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Confusion in Conference: so-called Socialists meet at Copenhagen

Confusion was the keynote of the proceedings at the International Socialist( (!) Congress held recently at Copenhagen. A Babel of tongues spoke every language but that of Socialism. The “impracticable theory” of rallying the workers to fight for emancipation has been deliberately discarded in favour of the “saner and more practical policy” of devising ways and means of begging, coaxing, threatening reforms and palliatives out of the capitalist class. The Red International founded by Marx and Engels for revolution has been so completely prostituted to reform and compromise, that the bulk of the delegates at the Conference, and the “Labour” Press throughout the world, recognised unhesitatingly that the British Section were the “most advanced, the most revolutionary” of all the delegates. What unspeakable tragedy! The most uncompromising fighters for Socialism were these representatives of the Labour Party, the I.L.P., the S.D.P., the Fabian Society, and the Trade Unions – the chief wire-pullers of wire-pulling organisations and the arch-betrayers of working-class ignorance; the very scum of the “Labour” political inferno, sitting cheek by jowl with the embodiments of bourgeois arrogance, conceit, and condescension. The British delegation had twenty votes at the Congress, ten being controlled by the Labour Party and the remainder being distributed among the other organisations of the section. Thus the open defenders and supporters of the Liberal Budget, Taxations of Ground Values, Reform of the Poor Law, Free Trade and other allurements of their Liberal masters, were the “revolutionary” element of the Copenhagen Congress. What other proof is needed that the International Socialist Congress has been captured by the capitalists?

But the “revolt” of the British delegation against several “important” resolutions was not due to any sudden Socialist conviction. These “uprisings” had a much more mundane cause. The resolutions “rebelled” against embodied the ideas of measures either passed or promised by the British Liberal Government! And the truth of that allegation was openly insisted upon by the various British delegates who addressed the Conference and the International Bureau.

And needless to say, the calibre of the other delegates was similar to that of the British Section. The German Social-Democratic Party, steeped to the hilt in a Parliamentary reform policy; the Austrian Social-Democratic Party, an effective mixture of such elements as the British Labour Party, the I.L.P., and S.D.P., whose greatest achievement is supposed to have been the obtaining of the suffrage for some hundreds of thousands of Radical Labourites (alias Social-Democrats); the “Unified” French Socialist Party, in which the bourgeois Republicanism and political diplomacy of Jaurès has obliterated revolutionary action; the Russian twin “Socialist” organisations whom bitter experience of the oppressors has not saved from the fatal mistake of seeking “blessings from above”; the Italian Socialist Party, still boastful of their “unity” of all factions (including those who have grown tired of fighting for Socialism); all these and many more such sections formed the material of which this apology for a Socialist congress was made up. It is a sad reflection that, except the S.P.G.B., every body that contained the germ of Socialist existence has been swallowed up by that congress of compromise and confusion. In France the Guesdists, who at one time, in spite of their small number, wielded enormous power for Socialist enlightenment, are absorbed by the reformist followers of Jaurès and Vaillant; in Italy the United Party has forced its compromising policy on its members with the result that the Socialist element has been swamped; in Russia the Parliamentary possibilities for the “political genius” have caused wholesale desertion of the Socialist flag. even the once alleged Socialist organisation, the S.L.P. of America, has given up every vestige of independence, and sent its delegates – to whine to the S.P. of the same country for fusion – to be sneeringly spurned!

Now to survey the happenings of the Congress. The delegates sat in a hall decorated with banners indicative of the character of the Congress. “Religion is a Private Concern”; “A Maximum Working day of Eight Hours”; Disarmament Means Peace”; such were the mottoes they bore.

