T. A. Jackson

Taking Things Seriously

Source: The Communist, May 20, 1922.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

LET me say at once with all necessary emphasis that I am loyal—in fact devoted—to the concept and policy of the United Working Class Front. I believe in it as a principle, as a policy and as a tactic. I will preach it and as far as is humanly possible will practice it. But—!

Which I mean to say as to how it’s like this here—when a silly ass is a silly ass and talks like a silly ass, and knows he’s talking like a silly ass, and at the same time is silly ass enough to think I’m silly ass enough to be taken in by his silly ass assininities: am I to refrain from calling him a silly ass just because he’s a member of the I.L.P. and determined to be “united” with me?

All of which means that I have suffered under an oration by a member of the I.L.P. who was spreading himself on the subject of Communist policy and this particular Tappertit turned Chadband has managed to turn my milk of human kindness sour—not to say clotted it.

The Mistakes of Moses—and Lenin

Moses made many mistakes. He turned all the water of Egypt into blood and thus gave rise to a bad habit of speech, since the result could only be described as a “bloody” mess. All the more so when the Egyptian magicians showed a united front by turning all the water in blood over again. (Bad habits are catching). He made water to gush forth from the rock, a thing of which nobody but Bob Stewart can approve.

Lenin has a way of admitting the mistakes of the Russian Communist Party. When the Russian Revolution passed into its Proletarian stage these Russian Communists felt forced by pressure of blockade and civil war to institute a rough and ready military communism—particularly in food stuffs. All of the Russian Communists knew, being the trained-Marxists they were, that before a completely Communist society was possible, the technical process of wealth production then practised in Russia (particularly in agriculture) would need developing enormously and that this required time for its accomplishment. How much time depended upon the course of events in the remainder of the world. If the proletariat had been victorious in the States in which capitalism has reached its highest technical development the relative economic backwardness of Russia would have been of slight, of negligible importance. Many of the Russian Communists were certain that this victory would be achieved and hence were confident that they could pass from a rough and ready “military” communism to a developed industrial and social communism in a comparatively short time and with no sharp reversal of policy.

Things did not work out this way. The proletariat of Western Europe failed to achieve a revolutionary conquest of political power. Capitalism remained the dominant world system, leaving Russia a proletarian island in a fretted sea of Bourgeois Imperialism.

The Communist rulers of Russia, frankly, admitting that their calculations had been falsified by the events, set about accommodating their economic policy to the technical possibilities actually existent in Russia. With a fine scorn for humbug and pretence they set about what they themselves called “an economic retreat.” With the calm courage of men who were too big to feel the coward’s fear of being afraid, they spoke as though they had been defeated—as in a purely ideal sense they had—and got on with the work. Their success in the conduct of this evolution marks them out even more emphatically as great men than did their military and political victories.


The mean-souled pigeon-livered, bat brained, spidery spirited gnomes who creep in and out among the legs of better men, with Fabian leers on their offensive fronts and their protuberant posteriors positively clamouring for pedal percussion—have the brass-cornered, copper-rivetted impudence to stand where the babbling bone heads bray and invite applause to the proposition that ”Lenin has made mistakes,” and “Russia has come round to State Socialism!”

Let us be plain—but firm.

The mistake “Lenin” made was in supposing that we at this end of the earth men enough, with the necessary hold upon ourselves and the working class Britain to make it possible for us to put British Bourgeois Imperialism down and out and so come to the aid of the heroic Russian pioneers.

Who dares to doubt now that if the Leaders of British Labour— Trade Union leaders, M.P.’s., I.L.P. propagandists and Marxian stalwarts—had been united, bold, and courageous, a proletarian revolution could have been accomplished in Britain immediately after (if not before) the Armistice? Who dares to doubt that a victory for the British Proletariat would have ensured a victory for Karl Liebknecht and the German Proletariat—which would have ensured a proletarian triumph in the whole of Europe?

Nobody dares deny this—and yet the very men who actively or passively ensured that no such thing should be now turn round and tell us that because it didn’t happen it was impossible: that because it did not happen it never will and never can. The infernal flap-doodlers!

Because society rests at present upon the basis of private ownership, of the common means of living society is divided by interest, association, education, outlook, and psychology into at least two classes—the owners and non-owners of the means of producing the essentials of life.

Because the owners possess the essentials of existence they are able to dictate terms to the non-owning mass.

Because the owners are few and the non-owners are many they can only conserve their monopoly by manipulating the minds of the mass as well as the machinery of political administration.

Because this mental manipulation process is of old establishment and long continuance, any struggle to end the exploitation involved in this system must begin as a struggle to undo in the mind of the working mass the bonds woven by the boss and his agents with intent to keep the slave satisfied with his slavery or at any rate fearful of attempting an escape.

Therefore all emancipation struggles must begin with a mental operation which, as it involves learning new things and the release of thoughts and emotions, may be and is rightly called “education.”

Involved in every revolutionary struggle is “education,” but what then?

Ha! Ha! says my peaceful, platitudinous, not to say putty-brained parliamentary pal—there you are then . . . . !

“The I.L.P. believes in educating the people in the principles of Socialism. The Communists don’t believe in educating them. You don’t trust the people. You are a set of nasty dictators. All you want is to get into power and then you will deprive everybody of Liberty and Freedom and establish Tyranny. This is contrary to the civilised instincts of modern democracy.”

