1930s >> 1938 >> no-409-september-1938


Probably nothing arouses more annoyance in Labour circles and all other Reform political organisations than Clause 8 of our “Declaration of Principles,’’ known briefly as the “Hostility clause.” Especially is this so since the frantic efforts put forth by sections of the Labour and Reform movements for the formation of a “Popular Front.” The Socialist Party is bitterly assailed because it refuses to “sink differences” and march forward (to the inspiring tunes of “God Save the King” or “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” is a detail not worth bothering about) to a “common goal.”

The quite sincere opinion of many earnest workers, that the “Hostility clause” is dictated by sheer cussedness or sniffy aloofness, deserves consideration, in view of the fact that questions to our speakers at open-air meetings not infrequently are mainly directed to this important issue.

The clause was born of quite definite historic happenings. The formation of the S.P.G.B. in 1904 was rendered necessary by, if on no other grounds, the compromises of the Social Democratic Party of that time—a Party possessing sufficient adequate knowledge of Marxian economics to issue a “Catechism of Socialism,” which, with certain reservations, was not a bad introduction to the main points elaborated in “Capital.”

For some instances of S.D.P. compromise, trickery and downright treachery on the field of compromise, consult our pamphlet, “Socialism.” Many of our readers will probably be surprised at the revelations on this head.

It is sometimes urged that, in the intervening period, events in the political field have rendered the clause to some extent academic, even obsolete for practical purposes; on the contrary, the fraud of the “Popular Front,” pushed especially with all the effrontery of the pinchbeck Stalins of the Communist Party, renders the clause more necessary than ever.

The facts are simple—the Socialist Party neither resorts to new-minted phrases, on the one hand, nor betrays a naive faith in the “dictionary” to guide its statements.

And these are the facts in answer to the general charge of “splitting the working class.” The first is—on the political field the S.P.G.B. has no common ground with any other political party; being a working-class organisation, we have all the “sympathy” in the world with members of our class. This “sympathy” is shared by many members of the Capitalist class, who are always prepared to shed a tear for the underdogs of that class, and to chuck charity at them. But our “sympathy” finds practical expression as a political body in seeking to show the way out through Socialism. Anything short of that leads to muddle-headedness; it delays understanding, and therefore is detrimental to Socialism. To be told this may hurt the feelings of the enthusiastic uninformed young Labour lad or lassie; it may (it generally does) bring painful surprise to the conceited old fool who “was a Socialist before you were born” and who has sat at the feet of a Blatchford or received the nod familiar from the cloth cap which covered the noble nob of a Keir Hardie. The latter type is probably beyond hope. ”Ephraim is joined to his idols; let him alone”; in the former case, the big mass of sterling metal in the rank and file of the “Labour” movement can stand hard knocks; it will ring true later.

The charge of snobbish aloofness is part sheer figment based on hearsay, and part oblique acknowledgment of inability to answer our case; it sometimes finds fuddled expression in “You are all right in theory,” or the snarl “Arm-chair philosophers.”

The sum up: The Socialist Party of Great Britain holds that the material factors in the capitalist world (more perhaps in this country than anywhere else) have ripened to the point of plucking the unexpected fruit of Socialism; the harvest awaits reaping; the banditry of a decayed Feudalism, glorified Bank Shylocks and Factory Lords are now rather stage dragons at the gates of the Socialist Paradise. The really effective enemy barring the way is the twin-headed slimy monster wooing Eve with the deadly apple of Reform, and the fatal futility of “ Sovietism.”

Clause 8 still stands with all its implications; a Socialist organisation cannot conceivably make “contacts” with groups dominated by, or subordinated to, a capitalist ideology—touching pitch defiles in 1938 as it did in 1904.

Augustus Snellgrove