1920s >> 1921 >> no-200-april-1921

Working-Class Politics

There has recently been a bye-election at one of the London boroughs, viz., East Woolwich, and we draw attention to the fact in order to show the political ignorance which still prevails amongst the workers.


The vacancy was caused by the retirement of that capitalist henchman, Will Crooks on account, so it is said, of ill-health. It is suggested, however, that the real reason was that the new I.L.P. candidate, J. Ramsay MacDonald, had been politically unemployed for an inconveniently long time. In short, that the wirepullers of the I.L.P., seeking a wider advertisement for their quacks and quack remedies, thought East Woolwich would provide them with the political market in which to hawk their wares.


Alas ! Alas ! It was not to be,
For the Woolwich workers returned a V.C.


Now what are working-class politics? This is the all-important question which the Woolwich workers and the working class throughout the world have yet to make up their minds about. At Woolwich the workers have considered that a V.C., a supporter of the Coalition Government, was deserving of their vote, and once again they have voted for capitalism and its horrors—as, of course, they would have done had they voted for the other candidate.


But again, what are working-class politics? Let us briefly endeavour to explain from the Socialist view point.


Politics is the business of Government, i.e., the control and management of people living together in a society, so in effect says Prof. Ed. Jenks in an excellent little work entitled “A Short History of Politics.”


Once again however, we draw the attention of the workers to the Declaration of Principles of the Socialist Party, wherein we show that present-day society is divided, in the main, into two distinct classes—the workers on the one hand, by whose labour, applied to the nature-given material, all wealth is produced, and on the other hand the capitalist class, who own and control the wealth and the means by which it is produced. The workers have to sell their labour power in order to live, to those who own the means by which alone that labour-power can be applied to wealth production. The interest of the workers is to get as much by the sale of their labour-power as they can. To achieve this result they organise in Trade Unions. Seeing, however, that the workers produce all the wealth, and yet remain poor and are denied the opportunity of living when they are, through no fault of theirs, unemployed, the question arises why such an unreasonable state of things exists.


If a policy is pursued by the governing class which denies its subjects the means of life, then that policy needs examination. To understand an effect the cause must be sought. The cause of all present-day social evils lies in the root of the capitalist system—private ownership and control of the means of living. In this ownership they are secured by the political power given to them by a politically ignorant working class. This political power enables them to control the armed forces, which are used to conserve the interests of the ruling class. The workers, therefore, have to deprive their masters of this political power as the first step toward their freedom, and only knowledge and organisation can enable them to do this, therefore, with its Object clearly stated, and guided by its Declaration of Principles for the attainment of that Object, is out to bring that necessary knowledge to the workers and to organise them in a political party for the conquest of political power by and for the working class It is consequently hostile to all other political parties, and claims to be the only party in this country worthy of working-class support.


Having briefly explained our case we will return to the Woolwich bye-election. Here we see MacDonald strutting on the political stage with his pockets bulging with red herrings. Examine this one: “Let Woolwich give a hearty blow to the tottering Coalition Government and help to put in its place a Government which, both at home and abroad, will serve the interests of the common people, do homage to our dead by carrying out their ideals of liberty and justice, and save our land from the crushing burden of debt and the oppressive measure of new wars.” (“Labour Leader,” 2.3.21.)


There is sufficient in the above to show the capitalist nature of his ambitions. The establishment of Socialism would mean the abolition of governments, which are only necessary in a system of society where subject and privileged classes exist. When he refers to “our” land, “our” debt, he may be put in the same category as all others of his kind that make use of the same phraseology. The workers are propetyless, landless, and thousands at the moment foodless. National debts cannot fall upon such as these— they fall upon their capitalist masters.


In the above address there is not the slightest reference to Socialism, and the necessity for the workers to organise on the political field in order to establish it. What we do see is a graceful trimming of sails—a careful use of phraseology, with the object of demonstrating to the class with whom he seeks to curry favour, He endeavours to display his qualifications to carry on, if elected, in the interests of his paymasters, the capitalist class.Now, however, the ungraceful lurch he makes as he trims his sails for the capitalist harbour, Westminster. He refers to interests abroad— imperialist interests, which demand a big army and navy to support them—and casts fatherly glances m the direction of the industrial capitalists at home, whom he would save from “the crushing burden of debt and the oppressive measure of new wars.”

I repeat, not the slightest reference is made to Socialism. But just here I direct attention to the colossal surprise of an I.L.P.er expressed in the “Labour Leader” for the following week:

 In spite of all the Socialist propaganda that has been carried on by the I.LP. during the past 25 years, the ignorance of the mass of the working people as to what is meant by Socialism is simply colossal! So our duty as Socialists is simply to continue our work of education more strenuously than ever.

And he concludes by urging

every member of the Party, to greater endeavours for the only cause that really matters—the winning of the people to Socialism.

How the writer, who has caught a gleam of the truth, can remain in the I.L.P. it one of those little things that mystify the man with any sense of logic.

Here is another example of I.L.P. confusion. In an article in the “Labour Leader” of March 10 entitled “Again War,” Mr. R. C. Wallhead, Chairman of the I.L.P., states (in reference to the rumoured Allied advance upon Soviet Russia):

  The duty of the I.L.P. is dear. We shall take our stand unflinchingly, as we did throughout the war, and demand an immediate cessation of military operations and a complete revision of the iniquitous peace treaties, in the interests of our own workers as well as those of Central Europe.  . . . The Vienna Conference with prophetic insight passed an urgency resolution asking that all Socialist bodies throughout Europe should on Sunday, March 13th, organise meetings to protest against the Capitalist Imperialism, and demand revision of the peace treaties, especially on this question of impossible indemnities.  I appeal to all my comrades of the I.L.P. to do their utmost to give effect to this resolution, and thus take their part in a great international Socialist effort for peace, justice and humanity.”

I should like to know in what way Capitalist peace treaties affect working-class interests. A gang of robbers—the capitalist class of the world—disagree over the division of the plunder—the wraith they have stolen , from their victims, the workers of the world. Along comes Mr. Wallhead, and urges the workers to demand that robber A. should be more generous and considerate to robber B. Further, the statement that the I.L.P. “throughout the war” opposed that colossal iniquity, is a deliberate lie.


The three quotations given from the “Labour Leader“—the official mouthpiece of the I.L.P. —should be sufficient to prove once more the utter bankruptcy of the I.L.P. as a working class political party. Confusion worse confounded hardly describes the shallow sentimental nonsense which is foisted on to a public as Socialism—a public which, however, is sufficiently intelligent to see through the cunning humbug of these gentlemen. Because the fact remains that MacDonald lost at Woolwich, and still remains politically unemployed.


Of course he explains his defeat quite frankly, for once : It was his war reputation that weakened him (“Labour Leader,” 10.3.21), and he finally consoles himself and his followers by giving vent to the following flow of windy rhetoric, typical of the crafty apologist who sneaks away and bides another day. Listen !


“Woolwich was like the breaking of the day. A cloud obscured the sun, but it is there and it is rising. We have seen it.”


What ecstatic imagery ! How funny this must sound to the sweating hordes of Woolwich workers !


Workers of Woolwich, learn your lesson ! Study the facts for yourselves ! It is your political ignorance that prevents you enjoying a decent life. Don’t trust others to do your thinking. Study the object and Declaration of Principles of the Socialist Party, and then see about joining up to work for the emancipation of your class.


O. C. I.