Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Obituary: Dick Donnelly (2015)

Obituary from the April 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many members of the World Socialist Movement will be saddened by the passing of Dick Donnelly. For 58 years he was a speaker, organiser and writer for the Socialist Party of Great Britain and was contributing to the Socialist Standard to the very end, including last month’s ‘Voice from the Back’ column.

He was only a teenager when he was introduced to socialism by the family lodger who was, luckily for us, a Party member, and when Dick finished National Service in 1957 he joined the Party. This was at a time when the Party and Glasgow Branch were at a low ebb. After WW2 public interest in politics had never been greater but during the post-war reconstruction the public's interest in politics eventually turned into apathy.

However, Dick's determination not only revived the Party in Glasgow but he helped get it involved in more activity than ever before. Three parliamentary and numerous city council elections were contested, huge amounts of Party literature were sold door to door, far more outdoor and indoor meetings were held and Dick was the driving force behind it all.

He soon became a first-class speaker, especially outdoors where he was in his element. Even people who may not have been much interested in politics came to hear him because they liked his quick wit and caustic humour. Dick was as much an entertainer as a propagandist and his wit gave him the ability to drub hecklers, especially political opponents. An example of this was at an outdoor meeting in Glasgow when a large number of aggressive Communists were in the audience. Dick ridiculed and exposed their Party and its hypocrisy to such an extent that by the end of the meeting the aggression had turned into sullen silence.

During the 1960s and 70s Dick's speaking made him so well known in Glasgow that people recognised him in streets and pubs. It was the same in Edinburgh where he had often spoken at meetings at The Mound. This was a large open space in the very heart of the city and was Edinburgh's equivalent of Speakers’ Corner at Hyde Park in London. Dick addressed big crowds at The Mound, especially during the Edinburgh Festival when many overseas visitors could hear the case for socialism and it always got a sympathetic hearing. He made a big enough impression to be interviewed at The Mound for BBC TV and when it was screened Dick performed like a seasoned professional.

Dick spoke at meetings the length and breadth of Britain. Nowhere was too far and he even travelled from Glasgow to the deepest south west of England to represent the Party in a debate with a local MP. Dick’s entire political life was devoted to the Socialist Party and he talked about socialism wherever he could, even in his British Rail workplace where he made many friends and even a few Party members. He always kept in close touch with them and they were affectionately  known as ‘The Railway Children’; a large number of them were present at the funeral.

Over the years Dick also visited comrades in New Zealand, Australia, America and attended the founding in Calcutta of our Companion Party in India. He just couldn't stop doing what he could for the World Socialist Movement.

The SPGB has never had any use for leaders, but what it has always had are members who made outstanding contributions to the Party and Dick Donnelly was certainly among them. His passing has left a huge gap in our ranks and he will be a hard act to follow. We extend our deepest condolences to his daughters Paula and Laura.

Editorial: There’s a General Election Coming (2015)

Editorial from the April 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

There will soon be a General Election in Britain. We predict now with complete certainty that the Conservatives, Labour, Liberals, UKIP, etc, and the Green Party, will all be standing on programmes of keeping – not ending – capitalism. They will each dress it up differently, they will each claim to have different priorities, values, intentions and even policies.

But whichever ones succeed in getting the power they seek, they will not really be in control. Their actions will be determined by the needs of the market system which they accept, support, endorse and seek to run. The market system which exists to protect and increase the power and wealth of a tiny minority.

Ask any of them about a world without the capitalist system which is at the root of all of our problems, and they will cry in chorus, ‘no! it’s utopian! not possible! not now! maybe in a thousand years! we need to work within the system! we can change and improve it from within!’They have been saying this for a couple of hundred years and, not surprisingly, this system therefore still exists, with all the same problems it has always generated.

If you do not support this insane system of global destruction and poverty then do not vote for any of these politicians pretending to be able to tame the beast. The solution is production for need, not profit. Common ownership of productive resources, not private or state ownership. Genuine democracy, not the token democracy of one vote twice a decade between versions of the same sick joke.

At the heart of all our problems is the fact that a tiny handful of under 1 percent own and control all of the world's productive resources. It is run for them. None of these parties, including the Greens, Labour, Liberals, UKIP, etc as well as Conservatives, has the slightest intention of ending that fact or even discussing it. We therefore have to laugh at them all with the derision they deserve and take steps to organise for a better future.