J. T. Murphy


Source: The Communist Review, Vol. III July 1930, No. 7.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). 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.

“Fascism is the fighting organ of the bourgeoisie, which relies on the active support of Social Democracy. Social Democracy is in reality a moderate wing of Fascism. There is no reason to suppose that the fighting organization of the bourgeoisie could obtain any definite success in struggles or in the administration of the country without the active support of Social Democracy.”(Stalin.)

DURING this month of July international Social Democracy will be meeting in International Congress at Vienna. Since the last congress of the Second International two great trials of counter-revolutionary interventionists have exposed to the whole world the lengths to which Social Democracy is prepared to go in the service of capitalism. In both of these trials—that of the Industrial Party and that of the Mensheviks—it was definitely established beyond question that the Second International is the Left wing of the Russian White Guard emigrés and the French military staff preparing the war of intervention against the Soviet Union.

The means whereby Social-Democracy—i.e., in Britain, the Labour Party, I.L.P., trade union bureaucracy, S.D.F., etc.—carry out this anti-working-class policy is as important as it is pernicious. Always they pose as the saviours of the working class from a greater wrath to come; from the menace of a Tory or Liberal Government; from the “rupture of relations with the Soviet Union”; from a greater terror in the colonies; from greater wage cuts; from fiercer attacks on the unemployed; from Fascism and so on, and always by class collaboration. Always they are the saviours.

They admit they are “not what they ought to be,” but after all they are “the lesser evil”; “they are in a minority”; “it is not possible to do anything but make the best of a bad bargain when the workers are not 100 per cent. organized”; “What’s the use of strikes when there is such a large army of unemployed?” Always the warning of the wrath to come; always the pathetic plea that the time is not ripe for struggle and, in any case, what comes of struggle; always the line of defeat for the workers.

It would be possible to give numberless examples of the double-dealing policy which aims at maintaining illusions in the minds of workers and getting the will of the capitalists carried through. One of the most specious, and yet one of the most dangerous from the standpoint of the interests of the working class, is precisely the question of the relations of the Labour Government to the Soviet Union. It is often pointed out that the Labour Government “recognized Soviet Russia,” exchanged ambassadors, etc., and were it not for the Labour Government there would be an immediate rupture of relations; a Tory Government would promptly send the Soviet ambassador packing and recall the British ambassador.

Of course it would be nonsense to argue that a Tory Government would be “better than a Labour Government.” It is equally nonsense to argue that a Labour Government “is better than a Tory Government.” Both governments are anti-working-class governments of the capitalist class; one or other exists because of the relation of class forces at a given period of history—i.e., in a given historical situation. The same applies to the question of the “recognition of the Soviet Union” by the British capitalists. This “recognition” depends upon the relation of class forces, the situation in which British capitalism finds itself. It was a coalition of Tories and Liberals that made the first meeting with representatives of the Soviet Union; it was a Tory Government that made the first trade agreement. Did these things happen because the Tories and Liberals had some affection for the Soviet Union in 1921 and the later years and have now developed a great hatred for it? Nonsense! The actions of the Tories and Liberals, just as the actions of the Labour Government in 1924 and again in 1930, were due to the state of British economy, the ferment and activity of the working class.

The maintenance of relations of the Labour Government with the Soviet Union will be for just as long as there is a mighty mass support of the workers for the Soviet Union and the political relations between Britain and other Powers and the economic situation of British capitalism demands it; not a moment longer. When the working class is beaten back or the hour of desperation has struck, when the dominant forces in the British capitalist class decide that they have no alternative but to gamble on the desperate act of war, the rupture will come, and the capitalists will use the Labour Government for the job of making that rupture.

The evidence is overwhelming. Is not the Labour Government fighting a Soviet delegation for “repayment of the Tsar’s debts, for compensation for property lost in the Revolution”? Does not the Labour Government take its stand on the MacDonald declaration on the Zinoviev letter, identifying the Soviet Government with the Communist International and holding it responsible for the actions of the International? The answer is in the affirmative. Indeed there is not a single occasion during the bombardment of slanderous questions in the House of Commons and Press but what the Labour Government has facilitated the slander. Has not Clynes permitted a murderer; a foul skunk guilty of rape, a thief, to stay here as Russian refugees and permitted them to be used publicly for anti-Soviet lying? And on the other hand has not Clynes prohibited the entrance even of a Soviet football team? Did not Henderson take upon himself to defend not only the Labour Government, but the past governments, during the trial of the Industrial Party? He said:

“I have reached the conclusion that these documents contain, in the observations made by the prosecution on the depositions of the prisoners, certain passages which appear to reflect adversely and without reason upon His Majesty’s Government. . . . I take exception to those passages which contain adverse and unfounded reflections upon the late and present governments.”[1]

In the Lords debate on “forced labour” reported in The Times of February 5th, 1931, it was the Government spokesman, Lord Ponsonby, who said:

“I fully admit that the preparations of Soviet Government for war and the reliance of the Soviet Government on force is an element which is particularly distasteful to me, and which I very much regret.” And again he continued: “The Government had grave suspicions that forced labour existed in the Soviet Union.”

