S.D.P. Compromise

The exposure of S.D.P. trickery at the recent General Election contained in the SOCIALIST STANDARD for February, has naturally occasioned no little consternation among the leaders of that organisation, who are using their utmost endeavours to prevent the truth being known. This is not surprising, as the truth convicts them of conniving at a shameless betrayal of the working class in an attempt to obtain the plums of office. Unfortunately for them, however, the evidence even from their own publications is overwhelmingly against them. In Justice, their official organ, as far back as December 11th, 1909, the following statement appears :

“We are inclined to accede to the claims of the Ministerial journals and politicians that in the present contest we should be content to waive every other consideration and make the question of the House of Lords the supreme issue and therefore avoid all division of the forces which might be arrayed against the House. We are all for showing an undivided front against them. The Liberals, therefore, can demonstrate the sincerity of their present attack upon the House of Lords by withdrawing all opposition to Socialist and Labour candidates and by helping their return wherever they may be put forward.”

A similar invitation to the Liberal wing of the capitalist party for an alliance appeared in the same journal for November 29th, 1909. Having begun so well they continued in the same direction, as an examination of the facts of their Northampton contest will amply prove. First of all, as the Labour Leader (17.12.09) points out, there were two S.D.P. candidates, to wit, J. Gribble and H. Quelch, adopted by the local branch, but the Executive would only sanction one. The branch thereupon at a specially convened meeting selected Gribble, which selection the Executive duly squelched. The Labour Leader’s comment throws some light on these manoeuvres. Here it is :

“There was only one Liberal candidate in the field and the Liberals had made it known that if the Labour Party selected a candidate they would not nominate a second. Now as it happens there is no Labour Party in Northampton, so the way seemed clear for Mr. Quelch getting the second Liberal vote.”

From that time until the second Liberal candidate was introduced we had one long and pitiful attempt on the part of Quelch and Co. to make themselves acceptable to the local Liberals. From the Northampton Pioneer, the organ of the Northampton S.D.P. (18.12.09) we cull the following :

“At their meeting on the evening of Monday, Dec. 6, the members of the S.D.P. in Northampton came to the decision to run Comrade H. Quelch for the General Election, and to put forward J. Gribble as their second delegate if the Liberals adopted a candidate in addition to Mr. H. B. Lees-Smith.”

Which, of course, is equal to saying to the Liberals, “You stand by us and we’ll stand by you.” They then give a straight tip to the Liberal electors, as witness : “The Socialist candidate is one who ought to command the most enthusiastic support not only among Socialists, but also among all others who are sincerely and wholeheartedly desirous of political and economic progress.” Under the heading “The Town Hall Meeting” in the same paper, there is an interesting exhibition of vote-catching word jugglery on the part of Quelch. A few specimens might be useful, so here they are. Mr. Griffin, a local Liberal, asked, “Are you willing to support the Radical party if they are willing to support you as a party ?” To that Quelch replied “That appears to me to go without saying.” Mr. E. Morgan asked: “Would you vote for the Budget?” Quelch answered : “There would be nothing else to do. If we cannot get anything better than this Budget, I shall vote for the Budget.”

Asked as to his attitude, if elected, toward the Labour Party in the House of Commons he said : “My attitude would be, what it has been outside, one of perfect friendship. I am a member of the Labour Party. I am on terms of perfect friendship with the Labour Party. I should go to the Labour Party and say ‘I am perfectly prepared to receive your whips and co-operate with you.’ ”

“Can a conscientious member of the S.D.P. support Mr. Lees-Smith ?” was another question addressed to Mr. Quelch. We invite our readers to mark well the answer:

“My reply to that question would be absolutely in the affirmative. There can be no conscientious objection to voting for Mr. Lees-Smith or anybody else occupying his position. There is no pledge that a member of my party may not vote for anybody whom he thinks fit to vote for. But no member may publicly support a non-Social Democrat without the consent of the Executive.”

Doubtless with a view to explaining or excusing this reply the following note is added: “When this reply was given there was one Socialist and one Liberal in the field.”

The grim humour of the situation lies in the fact that in the same issue the Labour Party leaders are denounced for their “treacherous compromise,” while Snowden especially came in for censure for being willing to save the Budget from being smashed by the Tories. It is somewhat interesting to observe, in passing, the beautiful unanimity of Quelch and Hyndman on the Budget. Hyndman, writing in the Burnley Pioneer (Feb. 1910) explaining his defeat, says that he refused point blank to back the Budget. However, we must not pursue these comparisons, though they do provide some curious complications.

