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Joining the Party

Politically speaking before I applied to join the Socialist Party of Great Britain I had all but given up. Many years of my life had been spent either within or on the periphery of reformist organisations. I voted Labour and for years I marched in the columns of CND. I was a member of the Young Communist League and later the Communist Party. I became a Trotskyist and admit that to my shame I joined the Labour Party for infiltration purposes. I was twenty five years old and thought of myself as madly revolutionary. I must have been suffering from chronic amnesia. I had forgotten how excited I had been, to what extent my imagination had been fired, when at about the age of thirteen my father talked to me about a world without money.

I must have heard talk of free access when I was still in my pram. The theory was according to my father that the then Soviet Union had state capitalism but eventually the state would wither away and money would be abolished. Every day I scanned the Daily Worker to see whether the Soviet Union had turned into a moneyless society. Needless to say there was no sign of the state "withering away".

At school I embarked with zeal on my own propaganda exercise. In every essay set for us by the teachers I managed to include in mine a reference to the idea of a world without money. I was childishly optimistic about this. I was convinced that one day the English teacher's interest would be aroused and a class discussion would ensue. When this didn't immediately happen I decided to talk to my classmates about it. They thought I was nuts. Then one day a marked essay was returned to me and to my chagrin all my remarks about money had been deleted with red ink. It was a composition about the English countryside and I had waxed lyrical about the beauty of Kent. My suggestion was that if we did not have a monetary system the countryside could be even more beautiful. I supplied a few reasons for why I thought this but can no longer remember what they were. I adored my English teacher. She and I shared a love of reading but from that day on my conviction grew that she wasn't all I had cracked her up to be. I exchanged my interest in free access for boys, clothes and dancing.

 

How schools deal with socialists

I joined the SPGB in 1994. Yet I feel I have always been a member. A comrade was selling the Socialist Standard in the city and I bought a copy. My preconceptions warned me that the SPGB was just another one of those outfits like the Socialist Workers' Party. I skipped through the pages, skimmed one or two of the articles and tossed it aside. My husband asked if I had read the Declaration of Principles. I had not.

I read the Object: "The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community." And I read on. That did it. SPGB, where have you been all my life? Whilst I was marching against war, agitating for better conditions in the workplace and voting for a Labour government that supported capitalism the SPGB was waiting in the wings. How had I missed it?

Every member knows that it is not easy to join the Socialist Party. It is not just a matter of filling in an application form and receiving that little red membership card through the post. I know of no other political organisation requiring potential new members to understand their aims and be capable of arguing for them. I mildly resented the twelve questions. I felt the Socialist Party should be grateful to me for wanting to join their ranks. It was rather like sitting an exam. I thought it would be a doddle. It wasn't. But goodness how it focused my mind. I do not think I made a very good job of the twelve questions but my answers must have been satisfactory enough for someone to write back and tell me I could join if I liked. There are times now when I am tempted to ask for those twelve questions again. Next time I may give a better account of myself.

HEATHER BALL