The boast of Stauning, the Danish president, that his party showed by their 100,000 votes and 28 successful candidates at the last parliamentary election, and their 23 newspapers with 120,000 subscribers, their triumphal work for Socialism was exceedingly hollow in face of the speeches of the Danish delegates and the resolutions they supported. Vandervelde’s opening speech on behalf of the International Bureau was a glorification of the un-class-conscious labour movement. Instead of deploring the fact that in every country represented at that Congress the ascent of the Parliamentary reform policy has in the last three years more than in any other similar period, played havoc with the honest proletarians seeking enlightenment, he crowed over the fact that 33 countries and 8 million followers were represented at the Congress, and that in many countries the “Socialist” parties have expressed a large influx of votes and “Socialist” representatives since the last Congress.

The agenda was one that would be considered mild by a Radical Free Trade gathering. The main items were the Unemployed Question; International Arbitration and Disarmament; International Results of the Legislation for the Protection of the Workers; Organisation of an International Pronouncement against the Death Sentence; Questions of Co-operative Movement; International Trade Unionism and the General Strike.

Some of the arguments on the questions on the committees and in open Congress will be of interest to our readers.

In the committee on Disarmament and Peace, Vaillant (France) said: “The abolition of war will naturally only be made possible by Socialism, but we for that we cannot wait. It is therefore necessary to make a stand against armaments and militarism in the different Parliaments”. Keir Hardie said: “If now the German and English Governments came to an understanding about the limitation of armaments it would not be due to their love of peace, but because these two countries can no longer bear the burden of armaments. The workers are strong enough to prevent war. On the day of the declaration of war the workers must cease work. That is not a general strike. It is also necessary to make a stand against the vile action of the capitalist Press”. Bruce Glasier said: “Christianity has been unable to abolish war. There are already Socialists who are prepared to sacrifice their principles of peace. The fighting instinct can unmistakenly be found in some Social-Democrats. That is the animal instinct one must overcome. Let us unfold the most far-reaching agitation for peace, then the United States of Europe will soon become an accomplished fact”. Radec (Poland) said: “The attitude of Vorwaerts and of the German Social-Democratic Party in Parliament concerning the Anglo-German arrangement is nothing short of an alternative to the defence of naval armaments advocated by Hyndman and Co. which has generally been condemned”. Hillquit (U.S.A.) said: “No word has yet been uttered concerning the main point. The debate has until now only been a continuation of the Stuttgart discussion on anti-militarism”. Dessin (England): “We must abolish capitalism to ensure peace. But we can already contribute towards a diminution of the dangers of war, and that is what the resolution of the British delegation is aiming at”.

In the Committee on the question of the Co-operative Movement the following speeches are characteristic of the main position. Vandervelde (Belgium) said: “The criterion will be that the co-operative societies must be organisations in the class-struggle. The German workers will see to it that the co-operative societies remain Socialist. The German co-operative societies propagate Socialism secretly; those in Belgium openly”. Guesde, speaking for the French minority said: “The conquest of political power is necessary. Only when a co-operative society furthers this object is it of use, that is to say it must not be ignored but given its right place. In Germany the co-operative societies are limited liability companies with small shares, but wherein consists their Socialism? We have been told that the profit is distributed according to consumption, but that is capitalistic. We must not only tell the workers to join those societies but to use them as a means in the class struggle”. Whiteley (England) said: “English co-operative societies have already proved useful in politics, and have joined our Parliamentary committee. Socialists have until now done nothing for these societies, but will do something for them in the future – that is, carry Socialism into their ranks.”

The first resolution proposed in open Congress was one on unemployment. It started out by stating that unemployment is inseparable from capitalist production and proceeded to say that it could therefore not be a question of abolition but of amelioration. For this purpose the Congress demanded from capitalist Governments, statistics; wages as paid by co-operative societies; support during industrial crises; safeguarding of political rights; support of all arrangements for finding employment; diminution of unemployment by legislation; compulsory support of unemployed. Dr. Adolf Braun (Austria) moved the resolution with the approval of all delegates except the British. On the motion of its adoption Macdonald said: “For the British Section the present resolution is too weak. We would have liked to have seen the right to work at fair wages insisted upon. The British section is especially of the opinion that the capitalist method of production is to blame for unemployment, and that it therefore must be made responsible for its consequences”. Quelch said: “If we go home with this resolution we shall considerably damage our own movement for the amelioration of unemployment, the resolution being too weak”.

