Friday, May 31, 2024

Letter: Min or max? (2024)

From the 30th May 2024 issue of the Weekly Worker

Mike Macnair tries to argue that Karl Marx “advocated, wrote and defended the revolutionary minimum programme” (‘Minimal symmetrical errors’ Weekly Worker May 23). Marx certainly had no objection to a socialist workers’ party having a programme of immediate demands, but he wasn’t so illogical as to describe these as “revolutionary”.

A “revolutionary minimum programme” is in fact a contradiction in terms. The “immediate demands” (the term used in the 1880 programme of the French Parti Ouvrier) that constituted the minimum programme of the pre-World War I social democratic parties were all measures to be implemented within capitalism, even if (some of them) would strengthen the hand of the working class in the class struggle. Only the maximum programme can be described as revolutionary.

Mike Macnair argues (not very convincingly, since in practice the emphasis was placed on the social and economic, rather than political, “immediate demands”) that the essence of a minimum programme is a demand for complete - “extreme” - political democracy. He describes this as “revolutionary”, as it makes it easy, even inevitable, for the working class to win political control. But this, of course, presupposes a socialist-minded working class. It is the absence of this, not of “extreme democracy”, that is currently the barrier to socialism - as a society of common ownership and democratic control of the means of living, with production directly to satisfy people’s needs, not for profit.

In any event, it would take as much time and energy to get the working class to organise and vote for “extreme democracy” as it would to get them to organise and vote for socialism.

It is true that some degree of political democracy does make it easier for the working class both to organise for socialism and to wage the trade union struggle, but it doesn’t need to be perfect or “extreme”. In countries like Britain is it really necessary to set aside the revolutionary, maximum programme to demand, for instance, the abolition of the monarchy as a step towards “extreme democracy”?

The limited political democracy that exists today is enough to enable a socialist-minded working class majority to transform universal suffrage - in the words of the maximum programme of the Parti Ouvrier, “from the instrument of deception that it has been until now into an instrument of emancipation” - by using it to win political control and introduce socialism, including full democracy. This should be the “immediate demand” of socialists, not a list of reforms to capitalism, whether attractive or not. It’s what socialists today should be campaigning for, not chasing reforms.
Adam Buick 
Socialist Party of Great Britain

Letter: Never understood (2024)

From the 30th May 2024 issue of the Weekly Worker

Mike Macnair makes the point: “What full communism will look like will depend on choices made over decades by the working class ruling on a global scale. The minimum programme is a programme for working class rule right now. It is for this reason that it combines a platform for political democracy with some economic measures - ones that are immediately posed.”

I have never really understood how anyone seriously interested in promoting the idea of a communist (aka socialist) alternative to capitalism can make this sort of argument. Never mind what Marx may or may not have said. Marx was fallible, as are we all, and there is enough of an unhealthy tendency to invoke the ‘argument from authority’ as it is when it comes to quoting Marx in leftwing circles. All that is needed is a bit of basic common sense and logic.

Look, we can all surely accept the premise that capitalism as a socioeconomic system can only really be run and managed in one way - in the interests of capital. As ‘Marxists’ we can all surely agree that capitalism´s driving force - the competitive accumulation of capital out of surplus value - is absolutely dependent on the systemic exploitation of a majority working class by a tiny class that owns and controls the means of production in de facto terms.

But here’s the point - the very existence of these (capitalist) class categories - implies the existence of this exploitative system of capitalism. Consequently, arguing for a “minimum programme” based on “working class rule” (moreover, “over decades” and “on a global scale”) is in effect arguing for the retention of an economic system that requires the existence of this class as the object of a process of exploitation. In effect, it is proposing that the slaves should continue to be slaves, while being in charge of a system that can only be administered in the interests of the slave-owners.

This is simply not credible. One can sort of understand why Marx and Engels felt the need to resort to such logically dubious concepts as the “dictatorship of the proletariat” back in the mid-19th century. Objectively speaking, communism was not on the cards. Hence their advocacy of the 10 state-capitalist reforms in the 1848 Manifesto to help grow the productive forces (though they later distanced themselves from these reforms, as can be seen if you read the 1872 preface to the Communist Manifesto).

But we don’t live in the year 1848. Today, we live in 2024. We don’t need the forces of production to be “further developed” to establish a communist society, What accounts for the persistence of poverty is not the fact that we don’t have the technological capacity to make communism completely feasible. On the contrary, material deprivation continues only because we allow capitalism to continue.

Capitalism has become the most grotesquely wasteful socioeconomic formation in human history, with the majority of its human and material resources being devoted solely to keeping the money system ticking over on its own terms. This in itself represents a truly massive diversion of resources away from meeting human needs and it will continue for as long as we allow the capitalist buying-and-selling system to continue,

This is why I find all this talk of transitional societies and minimum programmes so archaic and off-putting. It’s not at all relevant to the world we live in today. The transition period is what we are living through now. It is not something we need to initiate, once a communist majority has politically captured the capitalist state - and set about immediately abolishing that state, along with the system that necessitates it. Surely, at that point - if it ever happens - all this would be pretty much universally understood by everyone.

The only remaining precondition we need to fulfil in order to establish a communist society is the realisation of communist consciousness on a mass scale. At the end of the day, the SPGB is completely correct in emphasising this. It is a thankless and difficult approach that it has adopted and one that routinely prompts the scorn of others, but, at the end of the day, it is the only approach that makes any sense. If you want a communist society you have to advocate it and spread the idea. What else is possibly required?

Advocating a minimum programme in this day and age is a sure-fire way of setting yourself up for failure and mass working class disenchantment, with a so-called working class government having been put in power to implement this programme. Any government that tries to take on the administration of a system that is intrinsically predicated on the exploitation of the working class will inevitably transmogrify into a capitalist government.

Surely as materialists, we can all accept this all-too-obvious point?
Robin Cox 

Socialist Sonnet No. 150: General Election (2024)

From the Socialism or Your Money Back blog 


General Election

The prime minister’s been to the palace,

As the royal prerogative’s involved,

The monarch declared parliament dissolved.

And then there began the unseemly chase

For votes; promises made that can’t be kept

To enhance general prosperity,

While maintaining stringent austerity;

Just mark your cross and passively accept.

Even the best of intentions must fail,

Left, right or centre put on a good show,

But whoever wins most certainly knows

Capital’s priorities will prevail.

Then, when a new government’s been arranged,

Whether red, yellow or blue, nothing’s changed.

 D. A.

Is Society an Organism ? (1906)

From the December 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

The question of Socialist policy is raised in a new manner by Mr. Philpott Wright in a letter which appeared in the last issue of this journal. He, it appears, does not agree that Society is an organism, and even asserts that should Society be found to be an organism in fact, then the policy of the revolutionary Socialist must in consequence be wrong. Now, Mr. Wright’s attitude, as I shall endeavour to show, is based on several curious misapprehensions both of the nature of Society and of the essentials of an organism.

