Workers’ Socialist Federation statement on 1918 General Election

The WSF was the organisation led by Sylvia Pankhurst, which had previously been the Workers’ Suffrage Federation, and before that, the East London Federation of the Suffragettes. It had previously fought militantly, first for votes for women, and then more explicitly for votes for all, and in 1917 was advocating supporting international socialists in parliamentary elections. But in 1918, three days before the general election, it issued this statement, announcing that it now opposed participating in parliamentary elections. Some of its members, including Minnie Lansbury, left the WSF in the wake of this.

Workers’ Socialist Federation, 400, Old Ford road, Bow, E3. 11 December 1918.

The Committee of the Workers’ Socialist Federation places on record its belief that Parliament is an out-of-date re-actionary body, which should be abolished as speedily as possible. The Federation is working to establish a Socialist management of this country on the lines of the Russian Soviets. Its part in the present Parliamentary election is merely to make propaganda for hte overthrow of Parliament. Members of Parliament do not represent the people; each one represents the caucus of his Party and obeys its Whips. Under the Soviet system those who make the laws are delegates chosen from amongst the workers themselves. The workers instruct their delegates at any time. In Russia the land and the industries, housing, banks, hospitals etc, have become the property of the people. There is a standard wage for all. Both riches and poverty are abolished. There are no more private employers. All men and women work together on equal terms, and the managers and foremen are elected by the workers. Education is free right up to the University and numbers of new schools and universities have been established. After 1920 no-one under twenty years of age will do paid work. All children of all men and women will now receive the extended education which used to be reserved for the children of the rich. The parents will no longer grudge a complete education to their children, for they will no longer be ground down under the iron heel of poverty. The Socialist Revolution has spread from Russia to Germany, Austria and Bulgaria. The Workers’ Socialist Federation wants that Revolution here; therefore, it is promoting no Parliamentary candidatures.

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