1930s >> 1935 >> no-365-january-1935

The Sedition Act

 The Incitement to Disaffection Act has been the subject of attacks from many quarters, particularly from organisations with working-class labels, where it has aroused something like hysteria.

 The Act will give the Government wide powers in dealing with those “who are attempting to seduce members of the armed forces from their allegiance to the Crown.” Pacifists, Churchmen, Liberals, Labourites, I.L.P.ers, Communists, and even some Conservatives, have been boon companions for the purpose of denouncing this Bill as an attack on “ Liberty, Democracy, Political Freedom,” etc.

 The Act, however, is not of fundamental importance. The capitalists, undisturbed in their control of the State machine, have, in fact, always been able to restrict working-class activities when they found it necessary, and will continue to do so until the workers cease voting their masters into power.

 It is, therefore, nothing short of impertinence for Liberals, Churchmen and others who have aided Governments in the past to suppress the workers at times of strikes, lock-outs, etc., to pose as protectors of “ Our Rights.”

 Similarly with the Labour Party’s protests in the House of Commons.

 Mr. Lansbury, for instance, who asked for an assurance that troops would not be used against the workers during industrial disputes (he called it “An open case of favouring the employers!”), must have a conveniently short memory. Else why should he expect a Conservative Government to do what the Labour Government of 1924 bluntly refused to do, when they turned down an amendment by Mr. Lansbury, which would have given Army recruits the option of refusing to take duty in connection with a trade dispute. (Parliamentary Reports, April 2nd, 1934.)

 Was not that same Labour Government prepared to use the Emergency Powers Act against the Transport Workers, who were then on strike? (Daily Herald, April 1st, 1924.)

 Their objections seem as little sincere as those of the religious fraternity, who denounced the Sedition Bill as being antagonistic to the teachings of Christianity. This Church and its mouthpieces are truly fit apostles of Freedom! (Incidentally, it may be noted that Sir T. Inskip, the Attorney-General, who was in charge of the Bill for the Government, is a devout Churchman.) Among the opponents of the Bill were organisations like the Communist Party and the I.L.P., which toy with the suicidal idea of armed insurrection. It does not appear to have occurred to them that their activities have provided the Government with a good excuse for pushing this Bill through.

 It does not, however, materially alter the conditions of the task of converting the workers to Socialism. When a majority of the workers are Socialists and are politically organised, they will gain control of the State-machine, which carries with it control of the armed forces.

 There is no need, therefore, to engage in the costly and almost fruitless task of converting soldiers to Socialism first.

 In any event it is odd that reformist professional politicians, who do not preach Socialism to the civil population should think it worth their while to peddle their Reformist stock-in-trade amongst the armed forces. Moreover, while the leaders may be aware of the risks they are running, this is not always true of their working-class victims in the Army, Navy, or Air Force, on whom the law is much more severe.

 The S.P.G.B. condemns such activities as dangerous and futile from the working-class standpoint.

 Dangerous, because it gives reactionaries an excuse and a weapon for political suppression, futile because Socialism cannot be established through a civil war fought by non-Socialists about reformist issues.

 To achieve Socialism it is necessary to have a majority of the working class who understand and want a Socialist system of production and distribution, the common ownership of the means of life. Given such a majority organised in the Socialist Party, any questions of the views and actions of the armed forces will fall into their proper perspective. The Socialist Movement has too many real problems to waste time on imaginary ones.

Sid Rubin

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