The Northampton Pioneer for December 1910 also reports a meeting held in St. George’s Schools to further Quelch’s candidature, and from it will be seen that the S.D.P.ers used every possible method, from threats to cajolery, to secure the support of the Liberal party. Quelch reiterated his statement that he was prepared to help the Liberals if they would only show their sincerity by assisting him into Parliament. Gribble spoke of the mutual dependence upon each other of the two parties. Neither side, he claimed, could get in without the aid of the other. Appealing to the Liberals for unity he said, “If they are prepared to give us an opportunity to fight side by side with them in defence of the Constitution we will do so, though we cannot have anything to do with their platform.” Councillor Pitts, who seconded the vote of confidence in Quelch moved by Gribble, said that “though the Radicals and Socialists were fighting on two different platforms, they were united on the two great issues —the abolition of the House of Lords and opposition to Tariff Reform.” Mark the “two great issues.” Socialism, evidently, doesn’t count.

Quelch’s election agent, the notorious J. J. Terrett, thrice expelled from the S.D.F. in the days when it made occasional efforts to purge itself of noxious matter, thus unburdened himself:

“It came as a very pleasant surprise to me to read in the local Liberal paper that there should not be this double-barrelled, three-cornered fight but that each of the PROGRESSIVE FORCES should put forward one man—that they should rally to return, without any sacrifice on either side, their respective champions in this contest. I say it was with great pleasure I saw that. I believe I can say for my colleagues that they were gratified by reading that article. If they wreck us now we start after this election with two men and we don’t argue with them any more. The Liberals can, by taking the step that has been suggested by their own organ, divide the representation between the two wings of the progressive forces. Such an arrangement might stand for years, as in the case of Charles Bradlaugh.”

But appeals and threats were alike unavailing, for the Liberals, realising that the S.D.P. had nothing — not even principles — to sell, refused to bargain with them. The S.D.P. now made a virtue of necessity and introduced a second candidate. Quelch now stated (vide “Pioneer” Jan. 8th) that “he was glad that the fight was to be a straight one on class-conscious lines.” Even at this juncture, however, they did not despair of securing Liberal working-class support, as the ingenious bid for such support indulged in by Gribble and reported in the local “Socialist” organ (Jan. 8th) shows. Referring to Quelch he says “I do not think there are many Liberals who would deny his capability of putting the really Radical position on political questions, in opposition to either Whig or Tory.”

The foregoing are typical examples of the many miserable shifts resorted to by the S.D.P. men in their desire to get in, and they show that unquestionable as may be the qualifications of Quelch & Co. to put the Radical position, they could not be expected to put the Socialist position on any question under discussion. In the circumstances it is not surprising that Quelch was absent from the recent Labour Party Conference, where he generally plays the part of the “straight” man. But the attempted “deal” in Northampton, although the most impudent, was not the only treacherous move they made. In Haggerston Mr. Herbert Burrows, who distinguished himself at the bye-election in that division by angling for Liberal support, fully sustained his reputation in that direction by wailing in his election address about the “split progressive vote,” and assuring all and sundry that the “grave responsibility for this state of affairs” did not rest with him.

By this means and by a letter in the same strain sent to the Daily Chronicle (Jan. 6th) he managed to rope in a curious variety of supporlers, as a list which appeared in (enumerating people of almost every shade of political and religions thought outside of Socialism) would show. For the rest we find Hyndman coquetting with the jingoes at Burnley, accepting the aid of Blatchford and advocating a stronger Navy—this latter forming a striking contrast to Burrows’ plea for a limitation of armaments.

All the candidates pinned their faith to the abolition of indirect taxation as a means of removing the burden of taxation from the workers’ shoulders. This in spite of the fact that even Quelch and Belfort Bax show in the S.D.P. pamphlet “A New Socialist Catechism” (and as is shown in numerous other of their party’s productions) that taxation reform is no concern of, and does not affect, the worker. In short, their work on behalf of confusion at the election provides one more chapter of working-class betrayal to be added to the many which are contained in the annals of the S.D.P., and again completely justifies our attitude of hostility toward it.

R. F.

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