James Connolly

Connolly’s Defence



As I understand the motives animating the members of this Section in setting on foot this investigation, they are based upon the desire to ascertain my position towards the party principles and policy, and have been prompted by certain statements by the editor of our national organ, The People, and echoed by other writers. These statements were: –

First: That I had directed a criticism against the position of The People, on “Vital questions of policy, and even of principle”, a statement made in an editorial footnote to a letter of Comrade Holmes on April 16th.

Second: That “Connolly had brought charges against the party”, a statement made in a Letter Box answer to ‘S.B.S.’, Troy, in The People of Sunday, May 15th.

I may say, that as the opinion of the S.L.P. is the only public opinion I care about I feel deeply the humiliation involved in being subjected to such an investigation as this, implying as it does that I am under suspicion, but at the same time I recognise the justice of the argument that if these charges preferred against me are true, then I ought to be expelled from the S.L.P.; but I hope you will also recognise as valid the allied argument, that if they are not true, and cannot be substantiated, then they ought to be withdrawn, as publicly as they were made.

Having initiated this investigation this Section has the right to hear my defence, in which particular, it is more privileged than the other Sections of the party, or readers of The People, since my exclusion from the columns of The People, by the editor, denies the party members the right of hearing both sides of the argument. As the trial hinges upon my article on Wages, Marriage and the Church, I will first state to what category I conceive each of those subjects belong. I believe the question of Wages and Prices to be the only of the three which could even by the utmost straining of language be considered as vital, and then only in relation to our policy. The question of Marriage, as treated by me, is in its last analysis, the question of the wisdom of publishing Bebel’s book, and as DeLeon disagrees with some of Bebel’s conclusions I guess I have a right to disagree in turn, either with Bebel or DeLeon himself. The question of the treatment of the Church is one which cannot ever be anything more than a question of individual interpretation of what constitutes a correct attitude. It is not vital in any sense, whichever side is proven right.

Now to take and discuss my position on the questions in the order named. First, Wages: I quoted a statement by an S.L.P. organiser to the effect that a rise in wages would not benefit the working class, as such a rise would be followed by a rise in prices, which would neutralise the value to the workers of the rise in wages. I said this was wrong. Comrade DeLeon said the organiser was right, and that Marx held and taught the same position. Now, let me state the reason on which my position is based. We will consider Marx afterwards.

The reasoning of DeLeon and the correspondents who take up the same attitude would be more plausible if we were dealing with the production of the necessaries of life only, and of these necessaries only that portion of them of which the working class were consumers. But we are not dealing with any such partial problem; we are dealing with a problem affecting all the commodities on the market. Now, as the worker receives only 15% of the produce of his labour, it follows that he is only a consumer to the extent of 15% of all the commodities produced. He cannot purchase more than he receives. Therefore, the rise or fall in prices of the other 85% of the annual produce of this country does not and cannot effect him at all. A rise in wages therefore cannot be recovered from the worker by a rise in prices; it must be, and it is, recovered by other means. There lies upon Comrade DeLeon and his adherents, the onus of showing how the workers can lose the benefit of the rise in wages by an increase in the price of commodities they do not, and cannot purchase or consume. But that is not all. We are living now in an era of mammoth machinery and great productivity of labour. The tendency is for the worker to be more and more eliminated, and for all factories to show an overwhelming preponderance of machinery as against men. It is only when this is not the case, e.g., in the production of such necessaries of life as for instance, coal and bread, where the cost of labour bears an inordinately large proportion of the total cost of production – it is only then that there is even plausibility in the theory that wages govern prices – and that state of production recedes further and further from us with every development of machinery. In other words, wages are not the only factor in the cost of production, and an increase iii wages can be and generally is compensated for at the expense of the other items in the capitalist's account. He either cheapens the raw material, speeds up and makes more productive the machinery, or introduces new labour saving devices. This brings me to what I consider the most astonishing mistake of all in the reasoning of my critics. It is the assumption underlying their argument that the worker is exploited as a consumer. It is one merit of Marx to have effectually demonstrated that exploitation takes place in the workshop and affects the workman as a producer, not as a consumer. If the argument of DeLeon and my other critics is right, then the cheapening of commodities is a boon to the working class, and we were all wrong when we preached, as we have done for years, that low prices would mean low wages. Furthermore, observe the tangle into which such a position leads our usually logical editor.

