From Workers’ International News, Vol.3 No.4, April 1940, pp.11-13.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The ILP held its 48th Annual Conference in Nottingham during the Easter week-end. The yearly stocktaking of organisational achievements and theoretical potentialities revealed, as usual, only deficiencies. This year the militant wing went down, not with a bang, (as was the case last year) but hardly even with a whimper. The capitulation to reformist-pacifism was complete.
By its substitution of these petty bourgeois doctrines for the programme of class struggle, the 48th Conference of the founders of British Social Democracy, only further exemplified Lenin’s characterisation – the Independent Labour Party is independent only of Socialism.
If attempted subtle concealment can be regarded as an improvement on frank revelation of political bankruptcy, then in all fairness we must grant that the resolutions submitted by the National Administrative Council constitute an improvement on those of recent years. Confusion and self-deception characterised the deliberations and conclusions of the Conference. The Chairman of the Party, Dr. C.A. Smith, in his opening speech stated: “The ILP’s peace campaign will be directed not to the Government but to the people. We are not asking Mr. Chamberlain to make peace, but urging the workers to strike the war weapon from his hands ...”
It is the translation of the programme into practice, however, which shows the worth of a party and its policy, and not the meaningless vapourings of leaders in internal discussions. Among the, most important resolutions on the agenda was the party’s attitude towards war. This evasion of reality headed The Struggle for a Socialist Peace is a piece of chicanery worthy of the pen of Palme Dutt.
Expressing a hope that the latest dishonest acrobatic posture of the corrupt agency of Stalin – the so-called Communist Party – will be maintained, it proceeds to welcome “the opposition to the war which has been shown among the sections of the public unassociated with the working-class movement..” but “recognising, however, that the ending of the war by a peace concluded by capitalist governments would only be a truce se long as the capitalist imperialist system continues, the ILP supplements its agitation for stopping the war by action to secure a Socialist Peace.” With the remnants of socialist verbiage torn from it, the ILP “revolutionary” opposition to war stands nakedly revealed as pacifism.
Mr. Maxton has attempted to implement the resolution by an appeal to the finer feelings of President Roosevolt’s envoy, Mr. Sumner Welles. No doubt he asked him to support the “Socialist Peace” terms laid down by the ILP. John McGovern is busy participating in a “stop the war” campaign with the Marquess of Tavistock who declares “NOW is the time to negotiate”, and puts forward terms for another “Munich” which he declares “on the basis of information received,” would be acceptable to the German Government. In “welcoming (and embracing) the opposition to war among sections of the public unassociated with the working class movement,” the ILP gives a free hand to its McGovern to play the role of Hitler agents by peddling his “peace” terms in the ranks of the British workers. It is by these actions, and not by the holiday speeches of the Chairman, that the oppressed masses will appraise the role of the ILP
In condemning the leaderships of the Second and Third Internationals, the ILP recognises (on paper) the bankruptcy of these organisations as instruments of class struggle, but in characteristic centrist fashion refuses to draw the conclusion that the time is more than ripe for the building of the revolutionary Fourth International. Declaring that “all possible steps (to secure a socialist peace) should be taken to develop a similar agitation in other countries,” the resolution advocates that collection of heterogeneous political splinters the “International Workers Front Against War” as the medium for this purpose. Included in its ranks are the parties of the French Freemason, Pivert, the glorified Zionists, Orenstein and Abramovitch, together with that of the American, Jay Lovestone, which so recently called upon the Finnish workers to take up arms against the Red Army. Even this futile and fore-doomed movement away from national sterility, however, was too much for the Luton delegate who attacked this section of the resolution on the grounds that it contained the “germ of a new international.” Although they were defeated on this issue, the Luton comrades can rest contented, the “germ” is not fertile.
On the second important issue, the USSR and the war, the ILP arrived at the correct conclusions, i.e. despite the degeneration of the workers’ state under the monstrous Stalin oligarchy, its defence is still the duty of the international proletariat. Just how this squares with organisational association with the party of Jay Lovestone, was not explained. Presumably no delegate was sufficiently concerned to enquire. How this conclusion was reached we are unable to say, for utter and complete confusion on the fundamental principles concerning the Soviet Union and the role and actions of the Stalin bureaucracy was all that was revealed by discussion.
The Political Secretary, Fenner Brockway linked Stalin’s actions “in international affairs to imperialist power politics,” Lenin’s definition of Imperialism as “the highest form of Capitalism,” which is generally accepted by Marxists, has no meaning for the ILP leaders. In defending Brockway’s false characterisation, C.A. Smith rejected Marxism for etymology. “Imperialism” he declared, “is a word derived from imperia which means domination”.
Unfortunately this verbal manoeuvre was not the only occasion on which the Conference had occasion to denounce Marxism. Far from it. On the agenda was a resolution from the Lancashire Divisional Council which called for “re(!)affirmation of the basic principles of Marxism in their revolutionary significance for the world today.” This was a direct challenge to the Conference, and Conference responded to the challenge by dismissing the resolution contemptuously by a majority vote in favour of the motion “previous question.” In formal procedure, “previous question” means, as its nomenclature implies, to go back as you were before, ignoring any discussion on the question in- point (in this case the basic principles of Marxism) and proceed to the following item.
Rejecting the scientific method of approach to the fundamental social problems facing mankind, the theories formulated by Marx and Engels and elaborated and operated by Lenin and Trotsky, the ILP prefers to continue its efforts to face in two directions at the same time. Verbally recognising the strength and capabilities of the proletariat, it is to the bourgeoisie that they always turn in times of stress. The Abyssinian and Munich debacles, the Sumner Welles and Lord Tavistock episodes, leave no room for doubt on this issue. We cannot but share Lenin’s view that the ILP is “independent” only of socialism.
The wheels of history will continue, however, to revolve and ultimately prove too strong for the brake being at present applied by the Reformist, Stalinist and Centrist leaderships of the proletariat. The despairing efforts of these people to frustrate the laws of historical progress will only serve to demonstrate to the masses all the more clearly that the crisis in the culture of mankind will only be finally resolve by the actions of the oppressed themselves at whose head will stand the parties of the Fourth International.
Last updated on 2.11.2005