Literary Curiosities No. 5—E. E. Hunter in Sackcloth and Ashes

Stratford Socialist Club,
3, Well Street, Stratford, E.
3rd April, 1906.

To the Members and Branches of the Social Democratic Federation.

Dear Comrades,—In April 1903 I was expelled the S.D.F. Early in the present year I applied for re-admission to the Stratford Branch, and they accepted me subject to the consent of the Executive Council. They, however, have withheld that consent, and writing on March 6th, comrade H. W. Lee informs me “that they (the E.C.) do not see their way to grant such application at the present time.”

The Stratford Branch are now appealing against this decision to the Annual Conference at Bradford, and it is in support of this appeal, and in order to explain my position that I pen this letter.

During the three years that have elapsed since my expulsion there are, of course, many of my actions that the S.D.F. can legitimately call me to account for, and as I was fully aware of this fact I requested the E.C. to allow me to attend their meeting with a view to coming to an understanding upon such matters. I duly attended the meeting, and made a statement fully dealing with my reasons, and my attitude as regards my past relations with the S.D.F. Several questions were asked including one by comrade Qnelch as to whether I was willing to put in writing what I had said to them. I replied that I was perfectly willing if they so desired it. This I now do.

As distinct from my criticisms of the organisation, I have made certain charges against the party and individuals which were simply founded on hypothesis. These I unreservedly withdraw. Where these charges have caused pain to comrades, I can only express my regret, and trust that loyal work for the party in the future will efface any feelings of bitterness that may remain. One thing I would emphasise in fairness to myself, and those whom up till October last were my colleagues, that at any rate we were conscientious and sincere. Personally I am thoroughly convinced that the “impossiblist” movement in so far as it developed into a revolt against the real organisation of revolutionary Socialism in Great Britain was a great and grievous error.

Experience has taught me that it is an impossibility to build a party in which every unit shall, temperamentally, economically and politically toe a given line. The party of the workers must be one that always keeps the class standpoint in view, that politically stands in antagonism to all the sections of the capitalist class, and that always keeps to the front the vital principles of the social revolution. The S.D.F. fits these qualifications, and is therefore the party to which, should rally the class-conscious Socialist of the country. On minor questions that deal with the policy to be adopted in relation to this or that palliative, or reform of capitalist society there may be legitimate differences of opinion, but as long as there is no sinking of principle involved the drawing of a hard and fast line is apt to disintegrate the movement by enforcing cast-iron discipline in small things that are not vitally important. The same remarks apply to my attitude towards alliances, temporary or otherwise, for a specific purpose. As long as such an alliance does not hide our principles, and the object of the alliance is good in an agitational sense, such an alliance is of utility ; as soon, however, as it lias tendency to smother the party’s principles, and associate it with dubious company it becomes dangerous. I am convinced, however, that the S.D.F. has sufficient political acumen to discriminate between good and bad alliances.

I trust that this confession of faith will help to clear the air. In the main, I, of course hold that the Socialist, movement progresses in equal ratio to its independence and sturdy clearness of utterance. The more clearly it is able to define its position, the more it gathers to itself all that is best and strongest in the working class. On these lines the S.D.F. has fought, and its strong position to-day after all its expulsions and secessions is ample justification for its existence. The S.D.F. undoubtedly represents the revolutionary working class, and it is folly to hinder its way with carping criticism, and spiteful opposition.

In conclusion I trust that the comrades will fully consider my application, and by endorsing my membership of the Stratford Branch, put an end my wandering in the wilderness.

Fraternally yours,


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