Tuesday, September 9, 2014

THE MOVEMENT IN MANCHESTER (1908)

From the January 1908 issue of the Socialist Standard

The hard work put in by "The Two Revolutionaries" last winter in Cottonopolis and the visit paid by Comrades Kent and Humphrey in August bore fruit in the shape of the Manchester branch of the S.P.G.B., which branch, although only formed in October, has already made itself felt, and will prove a very prickly thorn in the side of the "reformers" and political job-hunters of the S.D.F. and I.L.P. brand as soon as the open-air propaganda season commences.

On October 20th Mr. J. T. McPherson, Labour member for Preston, who, with Messers. Seddon and G. D. Kelley, recently had his expenses paid to Switzerland and back by those friends of Labour, the National Service League, spoke at a meeting of a local Ethical Society and eulogised the Labour Party, singling out Mr. Crooks, M.P., for special mention. In the course of the discussion our comrade Jim Brough pointed out that Crooks had broken the Constitution of the L.R.C. by sending a letter in support of Mr. Hamar Greenwood, then Liberal candidate (now M.P.) for York, Mr. G. H. Stuart being the L.R.C. candidate for the Division.

Mr. McPherson replied that Crooks had not proved false to the Labour Party's Constitution since signing it. Following upon this correspondence took place and the member for Preston promised on October 24th to obtain information which would enable him to justify his assertion. Up to the time of writing he has not done so. In connection with the same matter Comrade Brough wrote to Mr. Hamar Greenwood drawing his attention to the issue of the Postmen's Gazette of February 17th, 1906, stating that extracts from Mr. Crook's letter in support of Mr. Greenwood were posted and issued as a handbill during the contest. Mr. Greenwood, who may of course be out of town, has not yet replied. Comrade W. L. Brown also wrote to Mr. G. H. Stuart, M.P. for information and this gentleman informed our comrade that Mr. Crooks did not deny writing the letter referred to, but he did deny that the construction placed upon it was the correct one!

On November 20th, Comrade J. W. Marsh represented the Party at a debate at the Co-operative Hall, Ashton Old Road, his opponent being Mr. Tom Swann, I.L.P. The subject was "Does the I.L.P. deserve the support of the Working Class?" and Dr. Garrett of the S.D.F. presided. In his opening remarks the chairman said there was nothing to lose but much to gain by discussing this and similar matters in public. They had differences and these should be fought out before the public. Comrade Marsh opened the debate. He pointed out that the development of Society from feudal times had resulted in the political power being secured by the owners of the machinery of wealth production, which ownership enabled them to practically own the worker. The antagonism of interest between the possessing class and the wage earners demanded the formation of a working-class party based upon a clear recognition of the class position, and he showed how all other parties were useless to achieve any real good to the workers. By a Socialist party he meant one whose aim was the capture of the political power, for until that was done class domination could not be ended. A party not preaching Socialism all the time, not openly and avowedly organising for Socialism, was not doing the work of a Socialist Party. He gave many instances of confusing and pro-capitalist tactics of I.L.P. members, and having dealt with the futility of reform, closed by declaring that the answer to the question was in the negative. Mr. Swann, in his opening speech, denied that they had anything to do with the action taken by I.L.P. leaders, even if they had violated the constitution of the Party. For every backslider that Marsh could name, 99 could be mentioned who had been true to the Cause. He became irrelevant by referring to the fact that certain prominent members of the S.P.G.B. were expelled from the S.D.F., and tried to make out a case for the I.L.P. by comparing the number of its weekly meetings to those held by the S.P.G.B. The I.L.P., he said, had more branches than the S.P.G.B. had individual members. It had spent £250,000 in propaganda since it was founded. Alluding to Marsh's attack on the advocacy of reforms, Mr. Swann quoted from a pamphlet on Free Maintenance to the effect that in times of strike the men would be encouraged by the knowledge that their children were being fed. He admitted that capitalism not only produced but demanded a reserve army of unemployed, but said the capitalist class must be compelled to find work for the unemployed. He described the policy of the S.P.G.B. as a dog in-the-manger one. Not only was it trying to prevent the I.L.P. doing good work but it was also trying to undo that already done. The S.P.G.B. were dreamers trying to disunite and leg down the workers. He claimed that the I.L.P. contributed more to that unity which was essential on the part of the workers than any other party and therefore deserved their support.

In his reply Comrade Marsh pointed out that the I.L.P. leaders who had violated the principles preached by the Party still had the support of the rank and file. and the I.L.P., like any other party, must be judged by the actions of its representatives. He pointed out that the master class could take away Free Maintenance as well "concede" it, and the strike argument therefore fell through. Moreover, so long as they controlled, through Parliament, the Army and Navy, they could and would use these against workers on strike. He denied that Mr. Swann had dealt with the points, which was evidence of his inability to do so. Mr. Swann concluded by declaring that his view of the S.P.G.B. had been confirmed. He had always thought they were "a set of fanatical, skyscraping, moonraking, rainbow chasers," and having delivered himself of much more to the same effect he sat down. The hall was crowded and a good sale of literature was effected.

The Manchester branch is thus fairly on its legs and the "political job hunters" had better look out for squalls. We have now enrolled a vigorous fighter in the person of Moses Baritz, late of the S.D.F., well known throughout Lancashire and the Potteries, and we have no doubt the branch will from time to time, be enabled to report favourably of  its doings.
A B.

Since the above was written a further report has been received, from which we gather that for the first three weeks in December the branch disposed of 300 copies of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD and the S.P.G.B. Manifesto. Good propaganda meetings have been held. On Sunday, December 8th, Baritz spoke at Stevenson Square in the afternoon, and at Tab Street in the evening. Here Councillor Sam Hague, of the I.L.P., opposed, and after Baritz had dealt with his opposition the audience bought 10 pamphlets in a few moments. At the meeting at Stevenson Square on the afternoon of December 15th two members of the S.D.F. opposed. They claimed to be revolutionists but believed in reforms. After the S.P.G.B. speaker had quoted the words of Mr. H. M. Hyndman concerning palliatives obscuring the issue and reform being impossible, these opponents repudiated Mr. Hyndman. One admitted that "there are a few fakirs and shakers in the S.D.F." The branch has challenged the local branches of the S.D.F. and I.L.P. to set debates and is awaiting replies. —Ed.