Editorial: The Socialist Party and the Labour Party. A comparison
We are often told by supporters of the Labour Party that we are out of touch with the workers. That we do not participate in or encourage them in their daily struggles on the industrial field, nor support them in their efforts to gain legislative reforms.
To test the truth of this, it is necessary to examine the nature and constitution of the two parties : The Socialist Party of Great Britain and the Labour Party. The first is composed of working men and women who have realised the slave position of their class, and are organising on carefully defined principles with a definite object clearly stated. The principles and objects are logically evolved from ascertained facts patent to everyone, but so clearly worded that they cannot be misunderstood. As it is a condition of membership that the worker shall understand and endorse the principles, every member is in a position to participate intelligently in a movement that is really democratic. In other words, the members control the activities of the party.
The Labour Party is the opposite of this in character and constitution. True, it is composed mainly of working-class men and women; but few of them understand how completely they are enslaved by the wages system ; or the necessity for its abolition. Beyond the understood practice of electing leaders to Parliament, and the non-Socialist objects of nationalising industries, nothing is clearly defined. This lack of principles and socialist objective, permits a wide freedom of action to ambitious schemers for power. The result is confusion, not only in the minds of the rank and file, but also among the leaders themselves.
Every question that is dragged to the front in Parliament and Press is responsible for differences among the Labour leaders. Right and Left Wings, and sometimes a centre as well, take up different attitudes, neither of which is in accord with an analysis of the case from the working-class viewpoint.
This confusion, as can readily be seen, is due to the absence of any clearly-defined basis, outlining the position and objective of the organisation.
The lack of unity among the leaders, how¬ever, does not prevent them from lecturing the workers on the need for unity among themselves. The contradictory and useless reforms advocated from time to time by innumerable leaders, and would-be leaders, form the basis of Labour action—a foundation of shifting sands on which the workers are exhorted to erect and maintain a united organisation.
Contrast this confusion with the attitude of the Socialist Party. Questions that agitate the public are always analysed from the standpoint that the workers are a slave-class—that there can be no identity of interests between them and the class that owns the means of life and enslaves them. If the questions involve capitalist interests only, we refuse to take up sides, but always point out their unimportance for the worker. The clearly-defined position laid down in the Party’s principles enables every member to analyse any question prominently before the public, or any reform advocated by politicians.
The Labour Party encourages the workers to struggle for reforms within the present system. The Socialist Party tells the workers that capitalism is the capitalists’ own system, and if the latter want it to last, it is their business to patch it up. Obviously they will endeavour to make working-class conditions more endurable in proportion as a genuine working-class party develops and threatens their system.
How far the leaders of the Labour Party are out of touch with the workers can easily be seen by a study of their activities in Parliament. Most of the debates in which they take part have no bearing on working-class conditions, and are not of the slightest interest to the workers. Parliament for the leaders is merely a hunting-ground for prominence and positions.
The pamphlets and periodicals of the Labour Party have never explained Socialism to the workers. “The New Leader,” the official organ of the I.L.P., is a mixture of sentimentalism, hero-worship and quite orthodox comments on current capitalist politics. Its tone is of the intellectuals. Insignificant ideas magnified by ostentatious phraseology constitute one of its chief assets—its fantastic ideas of reform, and its ultra dignified philosophy on social questions carry no message which the average worker can understand; it would indeed be surprising if he could.
The current number of the “New Leader” (13/5/27), page 7, contains an article typical of many, in its use of high-sounding, but almost meaningless phrases. Statement number one is as follows :—
“Socialism is a dynamic force, too great to be confined in one mould of organisation, and too vital for us to see its ultimate effects.”
How enlightening this must be to the worker who is trying to understand Socialism; but how puzzled the same reader will be when he reads, a little lower :—
“Family endowment is fundamental Socialism, and without it I doubt whether any industrial order can produce a Socialist Commonwealth ; but family endowment may take more forms than one.”
But the reader who imagines that Socialism will end class struggles, will be more confused still when he reads :—
“Our trade unions must not be weaker in a commonwealth ; they must be stronger and more dignified.”
The same reader’s confusion must end in despair when he reads the concluding paragraph :—
“I have crowded a big picture on a small canvas, and perhaps have raised more questions than can easily be answered; but I am sure that we must look forward, not to any final form of social organisation, but to a progressive and developing social organism.”
In other words, capitalism will continue, with occasional, but gentle modifications calculated not to disturb the ruling class or their agents.
In the same number of the “New Leader” is an article entitled “The Psychology of Socialism and Crime,” in which the following passage occurs :—
“Millions in our days suffer from the sense of inferiority. They are largely unconscious of it because the sense of inferiority is so painful that, whenever it is excited, the mind instantly imagines some kind of superiority, in order to compensate for it. That hides it from the sufferer himself : and to others also it often gives the opposite impression, as it puts him all the more upon his dignity. In fact, he is likely to appear uppish and conceited, precisely because his soul is falling to pieces with diffidence, and the despair of ever being anyone’s equal.”
By the manner in which the I.L.P. leaders endeavour to hide the poverty of their ideas under pompous phraseology, they must be badly afflicted with the “inferiority complex.”
(Socialist Standard¸ June 1927)