1930s >> 1936 >> no-380-april-1936

The United Front

Once again the question of the United Front has cropped up, and in the current issue of the Labour Monthly there is a series of articles devoted to this subject. Firstly, let us examine the article by John Lewis, late Labour candidate for Great Yarmouth. He is discussing the possible basis of unity with the Communist Party and writes: “. . .  all it (the Labour Party) can do is to lay down the minimum condition for real unity, which should be: 1, Abandonment of the revolutionary method and acceptance of Parliamentary transition to Socialism; 2, “Acceptance of the Socialist programme embodied in ‘For Socialism and Peace‘. “


The first condition is too ambiguous to discuss here, but we will deal with the second. According to the official programme of the Labour Party in “For Socialism and Peace,” under Socialism we are still going to have buying and selling, wages and rents, employers and employees. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” and a more highly-organised Capitalism, run by the Labour Party, under the guise of Socialism, would certainly not abolish the problems of the working-class, but, on the contrary, would aggravate them. John Lewis continues: “We must fasten on proposals which are urgent, have a wide, humane appeal, and which, if carried out, will force us to go on and make retreat impossible. . . . This programme should be based on two fundamental principles: —


  • “1. That the provision of a national minimum of food, clothing and shelter is desirable and possible.
  • “2. That it cannot be impossible to set idle men to work on unused resources to make the things they need. This was the programme on which I fought the General Election at Yarmouth. We had a united front of Radicals, Lloyd Georgites, Labour, I.L.P., and C.P.” (Our italics.) There is certainly no reason why they should not have had the support of the National Government on such a brilliant “ fundamental ” programme!


Next comes an article by D. W. Flanagan, Editor of the Rotherhithe Labour News. He writes: “Our view is that the only alternative to Baldwin is Socialism.” Our view is that the only alternative to Capitalism is Socialism. Capitalism can be carried on just as well (or, rather, ill) whether Baldwin, Lloyd George, or Attlee, a National Government or a Labour Government, is at the helm. Mr. Flanagan continues: “Next we find that our arguments had not taken us far enough. We needed a programme of action. And this is roughly the Rotherhithe plan, which was first published in the Rotherhithe Labour News for January, 1936: —


  “The Labour Party local organisations throughout the country should initiate a united campaign as broad and representative as possible, to press for:
“Repeal of all anti-working class and anti- Trade Union legislation.
“The granting of 2s. per shift increase to the miners.
“The end of the Means Test and the Hitler model labour camps.
“Work or maintenance for the unemployed.
“A peace pact with the Soviet Union and the French nation.
“The end of the Naval Treaty with Hitler.
“The imposition of oil sanctions against Mussolini in order to speed the downfall of Fascism.”

So this is the “revolutionary” programme of action that is going to rally the workers for the purpose of expropriating the most experienced and the most cunning ruling class the world has ever seen!


Is the S.P.G.B. opposed to working-class unity? On the contrary, the basis of our position is that Socialism will only be established when a majority of the working class unite for that purpose. But that unity must have a sound foundation, based on Socialist principles. Our main objection to a union of non-Socialist organisations is expressed by Mr. H. Bennett, late Labour candidate for Dover. He first of all stresses the non-Socialist character of the Labour Party. “I am assuming that we are considering this particular election as Socialists (his italics), as distinct from members (and/or candidates of the Labour Party, a very different thing) (our italics). . . . Suppose we decide to ‘trim our sails’ and go out for votes and, further, let us assume we get them, where are we then ? Would anyone suggest any party could proceed on such a basis to introduce Socialist measures?”


Precisely; if you fight an election on a programme of reforms, you will get votes, not from workers who desire the abolition of capitalism, but from those who still think that their economic problems can be solved within capitalism. If these reforms are put into operation, capitalism will still continue and the workers will still be wage-slaves. If, on the other hand, the reforms are not effected, then these people will turn in disappointment from the United Front and become excellent material for the mob oratory and the even more specious promises of the Hitlers and Mussolinis.


Once again we repeat the classic slogan, “Workers of the world, unite!” But with the understanding that they must unite, not for “work or maintenance,” or the “imposition of sanctions,” not for “London Transport Boards” or “Central Electricity Boards,” but for the purpose of stripping the capitalist class of its ownership of the means of production and distribution, making these common property, and thus establishing a classless society.