The S.D.F. and West Ham

“In the Social-Democratic movement organisation and discipline are absolutely essential to success.”

“Socialists, if once they begin to intrigue with the other factions, destroy their own enthusiasm and rot away the public confidence which they have as yet but partially gained.”

“We want our men elected as Social-Democrats, for the greater glory of Social-Democracy. If they cannot be elected as Social-Democrats, they had much better remain outside. We want our men elected as Social-Democrats, independent of all other factions.”

The above gems from back numbers of the official organ of the S.D.F., make interesting reading to-day.

Our notes in the last issue of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD, concerning the situation in West Ham have aroused considerable interest throughout the country, and we understand that some members of the S.D.F., in endeavouring to answer the question, “Can such things be?” have applied to Bolt Court for light and leading.

To their enquiries they have received a misleading reply, as might be expected from the man who destroyed for ever his reputation for truthfulness in connection with the Lansbury episode. But our readers may be assured that whatever appears in THE SOCIALIST STANDARD will be reliable. We shall tell the “truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” We believe that ” Honesty is the best policy “—even in electoral matters.

It is claimed on behalf of the S.D.F. that W. Thorne (the man whom the S.D.F. has continually permitted to break its rules by supporting Liberal candidates) is running as the Socialist and Labour candidate for South West Ham. We deny it, and will substantiate our denial.

Thorne has published, through the T.C.P., what purports to be the correspondence between himself and the Secretary of the Labour Representation Committee respecting the endorsement of his candidature by that conglomeration. But Thorne has not published all the correspondence. It is evident from the context that certain letters of Thome’s are omitted. Thorne knows best why. But note first the preface. He says:

“In consequence of the L.R.C. not agreeing to allow me to run as a Socialist and Labor candidate for South West Ham,” &c.

The publication contains the resolution passed by the Biennial Congress of the Gasworkers’ Union, held at Swansea, in May last, requesting Thome to comply with the L.R.C. Conditions and to run under the common title imposed on all candidates supported by the L.R.C. Thorne has complied.

He is, above all things, honest—”blunderingly honest.”

On Sunday, Sept. 18, a mass meeting in support of Thorne was held at The Greeugate, Plaistow. J. Gilbey, Secretary of West Ham Trades Council, presided, and said that many present would remember that the L.R.C. had decided to run their candidates as Labour only, but the Committee which was running Thorne wanted the public to understand that while Thorne was running under that title, he was still a Socialist, as he had always claimed to be. Thorne followed. He was glad that the position had been explained in respect to himself and the L.R.C. That Committee had decided that all candidates adopted by them should run as Labour candidates, and he had been obliged to
toe the line, although he did not care a lot about it. To a certain extent it was a “backing down.” But although he would have to call himself “a Labour candidate,” he would still hold the same principles as before. After this, surely nobody will deny that Thorne, a member of the S.D.F., supposed by their rules to run as “a definitely-avowed Social-Democrat,” is in the field as simply a “‘Labour” candidate.

It is true that H. Quelch, the “Trades Unionist candidate” for Southampton, in speaking after Thorne, disagreed with his view of the situation. He did not consider it a “backing down.” It was merely a step backward in order to take a leap forward (“reculer our mieux sauter.”) There was no disgrace in a man calling himself a “Labour” candidate. Continental Socialists often did so ; called themselves “Labour” parties, and so on, using exactly those excuses which the I.L.P. made years ago in reply to S.D.F. criticism, when they adopted as their object the Socialist principles, but refused to call themselves Socialists.

Again, we re refer our readers to the extracts at the beginning of this article.

On another matter. “S.D.F. Notes,” supplied by the Secretarry of that body, last month contained the following :

The particulars I have received concerning our action in the forthcoming Municipal Elections are as follows :— “

Then appears a list of candidates. Against Baldock’s name is printed “I.L.P.,” so that, apparently, the remainder are “our” (S.D.F.) candidates. Amongst them is J. J. Terrett, for Broadway Ward of West Ham, a thrice-expelled member of the S.D.F. Upon his last expulsion H. W. Lee wrote in Justice:

“If the body had permitted Terrett to continue his vagaries, all organisation and discipline were at an end, and it would have been an encouragement to others to use the S.D.F. as a stepping-stone to public prominence, and then to fling it over when it suited them. Terrett has. to all intents and purposes, ceased to be a Socialist. This is proved by his recent letter to the South Essex Mail, and his conversation with members of the S.D.F. Personal ambition and want of judgment will be his curse.”

Recently Terrett entered upon a wild-cat Parliamentary candidature for North-West Ham, from which he has since withdrawn. He held a meeting at Stratford Town Hall, presided over by Anarchist Leggatt, and on the platform were McAllen, H. Quelch, Martin Judge and Hector Kirby, of the S.D.F., while J. Jones, of the S.D.F., moved the resolution in support of Terrett’s candidature. Now, either these members of the S.D.F. received the sanction of the Executive to support Terrett, in accordance with the rules of that body, or they were permitted by the Executive to break the rules. But in any rase, the fact remains that they supported this able but erratic man. who has been, politically, everything by turns and nothing long, who has used the S.D,F. when it suited his own purposes to do so, and denounced them in Stratford Grove when so inclined.

The attitude of the leaders of that body and their official misrepresentations of the position in West Ham and elsewhere, would be ludicrous when considered in connection with the extracts appearing at the head of this article were it not that by such tactics the issue is confused. The S.D.F. no longer deserves the confidence of the workers. It must be exposed at home and


(Socialist Standard, November 1904)