1920s >> 1921 >> no-207-november-1921

Some Whine From a Labour Leader

We have received a copy of “The Labour Monthly,” published by the Labour Publishing Company, Ltd., and glancing through the August issue, we notice an article by Robert Williams, entitled, ” ‘Black Friday’ and After—A Reply.” We will not weary the reader with the details of this heart-to-heart talk, but there is one passage which we would dwell upon: He says:

  In almost every country the vitality of the Labour Movement is at a very low ebb; it is suffering from the physical, mental and moral effects which inevitably follow as a direct consequence of war.
  The militant section of the rank and file blames and condemns the leaders; the leaders ascribe the present apathy, bordering on despair, to the lack of interest or pugnacity on the part of the overwhelming masses of the rank and file. I think they are both correct. Wars have invariably been followed by periods of physical exhaustion. Ought we to expect virility, pugnacity and audacity to be the outcome of the most recent outburst of organised butchery? The fact remains, the movement, as such, has for the time, at least, lost its “punch.”

Now what does all this mean so far as Williams is concerned? We suggest he anticipates lean days ahead for himself and his tribe—Labour Leader Tribe. Because if the workers lack the qualities, which he describes—i.e., “virility,” “pugnacity,” “audacity,” “punch,” etc. then from the point of view of the Labour leader it is no good flogging a dead horse. On the other hand, where there are kicks there are ’alfpence. If, however, the workers lack the attributes mentioned above, chiefly because of the effects following from the war, we would remind Mr. R. Williams that he —quite absent-mindedly, if you will—forgot to mention the valiant part which the Labour Party played towards assisting in this mental collapse on the part of the workers. Let us show more clearly what we mean. We will quote from the “Labour Leader ” (3/9/14):

 The head office of the Party, its entire machinery, are to be placed at the disposal of the Government in their recruiting campaign.

This foul and treacherous act he conveniently overlooks. Let us compare this act of treachery with the attitude taken up by the Socialist Party. In the September, 1914, issue of our official organ, the Socialist Standard, we declared in a manifesto on the war that

  Having no quarrel with the working class of any country, we extend to our fellow workers of all lands the expression of our goodwill and Socialist fraternity.

and pledged ourselves to:

Work for the overthrow of capitalism and the triumph of Socialism.

Events have proved that the position we took up then was the correct one. The Socialist Party declared themselves in such unmistakeable fashion purely as the result of their sound understanding of the Marxian theories. We have from the very beginning of our existence as a Socialist Party insisted that the workers must first understand their class position, so vividly laid bare in the writings and teachings of Marx and Engels. This implies patient devotion on the part of the workers in obtaining a clear understanding of the Marxian doctrines.

Of course, Robert Williams, a notorious leader, is not concerned with working-class education; an ignorant following is more to his liking. Therefore at the moment he is rather hard put to it to know how to occupy his time, because all his club-room observations regarding such abstractions as “pugnacity,” “virility,” “audacity,” “punch,” though sounding very racy, are quite beside the situation. Trade Union cheap-jacks, flag-waving Communist recruiting sergeants and their cheap and flashy attitudes, leave us quite cold.

Confidence in our class to steadily and surely march forward to the goal of their emancipation remains unshaken. To quote Engels in his introduction to “Socialism Utopian and Scientific” :

  And if the pace of the movement is not up to the impatience of some people, let them not forget that it is the working class which keeps alive the finest qualities of the English character, and that, if a step in advance is once gained in England,, it is, as a rule, never lost afterwards.

We will accept this quiet compliment, the tribute of one who devoted his life to laborious patient work in the cause of Socialism, to contemptuously brush aside the treacherous whine of a Labour leader.

Billy Iles

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