Friday, October 27, 2023

The Essentials of Socialist Unity. (1906)

From the January 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

To the Socialist Working Class


In the January number of our official organ—the Socialist Standard—we addressed you concerning the International Socialist Congresses, and briefly dwelt with our reasons for declining an invitation from the Secretary of the British section at the Amsterdam Congress to take part in forming a National Committee to deal with matters arising out of the International Congress, on the grounds that it should be the task of the Socialist Party alone to deal with these questions, and that, judging by the composition of the British section at the Amsterdam Congress, the proposed Committee would consist of men who are in no sense of the word Socialists. That Committee has now been formed and its composition fully justifies the view we took of it in January last.

In accordance with our promise, we have forwarded a communication to the International Socialist Bureau, asking that, in our name, a motion be placed upon the Agenda of the next International Congress, for discussion in open Congress, embodying the following proposals:—
(a) That admission to future International Socialist Congresses shall be open only to all avowed Socialist, bodies that accept the essential principles of Socialism, i.e., socialisation of the means of production and distribution, union and international action of workers, Socialist conquest of the Public Powers by the proletariat organised as a class party recognising and proclaiming the class war, running all candidates upon this basis and adopting an attitude of hostility under all circumstances to all sections of the capitalist party.
(b) That all previous resolutions (defining the basis of admission to. the Congress) be rescinded.
(c) That all matters upon the agenda be discussed in open Congress and that the methods of discussion in Commissions be entirely abolished.
(d) That each delegate shall have one vote, but if a poll be demanded, each Party represented shall be entitled to one vote.
(e) That representation upon the Bureau shall be upon the basis of Parties represented at the Congress, each of which shall be entitled to one representative upon the Bureau.
We have further requested the Bureau to at once consider the advisability of adopting one language in which all the business of the Bureau and of the Congress shall be conducted, with the object of coming to a decision upon the matter in sufficient time for the language decided upon to be adopted as the official language of the Stuttgart Congress.

Up to now the International Socialist Congresses have not considered the composition of the Nationalities represented thereat. At Amsterdam, National matters were entered into, when a resolution was passed in favour of National Unity. If the International Movement is to be placed upon a sound revolutionary basis the Congress must enter into the character of the different National organisations which are obtaining admission to the Congresses and affiliation to the Bureau. When the Congress has, by its resolute action, eliminated all pseudo-socialist organisations, such as deny the existence of the class war, or in any way support the capitalist class or its catspaws in their respective countries, then unity of the Socialist forces in each country will be easily accomplished.
We are, Comrades,
With fraternal greetings,
The Executive Committee,
Socialist Party of Great Britain.

Head Office,
1a, Caledonian Road, London,
December 1905.

The Impending Collapse of Labourism. (1906)

From the January 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

With the near approach of a general election the signs and portents that tell of the futility of what is at present known as the “Independent Labour Representation” movement increase and multiply. With one desire paramount in their minds—the desire to secure election—many of the candidates for whom the Labour Representation Committee is responsible, are quite ready to subordinate their independence to their election in the belief, quite honestly held doubtless in some cases, that some special virtue attaches to the right to append the letters M.P. after a name. Nor is this surprising. When men set out with the all-pervading notion that the imperative necessity of the hour is the formation of a “Labour Group” inside the House of Commons, without a very clear notion as to why there should be such a group, without being at infinite pains to understand the reasons underlying the supposed necessity, without being intimately acquainted with the only conditions upon which a Labour Group can be of utility and effect, it is not surprising if they think to proceed to their “independence” within the Commons, by very dependent methods without. It is not surprising that Mr. Richards, the L.R.C. candidate for Wolverhampton, for example, prefers not to take the chances of defeat in opposition to the Liberals when the chances of election in alliance with them are so bright. And this it would seem, on the authority of Mr. Tom Jones, representing the “Labour” side of the Liberal-Labour Conference held to make arrangements, is the position of the responsible officers of the Labour Representation Committee.

“They were satisfied that, anxious as they were to get a Labour Representative returned, it was impossible to do so on Labour lines exclusively. . . . The one object . . . which the Labour Party had was to try and replace one of the worst governments of modern times, . . . they regretted that some annoyance had been caused by individual men objecting to Liberals having anything to do with them,” and so on.

