Party News from the December 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard
At the beginning of September I visited the World Socialist Party Conference in Boston as a delegate from the Socialist Party of Great Britain.
The Conference lasted two days and the subjects that came up, concerning reviews of past activities and methods of improvement and increasing propaganda efforts in various directions, were discussed at considerable length, with enthusiasm and also, at times, with some heat! Owing to the vast distances between branches and groups over there the delegation present was of necessity not large.
At the outset taped and written greetings from all over the world were heard and read. Then various reports of the year's work were given. These showed a 100 per cent increase in subscriptions to the Western Socialist, an increase in the number of articles coming in for the paper, and a general resurgence in activity, particularly in Canada. The sending out of letters to Libraries and Colleges during the year had brought excellent results. A proposal to produce two new Pamphlets, one on the Materialist Conception of History and the other on The WSP: What it Stands For, was referred to the Editorial Committee for attention.
A Conference Social was held at a member's house on the evening of the first day of conference. It was a very pleasant, comradely and lively affair, attended by about fifty members and friends.
On September 5th I left for Detroit, accompanied by comrades Rab and Orner, and we held three meetings there. They were small but interesting with plenty of questions. On the fourth evening there was a meeting at which a proposal to form a discussion group was agreed to. I have since learnt that the discussion group has made a very good start, at a place that has been rented, and a large number of interested people are attending it. The members concerned have put in a lot of time and energy to ensure its success. It appears to me that it is a method that could be widely copied.
On September 9th I left for Vancouver and Victoria—Comrades Rab and Orner going on to Chicago. On the morning of the 11th I was given a long newspaper interview in Victoria and a brief TV interview—it was cut short because of mechanical difficulties during the recording. The next day there was a good meeting in Victoria with plenty of questions and some opposition. There was a short disturbance at this meeting on account of the interruptions of a local celebrity. However this resulted in some considerable newspaper publicity.
After the Victoria meeting I went up the coast of Vancouver Island to Nanaimo, about 80 or so miles. I had an interview with the editor of the local paper and spoke at a meeting in the evening—not very well as I was feeling very tired. However there were interesting questions, particularly from some young people and discussion. Comrade Stafford, a man 84 years old, proposes to run classes there—he writes regularly to local papers. After the meeting we had a hectic drive back to Victoria, arriving at 2 a.m.
The next meeting I spoke at was in Port Alberni, about 40 miles beyond Nanaimo. This was also a small but good meeting. One or two people came a long way to it. There was also an excellent report of the meeting in the local paper. The following day, Saturday, I left Port Alberni for Vancouver.
Before finishing with Vancouver Island I must express my appreciation of the excellent work being done there by Comrades Luff, Jenkins, Tickner and Poirier. The last three just swept me off my feet with their energy—they travelled to Nanaimo and Port Alberni to post bills and distribute leaflets advertising the meetings, as well as arranging for newspaper interviews and attending the meetings. They also received considerable help from sympathisers.
On September 16th I left Port Alberni for Vancouver. Comrades J. and M. Ahrens, Watkins and Cannon had been busy with Radio, TV, and the newspapers. In spite of strenuous efforts they were unable to get me on TV, but succeeded with Radio. They also sent out 150 letters advertising the meeting there and asking for financial support—they got in over 200 dollars.
I had a ten minute interview on the Radio—Webster's Channel, and appeared on "Town Meeting"—a radio meeting that I understand goes across Canada and down into the northern part of the States. This was probably the best part of the tour. I appeared with three others—budding MP's—and we each had to supply a copy of the script which we read at the meeting. Mine lasted about nine minutes. Then we were given a short time to answer each other. After a short break in the radio whilst questions were collected from the audience, we each answered questions put to us by the audience, and then were given a short time to sum up. The studio was crowded with about 135 people and the subject we were speaking on was "What Future has Socialism in Canada".
The meeting that had been arranged in Vancouver was not large but there were plenty of questions and discussion. At the end of the Vancouver visit, Comrades J. and M. Ahrens took me for a long week-end to a bungalow they had built in the mountains where I was re-vitalised for the rest of the tour. I should add that the members are making strenuous efforts to get an open air meeting place in Stanley Park.
On September 26th I left for Winnipeg. There were two meetings there but the attendance was not good—possibly because the weather was perishing cold, about 20 degrees. However I was glad to renew acquaintance with old members and sympathisers there, who went out of their way to make my stay as pleasant as possible—and it certainly was, in spite of the cold! Winnipeg has changed over the years. Old members have died or moved west and south-west, leaving the others to carry on under great difficulties. Some of those who left were active speakers.
On October 2nd I left for Toronto and Comrades S. and G. Catt and Comrade Brodie met me at the airport—literally falling on my neck! They are very much isolated there, but are doing a very good job stirring things up. An open discussion group has been formed not connected with any political party in which every week one of the members reads a paper, which is then discussed. I was invited to address the group. After I had opened up, questions were addressed to me for about 1½ hours, and then there was discussion. The business started around 8.30 p.m. and finished at 11.30 p.m. It seems to me to be a well worthwhile effort. There are 21 members of the group and another 16 wish to participate.
On October 5th I left for Montreal late at night. Comrades George and Karla Ellenbogen have recently gone to live there and started stirring things up. I stayed with them, and the morning after my arrival the fun started. In the course of the morning three newspaper interviews were given and two TV. The whole of it lasted over 4 hours. Two leading French newspapers gave excellent reports running to about 1½ columns. There were also three English newspaper reports and one in the McGill University paper. The meeting in Montreal was excellent with plenty of questions and discussion. There should soon be a branch of the Socialist Party of Canada there and also in Toronto. I should also add that I was taken on an excellent trip to the Laurentian mountains about 100 miles north and south along the Richelieu river. The autumnal colours were very good.
On October 10th I left for New York. There again I was glad to renew acquaintance with old members I had met on previous visits—including Comrade Orner, who is endowed with superlative energy. The meeting there was better than on my previous visits. The questions were slow in coming but there was plenty of discussion. I met a number of sympathisers, including a seaman who had met our comrades in London at the Russian Exhibition, and now wanted to join the WSP which shows how seeds sown at a venture can flower in distant places.
The New York members of the WSP meet regularly and open-air meetings are being held in Greenwich Village.
On October 14th I left for Boston. Comrade Morrison had worked like a trojan and got me in two Radio programmes—one over the phone. Both were quite good - one lasted nearly a quarter of an hour and I have brought the tape of it back with me. Unfortunately Boston had received reports that I was in a bad way physically (in fact I was in excellent condition!) so they did not go out their way much to advertise the meeting there. There was a good attendance of members and sympathisers. I gave a talk on the tour. Arising out of something I had said (nothing to do with the tour) there was an excellent discussion relating to war and the H-Bomb, in which there were contrasting views expressed.
There is a great deal I have missed out of this report on account of the limitations of space, and many members and sympathisers who gave me a warm greeting, but whose names I have had to leave out. I would like them all to know how much I appreciate what they did for me.
During the last weeks in America I stayed with the Rabs, and I have to thank them for the warmth of their hospitality and the way they put themselves out to see that I had rest and recreation, including some lovely trips to see the magnificent autumn plumage—I have never seen anything like it before. Members here will also be glad to know that Comrade Gloss is well again and back in harness. He sends his greetings to all he met here on his visit (so also do Comrades Rab and Milne) and hopes to make another visit soon.
Finally I found in the States and Canada plenty of sympathy for our outlook, as shown in the questions and discussions, much more than on my previous two visits, and the future for Socialism is certainly brightening up on the other side of the Atlantic.