1920s >> 1927 >> no-280-december-1927

Some questions on Socialist policy


We give below a letter from “Student” and our replies to his four questions : —

Oct. 6th, 1927.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain, 17, Mount Pleasant, London, W.C.I.
Dear Comrades,—I am in agreement and have been for a number of years with the Object and Principles of the S.P.G.B., and have been preaching same, yet I must say that I do not agree with actions, statements, and attitude of certain members of the S.P.G.B. which I, like many others, maintain are detrimental to progress to the object of Socialism as stated by the S.P.G.B. I write to ascertain from you your answer to the following questions :—
(1) If a person believe there to be a Supreme Being or Living God; or believe in the statements supposed to have been made by the supposed Christ, would such a person be allowed to join or remain a member of the S.P.G.B.?
(2) If a person be a member, an active member, of a local unemployed organisation, originated and supported by members of the Tory Party and Fascists, would such person be allowed to join or remain a member of the S.P.G.B.?
(3) Is there in your opinion an organisation which does function that is strictly Non-Political: whether it does state so or not?h
(4) Would you say that nationalisation is, or is not, a step in the right direction toward Socialism?
Thanking you in anticipation for your reply through the ” Standard ” or otherwise.—Yours fraternally,


(1) Applicants for membership of the Socialist Party are required to demonstrate only that they accept our Declaration of Principles and will adhere to our rules (except, of course, that they must show that they understand what they are signing). But acceptance of Socialism involves acceptance of certain views as to the evolution of society ; there is, therefore, no place in our ranks for those whose “beliefs” prevent them from working confidently for the establishment of Socialism. Belief in a “Supreme Being” possessing and using the power to mould men and things arbitrarily to a “Divine Will ” cuts across our scientific view of the necessity of moulding society ourselves in accordance with our definite views of working-class interests. To show that this is not an exaggerated precaution, we need only consider an amazing document which bears the signature of A. J. Cook, Ben Tillett, George Lansbury, R. Coppock and others. This is the Proclamation of the Industrial Christian Fellowship, issued on April 25th, 1926, for the celebration of ” Industrial Sunday.”

The signatories declare that:

“In attaching our names to this manifesto of the Industrial Christian Fellowship, we proclaim our belief in the Gospel of Christ as the final truth concerning the relationship of men one with another. It is our conviction that statesmanship will fail, and political programmes will prove futile as a solvent of social troubles, unless they embody the spirit and practice of Christ.”

There is much more of this kind of stuff, including an appeal “to our fellow-citizens of all classes” to remedy the evils of the modern world.

Now we offer membership to those who accept our solution of the economic problem of the working class; we cannot offer it to those who pin their faith to Christ, or the “Christian spirit,” or the works of a “Supreme Being,” and who by so doing explicitly or implicitly reject all “political programmes,” including our own. Neither we nor they would benefit from the encouragement such a course would give to the confusion of a double and conflicting allegiance.

(2) and (3) We cannot answer such a question without particulars of the organisation referred to. Members are frequently compelled, in order to work at their trade, to join trade unions founded and dominated by liberals, labourites, and other anti-socialists. We can only say in general that members may not belong to other political parties. Whether a particular organisation is political, or whether for other reasons we consider it undesirable for members to join it, must be decided on the merits of each case.

(4) Nationalisation, or State Capitalism, in this country is emphatically not a step in the right direction. In a backward country like Russia, faced with the need to go through Capitalism before Socialism is a practical possibility, State Capitalism may be a step in the right direction, in that it may hasten capitalist development and enable it to proceed without certain of the worst excesses which competitive capitalism exhibited in this country in the early days.

Ed. Comm.

(Socialist Standard, December 1927)

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