To-day August 1887

Editorial Notes

Source: August 1887, pp. 3-34;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

We have received from Dr. Aveling certain piéces justificatives concerning his recent lecturing tour in the United States. It will be remembered that Dr. Aveling, at the end of his trip, was accused by the Socialist Labour Party of America, which paid – or was to have paid – his expenses, of unbecoming extravagance in his style of living. Some publicity was given to the matter by the capitalist press here; but it was a Socialist paper – Justice – which made the most and worst of it. Hence the piéces justificatives! We are bound to say that the impression they leave is that Dr. Aveling has his own unbusinesslike arrangements to thank for the opportunity which his enemies have seized. He travelled partly as a missionary from the Socialist Labour Party, and partly as a correspondent of various London newspapers. But he sent in to the Labour Party an account of all his expenses, and said virtually, “Here is what I have spent: now pay me whatever you think was fairly incurred on your account.” This was frank, brotherly, and free from all taint of bourgeoisisme. And it ended, as most brotherly affairs do, in a quarrel. The Socialist Labour Party found the task of deciding whether this or that particular cigar or bottle of soda water was “a means of production” of lecturing or of dramatic criticism, invidious and impossible. Dr. Aveling took a high tone, and told them, in effect, to pay what their conscience told them they ought to pay. They then lost their tempers; accused him of “trying it on”; and expressed their belief that if they had paid the account in full without remonstrance he would have pocketed the total without a word. Obviously this could neither be proved nor disproved; and Dr. Aveling, declining to pursue the transaction, returned to Europe, leaving the Labour Party in his debt.

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In short, the upshot of the unbourgeoislike arrangements was just what any person of common sense might have predicted from the moment when the parties fell out. But why did they fall out? Because Dr. Aveling urged from the platform the importance of gaining over to the Socialist cause the existing organization of the Knights of Labour, just as he is now most sensibly urging the necessity of gaining over the Radical party here. Instantly the ill-conditioned and Impossibilist sections, with the natural dread of incompetent or supersensitive persons for practical work, became his bitter enemies, and brought forward his washing bill as proof positive that the Knights of Labour should be treated as lepers by every true Socialist. We have exactly the same spirit shown here by that absurd body the anarchist voting majority [anarchists voting!!!] of the Socialist League, with their strangely assorted leader, Mr. William Morris, who is ashamed to march through Coventry with them. These gentlemen vilify the advocates of political activity in England just as heartily as their transatlantic brethren vilified Dr. Aveling. The parallel alone gives the incident any significance. Until Socialist bodies fix a standard of comfort for their members, personal extravagance will remain a matter of private opinion; and people who make silly arrangements with regard to expenses must do so at their own risk.

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The editor of the Commonweal should really keep a sharper eye on his subordinates, if he values his well established character for consistency. In the issue of July 9th there is a large type article by Mr. Sparling, girding at the Liberty and Property Defence League, for requesting the opposition of members of the House of Commons to certain measures for preventing adulteration, regulating the working of mines, etc., etc. Now these measures are the “palliatives” at which Mr. Morris constantly pokes such excellent fun, and about which he professes to be so superbly scornful. Does it not seem to him that he is guilty of the basest ingratitude in allowing attacks to be made in his paper on the men who resolutely oppose them? As a matter of fact, Mr. Morris and the Liberty and Property Defence League are really brothers in arms, and, there is no earthly reason why Jus and the Commonweal should not be amalgamated. If this is not obvious to Mr. Morris, it is sufficiently palpable to everybody else. But, of course, before Mr. Morris can open negotiations with the Committee of the Liberty and Property Defence League, he must muzzle his sub-editor, whose ideas on the subject of his chief’s policy seem to be a trifle muddled.