1900s >> 1908 >> no-42-february-1908

A Discussion on Unemployment

The leading article in the December issue of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD has been replied to—in a way.

On Christmas eve, when thoughts were turned to wishing Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All Men, the author of that article met Messrs. Williams and Greenwood. Williams said nothing— Greenwood said much.

He assured me he had read my “mean, contemptible, despicable article” in my “dirty little rag,” and proceeded to give his opinion of the Party in general and me in particular. This opinion was not very flattering nor couched in particularly elegant language, and I suggested that when he had quite exhausted his vocabulary of abusive terms he might attempt to refute the statements in the article, or even argue the points mentioned. He assured me, with much gesticulation, that the only way he would argue with me would be to take me by the throat and strangle the life out of me. But as this would still have left the points of difference in dispute the offer was not accepted.

Then I was subjected to a further denunciation for “belittling men who had made such sacrifices for the movement.” The Communist Manifesto states “the proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains ; they have a world to win.” And as I presume you cannot sacrifice what you never had, I disagree with his remarks about sacrifices.

But he didn’t mind my theorising on the question of unemployment; what he objected to was my way of imputing dishonesty to them. I replied that if they could square their method of organising the unemployed with the principles of Socialism I should be glad to hear it. Again he expressed his desire to punch my head, but Ludgate Circus at 2 o’c in the afternoon did not offer a good opportunity, so that his discretion supplanted his valour (!). True, he invited me to “bring up my pals” after the punching process, but the invitation was declined. His parting shot was that he was of the opinion that I was not a Socialist but a paid agent of the Tory Party ! This after waxing wrathfully eloquent over my “insinuations.”

It is doubtful whether the incident is worth much attention. The anger of Mr. Greenwood clearly shows he has no case and knows it; and, personally, I regret that he should have so far descended as to make a fool and a blackguard of himself. To bystanders, hearing a man raving in the name of Socialism does not reflect any credit on it, and when he wants to strangle an opponent and go to other absurd lengths to manifest disagreement they are still less likely to be attracted to the movement. If I had said anything in my article which was incorrect, it was, and is, open to Mr. Greenwood or any other to write to the editor explaining the error, and demanding a withdrawal. For my part, I am certain that the mere receipt of a decently courteous expression of disapproval would do more to alter my opinion than all the abuse and the threats which even Mr. Greenwood is capable of.

I trust that his attitude is not typical of his organisation on this matter of argument, because if questions in dispute are to be settled by an appeal to physical force, the S.D.F. would be proved wrong by the powers that be, as would any opinion that happened to be in the minority, and I cannot believe that the man with the stronger arm is always more correct than the weaker one, any more than Mr. Greenwood’s greater size and strength would infallibly prove the incorrectness of the position of—
R. H. KENT.

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