The British “Socialist” Party
The recent revolt against leaders on the industrial plane has spread to the pseudo-Socialist movement, and the S.D.P., to save its rapidly declining organisation from ignominious extinction, has taken what its leaders consider a revolutionary move. It is true it has done the same thing before. Originally the Democratic Federation, it became the Social-Democratic Federation and then the Social-Democratic Party. Never having the intelligence to adopt the Socialist platform and the courage to declare consistently for Socialism, it dragged, like Marley’s ghost, a seemingly endless chain—not of ” deeds,” how ever, but of reforms.
Now that many of its members have agreed to transfer their allegiance to the new firm, Grayson & Co., the S.D.P. has decided to—change its name again. To use its own editorial words :
“There must be no individual desertions. . . We must take her [the S.D.P.] into port with flying colours, not a wreck, not a derelict, but sound, seaworthy, and weathertight, because we are exchanging into a bigger and more powerful vessel, and one which will still fly the old Red Flag of Social Democracy which our old ship never lowered and never disgraced.”
The same flag; the same propaganda; the same method of “keeping the flag flying.” As at Northampton, Burnley, Walthamstow, West Ham, Hampstead, Kennington, and Camborne.
For long the membership of the S.D.P. has been declining, branches have seceded, its own speakers have repudiated its “leaders,” and its “immediate demands” have been held up to ridicule even in its own ranks. The T.C.P. is a financial wreck, and the officials see no guarantee of future salaries. So they magnanimously join hands with the politically bankrupt Grayson, in an endeavour to rope in the “floating Socialists,” and incidentally, to bring again within the fold those who have broken away from the bureaucratic rule of the S.D.P.
At a time when the workers are ready to clutch at straws, when the “labour leaders” in Parliament and the trade union officials have opened the workers’ eyes to the folly of leaders, the B.S.P. is doubly dangerous. The men are disgusted with the inaction of the Labour Party and the inefficiency of the strike, and doubtless many will be tricked into joining this new organisation with its mouthing of revolution— for what ?
To be again misled and betrayed by the old gang in a new party.
At a preliminary Conference in connection with this Party, held in Manchester on Oct. 1, 1911, Mr. Tom Groom, in moving an amendment to delete a reference to the class war, said (” Justice,” 7.10.11):
” Many people were not clear as to what ‘class war,’ referred to in the resolution, meant, and he did not exactly recognise it.”
Mr. F. Hagger, who seconded, recognised the existence of a class war, but he “wanted to take a reasonable view of the situation.” Mr. J. Hunter Watts wanted to include “revolutionary demands.” “He granted that there were two kinds of Social Reform, but when they demanded that the labour of the unemployed should be organised on a self supporting basis, what was that but a revolutionary demand ?” It was, he said, childish for a Socialist to “oppose all palliation.”
And Mr. Russell Smart promptly did it.
He “knew the deterioration that went on in any organisation when they devoted themselves to social reforms. The new party must have nothing to do with tinkering up the present system but must destroy it, root and branch.”
Groom, Hagger, Smart and Watts were elected to draft the Constitution !
Meanwhile, let us see where the B.S.P. stands.
Firstly we are told by Grayson that the B.S.P. “was not to oppose the Labour Party in the House.” Although he had described the “Labour” men as “traitors and cowards,” yet there is no need to oppose them. The I.L.P., however, has taken up the gauntlet, and has advised its branches to “excommunicate” all Graysonians. In response Mr. Leonard Hall says Mr. C. Chesterton tells us that “the Labour (“Clarion,” 13.10.11) “the B.S.P. did not attack the Labour Party,” and then proceeds to show his brotherly love in the following diatribe :
“In the whole course of its five to six years’ existence this practical and constructive Party —though dreaming not unprofitable dreams on P.S.A. platforms and making a shibboleth of Socialism in the tabernacles—has failed to put up one serious fight for the unemployed, and instead of pressing, in season and out of season, for an increase in the workers’ share of the wealth the workers produce, or for a lessening of their intolerable dependence for the means of livelihood on the profiteering interests, it has never aroused itself to enthusiasm over anything except its own salaries and such typically Liberalist and non-Socialist machine measures as the fussy and fiddling Licensing Bill; the Lloyd George Budget which clapped £8,000,000 yearly on to the taxation of the working classes (and as to which extra burden the ‘ Labour’ Party refused even to propose an amendment!); the pantomimic scrap over the Lords’ Veto, which was carefully pre-arranged between the two Front Benches in the interests of caucus discipline and despotism ; the Labour Exchanges fraud, which, though useless for labour, is a considerable convenience for blacklegs and employers, and has provided many comfortable billets for the faithful, at the expense of the taxes ; and now—when the last remaining defensive right in the workers’ hands, the power of the sudden strike, is threatened, a wicked assortment of conciliation swindles and arbitration man-traps that these “social evolutionists” are doing their utmost to persuade their followers to lie down to. It is true, indeed, as your contemporary perceives, ‘the revolutionary Socialists have one outlook and method, and the constructive Socialists [meaning the Lloyd Georgian dupes and decoys] another outlook and method.’ For which we devoutly give thanks to the gods.”
