1900s >> 1908 >> no-51-november-1908

The Forum. Some Open Discussions

Statements of difficulties, criticisms of our position, contributions upon any question of working-class interest, are invited. Members and non-members of the Party are alike welcome. Correspondents must, however, be as brief as possible, as bright as possible, and as direct as possible to the point.

SOME COMMON OBJECTIONS TO THE S.P.G.B.

Rufus (Isleworth) writes to suggest that we should cease from “villifying the S.D.P. or I.L.P.” If these are wrong he thinks they should be let go their own way. The main difference, he submits, between the S.P.G.B. and the other parties is one of method. He asks if it is not possible for some common ground of action for all “progressive forces” to be found, and hopes that THE SOCIALIST STANDARD will be “kept for Socialism, the one grand hope of us workmen. The policy of washing one’s dirty linen in public is very questionable.” “Rufus” will find in back numbers of this paper, answers to all his points. In the Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Great Britain (one penny) he will find our attitude completely erudicated. “Rufus” and anyone else concerned is heartily recommended to read that pamphlet. No one has been able to touch its argument so far. No one can dispute its evidence. However, we will briefly reply to his points here. Where have we “villified” the said Parties? Is it villitication to criticise and denounce their wrong-doing, if that wrong-doing is calculated to mislead the working class, and to that extent delay the organisation of the workers on class-conscious lines— the necessary preliminary to Socialism ? That is the limit of our villification—if that is what “Rufus” means by the word. We should be traitors to our class if we failed to do that. We would “let them go their own way” quite readily if they did not take a section of the working class with them. Because they do, and because their way is the wrong way, and does not lead to their professed objective (only sometimes professed, by the way) viz., Socialism, we must, being Socialists, endeavour to arrest them. The difference between our Party and those other parties is a difference of principle. THE SOCIALIST STANDARD, says “Rufus” should be kept for Socialism. Agreed. As also must the Socialist Party, or it ceases to be the Socialist Party. If the Socialist Party occupied nine-tenths of its time in the advocacy of something which was not Socialism, could it be a Socialist party—particularly when the nine-tenths of its work had no necessary connection with Socialism, and consisted of proposals that capitalist parties were largely prepared, when necessary, to endorse ? Would a capitalist party endorse a proposal that materially affected its interests ? If not, can any of those proposals be seriously regarded as of material benefit to the working class, seeing that the interests of the capitalist class are always in direct opposition to the interests of the working class? If “Rufus” answers these questions in the negative, as we think upon careful reflection he must, he has the key to the position of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. The principle of the differences between us and the other parties consists in our recognition of the necessity firstly, secondly, and lastly, of organising the working class upon the basis of their class interests—of preaching and explaining Socialism, and that alone, to them as “the one grand hope,” and of pointing out that nothing else matters. To the extent to which the other parties press upon the attention of the workers the things that do not matter, they are diverting their attention from Socialism—the only thing that does matter. They are dividing the working-class forces. They are not organising the working class upon the basis of class interests. They are asking the workers to concentrate upon demands that the capitalist class is quite prepared to concede under pressure—demands that in large measure the capitalist class of other countries have conceded with no material advantage to the workers. Hyndman himself, no less, has admitted the futility of these demands—obviously futile when the capitalist class are ready to give them ; for if there is one thing more certain than another it is that the capitalist class will not give anything that cuts into their profits.

That is the principle. All the other parties are reform parties. They advocate the things that are futile. Therefore we denounce their futilities and urge the workers to rally to the Socialist Party.

And that answers the question as to the common ground for all “progressive” parties to work upon. If Socialism, as “Rufus” admits, is the only hope, then the only common ground for “progressive parties” is the ground occupied by the Socialist Party. Ergo the only progressive party is the Socialist Party. The only Socialist Party is the S.P.G.B.

As to the objection to the washing of dirty linen in public, “Rufus” does not seem to see that the objection implies the existence of the dirty linen. “Rufus” thinks that anyhow it should be washed in private. That might be all right if the working class knew it for dirty linen. They do not—unfortunately. Therefore by cleansing it in public we show it is dirty.

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