1910s >> 2018 >> no-94-june-1912

Labour Fakirs Under The Limelight

While looking through the “Socialist, Year Book” for a few “ facts” I came across the following under the section headed “Labour Party.”

   “Although the Party has steadfastly declined at its Annual Conferences to make the Confession of Socialism on the part of Trade Unions a condition of affiliation, it has, nevertheless, by large majorities, affirmed its adhesion to Socialist principles. It should be clearly understood, however, that the basic principle of the Labour Party does not consist in the acceptance of Socialist theory, but in the recognition of the identity of the class and political interests of all the workers, and the necessity of the emancipation of labour from capitalist oppression.” (Italics mine.)

Particular care is taken to point out that the Labour Party does not accept the principles of Socialism (not that I would make the mistake of accusing it of ever having done so). Yet it would be interesting to know by what process of reasoning do they “recognise the identity of the class and political interests of all the workers and the necessity of the emancipation of Labour from capitalist oppression,” without accepting the principles of Socialism.

We have continually pointed out both in the Socialist Standard and from our platform, that the Labour Party does not stand for working-class principles, and is, therefore, not the party of the workers. Nor does it recognise the identity of the “class and political interests of all the workers,” as is claimed by the editor of the “Socialist Year Book,Mr. J. Bruce Glasier.

As a matter of fact this same Bruce Glasier repudiated the very principles he now gives expression to years ago, and members of the Labour Party and the I.L.P. have steadfastly maintained that attitude all along.

Evidently they believe there is another way of emancipating the workers than through the institution of Socialism—through Liberalism, perhaps.

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The Labour Party is a good asset to the Liberals, hence the latter’s desire to keep them under their wing, so to speak. Whilst the Liberal party may at times be anxious as to the durability of its own existence, yet it has no fear that the Labour Party will withhold its support in the hour of need. For has not the impeccable Philip Snowden said: “The official Labour Party is now indistinguishable from the official Liberals” ? (“Labour Leader.” 14.6.11.)

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Only recently Mr. Snowden has been railing against Tariff Reform—and incidentally blowing the Free Trade trumpet—obviously for the gratification of the Liberals. By the strange irony of fate the title of his discourse was: “Some Economic Fallacies.” Here are a few of Mr. Snowden’s economics:

  ” ‘He was perfectly convinced,’ he said, ‘that the main object of the Tariff Reform agitation was to broaden the basis of taxation so that a larger share of the national revenue should be raised by indirect contributions from the working classes.”

Which altogether shows Mr. Snowden’s ignorance of economics.

As was shown in an article dealing with the question of Rates and Taxes in a recent issue of this paper, neither under a Free Trade nor a Tariff Reform regime does Labour bear the burden of taxation, either directly or indirectly. Under the present system the only share of the wealth produced which the workers enjoy depends upon the law of wages, and is regulated by the cost of the production of labour power. Consequently “broadening the basis of taxation” will not affect the working-class seeing that they have already been robbed to the fullest extent, namely, of all but that which is essential to enable them to reproduce their efficiency.

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“Free Trade advocacy would be strengthened if it was supported more often by a programme of constructive reform.”

Which would not be the fault of the Labour Party!

“The nationalisation of the railways would be an enormous relief to our manufacturers in their competition with foreigners.”

In other words, as nationalisation will be an “enormous relief” to the Liberals (who represent the manufacturing section of the capitalist class) the Labour Party, as a matter of course, stands for it.

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“The addition of indirect taxation upon food and other necessities would stimulate every useful industry by increasing the spending power of the people. A similar result would follow a reduction of the astounding and immoral expenditure upon armaments.”

As a matter of fact the spending power of the workers would be no greater. Lower the cost of commodities and the price of labour power (itself a commodity) would sink proportionately. Abolish taxation altogether and the fact would still remain that the worker would be forced to sell his commodity for what he could get, which is simply the cost of his subsistence, owing to the competition for jobs.

As for the expenditure upon armaments, according to Snowden’s arguments the workers would be millions in pocket providing there had been no increased taxation imposed to meet the Navy estimates. If this is so why did not the Labour Party oppose the Navy estimates? On the authority of Mr. Keir Hardie (at Bradford, 12.3.11) “only one half of the Labour members voted against the Navy estimates. Two voted for them, and all the others stood out to oblige the Liberals ”!

One can for once agree with Mr. George Lansbury when he says (“Labour Leader” 24.3.11): “In the Labour Party a large number of the 42 members know nothing about Socialism. They have always thought about politics from the Liberal standpoint.”

That is exactly the position.

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An interesting debate look place recently in Parliament, in which Liberals, Tories, and Labour members took part—albeit it was somewhat confused. The subject under discussion was the industrial unrest and the disappointing tone of the King’s Speech. Mr. J. Ramsay Macdonald started the ball rolling by moving an amendment regretting “that having regard to the existing industrial unrest arising from a deplorable insufficiency of wages which has persisted notwithstanding a great expansion of national wealth, and a considerable increase in the cost of living, your Majesty’s gracious speech contains no specific mention of legislation securing a minimum living wage and for preventing a continuance of such unequal division of the fruits of industry by the nationalisation of the railways, mines and other monopolies.”

After various contributions to the discussion, such as profit-sharing, nationalisation. minimum wage, and all the resuscitated “remedies,” Lord Hugh Cecil (Tory) submitted the following comment: –

  “If the Opposition could not agree to the remedies proposed by Labour members it was not be cause they were indifferent to the sorrows and sufferings of the working people. Low wages were the result of competition, and the nationalisation of industries would not remove competition but merely shift the arena. People were paid not what they deserved, but they got what the rarity and desirability of what they had to sell would bring them.”

Mr. J. M. Robertson (Board of Trade) “questioned whether the nationalisation of railways would put an end to Labour unrest or would provide more adequate remuneration,” pointing out that in countries whose railways were nationalised there was considerable unrest.

Thus proving that at bottom the representatives of the master class understand the economic position of the workers, and that in certain circumstances they are betrayed into giving expression to that knowledge. If the working class only possessed the faculty of interpreting the operation of the economic laws that so vitally affect their existence, in the same degree as does the majority of the capitalist class, then the work of the Socialist Party would be much easier, and the advent of the revolutionary change to Socialism much nearer than at present.

Tom Sala

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