1910s >> 1912 >> no-90-february-1912

Things You Should Know

Some of our opponents are either moat superficial readers or given to deliberately misrepresenting statements that have appeared in the Socialist Standard by selecting a particular paragraph from an article which, taken by itself, has the appearance of being contradictory to our Declaration of Principles, while they conveniently ignore the remainder of the article, which would invariably put a very different complexion on the paragraph in question.
One such dishonestly selected passage is being perambulated before our supporters and others, who am misled simply because they have not the whole article before them.
The paragraph appears in the September 1911 issue of this journal, in an article under heading “Strikers Struck : How the Railway Servants were Betrayed.” It is as follows:

  “What was the position? The Companies had bluffed and failed. They were surprised at the effectiveness of the strike. The Government had bluffed and failed. They had thrown the whole military might of the nation against the strikers, and the only result had been to demonstrate the weakness of their position. The crude incapacity of their leader, whose traditional remedy for every difficult situation is butchery, had got them into a blind alley. They had not another move left.”

Our opponents the Industrialists and Anarchists, are now declaring that this is an admission of the superior power of the workers on the industrial field as compared with the political field. But where had the Government bluffed and failed? In what way had they demonstrated the weakness of their position? Our crafty antagonist does not tell you that, although the article explains it.
But possibly the present reader has the issue in question at hand, in which case, if he will turn to the fifth page, and the third column thereof, he will find the answer to the question about half way down the column.
But for the benefit of those who are unable to peruse the original article, I cull the following from it:

  “Let the workers learn from this the futility of General Strike tactics. The recent case was not a General Strike in any sense of the word. The Government’s mistake was in taking measures called for by a General Strike. But in the chaos, and brutality, and bloodshed, and suffering, ay, and failure, of those few hours is a great lesson for the working class. The shade of anarchy, the spectre of starvation, in the adjacent background, did not threaten the masters, but brooded over the workers. On them was to fall all the horrors of the situation. Just because the issue was not worth either the launching or the bloody suppression of a General Strike, the railwaymen’s strike was good for more than it brought them; but where the issue from the workers’ standpoint is worth a General Strike, it is from the capitalists’ standpoint worth crushing out in a Niagara of blood.
“That the master class will always have ample powers at their command for this purpose while they hold the political machinery they will make sure, and that they will use them the thirty thousand victims of the Commune massacres warn us. And again the need for wresting the control of the armed forces from them by political action, by voting Socialists and Socialists only, into Parliament, is demonstrated.”

But to further insure against misunderstanding I commend the whole article to the careful perusal of the reader.
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A rather remarkable speech was delivered by Baron de Forest in the Commons debate on international diplomacy — remarkable for the truth it contained. For truth is quite foreign to the average Liberal when it (as it usually does) rebounds to his detriment. He is reported (by “Reynolds’s Newspaper“) to have said :

  “These [wars] were generally entirely international and cosmopolitan, and in no way did their gain affect the citizens of any one country. ‘In every country,’ he continued, ‘the machinery of the State, the naval and military powers of the State, are employed to secure privileges which are beneficial only to the few, and which in the majority of cases are actually harmful to most of the people, and have to be maintained first by money and then by lives in the last resource. Everywhere, if you erect privileges, you necessarily create a cause of strife. The interests of the privileged citizens of one nation clash with the interests of the privileged citizens of another.
“At once there is an appeal to national prejudice. Each nation is persuaded that its national interests are in danger, and the masses of the two people of the two nations, who have really no interest in the quarrel, are hurled at each other’s throats for the sake of men they have less in common with than they have with one another, and who only try to exploit them in war as in many cases they exploit them in peace. A great many people in the constituencies outside are beginning to realise that this is so. They are beginning to see that these international differences are not between nation and nation, but are between individuals who are only using the nations for their own ends.”

How’s that, Blatchford ?
Between the working class of all countries there exists an identity of interests which is diametrically opposed to the interests of the capitalist class of each and every country.
But what have our Liberal opponents to say now? They have most emphatically denied that “the machinery of the State, the naval and military powers of the State are employed to secure privileges which are beneficial only to a few” (capitalists). When thieves tall out the truth is sometimes told.
But do we, because we are conscious of the fact that the machinery of the State is employed for the benefit of the capitalist class, do we abjure political action? By no means; for to quote our Declaration of Principles,

  “As the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist clam of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise, consciously and politically, for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.”

There is some excuse for the bold baron speaking the truth, for we are told that this was his maiden speech. But if he continues in this strain his career in the Liberal party will be of short duration.

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The Anarchist conception of the realisation of the Social Revolution is exemplified in the following :

  “The fatal defect in the reasoning of the S.P.G.B. is their apparent inability to comprehend the conditions of electioneering and Parliamentary tactics, and the environment of bourgeois politics generally. The leaders of the party could only act similarly to the men they criticise had they to take their places, or they would be obliged to leave the Parliamentary arena in disgust and defiance. Of course, that method results in compromise, shuffling on matters of principle, and other unsatisfactory consequences; even in many instances, betrayal of the workers’ interests. Without tactics of this kind the State cannot be ‘captured ’— and then the State captures the miracle workers instead.”

So then, these are the tactics we must adopt. Possibly this explains why the Anarchist at times drops his antagonism to political action and runs as a Progressive or Labour candidate.

The suggestion that it is impossible for the Socialist to be elected to Parliament without adopting the present-day “electioneering” tactics, with the inevitable result of compromise, shuffling of principle, and betrayal of working-class interests, implies that it is futile to attempt to educate the workers to a true conception of their class position. The Anarchist, therefore, imagines the Social Revolution will be accomplished by a non class-conscious proletariat following certain leaders.

The education of the workers may be a tedious process, but it is none the less essential for the achievement of our object.
H. A. Young