Book Review: The Problem of Problems
“Problems of the Labour Movement” by P. Braun, price 2d.—The Labour Monthly, 162, Buckingham Palace Road, S.W.
Problems of the Labour Movement. What an imposing title for a booklet. And what an imposition upon the person who parts with his “tuppence” under the impression that he will learn something about the problems. For, throughout the 16 pages of this booklet, which includes a preface by Mr. A. J. Cook, of the Miners’ Federation, the problems confronting the workers are not even stated.
To tell us that there are eleven hundred trade unions in England, and to lament the disorganised state of the workers, both nationally and internationally, is not very helpful.
Unity, Unity, Unity, is the keynote of Mr. Braun’s attempt at outlining a policy for working class action. But one is compelled to exclaim, Words, Words, Words.
John Stuart Mill once pointed out that he who proclaims himself a champion of Liberty generally gained the sympathy of his hearers before he commenced to argue a word of his case. And there is a good deal of truth in this, judging by a type of mind not altogether uncommon in the Labour movement. The words “Unity, Solidarity, Freedom,” etc., among many “Labourist” and “Communist” ranters bring as much consolation as the blessed word “Mesopotamia” is supposed to have brought to the mind of a certain old lady.
All the talk in the world about “Unity” is so much clap-trap, unless it is dearly stated what the workers are to unite for. Even then, as our common experience shows, the plans outlined for unity, are more or less worthless. Not that Mr. Braun outlines any plan, he prefers to leave this as severely alone as the problems he set out to state.
Despite this adverse criticism of the Labour Party, he tells us that “the trade unions must organise an influence on the policy of that party,” and among other things, they are “to try to cleanse the Labour Party of lords, bankers, and merchants.”
What a revolutionary proposal! Why does not Mr. Braun go the whole hog and advise the trade unions to write to John Bull about it?
As though the average trade unionist in his present state of political and economic ignorance of his class position could make any fundamental difference on the policy of the Labour Party. Whilst, as far as the lords, bankers, and merchants are concerned, cleanse the Labour Party of these people and that organisation remains what it has always been, a hindrance to working-class emancipation. Or, as Mr. Braun sees it, “a pathway towards rank and career,” even though it be guided by those Mr. Braun styles as “the Left Elements.”
Let Mr. Braun and all those who talk so glibly about “Unity” take note that, as the fundamental problem confronting the workers is how to get rid of their exploitation and poverty, the basis for the organisation of the workers, must be the ending of capitalism and the establishment of Socialism. But this means Socialist education, something more than opposition to the trickery of MacDonald, Thomas and Co. Given an intelligent working class, bent upon the removal of the real cause of their troubles, and Capitalism, let alone the MacDonald’s, and the Thomas’s, could not exist. The Socialist Party insists that the first step to unite the working class is to teach the workers that Socialism is their only real hope.