1920s >> 1924 >> no-234-february-1924

Robert Blatchford

Robert Blatchford recently resigned his post on the Sunday Chronicle and Sunday Herald. The reason he gave was that he was “tired of all this dirty business of lying about the Labour Party and similar tactics” (Daily Herald, January 7th, 1924). This sounds fine, and it drew from George Lansbury a column of extravagant appreciation, but when one remembers something of Blatchford’s career it seems particularly out of place that he, of all men, should be praised for his independence and disinterested enthusiasm for Socialism. He had in his own words “been associated with these papers for seven years,” and during those years had reached the point of repudiating most of the views of his youth, including all that he ever held of Socialism. He had shown himself one of the most violent of the stop-at-home fighters who gloried in the knowledge that the workers were butchering each other for the class Blatchford was serving. After selling his “great genius” to the capitalist Press for seven years, Blatchford decides to desert them; curiously, just at the moment when the Labour Party is about to take over the administration; and for this we are expected to honour him!

There are some who charitably ask that Blatchford be forgiven his treachery of the past seven years as a “mistake.” Must we then also forgive his even more transparent treachery over the Boer War, when the open Imperialism of the British capitalists was opposed by Lloyd George?

As for his work for Socialism, it is as well to remember that it was the Clarion and its editor who reaped all the glory, not Socialism. The activities he organised were “Clarion” clubs and choirs and vans, and, as shown below, he appears to have reaped no small advantage from them. George Lansbury’s opinion certainly does not seem to have been shared by one who knew Blatchford well—his brother Montague.

In a letter to David Lowe, reproduced by him in Forward (December 22nd, 1923) Keir Hardie wrote as follows: —

    “House of Commons,

    “9th August, 1902.

    “Dear Davie,

    “I am sending you a Manchester Guardian. It is good. When at Halifax recently I spent an evening at a friend’s house where Mont. Blatchford was present. The bottle went round, and he came over to say that the C. (Clarion) was about to burst. That Nunquam and Dangle had not spoken, save to wrangle, for weeks. He afterwards saw me home in the wee sma’ ‘oors. The two able men have quarrelled about the division of the spoil. Each has an income, presumably, all told, of £600 a year. He, M.B., was happy on less than half, but the others had inflated notions of living; the more they got the more they wanted; they no longer wrote for the love of the Cause but purely for what it brought them; the Bounder, when alive, kept things straight with his fine scorn, but now there was no one to intervene, and the meetings of the Board were a series of wrangles over money affairs. All this and more, with much reiteration. He was sick of it, and was going to clear out, and felt sure the whole thing was about to burst . . . “

“Nunquam,” of course, is Robert Blatchford, and “Dangle” is A. M. Thompson, another loyal servant of the employing class who may also be expected to develop a tender conscience now that his erstwhile comrades have become His Majesty’s Government.

Edgar Hardcastle

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