Where the I.L.P. stands
The editorial of last month exposed the claim made by the chairman of the Independent Labour Party Conference thai every other political party had mobilised its forces to justify the war and glorify Great Britain’s share in it. But now the “British Columbia Federationist” chants a varient on the same theme.
In its issue of April 23rd it says :
“As far as one can see, the only political party in Europe of any size or importance, which is in a logical position to-day, is the British Independent Labour Party. Whether its attitude is right or wrong is not the point. It has opposed increased armaments before the war. It opposed the proposal to go into the war. And it has consistently opposed it since it began.”
The phrase “only political party in Europe” indicates the unconsidered nature of the statement. If there is anything in it at all why should America be excluded ? For the rest, our columns give proof of the complete falsity of the assertion.
The I.L.P. position is not, and never was logical. And with regard to the question of armaments, its spokesmen and delegates were justly denounced by Ledebour of the German party at the Copenhagen International Conference in 1910.
When dealing with the anti-war resolution, and Keir Hardie’s amendment recommending the general strike to prevent war, Ledebour said:
“I deny the right of moving such a resolution to anyone who in his own country supports the Budget. I deny this right, consequently, above all to our English comrades who, by their support of the Budget, place in the hands of their masters the weapons which later on they can use for purposes of war. How can they take the liberty of proposing the general strike to the parties of other countries who are far more anti-militarist than they happen to be ? So long as they support the Budget and supply arms, let them not bring forward more extreme proposals than ourselves.”
This sufficiently indicates the sincerity of the I.L.P.’s opposition to armaments.
That the I.L.P. is not Socialist is shown by its object, which is essentially State Capitalism; it is further illustrated by its long program of capitalist reform proposals, while it is undeniably demonstrated by its repudiation of the vital principle of the class war.
The I L.P. is affiliated to the Labour Party, which is a mere adjunct of the Governmental party. Its Parliamentary representatives are leading lights in the House of Commons. The Labour Party as a whole, and several I.L.P. members of Parliament in particular, are at present engaged in stumping the country in a patriotic recruiting campaign in the capitalist interest.
Is the “B.C.Federationist” aware of these facts or is it because its policy is as confusionist and illogical as that of the I.L.P. that it wishes to pat that Party on the back ?
Since the last issue of the Socialist Standard, the complete official report of the I.L.P. Conference has been published and a few points not dealt with elsewhere may be mentioned for the benefit of our B.C. confrère.
The report of the National Administrative Council of the I.L.P. claims in one paragraph a year of firm adherence to principle on the part of the membership. Since by this is meant Socialist principle, however, it is flatly contradicted further on in the same report, for another paragraph says:
“Certain members of the I.L.P. have taken part in the recruiting campaign, and we have received resolutions of protest from some branches. While recognising that such matters as enlistment and the urging of recruiting are matters for the individual conscience, we felt it desirable to draw attention to our recommendation that no part in the recruiting campaign should be undertaken by branches of the Party.”
Obviously the only war in which a Socialist may voluntarily engage, is the war against the capitalist class. To engage, without economic or political compulsion, in the other war for the benefit of the capitalist class of this country, and above all, to engage in a recruiting campaign as these “labour leaders” are doing, is to betray the worker, and violate the fundamental principle of Socialism.
But mark what subtle and “logical” minds these reformers have ! To urge recruiting for the capitalist army is against Socialist principle, but everything is quite all right so long as you break Socialist principle as individuals and not as a branch of the Party ! Is the “B.C. Federa-tionist” really an admirer of such logic when it refers to the “logical position” of the I.L.P., or is it pulling our leg ?
Traitors in every camp, indeed, would welcome this I.L.P. logic with a great shout. The trade union official may henceforth sell the workers he is pledged and paid to serve, and proffer as a sufficient excuse that he betrayed them as an individual and not as an official of the union. Individual members may vote for, support, and fight for, the capitalist class, say in effect the I.L.P. executive, for that is a matter for the “individual conscience,” but they “recommend” that such action be not taken by “branches of the Party.” Could fatuity go further ?
