A Clarion Vanner Takes the Socialist Platform

On Sunday, September 15th, while Comrade Fitzgerald was speaking at our Finsbury Park meeting, a member of the audience asked “was it a fact that the Clarion Van speakers had instructions from the London Van Committee to refuse to answer questions put by members of The Socialist Party of Great Britain ?” He put the question, he said, because he was informed that a Clarion Vanner was in the audience, and he wished to give him the opportunity to deny the allegation if he could do so. The questioner was, further, anxious to know why the Clarion Van Committee would not allow their speakers questions from the Socialists. Thereupon Mr. Fred Brarnley, late Clarion Van speaker, asked for the platform and his request was, of course, acceded to.

Mr. Bramley said he had never refused to answer questions from anyone, and had always preached the principles of unadulterated Socialism. By Socialism he meant the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Nationalisation or municipalisation were not Socialism, but simply exploitation in another form. He then asked for questions from members of the S.P.G.B., and upon it being pointed out to him that he was not there to ask for questions, but to deny, if he could, the statement that Clarion Van speakers were instructed to refuse to answer questions from Socialists, Mr. Bramley replied that he held the platform, and all the ordinary rules of procedure went by the board.

Comrade Fitzgerald then pointed out that Mr. Gavan Duffy admitted, at Wood Green, that he had received instructions from the Clarion Van Committee not to accept questions from Socialists. Fitzgerald also stated that questions had been refused at Clapham and Wimbledon, and. also by Mr. Hartley at Willesden, and he drew Mr. Bramley’s attention to the fact that Mr. Howard, of the Clarion Van Committee, had openly stated from our platform in Finsbury Park that Mr. Gavan Duffy was not to blame, as he was only acting under instructions from the Van Committee. Our comrade then dealt with Mr. Bramley’s definition of Socialism, and showed the unsoundness of the phrase “the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange ” ; the means of exchange being money, which is only necessary under a system of private ownership. Under Socialism, produclion being no longer carried on for exchange, and the products being owned collectively by the whole of the people, the means of exchange will become superfluous, yet he (Mr. Bramiey) talked of socialising it. The Clarion advocated nationalisation and municipalisation, and was therefore a misleading organ, contrary to the principles of Socialism. Moreover, the success of the Clarion Vanners depended upon the number of Clarions sold at the meetings, and seeing that the Clarion advocated nationalisation and municipalisation, Mr. Bramiey could not but admit that he assisted in anti-Socialist propaganda. If it was not a personal question why was he not now a Clarion Vanuer, seeing that they were advertising for speakers.

Mr. Bramiey, replying, said the questions were not on Socialism. The reason he was not now a Clarion Vanner was a personal one. It was a suggestion of impure motives, he said, to say that the success of a Clarion Vanner depended upon the number of Clarions sold, but it is noticeable that he did not deny the statement. Mr. Bramiey still insisted upon having questions upon the principles of Socialism. He was asked if he advised the workers to avoid the I.L.P., S.D.F. etc., as non-Socialist organisations, and to join the S P.G.B. and replied ihat he preached the principle of Socialism and left the people to judge for themselves as to which political party to join. Did he advise the workers to avoid the Liberal and Tory parties was the next question given to the ex-Vanner, and the answer being in the affirmative, Bramley was then called upon to explain why he did not preach Socialism and advise the workers to avoid the I.L.P. and S.D.F. as supporters of capitalism. The cases were not parallel, be declared, but he could not show wherein the divergence lay. Mr. Bramley, in answer to a question, said that he believed organisation to be necessary for the attainment of Socialism, and explained his inconsistency in advising the workers to join such anti-Socialist organisations as the S.D.F., and the I.L.P. by saying that he did not agree that they were anti-Socialist. Nevertheless he had to admit that we were the only pure organisation. He agreed that an organisation advocating the support of capitalism was acting contrary to the principles of Socialism, and to the interest of the working class. Having denied that the I.L.P. supported capitalism, Mr. Bramley was asked whether Mr. Ramsay MacDonald at Leicester, Mr. James Parker at Halifax, and Mr. Fred Jowett at Bradford supported capitalism when they entered into a compact with the Liberals. Amidst roars of laughter he attempted to repudiate the action of these individuals as not representing the policy of the I.L.P., which, he said, was settled at their Annual Conference. Asked was he not aware that Mr. Keir Hardie at the York Conference of the I.L.P. admitted that this policy had been followed with the object of keeping out the Tories, he answered that he was not aware of this fact. Mr. Bramley was then shown a leading article in the Labour Leader stating that the I.L.P. supported the Liberal candidate at Bury, and he could not deny that as this had never been repudiated it stood as their policy. Was the I.L.P. a Socialist organisation was then submitted, and elicited the reply that it was an organisation that would fulfil a need for a considerable time. (Oh, oh ! from the crowd). The questioner refused to accept this answer and he was then told that the I.L.P. is a Socialist organisation, and amidst interruption and laughter Mr. Bramley said that he had been a member of it for twelve years.

The ex-Vanner was now called upon to show how we can socialise capital. “I cannot tell you,” he said, “the socialisation of capital is an impossibility.” Asked now why he was a member of an organisation the object of which was an impossibility, he denied that the object of the I.L.P. was to socialise capital, and asserted that it was “the socialisation of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.” He was then informed that a perusal of the I.L.P. literature would show him that the object of the I.L.P. was “socialisation of land and capital,” so that he was a member of an organisation yet at the same time ignorant of its object. Mr. Bramley had by this time had enough of it and he religuished a platform that for him had proved a pillory.


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