Sunday, August 7, 2016

Party Notes. (1909)

Party News from the November 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

Two Party candidates are contesting local elections in Burnley and three in Tooting, and full advantage is being taken of the special facilities thus offered for propaganda.

Elsewhere our comrades are in evidence. In Islington, where the “Social-Democratic” and the “Progressive-Labour” wings of the Liberal Party are opposing each other, our branch is running a special mission exposing both and urging the workers to abstain from voting either for those who support capitalism because it pays them or for those who support it in order to “reform” it.

Our Islington comrades, thinking of the dark months now upon us, when necessarily the sale of the Socialist Standard is reduced and our finances correspondingly strained, are organising a Social and Dance in aid of the Party Organ Guarantee Fund (see Islington Branch Report, p. 22), while a Party Social to the same end is mooted. Take time by the forelock, comrades, and remember the appearance of the “ S.S.” must be assured.

A debate between T. A. Jackson, representing the I.L.P., and Comrade J. Fitzgerald, S.P.G.B., has been held at Tooting. We expect to repeat more fully in our December issue. As we go to press a debate is being arranged between Comrade F. E. Dawkins and “ Clarion Vanner” Mr. Muir Watson, the consent of the Stoke Newington I.L.P. being required.

Following up the public debate in which the local champion of the I.L.P. got so severely handled, our East Ham comrades have carried through a vigorous and successful week’s mission completely putting to rout the followers of the aforesaid champion.

At Ilford a Mr. A. M. Stones, a Protestant lecturer, quickly realising the growing influence of our Party even in that church and chapel ridden district, set himself to attack Socialism, denouncing it as Anarchism, Atheism, Free Love, etc., etc. Our men therefore held a few extra meetings to expose the fallacy of this teaching, and incidentally to take advantage of the advertisement given to Socialism by this Holy Squint. The meetings proved very successful, interest being added by the tactics of the Christians. At one meeting, after a scathing exposure of how religion is used to bolster up capitalism, our Comrade Dawkins, reading from Press reports of court proceedings, showed that while so-called "Free Love” did not necessarily apply to Socialism, it applied to Mr. Stones himself, in spite of his Christianity. This proved the last straw. Our comrade’s arguments won the intelligent portion of the audience: the Christian section, seeing their idol shattered, indulged in a display of hooliganism that rendered continuance of the meeting impossible. A bodyguard thirty or forty strong of the aforesaid intelligent section of the audience that accompanied our comrades to their Club alone prevented Dawkins from being literally torn to pieces by these erstwhile lambs of God. Baulked for the moment they were not satisfied, and later when Dawkins was walking home he was pounced upon by three of them, one of whom dealt him a very severe blow on the head with a cudgel, all three then running off. (In this connection a reward of £5 is offered—for particulars apply 27, York Road, Ilford). Fortunately they did not kill our comrade (who was on the platform next evening as enthusiastic as ever), but they have helped us to effectually kill Mr. Stone's propaganda, and have really done us a power of good.

Our New Leaflet (1909)

Editorial from the February 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

In issuing “The Socialist View" of the unemployment question in leaflet form for free distribution, we have commenced the year well. The leaflet is at once a clear, comprehensive, simple and straight-forward statement of the case, and it is up to the Party members and sympathisers to see that it is placed in the hands of as many members of the working class, employed and unemployed alike, as is possible. This is particularly desirable at the present time because not only is the question of unemployment very acute, but the confusion that has overtaken the pseudo-Socialist and Labour parties on this matter seems to have reached something of a climax. Take, for instance, the grand national campaign that was to have been organised by the Social Democratic Party. This, has fizzled out, as Socialists knew it must, and now that “collections” are not forthcoming, and the “leaders" are not prepared to take their own advice and “rush the bakers’ shops,” the London unemployed decline to be used as “unpaid sandwich men,” to walk the streets accompanied by more policemen than “comrades,” to advertise the S.D.P. Those leaders sought to excuse their use of the unemployed on the plea that they were teaching them the principles of Socialism, illustrating those principles by the unemployment of their students. The force of this is seen when the “leader” is hustled out of Berkeley Square by the police. The men, being without a leader, disperse. Their class-consciousness could not be very profound, nor their Socialist education complete.

And what of the “Labour” Party—the great Independent-Free-Trade-Radical-Gospel-Temperance-Secular-Nonconformist-Labour Party? In the House of Commons its members were busy prating about opening ports and closing “pubs” ; outside, they are now, on the platform and in the capitalist Press, slanging each other as traitors and enemies. Yet despite the ever intensifying poverty and misery due to increasing unemployment, they are all of them content to moon about in what Liebknecht well termed “the dream of the right to work,” content to dream—for £200 a year.

Take the Socialist Labour Party—this party through a somewhat chequered career has, as it were, boxed the compass, yet has failed entirely to grasp the Socialist position. From advocating palliatives it has swung to the other extreme, and absurdly talked of “taking and holding,” and now we find it appealing, cap in hand, to the representatives of the capitalist class, asking what they are going to do for the unemployed, while, as if to further illustrate the confusion existing in that party its national secretary has been expelled for assisting a “right to work” committee.

The only remedy (!) the Tory Party can suggest is the same Protection that is proved powerless to touch the unemployed problem in Germany, France, or America; while the panacea of the Liberal Government is to be found in the new army scheme, coupled with the (conveniently made from the necessity of) putting in hand that work purposely held over from the Summer.

Amid and against all this confusion the S.RG.B. pursues its course as steadily and uncompromisingly as ever. The first and only Socialist party established in these isles, it has consistently held aloft the banner of Socialism. Increasing numbers and increasing strength have but spurred it on to greater efforts, while neither the wiles of the capitalist-class politician nor the sentimental ambiguities of the "labour leader,” the shrieks of the ultra moral and religious anti-Socialist, nor even the increase in working-class unemployment has succeeded in effecting in it the slightest deviation from the Socialist principles or change in its policy. Coming from such a party, the leaflet mentioned above will throw a welcome light on the outer world of political and economic darkness, and shed a peculiar light on the burning question of unemployment from an unmistakably Socialist, and therefore undeniably working-class, view-point.

Blatchford under the Harrow. (1908)

From the October 1908 issue of the Socialist Standard

Between the nether millstones of the Socialist attitude upon the question of invasion, and the Liberal Manchester Guardian's answer upon the facts of the present German scare, Robert Blatchford has been rather pitiably pulverised. The Socialist Party derides Mr. Blatchford's passion for lamp-black and lightning, and repudiates his attitude upon war as upon other working-class questions; and the Manchester Guardian, with a single splutter of the pen, has killed the only alleged fact upon which Mr. Blatchford built up his war scare articles. His 200,000 Germans practising embarkation are now, as he himself admits, as dead as doornails. It is true Mr. Blatchford admits his error (as to the 200,000). There was. indeed, nothing else for it. But he still holds to the idea that we are in danger of invasion.

From a working-class point of view, of course, it doesn’t matter two straws whether we are or not. There is no reason for supposing that a German capitalist is worse than one of the bull-dog breed, and this is the only question that affects the workers in this connection. The casual person would be justified in concluding from the outcry of scare mongers of Mr. Blatchford's mould, that the Germans were a semi-barbarous horde who, having conquered England, would either put the whole 40 millions of us to the sword and have done with us in one great blood orgy, or would enslave and reduce us to a state of wretchedness inconceivable. In point of fact the normal German is at least the equal of the normal Britain in intelligence, and standard of comfort. If, therefore, the hosts of the Teutonic capitalist overran us and imposed German conditions and a German standard of comfort, there would be no material change in the case of the working class. As for any attempt to appreciably reduce the standard of living, that is clearly impossible. The working class of this country have plumbed the deeps of misery and poverty. They have, as a class, no further to go if they are to maintain anything approximating to working efficiency.

Therefore the intelligent working-class answer to the lay of the Clarion minstrel is, that, as they have nothing to lose but their chains, they are supremely indifferent to the possibility of a Prussian descent upon the English capitalist's coast. If Germany wants good old England, they may have it for us. It doesn’t belong to the English working class. Why should the English working class worry about preserving it for others? If the others want it, let them fight for it. and if they manage to eat one another in the process, all the better.

The only thing that matters is the development of a consciousness of working-class solidarity, born of appreciation of the common cause of the working-class misery and its common remedy. Socialism is the answer to every question of working-class import, and— Socialism knows no frontier. It matters nothing that England may be peopled as to one half by Germans, or by any other proportion nameable of any or all nationalities on the capitalist globe. That would make no difference to the movement of the working class towards the world-embracing Co-operative Commonwealth. The workers of all nations make common cause against the common or capitalist exploiter.

