Ernest Belfort Bax

International versus National Socialism

(14 September 1895)

International versus National Socialism, Justice, 14th September 1895, p.4.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

There can be no doubt that an attempt is being made – and will possibly for a time have a showy success – to detach the awakening class-conscious English proletariat from the main movement of international Revolutionary Socialism by playing upon the British workman’s national vanity, and flattering him with lavish praise of his “practical common-sense” instincts as against the wild visionary schemes of the “foreigner.” The object, it is scarcely concealed, is to exploit those elements of the population with inchoate Socialistic instincts in the interests of a re-constructed Liberal Party. It is needless to name the organ that has constituted itself the would-be smasher of organised Socialism, and the champion diddler of the English Proletariat, How unscrupulous are the organisers of the crusade is evinced by the mean attempts to make capital out of the fact that, owing to the time and place of the late Frederick Engels’s funeral having been kept strictly private, not so many English Socialists or labour-leaders were present as would have wished to have been. That their absence under the circumstances had no political significance one way or the other, those who so jubilantly trotted out the circumstance must have very well known. However, as we have said, we have to face the situation that in view of the relative successes of the SDF and the ILP at the last election, and of the collapse of the Liberal Party, a determined attempt is going to be made to kill the Socialist body, the “vertebrate” one, and to “nobble” the other, the molluscous one. In the very molluscousness of the Independent Labour Part, lies the hope. Emphasis is laid on its “Labour Churches” on! its “Broad Social Christianity” (a most fearful wild fowl, that!) and even its “Roman Catholic Secretary” has to do duty as part of the show.

Now, is so far as the Independent Labour Party adheres to the main Socialist Programme we of the SDF have no quarrel with it, although we may deplore the waste of energy implied in the setting up of a rival organisation. The member of the SDF merely looks and smiles at the superior attractions offered the guileless British Public in the shape of “Roman Catholic Secretaries,” “Labour Churches,” and “Broad Social Christianity.” But if, as there seems some reason to fear, the aforesaid catchpenny attractions presage the danger of a complete swamping of the whole Socialistic side of the ILP in some bogus scheme – Liberal, Fabian, Christian, or what-not, under the pretence of creating a “national” “English” Socialism – then, indeed, the SDF will have to declare war on that ILP. But then also the really Socialistic elements in the latter body will join the organisation which alone truly represents the English Socialist Party.

We say the English Socialist party and not English Socialism advisedly. There is and can be no English Socialism as such. There is but one Socialism, based on history and the laws of economic development – a Socialism which sees in the independence of existing nationalities merely a stage in human development no more destined to be permanent than was the independence of the feudal manor or the medieval township. No, as far as theory goes there can be no more a specific English Socialism than there can be a special English astronomy, biology or any other science. On the other hand, the Socialist, however strongly he is convinced of the evanescent character of the dividing lines of modern nationalities cannot frail to take account of their actual existence. Hence he is perfectly ready to admit that for the present the practical furtherance of Socialism must be carried on under the aegis of national Social-Democratic parties, each managing its own affairs in its own way, at least, up to a certain point. But English Social-Democrats in organising their national party will neither be gulled by Fabian quacks into the acceptance of a new branch of Socialist theory warranted English make, nor will they, in the detail of national education, agitation, and organisation, lose sight of the necessity of international co-operation at present, or of the ultimate international goal of the whole Socialist movement in the future. Strong in its principles, not beaten about by every passing whim of public opinion, or seeing a great revolution, or a great reaction in every transient fashion of the hour, the Social-Democratic Federation will neither be dismayed nor turned aside in its steady progress as a wing of the great international Socialist movement, though it do have to fight with “Labour Churches,” “Broad Social Christianity,” or even “Roman Catholic Secretaries.”


E. Belfort Bax


Last updated on 26.5.2004