Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Activities in West Ham: Labour Party shirks debates (1931)

Party News from the February 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is becoming increasingly evident that the districts of both West Ham and its eastern neighbour, East Ham, are not going to be such happy hunting grounds for the activities of the vote-catching political confidence tricksters as they have hitherto been. Slowly, but surely, the workers here are learning the real position. This encouraging state of affairs is mainly due to the efforts of the West Ham Branch. Our propaganda meetings have been held regularly throughout the season; outside Forest Gate Station, and at the corner of Kempton Road, East Ham, on Wednesday and Sunday evenings respectively.

So successful, indeed, have the meetings at the latter place been, that the branch members have decided to continue them throughout the winter, whenever the Clerk of the Weather is in a favourable mood. Another gratifying feature is the steady increase in the sale of the S.S. and pamphlets. Many newsagents here are now recognising that our paper is in demand and are giving prominence to the S.S. contents poster. There is every justification for the optimistic feeling that prevails concerning the growth of support for Socialism.

Already the local Labourites are getting anxious. For instance, in East Ham, we have made efforts to engage in public debate the two M.P.s for the district. But although Miss Susan Lawrence verbally agreed to "debate with anyone" on the subject, “Is the Labour Party worthy of the support of the working class?" and accepted the challenge made on behalf of the S.P.G.B., no reply was forthcoming when a letter was sent to the local Labour Party with the object of fixing up the details. Another letter, sent a few weeks after, was also ignored. In East Ham South the Labour Party have been more courteous. They, at any rate, did answer our letter, but they also shirked a public debate with a Socialist.

Their letter, dated October 4th, and signed by their Secretary, H. Restarick, East Ham South Divisional Labour Party, reads as follows :—
Dear Sir,—Replying to your letter of 29th ult., I fail to see what useful purpose would be served by Mr. Alfred Barnes, M.P., engaging in public debate with a representative of the S.P.G.B.—Yours, etc.
Of course we are quite aware that no useful purpose would be served to the Labour Party, and are consequently not surprised at their avoiding such a debate. We should like to explain, however, that a very useful purpose could be served in showing an audience the difference between the organisations.

But the Labour Party have backed another loser by their attitude in this matter, for their refusal to debate and defend themselves is being used with effect by our local speakers.

Our readiness to discuss and defend our case is being rewarded by having large and orderly audiences. When we have gained the understanding and approval of our listeners, we of the West Ham Branch will be glad to sign them on at 167, Romford Road, where the branch meets every Thursday at 8 o'clock.
The Hammer.

No comments: