1920s >> 1926 >> no-267-november-1926

Secret diplomacy

Much has been written since the war of the iniquity of “secret diplomacy.” The Labour Party says that the abolition of secrecy and the introduction of some publicity into the international relations of capitalist states would prevent war. This is an absurd belief. Capitalism is itself the cause of war, and the capitalist class, placed in power by non-Socialist workers, will go to war when necessity demands, without worrying overmuch whether their previous intentions and actions are secret or are known to everyone. Unfortunately, the workers who are politically so imbued with capitalist ideas that they place the capitalist class in power, are also unable to see the fallacy of the argument that war must, on occasion be supported by them in order to defend “their” country. The workers know and accept war and preparations for war. The Labour Party in war-time and peace time, in office and out, votes regularly each year for the maintenance of the armed forces of the capitalist state, and openly speaks of the need for defending the “country’s interests” which are the cause of and the excuse for war. There is, therefore, no reason for believing that the Labour Party intends to depart from ordinary capitalist practice. In any future war, as in the last, the Labour Party will not betray the interests of the British capitalist class.

We find, moreover, that the Labour Party’s belief in the merits of publicity is as shadowy as its opposition to war. Neither the leaders nor the rank-and-file really believe that the workers are capable of managing their own affairs. They still are as firmly convinced as the older parties of the need for “experts” to settle so-called delicate questions behind closed doors. It is, therefore, not exceptional or surprising that this attitude should be carried over into the realm of diplomacy.

The Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party have a “Joint International Department. ” A “Sub-Committee on Foreign Services,” presented in February, 1925, a “Private and Confidential” Memorandum (No. 333 B.), dealing with “The Foreign Office and Labour Governments.” It deals not with foreign policy, but with practical procedure, and contains the following interesting remarks on a definite programme which was being drawn up to govern the relations between the Foreign Office and any future Labour Government.

“It was further agreed at a meeting on February 12th, that this programme should be divided into two—the one strictly private programme, to be adopted by the Executive and applied by the Labour Foreign Secretary on taking office; the other the public proposals that should be made part of the general party programme by discussion and adoption at party conferences. This should be given a popular appeal and as much publicity as possible.” (Italics ours.)

Now the interesting point is not the proposals themselves, but the manner of selecting them. The members of the party are not to be consulted. They are to popularise the public proposals, seek votes for them, and are kept in ignorance of the private programme for which only the Executive are responsible. We need not seek for motives. It is sufficient to recognise that the men who do this are not themselves convinced of the necessity for democracy, and the party whose structure and membership permit such procedure is not a democratic organisation. Can anyone doubt that the same men apply the same methods to the rest of the nebulous and forever shifting programme of the Labour Party ?


(Socialist Standard, November 1926)

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