50 Years Ago: Are We Justified?

Ever since its formation it has been urged against the S.P.G.B. that its attitude towards reforms or palliatives was not wise. It is contended by many that the best policy consists in agitating for this or that reform with a view to assisting the workers to get something now.

The L.R.C. (now the Labour Party) at their Conference held in Liverpool in January, 1905, carried with acclamation a resolution stating that their ultimate object is the socialisation of the means of production, distribution, etc. Neither in the speeches, writings, or actions, of its advocates, however, can much trace of this ultimate object be found, the immediate object apparently taking up the whole of their time and energy.

Whether the immediate complaint that the worker is suffering from too long hours, insufficient food, sweated conditions, or any other of the evils inherent in capitalism, the S.P.G.B. has always maintained that nothing short of Socialism could possibly effect a cure, and has consequently steadfastly refused to be drawn into any reform agitation whatsoever urging that the quickest way to get “something now” even, is to organise to obtain the whole.

To those who pooh-pooh this view; to those who call us impossibilists for holding it; to those who imagine that they are practical politicians while we are in the clouds; to all these the following extract from Lord Avebury’s speech on the burden of armaments made in the House of Lords on the 25th of May is offered for consideration:

“The unrest in Europe, the spread of Socialism . . . was a warning to the governments and the governing classes that the condition of the working class in Europe was becoming intolerable, and that if revolution were to be avoided some step must be taken to increase wages, reduce the hours of labour, and lower the prices of the necessaries of life.”

Let the workers of the world organise for Socialism and refuse to be drawn from the straight path. They may rely upon it that the more determination they evince to follow this course the more frequently will speeches like the extract given be heard preceding the reforms that will be thrown to them, in order that Lord Avebury and Co. may secure a little longer time in which to enjoy the good things of life, and in order that the day when the working class shall come by its own may be postponed. “Something now” will be obtained, not by agitating for reform, but by organising for revolution, a work which, in this country, the Socialist Party of Great Britain alone is performing.

(From the “Socialist Standard”, August, 1906)

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