Bebel’s Incursion Into English Politics

In another column we publish the correspondence which has passed between the Executive Committee of The Socialist Party of Great Britain, our comrade Bebel, and Vorwaerts, the official organ of the German Socialist Party. There is no occasion to amplify that correspondence, and the only purpose of a reference to it here is to direct attention more particularly to it in justification of the attitude taken up by this Party. That attitude which is, of course, no more than a logical expression of the class struggle, and cannot be departed from by any Socialist except by the immolation of Principle on the altar of Expediency, coincides exactly with the pronouncement made by Bebel himself in other connections. He may only object to it, therefore, at the risk of self stultification. We regret exceedingly that instead of recognising that he had allowed himself to be betrayed into an act calculated, because it lent the countenance of approval to what was merely a capitalist victory, to defeat the purpose of Socialist propaganda, he should have preferred to attempt to exonerate himself by reading into his telegram something which in point of fact was neither implied nor expressed. We expected better things of Bebel.

Our intervention in this matter, however much we may deplore the occasion for it, will, like our protest to the French Socialist Party against the fraternisation of Dr. Brousse (a member of the Party and President of the Municipal Council of Paris) with the L.C.C. representatives of capitalism in municipal politics, serve to show that in England there is now a party jealous of the integrity and the unswerving adherence to principle, of the International Socialist Movement, zealous for the elimination of all confusing elements in industrial and political warfare, and determined to do all in its power—however little or much that may be—to organise the working class upon the basis of their distinctive class interests, for the final struggle with the hosts of capitalism, whatever the form of their manifestation, and the realisation of the Co-operative Commonwealth.

Until The Socialist Party of Great Britain Came into existence our Continental comrades may well have been in lugubrious ignorance of the existence of such a party : we sincerely hope our stand for principle will remove any misapprehension they may have had on this issue.


With regard to the splutteringly splenetic comments which Reynolds’s Newspaper appears to think the action of our Party in this matter merits, we need only observe that they do not unduly depress us. Curiously enough, we did not expect Reynolds’s to appreciate our protest. We did not suppose, even, that Reynolds’swould understand it. If the hard, cold truth must be told we confess that it was not in our mind that, even presuming Reynolds’s capacity to understand and appreciate a stand for principle, it would have been delighted that the stand should have been made in this particular case. Because if our action secures a wide publicity, and our view obtains a similarly extended endorsement (as we make no doubt it will from those who accept the principle of the class struggle), Reynolds’s stands exposed as merely the capitalist journal it is. This, of course, would not suit Reynolds’s book. It relies largely upon its ability to maintain the fiction that it is a desperately “advanced” organ, at whose voice Re-action halts tremblingly.

So far, therefore, from being abashed by the somewhat subtle sarcasm of its references to “a body calling itself The Socialist Party of Great Britain,” whose secretary, “a Mr.Lehane” etc., or by its crushing denunciation of us as “an obscure sect of Socialist malcontents,” we are almost inclined to hilarity. We cheerfully admit that we are a body calling itself The Socialist Party of Great Britain. We presume to call ourselves that because as a matter of sober fact we are The Socialist Party of Great Britain ! Our secretary is “a Mr. Lehane,” who, as Reynolds’s will be interested to know, we call Comrade Lehane. Also we are Socialist malcontents because there is no other way. If Reynolds’s knows a Socialist who is not a malcontent we should be glad to see him. He would be worth going a long journey to view.

Having gone to this trouble to assure Reynolds’s on these points, perhaps we may now venture to ask a favour for ourselves. That it will be quite an easy request for an organ like Reynolds’s to comply with we are quite ready to believe, although there does seem to be an incomprehensible number of apparently insurmountable difficulties in the way of other, less eminent, organs and persons satisfying our small requirements in the same regard. All we ask is that Reynolds’s will be good enough to slightly abbreviate a few of its Divorce Court reports so that it may find an inch or two of its invaluable space for the publication of the evidence in support of the allegation it has made against us of having sent a misleading letter to Bebel and of largely occupying ourselves with abuse. We should be so much obliged for proof of either or both charges. Would, for example, the extracts from this paper which Reynolds’s lhas often reproduced with approval contain the abuse? We are sorry to say that we cannot accept, such allegations even from Reynolds’s without some proof.

As it is we are compelled to admit that a complaint of abuse from Reynolds’s comes as refreshingly humourous to us as its rather lumbersome essays in irony. Reynolds’s protesting against abuse is as if the Prince of Darkness protested against the heat !

(Editorial, Socialist Standard, April 1906)

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