Friday, July 8, 2016

Party News Briefs: Glasgow and St. Pancras (1952)

Party News from the June 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

May Day, 1952. Our Glasgow members write that this year’s May Day has been very encouraging for the Glasgow Comrades. In the afternoon on Sunday, May 4th, at Queen’s Park Recreation Grounds, a propaganda meeting which had been organised jointly by Kelvingrove and City branches, was a great success. The best, as a matter of fact, ever held outdoors on May Day.

When members arrived at the park with their small platform, the Communist Party, I.L.P. and the Scottish Nationalists were building up platforms and mounting loudspeaker equipment on motor-lorries, whilst waiting on their respective members who were marching to the park in the May Day Procession.

The procession duly arrived helped by pipe and flute bands and made for the different platforms prepared for them. When the circus had passed our first speaker mounted the platform and very quickly gathered an audience which grew to at least 500. Our meeting lasted two hours and could have gone on longer, but we had to allow time to get to the Cosmo Cinema where we were holding our indoor meeting in the evening. During the time we were holding the outdoor meeting we witnessed the spectacle of the once proud I.L.P. having to close down after less than 30 minutes, during which they had made a vain effort to get an audience with the assistance of loudspeakers and a ladies’ pipe band. The Scottish Nationalists stuck it out with a comparatively small audience, considering all the display they had. The only other meeting of any size was addressed by the ‘Rev.' Harry Pollitt, backed up by the choir of the ‘Russian Orthodox Church.' Their audience amounted to about 2,500, mostly composed of the faithful flock who had marched all the way from the centre of the town shouting silly slogans.

Our meeting arranged for the evening in the Cosmo Cinema had been advertised by putting 10,000 tickets through doors in the Kelvingrove constituency, by street chalking and newspaper advertisements. The distribution of the tickets had been hard work and we were anxious to see the results. The audience, giving a conservative estimate numbered at least 550. A collection of £15 13s. 8d. was taken and £4 odd literature was sold. But for a last minute hitch which deprived us of the use of a car for our loudspeaker equipment, we would probably have filled the hall which holds 750. Comrade May gave an excellent lecture and the members went home satisfied that the work they had put in was well worth the results.

The total of the collections for the day was £16 12s. and total literature sales amounted to £7 10s.

In London plans had been made to hold our usual May Day Rally in Hyde Park, but owing to heavy rain our hopes were washed away. Despite the rain, however, efforts were made to distribute handbills advertising our evening May Day Rally at St. Pancras Town Hall.

An audience of 600 attended this evening meeting to which we had invited representatives of other political parties to speak from the platform putting their parties’ case so that the audience could compare the various cases along with the case of the Socialist Party. The Liberal Party accepted the challenge, the Labour Party declined, the Conservative Party replied that they could not accept as it was not their practice to address meetings on a Sunday, the Communist Party did not reply to our invitation.

The meeting commenced with Comrades D’Arcy. and Waters speaking for the Party and a Mr. Allison for the Liberal Party. We announced that our challenge had been made and only accepted by the Liberal Party when a Conservative and Labour Party member from the audience asked if they could speak on their respective Parties’ cases. They were permitted to join the other speakers on the platform and each spoke for ten minutes. The audience was most attentive and many questions were asked of our speakers.

A collection of £17 was taken and literature sales amounted to £3 10s.

St. Pancras Branch members were responsible for Stewards and literature sellers, and the general organisation of the meeting, and they worked efficiently and well.

Manchester Branch held their May Day Rally on Thursday, 1st May, at a meeting in Chorlton Town Hall. Apart from knowing that this meeting was also very successful we have not the full details to hand yet.
Phyllis Howard

Our 48th Annual Conference (1952)

Party News from the May 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the morning of Friday, April 11th, of this year, 69 delegates, representing all but one of our branches, assembled at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, for our 48th Annual Conference. The delegates sat down to criticise and discuss a 14-page report from the Executive Committee, together with two pages of amendments to rules, 22 resolutions and 13 items for discussion. This was quite a plateful to digest in the three days at their disposal. On Friday afternoon the delegates reached the all-time record total of 72 delegates.

