Correspondence: I.L.P. compacts in Manchester
Comrade,—On November 20th Mr. T. Swann of the I.L.P. asserted in debate with J. Marsh (S.P.G.B.), that a member of the S.P.G.B. had stated that the I.L.P. had been parties to a compromise with the Liberals during the General Election ; but this statement was a deliberate lie, as no such compact had taken place. If, he added, the S.P.G.B. were proved locally to have made a statement that could not be verified, of what value were the statements made in their Manifesto and elsewhere ?
Now for the facts upon which the charge was made. On the 28th July, 1907, Swann was announced to debate with Kitson, on “Socialism versus Anarchism.” Wishing to know something more of the Anarchist position, I went to the meeting place, but found Swann holding forth, Kitson having failed to turn up.
At the conclusion of Swann’s address questions were asked for. After I spoke of the compromise referred to above. Swann denied that it had appeared in the Clarion, and, as I spoke then only from memory of 18 month’s previously, I let it pass. After, however, it was referred to by Swann on Nov. 20th, I bought the Clarions for the last three months of 1905 and found “The Clarion Post Bag ” for Nov. 10th, 1905, contained the following :—
Dear Sir,—Your article in Clarion of October 27 re Socialist candidate for East Manchester Parliamentary Division, was considered by our executive committee at their meeting on November 2, and I was instructed to inform you that the above committee was created by the Manchester and Salford Trades and Labour Council for the purpose of running Parliamentary Labour candidates in Manchester and Salford at the next General Election.
The committee is representative in character, consisting of trade unions and branches of the Independent Labour Party, and the constituencies they have selected to be contested are South-West and North-East Manchester Divisions.
Our candidates, Mr. G. D. Kelley and Mr. J. R. Clynes, have been before the constituents some time, their prospects of success are excellent, and they have received the endorsement of the National Labour Representation Committee.
Our executive committee are strongly of the opinion that the introduction of a Socialist or Labour candidate in East Manchester would seriously damage the good prospects of their candidates in S. W. and N.E. Manchester Divisions, and would tend to upset the cordial relations at present existing between the trade unions and Socialist organisations for independent political action, which has taken many years to bring about.
In view of these circumstances, they feel it would be a mistaken policy for the Clarion to put forward a Socialist candidate for East Manchester, and one which they, as the representative body of the Labour and Socialist bodies in the district, appointed for the specific purpose of running Parliamentary Labour candidates, could not countenance.—Yours sincerely,
Secretary, M/c & Salford Lbr. Rpn. Committee, 29, York Street, Broughton, Salford.”
J. Butterworth, of 7, Royal Street, Ardwick, Secretary of the Ardwick I.L.P.,had a letter in the same issue of the Clarion in which he states in reply to A. M. Thompson’s “I wait now to hear from the constituency,” (Nov. 3/05), that “I or someone else may have something definite to say upon the matter,” “in the course of a few days.” What that “something definite” was we gather from the Clarion of Dec. 1st, 1905, when there appeared the following in a letter, dated November 27th, 1905 :—
“The following resolution was moved by Councillor Fox and seconded by Councillor Sutton:—
That this meeting of the members of East Manchester branches of the I.L.P. cannot consent to the candidature of Bramley without the consent of the M/c and Salford L.R.C. After discussion, the following amendment was moved by Comrade Hunt (of the Bradford branch), and seconded by Comrade Jones (of the Ardwick branch) :—
‘That we, members of the Ardwick and Bradford branches of the I.L.P., although, on account of our affiliation with the L.R.C., are unable to promote any candidature in East Manchester, cannot withold our consent to the promotion of the candidature of F. Bramley for the division by the Clarion Board.’ ”
In explanation, A. M. Thompson said “The resolution conveyed in this letter shows misunderstanding of the situation. No candidature is, or can be, promoted by the Clarion Board.”
F. W. Jowett, in the Clarion for December 15th, 1905, points out that “There is one thing, however, which is beyond doubt, and that is the duty of our members in constituencies where a candidate is being run by any of the organisations affiliated to the L.R.C., as an L.R.C. candidate. The cohesion of the Labour movement largely depends upon the thoroughness with which the sections in each constituency concerned unite on the man in the field, to whatever section he may belong.”
Now, I maintain that the I.L.P. as a party affiliated to the L.R.C. are, as a matter of moral obligation, compelled to agree to any arrangement the L.R.C. may arrive (or connive) at. That they did act loyally to their L.R.C. confederates is shown by the words “we, on account of our affiliation to the L.R.C., are unable to promote any candidature in East Manchester” (their “consent” without support would have been useless to Bramley, as a candidate). Therefore it was a mere pious resolution. Had they supported Bramley they would have been false to their L.R.C. friends, because “the introduction of a Socialist or Labour candidate in M/c would seriously damage the good prospects” of Kelley and Clynes in S.W. & N.E. Divisions. (vide Sec. Nuttall of the L.R.C.) They were, on this showing, as members of the L.R.C., parties to the compact I spoke of.
Perhaps Mr. Swann may use words for a purpose different to that in which words are generally understood. But a compact is “a mutual agreement or contract, a treaty, a league, a confederacy.” (Nuttall). That there was an agreement was made further evident when I saw in the Clarion for December 22nd, 1905 a letter signed “Unification,” in which occurs the following:—
“That there is a great possible danger in the confusion of the word “Labour” with the Liberal Party will be obvious to most people when we read such statements as appeared in a Manchester evening paper—that a certain Labour candidate saw eye to eye with the Liberals on nine points out of ten, and it would, therefore, not be policy to bring out a Liberal candidate and thus create a three-cornered fight. The ambiguity of the term is proving a valuable asset to the Liberal Party ; but when we learn that the L.R.C. are averse to sanctioning the candidature of a Socialist for East Manchester, on the grounds that the Liberals would then contest the two Manchester divisions, where Labour candidates are nominated, we can certainly excuse the outsiders if they consider the Labour Party as a Liberal wing. What other complexion can be placed on such a help-me-and-I’ll-help-you policy ? ”
And furthermore, in the Manchester Courier of December 16th last the following appears :—
Some time before the last General Election the Independent Labour Party displayed an anxiety to contest the West Salford Parliamentary Division, and formally adopted a candidate. As a result of an arrangement with the Liberal Party that Labour candidates should not be opposed in the North-East and South-West Manchester Divisions if the other Manchester and Salford Divisions were not contested by Labour candidates, the prospective nominee of the party withdrew The Labour Party’s love of Liberalism has not been improved in the last two years, and after the success of its own candidates in Manchester last year a renewal of the arrangement which gave the Liberals six candidates to Labour’s two is not likely.”
What has Mr. Swann to say now?—Yours fraternally,
P.S.—As I did not join the S.P.G.B. Until 28th August, 1907, the statement Mr. Swann dubbed a “deliberate lie” was not made by “a member of the S.P.G.B.,” but that, of course, ia a minor point.
Dear Comrade,—Are we justified in assuming that the working class, being the majority of the electors, could return a majority of Socialists to the House of Commons ? I am at present rather dubious on this point, having seen some figures in the “Daily Mail Year Book” for 1908, which seem to disprove the contention that the working class have the power to elect a Socialist majority. For instance, Kilkenny has 1,584 electors and returns one M.P. while Wandsworth has 34,461 and only returns one M.P. The Romford Division of Essex returns but one M.P. and has an electorate numbering 47,614, and Newcastle, with 37,417 voters returns two M.P’s.
Let us imagine an election to have taken place. A Conservative is returned for Kilkenny with 1,000 votes, and a Socialist is returned for Romford Division with 30,000 votes. We see here one Conservative and one Socialist retrirned, but the Conservative vote is only one-thirtieth that of the Socialist.
I should certainly think that the majority of the voters in divisions with a large electorate are proletarian, as it is only the workers who are found crowded together, while those divisions with a small electorate, which I believe are usually country divisions, would be mostly bourgeois.
In 1886 the Unionists were in a minority of 65,000 votes, yet they had a majority of 104 seats. We find a similar thing in Germany. The Social Democrats polled 3,251,000 votes and obtained 43 seats, while the Centre Party obtained 105 seats and polled only 2,247,000 votes.
I have written this letter in the hope that it may produce a discussion that will dispel these doubts from my mind.—Yours fraternally,
H. A. YOUNG.
Dec. 8th, 1907.
Sir,—Can a worse case of faking and compromise be found than the following ?
At the recent Municipal elections the A.S.R.S. put forward a Mr. Robinson for the South Ward, and his candidature was endorsed by the North Staffs Trades and Labour Council. He is a member of the I.L.P., but did not mention that fact in his election address. Another member of the A.S.R.S., an ex-signalman named Leese, an expelled member of the I.L.P., who poses as a “Labour” man and who has acted as election agent for Mr. John Ward, M.P., undertook to serve in a similar capacity for Mr. Robinson. The Mayor, who was also running in the same ward, called upon Mr. Leese, threatened that he should be opposed next election, reminded him that his (the Mayor’s) class gave liberally to the Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund of the A.S.R.S., that he (Leese) did not altogether depend upon the working class for his livelihood, and also that the railway companies were objecting to their servants contesting elections. The result was that a notice appeared in the Sentinel the following evening stating that Mr. Robinson had withdrawn, as he did not wish to oppose the Mayor !
In the Wellington Ward of Hanley, Mr. J. Lovatt, member of the S.D.F., and secretary of the Potters’ Union, was put forward by his union as a Labour Candidate, although as he won Justice claimed the result as an S.D.F. victory. At an indoor meeting Mr. Lovatt said he was a Socialist but was putting that on one side and was running simply as a Labour candidate in order to be at peace with the non-Socialists in his union. On Oct. 30th he was supporting Mr. A. Stanley, M.P., an anti-Socialist, at a public meeting !
Thus do the place-hunters obscure the issue.
[Do figs grow on thistles ?—Ed. T.S.S.]