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CWMTWRCH-CWMLL YNFELL

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ILABOUR IN CONFERENCE I

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ILABOUR IN CONFERENCE I 1 -10 Sweeping Defeat of I.L.P. Policy. I LABOUR PARTY ACTION ENDORSED. I I Mr. Ramsay Macdonald's Indecision. I I ———.——— [ (BY OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.) Many apprenhensions were enter- tained by those who hope that the differences of opinion on war policy will not disrupt the Labour movement, that the Labour party would not be able to survive the discussion of these differences at the party conference held in Bristol this week. Writing before the proceedings are actually concluded, it is impossible to say that this danger is over. There are critical questions lying ahead which may yet give rise to a serious explosion, and perhaps a. split vote, the consequences of which may be disastrous. But the conference gave evidence quite early in the pro- ceedings on Wednesday morning that wantonly disruptive speeches or in- tolerant attacks on either side were not to its taste. In its very early stages, in fact, a note of earnestness and good will was struck in the debate arising on the re- ferences to war policy embodied in the Executive's report, and in a resolution standing in the name of the National Union of Dock Labourers. The delegates, to the total of about 600, representing more than 2,200,000 workers, assembled at the Victoria Rooms, Clifton, Bristol, on Wednesday morning, and were confronted with an agenda formidable enough to keep them fully occupied for three days. Business this year went much more smoothly, in consequence of the new arrangements made whereby Standing Orders Committee met before the con- ference assembled and arranged the agenda in a form which prevented over- lapping and the dpulication of discus- sion on the same points. All the formal business that had to be done on Wednesday morning was. the induction of Mr W. C. Anderson in the chair. Tactless Action of IX.P. Speaker. Before Mr Anderson delivered his address, however, a welcome to Bristol was offered to the conference by Mr W. H. Ayles, on behalf of the Bristol L.R.C., and Mr J. Widdicombe, Bris- tol Trades. Mr Ayles did not speak without interruption, for he conceived it his dutv to define the attitude of the Bristol I.L.P. towards the war, to con- scription, and recruiting. His refer- enccs were harmless enough, but they brought up Mr John Hodge, M.P., with a protest against these things said in a speech of welcome. The breeze only ruffled the surface of the confer- ence, but it served to show the deep feeling below the surface. Mr W C. Anderson in his address from the chair made a strong appeal for tolerance. For years before the actual outbreak of war (he said) the nations maintained an uneasv. costly and precarious peace. In the different lands many acute minds foresaw clear- ly enough that unless fears could be removed and conflicting aims and am- bitions held in check or reconciled, the rulers of one country or another would in the end embroil the peoples in blood. Eighteen months' experience has taught us that war was never so mechanical, brutalised and unromantic war problems, present and future point- ing out that thousands of millions will as in our day. He went on to speak of have been added to the national debt, and the old paths to social reform will be closed for generations to come. The old question of where the money is to come from will have acquired a new meaning after the war. Labour's de- mands must therefore go forward on bigger and bolder lines. There is nothing for it but to re-organise the material resources of the nation and to move forward towards a genuine economic brotherhood. Our shipping should be organised into a national mercantile marine; the railways should not be allowed to lapse into private control. Under a joint system of land ownership and tenure, co-operative agruculture should be organised from the standpoint of wise production and distribution. Monopolies must be taken over and controlled. The alter- native to this, as Mr Anderson sees it, is chaos and confusion, deepened social poverty, a deepseated spreading dis- content merely disruptive of society,— without guidance or direction. "Let us not be afraid" concluded Mr Anderson, "to look and work even beyond the mists and passions of the hour. Let there be no hasty judgment, no appeal to angry prejudice. What we have done or tried to do, or failed to do, will be tested and judged by time. In the end we shall be praised or blamed—if praise or blame matters— as we have acted wisely or unwisely. At a.nyrate, let our thought and action be inspired by no motive except the ful- filment of those noble purposes that have guided the Labour movement, by fidelity to principles which are the spiritual breath of its nostrils, and without which it would die, and by what we conceive to be the righteous- ness that exalts nations and the grandeur1 and abiding- greatness of our country, to which, despite any and every difference of view, we owe a common loyalty and devotion. To Test the Conference, I Immediately upon the conclusion of