Much of the discussion on Friday morning centred around proposals for reorganising and improving the procedure at our Conference. This was undoubtedly due to the fact that the increased size of our conference delegation during late years has shown some of our procedure to be suitable only for smaller bodies and that, as we grow in numerical strength, we must amend our methods in order to facilitate our work.

Another proposition which was obviously inspired by the increase in our membership was that all branches with a membership of over 50 should be encouraged to divide and set up new branches in nearby localities. Conference decided that to attempt to increase the number of our branches by these methods was undesirable and would not have the effect desired by the proposers of the item. Branches should be allowed to grow naturally without urging from Head Office.

The Executive Committee reported to the Conference on the Party’s finances during 1951. The report showed that losses made in previous years on our Summer Schools were not repeated during 1951. The cost of postage, printing and stationery increased by about 30 per cent, compared with 1950 and over 60 per cent, compared with 1949. The cost of producing the Socialist Standard was up by £150 during the year necessitating the increase of price by 1d. Expenditure on Hall Hire, Advertising, etc., was also greater so that altogether, “The end of 1951 sees us worse off financially (as far as balance is concerned) than a year previously, but with the problem of premises solved permanently.”

The main item of discussion on the Saturday session centred around our methods of propaganda. Heated arguments were advanced in favour or in opposition to our various avenues for expounding our case. All were agreed that it would be inadvisable to discard any one of those avenues but that we might with advantage concentrate on certain ones without neglecting any. The disadvantages attendant upon outdoor meetings in this age of noisy traffic, cinemas, radio, television, etc., were considered, but our inability to make use of the modem mass propaganda machinery, due to lack of finances and Government control, make it necessary for us to continue with older methods despite the fact that they may be less productive of results than of yore.

The training and encouragement of new speakers, the methods and manner of our approach to audiences, the social problems that we investigate and the flaws in our propaganda organisation were all debated, and delegates indulged in a lot of self-searching to find causes for dissatisfaction and remedies for the future.

Sunday afternoon was devoted mainly to a discussion on electoral activity and the Executive Committee was instructed to put forward candidates at the next General Election. Here a problem was encountered. It was recognised that a Parliamentary Election could be held at very short notice and that quick decisions would have to be made. The concern of delegates arose from the need to keep decisions on all major issues in the hands of the Party membership whilst at the same time being able to make such decisions in the limited time available.

Much of the discussion disclosed a dissatisfaction with the slow growth of our organisation, but never at any time did a delegate or other member suggest that we should depart from the rock-firm foundation on which our Party is built—a sound understanding of our object and principles on the part of all applicants for membership. We have seen other political parties which have called themselves socialist but have in reality been little more than rebellions, build up large organisations on the soft sand of a mass, politically-ignorant membership, and then crumble away to oblivion.

The report of the work done during 1951, which was under review, did not show anything sensational. The decline in interest in outdoor meetings was offset by an increase in the number of writers for the Socialist Standard, tending to show that many members consider written propaganda to be more effective than verbal.

Those members who sat through the three days of the Conference, whilst the sun was shining outside the Conference Hall, probably felt that they had experienced three days of dry-as-dust discussion. It has been said that this was not our most brilliant or enthusing Conference. Long hours of serious discussion was relieved by an occasional humorous wisecrack or, interjection. But it was business done. It was a real Conference in that the delegates assembled to confer on the many problems facing the Party and not to listen to long-winded oratory from a bunch of party commissars, as is the case at the Annual Conferences of other political parties. We can embark on the next year of socialist activity reinforced with the ideas and decisions that emanated from the Conference.

A successful social evening was held at our new Head Office on the Friday evening and the social and dance on Saturday evening was likewise a great success. The Conference concluded with the usual Party rally in the Conway Hall on Sunday evening.
W. Waters

Party News Briefs (1952)

Party News from the May 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Annual Conference, a big event for Party Comrades, again took place at Conway Hall, London, during the Easter week-end. A report of the proceedings appears on another page of this issue.

