs as a lever to force men to work excess hours.

Fraternal greetings and a promise of rare doings from the merry village of Islington.
Percy O'Brien MacTavish.


I am sorry I was too late for you last month. It was not because there was nothing doing, for, as a matter of fact, things have been very lively in Peckham. The Liberals have been holding open-air meetings which we have attended, and we have asked pertinent questions, which have been talked round. The Liberals allowed opposition, so Comrade Belsey and others put forward our position, and this was well received by the audience. I may say the Liberals were discussing the fiscal policy, and we challenged them to a debate on the subject, but this was not accepted.

We had some handbills printed and distributed at their meeting, announcing a mass meeting of The Socialist Party of Great Britain to take place at the same spot on the following Monday. We wrote Comrades Lehane, Kent, and Anderson, but owing to its turning out such a wet night they did not put in an appearance. It left off raining by the time for starting, and in spite of the weather we had a good meeting, which was adjourned till the following Monday. At the adjourned meeting Anderson turned up and met with such success that we had a third meeting, when Anderson was again the speaker. Our audience was quite as large as that of the Liberals, and Anderson, in spite of the bad weather (all three Mondays were wet), was kept until past 11 o’clock answering questions.

We are still carrying on our outdoor meetings. We had a good meeting at Peckham Rye on Sunday (13th) morning, and we intend having one on Sunday next, weather permitting. The branch meetings are well attended, as are also our Friday night discussions. We have also made several new members and altogether are going on satisfactorily.
W. Russell.

Wood Green.

Since my last report of the Movement in Wood Green several really good and successful open-air meetings have been held, both from a standpoint of the numbers attending them, and the intelligent interest shown by numerous questions and lively discussion. Perhaps the most important of those meetings was the one held on Oct. 23rd, when there was a debate between C. Horn, of New Southgate, and comrade A. Anderson, of Edmonton.

The debate arose out of a previous meeting at which C. Horn was present, and at which the speaker, Anderson, referred very plainly to the conduct of C. Horn (who claims to be a Socialist and is a late member of the S.D.F.) in actively supporting a Liberal capitalist candidate for parliamentary honours, thus betraying the working class. Now the two men meet, the one to defend opportunism, the other for uncompromising revolutionary Socialism. It was a sight never to be forgotten to see the great mass of faces turned towards the speakers, eager to take in the whole argument, and anxious to show their appreciation of the many good points.

Comrade Anderson was never in better form, and never before have the workers heard in such plain language the principles of Socialism. This evidently told, not only upon the audience, but upon Horn himself, for his last words were “It is quite true the emancipation of the workers must be the work of the working-class themselves.”

At the conclusion of the debate the meeting did not break up, but nearly the whole of the audience remained to listen to another address. The meeting commenced at 11 o’c. and closed at 2.30.

Another feature in Wood Green is that THE SOCIALIST STANDARD is going well, many people asking for the first and second numbers,
John Crump.

[The first care of Italian Socialists]. (1904)

From the December 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

The first care of the Italian Socialists on obtaining control of the administration of the city Reggi-Emelia has been to adopt the following series of commandments for use in the public schools, to impress the children with the ethics of citizenship and the religion of humanity:
  • “Love thy schoolmates, for they will be thy co-workers for life.
  • “Love knowledge—the bread of intellect: cherish the same gratitude toward thy teacher as toward thy father and mother.
  • “Make every day thou livest the occasion for some good and beneficial deed; always sow the seeds of kindness.
  • “Honour good men and true women; esteem all men as equals; bend thy knees to no one.
  • “Bear hatred to none, and insult none; the word ‘revenge’ shall be excluded from the vocabulary ; but stand up for thy rights and resist oppression:
  • “Do not be a coward; stand by the weak and respect and love justice.”
Eastern Herald.

SPGB Notices. (1904)

Party Notices from the December 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Forecast of the Coming Revolution: Interview with Paul Lafargue. (1904)

From the November 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

Amongst the best known leaders of Socialist thought is our comrade Paul Lafargue, author of "The Evolution of Property", "Socialism and the Intellectuals", and many other volumes and pamphlets of great value to International Socialism. A visit to Paris brought us in touch with a French comrade, through whose kindly offices we received an invitation to visit the veteran debater at his pleasant retreat in a little village some dozen miles from the French capital. Lafargue and his wife (once known personally to English Socialists as Laura Marx) received us with the true comradeship, which in palpable form made it plain that “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, is no empty phrase amongst Socialists.

