Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Socialist Stanza No. 114: Football Belongs To . . . (2023)

From the Socialism or Your Money Back blog
“Football belongs to everyone”, or so

The TV trailer dribbles, with moving

Images of goals scored, shots saved, proving,

With men and women, girls and boys, there’s no

Inequality in the people’s game.

Except, of course, clubs are the property

Of potentates, those with the equity

And leveraged deals, their motives the same,

Premier profits. Players simply assets

To be bought and sold, fans are consumers

With no control over what occurs;

Promotion, relegation, crippling debts.

Football belongs to everyone et al?

No! The whole game belongs to capital. 
D. A.

Con Lehane . . . again (2019)

Lehane in 1905.
Following on from the unfortunate business about the SPGB receiving some bum information about Con Lehane, which resulted in some major inaccuracies appearing in the 2004 Socialist Standard article, Some Black Sheep, I thought I'd add a further corrective to the mix by cross-posting this article about Lehane which appeared on the Irish Central website back in 2019. The year is significant because 2019 was the hundredth anniversary of Lehane's death.

I make no political claims for the author of the article, Pauline Murphy. I just thought it was an interesting article because it fleshes out Lehane's political life both before his time in the SPGB, and his political journey after he departed from the SPGB.

Con Lehane - forgotten Irish labor activist who died in New York 100 years ago

Pauline Murphy Contributor@IrishCentral Dec 31, 2019
From his birth in County Cork to standing his ground in London and working alongside Jim Larkin in New York city. On New Year's Eve 1919 Con Lehane passed away.

Con Lehane, who also went by the name Con O'Lyhane, was born in Coachford, County Cork, in 1877. He proved to be a gifted student and went on to study chemistry and Irish at the Cork Technical School but, his future lay with the fight for social justice.

Lehane took up work as a clerk with a butter merchant in Cork city. He was one of the founders of the Cork branch of James Connolly's Irish Socialist Republican Party and wrote under the pen name 'Proletarian' for The Workers Republic newspaper.

In 1897, Britain celebrated the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria and it was also deemed to be a celebratory affair for Ireland but, many did not see it that way including Lehane who led anti-jubilee protests in Cork which saw the Coachford man storm into a fire station which was displaying the union jack and tearing it down! A year later he established the Wolfe Tone Literary Society to coincide with the centenary of the 1798 United Irishmen Rebellion. It was this same club that would go on to remold itself as The Fintan Lalor Club - the Cork branch of Connolly's ISRP.

Con Lehane was a force to be reckoned with in the Cork socialist movement at the turn of the 20th century. His staunch atheism resulted in his parish priest denouncing him from the pulpit. His hard-line stance against the Catholic Church even blighted his often testy relationship with James Connolly. The two men would eventually fall out. Lehane would nickname Connolly "Catholic Connolly" for what he saw as his soft approach to the church's iron rule in Irish society while Connolly would deride Lehane as a deserter for leaving Ireland for England in 1901 after being denounced from the pulpit.

Lehane settled in Finsbury Park, London, and became a big player in the labor movement there. In 1903 James Connolly wrote to John Carstairs Matheson "I did not expect that a man who ran away from Cork would stand his ground in London!"

In 1904, Lehane joined the Social Democratic Federation but would later leave that organization to become a founding member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain and he became its first general secretary and editor of the Socialist Standard

In 1906, Lehane and the majority of the Islington branch were expelled from the party following its annual conference. The Bexley branch tabled a motion for the party to adopt a policy of socialist industrial unionism. It was voted down and the Bexley branch was expelled. Lehane, who led the Islington branch, became vocal against the expulsion of the Bexley branch and he, along with members of his own branch, also got expelled.

Lehane speaking in Union Square in 1914.
In 1913, Lehane went to America where he worked alongside Jim Larkin in the labor movement there. He became a lead vocalist against World War One and one famous photo of the Corkman shows him speaking at an anti-war rally in Union Square New York City, in 1914.

In the September 4th edition of the Pittsburg Gazette of 1914, a headline piece declared "a noted socialist is here."

The piece informed the reader that Lehane was to speak at Lyceum Theatre and it mentioned his achievements, including one in Cork:
"Lehane was given chief command of the great gas strike in Cork by the trades council. In fighting for the gas workers Lehane cut off the entire gas supply of the city which was in a state of total darkness for several weeks."
The strike in question began in early 1901 due to great animosity between workers and managers in the Cork Gas Works. With safety issues and increased workload, workers downed tools and went on strike with Lehane leading them. The strike ended in September.

