A Fakir Floored
Small incidents often illustrate large truths. Constantly the Socialist urges upon the working class the necessity for depend log upon themselves and their own efforts to accomplish their emancipation, and to drop the superstition, so widely taught by the agents of the master class, that “they must have leaders,” “somebody at the head,” etc., to guide them on their way.
The formation of the Socialist Party of Great Britain was an important instance of the understanding by those who formed it, of the folly of relying on “leaders,” and of the determination to rid themselves of such hindrances. But the potential “leader” is always wandering round looking for his opportunity, and the S.P.G.B. seemed to offer such an opportunity to one of these persona of the name of C. Lehane.
He was one of the original members of the Party, and was is first secretary, in which position he worked hard for some time. Then he began his scheming. Resigning his post as secretary he indulged in some underhand work to push one of his satellites into the position he had vacated. The attempt failed and Lehane began his intrigues at the Islington Branch of the S.P.G.B. that ended in his being expelled the Party, by a Party vote, along with several members of that Branch The facts of the case are set out in an article in the February, 1907 issue of the “Socialist Standard.”
Even then his attempt did not end, for he and his followers claimed still to be members of the S.P.G.B., although in the same breath they denounced the Party as “rotten,” and “corrupt,” and further ran. meetings etc. against us; but their farcical situation fizzled out in a few weeks.
The memory of this incident is revived by some newspaper cuttings from America, added to some notes from a couple of correspondents there. Some months ago Lehane left England for America, and a farewell supper was given to him that was attended by a number of notorious Labour frauds and leaders.
Evidently the name of the S.P.G.B. and its reputation were important assets in Lehane’s estimation, for shortly after reaching America, in an interview published in the “New York Call,” we find the following paragraph:
“He [Lehane] led the revolutionary wing of the English Socialist movement during the internal struggles of 1904, and founded the Socialist Party of Great Britain, whose first secretary he became. He founded and edited for the first two yeas the London ‘Socialist Standard’.”
All the statements in the above paragraph are false with the exception of the one stating that he was the Party’s first secretary, while with a modesty somewhat unusual in Lehane, he quite omitted to tell the reporter that he had been expelled from the S.P.G.B.
The formation of the S.P.G.B. was not due to any individual, but was the result of the agitation by a section of the rank and file inside the old Social Democratic Federation (now the B.S.P.) for a straight Socialist policy. This agitation had been going on for some years before Lehane came to England, and so far was he from “leading” this wing, a thing they refused to allow any one to do, that he sat on the fence most of the time apparently trying to judge where the best chance of a job existed, and only threw in his lot with the seceders from the S.D.F. at the last moment. Neither did he found the “Socialist Standard.” This was done by the Party at the suggestion of the 1st Executive Committee, and R. Elrick was first editor of the paper. Neither then nor at any other time had Lehane any hand in the editing or making up of the “Socialist Standard.”
The “Call” reporter stated that Lehane showed him “credentials” from Bob Williams, Jim Larkin, Ben Tillett, Jim Connolly, Harry Lee, etc. Every one of these names stinks in the nostrils of the Socialists here because of its notorious record. Tillett’s slimy fakirism and dirty capitalist crawling is known the world over, and has reached its present limit in the cowardly, lying recruiting campaign he is conducting to-day.
The reporter opens the interview with the remark: “We usually associate the qualities and character of a man with those of his friends”—a wordy paraphrase of a terse Irish saying: “Tell me your company and I’ll tell you your character.” The application in the present instance is striking. The association with such glaring frauds upon the working class as those given in the list above is a fair indication of the character and attitude of those deliberately seeking such association—as Lehane has done.
One of our correspondents sends us some statements Lehane made at a meeting in Detroit, Michigan, and they bear out completely the character one would be led to expect from such companions. Thus he is reported to have said, among other things:
“We do things different in Ireland, There we have ONE GREAT UNION, which includes everybody, from bank managers to the ordinary labourer.