Mindful of the interests of the Party, we secured from our comrade the following interesting expression of his views upon some vital topics of moment:

“The two countries which will benefit from the Russo-Japanese War”, said Lafargue, in answer to a query, “are America and England. Though the Japs succeed in expelling Russia from Manchuria, they are at the same time weakening themselves for a long period, and thus limiting their capacity for industrial competition. Again, the financiers of England and America—principally the former—will draw from Japan a great deal even of such profit as may accrue to her in return for their present assistance. Japan has for years been developing extraordinarily, but the War hinders this. The resources she is squandering in war are lost to industry.”

“And the results of all this upon our policy in the Far East, comrade?”

“The most important thing is the appearance of Japan upon the scene as the strong power of the East, so strong that no European country can compete with it. The rise of Japan marks the conclusion of European piracy in the Far East. Nobody expected such an extraordinary power. Further, Japan will organise China, industrially and politically.”

“What is your view, comrade, of the industrial position in Japan?”

“The rise of Japan industrially has been so rapid that the horrors of child and female labour in the England of the early nineteenth century have been reproduced—with the great difference that the intermediate stages from the England of the fifteenth century were totally absent in Japan. The psychological difference is enormous, and must produce a revolt, but the form we cannot forecast. In England and France the revolt was against the machine, and whilst this may not prove so in Japan, this we know—the Japs start with a Socialist movement such as was not, and could not be, in England and France in the initial stages of Capitalism. Just as the Japs adopt and adapt the ready-made science of Europe, so the Social science of the New Age finds there a ready soil. We may expect the Japanese people, who have shown such extraordinary courage on the battlefield, to show in the Social struggle the same indomitable energy and enterprise.”

“Now, as to the War again, comrade, what are its results upon Europe?”

“This war has shown that Russia has made a fool of Europe with a show of power. Particularly has Czarism befooled France. That show has enabled her to draw from France about eleven milliards of francs (some £400,000,000) by State loans and financial companies for the industrial exploitation of Russia. The latter investments have been chiefly for coal-mining and metal works. These found prosperity as long as the Russian State was a huge customer for railway construction, &c, but even before the War this fell off; and now, in so far as they have a revival, it is only the artificial stimulus of war time, which will have its due reaction. Even now the lack of money is strangling this revival. Either victory or defeat for Russia now means revolution—a bourgeois or constitutional revolution. The first thing that the new power will have to do will be to proclaim the bankruptcy of Russia—as the best means to obtain credit. You will recollect a similar process in the French Revolution. The new rulers of Russia will be the more ready to declare this bankruptcy, in that the losers will be, not the Russians but the French. The international effects will be felt primarily in France, where the chief debt of Russia is held. The fall of the present Russian political system will shake the whole fabric of European society.”

“What is the likely effect upon Socialism in France of the loss of all this capital through the fraud and folly of the bourgeois politicians and the financial magnates who dominate them?”

“Ah, that is the question. Remember the fuss about Panama involving only 1½ milliards of francs. You will see why I anticipate great results from the loss of some eight times as much. Only the Socialist Party of France has opposed itself to the Franco-Russian Alliances and denounced it as a fraud upon the French people. The discrediting of all the bourgeois parties must mean the immense growth of the party of the Proletariat. Only the Socialist Party of France, the Revolutionists of France, had the courage and insight to oppose the alliance with despotism.”

“Very good, comrade; so much for the economic factors. What of other forces?”

“Russia is a compound of different nationalities. In the centre the Slavs, surrounded by Poles, Finns, Caucasians, Armenians, &c, held down by main force. These will spring into position again on the occasion of the Revolution, and Poland principally (the Ireland of Russia), which has never lost the sense of nationality, despite the tyranny of centuries, will make her influence felt. She will want to reconstitute her nationality with the Austrian and the German Poles. Thus I believe that the next few years will bring us the European revolution, which, if Socialists are sufficiently bold and well organised, will mean also the Social Revolution.”

This concluded, as far as the War is concerned, one of the most instructive conversations in which 1 ever had the pleasure of participating. In a future issue I hope to reproduce some expressions of our comrade upon trade unionism, but with which it would be a pity to complicate this article. The difference between the Socialists and the pseudo-Socialists can easily be seen by a comparison of the large-mindedness and grip of the situation disclosed by our comrade, with the puny reflection of Capitalist sentimentality exhibited by Jaurès in dealing with this same position. The attitude of the Reformists in France sufficiently indicates the absurdity of the claim of such superficial politicians to in any sense represent Socialism either in France or elsewhere. Jaurès and his school are straining every nerve in a “Stop the War” agitation, on the surface in the interests of peace, but in reality designed to, if possible, stave off the evil day of capitalist collapse. It was not for nothing that our comrades of the Socialist Party of France moved the resolution at the recent International Congress, which declared against compromise and intrigue with capitalist parties. The Socialists of France have fought and are fighting the same battle against treachery and folly of opportunism, which we of The Socialist Party of Great Britain are waging in this country.

I am sure every Socialist in England joins with us in reciprocating the fraternal greetings extended by Paul and Laura Lafargue to the unofficial representatives of British Socialism to whom this interview was accorded.
H. J. Hawkins.

(Socialist Standard, November 1904)


Our comrade Hawkins forwards a copy of the following letter which he has received:

“Draviel, 15.11.04

Dear Comrade,—I have just received No. 3 of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD, containing your interview, and I am glad to find that you have given a very full and faithful account thereof.

Trusting that the paper will be successful and with my best wishes and our kind regards to Mrs Hawkins and yourself.

Yours fraternally
Paul Lafargue." LAFARGUE.

(Socialist Standard, December 1904)

Labour Parties. (1904)

From the November 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

To a Socialist the spectacle of the Labour Parties at home and in the colonies affords a very interesting study of the relations of labour politics to Socialism. To one who, in forming opinions on the tendencies manifested in society to-day, is accustomed to look merely on the surface of things, the formation of these labour parties in various parts of the British Empire may appear to be the forerunner of a great revolutionary movement on the part of organised labour. This view will be all the more strongly held if he should belong to one or the other of the alleged Socialist bodies whose business meetings consist of talking about the Labour Representation Committee, the “Labour” movement, the “Labour” party and, more important than all, the “Labour” leaders. To a member of The Socialist Party, however, that is to a person drilled in the methods of scientific analysis, the innocent economics and puerile politics which form the foundation and superstructure of “Labour parties” at home and abroad, are more often sources of regret than satisfaction.

At the present moment, therefore, it is more than ever advantageous to survey the political field within the Empire and the disposition of the forces of labour. There is the old established Labour Party of Australia, the more recent L.R.C. at home, and now the Canadian Trades and Labour Congress is going to inaugurate an Independent Labour Party. Thus organised labour is going to make itself felt, and the capitalists ? Enough, let us examine them and see if their political efforts, continued on the lines pursued at present, are likely to eventuate in any permanent good to the working class of the various countries.

The Australian Labour Party started out full of promise and was backed up by practically all the Socialists in the country, except the few, who, wiser than their generation, saw what must be the inevitable result of the development of such a party. In its initial stages it ran on a quasi-Socialist programme, i.e., the nationalisation of monopolies, etc. As, however, the Party had no clear conception of the working class position in politics, it split ten years ago over the tariff question, a matter which in the main had little to do with the working-class interest correctly understood. The Australian Labour Party, divided over the interests of the master class, has never really been united on the point since. To-day this same Party has formed an alliance with the Protectionist Liberals, and amongst some of the measures it now supports are anti-trust legislation, protection for coastal shipping and, above all, bonuses for the iron industry. Truly matters of vital importance to the working class ! The leaders of the Labour Party have agreed that if they, the Alliance, succeed in turning out the present Government they will go to the country as a National Progressive Party. Gone is even the mere vestage of their much vaunted independence!

Mr. Daglish, the new Labour Premier of Western Australia, in outlining his policy mentioned that there would be the most rigid financial economy, and that the “spirited” public works would be abandoned. This is the class of politics that the workers are asked to support.

The Australian Socialist League which first of all backed the “Labour” men, is now opposing them since the League was reconstructed some time back. The reason is not far to seek. The Socialists in Australia, like many of our friends here, thought that by pandering to the desires of those who were “coming our way” they would be in the end forced to embrace the Socialist position. Their expectations were not realised and now they are compelled to not only disassociate themselves from the “Labour” men but to actively oppose them. When King O’Malley, who recently complained about the smallness of his salary as M. P., some time ago was running for a constituency on the West Coast of Tasmania, he told one of his workers “it would not do to speak straight Socialism to people, you must bluff them.” He has acted consistently on this principle ever since, and his example has evidently been catching. The fact is the Australian Labour Party has become part and parcel of Australian master-class politics, of capitalism, where it will exist only as a disturbing factor until swept aside by the revolutionary current of scientific Socialism.

With regard to the Labour Representation Committee at home, it may seem unnecessary to criticise this, the most recent indication of the hopelessness of those who, in the name of labour, try to square the interests of the workers with those of their masters and secure justice for the working-class under capitalism. The programme, or what stands for a programme, of this body is of such a character that a good many loyal Liberals, without giving up in the slightest degree their faith in capitalism, would readily accept it. But in the eyes of the horny handed sons of toil who run the L.R.C., a party is more important than a programme, and if a “big” party can only be got together by a small programme, then the less of the latter the better for the needy politician.