Education and Sophistication

Let as reason together, brethren.

You believe in educating The People—do you mean the best people or just the common workers?

Do you mean giving sentimental exhortations on the “Christ that is to be” to congregations of comfortable Aunt Tabithas?—or not too learned lectures on the poetry of Browning and the virtues of a fruitarian diet to a band of solemn eunuchs in a summer school?—or expositions of the success of the municipal ownership of tramways to university gentlemen on the hunt for political ideas?

Or do you mean teaching the workers the need for unity, solidarity, and revolutionary audacity in the conduct of their inevitable class struggle against the bosses, their State, and their system?

You speak, oh! most meticulous mockery of Macdonald of “educating The People in the principles of Socialism.”

Excellent idea! Might a mere vulgar Communist suggest that education, like charity, should begin at home?—that before you can “teach the people” you had better learn that which you profess to teach?

If “Socialism” means anything but the will of the workers imposed as a system controlling all economic life in the interest of the workers—and to the destruction of every other class-interest—it is no use to the working class.

The Socialism you profess to preach—to fat Mayors and Aldermen in Council Chambers, to maiden aunts in P.S.A.’s—and superannuated scoundrels in the House of Commons—it is there where you would do your preaching!—this “Socialism” consists of equal parts of pretence, piety and platitude. It consists of turning one’s back upon the grim realities of strike, lock-out, wage-cuts, unemployment, boycott, revolt, and revolution to contemplate with cultured admiration Ramsay Macdonald unveiling a portrait of John Ruskin, Sidney Webb enthroned upon a mountain of white papers, and Herbert Morrison white-washing the municipal abattoir. You conceive the United Front as a concerted adoration of the Parish Pump.

You “teach” Socialism! Strewth! Once impudent little boys were bidden teach their grandmothers to suck eggs—now Ernest Hunter and Emanuel Shinwell volunteer to teach Socialism to Lenin and Trotsky.

Let me not be mistaken.

There are many rank and file members of the I.L.P. known to me whose tone, spirit and understanding is such that there is little difference between their “Socialism” and my “Communism.” Wherever the workers are at grips with their exploiters there will they be found manfully taking a lion ’s share of whatever work and hard knocks are going. And whatever be the intensity of the crisis and whatever be the form of action forced by circumstances upon the struggling proletarian masses, right up to the pitch and height of revolution, these proletarian fighters can be relied upon to fight gloriously in the vanguard. It is because of these that the United Front is worth while. But these are not—very much not —“the I.L.P.” [Would God that they were!]

Vomiting as a Fine Art

There has come to be established in the high places and tabernacles of that mis-named body a tradition and an etiquette to which we of the lower orders are expected to bow; which convention wraps its strangling tentacles around the brain of every sturdy fighter that comes within its range, so that they become in time as peevishly pedantic in their affectation of political rectitude and as lustful for the esteem of Bourgeois “public opinion” as a non-conformist parson receiving a call from the Lord to accept a rise of three-pound-ten a week.

I did not love them, ever; but I love them least when they roll upon me an eye like a decomposing cod and tell me that I am a conspiracy to take away their liberty by force and arms.

When the Bourgeois were (way back history) fighting their way out from the restraints of the feudal aristo-clerical dictatorship they fought for spiritual, political, and personal freedom. They fought, that is to say, for the right to choose their own interpretation of religious creeds and dogmas—or rather for the right and power to resist the authority of the church; for the right to trade without exaction from the lords or the restraint of popular customs; for the right to coerce the State into their own image and liking and the right to impose restraints upon everybody and everything which interfered with their “freedom” to make money and amass wealth.

In their days of struggle nobody was more romantic in its love of Liberty (in the abstract) than Messrs. Moneybags, Millowner, and Small Trader. In their day of triumph when the exploited working mass used their own battle cries as slogans against the system they had builded—nobody was more jealous of conceding “Freedom” (in the concrete) than this same bourgeois brood.

That class has now grown old and cynical—too played out to pretend any longer. Now we hear not of the radiant maiden Liberty but of the fanged and taloned hag DORA. And now that the Bourgeoisie has vomited up the “rich wine of freedom” upon which it spent its youth and enthusiasm, along comes a spawn of forked radishes (bred in back parlours decorated with life-size portraits of Mr. Gladstone and Queen Victoria) who rush to the vomit with all the joy of great discoverers.

And they talk to me of “Freedom”—Gawdelpem.

Freedom—for the boss to rob.

Liberty—for the boss to lie, and lie, and then some!

Freedom—for the boss to set moving all the machinery of State which he has designed to that end in order to crush me and mine into powder.

Liberty for the boss to set on a special constable to split my skull (provided always that the baton has been manufactured by trade union labour and the “special” wears an armlet which remains the property of the municipality). All the Liberty the boss wants and the sort of liberty he wants—but if I talk of converting measures of self-defence then, bless yer heart, I’m a 𔄚seditious advocate of violence” and must be restrained in the interest of the community.”

* * *

In short, if the I.L.P. means business it will have to chain up these sanctimonious swabs who can’t tell the difference between solemn stupidity and sober earnestness and come out whole-hog for the workers’ side of the class struggle.