Mr Anderson's speech, which was de- servedly cheered for its moderation and earnestness, the conference plunged in- to a long and serious debate on the war. The question was raised upon the first paragraph of the Executive's re- port, giving an impartial historical sketch of the outbreak of wax,and upon the resolution proposed by the National Union of Dock Labourers, j which, while expressing its opposition to all systems of permanent militarism I as a danger to progress, invited the conference to say that it considered the present action of Great Britain and its Government fully justified in the pre- sent war, expressed its horror of the atrocities committed by Germany and her allies, by the callous and brutal I murder of non-combatants, including wornenand children, and pledged the I confercnce to assist the Government 11 as far as possible in the successful prosecution of the war. Mr James Sexton moved the resolu- tion in a speech which was, while vigorous and uncompromising, not pro- vocative. But he and the seconder made it clear that the resolution was I intended to be a test of the attitude of the conference towards the war or against it. It was in fact said in plain I words by the seconder that it was in- tended to elicit whether the Labour party was for or against the war. Tragic Philosophising of Mr. Ramsay Macdonuld, It was in this sense that. Mr Ramsay Macdonald took the resolution, which he opposed in a speech which really opened the floodgates of feeling. Mr MacDonald spoke with remarkable passion and force in delivering a very clever and tactful speech—tactful, I mean, from the point of view of the end he wished the conference to keep in sight. He asked the delegates, men who have fought together in manv of the social and industrial battles of the past, and who had co-operated in the building up of the Labour move- ment to consider in a reasonable way where the party stood, and by the exercise of foresight to endeavour in every way possible to prevent the diffi- culties they were bound to face in a spirit that would prevent them from becoming reasons for permanent dis- pute. He spoke, at the request of his friends in the I.L.P., with very great reluctance. He declined to discuss the origins of the war. It is either too late, or too soon to discuss them: too late to discuss them with any hope of affecting the war itself; too soon to prounce a final judgment upon the whole issue. Whatever decision the conference regstered now would not matter in a few years' time, when they would took back upon it with clearer eyes, and minds more full of the facts upon which judgment must be based. But if the conference was not to be di- vided over the question of war origins, neither, Mr MacDonald pleaded, sheuld it be attempted to divide them into those who wanted their own country to win, and those who wanted Germany. He denied passionately that anyone in the conference wanted Germany to win. Is there any one present (hå asked) having the most extreme views, who would be so unutterably unfair as to say that he and his friends wanted the Germans to win P Are we (Mr Mac- Donald asked) really pro-German ? If We Have (ioT¡e Astray" From one point. of view we are bitterly anti-German. One of the reasons why we have taken up our attitude to the war is that we hate and detest from the bottom of our hearts every characteristic of that Prussianism which had been silently, secretly, eating into the lives of the German people, until it has poisoned their whole life; that, they wanted to stop the very beginnings of that pro- cess at home (cheers) We may be right or we may be wrong in the at- titude we have taken, Mr MacDonald went on. God alone knows. But if we have gone astray, it is not because we wanted the Germans to win. He and his friends stand still by the resolution passed by the Executive of the Labour party and the Parliamentary group at a joint meeting held on the outbreak of war. That was their position on August 5, 1914; it was theirs to-day. The differences between the two sec- tions, he proceeded, were really in- finit.esimal when they came to the realities and the facts. Those who pro- posed the resolution took too narrow a view of what steps tlio party could take to keep the country safe. The problem is not whether to keep the country safe. That is common ground between all the delegates. But on the question of how to preserve the coun- try there can be narrow and wide views. The resoluton, he hoped, would not be passed because it expressed a narrow view. I.L.P. Challenged. I Following Mr MacDonald, Gilmour (Scottish Miners). Wardle (Railway- men) Bellamy (Railwaymen); John Stokes (London Trades Council); R. C. Walihead (I.L.P.,) and G. H. Roberts, M.P., carried on the debate. The strongest anti-I.L.P. speech was that delivered by David Gilmour, who de- clared that he did not know where the I.L.P. stood, and thought the I.L.P. itself was not very clear about it; neither did he think the I.L.P. were lighting ctearly and straightforwardly. J. G. Wardle likewise spoke pretty plainly against the I.L.P. policy, in particular of the attacks made upon the Labour members who supported the war, in the pages of the "Labour Leader. He supported the resolu- tion on the ground that it gives a clear definite lead to the conference, and was in effect a vote of confidence in the Executive and the majority of the Par- liamentary party. Discussion was hampered a good deal by the five-minute limit imposed upon the speakers in the afternoon, but by the time the vote was taken both sides had about made their position clear. Votng was by card, and had to be taken twice owing to some confusion in the counting. The figures were For the resolution 1.502.000 Against 602,000 The practical effect of this voting is that the conference, by a heavy majority, endorses the action of the majority of the Labour members in giving their support to the war, and helping the Government in prosecuting it to a successful conclusion. The issue is not quite decided by this vote. The matter arising again, on a slightly different form in resolu- tions upon the coalition and the par- ticipation in joint recruiting campaign. A full review of the Labour situation as it has been affected by the confer- ence, cannot be written this week, since the debates are still proceeding and these notes must be posted in time for the press. Sweeping defeat of the I L.P, The debate on the action of the Executive and Labour members in supporting the recruiting campaign, was raised late in the afternoon of Wednesday, on a resolution moved bv Mr A G. Walkden (Railway Clerks). The resolution and Mr Walkden's speech expressed entire approval with the action, of the Labour members in jointly recruiting with the members of the other parties. A very powerful speech justifying the policy of the I.L.P. in this matter of recruiting was delivered by Mr Philip Snowden, who declared that the I.L.P. had nothing to apologise for in Refusing to go on the joint recruiting platform; its hands and conscience were clean, he said, and he believed that the joint campaign had helped to bring compulsory ser- vice. In reply to Mr Soowden, Mr J. R. Clvnes, M.P.. delivered an extraordin- arily powerful and convincing speech, adding to a reputation largely based upon his singular gifts for seating and defending a case. He exposed the in- consistences of the I.L.P. Let the I.L.P.. he cried, be on one side or an- other: either for us or against us. Let the I.L.P. state on what terms they would have supported the joint re- cruiting campaign. R. C. Wallhead, on the other hand, declared that the question of recruit- ing was not quite so simple as Mr Clvnes would have it. The I.L.P. were urged (he said) to take part in the campaign because it was the only way of saving the voluntary system. But it has not saved the voluntary system. Up to the present the Labour party has been unable to get an assurance from the State that the pensions and maintenance of soldiers and their de- fendants shall be adequat-e and borne bv the State. He also declared that there was an alternative to forced military service or the maintenance of the voluntary system—and that was -the conclusion of peace. He he been asked upon what terms the I.L.P. would declare peace. He answered— "None." The voting on this resolution of sup- port for the Labour recruiting earn- paign resulted thus:— For the resolution 1.847,000 1 Against 206,000 I Outstanding Incidents at the Conference. MR DAVID GILMOUR. I "We have in Scotland, saad Mr. Gu- mour, following MT. Macdonald, a dance perfomed with two crossed swords, which we call a sword-dance. Mr. Mac- donald has done that sword-dance this morning. He has danced all round the subject. He tells us he is against mili- tarism. I judge a man by his actions. We have heard Mr. Macdonald's speech, but where does he stand? Where docs the I.L.P. stand? I like straight fighting and I don't think the I.L.P. is fighting a clean fight. I judge a man by his ac- tions. Mr. Macdonald says he is not as- sisting Germany that may be, but is he —has he ever—lifted a little finger to help his own country ? If we had all done as Mr. Macdonald has done the Germans would have been on British territory at the present moment. The man who is not for us is against us, and I appeal to this conference to support the Government, and accept this resolution." MR. G. J. WARDLE, M.P. "It is all very well for Mr. Macdonald' to come here and make clever and con- ciliatory speeches, but where do his speeches lead us? What would have hap- pened to this country, to Belgium, and to France, to democracy, and liberty in general, if this great Labour movement of ours had taken the line indicated by the I.L.P?" MR. J. R. CLYNES. M.P. I Since when had the I.L.P. become the guardians of the constitution of the Labour Party? They objected to Labour members speaking with Liberals and Tories on this matter. but what a.bout the I.L.P. leaders who spoke with other politicians on the platforms of the Union of Democratic Control ? The campaign of the Labour M. P. 's was part of an effort which provided the only possible escape from Conscription. The implication of Mr Snowden's speerh was that the I.L.P. would themselves join in the recruiting campaign under certain conditions, and with certain assurances. Was that so ? Very well, what were the I.L.P. terms? —————

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