Editorial: What Shall We Do With Our Votes?
With the approach of a General Election the “Left Wing” Labour groups are asking themselves how they ought to vote. All the rebels and near-rebels and would-be rebels are wondering whether they ought to carry their opposition to the Labour Party to the extent of telling their supporters to vote for Communist candidates or the candidates put up by branches expelled from the official Labour Party. They are, of course, in a difficult position. Having dubbed the Labour Party programme a “Liberal” programme, they must now choose either to support that programme and the candidates who fight on it, or, in effect, put themselves outside the Labour Party; for the Labour Party Executive is taking vigorous action wherever the dissident elements infringe the Party constitution and rules. Probably many of the Left-Wingers would like to take a definite stand, but they are deterred by the consequences. Whatever they may say about the discontent of the Labour Party membership with its leaders, a practical test soon convinces them that it is MacDonald not Maxton, J. H. Thomas not Arthur Cook, who have the support of the mass of the Trade Union members. A recent and illuminating test was the Borough Council elections.
In England and Wales the Communist candidates polled in the areas contested by them 10.5 per cent. of the Labour Party vote, and in Scotland 19.5 per cent. For the whole country their poll was 17.7 per cent. of the Labour votes in these selected constituencies (Sunday Worker, November 18th, 1928). The Editor of the Sunday Worker points out, too, that the Communist vote has declined since the Communist Party recently adopted the policy of openly opposing Labour candidates. He says that “in places where Communist candidates previously contested seats, before the adoption of the party’s new electoral policy, decreased votes for the Communists are frequently recorded.”
The Sunday Worker offers what is no doubt a correct explanation. Even many voters who are dissatisfied with the Labour Party programme will not vote against its candidates because they want to “get the Tories out.” To indicate the unsoundness of this policy of voting for one capitalist party in order to prevent another capitalist party getting in, the Sunday Worker recalls the 1906 Election, when hundreds of thousands of workers who had no faith in Liberalism voted for the Liberals in order to keep the Tories out. The Liberals got in and eight years later led its dupes into the War.
Truly a fatuous policy, but who have done more to propagate it than the Communists and the multifarious “Left Wing” groups? The Communists from 1920 to 1927, and the other “ Left Wing ” groups still, have persistently denounced the Labour Party and simultaneously told the workers to vote for it because, in some way never explained and now (by the Communists) emphatically denied, it was supposed to be better than the other capitalist parties. If the workers still have faith in the Labour Party’s programme of reforming capitalism, the responsibility cannot be shelved by the Communists and the Sunday Worker.
Even now, while opposing some Labour candidates, the Communist Party members are required to go on paying the political levy to the Labour Party through their Trade Unions. Could anything be more productive of confusion in the minds of the workers?
Mr, J. T. Murphy, a prominent member of the Communist Party, writes on this in the November issue of the Communist, and points out the absurdity of asking the miners to contribute £10,000 a year to the Labour Party and then appealing to the miners again for more thousands to fight the Labour candidates. He also condemns the confusing relationship between the Communists and the Left Wing groups, which, he says, has made the Communist Party a “laughing-stock.”
Our party members are not quite sure when they should be recruiting for the Left Wing and when for the party. It appears that we can carry the programme of the Left Wing in one pocket and that of the Communist party in the other, and, according to the audience we are addressing, use one or the other without contradiction, for . . . the Communist programme and the Left Wing are identical in all essentials. The only people who ought to be bewildered, apparently, should be the audience who are to be led into the Left Wing according to circumstances (i.e., whichever meeting they have attended—if a C.P. meeting, then into the C.P.; if a Left Wing meeting, then into the Left Wing). This may be considered by some of our comrades to be tactical, but I am sure that’ our party members are unhappy about it, and cannot get results whilst such a policy exists.
(Communist, November 1928.)
We see, therefore, that the Communists are still unprepared to accept and act on the recognition of the fact that the workers’ economic position of subjection is the result of capitalism and will continue as long as capitalism continues, irrespective of whether the system is administered by Tories, Liberals, the Labour Party or by anyone else. Similarly, the Sunday Worker, having disposed of the fallacious argument that the workers should vote Labour to “keep the Tories out,” proceeds to throw up another smoke screen in order to hide its retreat from the position to which its argument would logically lead it. The editorial lamely concludes:—
We shall give our votes only to the working-class candidates whose programme is the end of imperialism and the end of war.
Capitalism and the danger of capitalist war will not be brought to an end by voting for the Labour Party programme of reforms of capitalism. Labour candidates are compelled to fight on the Labour Party’s general programme, but this, of course, will not prevent every single Labour candidate from saying that he is in favour of “ending Imperialism and war.” Probably all the Liberals and most of the Tories will equally willingly subscribe to the same vague and unhelpful declaration. So that, having given good reasons why the workers should vote against the Labour, candidates, the Sunday Worker evades the issue with a piece of advice which is meaningless.
In contrast with the trifling of Communist and Left Wing groups, the Socialist Party gives a bold answer. If the workers vote for capitalism, then they will get what they vote for. Workers who want Socialism will vote only for Socialist candidates. The Socialist Party of Great Britain is unique among the political parties in this country in being prepared to put forward candidates fighting on that issue alone, Socialism or Capitalism. At present the number of workers who want Socialism is few in comparison with those who want Liberal capitalism, Tory capitalism or Labour Party capitalism. That unfortunate position can be remedied only by Socialist propaganda. It is not helped, but hindered, by voting for one in preference to another of the parties which stand for private or state capitalism. There are differences, and real differences, between the capitalist parties, but the differences do not touch the subject condition of the working class.