In May 1916, Lehane was addressing a meeting of delegates to the Connecticut Socialist Party in Bridgeport where he spoke of the Easter Rising. He described it as the only bright spot in the World War and the shooting of the leaders of the Rising would inspire others to work and die for the cause. Among those who died in front of the firing squad in Easter 1916 was Lehane's former frosty comrade James Connolly.

Lehane's anti-war protests would see him meet the end of many a policeman's baton and feel the weight of heavy handcuffs around his wrists. In 1917, he was imprisoned and his time behind bars saw his health decline. He was released in late 1919 a shadow of the man he used to be.

Con Lehane died from pneumonia in Bellevue Hospital New York 100 years ago on New Years' Eve 1919 at the age of 42.

Voice From The Back: An oil business (2004)

The Voice From The Back Column from the September 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

An oil business 

It is not just socialists who point out that the present conflict in the Middle East has a basis in the need for oil in modern capitalism. John Chapman, who was a former assistant secretary in the British civil service from 1963-96, expressed similar views in the Guardian (28 July). “Saddam controlled a country at the centre of the Gulf, a region with a quarter of world oil production in 2003, and containing more than 60 percent of the world’s known reserves. With 115bn barrels of of oil reserves, and perhaps as much again in the 90 percent of the country not explored, Iraq has capacity second only to Saudi Arabia. The US in contrast, is the world’s largest net importer of oil. Last year the US Department of energy forecast that imports will cover 70 percent of domestic demand by 2025. By invading Iraq, Bush has taken over the Iraq oil fields, and persuaded the UN to lift production limits imposed after the Kuwait war. Production may rise to 3m barrels and about double 2002 levels.” It is surely no accident that the Bush administration is heavily backed by western oil giants, is it?

Another Labour triumph

“The gap between rich and poor has widened since Tony Blair took office, and social class and ethnic background still influence heavily an individuals life chances, a report by the Institute of Public Policy Research, a centre-left think-tank, says” Times (2 August). Is there anybody out there who still imagines that the Labour Party has got anything to do with socialism?

A wake up call

The news that HSBC, Britain’s largest bank, rang up record six-month profits of £5.2bn at the same time that they are in the process of cutting 7,500 jobs, of which 4,000 are being transferred to low-wage call and processing centres in Asia brought forth a burst of righteous indignation from a top bank trade union official. “Yesterday’s figures drew condemnation from unions representing HSBC’s employees. Rob O’Neill, Unifi’s National Secretary, said: “We don’t know how HSBC’s directors can sleep at night. Instead of rewarding staff for their part in making HSBC as profitable as it is, the bank is slashing jobs in the UK and exporting more and more work to Asia in an attempt to cut costs” Independent (3 August). We imagine the directors and shareholders will sleep just fine, it is O’Neill who should wake up. The purpose of all capitalist concerns is to make as big a  profit as possible, one of the ways they do that is by cutting costs. If O’Neill imagines the purpose of capitalism is to reward workers he is living in cloud cuckoo land.

Crime and punishment (1)

A piece of summary “justice” that even Labour’s tough guy David Blunkett might balk at occurred recently in Russia. “A passenger riding the Moscow Metro without a 20p ticket has been shot by a policeman. The unnamed 29-year-old has been charged with attempted murder. Labourer Rustam Balbekov was shot in the mouth and doctors say he is lucky to be alive . . . The bullet smashed his jaw and went through his neck. Witnesses heard the sergeant say: ‘Do you want to get shot?’ before he opened fire after getting no response” Sky News (4 August). Capitalism just gets madder and madder!

Crime and punishment (2)

The dreadful carnage keeps increasing in Britain’s women prisons. “Officers in Holloway prison are cutting down five women a day from nooses, the Guardian has learned, and recently saved one inmate six times in a single night. But these women are the lucky ones. Already this year 11 female prisoners in English and Welsh prisons have apparently taken their own lives and campaigners fear that this year will see the greatest number of female jail deaths since records began . . . At the heart of the problem is overcrowding. The female prison population, like that of men, has soared in the past 10 years from 1,811 in 1994 to 4,475 at the start of last month” Guardian (9 August). What a society capitalism has become. Shoplifters committing suicide!

More Words . . . (2004)

From the September 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

Since it first published its Manifesto in 1905, the Socialist Party has produced dozens of pamphlets, as these give the chance to expound on questions at greater length than an article in the Socialist Standard. Pamphlets have ranged from discussions of contemporary issues to more substantial considerations of matters of theory and practice. Here we will look, in chronological order, at five which are of particular significance, dealing with religion, nationalisation and other reforms, Bolshevism and the nature of socialist society, briefly placing each of these in their political context.
In 1910, when Socialism and Religion was published, socialist ideas were mainly spread by outdoor meetings, the same places where religious speakers were peddling their nonsense. Hence the need for an extended statement of the materialist case against religion. It was also a time when some supposedly Marxist parties were declaring religion a private matter, on which their members could take different views. In contrast, this pamphlet stated unequivocally that socialism and religion were incompatible, first by explaining how religious ideas arose. The idea of gods developed as people worshipped a dead chief and turned his grave into a temple. Christianity grew gradually out of various other faiths: it is neatly described as “a cemetery of dead religions”. Whereas science, by developing its understanding of the world, becomes more complete and systematic, religion consistently retreats in its claims as it is confronted with the real world. So many tenets once viewed as central to Christianity have come to be viewed by adherents as merely allegorical. Further, religion serves the interest of the ruling class by helping to make workers meek and submissive; by offering them salvation in the next world, it renders them more prepared to accept suffering in this. On the other hand, the religious question is secondary to the wider battle for working-class emancipation, and abolishing religion would not abolish exploitation.
The 1943 pamphlet Family Allowances: A Socialist Analysis was remarkable in its demonstration that an aspect of the much-vaunted welfare state would not be “an entirely unmixed blessing for the working population”. The Beveridge Report had recommended the payment of family allowances and the government had accepted this proposal. It was widely felt that this would bolster living standards and put an end to the worst aspects of poverty, but the Party was able to show that this would not happen. This was partly on the basis that wages are the price of labour power, and, together with whatever state handouts are available, provide workers with just enough to keep their heads above water. But remarkably, a large part of the evidence for this position was taken from the words of the reformers themselves. Independent MP Eleanor Rathbone had long been a campaigner for family allowances, and the pamphlet quotes her as saying that they would involve “simply redistributing the available resources for the remuneration of the workers and so effecting a reasonable revolution”. The aim, then, was to keep the workers quiet without costing the capitalists much at all. Sixty percent of men had no dependent children, and the employers were in effect paying them for the upkeep of children they did not have, rather than just paying for the worker and their partner if any. Rathbone’s solution was to fund family allowances by reducing wages in general – a very different picture from the philanthropic one usually depicted.
Among other policies for which many had high hopes in the immediate post-war period was nationalisation: the 1945 pamphlet Nationalisation or Socialism? argued that this idea had no connection with socialism and would do little to change the way society was run. Much space was devoted to explaining why industries were nationalised and how this suited the interests of the capitalist class as a whole. It was undertaken, for instance, when an industry that was necessary for capitalism was insufficiently profitable for its private owners, or when some group of capitalists had a monopoly and could charge exorbitant prices to their capitalist customers. Winston Churchill, for one, is quoted as follows: “There is a broadening field for State ownership and enterprise, especially in relation to monopolies of all kinds.” While some earlier supporters of nationalisation had advocated simple confiscation of capitalist property by the state, the general view in the 1940s was that compensation would be paid. It was even assumed that capitalists would be given government bonds or stock and so would continue to receive a healthy rate of interest. The capitalist would thus be deprived of control of industry, whereas the Socialist Party had always emphasised the importance of ownership (as in the first clause of our Declaration of Principles). The community would not control the means of production until they were owned in common.
Russia Since 1917
(published in 1948) was unusual in consisting solely of reprints from the Socialist Standard rather than original material. As the preface noted, some points of detail would have been phrased differently with the benefit of hindsight, but on the whole the articles demonstrated the soundness of the Party position on Russia and Bolshevism. The earliest post-Revolution articles are remarkably cautious, noting the lack of available information (partly owing to the censorship operating under the Defence of the Realm Act). Due credit is paid to the Bolsheviks, for stopping the slaughter on the Russian front and conducting negotiations in public. Allegations of massacres by the Bolsheviks were dismissed as a tissue of lies. On the other hand, there was no mincing of words when it came to criticising them. A lengthy article from August 1918 made it clear that the Russian people were not convinced of the necessity of Socialism, though it also stated that “members of the working class took control of affairs in Russia” (note: not the working class as a whole). The analysis of Russia as state capitalist was first broached in July 1920, citing Lenin’s support for state capitalism. Later articles endorsed the analysis of Russia as capitalist, and a remarkable review of The Soviet Union Year-Book (from September 1930) emphasised the staggering profits made, e.g. an average of 96 percent profit on capital invested in 1927-8. The existence of Soviet millionaires was noted, and party officials were seen as part of a privileged section of the population, though not explicitly described as a capitalist class.
The publication of Socialism as a Practical Alternative in 1987 reflected a feeling within the Party that more needed to be done to fill in some of the details of how a Socialist society could function, though naturally what was said was seen as a set of proposals only, and not in any way laying down the law for the future. One significant point made was the importance of decision-making in local communities. Co-operation at higher levels would also be needed, perhaps with some existing organisations being adapted to the new Socialist world. The expertise of the Food and Agricultural Organisation, for instance, could be taken over to co-ordinate world food production. But it was envisaged that, after a while, global and regional levels of organisation might give way to more local administration, though the very idea of “local” becomes harder to define in a global village. A particularly intriguing idea that is broached is that of “conservation production”, which would involve the conservation of raw materials, with most being recycled and re-used. Parts of goods that were not subject to wear and tear could be made from durable materials, and only a small fraction of the materials used would be permanently lost. A useful comparison is made with gold: because it is a “precious” metal, it is hardly ever discarded, so gold mined by the early Egyptians is still in use. While this is an unusual case in commodity-based society, it could certainly be extended in a system of production for use. This pamphlet contains many other valuable ideas about how socialism could be organised.
Paul Bennett

