The case of Philip Snowden, M.P.

The Labour member for Blackburn, like others who came to the front at the general election, strives to add to his income, (a paltry £200 a year with an extra £25 now and again) by lecturing at high fees, and by writing articles to suit the purposes of the millionaire proprietors of the trustified Press.

In the course of his peregrinations he has run up against members of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, and in our last number we briefly recorded that our Manchester comrades had forwarded to Mr. Snowden particulars of compacts made between I.L.P. candidates and Liberals, with special reference to Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and Mr. James Parker.

Mr. Philip Snowden replied as follows :

(Copy). 10, Baron’s Court Road,
West Kensington, W.
Jan. 23, ’08.
Dear Sir,—There is nothing at all in all you say which gives any proof of an alliance or understanding. Your extracts simply prove what everybody knows, namely, that in the absence of a second Liberal the Liberal electors voted against the Tory.—Yrs very truly,

Now what do we say ?

“Mr. Ramsay MacDonald was adopted as the Labour candidate for Leicester, at a meeting held at the Temperance Hall on Jan. 5th, 1906. In the course of his speech he said that the trade union section, and that practically comprehended the whole of the movement, said that in connection with this election they must vote so that all votes in the House of Commons they could influence would be cast in favour of the upsetting of the Taff Vale judgment. They said the danger of Protection to the wage earners was so great and so pressing that they must fight and kill Protection, and so, after full discussion, their local Labour Representation Committee came to the decision, and he was empowered to communicate it to them that night, that on no account was it going to ask them to plump on Monday week (cheers), and their Trades Council came to the decision the other night to advise every working man, and everybody who was influenced by the Labour movement, to use both their votes, to give one to Mr. Broadhurst and the other to himself (loud cheers).
Councillor Hill proposed the resolution in support and asked every Progressive elector to use his two votes solid for progress and the advancement of Labour.
Alderman Wood, president of the Liberal Association, seconded. He said that his friends had decided not only to run one candidate, but they were going to take off their coats and work not only for the return of their candidate, but also of their good friend, Mr. MacDonald. Let them all work hard and vote for both the Progressive candidates, and then he should be confident of the result.”

Mr. Snowden may find a full report of this meeting in the Leicester Daily Post of January 6th, 1906, headed—


Undoubtedly it was a brilliant speech, from a Liberal point of view.

The Leicester correspondent of the London Daily News, on January 15th, 1906, said, “Mr. Broadhurst and Mr. MacDonald, although on separate platforms, are urging that electors should not plump, but allocate their votes to the two Progressives.” Only by accident, of course, Mr. Snowden, there was no “understanding.”

In the Leicester Daily Post for January 16th, 1906, further speeches may be found. The polling took place on the previous day. The following is a reprint from the article “Labour at the Polls” which appeared in THE SOCIALIST STANDARD, March, 1906 :—

“After the poll was declared a meeting was held at the Liberal Club, at which Ald. Wood congratulated them upon their magnificent victory. He was proud of the Liberals of Leicester, proud of the Labour Party of Leicester and of the unity of action which had brought about that great triumph. Mr. Henry Broadhurst said that Labour and Liberalism had known no difference, as shown by the extraordinary equality of votes between Mr. MacDonald and himself. That is what they did when they had trust in each other. There was one man who had made that grand result possible, and that was Alderman Wood, but for whose years of devotion to unity they might have been a divided people again. Three cheers were given for Ald. Wood.
At the same time a meeting was being held by the Labour Party. Councillor Banton, in opening, said the Liberals had polled with them (cheers) and they reciprocated the fight side by side (loud cheers). Mr. MacDonald said there had been one very significant fact about the contest. Practically every voter of the 14,000 had polled Broadhurst and MacDonald (cheers). The plumping had been insignificant, and consequently—(Voices: “Three cheers for MacDonald and Broadhurst.”)—he wanted to read the following message to them : “I wish you to give my hearty congratulations to the Labour Party on the Progressive victory at Leicester to-day. (Signed) Ald. Wood,” (Voices: “Three cheers for Ald. Wood,” which were heartily given). The Alderman had told him that he would be 67 years of age to-morrow. They had given him a magnificent birthday present (cheers). Let them be perfectly clear. The Mercury had said that the two parties— Liberal and Labour—had been occupying quite independent positions during the whole of the contest, but owing to the great crises that the late government had brought upon this country—the crisis to Trade Unionism and the crisis to Industry—they had, upon those specific and definite points, cooperated for the purpose of killing the late government, and preventing things going from bad to worse.”

If no alliance existed, no “understanding” was arrived at, when these two parties—Liberal and Labour—”co-operated for the purpose of killing the late Government,” we have yet to learn what an alliance or “understanding” is.

With regard to Halifax, we said in March 1906:—

“At Halifax Mr. Parker openly advised his supporters to give one vote to the Liberal. The defeat of the Tory, said the Halifax Guardian, was entirely due to the alliance between the Liberal and Socialist Parties, which had occurred for the first time in the political history of Halifax. The figures showed unmistakably that the combination had held good, that Liberal votes by the thousand went for Socialism, and that Socialism reciprocated this support to the fullest extent of its power.
The Guardian, however, is a bit out in calling it a victory for Socialism. Even Mr. Parker only claimed “that the result had shown that Halifax at heart was in favour of progress.” At the Oddfellows’ Hall Mr. M. J. Blatchford said, after speeches from Mr. Parker and others, the result showed that the arrangement made by the Liberals had been honestly carried out by both parties. It had been a magnificent display of confidence. Nothing could be more splendid than the confidence each party had shown in the other. He was entirely satisfied that the Labour Party and the Liberal Party had done what they had undertaken to do and he thought both sides might be proud of it (cheers).”

And Mr. Snowden says that Mr. M. J. Blatchford’s words do not prove the existence of any alliance or undertaking ! What would prove it to Mr. Snowden?

In November last we referred to Mr. Parker as having “made a compact with the Liberal Party to secure election,” and Mr. Parker wrote to us to dispute a certain statement made concerning him in the same article, but did not deny the truth of this particular one. But Mr. Snowden rushes in where Mr. Parker feared to tread.

The member for Blackburn says that what happened was that, in the absence of a second Liberal, the Liberal electors voted against the Tory ! But if the votes polled were merely anti-Tory votes, what becomes of Mr. Bruce Glasier’s arithmetic in the Labour Leader of April 26th last ?

In the Smethwick Telephone for February 8th, appeared a column, which doubtless also saw the light in many another local journal, headed: “From Labour’s Standpoint, by Philip Snowden, M.P.,” in the course of which he says:—

“There is one great omission in the King’s Speech. There is no reference to the question of unemployment. It is amazing that a Government professing the zeal for Social Reform which carried this Government into power should ignore the acuteness and urgency of this matter. . . . The appointment of Mr. John Burns to the control of the department responsible for this work, a man who had himself known the want of food through unemployment, strengthened the hope that a sympathetic treatment of the problem would be adopted.”

Is Mr. Snowden simple or is he merely playing the game ? We must incline to the latter view. What Socialist could expect a capitalist Government to recognise “the acuteness and urgency of the matter of unemployment” from the viewpoint of the unemployed ? A reserve army of labour is necessary to capitalism ; the problem therefore will only become acute and urgent when that reserve army, assisted by those in employment, becomes dangerous, and that period, thanks largely to the tactics of Mr. Snowden and his friends, is a long way off. What Socialist regarded the appointment of Mr. John Burns as any promise of sympathetic treatment of the problem ? His appointment was a clever, very clever move of the Liberals. Burns understands Socialism, and was appointed as a foil. The Labour members are either envious of Burns or afraid of him,—probably both. He knows that their precious Unemployment Bill is a fraud, and has probably told them so, has sneeringly pointed out to them, say behind the Speaker’s chair, that if they are Socialists they cannot support their own Bill, with its monstrosity of a penal clause. Mr. Snowden complains that in the debate on the Labour Party’s amendment to the Address, John Burns—

“adopted an offensive attitude from the first. He had no justification for such a course. He followed almost immediately after myself and I had taken special pains to be friendly and sympathetic, and to recognise and admit the difficulties of his position.”

As if John Burns wants the sympathy of Mr. Snowden and his friends ! Of course his attitude was offensive, and it will be until the Labour Party make up their mind (if they have one) to fight him and the master class whose interests he so ably serves. Mr. Snowden continued :—

“A Labour Party in Parliament which remained quiet while men and women and children were starving outside would merit the condemnation of the country.”

Heavens! think of it ! All the time that there has been a Labour Party in the House, men, women, and children have been starving outside. And the Labour Party has been quiet, damnably quiet. It has boasted of its “sensibility, respectability, and adaptability” ; its fighting men have taken a turn on the terrace when they wanted to say that wicked word “damn” ; it has moved the adjournment of the House to draw attention to the shooting of natives in Natal, but behaved with Christlike meekness over the shooting of workers at Belfast; it has boasted of its connection with the Nonconformist humbugs and canted in P.S.A. pulpits, appealing for charity for the Hemsworth colliers (who have now been locked out for 171 weeks) when it should have been denouncing these people for supporting a system and a government which make such things possible ; it has expressed its gratification at the references in the King’s Speech to the Congo and Macedonia when it should have been raising hell over the condition of the people here at home; it has attended Royal Garden Parties and told funny tales concerning the working “classes” to “Docks” when it should have been organising the workers for the Social Revolution.

The Labour Party does “merit the condemnation of the country” !


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