Harold Walsby: Socialism, ‘Pure’ and Scientific

Here we continue reprinting Walsby’s contributions to the Socialist Leader in the 1950s, from copy supplied by Ellis Hillman. His piece in the issue of 8 December 1951 is not clear apart from the letter it refers to, so we print the relevant extracts from that first; it starts by referring to the article by Walsby, ‘“Purist” Socialists are Inverted Tories,’ reprinted in IC32. – GW

‘PURE’ SOCIALISM – Harold Shaw
When I read Mr. Walsby’s long jumble of words (10.11.51) I exclaimed, ‘When will people learn simple English?’ For the simple and true socialist case has in the past been admirably stated in your columns from time to time from S.P.G.B. correspondents… What is ‘pure’ Socialism, that is different from ordinary or scientific socialism which is the common ownership and democratic control of the means of living?

Any beginner knows the Labour Party and all the other non-socialist organisations do not stand for socialism. They stand for reforms of a varying degree. This has nothing to do with pure or impure anything. Socialism means the abolition of capitalism…

REPLY – Harold Walsby
Mr. Shaw asks ‘What is “pure” socialism that it is different’from ordinary or scientific socialism… ?’ He evidently thinks, like the rest of his ilk, that the distinction is ‘nonsense.’ Mr. Shaw is somewhat naive, even for an S.P.G.B.er. For he obviously asks his devastating question without realising that, in the previous paragraph, he had already made a similar distinction himself!

What, may we ask him, is ‘the simple and true socialist case’ that is different from the ordinary and scientific socialist case? Answer this, Mr. Shaw, and you’ve answered both questions. Marx himself ridiculed the self-styled ‘true socialists’ in The German Ideology.

But if Mr. Shaw reads my letter, he will discover that I didn’t mention ‘pure socialism’ but only ‘purist socialists.’ And if he then wants to know what purist socialists are, as distinct from ordinary or scientific socialists, I will tell him. A purist socialist is, to use Mr. Shaw’s own words: ‘Any beginner’ who ‘knows the… non-socialist organisations do not stand for socialism’ (a good one that!) who knows ‘they stand for reforms of a varying degree’ and who thinks ‘this has nothing to do with pure or impure anything’, including socialism.

More briefly, he is one who thinks reforms ‘have nothing to do with’ socialism. A scientific socialist, on the other hand, knows they have something to do with socialism, and moreover, knows how and in what way.

from Ideological Commentary 33, May 1988.