John MacLean Internet Archive                                                    From the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement

A Workers’ Party Necessary, but Labour Party Useless

by John Maclean

First published: 1907
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

Both Mr Johnston and myself, no matter what our differences may be, agree that a workers’ party is necessary. The divergence arises as to whether the present Labour Party is the one. The workers’ party that is of any use in my estimate is one that recognises that the workers are robbed by the capitalist, and understands how that robbery takes place; and is one that is organised to prosecute the class struggle politically until socialism is attained. Such would be a Socialist Party based on marxian principles. All other parties, no matter how named, and of whom composed, are useless.

The Labour Party of today, not being socialist, is useless. Yet admittedly we might postulate the possibility of it becoming the Socialist Party, the Marxian Party, when its usefulness would begin. Facts show that the Labour Party opposes socialism, and socialist candidates, and supports liberalism and Liberal candidates.

Many Labour men have been returned by Liberal votes and proclaim themselves Liberals…

The socialists inside the Labour Party are unable to stem this march to liberalism, and are through loyalty compelled to apologise for the party when they might be better engaged inculcating the principles of democracy and socialism. As a result, widespread discontent manifests itself inside the ILP, and will spread as the Labour Party moves along, the servant of liberalism…

I would advise Mr Johnston to get past elementary and rise to advanced logic. Every path has two directions. It is possible for us to be on the right path but moving in the wrong direction. It is the function of marxists, who see just as great potentialities in the Labour Party as the non-marxists or anti-marxists, to oppose every motion of the Labour Party in the wrong direction. To do that more effectively the marxists, i.e. the SDP, withdrew from the LRC. And, like most marxists today, I think it advisable for the ILP to withdraw from the Labour Party and fuse with us for the specific object of advancing socialism, belief in which the rank-and-file of the Labour Party must have ere things will be done…

The SDP is as entitled as any other to be considered the British Labour Party and it is more thoroughly democratic than the so-called Labour Party—because its members have but one vote, whereas ILPers who are at the same time members of a trade union have two votes for other members’ one. Such is not democracy. This arises entirely out of the hotchpotch nature of the Labour Party.

Had there been but one Socialist Party prior to 1900, then certainly the true function of the trade unions would have been to urge their members to join the Socialist Party, and thus there would have been one man one vote. At the same time, political liberty would have been assured to all members of trade unions. Today conservative and liberal trade unionists are compelled to pay for a political party they oppose….