Greasy Pole: Looking forward to 2004 – in 1904 (2004)

The Greasy Pole column from the September 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

Almost nine years have passed since Oscar Wilde was sent to prison at the Old Bailey for the offence of sodomy. He and his friends were not alone in their disappointment at the sentence because the judge, before waving the famous dramatist down to the Court cells, gave voice to his frustration that he was restricted to a sentence of only two years hard labour which was, he snarled, “totally inadequate” for “the worst case I have ever tried . . . a circle of extensive corruption of the most hideous kind among young men”.
The judge did not bother himself that to criminalise homosexuality as “hideous corruption” is a symptom of capitalism’s inhumanity. Nor did he muse on the corruption that was partly responsible for Wilde being in the dock before him. The dismay among Wilde’s supporters at his sentence was aggravated by the well-founded suspicion that he had been sacrificed – arrested, charged, tried, sentenced – to divert attention from somebody  else. It was obvious that the beneficiary must have been someone the authorities were anxious to protect from exposure. Among what was then known as the uranian community it was an open secret that Lord Rosebery was as active a homosexual as Wilde. In fact the Marquess of Queensbury, who had obsessively persecuted Wilde in retaliation for his relationship with his son, had made it quite clear that if Wilde was not prosecuted he, Queensbury, would ruin Rosebery by denouncing him as another sodomite.

The nub of the problem was that Rosebery was not just a peer of the realm and therefore an aristocrat who was supposed nobly to set an example to the rest of us, but the Prime Minister in the Liberal government. Before Wilde’s trial the blackmailing pressure from Queensbury was so fierce that Rosebery – said to be brilliant, erratic and unpredictable but obviously also a mite fragile – was fearful and depressed to the point of being suicidal. Soon after Wilde was safely behind the cell door at Pentonville and Queensbury’s fire had been quenched, Rosebery’s health miraculously improved and, benefiting from the corruption endemic in capitalist politics, he could continue contentedly being Prime Minister along with his other distractions. It was his bad luck that he did not enjoy coincidental good health and high office for long because a month after Wilde’s trial the Liberal government was out of power.
There would not have been the same concerns about the man who – a couple of years ago – succeeded to the job of Prime Minister, once held so tenuously by Rosebery. Arthur Balfour is another with a reputation for unusual brilliance but he has never shown the slightest interest in attaching himself to a female or a male. So on that score, if not on others which should be of more interest to the working class, he is safe.  Balfour is known as an aloof, self-satisfied man who is more comfortable in discussion of remote philosophical and religious abstractions – the less relevant the better – than in confronting the real world of poverty, disease, international conflicts. At Cambridge he spent what was called a “scandalous” amount of time watching or playing tennis and industriously built a reputation for idleness and for intolerance of anything he assessed as ignorance – but which may have been the very reality which he protected himself from.

