Letters: Socialism and Red Shirt
A correspondent sends the following letter of enquiry:—
Will you please tell me, through the “S.S.,” and not by the post, how long is the Socialist Party of Great Britain becoming theatrical?
For some months past the members of your Party, in Victoria Park, on Sunday, have now taken to wearing red shirts, so the indication of a class conscious men will, in the near future, be determined by the colour of his shirt, and not the state of his upper story.
On Monday evening last, I attended a “debate” at Ridley Road between a member of the Communist [Party] and another of your party. Wonder of wonders, —the Communist was wearing a white shirt and collar and a green tie, and your representative was wearing a red shirt. Various members in the crowd, within my hearing, passed remarks about it.
I have been interested in Socialism nearly all my life. Nearly thirty years ago I first listened to Fitzgerald and Anderson at our local meeting place, but not once have I seen them in red shirts or “Bread or Work” banners.
If red shirts stood for anything intelligent it would not be so bad, but it is a latter-day stunt of a so-called Communist Party, and to it the red shirts should be confined. There is no room in a class conscious party for theatricals. It is pure and simple an advocacy of a physical encounter with the Capitalist class.
Yours for Socialism,
W. J. Palmer
Our correspondent bases his question on an implication which is not in accordance with the facts. He writes: “For some months past the members of your Party in Victoria Park on Sunday have now taken to wearing red shirts . . . “
This statement would convey to those who do not visit Victoria Park that all or most members of the S.P.G.B. who visit Victoria Park wear red shirts as a sort of uniform. This is not correct. What is correct is that our correspondent has seen a few members of the S.P.G.B. whose shirts happen to be red in colour.
We can therefore assure our correspondent that the S.P.G.B. has not changed its view that membership of the Socialist Party must be based on the understanding and acceptance of Socialist principles. The S.P.G.B. has not adopted red shirts or any kind of uniform. If individual members of the S.P.G.B. happen to have shirts and ties which are red in colour, that has no significance whatever, any more than the fact that other members wear blue shirts, grey shirts, or shirts of any other colour or mixture of colours.
We assure our correspondent that the S.P.G.B. is not deserting Socialist principles for theatrical display. We would also draw his attention to the significant fact that he nowhere suggests that the individuals he saw in red shirts (including the S.P.G.B. representative in debate) departed in the slightest degree from the enunciation of Socialist principles. If he ever finds members of the S.P.G.B. doing so he will have reason to criticise. Until that happens our correspondent has no ground for his suggestion that such a departure has occurred merely because he sees a shirt of some particular colour.