Why does Russell Smart

It is unfortunate that we have to begin the New Year like this, but there is no help for it. We have been asked, for the nineteen-hundred-and-ninth time, why there is so much discord in the “movement.” Why don’t we leave off slanging the S.D.P. and I.L.P., let them pursue the uneven tenor of their way, and devote the whole of our energies to propagating what we consider to be the truth ? Why split the forces that have all the same aim and differ only as to method ? Let us each traverse the path, which is most congenial: we are bound to meet some day, and so on. Points, dear reader, which, you will observe, all beg hosts of questions. For instance, supposing that our ultimate aims were identical, there is surely no reason why if proof could be adduced, we should not point out that the other parties were “coffin-ships.” And, of course, there is the question as to what comprises the “movement.” If you say “the Socialist movement” our answer is easy. There is but one Socialist movement, and its headquarters are situated at 22, Great James Street. There is certainly no discord in the Socialist movement. On the contrary, a more solid unity upon the questions that matter it would be difficult to find.

But should you specify the “Labour” movement, or the “Social Reform” movement as movements making for progress and ultimately for Socialism, we beg moat emphatically to disclaim, any intention of splitting the already riven. The very word “Labour” has become synonymous with political ineptitude and wind-bagging, whilst “Social Reform” includes within its spongy boundaries, anything and everybody, from the Smoke Abatement Society to the Smoke Creation or Fabian Society ; from the Independent Labour Party to the Anti-Gambling League ; from the Clarion Flowerpot Guild to the Moore and Burgess Minstrels, very nearly. But, seriously, the “party of progress” includes some queer fish, or rare birds, whichever you prefer.

In the S.P.G.B. we make but one stipulation, and that is that its members must be Socialists. The ranks of Social Reform include anybody with a pet fad who will adopt the formula : “I too am a Socialist, in some respects, ahem! but I think we want the Single Tax, or a paper currency, or State Ownership of Ice Cream Carts, you know, first.” And so we find Joseph Fels, the single taxer, R. J. Campbell, the new theologian, Arthur Kitson, the currency crank, H. G. Wells, the sensational novelist, and hosts of others, representing all shades of faddism, up and down the whole gamut of puerile futility, all in the same camp and under the same many-coloured banner of “Social Reform.”

Usually the faddist is a man of means, often an employer of labour, and, curiously enough, he almost invariably joins the I.L.P. Of course, accidents will happen, and the S.D.P. has been known to bag a real live countess, with a motorcar and diamonds and things of that sort, but the I.L.P. appears to be a happy-hunting-ground for the man with the hobby.

The result, very naturally, is chaos. No two elections are fought alike. The old Liberal and Tory dodge of playing down to your electorate in order to “get your man in,” is a well established feature of Labour politics. Temperance legislation is promised to the teetotal fanatic ; Home Rule has the candidate’s whole-hearted sympathy when the son of Erin asks questions ; he is quite willing to prove that Free Trade is much superior to Protection, when the Liberals offer their support, and so on.

We should not mind a great deal if the people named would call themselves the “Peaceful Persuaders,” or “The Gently Does It Party,” or something of that sort, but they persistently label themselves “Socialists” ; preachers of undiluted, straight-forward Socialism, etc., and that is where we object. We are not the only ones who are of that opinion. Their own members are telling them so. This is what Leonard Hall says in the Clarion of December 4th. After showing that the I.L.P. is in danger of being “(1) side-tracked by tired, timid, or trimming tactics; (2) disrupted by impulsive inexperience or too intolerant enthusiasm; or (3) stultified and spragged by immoderate hero-worship, caucus dictation, or paralysing over-centralisation,” he proceeds to point out that “the first and second of these perils would and could have no existence if the national administration of the Party were in fact democratic—that is to say, if the members of the Party were in a position to give full effect at any and all times to their wishes and will as to administration and policy. The present machinery of the Party’s national administration and the temper and strategy of the few worthy gentlemen who in fact hold control of that machinery are just as undemocratic as if they had been carefully designed for the sole purpose of undemocracy. For these gentlemen also control the official Party newspapers,”

Mr. Hall very aptly concludes his article by saying “Will it also not be useful to remind ourselves that the original objective of the I.L.P. was Socialism ?”

We of the S.P.G.B. have never said anything worse of the I.L.P. than that. That, in fact, is our case. We may differ as to whether the objective of the I.L.P. ever was Socialism, but it certainly is not now.

Mr. Hall is not alone in the position he takes up. Russell Smart, in a letter to the New Age, October 29th, is “sick, sorry, and tired of the confusion and disorganisation into which the party (the I.L.P.) has drifted, and the incapacity with which its affairs are administered.” The letter is too long to quote in full, but the following is about a third of it, and comprises a complete summary of ths way things are managed in the Independent (?) Labour Party.

“But this melancholy business is chiefly our own fault. Who is to bring the wrong-doers to book ? By which court are they to be tried? The N.A.C. should be the body, but the N.A.C. to all intents and purposes is Hardie, Macdonald and Snowden—scarcely an impartial tribunal. These men have gained possession of the whole movement. They are the N.A.C. They succeed each other as chairman. They are our M.P.s ; our chief delegates to the Labour Party Conferences, they agree among themselves as to the policy to be pursued and then give forth that policy to the party from which they exact a sheep-like adherence. The party is never consulted before action is taken, it is only asked to endorse policies already decided on. The Unemployed Workers Bill was drafted and laid before Parliament without submission to the Party. Undoubtedly it is a good Bill, and meets with the approval of every member as a whole, though there are clauses in it to which considerable opposition might be urged. The Licensing Bill has received the unanimous support of our I.L.P. members of Parliament. They have appeared on public platforms along with Liberal members at thinly disguised Liberal meetings, and there is no one to call them to account.
“Cookermouth was fought, Newcastle left unfought, entirely on their own responsibility ; all sorts of wire-pulling and intrigue go on in constituences who contemplate running candidates. The party organ has also come under their control; it is not the paper of the I.L.P., but the register of the official view; and their henchman, the editor, is allowed to let loose those vituperative insults which are his chief qualification for his position, on any individual who dares to criticise the action of Olympus.
“This oligarchy is provoking general dissatisfaction. I hear of individuals, even whole branches, seceding, or threatening to do so.
”What poor-spirited treachery to a great movement. Where will the dissentients go ? To what organisation will they transfer themselves ? Assuredly if they submit to dictatorship in the I.L.P., they will be subject to a similar yoke in the S.D.P., S.L.P., S.P.G.B., or any other alphabetical combination.”

Thai, is from a member of the I.L.P., and it is as fine an indictment of the Hardie-MacDonald-Snowden combine as could be wished for. Leonard Hall’s phrase “immoderate hero-worship and caucus dictation” seems to just need Russell Smart’s “sheep-like adherence” to explain, the whole wobbly structure of the Party.

Juat a word on Russell Smart’s reference to the S.P.G.B. He assumes that a similar state of things exists in this organisation as has made the I.L.P. the last word in political trickery. Nothing could be further removed from the truth. For instance, all our propaganda platforms are free and open to anyone who cares to take them in opposition. Are those of the I.L.P. or S.D.P. ? We have been refused them scores of times. All our meetings, from the business meetings of the E.C. and the Annual Conference down to the ordinary branch meeting and the Quarterly Delegate Meetings, are open to the public. And why should they not be ? We are not a secret society ; we have nothing to hide. There can be no wire-pulling, intrigue, or caucus dictation in such circumstances. We don’t flee discussion : we invite it. What is most important, we ensure a concrete foundation for our edifice by insisting that our members understand what they are signing when they sign our Declaration of Principles, and that they act in accordance with it when signed. In a word, we see to it that The Socialist Party consists of Socialists. Nothing illogical about that, is there ? Do it now.


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