Guy Aldred and the SPGB

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Oct 24 2017 00:22
Guy Aldred and the SPGB

I thought this might be of interet to some on the forum.

"Temporising and Reactionary" (1906)
From the November 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Prominent S.D.F. Member's Criticism of S.D.F. Methods.

133, Goswell-road, E.C.

To the Editor, The Socialist Standard.

Dear Comrade

Could you please find room in your forthcoming issue of the Standard for the following letter of resignation of my membership of the S.D.F., addressed to Comrade F. B. Buckeridge of the Southampton Branch, S.D.F. I have cancelled all my lecture engagements with the S.D.F. branches.
Yours fraternally,
Guy A. Aldred

P.S.—I should be obliged to be supplied with a membership form of the S.P.G.B.

* * * *

133, Goswell-road. E.C.

To Comrade F. B. Buckeridge,
St. Andrew’s-road. Southampton.

Dear Comrade.

I had delayed writing to you before, with regard to your request that I should lecture for you on September 9th. next, because I wanted to give you an answer in the affirmative. 1 have, however, after a careful study of the position. come to the conclusion that the S.D.F., mistaking numbers for efficiency and popularity for sound economics, is not a workers’ party. I regret, therefore, that I can no longer speak from the S.D.F. platform; and shall at once resign my membership, and as soon as possible settle my dues to my branch, thus leaving the party in an honourable manner. I shall apply to the Socialist Party of Great Britain for membership.
Yours fraternally,
Guy A. Aldred.

* * * *

133, Goswell-road. E.C.

To the Editor, The Socialist Standard.

Dear Comrade,

After having been, during my membership of the S.D.F., one of the most vigorous opponents of the Party of winch the Standard is the organ, and having opposed that Party's Principles in a debate with Comrade Fitzgerald, I feel I owe an explanation to your readers for having accepted its principles, even though 1 may not be allowed to join its ranks. As a matter of fact, however, my acceptance of the revolutionary principles for the inculcation of which your organisation alone among Socialist organisations avowedly stands, represents the maturity of those ideas that first led me to join the S.D.F., and, subsequently, in disgust, to throw up Parliamentary correspondence for Justice. I now see quite clearly that a revisionist policy is incompatible with a revolutionary policy and it is because of that fact that the S.D.F. is so unsatisfactory an organisation. I have got about a good deal among its rank-and-file during my membership and I was surprised to find two distinct sets of feelings existing among its members. On the one hand there were the frankly revolutionary spirits, good, earnest, and sincere comrades; on the other, tame revisionists and mere social reformers. This being so, the organisation, as such, could have no policy, and hence could not be "class-conscious.” Now, Comrade, in the past I have accused your Party of merely mouthing the Class War, and have stated that I could do that on the S.D.F. platform. There may be an element of truth in that, but further study has revealed to me this fact, that if I speak on the S,D.F. platform I ought to subscribe to its constitution; and if I did so subscribe, I should have to subscribe to temporising and reactionary political "tactics” such as find practical expression in the case of Mr. W. Thorne, M.P. I cannot honestly do so and preach the Class War; so. although not yet a member of the S.P.G.B. 1 feel I can no longer honestly mount the S.D.F. platform as a supporter of S.D.F. tactics. Again; recently I initiated a correspondence in Justice on why Socialists could not philosophically believe in the capricious effects of prayer nor be Christians. Justice indulges in the old cant about "private religious belief.” This betrays a desire to negate Marxian economics and philosophic Socialism in order to secure the support of “class-conscious Socialists ” save the mark ! —like the Rev. Conrad Noel. No! Socialism is not to be established, the workers are not to be emancipated by the revisionist and respectable tactics of official S.D.F.ers. Only when the workers have realised the meaning of class-consciousness will they be emancipated. Meanwhile the class-controllers may be depended upon to delude by granting palliative "reforms” to soften the suffering occasioned by capitalistic and class-control of the necessities of existence.

Just now I am I booked up for several engagements with comrades in the S.D.F. I admire and respect for their devotion to the cause of working-class emancipation, a devotion wrongly employed in the interest of the revisionists at the head of the S.D.F. 1 find it hard to cut myself adrift from these colleagues ; but I feel I must be true to myself.

In conclusion, therefore, Comrade, let me thank those comrades of the S.P.G.B. who have so persistently brought under my notice the logic of the revolutionary position and also the official abuses existing in the S.D.F. Whatever the future may have in store for me, I shall remember, with gratitude, the services they have rendered me. Thanking you in anticipation, Yours fraternally,
Guy A. Aldred.
(Late Parliamentary Correspondent to Justice.)

{Subsequent to the receipt of the foregoing an article by our correspondent appeared in Justice which conveyed the impression that the writer had not clearly apprehended the position of the S.P.G.B. He was written on the subject by the General Secretary of the Party and the following reply was received.}

* * * *

133, Goswell-rd, E.C.

To Comrade W. Gifford,
Gen. Sec., S.P.G.B.

Dear Comrade,

Your letter of the l4th inst to hand. In reply, I would beg to state that the letter that appeared in Justice above my name was sent some days previous to the letter I addressed to the Southampton S.D.F. and a copy of which I addressed to you. At the same time as I addressed this copy to you I addressed another copy of the same letter to the editor of Justice, and it is this letter to which reference is made in the editorial comment. When I noticed this fact I addressed a further letter of complaint to the editor of Justice ; but was informed, by Comrade A. A. Watts, in the communication I enclose, that Quelch could not publish it. These are the facts.

Coming to my attitude at the present time. Briefly. it is this: Socialism, standing for the complete revolution of the present state of Society, can only be realised when the proletariat are educated up to class-consciousness and are thus able to obtain their own emancipation. In the meantime, it is unnecessary for Socialists to ask for or to seek to obtain palliatives, since the directing of attention to these palliatives must inevitably divert attention away from the end at which we aim. .Socialism is therefore opposed, not only to both capitalist parties, but also to the humbug of the present Labour Party; the existence of a Parliamentary Labour Party without a Socialist programme and a Socialist proletariat being more or less a farce. Furthermore, seeing that Trade-Unionism tends to perpetuate the present system, and by its standing for a minimum wage, tends to play into the hands of the Capitalistic Class who need but reply by increasing the cost of the necessities of existence, Socialism must attack and denounce it as being ineffective, and tending to create an aristocracy of labour, since the unskilled do not and cannot benefit by its workings, so long as Capitalism endures. I stand therefore, for anti-revisionism, anti-palliationism, and clear and straightforward revolutionary Socialist propaganda; and am opposed to voting for either Liberal or Tory party under any circumstances. I am also opposed to the placarding of any district with bills, by a Socialist candidate for either municipal or Parliamentary office that would lead other than class conscious electors to vote for such a candidate. I also feel that many members of the S.D.F. do not understand economics. These facts notwithstanding, I have withdrawn my resignation, since 1 feel that to leave under present circumstances would be of no service to the cause. Among S.D.F.-ers it would be thought that I had been “huffed” into resignation over the religious question, whilst it seems to me that the S.P.G.B. comrades would be doubtful about my sincerity. I also find that whilst the rank and file of the S.D.F. includes many tame and inane revisionists, it also includes many avowed revolutionaries. I also find that there is nothing in the constitution forbidding one to preach revolutionary, clear-cut Socialism. Rather than be misunderstood, I propose to use the S.D.F platform for placing before members these revolutionary ideas, and where it brings me in conflict with other members to, without hesitation, oppose these members; then, if I am expelled, members and comrades will be in no doubt as to the reason of my expulsion. So far as organised representation is concerned, I will only add that, in my opinion, the S.P.G.B. embodies, in its constitution, the best organised expression of class-conscious Socialism. But under present circumstances, although I gain nothing by so doing, I believe, in order that I may not be misunderstood, it is best for me to at present expound clear-cut and uncompromising "impossibilism" on the S.D.F. platform.

