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Debate on Industrial Unionism. (continued) (1906)

From the November 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

(Continued from the October issue.)

Geis in his second speech said that up to a certain point he agreed with Fitzgerald—indeed, Fitzgerald with his wider and more intimate knowledge of Trade Unionism, would make a better Advocate of Industrial Unionism than he (Geis) himself. The adoption of the Preamble was not sufficient of itself; if the material to support it were not present in the working class it was useless. The passing of pious resolutions, of course, did not signify ; but they had to recognise what was vital in the principle laid down.

The effort being made was honest ; and though the organisiation he was representing might fail the principle would live—the principle that would establish Socialism. The working class had evolved to a certain stage, and different degrees of class-consciousness were observable everywhere in its members. The theory of the Industrial Unionist was that Socialism had so penetrated the working-class mind that the elements were now ready to organise on the lines he proposed. Fitzgerald had urged that the I.W.W. should call itself Socialist if it were Socialist; but the I.W.W. had to be considered not for what it called itself but for what it actually was—a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. It had to be judged not by its name, but by its principles and action. With regard to the statements of Klemensic at the Chicago Convention, it was not at all unlikely that he was only in the position of a man who was for the time being rather puzzled by the clause under discussion. The I.W.W. included members of the Socialist Party, the Socialist Labour Party and others of no political affiliation whatsoever. Affiliation with either of the parties mentioned would only result in the promotion of discord. They were doing their best under the circumstances to unite the working-class politically by first uniting them industrially, in the firm belief that political disunity was the outcome of economic disorganisation. The existing political divisions in the working-class were clearly the shadow of their conflicting economic organisations. [This argument Geis illustrated thus : If in the sunlight, he held out his hand and extended his fingers, the shadow would show divisions ; but by closing up his fingers the shadow would be an undivided one.] That was why the I.W.W. refrained from affiliation with any existing political organisation. There were those who had not yet emancipated their minds from the metaphysical method of reasoning. [Here Geis read a very long extract from Engels’ “Socialism : Utopian and Scientific,” with the object of proving that Fitzgerald was a metaphysical reasoner.] The working-class was always in fluid motion its activities could not be frozen ; so sure as organic bodies grow, the working class would attain its emancipation through Industrial Unionism.

Fitzgerald emphatically denied that, he in any sense, or up to any point, had advocated mere Industrial Unionism, in which he had no faith. He had advocated Socialist Unionism, and no other. And in doing so he had dealt with facts ; his arguments were entirely along dialectical lines : not a single example had been adduced to show that his reasoning was dialectically incorrect. He also would refer to Engels’ “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific,” at p. 75 especially, where Engels indicates that the proletariat, will emancipate itself by seizing political power from the exploiting class and abolishing the class State. Although the I.W.W. was represented to be a single union it already showed a strong tendency to simulate the craft unions in its devolution into thirteen sub-divisions, quite regardless of the original seven-division “wheel” described by Hagerty. Thus the I.W.W. had obviously not themselves realised the class form of industrial organisation. He (Fitzgerald) was in favour of industrial organisation on a class basis, as opposed to the sectional basis, of the I.W.W. How was it possible to overthrow the Capitalist system, and “take and hold” the means of existence, merely by industrial organisation ? The seizure of land by the unemployed at West Ham afforded a miniature illustration of what would happen on a vast scale if the absurd attempt were made. In the one case the police and fire-hose sufficed to compel the unemployed to relinquish their hold on an acre of land : in the event of a greater attempt by Industrial Unionists they would be confronted by all the armed forces at the command of the dominant, class. The key to the position, as Engels had shown, was to obtain control of the fighting forces through the wresting of political authority from the possessing class. This was not a question of honesty, but of right and wrong; and the I.W.W., by its proposal to “take and hold” by economic action alone was simply misleading the working class. Political parties, moreover, were not a reflection of economic organisations, but the recognition and expression of economic interests. It was all very well to say in the Preamble that the I.W.W. did not countenance political affiliation ; it left political action out altogether. Why, if economic unity promoted political unity were such prominent advocates of Industrial Unionism as E. V. Debs and Daniel DeLeon still in political opposition ? why generally were its members at each other’s throats in the political field ? Only a clear understanding of their class position could bring about the political unity of the working class ; and so rapid was the development of economic conditions at the present time that all confusing and misleading proposals should be strenuously opposed, and the only way pointed out to the workers along the lines of Socialism and Socialism alone.

Geis observed that the members of The Socialist Party of Great Britain were obsessed with the idea of an armed Revolution ; they could not conceive the possibility of a peaceful revolution, and therefore they insisted on the necessity of the control by the workers of the armed forces of the nation. Their eyes were full of the blood of the French Revolution. Unless the workers were Industrially organised a bloody revolution would undoubtedly occur. He would point out that the soldiers engaged in the Featherstone shooting travelled by the aid of the craft unionists, who also supplied them with hats, boots, and clothes. If the workers were class-conscious the military would not be so supplied, nor with bayonets, bullets and “grub.” The armed force argument therefore fell to the ground. The whole working class would have to be industrially organised however, before it could complete its mission: but when that organisation was accomplished, the armed forces would not be able to move a hair’s breadth. The ballot-box method was a proved failure. The Russian revolutionaries were shot down notwithstanding the election of the Duma. With regard to the thirteen sub-divisions of the I.W.W., criticised by Fitzgerald, these did not constitute craft unions ; they were geographical divisions having local autonomy, but were subject to a central board. In this matter the I.W.W. submitted to circumstances they could not overcome, and Fitzgerald had elaborated no alternative scheme. Only by such industrial organisation as that he advocated would the workers accomplish the Social Revolution.

