Are We Justified ?

Ever since its formation it has been urged against The Socialist Party of Great Britain that its attitude towards reforms or palliatives was not wise. It is contended by many that the best policy consists in agitation for this or that reform with a view to assisting the workers to get something now. Not the least of the opposition to the propagation of Socialism and nothing less has come from the S.D.F., an organisation which devotes practically the whole of its energy to the advocacy of one palliative or another, at one time urging the working class to demand an 8 hours day or work for the unemployed, at another time advising them to concentrate their energy upon demanding from the capitalist class the state maintenance of school children, latterly coupling with this secular education. A consistent and unremitting agitation in favour of Socialism is, of course, not to be expected, as it would not suit the book of the controllers of that body, and would probably result in the loss of at least the more aristocratic of its members, who, judging by their actions, are in favour of anything but Socialism.

While it is true of the I.L.P. that they have always disavowed the class war (although sometimes voting for it, as at the Amsterdam Congress in 1904) the fact remains that they have occasionally told the public that Socialism would be an improvement on the present capitalist system, taking care, however, in doing so, to include the proviso that the said improvement must come to pass by a series of reform’s which will bring us to the promised land of Socialism at some date too remote to be worth consideration at the present period.

The L.R.C. (now the Labour Party) at their conference held in Liverpool in January, 1905, carried with acclamation a resolution stating that their ultimate object is the socialisation of the means of production, distribution, etc. Neither in the speeches, writings, or actions of its advocates, however, can much trace of this ultimate object be found, the immediate object apparently taking up the whole of their time and energy. The immediate object while the general election was in progress was to get in, and numerous were the arrangements made to that end, as was shown very clearly in “Labour at the Polls” in THE SOCIALIST STANDARD for March, 1906. The immediate object since the election has been to vote almost without exception in the Liberal lobby, to make speeches which receive, and well merit, the congratulation of some of the wealthiest capitalists of the land, and to back such beautiful samples of capitalist legislation as the Brunner Bill for the better exploitation of children.

It cannot be denied, therefore, that all these organisations hold that the quickest way to change the conditions under which the working class exist is to work for reforms, relegating to the far distant future the only remedy—viz., Socialism.

Whether the immediate complaint be that the worker is suffering from too long hours, insufficient food, sweated conditions or any other of the evils inherent in capitalism, the S.P.G.B. has always maintained that nothing short of Socialism could possibly effect a cure, and has consequently steadfastly refused to be drawn into any reform agitation whatsoever, urging that the quickest way to get “something now” even is to organise to obtain the whole.

To those who pooh-pooh this view ; to those who call us impossiblists for holding it ; to those who imagine that they are practical politicians while we are in the clouds : to all these the following extract from Lord Avebury’s speech on the burden of armaments made in the House of Lords on the 25th of May is offered for consideration.

“The unrest in Europe, the spread of Socialism, . . . was a warning to the governments and the governing classes that the condition of the working classes in Europe was becoming intolerable, and that if revolution were to be avoided some steps must be taken to increase wages, reduce the hours of labour, and lower the prices of the necessaries of life.”

It is granted that Lord Avebury has a big task on hand to convert some of the capitalists of this and other countries to his view ; it is granted that increase in wages, the lessening of the hours of labour, or the lowering of the prices of the necessaries of life will not come into operation on the 1st of January, 1907 ; but the fact remains that a member of the exploiting class has shown to every thinking worker who cares to examine his statement, the conditions under which the capitalist class are prepared to give the working class those reforms for which some individuals profess so much anxiety.

Will the members of the organisations alluded to and all the rest of the reforming angels justify their position in the face of Lord Avebury’s statement ? Will they show in the face of this wherein the position of the S.P.G.B. is assailable ?

Let the workers of the world organise for Socialism and refuse to be.drawn from the straight path. They may rely upon it that the more determination they evince to follow this course the more frequently will speeches like the extract given be heard preceding the reforms that will be thrown to them, in order that Lord Avebury and Co. may secure a little longer time in which to enjoy the good things of life, and in order that the day when the working class shall come by its own may be postponed. “Something now” will be attained, not by agitating for reform, but by organising for revolution, a work which, in this country, The Socialist Party of Great Britain alone is performing.

F. D.

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