With best wishes, and giving you full permission to publish this correspondence. I remain, fraternally yours,
Guy A. Aldred

* * * *


Twentieth Century Press. Ltd.
37a, Clerkenwell Green,
London E.C

Sept. 10th, 1906.
Dear Comrade

H. Quelch asks me to write round to you to say he cannot publish your letter.

Regarding your later note, respecting the article on Egypt, he would he very pleased to have it if you will send it in.
Fraternally yours,
A. A. WATTS. Sec.

Joined: 20-04-08
Oct 30 2017 10:32

From the June 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

In our issue for March we published an article, “Muddled Critic of the S.P.G.B.,” commenting on some remarks about the S.P.G.B. made by Mr. Guy Aldred in his journal “The Word.”

In the April issue of “The Word” Mr. Aldred published our article in full and said that he intends to reply to it in his next issue.

In the meantime, in the April issue, he deals angrily with one passage in our article. Mr. Aldred had earlier written that the attitude of the S.P.G.B. at the 1951 election was “the result of its 1950 experience at the ballot-box.”

To this we replied: —
"The S.P.G.B. was doing this right from its formation in 1904, which means that it was doing it at the time when Mr. Aldred applied for membership of the S.P.G.B., and in 1928 when he offered to give his support to S.P.G.B. candidates on certain conditions." .
Mr. Aldred says that we have knowingly made false statements, firstly in saying that he applied for membership, and secondly in saying that he did so in 1904. He says he did not apply for membership and that the incident in question did not happen in 1904 but in 1906.

Taking first the question of the year, may we suggest to Mr. Aldred that instead of getting so excited about our alleged mis-statement of the date, he should read again our statement reproduced above. It did not mention the date of the incident. What it aimed to convey was that as the S.P.G.B.’s attitude was the same ever since its formation in 1904, his application, whatever its date, must have been at a time when the S.P.G.B. held that attitude.

Mr. Aldred’s main objection is, however, to the statement that he applied for membership. In referring to this we notice that he does not give his readers his own version of the incident though he refers them to the Socialist Standard of November, 1906, for information contained in letters written by him.

We wrote without looking up the November, 1906 correspondence, and find that in fact Mr. Aldred did not apply for membership at that time. What he did was to write informing us that he was at once resigning from the Social Democratic Federation and wanted a membership form of the S.P.G.B. On the same day he wrote to the S.D.F. a letter spying: “I shall apply to the Socialist Party of Great Britain for membership.”

He followed this up two days later with a letter to the Socialist Standard explaining how, after opposing the ' S.P.G.B. in the past, “ I feel I owe an explanation to your readers for having accepted its principles.”

A fortnight later he wrote again saying that he had decided after all to remain in the S.D.F. “to use the S.D.F. platform for placing before members those revolutionary ideas.”

This last letter also contained the following: —
“So far as organised representation is concerned, I will only add that, in my opinion, the S.P.G.B. embodies in its constitution, the best organised expression of class-conscious socialism."
So Mr. Aldred didn’t apply for membership. He agreed with the S.P.G.B., and intended to apply for membership and wrote for a membership form, and then changed his mind and decided to remain in the S.D.F. putting S.P.G.B. views and risking expulsion. But he didn’t apply for membership because having decided to leave the S.D.F. and apply to join the S.P.G.B. he changed his mind again though he still agreed with the S.P.G.B.

We can only wonder why Mr. Aldred makes so much fuss about it
Editorial Committee

Joined: 20-04-08
Oct 31 2017 10:17

Apologies for getting them out of order

From the March 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

The following reference to the S.P.G.B. was published in the December issue of “The Word” which describes itself as “an organ of the United Socialist Movement, edited and published by Guy A. Aldred.”
“There is also the attitude of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, who issued a manifesto urging people not to vote until everyone had joined the S.P.G.B. or became a Socialist. This curious attitude— which approaches Anarchism—was the result of the 1950 experience at the ballot-box. Carefully analysed, the attitude of the S.P.G.B is seen to be one of futility and hypocrisy. Instead of uniting at this time of crisis in a stand against war and rearmament, which could have been done without a single sacrifice of principle and actually with a great advantage to the propaganda status of the S.P.G.B., members of this stupid and stagnant party wrote ‘S.P.G.B.' across their ballot papers.”
Mr. Alfred, who contested Glasgow Central constituency in October, 1951, is angry because the S.P.G.B. did not support him. He described himself as a “Peace and Independent Socialist” candidate.

Let us deal first with the several inaccuracies in his statements. Of course the S.P.G.B. did not issue a manifesto “urging people not to vote until everyone had joined the S.P.G.B. or became a Socialist.”

The S.P.G.B. does not commit the absurdity of advising non-Socialists how to vote or the equal absurdity of telling Socialists who know it already, that Socialist votes should go only in support of Socialism and that it is useless to vote for Capitalism. What our Manifesto did—a very different thing from Aldred’s misrepresentation—was to point out to Socialists and to nobody else that in the absence of S.P.G.B. candidates “you will be able to register your vote for Socialism by writing ‘Socialism’ across the ballot paper. This will serve to advertise the number of those who have realised that the use of the vote to support any other candidate no matter how he describes himself, is a vote for capitalism.”

Then Mr. Aldred tells his readers that this “curious” S.P.G.B. attitude “was the result of its 1950 experience at the ballot-box.”

The S.P.G.B. was doing this right from its formation in 1904, which means that it was doing it at the time when Mr. Aldred applied for membership of the S.P.G.B., and in 1928 when he offered to give his support to S.P.G.B. candidates on certain conditions. And although he calls it “curious” he has himself in the past committed the decidedly curious action of standing as an “anti-Parliamentary” Parliamentary candidate, and in the article from which we quote he declares that abstaining from voting “is sound expression of both Socialist and Anarchist principles.” If it is sound Socialist principle to vote for Socialism or to abstain from voting (two views which Aldred professes to agree with) it is hard to see why the S.P.G.B. line should strike him as curious.

But then consistency was never Aldred’s strong point. In his article he calls the S.P.G.B. “stupid and stagnant” but declares that he wanted our “stupid and stagnant” support, and that if it had been given, “ a Peace vote . . . at Central Glasgow, would have been a tremendous event” It recalls his declaration in 1928 (“The Commune” July, 1928), when, after denouncing the S.P.G.B. (quite falsely) for advocating “the nationalisation of the l.L.P. under which the wage-labourer remains a wage-labourer,” be offered to support S.P.G.B. candidates at elections; but not on the condition that we abandoned our purely imaginary advocacy of nationalisation, but on the condition that we pledged ourselves to challenge the oath of allegiance!

Elsewhere in Aldred’s article in “The Word” he tries to explain his own policy and his attitude to the Labour Party, I.L.P., Communist Party and Anarchists, a group which for some curious reason he believes to represent “ the Socialist and working-class organisation of the country.”

His chief complaint is that they “substituted Toryism for Capitalism, as the enemy.” It seems to have surprised as well as angered him. But anyone who imagines that the above-named group ever stood for the abolition of capitalism and who can describe them as “Socialist” is capable of being surprised at any normal demonstration of their anti-working class activities.

He even falls for the nonsense of supposing that the Communist Party which runs capitalism in Russia is all right, and it is only their communist stooges in Britain who are no good. He writes: “Surely it is time that the Communists in the Soviet countries realised what a worthless, inept and inadequate bunch the Communist Party is in Britain.”

How the Russian Communist Party would laugh at such simplicity.