An organism defined.
In the first place, in order to decide whether Society is an organism or not, it is necessary to know the essential characteristics of an organism, and the following, I think, fairly defines them. To be an organism, Society must grow, that is, combine external material with its own substance; it must also have some degree of involuntary, necessary, interdependence or cohesion between its essential parts or mass ; it must possess incipient or advanced differentiation of function between its parts ; and, above all, it must possess the quality of life, or change and development due to the influence of its environment and to the reaction of its own expansive energy, in other words, it must possess the faculty of the “adjustment of the internal relations to external relations.”

The social organism fulfils all these requirements, and though the highest types of human Society may be indefinite as compared with the human body, yet they are much more definite than many low forms of organic life. To enumerate briefly Society’s organic attributes, we find that individuals in Society are necessarily and involuntarily interdependent, for shelter, for defence, and for food; indeed, without this organic interdependence, modern aggregations, from the savage pack to civilised society, would be utterly unable to exist in the land they now occupy. We find that differentiation of function, itself mainly involuntary, is represented by the highly complex division of labour which has grown up in the production of the necessaries of life. Class division and class rule are, in their inception, also the outcome of this division of labour ; in the earlier stages chiefly to provide the necessary stability, order, and military defence, demanded by the continued production of the material necessities of life ; in later stages to provide also the political or social order essential to the expansion and development of the prevailing methods of producing wealth. The social organism, we find, also lives and grows, it increases in size and complexity, it adapts itself to the changes in its environment, to the altered conditions resulting from its increasing size and growing needs, and to the influence of other social organisms. Society, then, is undoubtedly an organism.

The confirmation of authority.
Mr. Wright, however, makes the astonishing statement that he has ”studied the subject for some years” and has “been unable to find an atom of evidence to prove that Society is an organism.” He also asks “how can Society be said to even resemble an organism ?” Herbert Spencer’s work in this connection is too voluminous to be detailed here, but summaries of his conclusions are reproduced in even elementary handbooks which no genuine student could ignore. Space forbids the quotation of the whole of Professor Hudson’s summary of Spencer’s parallelisms between individual and social organisms, but for Mr. Wright’s benefit I epitomise the main points.

Both societies and individual organisms insensibly augment in mass, and assume during growth a continually increasing complexity of structure. In the early stages of a society as in an undeveloped individual organism, there is scarcely any mutual dependence of parts, and both gradually acquire a mutual dependence that becomes at last so great that the life of each part is made possible only by the life and activity of the rest. In each also, the life and development of the whole organism are independent of, and far more prolonged than, the life and development of any of its component units, who severally are born, grow, reproduce and die, whilst the body politic composed of them survives many generations, increasing in mass, completeness of structure, and functional activity.

Herbert Spencer and others have so firmly established the fact of the organic nature of Society that one is surprised to find it brought into question. Indeed, to deny that Society is an organism is to fall back upon the exploded ideas of the physiocrats, of Locke, and Rousseau, who regarded Society as a voluntary association founded upon a purely imaginary “state of nature.”

The misunderstanding of the nature of an organism under which Mr. Wright labours, is made plain when he says: “human society to be an organism must be as complex and contain the same organic parts as its individual members.” To take only the type of organism recognised in his letter, the human body, that is entirely composed of cells. It is indeed a colony of cells which have in the course of evolution attained their present functional differentiation. Each individual cell does not reproduce the same complexity, nor does it contain the same organic parts, as the human body in its entirety. Obviously, then, Mr. Wright is wrong. The assumption that the structure of an organism as a whole must be reproduced in its every unit crops out again in his query : “Where in Society can you point and say, there are the brains, there are the lungs, and there is the heart of Society.” Apparently he refuses to believe that Society is an organism because he cannot see its feet !

Unwarrantable assumption.
From one unwarranted assumption Mr. Wright is led to another, for he assumes that the necessary episodes in the development of the individual human being must be literally reproduced in the social organism in the form of motherhood, rearing of the “baby society,” etc. That the material basis of the new social form must be completely developed or prepared under the old social order itself, was clearly shown in the long quotation from Marx given by T. A. Jackson in a previous controversy. But it is, above all, evident that while all organisms conform to fundamental evolutionary laws, yet each particular organism has also its own lines of development due to its own peculiar conditions. Hence the development of the social organism will not necessarily proceed on all fours with the development of any individual organism whatsoever. The way Society developes depends upon its own peculiar conditions, internal and external.

In view of these facts the whole of Mr. Wright’s argument falls to the ground, for he has assumed that Society, if an organism, must develope in the same way as the human body; when he should instead have studied the peculiar nature of the social organism, and from an examination of its economics and history have traced the laws of development peculiar to it. The question as to whether the reformer or the Socialist is right in his policy does not depend upon Mr. Wright’s conception of an organism at all, but upon whether the position of the revolutionary Socialist is, or is not, in accord with the facts of Society’s growth and structure. If the Socialist analysis of Society and History is correct, then, whether Society be called an organism or a plum pudding makes not the slightest difference in the result.

Though professedly revolutionary, Mr.Wright informs us (in italics) that “a new society has never been born in the whole recorded history of civilisation.” It is a moot point whether that is meant simply as a play upon the word “born,” or whether it is intended to convey the absurdity that only one form of political society has ever existed, and that (to adapt Mr. Wright’s metaphor) the French Republic, for instance, is but the society of Louis XVI “with its moustache waxed.” If he does not mean this, if he means by “society” in this case not solely the political and legal superstructure but the whole social organism, and that no new social organism has arisen during historic times, then he might have saved himself the trouble of writing, for every Socialist knows that in each case the various stages of the ever-changing methods of production, and the political revolutions to which their changes have given rise, and the new forms of exploitation and political societies of which these revolutions have been the starting points, have been episodes in the life history of one and the same social organism.

The argument amplified.
The inevitable double use of the word “Society” is, perhaps, the cause of confusion, for like many another word it has more than one meaning. In one sense it stands for the social organism in its entirety, in another it means solely the political and judicial superstructure as distinct from the gradually changing economic basis. The distinction may be made clear by a very homely illustration. The social organism may be compared with the common lobster in its outer skeleton or shell, while Society in the political sense may be likened to the shell alone, A useful function is performed by the shell in the life of the lobster, but as the animal grows the shell gradually becomes unsuited to it and impedes its further development. Now the shell, having outlived its usefulness, is shed so that the animal may continue to grow, and the new shell which is formed is suited to the next stage in the animal’s development. This casting of the shell occurs as often as the growth of the lobster requires it, and literally fulfils Mr. Wright’s demand for an organism which “kills off its organic parts and still waxes stronger and stronger.”

Society in the narrower sense is, then, the political and legal superstructure or shell of the social organism transformed or created by the class whose political control has been necessitated by the conditions of production of the material livelihood. Owing to the continuous development of the methods of wealth production and the changed social relationships thereby caused, the ruling class and the social order they have formed are gradually turned from forms of development of the economic forces into hindrances or fetters. At length economic conditions develope so far under the old society that they are ripe for, and necessitate, the change; then ensues a period of revolution, and the ruling class, having become functionless or worse, must give way to new control and interests in harmony with the new economic conditions and the further development of Society as a whole. This seizure of political power by a hitherto oppressed class is a revolution whether accomplished peaceably or the reverse, and sooner or later the whole political and legal superstructure, and the old property relations, undergo a transformation into a social order in harmony with the now paramount interests and conditions. A new society is born, and a further stage in the development of the productive forces is rendered possible by the destruction of the old legal and social forms which hindered their expansion and full use.

Manifestations of organic growth.
It being the nature of men and classes to cling to privilege and power until compelled to abandon them, it is evident that the class struggle is engendered by the very nature of the social organism, just as truly as the struggle of the crustacean to free himself from his outgrown shell is imposed by the laws of his organic being. Mr. Wright, therefore, is in error in supposing that the existence of internecine strife negates the social organism. No organism is entirely free from internal strife, but the higher in the scale of organisation and the healthier the organism, the more does strife become subordinate to the welfare of the whole.

In the wonderful social organism of the hive bee, which presents several striking analogies with humanity, we see a state of things very similar to that which Mr. Wright describes as a “monstrosity seen only in nightmares.” We see the working bees overworked, emaciated, and dying in hundreds in the struggle for existence. We see the drones, fat, and lazy, and fed by the workers. The function of the drones is to fertilise the queen bee, and their numbers and the food they consume are out of proportion to their usefulness, Until their function has been fulfilled, however, the gluttonous drones are tolerated ; but soon after the queen bee has been fertilised, at a period after the function of the drones has been fulfilled, the working bees drive out or exterminate the drones who have become functionless and unnecessary.

Mr. Wright attaches too much importance to the idea that evolution is solely a continuous and equable process. Herbert Spencer has, in his “Law of the Rhythm of Motion,” demonstrated the universal ebb and flow of life, and Professor De Vries, at Hamburg, pointed out that “plant and animal species remain for a long time unchanged ; some finally disappear, when they have become old and unfit for the conditions of life, which have in the meantime altered. Others are more successful, and, to use his very expression, ‘explode’ and give life to numerous new forms, of which some assert themselves and multiply, and others, which are unfit for the conditions of life, disappear.” Again, Professor Darwin, in his Presidential address to the British Association last year, stated that, “the physicist, like the biologist and the historian, watched the effect of slowly varying external conditions, he saw the quality of persistence or stability gradually decaying until it vanished, when there ensued what was in politics called a revolution.” He added that in biology they should “expect to find slight continuous changes occurring during a long period of time, followed by a somewhat sudden transformation into a new species, or by rapid extinction.”

The Revolutionary method justified.
The phenomenon of metamorphosis, the many examples of sudden change of method function which abound in nature, together with the opinion of many scientists, all show that revolution is part and parcel of the evolutionary process. But it should be borne in mind that in the natural sciences as well as is sociology, the period of more than usually rapid change that is called revolution, is in general primarily a change of function rather than a change of structure. Kautsky’s illustration of the birth of a child is intended to make that clear. This fact, together with the necessity for the revolutionary method in working-class politics, may be shown by an illustration drawn from Society itself.

The huge and complex machinery and methods of production which constitute a great trust can only be the outcome of a prolonged evolution or growth, but the huge trust itself may most easily be made to minister to the well-being of those who were formerly exploited by it, by it being taken over by the people at one blow. The idea of the trust being socialised piecemeal and gradually, item by item, is preposterous. With the socialisation of the trust, then, there occurs only a slight change in structure—but an entire change of function. But that is not all. Before this can occur, in order that the taking over by Society of the trust may really change its function from a means of profit to the capitalist into a means of well-being to the workers, it is necessary that Society be identified, not with the exploiters, but with wealth producers. Hence the necessity for the social revolution before all things, for only when the political power has been wrested from the now useless capitalist class can the political machinery and the economic forces developed under capitalism be transformed in function from instruments of exploitation and oppression into the means of life and happiness of a people.

I would like to have gone further, and to have shown how the nature and fuller development of the vast associated methods of production of to-day necessitate social organisation and democratic control, and how the great power of social production must render the existence of any functional governing class henceforth unnecessary by the liberation of the mass of mankind from the greater part of the toil of production; and how the great power of social production must render the existence of any functional governing class henceforth unnecessary by the liberation of the mass of mankind from the greater part of the toil of production; and how also the social organism with the attainment of Socialism approaches that stage of unity and organised directive intelligence and power which may fairly be called the attainment of social consciousness. But, like Mr. Wright, I am constrained to apologise for the length of my epistle, which already has far exceeded the modest limits I had at first assigned to it. Sufficient has, I think, been said to show at all events, that Mr. Wright’s objections to the reality of the organic nature of Society do not hold, being based on mistaken ideas of the essentials of an organism and of the nature of Society.
F. C. Watts

Editorial: Trusts and Soap. (1906)

Editorial from the December 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

It was the Liberal Star, mouthpiece of that great progressive, democratic, Liberal and Labour combination of which Mr. Lever is so distinguished a member, that hooted its horn gleefully because it was of opinion that Mr. Lever’s soap combine was undone—smashed by a great wave of popular and righteous Liberal-Labour indignation forcefully and fearlessly expressed out of a knowledge of the rascally rapacity of the capitalists who dominated the Trusts which are so emphatic a feature of American commercialism. The yankee Trust has had a most unhappy time of it, thinks the Star, in endeavouring to fix its tentacles upon British industry. The hard-headed practicability of sober-minded Englishmen is a guarantee of the invincibility of free and unfettered English commerce against the threatening advance of the monopolist market-riggers across the herring pond, even if it were not the fact (which of course it is) that the anti-protectionist policy of the great Liberal-Labour combination aforesaid was in itself a sufficiently insurmountable barrier. Trusts as is well known (in Liberal-Labour circles), are only the accompaniment—the necessary and inevitable accompaniment of production within a tariff ring.

The True Blue Variety.
Instead of which the English Sewing Cotton Trust has just absorbed the few sewing cotton manufacturers who until now have maintained a precarious and financially disastrous existence in competition with the trust which has been able, owing to its command of capital and its control of more highly organised and economical methods of production and distribution which command of practically unlimited capital gives, to show profits on its working of about three million pounds sterling per annum.