He declares that a rise in wages leads to a rise in prices; in other words that wages determine prices. Then he quotes Marx who said, that the value of labour is governed by the cost of its maintenance, and he agrees with that too. He does not seem to realise that they are two antagonistic propositions, each excluding the other. The first is, that wages determine prices. The second is that prices determine wages. DeLeon agrees with both. That is to say he holds that a thing can be both cause and effect of the one phenomenon. In this case it means that high wages give birth to high prices, and high prices give birth to high wages. The parent gives birth to the child, and the child gives birth to its own parent. How instructive. Thus, by this mysterious process each is the cause of its own existence! The scientists may now cease their weary search for a case of spontaneous generation; here it is ready to their hand, revealed by the luminous logic of our editor. What a pity that Huxley and Haeckel, so sadly disappointed in the Bathybius Haeckelii, were not privileged to meet our brilliant comrade and hear him explain how a thing can give birth to its own parent, and thus become its own grandfather, and yet have no beginning outside of itself. A fearful and wonderful product of logic and economics. What then is the real answer which our S.L.P. organiser ought to have given to his Kangaroo opponent? He should have said: Yes, we know that a rise in wages is a benefit to the worker, but we know also that other circumstances will not allow him to retain that rise, or to reap for long that benefit. We know that his employer will speed up his machinery, or intensify his labour so that he will have to produce more for his higher wages, and that as the result while he will receive absolutely more yet relative to the total product of his toil he will receive less than before his rise. We know also that his increased wages will hasten the introduction of labour saving machinery, and throw him on the street, or others to compete with him. We know that the greater productivity of labour itself will glut the market with commodities, produce an industrial crisis, throw hundreds of thousands out of work and bring down wages again with a slump. We know in short that all the tendencies of capitalist society are against the workers maintaining a high rate of wages. I notice one correspondent accusing me of declaring that the workers can get more than the full value of their labour. This only shows that the comrade in question was more anxious to denounce me than to read what he was denouncing.

But to revert to DeLeon. I have said he takes up a contradictory attitude; I say more. He attempts to father a contradiction upon Karl Marx also. I will quote the passage DeLeon quotes Marx correctly as saying “Having shown that a general rise of wages would ... not affect the average price of commodities or their value,” and as proceeding to say “As with all other commodities so with labour, its market price will, in the long run, adapt itself to its value; ... despite all the ups and downs, and do what he may, the workingman will, on the average only receive the value of his labour, which resolves into the value of his labouring power, which is determined by the value of the necessaries required for its maintenance and reproduction.” And DeLeon adds this luminous note: “In other words, higher wages, in the long run, without at least proportional higher prices of necessaries would mean a market price of labour out of keeping with its value.” You will observe, comrades that the conclusion arrived at is that of Marx, but the reason adduced for the conclusion is that of DeLeon, and I challenge this meeting, I challenge DeLeon, or any of his supporters to show anything in the context, anything in the page, anything in the chapter, anything in the book, anything in Marx from A to Z to justify the attributing of such reasoning to Marx. Our comrade has so cleverly intertwined his own reasoning with Marx’s conclusion that it is difficult to tell where one begins and the other ends. In fact it cannot be done, unless you have the book in hand while doing it or know your Marx well enough to recognise him at sight. DeLeon’s action in this respect reminds me of some of these ‘smart alecks’ we have all known at school, who, too lazy themselves to work out correctly a problem in arithmetic, would work it out in any old way, but carefully copy the correct answer from some scholar more studious and industrious than themselves, hoping that the correctness of the answer would cause the teacher to overlook the slips in the calculation. But, stripped of all the verbiage and sophistry which our comrade strives to cloak this heresy, here are the two conclusions he attempts to foist upon Marx:

Conclusion 1.
A rise in wages does not mean a rise in prices.

Conclusion 2.
The worker cannot get more than the value of his labour, because a rise in wages does mean a rise in prices.

I say to you in all candour that although I have been fifteen years in the socialist movement, I have seldom if ever met a more slip shod examination of a grave economic problem than that which our editor has treated us to in this case. No, comrades, when Marx said the worker could not get more than the value of his labour he did not base his statement, upon the increase of prices he has just denied he did not base it upon the truth of a statement he had just proven to be an error nor, upon the occurrence of a phenomenon he has just demonstrated did not occur. The reason why the worker cannot get more than the value of his labour I have just explained to you, and to allow you to judge which explanation is that of Marx, I will quote to you the resolutions which Marx gave at the end of his lecture as the summing up of his arguments.

Firstly. A general rise in the rate of wages would result in a fall of the general rate of profit, but, broadly speaking, not affect the prices of commodities.

Secondly. The general tendency of capitalist production is not to raise, but to sink the average standard of wages.

Now to my mind, these words are so plain' so unequivocal that nothing short of carelessness or perversity can explain such a misconstruing of them as my critics have treated us to.

I stated that such theories destroy the fighting power of the S.T. & L.A. as a bona fide trade union; or to quote my words literally, made it a mere ward healing club for the S.L.P. This has been interpreted as an attack upon the S.T. & L.A. On the contrary it was an attempt to free that body from the incubus of a false doctrine, and to enable it to take a real live part in the struggles of the workers. Comrade DeLeon spins some fine theories upon the mission of the S.T. & L.A. to resist the lowering of the standard of the worker’s living, but the most effectual temporary way to resist a lowering of the standard of comfort is to encourage the workers to strike for higher wages. And you. cannot do that and at the same time preach that a rise in wages is no good. DeLeon’s theory would keep the S.T. & L.A. as far as its economic work is concerned perpetually on the defensive and never assuming the aggressive. Imagine a trade union which would fight against a reduction of wages, but prevented from fighting for a rise, because taught by its organisers that a rise was no good. What a picnic the employers would have! Every reduction they could enforce would be a permanent one, as our principles would forbid us demanding a rise, it being no benefit. Now a final word on that point. The statement that high prices follow high wages is to my mind the very reverse of the truth. The truth is that high prices precede high wages. Prices go up with lightning like rapidity and wages slowly and painfully climb after them. This truth Marx expressed by the much quoted and little understood saying that the value of labour (wages) is determined by the cost of the articles required for its maintenance and reproduction (prices). And I add, the greater the trustification of capital, the more potent its power to control prices, the truer does this become.

Now as to marriage: I stated that I believed in monogamic marriage and disagreed with Bebel who taught otherwise; also that I thought his book was too prurient to do good as a propagandist work, although there was valuable propagandist material in it. I repeat all that. Bebel not only unnecessarily introduces long drawn out tales of sexual excesses but often explicitly approves of them. It has been said that his work is based upon that of Morgan but the most delicate minded could read Morgan without a blush and the same cannot be said of Bebel. Thus on page 65 after telling of the brutal lusts and sexual outrages of the kings and knights of the Middle Ages he speaks of them approvingly as “a healthy sensualism, that sprung from a rugged and happy native disposition among the people.” A fine summing up of a period of unbridled lust and outrage! Healthy sensualism indeed; brutal animalism would be a better characterisation. On page 323, he says “The satisfaction of the sexual instinct is as much a private concern as the satisfaction of any other natural instinct.” This from the man whose book is supposed to be based upon that of Morgan, although Morgan expressly teaches that the satisfaction of the sexual instinct is a social act intimately related to and acting upon the economic conditions of society at large. On page 19, (Bebel) says: “If with monogamy paternity is often doubtful, it is impossible of proof with polygamy.” What does that mean? I do not know. I have read it backwards and forwards and up and down and diagonally. I have studied it when the sun was high in the heavens at noonday and have wrestled with it through the weary watches of the night and it seems to me that if it is not absolute indecency then it must be blithering idocy. Why should polygamy make proof of paternity impossible? Or perhaps we will be told, that like the omission of an important negative from Vandervelde’s letter, this also is a typographical error. On page 37, Bebel says: “It is the custom in the Netherlands when the host has a dear guest that he lets his wife sleep with him on faith.” This is introduced out of all bearing to its intent, clarifies no obscure point and is told apropos of nothing in particular. It was probably some more “healthy sensualism.” I have used the word “pruriency,” let me make it stronger and say indecency, and explain what I mean by indecency in this respect. I consider that whosoever tells of the sexual act needlessly or in any other manner, but as a scientist would speak of his investigations or a surgeon of his operations, is acting indecently. Rebel declares openly and avowedly that under Socialism the modern monogamic marriage will collapse, and yet his work we are told is based upon that of Morgan, and Morgan declares as unreservedly his belief in the beauty and permanency of modern marriage. Let me quote Bebel, page 346, “Bourgeois marriage is the result of bourgeois property relations.” In future society there is nothing to bequeath. The modern form of marriage is thus devoid of foundation and collapses. He might as well say: “The concentrated tool of production is the result of bourgeois property relations; in future society these relations will have disappeared, therefore the concentrated tool of production will collapse.” Comrade DeLeon also believes that the monogamic marriage will remain, yet he declares that the book he disagrees with is the best aimed shot at the existing social system. Either DeLeon has not much faith in his own marksmanship or else he believes the best aimed shot is that which proceeds from correct premises to wrong conclusions.

