John MacLean Internet Archive                                                    From the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement

The Labour Party Muddle

By John MacLean

First published: 1910
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 is with the deepest interest we Social Democrats must watch the campaign over the Osborne decision. For the first time since the formation of the Labour group in the House of Commons, the Labourists now have begun to realise the genuine importance of a national campaign. From now on till the autumn session begins, they are going to stump the country to create a public opinion that will cause the Liberals (their dear friends who love their presence in the House!) to reverse the “awful” decision that will deprive them of their wages.

Why did they not do that on behalf of the unemployed millions two years ago? Why did they not get thrown out with Grayson, and do as he did afterwards? Why did they not fight for the Tyneside engineers or the Belfast dockers? Their only excuse was that such was not statesmanlike, or not practical. Yet all the time they could stand on Liberal platforms and write in Liberal “rags” for free trade, temperance, and a change of the human heart through a Christianity they use but do not believe.

What did not become them to perform on behalf of the class that put them into Parliament and kept them there seems plainly to suit them now that their personal interests are affected…

Shortly after the return of the Labour men in 1906, Hardie and other so-called “democrats” repudiated payment of members and election expenses, as their claim on trade unions gave them financial advantage over the Social Democratic Party. Their very attitude on this radical, chartist and real working-class economic reform certainly gave the clue that has led up to the Osborne decision. The capitalists’ early dodges to kill the Labour Party completely failed, and in the end they had to resort to the risky expedient put into operation by Osborne. For, as we Social Democrats know full well, Osborne certainly did not initiate the action he took on his own account, but on the plunderers. Hardie’s advantage has gone, and he, with his invertebrate colleagues, are frantic…

The practical question for us, however, is not merely the exposure of political incapacity of the Labour Party, but the carrying on of the class war under the circumstances, and thus giving the lead the workers really want. It is our business, as our executive is trying to do, to rally the support of the trade unions at present attacked by the masters, and to show the meaning of the simultaneous attack by lock-outs and Osborne decisions. Ours is also to point out the insincerity of the capitalists in their offer of payment of members and election expenses, but at the same time accept the offer by pressing for its realisation during the coming autumn session… To this we must add the cry for a reversal of the Osborne decision, for such a hampering of the trade unions obviously tends to cripple them. The Taff Vale decision enabled the capitalists to steal, to confiscate the funds of the union did they dare to strike. This judge-made law was the final argument that forced politics on the unions. Obviously, then, to clear them out of political activity is the first step towards their ultimate annihilation. This is too much an insult to our class in this twentieth century of Christian civilisation under the benign regime of a paternal Liberal government…