Monday, 1 April 2013

One Socialist Party

Socialist unity was an issue which deeply occupied Morris in the last years of his life. On 9 March 1892 he wrote to John Bruce Glasier, ‘I sometimes have a vision of a real Socialist Party at once united and free’. In early 1893 he tried to put that vision into practice, chairing a Joint Committee of Socialist Bodies (comprising Hammersmith Socialist Society, Fabian Society and Social Democratic Federation members); Morris, Hyndman and Shaw worked on the Committee’s behalf on a joint, but anodyne, Manifesto of English Socialists which was published on 1 May. Morris clearly realised how unsuccessful this particular venture had been, since he confessed in a letter to Emery Walker in October: ‘More and more at any rate I want to see a due Socialist party established’. On 25 October 1894 he wrote to Robert Blatchford’s newspaper The Clarion again urging ‘the necessity of the formation of a definite and united Socialist Party’; and his very last lecture in the Kelmscott Coach House, delivered on 5 January 1896, was entitled ‘One Socialist Party’.

So we in the UK should certainly welcome the ‘Left Unity’ initiative which has emerged in the wake of socialist film-maker Ken Loach’s appeal for a new political party to the left of Labour. Given the ferocity of the Cameron-Clegg Coalition’s attack on the welfare state, and the abject failure of the now neo-liberal Labour Party to offer any serious opposition to it, unity of Left forces in this country could hardly be more timely or necessary; and the current disarray in the Socialist Workers Party means that there may be possibilities of new thought and alignment on the Leninist left too. Left Unity groups are springing into being up and down the country (see their website for details of activity in your own area), and while the difficulties here should certainly not be underestimated, as Morris himself painfully discovered in early 1893, the prospect of a serious new national working-class party is a glittering prize indeed. If I could but see a day of it!


Kotick said...

Admirable political sentiments, both from the 1890s and the present, but there is an irony here too. After all, Morris himself had been a great splitter of the socialist movement when he broke from the SDF to form the Socialist League at the end of 1884! So when he spoke eloquently for unity in later years this is a case of the poacher turned game-keeper ...

M. Frelock said...

Excellent piece in 'The Guardian' newspaper on the Left Unity project. See

Anonymous said...

Posted on April 1st -- a nice touch.

Makiko Minow-Pinkney said...

Hum, the cheap cynicism of that last comment could hardly be further removed from Morris's commitment to hope and engaged action!

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