Showing posts with label Keir Hardie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Keir Hardie. Show all posts

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Keir Hardie Debunked

Letter to the Editors from the August 1908 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sir, I have stood by Hardie through the years. I have held him to be a man apart from the motley group of members and fakers of capitalism, to whom he has given political existence, and that he calls his Labour Party. I at one time allowed him to nominate me for membership of the National Branch, deciding that if his party was good enough for Hardie it should be good enough for me, and that if Hardie could do something with such elements I might. So I allowed myself to become a member of the Independent Labour Party, and have remained one up to within a week. I have hit out against the policy and tactics of the Party whenever I have occupied its platform, but I retained my membership simply because of my reverence for Hardie. Again and again I have contended with S.D.F. men: "Hardie is something bigger than these reform fellows. He means more than reform. He is a revolutionist—a kind of eagle among carrion crows." But since last week I admit myself beaten. I have been sold. Most of the workers are sold many times. You knock down their idol and they instantly get another. I have not been sold many times, but I admit I have been once—in Hardie.

Edward VII by the grace of the god Capital, and, in obedience to its will, that he might secure for it some sort of a basis to contract a further loan with Russia, was deputed to go and kow-tow with the bloody Czar.

Hardie had an opportunity to bring home to the House of Commons the horrors of Russia, and to fix them upon the Czar, backed by his "black hundred."

And Hardie got up his case well. Oh, yes, the facts were all right and the rhetoric also. Not for one moment do I think that I could have marshalled the facts as well, or have painted the pictures as vividly. He gave them the thousands that have rotted in Russian prisons during the last two years; he gave them the thousands that have been butchered by the emissaries of the "black hundred." And he brought the whole of the atrocities hone to the Czar telling the "House" how the Czar had thanked the "black hundred" for murdering wholesale the people of Russia, under the cry that they were Jews, and adorning himself and his child with the badge of their order as a token of his appreciation of their services to Russia. Then Hardie was called upon by the Deputy-Speaker to withdraw.

Well, with such a case, with such an array of facts, themselves completely pointing the charge, one would have thought that the mere human instrument, called upon to belie himself and deny them would have refused with quiet scorn, and have surrendered himself to any consequences.

But Hardie did not do this. He lost touch with the murdered in Russia, and the thousands groaning in its prisons. He commenced melodramatic word-play with the politician, Emmett. He ducked and edged and quibbled, and allowed horrible facts to be smothered in a play of words between himself and the Deputy-Speaker. And then when the latter insisted that the charge be withdrawn, Hardie withdrew the charge so far as it referred to the Czar and his Government.

Like Dan 'Connell, like Fergus O'Connor, like John Burns and a host of others—spouters, orators, fine rhetoricians, but not fighters, not revolutionists—so Hardie, when an opportunity arrived demanding that he should translate his speech into a bit of action, failed.

So Hardie has gone with the rest of them. The Socialist Movement has learnt that it must never trust him to use any great opportunity. Some of the papers had it that after "Artful Dodger" Asquith decided that he had bottled Hardie, he turned his face to his followers with a sardonic smile which said, "How's that for diplomacy?"

But had Asquith's man meant business, he might have retrieved his position even here, and the Whig lawyer might have had another unpleasant illustration of the fact that he who laughs last laughs best.

Had Hardie meant business, he might have proceeded with his speech, after the passage-at-arms with the Deputy-Speaker, he might have filled the ears of the "House" with the horrors of Russia; he might have piled fact upon fact proving what he had said, and then concluded: "the Russian Government is an autocracy, the Czar is a despot, and with these facts before me I say that the monstrous activities that I have laid before the "House" are the direct expression of the will of the Czar and his infamous Councillors, that he alone is responsible, being autocrat and despot, and I refuse to withdraw the charge." Then "Artful Dodger" Asquith would have smiled quite another smile.

But Hardie didn't mean business—and why? Was it his Parliamentary screw; or fear of not getting a seat in another Parliament, or fear of disrupting further that strange motley he calls the Labour Party, or what? It matters not. Once more some little political mote got into the popular leader's eye and blurred his vision as to the great matter for which he was pleading.

Then there was Grayson. He tells the people he wanted to say something. Why didn't he say it? Some of the papers say he was upon his feet before Henderson. Some of them say that the Deputy-Speaker called Grayson. Anyway, the pair got the floor pretty much together. Why did not Grayson proceed without it in the least recognising the existence of the man who had a compact with the Liberals to shut up the debate at a given time, or of it became in any way dangerous? Grayson may tell the mob outside, who have never been into the House of Commons, that he was prevented, but this will not go down with any man who has been into the Commons, and who knows that it requires a combination of circumstances rather more forceful than the ones of this debate to prevent a man in dead earnest from having his say in a hole like the House of Commons.

Anyhow, the debate upon the King's visit to Russia has been fruitful of much good to the English workers. It has smashed some more idols for some of us. It has shown us that the Labour Party is not independent at all, that it does make alliances with the Liberal Party to shut up debates when they become over verile. All this is education.

If the English Government would only try Russian methods on our spouters ever so little it would still further educate. But British capitalists are too wise for this. You mustn't frighten the popular idols of the people. Prospects of prison, disability, or banishment would turn most of these swans to geese. This would let people see too much. Disillusionment would set in fast. Therefore our Edward by the grace of Grab, going to one of Russia may say: "Behold I show thee a more excellent way to rule thy people. Do not murder and torture and crush in that old-fashioned way. Bamboozle thy people instead. Let them spout and have offices, and generally play the game, and soon you will find them so docile that, should any of their strong words annoy, you shall but threaten them with the least of these other things, so find them eager to withdraw.  Tut, tut, man, the father who has a child well broken in doesn't require to be always using the stick. He only requires now and then to show it, and this is more than sufficient."

But they do tell me that in Russia the people have gone beyond this spouting and office-holding and political game-playing, and refuse to have it at any price. They say that they have sighted the slavery underneath it all, and prefer prison banishment and death to it. And if this is so I don't know what Edward can say to Nicholas that will matter much. It seems to me that the same game played by both, with a people of this sort, must be nearly up. There are men and women in Russia of another sort than our Graysons and Hardies.
Yours, etc.,
John Tamlyn 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Hardie? Another Scottish Hero?

Hardie was born in Lanarkshire in 1856, Scotland, the son of a ship’s carpenter and a domestic servant. Hardie's first job came at the early age of 7, when he was put to work as a message boy for the Anchor Line Steamship Company. Formal schooling henceforth became impossible, but his parents spent evenings teaching him to read and write, skills which proved essential for future in his self-education. Hardie worked in the pits from the age of 10 and became a miners’ leader before he was 20. He was the founding Chairman of the Scottish Labour Party in 1888 and was then elected as an Independent Labour MP for West Ham in 1892. Hardie formed the Independent Labour Party (independent, that is, from the Liberal Party and the ‘Lib-Lab’ MPs) in 1893, and long time editor of The Labour Leader. Hardie had launched his paper (it remained his personal property until 1904 when it was taken over directly by the party). He played a leading part in the creation of the Labour Representation Committee in 1900, which became the Labour Party in 1906. He lost his seat at West Ham in 1895 but became an MP for Merthyr Tydfil from 1900 until his death in 1915. Hardie became the first Chairman and Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party in 1906. The early strongholds of the ILP were as one might expect in the old industrial regions of West Yorkshire and South Lancashire with considerable support in Leicester, Norwich and Merthyr Tydfil. Scotland, later known as the heartland of the ILP, was to develop later during and after the First World War.

The early ILP’s conception of socialism was a bit of a joke. In 1896 Hardie defined it as “…brotherhood, fraternity, love thy neighbour as thyself, peace on earth, goodwill towards men, and glory to God in the highest” (Justice, 6 June 1896).

The SDF, which was an organisation which sought to model itself on the continental Social Democratic parties which were committed to the class struggle, socialism and Marxism (and of which most Socialists in Britain were then still members), tried to commit the LRC to socialism and the class struggle, but not even Keir Hardie's ILP supported them. Hardie, in fact, always explicitly repudiated the class struggle. Hardie, who derived his “economics” from Jesus Christ, says in his My Confession of Faith in the Labour Alliance: “The Labour Party practices the Marxian policy of the Class Struggle”. Such a statement, of course, is utterly false. the alliance with the most bitter enemies of the working class such as the Liberal manufacturers, for the purpose of “getting in”, is certainly part of the class struggle, but the Labour Party take sides in that struggle with the masters.

Hardie mouthed socialist phrases but in practice pursued the interests of capital, and this included support for capitalism’s wars. Despite this wobbling the ILP should be acknowledged as the largest organisation in Britain in opposition to the war and both Hardie and MacDonald came out against the war. However its policy originated in a faulty concept of what the war was all about. After initially opposing the Great War of 1914-1918 he changed his mind:

"A nation at war must be united especially when its existence is at stake. In such filibustering expeditions as our own Boer War or the recent Italian war over Tripoli, where no national danger of any kind was involved there were many occasions for diversity of opinion and this was given voice to by the Socialist Party of Italy and the Stop the War Party in this country. Now the situation is different. With the boom of the enemy's guns within earshot, the lads who have gone forth by sea and land to fight their country's battles must not be disheartened by any discordant note at home."
(Pioneer, Merthyr 15th Aug., 1914).

And again he writes

"We must see the war through, but we must also make ourselves so familiar with the facts as to be able to intervene at the earliest possible moment in the interests of peace"
(Pioneer 15th Aug., 1914).

 Let no one be deceived by the mention of the "earliest possible moment" because for Hardie this was a very long way off and he was in fact prepared to support a long, drawn-out conflict in Europe. Hardie told his electorate in Merthyr:

"May I once again revert for the moment to the ILP pamphlets? None of them clamour for immediately stopping the war. That would be foolish in the extreme, until at least the Germans have been driven back across their own frontier, a consummation which, I fear, carries us forward through a long and dismal vista…I have never said or written anything to dissuade our young men from enlisting; I know too well all there is at stake. But, frankly, were I once more young and anxious to enlist, I would resent more than anything the spectacle of young, strong, flippant upstarts, whether MPs or candidates, who had the audacity to ask me to do for my country what they had not the heart to do themselves. Of all causes, this surely is the one in which actions speak louder than words. If I can get the recruiting figures for Merthyr week by week, which I find a very difficult job, I hope by another week to be able to PROVE that whereas our Rink Meeting gave a stimulus to recruiting, those meetings at the Drill Hall at which the Liberal member or the Liberal candidate spoke, had the exactly opposite effect."
(Merthyr Pioneer, 28th November, 1914.)

Two weeks later Hardie was able to proclaim that he had obtained the recruiting figures for his constituency and was able to make good his boast. He set out his claim in this manner:

"(1) That for the five weeks before the Rink Meeting. recruiting had been steadily going down week by week; (2) that our I.L.P. meeting was held on Sunday, October 25th, and that for the next three weeks the number of recruits secured in Merthyr kept steadily rising. . . If Mr. Jones challenges this statement I shall produce the figures, though not inclined to do so for very obvious patriotic reasons. Unlike my colleague I am more concerned with aiding the army than with trying to take a mean advantage of a political opponent"
(Pioneer, 19th Dec., 1914).

The myth about Keir Hardie's anti-war attitude is very persistent.

The war also saw the death of Hardie in late 1915 and the rise of a new Labour hero, James Maxton.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Another saint ?

The Herald carries a report on Keir Hardie , the Labour Party pioneer. He’s been called Labour’s greatest hero and the party’s most inspirational leader but could Keir Hardie also be in danger of being forgotten? The Socialist Party though have not forgotten about him. The insincerity and double-dealing of the Labour “leaders” are plain.

From the formation of the Labour Party the S.PG.B. opposed it, holding that its doctrine of changing class relationships through social reforms and its hope of abolishing war through international expressions of goodwill were founded in error about the nature of capitalism and socialism.

An article on Hardie can be read here

Monday, January 07, 2008

Keir Hardie on Migrant Labour

Socialist Courier has previously de-bunked the Keir Hardie myth of his anti-war credentials here and now it is time to dismiss him as a supporter of the international working class and expose his Scots racism .

James Keir Hardie in 1889 said said :-

"Dr. Johnson said God made Scotland for Scotchmen, and I would keep it so" .

Speaking of the Poles at Glengarnock, he said "their habits are very filthy, six or seven males occupying a one-roomed house, and having women to cook for them"

He suggested that the employment of foreigners by British employers should be prohibited, unless they were political exiles or had fled from religious persecution or if they came from countries where the wage rates were the same as in Britain.

Instead of directing his wrath at the capitalist class which exploits and takes advantage of the lack of working class unity , Hardie simply parrots the commonly held mis-conception that it is the poor unfortunate immigrant who is responsible for wage cuts .

Members of the capitalist class don't stay put. They travel freely round the world, from London to Paris, from grouse moor to ski slope, from Caribbean island to Mediterranean cruise, from the chateau in Switzerland to the ranch in Arizona. And no-one dreams of telling them that they can't. Like many laws enacted by the ruling class, restrictions on the crossing of borders really only hit at members of the working class. The apologists for capitalism who try to foment ill-feeling towards "foreigners" landing here, whether they come to escape persecution, or to obtain slightly higher wages, never attack those many members of the upper class who swan about the world as if there were no such thing as state boundaries.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Keir Hardie Myth

I note from the BBC that a memorial to one of the the founders of the Labour Party, Keir Hardie, has been unveiled in his former constituency . And the unveiler of the bronze bust was no other than that pro-Iraqi War- propagandist Ann Clywd MP .
One shouldn't be so surprised because the real facts of Keir Hardie's supposed principled stand against the slaughter of World War One is not all that what one has been led to believe as this article in the Socialist Standard from 1961 reveals .

The Keir Hardie myth

The myth about Keir Hardie's attitude to war is very persistent. At an anti-Polaris rally in Glasgow last December, the Co-operative Movement representative had only to refer to him, ". . . if we could get Keir Hardie here. . ." to have his words drowned by applause. Whatever the sentiments of the audience may have been, it was certainly in error about Hardie's attitude to war.

In 1914, with the Great War drawing near, the Second International called for "Peace demonstrations" throughout Europe. On August 2nd, in Trafalgar Square, Hardie spoke at the "Peace demonstration". Sentimentality and emotionalism were offered in place of the sound education and organisation needed by the workers. Two days later the War began, and the Second International collapsed, its unsound base giving way beneath the strain. In the Labour Leader Hardie proclaimed, "The I.L.P. will at least stand firm. Keep the Red Flag flying!" Brave words indeed, but wholly false. For the I.L.P. turned out to be standing firm on one issue and that was on the question of party unity. To preserve this unity, to retain the greatest number of members within the fold, the most opportunist and unprincipled formulas were applied to justify the conduct of individual party members. The flag hoisted by Hardie and his fellow "Labour Leaders" was a clear and unmistakeable Union Jack. In articles directed at his electorate in Merthyr, Keir Hardie made his position clear.

"A nation at war must be united especially when its existence is at stake. In such filibustering expeditions as our own Boer War or the recent Italian war over Tripoli, where no national danger of any kind was involved there were many occasions for diversity of opinion and this was given voice to by the Socialist Party of Italy and the Stop the War Party in this country. Now the situation is different. With the boom of the enemy's guns within earshot, the lads who have gone forth by sea and land to fight their country's battles must not be disheartened by any discordant note at home." (Pioneer, Methyr 15th Aug., 1914).

The man who recoiled from the talk of waging the Class War was quite prepared to have workers serve "their Motherland" in Imperialist War; he wrote that

"We must see the war through, but we must also make ourselves so familiar with the facts as to be able to intervene at the earliest possible moment in the interests of peace" (Pioneer 15th Aug., 1914.)

Let no one be deceived by the mention of the "earliest possible moment" because for Hardie this was a very long way off and he was in fact prepared to support a long, drawn-out conflict in Europe. As he put it on 28th November, 1914,

"May I once again revert for the moment to the I.L.P. pamphlets? None of them clamour for
immediately stopping the war. That would be foolish in the extreme, until at least the Germans have been driven back across their own frontier, a consummation which, I fear, carries us forward through a long and dismal vista"
(Pioneer, Merthyr).

Time after time Hardie fed workers the lie that they were part of a "nation " and as such were bound up in the quarrels of their masters. Not "International Working Class Solidarity". but "Class Collaboration" was his rallying cry, for Hardie was a patriot and proud of it.

"I am not a pro-German" he wrote, "and still less am I a pro-Russian. I am a pro-Briton, loving my country and caring for her people. Any war of aggression against the rights and
liberties of my country I would resist to the last drop of blood in my veins. But I have not seen, outside the columns of the yellow Jingo Press, any proofs that our interests as a nation were in any way imperilled or threatened by a war in which Austria and Germany and Russia and France were involved"
(Pioneer,Merthyr. 22nd Aug 1914).

But although he was a patriot, Hardie would not appear on the official Government recruiting platforms. In the first place he could not stomach the crude jingoism and Imperialism that emerged from these platforms and secondly he wished to remain free to present the I.L.P. version of the events that had led to Britain's involvement in the war. He believed that if the people were toldfrankly about the "Secret Diplomacy" that had piloted Britain into the war, and
were shown how the war, though "unjust," had put the country in peril, the needed volunteers would emerge and there would be no need for jingoistic exhortations or conscription. This in Hardie's view was the "right method" and belief in this method led Hardie to boast that he had been instrumental (together with his colleagues) in securing more recruits for the Armed Forces
than his Liberal opponents.
Writing in the Pioneer of November 28th, 1914, Keir Hardie made his claim thus:

"I have never said or written anything to dissuade our young men from enlisting; I know too well all there is at stake. But, frankly, were I once more young and anxious to enlist, I would resent more than anything the spectacle of young, strong, flippant upstarts, whether M.P.s or candidates, who had the audacity to ask me to do for my country what they had not the heart to do themselves. Of all causes, this surely is the one in which actions speak louder than words. If I can get the recruiting figures for Merthyr week by week. which I find a very difficult job, I hope by another week to be able to PROVE that whereas our Rink Meeting gave a stimulus to recruiting, those meetings at the Drill Hall at which the Liberal member or the Liberal candidate spoke, had the exactly opposite effect."

Hardie was so determined to prove his point that he tried on a number of occasions to obtain the relevant recruiting figures. The figures were refused him, but this did not daunt Hardie. In the meantime, his staunch supporter J.B. (John Barr). writing in the Pioneer enthusiastically endorsed Hardie's claim; he wrote. "I am still of the opinion that the Rink meeting gave a fillip to recruiting, and my opinion is based on the belief that the I.L.P. method is the right one. . ."

Two weeks later Hardie was able to proclaim that he had obtained the recruiting figures for his constituency and was able to make good his boast. He set out his claim in this manner:

"(1) That for the five weeks before the Rink Meeting. recruiting had been steadily going down week by week;
(2) that our I.L.P. meeting was held on Sunday, October 25th, and that for the next three
weeks the number of recruits secured in Merthyr kept steadily rising. . . If Mr.Jones challenges this statement I shall produce the figures, though not inclined to do so for very obvious patriotic reasons. Unlike my colleague I am more concerned with aiding the army than with trying to take a mean advantage of a political opponent"
(Pioneer, 19th Dec., 1914).

Ample evidence exists to prove that in supporting the war Hardie in no way acted as a renegade. His actions were in fact in concord with the actions of his colleagues in the party leadership and these actions were never repudiated, but were endorsed and underwritten by the party as a whole.

MELVIN HARRIS

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