Labour Anti-Bolshevism in 1919

Posted in Janine's blog on Tue, 19/12/2006 - 21:37,

Reading through some old issues of the East End News and Chronicle (I think I might have mentioned by local labour history nerd-ism before), I stumbled across this short article. Although much as changed since the days when Socialist was spelt with a capital 'S' and paragraphs went on forever, some things haven't - notably, it seems to me, hostility from union bureaucrats to rank-and-file initiative and, linked to that, terror on the part of Labour right-wingers about the prospects of actually changing the world.


Mr H. W. Lee, the editor of 'Justice' and a well-known Socialist, has issued a pamphlet entitled "Bolshevism: A Curse and Danger to the Workers", in which he warns British working men against the dangerous teachings of the Bolsheviks. Mr Lee points to the present unauthorised strike ebullitions in this country, "in which (he says) the presence of Russian Bolsheviks is to be noted ... This is all in accordance with the Bolshevist plan of world revolution for which roubles are being plentifully furnished, mainly through agents in Sweden. The prevailing idea is to pull down bourgeois society, no matter what the consequences ... But with the destruction of the State in these islands would go the trade unions built up by years of solid labour and sacrifice, the co-operative societies, just now beginning to take a wider outlook on things than mere 'divi' hunting, and the democratic political institutions of which the people can make far more use than they do when they choose to exercise their intelligence and bestir their energies ... The controle of a few engineering workshops by shop stewards, puffed out with vanity and a 'little brief authority', will not provide the food necessary to feed the people of these islands. We have, too, an indication of the spirit of liberty with which they are animated in the massed picketing at Glasgow, not against blacklegs and non-unionists, but against fellow trade unionists who refused to aid unauthorised strikes. I have said that these 'down tools' outbursts are anti-Socialist. They are anti-Socialist because they are anarchical. They may pull down, but they cannot build up. We do not want further prejudice raise by hooliganism and looting. Nothing for the benefit of the people can possibly come out of what is now going on. All it will do will be to create prejudice against us by attempts to connect us with anarchical violence, to help reaction, and make even the majority of the working class ready to acquiesce in a mild military dictatorship as a lesser evil than Bolshevist tyranny and violence. And there are some British Generals who are popular, and who are not mere militarists!"

Mr Will Thorne, MP, in a foreword to the pamphlet, says: "The leading men of the Bolshevist movement in this country are out for the overthrow of things as they are by physcial force as soon as they feel confident that they have a good number of the rank and file of the wage-earners behind them. I want to warn the wage-earners - men and women of my own class - against being associated with such people, because I know that their tactics cannot remedy the economic and industrial injustices under which the industrial workers are suffering."

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.