The Call

Socialist Unity

Source: The Call, August 21, 1919, p. 2 (971 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.

At the meeting of the B.S.P. Executive held in London last Saturday and Sunday, one of the principal matters on the agenda was the proposal that has recently taken shape for unity with the Socialist Party, the Workers Socialist Federation and the South Wales Socialist Society.

A meeting was held recently in London at which members of the B.S.P., S.L.P., W.S.F., and S. Wales S.S. were present, and a lengthy discussion took place as to the possibility of merging the four organisations in a new united party. The divergence of opinion among the various bodies, not so much on questions of principle as on tactics, was clearly understood by all present; but on the other hand it was urged that the Russian comrades were exceedingly anxious to witness unity between the revolutionary left wing organisations in Britain and; whilst appreciating the differences that existed felt that those differences should not constitute an insuperable obstacle to unity in view of the need for consolidating the revolutionary forces all over the world.

So far as fundamental principles and the general basis upon which it was suggested the four organisations could unite in a new party are concerned, the discussion showed that there was little disagreement. The main difficulty arose, as anticipated, on the question of tactics, particularly in regard to relations with the Labour Party, and the existing industrial organisations. There was, on the part of the W.S.F., a tendency displayed against any participation whatever in Parliamentary action, although the representatives of that body said that their views regarding Parliamentary action would not be allowed to stand in the way of the formation of a united party. The chief division of opinion arose respecting the relations of the proposed new party to the Labour Party. On behalf of the B.S.P. reference was made to the referendum of the B.S.P. membership taken last year, when a proposal to withdraw from the Labour Party was defeated by a majority of four to one, and to the vote of the Easter Conference of the Party, when the policy of Labour Party affiliation was re-affirmed by an overwhelming majority. The B.S.P. members stated that they felt that the bulk of the B.S.P. membership would make it conditional upon any steps in the direction of unity that the basis of amalgamation should include the affiliation of the new organisation to the Labour Party.

Against that the comrades from the other bodies urged that however much they, as individuals, might be prepared to make that concession, in order to achieve unity, it would be quite useless for them to approach their members with any proposal for unity that made affiliation to the Labour Party one of the bases of amalgamation.

Subsequently a further proposal was made as suggesting a middle course to which all might agree. That proposal was that the membership of the several organisations should be consulted as to their willingness to merge their respective bodies in a new party, and that the question of affiliation to the Labour Part should be settled by a referendum of the members of the new party three months after its formation. The Representatives of the S.LP., in support of this proposal, said that whilst they considered it futile to approach their members with a proposal, that included immediate affiliation to the Labour Party, their members would, in the event of unity being achieved, and a referendum of the new party resulting in favour of affiliation to the Labour Party, abide loyally by that decision however much they might disagree with it. Eventually it was agreed that those present should submit the proposal to their respective Executives the following form:—

“That the membership of the various organisations be consulted as to their willingness to merge the existing organisations in a united. Party having for its object the establishment of Communism by means of the dictatorship of the working class working through Soviets; and that the question of the affiliation of the new Party to the Labour Party be decided by a referendum of the members three months after the new Party is formed.”

This proposal was in due course remitted to the B.S.P. Executive, when the action taken by the B.S.P. members at the meeting was endorsed and the proposal adopted. This decision was conveyed to the other organisations, and they were asked in turn what decisions had been made by their Executives. Subsequently a, letter was received from the W.S.F. suggesting a further meeting at which certain other points, including the question of the assets and liabilities of the existing organisations, papers, and staffs, and offices could be discussed. This suggestion was considered by the B.S.P. Executive, but its feeling was that whilst these matters were of importance, the more important matter was to ascertain without delay whether the membership of the respective organisations was behind its Executives in the proposals for unity. The W.S.F. was written to this effect; the willingness of the B.S.P. Executive to submit the proposals to a referendum of its membership was again expressed, and the Executives of the other bodies were again asked if they too were willing to adopt that course.

At the meeting of the B.S.P. Executive last Sunday a letter was received from the W.S.F. that the Executive of that body had adopted the proposals for unity and was prepared immediately to take a referendum of its membership. No information, however, has been received respecting the S.L.P. and the S. Wales Socialist Society, and enquiries are being made as to the decisions the Executives of these bodies have arrived at. As soon as the S.L.P. and the S. Wales S.S. have intimated their acceptance of the proposals and their willingness to take a referendum, arrangements can be made for submitting the proposals to the membership of all the bodies concerned.