Thursday, March 9, 2023

J. Hunter Watts Explains His Vote for Masterman. (1905)

From the February 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

The General Secretary of The Socialist Party of Great Britain has received the following communication :

94 Grove Park, Denmark Hill,
15th Jan 1905.

Dear Comrade,—”A lie that is half a truth is the worst lie of all” and it is a half truth to which the Socialist Standard gives currency this month when it says that I voted for a Liberal candidate for the constituency in which I reside and advised other members of the S.D.F. to do the same. A Jameson raider offered himself for election, and as I shall never either forget or forgive any instrument of the iniquity which robbed another of the little peoples of its national freedom I did my best to thwart the ambition of Rutherford Harris. As there is no way of voting against a man other than voting for his opponent I “supported” Masterman, though I know no more of the man than I know of the one who is said to reside in the moon. I shall repeat the offence at the next election even if the raider’s opponent is a circus clown.
Yours fraternally,
J. Hunter Watts.

* * *

Comrade C. Lehane,
Communist Club, 
107, Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Square, W.C.”

The note to which Mr. J. Hunter Watts referred was as follows :
“In our last issue we dealt with the S.D.F., I.L.P., and L.R.C. members being induced to support the Liberal faction of the Capitalist Party at “Free Trade” meetings and we notice that H. Kirby deals with matter in “Justice.” He describes Mr. Masterman, the Liberal candidate for North West Ham, as “an adept at trailing Liberal red herrings before the workers’ noses.” But we would remind Mr. Kirby that when Masterman contested Dulwich, one of the best known members of the S.D.F., J. Hunter Watts, voted for him and urged other Social-Democrats to go and do likewise. Now, if Masterman was advanced enough for such a leading revolutionary Social-Democrat as Hunter Watts, surely smaller fry should follow such a good example ? Perhaps one of these days the S.D.F. will endeavour to pursue a consistent policy, but we are afraid it will then be too late for them to regain the public confidence,”
We now print a letter written by Mr. J. Hunter Watts to the then Secretary of the Peckham Branch S.D.F. during the election referred to.

“94 Grove Park,, Denmark Hill,
13th December, 1903.

Dear Comrade, Till after Christmas I have so many business claims on my attention (last Wednesday I was obliged to travel to Manchester and shall probably have to return this week) would you kindly intimate to the members of the Elocution Class that we will start work the first Wednesday in January. If convenient to them I would rather hold the class here because all my books etc. will be ready to hand but I leave it to their choice and I will come to the Branch Room if they prefer that rendezvous.

Though it goes very much against the grain to vote for a Liberal, it seems to me a duty to do one’s level best to prevent a Jameson Raider being sent to Parliament as our Parliamentary Representative so I intend to vote for Masterman on Tuesday, Would you kindly ask the members of our Branch to consider tomorrow night whether as individuals they can adopt the same policy though collectively it might be unwise to support Masterman. On Harris’s head rests some of the blood of the peasant farmers slain in defence of their national independence.
We cannot forget this !
Yours fraternally,
J. Hunter Watts.
The Secy. Peckham Branch S.D.F.”

We have no desire to misrepresent anyone, and we publish the whole of the correspondence in order that our readers may see that there is no foundation for Mr. Hunter Watts’ suggestion (or “half truth”) that we were not strictly accurate in our statement that he “voted for Masterman and urged other Social-Democrats to go and do likewise.” As a member of the S.D.F. Mr. Hunter Watts is supposed to believe that there is no difference between the various sections of the capitalist politicians, but by exhibiting a preference for one capitalist candidate he claims to know no more than about the man in the moon, but who, according to another S.D.F. member, is “an adept at trailing Liberal red herrings before the workers’ noses” against another whom he knows as an open enemy of the people, he shows that he recognises a difference, and that there are occasions when he thinks that the workers should vote for their class-enemies.

If Masterman was worthy of S.D.F. votes in Dulwich he is equally so in North West Ham. Here Ernest Gray, Conservative member and candidate, has supported Rutherford Harris and his friends fearlessly and openly, from the Jameson Raid to the Chinese Labour Ordinance. If individuals are to be singled out then “some of the blood of the peasant farmers” rests upon Ernest Gray’s head and he should be kept out of the House of Commons. The S.D.F. should vote against him by voting for Masterman. The blood of the murdered Featherstone miners is upon the head of Mr. Asquith, and the S.D.F. should try to keep him out of the House of Commons by voting for his Tory opponent. But Masterman as a member of the Liberal faction must support his leaders, of whom Mr. Asquith is one. And candidates who support the person responsible for that cruel and cold-blooded butchery should be kept out of the House of Commons, therefore, the S. D. F. should vote against Masterman.

Mr. Hunter Watts says that he will repeat the offence at the next election even if the raider’s opponent is a circus clown. Supposing Mr. Asquith is the opponent, Mr. Hunter Watts will vote for him and show that he considers the South African war more important than the class war here at home.

If particular incidents connected with the capitalist attitude towards the people are to be taken into consideration and capitalist candidates voted for or against because of them, where will it lead ?

Mr. Hunter Watts is apparently aware that there is neither wisdom nor logic in his attitude because he expresses the opinion that it would not be wise for the S.D.F. to do collectively that which he advises the members to do individually. But electoral action which the Body cannot take wisely and logically does not become wise or logical when taken by individual members.

The position is as illogical and contradictory as is that of the S.D.F. towards the L.R.C. Although the Body withdraw because it “might be committed to the support of candidates whom, by its rules, it was bound to oppose ; while it could not honestly accept aid for its own candidates unless it supported those favoured by the majority of the delegates” it yet allows its members all over the country to act as delegates to the L.R.C., and to do precisely that which the S.D.F. says it cannot do.

Mr. Hunter Watts, like many others, has allowed his emotions to get the better of his convictions. He may be unable to forget or forgive any instrument of the iniquity referred to, but neither the defeat of Harris nor the return of Masterman would restore freedom to the Boers any more than the defeat of Asquith would bring back to life the murdered miners. The instruments of both iniquities were the capitalist-class, acting in the interests of their class and against the interests of the common people, here and abroad. Capitalist politicians cannot be considered individually, but only as “all the rest, Tories, Unionists, Whigs, Liberals and Radicals who form a part of that hateful army of parasites which is permanently quartered on you and your children” (see S.D.F. Manifesto, General Election, 1895). Speaking at Canning Town last month Mr. D. Irving, also a member of the S.D.F. Executive, declared that “it does not matter a brass farthing whether Balfour or Campbell Bannerman reign at Westminster.” We agree. Let us be able to assert that neither shall do so by the votes of Socialists.
Editorial Committee.

A British Trust Gets Bigger. (1905)

From the February 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Distillers’ Company, Edinburgh, have intimated that they have concluded an agreement with United Distillers (Limited) of Belfast, whereby one-half of their shares will pass to the Distillers’ Company and make a further issue of capital to meet the purchase price. The United Distillers (Limited) belongs to three of the largest grain distillers in Ireland, and the purchase has been made by the Scottish company to complete their control of the production of raw grain whisky. The Distillers’ Company practically control the world’s markets now for this class of whisky, which is chiefly used by blenders. The existing capital of the Distillers’ Company is £1,920,000, and the new capital will make it £2,100,000.

The baking of bread by electricity should find considerable favour, not only on account of its economy and cleanliness, but because it would afford a rational means of utilising the electric power of a town at a time when it would not be required for lighting purposes—between midnight and midday. Should the process become general, it would be possible to abolish night-work for bakers.—”Commercial Intelligence.”


Inverary Castle, and the extensive shootings attached, have been sublet by Mr. A. F. B. Cresswell, with the consent of the Duke of Argyll, to Mr. E. D. Jordan, of Boston, an American millionaire, who comes into occupation this summer. Thus the aristocrat succumbs to the power of the almighty dollar, and the plutocrat reigns in his stead.


Last Monday it was announced from Middlesborough that there will be a reduction of 3d. per ton on the puddling, and 2½ per cent. on other wages in the North of England iron and steel trades during the months of February and March.

Party Notes. (1905)

Party News from the February 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

During February there will be two meetings of the Executive Committee, viz., Saturday 4th, at 3 p. m. and Tuesday 21st. at 7 p. m. The attendance of Party members to witness the proceedings of the Executive has been good so far, but there is accommodation for more. In no better way can members become conversant with the working of the organisation than by assisting at these meetings.

* * *

The following letter has been received from Comrade Phillips:—
“17th January, 1905.
Dear Comrade.—Herewith I have pleasure in enclosing £5. donation to the Socialist Party of Great Britain. I had originally intended to contribute the sum to the S. D. F. War Chest, but fate in the shape of Burnley intervened.
Yours fraternally,
H. C. Phillips.”
* * *

If there are others who would like to invest their spare cash in the advancement of the Revolution, let them emulate the example of our Comrade Phillips. And remember that a thousand farthings spent in spreading the principles of revolutionary Socialism are worth more than a thousand pounds given to any reform party.

* * *

The first Quarterly Delegate Meeting was held on Saturday, 21st January, at the Communist Club. F. C. Watts was unanimously elected Chairman, and the report of the Credentials Committee showed there were twenty delegates present, representing eleven Branches, as follows:— Battersea: H. T. Davey, A. Jones, Edmonton : R. Kenny, A. Pearson. Fulham : E. J. B. Allen. Islington: W. L. Augur, J. McNicol. Paddington : F. G. Thompson, F. C. Watts. Peckham : W. G. Killick, H. Martin. Tooting : F. Reid. Tottenham : L. Boyne, W. Robertson. Watford: G. T. H. King, D. R. Newlands. West Ham: G. C. H. Carter, W. Gifford. Wood Green : R. H. Kent, H. Crump.

* * *

The business of the meeting was “to receive the Quarterly Report of the Executive Committee, and to deal with same.” The Executive report showed that two new Branches had been formed, the Romford Division and the Tottenham Branch, bringing the number of Branches on the list up to sixteen. With the exception of Southwark, all were in a state of activity, but the Clerkenwell and East London Branches required some strengthening.

* * *

The Edmonton Branch topped the list as regards increase of membership. This result was due to the vigorous propaganda conducted by the local members, and it was to the efforts of the Edmonton comrades that the establishment of the Tottenham Branch was mainly attributable.

* * *

The Treasurer’s statement indicated that the Party finances were in a sound condition. Our members, like the rest of the working-class, have been affected by the extraordinary wave of unemployment passing over the country, and the natural result has been that our revenue from the sale of dues stamps has fallen considerably, the actual decrease as compared with the previous quarter being 50 per cent.

* * *

The Socialist Standard has been published regularly, its circulation being well maintained during the winter, but to put the Party Organ on a self-supporting basis a considerably larger circulation would be needed. When the propaganda season opened, however, a greater sale would be achieved, and the regular holding of meetings, together with a thoroughly organised distribution, would, the Executive hoped, in necessitate the printing of twice the present quantity.

* * *

Hitherto our organising efforts had been devoted mainly to the metropolis, but this year new ground should be broken, and the Party brought to the knowledge of the workers in various provincial centres. The lack of the necessary funds was a great obstacle in this as well as in many other directions, but the Executive were considering the problem of removing that barrier in the way of the growth of the Party.

* * *

Generally, considering that we were in the winter months when propaganda is necessarily restricted, and in view of the fact that the Party Organ had been maintained, bearing also in mind that the position of The Socialist Party of Great Britain as a factor in national and international politics had steadily and materially advanced since its inception, the Executive believed they were justified in stating that a successful quarter’s work had been accomplished.

* * *

This was, apparently, the view of the delegates also, for having discussed the report, point by point, they adopted it by 17 votes to 0.
Con Lehane

Correspondence. (1905)

Letter to the Editors from the February 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sir,—I write for information upon three points which perhaps you will think it worth while to deal with, or which you may not be averse to having discussed, through your columns. I believe my difficulties are shared by many others who, like myself, are trying to feel their way to a safe—because sound— position. I will, with your permission, set out the points as briefly as may be.

I.—The Bogey of the Taxes.

On this matter I have read with interest the article published over the name of J. Fitzgerald, but confess I cannot yet follow the argument as to the workers being unaffected by taxation.

I can see that competitive conditions cause wages to revolve around the cost of subsistence of the labourer, but I must concede that, in the main, the present standard of comfort of the labourer is above the bare subsistence level. That is to say that, in perhaps the majority of cases, there is a margin—small enough, it may be, but still a margin—between what the labourer receives in wages and the amount necessary to defray his bare cost of living; between what he does live on and what he could live on.

Granting this, I do not clearly see why an increase in the cost of living resulting from taxation should not affect the labourer to his detriment. Suppose a necessity of life—say bread—to cost sixpence per loaf, and suppose a tax equal to one penny per loaf is put upon grain. The labourer must have bread and he must now pay sevenpence where formerly sixpence served. Would not that increase mean a reduction in his reserve or margin ; a hardening of his conditions of life? And does not that mean that he is affected by taxation ?

The same argument would apply in the case of an increase in the cost of a luxury—say tobacco or tea. The labourer would have to content himself with less of either, or both. Anyhow he would suffer.

Of course, a small increase in taxation would not necessarily imply a rise in price. But in the case of increases that do, is it not fair to conclude that the workers’ position would be so much the worse ? Certainly it seems to me that, although the tendency may be for wages to rise in the proportion of the increase in price, the tendency would not be apparent immediately—would not perhaps manifest itself at all—and in the interval between the rise and the time when the wages would balance the extra expenditure, the worker would be worse off. Would that be the case or not ? If so, are the workers affected by taxes or not ? And if not why not ?

II.—Is Socialist Propaganda necessary?

This is my second difficulty. I have heard it contended that the ignorance and apathy of the workers of this country are due to the effect of adverse economic conditions which militate against any desire for study they may have started out with, and which too often crush out the aptitude for learning completely. Ignorance and apathy, it is said, are but the reflex of material conditions. The remedy is the alteration of those conditions.

On the other hand, it is urged that no material improvement is possible in the present position of the worker unless the worker himself awakes to an understanding of his position and the reasons for it, and has taken over the means of production, &c., in his own interests. Hence the Socialist propagandist.

Here is the rub. The intelligence of the worker can only expand as a result of the alteration of his present conditions. Yet the alteration of the conditions is dependent upon the expansion of the working-class intelligence. The latter must precede the former, yet the former must precede the latter !

It occurs to me, of course, that the present form of production and distribution must, by the laws of its development, change. But will that alteration tend to produce enlightenment and dispel apathy in the worker? At present the effect seems to be the other way about. If, however, this is not so, if the intellectual development of the worker keeps even pace with his economic development, what is the use exactly of the Socialist propagandist ?

III.—On Municipal Enterprise.

My last difficulty has to do with municipalism. I cannot see that the municipalisation of any public service can be other than a gain to the people.

It has been stated that the small capitalist class favour such enterprises because they (the enterprises) conserve their (the small capitalists’) interests. I do not follow that. Municipal stock may provide the small capitalists with safe investments, but only, it seems to me, while the loan remains unpaid. When the cost of the enterprise has been defrayed, that concern becomes public property—the property of the whole people. The capitalist has lost his gilt-edged security.

Why cannot municipalism be regarded as a step—and a considerable step—towards the goal of the Co-operative Commonwealth? Why should it not indeed be regarded as an expression of the necessary and inevitable development of a sense of citizenship in the worker?

In conclusion, Sir, I ask that you will not think these questions are put idly, or with any other than a desire for information. The questions are knotty ones to me. I know they are knotty to many others also. To deal with them would, I feel convinced, be good propaganda work. To have a “Doubts and Difficulties” column would be good business, and most helpful to little thinkers stumbling in the dark. I submit the notion to your kind consideration, and am, Sir, yours, &c.,

[We shall be pleased to have the comments of our readers upon the points raised in our correspondent’s letter, and should any of our readers have any “Doubts or Difficulties” on any question bearing, however distantly, upon Socialism, we shall endeavour to remove them. If a sufficient number of questions are asked we shall be very pleased to devote the necessary space to their answer.—Editorial. Committee.]

Wilhelm Liebknecht quote. (1905)

From the February 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard
“For our party, and for our party tactics, there is but one valid basis: the basis of the class struggle, out of which the Socialist Party has sprung up, and out of which alone it can draw the necessary strength to bid defiance to every storm and to all its enemies. . . . We may not do as other parties, because we are not like the others. We are—and this cannot be too often repeated—separated from all other parties by an insurmountable barrier, a barrier that any individual can easily surmount; but once on the other side of it, and he is no Socialist. . . . Just in this fact lies our strength, that we are not like the others, and that we are not only not like the others, and that we are not simply different from the others, but that we are their deadly enemy, who have sworn to storm the Bastille of Capitalism, whose defenders all those others are. Therefore we are only strong when we are alone.”

SPGB Meetings and Notices. (1905)

Party News from the February 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard