Monday, October 30, 2023

Editorial: The Show Opens. (1906)

Editorial from the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Westminster Palace of Varieties is now open and the performance is about to commence. Already the inaugural ceremonies have been held and have passed off without hitch of any sort, the quick-change artistes, sleight-of-handists, lampoonists, thimble-riggers, contortionists, low-comedians, heavy “leads,” infant prodigies, double-summersaultists, clowns, pantaloons and the rest having been at infinite pains to get their parts off letter perfect. The troupe manager has announced the programme which, however, may not strictly follow the advertised order, and we are now in a position to know the turns that may come on although, of course, we are not able to anticipate all the “business” the artistes may introduce. With some of the programme we, like our fathers before us, are very familiar. “Safe” turns these, which have already come through the heat of controversy and the burden of examination, mellowed but little impared in the eyes of the average audience who still applaud the “gags” and “wheezes” as though they were all new and novel. For those, however, who, being afflicted with good memories, have not unnaturally wearied of the horrible sameness of the performance, new turns have been introduced, from these great things are expected. It is confidently anticipated that they will prove good draws and secure for the management the continued and extended patronage of the great public, All of them, however, will be found, we think, of the stage stagey, bearing no relation to the real life of the people, and although the audience may respond in a manner gratifying to the Showmen, they will find that there is as little in the new business as there was in the old—that directly it is endeavoured to translate into every-day existence the schemes that look and work out so effectively in the parliamentary story they will be found out as the mere sleight-of-hand tricks they really are. On the stage they seem real enough. Off the stage the are tawdry and ludicrous.

An Affecting “Turn.”
The great feature of the show we understand from the theatrical Press is to be “Social Reform”— “Revolutionary Reform” as one paper described it. The management simply palpitates with “Social Reform.” The whole Company will concentrate upon “Social Reform.” Indeed, so pronounced is their “conspicuous zeal for the social question” that when Mr. G. N. Barnes (of the great L.R.C. combination) had finished his quiet and lucid argument for old age pensions, there was a strong expression of Liberal approval and—O! marvel of marvels!—”more than one ministerialist shook Mr. Barnes by the hand !” Surely zeal could no further go—especially when we know the revolutionary extent of Mr. Barnes’ reform. He would pay to the deserving worker upon attaining 65 years of age, 5/—five whole shillings without deduction—per week. And the average age of death of the working class is less than one half 65 ! And 5/- per week as Mr. Barnes may not know (being only a “Labour” troupist) would barely confine the bones of a man within his skin, let alone keep his heart pulsating within him. “It is a disgrace to the head and heart of the nation that agricultural labourers should receive only 14/- or 15/- per week” says Mr. Barnes. “He cannot live upon it.” So at a time when he will want a little less hardship and a more expensive form of nourishment, and when he will be unable to augment his income through failing strength, instead of sending him to the workhouse (where his maintenance will cost at least twice as much) we will recognise his services to the State, his many years of arduous endeavour in the building up of the prosperity of the country, by pensioning him with 5/- per week—every week regularly—and let him spend his last days in honourable retirement and comfort—or die like the ungrateful dog he would be and may heaven have mercy on his soul as we have had on his body. O ! a zeal for “Social Reform”; a great-heart hunger for the well-being of the common people. And many a ministerialist shook Mr. Barnes by the hand for very sympathy and appreciation ! It must have been an affecting moment.

The Inaugural Chorus.
The opening chorus of a Parliamentary Sessions immediately following a general election if it seldom improves, is always interesting. The members arrive with their blushing honours more thickly upon them than the electoral eggs (rhetorical and other) of their political opponents ever were, and full to the brim with good intentions that generally serve, subsequently, to pave the road to Hell. So that if by any chance they are enabled to vent their oratorial ability upon the King’s alleged speech, their sayings are likely to be as near as they ever will be to the most advanced views they may treasure in the inmost recesses of their heads. This will apply more particularly to the Labour members who, accustomed, as it is pointed out, to taking the floor in all sorts of gatherings, would not be afflicted with that temptation born we understand of the dignity and grandeur of the “mother of Parliaments” which maketh the heart of the ordinary fledgling to run to water within him. Being, therefore, without the handicap of “nerves,” and having an almost unlimited field over which to roam, these Labour candidates (who, by the way, seem to have suddenly been born again as “Socialist” candidates) may be expected to strike out vigorously or as vigorously as they ever will strike. In these circumstances it is interesting—as marking the manner of parliamentarians they are likely to be—to note how these advanced “Labour Party” representatives have deported themselves in speech in the most advanced (revolutionary reform) parliament in English History.

Signs & Portends.
The case of Mr. Barnes has already been mentioned. He is not likely to set the Thames afire. Mr. Keir Hardie seems to have been strong on Temperance Reform and against Conscription—but so are quite a number of sober and respectable capitalist members on both sides of the House. Mr. O’Grady will be loyal to his leader—a promise he may find it more difficult to refrain from breaking than he apparently thinks at present. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald (whose bosom, we learn, flamed like unto his chief's with the red tie of intransigency) would have the manufacture of volunteer clothing taken away from sweating contractors and given over to the Army Clothing Department—a sweater’s paradise ? Mr. Crooks has confined himself so far to interjecting his customary inanities, and the others—are waiting for chances. To the “Labour Party” collectively the “King’s Speech,” which contained of course nothing definite likely to be of value to the working class, was so satisfactory that they decided to move no amendment, while the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress rushed in eagerly with a resolution of gratification and thanks to the Premier. Altogether not a very auspicious commencement. However, as we expected no more we are not so depressed as those who thought the new members would start the fight at the very first opportunity—on the subject of the unemployed who cannot wait without starving, for example. Persons who, professing Socialism with the lip, will reduce it to “Labourism” to secure election, may well be expected to sink their “Labourism” after election to secure a standing. We shall not be astounded, therefore, at anything they may do or not do—unless, indeed, they suddenly awake to the necessity of striking a blow for their class against all the forms and opinions of a capitalist House of Commons. We shall none the less watch their proceedings carefully and report to that portion of the working class we are able to reach.

Meanwhile it is of interest to note that the conditions of the chinaman in South Africa which before the election were depicted on every Liberal poster as slavery in its most degrading form, have now become “well fed and well cared for,” conditions which the Liberal Government do not at present propose to affect, while to describe such conditions as slavery is “terminological inexactitude.” In ordinary everyday language the Liberal election propaganda upon the Chinese Labour Question was entirely fraudulent, conducted as we pointed out with the deliberate intention of deceiving the electorate.

The Pillory. (1906)

From the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard
“‘What we want now is money. Get it—honestly if you can, of course—but get it. . . We will take all of it we can get for our present electoral contests.’
After this barefaced appeal will the S.D.F. candidates still pretend to be shocked at the suggestion that they are being financed with Tory money ?” 
Camborne Liberal Election Leaflet

The above leaflet is a specimen of the stuff which was distributed at Camborne. . . A number of similar leaflets against the S.D.F. were issued during the recent elections. 
Justice comment,17.2.06.
If the “similar leaflets” contained the same sort of “stuff,” wherein lies the cause for Justice’s complaint? The “stuff” is reproduced from the columns of Justice. It is Justice’s own particular “stuff.” What are we to conclude ? Is it that in Justice the “stuff” is “literary matter” and only becomes “stuff” when used against the S.D.F. ? If so, who is to blame—the writer of the “literary matter” which is “stuff” or the reproducer thereof ? Justice should be more explicit. However, “stuff” is a good word. Let it stand.
“. . . Our only hope lies in successful political action. Yet the majority of our organisation seems wholly destitute of political aptitude. . . I feel I have done all the good I can do in the detail work of the organisation.” 
H.M.Hyndman, resigning from S.D.F. E.C. Aug. 1st, 1900. 
“If any branch of the S.D.F. thinks proper to nominate me and the delegates choose to elect me, I am quite ready to rejoin the Executive of our organisation.” 
H. M. Hyndman, Feb. 3.06.
The question now arises—is this change of view due to the improvement of the S.D.F. or the deterioration of H.M.H. ? The evidences of the former are not very perceptible ; and the enthusiastic S.D.F-er will indignantly repudiate the suggestion that his organisation ever changes. “As it was in the beginning,” etc. On the other hand the same enthusiast will let off all sorts of rhetorical fireworks in protest against the suggestion that H.M.H. has deteriorated. Ah! Well! It isn’t the only S.D.F. problem the S.D.F-er cannot solve.
“. . for the man of cool, calculating, reflective mind, there had been Bernard Shaw’s candid acknowledgement on a Burnley platform that through all these years Hyndman had been right in his uncompromising course, and the tactical error had lain with the Fabian pursuing a permeation which did not permeate.” 
Justice, 20.1.06.

“The Fabian Society is always right. . . The stupendous and abysmal incapacity for public affairs (of the Social Democratic Federation) and the absence of all sense of proportion and even of humour . . are beyond all words . . I apologise to the universe for my connection with such a Party.” 
Bernard Shaw, 2.2.06.
No comment necessary except, perhaps—! !
“He (Keir Hardie) has pursued a very difficult course with indomitable courage and unswerving independence and steadfast fidelity. . . His position as leader of the new party . . will call for the constant display of those qualities by which he has gained the position. The right man in the right place.” 
Justice, 17.2.06. 
“Keir Hardie is now a statesman. He thinks of peddling reforms in periods of generations.” 
Justice, 11.2.05.

“The genial Keir . . . weaves ‘facts’ out of imagination in somewhat alarming style, and suppresses inconvenient others in a manner worthy of a Liberal or Tory cabinet minister.” 
Justice, 10.6.05.

“We Social Democrats . . . are ready and eager to render them (the new Labour members) any assistance we can outside the House of Commons. . . They have undertaken a very heavy responsibility. We hope and believe they will rise to the level of the occasion.” 
Justice, 17.2.06.

“It is not easy to see what useful purpose they (the Labour members) serve . .They rally to the support of the opposition and vote steadily against the Government at the bidding of the Liberal Whips; but that any ordinary capitalist Liberal could do. . Things have come to a fine pass when a Liberal paper complains of the supineness of the Labour members.” 
Justice, 20.5.05.

“The fact is these Labour members have mistaken their position. They no longer regard themselves as agitators . . . To them the House of Commons appears . . a sort of haven of rest, entrance into which is the guerdon of a life’s work accomplished. Their constant prayer appears to be ‘give peace in our time, O Lord.’ They are clothed with dignity as with a garment and they object to having their ease disturbed.” 
Justice, 3.6.05.

“Even the most friendly critics . . speak with ill-disguised contempt of these elected persons who pose as the representatives of the great working class, yet, as we have repeatedly pointed out, will neither do anything for the people themselves nor, if they can help it, will let anybody else do any thing . . Crooks, Henderson, and Shackleton, of the much advertised Labour Representation Committee, display equal caution, not to say pusillanimity and cowardice . . The ‘Labour Party’ as it stands, or grovels, in the English House of Commons, is merely an appendage to the capitalist parties, whose politicians use it systematically to gull and humbug the workers.” 
Justice, 27.5.05.
So we are to “hope and believe” that the men who for years have been only distinguished from capitalist members by pusillanimity and cowardice and supineness ; who have done nothing for the people ; who formed a grovelling appendage to the Liberal Party ; will rise to the level of the occasion. And why ? The pusillanimous cowards of the last Parliament have been returned to this. Only there are more of them. Are the new men better than the old ? How ? Does Justice want us to play the fool game of waiting for results we know are sure ? Is experience no use at all ? Or is Justice’s change of front intended to pave the way for the return of the S.D.F. to the L.R.C. from which so many of its members regret having withdrawn and whose financial and other assistance they so earnestly desire for their own candidates ?
Before the Election.

After the Election.
“The word slavery had been employed, not so much as an accurate representation of it, as a descriptive term.” Lord Crewe.
“They all knew that at the time of the elections many things were said which ought not to have been said. I do not dispute that the Chinese were well treated and well fed.” Lord Ripon.
“What they were now doing was not finding some way of getting out of the question of Chinese labour. They had to avoid even the appearance of being unfair to any section of the community, because anything done at the present moment would leave behind it the root of bitterness, which might be fatal to the prosperity and happiness of the Colony. At the present time they had not the information necessary to enable them to come to a decision. The particular method by which they would obtain their information they had not yet determined upon.” Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman.
Note to the working class—Sold again !

Some publications: Riches and Poverty. (1906)

Book Review from the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Riches and Poverty, by L. C. Chiozza Money, 5/- nett.

A valuable book. A very valuable book—up to a point. A most effective arrangement of startling figures. An armoury of facts for the propagandist,—facts which the Socialist can use to most excellent purpose. A really splendid compilation of comparative tables so clearly set out that the wayfaring man, though a fool, can see he is being robbed. But the wayfaring man will not see the figures unless they are extracted for him and reproduced in some cheaper publication. The book is too dear.

That is the first criticism we have to offer. Its price puts it out of the range of the possibilities of the purse of that portion of the proletariat who purchase such publications for perusal.

The second criticism is that the book is only valuable up to a point. That point is reached where the tables leave off. After that point the book is still interesting as showing how close a man can sail to the Socialist position without being forced to concede that nothing short of Socialism can suffice to effect that change in the distribution of wealth which Mr. Money desires; as shewing how a man may cut the ground clean from under him and yet proceed apparently indifferent to the fact that he is dancing upon nothing. Mr. Money’s work frequently conveys the same impression. It is as though he sets out with the best of intentions determined that he will not again be baulked in his purpose ; determined to argue his case logically from effect to cause and to put his findings upon record, only to find that a something or somebody lies in wait within that radius which marks the utmost limit of the area over which the capitalist scribe may operate, to prevent his further advance and by the exercise of a power against which he has never apparently prevailed, to turn him back by a painfully circuitous course to the point from which he started. What that something is may be a matter of conjecture—to some. Those unfamiliar with his work might ascribe it to Mr. Money’s lack of knowledge. But we do not share that view. Whatever else it may be it is not ignorance. But it is always successful in its endeavours to head Mr. Money off.

And so it comes about that having compiled valuable data for the Socialist, having given an excellent summary of the national balance sheet and, which is almost equally valuable, shewn how he has arrived at his figures for the different items, having formulated an unanswerable indictment of the present system and made quite clear—by inference—that the system is absolutely rotten at its base and that things as they are can only be materially improved by the destruction of the foundations and the erection of an entirely new social edifice upon a new foundation,—having done this he peters out in a recital of petty-fogging and miserably inadequate proposals, none of which go down to root causes and all of which when realised would, therefore, hardly make any appreciable impression upon the problems they were designed to solve.

The consideration of these proposals occupy one half the book. They are not valuable suggestions. They are not new. They may all be found in the programmes of the many reform organisations whose existence and whose work operate so disastrously to the confusion of the working-class mind. Our concern is for a clear working-class mind. The working class must understand their position and the reasons why that position is so hazardous and unhappy. Because the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class themselves. And if they are inveigled into the belief that Mr. Money’s “remedial” measures matter, they are led into a mental bog from which they must extricate themselves before they can organise their strength for the overthrow of the system which causes their misery. While they are doing that they are wasting time and expending their force uselessly.

Therefore, while gladly admitting the value of Mr. Money’s statistics, we consider the last half of his work highly mischievous. He should issue it in two volumes—the statistical part for sale at a few pence; the other part at a few pounds. We make him a present of the suggestion and hope he will act upon it.
A. J. M. Gray

Some publications: An Unauthorised Programme. (1906)

Book Reviews from the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

“An Unauthorised Programme" and “Poverty” by R. J. Derfel (Manchester), each 2d.

Two pamphlets designed to shew that Trade Unionists, Co-operators, Labour Representators and Socialists—particularly Socialists—are all more or less right in their conceptions of the causes of poverty and all more or less wrong (generally more) in the methods they adopt to effect a change. Socialism alone, the author holds, will guarantee the poor against the misery of their present condition, but they will never understand that until Socialists organize Labour to do something that will bring some immediate benefit to them (the workers).

It seems there’s far too much talking at present and not enough doing.

This should, says Mr. Derfel, be at once remedied. The first thing is to do—more talking ! We should have a world convention of all “religions and churches, reformers, philanthropists, Socialists and all professions and interests.” This is bound to do good. Thereafter we should form societies to provide coals, clothing, milk, food, houses, and, yes, and funerals—particularly we presume funerals. Under this soup and blanket treatment the workers will awake and abolish the philanthropists, etc., etc., etc., and poverty will be no more. As it is 
“things are getting worse instead of better. Monopolists are not satisfied with joining house to house, they join town to town and country to country in their eager desire to grab all for themselves. . . The churches with scarcely an exception are on the side of private property and privilege. Government and law supported by all their servants from the bum to the judge and defended by the Police and the Army and Navy, are under the control and at the command of the upper classes. . . Our rulers have always, and still do, make the fullest use of force and compulsion in their own interests and that is why . . the many are so poor and miserable.” Nevertheless “it is not true that the upper classes as a class or that both or either of the political parties as a party are enemies to the workers.”
Which of course is very clear. Quite obviously “the upper classes as a class” when they use force and compulsion in their own interests are not doing it in their own interests at all. Not really. They are not the enemies of the workers who keep the workers poor, but the friends ! It therefore quite plainly follows that “the mission of Socialism must be for all. It must appeal to every class.”

By closely following these lines we shall be able “to abolish poverty without doing an injustice to anyone or leaving a feeling of wrong behind.”

”Clearly,” says our author, “there is need for patience.” There is. We are in need of more of it ourselves.

Certainly we are in danger of losing all we have at present to this pathetic product of Mr. Derfel’s muddled thought. When a man sets out as his practical programme (as distinguished from the impractical programmes of all the other folk) the calling together of representatives of all professions and interests to consider ways and means for the abolition of most of the professions and interests represented; when he talks of the necessity for the Socialists’ appeal being to all, at the same time what he emphasises the fact that the dominant class are using every force at their command to keep the working class in subjection ; when he hopes to abolish poverty without leaving a feeling of wrong behind in face of his argument as to proletarian misery being the outcome of the assertion of what the capitalist class undoubtedly regard as their rights ; and when he argues that a people too desperately poor to obtain even the means of sustenance should be encouraged to buy their own houses, he must not be surprised if the normal person fails to raise enthusiasm for Mr. Derfel’s patent prescription for the prevention of poverty.

Mr. Derfel seems to have a good heart and the best of intentions, but his thought requires ordering and his studies augmenting.
A. J. M. Gray

Answers to Correspondents. (1906)

From the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

W. W. — Yes, We saw Shaw's Clarion article and found it as to almost one half lies, and as to most of the other half, blether. We know of no writer who can lie more readily and no writer who can cram so much blether into a given compass. The smartness of some of his fooling is of course granted and so long as it is understood as fooling, there's not much harm done. But quite a number of people seem anxious to believe that behind the fooling there is a desperate earnestness and a set purpose, which may, indeed, be the case, only the purpose hardly ever succeeds in penetrating the top crust of foolery. We should not worry about him. You doubtless noticed that part of his article flatly contradicted other parts, and you will find that future articles and speeches will just as flatly contradict all of it. His one consistent belief is in the infallibility of the Fabian Society and as this Society is practically Shaw, the belief is natural.

Blogger's Note:
I wonder what the article was? I guess one could do a deep dive over at and see if there is a collection of his journalistic writings from this period online, but it would be purely speculative. It would be funny if the Socialist Standard was talking about this article - especially as I dug it out a few years back to put online as a funny dig against impossibilists - but that dates from March 1905, and I'd be shocked if they were referring to an article that dates from a year before. Maybe all will be revealed in later issues of the Socialist Standard in 1906?

Books and pamphlets for sale. (1906)

Advert from the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

An interesting selection of books and pamphlets. The following are available online:

Spokeshave's 'Jones' Boy' is not available on the net but there's an interesting article on its background over at the Kate Sharpley Library blog.

SPGB Annual Conference. (1906)

Party News from the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard