Our Annual Conference
The Fifth Annual Conference of the Socialist Party of Great Britain was held at ihe Communist Club on Friday and Saturday, 9th and 10th of April, 1909.
Comrade A. R. Snellgrove (Peckham) occupied the chair, supported by Comrade Fawcett (Fulham). Comrades Fox (Tottenham) and Crump (Wood Green) acted as Credentials Committee, and Stearn and Hutching as Stewards and tellers. The Credentials Committee reported 31 delegales present representing 15 branches.
The report of the retiring Executive Committee was then read as follows:—
” Since last Conference 44 Executive Committee Meetings have been held.
” Detailed reports of these meetings have been duly sent to the Blanches,
” Although complete returns are not to hand, we have to record the admission of 155 members. Branches have been formed at Burnley, Stoke Newington and Nottingham; but owing to its formation at the end of the propaganda season, its distance from other centres of propaganda, its lack of local speakers and the severe local industrial depression, the Nottingham Branch has shown little activity. With the opening of the propaganda season Nottingham should not be overlooked in the provincial campaigns. Excluding Nottingham and the Central we have, however, 16 active branches.
” THE PARTY ORGAN has appeared regularly, its circulation has increased, it has been increasingly quoted by British and foreign papers, and, thanks to the raising of the S.S. Guarantee Fund, its financial position has been considerably improved. Resolutions dealing with the paper appear on the Agenda.
” FINANCIALLY the Party is stronger than hitherto, the income for 1908 showing an increase over that of 1907 of over £35.
” During the year the first 48 numbers of the SOCIALIST STANDARD have been issued in one volume at 6s., and a goodly number have been sold. The second of the Kautsky series—The Working Class—has been published, and the third—The Capitalist Class—is appearing in the SOCIALIST STANDARD.
” A pamphlet on ‘Religion and Socialism’ is being prepared.
” Forty thousand leaflets have been issued and widely distributed. Taking advantage of good opportunites, 200 copies of Socialism : Utopian and Scientific were obtained from America and have sold well at 4d. per copy.
” Propaganda has been carried on as far as the available speakers permitted ; numerous debates have been held, and representatives have put our position to many other organisations.
“A bye-election in the Wandsworth district was contested by the Tooting Branch and a gratifying vote secured by our candidate.
” The Tottenham Branch are now contesting an election, three candidates having been put forward.
” Two meetings of London members were held to discuss the attitude of Party members on public bodies.
” On ihe question of the ‘Oath of Allegiance’ the following resolution :
‘That the position of the Socialist Party of Great Britain in reference to the Oath of Allegiance to Parliament is that the oaths and forms imposed by the constitution shall not be allowed to prevent elected representatives from taking their seats,’
was carried by 92 to 22.
” The admission of a member of a Railway Conciliation Board was opposed by many members and much discussion arose thereon. Eventually the following resolution :
‘That a member of the Railway Conciliation Board is not eligible for membership of th eSocialist Party of Great Britain’
was defeated by 69 to 54. Upon these two questions resolutions appear on the Agenda.
” The actions of J. McManus (Earlsfield Branch) being considered detrimental to the interests of the Party, he was expelled under Rule XIX. by 111 votes to 5.
” The action of F. Denevor (Central Branch) in supporting an S.D.P. speaker resulted in his expulsion by 72 votes to 1.
The question of the power of the E.C. to interpret Rule I. by Rule XVII. to mean that they may withhold a card of membership from any person whom they consider ineligible, notwithstanding that a Branch had by a majority vote admitted such person, was considered. A referendum was requested by Manchester Branch, and a requistion was set on foot under Rule XXVI with the result that it was decided that the E.C. has that power, by 72 votes to 8.
“Handicapped as we have been through lack of speakers and paucity of funds, we have not been able to do all we could have wished, and being entirely dependent upon voluntary effort, the internal departmental work may not have been carried through as promptly and efficiently as some, not aware of the difficulties, may have wished, but despite that we are stronger than eve for the work of Socialist propaganda. We appeal to members to do all in their power to relieve their officials by assisting at the Head Office.”
The report was adopted unanimously.