And while Aldred takes these other parties to task for lighting Toryism instead of lighting capitalism (as if they didn’t know that their chances of getting elected depended on doing just that!) he himself does the same by substituting “war and rearmament” as the enemy, instead of capitalism. He writes:—“I stood for the recognition of Communist China and the Five Power Peace Pact.” He wanted “Unity on the part of the Pacifist and Socialist thinking groups,” and “a Peace vote, a definite anti-war vote.”

Since he attaches so much importance to the recognition of Capitalist China why didn’t he support the Labour Party which gave that recognition over a year ago, or even the Tory Party which made no statement about rescinding it? If he waits long enough he will probably find Tories and Labourites uniting to support more Five Power Peace Pacts (or 25 Power Peace Pacts), and all the Capitalist Powers including Russia and China getting together to cut the cost of armaments—and of course capitalism all over the world will be as strong as ever, and just a little more firmly established through the confusion spread by people like Mr. Aldred.
Editorial Committee

Joined: 20-04-08
Nov 17 2017 09:32

Mr. Guy Aldred and the S.P.G.B. (1928)

From the August 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the July issue of the “Commune,” the editor, Mr. Guy Aldred, writes on the subject of his opposition to the S.P.G.B. In doing so, he makes the statement that the S.P.G.B. refuses to debate with him. This is false, and Mr. Aldred knows it to be so.

He knows quite well that our platform at all our ordinary propaganda meetings is open to him, as to any other opponent of Socialism, to state his case and oppose ours. We cannot admit Mr. Aldred’s claim to greater consideration than this. We cannot, for instance, allow him or any other opponent to dictate to us that we shall go to the expense of engaging a hall expressly to provide publicity for him. If we considered Mr. Guy Aldred’s activities of sufficient importance to warrant this we should do it. We are always willing to debate with our opponents, but we, not they, will decide whether any particular opponent is of sufficient importance to justify special attention of the kind Mr. Aldred demands.

In the sam, issue Mr. Aldred denounces the holding of set debates such as the recent debate with Mr. Maxton, on the ground that the audience are debarred from participating. This is true, but the reason is obvious. If two opposing political parties are going to cover fully the differences between them, time does not permit of a full debate, and in addition questions and discussion from an audience of several thousand people. At our ordinary propaganda meetings this difficulty does not exist and questions and discussion and opposition are unrestricted. And as Mr. Aldred abhors set debates of this kind, why does he complain because of our refusal to arrange such a set debate with him? Mr. Aldred has also discovered an acid test by which to prove that our principles are unsound. He finds that we referred to Mr. Maxton as “Mr.," instead of calling him “Comrade” or “Maxton” or “Jimmy" or just plain James. This he says is “obsequious.” We do not know whether Mr. Aldred will be indignant or flattered that we are equally “obsequious" to him. It is, moreover, distressing to see that Mr. Aldred is equally “obsequious.” The same issue of the “Commune” contains a reference to "The Earl of Birkenhead.” Why not plain "Birkenhead” or F. E. Smith?

Do you not think, Mr. Aldred, that it is really rather childish to attack the principles of a Party on such trivialities, as these?

In 1906 Mr. Aldred (although we used that fatal "Mr.” even then) wrote telling us that he accepted "the revolutionary principles ” of the S.P.G.B. and was leaving the S.D.F. and proposed to join us if we would accept him. A few days later he changed his mind and decided to remain in the S.D.F. in order to “use the S.D.F. platform for placing before members” his “revolutionary ideas.” The letters were published in full in the ”Socialist Standard” for November, 1906.

We only mention this because, after a lapse of 22 years, one of Mr. Aldred’s supporters, claiming to speak on his behalf, now denies the authenticity of the letters. As Mr. Aldred has never informed us that he questions their authenticity, this supporter of his is obviously lying when he claims Aldred’s endorsement of his action.

Various other criticisms of the S.P.G.B. by Mr. Aldred will be dealt with in a subsequent issue.
Editorial Committee

A report of the SPGB's debate with James Maxton can be read at the following link.