Fitzgerald replied that the emancipation of the working class was an impossibility until they were organised politically and economically. He had pointed out that although according to the Preamble of the I.W.W. the workers must come together on the political as on the economic field, two delegates at the Chicago convention of the I.W.W. had revealed the hopeless political confusion and class-unconsciousness of the members of that body, and the statements of those delegates were not repudiated. Neither had Geis made the least attempt to meet the question raised, which was essential. He (Fitzgerald) had every reason to desire a peaceful revolution, but the history of class-antagonisms and the circumstances of modern times provided him with but little hope in that direction. By repudiating the ballot-box method Geis had simply taken the Anarchist position ; and assuredly if the efforts of the I.W.W. were non-political they were also non-Socialist. Apparently Geis had never heard of soldiers being employed on railways, of the storage of seven years’ munitions of war and other such provisions. Finally he reasserted that a Socialist Preamble did not make a Socialist organisation, either in the case of a “pure and simple” craft union or the I.W.W. And his denial that that body was a Socialist Union implied also his opinion that it was not worthy the confidence and support, of the working class.

Mr Bryan and the Trusts. (1906)

From the November 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

When, at. the end of August, Mr. Bryan, the Democratic candidate for the Presidency of the United States, returned from his tour of the world, he made a remarkable speech that should have been commented on in these columns before. He stated that “Landlordism was the curse of Europe, but it was an innocent institution compared with the trust system carried to its logical conclusion. . . . He hoped the trusts would be exterminated root and branch. . . He declared that the time was ripe for the overthrow of plutocracy, which, he asserted, was already sapping the strength of the nation, vulgarising social life, and making a mockery of morals.” But the most remarkable aspect of the matter is what is described by the Tribune as a “remarkably effective method of dealing with the monopolist trust.” The method as explained in the same organ is “that where a trust has achieved an internal monopoly in production the tariff wall should be broken down so as to admit of foreign competition. Free trade in trust articles is an adroit, a politic, and a just proposal. A capitalistic society is tolerable only when free competition protects the public interests. . . . When once the trust system has been formed, State ownership is indeed the only tolerable alternative to competition. Mr. Bryan’s scheme is ingenious and economically sound. Its failure would mean, we imagine, the growth of some third party, with a definitely socialistic aim.”

The third party has already grown in anticipation of the failure of any scheme of the nature of Mr. Bryan’s. I wonder if the writer of the above quoted article has forgotten the Tobacco War, or whether he learned the lesson that had to teach ? The entry into British markets of the products of the American Tobacco Trust had its first effect in bringing British tobacco manufacturers together into the Imperial Tobacco Company. The two trusts did not compete long—they combined; and today the Imperial Tobacco Company and the American Tobacco Trust are a united body. May we not expect the same thing to happen in America. The only foreign competition the trust could feel would be that of an organisation sufficiently strong to bear the disadvantages of the extra cost of transit involved. It would have to be a case of the American trust v. a Foreign trust. Such a battle of the giants would not last long and would most certainly result in the achievement of the next step in economic progress after the National trust, viz. the International trust. The “only tolerable alternative” to which will be State ownership—when the State has been democratised. We seem indeed to be approaching the beginning of the end.
Dick Kent

The S.P.G.B. and the S.L.P. (1906)

From the November 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

G. Geis writes at considerable length challenging the statement made by J. Fitzgerald in our last issue that he (Fitzgerald) asked Geis to stay away from the Cock & Hoop meeting. The matter is extraneous to the article we published in the August number, and in no way affects the position of the S.P.G.B. It was introduced by a correspondent whose letter appeared last month, and is at most a question of personal recollection with which we have nothing to do.

Editorial: Ten Millions Starving. (1906)

Editorial from the November 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ten Millions Starving.
Mr. Lloyd-George spoke strongly at Penrhyndendraeth, Merioneth, last night.
“He said there were ten millions in this country enduring year after year the torture of living on, lacking a sufficiency of the bare necessaries of life ; and all this existed amid a splendid plenty which poured into a land so wealthy that it could afford to lend out of its spare riches thousands of millions to less well endowed lands in other parts of the world.

“There is plenty of wealth in this country to provide for all and to spare,” he continued. “What is wanted is a fairer distribution. There is a good deal of temporary depression in the slate industry in this part of the world, which I trust will soon pass away. But before it goes I am afraid there will be much distress from want of employment. Yet there are two men in the county of Carnarvon whose combined incomes are equal to the aggregated earnings of half the quarrymen of the country.

