Editorial: Hit Below The Pocket

There is much fluttering in the pigeon-roosts of “Labour.” The Osborne judgment—and the dozen or so of injunctions forbidding the use of Trade Union funds for political purposes look very much like ending the all too long career of Keir Hardie’s fledgling and at the same time spoiling the political chances of many of our Labour mis-leaders, actual and potential.


The organ of the I.L.P. waxes truculent over this “insidious” attack, in telling of how the wicked Tories are bludgeoning and bullying the innocent trade unionist, and how the Liberals refuse to help the poor victim—and of the militant methods (whatever that may mean) the Party will be compelled to have recourse to. A deadly blow has been aimed at Labour, say they. But have not the “ Labour” crowd boasted of the one and three quarter millions of trade unionists who have united with the Socialists (sic) to march solidly forward to win—“fair representation” and other dainties? Why the rumpus, then ? If the boast be well founded, surely no such paltry incidents as these injunctions could separate these brave companions in arms — could prevent them from providing the election expenses and maintenance of their representatives.


But no; it seems that with the legal restraint on the union machine’s power to stop a member’s benefit, to expel him, and even to hinder him from working at his trade, there goes by the board at the same time the very basis of the so-called Labour Party. So the Party, then, depended for its existence upon the terrorising of trade unionists! Such seems a fair deduction from the insistence of the Party leaders that the unions have the power to compulsorily levy their members for political purposes. Of course, the leaders tell us that their whole concern is for the natural right of the unions, or rather the voting majority, to use the funds for such purpose. They are all for “liberty”and “Labour’s rights.” Yes, but they don’t fool all of us !


And what remedies do our good men propose ? For them once a “special appeal has been made . . . to all the affiliated societies of the Party and to personal friends of the movement to subscribe a special fighting fund ; while the trade unions are being asked to subscribe 250,000 sixpences for the fund.” If we know our trade unionists at all,  judicious coaxing will required to extract those “tanners,” and that the wire pullers of the I.L.P and Labour Party fear as much is manifest from their agent’s statement that “during the Autumn a series of meetings will be held in all parts of the country urging the claims of the appeal”, and also from the curious fact that the Party executive confines its demands to the modest proportion of 250,000 subs from a boasted membership of seven times 250,000. We fancy those “personal friends’’ will be in request.


The Parliamentary victims of these law court machinations have been recommended to transfer their energies to securing the State payment of Members of Parliament and of Returning Officers’ fees. But while “the Party as such associated itself with the movement in favour of this reform,” we are told that “it will only be palliative and can in no sense restore the position which the Osborne decision has temporarily destroyed.” In other words the status ante Osborne was far preferable and is to be re-established if possible; while some members are dead against State payment altogether. But why this decline of enthusiasm for the old Radical reform ? Is it because these lovers of democracy, Ramsay MacDonald and the rest of them, are anxious to remain under the supposed control of the rank and file through dependence on these for their maintenance ? Or is it not rather because these good people, through the present electoral law and their control of trade union funds, have had practically a monopoly of the political Labour-leader business, and consequently are not at all prepared to share seats and candidatures with various smaller organisations, which would, with payment of members, etc., have a better show in the game.
Altogether the situation is most interesting, and the efforts of the Lib-Lab and quasi-Socialist schemers, who are largely responsible for the present political backwardness of the working class in this country, to disentangle themselves from a most awkward and threatening situation should receive the critical attention of all who have the cause of the working class at heart.