Correspondence: Our Hostility Clause
We have received a letter from Mr. J. Chelsom stating that, while he agrees with most of our Declaration of Principles, he can not subscribe to the last clause, where we define our hostility to other parties.
He asks us to justify our attitude. Also he considers that we would not be sacrificing any principle if we joined with “other working-class parties” if we always stated our case on Reforms and either voted against the Reforms or abstained from voting. He thinks that a refusal of admittance by the Labour Party, or, having joined, our expulsion from that body (he does not say on what ground) would put us in a stronger and more logical position, than we hold at present. Further on he says “hostility can be best proved by combatting first hand that which is retarding Socialism.”
It is interesting to note how people can often accept premises and yet refuse to adopt the only logical conclusion that can be drawn from those premises.
If Mr. Chelsom accepts clause six of our Declaration of Principles, it is difficult to see how he can find fault with clause eight, as the latter merely defines a line of action laid clown as necessary by the former.
To achieve its emancipation the working class, when equipped with the necessary knowledge, must capture political power. For this purpose it must organise into a political party to fight for this control of power on its own behalf. Any other use of political organisation necessarily means the retention, or extension, of the political power of the masters. Because of this simple fact, a working-class political party striving for the emancipation of the workers must oppose all supporters of capitalism, or stand condemned as a fraud.
Mr. Chelsom is quite in error in supposing that the chief crime of the Labour Party is the advocacy of reforms. The great central treachery of the Labour Party is its urging the working class to vote capitalist candidates into political power, and its various bargains for seats in Parliament on the basis of exchange of support. This treachery is also practised by other so-called workers’ parties (the I.L.P., B.S.P., N.S.P., etc.), as Mr. Chelsom is very well aware, because he has read the SOCIALIST STANDARD for several years, in which we have given overwhelming proof of the truth of our charges.
Yet, after condemning what he, wrongly, calls our “separatism,” Mr. Chelsom states that “hostility can be best proved by combatting first hand that which is retarding Socialism.” Now this being exactly what we do, it is puzzling to find our correspondent condemning us for carrying out a policy which he supports. Far from standing apart and watching the struggle from a distance as he suggests, we attack “firsthand” at every opportunity we get, those who are retarding Socialism.
To give an instance that will, no doubt, still be fresh in Mr. Chelsom’s mind; in the October 1919 “S.S,” we attacked the various Labour leaders who were urging the workers to increase production. In “Reynolds’s Newspaper” for November 30th 1919 Mr. Clynes tried to com bat our attack and quoted from our article, though he did not mention our paper by name. His “reply” was pulverised in our issue of December last, and, later on, for some special reason, Mr. Clynes contradicted in Parliament the case he had tried to make in “Reynolds’s.”
It seems as though Mr. Chelsom has been misled by the revolutionary-sounding phrases that many of the Labour leaders are ready to use at particular meetings, or else, like many other workers, he fancies that because an organisation is composed in the main of working men and women, it is therefore anti-capitalist in character and action. But the phrases of the Labour leaders are contradicted by their actions which we have exposed so often, while on the second point it is too often forgotten that every political party depends upon the working class for its actual power. Even so aristocratic and re-actionary a body as the Primrose League depends for its political power upon the agricultural labourers. If we can join hands with one set of supporters of capitalism why not with another ? Where are we to draw the line ?
The B.S.P. just now is supporting “Soviets” and “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” and defending Russia, while remaining a part of the Labour Party that helped to place in power a Government that is doing so much to overthrow the Russian Soviet Republic ! Such action simply makes confusion worse confounded.
The line is already clearly drawn in all developed capitalist countries. Every party, no matter who compose its membership, that assists the masters to retain political power, under any pretext whatever, thereby proves itself an anti-Socialist party. It must, therefore, be fought by the Socialist Party of that country. That is our position and work in Great Britain. We are the only party in this country that organises for the capture of political power by the working class, for its emancipation. To join with those who are working against this capture of power would be sheer idiocy. We, therefore, combat them all “first hand” because that is the only logical conclusion that can be drawn from Socialist principles.
(Socialist Standard, June 1920)