Sunday, October 1, 2023

Open and shut (1973)

SLL paper
From the October 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party is an open, democratic organisation. All our meetings are open to non-members and at our lectures and propaganda meetings they are invited to put their points of view in opposition to us, provided only that they respect the rules of democratic debate.

In contrast to this many so-called “socialist” groups, often professing to be democratic, deliberately exclude Socialists from their meetings — possibly because they fear that we will expose their false claims for what they are. We have received a letter from a comrade in Dundee which will illustrate this point well:
On July 3rd I was invited by a Socialist Labour League member to attend their meeting in a hall here in Dundee which was to take place on July 5th.

I accordingly arrived with another comrade and a friend, to listen to the lecture and ask questions in the ensuing discussions.

We were the first three in the room but soon afterwards another twelve or so members of the public entered and we all sat patiently awaiting the arrival of the lecturer. He entered, but instead of continuing with the meeting he asked me if I would “mind stepping outside for a minute”. Why? He told me it was a meeting to discuss SLL policy and that we weren’t welcome to sit in on it. “This is a private meeting for SLL members only”, he said.

I returned to the meeting and informed those present of the SLL decision, asking them for their opinions on it. Alas everyone seemed suddenly struck dumb and the lecturer’s democratic (?) decision was final.

He then became rather nasty and argumentative, and said if we didn’t leave of our own accord they would “have to remove” us. We pointed out that our companion had no party allegiance so how did he stand? “He can stay if he likes, but we don’t want you at our meetings” said the lecturer, who was by now becoming rather aggressive.

Not wishing to cause any trouble we left, but not before informing those present that the SLL censorship was no different from that of Mary Whitehouse or the Capitalist mass media.

The SLL ironically enough demand “The right of freedom of speech”, but it seems this is only if one agrees with what they say. They demand “The right to defend rights”, but if one should try to exercise any of those “rights” at their meetings, then they’ll throw you out. If someday the SLL should gain control of the capitalist system, will we Socialists have “The right of freedom of speech”? Or will this privilege be reserved only for those who toe the party line and support the state-capitalist dictatorship they seek to impose?

Incidentally as the meeting was for SLL members only why was a CP member member allowed to stay? Why were those people with no party allegiance allowed to stay?
Yours fraternally.
J McFarlane, 

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