Saturday, January 24, 2015

Provincial Propaganda Tour (1933)

From the August 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard

A few years ago splendid work was done in the provinces by a small party of London members touring from place to place. Apart from gaining new readers and sympathisers, and making the Party in areas where no propaganda has been carried on before, there is the very valuable encouragement such visits bring to provincial groups and isolated members.

On Friday, June 30th, a party of four—Comrades Bellingham, Turner, L. Otway and Mrs. Otway—left head office for a short motor tour, carrying camping equipment.

The first meeting was held in the Bull Ring at Birmingham, on June 30th, with an audience of 350, and literature sales of 2s. 11d.—a good start achieved against the obstacle of several rival meetings. Questions and Communist opposition were dealt with at considerable length.

Arriving at Manchester the next day, the party had to tackle four meetings, which had been advertised for Saturday and Sunday. At the Saturday meeting, although the audience was by no means large, keen interest was shown and literature to the value of 6s. 9d. was sold. All the Manchester meetings were not equally satisfactory, but the last, held in Platt's Field, drew an audience of 400. Manchester members assisted on the platform and the branch was very pleased with the results of the week-end visit.

On Monday a good meeting was held at Liverpool, and another on Tuesday at Birkenhead—tow areas in which relatively little propaganda has been carried on by the S.P.G.B.

At Eccles, on Wednesday, a meeting was carried on from 7.20 to 11 p.m., amidst lively opposition from Communist and Labour Party supporters. The audience, however, listened sympathetically to our speakers.

Two meetings were held at Sheffield, on July 6th and 7th, with assistance from local comrades.

The tour ended with a good meeting at Hull on Saturday, July 8th.

Most of the time the party camped out and were thus enabled to cover much ground at a minimum cost, although, of course, the necessity of funding camping sites and making all preparations threw a great deal of work on the four members. All four assisted at meetings, either as speakers or chairmen, selling literature and taking up collections, etc.

The distance covered was about 550 miles, and the times and arrangements made in advance were kept to the letter. At a total of eleven meetings literature sales amounted to £2 3s. 10d. and collections to 18s. 7d.—a highly satisfactory result in face of the widespread unemployment and destitution in many places visited.

The members of the party greatly regretted that it was not possible to make their tour of longer duration. They, and the members of the branches visited on route, have no doubt that excellent work has been done in this short period.

It is impossible to mention by name all the local comrades who attended the meetings, gave hospitality, and helped the tour in every possible way. The four comrades greatly appreciated the welcome and assistance they everywhere received.

Spade Work in Hull
Much-needed propaganda has been carried on with good effect in Hull during recent weeks, by Comrade Cash, who is staying there at the invitation of a local comrade. In about two weeks, at the end of June and beginning of July, ten meetings were held, with an average audience of about 60 or 70, and with small but steady sales of literature. In view of the difficulty of gathering an audience almost single-handed, and in view of many unfavourable local conditions, the interest aroused has been quite satisfactory. With continuous propaganda good progress could be made here. Hull members and sympathisers are urged to give their support. 

Barcelona! (1909)

From the September 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

The workers of Catalonia and of the industrial city of Barcelona have risen in revolt against their oppressors—and have been crushed. A shady mining concern with international capitalist interests involved had been established in the territory of the Riff tribes of Morocco, close by the town of Melilla, which is occupied by the Spaniards. The natives, suspecting that this forbode them no good, took steps to turn out the invaders, the representatives of the modern enslavers, the international capitalists. As a consequence the Spanish workers were called upon to turn out and, at the risk of life and limb, protect their masters property—were ordered to go to Africa and massacre a foreign people with who they have no quarrel. Now Barcelona, at least, has, like Paris, the revolutionary tradition, and there has been plenty of anti-militarist, direct-action, aye, Anarchist propaganda, there. Doubtless also many of its toilers argued that, since lives must be risked, 'twere better to risk them fighting the real enemy at home, the monopolisers of the means of life, rather then in fighting the brown-faced Moors against whom they had no enmity. And so after speeches and strikes came barricades. However, modern artillery and magazine rifles, handled as these were by often unwilling soldiers, made short work of all these and there is now a further collapse of "direct action" to record. Hitherto the Spanish workers, very generally, disdained Parliamentary action. Perhaps events will show them the need for using the means to hand, namely, the political machinery, however backward that machinery and however difficult the obstacles may be. It is good to note the spirit of revolt in the Spanish workers. When they have got over their present Anarchistic tendency they will make rapid strides, like the quick-witted people they are, to their freedom in Socialism. 
H. J. H.

