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Exposure of the British Opportunists

V. I. Lenin

A Parliamentary by-election recently took place in Leicester, England.

This election is of enormous importance in principle, and every socialist interested in the very important question of the attitude of the proletariat towards the liberal bourgeoisie in general, and the British socialist movement in particular, should ponder deeply over the Leicester election.

Leicester is a two-member constituency and each elector has two votes. There are only a few constituencies of this kind in Britain, but they particularly favour a tacit bloc between the Socialists and the Liberals, as is emphasised by the correspondent in Britain of the Leipziger Volkszeitung. It was precisely in such constituencies that the most prominent of the leaders of the so-called Independent (independent of socialism, but dependent on liberalism) Labour Party were elected to Parliament. The I.L.P. leaders, Keir Hardie, Philip Snowden and Ramsay MacDonald, were returned by such constituencies.

And in these constituencies the Liberals, who are in the ascendancy, call on their supporters to cast one vote for the Socialist and one for the Liberal, provided, of course, that the Socialist is a "reasonable", moderate, "independent" one and not an irreconciable Social-Democrat, whom the British Liberals and liquidators, no less than the Russian, know how to curse as an anarcho-syndicalist, etc.!

What actually takes place, therefore, is the formation of a bloc between the Liberals and the moderate, opportunist Socialists. Actually, the British "independents" (for whom our liquidators express such tender feelings) depend on the Liberals. The conduct of the "independents" in the British Parliament constantly confirms this dependence.

It happened that the I.L.P. member for Leicester, none other than the party leader, MacDonald, resigned for personal reasons.

What was to be done?

The Liberals, of course, put forward their candidate.

Leicester is a factory town with a predominantly proletarian population.

The local I.L.P. organisation called a conference which by 67 votes against 8 decided to put forward a candidate. No sooner said than done. Banton, a Town Councillor and prominent member of the I.L.P., was nominated.

Then the Executive Committee of this Party, which as signs the money for the election campaign (and elections in Britain are very costly!), refused to endorse Banton's candidature!

The opportunist Executive Committee opposed the local workers.

The Leicester branch of the other British socialist party, which is not opportunist and is really independent of the Liberals, then sent its representative to the Leicester I.L.P. and invited them to support its candidate, Hartley, a member of the British Socialist Party, a very popular figure in the labour movement, an ex-member of the Independent Labour Party, who left it because of its opportunism.

The members of the Leicester branch of the I.L.P. were in an awkward position: they were heart and soul in favour of Hartley, but ... but what of the discipline in their party, the decision of their Executive Committee? The Leicester people found a way out: they closed the meeting, and each in his private capacity declared for Hartley. Next day a huge meeting of workers endorsed Hartley's candidature. Banton himself sent a telegram stating that he would vote for Hartley. The Leicester trade unions declared for Hartley.

The I.L.P. Parliamentary group intervened and published a protest in the Liberal press (which, like our Rech and Sovremenka, helps the opportunists) against Hartley's candidature, against "undermining" MacDonald!

The election, of course, resulted in a victory for the Liberals. They obtained 10,863 votes, the Conservatives 9,279, and Hartley 2,580.

Class-conscious workers in various countries quite often adopt a "tolerant" attitude toward the British I.L.P. This is a great mistake. The betrayal of the workers' cause in Leicester by the I.L.P. is no accident, but the result of the entire opportunist policy of the Independent Labour Party. The sympathies of all real Social-Democrats should be with those British Social-Democrats who are determinedly combating the Liberal corruption of the workers by the "Independent" Labour Party in Britain.

Published: Rabochaya Pravda No. 3, July 16, 1913.
Signed: K. T..
Published according to the Rabochaya Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 272-274.
Translated: The Late George Hanna

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