“The latter, working at a skilled trade, requiring years of apprenticeship to master it, risking life in its pursuit—thousands of them together can only earn just as much as two men who do not contribute a single slate to the common stock.

“I do not suggest that there should be a compulsory equal distribution of the wealth of this country between its inhabitants, but I do say that the law which protects these men in the enjoyment of their great possessions should first of all see that those whose labour alone produces their wealth are amply protected from actual need where they are unable owing to circumstances over which they have no control to earn enough to purchase the necessaries of life.”
Daily Express, 26/9/06.
A dangerous game.
So truth will out even from a Capitalist Cabinet minister. Ten millions starving—it is a greatly underestimated figure, but it will serve—ten millions of those whose labour alone produces the country’s wealth ! Yet George, like Burns and the rest of the kidney, offers no remedy. Why? Because they dare not. They know the remedy well enough—the only remedy that can be applied, but they fear to speak it. They will talk sympathetically enough to secure working-class support for the party to which they belong ; but they know as they talk that the Party on whose behalf they stand can do nothing to touch the fringe of the evil. Because their party is a Capitalist party, call it by what else they will, and unemployment and its consequent starvation are directly due to the fact that the working class whose labour alone—on the word of a Cabinet minister—produces wealth, depend for their bread to-day upon whether the capitalist class can make a profit out of the purchase of their labour power. The Capitalist class live upon profits nothing else. Without profits they must die. Because of profits the workers must live precarious lives and starve by the tens of millions. Very well. The cure rests solely in the extinction of the profit-monger, the abolition of the capitalist class; the expropriation of the expropriators, and the death of the political expression of capitalism, of which Lloyd George and Co. constitute themselves the fuglemen. Let Mr. Lloyd George tell the whole truth if he dare. As it is he is a sort of political Pied Piper—-a lure : a decoy. But he must be careful. The game he is playing is a dangerous one. If the workers produce all the wealth it may occur that a reminder of it from a cabinet minister will have the effect of inspiring in the minds of the wealth producers a dissatisfaction with anything less than the entire product of their labour. And what Lloyd George of all the hosts of capitalist apologists—highly paid or lowly—would venture to dispute the justice of the demand after such a ministerial pronouncement as was made in that Merioneth town of the unpronounceable name.

Editorial: Justice or Jaundice. (1906)

Editorial from the November 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Justice or Jaundice.
Our respected contemporary the organ of the S.D.F. has replied to a correspondent thus :— 
“We have neither the space nor the inclination to reply to the slanders of insignificant creatures who only maintain a temporary and parasitical vitality by venomous attacks on the S.D.F. Such attacks are usually absurd and always beneath notice. The statement in question is absolutely untrue. Lady Warwick has never been to a meeting in Battersea nor been invited to a meeting there, nor sent a telegram to any meeting there.”
Not being in the confidence of the Editor we cannot, of course, say definitely who these slanderers are who maintain a parasitic vitality upon the S.D.F., although there is good evidence for supposing that they are leading members of the I.L.P. who, we notice, are rather given to expressing themselves in terms intended to be hurtful to the feelings of leading S.D.F. men. But if this is to maintain a parasitic vitality on the S.D.F., the I.L.P. may fairly retort that the vitality of the S.D.F. (assuming its existence) has been derived parasitically from the I.L.P., seeing how readily S.D.F. leaders and the S.D.F. organ (which isn’t the S.D.F.’s) fall to giving forcible tongue to their detestation of the I.L.P. But however this may be, and whoever may be the slanderers in question, we suggest in all friendliness that the Justice writer should endeavour to prevent his anger (even the artificially stimulated variety) betraying him into venomous attacks—particularly upon insignificant creatures. Vulgar abuse is no argument, and the slandered one does not strengthen his position by reducing himself to the level of the slanderer. As it is, the language of the paragraph, common as we are afraid we must say it is in our contemporary, impels the idea that there is some peculiar quality in the literary atmosphere of Clerkenwell Green which prevents a man expressing himself—upon certain subjects at any rate in any other than cultured Billingsgate. We confess we know of no other spot in the British Isles so apparently provocative of adjectival splenetics excepting always, of course, Edinburgh !

On misrepresentation.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, however, we have considerable sympathy with Justice in its protest against misrepresentation and abuse the more because we are ourselves heavy sufferers from the same cause. Throughout the whole course of our short history we have been made the subject of as much vilification, misrepresentation, and all the other “ations” of contemptuous and vituperative reference, as any party ever was, or, probably ever will be, with results which must have been detrimental to our progress as a Party seeing that, we are in the nature of things, unable to overtake in order to effectively combat, as we can, every product of the tongue and pen of malice, envy, and uncharitableness. Nevertheless, we can say as Justice with honesty cannot, that we have within the limits of our opportunities, dealt with our slanderers and shown them to be such unmistakably. Justice, on the other hand, has preferred we have observed, to complain of slander without attempting to show wherein the slander consisted. This is, of course, by far the safer method when the alleged slander embodies the inconvenient truth ; but unless Justice can succeed in fooling all its readers all the time, it is a method that will, sooner or later bring the grey hairs of Justice in sorrow to the grave. However,
“While the lamp holds out to burn, 
The vilest sinner may return."
And there is still the chance that Justice will repent.

For the present, as it has been represented to us that the statement respecting Lady Warwick may be regarded as in the nature of a reply to the note on the same matter which appeared in the June number of this journal, we will content ourselves with pointing out,—
(1.) that we never said Lady Warwick was invited to attend a meeting at Battersea:
(2.) that we never said Lady Warwick attended a meeting there : but we did say that
(3.) Lady Warwick sent a telegram to John Burns’ meeting there regretting her inability to be present and we gave our evidence for the statement—evidence that Justice will have to meet if it wants to deal with the point at all.
So that (assuming that the reference was, as suggested, to our statement) Justice has missed three chances of stating the truth upon this particular matter and only escaped missing a fourth by the fact that a fourth was never presented to it !

Still we make no doubt that presently we shall have it laid to our charge that we did deliberately and of malice aforethought malign Our Lady of Warwick and other comrades “who have borne the heat and burden of the day”(!) by bearing false witness against them in this connection.

International Socialist Bureau. (1906)

From the November 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

I. S. B.
Brussels, October, 1906.

Dear Comrade,—

The plenary assembly of the International Socialist Bureau will take place on Saturday, November 10th, at the Secretary’s Office of the I.S.B. (Brussels, People’s Palace, 17, Joseph Steven’s-street, 1st story, room 6), at 10 o’clock in the forenoon.)

1. The organisation and agenda of the International Socialist Congress of Stuttgart (August, 1907).
2. Second examination of Van Kol’s proposition concerning the International Congresses and the I.S.B.
3. The rules of the Parliamentary Socialist and Labour Commission.
The Executive Committee:

Karl Kautsky on Socialism and Trade Unionism. (1906)

From the November 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the Annual Congress of the German Socialists held during the last week of September, the most important questions discussed were the “Relations of the Socialist Party to the Trade Unions,” and “The Political General Strike.” The Executive and General Councils of the Party submitted a resolution (introduced by Bebel) which was drawn up so as to fully satisfy those elements in the Trade Unions and the Socialist Party that believed in the Trade Unions having a free hand in their actions, while being expected to co-operate with each other when mutually deemed practicable and advantageous.

Kantsky and 32 other comrades moved as an amendment the, following addition : —
“In order, however, to insure on the part of the Trade Unions together with the Party uniformity of thought and action, which is an indispensable condition for the victorious progress of the class-struggle of the Proletariat, it is absolutely necessary that the Trade-Unions be dominated by the spirit of Socialism. It is therefore the duty of every member of the Party to act in this sense within the Trade Unions, and to consider himself bound by the resolutions of the Party Congresses in his actions in Trade Unions as well as in all others of a public character. This is demanded in the interest of the Trade Union movement itself, as the Socialist movement is the highest and most far-reaching form of the class-struggle of the proletariat, and no working-class organisation, no working-class movement can completely accomplish its aims unless it is permeated by the spirit of Socialism.”
In support of the foregoing amendment Kautsky said :
“As to our proposed addendum, which the Executive decline to support, I must confess that their action has disappointed me very much. I thought that in that addition we said nothing that should not be self-understood by every comrade, and that one cannot reject what is self-understood. I believe that this resolution is necessarily as a consequence of the resolution justified by Bebel. I consider that resolution to be incomplete. If our addendum is not accepted what does Bebel’s resolution say ? It recognises that it is necessary to take, from time to time, action together with the Trade Unions. I am fully convinced that the joint action of the Party and the Trade Unions must he the future form of action. Bebel recognises that the form of future action must be that the functionaries of the Trade Unions in every case arrive at an understanding. But here the resolution ends. Yet here only begins the difficulty. Then the question arises, what happens if such understanding is not come to? The reply is very simple. If it does not come to an understanding, it does not come to action. How can we come to action ? Our own Party has, the larger it has grown, become in a certain sense an awkward apparatus. It is not easy to bring new ideas into that apparatus. And should the case arise that the Trade Unions are wanting a rest, what prospects would there open up before us by the Trade Unions hanging on as a brake to the already so awkward party organisation. And just because we recognise that we have in each case to co-operate with the ‘Trade Unions it becomes necessary for us to see to it that the Trade Unions should he composed of such elements as to ever make it impossible for these Unions to act as brakes upon the Party. And therefore it is the duty of the Party to deal with the Trade Unions in such a way as to prevent them from hampering the Party. That that should he done in the interest of the Party requires no explanation. The question, however, may be raised—and I believe that is the reason for opposing our addendum whether the Trade Unions would not suffer by this joint action : whether the Socialist propaganda would do harm to the Trade-Unions? I am of the opinion that, the Trade Unions would lose nothing but on the contrary that they would profit by such action, because they would thereby be enabled to accomplish their great task. And now only I come to the point I was really anxious to make clear. It is the question whether it would be detrimental to the Trade Unions if they acted in the spirit of Socialism, I deny its being detrimental. Upon what are based the powers of the Trade Unions to attract members ? Firstly, upon their system of mutual benefits and, secondly upon the character of a fighting organisation. Now the system of mutual benefits is such as to limit the power of the Trade Unions to attract members very considerably. By the offer of mutual benefits the Trade Unions reach but a small circle of the workers. That is proved by the position of Trade Unions in England. The benefits granted, the amount fixed for the same, and those for contributions, depend upon the wages of the contributors. The greater the amounts of benefit granted the more the Trade Unions get confined to such of the workers as may receive high wages. That is proved by the Trade Unions in England, which for the last ten years have been in a state of stagnation while the membership of the German Trade Unions has increased by leaps and bounds.

