Dora B. Montefiore 1919

A Labour Party in Power or the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

Source: The Call, 2 October 1919, p. 4 (1,455 words)
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.

Mr. Stuart Bunning, at the recent Glasgow Trade Union Congress, delighted the bourgeoisie of Britain by promising them in the near future “a Labour Party in Power,” and the victory of Mr. Henderson at Widnes points to the possibility of the Coalition Government with its pathetically bleating Labour members, Mr. Barnes and Mr. Roberts, being sufficiently discredited to allow at the next General Election a majority bearing the label of “Labour” to be sent to Westminster. The British Labour Party has thrown its net lately very wide, and into it have swum gaspingly for refuge, the discontents, the adventurers, and the ambitious appetites of the disintegrating Liberal Party. “Le roi est mort vive le roi!” cry the lawyers, the placemen, the profiteers, who are on the look out for political jobs, “political power,” political influence. They have watched in Parliament these “Labour” parliamentary hands these statesmen in embryo on the cross benches and they know that the “Old Order” for which they stand will be perfectly safe in the hands of men who refuse to vote against war credits; even though they delight in posing as pacifists, of men who lecture the workers on the benefits of increased production, of men who teach that Socialism can come about through parliamentary reforms, and a sauve and amiable evolution which will never have the bad taste to put the capital “R” in front of its name.

Those of them who have studied contemporary history know that there existed about ten years ago a similar sort of Labour Party in Australia which came into power pledged to break down land monopoly and stand at every point for the interests of the workers. They will have noted that once in power, whether in Federal or State Governments, these “Labour” Governments declared with sublime insolence that they existed to represent all classes, and started off to prove that they meant what they said by systematically strike-breaking at Lithgow and elsewhere. A few years later when the late Lord Kitchener travelled round the Colonies telling the Colonial Governments the pitiful story of how we should be compelled to fight Germany before many years were out, and how the English workers, in preparation for this delectable prospect, aggressively refused to put up with conscription, the good-natured “Labour” Government of Australia, anxious as they naturally were to oblige a Lord, replied through their Mr. Hughes:— “We are extremely sorry to have to report that our own workers are as contumacious and stiff-necked as are those of your country, my lord; but if anything in the child line will answer your purpose we shall be only too happy to put our youngsters at your disposal.” And Lord Kitchener, with a smile, agreed that half a loaf was better than no bread, and so the matter was fixed up. A Labour Party in Power (supported by Womanhood Suffrage) passed a measure conscripting for military training all boys over twelve years old; the penalty for refusing military training being imprisonment; and over 1,000 boys, during the early years of the working of this “Labour” violence, suffered imprisonment for conscience sake!

Why then should the bourgeoisie and profiteers of Britain or of any other country, be afraid of a “Labour” Party in power? Is it not merely a new label for + of a “Labour Party in power,” and it is known as “The Dictatorship of the Proletariat.” To realise this ideal the delegates sent to the Soviets by the votes of workers and soldiers must be themselves workers and producers by hand or brain; the daily Press must be a Socialist Press; the banks must be peoples’ banks and justice must be administered in courts under the democratic control of the People. The ruling class, instead of being the parasitic class living on the surplus wealth created by the workers must be the working and producing class organised to take over the means of production and of distribution, and to so administer the daily life of the nation that no one who produces shall lack food, clothing, warmth and shelter; that every child born into the community shall have equal access to those four material necessities, and to whatever education it may wish to receive; and finally that no sick person or old person after working years, are over shall lack any of the comforts or necessities which sickness and old age require. This is what the Dictatorship entails, and until that Dictatorship, can be brought to birth, nurtured and put firmly on its feet, no real renaissance of art, literature or life can be looked for.

The old bourgeois world is sick unto death, how sick only the financiers and bankers, who have kept its corrupt old body above ground for many years, really know. Whilst it lies on its death-bed wrapped in its grave clothes of paper money the Peace Conference, by the terms imposed on Germany, has given it its coup-de-grace; and now all that the Dictatorship of the People has to do is to bury it decently, and then tear up the “scraps of paper” on which its war loans in every country are inscribed.

The peoples of France, Germany, Britain, Russia, Italy, the Balkans, and any other countries ready for the Revolution, and who are forming Soviet Republics, must then send their delegates to meet together and discuss all subjects of exchange and of commerce on the new lines which communism implies. Those first free meetings of workers, manual and intellectual, who for the last five years have been forced by capitalist dictatorship to fight and destroy one another, will be a wonderful dawning of the new days that are to be. Then for the first time each nationality will bring its best to the cause of internationalism; then for the first time instead of “Right being ever on the scaffold and wrong on the throne,” all the harriers of old misunderstandings, of hatreds and of workers will be broken down, and the workers free, at last from exploitation will start on their great adventure of real and hopeful International Reconstruction.

The Italian Socialists whose Party Congress has opened at Bologna, are demanding affiliation to the Third International, and a manifesto from the maximalist section of the Party, published in Avanti contains the following passage; “The Dictatorship of the Proletariat will be realised in the following formula. All power to the Workers’ Councils. The dictatorship of the workers (which is not that of the mass of the workers) will only be of a transitory character. When the economic transformation shall have been accomplished and the different social classes have disappeared a free association of equals will have been obtained in which association the free development of individua1 character will be the necessary condition of the free development of all. The first economic measures to be taken will be the socialisation of financial capital and the extinction of State debts (small capital sums being exempted) the socialisation of the means of transport; of large agrarian enterprises, and of great commercial and industrial undertakings. As soon as capitalist domination has been put an end to, plans must be made for the security of the new conquests. The bourgeoisie must be at once disarmed, and the proletariat must be mobilised as red Militia, By this means only can the proletariat overcome the attempts of counter revolutionaries, and annul the natural tendency of the bourgeoisie to oppose the expropriations.”

This is the policy those of us who have always fought on the Left of Social Democracy, now point out to the peoples of Europe, as being the next step in revolutionary Reconstruction. We are not, and never were Pacifists, because we realise that when the capitalist calls to arms the only way to meet him is with arms. If Lenin and Trotsky had sat on a fence, or had been themselves afraid to risk their lives for the cause in which they believed, the Soviet Republic would not have lived through the two years it has almost accomplished, and would not have lit the torch whose welcome beams stream now through every corner of Europe! Workers it is the last fight. Are you merely going to let it be a fight at the polls for the predominance of a political faction, or are you going to exclaim “A plague on all your parties.” Nothing can wash the blood from the hands of your capitalist parliamentarians. We believe in the three words that William Morris put into our mouths: “We will it.” That is the motto and symbol of our Dictatorship, and under that sign we will conquer.