Party News from the November 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard
After an all night plane journey I arrived in Boston early on Saturday morning, the 5th September.
The Confcrence commenced at 3 p.m. with Comrade Fenning in the Chair. Telegrams were read from the associated parties and members in different parts of the world. There were about 25 delegates present representing Boston, Rhode Island, New York, Detroit and Los Angeles. I was the only companion party representative present.
The report of the National Secretary, Comrade Gloss, was read, which stated that the Party had not only held its own, but had made some progress. The ''Western Socialist" had been issued regularly and also 100,000 leaflets. Finance had greatly improved. Not many outdoor propaganda meetings had been held, but there were plans for an improvement. Unfortunately the Party did not appear to be attracting sufficient young people. There had been a considerable growth in correspondence with companion-parties and sympathisers from all over the world.
Reports from various locals (branches) were given which showed uneven results. Los Angeles, in particular, had been extremely active with outdoor meetings, attending other groups to take part in discussions and distributing a considerable quantity of literature. Comrades Evans and Miller were addressing meetings regularly in the Los Angeles Area.
The circulation of the “Western Socialist" had increased.
A resolution was passed that there be a monthly issue of the “Western Socialist," commencing with the January issue. A resolution was passed to reconsider a previous resolution that had opposed the acceptance of articles from non-members. Both these resolutions were the subject of considerable debate.
There was also considerable discussion on opening up new areas to propaganda, and it was agreed that Comrades Rab and Orner start the ball rolling by a visit to Chicago in the Spring, and other places be included as circumstances permitted.
Many other matters were discussed at length, but there is not space to include them. At the end of the Conference there was a discussion under the title “Good and Welfare.” This ranged over many matters and, to me, was the most interesting part of the Conference, as well as the most enthusing. At 2 a.m., on the morning after the Conference, I heard the tape of part of this discussion. It was remarkable how clearly the voices came through, although the speakers were speaking from different parts of the hall. Altogether, I thought it was a very good Conference and much useful work was done.
On the first evening there was a dinner and a social gathering—many more members, and sympathisers coming along for the purpose—making it a very jolly evening. On the third day there was a picnic in the morning in a park just outside of Boston, and in the afternoon a meeting on Boston Common—where the heat was stifling. Comrades Morrison, Miller, Gloss and Orner spoke, but it was hard work under the circumstances.
Through the herculean efforts of Comrade Gloss, who fixed the times with clock-like accuracy, a speaking tour had been arranged for me, which included Los Angeles, Vancouver, Victoria, Winnipeg, New York and, finally, Boston. 1 was met on time at every point.
On Tuesday, the 8th September, I left for Los Angeles by jet plane. It took only 5½ hours to do the journey. In Los Angeles Comrade Evans had fixed up six meetings and a TV appearance.
On September 9th I spoke to an audience of about 70 at Long Beach Open Forum, which is by the sea. I spoke for half-an-hour and then answered questions for half-an-hour—it was quite lively. The same evening I went to the house of an old member of the S.P.G.B. —Bob Housley—and answered questions until late at night to a group gathered there.
On the 11th September I went to Long Beach Open Forum again to answer criticisms of my previous talk and answer further questions. Again, it was a lively meeting, although only about 75 present. The size of audience was affected by the heat. Many found it too hot to sit out in the open at a meeting. All the time I was in Los Angeles the temperature was around the 100° mark—and smog added to the discomfort.
On the evening of the 11th I addressed a gathering of about 60 people, aged between 20 and 40, under the strangest circumstances I have ever spoken. It was a gathering of the Unitarian Laymen's League, and we had been invited to a steak dinner beforehand. It turned out to be a Barbecue, held in a large and pleasant garden where the steaks were grilled over three fires. When the dinner was over—at 8 p.m.—the group gathered around me in a semi-circle in the gloom. 1 spoke from beside one of the fires and the audience were just shapes in the darkness. They kept me on my feet for over two hours—speaking and answering questions. They were a mixed group of lawyers, doctors mechanics, teachers, and so on, and the questions were good and interesting—generally covering conditions in England. It was again a very hot night--96° in the house, I was told.
On the 12th there was a meeting in Comrade Evans garden—it was too hot to hold it in the house. He expected about 50 to 60 to come along, but only 20 showed up. A certain Max Shactman was speaking in Los Angeles, and, as Evans place was twelve miles out of town, the majority stayed in town to attend that meeting. However, though the meeting was small it went off alright.
On Sunday, the 13th, 1 addressed a meeting at Santa Monica in the morning—that was about 30 miles from Comrade Evans house, where 1 was staying. It was still very hot and only 40 or so turned up, but there were good questions and some opposition.
In the evening I was in Hollywood on TV for half-an-hour. It was on Dan Lundberg's Channel 13 at 9 o'clock, I saw Lundberg at his office two hours beforehand and, at his request, gave him a brief history of the Socialist movement. His questions on TV were all concerned with the Socialist attitude to various problems, such as War, Russia, Imperialism, reforms, and so on. A tape recording was taken of the interview and a selection from it will appear in the next issue of the Western Socialist.
On the 14th I travelled north to Vancouver, stopping at San Francisco to meet Comrade Macdonald, with whom I spent a very interesting two hours. When I reached Vancouver I found that Comrade Roddy had done the best piece of one-man advertising I had seen. Wherever I went I saw in shop windows bills advertising the forthcoming meeting. He also chased reporters and radio people so successfully that the two principal papers there printed reports of the meeting; I had ten minutes on the radio and my comments were included in a radio news broadcast. Comrade Sid Earp took care of excellent accommodation for me in a hotel, and Comrades Roddy and Ahrens took care of the arrangements for the only meeting I had in Vancouver. The meeting was held on the 18th. It was a very wet night, which affected the attendance. Seventy turned up; there were plenty of questions and a little opposition—mainly from the C.C.F. (a similar body to the Labour Party here). The collection at the meeting was 25 dollars, five subscriptions were taken, and some literature was sold.
I had discussions with members and sympathisers and spent a considerable time with Comrades Johnny and Margaret Ahrens, who were exceedingly hospitable to me. It appears to me that Vancouver is a very favourable place for the Socialist Party of Canada to concentrate upon. Comrade Ahrens and Roddy are two knowledgeable and dependable comrades and there should soon be a good centre of activity there.
Whilst at Vancouver I spent two days visiting Victoria. Here again I witnessed an excellent piece of one-man advertising by Comrade Jenkins, very similar to Comrade Roddy's efforts in Vancouver. Comrade Luff, who is getting on in years, had been active in Victoria for many years and has spread the Socialist message there very thoroughly. Comrade Jenkins arranged an interview with the local paper which gave me considerable space on the front page.
Comrades Luff and Jenkins arranged the meeting, which appeared to me to be about the best one 1 had during the tour. There were 70 present in a small hall. The meeting lasted two hours and forty minutes, and there were numerous good questions. One sub. was taken at the meeting, 10s. 6d. worth of literature sold, and a collection of £7 10s.— about the same as. at Vancouver. Subsequently, four of those who attended the meeting (young fellows) have formed a class at Comrade Luff's house. A complete tape recording of the meeting was taken which I have borrowed and taken home with me. In Los Angeles, Vancouver and Victoria, I met many very old members of the Socialist Party of Canada.
On the 22nd I left Vancouver for Winnipeg, where I received the same warm and hospitable reception as I had done on my visit two years ago.
All the members and sympathisers combined to make my visit as enjoyable as possible.
Unfortunately they have difficulty in attracting young people and the attendance at the two meetings I addressed was small but interested. It seems, somehow, that Winnipeg is now out of the hub of political activity. However, they are holding regular meetings and distributing large numbers of leaflets, a selection of which have already been printed in the Socialist Standard.
On the 30th September I left Winnipeg for New York, where I stayed with Comrade Sam Orner. On the next evening I went with him to Union Square, where he spoke for well over two hours to a good audience who plied him with plenty of questions. Union Square is somewhat like the meetings and discussions at Marble Arch in London, and is the best meeting place I came across in the tour. It should be an excellent propaganda spot for the New York comrades. Comrade Davis did yeoman service, distributing leaflets advertising the indoor meeting the following night.
The indoor meeting was held in a room on the 14th floor of a building at the corner of Union Square. It seemed to me that the inaccessibility of the meeting place detracted from the attendance—which was not large. However, it was lively, with good questions and discussion.
On the 2nd October I returned to Boston where I addressed one meeting composed of members and sympathisers and spoke for a quarter of an hour on Boston Common. The rest of the time I recuperated at the home of Comrade Rab, where my stay was made as comfortable and pleasant as it could possibly be. On the 6th October I regretfully returned to London.
One matter I have overlooked. Comrade Smith of Los Angeles took an excellent recording of the TV interview and followed me by bus to Vancouver to present me with the tape. For this I am much beholden to him. It was played over at Vancouver, Victoria and Winnipeg and heard by a large number of members and sympathisers.
In conclusion, I would like to thank all the American and Canadian members and sympathisers for the warm way they received me. and the manner in which they went out of their way to make my visit as successful and pleasant as possible. I have only mentioned a few of the names of the many who helped me.