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Agenda for Autumn Delegate Meeting 2017

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Agenda for Autumn Delegate Meeting 2017

 

Agenda for Autumn Delegate Meeting 2017

The Socialist Party of Great Britain

Saturday 21st October 10.30 - 5.00

Sunday 22nd October 10:30 - 5.00

 

Items and Order of Business

A Election of Chair, Deputy Chair and tellers and minute takers by the delegates

B Fraternal Greetings from members, branches, companion parties

C Arrangement by delegates of the order for taking the items of business

D The 2017 EC and Party Officer’s Report to Autumn Delegate Meeting

E Items for discussion

F Any Other business

The suggested order for taking the items:

1. Report of the Assistant Secretary

2. General Secretary post vacant

3. Item for Discussion - Lancaster Branch

What would need to happen to make it possible for regional members to undertake essential Party roles e.g. General Secretary without having to commute?”

4. Item for Discussion - Lancaster Branch

Is it acceptable to charge a member for comments made privately or on a personal Facebook page, when the member is not officially representing the Party?”

5. Report of Archives Committee

6 Report of Library Committee  (no report)

7. Report of Ballot Committee

8. Report of Blog Committee

9. Central Organiser’s Report

10. Report of the Election Committee

11. Item for Discussion - Kent & Sussex Regional Branch

Using a modified version of the ‘Questions and Answers about Socialism’ leaflet as an election manifesto.”

12. Item for Discussion - West London Branch

What is the allure of Corbyn?”

Lunch break 1-2.15pm

13. Report of Enquiries Committee

14. Report of the Advertising Committee

15. Report of Auditors

16. Report of the Treasurer

17. Report of the Assistant Treasurer

18. Item for Discussion - Lancaster Branch

Should we bring back monthly dues of members, perhaps at a rate of £6 a month with £5 going to head office and £1 being kept by the branch?”

19. Item for Discussion - Lancaster Branch

“The need for the Party to keep the requirement for two signatures for the issue of cheques and bank transfers etc.”

20. Report of the Audio-Visual Committee

21. Item for Discussion - Lancaster Branch

Should the Party commission a whiteboard video explaining the Labour Theory of Value, or Robert Tressell’s ‘Money Trick’?”

22. Report of Internet Committee

23. Item for Discussion - Kent & Sussex Regional Branch

The front page of the website should be made suitable for first-time visitors.”


Meeting adjourns 5.00pm

resumes Sunday 10.30am

 

24. Report of Standard Orders Committee

25. Report of Socialist Standard Production Committee

26. Report of Media Committee no report

27. Report of Campaigns Committee    (Includes Summer School Report)

28. Item for Discussion - Lancaster Branch

Practical suggestions for socialist activity”

29. Report of Membership Applications Committee

30. Item for Discussion - Lancaster Branch

 “Is it not time to update the Edwardian-era language of the ‘historic’ Declaration of Principles of the SPGB to more modern, understandable wording, suitable for a world-wide movement?”

31. Item for Discussion - Kent & Sussex Regional Branch

Learning to live with the ‘S’ word”

32. Report of Premises Committee  (no report)

33. Report of Publications Committee  (no report)

34. University and Colleges  (no report)

35. Adoption of the EC and Party Officers’ Report to ADM


Meeting adjourns

 

We call for nominations for Chair and deputy Chair we also call for volunteers to take the minutes at ADM. The quorum for this ADM is 13 delegates.

SUPPORTING STATEMENTS

 

Item 3: Lancaster Branch

 What would need to happen to make it possible for regional members to undertake essential Party roles e.g. General Secretary without having to commute?

 One reason why the Party can’t get people to do these essential jobs is because they seem to revolve around the physical location of Head Office. While the rest of the world uses instant communications and computerised records, our systems are still paper-based and bound in moth-eaten files inside steel filing cabinets in Clapham. The Assistant Gen Sec manages his role from outside the UK. Why can’t other jobs be done that way?  If these jobs were accessible to regional members perhaps we might have less of a struggle to find volunteers. What systems would we need to put in place to make this work?

Item 4: Lancaster Branch

Is it acceptable to charge a member for comments made privately or on a personal Facebook page, when the member is not officially representing the Party?

 If a member says something against the Party case down the pub, other members will sit round and argue about it in a comradely fashion, on the understanding that it’s a good thing to be open-minded and questioning, even about our own ideas. What we wouldn’t do is lay a charge under rule 31 against that member. Yet when someone effectively does the same thing on a personal Facebook page, we seem to treat this very differently, and one member has been expelled as a result. Perhaps social media is something of a grey area for us, so is it time we clarified what our policy ought to be?

Item 11: Kent & Sussex Regional Branch

Using a modified version of the ‘Questions and Answers about Socialism’ leaflet as an election manifesto.

 This idea came out of an informal discussion about how best to get our message across. Basically, why not take the opportunity of a leaflet distribution for a parliamentary election to concentrate on countering negative conceptions of the idea of Socialism. The main text of the Q&A leaflet seemed an ideal starting point. It would need (of course) to be accompanied by a short text explaining why we were standing a candidate.

The censorship dept. at the post office may not allow this, in which case maybe we could be clever about it and introduce the material in a different way?

Item 12: West London Branch

What is the allure of Corbyn?

It cannot be denied that the election of Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party has changed the political scene in Britain. Coupled with the relative success of the Labour Party at the general election, it has revived classical reformism in Britain – the view that the government should pursue a policy of taking from capitalist firms and the rich to improve the lot of the rest of society. In recent years the Labour Party, even before Blair, had come to openly accept capitalism and its economic laws and sought merely to make it work better.

This change has led virtually the whole of the non-Labour Left to swing behind the Labour Party as they used to up until 1970 – the SWP and SPEW actively, rather than half-heartedly as previously, campaigned for the Labour Party at the general election. 2017 was the first election ever since its formation that there was no Communist Party candidate.

This probably wasn’t just tactics, but the Leftists will have really thought that a Corbyn government could improve things for people. More surprising is that some Party members too (most of whom have since left) should have thought the same and argued for a Labour vote. Why? They seemed to be arguing that the few crumbs Labour was offering were worth taking but the Labour Party has always promised crumbs. Could it be that they were seduced by the allure of Corbyn into believing that he really would deliver on them? Surely not; a seemingly honest and sincere political leader comes along and they fall for it?

Item 18: Lancaster Branch

Should we bring back monthly dues of members, perhaps at a rate of £6 a month with £5 going to head office and £1 being kept by the branch?

We recognise that in practice it might make little difference, but arguably members ought to make some kind of financial commitment to the Party, even if it’s only a trivial sum.

Item 19: Lancaster Branch

The need for the Party to keep the requirement for two signatures for the issue of cheques and bank transfers etc.

The question as to why we need to have a requirement to have two signatures to issue cheques and bank transfers was raised by some EC members at an EC meeting this year. Lancaster branch would like to see that this requirement stays as it a valuable safeguard against errors and fraud. 

Item 21: Lancaster Branch

Should the Party commission a whiteboard video explaining the Labour Theory of Value, or Robert Tressell’s ‘Money Trick’?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and Marxist economics is no easy read even for members. Could economic processes be better explained using animation of the sort we have recently seen in the Party’s new introductory video?

Item 23: Kent & Sussex Regional Branch

The front page of the website should be made suitable for first-time visitors.

Through trying to propagate the idea of socialism to non-socialists, it's become clear that our website has an inadvertent flaw in its design. Whenever a new visitor comes to our website with the aims of finding out what all this socialism stuff is all about, they're met with a wall of negative anti-capitalist propaganda in the form of news.  If a visitor hasn't been put off by this very first impression, they've then got to search through menus to get any information about what we are about. There's no thought put in for how to cater to new visitors who come with the intent of getting a short blurb in a spare minute of curiosity. 

When browsing to our website the first thing someone sees should be a big and easily digestible message of what we're about.  With links underneath to some of the pages we already have in the 'About Us' section.  Afterwards we should have the 'An Introduction to World Socialism' video.  News can be kept on the front page but should be pushed down below the section geared towards first-time visitors.

Item 28: Lancaster Branch

Practical suggestions for socialist activity

Lancaster branch and the Campaigns Committee would like to jointly propose a type of socialist activity which is quite different from what we normally do. Though there’s nothing wrong with having meetings and weekend schools, we think members and especially new members might enjoy a ‘doing’ activity rather than simply a ‘talking’ event, and to this end we have come up with one or two ideas for delegates to discuss.

The first idea is a modest one – a few members will convene at Head Office to complete the long-overdue and unfinished re-organisation of the basement, and do our cooking communally over the weekend. The idea is not so much that the basement needs sorting out, although it does, it’s to do something practical together which has an aim and an end product, to share physical work and socialist chat, and have some fun. Further projects might be to redecorate other rooms, and perhaps give the yard a facelift (painting, new flags, timber gazebo for climbing plants?) when the building work next door eventually completes.

If this seems like a good idea, we could extend our reach.  Around Britain there are various places where you can hire cheap communal centres with dormitory facilities, and we could use these as a base for doing other projects, art-based perhaps, or canal bank clearance and litter-picking, or planting a communal garden as the guerrilla gardeners do. We might get other ideas for useful activities from voluntary agencies.

Ideas for small weekend projects may be somewhat limited in scope, so we have a bigger concept that would take considerably more time, effort and resources, though with a greater potential benefit. We suggest that the Party considers buying a small property, reasonably close to a branch and preferably in the Midlands or the North, which Party volunteers and sympathisers (with appropriate expert advice) would set out to renovate and turn into a second Party centre within reach of regional branches, Wales and Scotland. Now that most members live outside London, we think a case can be made for such a regional centre.

We recognise that these suggestions will raise all sorts of practical questions and we don’t pretend to have answers for all of them, however we believe the Party can probably afford it, will very likely benefit from it, and will quite possibly reengage non-active members and even acquire new members through it. We hope members will give serious consideration to these ideas.  

Item 30: Lancaster Branch

Is it not time to update the Edwardian-era language of the ‘historic’ Declaration of Principles of the SPGB to more modern, understandable wording, suitable for a world-wide movement?

Words in the DoP now questionable are "wage war" in clause no 8. Whilst "a fine example of 19th century rhetoric"- P Lawrence in 1989 in response to a question about the hypocrisy of a party against war having this wording in its principles, it is sadly now out of date. Nowadays "wage war" covers the actions of the world's superpower which has waged war either overt or covert over several dozen times, ever since it exploded an atom bomb over Nagasaki on 9th August 1945, to the actions of killers using suicide vests, bombs, weapons or vehicles against people.  

Item 31: Kent & Sussex Regional Branch

Learning to live with the ‘S’ word

It is frequently suggested that the Party is being held back by our prominent use of the ‘S’ word - Socialism. Many people are believed either to be put off by an incorrect preconception of the meaning(s) of the word, or (especially younger workers), just are unaware of the meaning of the word or make an association with it being “social”.

Some alternatives have been suggested, or used, like ‘Free Access Party’ or ‘Money Free Party’. However they often – like these – are open to multiple interpretations or misunderstanding or will just baffle people. And it’s clear there would be no mood in the Party for ditching the ‘S’ word, in fact it would be difficult to live without it.

It is also the fact that the ‘S’ word is not universally unpopular. Look at the recent campaign by Bernie Sanders to win the US Democratic Party presidential nomination, or opinion polls which rank it more popular than Capitalism. Instead maybe we can find a better way of living with it, by adopting a form of words which are descriptive of our aim, and clearly understandable to most people, which could be used alongside the party name. Like some commercial organisations use a brand description alongside their name (e.g. Let’s Feel Good – Boots).

We are hoping Branches may discuss this before ADM and come up with their own ideas for discussion.

To clarify:

1.  In case anyone misses this in the text THIS IS NOT ABOUT A CHANGE OF PARTY NAME!  Think of it as a good slogan to get people more interested or more open listening to us.   Let’s just say we thought the slogan could be “Cute Kittens” (not of course!)… we could use it as “THE PARTY FOR CUTE KITTENS – The Socialist Party”, or “The Socialist Party: The Cute Kittens Party”.

2.   Electoral use.  If we did want to use it as (part of) an alternative name for electoral purposes, we would have to use a form (on the ballot paper at least) of no more than six words e.g. “THE PARTY FOR CUTE KITTENS (SP-GB)” OR just something to use IN ADDITION to the Party name on the ballot paper, where the specific type of election allows this. There are other conditions that would require to be observed too. Any suggestions would need to be something not already registered by another Party as an alternative (or main) name, and we may wish avoid being too public with any really good ones – in case someone else nicks it before we get to use it!