H M Hyndman January 1913
Source: Justice, January 18, 1913, p.4;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
It is becoming quite extraordinary the way in which our capitalist and trustified Press carefully suppresses really important news altogether, or hides it away in some remote corner, if it should show that the Socialist movement is becoming more and more a serious menace to the dominant class in every country. Even the “Times,” which used to keep its readers very well informed on such matters, as a mere question of business, seems to have changed its policy in this respect. Of course, the Managers and editors of these journals know their own business best. We don’t dispute that. But, at such a period as this, when the whole continent of Europe is one great camp of armed men; when the immediate future looks blacker than it has done for more than a century; and when, if war between the two great combinations should break out, International Socialism will be the only hope of bringing about an early peace, it does seem strange that such a conspiracy of silence should be formed.
Two great events marked for us Socialists the year 1912, and both occurred but the other day. They were the Basel Peace Congress and the great vote cast for Eugene Debs in the Presidential contest in the United States.
Of the former we have already spoken. Nothing like the Basel Congress has been seen in modern times. It was called at a fortnight’s notice to proclaim that the workers of the world were in favour of peace. There were many hundreds of delegates from all countries present; and there was not a single dissentient voice. Peace between the peoples: War against the exploiters. That was the meaning of the great international gathering at Basel. No finer demonstration of Socialist solidarity could have been given. This was not to say that all force was harmful, or that insurrection against foreign rule or resistance to foreign aggression is unjustifiable. Not at all. But it was to declare that war engineered by the militarists and capitalists abroad should be opposed to the utmost, and, if such opposition were unavailing, should be used to help on revolution at home.
Perhaps the capitalist Press was wise to say very little about it after all. Ignorance may be bliss for a time.
Peace between the peoples! War against the exploiters!
The second great event, Debs’s wonderful poll in the United States, was in its way quite as noteworthy.
Everyone who has watched at all closely what is going on in America must be well aware that the bitterness between different sections of the Socialist Party in the United States has never been exceeded at any time by the rancour of conflicting factions on this side of the Atlantic. Syndicalism, Anarchism, “pure and simple” Trade unionism, Labourism, all had their more or less active partisans at work to disintegrate the great political movement. Outside, Gompers, with his Federation of Labour, was, of course, furiously hostile. The comrade who was appointed Deb’s chief election manager’s was subjected to the most violent attacks at the very beginning of the struggle. Keir Hardie went over to “support” Debs, at Robert Hunter’s suggestion, regardless of the risk, which, shortly after his arrival, became the certainty, of still further dissension. All the while, too, Theodore Roosevelt’s hypocritical “reform” campaign was drawing away some votes – his agents and friends fondly supposed it would be many – from the Socialist ticket. Taken all together it must be admitted even by our most unscrupulous enemies that Debs’s Socialist candidature for the Presidency of the United States in 1912 could scarcely have been entered upon under more unfavourable conditions.
So much was this the case that more than one American Socialist or ex-Socialist wrote to me predicting wholesale disaster for our cause. This contention was backed up by references to the defeat of Victor Berger; to the terrible confessions of the brothers Macnamara, which had shocked public opinion from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Border Line to the Gulf; to the case pending in regard to similar rash actions which it was said could be proved against a whole series of organisations; to the rising boom in trade and general prosperity – in fact, so ugly was the look-out from the Socialist point of view that these prophets of ill, here and over there, were confident that Eugene Debs would poll fewer votes than he did four years ago.
But, as all the world now knows, and a very large part of the world is afraid to acknowledge and make public, nothing of the kind occurred. With everything apparently against him, the out-and-out revolutionary Social-Democrat, the uncompromising, class-war, trade union leader, Eugene Debs, of the “Appeal to Reason,” polled more than twice the number of votes that he did in 1908, and brought his total, within easy hail of 1,000,000 men. The Socialist rank and file did the business. As I said of similar glorious success in Germany on even at greater scale: It is magnificent: it is likewise war.
Never in all my life has there been anything more encouraging in the whole movement than this. For let there be no mistake about the significance of this splendid achievement by our American comrades. We old and much-abused Marxists, are justified of our children. All that we have taught, all that we have preached, all that we have striven for, has been accepted and acted upon by the overwhelming majority of our Party over there.
Debs’s candidature was and could not but be a political candidature, run on political lines to attain political objects. It could, I say, be nothing else. But it was also an industrial candidature. For Debs is an industrialist of industrialists: a good man of his hands in every sense of those words: a fine champion of the class from which he sprang and which he has never for a moment deserted or betrayed: a leader of strikes where strikes were unavoidable who went gladly to prison for the sake of the men he led.
Perhaps Mann and Bowman and Wilshire and Taylor will go over to America and convince Debs and his million of voters of the error of their ways!
The educated American proletariat, in spite of all internal dissensions and external discouragements, is marching on steadily to victory politically and industrially. The silly light heads who imagine that infinitely the greatest revolution the world has ever seen can be made, so to say, between breakfast and dinner, by a chaotic crusade of balderdash and sabotage, may begin to reflect upon the limits, they are not narrow, of their own imbecility.
We cannot expect that the revolutionary Socialist poll will proceed on the geometrical progression of two to one at every Presidential election. That would be too much to anticipate. But there is no reason why it should not. If our American comrades, greatly encouraged as they have the right to be by their glorious success now work on with equal determination and enthusiasm for the net four years it is quite possible that, in 1916 two millions of convinced revolutionary Socialists will follow the red flag to the poll in the Great Plutocratic Republic of the West.
Meanwhile, we of the Old Guard of the S.D.F. and members of the new British Socialist Party forward our heartfelt greetings as comrades in the cause, to all those Socialists who have in any way helped to send this message of good cheer and encouragement to the whole Socialist world. They have fought the good fight, and will fight it again and again until at last the Co-operative Commonwealth shall be established and the red flag shall wave over the Capitol at Washington. May we here in Great Britain take a lesson from their zeal and their vigour!