Therefore, if invasion is coming, let it come; and if Mr. Blatchford wants to don his old uniform and go out to fight, let him fight. It will he no more than one foolish entry on his own record - -and what is one among so many! Upon questions of this sort he is suspect. His reputation is known. He is weighed in the balances. He is of the stuff that the patriot is made—the patriot of the music hall—however he may protest to the contrary. He has worn regimentals and they have got into his blood. For this cause he gives himself over to the imagination of vain things (one of them being that he can speak with authority upon military matters). Wars and rumours of wars are (with the lust of adulation), meat and drink to him. He may quite honestly hold himself to be a man of peace but,—it is no more than a delusion he hugs. What reason he has, goes to the four winds at the tap of a drum. “My country right or wrong,” is the essence of Jingoism, and that was openly, blatantly, the attitude of Blatchford during the Boer War, however much he may attempt (as he has so often attempted), to disguise it to-day by quotations from other articles of that time, capable of bearing other constructions. He went “off the handle then, and his unfortunate daughter played, so he told the world, the “national” anthem (or was it “ Rule Britannia”?) every evening at his command. He was Sergeant Blatchford of the Dublin Fusiliers then, and he would be Sergeant Blatchford once again. He has very much in common with Kaiser Bill —whom he despises.

Well, the Socialist movement cannot afford to have a Sergeant Blatchford of the Dublin Fusiliers. He would be dear at any price.

But it must be a bitter pill for if the word is pardonable - so “cocksure” a gentleman as Mr. Blatchford to have to make public confession of error.
A. J. M. Gray

Tottenham Branch report. (1906)

Party News from the June 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Like our comrades of West Ham reported in last month's Socialist Standard, we are neither dead nor asleep. We have held our propaganda meetings every Sunday morning and evening all through the Winter at West Green Corner, with very gratifying results. Our Comrade Anderson upholding the position of the Party against all comers, from the defenders of Total Abstinence to Universal Perpetualism, as well as the other usual "political" opponents, all of whom have alike had to depart, defeated.

The Branch membership is growing and the sale of The Socialist Standard is steadily increasing, over 100 copies having now been sold at one meeting.

A few weeks ago a meeting supposed to be in aid of the Hemsworth Miners (who had been locked out some 87 weeks) was held at our station. Three local Councillors were to speak, and when the chairman had opened the meeting one of them proceeded to address the crowd. But instead of speaking of, or on behalf of, the miners, he (presumably from force of habit) talked about himself and his activity or want of it on the local Education Committee.

Realising the trick, we planted our platform some little distance away, and very soon the people were around it, listening and applauding as our speaker showed how the poverty of the miners of Hemsworth and elsewhere, inevitable under capitalism, could be cured, but only by Socialism.

The attempt of the local parish pump politicians to take advantage of the sufferings of those people to advertise their own peculiar brand of "progressive labourism'' met with signal disaster, and, losing their entire audience, all they could do was to come and ask us for a collection for them. This was refused, but they were invited to send a statement of their case with any request to our Head Office, where, we assured them, it would be generously considered - but nothing more has been heard of them.

Under the auspices of the North London District Council we have started our Thursday night meetings at St. Ann's Road, and have met with that kind of opposition we had thought was a thing of the past, a section of the shopocracy of the neighbourhood engineering the trouble. One night one of them displayed his intelligence and skill by walking round and round the meeting blowing a penny trumpet. As this, however, did not succeed in spoiling our meeting, a professional cornet player was brought up and a chorus of half-a-dozen assisted him in making an infernal row. Some thought they were singing; nevertheless our meeting went on, and although at our last one an even more dirty attack was tried we held our ground, and finishing up with three rousing cheers for Free Speech, we assured all interested that we would be there again next Thursday, and we will.
H. A. Young

A Shadow Falls Across the Capitalist World (1945)

From the August 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Election Campaign is over and the votes have been cast. For the first time in the history of this country a party of working men and women has put forward a delegate for parliament on one issue alone—to capture the powers of government for the sole purpose of dispossessing the capitalist class of their ownership of the means of production and establishing Socialism in place of the present social order. At our meetings we stressed the fact that voters who were not in favour of this sweeping revolution should not vote for our delegate. We also stressed our opposition to reform policies and pointed out that we could do nothing for the workers: that Socialism was something the workers must accomplish themselves, understanding what they were after and using the Socialist Party as their instrument; for this purpose. Our opponents at North Paddington were the Tory and Labour parties.

Over the years we have been told that if we wait until the workers understand Socialism we would have to wait hundreds of years. As workers we repudiated this sneer at the intelligence of our class. We were told we were armchair philosophers, and twitted with the phrase “The Small Party of Good Boys.” Our reply has always been that our case is clear, direct and simple and is the only one in the interests of the workers. Consequently the workers will listen to us when we have sufficient means at our disposal to make a concentrated attack to arouse the workers interest.

Events have shown how right we were. For many years members and sympathisers have been contributing to our election fund. As we are only working men and women it has been a slow and painful process. Our principal obstacle was the £150 deposit required; not even a mole hill to our opponents, with their rich supporters, but a veritable alpine wall across our path. Just before the war we had collected enough to venture on the campaign and we put forward a prospective candidate, but the outbreak of war deferred the general election. When we learnt that there was to be a general election this year we decided to take part. We appointed a Parliamentary Committee who planned and, with the assistance of the Propaganda and other Committees, carried through the campaign. We decided to contest North Paddington and nominated a delegate to go forward as our candidate. Then we rolled up our sleeves and waded in, throwing all the strength we had into the contest.

We had no “National figures,” with or without cigars, to dangle before the electors, nor had we any national newspapers to bamboozle them We wanted neither. Instead we had the best of all weapons, the only solution to working class poverty and misery, and working class brains, energy and enthusiasm with which to put it forward. In the few short weeks at our disposal a campaign was planned and carried through that our opponents, who had neither the conviction nor the sincerity that inspired us, were unable to equal.

We got out leaflets explaining our case in detail and members and sympathisers came straight from work (sometimes involving long journeys) to the committee rooms to spend hours writing  100,000 addresses, folding leaflets, printing posters and doing many other jobs. Others organised or spoke at the numerous meetings arranged in the constituency. Meetings were advertised by a loud speaker van, by sticking up 1,700 posters in every available spot and by chalking the roads at suitable places.

Our Manifesto and four other statements explaining the Socialist position were rent to the 34,000 voters in the constituency, and the manifesto to the 1,000 services voters. Men and women members and sympathisers were out every night canvassing and selling literature. They succeeded in covering over half the houses in the constituency spending much time discussing our ease. Every house in the constituency was visited four times by helpers to deliver leaflets or hand-bills. Everyone worked hard and took a joy in what they were doing. No one worried about whether the work was dirty or clean, for they were working for themselves, helping to clean out the dirty stable of capitalism.

And now, looking back, we have the satisfaction of knowing that the planning and the execution were well and truly done.

What response did we get to our efforts? There is only one word the present writer can think of that describes it—amazing! Our case was put forward everywhere without trimmings, just as we have put it forward for 41 years. We held two Sunday night-meetings at the Metropolitan Music Hall, Harrow Road. On each occasion the theatre was packed with two thousand people. These meetings lasted for over three hours during which interesting questions were put to our speakers by the audience. A weeknight meeting was held at the Porchester Hall which was attended by about 600 people.

One night Churchill turned up at the Prince of Wales, Paddington, to give his usual dose of opium. He did not get an enthusiastic reception. After he left our speakers held two large meetings. When it commenced to rain one of the speakers invited his audience to adjourn to the little Emmanuel Hall where about 300 of them packed it out and gave our speaker not only un attentive hearing, but an enthusiastic one as he answered their questions for nearly two hours.

At the beginning of the campaign our audiences were small but as they learnt more about our principles and policy they commenced to flock to the meetings.

The striking thing about all our meetings has been the orderliness and attentiveness of the audiences, and their genuine interest in Socialism as evidenced by the direct and interesting questions they asked.

Our audiences were composed of working men and woman of all kinds and yet they were sufficiently interested and appreciative of our case to contribute £55 to the collections at the first large meeting, £67 to the second, and £23 to the third. Collections have been taken up at indoor and outdoor meetings and a considerable amount of literature has been purchased. Those who came to the Emmanuel Hall meeting on the night of the Churchillian frost contributed nearly £7 to the collection.

Before each of the three large indoor meetings referred to above we put up posters inviting our two opponents to put their case from our platform in opposition to us, and repeated the invitation from the platform but neither of them turned up. They had the opportunity of speaking to 2,000 electors at the cost neither of effort nor expense, hut neither Mr. Brendan Bracken nor Lieut.-General Mason Macfarlane took advantage of this grand opportunity! Why? In our view because they funked it. They had not sufficient faith in their case, or in the response of the workers to it.

We started this election campaign with an election fund of £300. In the course of the campaign we have collected sufficient to enable us to spend another £300.

On the eve of polling day about 1,000 people were present at an outdoor meeting at the Prince of Wales, which lasted from 8 o'clock until after midnight.

All this shows that, whatever the size of the vote for Socialism this time, the workers are at last turning away from the sterile policies that have befogged them and left them in the ditch for so long, and are now willing to listen to the case for Socialism.

When one realises that this happened in the one little corner of England that our meagre resources enabled us to tackle it shows what a tremendous response there would be to our case if we could put in the same amount of work everywhere. But be it understood that this is only the beginning. Next time the volume of our challenge will be far greater.

Yes, the tide is beginning to turn at last. The workers are on the scent of the source of their slavery. Let the ruling class tremble at this portent of the coming flood which will sweep privilege and class rule from the earth for ever.