1910s >> 1919 >> no-178-june-1919
What The Labour Party Stands For
The Socialist Party is often accused by members of the Labour Party of being dogmatic, and to this charge we invariably reply that the truth cannot be dogmatic. It is, therefore, up to them to show wherein our principles and the propaganda founded on those principles, are false or inaccurate.
But we do not stop there by any means. The utterances of the Labour Party are everywhere and at all times loose, confusing, and utterly false or unscientific. They violently detest being pinned down to exact definitions: it either reveals their ignorance or exposes the fraudulent character of their general propaganda. Hence their hatred of the party which give facts, figures, and evidence for all the principles and opinions they hold, and define accurately every economic and political term they use.
The official organ of the Independent Labour Party, the “Labour Leader,” is chiefly concerned in interesting the workers in capitalist politics from a supposedly labour standpoint. Its leading articles criticise or offer advice to the Government on questions of taxation, trade, unemployment, and so forth. Claiming, as the membership do, to understand Socialism, it should be quite obvious to them that these questions are but parts of the entire capitalist machinery of exploitation, and as such should claim their attention not as things to be modified, or palliated, or suffered in any form or degree, but as things to be abolished together with the iniquitous social system to which they belong.
On the question of taxation the Labour Party do no more than help the Liberals — who, generally speaking, represent the manufacturing interests—in their efforts to shift the burden of taxation on to the shoulders of the landowning section of the master class—whose interests, generally speaking, are looked after by the Tory Party. The Labour Party protest against taxes on food, and as the manufacturer knows very well that cheap food for the working class means the payment of lower wages by him, and knows also that taxes on food are paid by him through higher wages, he blesses the Labour Party, and out of sheer gratitude for services rendered, and with an eye to securing similar services in the future, helps its leading lights to seats in the House of Commons. Not understanding, or not daring to show, where and how the robbery of the working class takes place—i.e., in the mines, mills, factories, workshops and the like by the expropriation of the product of their toil—the Labour Party uses the question of the taxes as a stunt to gain their political ambitions.
The same with trade. The British Labour Party, loyal to the British capitalist, stands valiantly up for British trade, and offers advice to the Government on the best means of securing advantages over other nations for the capture of a larger slice of the world’s market. How does this affect the working class? Not at all, because their real interests are not connected with the nationality of their masters, or even the country in which they are enslaved. The workers go where work is—they have to—and emigration goes on continuously during periods of good and bad trade.
True, when trade is prosperous more workers are employed and wages may rule slightly higher, but as no policy adopted by the master class can maintain trade at a high level of prosperity, both capitalists and workers have to submit to the fluctuations in trade that recur periodically.
Whether the balance of trade swing from East to West or from North to South, all that the worker gets from the process, after all the higgling and shuffling, after all the treaties, tariffs, and wars fought for commerce, is a bare living wage.
On the question of unemployment the Labour Party adopts an attitude of protest against the donation scheme, calling upon the Government to provide useful work for the unemployed, even if they have to establish national workshops. They are moved not so much because of the needs of the workers (some of whom Mr. Clynes says are malingering) but because it would be bettes to produce at a loss than to have “this dead weight of expenditure.” Their concern is all for the taxpayer—the capitalist—and their only thought for the worker is that he should be kept profitably employed, i.e., exploited to his full capacity.
What the Labour Party never tell the workers is that the wealth of society—produced by them alone as far as the human factor is concerned— is appropriated by the capitalist class, and that the wages the workers receive are the price of their labour-power, determined by its cost of production. Competition for jobs prevents wages rising above the cost of living, and all the wealth the workers produce above their total wages is stolen from them by the master class.
The Labour Party never proclaim this robbery of the working class, nor the vital need for Socialism as the only way to stop the robbery. Sometimes they call themselves Socialists and sometimes they publish pamphlets professing to make Socialism clear, but which, purposely or inadvertently, only add to the confusion already existing on this most vital of all questions affecting the welfare of the working class.
The “Labour Leader” for the 8th of May last contained within its pages an article which professed to answer the questions—”What is Socialism? How and when is it coming ?” In reply we are first informed that “Socialism means the public ownership of the means of life,” next we told that “Socialism insists that the community shall own and control the means of life,” then again they tell us that “Socialists only insist on the public ownership of capital in order to effect a fairer and juster private ownership of wealth,” next “Socialism means complete adult suffrage for all men and women, free from any property qualifications,” etc., then “Socialism stands for the great moral principle of “each for all and all for each,” and finally, there is the Object of the party as stated in the Constitution:
“To secure for the producers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry, and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry and service.”
Let the average worker, after his day’s grind in the factory, workshop, or office, try to build up or sort out a tangible meaning or definition of Socialism out of this jig-saw puzzle of conflicting statements. It is but one instance of many. The propaganda of the Labour Party is everywhere just as unscientific, confusing, and contradictory. On topical subjects its attitude is Liberal; on Socialism non-committal or misleading.
Let the reader comnare the above quotations with the Object and Principles of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, and he should at once perceive why we oppose the Labour Party.