Then the tobacco manufacturers after a short, sharp fight with the American trust, found that their only way of escape was by combination, and as a result we have the Imperial Tobacco Co., a true blue British trust operating, not in opposition to its American fac simile, but hand-in-hand with it to control the British and American markets and avoid the waste of competition. Then we have the Wall Paper Trust, a most eminently respectable hall-marked product of merry England. The Railway Companies also, although not yet in the trust stage, are recognising the value of combination and are avoiding unnecessary expenditure over certain competitive routes by pooling receipts and so on.

The Evolution of Capitalist Combination.
It would almost seem that the Star chortle is only possible because of the Star’s stupidity. The Star has been so taken up with its efforts to scintillate that it has forgotten that it is not a celestial body far removed from mundane affairs but quite an earthy sort of a product, whose coruscations depend for success upon the measure of their power to reflect facts. And the facts are that unrestricted competition engenders waste which can only be avoided by combination. Competition goes on until the dwindling margin of profit warns the competitors that they are approaching an abyss. And the smaller the capital at their command the more rapid their approach to the abyss is. They perceive that the competitors who are offering best resistance, to the profit-ebbing tide are those whose larger capitals have enabled them to improve their machinery and perfect their methods so that for them production is cheaper. They have the advantage in competition. Then the smaller capitalist comes to himself and offers the bit of the market he can influence, to his larger competitor. He is swallowed up in a combination or if he is stubborn and stupid he is crushed out. The combination grows snowball wise until out of the tussle of interests emerges victoriously in free trade England or protectionist America—the trust.

Inevitable and Necessary.
The trust form of industry, therefore, is the outcome and the necessary product of the competitive form. It is the highest expression of capitalist production. It has eliminated waste. It produces economically in the least time and with a minimum of effort. It is the perfection of production. But it has in its growth developed something else. It has eliminated the capitalist director—the man who under the old competitive system performed some service at any rate in organising and supervising. He is now, perhaps, hundreds of miles from the seat of commerce; perhaps never sees the mill or the factory and is only concerned in them on dividend days. The direction and organisation of the business has passed into the hands of a managerial staff wage servants all. That is to say the whole process as such is now out of the control of the capitalist class and in the hands of the working or wage-earning class. They produce all wealth but as they do not own the machinery by which that wealth is produced, they do not own the wealth itself. Therein is an anomaly that cannot stand for long. Distribution is out of harmony with production. It cannot remain so. Directly the workers who produce recognise their position and their power they will restore the harmony by appropriating the product of their toil and—out goes the capitalist.

The Cry of Wolf !
All very simple. Curious the Star hasn’t seen it! Well, perhaps not so curious. Perhaps the Star does see it but wants to stave off the inevitable as long as possible by shouting wolf. But it won’t do. Trustification is inevitable and just as inevitable is the appropriation by the working class for their own use of the undertaking perfected by capitalism. Try as it may, capitalism cannot destroy that germ within itself which will presently outgrow the shell in which it is evolving to maturity. Then behold a revolution. Capitalism (production for profit) dead. Socialism (production for use) on its feet, established and secure.

As for Mr. Lever’s soap combine, it may of course happen that by vociferously crying wolf the Star and the Daily Mail and the rest of the organs may inspire a successful opposition to this particular organisation. They may even kill poor Mr. Lever of the great Liberal-Labour combination. But they will not kill the soap trust. That is going to happen. Whether it is Mr. Lever’s or not doesn’t matter. The trust’s the thing. “We’ve got to have it whether we like it or not” as the poet puts it.

Peace where there is no Peace.
Indeed, at the present moment there are indications that the free and independent firms who are outside the soap trust are forming themselves into a combine in order to combat the plaguy and malignant trust. In other words they are forming a trust of themselves to fight a trust of others than themselves. And in this delightful occupation it must be a great satisfaction to them to know that they have the sympathies of a trust-hating, hard-headed British nation and the active support of those champion “trust-busters” the Star and the Daily Mail ! We are a great people !

Editorial: Joy Unspeakable. (1906)

Editorial from the December 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

And so the Trade Disputes Bill has passed the faithful Commons and has every prospect of getting through the Lords unimpaired. And there is merry-making in the camp of Progress. The independent existence of the “Labour” Group is justified—the bill could never have passed had the Government not been whipped from the outside. The existence of the Liberal Labour Group is justified—the bill would have never had a chance if they had not been with in the councils of the Government to inspire them. The Liberal Government is justified—the bill would never have been introduced at all if it had not been for the well known sympathies of Liberalism with the aspirations—the genuine aspirations of Labourism. The Tory Party is justified—with astonishing magnanimity they withdrew their opposition at the last moment and their leader endorsed the bill with a blessing. Everybody satisfied. Everybody happy. And the lion is at rest beside the lamb.

Suspicious Unanimity.
Which, when one comes to think of it, is rather suspicious. Why this unanimity ? Why is it that Capital is giving Labour what Labour is asking for and that almost without a murmur ? The question permits of two answers. (1) Capital’s hands have been forced and it is therefore making what virtue it can of a necessity. (2) The bill isn’t material and doesn’t affect capitalist interests. The “Labour” Party, of course, accept the first view and they have some ground for their belief. But while not concerned to deny that for their own purposes the capitalist Liberal Party have preferred to accept with good grace rather than oppose the measure forced upon them (and in so doing have attached to themselves some sympathy and votes which would probably have been diverted from them had they refused to deal with the matter), this at any rate is beyond question—the bill does not hit their interests hard; it is not material. Had it been otherwise; had there been any vital matter at stake, not all the “Labour” Party horses nor all the “Labour” Party men—what there is of them.—could have compelled them to capitulate as they have done in the case under notice without a struggle and probably a bloody struggle at that.

A Great Victory—Investigated
What, after all, does the great victory amount to? It amounts in effect to practically no more than a reversion to the condition that Labour Unionism thought it was in up to the Farwell decision. It is a case of as you were—no more than that. Indeed, it is a famous victory. The working class can now, if they like, strike. They can peacefully persuade others to join with them. And the funds of the Union are not liable for unauthorised acts of Union members. But the strike is a feeble weapon and in the hands of class-unconscious workers, as most of those who use it are, absolutely useless except on very rare occasions. In a strike the capitalist class, because they own the means of living and control the wealth, can sit tight and smile. The striking workman consumes almost immediately what few resources he has and, with starvation glaring at him, submits or—goes under. Well. The bill permits him to keep on doing that; it permits the capitalist class to keep on starving the worker out. It simply doesn’t touch the economic interest of the exploiter and only in the remotest and infinitesimal way benefits the exploited. But it is a famous victory. Hooray !

A Look Round. (1906)

From the December 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the National Anti-sweating Conference held recently at the Guildhall, and opened by the Lord Mayor, Mr. Stephen Walsh, M.P., declared that, despite their powerful organisation, the Lancashire miners are in a worse condition to-day than they were in eighteen years ago !

