The “Clarion” and the S.P.G.B.

The Clarion poses as an exceedingly fair paper. It will allow the other side a show. It will even appoint an editor from the other side to supervise the contributions of champions of that side. This is very fair play. It is magnanimity. It removes all suspicion of partial editing by an opponent of the other side. It encouraged me to write to the Clarion.

I did not ask for a special editor. I asked for a hearing. I trusted the Clarion to give me that—the Clarion being an exceedingly fair paper.

It arose in this way. The Clarion’s vanner, Bromley, had reported on his work at Tottenham, and had referred to the local S.P.G.B. as particularly vigorous. This did not appear to suit the humour of the Tottenham I.L.P. In the next issue a Mr. Pedley, of the Tottenham I.L.P., wrote disparagingly of the local S.P.G.B. Therefore I asked the Editor of the Clarion to allow me a word.

The Editor had been complaining that some Socialists didn’t preach Socialism ; that they wasted time on things that didn’t matter ; that they were not using their opportunities to dispel working-class ignorance. I thought the Editor would be glad to know of a party that preached Socialism only, that never wasted its time on things that didn’t matter ; that used all its opportunities to dispel working-class ignorance.

Besides, the Party had been attacked by a Tottenham I.L.P’er. That alone, I thought, would have given me a claim to a hearing the Clarion being a fair paper. So I wrote.”

The Editor replied, “Sorry, no room.”

Now if the Editor wanted to dispel working-class ignorance through the Clarion, and wanted to keep out as much as possible of that matter which would not dispel working-class ignorance, but rather increase it, the reply “no room” was not true. There was plenty of room, and it was filled with what the Editor himself would be obliged to confess was piffle from the point of view of one endeavouring to dispel working-class ignorance. From that point of view, I submit, my letter was of far more importance.

Why then was the letter not published ? I hope I am not unfair, but I can only conclude that the Clarion is more concerned with increasing its circulation than with increasing enlightenment. Its fairness is, therefore, only extended to those who can help sell the paper. Its magnanimity is for those who, in addition to helping sell the paper, haven’t got a case—those whose arguments the Clarion Editor boasts he can “smash like an egg.” All the evidence points that way, anyhow.

The S.P.G.B. is a small party. It wouldn’t sell many Clarions even if its spokesman did get a show. The I.L.P, is a large party. It can sell a lot of Clarions. Therefore I.L.P. must have a hearing.

Of course, the Clarion can do what it likes in such cases. Its staff have got to live. And they must sell Clarions therefore. But I hope the Clarion will not again parade its fairness.

My letter was headed :


and read as follows :

Sir,—Mr. Pedley, of the Tottenham I.L.P., has written to correct Vanner Bramley. I write to correct Mr. Pedley. The bone of contention is the S.P.G.B. I am a member of that party and know that in his references to us he is wrong. Perhaps he won’t believe it but he is.

The S.P.G.B, does not exist, to blackguard Mr. Pedley’s leading men. It exists to do precisely what Mr. Pedley says he desires it should do. It devotes itself entirely to preaching Socialism.

In your last issuff Robert Blatchford writes : “Some years of more or less strenuous or casual thinking and observation have convinced me the great enemy is ignorance.”

That is our conclusion also. The question we have to consider is how best we may combat ignorance.

Mr. Pedley’s belief is that the I.L.P. is doing the work best. I conclude so from the fact that he belongs to it.

The S.D.F. member holds his organisation to be the best.

We think that both S.D.F. and I.L.P. are confusing elements whose work contributes to that working-class ignorance which we all profess to desire dispelled. Therefore we exist as a separate organisation.

Which of the parties mentioned is justified ?

We are all concerned with the realisation of Socialism. We all agree that Socialism is the only way for the workers. We all want Socialism as quickly as possible.

Therefore the question of the best method of dispelling working-class ignorance as the necessary preliminary to the realisation of Socialism is the question for first consideration.

We are prepared to vindicate our position as against S.D.F or I.L.P. in public discussion before the working class we seek to enlighten. If I.L.P. or S.D.F. can shew us we are wrong we are quite ready to vacate our platform and go over.

I know of no better way of proving our sincerity. Does Mr. Pedley ?

Let me in a few words outline the position. We want to dispel working-elass ignorance. We want the working class to understand why Socialism is the only remedy for poverty and insecurity and misery. Therefore we prove the unalterable antagonism of interest between working class and capitalist class under present conditions and the futility of anything short of Socialism to materially affect working-class unhappiness.

If we prove to the working class the conflict of interest between them and the capitalist class, we make clear the uselessness of the appeal to capitalist representatives which so many professing Socialists encourage.

If we prove the futility of anything short of Socialism to affect the workers as a class, we prevent waste of working-class energy upon palliative programmes. We prevent the inevitable disappointment that comes when, palliatives realised, the position of the working class remains the same. We prevent the apathy bred of that disappointment.

We hold, therefore, that the duty of a Socialist party is to preach Socialism only. We hold that the only justification for the existence of a Socialist party is in its propaganda of the insufficieny of anything less than Socialism. We hold that it exists because the reform parties which preceded it, and which still exist, are not good enough.

And because Socialism only is sufficient we hold that any professing Socialist who enlists working-class energies in useless and wasteful and disappointing palliative movements, not only vacates his Socialist position, but is, unconsciously perhaps, working harm to the working class. The workers of harm to the working class are working-class enemies.

We hold and prove the S.D.F. and I.L.P. to be such parties. In producing our evidence it is inevitable that we make personal references. Mr. Pedley objects to these personal references because they embody adverse criticism of his leaders. He wouldn’t mind if they were criticisms of the Balfours and Chamberlains. Why ? Because the B’s and C’s are working-class enemies. But we hold that the men who, ostensibly engaged in the interests of the working class, confuse working-class thought by association with capitalist representatives in movements for the realisation of objects that don’t matter, are greater working-class enemies than the B’s and C’s.

The S.D.F. and I.L.P. agree as to this when the individual on the rack is a man like Burns. Yet their own leaders are doing precisely the same thing and doing it, moreover, with the sanction and approval of the members of their organisations. The arrangement between Liberalism and the I.L.P. at Leicester which resulted in Ramsay Macdonald’s return and Ramsay Macdonald’s association’ with Brunner in the House is one ease in point. The support of Masterman (Liberal) by Hunter Watts (S.D.F.), of Percy Alden (Liberal) by Will Thorne (S.D.F.), the relegation of Socialism to a secondary or even lower position or its obliteration altogether, by L.R.C. candidates, are others. Any number of further instances are set out in our Manifesto.

For taking a consistent line; for making our actions square with our propaganda, we are, if you please, dubbed by Mr. Pedley’s Gilbertian leaders “impossiblists,” placed without the pale !

I suggest it would be better for our objectors to listen to our “vigorous ” speakers at Tottenham and elsewhere. It would be fairer to read our literature and discuss debatable points with us. So, we may arrive at the truth, which I am quite sure will discover us to Mr. Pedley and his friends as not quite the “impossiblists” he seems to imagine we are. And it may be that he will find that, so far from our refusing to do “practical” work (a blessed word that “practical”) we are, in preaching Socialism only—which is quite as easy of understanding to the working class as the dubious benefits of the Second Ballot, Payment of Members, and the rest of the pottering futilities beloved of the one-step-at-a-time-and-the-smaller-the-better “Socialists”—doing the only thing we can do, the only thing that matters, the only thing that can produce satisfactory results.

If Mr. Pedley can suggest anything more “practical” from a Socialist’s point of view, he can let our “vigorous” Tottenham comrades know. They will be glad to hear from him.

And finally,—it is not a great point but as Mr. Pedley has inferentially introduced it, it may as well be referred to—if the membership of the Tottenham S.D.F. is lumped together wilt the Tottenham I.L.P., the result would still require multiplication before it would approximate to the strength of the Tottenham S.P.G.B. We are a small organisation, but unfortunately for Mr. Pedley’s irony, we happen to be strong at Tottenham. —Yours etc.,


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