Interesting Documents. No. 1.
The following circular has been issued by some of the oldest members of the Southampton Branch of the Social Democratic Federation. Amongst the signatories H. Quelch, is an ex-member of the Provincial Executive of the S.D.F.,
SOUTH HANTS SOCIALIST SOCIETY.
The above Society has been formed by former members of the S.D.F. with the object of spreading by means of literature, and if need be, by public meetings, the ideals and principles of Socialism.
Being unable to remain in and work with the S.D.F. owing to the change that has gradually come over it whereby the propagation of reforms and the contesting of elections instead of being a subsidiary part, as of yore, has become the primary part of its work, leaving the ideals and principles of Socialism to be a formal part of its creed in much the same way as it has always been with the Trades Council and the Trades Unions which boast of a Socialist constitution. Indeed, the S.D.F. has for some time past so completely allied itself with these bodies and assimilated its work with theirs as to be hardly distinguishable from them.
We still believe there is plenty of scope for the propagation of Socialism and that all the reforms together would, if achieved, be of very little use in remedying the social evils of which we complain.
Although, owing to such bad conditions os do exist among the workers, one is much tempted to devote undue attention to reforms, it cannot be too often or too strenuously asserted that all and every reform possible in Capitalist Society would do next to nothing in the end as the capitalist class has always shown that it knows full well how to force back with one hand what it is compelled to pay out with the other. It is surely significant that after all the years occupied in obtaining reforms, that it should be even now a debatable point as to whether the workers as a class are any better off to-day than they were at the beginning.
Even in the case of such apparently obviously desirable reforms as state maintenance – or, as it is watered down to, state feeding of the children and the relief of the unemployed, it is fairly clear that the Capitalist Class will take care to benefit more itself than the workers by the greater exploitation of the young, by reason of their more fit condition making them better producing mediums, and from having their reserve army kept by the state for them. And it must not be lost sight of that a reserve army of unemployed is a necessary condition of Capitalist Society.
Brutal as it may seem to say so, it is clear to us that the only purpose of reforms is to put off the day when the workers will come by their own. The workers will always be badly fed, housed and clothed so long as they are robbed, and robbed they will be so long as capitalism lasts.
What interest we had in reforms, municipal or otherwise, and in the use of elections for propagation of Socialism has vanished. We have been disillusioned by watching its effects and results. The failure to get any substantial gain from these sources is not accounted for by the good or bad actions of individuals but by the conditions of the problem itself.
The so-called advance, the growth of the Labour Party, is in our opinion but the erection of a bulwark against the real movement — the only one of any use to the proletariat — i.e., the Socialist movement.
Eleven years ago in a Manifesto the local S. D. F. said as follows :
“We, Revolutionary Social-Democrats, disdain to conceal our principles. We proclaim the class war. We hold that the lot of the workers cannot to any appreciable extent be improved except by a complete overthrow of this present capitalist system of Society. The time for Social tinkering has gone past.”
That is where the S.D.F. stood then and that is where we stand now, and we are convinced that it is only from that standpoint that any good can be done.
Numbers have no charm for us. All we want is that the ideals and principles of Socialism shall be spread. We do not desire to make members unless we first of all make them Socialists.
If you think you would like to help us, join us. We require everyone who does come to come to us whole-heartedly. We prefer the help of one sincere member who is in the light to twenty who are groping in the dark or floating on the tide of expediency catching at straws.
We send herewith our Object, policy and rules so that you can see what we are after. If any explanation is required we are prepared to give it. If you want to follow up your study of Socialism we are prepared to offer friendly advice. If you want literature we are prepared to supply you.
“Work for Socialism — all else is vain.”