Letter to the Editors from the October 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard
I was impressed by David A. Perrin's history of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, well researched and well written. But I have a cavil relating to myself. He says my book. The Origins of British Bolshevism hardly gives a mention to the formation of the SPGB. This is correct. But surely the SPGB has never claimed to be Bolshevik, and therefore stood outside the remit of my frame of reference.
Moses Baritz was mentioned in the book because in those days the Left was inhabited by weird and wonderful creatures. Socialism at that time was a strange idea and consequently tended to attract strange individuals.
David Perrin could perhaps have said that I gave much more prominence to another eccentric—John S. Clarke—one of the SLP early leaders. I even wrote a short biography about him. It was entitled John S. Clarke: Parliamentarian, Poet and Lion-tamer. The Glasgow Herald, in its obituary of him, stated Mr Clarke claimed to have been the youngest and oldest person to enter the lion's den. He had around his body many scars which attested to the nature of his trade. On one occasion he was bowled over by a tiger with toothache. With the animal towering over him, he stroked it and pulled out the offending tooth.
One of my subsidiary reasons for writing his biography was that I hoped it would act as a model to other parliamentarians. In my opinion, British politics today would be much better if more Members of Parliament took up lion-taming, preferably specialising in tigers with toothache.
Then there was the SLP's general secretary Frank Budgen. He published the first cheap edition of The Communist Manifesto. He was a friend of the great Irish writer, James Joyce, who wrote a poem which begins "Oh, boozy Budgen and canvas dauber." He earned his living as an artist's model. I have a drawing of Frank Budgen naked, but, after much heart-searching, I decided not to include it in The Origins of British Bolshevism.
It might have tempted the general secretaries of other political parties to cast off all garments. That would have created the ultimate obscenity. For instance, would members of the SPGB like so see, plastered everywhere, drawings of their general secretary stark naked?
RAYMOND CHALLINOR, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear