Hartley’s programme in the Newcastle election had one advantage over Burrows’ in Haggerston. It was rather less windy. But it was not more sensible because of that. Said Hartley, “First, last, and all the time I am a Socialist; knowing that Socialism is the only hope of the workers, and the only escape from your present difficulties.”
That was good enough for us. But Hartley continued, “The first and most important question is that of unemployment. I am in favour of public provision of useful work for the unemployed at not less than trades union rates of wages.” And there the fatuous baffle-headedness of the reformer came in.
The fact is that you cannot have “public provision of useful work for the unemployed “at trade union or any other rate of wages, while the capitalist is in control. The unemployed are an inevitability under capitalism, and a necessity. Socialism alone will solve the unemployed problem, and then the question of wages will not arise.
What, then, was Hartley’s duty if “first, last and all the time” he was a Socialist ? Clearly to emphasise the fact that “the first and most important question” must remain unanswered until the workers answered it themselves by securing control of the means of life ; and that if they wanted something now they simply couldn’t have it, except to the extent that by organisation they gave unequivocal expression to their determination to be after nothing less than Socialism. To that extent they would find the capitalist class prepared to make concessions in the way of work for the unemployed and other forms of doles.
The old, old Folly.
In unimportant matters such as womans Suffrage the Quelches and Hartleys and the rest of the “whole hoggers” point out against the “limited” Suffragettes that the measure of the demand for votes will be the measure of the concessions made; that even if the “limited” Bill was a good thing, the best method to secure it was to set up a fight for the complete measure. The governing class was bound to make as large a deduction from the total demand as possible, so that in asking for the lot and backing it up with organised determination, there was far more likelihood of getting approximately the total of the ”limited” measure than if the sum of the demand was no more than the “limited” measure embraces.
Yet when it comes to the vastly more important question of the unemployed, we have the same Quelch-Hartleys falling back upon the despised methods of the “limited” suffragists, and for the purposes of their pose as practical politicians, disguising the cold and brutal facts of the unemployed problem lest they lose votes thereby (what other explanation fits the circumstances than this ?) what time they talk of half loaves and other pseudo-remedial piffle, to meet immediate requirements.
They are more preposterous than the “limited” suffragists. The “limited” Bill, even the adult suffrage measure, may easily be obtained under present conditions—a very certain indication of the unimportance of both. But Hartley knows that this half loaf of his for the immediate consumption of the unemployed, cannot be secured at all under present conditions. Either he knows this or it is time he left the platform and did a little reading. Why then does he put this in the forefront of his programme ? The only answer that occurs is that he knows his audience will probably not take the trouble to worry the thing out for themselves, and that while they are content to take his word for it, the thing looks feasible and within the range of “practical” politics. In other words Hartley, like Burrows, trades upon ignorance to capture votes. If he has any other explanation to offer we shall be glad to hear of it.
The Newcastle election, however, did one good thing. It set in the strongest relief the fact that we have emphasised for years—and been sneered at for our pains. The “Labour” Party has sold itself, lock, stock, and barrel, to the Liberalism it professes to stand absolutely independent of. Even Joseph Burgess, to whose work the present position is admittedly largely due, breaks out in vehement protest against the “unholy compact between Liberalism and Labour” which has resulted in the Star Chamber (consisting of Henderson and MacDonald), which directs the “Labour” Party, frankly declining to contest Newcastle against the Liberal for fear of imperilling Hudson’s seat, and invoking reprisals in other double-barrelled constituencies, from which the “Labour” member obtains his seat by collaboration with the Liberals.
Well, Burgess and the rest of them may howl. The murder was out for us long ago. The particulars we published in THE SOCIALIST STANDARD immediately following the general election left no sort of misapprehension as to the position, in the minds of anyone capable of weighing evidence. To-day the “Labour” Party stands confessed as a pitiable appendage of capitalist Liberalism, worse than useless from a working-class point of view, and only concerned to save the worthless carcasses of the members from being cast into the outer darkness that lies beyond the walls of St. Stephens, where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, because of the lost two hundred dirty pieces of gold (as Burns, the capitalist tout and working-class harpy, once unkindly called them) and all the kudos and the potentialities thereof, that attach to the position of a member of Parliament.
Just how long the trade unions will be prepared to find the money to keep this wretched gang in position is a moot point. It will depend, of course, absolutely upon the spread of Socialist thought amongst the union workers. Our part is to propagate the principles of Socialism on every available opportunity, to the end that a Socialist group under the direction and control of Socialist constituencies, shall appear for the first time in the Parliament to displace the alleged Labour group, put an end to the sham divisions between Liberal and Conservative capitalists, force them all into one camp in open antagonism to working-class interests (they will go soon enough when faced with direct issues) and give expression to the proletarian revolt without by ceaseless, irreconcilable struggle within until the capture of political power has been accomplished in the name of the workers of the world.
The guarantee that the shameless sale of working-class interests which it is now obvious to anybody the “Labour” group has been party to, cannot be repeated by a Socialist group, consists in the fact that a Socialist member of Parliament is unthinkable apart from a Socialist constituency. A Socialist constituency instructs its Parliamentary delegate, and removes him incontinently if he departs from his instructions. He is, and must remain, servant, never master, never anything else than delegate. Given a Socialist constituency, therefore, “deals” are impossible. Without the Socialist constituency, the Socialist member is impossible.
Well, comrades, let us get at it. The barometer of our success will be the rise of the storm of indignation which the awakening workers will direct against the Parliamentary “Labour” misleaders who have gone over to the enemy, as well as against that band of hope— the misleaders who are still awaiting the chance of “getting in”—who have aided and abetted the treachery.
The Price of a “Labour” Member.
Arising out of the Newcastle discussion, Mr. Frank Rose (Clarion, Oct 2), replying to the charge that the “Labour” members are more concerned with the safety of their own seats than with the “bigger, bolder, and better policy” which he (Rose) would like to see adopted, says “Why should they not look after their seats ? . . . The critical Simon Pures who have not got seats to lose might act differently if they had seats. On the other hand, they might not. I want a bigger, bolder, and better policy, but I do not expect one for a farthing a week.”
This is as frank as we shall get it. If those who pay the wages of the “Labour” members want better value they must pay a bigger price. You cannot expect a big, bold policy on £200 a year. Presumably, Rose would have taken the exact opposite of the action the Executive of the Labour Party took, but you cannot get big, bold action like that for the present price paid. All you can expect is that the “Labour” members shall look after their seats and their paltry £200 a year. The £200 a year is clearly due to them for the worry and trouble they are caused in keeping those seats !
A very big, bold gospel; a very precious gospel, this. Now if we had said that the “Labour” members were primarily after their salaries and were prepared to sell out their convictions as to the necessity for a big, bold policy, because they only received a paltry £4 a week and required £5 or more before they would move further than they do move, what in the way of base calumniators should we have been according to Rose & Co. ? And yet that is, in effect, precisely what Rose would have us understand in this connection. Well, Frank Rose is in the running for a job at the regulation salary. He holds that a bigger, bolder policy is necessary. He holds that the workers can’t have that policy at the price. So, presumably, he will, if he gets the job, go in for the policy that is useless—even as the other “Labour” members.
What other attitude should he adopt ? It would certainly seem to us as “impossibilists” and “vulgar persons,” that the only action possible to a man holding Rose’s views is to retire from candidature altogether or until such time as the money, upon which alone a big and useful policy can be pursued, is forthcoming. But then Mr. Rose is not a Simon Pure.
However, for the present the workers are to understand that they must raise their members’ screw if they want anything more than a receipt: for the money, or, although the alternative does not seem to strike Mr. Rose, they may sack their present employees and get representatives instead of job-hunters. When they understand they surely will. Meanwhile their leaders do not intend to show them the way to the bigger, bolder and better policy. They are not paid to !
(Editorial, Socialist Standard, November 1908)