What is a Socialist?

In the County of Lancashire,

Famous for cottons which blacks desire,

Lies the Garden City of Burnley,

A place o’er-rated most absurdly,

A place o’ercast with a haze of smoke

(Ta’en by the local big-wigs as a joke);

A town where nearly all the workers,

Save those notorious as work shirkers,

Live in their own unmortaged houses,

And lounge on soft upholstered couches.

A town that is a paradise,

And does poor southerners entice ;

This roost beautiful of cities

(To tradesmen it seems a thousand pities)

Has been divided by the elections,

Into three fierce, warring sections ;

Liberal, Tory, and S.D.P.,

Try to make the electors see,

In an earthly heaven they will reside,

If only they work well for their side ;

First we have the energetic Hyndman,

(Whom we know well as a modest human),

Who promises us a big, strong navy

(Though we get no beef nor gravy),

He’s thought out schemes of wealth taxation,

Whereby to work out our salvation,

A man of wealth and peroration,

Who desires to serve the British nation ;

A man of calibre is Hyndman,

Who would tax the £6 a week man,

And then within the limits of a phrase,

Say that taxation simply is a maze,

An old cricketer, a man of travel, rather,

But some men get narrower by going farther.

He has a bold lieutenant, Irving,

Who his town is, yes, fond of serving,

man of bold and telling phrase,

But rarely meaning all he says,

A fine expert on education,

Garnered from the German nation,

His “enemies” love this administrator,

The reward of M.P. will sure come later,

To help this Hyndman we had Shaw,

Who waxes fat with pen and jaw,

He is an eminent dramatist,

More than Shakespeare would he be missed,

A man of wealth and education,

Who’d run by Fabians our great nation,

This Shaw shines before any audience,

Which—his enemies say—has little sense.

We also had the great Robert Blatchford,

To “Britain for the British” he has given

So his opponents say, but they even wail,

When he boxes the compass in the “Daily Mail”.

The founder of the Clarionette,

Who’s oft compared to a marionette,

Our land, says he, will soon be German,

Our land, now collared by the workman,

(And if some say he is no Socialist,

Well then, such but our enemies assist) ;

His mouth is golden, by the fairies kissed,

is no common, callow, impossibilist.

But gravely, what is an impossibilist ?

Surely no new brand of Socialist ?

No! the straight Socialist of yore,

‘Tis true to say exists no more,

His place is taken by puny reformers,

On capitalist platforms wily performers,

Yes! the much maligned irnpossibilists,

Are all that remains of the old Socialists.


(Socialist Standard, February 1910)

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