Editorial: Science plus Practice

Criticism is not usually the pleasantest of medicines, but in the right proportions it is undoubtedly beneficial. It is, however, most curious that those to whom a modicum of criticism would be most useful have in general the greatest objection to the dose. Thus we have some members of the various “Labour” parties objecting to criticism of their foolish organisations. They object that we criticise other parties too much, and sometimes hint that if we confined ourselves to theoretical and general articles we should have a much larger circulation for our official organ. Strangely enough those who deprecate our criticism of their pet “Labour” parties have no objection—quite the contrary—to our virile criticism of the orthodox political parties. Clearly, then, it is not trenchant criticism to which they object, but solely criticism of themselves.

It is probably true that a larger circulation and much praise could be obtained by masking our opinion of the pseudo-Socialist crowd, and we are aware that spread-eagle journals have been published at a profit by being “all things to all men,” but the object of The Socialist Party is neither circulation nor praise, but the intelligent co-operation of the working-class for Socialism. And in the education of the working class the analysis of contemporary political organisations is necessary and important.

Past issues of this journal show that the importance of the scientific side of our educational work is fully realised. Indeed, the principles of a genuine working-class party could be based on no superficial eclecticism. In view of the unity of all things, its conception of Society must be consistent with all the facts and consistent also with itself. A hotchpot of gleanings of worn-out capitalistic economics such as comprises the stock-in-trade of the average “labour leader,” or a smattering of bourgeois learning and philosophy such as makes the mental furniture of peregrinating middle-class paradoxes, is no material upon which a world wide working-class movement for the regeneration of Society can advance to a successful issue.

The science upon which the working-class can work out its deliverance must be harmonious and consistent as a whole and in logical relationship to the principles of science in general. We are therefore Marxians, since in the philosophy and economics of Marx we have those principles that alone can take their place in the scientific conception of organic and social life. Only Marxian economics can withstand the attacks of the interested apologists of capitalism. All the world over, capitalism rightly regards Marxian Socialism as the enemy, and the revisionists and pseudo-Socialist labour men, whose intellectual pabulum consists of the dregs of capitalist philosophy, are hailed by Press and platform of the ruling class as allies of the existing order against the “dogmatic” Socialists.

The primary importance of science, therefore, we clearly recognise; but just as criticism which is not based upon knowledge is worthless, so also theory, however sound, which is not translated into practice is useless. Your theorist pure and simple is a very pleasant man, he is indeed quite harmless—and as useless ; but let a man with a true and consistent philosophy of things translate that philosophy into deeds, let him illuminate contemporaneous events with the light of his philosophy, and straightway he is transformed into a most unpleasant and “dogmatic” person to those in the wrong and to those whose practice is at variance with their theory.

Our Declaration of Principles shows definitely where we stand. It has not been, and we believe cannot be successfully attacked, and on it we consistently base our political policy. We are not, however, Simon Pures, for we know that mistakes are too easily made. A sound organisation will indeed learn from them and, if need be, rectify its policy. But it is not because they have made mistakes that we oppose so-called “Labour” parties, but because of their persistent pursuit, in spite of protest, in spite of bitter working-class experience, of a policy of confusion and error. It is not because they have once halted by the way that we oppose the pseudo-Socialist parties, but because while professing to be based upon Socialist principles they persistently and, through their leaders, consciously violate those fundamental principles in their confusionist and place-hunting policy. Theory, we urge, must be wedded to practice.

The rank and file of these organisations we believe to be mainly disinterested and truth-seeking but as yet ignorant of the whole truth and hypnotised by personality, and it is our duty to place the truth before them and to break the spell that binds them. Both abstract science and criticism find thus their rightful place in our propaganda; frank and sincere criticism in order that error and charlatanism may be destroyed, and Socialist science as the basis of sound principles and policy.

It is true that the working class are outside and largely ignorant of all existing organisations, and it is of course our first duty to make them Socialists; but we should be truly culpable if through cowardice or mistaken tolerance we failed to show those we have converted that their new-found faith could not be advanced within such organisations as the “Labour Party,” the I.L.P. and the S.D.F. For the spineless vote and subscription catching policies of these parties, their alliances with sections of the capitalist class, and the fact that they devote practically the whole of their energies to the furtherance of dozens of quack measures rather than to Socialism, show plainly that they are hopeless for the revolutionary Socialist movement. Indeed, if we failed to warn the workers of these pitfalls in their path, it would be worse than cowardice—it would be downright treachery.

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