Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Party News Briefs (1948)

Party News from the July 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

Glasgow Branch continue their outdoor propaganda with moderate success. Glasgow lacks a really well-established outdoor "Speakers’ Corner” and the branch is trying out one or two new stations. They have some promising young speakers coming along but could do with more. They had a public debate with the Trotskyists at the end of May on the subject “Is Parliament the road to socialism?" The hall was packed and many had to be turned away. The Trotskyist repeated the usual stale distortions of Marxism and incitements to mass action. The debate is being repeated at Hamilton with a view to stimulating interest there. A special branch meeting is being held to discuss future activities on the electoral field and all friends in Scotland are appealed to for assistance and are asked to get in touch with the branch.

Tottenham Branch have just lost by death Comrade C. J. Whitby, after a long illness. He joined the party in 1920 and always played an active part in everything the branch did. The branch will miss him very much, and particularly his sound expositions of the party’s policy at their meetings.

Islington Branch’s debate with the Communist Party filled the Hornsey Town Hall to capacity. A. Turner (who opened the debate for us) first explained the meaning of socialism in all its aspects, and dealt with the political and economic foundations of the class struggle, showing the road the workers must travel to their emancipation. The Communist Party, he said, had never sought working-class support for socialism or the overthrow of capitalism. They had during their career opposed Parliament and urged the workers to arm themselves. Their attitude to the Labour Party had from time to time been one of opposition and then of support. They had first supported the 1939 war, then opposed it, and on Russia’s entry had supported it again. The somersaults in their policy could only be explained by their support of Russia, a country in which capitalism existed. The Communist Party were reformists, formed in the first instance by a number of reformist parties getting together. It was true that the Communist Party prosecuted the class struggle, but their efforts in fact served the interest of the capitalist class. Against the Communist Party’s claim that a minority could take control without the backing of an informed working-class, the Socialist Party said that socialism will be established by the working-class when it understood the issues involved, and not before. Turner quoted statements made by prominent members of the Communist Party in support of his arguments. 

G. Jones (Communist Party representative) replied that the capitalists had always opposed the Communist Party: in the “Communist Manifesto” Marx had said that the spectre of Communism was haunting the world. The Communist Party were extending the work of Marx and Engels and engaging in the elementary struggles of the workers, which Engels had said was an attack on the capitalist class. It was not necessary for the Communist Party to state the case for socialism, because this had been expressed so many times before. Lenin had stood for a party which aimed at smashing the State machine and replacing it with a working-class State machine, and this was in line with Marx’s views. The Communist Party changed its policy as circumstances demanded, but the Socialist Party were Utopians. In Russia the working-class had taken power and the capitalists could never stage a come-back there. 

A. Turner in his second statement said that his explanation of capitalism and exposition of socialism had not been contradicted by his opponent, but that the Communist Party had never advocated these ideas. The Communist Party was not democratic and its changes of policy came from the leadership and were imposed on the members. He gave a number of quotations from Communist Party literature showing how they alternately opposed and supported the last war. Lenin himself thought that the State would wither away, and not be smashed. The object of the Communist Party was to maintain the security of Russian Capitalism, and that of the Socialist Party to establish socialism by means of a working-class understanding socialism taking control of the State machinery by obtaining a majority in Parliament. He quoted from the “Communist Manifesto” showing that both Marx and Engels from the beginning had understood the necessity of there being a majority of socialist workers in order to establish socialism. The present task of the Socialist Party was, therefore, to spread socialist knowledge. In Russia the means of production were not owned by the working-class. The Communist Party had never advocated socialism, but had tried to gain support by lies and trickery. 

G. Jones in his second speech claimed that Turner had arranged quotations in a way calculated to deceive. Russia was weakening the capitalist chain in the fight to build socialism, and Turner's statements were an amazing travesty of Marxism. There must be leaders in any movement, even though some may turn out to be bad leaders. 

Both speakers had another session, but towards the end of the debate some members of the audience became so unruly that it was difficult to hear what was going on. In spite of these well-known Communist Party tactics, members of our party present thought the debate well worth while, particularly as it is so rare an event for a Communist to risk himself on our platforms. A collection of £32 was taken up, and good literature sales resulted.

Ealing Branch's debate with John Parker, M.P., at Fulham Town Hall was also a success. The hall was full and the General Secretary had little difficulty in exposing the Labour Party in its true light Parker did his best but he fought a losing battle right from the beginning. A collection of £17 was taken and plenty of our literature was sold.

Further Public Debates are on the way as a result of the vigorous policy adopted by the Central Propaganda Committee and branches. Max Aitken, M.P. (son of Lord Beaverbrook), has expressed willingness to “have a go,” and Christopher Hollis (Conservative M.P. for Devizes) has agreed to debate on “ Is there a Class Struggle?” If final arrangements are settled in time an announcement will be made in this issue of the Socialist Standard. A debate which should be of great interest to members takes place at the Conway Hall on July 1st. We shall take the affirmative on the question “Is Russia capitalist?” and the negative will be taken by the Trotskyists. Our man will be D. Fenwick.

Manchester Branch are now holding regular Sunday afternoon and evening meetings in Platt Fields, and so far when weather has permitted, they have been uniformly successful—this in spite of big rallies by other political parties. On one evening the Trotskyists had to close down a widely advertised meeting owing to lack of support. Meetings have also been commenced on a bomb site in Market Street, where after hard slogging to begin with, good results were obtained. The May Day procession there was a poor and dispirited affair, in spite of light relief provided by a Communist Party banner which aimed to arouse the wrath of the workers by announcing that rabbits were now 3s. 6d. each compared with 9d. in 1939. We held a good meeting in Platt Fields during the Sunday afternoon and another well attended one in the evening.

Annual Conference of W.S.P. of U.S. We have received a brief preliminary report of the Annual Conference of our Companion Party in U.S.A. They appear to have had a number of disappointments but they consider that the Conference was stimulating and that much valuable work was done. The attendance of “out-of-town” visitors was small. When we consider the difficulties that our own provincial members have to get to our Annual Conference, we can appreciate the greater difficulties that are experienced in America. A programme of outdoor meetings that was organised for the Conference period was spoilt by rain and a debate with the Wallace Party was postponed by that party.

Here are one or two of the decisions that arose from the Conference discussions. There is to be an experiment for one month with a four-page supplement to the Western Socialist. The four extra pages are to be devoted to pictures, graphs, cartoons, etc.

A Socialist Seminar is to be held in Boston during the last two weeks in August of this year. This will be publicised and accommodation will be found for visitors. It is hoped that the seminar will include daily classes, discussions, street meetings, debates, tours of museums, etc.

Discussion groups, similar to those organised by the S.P.G.B., are to be started where possible.

A new pamphlet is to be published consisting of vital and outstanding articles from our papers.

A full report of the Conference will be sent later and we will enter in this column outstanding items of interest.

The Overseas Secretary reports that, following suggestions made by members at different times, he is now in contact with enthusiastic readers of our literature in Trinidad, the Gold Coast and Bombay.

Articles from the Socialist Standard have recently been reprinted in Klasbatalo, journal of a Worker’s Esperanto Federation and in Europe Tomorrow, published in Johannesburg.

Lewisham Branch continue their successful Socialist Standard canvass in the neighbourhood. A new outdoor meeting station has been opened in a prominent position on a bomb-site at the Clock Tower. Seven Saturday afternoon meetings have been held in succession with a good audience each time and growing literature sales.
Clifford Groves,
General Secretary.

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