If the L.R.C. is without a programme, at any rate, it will be said, it has a precious possession in the shape of Independence of both Liberal and Tory Parties. A slight examination, however, will reveal the fact that this policy of alleged independence is more of a shadow than substance. Arrangements between the “Independent” gentlemen of the L.R.C. and the Liberal Party, especially in double-barreled constituencies, are not by any means unknown. Messrs. Bell, Crooks, Henderson, Shackleton, have all, since being elected to the House of Commons, supported the Liberal Party and other brands of reactionary politics—always of course in the interests of labour !

This Labour Representation Committee was called into existence by the Trade Union Congress, and, as the child inherits some of the characteristics of the parent, the proceedings at the last meeting of the latter body will enlighten the workers as to what they may expect from the “Labour” Party of this country. At the Congress some of the delegates expressed the opinion that it would be a good thing if all the trade unionists were called off the L. R. C. They have issued manifestoes in favour of free trade, asked for old age pensions and an extension of the Workmen’s Compensation Act. At the same time some of their leaders tell us that this very “Compensation” Act is responsible for the older men being flung out of employment by the master-class who are unwilling to take the risks attendant upon the employment of workers over a certain age. One delegate pleaded earnestly for ”fair” rents. How wise ! Fair robbery !

The Canadian Labour Party will be like its British cousin in all its main features—the chief of which is, of course, the absence of any definite principle. Their “ideal,” according to Mr. John A. Flett, is to hold the “balance of power” at Ottawa like the Irish Home Rule Party at Westminster. It is only natural to expect that the tactics of the Irish middle-class party should appeal to the Canadian Labourites whose political vision is obscured by middle-class spectacles. Notwithstanding the latter, however, the Labour men have lately been grumbling because the capitalist legislators shelved some proposed labour measures while providing every facility to the big financial corporations. Sooner or later it will dawn on our fellow wage-slaves of Canada that economic development necessitates the concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands and that the political machine is but the tool of the dominant class. When the working-class realises this, the seizure of the machinery of government and its operation in the direction of the conversion into common property of the wealth producing instruments now held by the capitalists, will become the programme which will carry it to victory.

The work of the Socialist here at home or in the colonies is to build up a Socialist Party, clear in the knowledge of the irreconcilability of the interests of the wage worker and the master, ever warning the working-class of the pitfalls in the shape of “labour” parties strewing the path which leads to emancipation from wagedom, ever teaching the slaves of capitalism that only by the overthrow of the present system of Society and the establishment of the Socialist Republic can the various evils confronting the working-class be removed.

In this country The Socialist Party of Great Britain alone stands for the Revolution.
E. J. B. Allen

[The situation in West Ham] (1904)

From the November 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our article in our last issue on the situation in West Ham has already had some effect on the S.D.F. Executive Council, hence the following paragraph in Justice for October 22nd:—
“In West Ham they are by no means asleep, but are putting forward a strong list of candidates, with which they hope to do much to reconquer the position they held before the unholy ‘Alliance ‘ gained the sway. When next our comrades are in the ascendant there they will take care not to be hampered by any half-hearted, fair-weather adherent.”
Will they ? As the articles in the last and in this issue show, they are doing exactly the same thing as they did before, and with their eyes open.

In West Ham friends and enemies alike recognise that the formation of the “labour group” was a great mistake. We Socialists often say that the working man will exhaust the possibilities of error before he tries the Socialist road ; but what can be said of men calling themselves Socialists who deliberately make the same error twice over ? Either they are knowingly and of set purpose trying to give Socialism a set back in favour of “labourism,” or they are a set of utter incompetents. The Clarion may have been right some years ago when they urged West Ham to “Fire out the fools” but in our opinion it would almost seem to be a case of “more knave than fool.”

Was this prophetic. (1904)

From the November 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard
Quoth he, “I am resolved to be
Thy scholar in this mystery ;
And therefore first desire to know
Some principles on which you go—
What makes a knave a child of God
And one of us ? —”A livelihood.”
“What renders beating out of brains,
And murder, godliness ?”—”Great gains.”
“What makes you encroach upon our trade
And damn all others'” ?—”To be paid.”
“What makes all doctrines plain and clear?”—
“About two hundred pounds a year.”
“And that which was proved true before.
Prove false again?”—”two hundred more.”
“And what makes breaking of all oaths
A holy duty ?”—”Food and clothes.”
“What’s orthodox and true believing
Against a conscience?”—”A good living.”

From Hudibras by Samuel Butler, 1612-1680.

The S.D.F. and West Ham. (1904)

From the November 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard
“In the Social-Democratic movement organisation and discipline are absolutely essential to success.”

“Socialists, if once they begin to intrigue with the other factions, destroy their own enthusiasm and rot away the public confidence which they have as yet but partially gained.”

“We want our men elected as Social-Democrats, for the greater glory of Social-Democracy. If they cannot be elected as Social-Democrats, they had much better remain outside. We want our men elected as Social-Democrats, independent of all other factions.”
The above gems from back numbers of the official organ of the S.D.F., make interesting reading to-day.

