Thursday, June 6, 2019

Letter: Have We Gone Reformist? (1969)

Letter to the Editors from the July 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard


I quote from the Socialist Standard for April, 1969:

1. "The Socialist Party supports the efforts of workers to improve their housing conditions under capitalism—even by squatting’' (p52).

The word you use is ‘supports’. I always understood that yours was a revolutionary party which neither supported nor opposed reforms, but ‘welcomed' them when they were achieved by reformists. What kind of support is now being given to reformist movements, either by the Socialist Party as a whole, or by individual members?

2. "A minority of socialist MPs would certainly support genuine reforms in working class standards and conditions but they would not be allowed to make the mistake of becoming reformist—of offering reforms as a political programme and an alternative to Socialism” (p60).

In such a situation, then, reforms would be a supplement (even though not an alternative) to socialist policy. Are we to assume that this is your party’s policy at the present stage of capitalism too? There was a time, I believe, when your members were discouraged from joining even such unspecific reformist movements as the Humanist Association. Perhaps you could state when this important change in your party line occurred.
W. Warwick 

1. The passage Mr. Warwick quotes merely says that the Socialist Party of Great Britain is in favour of workers trying to improve their (in this case, housing) conditions under capitalism. It does not say that we support specific reform measures in the housing field. If it did, Mr Warwick would have a case for saying we had changed our policy. We have of course, as Mr Warwick will know, always said workers should try to get as much as they can out of capitalism.

Squatting is no more a reform than stealing is. We shall go on saying that a homeless family should move into any empty house just as a hungry man should steal a loaf of bread. We are opposed to all reformist movements. But this does not mean that we are opposed on principle to any reform of capitalism. What we say is that a socialist party ought not to advocate reforms for fear of attracting non-socialist support, and in a bid to keep that support being dragged into compromise with capitalism. We thus campaign for Socialism alone, and not for or against specific reforms. We do indeed welcome any crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table.

2. We have long held that socialist MPs or local councillors ought to judge on their merits any reform measures placed before them by other parties. We accept that on occasions this would mean their voting for reforms. But—and this is made clear in the passage Mr. Warwick quotes—the socialist delegates would not themselves propose reforms. So it is not true that in such a situation the Socialist Party would be advocating reforms as well as Socialism. The difference would be that then, as compared with now, the larger socialist movement would be able to have some political influence which it would obviously use to further working-class interests.

Once again, Mr. Warwick’s question falls. We do not advocate reforms now either. We do, however, judge reforms proposed by other parties on their merits. Our knowledge of how capitalism works enables us to see that most of them are pretty futile, though at times we recognise that some could be useful in a small way — and say so. For instance, one man, one vote in local elections in Northern Ireland (see p53 of the April Socialist Standard).

Finally, we do regard the British Humanist Association, set up in 1967, as a reformist political organisation whose members are ineligible to join the Socialist Party of Great Britain.
Editorial Committee

SPGB Lectures. (1905)

Party News from the November 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

Party Notes. (1905)

Party News from the November 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is particularly requested that all communications be addressed: “The Socialist Party of Great Britain, 1a, Caledonian Road, King's Cross, London, N.” See official notice on page 4.

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Last quarter 51 new members were enrolled. This is very gratifying, and shows that just in proportion as we can place our views before the public we shall add to our membership. Now that the weather has compelled us to shut down our regular open-air propaganda, we cannot, of course, expect to increase at the same rate.

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In connection with the formation of new branches, I would suggest that we should “make haste slowly.” The strength of an organisation does not depend upon the number of "branches” it can show on paper, but upon the activity displayed by the members. Public propaganda and the sale of literature are the test.

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Members will be pleased to learn of the success attending the issue of the first instalment of the S.P.G.B. Library. The Manifesto is still selling well. Those who have not yet read it can obtain a copy direct from the Head Office, post free, 1½d. It explains the Principles and Policy of the S.P.G.B., and goes fully into our attitude towards the S.D.F., I.L.P., L.R.C., Fabian Society, Trade Unions, etc. It also contains the rules of the Party.

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During the winter months the sales of our journal will probably decline somewhat, but our members will see to it, as before, that the Party funds do not suffer. Cheques and Money Orders should be made payable to A. J. M. Gray. As many as possible should become annual subscribers. For 1s. 6d. The Socialist Standard will be sent post free to any address in the world for twelve months.

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It is suggested that Branches do their best during the indoor season to develope the latent ability they will undoubtedly find among their members by debates, lectures, classes, and other means. Too ambitious efforts are not to be encouraged at first, but a great deal of profit might be gained by discussions on the several sections of the “Declaration of Principles” and especially the “Manifesto” which contains a vast amount of condensed information.

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The Sunday evening lectures will be continued during November at Sydney Hall, Battersea, and at Dovecote Hall, Wood Green, (see advertisements on pp. 3 and 8). Debates also take place on alternate Tuesday evenings at the S.P.G.B. Club, 43, York Road, Ilford. The opener on Tuesday next will be G. C. H. Carter.

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The Head Office will be kept open every Saturday until 4 o’clock, for the convenience of members wishing to make payments or obtain literature, etc. G. C. H. Carter, Gen. Sec.

Boring From Within. (1905)

From the November 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

The article on Trade Unionism that appeared in the September issue of The Socialist Standard evoked considerable criticism amongst the members of the Party. The article did not quite convey the idea of the writer, having to be condensed because of the demands upon our space. The critics mainly contend that what was advocated was “boring from within," and some condemn the article because of that. Let us look at the facts.

Most comrades understand and admit that trade organisation is essential, essential for two reasons; firstly, because of immediate help by organisation; secondly, and this is most important, because with the proper organisation of the workers on industrial lines the foundation of the industrial democracy of the Socialist Republic is laid. The unions cannot be ignored and we must have Socialist Industrial Unions. Here, then, arises the difficulty. We do not think much good can be done with the existing unions: they are too deeply in the rut of the old craft antagonisms—the splitting up of the working-class,—and their "leaders" being mainly interested in perpetuating this sectional strife because of their paid jobs, sell out the interests of the union members and keep their hold on the unions to prevent any great headway being made.

We Socialists want to see Industrial Unionism, that is, we want to see all the workers in each trade organised, and the various trades in each industry affiliated to the one union, and the various industrial divisions again affiliated, thus forming one huge, cohesive organisation of the workers. Still further, when the workers are organised in the factory, workshop, and elsewhere, for the overthrow and not the perpetuation of capitalism, then the other phase must come into play—they must endorse and support only the political party of their emancipation, that is, the Socialist Party. Without industrial organisation no political progress, without political organisation no sound economic progress. Just as the capitalist class exerts its power, both in the workshop and in the governing bodies, so must the organised workers use their power in both ways. Neither is complete in itself. The working-class organised on the political field for its emancipation must act in conjunction with its counterpart on the industrial field. None of the existing unions is organised in this way, and all the alleged progress made by Social Democrats and I.L.P’ers is proved, upon investigation, to be fictitious. The South West District L.R.C. and Trades and Labour Council is a case in point. Besides, none of the “borers from within” has condemned the present method of organisation, on the contrary, some of them have, so far as outside evidence shows, quietly acquiesced in acts of the most deliberate treachery it is possible to conceive of. In some unions it has been these Social Democrats and I.L.P'ers who have instigated the infamous business.

Undoubtedly, the members of The Socialist Party of Great Britain will have to do on the economic field what they have already done on the political field, namely, establish a sound organisation because not one exists at present. But let it be borne in mind that we are a young Party, that it will take some years to build up a revolutionary political party, and that at present we have not the numerical and financial strength to organise the Socialist Industrial Alliance. We cannot have a Party without members, therefore we have to be propagandists. We cannot have Trade Unions without wageworkers, therefore, if we would move in an intelligent manner, we must carry on an organised agitation and education within the existing unions to which our members belong, so as to form a nucleus of sound Socialists in each. They should proceed with the educational work to endeavour to capture the unions as they stand at present (a very remote possibility) and also that they can get a sufficient number of sound men within the unions so that when we are strong enough, and conditions are ripe, we can call them out to form the foundation of tho Socialist Union.

This, and this alone, is the excuse for a member’s active participation in the work inside existing unions. Better do this and build a solid foundation, by education, even as we are doing within the Party at present, than pass pious resolutions instructing the E.C. to form Socialist Unions at a time when it is a numerical and financial impossibility. Let us condemn and expose the rottenness of the existing unions and the treachery of those who boss them. Let us educate to the best of our ability and opportunity the rank and file to a proper appreciation of the situation, and we shall be doing some of the necessary pioneering for the new Socialist Industrial Union.
E. J. B. Allen

From Our Branches. (1905)

Party News from the November 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard


We are still successfully earning on our outdoor operations in this district, and during September we reached our highest sale of The Socialist Standard, having sold 338 copies of No. 13. Up to the end of September we had sold 529 copies of the Party Manifesto; if other branches are doing as well the entire edition will shortly be exhausted. The people are asking us for further literature, which we trust the Party will issue early next year. The collections taken up at our meetings are well maintained, and the Party Treasurer receives his quota thereof each month. Our flourishing financial position enables us to make a donation every month to the Party Organ Fund, and the Islington comrades have not been slow in contributing their share towards the expenses of the new Central Office of the Party.

These excellent results are due in no small degree to the able assistance of Party speakers like comrades Fitzgerald and Jackson. Jackson’s addresses bear the unmistakable impress of a fertile and studious mind, and we look forward with confidence to his career as a platform exponent of the principles of the Party.

The Islington Branch has invited Comrade Jackson to deliver a series of lectures on “The Philosophy of Socialism.” These lectures commenced on October 24th and will be continued every Tuesday, 9 p.m., at the Co-operative Stores. 79, Grove Road, Holloway, N. There will be about 13 lectures altogether. The course will differ from the usual style of economic class, as it is the intention of the lecturer to approach the science of Socialism by easy political, sociological and historical studies, illustrated by examples drawn from geology and biology.

North London District Council.

Seeing that this Council has done a considerable amount of propaganda work, and seeing that the work has been very successful, it is but right and proper that it should be put on record in the Official Organ of the Party. Week night meetings were run throughout July, August, and September, and in some cases are being continued during October. These meetings— including the stations at Garnault Place, Clerkenwell; Highbury Comer; St. Ann’s, Tottenham : High St., Hornsey; Waltham Abbey and Waltham Cross—have, in many cases been excellent, with large sales of literature and good collections. Six meetings per week exclusive of Sunday, is, in brief, the Report of the Council for this small district for the three months. Next year we are confident of being able to improve upon this, for we have plenty of speakers, actual and potential, and abundance of energy and enthusiasm. While we wait, somewhat impatiently, for the return of Spring with its opportunities for outdoor work, we are not idle, and our indoor lectures at Dovecote Hall, Wood Green, are most gratifying. All along the line we are gaining ground. Conscious of the correctness of our principles, and of the honesty and justice of our purpose, and confident that the workers of North London will eventually realise, as we have done, that their only hope lies in Socialism, we are content to peg away in our endeavours to show that by and through our methods alone can the advent of Socialism be hastened.
Dick Kent, Sec.