Party has failed—failed not only completely but ignominiously. The whole thing had from the beginning an element of dishonesty.” He further refers to “that vile thing called social reform, whose name is true slavery,” while Mr. G. R. S. Taylor declares that the Labour Party (whom he describes as “a hutchful of gentle white rabbits with pinkeyes”) must be “pushed off the path.” Yet “the B.S.P. will be ready to accept any real reforms, whether offered by Liberals or Tories.”
Further on we are told that “people who think they can get anything worth having out of Liberals and Progressives are welcome to their child-like trust, but in the name of charity we pray they will not call themselves Socialists.”
In fact, on the question of reform they are entirely at sea. Mr. Russell Smart rushes into a controversy in “Justice” in reply to ” J.C.,” who advocates Nationalisation of “our” Railways, Mines and Land as “a policy that aims at revolutionary changes by revolutionary methods.”
Smart objects to these reforms and tells “J.C.” that his confusion arises from the fact that he does not “understand what we mean by the terms we use.”
“To re-form Society,” says he “is equivalent to revolutionizing Society,” while “revolution is primarily an ethical reconstruction of the interrelationships of the units of Society. Society is the whole, the individuals the component parts. This attitude [!], when realised, involves brotherhood, and brotherhood involves the abolition of profit making as the incentive of production.”
And there you are ! What could be plainer ? Yet “J.C.” again stirs the muddy pool with a few explanations (“Justice,” 18.11.11) and gives an example of the curious notions that occupy the brain of the B.S.P.-er. “Social reform,” it appears, is a betterment of conditions, yet apparently he, as a member of the B.S.P., is against some reforms. In reply to Smart he
“agrees that ‘social organisation must proceed by stages’ and by the conscious effort of the people. There are some who believe that as soon as the working classes have made themselves masters of the political machinery our desires will be accomplished in a very short time. I do not hold with them. Such a quick change might be possible, though not probable, if Gt. Britain were surrounded by a kind of Chinese wall. But as long as we, as a great industrial nation, are largely dependent upon countries economically and politically in a backward state of development, we cannot hope to attain pure Socialism. We should be constantly exposed to the influence of the anarchic system of production still in vogue in those parts. The probability is that we shall first reach a stage of some sort of ‘bureaucratic Collectivism,’ as my critic calls it. But I totally disagree with his views concerning the effect of such a system on the well-being of the working classes. It is quite true that the ‘workman gets the subsistence he is capable of enforcing, and nothing more,’ but there is more than one way of enforcing the workman’s claim. For instance, in municipalities where the representatives of the working classes are numerous or dominate the council the employees of the community are in a much better position than where this is not the case. And how much more potent must be the political influence of a Socialist majority in Parliament! Of course, the nationalisation of railways, mines, and the land, which I regard as the most immediately pressing questions, may be thinkable under a purely capitalistic administration ; but it is not probable, especially not in face of a strong movement amongst the masses for Socialism, which will drive all exploiters into the same camp.
“My critic’s question, ‘What does it matter how much is paid for the nationalisation of monopolies ?’ presupposes a state of society in which the working classes are of no account whatever. A Parliament intent upon securing for the people the fullest possible result of their labour would soon find out that there is a great difference in paying to railway bondholders 50 millions instead of, say, 15 millions. Neither do I agree with his contention that we should be indifferent to the fate of our industries, and that there is nothing that the capitalist can decamp with.”
The B S.P. idea of Socialism is undoubtedly British and confined to these islands. We must be careful not to drive capital from the country ; we must prevent the capitalist from carting “our” railways, ‘”our” mines and “our” land abroad. How could we establish Socialism without any land ? Answer that, Russell, my boy.
The leading article in “Justice” of Oct. 28, endeavours to explain that “it is no part of the duty of the Socialist Party to strive for the realisation of any immediate social reforms that may be demanded by the working class.” But the article goes on to say, “we Socialists have favoured reforms and have formulated a whole programme of palliative measures. Quite true. But the measures we put forward were opposed —not demanded, by the working class.” What stupidity ! It is good and sound action, then, to support a palliative when the working class don’t want it, but unsound to ask for it when they do!
