The Impending Collapse of Labourism

With the near approach of a general election the signs and portents that tell of the futility of what is at present known as the “Independent Labour Representation” movement increase and multiply. With one desire paramount in their minds—the desire to secure election—many of the candidates for whom the Labour Representation Committee is responsible, are quite ready to subordinate their independence to their election in the belief, quite honestly held doubtless in some cases, that some special virtue attaches to the right to append the letters M.P. after a name. Nor is this surprising. When men set out with the all-pervading notion that the imperative necessity of the hour is the formation of a “Labour Group” inside the House of Commons, without a very clear notion as to why there should be such a group, without being at infinite pains to understand the reasons underlying the supposed necessity, without being intimately acquainted with the only conditions upon which a Labour Group can be of utility and effect, it is not surprising if they think to proceed to their “independence” within the Commons, by very dependent methods without. It is not surprising that Mr. Richards, the L.R.C. candidate for Wolverhampton, for example, prefers not to take the chances of defeat in opposition to the Liberals when the chances of election in alliance with them are so bright. And this it would seem, on the authority of Mr. Tom Jones, representing the “Labour” side of the Liberal-Labour Conference held to make arrangements, is the position of the responsible officers of the Labour Representation Committee.

“They were satisfied that, anxious as they were to get a Labour Representative returned, it was impossible to do so on Labour lines exclusively. . . . The one object . . . which the Labour Party had was to try and replace one of the worst governments of modern times, . . . they regretted that some annoyance had been caused by individual men objecting to Liberals having anything to do with them,” and so on.

And these are the leaders of the movement that, once formed, was to march straight into the real working-class—the Socialist—camp, because forsooth, it could follow no other road. This was the assumption upon which the only argument of the I.L.P. (L.R.C. patron and sycophant) rested. And yet of the four men already in Parliament, and drawing their stipend from the L.R.C., three are quite frankly adjuncts of, and in no way distinguishable from, the capitalist Liberal party, while at the first approach of the general encounter with what are supposed to be (from the L.R.C. point of view) the forces of re-action, the political training of a life-time is too strong for their candidates, whose independence grows smaller by degrees and beautifully less. Of course. They want to get into Parliament. Many of them don’t clearly know why, and those who do have no intelligent force behind them to insist that they shall keep to the line of independence.

The I.L.P. having done all in its power to foster L.R.C’ism —mainly, it is true, for the purpose of securing monetary support for its own men naturally grows apprehensive at these indications of collapse, and protests against the Wolverhamptoii violation of the L.R.C. Constitution. But in the first place the L.R.C. has no constitution, and in the second the I.L.P. tactics are in the main the L.R.C. tactics, as defined by Mr. Tom Jones. At Halifax, Mr. Parker, I.L.P. candidate and member of the I.L.P. Executive, is in precisely the same position that Mr. Richards occupies, i.e., he has sold out independence and all to the Liberal Party. The I.L.P. will find difficulty enough, it seems, in keeping its own particular candidates in order, Without worrying about anything else.

The fact is, of course, that both the l.L.P. and the L.R.C. (not to mention the S.D.F.) have omitted to ponder the fact (or have deliberately blinked it) that to change a label is not to change an idea, and if from their youth up the working-class have been trained to give allegiance to Liberalism or Toryism, the return of Labour men—commonly so-called—to Parliament will not have the effect of changing their views ; while without that, change of view the Labour men returned, having no mandate and no strength at their back, are practically useless except to themselves, even when, as in the case of Crooks, Shackleton, and Henderson, they are not themselves, in everything but name, thick and thin supporters of one of the orthodox capitalist factions. Only by education, by an exacting and painstaking course of instruction in the true inwardness of the economic phenomena that affects them always to their detriment, can the working-class ideas be changed. The S.D.F., have frankly tired of this educational work, the l.L.P. were probably never able to perform it, and the L.R.C., without principles or object, and with only the most loosely defined policy, has always been nothing more than the happy hunting-ground (or perhaps we should say Tom Tiddler’s ground) for the man on the make, the political quack and charlatan. It remains, therefore, the more imperative that the S.P.G.B. should persist in its work with the determination and consistency which have characterised its efforts hitherto. To educate and organise the working-class of Great Britain into an army of irreconcilables at perpetual war with the forces of capitalism upon both the economic and the political fields, this is the purpose of the Socialist Party. And this purpose cannot be effected by compromise with capitalism, by arrangement, real or implied, by methods of confusion, by obscurantism of whatever consistency. It cannot be effected by indulging the particularly absurd hope of the Labour Leader “to unite working men of all shades of political opinion into one great Labour Party,” because a Labour Party cannot exist on any such basis, and would be useless if it could. It can only be effected by keeping essentials clear. And the first essentials are the absolute incompatibility of working-class interest with capitalist interest, and the necessity therefore, of translating the class struggle which is for ever manifesting itself on the economic field to the political field, to be waged with unceasing effort. This method may seem long and thankless, but it is the method that is sure in its results. Moreover, it is the only method.


Leave a Reply