And why is that? The English workers themselves have recognised that. They have themselves said that the English Trade Unions are decaying because they have not the Socialists which should imbue them with the Socialist spirit. What is the difference between the English working-class movement and the German ? The English working-class movement has the benefit system much better organised than the German workers have, because there is no State Insurance in England, and in spite of the superior benefit system the English Trade Unions are in a state of stagnation. In England we have the neutrality of the Trade Unions, they are lacking Socialist principles and that proves that, it is Socialism which has caused the progress of the German Trade Unions. Socialists have founded the German Trade Unions, Socialists are its administrators, and it is the Socialists who have imparted to these Unions the vigour they possess. No party in Germany commands such respect as the Socialist Party. The German Socialist Party is the representative of all the exploited—of all men and women who are up in arms against the present system of exploitation. And the free Trade Unions may show themselves ever so free and neutral, yet they are regarded by the mass of the people to he Socialist. That is fortunate for the Free Trade Unions, for the entire confidence which the mass of the people bestow upon the Socialist Party they also place in the Trade Unions and that constitutes the main strength of the Trade Unions. If we push that more in the future we shall only increase the power of attraction of the Trade Unions. With the power of attraction is closely related the Party discipline. If we create a class of comrades for whom that discipline does not exist: we only weaken what is the strongest lever of the class-struggle of the proletariat, which is the greatest help to the Trade Unions themselves. We must under all conditions insist upon Party discipline. The Trade Unions will not fare badly upon observing it. The Socialist Party has never passed a Resolution which has injured the Trade Unions or hampered their agitation. After all only such affairs come here into question which enter the sphere of the Trade Unions as well as that of the Party ; but if once the case should arise that the Trade Unions should feel themselves injured in their own sphere by a Resolution of the Party, that could only be if the Trade Unions place the particular interests of their members higher than the common interest, and then we should so much more insist upon the common interest being placed higher and that it should prevail. I point to France where for a time a number of comrades were permitted to stand outside Party discipline. When Millerand became Cabinet Minister it was declared :— A Cabinet Minister acts under such peculiar conditions that he stands outside Party discipline. That created the category of a comrade on leave for whom the Party discipline does not exist. And soon, also, the members of Parliament took a fancy to that position. They, too, were averse to standing under Party discipline. Finally, also, their constituents declared that there was no need for themselves being obedient to discipline with the result that the solidarity of the Party was with the greatest difficulty sustained by various amputations and by the expulsion of 18 members of Parliament from the Party. This example should be a warning to us. We must under no circumstances permit that a special class of comrades be created who are given a discipline of their own. I admit that a comrade who is at the same time a Trade Unionist may experience a serious conflict of conscience ; but we want to make that impossible by seeing to it that Party and Trade Unions, Party Congress and Trade Union Congress may equally be possessed of the Socialist spirit. What my addendum demands is already being practised in Germany in a number of towns where the members of the Party are zealously active in the Trade Unions as for instance in Hamburg and just there the relations are most harmonious. There the Party as well as the Trade Unions thrive. The addendum contains by no means a declaration of war against the Trade Unions, on the contrary it aims at creating a basis upon which alone successful and uniform action of the Party and Trade Unions together could be made possible.”

Answers to Correspondents. (1906)

From the November 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fred W. Tod.—Had hoped to print and deal with your letter in this issue but pressure prevents. Both letter and answer wait but for the psychological moment !

W. S. Jerman.—Your letter is largely a reiteration and contains no new point of importance. If you have any material criticism to offer we will be pleased to deal with it. But always remember that brevity is a sign of grace in a correspondent. You might easily have compressed your five pages into one and the matter would have benefited by the attention. Your desire to speak the truth only is laudable, but, unless you wish us to think it exceptional, hardly worth mentioning. We credit all our correspondents with the same desire. However, keep the desire alive and vigorous. It will help you to admit your error frankly (on points of journalistic method for example) when you know better.

Correspondence: Is Society an Organism? (1906)

From the November 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

[To the Editor, The Socialist Standard.]

Dear Comrade,—It is affirmed by Socialists and others that Society is an organism. If this be true it is evident to me that the reforming or evolutionary Socialist is right when he contends that Socialism can evolve from, and grow up side by side with, Capitalism. For, if human Society is an organism it must be governed by the same evolutionary laws that govern the human being and must be in itself at least as complex as man.

A child born of human parents grows up under their care, is tended by them, evolves to manhood or womanhood and eventually takes the place of its parents in the perpetuating process. Therefore, if society is an organism, we must look to Socialism, as the offspring of Capitalism, to follow the same lines as to both birth and development. That is to say, Socialism, born of its parent Capitalism, must evolve to maturity, side-by-side with, and under the care of, Capitalism, which it will finally supplant in the perpetuation of Society.

