The Anti-Fascists again
The National Union for Combating Fascism has at last replied to the criticisms of them which appeared in the April Standard. Their reply is dealt with below. Before they sent their reply, the N.U.C.F. forwarded part of an article taken from the July issue of their paper, the Clear Light, and asked us to print it. As it did not mention us and contained no reference whatever to our criticism we naturally assumed that it had been sent in error. We wrote pointing this out and asked for their reply to our “April” article. It arrived too late for our August issue.
Mr. Holdsworth’s letter is given in full :—
Comrades,—In your last issue you charged the National Union for Combating Fascism with being an anti-working class organisation. I could only conclude that you knew nothing about the N.U.C.F., so I forwarded a statement outlining the outlook and aims of the organisation. Your reply took the form of a sarcastic rejoinder through the post, thus proving to me that I had little to expect from the “precarious indulgence of that abstraction you call Ed. Com.” I am prompted to go further into the matter only by the fact that the British Fascisti have seized on your charge and are now using yourselves wherewith to check our attacks on them—a splendid commentary on the N.U.C.F. slogan that sectional bickering, faced with organised counter-revolution, is fiddling whilst Freedom burns.
But you say that you have produced evidence that the N.U.C.F. is certainly an anti-working class organisation. I want your readers to note the nature of the evidence itself. I give it as quoted and misquoted by yourselves.
1. That we reject the British Communists, but accept their anti-Marxist theory that capitalism will in some mysterious way collapse. (A misrepresentation of our position.)
2. That an individual writer in The Clear Light has spoken of the need to organise the workers to overthrow the capitalist system. (He has as much right to express his opinion thus as Bax has to say that no man can tell how Socialism will come.)
3. That we have said there are hundreds of thousands of revolutionary socialists in Great Britain. (Jack London put the figure at 100,000 as far back as 1905.)
4. That the editors are apparently not of the working-class. (Compare Marx and Engels. One editor and a wage slave.)
5. That we advocate the simple, clean, direct, open fight, without hesitation and without compromise. (We most certainly do—and what a crime against the working class.)
6. That we call on all Socialists to unite. (Don’t you?)
7. That we provide a rallying point for the progressives of all shades of Labour, Communist and Anarchist opinion. (And have been successful, so far.)
On these points you have arraigned us as enemies of the working class. Let your readers judge—or tell them, straight out, that the way of the S.P.G.B. is the one and only way, and that the N.L.P., the I.L.P., the S.D.F., the C.P., the A.P.C.F,, the S.L.P., the N.U.C.F., the C.L.C., and the anarchist groups are, the lot of them, enemies of the working class. You might also explain to them how Marxians arrive at the conclusion that organised counter-revolution is a “red-herring” unworthy of consideration, (I make bold to say that, within two years’ time, unless the Labour Movement takes a hand in checking it, that herring will be a whale, and a black one at that.)
I now challenge your own position, and meet me, if you can, without knocking the bottom out of your own vituperative malice against an organisation, all workers and all of them members of some one of the organisations above-mentioned, seeking to awaken the Movement to the fact that counter-revolution is in the saddle.
The present formation of the N.U.C.F. began as the old S.D.F. began—that school of scientific Socialists—it began, as Bax puts it, “an executive without a tail.” Are we to be dubbed “anti-working class” on that account? Then dub the old S.D.F. likewise—the forerunner of yourselves.
We apply principles to tendencies. Marx did likewise. But we are not fossilised Marxians. We are not a select circle of intellectuals mouthing a bunch of formulae whilst Counter-revolution organises itself. If we were, then you could, with some justification, call us enemies of the working class.
Now let me enlighten you a little further. The N.U.C.F. was not formed or initiated by those at present active in it, but by some other, Socialists likewise, who, finding it uphill work, dumped their burden on ourselves. But we carried on. And we shall carry on. And as soon as ever it is possible, a conference will be held, and we, personally, shall be relieved of the suspicion cast on us by such as yourselves, which, after all, was cast on no man more foully than on Karl Marx.
Editor, The Clear Light.
For convenience we will use numbered paragraphs as above.
(1) We can only repeat what we wrote in April. On page 1 of the February Clear Light we are told that “The day is dawning when the onus of choice will be flung upon the masses …”, but on page 2 we find that the workers “must be prepared …to overthrow the existing order.” No one explains why the workers need organise to overthrow something which is going to collapse from its own weakness, which is sinking “by its own weight.”
(2) A journal or a party which has one official policy but allows individuals to remain members while expressing their belief that that policy is unsound, is confusing the minds of the workers. One policy or the other must be wrong. It is, of course, necessary for the workers to organise to overthrow capitalism, but this is inconsistent with the N.U.C.F. Communist belief that capitalism will “collapse” through its own weakness. What on earth Mr. Bax has to do with us or with the point at issue, Mr. Holdsworth unfortunately does not explain.
(3) The N.U.C.F. claims (without offering a shadow of evidence) that there are “hundreds of thousands of revolutionary Socialists” in Great Britain. Asked for proof, they can only protest that Jack London in 1905 suffered from the same vice as themselves of mistaking hopes for facts. Jack London may have had some excuse in 1905, and was probably mislead through accepting the idle chatter of the Mr. Holdsworths of those days. We repeat that the assertion is idiotic, and again ask Mr. Holdsworth if he will turn a Clear Light upon the mysterious failure of these hundreds of thousands (if they exist) to organise into a Socialist Party, and if he will explain why they refrain from expressing their views at the ballot box.
(4) Marx and Engels did not talk as does the N.U.C.F. about the necessity for “us” to “prepare the masses, the poor victims of the old order” as if “the masses” were to be mere cannon fodder in the hands of “us” generals of the Revolutionary Army. On the contrary, they recognised that emancipation must be the work of the workers themselves.
(5) A simple, direct open fight is just what the N.U.C.F. does not and could not wage. Not to do so is a crime against the working class. We charge them with that crime. Rallying “the progressives of all shades of Labour, Socialist, Communist and Anarchist opinion …” precludes the possibility of carrying on a “simple, direct” fight for or against anything whatever. The idea of such a weird collection of persons fighting for Socialism is ludicrous.
(6) Mr. Holdsworth now talks about calling on “all Socialists to unite.” In April we criticised Aim number 1 as printed in their February issue. It read as follows :— “To provide a rallying point for the progressives of all shades of Labour, Socialist, Communist and Anarchist opinion …”This we said was nonsense. In the next issue of The Clear Light (April-May) and in subsequent issues the words “Labour,” “Communist,” and “Anarchist” are omitted. Was this because Mr. Holdsworth had to recognise that our criticism was justified and that this aim was indefensible? But even now the N.U.C.F.’s actions belie their claim. We call on Socialists to unite and fight for Socialism. The N.U.C.F. calls on Socialists to join with various kinds of anti-Socialists in supporting the Labour Party and other definitely anti-Socialist bodies.
(7) If the N.U.C.F. has been successful in rallying Communists, Anarchists, etc., why did it alter its aim to exclude them?
Mr. Holdsworth, somewhat late in the day, challenges us to tell the workers “straight out that the way of the S.P.G.B. is the one and only way,” and that a long list of organisations are “the lot of them enemies of the working class.” If he had ever troubled to read our literature or even one issue of the Socialist Standard, he would know that this is just what we do and have always done. Never by word or deed have we supported the Labour Party or any other political party. We advocate our policy because we believe it to be the correct policy for the workers of Great Britain. We do not, like Mr. Holdsworth, belong to one organisation because we believe its policy to be wrong, and that half-a-dozen other contrary policies are just as, good (or bad). We do not mislead by pretending that the question of aims and methods does not matter.
To note one incident only, we observe that not one of the political parties he mentions took up a Socialist attitude to the war in 1914. Those who supported that war were “enemies of the working class.” Let Mr. Holdsworth dispute it if he can.
We do not say that “organised counter-revolution” is an impossibility. We recognised the possibility 20 years ago. What we do say is that our way is the best method of dealing with it. We are, however, not given to working out plans for the future based on the remote possibility of “red herrings” turning into “black whales.”
We meet Mr. Holdsworth’s challenge by asking how the N.U.C.F. can be other than anti-working class since it gives support to and allows members to belong to the political bodies he mentions?
We do, and, since our formation, always have, dubbed the S.D.F. anti-working class. Did it not support the war, and does it not still advocate the reform of the capitalist system? We want the abolition of that system.
We broke away from the S.D.F. because we thought them wrong, not because we thought them right.
It is interesting to note that the N.U.C.F. has never had a conference, and presumably, therefore, has no kind of democratic control by the members. (By the way, who authorised the alteration in the aims?) Mr. Holdsworth has still not told us that the N.U.C.F. is willing to open all its meetings freely to the public. If it were democratic, “simple and direct,” etc., it would have nothing to hide from us or from the Fascisti, and could then not complain that the latter were using our statements against the N.U.C.F.
Undemocratic and secret societies are dangerous only to the working class.—Ed. Com.
(Socialist Standard, September 1925)