The Prentice Affair

“Me! I don’t even know what a Marxist is,” said Miss Anita Pollack when accused of plotting to oust Reg Prentice from his parliamentary seat at Newham, East London.


She’s not the only one. Karl Marx himself is credibly reported by one biographer as observing, when told of a particularly crass piece of stupidity by one of his French supporters: “If that’s Marxism, then I’m no Marxist.” In all probability, as a serious scientist he wasn’t even interested in “Marxism”, any more than Darwin would have wished to be regarded as a “Darwinist”.


Miss Pollack also said: “I’m no revolutionary — I only belong to the Labour Party.” Fair enough! On the other hand, she is among those in the Newham North East Labour Party who propose to repudiate Prentice for “betraying the Labour Party’s socialist principles”. Unlike the Socialist Party of Great Britain, the Labour Party has never had principles of any sort, let alone Socialist ones. From the day of its inception in 1906 it has never been anything but a motley collection of careerists and job-hunters, desperately intent on saying or doing anything that would get the votes required for a politician’s “skive”. The difference between John Stonehouse and the others is that he didn’t know when to stop.


How Prentice can betray principles which the Labour Party has never had and therefore do not exist, remains to be seen. Certain it is that there are no Socialist principles except Marxian ones. When a Labour Prime Minister like Harold Wilson can babble his fatuous nonsense at the Durham Miners’ Gala — that a man’s wage increase is “another man’s price increase” — we can well believe him when he says he was unable to read more than two pages of Marx’s Capital.


In fact he wouldn’t have to! Just one page of Marx’s Value, Price and Profit suffices to show that the British workers (the highest-paid in Europe at the time, 1860-70) flooded the markets of the world with cheap commodities and undercut the products of all competitors, forcing them to erect tariff barriers to stop British imports. The whole essence of the capitalist economic system is to compensate for wage increases by more sophisticated production — the so- called accumulation of capital.


In view of the general ignorance of Marxism in the Labour Party — and even worse, its rejection in favour of Keynes by those who profess to know — it is surprising that the Newham Labour Party are aware of the existence of “socialist principles” at all. And yet there is one source, and one only, where they could hear of them: The Socialist Party! There is one organization only in this country that sticks rigidly and unalterably to principles — the Socialist Party.
What the Newham Labour Party are really objecting to is Prentice’s advocacy of coalition government, which makes them look idiots before the electorate. But the Labour Party has done that before: in 1931 and 1939. It has always been at the beck and call of the capitalist class, to save things for them. And now the chickens are at last coming home to roost! After six Labour governments the Labour Party’s attempts at reforming the system and curbing the workers’ demands are again coming unstuck. Hence the demands for the “retirement” of Prentice, Silkin and (according to the Mirror and the Sun) a number of others.


Those who have the temerity to say that an elected representative should do what he is told are denounced in those two well-known clear-thinking journals as wicked conspirators, plotters infiltrating local Labour Parties, Marxist factionists seizing control, etc. Prentice himself has given formal notice that he will ignore a majority decision to sack him. How sensitive these politicians are to the electorate! What a lesson to those critics of the Socialist Party who say that votes don’t count, and Parliament is a futile gasworks!


But try as they may, and however well-meaning their intention, the members of the Newham North East Labour Party, even if they sack Prentice, will succeed in nothing. What is wrong is not Prentice, but the rotten, unprincipled Labour Party which spawned him. The only way to Socialism is by the conscious votes of a democratic majority, for candidates nominated by a party based on Socialist principles. In that event working-class voters would really have a case against a defaulter in the House. The object of a Socialist party is the abolition of capitalism and nothing else — making it near-impossible for an elected representative to double-cross.


How comical the hysterical squeals of the gutter press about “minorities controlling the local Labour Parties” — as soon as the ordinary members express themselves! But sacking one scallywag to replace him with another is not enough. The time has come to stop playing silly-boy Labour politics and turn to the serious revolutionary Socialist Party which exists, based on a crystal-clear Declaration of its Principles.