Comrade DeLeon says it was superfluous for the S.L.P. to vote upon the merits of this book, one of whose most important conclusions he himself rejects. But surely we all have a right to reject as well as DeLeon. If it is permissible for DeLeon to reject one conclusion drawn by Bebel, surely every other member of the party has the same right, and has even the right to accept the conclusions DeLeon rejects. I personally reject every attempt, no matter by whom made, to identify Socialism with any theory of marriage or sexual relations. I believe that no matter what may have been the force which gave birth to any institution, its permanency will and must be tested not by its origin but by its adaptability to the institutions – the economic institutions, of the future.

Coming next to the question of religion. I must first correct a totally wrong impression which has been sedulously fostered by The People and by some correspondents. This is the impression that I have stated that the S.L.P. attacked theology or religion. One correspondent puts it bluntly that the question to discuss is not whether we should attack theology or not, but, he says, whether we do; Connolly, he adds says we do. This I most emphatically deny. I never made any such statement and would be the first to contradict such a statement if made by others. What I did say and what I repeat, is that there is a tendency in the party to attack religion when Socialism is criticised by clerics. The mere fact that some correspondents have written to The People saying that we should attack theology proves my point as to the tendency.

Comrade Janke of Indianapolis, and Comrade Twomey of New York City say we should. Comrade DeLeon says it is never done, and Comrade Janke says it is and should be done Comrade Twomey says I am wrong and then quotes a number of instances in which he says it was done, and finds fault with DeLeon for taking up a different attitude now. Both these comrades deny my case, and then proceed to prove it by their arguments. A little more reflection on the value of a word would save our comrades a lot of blunders. If I had said in 1898 that there was a tendency in the S.L.P. to play fast and loose with Socialist principles, our comrades would probably have said I was attacking the party and was telling a falsehood. Yet there was such a tendency, and it came to a head in the Kangaroo attempt to capture the party. To say that there is a tendency in the party to attack theology, as theology, is not declaring that the party does so, but that some of its members do, and the truth of that statement is by at least Comrades Janke, and Twomey volunteering themselves as ‘horrible examples’ so to speak. As the three principal witnesses on my behalf I present Janke, Twomey and DeLeon. In my second letter to The People I mean the one Comrade DeLeon thought the members could not be trusted to read – I quoted where some priest had fired off the usual foolishness about Socialism, and our comrade answered him by telling about Catholic belief in miracles. In the same letter I answered his question as to whether his attitude or the religion of Czolgosz and other anarchists was an attack upon theology by saying it certainly was, and faulty logic into the bargain, if not absolute misstatement. But as our comrade promises to lay all correspondence before the National Convention, I will not go more fully into it at this stage, except to say that the statement that I left all the questions unanswered was worthy of the spirit that inspired it.

I now propose to wind up my defence by quoting a few of the opinions expressed by DeLeon in the past, and in the present. I propose to show you that he has completely changed front, and that the head and front of my offending is that I would not change with him. In other words, to use a classic expression which he would understand, I propose to appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober.

Let us take the Vandervelde article, but for which I may say my first article in this controversy would never have been written. In that article Vandervelde quotes a string of utterances against Socialism by leading Catholic writers, and in his reply to my article, DeLeon asks me triumphantly: “What about the allegations of fact?”. “If the allegations of fact are ‘absurd’ why not expose them by counter allegations so that the reader may verify the allegations on both sides, and see on what leg the ‘absurd’ boot lies”. Of course the thoughtful readers of The People were not taken in by such clap-trap as this; they realised that my allegations of ‘absurd’ was applied not to the ‘fact’, but to the inference Vandervelde drew from the fact. The supporters of Capitalism and Socialism have both the same set of facts to go upon, but how opposing are the inferences drawn therefrom! The inference Vandervelde drew, and I characterised as absurd, was that the Catholic Church was a barrier to Socialism and should be fought as a church. DeLeon champions that in his reply. But listen to him in The People, Saturday, April 26, 1902.

There is quite extensively a notion that the organised Catholic Church is a barrier to Socialism. The language of many a dignitary of the Catholic Church justifies, and the language of the Depews “The Catholic Church is the best police” tends to strengthen the notion. Probably the attitude of the Catholic or clerical party in Belgium may be quoted as further confirmation. We hold otherwise. What is going on in Belgium is proof that the Catholic Church, much as it would like to, cannot for all times control the masses to their injury. The masses in Belgium now out on a general strike, and the many more in sympathy with them, have been brought up as Catholics, at least most of them. A time was when these clericals controlled all these people. Do they to-day? Obviously no priestly or other influence can for all times dominate the masses. The ‘police’ upon which the Depews lean to scuttle Socialism will at the right moment be found by them a hollow reed to lean upon.

Thus you see that in 1902 our comrade ridiculed this very inference which he finds fault with me for styling absurd in 1904. That inference being that it is necessary to fight the Catholic Church as a church – the central idea of Vandervelde's letter. Now, take up the article written in reply to mine and see how our comrade describes theology.

Theology or religion is a delicate and occult thing. No man of sense and surely no man of feeling will hit back at that tender vein.

Now see how the editor of The People, July 11, 1902 treats that “tender vein.” He speaks of Judaism as “The idea of being a preselected and sole supporter of gods and their pursuivants,” and of Christanity he says, “Such a monstrous, preposterous conception as Gentile theology breeds semitism as inevitably as cheese breeds maggots.”; In other words for the purpose of scoring a point against your humble servant he describes as “delicate,” “occult” and “tender” that which he had previously branded as “monstrous” and “preposterous.” But listen further:

The whole Catholic hierarchy in chorus slandered the socialist as murderers of rulers, and disturbers of the State at the time of the Czolgosz affair. They never ‘hit back’ by citing a long list of murderers of rulers down to the present days, including Czolgosz himself, all of whom were Catholics, and by showing that their theory of society, terrestrial society ... was, under given conditions, a natural breeder of assassins of rulers as the long list showed.

This is definite enough. Here he states that the Catholic theory, that is to say the theory taught by the Catholic creed, of terrestrial society, breeds assassins. Now, take up The People of October 5, 1901 and in the Letter Box answer to ‘H.R.H.’, Providence, R.I., we read as follows:

True enough Czolgosz was born and brought up a Catholic. You might go further. The last four political assassinations in Europe; that of the Austrian Empress by Lucini, that of President Carnot of France by Santos, that of King Humbert by Brescia, and that of the Spanish Prime Minister Canovas Del Castilio, by a fellow whose name now escapes us – all were committed by Roman Catholics. But not for that is there any reason to impute assassination by reason of them to the Roman Catholic Creed. Let not the immorality of false reasoning in which Archbishop Corrigan has set the pace to so many Catholic priests, by inducing them to commit the immoral act of imputing Czolgosz to Socialism, take you off your base.

So that in October 5, 1901 our comrade declares a man would be “off his base” if he attributed the acts of the assassins mentioned to their religion and in his lectures on Anarchism and Socialism he apparently goes off his base on that very point, and again on April 9, 1904. First, he said there was no reason to attribute these assassinations to Roman Catholic teaching, then he deliberatly attributes them to such teaching. I think such a change of mind as that justifies the charge of a ‘tendency’ to attack theology.

