1970s >> 1974 >> no-836-april-1974

50 Years Ago: “Communists” & the Labour Party

The alleged “Communist” believes in his ability to capture the Labour Party and “lead” it. So he alternately condemns that Party’s present “leaders” and supports them at election times.


He endeavours to justify this attitude by referring to a phrase in the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels, to wit — “The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties”. In this he shows his lack of logic and historical knowledge.


In the first place the present-day “Communists” do form a separate party and the alleged “Labour” Party has opposed their admission into its ranks. Secondly the phrase quoted above is, in its practical application, “antiquated because”, in Engels’ own words, “the political situation has been entirely changed and the progress of history has swept from off the earth” the working class parties referred to. (See Engels’ Preface 1888).


What was the political situation at the time Marx and Engels penned their historic document ? Briefly, the open political arena was confined to the representatives of the various sections of the master-class. The workers were not enfranchised and were reduced to a fight for political elbow room. Under such conditions it was practically impossible for the Communists to form an independent political party.


They stood for the conquest of political power by the workers as the means of achieving the social revolution, but the technical means of this conquest, i.e. the franchise, had yet to be acquired. Hence the Communists supported, in England, the Chartists and similar bodies on the Continent. This in itself is a significant fact which the workers would do well to bear in mind when latter-day “Communists” pretend to ridicule the franchise as a political weapon, what time they are not urging the workers to use it to put in office the traitors of the Labour Party.


Since that day the modern socialist tactics have been both a possibility and a necessity. Nothing now prevents a revolutionary party openly proclaiming its objective and calling upon the workers to organise for its establishment. While, on the other hand, every political party seeks the support of the workers only one party can represent their interests. That party is the Socialist Party.


[From an article “Socialist Tactics” by Eric Boden, in the Socialist Standard, April 1924.]