A "Red" Recants (1934)

Book Review from the August 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard

Preparing for Power. by J. T. Murphy. Jonathan Cape. 6s.

The author above named obtained a certain amount of notoriety in connection with the shop stewards' movement during the war. He became a member of the S.L.P., and sat for a while on the executive until expelled along with MacManus and others for intriguing with the B.S.P. Mr. Murphy states on page 15 of the above volume that the S.L.P. 'merged with the B.S.P." to form the Communist Party. It is pretty common knowledge amongst students of political history during the past twelve years that the S.L.P. maintained a separate existence for several years after the formation of the C.P., and ran its paper, "The Socialist," until 1925 or thereabouts.

After occupying a prominent position in the C.P. the author was expelled from that party about two years ago. Says he: "I therefore determined on a restudy of the history of the working class movement and Marxism. The first result was my decision to join the Labour Party as the mass political party of the workers, to subscribe even to what I regard as errors and mistakes, confident that the dynamics of the class struggle will force the revolutionary changes necessary to the fulfillment of the historic destiny of the working class." Page 16.

He attempts to derive theoretical support for this attitude from the passage in the Communist Manifesto of 1848, which refers to the fact that "the Communists do not form a separate party conflicting with other working class parties." (On page 56 he says this principle conflicts with the present relation of communists to the Labour movement.)

The C.P. have never been consistent in their hostility to the Labour Party, nor is their present attitude based upon any fundamental and revolutionary principle. Nevertheless, it is clear that Murphy has overlooked the point in Engels' preface (quoted from the joint preface to the German edition of 1872) that the political situation has been entirely changed and the progress of history has swept from of the earth the greater portion of the political parties there enumerated.

In spite of their limited outlook these parties (such as the Chartists of England) at the time appeared to hold prospects of the conquest of political power for revolutionary objects. Nowhere in the course of this book does the author show that the Labour Party has ever given any such hope. On the contrary, he quotes innumerable examples of the utter subservience of the Labour Party to the interests of the capitalist industrialists, mainly of the Liberal stamp.

So long as the workers had to win the franchise it would have been the height of folly for Marx and Engels to have opposed parties having this as their object. This issue once settled, however, the next step was obviously to set on foot the independent political party of the working class having Socialism as its conscious object.

Apart from the S.P.G.B. no party fulfils this essential condition of independence, least of all the Labour Party.

Writing of the general strike as a weapon (on page 50) Murphy says: "If it is an action to impose terms, whether economic or political, upon the powers that be, then it means an unarmed proletariat faces an armed State, which must either capitulate or defeat the strike." Compare this with his confident declaration in his pamphlet, "The Revolutionary Workers' Government," written while he was still in the C.P. "The general strike demonstrated before our eyes how the working class comes to power." Page 14.

Reviewing its past associations, Murphy repudiates Industrial Unionism (pages 88-90), and shows that the shop stewards' success were confined to local issues of minor importance. "Workers' control of industry is utterly impossible. The change of ownership is a political question, indeed the outstanding political question of our time" (page 159); and he says on the same page that "the central question of the conquest of political power by the working class was entirely overlooked. The shop stewards did not discuss it."

Mr. Murphy is far from having shed all his illusions. He still clings to the notion that Socialism is being built up in Russia (page 69), and objects to the clause in the preamble of the First International (drawn up by Marx) which declares "that the emancipation of labour . . . depends upon the concurrence, practical and theoretical,  of the most advanced countries." This he describes as "a point of view which was completely disproved by the Russian Revolution in 1917." Yet, strange to say, he makes the following confession on page 201: Referring to the second congress of the Third International, held in Moscow during July, 1920, he says: "The writer participated in this congress and was party to its decisions. Thirteen years have passed. Looking back over the experience of these years it appears clear to him that there was an overestimation of the rapidity of the development of the world revolution and a consequent underestimation of the strength of the leaders of the Second International in many countries . . . At the time of the congress itself the revolutionary wave that had swept Europe had already passed its zenith and nobody recognised the fact."

Mr. Murphy means, of course, nobody in the Communist Party. The S.P.G.B. repeatedly stressed the point that no world revolution was possible without a Socialist working class. Mr. Murphy, however, regarded the S.P.G.B. as a "counter-revolutionary" body in 1930. It would be interesting to learn how he regards them now that he has succeeded in persuading Sir Stafford Cripps (God bless him!) to write an introduction to his book. For another illusion which he has not shed is his faith in leaders. "Changes in the leadership of the Labour movement from bottom to top is thus the all-important issue." says he on page 285. One can readily understand why it is all-important to Mr. Murphy.
Eric Boden

The Socialist Party and the Labour Movement. (1925)

From the December 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard


"I've read your article in the Socialist Standard."

"I am honoured."

"And I don't think much of it."

"I am flattered."

"Don't try to be smart. That is one of the besetting sins of your party."

"What? being smart, or trying to be?"

"There you are, twisting again. You know what I mean."

"Now, don't get angry, friend. Angry people cannot reason."

"You ought to talk of reason, you did: always savagely attacking the Labour Party. Why don't you devote your energies to attacking the common enemy, instead of other sections of the 'movement'?"

'The movement? What is this you call the 'movement'?"

"There you go again! Twist and wriggle, wriggle and twist. You know my meaning as well as myself. I mean the Socialist movement, the Labour movement."

"But you have just mentioned two movements, my friend. You just now only referred to 'the movement.' Which of them has the honour of being the movement?"

"Don't haggle and try to trip me up. They are each part of the same movement; they—"

"But why the distinction if they are the same?"

"They are not the same. The one is part of the other."

"Then which is the one and which the other? Let me put it this way to you: To which do you belong?"

"I belong to the Labour Party, and I claim to be as good a Socialist as you."

"We will examine your claim later. Why do you not belong to the Socialist Party?"

"What! Your lot? I wouldn't be found dead with them! A handful of spiteful, vituperative calumniators; full of spleen, venom and malice: jealous of—"

"Whoa! whoa! Hold hard. Will you admit that I am a Socialist?"

"Oh, yes! I won't deny that."

"Then don't you think you had better reserve your attacks for the common enemy, rather than—"

"All right! I give in. That's one to you. I am afraid my tongue ran away with me."

"Don't think I am trying to rub it in, but have you ever seen an article in the Socialist Standard which described a man or a movement by a long string of epithets?"

"I do not recollect one."

"Then precisely what is your grumble about?"

"My point is that you and the cause of the workers would be better served if you confined your criticism to the capitalist parties, and left the Labour Party alone."

"You will think I'm a "wriggling' again, as you call it, but our contention is that your Labour Party is also a capitalist party."

"Oh, don't, for goodness' sake don't trot that out gain. Why don't you think of something fresh?"

"Hardly a helpful remark, do you think? Why something fresh? The truth will bear repetition—unless you prefer something else. Why will you so persistently beg the question? Let me save your time and mine by giving you an instance. I will only give you one, but it will perhaps show you what I mean."

"Go ahead!"

"Now then! Do you believe that unemployment is the direct result of capitalism?"

"I do."

"Do you believe that unemployment in Great Britain arises from fundamentally different causes from those in, say, France, Germany or the United States of America?"

"Certainly not. They are all capitalist countries."

"Good! Would you agree that the corner stone—the corner stone mind you—of our troubles is the fact that we are a manufacturing rather than an agricultural nation?"

"No! I should not. I would rather say that capitalism, the private ownership of the means of life, was the corner stone as you call it."

"You are getting on, friend. I have hopes of you yet. But to resume. Would you agree with this statement? 'The simple truth is that when our export trade languishes we have an unemployed problem.'"

"Well, it is true—in a  sense."

"In what sense?"

"In a capitalist sense. I mean it takes the continuance of capitalism for granted."

"That's right. It leaves a lot out. What we would term, a half-truth."

"I agree. Some crafty Liberal Free-Trader, I shouldn't wonder."

"Don't be abusive, friend. Remember how you were going for me a few minutes ago."

"Oh, stow it. This chap is obviously in the other camp. I was only objecting to your knocking your friends about."

