E. Belfort Bax

The Case of Gott

(29 August 1908)

The Case of Gott, Justice, 29th August 1908, p.10. (letter)
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

DEAR COMRADE, – The intolerant and highhanded action of the Executive of the S.D.P. in the expulsion of comrade Gott from the body has, I think, excited widespread dissatisfaction. There is no doubt, I suppose, that the Executive has at present the right to expel members; but it is surely worth considering whether this right should not be formally limited in future to suspension pending the decision of the next ensuing Conference.

Let us look at the facts of the present case. Philip Snowden, one of those supposed to represent Socialism in the House of Commons, writes a pamphlet entitled, The Christ that is to Be. This pamphlet, I understand (for I have not read it), is filled with assertion; as to the founder of Christianity having been a Socialist, and his teachings substantially identical with Socialism – assertions which, to many of us, are simply unhistorical nonsense. Another pamphlet, by Mr. Wishart, traversing the statements of Mr. Snowden, is issued. The latter pamphlet our late member, Gott, had the temerity, I believe, to offer for sale (not in the name of the S.D.P., but purely on his own account) outside the hall in which the S.D.P. was holding its Conference at Manchester. Some nervous comrades, however, thought it was too near the sacred precincts, and feared it might injure the reputation of the body for respectability (I suppose with the Nonconformist shopkeepers of the neighbourhood). Accordingly the Godless Gott was ordered to desist from the propagation of his views in the manner aforesaid This order he seems to have regarded as an aggressive infringement of his personal liberty of opinion, and not to have complied with, at least, with the alacrity desired. Thereupon the Executive, in revenge, took an early opportunity of expelling him. Hinc illae lachrymae.

The above is, I believe, an absolutely correct statement of the facts of the case. I know, of course, the repudiation by the Executive of the charge of persecution. The expulsion, it is said, was purely a matter of party discipline. Gott refused to obey an order of the Conference, and was expelled because of the refusal. Now, I am myself of the opinion that it would have perhaps been better had Gott for the time being complied, under protest, and raised the matter on a subsequent occasion. But the important question arises here whether the Party has the right to order members, in their personal capacity, to desist from any form of propaganda not traversing the fundamental principles of Socialism. That it has such a right seems to me a very far-reaching and arrogant assumption. And if it has no such right it is clear the resolution of the Conference ordering Gott not to sell a particular socio-secularist pamphlet in the public streets, and the decision of the Executive to expel Gott for not conforming to the said resolution were both alike invalid. We really ought to know where we stand in this matter. – Yours fraternally,


E. Belfort Bax


Last updated on 3.2.2005