* * *

During the Conference Mr. D. J. Shackleton, M.P., vigorously defended child labour, and appealed to the delegates to let Socialism alone and concentrate their energies upon “something practical.”

* * *

Mr. Shackleton is vice-chairman of the Labour Party in the House of Commons, lately called the L.R.C. Under its auspices various members of the S.D.F. and I.L.P. have run as “Labour” candidates, in order to get the financial support of affiliated trade unionists.

* * *

The Workmen’s National Housing Council, judging by its Seventh Annual Report, seems to be in a jubilant mood. There are affiliated sixty trade unions, without counting branches, forty-three trades councils, with a few other bodies. During the general election it issued a simple test question to all candidates and received a very large harvest of replies, many of them being very encouraging. Still more encouraging, we are told, is the fact that after persistent attention from the Council lavished on those members who promised to get financial aid for housing from the Imperial Exchequer, and the constant stirring up of ministers, the Government are now committed to the principle, and promise for rural England, Scotland, and Wales, something similar to the Irish Labourers’ Bill— cheap money and plenty of it—4¼ millions at 3¼ per cent. for inclusive money charges. This will be of great assistance when it is fulfilled, and the Council are on the point of asking far the moral support of every affiliated body to keep the Government up to the scratch next session ! That’s progress !

* * *

It will take something more than “moral pressure” to induce the capitalist class to do the only thing that will benefit the working class, viz., get off the workers’ backs.

* * *

The “test questions for candidates” is a favorite game of the reform politicians. Obviously if any body of men submit certain questions to candidates they must support the candidates who reply favorably and oppose those who do not. Thus we have the S.D.F. and I.L.P., through their affiliation to the National Workmen’s Housing Council, supporting capitalist candidates, whilst “in another place” declaring those candidates to be working class enemies.

* * *

The S.P.G.B. is out for the abolition of the capitalist system, not its patching up. It therefore wastes no time on so-called reforms, but aims straight for revolution.

* * *

In dealing with a complaint that tramway men often found their day of ten hours was spread over fifteen, Captain Hemphill at the L.C.C. said the facts were not as stated, but that the question was receiving the very careful attention of the Committee, who hoped to bring up a report at an early date. This really means, reading between the lines, that the “ten hours’ day” for tramway employees is another Progressive lie.

* * *

Captain Hemphill also said that the Council had recently spent a sum of £1,500 a year more than had been spent by the old companies, with a view of reducing inconvenience to the men.

* * *

Improvements in the means of transit tend to increase the ratio of exploitation of the workers, whether employed by the private trust, or the public monopoly form of capitalism. Drivers and conductors of modern electric tramcars are subject to a very much greater menial and physical strain than were those of the old horse cars, but their wages are practically the same, and even when higher, the increase is in no sense proportionate to their extra wear and tear. The same applies to motor bus and railway workers.

* * *

Mr. R. Bell, M.P., emphasised this in his Annual Report to the recently held Congress at Cardiff. During 1905, he said, the goods train mileage decreased by 400,000 miles in spite of an increase of 11,300,000 tons in goods carried. To have carried the goods traffic of 1905 under the conditions of 1900 would have required over 2,500 more engines and sets of men. Calculating four men to each engine—driver, fireman, cleaner, and guard—this would have meant an increased staff of at least 10,000 men in the running department alone. Instead of this he calculates that this increase in the volume of traffic has been conveyed with some 1,200 less engines and sets of men, for, as different railway chairmen have stated at half-yearly meetings, they have been enabled to take many of their older locomotives out of traffic, and the full number shown to be owned by the companies were not actually working. Thus the mental and physical responsibilities of the men generally have been vastly increased, and the firemen particularly, who have to shovel nearly double the quantity of coal on the large engines without any extra pay at all.

* * *

There was another paragraph in the Report which should be interesting to readers of the Socialist Standard. It relates to the men employed on the North Eastern Railway, and reads as follows:
“This movement on behalf of all grades was sanctioned by the Executive Committee in September, 1903, and the programme adopted by the men at a conference held at Darlington was duly forwarded to the company. Not much progress was made, however, until 1905, when as a result of interviews in March and July a few concessions were obtained for men working large engines and with heavy trains, together with an increased bonus for the East Coast men.

“The programme was still pressed, but further delay arose in consequence of changes in the chairmanship and managership. In April and May, however, the committee of the movement and myself had a ten days’ conference with the general manager and chief officials, and .also another day’s discussion with the general superintendent. The programme was fully discussed, in addition to a large number of grievances, resulting in substantial concessions being obtained for the men. The men’s delegate meeting, however, would not take the responsibility of accepting the terms offered, and decided to refer the matter to the branches concerned. The Executive Committee, therefore, requested the branches to arrange special meetings at which the North Eastern members should vote for or against accepting the terms. The result showed a majority of 802 against the terms, but as only a very small proportion of the men had voted the Executive Committee decided to accept the terms for the men, and to suggest to the company that, a conciliation board be formed. The company have this proposal under consideration at the present time.”
* * *

The italics are ours.

* * *

In the November issue of the “Journeymen Bakers’ Magazine” Mr. L. A. Hill returns to the subject of the Union’s 48 Hours Bill, which was dealt with in our October number. He said it was most essential that this Bill should be passed into law. Machinery had displaced and would continue to displace large numbers of men. Whereas there would be before the introduction of machinery work for five men, there was now only work for three. If the Bill was passed he estimated that it would find employment for some 5,000 men, and that it would be in a measure, a way of solving the unemployed question in the baking trade.

* * *

As we pointed out in October, the effect of a compulsory 8 hours’ day for bakers, however secured, would be to kill the small bakers and drive the trade into the machine bakeries, where the 8 hours’ day already obtains. It would thus tend to displace 2 men out of every 5, to use Mr. Hill’s figures, and would intensify instead of solving the unemployed question in the baking trade.

* * *

The “Daily Express” continues to expose the Fraud of Capitalism. In connection with Mr. Lever’s Soap Trust (I beg pardon—”economic amalgamation”) it said,
“The grocer of to-day is almost as much ‘tied’ as the publican who is managing a ‘tied’ house for a firm of brewers.

“He has practically ceased to be a free agent, and is becoming more and more of an automaton who is forced to hand out over the counter the ready weighed articles supplied by great trusts and powerful owners of proprietary articles.

“He has little or no share in the selection of the articles he is to sell, and can control neither the price he pays for them nor the price to the customer. He does not even have a chance to see the quality of the goods he sells or to weigh them. Certain sealed packets come to him and automatically he hands them over the counter.

“Acting on the instructions of one or other of the great firms who have selected him to sell their goods, he has occasionally to say that a certain article is ‘just as good’ as a different one desired by a customer, and to see that a customer does not buy the goods he first wanted.