To behave like that it helps to be an aristocrat with the proper blue-blooded connections. Balfour went to Eton, his father and his grandfather were Conservative MPs and, even more to the point, he was the nephew of the late Lord Salisbury, who succeeded to the Prime Ministership when Rosebery’s Liberal government was defeated in 1895. Some years before that Salisbury, while taking an avuncular lunch with Balfour, broached the subject of politics as a career for him along with watching tennis and taking part in pointless arguments. At the time it just so happened that there was a vacancy at Hertford, a parliamentary constituency where the selection of the MP was controlled by Salisbury because he owned the place. Balfour regards politics as a kind of amusing game – clearly overlooking the unamusing, devastating effect which political decisions can have on the lives of the useful, non-aristocratic, working people in society. He was sure he could fit in attending the Commons with his other strenuous activities so yes, he would give it a try. In due course he was elected as the Honourable Member for Hertford. Thus Balfour was another who has reason to be grateful for the power of political corruption.
That when it comes to the ruling class blood is thicker than water was demonstrated in 1878 when Salisbury, who was then Foreign Secretary, made Balfour his private secretary. In 1885 Balfour was elected as MP for East Manchester; a week spent among his supporters there he described as “loathsome but necessary”, which perhaps meant that he had to spend some time in the slums of Ancoats or Salford. This contemptuous attitude, which he usually managed to hide beneath a mask of elaborate courtesy, surfaced again when he sneered at the rising suburban and provincial Tories “with their vineries and pineries” and in his comment that an industrialist who had what he considered “civilised” tastes was “a rare avis”.  All of this has been ammunition for those critics of Balfour who see him as a pretend politician who makes elegant speeches which do not contribute much to the question at issue – not that it mattered if they did. It fits in with the impression that he is an MP simply because it was the thing for a blue-blooded Old Etonian to do.

But in spite of his affected langour and detachment Balfour has handled some weighty ministries, so that not too many of his Conservative colleagues were offended when, as his uncle Salisbury ceased to be Prime Minister in 1902, Balfour moved smoothly into the job. It will not be the last time a politician has cloaked their rampant ambition beneath a show of disinterest. Edward VII had just been crowned and the South African War, with its nasty shocks for the British military, was at an end. In some senses it was an abrasive conjunction of events as the crowning of a new king encouraged some of the customarily stupid jingoism at a time when the Boer farmers had uncovered evidence suggestive that the global power of the British ruling class is in decline. On the Continent Germany is overtaking Britain, for example accounting for about 22 percent of world production of steel compared to Britain’s 15 percent. In manufacture the respective shares are 17 percent and 19 percent. How long will it be, before British capitalism regards Germany as a competitor too threatening to be assuaged by mere diplomacy?  We are told that the Entente Cordiale, settled in April this year, is an instrument for peace as it re-assures France that there is a buffer against the ambitions of Germany. Another way of putting this is that the treaty lays out some of the issues over which the next war will be fought.
At home the work of Rowntree and Booth has illuminated the fact that the workers who cheered the coronation of the new king often did so from the depths of poverty. Booth’s study of the people in the East End of London found about 30 percent of them living below what he set as a ‘poverty line’. These are people whose means are barely sufficient for a decent independent life or, even worse, are actually insufficient for that life. Rowntree’s report on the people of York came to much the same conclusion; nearly ten percent of the people were found to be in ‘primary poverty’, with means insufficient to maintain merely physical efficiency, and another 18 percent are in the slightly more manageable ‘secondary poverty’. Unemployment, which is an aggravating factor in poverty, stands at ten percent of the working population.  These problems, with the suffering they cause to the class who produce everything but own nothing of any consequence, are the very stuff of capitalism and Balfour, for all his supposed effortless intellectualism, has been powerless to affect them.
How long will capitalism endure? If it is still here in a hundred years, what will the socialists of the year 2004 look back on? They will review a century in which millions will have died in wars or through hunger or avoidable diseases. A century in which the contrasts of riches and impoverishment remain as stark as ever. Whatever progress will be made in the technologies of communication and production will have gone to further enrich the ruling class while merely reshaping the poverty of the workers. And all of this will have been governed by political leaders notable in history for only their corruption, deceit and impotence.

Some Black Sheep (2004)

From the September 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard
Blogger's Note: With regards to the passage about Con Lehane, you have to check out the afterword which corrects some bum information about Lehane that we got via Laurens Otter.
What have a Labour member of the House of Lords, a President of the TUC, a member of the Army Council of the IRA, a Communist Party journalist, a Syndicalist pamphleteer, and a Tory mayor and magistrate have in common?
Answer: this was the subsequent fate of six of the 140 or so present at the meeting on 12 June 1904 which set up the Socialist Party of Great Britain. Obviously, we are not proud of what these particular founding members became, but it does at least show that the meeting did have some significance even from a non-socialist point of view. And, since more is known about the lives of these six individuals than for most of the others who set up the SPGB, their political trajectory before and after 1904 can give some idea of the sort of people involved and of political developments in the first half of the last century

