Editorial: Impotence or Impudence?

The working-class may well pray to be delivered from their friends, for those “friends” are evidently determined that, so far as it is possible for them to compass it, the working-class shall remain in that condition of mental darkness and confusion to which is traceable their present inertia and indifference to those prime and fundamental causes of proletarian misery upon which we who form The Socialist Party of Great Britain are endeavouring to focus their attention as the indispensable preliminary to that Social Revolution which alone can effect any material and lasting benefit for them. The month of November seems to have been particularly favourable to the production of astounding examples of muddled reasoning on the part of these “friends” who, because the working-class are largely ignorant, have been permitted to foist themselves into the position of leaders. Of themselves these exhibitions of fatuous baffleheadedness or calculated deception and treachery—whichever it is—would only invoke hilarity or contempt, but unfortunately their authors have secured a standing of considerable prominence, so that it becomes necessary for those who know the truth and who are earnestly desirous that the working-class should awaken to an appreciation of their powers and opportunities, to dissociate themselves as forcefully as possible from such utterances and actions, and to expose their impotence and impudence.

Consider the case of the women’s deputation to Balfour, that event which recently attracted so much notice. These unhappy women of the working-class in their “looped and windowed” raggedness are prevailed upon to parade their pathetic poverty, not be it noted in menace, but in order that the pitiable pathos of their position may move the hearts of those who batten upon their misery and whose very existence is dependent upon the continuance of an impoverished proletariat. And these women are inspired to depute a number of their fellows to wait upon a capitalist minister to beg that something he done for them lest they utterly perish. Yet the leaders of this deputation subsequently confess their full knowledge of the futility of such an appeal !

It is true that one at least of them has endeavoured to justify the action on the ground that otherwise the workers would not believe that nothing can he obtained from the capitalist class. But this same leader at the same time admits that he has headed similar deputations for 20 years ! How many more years then will he be content to follow such methods ? Surely he has sense enough to see that the working-class are hardly more alive to the fact he wishes to impress upon them than they ever were. And surely his knowledge is not so limited that he cannot understand that this continued ignorance is to some considerable extent due to the fact that he and his fellow misleaders have omitted to tell the whole truth in the past. Then by what name shall we call him if he is prepared to inflict still further pain and disappointment upon those whose misery is even now greater than they can hear ?

If those who, knowing the truth, have failed to speak it ; if those who should have educated the workers have occupied their time mainly in deluding them, it is small wonder if the ignorance is as great and the working-class conditions as bad as they have ever been. How many more years we ask will these leaders be content to play the game of the fool ? Or is it that they are afraid of the consequences of telling the truth after having told other than the truth for so long ?

It is small wonder, we repeat, that the working-class mind is muddled when we have, to take another horrible example, a member of the highly cultured middle class (as he describes himself) like Mr. Hyndman, who, while urging that Socialists should do all the harm they possibly can to Liberalism, affirms that Socialists are prepared to support Liberals in their efforts to put on the statute books certain reform measures which, in the next breath, Mr. Hyndman himself admits will not affect the working-class in whose interests he claims he is working. If this is an example of Mr. Hyndmau’s high culture, we can do without it, just as we can do without the logic of a Robert Blatchford, who, while rightly condemning the absurdity of the action of the unemployed leaders in arranging deputations which it is foreknown must be fruitless, argues that the thing to do is to ensure the return of a large number of labour members to the House of Commons at the next election. Mr. Blatchford knows quite well that the Labour members already elected to the House of Commons are precisely the persons who are concerned with the arrangement of absurd deputations—men like Mr. W. Crooks, a rump Radical, who holds that because certain monied persons are contributing infinitesimal fractions of the wealth they have robbed the working-class of to relief funds for the unemployed, the rich and the poor are beginning to work band-in-hand ; or like Mr. Keir Hardie, who, while denying the existence of a class war and preaching, for the mollification of the conscience of nonconformity, and for his own election to political position, the necessity of the gospel of love as the only method by which happiness may be ensured to all, argues in another connection and for another purpose, that the working-class must inspire the capitalist-class with fear, must compel them by sheer terrorism to let go their grip before they can hope to achieve their purpose.

These are some of the men and some of the influences we have to combat in order that the clear issue may be presented to the working-class to which we belong. And whatever epithet of opprobium these men or others may coin to belittle our efforts and to retard the spread of our views, we shall persist with our propaganda by all the means at our disposal, in the full confidence that ultimately our class must adopt our attitude if they would work out their own emancipation from the thraldom imposed by capitalist and landlord domination.

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