“When we first advocated our ‘Practical Remedies for Pressing Needs’ in 1882, we spoke of them as stepping-stones, and that is what they were. . . And that is the difference between the immediate practical measures supported by a revolutionary Socialist Party and the social reforms so much beloved by the silly ” etc., etc. Now we have it—Reforms v. palliatives ; stepping-stones v. practical measures. Just imagine the common or garden propagandist endeavouring to explain all this at the first B.S.P. meeting !
There are quite a lot more “definitions,” but one other “explanation” from “Justice” of October 21 will suffice.
“There seems still to be a good deal of misunderstanding in the S.D.P. as to some of the proceedings of the Socialist Unity Conference at Manchester. This is particularly so with regard to the deletion of the clause having reference to social reforms in the resolution put forward as the basis of unity. It has been assumed that the deletion was practically a rejection of all advocacy of and support for any kind of palliative proposal. . . The members of the S.D.P. may rest assured that they are under a mistaken impression if they think that this is so. The deletion of the reference to social reforms must not be taken to signify anything more than a rejection of the phraseology of that reference.”
A good start was made at Manchester by T. Groom in the repudiation of the basic principle of the Socialist propaganda—the class war.
Russell Smart, however, goes further in an article aptly entitled “The Scrap Heap.” “The formation of the B.S P.,” he states, “has enabled us to carry out a much-needed scrapping of worn out mental rubbish. Take, for example, the unfortunate conception, class-consciousness. Class-conscious people are never Socialists. Socialism is no more to be achieved by fighting this particular class struggle to a finish than by any of the others. Even if successful it would merely leave in possession an array of manual workers, many of whom are exploiting each other, destitute of science, medicine, art, literature and culture, which they would have to create anew and in so doing, re-create in their own ranks the classes they have destroyed.”
What a conception ! After this can we wonder that the “united ” party are at loggerheads ? Such an absurd statement prepares the reader for the following:
“The Marxian theory of value is no more tenable to-day than the Darwinian, or rather Lamarckian, theory of the transmission of acquired characteristics. The catastrophic collapse of capitalist society caused by its own development has been falsified by events and greater economic knowledge. Controlled as the system is by human agencies, it adapts itself to new circumstances, and will endure as long as society is content that it shall. The phrases themselves do no harm; they are debatable matters. The evil arises when they are elevated into dogmas the acceptance of which is essential to salvation.
” Here, then, is our recantation ; let some poet of the movement set it forth in noble verse and some composer dignify it with solemn music: —
” I do not believe that Karl Marx was the son of God, nor do I believe in the Marxian theory of value.
” I do not believe in the infallibility of Darwin, nor his theory of evolution.
” I do not believe in the class war, nor do I desire class-consciousness.”
With Grayson, Blatchford and the rest, Smart has routed out the scientific teaching of Marx, and asserts that “society is to be saved by love, and not hatred,” we are to ” love the sinners tho’ we hate the sins.”
So, you who propose joining the B.S.P., cast aside that hatred you feel for the boss and fall upon his neck as a brother long lost but newly found. Do not enter into a beastly class struggle, but gently wean him from his evil ways and ask him to join the B.S.P. Do all these things in love and gentleness, and, in the words of Smart, your ” most extravagant hopes will be more than realised.”
In the leader of “Justice” (same issue) this of love is extended to the political field, where, we are told, “the best course is to openly vote for the Conservatives,” but strange to say, “in order to defeat the Liberals.”
It is but the old policy with a new label. The old misleaders in new masks, endeavouring to gull the workers into again placing political power in the hands of the enemy. To hell with their “policy of love” ! There can be no love between robber and robbed. There can be but hatred—class hatred—bitter and deep. Hatred of the system and all who consciously support it, whatever be their title.
The B.S.P. is but another “blind alley,” another move on the part of the capitalist henchmen, assisted by their weak-minded P.S.A. brethren, to throttle the revolutionary spirit arising among the toiling mass of poverty-stricken wage slaves. Its formation but makes greater the need to insist upon our determination to “wage war upon all other political parties,” and to challenge them to show in debate, on platform or in print, wherein the Marxian position is unsound. No word-twisting on the part of those interested in the degradation of the workers ; no mumbo-jumbo of the politically insane, will affect us. On the rock of Marxian Socialism we have built the foundations of our Party, and none have yet shaken it.