And these are the leaders of the movement that, once formed, was to march straight into the real working-class—the Socialist—camp, because forsooth, it could follow no other road. This was the assumption upon which the only argument of the I.L.P. (L.R.C. patron and sycophant) rested. And yet of the four men already in Parliament, and drawing their stipend from the L.R.C., three are quite frankly adjuncts of, and in no way distinguishable from, the capitalist Liberal party, while at the first approach of the general encounter with what are supposed to be (from the L.R.C. point of view) the forces of re-action, the political training of a life-time is too strong for their candidates, whose independence grows smaller by degrees and beautifully less. Of course. They want to get into Parliament. Many of them don’t clearly know why, and those who do have no intelligent force behind them to insist that they shall keep to the line of independence.

The I.L.P. having done all in its power to foster L.R.C’ism —mainly, it is true, for the purpose of securing monetary support for its own men naturally grows apprehensive at these indications of collapse, and protests against the Wolverhampton violation of the L.R.C. Constitution. But in the first place the L.R.C. has no constitution, and in the second the I.L.P. tactics are in the main the L.R.C. tactics, as defined by Mr. Tom Jones. At Halifax, Mr. Parker, I.L.P. candidate and member of the I.L.P. Executive, is in precisely the same position that Mr. Richards occupies, i.e., he has sold out independence and all to the Liberal Party. The I.L.P. will find difficulty enough, it seems, in keeping its own particular candidates in order, Without worrying about anything else.

The fact is, of course, that both the I.L.P. and the L.R.C. (not to mention the S.D.F.) have omitted to ponder the fact (or have deliberately blinked it) that to change a label is not to change an idea, and if from their youth up the working-class have been trained to give allegiance to Liberalism or Toryism, the return of Labour men—commonly so-called—to Parliament will not have the effect of changing their views ; while without that, change of view the Labour men returned, having no mandate and no strength at their back, are practically useless except to themselves, even when, as in the case of Crooks, Shackleton, and Henderson, they are not themselves, in everything but name, thick and thin supporters of one of the orthodox capitalist factions. Only by education, by an exacting and painstaking course of instruction in the true inwardness of the economic phenomena that affects them always to their detriment, can the working-class ideas be changed. The S.D.F., have frankly tired of this educational work, the I.L.P. were probably never able to perform it, and the L.R.C., without principles or object, and with only the most loosely defined policy, has always been nothing more than the happy hunting-ground (or perhaps we should say Tom Tiddler’s ground) for the man on the make, the political quack and charlatan. It remains, therefore, the more imperative that the S.P.G.B. should persist in its work with the determination and consistency which have characterised its efforts hitherto. To educate and organise the working-class of Great Britain into an army of irreconcilables at perpetual war with the forces of capitalism upon both the economic and the political fields, this is the purpose of the Socialist Party. And this purpose cannot be effected by compromise with capitalism, by arrangement, real or implied, by methods of confusion, by obscurantism of whatever consistency. It cannot be effected by indulging the particularly absurd hope of the Labour Leader “to unite working men of all shades of political opinion into one great Labour Party,” because a Labour Party cannot exist on any such basis, and would be useless if it could. It can only be effected by keeping essentials clear. And the first essentials are the absolute incompatibility of working-class interest with capitalist interest, and the necessity therefore, of translating the class struggle which is for ever manifesting itself on the economic field to the political field, to be waged with unceasing effort. This method may seem long and thankless, but it is the method that is sure in its results. Moreover, it is the only method.
A. James

The Pillory. (1906)

From the January 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard
“The Labour party was under no delusion; for if a working-man was taken in to the Cabinet, they knew why, they knew the reason behind his being taken in.” Keir Hardie.

“It is now announced that by one of his last official acts Mr. Gerald Balfour has appointed Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald as one of the Local Government Board representatives on the committee (Central Unemployed).” I.L.P. Organ.
In what material respect would an appointment to the Central Unemployed Committee at the hands of a Tory Capitalist Minister differ from an appointment to the Local Government Board at the hands of a Liberal Capitalist Minister ? Answer Hardie. And if there is no difference may we not know the reason behind both appointments ? Is it not that the ministers know their men ?
“We find it difficult to understand the point of view of those ‘Labour men’ who have been congratulating Mr. John Burns on his acceptance of office. We naturally supposed that all would now see that he had definitely gone over to the enemy. Nevertheless it appears to some Labour members and candidates who are pledged to rigorously abstain from identifying themselves with either Liberal or Tory Party that this final act of repudiation of the Labour cause by John Burns is one upon which both he and they are to be congratulated. It passes all comprehension.” ‘Justice,’ S.D.F. Organ.

