“Scottish I.L.P. congratulate you on your leadership in the magnificent success for Labour and Socialism at the polls” (Glasgow Herald, June 3rd, 1929).
36 members of the I.L.P. in Parliament, representing thousands of Scottish workers, naturally gave the I.L.P. ideas, so they made this historic statement:
“We stand as the ruling class in Scotland, and if we have not got complete control of Great Britain, we are going to have the opportunity of ruling Great Britain. It is not fitting that the ruling, class should go in rags.” (Glasgow Herald, June 3rd, 1929.)
Despite the fact that the I.L.P. stood as the ruling class in Scotland, no difference was noticed in the hellish conditions of the working-class in Scotland.
Glasgow, a hotbed of I.L.P.ism, to this day retains its rat-infested slums, and has the highest infantile death rate of any town in Great Britain. Yes! many of the workers that voted for the I.L.P. still live and remember.
But let’s forget the past; these men were villains. Live for the future; let’s have a Socialist Britain now! so say the present defenders of I.L.P.ism. Is the 1943 I.L.P. any different?—To the Socialist, the present-day programme of the I.L.P. in no way differs from the Keir Hardie days. It is the same reformism that was embraced by Ramsay MacDonald, Philip Snowden, Sir Oswald Mosley, and others. To-day it suits the Catholic M.P, for Shettleston, Mr. McGovern, and his opposite number, Mr. Maxton.
Should one find it inconvenient to be an I.L.P. M.P., then one can change over to the Labour Party, as did George Buchanan, M.P. for Gorbals.
The present policy of the I.L.P. is, as before, vote-catching; it parades its anti-war policy as socialistic; the P.P.U. or the N.C.L. might as well make a similar claim—they have as much justification as the l.L.P. to do so. The S.P.G.B. warned the I.L.P. and other organisations that they would have to face, sooner or later, a politically intelligent working class, a working class that by bitter experience have reached a measure of political understanding that will not tolerate the impudent nostrums and insults previously thrust on their fellow men by unscrupulous leaders using such labels as I.L.P., L.P., and C.P. There is a growing tendency amongst the modern working class to examine the political and economic structure of capitalist society, when enough of these workers get the fundamentals of political economy, then the reformists will surely become the doomed battalion.
The rank and file of the I.L.P. are not concerned with the Socialist case from a scientific point of view; they indulge in hero-worship and a lazy mental outlook, both political and religious. This can be proven by the present trouble inside the ”Socialism in Britain now” movement, on the .religious question and also their policy.
Page 4 of the New Leader, January 16th, 1943, is devoted to an article by John McGovern, M.P., headed “This is the Year of Our Opportunity.” He says: “Let us purge our minds of doubts, our bodies of laziness, and our hearts of cowardice, and let us face the tasks of 1943.”
Before McGovern asks anyone to do anything, he should clear up some of the mess that at present is prevalent inside the I.L.P. A controversy, “Catholics and Socialism,” has been going on in the pages of the New Leader. F. A. Ridley has upset the apple cart again by his slashing attacks on the Catholic Church; this is resented by the Catholic element inside the I.L.P. and endorsed by the non-Catholic element. Let us examine three contributions from the New Leader, January 16th, 1943, on this question.
Harry Carr, Manchester, writes attacking Ridley. He says: “Amongst the mildest of Ridley’s recent assertions from his fortnightly pulpit was that ‘Christianity to-day had little enough to do with Christ.’ He now says categorically that no Catholic can be a loyal Socialist.
“If the l.L.P. as a body supports him in this, then these of us who value freedom of conscience will know what to do. I hope I have made myself clear.”
Mr. Carr has certainly made himself clear.
R. Gray, Motherwell, also makes himself clear. He defends Ridley. He says : “May I quote a passage from the Encyclical letter ‘Quadragesimo Anno‘ on the Pope’s opinion on Socialism? Whether Socialism be considered as a doctrine, or a historical, fact, or as a movement, if it really remains Socialism, it cannot be brought into harmony with the dogmas of the Catholic Church, even if it has yielded to truth and justice in the points we have mentioned, the reason being that it conceives human society in a way utterly alien to Christian truth.’ Pope Pius XI. then states: ‘No one can be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true Socialist.’ ”
Mr. Fenner Brockway, Editor of the New Leader, gives the l.L.P. position on this question. He says: “So far as the l.L.P. is concerned, it must, of course, retain the liberty to criticise any institution whose policy is detrimental to the achievement of Socialism, but it applies no religious test to membership to the party, believing this to be a matter for the individual.” (New Leader, January 16th, 1943).
To the writer, Brockway means that you can be a Catholic and a Socialist at the same time. Ridley will agree with B. Gray of Motherwell that you cannot.
McGovern will agree with Brockway and the Pope at the same time.
Harry Carr of Manchester is in a helluva mess, but so is the I.L.P.
We of the S.P.G.B. have no religious axe to grind with any Church or the I.L.P.; a plague on both their houses.
Scientific Socialists have no room for religious or political nonsense. Our position is if you are a true Christian you are not a Socialist; further, if you support the 1943 policy of the I.L.P., you are a defender of capitalism.
Ridley creates further trouble for the I.L.P.—he states in Left, January, 1943:
“What is the future role of the I.L.P.? At present, it is the only party in this country with even an ostensibly revolutionary character and policy; As such it has the entire field to itself. It has, literally, no competitors.
“If the I.L.P. can become a revolutionary party in fact as in name, if it can forget the reformist past and concentrate on the revolutionary future, it has an unique opportunity both to lead the British masses forward to their inevitable show-down with the imperialists who rule them . . . “
Ridley knows the reformist character of the I.L.P. Whether or not 1943 produces a revolutionary I.L.P. remains to be seen. The present constitution of the I.L.P. convicts it as a reformist party, still advocating leadership, believing in great men, etc. Therefore, there is more trouble ahead for the I.L.P. and other reformist organisations.
The political intelligence of the working class is rising, hence the difficulty of the Independent Labour Party to survive. The Socialist Party of Great Britain is to-day reaping the benefit for its clear cut policy and strict adherence to Socialist principles along the lines laid down by Marx and Engels.