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The Socialist Party and the Labour Movement

A LITTLE ARGUMENT

"I've read your article in the Socialist Standard."

"I am honoured."

"And I don't think much of it."

"I am flattered."

"Don't try to be smart. That is one of the besetting sins of your party."

"What? being smart, or trying to be?"

"There you are, twisting again. You know what I mean."

"Now, don't get angry, friend. Angry people cannot reason."

"You ought to talk of reason, you did: always savagely attacking the Labour Party. Why don't you devote your energies to attacking the common enemy, instead of other sections of the 'movement'?"

'The movement? What is this you call the 'movement'?"

"There you go again! Twist and wriggle, wriggle and twist. You know my meaning as well as myself. I mean the Socialist movement, the Labour movement."

"But you have just mentioned two movements, my friend. You just now only referred to 'the movement.' Which of them has the honour of being the movement?"

"Don't haggle and try to trip me up. They are each part of the same movement; they—"

"But why the distinction if they are the same?"

"They are not the same. The one is part of the other."

"Then which is the one and which the other? Let me put it this way to you: To which do you belong?"

"I belong to the Labour Party, and I claim to be as good a Socialist as you."

"We will examine your claim later. Why do you not belong to the Socialist Party?"

"What! Your lot? I wouldn't be found dead with them! A handful of spiteful, vituperative calumniators; full of spleen, venom and malice: jealous of—"

"Whoa! whoa! Hold hard. Will you admit that I am a Socialist?"

"Oh, yes! I won't deny that."

"Then don't you think you had better reserve your attacks for the common enemy, rather than—"

"All right! I give in. That's one to you. I am afraid my tongue ran away with me."

"Don't think I am trying to rub it in, but have you ever seen an article in the Socialist Standard which described a man or a movement by a long string of epithets?"

"I do not recollect one."

"Then precisely what is your grumble about?"

"My point is that you and the cause of the workers would be better served if you confined your criticism to the capitalist parties, and left the Labour Party alone."

"You will think I'm a "wriggling' again, as you call it, but our contention is that your Labour Party is also a capitalist party."

"Oh, don't, for goodness' sake don't trot that out gain. Why don't you think of something fresh?"

"Hardly a helpful remark, do you think? Why something fresh? The truth will bear repetition—unless you prefer something else. Why will you so persistently beg the question? Let me save your time and mine by giving you an instance. I will only give you one, but it will perhaps show you what I mean."

"Go ahead!"

"Now then! Do you believe that unemployment is the direct result of capitalism?"

"I do."

"Do you believe that unemployment in Great Britain arises from fundamentally different causes from those in, say, France, Germany or the United States of America?"

"Certainly not. They are all capitalist countries."

"Good! Would you agree that the corner stone—the corner stone mind you—of our troubles is the fact that we are a manufacturing rather than an agricultural nation?"

"No! I should not. I would rather say that capitalism, the private ownership of the means of life, was the corner stone as you call it."

"You are getting on, friend. I have hopes of you yet. But to resume. Would you agree with this statement? 'The simple truth is that when our export trade languishes we have an unemployed problem.'"

"Well, it is true—in a  sense."

"In what sense?"

"In a capitalist sense. I mean it takes the continuance of capitalism for granted."

"That's right. It leaves a lot out. What we would term, a half-truth."

"I agree. Some crafty Liberal Free-Trader, I shouldn't wonder."

"Don't be abusive, friend. Remember how you were going for me a few minutes ago."

"Oh, stow it. This chap is obviously in the other camp. I was only objecting to your knocking your friends about."

"I see. Well, we'll get on. What do you understand by the term 'over-production'?"

"I should say over-production existed when more commodities were produced than the market could absorb. That often happens."

"Would you consider over-production a cause of unemployment?"

"Oh, yes! I should say that was how capitalism created unemployment—through over-production."

"You would not call such a statement a 'lie' or a "most tragical absurdity.'?

