John Maclean Forward April 1915

Hyndman’s Infamous Letter

Source: Forward, 8 April 1915, p.2. This article appears in a much shortened form In The Rapids of Revolution, pp. 81, 83. (1978) Allison and Busby or John Maclean, pp.87-8. (1973) Pluto Press, edited by Nan Milton (Maclean’s daughter);
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

In connection with Hyndman’s infamous letter to L'Homme Enchainé, in which he obviously suggests that German money is behind the issue of the I.L.P. pamphlets and that these pamphlets are issued to foster the cause of Germany against the Allies inside our lords’ and masters’ isles, you directly ask us of the rank and file of the I.L.P., what we have to say about it. That is my excuse for writing,

As it happened, I met a few old comrades at the demonstration last Saturday, and others on Sunday, and one and all favoured a note to your columns in protest against Hyndman’s letter.

To set off with, I must confess that I have not read the ILP pamphlets on the war which gave Hyndman the excuse to write to L'Homme Enchainé, although I have read extracts from the criticisms of them appearing in socialist and capitalist papers. Nor do I know exactly the position of Ramsay MacDonald and Keir Hardie; for whilst on occasions these worthy gentlemen have criticized the usual excuses for Britain’s entry into the war, and have on others explained the bloodshed as a sacrifice on the altar of capitalism, yet they are credited with the position that we must now see the war through. That position to many of us inside and outside the ILP is not quite satisfactory, although somewhat excusable in view of the jingo-mad attitude of Hyndman, Blatchford and others, yet the last man who should dwell on it seems to me to be the veteran H.M. Hyndman who has more than once in Justice referred to MacDonald’s and Hardie’s “agility.”

It is just a stretch or two beyond the limit for our ‘cultured’ comrade to go to France, aye, and to the rag of Clemenceau – the detestable crusher and murderer of French wage-slaves – and there to suggest with the subtlety of the serpent that MacDonald, Hardie & Company have stooped to the basest treachery any socialist could be guilty of – acting as paid agents in the interests of German Imperialistic Capitalism.

I have never admired MacDonald’ or Hardie’s tactics, nor do I suppose I ever shall admire their outlook or method; I look forward yet “with pleasure” to criticising both but I would rather cut out my tongue than suggest the utterly base thought, attributed to Hyndman, at such a juncture as this, when British Capitalism is ready to use Vorwärts and Karl Liebknecht against German Capitalism, and Hyndman’s and Hyndman’s suggestions against British Socialism. The Glasgow Evening Times has already published a leading article, making use of Hyndman’s letter – the same Evening Times that refused to publish a letter explaining, the cause of my own little bit of rough-and-tumble with that secret society, the Govan Parish School Board!

Hyndman has delighted in denouncing John Burns for betraying his class. It appears to me that John has somewhat retrieved his character by sacrificing his £4,000 a year, rather than be a party to Asquith and Grey’s game of rushing the workers of this country up against those of Germany, in the interests of a cosmopolitan gang of financial sharks who carry on “business as usual” in and around Lombard Street.

Yet what does friend Hyndman do? Like a new-born innocent he swallows the protect Belgium excuse urged by Grey when he suddenly involves this country in the butchery business. Justice does a Socialist somersault and tries to argue that this, the greatest conflict in the world’s history, is not a Capitalist war. Everyone holds Hyndman responsible for that. Then tomes the “black” B.S,P, manifesto – concocted no one knows exactly how – carefully issued to the Capitalist press agencies although not sent in large quantities to the Branches. This “manifesto,” in language manifestly ambiguous to allow a wriggle out when Party criticism would begin, although clear enough to satisfy the Capitalist press, urged us, who are speakers, to go, upon “non-party” platforms and induce young men to become recruits. At the time, I held Hyndman responsible, and up to this moment have no reason to shift the responsibility. His latest article in The Illustrated Sunday Herald, is proof of it, and indicates as well the desperation he has been driven to by the strong attitude assumed by the B.S.P. against the “recruiting black manifesto.”

Hyndman was defeated on the ‘big navy’ question, after the Coventry Conference in 1911; the BSP since its conception has stood against jingoism and militarism in all their manifestations; in fact, it has gone against even the citizen army. It was therefore a shameful attempt at betrayal to slip into the capitalist press a manifesto absolutely repugnant to the old SDF and the new BSP position without the consent of the Party as a whole.

Hyndman may be anxious to free Europe from the ‘tyranny of the last military caste left on the planet’, but he appears to me to be anxious to put in its place a ‘British Socialist Autocracy’ with himself as the lead, autocrat-in-chief, and Justice at his right hand as his public organ.

All Socialists are anxious to see German and British militarism and capitalism laid low; but is Hyndman taking the wisest course to accomplish his ends? Hyndman, with his fight to a finish, helps to prevent revolt in Germany, the only sure and permanent way to dispose of militarism there, and helps to stifle revolt here when genuine concessions might be obtained from our unscrupulous capitalist Liberal Government.

Meantime as a member of the BSP I consider it Hyndman’s duty to withdraw his ‘infamous letter’.