1940s >> 1943 >> no-467-july-1943

Unity or Disunity?

In the course of our contact with fellow members of the working-class we find a continued inability on the part of many of them to understand why we do not attempt to unite or affiliate with other political parties.
Naturally unity with other parties does not of itself solve the social problems which face the working-class. Only the establishment of Socialism will solve these problems. Consequently, we always ask the question, “Unity for what?” Unity for Socialism is one thing, but if it is unity for some other purpose it cannot help to further the Socialist cause, and, in fact, is quite likely to do grievous harm to it.
In our experience we have found that where some “practical” step (or series of steps) is advocated as necessary at any particular moment, in place of the insistence that Socialism is the only practical step, there has been but one result. If anything becomes a reality it is the “practical” step, and it is Socialism that comes to be regarded as “impracticable.” Concentration on “practical” steps deemed to be necessary before Socialism can be established, has the result that Socialism itself must be thrust further into the background.
If any reader will study the history of the Social-Democratic Federation, the I.L.P. and the Labour Party they will find our case to be proven—that it is the “immediate steps,” the “practical reforms” which have seduced the working-class from the attainment of Socialism.
Members of other organisations that come to us and say, “Look here—we are all members of the working class, we are therefore hostile to the capitalist class, why cannot we all get together?” do not understand that fundamentally the Socialist Party of Great Britain is poles apart from the non-Socialist political parties. Obviously they do not understand the principles and policy of our Party, and, what is more, do not always understand the policy of the organisation to which they belong.
Time and time again we are faced with the question by obviously sincere members of the working class who are attempting to find a solution to the social problems of poverty, unemployment, insecurity, and war. They say, “We cannot understand your hostile attitude to the Communist Party. You say you stand for Socialism. They say they stand for Communism. Is there a difference between the two—if not, why all this disagreement?”
The difference between the two parties is that the Socialist Party of Great Britain has always had for its object the establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments of wealth production—i.e.. Socialism. The Communist Party does not stand for this—despite its claims. The Communist Party is, in relation to British politics, a reformist party which in peace time advocated that the working class should support that “third capitalist party” (C.P. definition!), the Labour Party, and in war time that the British working class should subordinate their actions to the will and direction of Russian State Capitalism.
The I.L.P. is another party, some of whose members appear to think that we should unite with their party. They on their part are very anxious to re-affiliate with the Labour Party. Quite apart from our disagreement with both these parties on the grounds that they are reformist and do not stand for the abolition of capitalism, what would this unity between the I.L.P. and the Labour Party amount to? The I.L.P. at their Easter Conference expressed a desire to re-affiliate providing the Labour Party broke away from its coalition in the Government, and that the I.L.P. was allowed to retain and express its opinions on the war. On all other grounds they were willing to toe the line to Labour Party policy.
In short, the I.L.P. say that they would like to be back in the Labour Party so long as they are allowed to retain their identity as the I.L.P. on the points on which they differ from the Labour Party.
Here lies the crux of the whole matter of unity. If there are differences of opinion in the working class as to the ways and means of solving their problems, then with the growth of organisation there arise organisations expressing these differences of opinion. If all these organisations get together in a “United Front” without settling their differences, then the “United Front” will have a very “divided back.” The history of the Popular Fronts has shown this to be true, particularly in the time of the Spanish Popular Front during the Spanish Civil War, when the different sections eventually set about each other.
Once again, let us impress upon the working class that it makes no difference to them if there are half-a-dozen parties each expressing their own viewpoint, or one party expressing half-a-dozen viewpoints. They still must ask themselves what is the viewpoint which will lead to the solution of their economic and social problems, and release them from the bonds of wage-slavery once and for all.
There is only one viewpoint which gives adequate expression to this aspiration—that is “Unite for Socialism!” or, as expressed by Karl Marx one hundred years ago, “Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains—you have a world to win!”

N. S.