1940s >> 1948 >> no-530-october-1948

Letter: The Socialist Party and Reforms

Answer to a Correspondent
H. Timmins (South Tottenham).—Your letter of 1st September received. As we find that it covers almost exactly the same ground and uses (and fails to understand) the same quotations as the letter from you that we published and replied to at length in the issue for October, 1933, we are not prepared to publish it again. We refer you to that reply and suggest that you try to make up your mind what is the precise nature of the charge of alleged inconsistency you wish to make. In brief it is correct, as you know, that the Party’s Declaration of Principles has never been changed. From time to time the Party has discussed the application of Socialist principles to particular issues and did so about 1910 on the question of reforms. The attitude defined then has never been altered and was reaffirmed at Conference this year. There is no inconsistency whatever in being opposed to having a programme of reforms, opposed to reformist parties and opposed to the policy of appealing to the capitalists for reforms, and at the same time being prepared to obtain anything that can be obtained by opposition to the capitalist class both on the economic and political fields. If you could show us that we have ever advocated the former or departed from the latter there would be a case to answer, not otherwise.

In your letter of October, 1933, you charged Marx with advocating the policy of appealing to the capitalists for reforms. You do so again and now you also say that in that issue of the Socialist Standard we published “the glaring statement that ‘Marx welcomed reforms’.” You seem to be confusing your own argument with our repudiation of it and you were quite right to say in your present letter that no doubt we would accuse you “ of just using small extracts,” except that the term should be not even using but “misquoting.”

You say, for example, that we wrote “Marx welcomed reforms.” What we actually did write, as yon will see if yon look it up, was:

  “Marx welcomed such reforms as the shorter working day and valued them highly (probably more highly than they deserved). But he never advocated the useless policy of appealing to the capitalists for such reforms.”

You make one new point: “In view of the recent new Health Insurance Act, it brings to the fore the question of Reforms, of which even members of your Party will receive some benefits in different ways.”

You have overlooked the fact that the new Scheme is partly financed by deductions from wages (incidentally a reversal of the early Labour Party policy); that it is introduced at a time when prices are rising faster than wages and in place of wage increases; that some workers, e.g. new entrants to the Civil Service, will now have deductions made from wages for old age pensions but will have the pensions deducted from the Civil Service pension they would get in any event; and that the scheme as a whole is so far from being attractive that hundreds of thousands of people refused to enter it and the threat of prosecution had to be made to force them to do so.

Ed. Comm.