John Maclean Justice 1911

Proposals for Action

Source: John Maclean, “Proposals for Action,” (letter) Justice, 14th January 1911, p.3;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Dear Comrades,

The election results show that we may expect another appeal to the country before two years; have passed. In the meantime, instead of crying over our losses, we ought to be preparing our policy, for the ensuing period, and mentally drilling our members up to the point of taking united action when the next election is sprung upon us. During the last two elections the action of our branches in East Renfrewshire has decided the defeat of the Liberal candidates — and all parties know it. Did all S.D.P. branches act thus a profound change would come over politics in this country, and the Labour wire pullers understanding with the Liberals would avail little or nothing, except in so far as it might lead to the return to the Commons of the most harmless (the most “politic”) of the Labour candidates.

To get this united action unity of purpose policy and effort must precede, since in all things practice leads to perfection. And from now right on we should cut out a working policy to be elaborated in “Justice” and reiterated by us all over the country.

All our members inside the ranks of the trade unions ought to be drilled up in a definite line of action, that should be taken simultaneously to mould the minds of the rank and file who are responsible for the delegates attending the Labour Party Conference, the Trades Union Congress, etc., and the resolutions raised there for discussion. We may, of course, expect a counterpolicy worked up by our active I.L.P. friends, but that will be all the better, in so far as it may lead to discussion, which, if rationally conducted by our men, spells victory for us.

Now, at the Labour Party Conference cannot our men use the Osborne judgment to show the class consciousness of Liberals and Tories alike, and from this proceed to show how the vote, payment of Members, a single chamber, a republic, etc., have been all along denied the workers through a desire of the plunderers to conserve all political power in their own hands? Cannot we thus force on the Labour Party the acceptance of our political programme? And cannot we, by constant pressure on the Labour group, force them to action, or by their inaction expose them and get them scrapped politically? Cannot we raise the question of the rise in prices due to the reduced value of gold, and in doing so use the facts afforded by Chiozza Money in his brilliant article in the “Daily News” Year Book, 1911, p.40, the paragraph on page 208 in reference to the drop in real wages, and the article on the production of gold on page 50?

And cannot we proceed therefrom to a formulation of a demand for a minimum wage? And cannot we at the same time prove the futility of the “sane” (quarter strength Radical) line of policy erstwhile pursued by the Labour group by showing how the workers are suffering whilst the capitalists and their parasites are growing richer by vast strides?

The Government may in the near future foist on us an Unemployed Insurance Scheme is order to avoid the necessity of providing useful work for the unemployed. Cannot we force before trade unionists the hidden significance of this astute capitalist move, and get them to struggle for the legal restriction of hours and co-operative factory farms for the unemployed?

Cannot we urge co-operative farm communities in opposition to the land proposals of both the old parties?

Just as the Gasworkers Union has kept to the front our education programme, so ought we to persistently prepare the rank and file for our policy inside the Labour Party.

In the same way, let us make this conference, and its probable defeats for us, lead to a more efficient effort at the Trades Union Congress; and so on.

The Co-operative Congress held annually in June. Can we prepare a policy to press forward, at next Congress in relation to prices, the coming of the trusts, the need for political action, the sensible use of the thousands of pounds supposed to be spent on education? The time is approaching rapidly when the co-operative movement will need all the help possible from Social Democrats, and the sooner we calmly prepare and foster our policy the better for all concerned.

From now on till our own Annual Conference our Executive should mould a practical policy for our own party as a whole, directly related to our policy in the bodies above-mentioned, and such as will forestall the proposals of the Liberals and Unionists. If we urge our proposals before the Liberals we will then have the people better prepared to examine whatever the Liberals may tackle, and more able to understand and support our opposition to these “friends of the people.”

At Easter we should be well advised to set aside a day for a Special Conference, to which delegates from all working class bodies ought to be invited, to discuss proposals relating to the increase in prices, the end of which, as is admitted in an admirable article in the “Daily Mail” Year Book, is not within sight. And even after that we should try and get the trade unionists and the co-operators to hold special conferences of their own to discuss this serious state of affairs.

Here is the most splendid opportunity afforded by capitalism for the Social Democrat. Now is our chance to rub economics into the hides of our fellow workers. Every one should get the yearbooks referred to, and should literally devour Price’s “Money and its Relations to Prices,” so as to get a fair, though brief, history of prices.

The growth of trusts, the rise of powerful masters’ federations, the rise in prices; the coming fight between co-operators and the trusts, the capitalist reaction against municipal and national production, and other developments, now completely expose the weakness of revisionism, and afford that opportunity we should not be slow to seize to convince semi-evolved, Socialists that the only position that presents a satisfactory solution to the evils of capitalism is that held by our party.

Let us cast dumps and doubtings aside and plunge more heartily than ever into the fight, knowing that not many years have to pass before the world’s Social Democracy will win the victory, and Britain will have to succumb to the inevitable, whether fully convinced or not that Socialism is better and higher than capitalism.