From the January 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard
A very well attended and successful meeting of Party propagandists was held at Head Office on Saturday, November 11th. The organiser, “Robertus,” spoke at some length on problems facing speakers at outdoor meetings.
He said that, in his opinion, based on his experience extending over many years, it is a bad practice and harmful to the Party that speakers should be abusive to opponents. It should be remembered that opponents in organisations such as the Communist Party and I.L.P. are, generally speaking, just as sincere as are members of the Socialist Party, and just as certain that they are right. They are enthusiastic, and believe in the views they put forward, and should be treated accordingly and reasoned with accordingly.
There is a difference between indoor and outdoor speaking in that, with an indoor meeting, the subject can be dealt with at once. People have come there to listen to a set subject, and consequently the argument must be consecutive which presupposes considerable preparation beforehand. Outdoor meetings, on the other hand, are subject to interrupters, and must allow for the need to touch upon a number of different points; consequently the same tactics cannot be employed at outdoor meetings as indoors. That does not mean, however, that speakers at outdoor meetings need not prepare their material. Preparation is just as necessary, although the kind of subject may be different. One method suitable to outdoor meetings is to take a few current questions of topical interest and expound the Socialist view in relation to them.
Some young speakers find it difficult to speak for longer than, say, 15 minutes on a topic. If that is so, be content to speak for that period. Do not attempt to carry on for half an hour. No good is ever done by this.
In conclusion, the organiser said that he is convinced that the Party has within its ranks much good material, and he hoped his remarks would help towards increasing the number of effective propagandists for Socialism.
In the discussion which followed many points were put forward. The usefulness of outdoor meetings under present-day conditions was questioned by one speaker, who suggested that consideration should be given to alternative forms of activity, such as door-to-door canvassing and advertising. This was countered by a speaker who insisted that in outdoor meetings lies the strength of the Party.
It was pointed out that, at least in some areas, it is impossible to avoid controversy about other political parties, since members of the audience are interested in such questions and throw, them up at the speaker as soon as the meeting begins.
Another member who spoke agreed that speakers must take the local situation as they find it, but would be well advised to keep off attacks on other organisations as far as possible. For the same reason as that put forward by the organiser, it is inadvisable to make a special point of attacking religion. It is far more useful to get the economic case for Socialism accepted by an individual and deal with his objections to the Socialist attitude towards religion afterwards.
Another point brought out in discussion was that at certain meeting places it is difficult to get an audience. This could never be achieved by putting the Socialist case. The only way is to attract attention by arranging for Party members to put questions to the speaker.
Another suggestion was that difficult stations should be closed down and attention concentrated on more fruitful areas.
The meeting passed two resolutions.
The first recommended the E.C. to appoint district organisers to assist the central organiser.
The second recommended the setting up of speakers' classes, at Head Office or elsewhere, under the supervision of the organiser.
It is intended to call further meetings to consider problems of propaganda, and the organiser will make arrangements and issue an announcement of the next meeting in due course.