Saturday, November 4, 2023

International Organisation. (1930)

From the November 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our readers will be familiar with the Socialist Party’s attitude towards the “Labour and Socialist International,” which is a loose association of parties like the Labour Party and the I.L.P., and towards the ”Third (Communist) International.” We are hostile to the national parties on account of their failure to accept and apply the principles of Socialism, and equally hostile to the international federations which cannot be more advanced than the affiliated organisations themselves.

The “Labour and Socialist International” is composed of parties which are prepared to support the capitalist class in their wars, and are prepared either alone or in coalition with Liberals and Tories, to carry on the administration of the capitalist system.

The “Third International” differs from its rival in several important respects, but its aims and methods are no less dangerous to the working class. It is rigidly centralised, but the control of the organisation is not in the hands of the affiliated parties. These latter are in the position of having their policies, dictated to them by the Russian party. The policies are in line with the wishes of the Russian government, but not necessarily in line with working-class interests. So we see the Communists advocating the dangerous tactic of violence and giving support to capitalist parties (e.g., the Labour Party). The Socialist movement is not helped, but hindered, by such methods.

It is an encouraging sign that there are now quite a number of parties abroad whose experiences during and since the war have taught them that neither of the international federations is deserving of the support of Socialists. While such an attitude is not of itself proof of sound Socialist principles, it is full of promise for the future. An attempt has been made by some of these parties to lay the foundation for


The International Bureau has affiliated to it parties in France, Germany, Italy, Rumania, Russia, and Jugo-Slavia. In addition, a Norwegian party endorses its attitude towards the existing internationals. Reports of the Bureau’s Congresses show that, for most of the delegates, association with either of these bodies is unthinkable, and it is claimed by the Secretary of the Bureau, Angelica Balabanoff, that the constituent parties, that “at least the majority,” are Marxist. It is important to notice, however, that the Bureau has no formal constitution. That being so, it is difficult to see how the International Bureau can take the very necessary steps to see that its affiliated bodies are parties which conform to the essentials of Socialist principles and policy. We read, for example, that Maxton and Brockway, of the I.L.P., have indicated their “interest and sympathy.” If the Bureau had a formal constitution based on Marxian principles, these two advocates of alliance with the parties of capitalism would have known that they could not give support to it.

In the absence of such a constitution, the soundness of the organisation can only be tested by an examination of its affiliated parties. The principles of one of them, the French party, are examined below.

The Socialist-Communist Party of France.
The Socialist-Communist Party was formed in 1922 by members of the Communist Party who found intolerable the way in which the Moscow organisation habitually ignored and countermanded the decisions arrived at by the Congresses of the French party, especially in view of the fact that Moscow’s orders were not of a kind to further the interests of the working class. The new organisation at its Congress in 1923 adopted the following declaration as a basis of “reconstituting the unity of the working class” :—
“The formation of a class political party for the revolutionary conquest of power by the workers, with a view to securing, by means of a temporary and impersonal dictatorship of the whole working class, the disappearance of the State and the substitution of socialism or communism for capitalism. The utilisation of all means for ameliorating the workers’ conditions of life ; the refusal to vote for capitalist budgets and refusal to participate in the government of capitalism ; opposition to war making, accepting the principle of ‘insurrection rather than war’.”
The party’s attitude to political action is rather obscure. It repudiates the Communist policy of a violent seizure of power by a minority, and it takes part in national and local elections, but “without attaching to elections exceptional importance . . . attributing to them chiefly a propaganda value.”

The Socialist-Communist Party’s views on many questions are set out in a pamphlet, “L’Unité Ouvrière Nationale et Internationale” (Working Class Unity, National and International), written by the General Secretary, Paul Louis, and published by the party at 12, Rue Rochambeau, Paris 9.

The main argument of the pamphlet is that, were the working class re-united, Socialism would be obtainable. Unity is to be achieved largely through the instrumentality of an international organisation. The writer, Paul Louis, entirely overlooks the point, which is of the utmost importance, that the working class have never yet been united in any country on a Socialist programme. If they had, the existing divisions could never have arisen.

He makes the serious mistake of supposing that the British Labour Party and the I.L.P. are parties of Marxians. Let us therefore repeat that the Labour Party in this country has never at any time had Socialism as its objective. Its aim has been, and is, some form or other of nationalisation or State capitalism. The Labour Party and the I.L.P. have never even claimed to be Marxian bodies, in which respect they are superficially unlike the Labour Parties in the Continental countries which have made that claim. The difference is, however, one of appearances only. Neither in France nor Germany has the nominal acceptance of Marxian principles meant the application of those principles to policy. The behaviour of the German and French parties in 1914 sufficiently demonstrated that.

When, therefore, Paul Louis writes of “re-uniting” the working class, he is overlooking the fact that the working class have not been won over to Socialism in any country. The majority of them do not want Socialism and do not understand it. That being so, it is mere illusion to imagine that working-class unity on a Socialist basis is attainable at present. A Socialist Party cannot yet be more than a minority party.

Paul Louis is similarly mistaken when he writes of the International having broken down only in 1914.

The International had not been built up on a Socialist basis, as was shown before 1914 by its admission to membership of such parties as the Labour Party, the I.L.P., and the French and German Parties, none of which were based on Socialist principles and policy. The anti-Socialist character of the International was perceived by the Socialist Party of Great Britain long before 1914. We foretold that it would be as useless in war as in peace, and we withdrew long before the outbreak of war proved the correctness of our condemnation.

Paul Louis may say that it is not that kind of unity which his party seeks to reconstitute. But if that is the case, then it is essential that each national party and the International itself should be firmly based upon a clear declaration of essential Socialist principles. The objective of common or social ownership, must be clearly understood (this alone would rule out the parties now in the Labour and Socialist International, all of which are supporters of nationalisation or State capitalism).

There must be no room for policies of minority action and armed revolt.

There must be no collaboration with capitalist parties. (This would rule out not only the Labour Party and the I.L.P., both of which are prepared to co-operate with Liberals and Tories in the administration of capitalism, but would also rule out the Communist Parties, which for years have urged the workers to vote for the Labour Parties.)

There must be no room in a Socialist International for any but Socialist parties. And this being so, there could be no purpose in forming an international organisation except upon a definitely constituted Socialist basis. If the affiliated parties are Socialist parties then they can and will undertake to conform to Socialist principles.

The work of making Socialists has to precede the growth of the separate Socialist parties, and their construction on a sound basis must precede the formation of an effective international.

If Paul Louis envisages the reverse process, he has failed to read aright the lessons of past attempts at building national and international Socialist organisations.

We would welcome some further information on the aims and methods of the French Socialist-Communist Party.

First we would like to know exactly what is its objective. It ought, of course, to be unnecessary to ask such a question of a party which declares its aim to be Socialism and declares its acceptance of Marxian theories. Unfortunately, the Labour Parties in all countries have misused the word Socialism, and applied it to their aim of state capitalism, which leaves intact the division of society into a propertied class and a class of property-less wage-earners.

Secondly, we would like to know exactly where the Socialist-Communist Party stands with regard to the use of the vote. If, as appears to be the case, they regard elections as having chiefly a propaganda value, how do they propose to gain control of the political machinery, without which Socialism cannot be achieved ?

Thirdly, does the Socialist-Communist Party rule out entirely the policy of collaboration with the non-Socialist parties, including the parties in the Labour and Socialist International and the parties in the Third International?

The Socialist Party of Great Britain is not prepared to join with parties whose aims and methods are contrary to the interests of the working class and a hindrance to the achievement of Socialism. The Labour and Communist Parties are parties to which that condemnation applies. It is our experience that any other policy is fatal for a Socialist organisation.
Edgar Hardcastle

Marx, Lenin and Industrial Unionism. (1930)

Letter to the Editors from the November 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

Armley, Leeds.

Dear Comrades,

In your review of Clausen's book in June S.S. you state that Clausen does not show how the economic organisation can "take and hold" ; nor did De Leon. How did De Leon come to epitomize that statement which you point out Marx never made about the economic organisation, as being '' typically Marxian"? (p. 37 "Industrial Unionism”).

In ''The Revolutionary Act" Engels says (p. 20), "History has proved us wrong," and advocated political supremacy rather than armed insurrection. '

He also says, "The irony of history turns everything upside down."

This implies change of opinion, and if Engels could change from advocating barricade tactics to that of the ballot, might he not change his opinion again if alive to-day, and give same countenance to Industrial organisation?

Did De Leon "forge" the "link" between Marx and Engels and present Industrial development ?

The backwardness of Russian Industrial development precluded Lenin from applying Industrial Unionism, which, it is reported he said was "the Basic thing," and that "De Leon first formulated the idea of a Soviet Government which grew from his idea."

Will you please give your opinion as to why Lenin thought Industrial Unionism was the "Basic thing"?
Yours fraternally,
H. Scott.


Marx versus Direct Action.
The above letter illustrates how easily critics dodge the question at issue. Neither our critic nor De Leon, nor anybody else, has been able to show that Marx held that the workers could only win possession by economic action. We have once again to remind critics that Marx's essential point was that the workers must first of all win political supremacy. Both Marx and Engels waged continuous war against Bakunin, who advocated economic action as the only way.

De Leon's gymnastics.
Daniel De Leon, however, held quite a number of conflicting ideas as to the nature of the Marxian method. De Leon's and the S.L.P. 's first economic child—the Socialist Trade and Labour Alliance—laid it down in their Declaration of Principles that "the economic power of the capitalist class, used by that class for the oppression of labour, rests upon institutions essentially political."

Explaining the policy of that body, De Leon in What Means this Strike declared : —
“Shop organisation alone, unbacked by that political force that threatens the capitalist class with extinction, the working-class being the overwhelming majority, leaves the workers wholly unprotected.”
In his " Two Pages from Roman History," De Leon said: —
“Obviously, independent class conscious action is the head of Labour's lance. Useful as any other weapon may be, that weapon is the determining factor.

Entrenched in the public powers, the capitalist class command the field. None but the political weapon can dislodge the usurpers and enthrone the working-class : that is to say, emancipate the workers and rear the Socialist Republic.” (Italics ours.)
When, however, De Leon and Co.'s next economic child was born he discovered another alleged "typically Marxian" position which is completely opposed to the statements just quoted. The Industrial Workers of the World, formed in 1905, had a platform which stated that the taking and holding of the means of life must be done by an economic organisation without affiliation to any political party.

De Leon, in his address "The Preamble of the I.W.W.," said:—
“It does not lie in a political organisation, that is. a party, " to take and hold " the machinery of production ; 
And he tells us in the same work : —
“In the act, however, of taking and holding the nation's plants of production the political organisation of the working-class can give no help.”
The anti-political views of De Leon were made clear at the first convention of the I.W.W. in his speech : —
“The situation in America . . . establishes the fact that ‘the taking and holding’ of the things that labour needs to be free can never depend upon a political party. If anything is clear in the American situation it is this : That if any individual is elected to office upon a revolutionary ballot, that individual is a suspicious character. Whoever is returned elected upon a programme of labour emancipation ; whoever is allowed to be filtered through the political inspectors of the capitalist class : that man is a carefully selected tool, a traitor to the working people, selected by the capitalist class. (Report, p. 226.)
A favourite phrase of De Leon's was that the day of political victory was the day of defeat unless the workers had the economic might to enforce their political victory.

De Leon and Marx.
Our critic asks if De Leon forged a link between Marx and Engels and present industrial development.

If, as our critic claims, De Leon's position was "typically Marxian," why forge a link to put it right? Modern industrial development has shown the overwhelming importance of political power and the weakness of the workers on the economic field. Riddles such as what opinions Engels would hold if he were alive to-day may provide amusement but it is for our critic and those agreeing with him to show that the views of Engels in 1895 (See " Class Struggles in France ") are out-of-date to-day.

Why chase the shadow?
The S.L.P. position led logically to Anarchism, for if politics was a shadow and a reflex only, as they claimed, and if the real power lay on the industrial field, why bother with shadows, and why not go in for the substance of economic action? And that is what happened. The Industrial Workers of the World took De Leon at his word and concentrated on industrial organisation.

Then De Leon and the S.L.P. gave birth to a third economic child (in 1908) made up of the minority of the I.W.W., which was called the Workers' International Industrial Union, but after a flicker of life it went the same way. Like all industrial organisations it was compelled to enrol workers of all political opinions, and so the members who were united industrially were fighting each other politically.

After its organisers, etc., had supported the freak parties called Socialist, the Industrial Union refused to endorse its parent— the S.L.P., and so the third economic child was buried quietly by the S.L.P.

Lenin the next witness.
Our correspondent asks why did Lenin say that Industrial Unionism is the basic thing?

The only information on the point is the reference by two journalists to Lenin's remark to them about De Leon after he had seen some of De Leon's writings in 1919, Did Lenin make use of or actually support Industrial Unionism? There is not a scrap of evidence to prove that. The Socialist Labour Party pointed out that the workers of Russia were not organised in industrial unions and their National Secretary, Arnold Peterson, after pointing that out, concluded in the following words : ''So long as the Bolsheviki were in opposition it was doing excellent agitational work. Now that it is in power it faces failure. The day of its victory was the day of its defeat." (Weekly People, Nov. 24th, 1917.)

The "basic thing" that Lenin referred to was the organization by industry instead of by territory. Nowhere did Lenin support the chief idea of the Industrial Unionists that they could take and hold by economic means alone, and nowhere did he embody it in Third International policy.

On the contrary, in his "Open letter to the I.W.W.," Lenin attacks their Anarchist idea of relying upon economic action.

In actual practice Russia's government was not an industrial government chosen from the industries but simply an ordinary party government—that of the Communist Party.

Lenin and the Third International advocated many policies from open violence and insurrection to support of a Labour government. From minority action to going with the "Labour" masses. Certainly industrial unionism was not one of them. Lenin found that Russian workers organised in trades and economic bodies were using their organisation in hostility to the wider interests of society as a whole (see "Soviets at Work" and Phillips Price "Capitalist Europe v. Soviet Russia"), and he had to curb their narrow industrial actions.

Soviets or councils were old in the history of Russia and did not need De Leon or Lenin to invent them.

Lenin had to teach the same lesson that Marx taught, that the control of the State power was the essential thing. So neither Marx nor Lenin nor Engels assists our critic in his support of industrial unionism.

Why do our critics not attempt to show how unionism of any kind is the might that can take and hold the means of life?
Adolph Kohn

Ramsay McDonald and the “Great War”. (1930)

From the November 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

The pacifism of MacDonald has almost become a legend—to those who know little about him. The picture of him as a man of peace is rudely dispelled at the moment by his action as Prime Minister in deciding to build more ships than the Tories—as his own supporter, Kenworthy, has shown, and the programme of more bombing planes which his Air Ministry has put through.

Our Party Manifesto reprints MacDonald’s famous letter to the Mayor of Leicester during the war, in which our “pacific” Prime Minister called the young men of England to their “patriotic duty.”

In the life and work of MacDonald written by his admirer and defender, H. H. Tiltman, we have more evidence showing how MacDonald tried to keep the appearance of a pacifist whilst supporting the war.

On the economic causes of the war he was silent. He said nothing about the economic aims of the ruling class of each country pursuing the war. The only attack he made was on the diplomatic methods of the war mongers, especially the secret diplomacy of Sir Edward Grey. That was why MacDonald was criticised.

The day war was declared MacDonald merely showed that he did not believe that “national interests” were at stake.
“I want to say to this House, and to say it without equivocation, if the right hon. Gentleman had come here to-day and told us that our country is in danger, I do not care what party he appealed to, or to what class he appealed, we would be with him and behind him. If this is so, we will vote him what money he wants. Yes, and we will go further. We will offer him ourselves if the country is in danger.”
(House of Commons, 3rd August, 1914. quoted p. 285.)
Four days afterwards he followed that speech by another in the Trades Hall, Leicester (August 7th, 1914).
“We are in it and we must see it through. It is a sad thing that we, loving our own country best, and hoping and striving that we shall not be defeated or worsened or disgraced, should have as counterpart to that the desire that this great nation of Germany should be worsened, defeated, and disgraced. How one almost hates the diplomacy that has brought us to this.” (Quoted Tiltman, p. 93.)
After such a statement it is quite natural that his biographer should say :—
“The war, once begun, however, he never cast any reflection upon the need of pursuing it up to a point at which a peace, just to this country, France, Belgium and Germany alike, was obtainable.” (p. 94.)
The Labour Party threw their entire resources into the war. Henderson, Clynes, Parker, Roberts, etc., became members of the war Government. Did MacDonald resign from the Party? Or was he relieved of his position?

No, he retained his official position, as Mr. Tiltman shows :—
“During this time, when even those who admitted that they knew Ramsay MacDonald could not escape a measure of social ostracism, he retained his official connection with the Labour Party as the Treasurer of the body which he had fashioned in its earliest days.” (p. 103.)
At Oldham on October 28th, 1916, MacDonald made a speech full of the usual rhetoric indulged in by recruiters. We quote an extract : —
“When a nation was threatened something instinctive in every man and woman in the nation made them stand by their nation. England was not merely a little patch of red on a map of the world, but it was something like a personnel, that had grown through generations and centuries, so that the English man or woman was something that had a rich past, a hopeful present and an enticing future. All these things came into the minds of the people at the moment of war and made them forget all differences and principles and fight, almost blindly, for national existence and nationality itself. That was the instinctive emotion of the moment. ” (p. 109.)
In the House of Commons, as late as June 20th, 1918, MacDonald was still “in the war” :
“I am in the war for the purpose of ending all war. Because that is so, I say you will have to adopt a method which the history of Europe shows has never been adopted before, because if you go on the old lines you will fulfil the old ends and nothing else. Therefore, I appeal to the Government to bring freshness of mind to these problems of diplomacy.” (Quoted p. 114.)
H. G. Wells, the war supporter, said that it was a war to end war. Ramsay MacDonald followed him very close in this moonshine :—
“With our hearts uplifted and our enemies’ minds enlightened, I am perfectly certain that this war will eventuate in a demand for peace which will not be broken again—a demand for a peace which will be established upon the common agreements of the peoples, and which, therefore, will never be assailed in the history of mankind.” (House of Commons, May 24th, 1916 ; quoted p. 109.)
When MacDonald expressed a desire for bringing the war to a close soon it was because he wanted to see “us” get the best terms. !

Listen to his speech at Swansea in May, 1917 :—
“The country is threatened by two dangers. The first is that it may make peace on account of war weariness. Nothing can be more fatal than that peace should be made because this country is war weary. That means that you will not obtain your object at all. A man who runs a race to obtain a prize, and who sits down on the course half-way to the goal, has not only lost, but has lost very badly. This country must nor he allowed to make peace on account of war weariness.” (Quoted Tiltman, p. 112.)
When murmurs arose in his own I.L.P. against their “comrades who were a part of the war Government, MacDonald set out to allay these protests by reminding them of the necessity of unity with the super-patriots after the war. Tiltman quotes an incident :—
“The Town Hall in Newcastle was crowded with delegates of the I.L.P. Annual Conference in 1916. Members of the Party who favoured a strong war policy were obviously in a minority. Delegate after delegate rose and literally shouted for the heads of Henderson, Barnes, Clynes and Parker. . . . MacDonald rose, quiet and grave, and in the measured accents of the Scot, and with relentless logic, envisioned the future when the temporary issue of the war had passed and the need for unity would be greater than ever before. ‘Be fair to these men, even though you don’t see eye to eye with them,’ was the gist of the speech.” (p. 101.)
A final quotation from the biography will be useful to portray this pacific war supporter as his apologist sees him :—
“Within the last twelve months a Member of Parliament who sat in the House of Commons throughout the war has informed me that MacDonald was in a state of indecision for weeks following the outbreak of hostilities, and he instanced this recruiting letter as evidence of the fact. Perhaps he had not examined Mr. MacDonald’s speeches at that time. Through them all runs the same clear-cut policy of opposition to our foreign policy, and acceptance of the fact that once the war had started it must be waged until a just peace was possible.” (p. 96.)
All the copies of speeches, etc., quoted, were provided by MacDonald to assist in preparing the book, so that there can be no question of their genuineness.

To aspiring youths now doing odd jobs in the workshop of Labourism, this biography should be useful to teach them how to become a “Statesman !”