A Labour Review

[“The Socialist Review.” I.L.P., London. 6d. Nett.]


The Editor of this Review tells us that one of the circumstances which call for its publication is the desirability of attracting sections of the middle class. The movement “must command the support of the intellectual democracy ; the professional classes—the men and women whose ‘wages’ is not merely an income, but the mental satisfaction which their work brings; the intellectual middle and rich classes—men and women who are moved by intellectual ideals, repulsions and attractions.”

The review, presumably, is an appeal to the “brains” of the nation, in contradistinction to the unintellectual bestiality of the lower orders.

Since, however, the middle class is helpless without the aid of the workers, the Editor is constrained to insist on the futility of a separate middle class organisation. “A middle class Socialist Society is an absurdity.” It could be nothing but an uncertain, isolated and somewhat despised influence. So this coterie of politicians are prepared to use the working class as voting cattle under the guidance of middle-class “intellect” for the furtherance of middle-class interests.

One of the contributors, Mr. J. R. McDonald, in advocating the taking of office in a capitalist cabinet by “Socialists,” under very elastic conditions, shows how keen is his scent for the fleshpots of office.

He also says: “A Labour Party in the House of Commons can do as much for Socialism as a Socialist Party can do, because the former can use to the maximum every Socialist tendency of the present day. We may have a hundred debates on Socialism in the House of Commons, but the unemployed will be starving unless we get an act passed that will work. Many people will support such an act who are not Socialists. They belong to the tendencies making for Socialism.”

A non-Socialist party in the House of Commons could neither assist in the spread of Socialism by making its principles clear, nor use to the maximum the events of the day, since it would lack the necessary knowledge and backbone. Its ignorance and blunders give rise to the confusion of the workers, and at the same time provide the opportunity of the enemy. The result can only be disappointment, apathy and retrogression.

The overwhelming majority of the Liberal Government against the “Unemployed Workmen Bill” shows that even the paltriest measure that threatens their interests finds the capitalist class united against it. Many even among those who voted for the Bill did so merely as a “blind,” because they knew it could not pass, as indicated in the “House.” While the Bill itself is hopeless, its penal clause is deserving of the strongest condemnation. Even if passed it would only be administered by the class in control of the administration in so far as it served their interests, and wherever the worker might theoretically stand to gain, its provisions would be distorted, re-interpreted or neglected, and no power could say them nay.

What do these facts show but the necessity for the revolutionary method at which Mr. McDonald sneers ? Is it not imperative that the workers be helped to see that to legislate in their interest they must control political power ? and to have such legislation administered in their interests they must themselves administer them? The reform method is hopeless. The only hope lies in the consciousness of the workers in their class interests, and in their persistent organisation and advance toward the control of the political machinery, for then only can they commence to use the economic forces which have developed under capitalism, for the well-being of those who produce ; while only by the adoption of this method are they likely to get “something now.”

The review also contains some extracts from letters by Marx and Engels which the Editor tries to use in support of the Labour Party.

The letters, as they are printed, are not authoritative since they have the appearance of having been edited with a purpose. The full text of the letters would have been more convincing.

As they stand, however, the letters by no means support the position of the “Labour Party,” for Marx shows how the middle class is to be distrusted ; whilst his appreciation of the attitude of Belfort Bax, who, whatever his shortcomings in economics, was at that time the aggressive exponent of working class interest, is significant of what Marx judged important.

The letters of Engels are instinct with confidence in the working class and reliance on the logic of events, while insisting on the danger of dogmatism. He insists that “the great thing is to get the working class to move as a class.” The italics are Engels’.

And is not the following extract from a letter of Engels’ also the condemnation of the policy of the I.L.P.? He says:—

“The Fabians here in London are a band of ambitious folk who have sufficient understanding to comprehend the inevitableness of the social revolution but who cannot trust this gigantic work to the proletarian alone, and therefore have the kindness to place themselves at the head of it. Dread of the revolution is their fundamental principle. They are the cultured par excellence. Their Socialism is municipal Socialism—the commune, not the nation, shall at least be the possessor of the means of production. This Socialism of theirs is then presented as an extreme but inevitable consequence of middle-class Liberalism, and hence their tactics are to fight the Liberals not as decided opponents but to drive them on to socialistic consequences; therefore to trick them, to permeate Liberalism with Socialism and not to oppose Socialist candidates to Liberal ones, but to palm them off, to thrust them on, under some pretext.”

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The review also contains articles on Italy, Food, the Unemployed, and one by Kautsky on the Belgian Peasantry. It is well got up and will doubtless have a large sale among the many who, under the influence of economic pressure, are becoming dimly conscious of the necessity for social change; but who will have to unlearn, in the hard school of experience, much of what they gather from the literature of the I.L.P.


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