“The Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress has passed the following resolution:
That the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress heartily congratulates the Right Hon. John Burns, formerly chairman of the committee, upon his appointment to the position of President of the Local Government Board, and wishes him every success during his period of office.” Morning Leader.
Justice” adds the situation is Gilbertian when “we have the ineffable Winston Churchill, another colleague of Mr. Burns going down to support the Liberal opponent of Mr. Alderman Bowerman, who, as a member of the Labour group on the L.C.C., signed the letter of congratulation to Mr. Burns.” Agreed. It is Gilbertian. But when Mr. Will Thorne, a very prominent member of the S.D.F., that through its organ gibes at the absurdity of Mr. Bowerman congratulating Mr. Burns himself, as a prominent member of the Parliamentary Committee, signs a similar letter of congratulation, Gilbert pales his ineffectual fires. Perhaps “Justice” will now jeer Mr. Thorne, but as Mr. Thorne constitutes a valuable asset to “Justice,” perhaps not!
“Never was the I.L.P. so great, so strong, so full of courage as it is to-day. From every corner of the land reports pour in telling of crowded halls, revival, and organisation.” J. Bruce Glasier (I.L.P. Executive).

“What was their position as a party ? If he understood it—and he knew he was speaking for the heads of the party—they wanted to see in the next House of Commons a Liberal Party big enough to do something, and to let them see what they could do. Give your votes so that they will get into the same lobby as often as possible” Jas. Parker (I.L.P. Executive).
Mr. Glasier’s remark follows immediately after an adverse criticism of Mr. Parker. The ordinary person will probably incline to the idea that the great “Independent” Labour Party is full of courage because of the encouraging reception their advances receive from the Liberal Party upon which some of them are apparently dependent. It is reported that after Mr. Parker’s speech, a prominent Liberal rose to advise his fellow Liberals to give one vote to the Liberal and one to Mr. Parker. He hoped the Labour men would reciprocate the entente cordiale !
“The Durham miners are ballotting as to which of four constituencies Mr. J. W. Taylor shall stand for at the coming election. One of the four seats which are being ballotted upon is Chester-le-street, which is represented by Sir James Joicey, and last week Mr. J. H. Wilson, at one time member for Middlesboro’, addressed several meetings in the constituency in support of Joicey.” Labour Lender.

“There was no vacant places at house dinner to Mr. Thos. Burt, M.P. (Miners, Morpeth), at the Newcastle Liberal Club last evening. Letters of regret for non-attendance were read from Sir James Joicey. Mr. Burt said . . . Liberals and Labour men were natural allies. . . . There was no conflict of interest between one and the other.” Northern Echo.
After which striking example of Miners’ consistency, it is not surprising to read in the official organ of the I.L.P. that the I.L.P. is making remarkable progress among the miners. It is. The similarity in the mental tangles of both parties’ representatives, simply stands up to strike one.
“But circumstances are telling in our favour. At home the hopeless incapacity and irreconcilable antagonisms within the two prevailing capitalist political factions unquestionably help us.”
H. M. Hyndman, S.D.F. Dec.

“In all important matters, foreign, domestic, colonial, the Liberals express themselves as being determined to carry on the policy of their predecessors.” H. Quelch. S.D.F.

“This sham fight (between Liberal and Tory.) ” Every S.D.F. Speaker.
Irreconsignable antagonisms within the two Capitalist factions ! And this from “the Father of English Social Democracy”!! O Lor!!! will someone post Mr. Hyndman the S.P.G.B. Manifesto ?
Mr. Shackleton, speaking at Nelson recently, formulated a programme of a startling revolutionary character. . . He declared himself in favour of Home Rule, Registration Reform, Payment of Members, Taxation of Land Values, the subjection of the House of Lords to the popular chamber and Public Control of the Education and Licensing Questions. Evidently the Labour Party is taking its courage in both hands when it does not hesitate to boldly declare in favour of such a programme. Why it is almost as far as that dangerous extremist, Campbell Bannerman, would dare to go.” H. Quelch (ironically), Dec.

“These, then, are some of the chief political reforms that Socialists will do well to keep to the front (Second Ballot, Payment of Members and Election Expenses, Adult Suffrage, Triennial Parliaments and the Initiative and Referendum.” J. F. Green, S.D.F. E.C. (Seriously).

“The question I wish to bring under the notice of English Socialists … is whether the time has not arrived when they should formulate a vigorous demand for all the political measures I have indicated (Second Ballot and Payment of Members and Election Expenses).” H. W. Lee, S.D.F. Sec.
Mr. Quelch is very ironical at Mr. Shackleton’s expense, very ironical. But all the same Mr. Shackleton’s immediate demands are not so very insignificant when, contrasted with Mr. Quelch’s fellow S.D.F’ers. Mr. Quelch’s satire like other peoples curses, invariably comes home to roost—if the metaphor will bear the strain.

