Party News: Our Fourth Annual Conference

The fourth Annual Conference of the S.P.G.B. was held at the Communist Club on Friday and Saturday, 17th and 18th April, 1908. Comrade Fitzgerald presided, supported by Snellgrove. Comrades Neumann and Anderson acted as Stewards, and Pearson, Hopley and Bigby as Credentials Committee.


The Report of the 4th Executive Committee to the Conference contained the following: “We are pleased to report a steady increase in the membership and influence of the Party. Over 170 new members have been enrolled during the year, and propaganda has been well maintained; a special feature being the large number of debates held with representatives of all sections of the enemy. . . The Manchester Branch formed during the year is especially active, and promises to prove a splendid base for provincial work. . . . The Socialist Standard has appeared regularly. . . . The first 36 numbers bound in one volume has sold well. The 2nd Edition of the Manifesto has been sold out and the 3rd Edition is selling equally well. The issue of ‘Art, Labour and Socialism’ in pamphlet form has also proved very successful. A 2nd Edition of ‘From Handicraft to Capitalism’ has been issued and the second of the series is in course of production. . . . Leaflets replying to the attacks of the anti Socialists and advertising The Socialist Standard have been extensively circulated.’’


The report was very fully discussed by the delegates, and finally adopted. Fitzgerald raised the question of the reorganisation of the Peckham Branch, questioning the wisdom of the E.C. in not excluding certain elements which had in the past made for disorganisation. During this discussion, Moses Baritz, the delegate from Manchester, presided, the vice-chairman being a member of the Peckham Branch.


The financial Statement was adopted after being fully discussed. Snellgrove and Rose (Tooting) moved a resolution suggesting that branches guarantee to take quantities of the Party Organ proportionately to their membership. This was carried.


The Manchester delegate raised the question, on a motion of urgency, of sending speakers to take part in the campaign at Manchester. It was agreed to send representatives, and a collection to assist in defraying their expenses was taken up which realised £1 5s. 6d.


The two amendments to the Rules from the Tottenham Branch were carried. The resolution from Wood Green urging the appointment of an Organiser was carried, the amendment from Manchester calling for a provincial organiser, being defeated. Two other resolutions, one calling for the appointment of a paid organiser, and the other suggesting the insertion of a summary of the minutes of the E.C. meetings in the Party Organ, were defeated.


The Socialist Standard will, in future, appear on the last Saturday of every month, instead of on the first of the month as heretofore, the resolution to that effect from Tooting being carried by a large majority. All pamphlets issued by the Party are to be, in future, of a uniform size, the Conference agreeing to the resolution from Tooting to that effect.


The Conference then adjourned for tea and to make way for the Social to be held.


The Social proved to be an unqualified success. Comrade Anderson presided and from 8 o’clock until 1 o’clock next morning the revolutionary representatives of the working class danced and sang to their hearts’ content. The quantity of talent in the ranks of the Party surprised everyone. Financially, also, the concert should be a great success.


The Conference reassembled at two o’clock on Saturday and proceeded to tackle the remainder of the Agenda. It was first decided to take the item second on the agenda, standing in the name of the Battersea Branch: “That no Candidate of the Party, if elected, shall take the Oath of Allegiance to the Constitution.” The discussion was opened on behalf of the Battersea Branch in a brief speech. Hopley (Paddington) opposed on the ground of triviality. Hutchings (Tooting), Neumann, Snellgrove (Peckham), Denford, Wren supported the proposition, while R. H. Kent, A. Barker and Fitzgerald opposed. The Conference agreed to proceed to the next item which was to the effect that all Party business on which a vote is taken, voting shall be for and against. This was agreed to. ‘The discussion placed on the Agenda by the Edmonton Branch, on the question of “Socialism And Religion” served to again bring into strong contrast the position of our Party as against that of any other party professing to be Socialist. In the discussion it was made plain that while it was unnecessary and undesirable to impose a test of membership on the subject, it must be clearly recognised that active Christianity was incompatible with the active participation in the Socialist movement. Pearson (Edmonton), Anderson, Neumann, Snellgrove, Jackson, Watts and Fitzgerald contributed, and the Conference agreed to request the E.C. to make the Relation between Religion and Socialism the subject of an early pamphlet.


The important subject remaining, viz, “The attitude of candidates of the Party if elected to any public body,” was deemed too large to be adequately dealt with in the time then remaining and it was agreed to call a Party Meeting to discuss it.


The Conference was the most successful yet held by the Party and bodes well for the future.