About the text:
From: V.I. Lenin: On Imperialism and Opportunism, Futura 1974, 103 p., pp. 22-23.
Published in ‘Pravda”,
No. 85, April 12, 1913.
The British Labour Party, which must be distinguished from the two socialist parties in Britain, the British Socialist Party and the Independent Labour Party, is the workers’ organisation that is most opportunist and soaked in the spirit of liberal-labour policy.
In Britain there is full political liberty and the socialist parties exist quite openly. But the Labour Party is the parliamentary representative of workers’ organisations, of which some are non-political, and others liberal, a regular mixture of the kind our liquidators want, those who hurl so much abuse at the “underground”.
The opportunism of the British Labour Party is to be explained by the specific historical conditions of the latter half of the nineteenth century in Britain, when the “aristocracy of labour” shared to some extent in the particularly high profits of British capital. Now these conditions are becoming a thing of the past. Even the Independent Labour Party, i.e., the socialist opportunists in Britain, realises that the Labour Party has landed in a morass.
In the last issue of The Labour Leader, the organ of the Independent Labour Party, we find the following edifying communication. Naval estimates are being discussed in the British Parliament. The socialists introduce a motion to reduce them. The bourgeoisie, of course, quash it by voting for the government.
And the Labour M.P.s?
Fifteen vote for the reduction, i.e., against the government; 21 are absent; 4 vote for the government, i.e., against the reduction!
Two of the four try to justify their action on the grounds that the workers in their constituencies earn their living in the armament industries.
There you have a striking example of how opportunism leads to the betrayal of socialism, the betrayal of the workers’ cause. As we have already indicated, condemnation of this treachery is spreading ever wider among British socialists. From the example of other people’s mistakes, the Russian workers, too, should learn to understand how fatal are opportunism and liberal-labour policy.
LCW vol. 19, pp. 55-56.