Blogger's Note:
The formatting of this article in the original issue of the Socialist Standard neatly puts the contradictory statements side by side (see below) to give the full impact of the ILP/SDF opportunism and double talk. Sadly, I can't do the same on the blog and, as you can see, the quality of the scan isn't the best anyway.

A Look Round. (1906)

From the January 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

A comrade sends me what he describes as a “Problem for Socialists.” At an Eastern seaside town, much frequented during July, August, and September by holiday makers, there was a small piece of land near the sea, of no value, too sandy for cultivation and too shifty for house building. It was let to a few fishermen for three or four shillings a year to dry their nets upon.

* * *

One Spring, however, two men went to the landlord and offered to hire the land during the summer mouths at a rental of £4 per month, to which the landlord willingly consented. The hirers fenced the land, erected a booth and dressing-room, obtained two or three hundred chairs, and announced that, weather permitting, concerts would be given twice a day during the season. The troupe, consisting of three women and four men, soon arrived. They were successful and at the end of the season were at least £100 to the good.

* * *

In the following Spring they again went to the landlord and proposed to hire the land as before. But the “ramrod man” would not agree unless the hirers would pay £16 per month. And in that manner, without any effort on his part, the landlord was enabled to take to himself all the profit that the musical troupe, by their work, ability and persistency, could make.

* * *
“What a shameful affair. How unjust.” And my correspondent adds that the landlord was the Town Council ! He asks whether this fact made the transaction any juster, and what would occur under Socialism in similar circumstances.

* * *

Now, excepting to those persons who imagine that a municipality under capitalism is anything but a capitalist body, trading on capitalist lines with the object of making a profit out of their enterprises for the benefit of the property owners, the action of the particular municipality will evoke no surprise or condemnation. Is it not urged by land “reformers” that Public Bodies should secure and retain possession of land in order that they may obtain the “unearned increment,” which now goes to the individual landlord ?

* * *

As to what would happen in similar circumstances under Socialism, my correspondent will agree, upon reflection, that there could be no similar circumstances. Under Socialism the people will not only produce, by their own highly organised collective effort, the material wealth necessary to existence, but will also, by associated effort, provide their own amusements and pastimes, where desirable. You would not have, in the Socialist State, some folks providing amusement for others, as a speculation, depending for their sustenance upon individual contributions from pleased or pitying members of the community.

* * *

Of course, no Socialist, unless he is a very raw recruit, wastes his time putting forward any cut-and-dried scheme which he claims will be the method of detailed organisation in the Socialist State. He knows that when the necessary mental revolution which must precede the economic revolution has been accomplished, the people will be more capable of settling the details of the new society than anyone now living. The Socialist can only advocate the principles upon which he believes Society should be based and upon which he believes it will be based. Because, unless that which he thinks should happen is likely to happen, he is simply wasting himself. He claims that Socialism is scientific because he has carefully studied the history of pre-capitalist states of society and watched the developments and tendencies of the present. He can show that the tendency is towards the most economical and effective organisation of the production of wealth. But to-day this organisation is in the hands of a class, comprising the individual capitalist, the trust and the capitalist municipality, all making up the capitalist state. The interests considered are capitalist interests and the function of the Socialist is to convince the people of the advantages of this organisation being controlled by and in the interests of the wealth producers. When this is accomplished the people will establish the Socialist Republic.

* * *

It sometimes happens that municipal enterprise is uneconomical and reactionary as compared with the enterprise of the Trust and Combine and it is just a question as to whether Socialists should not oppose this form of capitalist development.

* * *

Rent is robbery. It matters not to me whether I am robbed by the ducal landlord or the municipal landlord and the extent to which municipalities claim to be enabled to reduce the rates by trading is no concern of the working-class. Rents are not reduced because rates go down. In fact, the opening up of a tramway route, by which the municipality may be enabled to reduce rates by a halfpenny or so, often causes rents to rise, by rendering more accessible districts where hitherto competition for house accommodation, which determines rents, was exceedingly restricted. Moreover, trains, tubes, etc., which are being provided everywhere, even for school children, are producing a race that cannot walk—a “born-tired” people.