Our notes in the last issue of the Socialist Standard, concerning the situation in West Ham have aroused considerable interest throughout the country, and we understand that some members of the S.D.F., in endeavouring to answer the question, “Can such things be?” have applied to Bolt Court for light and leading.

To their enquiries they have received a misleading reply, as might be expected from the man who destroyed for ever his reputation for truthfulness in connection with the Lansbury episode. But our readers may be assured that whatever appears in the Socialist Standard will be reliable. We shall tell the “truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” We believe that ” Honesty is the best policy “—even in electoral matters.

It is claimed on behalf of the S.D.F. that W. Thorne (the man whom the S.D.F. has continually permitted to break its rules by supporting Liberal candidates) is running as the Socialist and Labour candidate for South West Ham. We deny it, and will substantiate our denial.

Thorne has published, through the T.C.P., what purports to be the correspondence between himself and the Secretary of the Labour Representation Committee respecting the endorsement of his candidature by that conglomeration. But Thorne has not published all the correspondence. It is evident from the context that certain letters of Thorne’s are omitted. Thorne knows best why. But note first the preface. He says:
“In consequence of the L.R.C. not agreeing to allow me to run as a Socialist and Labor candidate for South West Ham,” &c.
The publication contains the resolution passed by the Biennial Congress of the Gasworkers’ Union, held at Swansea, in May last, requesting Thorne to comply with the L.R.C. conditions and to run under the common title imposed on all candidates supported by the L.R.C. Thorne has complied.

He is, above all things, honest—”blunderingly honest.”

On Sunday, Sept. 18, a mass meeting in support of Thorne was held at The Greeugate, Plaistow. J. Gilbey, Secretary of West Ham Trades Council, presided, and said that many present would remember that the L.R.C. had decided to run their candidates as Labour only, but the Committee which was running Thorne wanted the public to understand that while Thorne was running under that title, he was still a Socialist, as he had always claimed to be. Thorne followed. He was glad that the position had been explained in respect to himself and the L.R.C. That Committee had decided that all candidates adopted by them should run as Labour candidates, and he had been obliged to toe the line, although he did not care a lot about it. To a certain extent it was a “backing down.” But although he would have to call himself “a Labour candidate,” he would still hold the same principles as before. After this, surely nobody will deny that Thorne, a member of the S.D.F., supposed by their rules to run as “a definitely-avowed Social-Democrat,” is in the field as simply a “‘Labour” candidate.

It is true that H. Quelch, the “Trades Unionist candidate” for Southampton, in speaking after Thorne, disagreed with his view of the situation. He did not consider it a “backing down.” It was merely a step backward in order to take a leap forward (“reculer our mieux sauter.”) There was no disgrace in a man calling himself a “Labour” candidate. Continental Socialists often did so ; called themselves “Labour” parties, and so on, using exactly those excuses which the I.L.P. made years ago in reply to S.D.F. criticism, when they adopted as their object the Socialist principles, but refused to call themselves Socialists.

Again, we re refer our readers to the extracts at the beginning of this article.

On another matter. “S.D.F. Notes,” supplied by the Secretary of that body, last month contained the following :
“The particulars I have received concerning our action in the forthcoming Municipal Elections are as follows :— “
Then appears a list of candidates. Against Baldock’s name is printed “I.L.P.,” so that, apparently, the remainder are “our” (S.D.F.) candidates. Amongst them is J. J. Terrett, for Broadway Ward of West Ham, a thrice-expelled member of the S.D.F. Upon his last expulsion H. W. Lee wrote in Justice:
“If the body had permitted Terrett to continue his vagaries, all organisation and discipline were at an end, and it would have been an encouragement to others to use the S.D.F. as a stepping-stone to public prominence, and then to fling it over when it suited them. Terrett has, to all intents and purposes, ceased to be a Socialist. This is proved by his recent letter to the South Essex Mail, and his conversation with members of the S.D.F. Personal ambition and want of judgment will be his curse.”
Recently Terrett entered upon a wild-cat Parliamentary candidature for North-West Ham, from which he has since withdrawn. He held a meeting at Stratford Town Hall, presided over by Anarchist Leggatt, and on the platform were McAllen, H. Quelch, Martin Judge and Hector Kirby, of the S.D.F., while J. Jones, of the S.D.F., moved the resolution in support of Terrett’s candidature. Now, either these members of the S.D.F. received the sanction of the Executive to support Terrett, in accordance with the rules of that body, or they were permitted by the Executive to break the rules. But in any case, the fact remains that they supported this able but erratic man. who has been, politically, everything by turns and nothing long, who has used the S.D.F. when it suited his own purposes to do so, and denounced them in Stratford Grove when so inclined.

