Justice, 3 September 1910

The International Conference

Source: Anon (Our Special Correspondent), “The International Conference,” Justice, p.7, 3 September 1910;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

When the Congress was opened, shortly after the time stated – ten o’clock – the splendid Oddfellows Hal1 presented a most animated appearance. The seats down the whole length of the hall were crowded with the representatives of the Social-Democratic Party of every civilised country in the world. There, on the chairman’s left, stretched the long lines of the German battalions, from whose ranks, however, one regretted to miss the veterans Bebel and Singer, both, unfortunately, prevented by illness from attending this gathering, of the revolutionary hosts. Ranged alongside them were the French, the Belgians, the Norwegians, the Roumanians, the Poles, the Russians, and the representative of gallant Finland. The delegates of the United States make a quite unusually brave show, while Great Britain, although the S.D.P. delegates are less numerous that on some previous occasions, has a very considerable body of representatives, occupying both sides of a table stretching the whole length of the hall. Although one sadly notes the absence of some of our veterans, it is cheering to meet once more so many of the comrades who are valiantly carrying on the proletarian cause in all parts of the world – Kautsky and Ledebour; Jaurès, Valliant and Longuet; Spargo, Morris Hillquit, Victor Berger and Boudin from the States; Polak, of Amsterdam; Iglesias, of Madrid; and many another loved and respected comrade and friend.

The proceedings opened with the magnificent rendering of a cantata on the “International” by a splendid choir of five hundred voices. The solos elicited loud and prolonged cheering, as did the final chorus to the strains of the “International,” concluding:

Over Bjaerg, over Dale skal Du flyve i Dag
Thi Internationale gaar ti Kamp for Folkets Sag!

Between the two parts of the cantata we had an address of welcome from Bang, the leader of the Danish Party. He dwelt on the rise of the old International. How the movement in Denmark had progressed from the sentimentalism of its early days to the scientific Socialism which animated it to-day and inspired its striking success. He expresses the gratitude of the Danish workers for the support and encouragement they had received from the workers of other countries notably in their great strike and lock-out in 1899. Internationalism was no mere phrase with them, nor was its motto “Workers of all countries, unite,” one merely for festive occasions. They lived it in their lives, and it inspired all their organised activities. He referred to the fact that the Congress was meeting in a district in which wealth and poverty existed side by side in the most striking and terrible contrast – the district in which the king has his palace, but which, nevertheless, is represented by a Social Democrat in Parliament. Everywhere the class struggle was growing more bitter and more intense; and it was for the Congress to forge weapons which would enable them to put at end to the struggle between classes at home and the strife between nations abroad. In the hope that their labours would be fruitful of good to international solidarity, and in promoting the emancipation of the proletariat, he bade the delegates, in the name of the Danish party, a hearty welcome.

After the choir had sung the concluding portion of the cantata, “The International,” Vandervelde took the chair, and called on Starring, the secretary of the Danish party and of the Congress. He gave an interesting survey of the movement, which from small beginnings in the middle of the last century, now numbered 120,000 subscribers to the daily “Social-Democrat.” Denmark was only a small country; but it had a proportionally strong Socialist movement, and returned 28 Socialists to the National Parliament. But, above all, they were part of the great international movement. International action was the only decisive action; and for that, above all, one must have national and international unity.

Vandervelde, in the name of the Bureau, and on behalf of the delegates, thanked the Danes for their hearty welcome and the magnificent reception they had given the Congress. They could all, he said, render homage to the great and strenuous efforts which the Danish party had made, and the success with which their efforts been crowned. They had succeeded in bringing the industrial and political organisation of the working class into the closest relationship. The 120,000 subscribers to the daily “Social Democrat” were also 120,000 trade unionists. Vandervelde passed in review the progress trade made in the various countries since the last International Congress, remarking, with regard to England, that although the Labour Party had suffered some loss in the last election, the party had been immensely strengthened by the accession of the miners. He referred to those countries like Finland where the movement was being kept back by force. That, in the long run, would be futile. It was said you could do anything with bayonets save sit upon them; but when the wielders of the bayonets began to think, it was the beginning of the end of the rule of repression.

Huysmans, stated the order of the business for the week, and the first sitting of the Congress concluded.

In the afternoon a magnificent demonstration was held, and thousands of the organised workers of Copenhagen marched through the streets carrying innumerable banners, flags, wreaths, and wands decorated with evergreens and flowers, to the music of many bands. Never has any English witness of the demonstration seen a more magnificent sight, nor so many women of the working class in such a procession. It was an extraordinary spectacle; the procession taking an hour to pass a given point. A monster open air meeting was held at Souderwarken, concluding with songs and a good display of fireworks.

At the meeting of the British delegation, on Monday evening, Keir Hardie presided, and there was considerable discussion over the allocation of the twenty votes along the different sections composing the delegation. In the result ten votes were given to the Labour Party and any trade unions independently represented. As the Labour Party, is represented here by two Members of the I.L.P. – Mr. J.R. MacDonald and Mr. Robinson – that gives I.L.P. an absolute majority of the British votes in the delegation.

In addition to this; the I.L.P. representatives – including several children – are in an actual majority in the delegation, and they used their majority with characteristic unfairness and entire disregard of any representative rights of minorities. The International Bureau is supposed to be representative the two sectors in each nationality – the thorough-going and the moderate. A resolution, however, to maintain the present representation – Hardie and Hyndman – was defeated, and Hardie and MacDonald were elected. The opposition to Hyndman, it was pretended, was on account of his “jingoism.” That, however, was proved to be mere subterfuge when the I.L.P. delegates voted solidly against Quelch, as they would have done against any other Social-Democrat. The irony of the situation lay in the fact that MacDonald was nominated on behalf of the trade unionists. MacDonald, as a representative of trade unionism, is almost as absurd as would have been Mr. Hancock, ironically suggested by Dr. Dessin as a representative of British Social Democracy.

The new International, which we Social-Democrats strove so hard and for so many years to create, would thus voice, so far as Great Britain is concerned, Liberal-Labour, and not Social-Democracy.

In the election of officers for the national delegation, the same unscrupulous use was made of their majority vote by the I.L.P. MacDonald was elected chairman, and the suggestion that the Vice chairmanship or the secretaryship should go to the S.D.P., was defeated, Anderson being elected vice-chairman and Sanders re-elected secretary.

The representation on the various commissions was decided as follows:-

Co-operation: Oliver (S.D.P.), Dr. Bertram (F.S.), Robinson (L.P.), and Whiteley(I.L.P.)
Militarism: Dessin (S.D.P), Hardie (I.L.P.), Glasier (I.L.P.), Murby (F.S.).
Labour Legislation and Unemployment: Miss Hicks (S.D.P.), Mrs. Despard (I.L.P.), Orbell (Dockers), and Phillips (I.L.P.).
Trade Unionism, etc: Tillett (Dockers), Barnes (I.L.P.), Anderson (I.L.P.), and Jones (S.D.P.).
Various Resolutions and Capital Punishment: Bax and Burrows (S.D.P.), Riley and Brockhouse I.L.P.

The work of the Congress rested with the commissions on Monday and Tuesday. The first full sitting of the Congress was to be held on Wednesday.

* * *

We received the following telegram on Tuesday from Copenhagen:

“Bureau refuses accept our exclusion. Quelch remains on International.”