Propaganda was one of the items discussed at length during Conference and it does appear that greater efforts should be made all round to improve this vital aspect of the Party’s work. An opportunity is available for London Comrades in particular to gather round for the May Day Rally in Hyde Park on Sunday afternoon, 4th May, and for the evening indoor meeting at St. Pancras Town Hall, held after the Park meeting. A call has been sent to Branches urging that Members should help to advertise these meetings and to sell literature. Comrades are asked to meet at St. Martins-in-the-Fields (Trafalgar Square) on Saturday and Sunday afternoons (3rd and 4th May) at 2.30 p.m. as there will be an opportunity to sell our literature at meetings that are being held there. This will provide a good opportunity to distribute handbills advertising our Sunday evening meeting. So please make a note of the dates and time and turn up prepared to work for Socialism. Literature sellers are also urgently needed at Bayswater Road (Hyde Park) at 2.30 p.m. on Sunday, 4th May. This is an extra special occasion and worthy of strong support.

Glasgow Branches (City and Kelvingrove) are also holding a May Day Rally at the Cosmo Cinema, Rose Street, Glasgow, on Sunday, 4th May.
Phyllis Howard

Party News Briefs: Leyton and Bloomsbury (1952)

Party News from the April 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

Annual Conference is being held as usual at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 11th, 12th and 13th. The proceedings commence each day at 11 a.m. and it does speed the work of Conference considerably if members and visitors arrive punctually.

The Social and Dance (full details elsewhere in this issue) is being held on Saturday and it is hoped that there will be a record attendance. A band has been engaged and the price of the tickets includes refreshments which are available in the small hall.

Conference Rally takes place on the Sunday evening and Provincial speakers have been invited to address the meeting. This meeting provides a good opportunity for provincial members to be present at a London propaganda rally.

Leyton Branch have been unsuccessful so far in arranging a debate with a local M.P. Challenges have either been refused or unanswered, but there is still hope of getting an acceptance. During the last few months the Branch has continued to hold fortnightly lectures and discussions on a variety of subjects. These lectures have been well attended by members and visitors. It is hoped to run the outdoor meetings this summer without assistance from Head Office, several members of the Branch being Party speakers.

Bloomsbury Branch have held two Sunday meetings in Central London and arrangements will be put in hand to have regular Sunday meetings at the same address during the next indoor winter season. The Trade Union Club having closed, the Branch found it difficult to find an alternative meeting place in Central London after an unbroken record of over ten years at the Trade Union Club. We hope the new venue will prove the alternative.
Phyllis Howard

Party News Briefs: Paddington, Bloomsbury and Manchester (1952)

Party News from the March 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

Paddington Branch report that the first of their fortnightly Sunday evening meetings held at Denison House, Vauxhall Bridge Road, was a success and it is hoped that these meetings will be continued for some time. Meetings in March are being held on the 9th and 23rd. For details see Notices of Meetings.

Bloomsbury Branch, since the closing of the Trades Union Club, has been anxious to obtain a Central London Hall for Sunday evening meetings and has now been successful in hiring the Night Taxi Drivers’ hall at 6, Flitcroft Street (off St. Giles High Street), W.C.2 The first meeting will be held on Sunday, March 16th, at 7 p.m. followed by another meeting on March 30th. The speaker on the 16th will be A. Turner and on the 30th the speaker will be C. May. These meetings together with the Paddington Branch meetings at Denison House, will provide good propaganda opportunities in Central London in addition to the regular weekly Sunday evening meetings at Head Office (52, Clapham High Street). Will members and sympathisers please note these dates and give the meetings every possible support

Other midweek meetings are being held regularly by Branches throughout London and full details appear elsewhere in this issue.

Manchester Branch is holding another meeting at Onward Hall, Deansgate, on Friday, 14th March.

The Annual Conference will be held at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 11th, 12th and 13th, when the work of the Party over the past year will be reviewed. On the Saturday evening a Social and Dance will be held in the large Conway Hall and the usual Sunday evening Rally will be held in the same hall.

Will members who can accommodate Provincial Delegates and members prepared to assist in the social arrangements, please contact the Social Committee at Head Office as soon as possible in order to facilitate the smooth running of the social side of Conference.
Phyllis Howard

Party News Briefs: Paddington, Hackney and Glasgow (1952)

From the February 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

Indoor Lectures throughout the Party have been held regularly during the winter and on another page in this issue is a list of meetings for February.

Paddington Branch is launching out with fortnightly Sunday meetings at Dennison House, Victoria.

Hackney Branch hold meetings every Friday at Bethnal Green Library at 8 p.m. There is comfortable seating accommodation for 160 visitors in this hall and the Branch specially invite their many sympathisers in East London to make these meetings widely known. There is always ample time for discussion where sympathisers and opponents can participate.

Kelvingrove Branch have sent two contributions to News Briefs. One is addressed to the Working Class of Kelvingrove and states, “ You have probably bought the Socialist Standard for the first time. Much of it will seem new to you and some of its contents may need explaining when compared with what you thought was Socialism. Our canvassers will be at your door again sometime in the near future to sell you another copy of the Socialist Standard or perhaps a pamphlet. But in the meantime, why not come to our Branch meeting in St. Andrew’s Hails, Door G, Berkeley Street, and find out a little more about Socialism. There is not time to waste, the need for abolishing Capitalism is urgent. Kelvingrove Branch meets every fortnight on Mondays at the above hall. The following are the meeting dates for February: 4th, 18th, and March 3rd, 17th and 31st. Time 7.30 p.m.”

The Kelvingrove Branch are continuing with their efforts in bringing to the notice of the Kelvingrove constituency the need for Socialism. In the month of December the sales of the Socialist Standard, through canvassing, increased again to 14½ dozen copies; nearly two dozen copies of these were the November issue.

So far about one sixth of the constituency has been canvassed and the number of members engaged in the task is six. These members canvass on an average of two nights each week. As time goes on the Branch hope to encourage other members who are a little self-conscious at "going on the knocker,” to take part. In the summer it is hoped to extend the propaganda work by chalking the area with suitable slogans advertising the Socialist Standard. It is our aim to get the Party well known in the district and in time to have quite a few more members of the working class understanding Socialism and joining the Party, to work for the achievement of Socialism.

Party News Briefs: Glasgow and Brighton (1952)

Party News from the January 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Organiser of Kelvingrove Branch sent the following news of Branch propaganda activity for last month’s issue but it was just too late for the printer so it had to be held over until this month.
   “Since the middle of August, the Kelvingrove Branch has had a very successful series of outdoor meetings. Two members who previously had not shown any great ability as speakers, have, with a little change of technique, managed to hold outdoor meetings at which on only one occasion, has there been less than 100 of an audience and, on every other, the audience varied between 150 and 300. Collections and Literature sales have been good and a number of regular attenders are beginning to come around. But, best of all, the success we have had, has put new zest into the Branch as a whole. Our meetings started off with attendances of about 3 to 4 party members and quickly mounted until at the last two we could count 15 to 20 members.
   To those members who have tried speaking and then given up when they did not meet with immediate success; we hope our achievement will act as encouragement to have another go. It helps a great deal if one is big enough to accept constructive criticism from fellow members and, of course, if a deaf ear can be turned to members and relatives who deplore your lack of ability.
  During the election period, with the help of three "Glasgow City" comrades, we managed to push about 2,000 Election Manifestos through an equivalent number of doors. We would have liked to have done the whole Kelvingrove constituency, but to succeed in such a venture, we would have needed more members or the Manifestoes at our disposal on an earlier date.
   By holding meetings, attending opposition party meetings and canvassing from door to door almost 20 doz. S.S. were sold, this being the total amount of S.S. ordered by City and Kelvingrove.
  Taking stock of the past couple of months’ activity, we feel pleased, and look forward to next year’s propaganda season with renewed vigour and vitality—our recent success has acted like a tonic.”
Members of the Brighton Group made application to the Executive Committee for permission to form a Brighton Branch. Permission was granted and so another Group becomes an official Branch of the Party. For some years now, members in the Brighton area have been very active and they formed a Group which has worked well and consistently. Good outdoor propaganda meetings have been maintained throughout the year.
Phyllis Howard

Branded Comedy (2016)

The TV Review column from the July 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

Labelling a show as a ‘sitcom’ can make us assume that it’ll be throwaway or shallow, however watchable. But some of the most well-known situation comedies have said something interesting about society and how we cope with it. Perhaps the sitcom with the most ambitious ideas was The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin (1976 – 1979, 1996). In each of its series it explored the alienation of being a middle-aged middle-manager, the hollowness of consumerism, communal living and a government takeover by senior citizens. Butterflies (1978 – 1983) followed a housewife feeling trapped in the role she’s been pushed into. Its author, Carla Lane, also penned the once-huge, now-forgotten Bread (1986 – 1991) about a family’s dodgy deals to find enough money. The same theme was the basis of the even more popular Only Fools And Horses (1981 – 2003). Yes Minister (1980 – 1984), Yes Prime Minister (1986 – 1988, 2013) and The Thick Of It (2005 – 2012) sent up the games played by politicians, civil servants and government advisers. Twenty Twelve (2011 – 2012) and W1A (2014 – 2015) satirised the corporate culture behind the London Olympics and BBC. Their mockumentary style was influenced by The Office (2001 – 2003), which had something to say about workplace hierarchies and dynamics, as did Getting On (reviewed in the December 2012 Socialist Standard). In this series, Jo Brand’s character, Kim, worked in a geriatric ward of a NHS hospital. She and the other nurses had to wade through the swamp of market forces and stifling procedures to care for their patients.

Getting On’s sequel, Going Forward (BBC4) revisits Kim when she’s working as a domiciliary carer visiting elderly people in their own homes. The fictional company she works for, Buccaneer 2000 (‘We care about your healthcare’), is on the shoddier end of the market, its clients often left waiting for carers that don’t turn up. When Buccaneer 2000 stops caring about your healthcare and abruptly closes its domiciliary division, Kim loses her job and already-unstable income because she’s on a ‘zero hours’ contract. The show doesn’t dwell on how this type of employment is even more vulnerable and unfulfilling than other kinds. Nor does it explore the other problems commonly facing carers, such as the impossible pressures to adequately change someone’s dressings, wash them, make food for them and perhaps even chat with them within a 15 minute appointment.

Instead, the programme’s emphasis is more on how money and the lack of it shapes the lives of its characters. Kim’s ageing mother has to move to a care home after suffering a stroke. Her bungalow is sold and its proceeds are split between Kim and her neurotic sister, Jackie, played by Helen Griffin. Several months later, Jackie has spent her share, and the sisters realise that they won’t be able to afford their mother’s care home charges. When her health deteriorates further, she crosses the threshold of qualifying for those charges to be funded through the state. The series ends with Kim accusing Jackie of being happy about their mother being more unwell because of its financial upside.

This is one example among many in the show of how money wraps itself around our lives. As well as distracting the sisters from their mother’s wellbeing and pushing a wedge between them, money weighs heavily on the mind of Kim’s husband. Portrayed by Omid Djalili, Dave works as a chauffeur with an income considerably less than those he drives around. His wide-boy colleague Terry tries to steer him into taking a driving job in Iraq, arguing that the high wages justify any risks. They also talk about another driver who received a £100 tip and now runs his own business. Throughout, getting money is associated with getting kudos, security and comfort, even though it is the money system which puts these at risk. The same point was also made in Bread and Only Fools And Horses, but with a brashness completely different from Going Forward’s bittersweet, naturalistic style.

Despite Going Forward being billed as a sitcom and ‘dark comedy’, it’s more of a drama which uses wit to lighten up its otherwise grim themes. At times, it feels like a Mike Leigh play in the way they both find humour in otherwise sad or prosaic experiences, and with more emphasis on characterisation than plot. The characters in Going Forward are brought to life by a talented cast making the most of its intelligent, perceptive script. While its sister-series Getting On blatantly criticised the circumstances the NHS finds itself in, Going Forward’s focus is more subtle and personal – how capitalism’s rationing of resources affects how we care for and relate to other people. Unfortunately, the series only ran to three episodes, presumably due to a lack of budget rather than ideas.
Mike Foster

The Congo (1961)

Book Review from the April 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

Congo Disaster by Colin Legum, (Penguin Books 2/6)

For a very long time, the natives of what was the Belgian Congo have been an ill used race of men. The Arab slavers look, according to one estimate, 30 million of them. The agents of Leopold II were little better. The king said. "The slave trade . . . is a plague spot that every friend of civilisation would desire to see disappear . . . " but in the event he imposed what Legum calls ". . . forced labour on a scale unknown in modern times until the advent of Hitler".

It is little wonder that the Congolese have not forgotten and that their politics were so conditioned by the memories of the colonial period. Strong nationalist parties grew up and at the Brussels Conference in January last year they made their surprise demand for independence within six months. Just as surprisingly, the Belgians agreed without a struggle. There was, apparently, to be no repetition of Cyprus or Algeria. In fact the Congo, as Mr. Legum tells us, had already ceased to be a “Blue Chip" colony: the fall in world prices of copper and other primary commodities had seen to that.

The climb-down in Brussels was followed by the elections in June, in which the nationalists swept the board. But no section of them had a decisive lead and the ring was cleared for the Unitarians (Lumumba,  Gizenga) and the federalists (Kasa-Vubu, Tshombe) to fight it out. The rest of the story is yesterday's news.

Mr. Legum indicts the Belgians, reveals Tshombe as a vicious fop, disposes of the notion that Lumumba was baking a troubled pie for Moscow to stick its thumbs into.

Although criticising the United Nations, he also gives them a lot of credit: "If there is neither chaos nor anarchy today it is solely due to the U.N. operations." 

Congo Disaster has been overtaken by events (it  was published before the Lumumba murder) so that its introduction is, in fact, a kind of postscript Mr. Legum's suggested remedies are essential old hat and. not surprisingly, ignore the commercial nature of society which is the real cause of the strife in the Congo.

But it is a typical Penguin—easy to read, easy to carry, and a useful refresher course on the history, economics and politics of one of the world's latest eruptions

The Politics of Confrontation (1974)

Book Review from the July 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

Strategy For A Living Revolution”, by George Lakey. W. H. Freeman & Co., San Francisco, 1973. $2.95.

The Socialist case is a clear and logical one but its advancement is held back by muddling and incorrect ideas constantly pumped at the workers through the media and books such as this one. Purporting to show us the way to a fundamentally different kind of society it in fact shows us the confusion that exists in the author’s mind. Whilst it is true that the book is well intentioned we must remember that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Lakey, a “prominent Quaker activist”, paints an exotic picture of Eastern promise but his “Living Revolution” turns out to consist of many of those misconceptions which the Socialist Party has spent nearly 70 years discrediting. According to Lakey, in striving for a more “egalitarian society” we must make “people mobilise their own power for confrontation with the status quo . . . defy the police”. We must make “propaganda of the deed” by “mass dilemma demonstrations” and boycotting of “social institutions . . . reactionary schools and churches”, and go in for a policy of “mass non-cooperation” (all non-violently) until the constant crises caused by this action will in turn cause the “dissolution of the old value system”, and hey presto! we get our new society.

However, this terminology does not hide from the Socialist that after “non-violent transnational” revolution has taken place there remains the hideous skeleton of capitalism. Lakey does not question the fundamental relationship of capitalism, i.e. that of wage labour and capital and the fact that the vast majority of the population have to sell their labour-power to the tiny handful of those that own capital, and thereby the means whereby other men must live. Lakey’s ideas are a hotchpotch of the left-winger, the pacifist and of course the eternal reformer. The kind of campaigns he advocates "are largely built around specific concrete demands”. (Anti-racial-discriminations, protests, etc.)

Socialism will not and cannot be brought about by confrontations or non co-operation of any kind but only by the working class taking conscious and political action to achieve it. As for confronting the powers of the State — non-violently or otherwise — few things could more quickly lead to cynicism and possibly the spilling of workers’ blood. Nor will any amount of crises topple capitalism; it will always struggle back just so long as the workers continue to allow it to do so, which they do actively by voting for the capitalist parties or passively by default. Lakey’s constant references to the “socialist countries” (Russia, China etc.) are completely misleading as Socialism cannot exist in one country. Just as capitalism today is the international society dominant in all countries of the world it follows that when it is replaced by Socialism this too must be on a world-wide basis.

As for reforming capitalism, the Socialist recognizes that any attempt to knock the rough edges off capitalism will not only fail in solving any basic social problem but will sidetrack the workers from the real path for their emancipation—Socialism. The SPGB has the only “concrete demand” that really matters: ABOLITION OF THE WAGES SYSTEM.
Tony D'Arcy