The attitude of the leaders of that body and their official misrepresentations of the position in West Ham and elsewhere, would be ludicrous when considered in connection with the extracts appearing at the head of this article were it not that by such tactics the issue is confused. The S.D.F. no longer deserves the confidence of the workers. It must be exposed at home and abroad.
Jack Kent

Scargillism or socialism? (1999)

From the September 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard
The June elections to the European Parliament were notable not only in having the lowest turn-out ever in a national election but also for being the first national election in which every elector in Britain had a chance to vote for at least one party using the word “socialist” on the ballot paper. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a chance to vote for real socialism.
Only those in the North East had that chance. Apart from the Socialist Party the other parties calling themselves Socialist stood on anything but a socialist programme. Arthur Scargill’s SLP stood on a patriotic anti-Common Market programme. Tommy Sheridan’s SSP stood for Tommy Sheridan and Scottish separatism (the six words they used on the ballot paper were: “Scottish Socialist Party (Convenor Tommy Sheridan)”. An electoral coalition of Trotskyist groups including Militant and the SWP which contested the West Midlands under the name of “Socialist Alliance”, stood on a programme of minimum reforms such as “No to tuition fees and student loans”, “No to private toll roads”, “£5 an hour minimum wage”, “Oppose the Euro”, with no mention of socialism not even as a long-term goal (and not even as their mistaken definition of it as state-run capitalism).

Scargill’s party stood in all 11 Euroconstituencies in mainland Britain and in all but three of them was the only standard-bearer for the word “socialist”. But what a disgrace to the word his programme was!

The SLP’s main electoral slogan was “VOTE TO GET BRITAIN OUT OF THE EUROPEAN UNION”. Socialists know that it doesn’t make any difference to workers whether or not the British capitalist class are in or out of the European Union. Whether or not they stay in this businessman’s club is their problem, not ours. The problems we face as workers are caused by the class ownership of the means of life and production for profit, not by the trading arrangements of our capitalist masters.

The SLP’s election manifesto, however, did not make such a socialist analysis. Instead, it echoed the analysis made by the UK Independence Party and the BNP that all our problems are due to Britain being in the Common Market—and indeed that those of the capitalists are too, since the SLP manifesto expressed great concern about their trading prospects and about how much of the surplus-value extracted from the workers they have to pay over to Brussels.

According to Scargill’s manifesto:
When Britain joined the European Common Market the people were told that membership would protect British industries and British jobs—but the very opposite is true . . . Membership of the European Union has led to mass unemployment, the closure of steelworks and coal mines, engineering industries and the near-destruction of Britain’s manufacturing base.
Or, as the BNP put it in their manifesto:
Being in the EU makes it illegal for us to protect our own industries, including manufacturing, fishing and farming, from the foreign competition which has destroyed millions of jobs. The BNP says ‘no’ to EU insecurity, and—unlike the pro-free trade UKIP—’yes’ to protecting British jobs. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
Well, actually, no, it doesn’t, since the implication of the SLP/BNP position is that if British capitalism hadn’t been in the Common Market these closures and job losses could have been avoided. But how? Since they were caused by changes in world market conditions in the form of a world-wide economic slowdown it would have made no difference whether Britain was in or out of the EU. If Britain had not been in they would still have occurred.

The fact is that we are living in a global economy and there is nothing a government of any particular state can do to opt out of the effects of a global economic downturn. No doubt an SLP government—or a BNP government—would have tried to protect “British jobs” by putting up tariff walls to keep out “foreign” imports. But this is to forget that Britain, as part of the global economy, is also necessarily an exporting country; in fact its speciality has been transforming imported materials into manufactured goods for export. Keeping out cheap “foreign” imports would have meant forcing exporters to use more expensive British-made substitutes, so increasing their cost and making them less competitive on already over-supplied world markets. This, quite apart from the retaliatory action other states would be likely to have taken against imports from Britain to their countries. In other words, if such a protectionist policy had been pursued British exports would still have fallen off leading to . . . factory closures and job losses.

A siege economy, whether under Arthur Scargill or John Tyndall, is no way out of the global capitalist crisis. In fact there is no way out for workers other than socialism which, because capitalism is already a global system, has to be world-wide too. This is elementary Socialist thinking, but it’s the last thing you are going to hear from Scargill’s party.

Instead, we are told:
If a country like Norway—not a member of the EU—can have one of the most prosperous economies in the world outside the EU, why not Britain?
But Norway is an openly capitalist country (which didn’t in fact escape from the effects of the world slump), so the SLP evidently believes that the problems workers in Britain face can be solved within the context of capitalism. This mistaken conclusion follows logically from the SLP’s mistaken analysis: if the EU rather than capitalism is the cause of workers’ problems then the solution lies not in getting rid of capitalism but simply in getting out of the EU.