"Not if I retained my sober senses."

"Let me read this little bit to you: —'For instance, in Northampton, there are thousands of people who want boots, but cannot buy them, and factories with thousands of boots which they cannot sell, and manufacturers with idle machinery capable of turning out thousands of boots which they dare not make, and hundreds of thousands of people unemployed capable of making boots who are not allowed to do so, even for themselves.'"

"That is quite right, too. What is the matter with that?"

"Very little. A trifle loose here and there, but we'll let that go. What is the cause of the state of things depicted?"

"Capitalism, of course. I don't need you to tell me that."

"You may be surprised to learn the writer does not agree. He anticipates people like you. He says: 'Many people will automatically answer, "The evils of the capitalistic system." But the destruction of capitalism would not cure unemployment, because the manufacturer is as anxious to produce as the worker is to consume, and yet both find themselves prevented by the so-called law of supply and demand, which as applied is not a law but a lie.'"

"I say, who is the writer of all this guff? How long has he left school?"

"Don't be impatient friend. You must be dying to hear the real explanation. Here it is: 'No! The explanation of all this failure to link up consumption and production intelligently lies in the control and exploitation of our industry, character, national genius, wealth and goodwill, that is our national credit, by the financiers behind our principal banks.'"

"Oh, dry up, who is this froth merchant? What does he do for a living?"

"Patience, friend; do not be abusive. As I keep reminding you, epithets are not argument. Let us see what is said as to the remedy."

"He says: 'Until, therefore, our national credit is nationally owned and controlled for the benefit of the nation, instead of being exploited and treated as private property of a mere handful of people, many of whom are not even British —'"

"Does he say that?"

"He does."

"What a filthy remark! Some putrid, anti-alien, Jew-baiter, I suppose."

"What an abusive person you are to be sure. You must learn —"

"All right! I know what you are going to say. Get on with the business. Sorry I spoke."

"Let us see! Where have we got to? After 'British,' the sentence peters out. Then it says: 'The League of the British Commonwealth demands, therefore, the nationalisation of our principal banks as the only permanent remedy for unemployment —'"

"Oh! don't, for goodness sake, don't read any more. What is this precious League of the British Commonwealth? Who are they?"

"Don't be impatient, friend. I must read you this. Remember we have just been told the only permanent remedy for unemployment is nationalisation of banks. After three paragraphs of utter flatulence the pamphlet concludes: — 'The League of the British Commonwealth declares, therefore, that there is no other solution for our industrial troubles under present conditions in connection with hours, wages, management, etc, except for the workers and their employers to become equal and self-respecting partners.'"

"Oh, what rubbish! Is it possible that—but stay. Is there a catch in this somewhere? Are you pulling my leg? Do you know whom this precious League consists of?"

"I don't! But you may recognise the name of its President."

"Pray who is it?"

"His full title is The Rt. Hon. J. R. Clynes, P.C., M.P. Now don't get abusive, friend. Remember what you said at starting."

"But, oh! This is the limit. He is one of our tried and trusted members. I'll admit we are somewhat elastic, but even rubber has a breaking-point."

"Yes! But I don't think your Labour Party has. Why! He is your deputy leader. Now tell me: What do you think we ought to do with people who insist that we are all part of the same 'Movement' and yet who tolerate leaders of that sort. You object to our criticising them as quarrelling with our friends. save us from our friends! May I point out that criticism will not hurt the truth. May I further point out that this pamphlet was not an obscure, hole and corner affair, but was broadcast by the thousand at the last General Election. They even invite you to write for supplies of the pamphlet from their headquarters. Get a copy. Read it, and if you tolerate the ineffable Clynes in your organisation for a week after doing so—well, I must not be abusive, must I?"

"You made me think."

"Keep on doing it. It hurts at first, but if you do enough of it, you will join the Socialist Party. Cheerio!"

 

W. T. Hopley