“Twenty years ago a grocer was able to give his customers all they required, but now certain goods are pushed on him, and he in his turn has to force them on the public.”
* * *

Coming back to the “Daily Express,” this organ of Tariff Reform, which recently declared that the American workers, owing to protection, were exceedingly prosperous, made the following admissions in its issue of November 12, last:
“In spite of the wonderful surface prosperity, America is seething with discontent, and the party of the ‘have nots’ is a very real danger.

“The power of the trusts and the great business combinations has been growing rapidly. The small business man has been driven into the Bankruptcy Court in ever increasing numbers, and has considered himself lucky if he could secure a place as a salaried employee of the trust which absorbed his business. A generation ago most of the dwellers in American cities owned their own homes or looked forward to owning them. Now, they would laugh at the suggestion, and they bitterly resent the prospect of a lifetime as a rent-payer to some millionaire or real estate corporation.

“The working men, in spite of their nominally high wages, are bitterly discontented. Wages are not so high as they seem. The bricklayer who earns 24s. a day cannot depend on more than six months work in the year, as there are periods of two or three months in New York when no building can be done on account of the severe weather. The same rule applies to all the building trades, and to the lake and river transportation trades, and to those employed on the railways fed by the lakes and rivers. 
“In spite of all the nominal prosperity, New York has its unemployed problem every winter—not so acute as London’s problem, perhaps, but still a very serious problem.”
* * *

As we have so often pointed out, the working class is poor and the master class is rich all over the world, no matter what fiscal or other conditions obtain.
J. Kay

Municipal Election Notes. (1906)

From the December 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

The S.P.G.B. ran 12 candidates, 9 in Battersea and 3 in Wandsworth.

o o o

The Battersea results were, Latchmere Ward : Craske 117, Moody 117, Money 113 ; Winstanley Ward: Blewitt 57, Roe 49, Witcher 45 ; Church Ward: Greenham 93, Fawcett 88, Hunt 77.

o o o

The Wandsworth poll (Tooting Ward) was, Barker 94, MacManus 77, Dumenil 59. Of these 50 were plumpers, voting solidly for our candidates alone.

o o o

All the candidates fought on the Election Manifesto of the Party published in our October issue, a few of which were distributed in each ward. They had no program of ear-tickling, side-tracking, vote-catching “palliatives” and did no canvassing. The candidates were practically unknown and had not climbed into popularity on the backs of the working class, by posing as “leaders” of unemployed deputations, “right to live” councils, and similar confusionist conglomerations.

o o o

The defeat of the “Progressive” and Labour candidates in London was undoubtedly due to the fact that the promises they had so profusely made had not been carried out. The unemployed problem is still with us, slums are being created at a faster rate than they are being destroyed, the shopkeeper is being pressed more heavily each day between the trusts and the rising rates, and so the pendulum swung round.

o o o

Keir Hardie is reported to have said he regretted the defeat of the Progressives. Progressives are simply Liberals, and Mr. Hardie regrets their defeat ! Why did the I.L.P. help to secure it by running candidates?

o o o

The “Progressive and Labour” candidates in Battersea ran under the auspices of the Battersea Trades and Labour Council, which consists of various trade union branches, Liberal associations, Radical clubs, etc. Many of the T.U. branches are also affiliated to the L.R.C., and therefore, while working with the Liberals, subscribe with the ostensible object of fighting them.

o o o

In 1903, out of the 36 members elected to the Woolwich Council 28 were Labour candidates. This year only 13 Labour candidates secured seats. The Labour Party thus lose their control of the Council. As 72 per cent. of the electors voted it is obvious that the men who voted for the Labour Party at the last election and sent Will Crooks to the House of Commons have now voted for the Moderates. Why ? Because they have no guiding principle to work upon and Crooks, Hardie & Co. have been too much concerned about getting in to endeavour to implant it. Hardie says that the Labour Party have lost at Woolwich because of the Arsenal dismissals, but if the Labour Party had not given the electors to understand that these dismissals would cease and the unemployed problem would be solved if only the workers voted “labour” there would have been no disappointment and no reversal of the position. But you cannot ensure the continued confidence of the working class unless you play the game straight. There is no cure for the evils of capitalism except the abolition of capitalism. Tell the people that at all times and under all conditions, and, although it may take somewhat longer to gain their confidence and support, you will retain it when you have gained it.

o o o

Mr. George Belt, recently the paid organiser of the S.D.F. in Scotland, contested the Starch Green Ward of Hammersmith. He did not run as a Socialist, but under the auspices of the L.R.C. “Labour” was writ large all over his election address. He suppressed his membership of the S.D.F. and described himself as of the “Federated Builders’ Labourers.” But then, of course, it is one thing to be paid by the S.D.F., and another to be seeking the moral and financial support of trade unionists. This is a glaring instance of what the Pearson Paralyser called “The Fraud of Socialism,” but, as a matter of fact, it was only the Fraud of George Belt.

o o o

Our old friend, Free Maintenance, received a very severe twisting at the hands of S.D.F. candidates. Belt made no reference to it. Fulham S.D.F. candidates declared for State Maintenance, as did also those of Battersea, Islington, and parts of West Ham. Rogers and Wilkinson at Southend whittled it down to “The provision of at least one good meal daily to all scholars.” The Southwark men favoured free meals to all destitute children attending the public schools, whilst in Camberwell State Maintenance was boldly advocated. In Lewisham, however, it got back to “Free Meals for Necessitous Children.” It is quite evident that these people have not made up their minds about their beloved palliatives.

o o o

At Northampton the S.D.F. ran 6 candidates, but only one (J. Gribble) was successful. W. Pitts lost his seat. Gribble is their only representative now. Their total poll was 2,912. Last year it was 3,221 in the same wards,

o o o

After the poll A. G. Slinn said that the more revolutionary the candidate, the more disagreeable he was to the capitalists, the more likely was success. No man was more hated by the opposition than Gribble, yet he had been elected by a majority that struck terror into the hearts of the capitalists,

o o o

This was a little unkind to the other candidates.

o o o

Matters were somewhat complicated in Islington. The S.D.F. branches decided to run their candidates ”on their own,” apart from any other bodies. Two of their members, however, C. Cook and R. E. Jupp, were invited to run under the auspices of the Islington Trades Council, and after consultation with the E.C. of the S.D.F., accepted the invitation. They were expelled by the Islington branches of the S.D.F. and promptly joined another. There will be developments.

o o o
These two candidates were not only endorsed by the E.C. of the S.D.F., but were supported by such tried, trusted and true Revolutionists as W. T. Wilson, M.P., C. W. Bowerman, M.P., W. Steadman, M.P., A. Henderson, M.P., J. E. Gregory, and others. And still they did not win !