We suspect we know why the SLP chose Norway as its example of a supposed paradise outside the EU. The examples they normally give in their literature—Cuba and North Korea—are rather less attractive vote-pullers.

Although all this is enough to show not only that the SLP is not a socialist party at all but that it is a petty British nationalist party, the various Trotskyist groups were urging workers to vote for them, except in Scotland where they preferred Sheridan’s even pettier Scottish nationalism and in the West Midlands where they stood themselves, but including the North East where a genuine Socialist list was standing. This doesn’t surprise us as they have more in common with Scargill than they have with us and, in any event, we only want those who genuinely understand and want socialism to vote for us. They too are Eurosceptics, though not as extreme as Scargill, the BNP and UKIP in wanting a complete withdrawal. Their slogan of “OPPOSE THE EURO AND MAASTRICHT”, i.e. stay in but keep the pound, puts them rather in the camp of Thatcher and Norman Tebbitt.

The correct socialist position on the euro was put in a letter from one of our members published in the Newcastle Journal on 14 January:
To euro or not to euro, that is the question. Or is it? Does it really make any difference if you pay your bills with euro, dollars or pounds sterling? Would your life change if the money in your pocket no longer had a picture of the richest woman in England? The real truth is the rich will still be rich and the poor still be poor. Joining the euro will benefit the flow of business capital. Why? Because we live in a global economy. The European nations must compete as a trading bloc against their strongest competitors, the American and Far East economies. If this planet with all its vast resources was owned and democratically controlled by the people, money would be obsolete. Socialism means that the farms, factories, railways, etc are run for the benefit of all. Without the insanity of the boom-slump profit system, the Stock Exchanges of the world will become museums and the floor traders can stop running around like headless chickens wearing blazers.
The North East, in fact, was the one region where voters attracted by the mere word “socialist” on the ballot paper did have a choice between the SLP’s position and the genuine Socialist one. Of the 6021 voters in this category, 4511 voted for the SLP and 1510 for us. In other words, 25 percent opted for real socialism rather than Scargill’s British state capitalism. What is interesting is that in those areas where we had been active in putting over the Socialist case, in other elections and in letters to the press, the percentage opting for socialism rather than Scargillism was higher. In Jarrow it was 44 percent and in Easington 35 percent.

This would suggest that where those interested in socialism are given the opportunity to hear the socialist case on a regular basis they can be won over to supporting the real thing and not just the name. Many of the 86,749 people who voted for the SLP will have voted not for, but thankfully despite, its reactionary, non-socialist programme, as a way of showing that they rejected the Labour administration of capitalism and saw “socialism”, however vaguely defined, as the way out.

There is talk of getting all the various parties calling themselves “socialist” together in an electoral pact so as to win seats under proportional representation. We want no part of such an alliance. The SLP, the SSP and the Trotskyist groups may as well know that we will continue to put the case for socialism, against them and the other parties which all support capitalism in one form or another, at election times whenever we can. We shan’t be forming any electoral pacts with them since their objective of reforms now and state capitalism later has nothing in common with ours of a world community without frontiers based on common ownership and democratic control of the world’s resources with production to satisfy people’s needs not profit.
Adam Buick

All industrial unionists now? (1999)

From the September 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard
In the opening years of this century industrial unionism—the idea that all the workers in the same industry should be in a single union—was raised as a radical demand. Today it is being embraced by the leaders of the existing business unions. How come?
I recently attended a student union meeting about a fast food franchise employing students at ridiculously low wage rates over the night shift. The union “officials” had been optimistic, they felt they could get a result on this one, they felt that it was a strong issue; so, predictably, the meeting was inquorate. It was, at least, the biggest inquorate meeting for some while, but, it was inquorate nonetheless. The usual debates about student apathy began once more.

I was reminded, somewhat, of my old man, confidently telling me that “grass roots democracy is impossible”, and then regaling me with his story about his time as a union rep at ICI. “Out I would come,” he’d say, “after negotiating complex things with the management, and all me mates’d ask was ‘Well, man, did we get the pay rise?.'” As I sat there, surveying the empty wilderness of the meeting hall, I thought, sadly, that he was right.

It’s an unfortunate fact that the officials of most unions believe exactly as he did. Certainly it’s implied in the way they behave. We could take, for example, an interesting piece in the June issue of Labour Research about a growing demand for industrial unionism within the TUC. Industrial unionism, a familiar concept from the radical fringe across the Atlantic (specifically the Industrial Workers of the World [IWW] and various “DeLeonist” factions there), is the idea that instead of “craft” or “trade” unions, representing workers of a particular skill/type, we have one union representing everyone in a specific industry (thus a Chemical Workers Union, or a Steel Workers Union), and thus avoid all the infighting and protectionism of one union poaching members from another in the same workplace, or demanding that a specific job be done by a specific union. Real solidarity.