For instance, this is the way we organise in Ireland. In Sligo there are docks, and instead of having the members go out to find the jobs they go to the union headquarters, and the bosses telephone for the number of hands they want. We then send the men, and when the work is finished the men DON’T GET PAID, but the union gets the money and DIVIDES IT BETWEEN ALL THE MEN, WHETHER THEY WORKED OR NOT.”
If such a travesty of a union should ever exist it is clear that it would only be an agency of the masters, as, apart from other points, it would be quite illegal to pay such wages to the union. Of course, no one on this side of the Atlantic has ever heard of such a comic-opera organisation, even in Ireland, while the ruthless and successful actions of the bosses in Belfast, Dublin, etc, where the men were completely defeated under Larkin’s leadership, show how stupid a liar is Lehane.
When he said he “knew France well” because “he had been in Brussels,” he was simply illuminating his appalling ignorance, that would appear to be matched only by his colossal conceit.
Another absurd statement was that: “Before the end of the war we are going to establish the Go-operative Commonwealth in Ireland,” and “in case we have to fight we will be able to use our Citizen Army which consists of 4,700 men armed with Springfield rifles and 3 machine guns.” To give the measure of this statement it is only necessary to say that England has over 4,000,000 men under arms at the present moment; large numbers are also joining every day—either from fear of the sack or conscription—her navy is larger now than ever in its history; her munitions of war, despite all the muddling, are amazing in quantity; and her credit good in all neutral countries. To pretend to pit 4,700 men, even if armed with Springfield rifles (that are inferior to the British service rifle) and 3 machine guns against this powerful combination of forces is not even farcical—it is utterly idiotic.
The cream of the joke, however, is the ironic fact that, except for the purpose of putting a rapid end to the rising, the English Government need not move a single soldier or gunboat to crush it. When the Home Rule Bill was passing through Parliament a great deal of bluff and bluster was indulged in by both “Unionists” and “Home Rulers” and both sides began to raise and arm “Volunteer” forces to fight over the question. Large claims were made as to the numbers each had—sometimes figures of over 100,000 men on each side being given. The War came and then these “opposing” forces joined in their declaration to fight the German and sent men to the Front. In a newspaper controversy a short time ago each side claimed to have sent over 30,000 men. to the Army—a rather nasty knock to their previous bluff. The important point, however, is that these 60,000 “Volunteers” would readily combine to shoot down the 1,700 men of the “Citizen” Army to whose objects and views they are strongly opposed. The English Government could therefore easily win by merely setting one set of Irishmen against the other, as they did at Dublin and elsewhere.
The “New York World” of July 3rd, 1915 quotes from an address by Lehane to the American Labour unions where he states that: “The moment that the first British officer places his hand on the shoulder of an Irish working-man to draft him for war will be the moment when the socialist revolution which has been brewing in Ireland for years will break out.” This statement shows either an astounding ignorance of the conditions in Ireland or else the lengths to which Lehane is prepared to go in his attempts to bluff the workers of America.
In the fulsome flattery poured out, in the interview published in the “Call” we are told: “Perhaps no man of his time has brought more worthy recruits to the ranks of the International Socialist movement.”
It would be interesting to know the reporter’s reasons for such a claim. How baseless is the boast is best shown by the fact that the recruits Lehane could in any sense claim to be responsible for were those members of the Islington Branch who, sheep like, followed him into—and out of—that Branch without ever having understood the principles of Socialism.
Doubtless the difficulty he found in getting hold of a soft job over here has been the decisive factor in his journeying to the wider land of the West, where, thousands of miles from those who know him, he may fancy himself free from any danger of exposure while gulling and exploiting the workers there. And for a time, under the peculiarly suitable patronage of the “Socialist” Party of America he may succeed in his mission. But sooner or later the truth will catch him up and our repudiation of his claims upon our work and organisation lay him bare for what he is.