How Victor Fishes For The B.W.L.
The British Workers’ League was originated by patriotic “Socialists” to encourage and assist the growth of the “right kind of Socialism.” That it was “the right kind” was apparent from the moment they issued their first manifesto, which, being entirely in accord with capitalist ideas on the subject, received the hearty support of capitalist newspapers in general.
If we are to believe the glowing accounts of their successful propaganda, published in the “British Citizen and Empire Worker,” it would seem that the organisation now needs but little support from the capitalist Press. Its numbers, according to the reports from its one hundred and more branches, are increasing so rapidly that, if the pace can only be maintained, the “right kind of Socialism” will cease to be a “dream of disordered imaginations,” and will be shortly, if it is not already, quite sane and practical.
We need waste no time quoting extracts from the “B.C. and E.W.” to illustrate what they designate “the right kind of Socialism.” All that is necessary is to call to mind the various government experiments in the direction of nationalisation, and to remember how they have been boosted by the capitalist Press as Socialism and eulogised for their practical value to the capitalist State in a great crisis. Bearing this in mind, it is easy to see that capitalist newspapers could readily support the B.W.L., seeing that the B.W.L. first gave its support to the schemes they had themselves approved of. B.W.L. “Socialism” was “the right kind” because it met with the approval of capitalist authorities—who, being quite neutral and disinterested on the question, are in a position to give undisputed judgment.
Long before war made any “kind of Socialism” practicable there were men and parties advocating the B.W.L. kind. The peripatetic pimps and palliators of the I.L.P., the Clarion Scouts, the S.D.P., and the Fabian Society, mistook nationalisation for Socialism, and when a capitalist Government started nationalising, they shouted with glee. We had told them often enough that the ruling class, through its executive, would nationalise railways or anything else, if capitalist interests demanded it. But they had so accustomed themselves to think of State ownership or nationalisation as the millennium that its practical application by a capitalist government did not even arouse their suspicions. And although its application did not alter the status or condition of the workers, they shouted for more, many of them rushing straightway to the B.W.L. for membership cards that they might lend a hand in the establishment of Socialism (!) that was being precipitated so eagerly by the very class that looks upon it as poison to their system.
The only addition necessary to the stock-in-trade of the pre-war labour faker was a fervid patriotism—a quite simple matter for them, seeing that patriotism was supposed to be popular and the only thing in which labour leaders were consistent was in striving after popularity by advocating popular notions. This explains the much-boasted success of the B.W.L. They denounced everything German, from the Kaiser downwards. They boosted Empire—British, of course—for all it was worth—to the capitalist. Trade unionism is their special concern. ” What would British trade-unionism be under the Hohenzollerns?” shrieked Victor Fisher to the chain-makers of Cradley Heath, who stood to lose nothing, not even the chains that were never theirs, or the chains that bound them in servitude.
“Do not imagine,” he wailed, “that you can lose your national independence and maintain? your class organisation.” As though “national independence” meant anything to these overwrought slaves, or class organisation were impossible under German capitalists.
If the assertions of capitalist agents, and pre-war Press reports, were worth anything, the class war was waged quite as vigorously in Germany as it was here. The German trade-unionists had the same freedom to organise as English trade-unionists. In fact, labour leaders here often looked to Germany, with its twenty labour dailies, as the advance guard of labour the world over. But quite independent of these facts, the class war must be fought out by the-workers against the capitalist class of the world. If the purpose of class organisation is to wage the class war it does not matter a brass farthing whether we organise against English or German capitalists. On the other hand, if the working class of any country are too apathetic or spineless to stand erect against international capitalism, it does not matter a brass cartridge by whom they are enslaved and exploited.
The English working class, when it organises on class lines, can have but one object, to throw off the capitalist yoke. The German working class, opposed to a different group of the same capitalist class, can only prosecute the class war for the same object. For the working class, not only of these two countries, but of all countries, “national independence” is as dust in the balance compared with their great need for a real International.
National independence means nothing to the wage-slave because his poverty and degradation are the same in all the nations; his class organisation is everything to him because on its growth and perfection, and, above all, its international character, hangs the hope of working-class victory over sordid, tyrannical, and bloody-capitalism, and the establishment of the one-and only Socialism.