John MacLean Internet Archive                                                    From the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement

Karl Marx and the Labour Party

by John Maclean

Letter in Forward, 12 Feb 1909

First published: Forward, 12 Feb 1909
Transcription\HTML Markup: Scottish Republican Socialist Movement Archive in 2002 and David Walters in 2003
Copyleft: John MacLean Internet Archive (, 2003. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

It shows a frightful chaos when professed socialists defend Bohm-Bawerk against Marx. This parallel can only be found when professed socialists appeal to Marx to justify the conduct of the Labour MPs who, whilst claiming political independence, silently listen to a wearisome discussion of the Licensing Bill during a period of almost unparalleled unemployment and starvation for the workers, and who strut about on liberal temperance platforms, exhorting the starving to end their drunken habits.

These phenomena result from the fear some men have of fully studying the marxian theory of value in economics and the marxian theory of the class struggle in politics, and accepting them as the basis of thought and action.

Marx could never brook sycophancy, and mercilessly flayed economic and political charlatans. The Labour MPs have fawned upon Asquith and his crew whilst at the same time using the vilest language against Grayson, Blatchford, Hyndman and others. They have created and aggravated schisms by trying to prevent the SDP putting up parliamentary candidates, and to that end have even gone against payment of members; or, where SDP candidates have been put up, have done all they could to prevent the workers supporting them. Whatever is proposed by the SDP is misrepresented, caricatured or opposed; but whatever comes from the Liberals receives adulation. It is a scandal to quote Marx as one who would support such a line of conduct

The probability is that “Rob Roy” in his attempt to justify the Labour Party by quoting Marx wishes to nullify the criticisms of those who are said to swear by Marx.

Unfortunately for him, marxians do not fall back upon what Marx said here or there, but apply his principles to each set of circumstances as it arises. “Thus spake Marx” is not the marxian but the anti-marxian method. No marxian, therefore, attaches any importance to the clever method of “Rob Roy”.

The method of Marx, in testing the Labour Party and its leaders, is to examine whether they are constantly fighting in the interest of the wage-earning class. We marxists are in favour of the Labour Party because it is working-class; but we oppose the conduct of the MPs because it is reactionary and tends to lead the masses to Liberal petty patchwork rather than to the class struggle ending in the revolution of property- ownership which must inaugurate socialism.