o o o

The Stratford S.D.F. ran J. A. Bassett in Park Ward, and J. Andrews in Broadway. Separate and greatly differing election addresses were issued by each. Andrews advocated the provision of free meals as is done in Paris, and Bassett was in favour of Free Meals, and, when necessary, of Free Clothing.

o o o

In South West Ham Ben Cunningham ran as a Socialist, but the S.D.F. refused to support him. J. Jones, A. Hayday, and other S.D.F. men backed a local official (a non-Socialist) of a powerful and wealthy trade union against him. Explanations, votes of censure, alarums and excursions are in the air !

o o o

One of the chief concerns of the I.L.P. candidates in East Ham was the cheaper burial of the dead. Said they, “The making of personal profits out of the dead is certainly anything but ethical. Our dead should be interred as cheaply as possible, and any profits accruing to go to the community.” So cheer up ! we’ll soon be dead ! and if only a sufficient number of us die quickly, why, look how the rates could be reduced !

o o o

Justice points out that its members in Burnley, who ran under the auspices of the L.R.C. all ran as avowed Socialists. It is somewhat amusing when a body, claiming to be Socialist has to draw attention to the fact that certain of its members ran as “avowed Socialists.”
Jack Kent

Doubts and Difficulties: Why We Oppose Other Parties. (1906)

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

Stanley Villa,
92, Duckett-road, Harringay. 

To the Executive Committee, S.P.G.B.

Gentlemen,—I am writing to you, to express my thoughts on a matter that has given me much food for reflection lately, and anxiety moreover that the cause may suffer. I put the question to Comrade Anderson the other night at Harringay, asking whether he “ignored the efforts of any Socialist not connected with the S.P.G.B.,” even though they may be successful in making class-conscious converts ; also whether he would help, or receive help from, them or not.

His reply was that the S.P.G.B. does not recognise any Socialist not connected with them.

That is pretty definite, but has it never occurred to you that that is a rather dogmatic position ? Can it be reconciled ? Now before we go any further let us understand one another.

I am a class-conscious Socialist, opposed to the two orthodox parties. I accept your Declaration of Principles as a sound basis of waging the class war. I have been instrumental in my small individual way, more or less of influencing others on those lines. There are hundreds of others also the same as myself.

Leaving out of the question for the present whether they belong to any party or not, the fact remains that the result to be achieved is the awakening of the proletarian mind, to which class they belong.

That being so then, it matters little how a man is converted, or by whom, so long as he understands Socialism, and can be relied upon to vote for a Socialist, and not a Liberal or Tory.

The one who taught him, and who was successful in converting him, may have been a member of any other Socialist organisation, or none at all, or he may have been converted in instalments, by different persons, members of different organisations and various unattached, each one contributing to the sum total of information and conviction.

In the face of possibilities like this, and it is a possibility, is it not absurd to ignore the efforts of anyone not connected with the S.P.G.B.? There are many such, totally ignorant of its very existence. There may be members of Socialist organisations who do not see the wisdom of forsaking their society and joining a new party, formed by their comrades, who, dissatisfied with certain tactics in the existing organisations, decide to do so, and wage war on the very parties under whose auspices they formerly carried on propaganda, and for whom they possibly secured many new members.

Just imagine the ridiculous position of a member of the S.D.F. of four years ago, for example, who is now a member of the S.P.G.B., turning round and denouncing the very members of the S.D.F. who may have been the means of his conversion, and some whom he may have converted, which members, moreover, are using the same arguments as he used, and is using, to convert others now.

What sense would there be in his saying:—”You’re no Socialist: you’ve been converted by the S.D.F., and the S.D.F. is not a Socialist party” ? Now, gentlemen, although you may have some reason for your actions and position, you will admit it looks very ridiculous in the eyes of the uninitiated and illiterate mob, such as were congregated around Anderson on the night in question, who, by the bye, were asking some of the most absurd questions, besides belching forth torrents of obscene invective, and giving me the depressing impression that progress seems almost impossible with such awful ignorance prevailing amongst the very class whom we rely upon to help us in the social revolution. And that is the very thing that should be most guarded against. Are not the opponents and the unthinking continually throwing that up in our teeth, that “they are a house divided against itself” and “that is the happy state of affairs that will accrue under Socialism,” etc.? Besides, where is this procedure likely to stop ? It is just possible that there will be members in your party, who will not agree with certain actions or tactics decided upon at a Conference in reference to trade unions, e.g.—and may kick over the traces of the S.P.G.B., and start yet another little band of “determined and vigorous revolutionists,” and they in their turn may also have a split, so that in the end there is a conglomeration of infuriated, over anxious sections flying at each other’s throats, and making the already existing confusion worse confounded.

I hope you see my point: pray don’t think I am going for you or bearing you any animosity. Far from it, I sincerely admire your little party, for the earnestness and pluck that is displayed, sometimes against such disheartening odds. My only object is to reason together for the good of the cause we have at heart. Every Socialist worthy of the name has the sincerest desire to do something for the realisation of his ideas; and if those ideas are Socialistically sound, who, pray, is in the superior intellectual sphere (otherwise than self appointed) to dictate as to whether he can correctly teach others ?

But you will say, “Oh, yes, so-and-so is a very good lecturer, but then he only does good from the standpoint of such and such a party.” Well, for the life of me I cannot see the reason for hostility on that account. I suppose if he were to deliver the same lectures from an S.P.G.B. platform he would be a fine chap, an able exponent, etc. It would seem that the party is the thing, not Socialism. Is he likely to make more converts on your platform ? Indeed, how do you know that he may not have been instrumental in converting some of your very members. In fact every member owes his conversion to an evolution of influence external to his party.

Surely you do not expect to get the whole of the proletariat converted, and members of your party by such means. Even if you maintain that the revolution can only be accomplished by every Socialist joining your ranks you will have to use the arguments of those parties you denounce to convert the “snobbishly” respectable wage slave residents of modern Suburbia forsooth : they cannot be converted by the same tactics or argument used in Lambeth or East Ham for instance.

That is why I for one contend that a united party is neither practical nor desirable at present, when a person is not allowed to think or say what he or she conscientiously believes, but must rigidly adopt a party ticket, they are more likely to remain hostile. But if they can they can be approached through sentimental channels, their prejudices may be overcome, their sympathy aroused, and finally their enthusiasm gained. Thus a much broader field of propaganda is open at present.

Let each section do their work in their own way : they are all aiming at the same goal, only have different roads of getting there, forsooth, if some are farther round, well, they arrive in the end and pick up some strangers on the way that otherwise might never have come.

I do most grievously deplore the confusion that is caused by this and that party wanting to claim all the intelligence, and warning customers not to deal at the shop next door, so to speak. To everyone that is converted I venture to say there are a dozen embittered or disgusted. And where does the freedom of thought come in? We say we want the workers to think for themselves, and then they are told that they must not think that they can realise their social emancipation by belonging to any but, the S.P.G.B. What are they to think of that?

