Labourism: A Confession of Failure
Mr. A. M. Thompson of the Clarion, was one of the founders of the Labour Party. He has, throughout a long career, consistently opposed the formation of a definitely socialist organisation striving for Socialism, on the specious plea that the workers could not afford to sacrifice possible present gains for the sake of a solution of the whole problem of their poverty through a Socialism which could not be obtained immediately.
“Half a loaf is better than no bread ”— so declared Thompson and his fellow Labourites. We opposed that view then, as we do now, on the plain ground that people get what they fight for. If they fight for reforms, they get reforms but not Socialism. Whether reforms are worth struggling for is another point. Experience always testifies that they are not.
The miners have suffered as many reforms as any body of workers, and are still asking for more. Yet Mr. Herbert Smith, their president, says this : “Bad as is the miners’ position, the worst is not yet . . . . Not since 1885 has there been anything to equal it.” (Daily Herald, June 6th.)
And Mr. Thompson is reduced to the following abject confession of the failure of his and the Labour Party’s policy : ‘But the way to realisation is still to seek, and after nearly forty years of sowing, I begin to wish for delivery of at least a part of the ‘goods’.” (Manchester Guardian, June 22nd, 1927). But even if Mr. Thompson is now convinced that his policy has not justified itself, he is not without hope. Since not. even “part of the goods” have been delivered, and since he does not think that “we shall achieve these results by perpetuating the Government of Britain by men like Lord Birkenhead, Earl Winterton, Sir Douglas Hogg, Sir W. Joynson-Hicks, and Mr. Neville Chamberlain,” his very original remedy, after 40 years’ experience, is a Liberal-Labour election “deal” ! Truly, half a loaf is better than no bread, but if the energy devoted in 40 years to the scramble for the half-loaf had been differently directed, we would by now have had the whole loaf—Socialism; as it is, we have nothing. In view of the weird stuff which the Clarion palmed off as “Socialism,” it is not surprising to be told that “when we started the Clarion, none of us had ever read Karl Marx.”