John Maclean Internet Archive
Transcribed by the John Maclean Internet Archive

Labour’s Commissariat Department

by John Maclean

Source: The Call 30th October 1919, p. 1 (874 words)
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Copyleft: John Maclean Internet Archive ( 2007. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

The “London Letter” writer to “The Scotsman” last Saturday (October 18th) says: “It is doubtful whether the advanced wing of the Labour movement will be at all grateful to Mr. Fred Bromley for his disclosure that in future strikes affecting the community as a whole it is being arranged to introduce the machinery of the Co-operative Societies for the support of the striking Trade Unionists threatened with a shortage of supplies. The idea is to ensure the distribution of food supplies and payment of benefit by issuing through the various branches of the Co-operative movement food coupons or loans from the Co-operative Wholesale’s Bank on the security of Trade Union assets.”

Why the left wing should deprecate Bromley’s disclosure puzzles me. We of the B.S.P. are of the left wing, and we have insisted that such should be Labour’s policy. Our only regret is that the Cooperative organisations were not long ago made Labour’s Commissariat Department. We, therefore, cannot but be pleased at Bromley’s disclosure, because it will hearten us to push the scheme everywhere, especially after the scabbery of the Middle Class Union, which is mainly composed of the shopkeeping class or the high-paid flunkeys of the capitalist multiple distributive companies. The fight of the future centres round food and the armed forces. If by publicity we can win the armed forces and thus get access to the food, the Co-operative movement can help us to ensure that our class is regularly and properly fed during the crisis.

Labour in Scotland is not going to rely exclusively on the growing entente of the Trade Unions and the Co-operative agencies, for it is this Saturday (October 25th) a great conference is being held in the Good Templars’ Hall, Glasgow, “to discuss the construction of industrial and social committees in each area.” The summons to the conference declares that “Labour’s great fight with Capitalism is drawing near. There can only be one result: Labour must win! It is essential, therefore, that the workers must have the necessary knowledge and machinery to ‘carry on.’”

The Scottish Workers’ Committees, who are responsible for the conference, are determined to project plans fitted to enable food to circulate freely for the benefit of the workers (and the Social Committees will see that the food is rationally distributed when the crisis comes). It is to be trusted that the rank and file movement everywhere will follow suit—or go one better, if possible. That will stimulate the official movements in production and distribution, and will guarantee greater security when the enemy try on the game of the economic blockade of the working-class. I have no desire to stimulate opposition between the official and unofficial movements. I want to ensure success one way, or the other.

To revert to the official entente. “The Scotsman” truly asserts that in many areas the Co-operative movement is non-existent, or is so weak as to be useless in times of crisis; and that in these places Co-operation has an almost impossible, task to gain a footing owing to the spread of the multiple shop system.

Some years ago I pointed out the full significance of the multiple system and the trusts producing for the multiple companies. As a result of my suggestion, the Co-operative Union appointed a committee to investigate the trusts and their power to apply limits to the growth of Co-operation. That good work is still proceeding as I see that co-operators have been given the main power in the Committee on Trusts appointed by the Labour Research Department. Where some years ago Co-operation had to depend on dividend advantage in competition with multiple shop price-cutting in the frightful struggle of individual families to make ends meet with stationary wages against rising prices, and therefore had to discuss agencies likely to win in the fight, nowadays the problem is changing in view of the growing intensity and extent of the class struggle.

I am of opinion that in London and other areas where Co-operation is still weak the movement could be quickly rushed into a position of supremacy if organised Labour used its funds and its machinery to establish and strengthen the movement.

Let Bramley and others in responsible positions take up the matter at once. It ought to be quite easy to use the Miners and the Labour Party demonstrations to get Co-operative committees formed and to get new members for existing Co-operative societies.

Now then, London comrades, you set the pace. Permit me also to suggest that the three great. Labour organisations ought now to set out jointly to map Britain into areas, and send the best speakers everywhere to organise demonstrations and work-gate meetings to see that every worker is in a Union affiliated to the Labour Party and that every worker is also in the Co-operative movement.

Increase in numbers and knowledge is Labour’s best strategy. With solidarity, clarity of vision as to the goal, and determination, Lloyd George and his friends of robbery will go the way of all flesh.

Let Labour earnestly now spend its hundreds of thousands on a thunderous publicity campaign. Spread and knit up must be the policy, for now the day of victory is at hand.