It could be a sign of hope, a cause for inspiration, that workers are setting aside their factional disputes, and deciding to stand solidly together, in common interest against the capitalist foe. Except, it’s not. As it turns out, the call for industrial unions comes from the top of the TUC, General Secretary John Monks himself.

At the inaugural conference of the new banking union UNiFI (how appropriate) Monks described what he would like to see happen to unions in the 21st century. By 2010, he reckons, industrial unionism should be brought about, by merging more unions with a common interest in different sectors. The truth of the matter, however, is not a sudden conversion of union leaders to radical revolutionary unionism (oh, how that would please the Leftists, and how sorely disappoint), but rather is a response to a number of pragmatic concerns facing the union movement.

Competing for members 
The first, it appears, is that the TUC is anxious to avoid disputes being caused by the new union recognition laws instituted by the Labour Party as a reward for union electoral and financial support. According to Labour Research this presents the threat of “a new wave of competition between unions intent on gaining recognition” (emphasis added). To avoid that competition the TUC wants to change its internal structures in order to have the “active prompting of mergers by the TUC to create fewer unions. . . in key sectors like public services, education, transport . . .”

Once again the glorious leaders charge forth with presumptuousness, believing they actually are in charge, and that they can do as they say. However, obstacles await them. As the article further notes, “a substantial proportion of merger activity between 1988 and 1995 was purely expansionist, to compensate for declining memberships and finances” (emphasis added). Even where an “industrial” model has been followed, such as in the creation of UNISON (1,248,670 members), caveats remain. Most UNISON members are in local government (750,000), however “substantial numbers of manual workers in local government are organised by the general unions TGWU [881,625 members] and GMB [750,000].” This presents the almost insurmountable problem, acknowledged by the TUC that “some unions currently straddle two or more . . . sectors . . . it would be neither possible, nor desirable, to seek mass transfers of existing members.”

Of course, the leadership of each union has a vested interest in getting members. Members mean money—UNISON made £1 million “surplus” in 1997 and the T&GWU £11.2 millions. The UNISON General Secretary (Rodney Bickerstaffe) took home a salary of £68,840 + £19,129 “benefits”. Labour Research called that a “relatively modest” salary, and, indeed, it is, compared with similar positions in business—which is a fair comparison, because unions today are effectively a business, selling good labour relations. The emphasised sections in the quotes show this: when business is bad, firms merge to reduce running costs and open up markets; similarly, unions are competing for members and have a great deal in terms of money, investment and infrastructure to protect. Again, the leaders of the unions are as much not in charge as our beloved masters in Whitehall, and for the same reason—their plans are subject to the market, a market beyond their control.

Many leftists refuse to recognise this. Preferring to keep their dreams of leadership burning, they think it’s all a matter of the wrong people being in charge (generic Trotskyist quote, to be heard at almost any meeting: “The failure of the revolution in [insert country] in [insert year] was due to the lack of an adequate revolutionary leadership”). If pressure could be brought to bear, or the right people put in charge, then, oh then, the mass will to revolution of the working class can be unleashed.

The unions we deserve 
This is complete nonsense of course. The working class gets the unions, and the leadership, it deserves. Just as, according to Marx, a King is only a King because he is obeyed, so too are union leaders only union leaders because they are followed. To imagine they lead is to imbue them with mystical powers within themselves, and set up a phantasm of leadership that exactly mirror images the same phantasm as our masters believe. So long as the workers themselves are content to deal with such a union system, and its leaders, then such a union system and its leaders will remain, and will have to react to the expectations of the members.

The way to industrial unions, or socialist unions, or whatever, is not through the leadership of the unions. The unions will always reflect the nature of their memberships, and until their membership change, they will not change. So long as workers accept unions as another form of business, giving them insurance, then unions will have to behave like a business offering insurance, competing for members. Unions are neither inherently reactionary, nor inherently revolutionary; they are simply a means to an end for their membership.

The only way to change unions is not through seizing or pressurising the leadership, but through making sure that they have a committed membership, a socialist membership. And that is where the Socialist Party can come in, through making socialists, through that and that alone—making people committed heart and soul to working class interests, democracy and the establishment of socialism. Anything else is just abstractions and formalisms.

My father was, I’m happy to say, refuted by that student union meeting. Among those that did show, a great debate ensued—during the discussion of the sports facilities. People questioned the officials closely and carefully, determined to make sure that they knew what exactly was happening with their valued sports facilities. When folks have a strong emotional and practical commitment, they can make grass roots democracy work. It’s up to us to encourage that commitment.
Pik Smeet