The following article, signed by a certain James Keir Hardie, was found in a cloth cap left at the Caird Hall in Dundee, on Sunday. If anyone knows how the author can be contacted, please inform the editor, who has the cap in safe-keeping

‘I WAS honoured this past weekend to find myself once again –after a very long absence – in the fair city of Dundee. On this occasion, thanks to some strange rift in the time continuum, I was able to observe the descendant of the political organisation I helped create, and once led: the Scottish Labour Party. It was warming to hear I am still remembered by 21st-century Labour, even if my name was misspelled on the platform.

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Some of my earlier memories of Dundee are very warm, such as attending the Trades Union Congress in my capacity as a delegate of the Ayrshire Miners’ Union, in which organisation I began my political career. Other memories are darker, such as the time in 1899 when I addressed a Stop-the-War meeting which was attacked by furious jingoists.

At the time, I was opposing the Boer War, which I called an imperialist adventure. I do hope that one result of creating a Labour Party, and putting independent Labour representatives in power at Westminster, has been to put an end to such imperialist adventures once and for all. They always end in disaster.

Unfortunately, very little was said about foreign matters at the Scottish Labour conference. One exception was about something called Brexit. I was very intrigued to hear Mr Jeremy Corbyn tell the conference he was now in favour of retaining tariff-free access to European markets. As an old 19th-century radical, I was always in favour of free trade, and opposed Tory plans to impose a tariff.

I can’t see what the issue is: protectionism or breaking up existing free trade arrangements is bound to harm the working class because it raises prices. Has the left learned nothing in the last century?

My greatest worry about Mr Corbyn’s speech was that he seemed to believe that low wages were caused by an influx of immigrant workers. Of course, I am in favour of the strongest legislation to protect workers. I fought for the eight-hour day, in my time. However, we should never blame foreign workers who have been forced to flee their native lands out of poverty and repression for the slave wages paid by rapacious capitalists.

The correct solution to this problem is the one I fought for all my life – co-ordinated international action by workers in all countries, especially in Europe, to maintain common wage rates and employment standards.

To this end I attended the founding conference of the (Second) Socialist International in Paris in 1889 – and subsequent gatherings in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Basel, Brussels and elsewhere. I advocated creating an international union of trades unions, to stop capitalists turning worker against worker and using wage competition to cut living standards. Has anyone come up with a better idea since?

I listened intently to the speech by Mr Richard Leonard, the new leader of the Scottish branch of the Labour Party. I was impressed by his re-statement of socialism. He pointed out that, in today’s Scotland, the richest one per cent own more personal wealth than the whole of the poorest 50 per cent put together.

He went on to say that “the rich are only so rich because the poor are so poor” and promised that: “Our party’s mission under my leadership is not simply to secure a fairer distribution of wealth from the existing economic system, it is to fundamentally change the existing economic system”.

Stirring words that many Scots can sympathise with – including members of the SNP.

This is a new party since my day, but I understand that its inaugural president was my old comrade Bob Cunninghame Graham, the first socialist elected to Westminster. Bob and I founded the original Scottish Labour Party back in 1888, before there was any sort of British Labour. He then joined me when we created the pan-UK Independent Labour Party (ILP) in 1893 – not to be confused with the subsequent UK Labour Party, which only emerged in 1906.

Bob became disillusioned with that Labour Party and what he called “piss-pot socialists”. So did the ILP, by the way, which split from British Labour in 1932, after Ramsay MacDonald formed a coalition government with the Tories. I understand that many ILP-ers rallied to the SNP, including Donald Stewart, later the party’s parliamentary leader.

Which brings me back to Mr Leonard. I’ve never fancied myself as an orator. I think Richard Leonard is a bit like myself: he is a plain speaker rather than a fiery orator – though there’s nothing wrong with that.

However, it seems to me (after being away from Scottish politics for 103 years) that Mr Leonard left a lot of things out of his speech. In particular, something close to my heart: Scottish home rule.

Mr Leonard was at pains to say he wanted to tax the rich more. Fine, except that as far as I understand it, the Scottish Parliament as it now stands has only limited powers over taxation.

Indeed, I had a conversation with some delegates at Dundee who told me that Labour had opposed granting significant extra powers to Holyrood, allowing it to set income tax, during the Smith Commission negotiations in 2014. Indeed, I was told that Labour had specifically fought against giving the Scottish Government the right to control taxing the highest earners. These are the very folk Mr Leonard now wants to tax! Hypocrisy, I believe, is one of the cardinal political sins.

Also, it seemed odd to me that while Mr Leonard was at pains to say he wanted to attack the roots of inequality, he said nothing about a wealth tax. Simply imposing a modest levy on hotel beds or setting a 50p top rate income tax rate will not attack the roots of exploitation and inequality. These lie in the private ownership of wealth and productive capacity.

However, taxing wealth or extending social control over industry on any significant scale would surely run into opposition from Westminster. Which returns us to the central question of Scottish home rule – an issue conspicuously absent from Mr Leonard’s conference peroration.

From the first, my own commitment to Scottish home rule was designed to give the working people of Scotland control over their own affairs, their own land, their own factories and mines, and their own taxes.

Home rule – not pusillanimous, drip-fed devolution – was always necessary, both as a democratic tool to enact socialism and also as a banner around which to rally the Scottish people, giving them the interest and enthusiasm to fight for that socialism.

In my day, home rule meant Scotland having the same constitutional independence as Canada and Australia. Sadly, Mr Leonard – like many Labour politicians – seems to regard home rule as an inconvenience and a diversion.

History has proven that an erroneous viewpoint. Indeed, from my brief visit to the 21st century, it seems to me that the absence of home rule has been one of the main barriers to advancing socialism.