Dora B. Montefiore 1918

Democracy During and After the War

Source: The Call, 11 July 1918, p. 4
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

In an important chapter in his book “Democracy After the War,” Mr. J.A. Hobson treats of how to break the vicious circle of the reactionary forces arrayed against the triumph of Social Democracy; and as we followed the debates on the various resolutions on Reconstruction passed at the recent Labour Conference, it was borne in upon us that the reactionary forces arrayed against that triumph were not all to be found in the. Lloyd George-Northcliffe clique. It is true that in “The Times” of June 15th there was an article under the heading “Coming Labour Conferences” which was so inspired by every concentrated essence of reaction that the magnitude of our task as Marxian interpreters to the people of the class struggle was forced upon us with ever increasing and imminent intensity; but when we listened to speeches from the Olympians on the platform—speeches that manifestly came from the lips, but not from the intellect or the heart, we keenly realised how watchful and alert the organised. workers and the people must be lest, after fighting and dying for their country, they find it not yet theirs, because in the place of land lords and capitalists there had been installed bureaucrats and State capitalists.

As we have again and again written, the exploiting class is far and away more class-conscious than is the exploited-class. Whenever the former class observes the latter closing, up its ranks and attending to its own business, the exploiters make a point of causing a series of alarms and excursions to divert the attention of the workers from the main issues, while it suborns officers of the army of the masses, and buttresses up its own reaction with the bodies of deserters and traitors. The whole of “The Times” article we referred to above was a piece of political impertinence, in that it disputed the authority of the Dutch-Scandinavian Committee, which called together original Stockholm Socialist Conference, because, forsooth, it—the organ of reaction and of anti-Socialism—chose to lay down the dictum that “The official organ is the International Bureau of which M. Vandervelde is President”. It was the official organ in 1914, when it followed the bad and cowardly inspiration of the Basle “Peace Congress,” and was scattered by the raging hurricane of Nationalism to the four winds. If out of its ashes a real, virile, and stable Red International shall arise it will be because the people, as a whole, begin to understand the manoeuvres of the exploiting State and its Press-gang, and prefer the formulas and actions of the Bolsheviks to those of the Beaverbrookes and Northcliffes.

The incidents connected with the appearance at the recent Conference of the Fraternal Delegates should prove to the workers the truth of our contention. Troelstra is known by most of us being not only a class-conscious Socialist, but as equally opposed to both German and English brands of Imperialism. Ten years or more ago, he wrote a well documented article which was translated and published in one of our leading Reviews) dealing with the pressure of the German Government on that of Holland, to obtain by fair means or foul the mouths of the Rhine. He is now prevented by Messrs. Barnes, Hodge, etc., from attending a Labour Conference in London, while Kerensky, who fled in disguise when the interpreters of the Communist Manifesto raised their heads—Kerensky is wafted over from Moscow and kept in cold storage in London till the psychological moment when he can be used by the profiteering gang, who pull the strings of Barnes, Hodge and Co., as a symbol of a middle-class triumph over working-class aspiration. We of the B.S.P. stand for free speech, so we were prepared to listen to Kerensky, traitor though we hold him to be to the cause of the people; but if middle-class interests had not triumphed he would have been replied to by Maxim Litvinoff, the accredited Plenipotentiary of the Russian people. We listened to three several Fraternal Delegates from France, who all spoke from different, not to say somewhat conflicting, points of view; why, if it had not been that the Labour platform was a tame Labour platform, could we not have listened to two Fraternal Delegates from Russia?

“Military oligarchy,” writes Mr. J.A. Hobson, “is linked to secret class diplomacy.” And again, “For the class that controls foreign policy controls the supreme issue of peace or war, and through that controls expenditure on armaments, issues of conscription, and the direction given to industrial and commercial development, education and the intellectual, moral and, recreational life of the people. If therefore democracy is to be anything more than an idle name given to a final impotent vote cast once in each five years, the test struggle will be fought round the fortress of foreign policy.” Those words came into our mind as we urged the Chairman of the Labour Conference to be fair in his ruling, and to allow Litvinoff to reply to Kerensky. Once again the people were defeated and capitalism triumphed. This will continue as long as the people as a whole fail to see and read the sign posts put up by the Russian Socialists, pointing the way for all Internationalists struggling along the road to Social-Democracy.

Since Mr. J.A. Hobson’s very sincere, if not quite complete analysis of how to break the vicious circle of capitalism and Imperialism was published, things have moved on rapidly, as they must do when caught in the whirlpool of ever accelerating cosmic forces. Mr. Hobson holds that “capitalism is only one, albeit the most important member of a confederacy of reactionary forces, each with other evil sources of power, besides the nourishment it gets from capitalism.” The Bolshevik leaders, inspired by their Marxian scientific interpretation, have proved, and are still proving, that the Law, the Church, the Press, the Banking system, the Universities and the Bureaucratic State itself can all be rapidly transmuted to the service of the people once the walls) of capitalism have been taken by assault. It was because John Maclean in Great Britain and Liebknecht in Germany were leading that assault that they both now lie behind prison bars. As new leaders of the assault arise they will follow Maclean and Liebknecht. Mr. Hobson, in his appeal for concentration among all the Progressive Forces to break down the vicious circle of reaction, points out how “hard personal experience (during the war) will have taught them what an instrument of destruction and of oppression the State may be.” We of the B.S.P. are in hearty agreement, and many of us trust that the result of the ballot now being taken in our own organisation will, by recording our decision to remain inside the Labour Party, further emphasise that need for concentration. We can see in the programme of the Labour Party, as passed at the recent Conference, the seeds of a Social Revolution. If we would help that seed to germinate our place is inside, not outside, the Labour Party. The way may be hard and difficult and the obstacles at times seem insurmountable; but, if the people are behind us, we shall arrive; that is, not we, but the cause we stand for.

We have no fear but the fear that the People may not yet understand. We have no ambition but the ambition to interpret to the People where their highest interests lie, and where their goal in the future is secure.