These facts and statements, which could be multiplied, demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt that the leaders of Social Democracy in Britain hate the Soviet Union and all it stands for as much as Churchill or Baldwin, and are as ready as they to unleash the war upon the Soviet Union the moment they believe the situation ripe. The one and only sure defence of the Soviet Union is the militant class solidarity of the workers of the whole world, with the Soviet Union the only fatherland of the workers. But wherein lies the danger? Precisely in this—that the illusion of friendship for the Soviet Union made by the Labour Government’s act of “recognition” is the cover under which war against the Soviet Union is prepared by the Labour Government supported by the capitalist class.

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This example from the Labour Government’s foreign policy has its counterparts in its colonial and home policy. For example, it declares its policy to be that of “avoiding disputes” between capital and labour on the grounds that strikes are useless and wicked. In this, of course, it is ably and wholeheartedly assisted by the trade union bureaucracy. Examine how it works. Last year the cotton employers demanded a 12½ per cent. cut in wages. A dispute was threatened. Did the Government side with the workers? Let us see. It appointed Mr. Rigby Swift, the Tory judge, two employers and two trade union leaders as arbitrators. In twenty-four hours they announced a unanimous decision of a 6¼ per cent. cut. And Cramp and Walkden turned to the workers and said: “See what we’ve saved you from. Had it not been or us you would have got a 12½ per cent. cut. We have accepted the ‘lesser evil.’”

Run through the history of every industrial dispute since the Labour Government was formed in 1929—wool, cotton, potteries, mines, jute, railways; always the plea for no action by the workers and always coming down on the side of the employers.

It will be necessary to return to the history of these struggles again, and especially to its relation to the Royal Commission on Unemployment. In order to make ever more clear the rôle of the Labour Government as a counter-revolutionary force, as a force continually betraying the working class and holding it back from its historic task of conquering capitalism. But it is important that we should give attention to the Vienna Congress of the Second International, and especially to the part to be played by the I.L.P.

This congress, more than any other of recent years, is a mobilization of Social Democracy for intervention. How the Labour Party is doing its part in this we have already demonstrated. The other Social-Democratic parties of the Continent are equally pursuing this course. The review of Kautsky’s book in this issue of the COMMUNIST REVIEW gives ample evidence of how the leaders of German Social Democracy are working for intervention. The declaration of Vandevelder on behalf of the Second International endorsing the activities of the Mensheviks in the Soviet Union sets the hall-mark of the interventionist policy upon the Second International.

Have these things brought the I.L.P. to the position when it must break with the Second International? Not in the least. So important do the leaders of the I.L.P. conceive this congress to be that they have decided to send the whole of the National Council of the I.L.P. as their delegation.

It has gone further. It has issued what it is pleased to call a challenge to the Second International. This “challenge” it has published in the New Leader of June 19th, 1931. Once more we are witnessing the “Left” gestures to the masses to hide the consolidation of the forces of reaction. It says:

“Under the present economic conditions Socialist responsibility for non-Socialist policies and for administration of capitalism is destroying faith in the Socialist movement, and is creating despair of democratic methods. It is tending to increase the power of both Communism and Fascism.”

Does the I.L.P. admit that this has been its own policy? Of this it says not a word. But look where it goes

“In the transition from capitalism to Socialism the alternatives before the working class are not confined to ‘gradualism’ on the one hand, or ‘violent upheaval.’ on the other. There is a third policy, which definitely aims at the speedy transition to Socialism, repudiates all compromises promises with capitalist parties and yet avoids violent upheaval.”

It follows this declaration, which is a repudiation of the class war, with a proposal—for what? Read on, and mark it well: The acceptance of the principle of an “all-inclusive international” against the Communists, against the class war. It proposes that the Second International and the International Federation of Trade Unions and the International Co-operative Alliance, all of which constitute the most reactionary bodies, are notoriously against the Soviet Union, all of which support the League of Nations, created by the Versailles Treaty to maintain the Versailles system, should gather together all those bodies outside of them and eligible to join them into an international with a single programme; in fact, a consolidation of Social Fascism preparing the way for Fascism in every country where they wield an influence. Once more the “Left” gesture paves the way to black reaction, to the fight against the working class.

But that is not all; the I.L.P. is also demanding at this congress that “the affiliated parties should repudiate the method of war and demand of their governments actual disarmament, irrespective of the policy of other governments.” So the Mensheviks in the Soviet Union have to demand that the Soviet Union disarm irrespective of the policy of other governments! How splendid for British imperialism, for Pilsudsky, for the Fascist hordes of the border States, for French imperialism and its millions of armed reserves! Once again the “Left” gesture hides the counter-revolutionary fist. Posing as a Left group challenging the Second International it is actually preparing to be a stimulant to Fascism.

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Get these facts clear and see them in all their significance in relation to the war of the classes, and the urgency of our Party getting down to its united-front work with the rank-and-file workers of these parties and the mobilization of the masses on the basis of the elementary demands embodied in the “Workers’ Charter” cannot be over-emphasized. Turn to the masses. Answer the congress of counter-revolutionary Social Democracy with the mobilization of “class against class.” This is the way, and the only way, to fight the war danger, to defend the Soviet Union, to advance towards the dictatorship of the working class.

J. T. M.



1. The Times, December 2nd, 1930