On the “unity” question De Leon declared that “After the Amsterdam Congress we, the minority, the S.L.P., declared ourselves prepared to negotiate with the S.P., which they have declined to do. Therefore this Congress must decide that the other party is obliged to negotiate with us. In the name of the S.L.P. I may declare that we are ready for negotiation with the S.P. There are prospects of a powerful movement in America, but it cannot flourish because we fight each other”. Hillquit replied: “The Socialist Party has long become an object of unity and asked all Socialist bodies to unite. All accepted our invitation except the Party - let us say De Leon. (Laughter.) Since then we have made rapid progress, most members of the S.L.P. having joined us. Now, Comrade De Leon, if you are prepared to abandon your last creation, the I.W.W., and your non-Socialist tricks, no conference or convention is necessary for that fusion”. To which Berger (Milwaukee) added: “Ten years ago we had two organisations, each with 5,000 members; now the S.P. have 53,000 paying members, the S.L.P. less than 1,000. That is nearly unity. The remaining 1,000 are welcome if they will give up fighting the Trade Unions. We shall solve the fusion question within the next three years because then only De Leon will stand outside our party. You see we are working strongly for unity”. (Loud Applause.)

The resolution on Disarmament and Peace was, like all the other resolutions put before the Congress, full of contradictions and inconsistencies. It started with explaining the necessity of war under capitalism, and finished with a demand for the suppression of hostilities by the democracy, and giving directions to the International Bureau how to act in case of a declaration of war. Socialism would stand a poor chance indeed if it were as impossible as this resolution. Vaillant and Keir Hardie moved the following amendment: “The Congress regards the General Strike as a means for the prevention of war, more especially a refusal to assist in the production and transport of arms and ammunition”. This was rejected by a vast majority and the amendment carried.

During this Keir Hardie, replying to an attack by Ledebour on the British delegation, stated that the English Labour Party is against war and militarism. Ledebour had taken the attitude of the I.L.P. to be that of Hyndman and Quelch, but his Party had nothing to do with these. If his Party supported the Liberal Budget that was not a question of principle, but tactics.

On the question of unemployment Hardie said “In our country we are very near a radical solution of unemployment. We should find ourselves in a difficult position in face of the English Government with the resolution passed by the Congress, hence we ask the substitution of our resolution for the one adopted”.

In spite of the contradictory nature of the composition, agenda, speeches and resolutions, there is no mistaking the object and effect of the Congress. The German S.D.P. strained every nerve to make the Congress an advertising medium for their approaching General Election. They were in a position to obtain sufficient support to get the resolutions on the main questions shaped so as to appeal to the German Radicals and bourgeois Democrats who had grown tired of the orthodox Radical party and want a real, live reform party. Luckily for the German delegation, no other section but the British was out for a similar purpose. In France, Austria and Italy the elections have recently taken place, but in England a General Election is not at all unlikely within the next three years. Hence two rival “Socialist” parties fought each other tooth and nail, the Germans anxious to pass resolutions acceptable to the Radicals; the English striving to prevent the passing of anything the Liberal Government could conveniently act upon to the detriment of the Labour Party, the I.L.P. and S.D.P. The German delegates expressed their gratification at the results of the Conference, and congratulated themselves on having gained a hundred thousand votes through its agency.

So another congress has come and gone – in the way the capitalists delight to see – in confusion. But, despite the forces of reform and reaction, cunningly striving to turn the working class upon itself, the future belongs to the Revolutionary. The ever-growing economic pressure must eventually demonstrate the utter futility of reform, and at the same time unmask those who advocate it. May the awakening come soon.

H.J.N.
(Socialist Standard, October 1910)