H. J. Neumann (Treas.) submitted financial Statement for year ending December, 1908, showing income of over £227. W. Evans (auditor) said the audit, owing to the illness of his co-auditor, had not been completed and was unsigned. Discussion arose due to the Treasurer confusing a supplementary statement with that for the year 1908, and it was resolved “That at future Conferences the Financial Statement be drawn up to the end of the preceding year.” The report was adopted subject to audit.
A. Anderson submitting his report, said the Party work had been curtailed owing to lack of speakers, and urged the need for new speakers.
The following cffiicers were declared elected : Gen. Sec., T. W. Lobb; Treas., H. J. Neumann ; Organiser, A. Anderson ; Auditors, A. Tunney, T. A. Wilson; Executive Committee, Allen, Anderson, Fitzgerald, Gray, Jacomb, Fairbrother, Halls, Joy, Young, Kennett, Evans, Cooper.
Tottenhan’s resolution “That discussion be allowed on every item on the conference ugenda” was carried by 236 votes to 48.
The item from Manchester “That any member of the S.P.G.B. elected to Parliament shall not take the oath of allegiance to the Constitution ” was discussed, and a resolution to send same to the branches for voting defeated.
Manchester’s resolution re paid organiser for Lancashire roused little discussion. Considerable discussion arose on resolutions from Peckham, and Stoke Newington urging the enlargement of the SOCIALIST STANDARD. Eventually Conference resolved “That the E.C. be recommended to take up the whole matter at once and report to the next Delegate Meeting.”
Conference now adjourned for the Annual Social, which was a great success. “The World for the Workers,” the song written and composed by Comrade Neumann and sung by the Paddington Choir was received with applause to which, the author responded in a short speech.
The first item on Saturday was on the question, raised by Stoke Newington, of the advisability of allowing members to run as candidates for Urban and Borough Councils. Woizinski opened saying that a member of the Party could do nothing on such bodies, which, are under the control of the central Government, and that it is useless contesting such elections. Bigby (Tottenham) said that from the point of view of propaganda alone the policy of contesting such elections was good. Neumann said local bodies were part of the political machinery and had to be captured. Halls denied that local bodies had no power. Their power was limited, but such as it was it could and should be used in the interest of the working class. Many others spoke against the resolution and the conference passed to next item, which was “That it be an instruction to the E.C. to take up the matter of establishing educational classes in the centre of different districts in London.” After considerable discussion as to the efficiency of such classes, it was agreed “That the E.C. be instructed to appoint a sub-committee to immediately consider the organisation of educational classes, the E.C, to have power to add members not on the E.C.”
The matter of tl\e publication of pamphlets arising from a resolution from the Watford, Branch was left in the hands of the E.C.
A resolution from Tottenham to the effect that a report of the Conference together with the Rules be published as a penny pamphlet was defeated. The Conference then passed to amendments to rules, some slight alterations only being voted.
The Conference then settled down to discuss the resolutions from Manchester and Fulham dealing with the statement in the Manifesto with reference to Trade Unions.
MANCHESTER: “That the E.C. in issuing subsequent editions of the Party Manifesto amplify the following passage : ‘That Trade Unions being a necessity under capitalism, any action upon their part on sound lines should be heartily supported.’ ”
FULHAM : “That the lines 25 to 27 of the Party Manifesto be taken out.”
Space does not allow of a report of the interesting discussion (lasting nearly five hours) which followed. Fawcett opened on behalf of Fulham, and was supported by Comrades Connelly (Burnley), Neumann, Snellgrove, Wren and Fisher. Fitzgerald opposed, and was supported by Comrades Halls, Anderson, Gray, Goss, Glen (Watford) and others. Finally it was decided to send both resolutions to the branches for a referendum vote of the Party.
A resolution dealing with membership of Railway Conciliation Board was unavoidably held over.
The Secretary read a letter from M. Baritz (New York) asking for readmission to membership of the Party. After some discussion the Secretary was instructed to infoim him that the Party could not admit him to membership as such a short time had elapsed since his previous application had been rejected.
The most successful Conference that the Party has yet held then adjourned.
T. W. L.