If Society is an organism, such a process appears to me not only possible, but inevitable, for an organism must act in accordance with the organic laws of its nature.

By the way, I do not know, when an infant society-organism is born, whether the old society stands merely as mother (in which case I wonder where the father may be found), or whether it serves in the dual capacity of both mother and father.

The analogy of the birth of a child as used by Kautsky, does not apply to the question under discussion. The birth of a child, which he terms a revolution, does not kill the parents (occasional exceptions in the case of the mother recognised) who, as we see, go on living and tending the child to maturity. The birth of Revolutionary Socialism, not as an idea, but as a living entity, would most certainly kill its parent Capitalism. Consequently were Socialism an organism the day of its birth by revolution would be the day of its death, for by analogy, and as an infant society organism, it would require a parent society to take care of it.

Though I have studied the question for some years, I have hitherto been unable to find an atom of evidence to prove that Society is any more of an organism than the Milky Way, a herd of cattle, or a field of cabbage. The word “man” suggests an organism; the words “a society of men” suggests to me a number of these organisms, all of similar organic structure, not an intangible organism arising from their association.

Again reminding you that human Society to be an organism must be as complex and contain the same organic parts as its individual members, I will ask, to where in Society can you point and say, “There are the brains of Society, there are the lungs of Society, there is the heart of Society,” and so on.

We know that in Society a deadly struggle has been waged for centuries. What would be the result to any organism that was continually at war with itself? Complete and utter destruction, and no other organism could arise from its ashes, for it would die long before it reached maturity. The fight that takes place in Society is between organism and organism, not between organic parts of the same organism.

In Society there are two chief parts, sections or classes warring against each other. By Socialists this conflict is termed the “class struggle.” But this is not all. These two sections known respectively as the capitalist and working classes, are again further divided and sub-divided until they practically come down to units, each unit fighting desperately against his fellow unit.

I do not know what part of the organism the capitalist represents, but he is fiercely fighting the rest of his own organic division in addition to the working-class section. The working-class part of the organism is engaged in precisely the same game, so that a raging, tearing cross action amongst the individual cells of the organism is ever in progress.

But, and here comes the funny part of the matter, when the class interests of the Capitalists are threatened by the attitude of the working-class section the capitalist units band themselves together for defensive purposes.

That an organism should be divisible into two classes, that it should possess class-interests, or that a fractional part of the organism should be able to maintain any interest whatever apart from the welfare of the rest of the organism, is to me extremely comical. But if in spite of this, Society is an organism, the fact that the capitalist part of it know how to defend their interests would appear to show where the brains of the organism are situated.

But where in the whole of nature may be found an organism the organic parts of which are all of similar structure ? Where is the organism that ruthlessly and unceasingly kills off its organic parts and still waxes stronger and stronger?

Where in nature may be found the animal organism in which, say, one third part doing no useful work in the economy of that organism, grows sleek and fat and is able to keep the other two-thirds, which do all the necessary work, unnourished and undeveloped ?

Where in nature is to be found the vegetable organism, a third part of which, doing nothing useful in that organism, receives the greater portion of the sap, and the other two-thirds, drawing all the sap from the roots, die for lack of nourishment ?

Such monstrosities are to be seen only in nightmares.

We all know that the part of an organism which does not take its proper share in the work of supporting the organism is the part that is undeveloped and uunourished. The reverse is the case in Society.

How then can Society be said to even resemble an organism in any particular.

If my reasoning is unsound, if Society is an organism, then I repeat, the position of the Socialist who asserts that Socialism may be and must be brought a bit at a time is logically unassailable, for that position is strictly in harmony with organic law. The complex animal organism, born of another complex animal organism must in its infancy be attended to, and for a longer or shorter period grow up beside its parents ; otherwise it will perish. Therefore, if Socialism is to be born in natural order from Capitalism, the child must live under the care of its parent, or some other similar organism ; which, of course, does not exist.

Socialists appear to be oblivious of the fact that the social revolution for which they are working will be something entirely unique in the world’s history ; though the revolutionary sections are conscious it will require unique efforts to bring it about. Thereby, from the point of view I have laid down, showing that their belief is not in harmony with their base.

Despite all beliefs to the contrary, a new Society has never been born in tlie whole of the recorded history of civilisation. The infant, Private Ownership, saw the light many centuries ago, and the effects of all revolutions so far have been to change his appearance : to win for him the right to wear a new suit of clothes : to wax his moustache or part his hair in the middle. That is absolutely all that previous revolutions social, and, political, have accomplished.

But though Private Ownership is dressed in a different fashion, though he has substituted the frock coat and the tool of industry for the armour and the sword, he is still the same individual in essence as he was on the day of his birth. The storm and stress of the centuries have left their mark upon him, but there’s life in the old boy yet, and the numbers of his loyal supporters are as the sands of the sea shore.

Putting metaphor aside, various forms of Society have evolved from their predecessors because they grew from the same base—individual ownership in the means of life. But I submit, it is as absurd to expect collective ownership to evolve directly from private ownership as it would be to expect an acorn to evolve directly into a beech tree. Both the oak and the beech are trees, but they evolve from different bases, and neither can evolve into the other, unless, it may be, by the passage of a long period of time. If the oak is to grow in the ground now occupied by the beech, then the beech must be uprooted before the oak can be planted.

Here we touch upon the essential difference between evolution and revolution, as the latter word is used and understood by Socialists; but as that is not the subject with which we are now dealing, it must be left to another occasion.

I trust I have now said sufficient to show how much depends upon the question as to whether Society is, or is not, an organism. Upon demonstrable proof, one way or the other, hinges the possibility of Socialist unity.

Not only that. If it is proved as I think it may be that the term is merely figurative, then it will be seen that such a base is not the right one upon which to build a scientific thesis, and in consequence, many concepts arising from its assumed truth will have to be reconsidered or abandoned. If the proposition is proved correct, then I, for one, will most readily accept the proof, even though in the process my reasoning faculties are twisted out of shape.

The vital importance I conceive to be attached to this question must be my excuse for the length of this epistle.
—Yours fraternally,
H. Philpott Wright

The “Clarion” and the S.P.G.B. (1906)

From the November 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Clarion poses as an exceedingly fair paper. It will allow the other side a show. It will even appoint an editor from the other side to supervise the contributions of champions of that side. This is very fair play. It is magnanimity. It removes all suspicion of partial editing by an opponent of the other side. It encouraged me to write to the Clarion.

I did not ask for a special editor. I asked for a hearing. I trusted the Clarion to give me that—the Clarion being an exceedingly fair paper.

It arose in this way. The Clarion’s vanner, Bramley, had reported on his work at Tottenham, and had referred to the local S.P.G.B. as particularly vigorous. This did not appear to suit the humour of the Tottenham I.L.P. In the next issue a Mr. Pedley, of the Tottenham I.L.P., wrote disparagingly of the local S.P.G.B. Therefore I asked the Editor of the Clarion to allow me a word.

The Editor had been complaining that some Socialists didn’t preach Socialism ; that they wasted time on things that didn’t matter ; that they were not using their opportunities to dispel working-class ignorance. I thought the Editor would be glad to know of a party that preached Socialism only, that never wasted its time on things that didn’t matter ; that used all its opportunities to dispel working-class ignorance.

Besides, the Party had been attacked by a Tottenham I.L.P’er. That alone, I thought, would have given me a claim to a hearing the Clarion being a fair paper. So I wrote.

"The Editor replied, “Sorry, no room.”

Now if the Editor wanted to dispel working-class ignorance through the Clarion, and wanted to keep out as much as possible of that matter which would not dispel working-class ignorance, but rather increase it, the reply “no room” was not true. There was plenty of room, and it was filled with what the Editor himself would be obliged to confess was piffle from the point of view of one endeavouring to dispel working-class ignorance. From that point of view, I submit, my letter was of far more importance.

Why then was the letter not published ? I hope I am not unfair, but I can only conclude that the Clarion is more concerned with increasing its circulation than with increasing enlightenment. Its fairness is, therefore, only extended to those who can help sell the paper. Its magnanimity is for those who, in addition to helping sell the paper, haven’t got a case—those whose arguments the Clarion Editor boasts he can “smash like an egg.” All the evidence points that way, anyhow.

The S.P.G.B. is a small party. It wouldn’t sell many Clarions even if its spokesman did get a show. The I.L.P, is a large party. It can sell a lot of Clarions. Therefore I.L.P. must have a hearing.

Of course, the Clarion can do what it likes in such cases. Its staff have got to live. And they must sell Clarions therefore. But I hope the Clarion will not again parade its fairness.

My letter was headed :


and read as follows :

Sir,—Mr. Pedley, of the Tottenham I.L.P., has written to correct Vanner Bramley. I write to correct Mr. Pedley. The bone of contention is the S.P.G.B. I am a member of that party and know that in his references to us he is wrong. Perhaps he won’t believe it but he is.

The S.P.G.B, does not exist, to blackguard Mr. Pedley’s leading men. It exists to do precisely what Mr. Pedley says he desires it should do. It devotes itself entirely to preaching Socialism.

In your last issue Robert Blatchford writes : “Some years of more or less strenuous or casual thinking and observation have convinced me the great enemy is ignorance.”

That is our conclusion also. The question we have to consider is how best we may combat ignorance.

Mr. Pedley’s belief is that the I.L.P. is doing the work best. I conclude so from the fact that he belongs to it.

The S.D.F. member holds his organisation to be the best.

We think that both S.D.F. and I.L.P. are confusing elements whose work contributes to that working-class ignorance which we all profess to desire dispelled. Therefore we exist as a separate organisation.

Which of the parties mentioned is justified ?

We are all concerned with the realisation of Socialism. We all agree that Socialism is the only way for the workers. We all want Socialism as quickly as possible.

Therefore the question of the best method of dispelling working-class ignorance as the necessary preliminary to the realisation of Socialism is the question for first consideration.

We are prepared to vindicate our position as against S.D.F or I.L.P. in public discussion before the working class we seek to enlighten. If I.L.P. or S.D.F. can shew us we are wrong we are quite ready to vacate our platform and go over.

I know of no better way of proving our sincerity. Does Mr. Pedley ?

Let me in a few words outline the position. We want to dispel working-class ignorance. We want the working class to understand why Socialism is the only remedy for poverty and insecurity and misery. Therefore we prove the unalterable antagonism of interest between working class and capitalist class under present conditions and the futility of anything short of Socialism to materially affect working-class unhappiness.

If we prove to the working class the conflict of interest between them and the capitalist class, we make clear the uselessness of the appeal to capitalist representatives which so many professing Socialists encourage.

If we prove the futility of anything short of Socialism to affect the workers as a class, we prevent waste of working-class energy upon palliative programmes. We prevent the inevitable disappointment that comes when, palliatives realised, the position of the working class remains the same. We prevent the apathy bred of that disappointment.

We hold, therefore, that the duty of a Socialist party is to preach Socialism only. We hold that the only justification for the existence of a Socialist party is in its propaganda of the insufficieny of anything less than Socialism. We hold that it exists because the reform parties which preceded it, and which still exist, are not good enough.

And because Socialism only is sufficient we hold that any professing Socialist who enlists working-class energies in useless and wasteful and disappointing palliative movements, not only vacates his Socialist position, but is, unconsciously perhaps, working harm to the working class. The workers of harm to the working class are working-class enemies.

We hold and prove the S.D.F. and I.L.P. to be such parties. In producing our evidence it is inevitable that we make personal references. Mr. Pedley objects to these personal references because they embody adverse criticism of his leaders. He wouldn’t mind if they were criticisms of the Balfours and Chamberlains. Why ? Because the B’s and C’s are working-class enemies. But we hold that the men who, ostensibly engaged in the interests of the working class, confuse working-class thought by association with capitalist representatives in movements for the realisation of objects that don’t matter, are greater working-class enemies than the B’s and C’s.

The S.D.F. and I.L.P. agree as to this when the individual on the rack is a man like Burns. Yet their own leaders are doing precisely the same thing and doing it, moreover, with the sanction and approval of the members of their organisations. The arrangement between Liberalism and the I.L.P. at Leicester which resulted in Ramsay MacDonald’s return and Ramsay MacDonald’s association’ with Brunner in the House is one ease in point. The support of Masterman (Liberal) by Hunter Watts (S.D.F.), of Percy Alden (Liberal) by Will Thorne (S.D.F.), the relegation of Socialism to a secondary or even lower position or its obliteration altogether, by L.R.C. candidates, are others. Any number of further instances are set out in our Manifesto.

For taking a consistent line; for making our actions square with our propaganda, we are, if you please, dubbed by Mr. Pedley’s Gilbertian leaders “impossiblists,” placed without the pale !

I suggest it would be better for our objectors to listen to our “vigorous ” speakers at Tottenham and elsewhere. It would be fairer to read our literature and discuss debatable points with us. So, we may arrive at the truth, which I am quite sure will discover us to Mr. Pedley and his friends as not quite the “impossiblists” he seems to imagine we are. And it may be that he will find that, so far from our refusing to do “practical” work (a blessed word that “practical”) we are, in preaching Socialism only—which is quite as easy of understanding to the working class as the dubious benefits of the Second Ballot, Payment of Members, and the rest of the pottering futilities beloved of the one-step-at-a-time-and-the-smaller-the-better “Socialists”—doing the only thing we can do, the only thing that matters, the only thing that can produce satisfactory results.

If Mr. Pedley can suggest anything more “practical” from a Socialist’s point of view, he can let our “vigorous” Tottenham comrades know. They will be glad to hear from him.

And finally,—it is not a great point but as Mr. Pedley has inferentially introduced it, it may as well be referred to—if the membership of the Tottenham S.D.F. is lumped together wilt the Tottenham I.L.P., the result would still require multiplication before it would approximate to the strength of the Tottenham S.P.G.B. We are a small organisation, but unfortunately for Mr. Pedley’s irony, we happen to be strong at Tottenham. —Yours etc.,
A. J. M. Gray

Some publications. (1906)

From the November 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Messrs. Watts inform us they are publishing as a sixpenny reprint Hume’sHuman Understanding” and “Principles of Morals.” Also in the R.P.A. Extra Series Mr. Chilperic Edwards’s version of the Hammurabi Code under the title of “The Oldest Laws in the World.” Another sixpenny deals with “Socialism: its Fallacies and Dangers,” and is contributed to by some of the ablest writers in the Individualist Movement. We do not know who these “ablest writers” will turn out to be, but we are sure their views of the “Fallacies and Dangers” of Socialism will be interesting. These latter seem to comprise one of the principal dishes in the literary menu of those who, we suppose, would fain secure recognition as able—if not the ablest—writers in the individualist movement, but we confess that the result of the effort to combat the arguments which the exponents of Socialism have at command have not perturbed us hitherto. We trust that they will not serve us up a rehash of the ancient mixture with which we are so familiar. Enough is as good as a feast.