Do let us be reasonable I beseech you, allow every man the right to belong to what party he fancies most; assist everyone who is aiming at the emancipation of humanity from the galling chains of monopoly and capitalism, no matter of what party, religion, race or colour he may be. Then and only then shall we succeed in convincing the world that we stand for freedom, justice, and universal brotherhood.

Apologising for writing at such length and trusting you will see the reasoning of my appeal to you in the name of the cause, and wishing you, one and all, every success, I remain,
Yours fraternally,
Fred W. Tod.

We welcome criticism. We are therefore glad to have the opportunity of publishing Mr. Tod’s letter. The more so as we think his difficulty is shared by many.

* * *

Mr. Tod tells us that he views our Declaration of Principles as a sound basis on winch to wage the class struggle. But the whole of his letter is a plea for the abrogation of that portion of the Declaration which declares hostility to every other political party. The S.D.F. is a political party even as the Liberal Party is. So too is the I.L.P., and the Labour Party. The acceptance of our Declaration of Principles, therefore, signifies a refusal to help those “other Socialist parties” in the way Mr. Tod suggests.

* * *

We cannot think that Mr. Tod is justified in saying that we should recognise everybody and everything which is making for Socialism. We do not. We fully recognise that every action of every political party, of every person, and of every economic force is making for Socialism. We know that a political party may be what is termed re-actionary, but to-day the re-action reacts in the direction of progress toward Socialism. This is not, however, what Mr. Tod means. His idea is that there are Socialist parties outside the S.P.G.B. ; that the aim of those parties is the realisation of Socialism ; and that, therefore, those parties should receive the support of the members of the S.P.G.B.

* * *

Through the action of the members of those parties people are converted to Socialist views, and any person securing the conversion of people to Socialism should be recognised by the S.P.G.B. So runs the argument. But how are we to recognise them ? My conversion to Socialism was mainly the result of reading the works of Mr. Herbert Spencer, and of seeking to apply the principles enunciated therein to the conditions of the working class with whom I lived. Mr. Spencer was a militant opponent of anything trending towards Socialism. How is he to be recognised by the S.P.G.B., and are we to help those of whom he is the type ?

* * *

But, says Mr. Tod, how absurd you are,—you who have within the last four years been members of the S.D.F.—to attack that body and its members, and amongst them those whom you yourselves have converted. This is entirely fallacious—false premiss, false conclusion. In the first place we do not attack the members of the S.D.F. because they are members of the S.D.F. We simply criticise such political actions of theirs as are inconsistent with membership of a sound Socialist party. We only condemn the S.D.F. in so far as they have departed from a clearly defined, class-conscious, working-class party. We do not criticise those whom we have converted, for, in so far as they are open to our criticism, they have not been converted.

* * *

The time, says our correspondent, is not yet ripe for a united Socialist party. So we must live and let live. But why ? On the contrary we think the time is ripe for a united Socialist party, but it must accept the Declaration of Principles of the S.P.G.B. There can be no possible justification in any country for the existence of more than one sound, class-conscious, working-class party, and in Great Britain we find that there is but one—the S.P.G.B. We should be pleased to hear of converts being made to Socialism, whatever the cause of conversion. Possibly the S.D.F., the I.L.P., the Fabian Society, the Liberal Party, or the Tory Party may aid in the conversion of men and women to Socialism. So far so good. But when once they are converted they must recognise that the S.P.G.B. is the party which they must join, as this is the only party with a sound Socialist, organisation.

* * *

“What sense,” asks Mr. Tod, “would there be in saying, ‘You’re no Socialist: you’ve been converted by the S.D.F., and the S.D.F. is not a Socialist party’?” But has this ever been said ? What we do say is “You say you have been converted to Socialism by the S.D.F. The S.D.F. is a body whose ‘Socialism’ is peculiar. Do you believe that your belonging to a party like the S.D.F., which does not run its candidates on purely Socialist lines, which allows its own trade union members to break its own rules, which has supported capitalist candidates and made bargains with capitalist parties, is in the best interests of the Socialism in which you profess to believe ? If so your Socialism is tainted and may prove a hindrance rather than a gain to Socialism.”

* * *

The justification offered by our correspondent for the existence in this country of more than one Socialist party is that different arguments must be put forward to meet different minds ! The arguments which appeal to Suburbia do not appeal to Slumurbia. We are, of course, very well aware of this. We know that the interests of the dwellers in the one locality are not the same as the interests of those in the other. Circumstances, however, alter. The trust is rearing its head in this country and will make the interests of the Suburbians the same as those of the Slumurbians. They are all being crushed into the same class with like interests, like aspirations, like ideals. And the argument of class interest which appeals to one must appeal to the other.

* * *

Our friend then goes on to insinuate that in the S.P.G.B. the members must not give utterance to their own opinions. He remarks “When a person is not allowed to think or say what he or she conscientiously believes, but must rigidly adopt a party ticket, they “(the public)” are more likely thereby to remain hostile.” In the S.P.G.B. the members certainly vent their own opinions. The freest expression of opinion is tolerated. When, however, that opinion is contrary to the Principles on which the Party is based it is felt that the reasons which induced the member to join the Party no longer exist. The member thereupon ceases to have a right of membership and must go outside.

* * *

In the S.D.F., on the other hand, freedom of speech is anathema. It is only a few years since that Federation (sic) sent a circular to its branches saying that further criticism within the organisation must discontinue. But even with them where they lose in freedom of speech they gain in freedom of action, especially at election times, when the methods of action of the various members are as diverse as if each were a law unto himself.

* * *

We of the S.P.G.B. are in the position of the Scotsman who said “Honesty is the best policy—I’ve tried them baith.” We have sampled the tactics of the S.D.F. and found them wanting, and we are now trying a policy of unswerving adhesion to the organisation we have formed and of militant hostility to every other. At the same time we know that many of our future members must come from the ranks of parties it is necessary for us to attack. We are opposed to the action of Mr. Tod, which we believe to be pernicious, but we should be pleased to welcome him to our Party as soon as he is able to subscribe to our principles and policy. We have no quarrels with individuals. We believe in the possibility of political redemption for most of those we criticise, and know that before we found the true path we were ourselves possessed with our modicum of political original sin.

* * *

It is, of course, possible that our Party will not succeed, but Socialism is inevitable, and the party which will bring it into realisation will be organised on our lines, with our policy, our principles, and our methods. Believing this we can only think that it is futile to fritter away our energies in helping unsound organisations. We must decline to lower our flag. We are out for Socialism, and this can only be gained by weeding out error, pointing out mistaken tactics, converting people to our ideas, and organising them upon a proper basis. I hope this will go some way to explaining our point of view to Mr. Tod, whose further criticisms we shall be pleased to deal with.