John MacLean Internet Archive                                                    From the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement

My Objections

by John Maclean

Forward, 6 August 1910

First published: Forward, 10 August 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

In my previous article I tried to show that the Labour Party is not “the heir of the marxist tradition”, although Mr Johnston says I have not really faced the position he laid down. He further describes the Labour Party as “the proletarians on the move for economic change through political avenues” and as “the workers as workers, organised for the capture of economic power.”

This I cannot accept. Richard Bell, to safeguard his Union and himself after the Taff Vale decision, gave the lead to the formation of the Labour Representation Committee, which undoubtedly came into being to protect trade unions, their funds and the salaries of paid officials. But all socialists saw in it the start of the workers on the political plane leading up to socialism, and hence did their best to give it a good send-off. Though “capture of economic power”did not inspire it at its inception, socialists believed that once in existence as a political party it would be compelled to make for our goal.

Perhaps prematurely the SDF (now SDP) tried to get the LRC to adopt socialism as its political aim, and, when defeated, wrongly (in my opinion) left. Just as wrongly did the ILP oppose the socialist resolution by amendment, speech, and vote, as this could safely have been left to Bell and Co. And here, might I add, that had it not been for the NAC of the ILP the socialist forces would have been fused prior to the birth of the LRC, and the present political chaos of the workers undoubtedly avoided.

I joined the SDP two or three years after its withdrawal, and I did so because I saw the need for only one Socialist Party. It was the oldest, and I felt that it alone was required. If the trade unions were anxious to enter the political arena as socialists, then I thought it was their duty to support the already existing Socialist Party…. I thought it my duty to join the SDF and do my best to bring all bodies together should the occasion present itself.

The 1906 election saw the marvellous success of Labour candidates. It did not matter to me how some had won. A new party now existed to champion the cause of Labour… Things looked rosier, and to finish up, at the 1907 Labour Party Conference a sort of socialist resolution was carried.

This gave some of us the chance we desired. Hyndman and some others of us advocated affiliation of the SDF in Justice, and supported a resolution to that effect at our 1907 Conference, at Manchester. We were defeated.

Since then the Labour Party, instead of fighting for the working class and maintaining a sturdy independence, has acted as apologist for Liberal ministers, measures and policy, and has, in consequence, proved the most efficient touting agency for that party… The result was a partial collapse at the last election, with a resultant slump in socialism….

The origin of the Labour Party, the repudiation of the SDF socialist resolution, the reactionary drift of the Labour MPs, and the lack of revolt on the part of rank-and-file of the trade unions suffice to prove that the workers are not “organised for the capture of economic power”and not even political power, as the Osbourne decision should have afforded that very chance we need to fight - fight mind you - for the payment of election expenses and MPs….

Appeal to Marx will not do, especially by those who repudiate the economic principles of marxism, the basis of working-class politics. I believe, however, that Marx would have approved of the unity of socialist forces at this juncture, especially when we see the dissatisfaction and rebellion inside the ILP itself….




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