1900s >> 1909 >> no-54-february-1909

Party News: Tottenham Branch Report

In my last note I promised a future communication on the doings—if life lasted to it—of the Tottenham Labour League and Right to Work Committee. This must, however, be deferred yet again, as we understand that the affairs of the League, or some of its officials, are engaging the attention of the police. . My reference to the Anti-Socialist campaign has seemingly borne fruit, and the branch is now busy fixing up details for a debate with Mr. Farraday, representing the Anti-Socialist Union. Particulars will be advertised later and a good meeting is certain. This does not, however, exhaust the list of our local activities, for beyond running our regular open-air meetings, we watch the enemy, and on Friday, January 22nd, helped to expose a most unscrupulous attempt to exploit Socialist sentiment. The event was extensively advertised as a “Great Socialist Demonstration,” and was organised by The City of London, Finsbury, and North London Branches of the I.L.P., with Mr. Fred Jowett, M.P., Bradford, as the star turn. The “demonstration” was held in a local school-room. Mr. Harvey, president of the aforesaid Labour League, presided, accompanied on the platform by one or two I.L.Pers and local Liberals. The audience, which numbered about 200, included many members and sympathisers of the S.P.G.B., and had been drawn by the advertisements to hear what Mr. Jowett, M.P., had to say about Socialism. Realising this, and anticipating that the Socialism was to come from the audience and not from the platform, Mr. Harvey apologised in a confused, halting manner for the advertisements, admitting that “they would give cause of complaint to many;” but resuming his more usual blustering tone, he warned the meeting that there was only going to bp one chairman, and that was himself. This spread an air of mystery over the meeting, but this was quickly dispelled when Mr. Jowett arose and opened his address in these words: “I am not here to preach Socialism: I have come to preach democracy. My subject is: The Parliamentary Machine.” He then spoke for over an hour, and not a single word he uttered would have been objected to by any Liberal or Conservative M.P., although he made many erroneous statements. A few minutes were allowed for questions, during which it was easily seen that we had the sympathy of the meeting, but the chairman speedily closured questions, and adopting the policy Mr. Jowett had complained of as being adopted in the “House,” he put up a Mr. Montague to “talk out time.” This gentleman has the unfortunate faculty of driving an audience away, so he very quickly resumed his seat. The Chairman then began to grow angry, and as a vent to his wrath, indulged in a few tilts at us, which, if they did no other good, provided us with amusement which we greatly appreciated. Making a plea for “practical politics,” he showed very clearly, even to those with the least discernment, that it was merely the “lust of office,” the desire to be numbered among King Capital’s administrators, that inspired the I.L.P. He then explained the presence of Liberals on the platform by the impudent assertion that a man could be a good Socialist and still call himself a Liberal, and, carrying his effrontery to the region of the ridiculous, he warned his hearers against men who, calling themselves Socialists, were simply Liberals in disguise. Thereupon there were loud and persistent cries from the assembly for Mr. Jowett to reply to the unhappy if wayward shaft, but that gentleman, who had already been complimented by a member of the audience for his “Liberal” speech, maintained a very discreet silence. The fiasco then “petered out,” the audience once again having had it brought home to them that Socialism was not to be learnt from the I.L.P., but only from the S.P.G.B.—which is as we have always said.
Alex Anderson