1910s >> 1913 >> no-107-july-1913

Syndicalist Foolery

A perusal of the March April issue of the “Syndicalist” gives one the impression that the I.S.E.L. have only one member in whom they can place confidence as a speaker. Seven lectures are reported, and one Bowman would have “scooped the pool” had not his indisposition allowed a lesser light a look in. The following extracts from these reports show that Mr. Bow-wow-man is confident that he has only to repeat his stock phrases a sufficient number of times to prove them. At Worthing, for instance, he “began by emphasising the futility of Parliamentary action.”

When we are told that “Syndicalists always like to take the line of least resistance, even when it leads to no where” (vide “Syndicalist“), we can but admire the way in which the lecturer sticks to this policy, by emphasising rather than giving proof.

At Bromley Mr. Bowman’s remarks regarding sabotage, the report tells us, “caused great amusement.” At Clapham, where he excelled himself, he “was there to show them how those that produced the wealth of the country should own it, not to put before them a remedy for social ills.” I do not need to comment.

The only attempt to give any reason why Parliamentary action will fail to emancipate the workers is the statement that “the sending of men to a middle class environment [House of Commons] will so put them out of contact with the workers as to cause them not to represent the workers at all’’! Beautiful, isn’t it? And yet all these lectures have been given in the rooms of, and under the auspices of, the I.L.P., B S.P., and Trades and Labour councils.

“Much of the dissention among the Socialists,” the “Syndicalist” says, “is due to members of the capitalist class being admitted to their ranks.” But according to the Constitution recently agreed upon by the I.S.E.L, they will admit any who accepts the Object, Preamble, and Constitution of the muddled medley, “no matter what view may be held by that person regarding polities.” We should be the last to urge them against such suicidal tendencies.

Here is a sample of unrestrained drivel emanating from that pillar of Syndicalism, Mr. D. Armstrong, to wit: “The Social-Democrats, including the S.P.G.B, are not revolutionary. They want to retain government. Their path leads to State ownership.” Our critic is not the only person who has been guilty of criticising us from a public platform before being able to distinguish between the S.P.G.B. and the Fabian Society. However, our Manifesto is well worth a penny to those possessed of the necessary intelligence to digest its contents.

To sum up the case for the Direct Actionist, it appears that the working class cannot effect their emancipation by capturing the political machine and the forces under its control, because that happens to be the very instrument which alone keeps them in subjection. And they tell us also that politics is the masters’ game.

But surely no reasonable person would train the proletarians to fight at the barricades when a single warship in the Thames could easily account for, not only the barricades, but the whole of London

Nevertheless, there may be something to be said for the suggestion that, in the event of the fight going against them, the workers, as a last resort, would take up their positions at the windows of the mills and factories, and, in concord, with one great voice as it were, sing the “Internationale,” to see what effect it would have on the soldiers.

This would, indeed, be taking the line of least resistance, and leading to nowhere into the bargain; for, of course, lest the soldiers failed to perceive how sternly and correctly revolutionary was their attitude, they would perform this heroic operatic feat with folded arms.

The present writer, however, who has read something of the history of the bloody annihilation of the Communards of Paris by the master class in 1871, and is well aware that the butchery waxed moat furious when the workers’ weapons were laid down, and their arms folded, takes the liberty of doubting the efficacy of this method of stemming the tide of working-class misfortune if the fight should go against them.

He would very much rather, before he permitted the “revolutionary spirit” to lead him into any such enterprise, feel this—his class had control of the army through Parliament.

B.