Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Our Annual Conference (1907)

Party News from the April 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard

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:—
  1. —Since last Conference 46 meetings of the E.C. have been held. (Attendances followed.)
  2. —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.
  3. —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.
  4. —Borough and County Council elections have been contested in Battersea and Tooting with results as satisfactory as could be expected.
  5. —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
  6. —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.
  7. — 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.
  8. —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.
  9. —The decision of the Party to adopt uniform stationery has not been given effect to, owing to lack of funds.
  10. —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.
  11. —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.
  12. —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.
  13. —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."



Tottenham Branch Report. (1907)

Party News from the May 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Tottenham Branch are still striving, still spending their time in propagating the principles of Socialism and have scarcely had time to report. Our membership is steadily increasing but our numbers (which are not small) are insignificant compared with the number of sympathisers that gather around our platform. Tottenham has been in the throes of electionitis and we joined in the fray, advising the worker, by voice and pen, to abstain from voting their enemies into power. We captured one meeting organised by a Liberal and finished with three rousing cheers for Socialism.

Considering the inclement weather our outdoor propaganda has been excellent. Thanks to the help of the Edmonton comrades, close on 40 meetings have been held during the last quarter. Our “Salisbury” meeting has been held over for a few weeks, but we hope to be there again before this report is in print. We continue to hold huge meetings at West Green Corner, despite the fact that humorous personalities are indulged in by speakers from the platform of an alleged Socialist party near our pitch. We are still running our discussion class after Branch meetings. All comrades and others are welcome.
T. W. Lobb, Branch Sec.

Interesting Documents. No. 1. (1907)

From the June 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard
The following circular has been issued by some of the oldest members of the Southampton Branch of the Social Democratic Federation. Amongst the signatories is an ex-member of the Provincial Executive of the S.D.F.,
SOUTH HANTS SOCIALIST SOCIETY. 
The above Society has been formed by former members of the S.D.F. with the object of spreading by means of literature, and if need be, by public meetings, the ideals and principles of Socialism.

Being unable to remain in and work with the S.D.F. owing to the change that has gradually come over it whereby the propagation of reforms and the contesting of elections instead of being a subsidiary part, as of yore, has become the primary part of its work, leaving the ideals and principles of Socialism to be a formal part of its creed in much the same way as it has always been with the Trades Council and the Trades Unions which boast of a Socialist constitution. Indeed, the S.D.F. has for some time past so completely allied itself with these bodies and assimilated its work with theirs as to be hardly distinguishable from them.

We still believe there is plenty of scope for the propagation of Socialism and that all the reforms together would, if achieved, be of very little use in remedying the social evils of which we complain.

Although, owing to such bad conditions os do exist among the workers, one is much tempted to devote undue attention to reforms, it cannot be too often or too strenuously asserted that all and every reform possible in Capitalist Society would do next to nothing in the end as the capitalist class has always shown that it knows full well how to force back with one hand what it is compelled to pay out with the other. It is surely significant that after all the years occupied in obtaining reforms, that it should be even now a debatable point as to whether the workers as a class are any better off to-day than they were at the beginning.

Even in the case of such apparently obviously desirable reforms as state maintenance - or, as it is watered down to, state feeding of the children and the relief of the unemployed, it is fairly clear that the Capitalist Class will take care to benefit more itself than the workers by the greater exploitation of the young, by reason of their more fit condition making them better producing mediums, and from having their reserve army kept by the state for them. And it must not be lost sight of that a reserve army of unemployed is a necessary condition of Capitalist Society.

Brutal as it may seem to say so, it is clear to us that the only purpose of reforms is to put off the day when the workers will come by their own. The workers will always be badly fed, housed and clothed so long as they are robbed, and robbed they will be so long as capitalism lasts.

What interest we had in reforms, municipal or otherwise, and in the use of elections for propagation of Socialism has vanished. We have been disillusioned by watching its effects and results. The failure to get any substantial gain from these sources is not accounted for by the good or bad actions of individuals but by the conditions of the problem itself.