"I see. Well, we'll get on. What do you understand by the term 'over-production'?"

"I should say over-production existed when more commodities were produced than the market could absorb. That often happens."

"Would you consider over-production a cause of unemployment?"

"Oh, yes! I should say that was how capitalism created unemployment—through over-production."

"You would not call such a statement a 'lie' or a "most tragical absurdity.'?

"Not if I retained my sober senses."

"Let me read this little bit to you: —'For instance, in Northampton, there are thousands of people who want boots, but cannot buy them, and factories with thousands of boots which they cannot sell, and manufacturers with idle machinery capable of turning out thousands of boots which they dare not make, and hundreds of thousands of people unemployed capable of making boots who are not allowed to do so, even for themselves.'"

"That is quite right, too. What is the matter with that?"

"Very little. A trifle loose here and there, but we'll let that go. What is the cause of the state of things depicted?"

"Capitalism, of course. I don't need you to tell me that."

"You may be surprised to learn the writer does not agree. He anticipates people like you. He says: 'Many people will automatically answer, "The evils of the capitalistic system." But the destruction of capitalism would not cure unemployment, because the manufacturer is as anxious to produce as the worker is to consume, and yet both find themselves prevented by the so-called law of supply and demand, which as applied is not a law but a lie.'"

"I say, who is the writer of all this guff? How long has he left school?"

"Don't be impatient friend. You must be dying to hear the real explanation. Here it is: 'No! The explanation of all this failure to link up consumption and production intelligently lies in the control and exploitation of our industry, character, national genius, wealth and goodwill, that is our national credit, by the financiers behind our principal banks.'"

"Oh, dry up, who is this froth merchant? What does he do for a living?"

"Patience, friend; do not be abusive. As I keep reminding you, epithets are not argument. Let us see what is said as to the remedy."

"He says: 'Until, therefore, our national credit is nationally owned and controlled for the benefit of the nation, instead of being exploited and treated as private property of a mere handful of people, many of whom are not even British —'"

"Does he say that?"

"He does."

"What a filthy remark! Some putrid, anti-alien, Jew-baiter, I suppose."

"What an abusive person you are to be sure. You must learn —"

"All right! I know what you are going to say. Get on with the business. Sorry I spoke."

"Let us see! Where have we got to? After 'British,' the sentence peters out. Then it says: 'The League of the British Commonwealth demands, therefore, the nationalisation of our principal banks as the only permanent remedy for unemployment —'"

"Oh! don't, for goodness sake, don't read any more. What is this precious League of the British Commonwealth? Who are they?"

"Don't be impatient, friend. I must read you this. Remember we have just been told the only permanent remedy for unemployment is nationalisation of banks. After three paragraphs of utter flatulence the pamphlet concludes: — 'The League of the British Commonwealth declares, therefore, that there is no other solution for our industrial troubles under present conditions in connection with hours, wages, management, etc, except for the workers and their employers to become equal and self-respecting partners.'"

"Oh, what rubbish! Is it possible that—but stay. Is there a catch in this somewhere? Are you pulling my leg? Do you know whom this precious League consists of?"

"I don't! But you may recognise the name of its President."

"Pray who is it?"

"His full title is The Rt. Hon. J. R. Clynes, P.C., M.P. Now don't get abusive, friend. Remember what you said at starting."

"But, oh! This is the limit. He is one of our tried and trusted members. I'll admit we are somewhat elastic, but even rubber has a breaking-point."

"Yes! But I don't think your Labour Party has. Why! He is your deputy leader. Now tell me: What do you think we ought to do with people who insist that we are all part of the same 'Movement' and yet who tolerate leaders of that sort. You object to our criticising them as quarrelling with our friends. save us from our friends! May I point out that criticism will not hurt the truth. May I further point out that this pamphlet was not an obscure, hole and corner affair, but was broadcast by the thousand at the last General Election. They even invite you to write for supplies of the pamphlet from their headquarters. Get a copy. Read it, and if you tolerate the ineffable Clynes in your organisation for a week after doing so—well, I must not be abusive, must I?"

"You made me think."

"Keep on doing it. It hurts at first, but if you do enough of it, you will join the Socialist Party. Cheerio!"
W. T. H.