McEntee in ermine.
The Labour Lord

The future Labour Lord was Valentine McEntee. Born in Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) south of Dublin in 1871, the son of a doctor from the Protestant minority, he was orphaned at an early age and was apprenticed as a carpenter. He was an early member of the Irish Socialist Republican Party which had been founded, largely on the initiative of James Connolly, in 1896 as the Irish equivalent of the SDF. In 1899, like many Irish workers, he emigrated to America, to New York, but within a year returned to Europe, but to London not Dublin. He joined the SDF and was also the secretary and chairman of the Walthamstow branch of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners.
At the inaugural meeting of the SPGB he moved that the name of the new party be “The Socialist Party of Great Britain and Ireland” but his motion only obtained six votes, presumably because the others felt that workers in Ireland should organise their own socialist party. His membership was not to last long since in December 1904 he was nominated by his union as a potential parliamentary candidate, which would have meant him standing for the Labour Representation Committee, the forerunner of the Labour Party. Called to account for this, which would of course have been contrary to the SPGB’s principles, he was eventually asked to resign and did so in February 1905.
After that he rejoined the SDF and began his career as a budding Labour politician. In 1908 he was an (unsuccessful) candidate for Walthamstow council. In 1909 he self-published a short pamphlet entitled Socialism Explained. This was a general criticism of capitalism but went out of its way to claim that socialism “is neither pro nor anti-Christian” and was supposedly supported by “ministers of the Gospel of all denominations”.
In 1920 he was finally elected to Walthamstow Council and in 1922 as Labour MP for Walthamstow West. Defeated in 1924 he was re-elected in 1929 and remained an MP till he retired in 1950. In 1951 he was made Baron McEntee of Walthamstow. He died in 1953.

The leftwing Trade Union leader

George Hicks was also to become a Labour MP, for East Woolwich from 1931 to 1950, but it was as a leftwing trade union leader at the time of the 1926 General Strike that he has a place in working-class history.
He was born in 1879 in Venham Dean, near Andover, in Hampshire where his father was a builder. In 1904 he was working as a bricklayer and (like a number of other founder-members) an active member of the Operative Bricklayers Society. The records show that he resigned in March 1905 but rejoined in December 1908, resigning again a few years later as his trade union career took off. In 1912 he was appointed a national organiser of the OBS. By 1919 he was its General Secretary and President of the National Federation of Building Trades Operatives. In 1921, having successfully seen through the amalgamation of this federation into a single union, he became the first general secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers, a post he was to occupy for the next twenty years. As such he was elected a member of the General Council of the TUC.
In 1925 he was one of a group of leftwing trade union leaders who went to Moscow where they agreed to set up an Anglo-Russian Trade Union Unity Committee. Stalin and the Russian government had an interest in this as they wanted to build up mass support in countries like Britain against military action to invade Russia, but it is difficult to see what was the advantage for the trade union movement; no doubt the trade union leaders involved, including Hicks, mistakenly felt that what existed in Russia was some sort of workers’ regime. When the general strike occurred in Britain the following year, the leftwing trade union leaders on the Anglo-Russian Committee were unable to prevent the majority on the TUC General Council betraying the miners. Trotsky saw this as a heaven-sent stick with which to try to beat Stalin for relying on “left lackeys of imperialism” such as “Purcell, Hicks and other traitors”. But Trotsky, who by this time was on his way out, had clearly lost touch with reality, wanting to “orient the working class toward a general strike and an armed insurrection in the course of a war”. Hicks, whose turn it was to be to be TUC President in 1927-28, survived. Trotsky did not.
Hicks rejoined the reconstituted SDF, now affiliated to the Labour Party, and in 1931, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its founding, was invited to give the keynote address. This was later published as a pamphlet Poverty from Plenty. The Industrial Depression: Its Cause and Cure. He began: “its cause is capitalism: its cure is Socialism”. Although his analysis was rather too under-consumptionist, it did show some evidence of his passage through the SPGB.
In 1941 he became a junior minister – Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Works – in the war-time coalition government, with as his parliamentary private secretary none other than the future Lord McEntee. He died in 1954.

