Saturday, February 24, 2024

A Look Round. (1906)

From the October 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialist propaganda in Bulgaria is not quite such easy work as here, if one may judge from a letter, written in Esperanto, received from a comrade there.

* * *

The Socialists held a Congress at Varna in August. Previous to the opening they organised a public meeting. One of the speakers condemned the persecution of the Greeks by the Bulgarians. Naturally, this displeased the “Nationalists.” They dubbed the Socialists “pro-Greeks” and threatened to kill the speaker (Harlakov). On August 10th, during the afternoon sitting of the Congress, a band of about 30 hired assassins entered the hall and commenced to shoot with revolvers. About 100 shots in all were exchanged. One Socialist was killed and several wounded, but three of their opponents bit the dust and about a score were wounded. From which it is apparent that the Socialists of Bulgaria are not only prepared to move resolutions, but know how to shoot straight. Harlokov was slightly wounded in the shoulder. The delegates then considered it advisable to change the venue of their Congress and accordingly continued their labours at Shumeri.

* * *

The balance sheet of the London District Board of the Amalgamated Union of Operative Bakers and Confectioners for June quarter contains some interesting figures. £154 18s. 7d. was paid into the Sick Fund and £227 1s. 6d. paid out. The Management Fund received £128 16s. l1d. and £133 1s. l1d. was expended. Out-of-work contributions amounted to £127 18s. 9d. and payments to members £145 14s. 6d.

* * *

It is poor consolation for the members to be informed that the out-of-work payments show a diminution as compared with the previous quarter, in view of the secretary’s statement that the decrease is chiefly due to unemployed members having reached the end of the benefit period.

* * *

During 1902 this Union made 1,211 new members and lost 1,583. 1,066 were enrolled in 1903 and 1,061 were lost. In 1904 730 joined and 870 were lost, and in 1905 899 joined and 960 fell out. The London District has now commenced to enrol “Trade” members at 2d. per week.

* * *

The fact of the matter is that the condition of the working class is becoming so precarious that increasing numbers of them are unable to pay the sums demanded by the Unions and the latter are compelled to pay sick and unemployed benefit at an ever increasing ratio.

* * *

The Bakers’ Union is concentrating its efforts upon a Forty-eight Hours Bill. “We have determined” says Mr. L. A. Hill in the August issue of the official organ “to re-introduce our Forty-eight Hour Bill into Parliament and to continue if necessary to re-introduce it until victory crowns our efforts and our banners wave upon the ramparts of freedom for the operative baker.”

* * *

“Freedom” via a Forty-eight Hours Bill is good, especially when the same writer in the same column says “The eight hours day is after all a temporary palliative, which, while it would undoubtedly have the effect for the time being of absorbing the bulk of our unemployed, would not be lasting in its effects.”

* * *

In the September issue of the Journeymen Bakers’ Magazine Mr. Hill returns to the subject and says “if by Trade Union or legislative action your hours are reduced, your employer, and other employers also, will need more men, and it is not too much to say that every unemployed baker in London will obtain work.”

* * *

Of course this is sheer nonsense. Already the eight hours day is in operation in several bakeries, and instead of more men being employed there are fewer. And not only so, men who have worked for the “smart yankee” who is running one of the largest bakeries in London and the suburbs aver that they would sooner work 12 hours in the ordinary shop that does not possess machinery than 8 hours in the machine bakeries.

* * *

Without machinery, a skilled baker turns about 10 sacks of flour into bread in a week of sixty hours. In an up-to-date bakery, such as exists in London and Glasgow, 22 sacks is the normal output per man per week. But under exceptional circumstances (say in the event of a strike or lockout) one skilled operative, with the aid of a fireman and unskilled labour, could turn from 400 to 500 sacks of flour into bread in a week. The public would get bread whilst the Trade Union bakers starved. An Eight-Hours Act would not affect the machine bakeries. It is already in vogue there and they can successfully compete against the small shop. The small man could not stand the increase in his wages bill which Mr. Hill claims would follow the passing of the Bill, as the competition of such firms as Price & Co., the V.V., and the Co-operative Societies would prevent him raising the price. He would therefore “go under” and the trade would pass into the hands of the machine bakeries.

* * *

The Bishop of Birmingham in dedicating a new chapel at the Aston Workhouse said the problem of the unemployed was complicated by the fact that so many parents were content that their boys earned a little money by selling newspapers, running errands, and such like casual employment. At the time when they wanted to be engaged in a self-respecting industry which would be really useful to the community they found themselves out of employment at the age of 18 or 20 without any trade behind them.

* * *

What a heap of money some people get for talking nonsense. Are there no unemployed with a “trade behind them,” none who have passed through the various stages and mastered the difficult processes of “a self-respecting industry” ? Why even the Trade Unions that made returns to the Board of Trade during August shewed that out of a membership of 596,010, 22,528 were unemployed. This is equal to 3.8 per cent.

* * *

These would be men “with a trade behind them” and as they represent only a fraction of the Trade Unionists, the extent of unemployment at a period when, according to Reynold’s Newspaper, we are experiencing the beneficial results of ousting a Tory Government and electing a Radical one can be imagined. If the country contains only five millions of workers with a “trade behind them,” there would be, on the basis of the returns made to the Board of Trade, 190,000 unemployed. There’s prosperity for you !

* * *

Sir J. Crichton Browne was nearer the mark at the Congress of the Sanitary Inspectors’ Association at Blackpool when he said “The struggle to acquire property, to win applause, to earn bread was fiercer than ever; the pressure of labour had been transferred from the muscles to the nervous system, for physical energy was supplied by steam and electricity, and it was nerve energy that was needed to control machinery, and the indications were that the nerve tissue that supplied the energy was more easily exhausted than it used to be.”

* * *

In commenting on the Report of the Inland Revenue Commissioners, which has just been issued, the Daily News says : “The income reviewed by the department is estimated at over nine hundred and twelve millions. That is the share of the national income which passes almost entirely to the upper and middle classes in the form of rent, salaries, and profit on businesses. It is a figure continuously leaping upwards. In the changes of ten years the value of English land and houses has advanced by 21 per cent.; the profits of business concerns have increased by 41 per cent.; the salaries of Government, Corporation, and other public company officials increased by the enormous proportion of 67 per cent.”

* * *

And it is during this ten years that the unemployed problem has reached an intensity never known before; that Trade Unions and Friendly Societies have been faced with an enormous strain upon their Funds owing to the increasing inability of even the “thrifty” members of the working class to find employment and to keep in good health ; that the average amount per depositor in the Post Office and Trustee Savings Bank has, since 1899, fallen every year. Truly, the master class is getting richer and the working class is getting poorer.

* * *

There were 121,979 persons in England and Wales certified as insane and under care on January 1st, 1906, being 2,150 in excess of the figures recorded on the corresponding day of 1905.

* * *

On January 1st, 1906, according to a Parliamentary paper issued by the Local Government Board, there were 926,741 paupers in England and Wales, equal to one in 37 of the population. The proportion in London was 1 in 32. The insane paupers have increased from 49,986 in 1872 to 108,629 in 1906.

* * *

It is claimed that the rate of able-bodied paupers per thousand of the population has decreased, their place having been taken by those described as “not able-bodied.” This probably means that the working class, in increasing numbers, are being physically and mentally incapacitated.

* * *

At a meeting of South Wales steel makers at Swansea on September 2nd it was decided to form an association to be known as the South Wales Siemens Steel Association, having for its object the protection of makers’ interests and regulation of trade. Arrangements were made whereby funds will be deposited to place the new association on a proper basis. The chairman is Mr. H. Eccles (Britton Ferry), the vice-chairman Mr. F. Gilbertson (Pontardawe), and the secretary Mr. R. W. Evans (Llanelly).

* * *

According to a return recently issued from the Department of Labour and Commerce, Washington, the United States Consul at Lille (Mr. C. J. King) describes a new invention for spinning flax and flax waste. Mr. King says the process, which is one recently patented by Mr. Arthur Guillemaud, tends to simplify the present method by applying the system of spinning cotton to flax. It consists in replacing the high cumbersome machinery now necessary in flax spinning by low self-acting reels, such as are employed in cotton spinning. The machinery differs little in appearance from the cotton frames, being simply adapted to the exigencies of the flax fibre. The bobbins are set at the back, the yarn running off through the watering tank (for wet spinning) placed between the bobbins and cylinders. As the yarn, passes through the cylinder the water is pressed out into a canal directly under the lower cylinders. The yarn then runs off perfectly dry to the reels, and, owing to the long self-revolutions, a better and smoother yarn is the result. The new method decreases the general expenses and saves labour, and the air of the rooms is less infected, and the floors are changed from stagnant pools into dry and sanitary places. Mr. King adds that the new method should prove of considerable value in the development of the linen industry.
J. Kay

Debate on Industrial Unionism. (1906)

Party News from the October 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

“Is the Industrial Workers of the World worthy the support of the working class?” was the subject of debate between G. Geis, S.L.P. (affirmative) and J. Fitzgerald, S.P.G.B. (negative) on Peckham Rye on Sunday evening, August 12th. W. Russell, S.P.G.B., acted as. Chairman.

Geis, in opening, corrected a remark by the chairman in which he suggested that the I.W.W. owed its origin to the S.L.P. The I.W.W. was not formed by, nor was it in any way under the control of the S.L.P., or any political organisation whatsoever. With regard to the question in debate, he had first to call attention to the object of the capitalist method of production, which was the extraction of surplus value from the working class. Hence arose the class struggle—on the part of the capitalist class to take from the workers as much as possible of the wealth that was alone produced by labour, and on the part of the working class to resist such exploitation. In the early period of capitalism the organisations formed by the workers were capable of fighting the small and unorganised capitalists with comparative success. Since that time the power of capital had developed enormously ; at the present time the capitalist class was well organised economically and politically, whereas the working class was not well organised in either respect. Indeed, trade unionism, instead of adapting itself to changing conditions, had remained in its babyhood, so to speak. It was now necessary for the workers to organise industrially on the basis of the class struggle. Craft unionism was played out and incapable either of offering resistance to, or advancing against the exploiting class. The outcome of craft unionism was well exemplified in the observations of a recent deputation of German working men to this country—a deputation, it should be noted, by no means revolutionary, but composed of persons eminently respectable, orthodox, and capitalistic. They commented most unfavourably on the uncleanly and unkempt appearance of British working people, and on their social and domestic condition generally. They were especially impressed, however, with the good understanding which existed between employers and employed. This, in their opinion, was an achievement due to the fine diplomatic spirit of the British race. Representatives of each side met, “and the employers got the men’s leaders to understand.” The function of the labour leader, commented Geis, was similar to that of the lightning-rod. The masters instructed the labour leaders, and the labour leaders instructed the men. The labour leaders, as accessories of the capitalist class, had their reward. The report of’ the delegation referred to was in fact an unintentional indictment of pure and simple trade unionism. The German delegates expressed the view that the big unions were anything but altruistic ; the skilled workers organised themselves in their own selfish interests, without any kind of regard for the welfare of the unskilled, the unorganised, and the unemployed. Geis pointed out that of a working population of 14,000,000 but 2,000,000 were at present organised. The higher wages and better conditions of the organised minority afforded no justification for the exclusiveness of craft unionism, for if the whole working class were organised the condition of all might be improved. As a commodity in the labour market the price of labour-power (wages) was regulated by supply and demand. The formation of a complete trust in the labour market, such as was implied in the form of industrial unionism he advocated, would force the condition of the working class infinitely higher ; the obstacle which prevented such a comprehensive industrial organisation was the job-trust, pure and simple trade unionism now existing. Apart from wresting from the capitalist class an ever increasing share of the product of labour, the mission of industrial unionism was to overthrow the capitalist system altogether, which was the logical and inevitable termination of the class struggle. In America, where the I.W.W. was a growing power, its main object was the overthrow of capitalism, but in the pursuit of that object it would incidentally raise wages and reduce the hours of labour. The purpose of the advocates of Industrial Unionism in this country was to start as soon as practicable a similar new organisation of the working class, for the existing craft unions, with their notions of the mutual relationship of employer and employed, and their exclusiveness and selfishness, were useless and irremediable. Geis then gave a number of examples of craft union action to show how the capitalist class took advantage of the sectional organisation of the working class, and how the sections fought and “scabbed” upon one another to their own detriment, and undoing. There could, he said, be no hope for the working class until it was organised, on the basis of the class struggle, in one vast world-wide organisation, co-extensive with capitalism itself, for the overthrow of the capitalist system. It was the duty of working men to understand the principles laid down by the advocates of Industrial Unionism, and by corresponding action to put an end to the unspeakable conditions under which they, the workers, could not be said to live, but merely existed.

Fitzgerald said he was, of course, in entire agreement with his opponent, regarding the necessity of complete economic organisation in the working class. In the capitalist system the workers did not own the wealth their labour produced : it accumulated in the ownership of the numerically small capitalist class ; the relationship of the two classes was, therefore, simply that of robber and robbed. The complete monopoly of the resources of production compelled the workers to sell their labour-power as merchandise to the capitalist class for wages, or in other words, for the bare cost of maintaining and reproducing their productive energies, according to various circumstances and conditions. Hence it became necessary from time to time for the workers to debate with the capitalists the price at which they would sell their labour-power, Necessarily, as the capitalist system developed they found themselves at an increasing disadvantage in their bargaining for subsistence. What Fourier had foreseen—namely, that competition would result in the combination of the competing parties—was surely being realised, and the workers were now confronted with a position in which the capitalist class was becoming smaller and increasingly powerful. For example, during the Engineers’ strike of 1898 eight firms practically dominated the steel industry ; since that time the number had been reduced to about four. Such concentration implied economy of management, especially in the reduction of the number of wage-workers. The promoters of the Milk Trust in America had estimated that when their scheme was in full operation they could dispense with the services of 11,000 “hands.” Again, when Allsopps, Salts, and the Burton Brewery Co. decided to combine, notices were given to a large number of the staff. It had been suggested that the craft form of unionism was responsible for unemployment and the helpless condition of the working class; on the contrary, Fitzgerald contended that no form of unionism—even Socialist unionism—could of itself materially or permanently improve their condition in the capitalist system, under which the application of every new scientific process to industry, or higher organisation, necessarily increased the number of the unemployed. The unions, as at present organised, it was true, by insisting on the payment of high initiation fees and subscriptions in times of crisis, had thereby forced large numbers out of their ranks ; they had unquestionably impaired their own effectiveness by increasing the number of the unorganised, who, driven by the whip of starvation, were used against them in periods of depression. Furthermore, until the workers recognised their class position, and so long as they did not realise the necessity of organising on a Socialist basis to overthrow the capitalist system, sectional differences and internal disorganisation would continue. There were certain delusions prevailing, however, regarding the Socialist basis of trade unions. The mere adoption of a Socialist preamble did not constitute a union a Socialist union. The Gas Workers’ Union and one of the Burnley Weavers’ unions had a Socialist preamble, but owing to the ignorance of the rank and file they had not expressed in action the principles by which they were supposed to be guided. In a Socialist union the members would clearly recognise that the overthrow of the capitalist system was only attainable by the united effort of the working class to wrest political authority from the capitalist class. Revolutionary political action was essential in a real Socialist union.

It had been claimed for the I.W.W. that it was a Socialist union. Like the craft unions just referred to, the I.W.W. did not call itself Socialist, nor did its members exhibit any clearer understanding of Socialist aims than the “pure and simple” unionists they condemned. The I.W.W. was not, in fact, a Socialist union at all. “We must not overlook the fact,” said delegate Klemensic at the first Convention of the I.W.W. at Chicago, “that we are here as working men, and as such we do not recognise the Socialist, the Anarchist, or any other kind of ‘ist.'” This expression of opinion drew no protest from De Leon, nor from any other members of the Socialist Labour Party or Socialist Trades and Labour Alliance who were present. When Keir Hardie, at Darncrook, Newcastle, had stated that the Labour Party was not out for Toryism. Liberalism, or Socialism, but for Labourism, the Socialist Party of Great Britain had not hesitated to condemn his attitude. What distinction could be drawn between the positions taken respectively by Klemensic and Keir Hardie ? Moreover, the Preamble of the Industrial Workers of the World contained a remarkable contradiction as follows:
“Between these two classes a struggle must go on until all the workers come together on the political as well as on the industrial field, and take and hold that which they produce by their labour through an economic organisation of the working class without affiliation with any political party.”
How could they come together on the political field if they were kept apart by non-affiliation ? Naturally enough, a big battle raged over this clause in the Chicago Convention. Delegate Clarence Smith said:
“It seems to me that this paragraph of the Preamble particularly is intended, not to represent the principles and purposes of industrialism, but represents a toadyism to three different factions in this Convention, and I am opposed to this organisation toadying to any man or any faction of men. … It seems to me that this paragraph could not have been more involved or more confusing if it had been written by the platform committee of the Republican or Democratic Party. It seems to me as if the paragraph is intended to be toadying to the man who does not believe in politics at all, the pure and simple trade unionist as we have come to call him ; that it means a toadying to the Socialist, and also to the Anarchist, if you please. It seems to me that this paragraph is intended to be such that the supporter of this movement can point to it when talking to a pure and simple unionist and say ‘That is just what you want and expresses what you believe in.’ I believe it is intended to be such that a Socialist can be pointed to this platform with the statement that ‘This is Socialism.’ I believe it is intended to be such that an Anarchist can be confronted and told that ‘This means Anarchy as it is written right in this paragraph.’”
Delegate Murtaugh also made a statement which revealed a confusion of political elements in the I.W.W. which similarly characterizes craft unionism:
“It is useless for us here to attempt to disguise the fact that we have every shade of political opinion. We have the Socialists—I happen to be one of them—who believe that action in the political line is absolutely necessary. We have the Socialist, on the other hand, who is so near the Anarchist that he is beginning to think as the Anarchist does—that action along the political line is absolutely harmful instead of being useless.”
Thus within the I.W.W. according to Murtaugh, there were those who were prepared to repeat the old cry of “no politics in the trade unions.” There was a suggestion made at this Conference that no member of the I.W.W. should be allowed to accept nomination for office in a capitalist political party, whereupon Klemensic pointed out that this would conflict with the position of the Western Federation of Miners in Butte, Montana, where they formed part of the Republican party. Mr. Haggerty, the delegate of the Butte district of the Western Federation of Miners, made the following statement:
“It is true that back in the State of Montana we have a peculiar condition of things. Some five or six years ago I attended the convention of the state labour movement in the city of Helena in September, 1899. I went with the delegation from the organisation that sent me to this convention. It devolved upon that convention to go forth and organise what we knew as a political party. . . . After the party had been organised, capitalist parties commenced to lay plans to seize upon it. We found the Amalgamated Mining Company upon one side, and Senator Clark and F. A. Heinze upon the other, at war. There was an opportunity we could not miss. We seized upon the opportunity. Clark wanted to become a U.S. Senator, and F. A. Heinze wanted something else, and we knew it. I maintain that we did not go to them, but compelled them to come to us; but nevertheless there was a capitalist combination with a labour party, and hence it became capitalistic. We went to the polls and united our movement to theirs. Twelve men went to the legislative body from that county. In the division we got six of the twelve. We got the sheriff of the county, the coroner, and others. I was nominated for the office of county commissioner and was elected.”
Continuing, Fitzgerald pointed out that in Colorado two years ago the Western Federation of Miners had passed through an experience that threw our Featherstone shooting entirely in the shade. Yet at the following election they voted for a capitalist Governor in that state—and this was the organisation that claimed to be “the most radical and revolutionary in America,” and which formed the most important and powerful section of the Industrial Workers of the World. Obviously the elements composing the I.W.W. were indistinguishable from the “pure and simple” unionists represented at our Trade Union Congress ! One of the arguments used against craft unionism by the advocates of Industrial Unionism was that they excluded the unorganised by high initiation fees and subscriptions. But comparison of these charges made by a typical craft union like the Operative Bricklayers’ Society and those made by the I.W.W. was certainly not favourable to the latter. Thus the initiation fee of the I.W.W. was twice as large as that of the O.B.S., while the latter allowed 180 days’ subscriptions in arrear before exclusion, and the I.W.W. only 60, or one-third of that time, as shown by the Constitution and By-laws of the I.W.W. In action, therefore, it was also difficult to distinguish between the I.W.W. and “pure and simple” craft unionism.

Correspondence: The S.L.P. And the S.P.G.B. (1906)

Letter to the Editors from the October 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Gents.,—It is a fitting finish to the two years and more of cowards’ silence that a feeble, unsigned attempt has been made to explain the differences between the S.L.P. and the S.P. Anyone of average intelligence can easily see that the writer defeats his own object. To give a detailed history of the London “Impossiblists,” and to correct Mr. Jack Fitzgerald’s fables in full I should require an issue or more of your paper, therefore I shall simply point where he has mis-stated the truth, and, if my Party (the S.L.P.) are disposed to re-open the matter, I shall go fully into the matter in the columns of our Party Organ (The Socialist). If your readers obtain a copy of our paper for July, 1906, they will find therein a reply to some questions of Comrade E. J. B. Allen, a reply to some of the fiction circulated by Mr. Fitzgerald and others. There were several members of the S.D.F. in London who corresponded with our Scotch comrades ; and as the so-called London section was unorganised it would be interesting to know who gave Mr. Fitzgerald power to act as correspondent. Granted that Fitzgerald was asked, or took upon himself the task, of writing to London men to turn up to the joint Conference at “Cock and Hoop,” on Easter Sunday, 1903, that had nothing to do with his supposed official correspondence with our Scotch comrades after Friedberg had left this country. The London section (so-called) did not suggest that Anderson and MacGregor be invited to that Conference, and I don’t imagine for one minute that Anderson would have showed his face there if such an arrangement had been made. Fitzgerald and McNicol were not asked to tell Comrade Geis he was not wanted, and ask him not to turn up to Conference. But there, I see that Mr. Fitzgerald has forgotten to mention that fact. I might state here for the benefit of your readers that I was Chairman of that Meeting, and also elected Secretary of the London Section that really came into being in an organised manner that night, therefore I am competent to know what took place. Yates did not state “that they had been building up a new party during the last two years.” What Yates did say was “that they had built up an organised section during the last two years, consequently they had the necessary organisation to form a new party when necessary, and after the 1903 S.D.F. Conference that was the only thing they could do.” Elrick who also spoke said “that no self-respecting man could remain any longer in the S.D.F. He was in favour of a London Party affiliated to a Scotch Party.” Yates said he “did not want merely a Scotch Party but a party covering England, Scotland and Wales.” L. Cotton of Oxford also spoke for formation of a new party covering Great Britain and said we should not succeed as mere local societies. Matheson did the same. If Fitzgerald really believed the fables of Alexander Anderson why did he not bring the so-called charges against the Scotch section forward at that meeting. There was plenty of time after he had returned from seeing Matheson and Yates off at St. Pancras, and if necessary, we could have arranged for a meeting on Easter Monday. No ! Fitzgerald preferred to wait until the Scotch Delegates had returned before spreading his charges that have never been proved. His fable about De Leon and his actions at the Amsterdam Conference was refuted before De Leon came to London, and he could have put the question to De Leon at that meeting if he desired, but somehow he did not desire that. My information re De Leon and his credentials came from De Leon himself when I put to him the tale that I had heard from Elrick and that was being circulated among members of your Party. I believe that De Leon also dealt with the yarn in the “Post Box” of the Weekly People, but as I have lent my back copies of that paper I cannot say definitely. In conclusion I would point out one can prove anything by merely taking certain sentences out of a man’s speeches or writings. Mr. Fitzgerald has done this in his anonymous article (A Statement of Differences) and while it proves him to be a tricky debater it does not say much for his honesty of purpose.
—Yours etc.,
W. S. Jerman

[We are sorry Mr. Jerman has preferred to prejudice his criticism of our article by an exhibition of bad manners that may well be taken as evidence of an ignorance—deplorable in a correspondent of the mere decencies of discussion. A case is not improved by random and entirely unsubstantiated charges of cowardice and deliberate misrepresentation; nor is it benefited by the laboured irony of, for example, the suggestion that to anyone of average intelligence, our article defeats its own object. Mr. Jerman, of course, does not himself believe that or he would not have been at such pains to endeavour to defeat what had already been defeated. Irony is a two-edged weapon which may only be handled by the literary tyro at the imminent risk of damage to himself.

That Mr. Jerman is a tyro is clear from the fact that he does not understand that unsigned articles are always editorial. The article in question is from the E.C. of the S.P.G.B., not, as Mr. Jerman so hastily concludes, from our Comrade Fitzgerald writing anonymously.

As, however, Mr. Jerman’s letter largely consists of personal references to Fitzgerald, we have asked our comrade for his comments upon the points raised and append his notes. To those notes we have nothing to add except, in all friendliness, to suggest to Mr. Jerman the advisability of seriously endeavouring to free himself from the limitations of a vocabulary and the heavy handicap of a literary style which are not better but worse for having been imported from America and imperfectively transmitted to us through a sadly defective Scottish gramaphone.—ED.]

A careful comparison of Mr. Jermau’s letter with the article mentioned will, I think, render anything in the nature of an extended reply unnecessary. For Mr. Jerman’s benefit, however, and as my name is so frequently mentioned, I will briefly deal with the points he attempts to raise.

1. He asks “who gave Fitzgerald power to act as correspondent ?” As mentioned in the article, and as Mr. Jerman well knew, when Friedberg, who was the recognised correspondent of the section, left England he handed that business over to myself.

2. Mr. Jerman says “the London section did not suggest that Anderson and McGregor be invited to meeting.” Quite true, as a section, but several members made the suggestion, as Mr. Jerman was aware.

3. As the question of Mr. Geis is not raised in the article Jerman’s remarks are entirely gratuitous. I asked Geis to stay away on my own responsibility as he was not a member of the S.D.F. at the time and he promised to do so but broke that promise and came to the meeting place.

4. It is true that Mr. Jerman was chairman of the meeting but there was no secretary, nor were any minutes taken at that meeting. He was appointed secretary to the committee elected to receive information from Scotland and is, therefore, in no better position to speak of what occurred at that meeting than any other member present. His attempted quibble about the words “organised section” as against “New Party” for what difference there may be in them can be refuted by the evidence of several others attending the meeting besides myself, but it is best met by the fact that at the next meeting of the London section held at the “Hope” Coffee Tavern when I repeated the statement now disputed Mr. Jerman did not deny or in any way question that the words “New Party” had been used by Yates.

5. Mr. Jerman’s next point re. Anderson’s fables would be charming in its naivete were it not so clumsy an attempt to avoid an awkward point. Nowhere in the article is anything said about “Anderson’s charges.” What is said is that it was the Scotchmen who made the charges against Anderson and then refused to meet or face the man they charged and this also Mr. Jerman knew well. The only occasion upon which Anderson’s name is used is on the point of forming a New Party behind our backs which Mr. Jerman admits when he says that they (the Scotchmen) “had an organisation ready” and which is fully admitted by J. C. Matheson in the September issue of the Socialist. Moreover, if Mr. Jerman was so convinced on these points it is a wonder he did not at once join the London Branch of the S.L.P. instead of waiting several months, before doing so.

6. Regarding De Leon’s position at Amsterdam, why did Mr. Jerman ignore the points made in the article and try to shuffle out of it by saying he spoke to De Leon himself ? Why at the London Meeting did he not bring the matter up while I was speaking to De Leon as he was leaving the Hall ? Mr. Jerman will, I think, find the points in the article are posers enough for him to answer—whenever he makes a genuine attempt to do so.
Jack Fitzgerald

Editorial: The Parliament of Labour. (1906)

Editorial from the October 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Trade Union Congress has met; has been welcomed and sped by his worshipful the Mayor; has endured its presidential address ; has passed dozens of resolutions, has attended innumerable functions ; has, in short, done all those things it was expected to do after the fashion of Trade Union Congresses from time immemorial, and has passed into the limbo of forgotten things. It leaves behind it the record of a welter of words clothing ideas mainly feeble, fatuous and fallacious, and—that is all ! It was the strongest Congress that had ever met but that only seems to have added to the hub-bub. It was presided over, we are told, by a keen, business-like chairman who would stand no nonsense, but that did not save it from mediocrity. It is alleged to have been well in advance of the Congresses that foreran it but only the eye of faith could discern the difference and we do not possess such an eye.

To us there was little indeed in the Congress that could move, and nothing at all that could enthuse us. The chairman’s references to unemployment epitomised the mental darkness and confusion in which most of those attending seemed to be, not only upon this but upon most other working-class questions. To talk at this time o’day of the causes of and remedies for the unemployed problem being manifold and of a personal as well as an impersonal character is simply grotesque, so much so that we cannot conceive of anyone who has given more than half an hour’s serious study to the subject talking such palpable nonsense except with tongue in cheek. Unemployment has its root solely in the private ownership of the means of life and the consequent reduction of labour-power to the character of a commodity on the market, purchasable only when profit can be derived from it. The remedy lies solely in the break-down of such private ownership and the organisation of industry upon the basis of common ownership in the means of life and common participation in the product of Labour.

Business Done—None !
The depressing part of such Congresses to us consists in reflections upon the might-have-beens. Much a gathering of delegates could, if only they represented class conscious constituencies, have sent reverberating round the world a message of encouragement and inspiration and class solidarity to the workers of all countries that would have carried dismay and confusion into the camps of Capital. But the constituencies are not class conscious and, as we pointed out in our last issue, those who stand as their mouthpieces and champions, are in the main either as ignorant as their following or are apparently less concerned with working-class advancement than with advancement of a more intimate and personal character. And so the watcher on the tower of the enemy’s encampment has gone to sleep again. The time for an alarm he can see is not yet. The day when Capital will be called upon to rally all its forces to the defence of its ditches is still to dawn.

We are doing our part to educate our class to a knowledge of their position and of the means whereby that position may be freed of its insecurity and unhappiness and made to ensure a comfort and a joy in living, unknown to the workers as a class to-day. We are doing all we can to marshal their strength in battle array against the powers of the capitalist class already organised and entrenched and fully class conscious. Our work is rendered the more difficult by the obstacles which the ignorance and the knavery of working-class leaders continue to dump in the path of our progress. But we proceed with our purpose quite confident that in the result our class will rally to the banner which we bear aloft and which, alone of the parties claiming working-class support in England, we steadfastly refuse to lower on any pretext or consideration whatever. And then the Trades Congresses or their equivalent will not fritter away their time and opportunity in long and weary discussion upon the practicability or otherwise of demanding a 30s. minimum wage or some other doleful product of the brain of the half-loafer. Half loaves will then fail to attract. Congress will be satisfied with nothing short of the whole baker’s shop and will see that it gets it.

Until then Trade Union Congresses will continue to afford a little mild excitement annually to the attending delegates who regard such gatherings generally as in the nature of bean-feasts; they may provide the capitalist Press with a little light “copy” ; they may even succeed in whipping up a little interest in their proceedings among the membership of the contributing societies. But the net results so far as real working-class interests are concerned, will, we fear, be summarised in the heading which we have set over this note.

Declined with thanks. (1906)

Party News from the October 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Why the West Ham Branch Could Not Join the Local “Labour” Party

West Ham & District Trades & Labour District, Town Hall, West Ham.
19th July, 1906.

Dear Sir,—The following resolution was passed by my Council at their last meeting :
“That the Trades Council convene a Conference representative of all Trade Union Branches and Socialist Organisations in the Borough for the purpose of forming a local Labour Party on the lines of the National Labour Party. The Conference to consist of two delegates from the Trades Council, two delegates from each Trade Union Branch affiliated and unaffiliated, two delegates from each of the Socialist Organisations, viz., S.D.F., I.L.P., S.P.G.B., and Socialist League.”
Your Branch are therefore invited to appoint two delegates to attend the Conference, which will be held in the second week in August.

I shall be glad if you will let me know at your earliest convenience if your Branch are prepared to take part in the Conference, together with the names and addresses of your two delegates in order that I may send them date, time and place of Meeting.
Yours fraternally,
J. Gilbey, Secretary.


447, Katherine Rd., Manor Park,
29 August, 1906.

Dear Sir,—I have to transmit the following resolution passed by the W. H. Br., S.P.G.B. at its last meeting in reply to yours of 19th July last, asking us to send delegates to a meeting convened by the W.H. & D.T. & L.C. with the object of forming a local Labour Party on the lines of the National Labour Party, to which invitation I promised in my note of 14 Aug. a reply as soon as the Branch had time to fully consider the matter.
Your obedient servant,
G. C. H. Carter, Br. Sec.
J. Gilbey, Esq., Sec. W.H. & D.T. & L.C.



That we, the members of the West Ham Br. S.P.G.B., having considered the invitation of 19th July last by the W.H. & D.T. & L.C. to send delegates to a meeting convened by that body for the purpose of forming a “local Labour Party on the lines of the National Labour Party,” wish to make clear the reasons which compel us to decline taking such action.

As a loyal branch of the S.P.G.B., whose declared object is the establishment of a system of Society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of life, we are not only unable to work with, but are distinctly hostile to, any party on the political field, such as the L.R.C., or any local party on its lines, whose aims, objects, and methods are so opposite to ours.

We have re-read the reports of the Conferences of the L.R.C., and are more convinced than ever of the confusion existing in the minds of those initiating the establishment of that political party. Take for instance Resolution 1 of the first (1900) meeting (which was an amendment to a motion in favour of the working class being represented in the House of Commons by members of their own class) seconded by John Burns, M.P. in a speech during which that (now Rt. Hon.) gentleman stated that “he believed they should consider parties and policies apart from class organisations.” These members of class organisations (Trade Unions, &c.) obediently detached themselves from their class, negated their class organisations and by a majority of 102 to 3 resolved that “the working class should be represented in the House of Commons by men sympathetic with the aims and demands of the Labour movements.”

Again, the motion by James MacDonald of the S.D.F. endeavouring to place the Party on the only true working-class basis of the Class War was negated by these working-class representatives by 59 to 35, Sexton saying “it was very magnificent, it was very heroic, but it was not war. . . . The resolution was reviving a spirit responsible for more recrimination than anything else in the Labour movement. . . . He was in favour of the spirit of the resolution and would vote for it anywhere but there.”

Coming to the Darn Crook Conference of 1903 we find they have got the length of an “object,” viz., “a group in Parliament with whips and its own policy on Labour questions.” J. N. Bell, the chairman at that Conference, points out in his speech the danger to Trade Union funds by process of law, the aggressive attitude of British Capitalism, the development of Shipping Rings, Trusts, and other American inventions, the Housing Question, Old Age Pensions, Unemployment, etc., and goes on to say “if some years ago straight-forward and satisfactory statements had been given on some of these questions it is possible that such a gathering as the present might not have been necessary.”

Considering this speech in connection with the “object” (a Party with whips, etc.) we consider the S.P. of G.B. is justified in stating (as it does in its “Manifesto” p.7) “The L.R.C. came into existence chiefly, as far as the rank and file of the Unions were concerned, owing to the Taff Vale and Quinn v. Leathem decisions, and, as far as the Trade Union officials were concerned, because they saw the chance of Parliamentary jobs.”

There is much more of interest and instruction in this (1903) Report, especially when read in the light of subsequent history. Take two statements by two typical men, at almost two opposite poles of the “Labour movement” :

John Ward (now Lib.-Lab. M.P.) says “they wanted to get their feet well planted in the House of Commons and he believed they would not be particular about the way in which they did it.” Keir Hardie (Lab. M.P.) is reported as saying, “they should be neither Socialists, Liberals, nor Tories but a Labour Party,” and we find the space between these two poles filled in with a mixture in varying proportions of the two ideas.

At the Liverpool Conference of 1905 we find the L.R.C. (your model), have arrived not merely at an “object” (a party with whips) but have, from the Nebo heights to which they have been led, descried in the telescopic distance an “ultimate object.” This “ultimate object” is too far off, however, to be clearly seen, much less understood, even by the seers of the Party, if we may judge by a statement over the signatures of some of them, from Burns and Bell on the one hand to Ramsay MacDonald and Keir Hardie on the other. We find in the United Labour Manifesto against Chamberlainism signed, among others, by those gentlemen, it is stated, “Protection would limit the power of the Trade Unions to improve the condition of the wage-earners” and then they go on to state as counter proposals, “we appeal to the workers of the country to support us in a campaign which will benefit the industrious classes by increasing National efficiency and securing a substantial reduction in the cost of production.”

How could the condition of the wage-earners be improved by the cheapening of production or by efficiency? By cheapening production you cheapen commodities including labour-power, i.e., you lower money-wages leaving real wages as before. Where then is the improvement ? Further, not only is there no improvement in the condition of the workers employed, but the aggregate wages of the working class are lowered by the increase in the number of the unemployed : the inevitable result of efficiency under capitalism.

If these prophets of Labour, instead of passing pious resolutions in favour of ultimate Socialism which they appear neither to believe nor understand, would turn their attention to immediate common sense, not to say anything so advanced as logic or economics, they might ultimately become less purblind leaders of the blind, though certainly not so successful political tricksters.

During the General Election campaign not only did their “ultimate Socialism” become so very ultimate as to be unworthy of serious mention, but their boasted independence, that terribly extreme policy which prevented Steadman, one of their founders, from signing their declaration, also became so “ultimate” as to be unavailable for immediate use.

We were informed by the Daily News of 10th Jan., 1906, that “Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald and Mr. H. Broadhurst on separate platforms are urging that electors should not plump but allocate their votes to the two Progressives.” This was confirmed after the election by the local papers in which Mr. Broadhurst is reported to have said, “he was proud of the Liberal Party and of the Labour Party of Leicester who had brought about this great triumph. Liberalism and Labour had known no difference. . . This was what they did when they had confidence in each other.” Mr. J. R. MacDonald is reported as saying that “there was one significant fact about the contest. Practically every voter of the 14,000 had polled Broadhurst and MacDonald. The plumping had been insignificant. . . owing to the crises—the crisis to Trade Unionism and the crisis to industry they had co-operated on these specific and definite points to kill the late government and prevent things going from bad to worse.” “Hurrah! for Liberalism and Labour !” says Broadhurst. “Hurrah ! for Labour and Liberalism!” says MacDonald. “Hurrah! for Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and the independence of Tweedledum !” say we.

It sounds like the language of two separate sections of the same Trust with two different local names professing independence and excusing the similarity of their language by a crisis common to both. MacDonald was no more independent of Broadhurst than Liberalism was of “Labour.” There was no independence on either side.

Whatever pious resolutions the L.R.C. may pass in favour of ultimate Socialism, independence, etc., the language and actions of their members point to a stronger belief in Lib.-Lab-ism if not ultimate Liberalism.

Their professed independence which at its best has about the same relation to even an “ultimate” Socialist attitude to other political parties as the Zulu cotton-thread-on-sticks magic had to the English Field-telegraph has been illustrated locally by Will Crooks and Will Thorne. Both these gentlemen, as you no doubt recollect, supported an ostensibly Free Trade meeting in Stratford (really got up to support the candidature of its chairman Masterman). Thorne by letter wishing it success, and excusing himself from attendance on account of a prior engagement. Crooks by a speech during which he alluded to Mr. Masterman as “your member.”

During the General Election, perhaps to demonstrate principles held by company kept, or it may be to illustrate the proverb, “birds of a feather,” Crooks and Thorne, flanked by Passmore Edwards and G. Cadbury, appear as supporters of the Liberal Percy Alden in the company of Buxton, Gladstone, Burns, and Asquith. Crooks and Thorne are local members of the National Party on whose lines you propose forming, or perhaps ere now have formed, a local party.

Should any professed Socialists not understanding the principles of Socialism be tempted to join and, from the Local Party following too closely the “lines” of the National Party, find themselves compelled to withdraw, it may be as well they should know the treatment meted out by the secretary of the National Party to the S.D.F. on their retirement.

In the International Socialist Review of June, 1903, Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald writes: “Two years ago the S.D.F. ceased to co-operate because it alleged the Committee was not receiving sufficient support from the Trade Unions. . . . The I.L.P. will support such movements in spite of a handful of more timorous and dogmatic Socialists.”

In short, even were we not prevented by our principles and policy from voluntarily associating ourselves with any un-class-conscious political action such as you propose, a statement like the above from the point of view of tactics alone would prove sufficient deterrent.

Even supposing ourselves destitute not only of principles and policy but of political experience or aptitude, we could take warning as to the folly of compromise from part of the chairman’s speech at the L.R.C. Conference of 1903. He said (Report, p. 22) : “The path of compromise is often alluring, and the path of principle is nearly always difficult to tread, but in deciding which way we shall take we cannot afford to forget that by following principle we are certain that it leads, however slowly, to the object we wish to attain, while compromise may lead us there, but may also lead us in a hundred other directions,”

While thanking you for your invitation, which, however, we are convinced must have been sent in utter ignorance or misunderstanding of the principles of the S.P.G.B., we would invite the attention of your members to some of the literature published by our Party, notably the “Manifesto,” and the Socialist Standard, 1d. monthly (28, Cursitor St., E.C.) which in every copy up to the present one contains the “Object and Declaration of Principles.”
Yours faithfully,
G. C. H. Carter, Br. Sec.

The Economic Basis of Morality. (1906)

From the October 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

As all the advantages of the rearing of animals come to be realised, the savage “pack” gradually changes into a society of shepherds or herdsmen, in which the men are engaged in tending cattle, sheep, or goats, while to the women fall the subordinate offices of spinning the wool, milking the cows and goats, and making the butter and cheese. The men drive the flocks to pasture and water, regulate the breeding, guard the folds against enemies, decide which of the animals shall be killed for food, and break in the beasts of burden.

But in these pastoral pursuits it gradually becomes apparent to the men that labour is a valuable thing. A man who has been very successful in cattle-rearing requires a number of “hands” to keep his herds in order. Besides the domestic labour performed by women, he requires the outdoor labour of men, to prevent the cattle from straying or being stolen, to drive them to pasture in the morning and bring them back at night. To this demand for labour we probably owe two of the great institutions of the pastoral age : permanent marriage and slavery. There is really, as we shall see, nothing out of place in taking these two together, odd as the connection may sound to modern ears.

Permanent marriage is one of the essential features of patriarchal society. By superficial writers, its appearance is often attributed to some vague improvement in morality or taste. Unhappily, the facts point to a much less exalted origin, viz., the desire of the man to secure for himself exclusively the labour of the woman and her offspring. If the change had come about from exalted ideas of morality, we should probably have found two features in the new system (1) equality of numbers between the man and the woman ; (2) free consent to the marriage on both sides. It is notorious that just the opposite are the facts of the patriarchal system, at any rate at its earlier stages. Polygamy, or plurality of wives, is the rule; and while the husband is not at all particular about the conduct of his wife with other men, he is intensely strict about appropriating the whole of her labours ; and all her offspring, no matter who is the real father, belong to him. Again, the ancient forms of marriage, viz, marriage by capture and marriage by purchase, point irresistibly to the conclusion that the woman had little or no voice in the matter. In the case of marriage by capture, the husband carried off his wife by force from a neighbouring tribe ; and long after the reality of this practice has disappeared, it survives, as is well known, in a ficticious form all over the world. It is considered barely decent for the girl to come to the marriage without a show of force. Even in polite modern society the “best man” is said to be a survival of the friends who went with the bridegroom in ancient days to help him to carry off his bride, while the bridesmaids are the lady’s companions, who attempted to defend her from the audacious robber, and the wedding tour is a survival of the flight from the angry relatives of the bride. In the more peaceful form of marriage by purchase, the lady has become an article of marketable value, whose price is paid, usually in cattle or sheep, to her relatives or owners. It is a refinement of modern days that the “bride price” should be settled on the lady herself, or contributed in the form of marriage gifts, to stock the future home. In ancient times it was paid, if not in hard cash, at any rate in solid cattle, to the damsel’s relatives, who, by the marriage, lost the value of her services. Jacob, we know, paid for his wives by labour; but this was probably an exception. In patriarchal society, the father of a round dozen of strong and well-favoured daughters is a rich man.

Slavery arises from the practice of keeping alive captives taken in war, instead of putting them to death. In savage days wars are usually the result of scarcity of food, and result in the killing and eating of members of a stranger “pack.” But, with the increasing certainty of food supply, resulting among other benefits from pastoral pursuits, cannibalism becomes unnecessary, and captives are carefully kept alive in order that they may labour for their captors. It may sound odd to speak of slavery as a beneficent institution, but one of the first lessons which the student of history has to learn is that things which to us now seem very wicked may really have been at one time improvements on something much worse. Slavery is an ugly thing, but it is better than cannibalism. Again, however, we notice that the upward step was due, not to exalted morality, but to practical convenience. Morality is the result, not the cause, of social amelioration.
Edward Jenks, M.A., “A History of Politics.”