Editorial: A Confession of Impotence

Speaking for the S.D.F. at N.E. Manchester on September 28th, Mr. J. R, Clynes, M.P., thus delivered himself amid, we read, loud S.D.F. cheers:—

“The Labour Party in Parliament were doing their best. He thought they should be delegates to carry out the will of the people who sent them there. They only represented a small minority of the workers and could not speak for the whole of the workers. They were told to kick up a row and make themselves a nuisance like the Irish Party. But the Irish Party had nearly the whole of Ireland behind them.”

That comes of being a fierce democrat and the bosom chum of an implacable revolutionary like Bill Thorne. Having fulfilled the first of their desires and “got in” on programmes that, whatever else they may have been, were distinctly not Socialist; and having discovered that being in on such terms they were, as we said they would and must be, impotent, the LABOUR—socialist members now seek to placate the wrath of any of their “advanced” friends by pointing out that they couldn’t kick up a row because, dont y’see, they haven’t the whole people behind them. As unflinching democrats, it was their business first and foremost (after “getting in”) to carry out the will of the people by whose votes they were returned, and as these votes were not given for Socialism, naturally they (the elected persons) couldn’t act as Socialists or preach Socialism.

The thing is as plain as can be. We can’t, they say, run on a Socialist programme because the people, the sovereign people (two hundred sovereigns to be precise), are not Socialists and wouldn’t elect us ; we can’t voice Socialism when we are elected because we must represent the views of our constituents. Of course Socialism is the only thing that materially matters to the workers (“I believe and recognise the class war,” says Clynes), and when the people are Socialists we shall—my word ! how we shall go for the capitalists, and what a row we shall kick up. But until then——And so on, and so on.


Exploiters of Sentiment
Well, what is the use of Clynes & Co. from a Socialist point of view at all ? And what is the use of the S.D.F. “Socialists” in Manchester who cheered Clynes and moved him votes of thanks ? If Clynes is prepared, as in common with other members of the Labour Group who claim to be Socialists he certainly is, to subordinate Socialism, the admittedly only hope of the workers, to the chance of “getting in,” what use is he from a working-class standpoint ? He may claim that he did not know how impotent his precious “Labour” party would be. He may have been, as many professing Socialists are, under the impression that the great thing is to “get in,” and then use your position as a sounding board for your principles—play the political fraud, deceive the electorate, prepare the way for a Socialism that is impossible without an educated working class by deliberately hoodwinking that class ! We have set our faces against this, the fairly common practice of the S.D.F., I.L.P. and other pseudo-Socialist parties, and earned for ourselves by our denunciations, the epithet “impossiblists.” But this damnable doctrine of doing evil that good may come was, and is yet, widely held, and Clynes may have been innoculated with it.

Assume that he was an honest fool then as against a worse assumption, and went in with high hopes of better work possible under the changed conditions only to find he was tied hand and foot and delivered bound to the “Labour Party.” Assuming that, what would his position be provided he remained honest ? What action would he take ? Surely he would risk his salary, break with the “Labour” Party and its restrictions, and shout his Socialism from the Parliamentary housetop. Such action would not, of course, purge the evil of his election, but it would be evidence of honest stupidity.

But what it instead of this he swallowed his aspirations, pocketed his wages and came along with the explanation that, after all you cannot work in advance of your electorate ? Well, in that case you would know to a very nice exactitude what the price of that man was.

Mark ! this is the case of a man who started into office foolish but honest. But suppose the best of evidence existed to show that he had no delusions as to his powers when he “got in” ; that knowing all the time that Socialism was the only thing that mattered to the workers, he deliberately whittled his policy and submerged his principles until he made himself acceptable to the ignorance of a number of electors sufficiently large for his purposes ; what would then be said when that man came along to explain his impotence on the ground of the ignorance of the electorate ? What would we call a man who, while occupying the standing of a leader in professing Socialist circles, deliberately got himself elected on a non-Socialist programme that rendered him entirely useless to the working class, and who then came to his professing Socialist supporters to explain that he was useless because he had been elected on a non-Socialist ticket ?

Think it over, my friends of North East Manchester and elsewhere, remembering the speech of J. R, Clynes, M.P. And do not forget the loud cheers of his S.D.F. supporters. They at any rate are prepared to be parties to the same game again—if the Manchester S.P.G.B. does not interfere. However, as there is a branch of the S.P.G.B. in Manchester now, the local confusionists can rely upon the interference, as we can rely upon our comrades making that interference effective.


The Only Socialist Party
Many comments have been penned by writers in the official organs of bodies claiming to be Socialist to whom the S.P.G.B. is in open and avowed antagonism because of the resolution passed by the E.C. of the S.P.G.B., challenging the British Constitution Association to debate the principles of Socialism. The aforesaid writers are concerned owing to the resolution describing the S.P.G.B. as “the only Socialist Party in this country.” Well, seeing that it is, why should not the fact be announced ? What is it that differentiates the S.P.G.B. from other parties claiming to be Socialist ? It is the only party that, from its formation and ever since, has advocated Socialism, and nothing short of Socialism, at all times and under all conditions. It is the only party that has declined to be side-tracked or to assist in sidetracking the people by concentrating their efforts upon the palliation instead of upon the abolition of capitalism. It is the only party that has refused to attach itself to freak organisations, political or industrial. It is assailed because it declines to advocate palliatives. But what have the opponents of Socialism been declaring recently is the best way to fight Socialism? To palliate the evils of capitalism ! Mr. Levy Lever, M.P., says Socialism must be fought “by legislation dealing with housing, social, and land reform, and old age pensions.” Lord Burghclere declares for “Social Legislation.” Sir George Kekewich, M.P., says “Employ the unemployed. Reform the Poor Law. House the Workers. Pension the Aged.” The Marquis of Northampton is of opinion that the discontent of the working class is owing to the lethargy of successive Governments as regards drastic social reforms. Sir H. Seymour King, M.P., would fight it by granting the legitimate demands of the masses for improved conditions and opportunities. The Hon. Claude Hay, who has supported the S.D.F., financially and otherwise, in their agitation for free meals for schoolchildren, plumps for “bold social reforms,” and others would “give the poorer classes a stake in the country,” thereby admitting, of course, that they possess none at present. But all these proposals are put forward, let it not be forgotten, by those who are out to fight Socialism. And it is these same antidotes to Socialism that the S.D.F., I.L.P., and similar reform bodies are urging the workers to scramble for ! The S.P.G.B., comprehending the real significance of the working-class movement, declines to be side-tracked. It knows that only Socialism will give the wealth producers their freedom and the wealth they produce, and it is therefore out for Socialism all along the line, and has always been. No other party in this country can substantiate a similar claim and therefore the S.P.G.B. is justified in describing itself as “the only Socialist Party.”

(Editorial, Socialist Standard, November 1907)

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