Reformers at loggerheads

Perhaps the most important debate at the recent Social-Democratic Party conference was that relating to the question of armaments. Not that the increase or decrease of armaments is a matter that in itself is of any vital interest to the working class. But as showing the utter disruption and chaos existing within the ranks of the S.D.P. the debate is worthy of some small consideration.

The following is what happened. A resolution was moved by the Central Hackney delegate (Zelda Kahan) calling upon the organisation (“disorganisation” would be rathers a better word) to combat the demand for additional armaments. Immediately the Executive (through Quelch) moved an amendment, asking the Conference to endorse that, while it was in entire agreement with the resolutions of the International Socialist Congresses in favour of peace and the reduction of armaments, yet seeing that war and armaments are inevitable consequences of the rivalries innate in the modern commercial and industrial system, an immediate object for which the S.D.P. was to work was the maintenance of an adequate Navy for national defence and the re organisation of our military system on the basis of a national citizen army.

In the first place it may well be asked how the Executive can be in favour of the reduction of armaments and at the came time advocate the maintenance of an adequate Navy, or, as Quelch put it in his speech, the “continued expansion of armaments.”

In the second place, Hyndman, speaking in favour of the amendment, said that “our navy stood to us in the same position as a Citizen Army in a Continental country.” If this is so why advocate both a big navy and a citizen army ? Perhaps the “Father of Democracy” will explain to his less gifted children this seem¬ing inconsistency.

The Executive Committee’s amendment was eventually carried by 47 votes to 33 on being submitted to a branch vote. Since when the fat has been in the fire with a vengeance. Prominent members, e.g., Herbert Burrows, Tom Mann, J. F. Green, have resigned their membership of the S. D. P. “Justice” has been inundated with letters complaining of the whole conduct of the debate, protesting against the unfair way in which the Executive amendment was sprung upon the poor, unsuspecting delegates, and asking that the amendment be expunged from the records of the Conference.

Obviously the branch vote given could not in any way have been the opinion of the branches, as the amendment was, against all rules, only introduced on the morning of the debate (vide letter from J. F. Green, “Justice,” 29.4 11).

The irregularity of the debate is apparent from letters sent to “Justice,” by which it can be seen that no further amendments were allowed either to the original resolution or to the Executive amendment as a substantive resolution ; that, moreover, Hyndman and Quelch were allowed practically to dominate the discussion, any adverse speeches being vetoed by the chairman.

The S.D.P. really seems to be getting, if such a thing be possible, into a worse tangle than ever. The point to be considered by the working class (and this, of course, applies equally to those workers who are at present members of the S.D.P.) is not whether armaments should be increased ; is not whether we should or should not have a citizen army. What, after all, do these trivialities matter ? The question is this. Is the S.D.P. advocating and working for Socialism, or is it simply a party wherein the rank and file are mere pawns in a game played by its prominent members and leaders ? The easy way in which the majority of the S.D.P. have always allowed themselves to be out manoeuvred and dominated by Hyndman, Quelch & Co. is really more pathetic than amusing. From a working class standpoint at any rate the amount of confusion and nonsense spread by such reform parties as the S.D.P. is not the least tragic feature of the tragedy of Capitalism.


Leave a Reply