Labour Party Politics: A Confused Jumble

Mr. J. Ramsay MacDouald, M.P., Chairman of the Independent Labour Party, Secretary of the Labour Party in the House of Commons, writer on capitalist politics in capitalist newspapers, has, according to the Morning Post of May 8th, written to the Leicester branch of the Church Socialist League as follows :—

“I give my episcopal blessing with much pleasure. The Church Socialist League ought to flourish, for upon what more congenial soil can Socialism grow than the ethics of the Gospel and the maxims of the Fathers ? Moreover, I think, when we know each other better, it will be found that the materialism which the Church is always saying that she is warring against is precisely the thing that we Socialists are warring against. The dross of life is oppressing us. It is in our eyes and we see not ; it is in our mouths, and we cannot speak the truth ; it is in our hearts, and we cannot worship what it is meet that we should worship. We are striving for all sorts of rights—the right to hold acres and to enjoy incomes which we have never earned ; the right to have drink on Sunday; the right to be fleeced by bookmakers; the right to starve our children ; and we do not seem to have the faculty to discriminate which of these are of God and which of the Devil. So our politics are a confused jumble of futilities at their worst and an ineffective striving after vague desires at their best. We have to discover the qualitative things of life, and it is because your Church Socialist League is going to strive to do that that I readily respond to your request to bless you.”

This letter is such a “confused jumble” that one has a difficulty in understanding it, but we will try. “We Socialists” of course refers to Mr. Macdonald and his fellow members and supporters of the Labour Party, Independent or otherwise. These cannot speak the truth because the dross of life is in their mouths and is oppressing them. It was not known before that this was the reason, but a note can now be made of their excuse. It is hoped they will succeed in their attempt to secure the right to drink on Sunday. To do so is very refreshing especially after an hour or so’s open-air speaking. When they have secured this right may they be oppressed by sufficient of the dross of life to exercise it—to afford a decent drink and plenty of it. It may interest them to know that a prominent Liberal Statesman, now deceased, is credited with having declared that “bitter beer is the finest drink that has been invented since the nectar of the gods went out of fashion.” Be that as it may, they are of course at liberty to select their own “pizen” from the various kinds on tap.

Undoubtedly their politics are a confused jumble at their worst, and one may go farther and declare that they are usually at their worst.

They may think this is due to the seeming absence of the faculty to discriminate which of these rights are of God and which of the Devil, others think it is due, in some cases, to their ignorance of the working-class position, and in other cases to their desire for political aggrandisement.

In the columns of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD, month by month, have been given evidence of this confused jumble. The writers have not got the dross of life in their eyes and can see.

The Independent Labour Party, of which Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, M.P., is chairman, claim to be the proud parent of the (Parliamentary) Labour Party, of which Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, M.P., is Secretary. The electoral policy of the two parties is, on paper, identical. It is also identical in practice, but whilst on paper it is understandable, in practice it is a “confused jumble.” The paper policy is summed up in the following clause of the Declaration of the Labour Party : “To abstain strictly from identifying themselves with or promoting the interests of any section of the Liberal or Conservative Parties.”

Although subscribing to this policy several members of the Labour Party threw it over at the General Election, when they saw that by adhering to it they would fail to secure election. Amongst them were Mr. Ramsay MacDonald at Leicester, Mr. Parker at Halifax, Mr. T. F. Richards at Wolverhampton, and Mr. Stuart at York. Details of the compacts made with the Liberals will be found in THE SOCIALIST STANDARD for March and July, 1906.

Mr. W. Crooks, M.P., has signed the Declaration, but that did not prevent him attending the Banquet to Mr. S. L. Hughes at the Trocadero Restaurant on April 7th, 1906, organised by “some of the best known names in Liberal politics” because “the great Radical victory which had just been won was due to men like Mr. Hughes.”

Mr. W. Thorne, M.P., has signed the Declaration but yet supported Mr. Percy Alden, Liberal member for Tottenham, at the General Election in company with Messrs. Will Crooks, John Burns, H. H. Asquith, Herbert Gladstone, and others.

Messrs. C. W. Bowerman, M.P. and John Hodge, M.P., have signed the Declaration, but identified themselves with the Liberals (masquerading as Progressives) at the last London County Council Election. Mr. Bowerman was advertised to speak at Risiughill Street Schools, Pentonville, and Mr. Hodge was announced to take the chair at Maryon Park Schools, Charlton.

On April 21st last, Mr. A. Henderson, Whip of the Labour Party, was one of the chief speakers at Ilford Town Hall, at a “Temperance” meeting. Every student knows that this “Temperance” brigade is a wing of the Liberal Party. Mr. Henderson declared that they did not intend that the Government should put off “Temperance” reform in favour of Land Reform, or Home Rule or anything else. They must tell the Government straight that “Temperance” must be first.

When the Stepney Bye Election took place last month Mr. Ben Cooper was adopted as the official Liberal Candidate. He declared the issue was simply Free Trade versus Tariff Reform. According to the Daily Chronicle Mr. Bowerman was one of the first to write and offer his services in support of the Liberal nominee. The Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress endorsed his candidature. Messrs. Shackleton, Gill, Barnes, Bowerman, Wilkie and Thome, all Labour M.P.’s who have signed the Declaration of the Labour Party are members of the Parliamentary Committee.

Mrs. Philip Snowden was a delegate to the Annual Conference of the Independent Labour Party at Derby this year. During the Wimbledon bye-election last month she was one of the hardest workers for the Liberal candidate, the Hon. Bertrand Russell, who “supported tie Liberal Government in everything excepting its attitude on the question of Women’s Suffrage.”

In view of these facts there can be no question that the politics of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and his Labour Party friends are a “confused jumble of futilities.” Mr. MacDonald’s phrase “touches the spot.”


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