John Maclean Internet Archive
Transcribed by the John Maclean Internet Archive

The Foundation of the British Socialist Party

by John Maclean

First published: Justice, 9 December 1911
Transcription\HTML Markup: Scottish Republican Socialist Movement Archive in 2002 and David Walters in 2003
Copyleft: John Maclean Internet Archive (, 2003. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

I believe I express the sentiments (admitting that we canny “NB-ers” have sentiments) of all north of Berwick and many of our dominant race south thereof when I say that we are proud of the latest “combine”, the combine of socialist forces. This amalgamation is not perfect yet—in fact, cannot be so long as avowed socialists remain apart from the British Socialist Party. The men of the ILP still hold that union with non-socialists is more advantageous to the cause of socialism than union with fellow socialists. That I cannot see.

A composite body can never attain socialism; that alone can be accomplished by determined and openly avowed socialists. Neither is socialist opinion more rapidly advanced by such an alliance if socialists are themselves apart from one another. Socialists who are more anxious to join with non-socialists and sometimes anti-socialists than with fellows of kindred opinions have a strangely distorted point of view. I should imagine that a completely united body of socialists would be better able to carry the working class with it than a disrupted one. The socialist movement, composed as it is largely of trade unionists, can just as effectively convert the membership of the unions whilst retaining its separate identity as when definitely allied. There is nothing that the ILP can do today inside the unions that the BSP cannot achieve.

Where socialists maintain separate organisations they naturally clash with one another, and frequently attempt to undermine one another. For example, at the beginning of this summer an organiser of the ILP in Scotland declared his intention of starting branches in every town where the SDP ruled supreme. Had the ILP had domination over all other parts of the country I could have understood this move. But we know that the ILP was languishing for lack of speakers in very many parts. Hence we were forced to the conclusion that sinister motives actuated that organiser, and that his specific object was more to weaken the SDP than to advance socialist principles. Unable to accomplish his ends openly and directly, this individual has for months been trying to do so through the old trade unions, through new ones, or through new branches of old ones.

What does all this prove? Surely that the policy of separateness leads to antagonism and active opposition and that means a brutal waste of socialist energy. This difficulty must be got over in Scotland once the British Socialist Party gets on to its feet. At least an effort must be made to get ILP branches to fall in line with us.

Whilst still having the larger outlook constantly in view, we must meantime set our house in order. Linking up all the new forces will present a few difficulties, but the sooner we commence business the better.

Scotland will need a national council. The basis of such already exists in the Scottish District Council. This body could easily be adapted to fulfil all the functions required of a national council. I think it would be wise, then, for the secretary of the SDC to get into touch with all new branches of the British Socialist Party, and arrange for an informal conference during the New Year at Glasgow. At this gathering preparations could be made for something more definite in the spring. Officials and a committee could be appointed to prepare a policy for Scotland and make arrangements for summer propaganda over the country. For this work three or four organisers will certainly be needed. The sooner we work out the matter the better.

District organisations will also have to be set up for local work. Areas might easily be mapped out at this conference, and so save friction and overlapping of work. The principal area will be Glasgow and district. This might at first include the whole West of Scotland from Dumfries right up with an inner committee for Glasgow proper. So far as this city is concerned it might be advisable to have a gathering of all members during the New Year week also—before or after the larger one, as thought fit.

All will admit that the New Year season is the one best fitted for new resolves and new impulses: it is a season when all factory workers are idle, and therefore able to foregather; it is far enough off to enable preparations to be made: and it will give the SDP branches a chance to wipe out all debts so as to be ready for a new start.

Meantime, I appeal to all old comrades to be up and doing. Those of you who have lapsed, return; those who have lost heart, cheer up; those who have heart, pull in the indifferent and stimulate dormant or defunct branches. Let us “ring in the new” with rejuvenated animation.