* * *

If all those who have at some time or another emphasised the fact that the working-class are not affected by rates would always adhere to that position there would be less confusion of thought amongst the working-class. Here, for instance, is Mr. Will Thorne, the L.R.C. candidate for South West Ham, who has declared that it would make no difference to the working-class if the rates in West Ham were twenty shillings in the £, putting on the front-page of his election address : Nationalisation of Education, Poor Hates, Mine Rents, and Mineral Royalties. Mr. Thorne does not explain how these matters concern the poverty-stricken workers of South West Ham. In the body of his address he says he is strongly in favour of “Nationalisation of the Land, Canals, Railways, Mine Rents, and Mineral Royalties, the private ownership of which acts as the real barrier to British Industry in the Markets of the World” !

* * *

This is an interesting pronouncement for a man whom the S.D.F. claim as their candidate, although he is nothing of the sort and they are not responsible for one penny of his election expenses. As a matter of fact, admitted by the capitalist Press, British Industry has been supplanted because production naturally tends to locate itself where natural conditions are most favorable. But why concern ourselves about Britain’s position in the markets of the world ? For the capitalists, whether Free Traders or Tariff Reformers, the matter is of interest, but the concern of the Socialist is to stop the exploitation of the working-class, not to help one set of capitalists to exploit at the expense of another.

* * *

That is a capitalist struggle, like the fiscal fight. One set of capitalists say that we (i.e., British Capitalists) are losing because our fiscal system requires changing ; another set say that we hold our position because of our fiscal system and shall lose it if we change. And so their struggle continues. It is a matter of indifference to me whether I am plucked by a Free Trade Kite or a Protectionist Crow : I object to the plucking.

* * *

I am glad that some of Mr. Thorne’s friends recognise this. In last week’s “JusticeMr. D. Carmichael writes:
“Members should insist, during the coming election, on making the workers realise that, while the fiscal question may be of interest to their masters, it is of little importance to them, and by heckling the capitalist candidates on every possible occasion expose the folly of depending on the robber class helping the robbed.”

* * *

Mr. D. Carmichael is one of the unemployed “leaders” who have been “demanding” that the robber class shall help the robbed !!!

* * *

But Mr. Will Thorne does not agree with Mr. Carmichael. He declares for “No Tariff Barriers” and is a “determined opponent of the imposition of any Tariff burdens on the food of the people.”

* * *

The whirligig of time, we are told, brings its own revenges. In “Justice” for the 16th of last month I read:
“Our veteran comrade Dadabhai Naoroji, whose services to India for more than 50 years are well known, is standing as a Liberal candidate in North Lambeth. We are no friends to Liberal candidates, and we are certainly not enamoured of the set which is supporting Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji. But we should regret, nevertheless, if he were opposed by a working man. There are exceptions to all rules and this case is that exception. Mr. Naoroji, more than any Indian living, voices the aspirations of 300,000,000 people under our rule. On that ground we hope he will be returned to the House of Commons.”

* * *
It occurred to me when I read the above that I had seen something in “Justice” to the opposite effect. I turned up my index and found the following, which appeared on the 22nd September, 1894 :
“Social-Democrats can lose the ‘Progressives’ certain London seats by mere abstention. Why shouldn’t we ? We owe the Progressives’ nothing—less than nothing. They are a miserable lot. We thought Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji one of the best of them. He owes his seat to our votes. If we abstain at the next election, he at least must go. What should we keep him in for ? He has been of no use whatever to us and of very little use to India. The Liberal Party may seem to our Parsee friend a very grand and glorious institution, but we fail to see how acting the part of a mere Liberal Hanger-on rewards Social-Democrats for the trouble they took in going to the poll for Mr. Dadabhai.”

* * *
What a virtue is consistency !

* * *
Justice” is owned and controlled by the Twentieth. Century Press Ltd. In 1894 Mr. Naoroji held 80 shares in the Company, he now holds 280. These figures relate to the ordinary shares of 5s. 0d., not to the debentures. So that, apparently. “our Parsee friend” has paid £50 for the support of “Justice.” Let us hope he is satisfied with his bargain.

* * *

Mr. Ebenezer Howard, founder of the Garden City, presided at a meeting held last month at this very latest paradise, to consider the question of the provision of dwellings for working men. The Dean of St. Albans addressed the meeting on the desirability of proper housing for the working classes and urged the men to support a scheme for proper dwellings. Others also spoke.

* * *

Was not the Garden City one of those brand new patent schemes for solving the Housing problem ?

* * *

Mr. Isaac Mitchell, Secretary of the Federation of Trade Unions, was, as usual, unable to be present at the meeting, but, again as usual, sent his blessing by letter.

* * *
No meeting of “reformers” is now complete without a letter from Mr. Isaac Mitchell.
Jack Kent