The so-called advance, the growth of the Labour Party, is in our opinion but the erection of a bulwark against the real movement — the only one of any use to the proletariat — i.e., the Socialist movement.

Eleven years ago in a Manifesto the local S. D. F. said as follows :
  “We, Revolutionary Social-Democrats, disdain to conceal our principles. We proclaim the class war. We hold that the lot of the workers cannot to any appreciable extent be improved except by a complete overthrow of this present capitalist system of Society. The time for Social tinkering has gone past.”
That is where the S.D.F. stood then and that is where we stand now, and we are convinced that it is only from that standpoint that any good can be done.

Numbers have no charm for us. All we want is that the ideals and principles of Socialism shall be spread. We do not desire to make members unless we first of all make them Socialists.

If you think you would like to help us, join us. We require everyone who does come to come to us whole-heartedly. We prefer the help of one sincere member who is in the light to twenty who are groping in the dark or floating on the tide of expediency catching at straws.

We send herewith our Object, policy and rules so that you can see what we are after. If any explanation is required we are prepared to give it. If you want to follow up your study of Socialism we are prepared to offer friendly advice. If you want literature we are prepared to supply you.
“Work for Socialism — all else is vain.”

The Roots of Social Change (1907)

From the July 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard

Why We Are Wage Slaves.
The causationist, seeing everywhere in nature a concatenation of cause and effect, as the links of a chain running through endless time and through endless space, sees everywhere also that this infinite variety of happenings occurs in accordance with immutable laws, too impassive to be weak, too dispassionate to be stern. Law, and order, he knows to be universal, and chaos is a term which has no meaning to him save as the description of his own limited view and knowledge of phenomena.

The science of political economy enquires into the movements of man in the quest for the material means of subsistence, and shows that these movements also, no less than the rolling of celestial orbs, are governed by laws, and conform to the purposeless dictates of causal sequence.

Thus, there is a law of capitalist production which ordains that human labour-power shall be in constant competition with machinery, and shall as constantly be displaced and defeated by its formidable rival. And there is a law that, notwithstanding that the result is bitter as blood to the great working class of the world, yet must working-class intelligence and working-class strength go on improving and developing this machinery of production, to their own undoing, as long as the capitalist system of profit production shall prevail. There is a further law—a law of wages—under governance of which wages are determined by the cost of subsistence under certain prevailing conditions. There are many other stated laws controlling the economic movements of man, and many more, doubtless enough, awaiting human recognition and enunciation.

The knowledge of these laws is of vital importance to the workers. Such knowledge alone can explain to them how, and in what circumstances, the wealth of the world is produced— and who can it more closely concern than those who produce it all and who enjoy so little of it ? Such knowledge is the only sure foundation of Socialist faith—our pillar of fire by night, our pillar of cloud by day—the one unerring index where all else is confusion.

The reformer is a reformer only because he is ignorant of the existence of the laws governing social growth, or because he fails to realise their universal applicancy, and the unbending potency with which they reduce all human wishes, as far as they are in opposition to them, to merest empty vanity.

The science of political economy, then, so long the peculiar study of our masters and pastors— those who rule, is an essentially necessary study to the workers—those who are ruled. For if the knowledge to be gained from it is something less than “the wing wherewith we fly to heaven” this alone can serve us as hands and knees whereon to crawl from hell.

To start at the beginning, or, shall we say—to start at a beginning—since it is a beginning only for our purpose, and to reduce our lesson to the utmost simplicity, it can easily be understood that given as a condition the private ownership of all the means of producing those things which are necessary to support human life, a certain other concomitant must co-exist, as the inevitable effect of the given cause : private ownership of the means of life — namely, all those who are excluded from ownership are dependent upon those who possess the means of living.

This is a fact that cannot be controverted. The owners of the means of subsistence might be all that the noblest pagan and Christian philosophers exhort them to be, might be the very embodiment of all the graces, but still the dependency is there, unaffected, as dependency, by any magnanimity of the possessors.

Given then this private ownership of the land (in political economy the term includes the seas and lakes and rivers), from which all material wealth flows, and the machinery of production—the channel by which it flows; and given also this dependence of those who, not being possessors, have no free access to the means of producing the necessaries of life; and given further, human nature, not us it was before it fell if it has fallen, or as it will be when it rises again if it ever does rise again, but as it is presented to us at this time of day, the unfinished work of history: given all these conditions then nothing is more certain than that this ownership by a class of the means whereby all men must live, will be used, not, perhaps, consciously and wilfully to the detriment of the non-possessors, but, over the general field of operations, first and last for the benefit of the possessors. What is there else in ownership, but that it confers on the possessor some advantage or advantages which are conditional upon possession, and which therefore are denied to the non-possessor ?

All these conditions then we have in present-day society—the ownership of the means of life by a class, the dependence of the non-possessors upon that class, and the exclusion of these propertyless ones from access to the means of subsistence except upon condition of advantage to the class which possesses all productive wealth.

Here is a certain set of conditions which, in the very nature of things, stand as causes from which effects must follow. If the whole of the propertyless resolved to sit themselves down and die rather than exist in dependence, that would be an effect of the causes, and a perfectly possible effect—if the resolution were there. But history shows that the propertyless did not do so, but that some other condition prevailed, which made them surrender.

Since, then, submission to dependence was inevitable, and this dependence demanded certain advantages to be yielded to the possessing class, what form did this submission take and why? and what form did these advantages take, and also why?

With the means of life in the hands of a class there are several forms of subjection which might conceivably follow. But what shall it be in the case we are supposing? Shall it be chattel slavery? Shall it be serfage ? Shall it be wage slavery? That must be decided by the degree of development of the instruments of production primarily, and by the social conditions which have arisen out of this historic development. Thus, because the means of producing wealth had not advanced to that stage in which they enabled human energy to produce more than sufficient for its own reproduction, (and are therefore profitless to any but the user)—such means of production are common property, and form the base of a communal society ; but growing out of such a communal form of society, and keeping more or less even pace with that development of the means of production which does enable human energy to produce a surplus of wealth beyond that necessary for its own reproduction, we find a form of subject labour. Why does this subjugation take the shape of chattel slavery and not of wage shivery?

Because, in the first place, developing imperceptibly out of a system based upon communal ownership, the propertyless ones are mainly drawn from outside the community, prisoners of war, who are no longer eaten now that there exist means of making them produce tlieir own living and something over. And being captives they must be the property of their captors, and kept in subjection by the sword. In the second place a wage is essentially a price, a money equivalent of the thing which it is the price of. It is one side of an equation which is possible only through the operation of the laws of supply and demand in a competitive market; and being an equivalent only because it has freedom of motion to find its own level and equal through the ceaseless fluctuation of supply and demand, it can only be the equivalent of something of like fluidity. Wages, then, presupposes free labourers— labourers, that is, who are owners of their labour-power, and can within certain limits withhold it, though under certain pressure they must exchange it in the end; presupposes also a world of commodities (goods produced for sale and which are still “in the market") since it can only exist as the counterpart of innumerable other commodities, for which it is readily exchangeable at current rates; presupposes also a competitive market, where goods produced for sale find their quantitative likeness in their qualitative opposites; presupposes also, and therefore, and finally, a certain development of the means of production, and of the method of production, and of accumulated wealth, none of which conditions can exist until long after the means of producing wealth have reached the stage suggested above. That is why the form of subjugation at this period is chattel slavery, and not wage-slavery.

In what has been said may be found also the answer to the previous question, why did the subjection of the propertyless take the form that characterises it to-day ? But in order that a proper understanding of this vitally important matter may be attained, it will be advisable to analyse yet a little more minutely the causes which give birth to the effect. This will form a fitting subject for a second article. 
A. E. Jacomb