The Third Annual Conference of The Socialist Party of Great Britain gathered at the Communist Club on Friday, March 29th. Nineteen delegates representing ten branches and a considerable number of the Party membership were in attendance when the General Secretary, W. Gifford, called the meeting to order and asked for the election of provisional chairman. Comrade R. H. Kent was finally elected. Three delegates representing two other branches subsequently arrived.
H. Crump and A. Pearson were deputed to act as stewards and tellers and F. Leigh, T. Dix, and J. Lewis formed the Credentials Committee.
Attention having been called to the presence of several non-members of the Party, it was decided on the motion of A. Pearson, seconded by Witcher, that the Conference be open, as usual, to the public.
Comrades R. Kent and McManus were then appointed chairman and vice-chairman of the Conference respectively.
The Gen. Secretary then read the E.C. Report to the Party as follows:—
- —Since last Conference 46 meetings of the E.C. have been held. (Attendances followed.)
- —Although complete returns are not yet to hand we are pleased to report a steady increase in the membership and influence of the Party. Over 100 new members have been enrolled during the year, and correspondence and propaganda have been carried well into the provinces. The “Socialist Standard” has also increased its circulation in the provinces, largely owing to about 150 copies per month being supplied to Public Libraries, and to the active work of comrades in various parts of England and Scotland. The Bexley Heath Branch has been dissolved and a new branch has been formed at Woolwich.
- —The first of a series of pamphlets has been issued, entitled: “From Handicraft to Capitalism,” and has had a ready sale. Further pamphlets are in course of preparation. The first edition of the Manifesto has been completely exhausted and a new edition will be issued shortly.
- —Borough and County Council elections have been contested in Battersea and Tooting with results as satisfactory as could be expected.
- —Classes for the training of speakers and the study of economics have been formed at Head Office and at branches, which it is hoped will prove excellent agencies for strengthening the Party as a militant propagandist organisation
- —Four Party meetings of London members were held to discuss our attitude towards Trades Unionism, but the resolutions carried at these meetings were defeated on being submitted to a vote of he Party.
- — Arising out of a dispute with the Islington Branch resulting in the expulsion of several members. a Party meeting was held at which an endeavour was made to reopen the whole matter, but this the meeting refused to allow.
- —The question of the enlargement of the Party Organ was also considered and referred to a Party vote. The item appears on the Conference agenda.
- —The decision of the Party to adopt uniform stationery has not been given effect to, owing to lack of funds.
- —Owing to evidence of disorganisation in the Peckham Branch representatives of the E.C. have been sent to consult with the branch membership, and it is hoped that good results will accrue.
- —The E.C., having been called upon, has ruled the Clarion Cycling Club, in view of its object as printed in its constitution and rules, to be a political organisation antagonistic to our Party.
- —A libel action against the Party is pending, in which two comrades have been made representative defendants, but it is improbable that the case will be heard before Easter.
- —The E.C. would draw special attention to the Party’s liabilities, which amount to about £25 in excess of assets. As this is all owing to Jacomb Bros , it is hoped that efforts will be made to entirely liquidate the debt within a very short time.
W. Gifford, Gen. Sec.
March 15th, 1907.
The E. C. statement was then discussed paragraph by paragraph.
On clause 10 the Secretary reported the reasons why the E.C. had decided to take action. Leigh and Harris moved that further discussion be deferred until after amendments to rules had been dealt with.
McManus and Waller moved as an amendment “that the Peckham Branch be dissolved and a new branch be formed by those who still adhere to the letter and spirit of the Party—subject to a Party vote.”
The amendment was lost by 11 to 3.
The resolution was carried by 14 to 4.
The adoption of the E.C. Report was passed by 18 to 0.
A. J. M. Gray (Treasurer) presented the balance sheet, which showed that the Party finances were in a satisfactory condition. The only item of indebtedness was to the printer, mainly on The Socialist Standard account; but this was being reduced by the method adopted by the E.C. of systematic collections of special donations. Contributions to this special fund were appealed for and branches were urged to see that payment for Party Organ supplies was made within the month of issue. Adoption of Treasurer’s and Auditors’ reports was carried unanimously.
The following were announced as the new Executive Committee:—
Comrades A. Anderson. H. Crump, J. H. Day, T. Dix, A. J. M. Gray, W. Gifford, F. Hawes, Killick, McManus, Neuman, H. Young, F. C. Watts.
General Secretary: R. H. Kent; Treasurer: J. Kent; Auditor: H. Crump.
AMENDMENTS TO RULES.
Rule 1. Edmonton moved (a) to delete the words from “be" to “and” inclusive, line 1, and (b) delete the word “policy” line 2.
First section carried by 15 to 7. Second section carried by 18 to 4.
Rule 8. Edmonton moved to delete the word “ Policy.” Carried by 18 to 4.