Jackson in 1905.
The Communist Party hack

When the Communist Party of Great Britain was founded in July 1920 among the founding members was Thomas (T. A.) Jackson. Born in Clerkenwell, North London, in 1879, he left school at 13 to be apprenticed as, like his father, a compositor. He joined the SDF in 1900. In his autobiography Solo Trumpet, published in 1953, he claimed to have been only marginally involved with the SPGB, which he doesn’t mention by name simply referring to some mysterious “impossibilist” (in his original manuscript he had written “leftist”) group. The records show, however, that he was a very active member for nearly five years, being on the committee that drafted the Declaration of Principles, speaking outdoors and indoors, writing articles, serving on the executive committee and even acting for a short while as General Secretary (and he married another founder member, “Miss K. Hawkins”).
These activities resulted in him having difficulty in finding a job in his trade and, in 1909, as he frankly told some Party members at the time, he decided to sell his speaking abilities to other propagandist groups in order to survive. He thus ended up joining the ILP but without really believing in what they stood for. When he moved to Leeds he got a job speaking for the Secularists. Later he was a freelance speaker, depending on his audience putting money in his hat.
During the war he was able to find employment as a storeman. By its end he had joined the SLP and it was as a member of its pro-Bolshevik wing, which was one of the constituent organisations that set up the CPGB, that he became a founder of that party. For the rest of his life he was a paid writer and journalist for the CP and its papers the Sunday Worker and then the Daily Worker. In the 1920s he was in fact one of the leading figures in the CP, editing its first weekly journal, The Communist, and a member of its central committee and executive committee. In 1929, when Stalin ordered the parties in the Comintern to “turn left”, he was one of the leaders who were removed as “rightists”. He remained a CP member, but only as a journalist and writer. As such he wrote numerous articles and a number of books, but none of them showed the slightest evidence of anything he had learned while in the SPGB, not surprising for someone who declared that he had come “to see Marx and Engels through the spectacles provided by Lenin and Leninism”. Quite the worst was a long turgid book on Dialectics (1936), pretentiously subtitled “The logic of Marxism, and its critics: an essay in exploration”, which regurgitated Lenin’s ideas on philosophy. He wrote a nationalist history of Ireland, Ireland Her Own, for which he dishonestly allowed himself to be billed as a “Protestant Nationalist” (when his connection with Ireland was very tenuous). He also wrote a book on Dickens and other literary subjects. He died in 1955.

The Tory Mayor

The strangest case is that of Jack Kent. Prior to joining the SPGB, he had been a prominent member of the SDF, serving on its national executive, writing in its journal Justice and organising its activities. As such he was probably the most high-profile SDF member to have gone over to the SPGB. Born in Lambeth, in South London, in 1870, in 1904 he was working as a clerk at the head office of Whitbreads, the brewers. In the elections for the Party’s 1905 Executive Committee he topped the poll; he was an outdoor speaker and indoor lecturer, wrote a regular column in the Socialist Standard, organised speakers’ classes, and in 1907 was the Party’s treasurer. He resigned in 1908. He had been promoted at work to departmental manager and was able to afford to move to the then up-market west London suburb of Acton. Here he turned his coat completely, helping to form an organisation called the “Constitutionalists” whose aims were “to uphold the Constitution, advocate a Consolidated Empire, to oppose Socialistic legislation, to propagate Tariff Reform, and to contest Municipal elections”. As this outfit ran street-corner meetings, no doubt the skills he had acquired in the SDF and the SPGB proved invaluable. In 1912, after sitting on the local Coronation Committee, he was elected a member of Acton Council. From then on it was downhill all the way. Joining the Acton Volunteers to serve British capitalism (if only on the streets of Acton rather than in the trenches of Northern France), he was chairman of the local Conservative and Unionist Association in 1918, a magistrate in 1920, Mayor of Acton in 1922-23, and a Middlesex County Councillor. At the time of his death in 1945 he was chairman of the local magistrates bench as well as of the local Tory Party. Why did he turn? Initially at least, probably for the same reason as Jackson: to earn a better living. Yet further proof of how unfree workers are under capitalism and its wages system, forced by economic circumstances to compromise their views.

Allen in 1905.
The Syndicalist pamphleteer

One of the youngest founder members of the SPGB was Ernest Allen, or E. J. B. Allen as he was known. Born near Oxford in 1884 the son of a butcher, he had joined the SDF there when only 16, later moving to London where he played an active role in the “impossibilist revolt” within the SDF. A speaker and writer, he was particularly interested in the trade union question. The early SPGB had not yet worked out a fixed policy on this and Allen was one of those who favoured the setting up of a socialist union in opposition to the existing trade unions based on the sectional interests of their members. At the party’s first annual conference in 1905 he moved that as soon as the party had attained 5000 members it should set up a socialist union. There was no seconder.
In 1906 a series of special party meetings were held at which the matter was thrashed out. Many members were hostile to the existing unions because of their non-socialist nature and their association with moves to set up a reformist Labour party. In the event no agreement could be reached and the position was left as it had been before: that SPGB members could be members of the existing ones (as many of the founder-members had been, McEntee and Hicks for instance), supporting any action of theirs on sound class lines and opposing all actions on unsound lines. Although the votes were close, and despite the subsequent myth put about by later opponents (starting with the Labour activist and historian G. D. H. Cole), the SPGB never took up an anti trade union position. Ironically, the SLP, which Allen was to join for a while, accused the SPGB of being pro-trade union! Before the debate within the SPGB on the trade union question was over, Allen had joined an organisation called the “Advocate of Industrial Unionism”, whose aim was to set up in Britain the equivalent of the IWW in North America. As the SPGB did not regard the IWW as a socialist organisation he resigned. In the years that followed Allen passed through all the variant positions associated with those who advocated “socialist industrial unionism” to overthrow capitalism: from holding that this should be complemented by political action at the ballot box (the SLP position), through arguing that industrial action alone to “take and hold” the means of production would be sufficient (the anarcho-syndicalist position, expressed in his 1909 pamphlet Revolutionary Unionism), and then ending up as a propagandist for Tom Mann’s Industrial Syndicalist Education League which advocated industrial action for reformist ends too.
In 1912 he emigrated to New Zealand where he continued his syndicalist activity. His pamphlet was reprinted, and for a while he was president of the General Labourers Union in Auckland. When the war came he supported it, including conscription. This destroyed for ever his reputation as any sort of revolutionary. After the war he ended up as a supporter of the NZ Labour Party and later of the leftwing breakaway party set up by ex-Labour MP John A. Lee for whose Weekly he wrote articles. He also wrote and spoke for the NZ Rationalist Association. He died in1945.

Lehane in 1905.
The IRA man
 [See correction below.]

Con (Cornelius) Lehane, who was the Party’s General Secretary for the first two years of its existence, was born in Cork and, like Valentine McEntee, had been a member of the Irish Socialist Republican Party before moving to England and transferring to the SDF. He worked as a clerk and later trained to be, and became, a solicitor. In school, as part of the Gaelic revival, he had learnt Irish which he spoke fluently, ending one of his contributions to the Socialist Standard, in the Irish spelling of the time, “Saoghal fada dho! – Conchubhar”. It was in fact through militant Irish nationalism that he came to socialism. However, it was not this that led to him leaving the SPGB. Yet again, it was an issue related to the trade union question.
Lehane was on the wing of the Party which (unlike another former ISRP member, James Connolly, who was a founder member of the SLP in Britain) didn’t think much of the so-called “economic power” of the working class and insisted that socialists should concentrate on getting the working class to first win control of political power, i.e. to expropriate the capitalist class politically so as to be in a position to then expropriate them economically. He fell out with the Party because he felt that the Executive Committee was not taking a tough enough attitude towards industrial unionists who had joined the Party. To protest against this, in 1906, the Islington branch, of which he was a member, suspended all propaganda activities and got itself expelled for dereliction of duty. After his expulsion Lehane published a couple of pamphlets attacking the SPGB for having gone off the rails.
Ironically, he was next heard of as a supporter of Jim Larkin, the leader of the ITGWU who favoured syndicalist tactics. It is not clear when he reverted to his original Irish republicanism, perhaps when he was in America during the First World War. In any event, during the 1930s he was a member of the Army Council of the IRA, which earned him an 18-month jail sentence in 1935 for sedition after the Council issued a statement promising “maximum support” for a strike of Dublin transport workers. After his release he left the IRA and, together with former IRA Chief of Staff, Sean MacBride, and others was of a founder-member in 1940 of the leftwing republican party, Clann na Poblachta. In 1948 he was elected a Clann member of the Dail for Dublin. Following this election, in which it had won 10 seats, the CnP joined in an anti-Fianna Fail coalition government. So, ironically for a one-time “impossiblist” who had advocated political power for the sole purpose of achieving socialism, he ended up as a supporter of an openly capitalist government. He lost his seat in the 1951 general election.
Adam Buick

Con Lehane: A Correction

In the September Socialist Standard we stated that Con Lehane, who was a founder member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, went on to become in the 1930s and 40s a member of the IRA and a Republican member of the Irish parliament. This was not the case and was due to a confusion with someone else with the same name.

The Con Lehane who was a founder member was born in Cork in 1878 was indeed an Irish Republican but he died in New York in 1919, shortly after being released from prison where he had been detained for his political activities. In 1916 he had published a pamphlet entitled The Irish Republic arguing that the so-called Easter Rising in Dublin that year had been a workers’ revolution.

The other Con Lehane, who was on the Army Council of the IRA in the 1930s and a Clann na Poblachta deputy from 1948 to 1951, was born in Belfast in 1912 and died in 1983 (see Irish Times, 27 September 1983).

The original source of the error was an article which appeared in the anarchist paper Freedom on 8 February 1992. Our apologies for not having first checked this thoroughly enough –Editors.