Bruce Glasier is on the same tack. He said : “that the N.A.C. had endeavoured to make quite clear the position of the Party. They said that as a Socialist organisation the I.L.P. could not recruit, nor could a man recruit as a Socialist. If a man recruited he did so as an Englishman or a Scotsman. They had dissociated the Party from the political recruiting campaign, but they had left it to every member to recruit if he thought well to do so, and, if he thinks it his duty, to ask his neighbour to recruit.”
Truly the position of the I.L.P. is as clear, and as consistent, as mud.
Here is another sample. In the “unanimous declaration” issued by the conference of “Socialists” of allied nations, at which I.L.P. delegates were present and voted, there occurs the following statement regarding the present war : that the Socialists are “inflexibly resolved to fight until victory is achieved.”
Again Bruce Glasier stepped into the breach with the talismanic logic of the I.L.P. when some delegates protested. He said that
“the members of the I.L.P. who were present at the gathering were not there as representatives of the Party, but as members of the International Bureau.”
So there you are again.
Delegate Johnson at the Conference “said he was not altogether for, nor altogether against the resolution” approving the policy of the N.A.C. “What was the policy of the N.A.C.? He had asked several members of the N.A.C. and the answers he had got were delightfully vague.” Vague, the policy of the I.L.P. probably is, for it obviously cannot, by anyone conversant with the facts be called either logical or consistent.
The “B.C. Federationist” also asserted that the I.L.P. has consistently opposed the war since it began. Has it ? Does our contemporary mean that they have opposed the war in the I.L.P. sense ? That is to say, that they have opposed it as a party and supported it as individuals, or opposed it as branches and supported it as members, or again, that they have opposed it as “Socialists” and supported it as Scotsmen or Englishmen ? From the confused literature and speeches of the I.L.P. it would be difficult to say ; but one or two illustrations may be given, In the official I.L.P.pamphlet, entitled “How the War Came” the statement occurs: “Obviously the war must be finished now.” Is this “consistent opposition” to the war since it began ? F. W. Jowett, M.P., chairman of the I.L.P. and president of the Conference, said in his presidental address:
“No one who, on August 3rd last in the House of Commons, listened to Sir Edward Grey’s account of the relations between Great Britain and France could ‘search his heart’ as Sir Edward Grey invited his hearers to do, and come to any other conclusion than the one Sir Edward himself announced as being his own conclusion, viz., that Great Britain was bound in honour to go to war if France were dragged into war by her alliance with Russia.”
“It has been said that the I.L.P. holds the view that, notwithstanding the circumstances binding Great Britain to France and France to Russia, the Government ought to have declared for neutrality ; I do not accept this statement as a correct representation of the position of the I.L.P. For my part, at all events, I agree that the Government was in honour bound by its secret understanding with France to declare for intervention.”
That is how the I.L.P. opposes the war !
It was also stated at the Conference that the following sentence in the declaration of Socialists of allied nations was inserted at the instance of Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, who is an I.L.P. Member of Parliament:
“The invasion of Belgium and France by the German Armies threatens the very existence of independent nationalities, and strikes a blow at all faith in treaties. In these circumstances a victory for German imperialism would be the defeat and destruction of democracy and liberty in Europe.”
Nor is this all. A plain resolution pledging the I.L.P. to opposition to any capitalist war failed to obtain the support of the delegates at their conference and had to be shelved, to save appearances, by means of the “previous question.”
One delegate opposed it, because, if adopted by the I.L.P.,
“it would weaken its general criticisms of the Government and of foreign policy. The public would accept the Party as holding a certain philosophy, and would not pay serious attention to its propaganda.”
This delegate is probably correct. By the adoption of such resolutions his party might be suspected by the powers that be of being really Socialists. That would never do. Their boasted influence with the Government, their flow of legacies from maiden ladies, as well as their Nonconformist and Liberal support, would suddenly fail them.
Verily, with all due respect to the opinion of the “B.C. Federationist,” it is quite certain that the logic of the I.L.P. is a negative quantity, and that the consistency of its policy is only discovered in the persistence with which it has, since its formation, violated the Socialist principle and betrayed the working class.
The facts demonstrate that The Socialist Party, during the present crisis, as in the past, is the only parly in this country to maintain the logical and consistent Socialist position and policy. Will the “B.C. Federationist” please note ?
F. C. W.