Rule 10. Fulham moved to add after “ 1d.” line 2 “for each financial member per week, unemployed members may be excepted.” Carried, 17 to 5.
Rule 17. Edmonton moved to insert after “conference” line 2, “delegate meeting." Carried, 17 to 5.
Rule 19. Edmonton moved (a) to delete the word “policy’’ line 2; (b) insert after the word “Party” line 2, “or detrimental to the interests of .the Party as a whole” (c) delete, line 8, all words after “concerned ” and substitute “the findings of the delegate meeting or conference shall be submitted to a Party vote, the result of which shall be final.”
Clause (a) carried, 16 to 6; clause (b) carried, 15 to 7 ; clause (c) carried, 13 to 9.
Rule 20. West Ham moved to add after “Treasurer ” the word “Organiser”. Carried, 13 to 9.
Rule 25. Edmonton moved to delete the words "and additional items” in lines 4 and 5. Carried, 9 to 8. A card vote being called for, there voted for 72, against 31.
Rule 26. West Ham moved to add “any member—unless disqualified under Rule 3—present at any branch meeting held prior to the date fixed for the return of the voting papers, shall be entitled to have his or her vote recorded." Carried, 17 to 2.
New Rule. West Ham moved “No member shall be put forward for any political office until he or she has satisfactorily passed an examination test to be drawn up by the E.C.” Carried, 22 to 0.
The deferred business relating to the position of the Peckham Branch was then taken, several members of the branch representing both sides in the dispute being present. Leigh (Watford) moved “that the E.C. take steps to deal with the Peckham Branch under Rule 19 as amended.” Lobb (Tottenham) seconded.
Blewett (Battersea) moved amendment “that the E.C. be instructed to depute three of its members to re-organise the Peckham Brandi.” Witcher seconded.
After exhaustive discussion the vote was taken. The amendment was lost by 16 against 3 and the resolution was carried by 14 to 5.
The Conference then adjourned until next morning. During the evening a successful concert and dance was held, the ball being packed to the doors. As entrance was by programme, price 6d., a considerable sum was realised for the purposes of the Party.
The first business of the Conference next day consisted in a discussion upon the International Congress at Stuttgart, which revolved about the question of whether The Socialist Party of Great Britain should seek representation at that Congress and the best means of entering into communication with the known representatives of that uncompromising policy of which the S.P.G.B. are the exponents in Great Britain. In the result Blewett moved and Witcher seconded, “that this Conference of the S.P.G.B. recommends that no delegates be sent to the next International Congress, but that the E.C. use their best endeavour to get in touch with those abroad who occupy our position,"
Dix and Pearson moved as amendment “that the E.C. be instructed to draw up a statement of what they consider necessary as to the best means of establishing relations with other national Parties holding our view—whether by delegation or correspondence.”
The amendment was lost by 9 to 7 and the resolution carried by 10 to 5.
On the question of The Socialist Standard, standing in the name of the Romford Division Branch, Phillips gave the experiences of Fairbrother and himself in the provinces, and the results of their endeavours to induce newsagents and wholesale houses to stock the Party Organ. He urged that special steps be taken to establish a more extensive provincial connection through the newsagents while every possible opportunity be utilised by the Party membership to increase sales, particularly through the same medium in and around the Metropolis, pointing out that the Party cyclists particularly could do good work in this connection.
After much discussion it was carried by 13 to 0 “that it be the first duty of the new E.C. to take action on the lines suggested.”
The following resolution from Edmonton was then submitted, “That Municipal, Parliamentary or other such elections shall only be contested by the Party putting forward the full number of candidates for the vacancies in the particular ward, district or constituency, and no member, though elected, shall take office unless the whole number be elected.” This was carried by 16 votes to 4.
Arising out of this it was moved by Crump and Waller “that all three resolutions on the agenda, if carried, lie referred to a Party vote.” Carried, 13 to 0.
Pearson and Crump then moved that the Party be asked to vote as to whether the Edmonton resolution, if carried by Party Poll, shall be incorporated in the rules of the Party. Carried, 15 to 0.
The resolution in the name of Tottenham “That this Conference re-affirms the position re Trade Unions laid down in Party Manifesto, pages 8, 9 and 10“ then came on, but on the ground that the resolution was unnecessary in view of the poll already taken, Wilkins and Phillips moved next business and it was carried by 9 to 6.
In the absence of the Tooting delegates, Pearson and Gower moved the resolution standing in the name of that Branch, "That this Conference instruct the E.C. to organise a meeting on the first of May and if possible issue a special number of The Socialist Standard for the occasion." On a show of hands this was carried by 7 to 5, but a card vote being called for it was lost be 53 to 25.
The Conference concluded with the singing of "The Red Flag" and L'Internationale."