That Word “Unity”
That word “unity” has a charm of its own. Ethically it symbolises an idealist condition and appeals to the gregariousness of human beings. Having this fine appeal, it is continuously used by all sorts of unscrupulous people and bodies as a cloak. We have appeals by vested clerical interests for “Christian” unity, capitalists and their Labour and Communist allies clamour for “National” unity, federationists seek “European” unity; we have got the term United Nations, and prominent statesman are clamouring for “world” unity. The charm of the “idea” of unity has produced phrases which have become of daily use, such as “there’s safety in numbers,” “we sink or swim together,” and many other common expressions of speech. All this indicates the “social” (not Socialist) aspirations of human beings, and challenges the Victorian conception of “it’s every man for himself.” Capitalism being a class-divided society, Socialists can only concern themselves with what matters to the Working Class. That automatically rules out any plea for “national” unity. Realising the reactionary role of religion, Socialists cannot be concerned about “Christian” unity. Socialists seek to establish a new system of society World Wide, and this rules out talk of “European” unity, and understanding the basis of the profit-making system, with its competing combines, we cannot see the possibility of “world” unity. Is then ours a policy of despair? No! nor is it a policy of “snare.” The question of “unity” has come to the front by the recent application for affiliation to the Labour Party by the Communist Party. As Socialists we are always interested in anything applying to the working-class and parties and groups thrown up by them. This does not pledge us in their support. A group or body or organisation may be entirely working-class but that does not make it Socialist; it often is reactionary. The Socialist’s question about Unity is, Will it help abolish the wages system and establish Socialism? If it will not, then it is futile except for political crooks to use as a tool.
In my days of youthful exuberance I worked for “unity.” Some thirty-two years ago the Social Democratic Party decided the time was ripe for “Socialist” unity, and along with the Clarion movement (cyclists, not Socialists), a few of the I.L.P. and odd bits here and there, we established the British Socialist Party. There occurred a brief hectic period, and during the middle of the war of 1914 this “united” party split. From thence until the end of war a United Socialist Committee was formed representative of B.S.P., S.L.P., I.L.P. for “anti-war” purposes. Twelve months after the war, arising out of the Russian revolt, the leading members of the S.L.P. formed the Communist Unity Group, and in 1920 this coterie, plus the B.S.P. and odd groups round and about, formed one of three parties calling themselves Communists. In a short while a further conference was held in Leeds to unite the uniters, and the result was the brew—C.P.G.B. Ere a few years had passed these united Communist parties began to split on the continent, and in Russia itself the “Trotskyist” section was eliminated. Soon the British Communist Party began to clamour for unity. They drafted a programme (without consulting anybody else), then circularised other bodies asking them to unite—on a programme set out by the Communist Party itself. In the industrial field they played similar games. They brought about the split in the Miners’ Union and the Garment Workers’ Union, and established break-away unions which they cynically named United Clothing Workers’ Union and United Mineworkers of Scotland. Later came the extended forms of Unity, in Popular Fronts and People’s Conventions, and a whole series of groups and societies, ostensibly legitimate bodies, but in reality tentacles of the Communist Party.
Whilst addressing an outdoor meeting prior to the war the question put was, “Why don’t you Socialists unite?” That is a question which must be answered. Let us try to answer. Before Socialists can unite we must be sure they are Socialists. If they are Socialists they will have a clear conception of fundamental principles. The tragic history of the workers’ parties and groups (excepting S.P.G.B.) has been one of futile reformism. Every effort to achieve unity was foredoomed to failure. Time, energy and money has been continuously wasted in fruitless groupings and re-groupings. The thousand and one stunts, reform measures or immediate demands have not had the slightest unifying effect, but has merely bred bitter chagrin and disillusionment. This does not mean that Socialists do not want unity, They do, but it must not be chimerical or ephemeral, but must be solid and lasting. Such unity can only come about on the basis of correctness in theory, which will ensure correctness in practice. In no other way is Unity possible. The growth of Socialist knowledge is a guarantee of a united working class, therefore spread Socialist knowledge.