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Minutes of Inaugural Meeting

Minutes of Inaugural Meeting

Held at Printers' Hall, Bartletts Passage,Fetter Lane,London,E.C.at 6pm on Sunday 12th June 1904

In accordance with the instructions of the Provisional Committee, R. Elrick and C. Lehane acted as Provisional Chairman and Secretary respectively, and the other members of the Provisional Committee acted as stewards. There was a good attendance, and the meeting opened with the singing of “The Red Flag”.

The Chairman briefly explained the object of the meeting, read the notice convening same, and then moved the following resolution: “That we hereby declare our membership of and thus form the new Party, the constitution of which it shall be the business of this meeting to formulate.”

The resolution was carried, with three dissentients, who were requested to leave the building, as the invitation to attend was extended only to those who were prepared to cooperate in forming the Party. After these persons had left, the Chairman called on those present to give in their names and addresses for enrolment as members, and as a result the following one hundred and forty two names were handed in:

Miss H. Aitken, Mrs Annie Albery, A.S. Albery, Victor Albery, Arch. Alcock, E.J.B. Allen, Mrs Allen, T.W. Allen, Sidney T. Alston, A. Anderson, G. Anslow, Isaac Asher, Will L. Auger, J.T. Bacan, B.G. Bannington, A. Barker, William Bartlett, Hy. Belsey, John Beauford, W. Betts, J. Blaustein, A. Boggis, A.R. Brooker, R.J. Buckingham, H.J. Bull, A.H. Burton, F. Cadman, Miss L.E. Campbell, John Chislekoff, W. Chown, T.C. Collings, Robert Collins, R. Compton, Mrs E. Craske, F. Craske, Harry Crump, John Crump, R. Daintree, H.J. Davey, John W. Day, John Donovan, A.C. Dowdeswell, Paul Dumenil, W. Eayrs, Minnie Eden, Stanley Eden, R. Elrick, Edward Fairbrother, E. Fawcett, J. Fitzgerald, G. Fletcher, Haris Fagel, W. Fox, B. Galloway, John Gordon, C. Goss, A.J.M. Gray, A. Greenham, R.O. Gross, Edward Hammond, E. Hardcastle, G.R. Harris, H.J. Hawkins, Miss K. Hawkins, G. Hicks, Geo. H. Hobbs, G.J. Hodson, Mabel Hodson, William Holford, Mrs. Holford, Mrs. Holgate, Miss Homerton, H.E. Hutchins, A.W. Ingram, T.A. Jackson, A. Jacobs, Hyman Jacobs, S. Jacobs, A.E. Jacomb, A. Jones, A.C. Jones, G. Jones, Mrs L. Jones, J. Kent, R.H. Kent, W.G. Killick, G.T. King, Mrs King, William Lee, C. Lehane, F.S. Leigh, Hy. Martin, Valentine McEntee, J. McNicol, F. Meiklejohn, G.F. Moody, Moore E.C., A. Morrill, D.R. Newlands, H. Neumann, John Nodder, Charles Orme, J. Oxley, Alex. Pearson, Miss M. Pearson, H.C. Phillips, Alf Pilbeam, A. Pyrke, W. Pyrke, F.Quinney, D.A. Reid, G. Richards, A. Ridgewell, S.J.C. Russell, Walter Russell, Mrs L. Salomon, Hy. Salter, H. Severn, William Sills, T.G. Simco, Frank Sinfield, H.J. Smith, H.O. Sparks, C.V. Sparks, T. Spooner, G. Streak, G. Sweeting, T. Tarrant, L. Thurston, R. Triggs, C. Turner, Annie Walker, R.H. Walker, T. Wallis, F.C. Watts, T. Wilkins, E. Wilkinson, G.H. Wilson, T.A. Wilson, W. Woodhouse, Walter Wren, H.J. Young.

While the enrolment was in progress, one man refused to join the Party stating that he had not yet decided what to do in connection with the movement, and that he had an “open mind” on the matter. The Chairman again explained the object of the meeting and stated that the persons who had been invited to come were only those who had made up their minds in connection with the object of the meeting, and gently but firmly requested this man to take his “open mind” outside. This being done, the business of the meeting was proceeded with.

The following letter was read:

“Socialist Society, Newcastle upon Tyne 10/6/04

Dear Comrades,

Our society has recently had its attention drawn to the controversy between the S.D.F. and a section of its members. Although we are not affiliated to the S.D.F., we consider that, as a Social-Democratic Society, and one in full sympathy with the principles of the S.D.F., we had a title to consider the dispute.

After much discussion of the question at issue, on information based on the two circulars of the dissentient members, the Report of the Burnley Conference, the Statement in Justice of a fortnight ago, the experience of those of our own members who, in other parts of the country, have been members of the S.D.F., and our own observation of the trend of affairs during the last few years, – we have arrived at the following resolution, “That, believing that the basic principles of the S.D.F. have not been violated by the expelled members and branches, we regret the motion of the conference and executive in relation to these members and branches”.

I remain, yours truly,

(Signed) T. Kerr, Secretary.

P.S. Am sending a copy of this letter to H.W. Lee. The resolution is as far as the bulk of our members are prepared to go at present. Permit me, however, to express my personal and, of course, absolutely unofficial sympathy with your comrades in the action that they have been compelled to take, and to trust that its result will be the rescuing of the S.D.F. from the dangers of opportunism and intolerance which at present beset it and the placing of that organisation on the absolutely straight and unswerving pathway of Social Democracy once again. Personally, I should be sorry to see a permanent second Social Democratic Party established in opposition to the S.D.F., but I quite agree that the action your comrades are taking is such as may well lead to the really closer unity of the Socialist forces in the near future. Would be glad if you would keep me informed of the progress of the agitation.”

The reading of the above letter was met with loud applause, and the Secretary instructed to send a suitable reply. The next business was the election of Chairman and Secretary of the meeting, and the election of tellers. On the motion of Fitzgerald and Anderson, the Provisional Officers, viz., Elrick and Lehane, were unanimously elected Chairman and Secretary respectively. Kent, Woodhouse and Killick were elected tellers. Phillips read the minutes of the Battersea Meeting on Sunday May 15th 1904, and on the motion of E. Allen and Jackson they were unanimously adopted.

Phillips gave a verbal report on the work of the Provisional Committee elected at the Battersea Meeting to draft a constitution for the Party and to make arrangements for the holding of the Inaugural Meeting. On the motion of Hawkins and Lehane the report was adopted with unanimity. Anderson and Lehane moved: “That the name of the Party shall be ‘The Socialist Party of Great Britain.’”

Neumann and Blaustein moved an amendment:

“That the name of the Party shall be ‘The Social-Democratic Party’.”

A good discussion followed, Hawkins, Jackson, E. Allen, Turner and Kent speaking in favour of the motion, and Martin, Mrs. Salomon, Killick and Albery for the amendment. On a show of hands, there voted for the amendment 27 against 76. The amendment was therefore deemed lost. Martin and Neumann moved a further amendment:

“That the name of the Party should be ‘The Social-Democratic Party of Great Britain’.” After some discussion a vote was taken, and there were 31 in favour and 73 against. The amendment was declared lost. Another amendment was moved by McEntee and Hutchens:

“That the name of the Party shall be ‘The Socialist Party of Great Britain and Ireland’.” This amendment was also lost, only 6 voting in favour.

There being no further amendments, the motion: “That the name of the Party shall be ‘The Socialist Party of Great Britain’ was put to the meeting and carried by 91 votes to 3. The announcement of the result was greeted with loud applause.

Hawkins and Martin moved: “That the Object of the Party shall be ‘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.’”

There was no amendment and the motion was carried unanimously. The Declaration of Principles drafted by the Provisional Committee was then read:

“The Socialist Party of Great Britain holds: –

That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (i.e. land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master-class, and the subsequent enslavement of the working-class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.

That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce, and those who produce but do not possess. That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working-class from the domination of the master-class, by the conversion into the common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and the democratic control by the whole people.

That as in the order of social evolution the working-class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.

That this emancipation must be the work of the working-class itself.

That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the  capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working-class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.

That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working-class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master-class, the party seeking working-class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action, determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working-class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.”

Fitzgerald and E. Allen moved: “That we adopt the Declaration of Principles as read”. Martin and Blaustein moved an amendment:

“That the statement of Principles be printed and submitted to each member of the Party for consideration and that a Conference of the Party be called in one month’s time to adopt same or accept amendments thereto.”

Hawkins, Jackson and Leigh spoke against the amendment, and on a vote being taken only 3 were in its favour, all the other members present voting against. The  amendment was therefore declared lost. Martin and Albery moved a further amendment :

“That the word ‘hostile’ be deleted and ‘opposed’ substituted”. This amendment was also lost, only a few votes in its favour. The motion: “That we accept the Declaration of Principles as read” was then put to the meeting and adopted with unanimity and enthusiasm.

[The draft rules were read and discussed and the Party’s officers and executive committee elected.]

The meeting closed at 10pm with the singing of the “Internationale” and cheers for the Socialist Revolution.