Unsigned September 1911

The Forthcoming Election

Source: Justice, 23rd September 1911, p.2
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
Markup: Chris Clayton

The argument over elections in the United States is an interesting one. Going through copies of Justice, in search of articles for my bibliography of Belfort Bax, I came across the following piece. It seems to me to have a little relevance for us as it turns out that under the particular conditions of that time, the German Social Democrats were prepared to vote for non-working class parties. We must further note that Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were in the party and though they had considerable disagreements with its leadership, this was not, as far as I know, one of them. The conditions that were to be laid on non-working class parties were of two kinds, a programme of civil liberties and some minor distributional justice. Now in the United States of today it would be true to say that the left is so weak that it is in no position to lay conditions on anyone. Arising from this, it could, I think, be argued both ways, that weakness meant either abstention or support for bourgeois candidates. Nevertheless what is important is that there seems to be no matter of principle involved in 1911. Some contributions in the discussion today seem to me to have suggested that there were.

Of course the issues that exercised the Left SDs were those of war, peace and imperialism and their main struggle with the Party leadership was on these issues. Push eventually came to shove on 4th August 1914 of course.

The following piece is probably by Harry Quelch, since it follows directly from an article he wrote on “Congress of the Social Democratic Party at Jena”, Justice, 23rd September 1911, p.2, on the German Reichstag elections. Quelch, a good loyalist, who supported his own leadership, expresses disquiet at the failure of the SDs to call an international conference of Social Democratic parties to protest at the German gunboat in Agadir. He says that the British party, a small sect compared with the German SDs of course though he does not say that, could not criticise the German government because the BSP would then line up with its own countries’ foreign policy. One can detect the cloven hoof of Hyndman’s chauvinism here but Quelch is forced to say kind words of Miss Luxemburg

On the coming Reichstag elections a resolution was passed calling upon all comrades to prepare at once for the elections, and to use the election campaign for gaining new members for the Party and new subscribers to the Party press. The campaign should especially be used to take propaganda for general, equal, direct and secret suffrage for the Prussian Landtag and for all the States which have not yet attained it.

The resolution goes on to lay down tactics for the second ballots. In a choice between two opponents Social-Democrats should vote for the one who pledges himself:—

1. To the preservation of the present Reichstag suffrage.
2. Against a limitation of the right of assembly and of association.
3. Against an intensification of the so-called political clauses of the penal code.
4. Against any sort of exceptional law however constituted.
5. Against any new duties on articles used by the masses, or any increase of those duties already in force.
6. Against any new indirect taxation of such articles or any raising of that at present in force.

The candidate to be asked to give his pledge in writing, or in the presence of witnesses. If both candidates agree to do this, the Liberal is to be preferred to the non-Liberal. In all other cases strict abstention to be observed.