Now try and reconcile these two opinions on Marriage. In the translation preface to Woman DeLeon declares as already quoted : “Bebel’s work Woman is the best aimed shot at the existing social system, both strategically and tactically considered. The Woman Question is the weakest link in the capitalist mail.” Now listen to the “best shot”. “In future society there is nothing to bequeath, therefore the modern form of marriage is thus devoid of foundation and collapses,” page 346. In The Weekly People of June 22, 1901, I find this Letter Box answer to ‘F.H.’, Troy, N.Y.,

Is it not queering Socialism to take the position that justifies the notion that the sexual or matrimonial question is a cardinal Socialist question, when in fact Socialism has nothing to do with it.

Here we find that a work which declares that under Socialism the modern form of marriage will collapse, is styled in 1904, “the best aimed shot at the existing social system”, and this is written by the same man as he who in 1901 declared that Socialism has nothing to do with the sexual or marriage question.

And the most glaring contradiction of all, listen to this on Wages and Prices. The editor of The People on April 9,1904 answering me, says,

Under Wages an S.L.P. organiser on the stump is quoted as having said that rises in wages are offset by rises in prices. The S.L.P. organiser was right in the matter of wages and prices ... Higher wages in the long run without at least proportional higher prices of necessaries would mean a market price for labour out of keeping with its value – an economic absurdity.

Now pay attention to the editor of The People on January 18, 1902. In an editorial footnote to an excellent letter by Comrade McCormick of Fairhaven, Wash., in which our Comrade McConnick took up the same attitude on Wages and Prices as I am now championing, DeLeon delivered himself as follows:

The theory that ‘increased wages means increased prices’ and that therefore an increase of wages through unionism is a barren victory, inasmuch as the men would have to pay for what they buy as much more as they get, is one frequently advanced by half baked Marxists. The theory never was wholly correct; it is now substantially false ... At a time, possibly a rise in wages in certain everyday necessaries of life might have had for its effect a rise in the price of such necessaries; to-day, however, exceptional localities and critical conditions excepted – the effect of a rise in wages would not be a corresponding rise in prices; the effect would be the wiping out of the capitalist concerns whose capitalist facilities are not large enough to produce so much cheaper. The leading effect of a rise in wages is to promote capitalist concentration. That is the economic effect of higher wages.

It is said, comrades, that consistency is a jewel; from the above extracts I gather that Comrade DeLeon is not fond of jewellery.

In my opinion the heat imported into this discussion has its one and only origin in a lack of self control on the part of Comrade DeLeon. One comrade, indeed, Metzler of Rochester, declares that my first article was obviously a personal attack upon DeLeon. Well, if ever DeLeon is spoiled for this movement, it will be by just such men as Metzler of Rochester – men who cannot see the difference between a personal attack and a strenuous criticism, and who write to our editor, naturally hasty and choleric enough, urging him to regard as a personal enemy everyone who cannot see eye to eye with him, and is man enough to say so. Such men are the mischief makers of the party household. My attitude towards DeLeon is neither that of a personal dislike nor personal idolatry, but I hold him to be so valuable to our cause that I cannot afford to see him make mistakes. But, if as would appear from his attitude, he desires my scalp as the price of his services to the party, then for the party’s sake, I will let him have it. But I cannot yield to things I do not believe in. I wrote my first article in a spirit of good-natured criticism, quietly and calmly stating the points I wished discussed. But DeLeon replied, to my astonishment, with a torrent of plarid English, passionate rhetoric, inapt quotations – with buds and trees, and flowers and blossoms scattered all about as if we were discussing a question of landscape gardening instead of sociology. I told, as an introduction, an anecdote illustrative of the theory that the difference between sanity and insanity is only a difference of opinion. DeLeon and Metzler see in this anecdote an insidious attack upon the party. The owl-like gravity with which this is asserted would make it irresistibly comic were it not for the seriousness of the charge. But it warns me to take precautions. In future should I ever be privileged to send an anecdote to The People, I will follow the example of Artemus Ward and label it “This is a joke.”

I thought the discussion would take the lines proper to a debate according to parliamentary rules. A speaker rises to ask the privilegeof the house to bring up a certain subject for discussion. He tells his reasons for thinking it worthy of discussion. If leave is granted he is allowed to state in full his position. The speech in which he asked leave to introduce his subject is never considered his quota of the debate, especially if, as was my case in the Wages Question he gave no argument at all, but simply stated what position he would take. Then after all have finished he has the right to close, and may if he can and chooses, bring up any point he may have withheld and wishes to use in order to clinch his arguments. This is my conception of a debate. But I submit that the idea of a person taking part in a debate as a principal speaker on one side and still occupying the chair and claiming the right to ‘rule out’ his opponents answer, as DeLeon did, is a thing unheard of, in violation of every rule of parliamentary decorum, and reduces debate to a farce. DeLeon wishes to act as referee while he is boxing in the ring. He delivers his blow, and then immediately disqualifies his opponent lest he strikes back. Obviously, the Marquis of Queensbury’s rules are very much of a back number when DeLeon begins to fight. Then for a man acting as Chairman, or indeed taking part in a debate at all, to chime in with a fresh opinion and fresh attack upon his opponent at the close of almost every other speaker’s address, as DeLeon did in the editorial footnote to the letter of Comrade Holmes, to the letter of Comrade Janke and in the Letter Box answers to Comrade T. Adams of Columbus, Ohio, and S.P.S., Troy; for a man so acting to talk unctuously about conducting a written debate as in sitting session is quite too big a draft upon our credulity. No self-respecting body in the world in sitting session would tolerate it for one moment. The attitude of this Section and of the party members, I can well understand. Confronted with a difference of opinion between a comrade who like DeLeon, has led and taught them faithfully and well in many a strenuous battle, and a comparatively untried comrade like myself, it was natural that the members should cling to their tried comrade and turn down the greenhorn. But that did not absolve them from the duty of studying the arguments. The attitude of DeLeon I have striven to understand, and I have only two plausible explanations to offer myself.

The first is that our comrade is hasty and choleric, and is apt to believe that he is defending the S.L.P. when he is only defending his own wounded pride and vanity. He is able to imbue many others with that belief, but for my part in this case our comrade’s heroic attitudinising as the inspired defender of the S.L.P. affects my equanimity as little as it affects the points at issue. The second is the one I lean to as more quotable and is not necessarily a contradiction of the first: it is this, every tendency in the S.L.P. which afterward developed into treason has taken its rise in the apparently harmless criticism on some point of tactics or minor principle. The Kangaroo outbreak nominally began over a question of taxation, the Kanglet flared up in a seemingly harmless criticism of party administration. Both developed into full blown treasons. Now it was perhaps natural, that as my criticism to some extent bore the same earmarks it should arouse suspicion in the watch dogs at The People office.

The old story of the boy who cried “wolf” has a double application. It not only tells that continual false alarms breed carelessness in the face of the real enemy, it also teaches that continued attacks from a real enemy breed suspicion of, and often death to, a comrade or a friend in an unexpected guise. Every war has its tale of such mistakes. Perhaps I am the victim of some such important coincidence, perhaps not.

Finally here are my last words. I claim that the demand of the S.L.P. for absolute unity in all things essential can only be maintained when linked with absolute freedom of opinion on all things nonessential. And if I am asked how are we to know a non-essential principle, I reply that any principle which we would not feel it to be our duty as Socialists to establish by force of arms if necessary is nonessential. Such principles are those of theories of Marriage and Religion. On these, therefore, I claim the fullest and most absolute freedom of opinion. On the question of Wages and Prices my attitude is different. I wish to say that as a humble member of the S.L.P., as one who has absolute confidence in the revolutionary principle and sterling honesty of its rank and file: as one who believes implicitly in the political integrity and the incorruptibility of its officers, from its unpaid organisers down to its paid editor, as one who believes that the S.L.P. is where I belong, I am yet willing to stake my membership in the party on the absolute soundness and correctness of my position on Wages and Prices, and the equally absolute unsoundness and incorrectness of Comrade DeLeon’s present position.

Comrades, I have done.


Last updated on 7.8.2003