1940s >> 1948 >> no-529-september-1948

Party News Briefs

The Autumn Delegate Meeting takes place on Sunday morning and afternoon, September 26th, at the Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, W.C.1. It will be followed in the evening by a mass rally at the same hall. The Executive Committee’s report on the first six months of 1948 is now in the hands of branches. Among other things it shows that our propaganda has been more extensive during the six months than for a considerable number of years, even including 1945 when we fought a General Election campaign. The Central Organiser considers that the prospects of the party are now brighter than ever before. The sales of the Socialist Standard have also increased recently after a dull period during the winter. We are still, however, facing difficulties owing to a shortage of competent writers for the Socialist Standard. These difficulties may be solved by the Head Office Tutorial Class, which now has a sufficient nucleus of tutors to go ahead as a general introductory class for new members, and as a means of finding out the aptitude of members for speaking, writing and teaching. In the section of the report devoted to overseas contacts the question is raised of socialists living in countries where no socialist parties exist, and who wish to maintain ties with a socialist party. Financially our position is still a difficult one, although it improved at the beginning of the year but deteriorated afterwards. Delegates will probably give this item serious consideration, particularly in view of the Executive Committee’s decision to contest at least one constituency, North Paddington, at the next General Election. The total membership of the party at the end of June was 1,008, yet another increase. The Delegate Meeting will be interesting and stimulating, and we will give a report of it in the November Socialist Standard.Hackney Branch commence their weekly Friday evening winter lecture course at the Bethnal Green Public Library, Cambridge Heath Road, on October 1st. at 8 o’clock, when A. Turner will speak on “ Our hostility to other parties.” On October 8th C. Groves speaks on “Nationalisation,” and October 15th S. Cash speaks on “ Socialism in our time.”

Islington Branch appeal to all their members to support their outdoor meetings, with which they are having difficulties owing to tack of branch support. The co-operation of members is urgently required.

Two New Branches have just been formed, one at St. Pancras and the other at Fulham. These two areas are ripe for party development and it is gratifying to have party units established there.

“Collected Socialist Pamphlets,” the bound volume of party pamphlets is now ready. This is a limited special Library edition, 307 pages, strongly bound in quarter blue calf, with gold lettering along the back. The price is 8s. 6d. nett. It is available to public and university libraries only, and until the supply is exhausted, all librarians who apply for a copy can be supplied. Several public libraries in Lancashire and Yorkshire have already applied for copies. Party members are urged to put this book on the “Suggestion Slips” at their local libraries. Remember the title— “Collected Socialist Pamphlets.” Publishers—The Socialist Party of Great Britain.

A Fuller Report of the Debate with Christopher Hollis (Conservative) at Ealing Town Hall has now been received. H. Young opened the debate by defining a class as a body of people united by a common economic interest: the existence of one class presupposed the existence of at least one other and consequently a conflict of interests or a class struggle.

He wound up his first session by tracing the development of classes and the class struggle and by defining the class division.of society to-day.

Hollis stated that he agreed with Young’s definition of a class.

Although Marx had had some “horse sense” and although his “economic determinism” was fundamentally correct, his psychology was behind the times —Young was stating a case which may have been all very well in 1848 but was hardly applicable to-day: capitalism was now nearly dead, nevertheless it had succeeded during its lifetime, by the development of the world’s productive resources in improving the condition of the working-class and had not, as Marx had predicted, merely increased their misery.

To-day in England, as a result of a diffusion of ownership, there were more capitalists than working men.

The people with real power to-day were not the capitalists, but the rising managerial class, who were neither capitalists nor workers.

One might well ask then, is there not a class-struggle on this basis? The answer he would give was that at present there was not, but that one may develop in the future.

As for the socialist revolution: there was every indication that it would follow the pattern of revolutions in the past—that despite the equalitarian promises of its advocates, a new ruling class would arise from it. Young, in his second period, repeated his definition of classes.

If Hollis was right, and the majority of people were capitalists, there would still be a minority class.

William Beveridge (and many other prominent statisticians agreed with him) had stated that 9 per cent. of the total population owned 91 per cent. of the total wealth—this indicated a vast gulf between two classes in society and this view was sustained by the proof of the large amounts of money left in the wills published daily in the newspapers.

When Marx spoke of the increasing poverty of the workers he was relating their position to that of their masters, poverty and riches being relative, one presupposing the other.

Managers were not capitalists, and capitalists did not need any special capabilities of knowledge to attain their superior social position.

Young wound up his second period by describing Socialism and the means by which it was to be achieved.

Hollis opened his second period by repeating that Marx was an economic determinist.

Society, he said, contained an infinite variety of classes—some people were capitalists and workers in varying degrees.

He did not deny that there were rich and poor but did deny that riches in any way necessarily gave power: a large number of very powerful people were without riches.

There was a conflict between the managerial class and the capitalists—society would undoubtedly change, but not as Marx and the S.P.G.B. envisaged.

Young stated that it was futile for Hollis to look back to past conditions when considering present-day poverty—this did not explain anything nor did it in any way help to solve the problem.

It was very strange that despite the privileged position which Hollis stated to be the lot of the managers, no capitalist wanted to suffer the social fall to a manager, but many managers wanted to rise to capitalists.

 

Socialism could not be established by a minority, even a Marxist minority: it must be the work of the working-class themselves. Hollis replied that Young had been speaking in the past—his contentions were out of date, since the face of capitalism Had changed.

 

Marx had not meant relative poverty, but actual poverty.

 

The main fault with Marxism and the S.P.G.B. case was that one could not solve the problems of 1948 with solutions which were propounded in 1848. Young wound up the debate by pointing out that Hollis had agreed that there was a class-struggle and had now passed on to a discussion of Socialism.

 

It may be that the face of capitalism had changed, but the ugly body remained the same.

 

He finished by stressing the necessity for the working-class first understanding and desiring Socialism before that system of society could be established.

 

Kingston Branch is preparing for a season of winter activity in Malden, Surrey district. The local Labour Party in this area was challenged to debate, but has replied with the usual “no useful purpose would be served by such a debate at the present time.” The success of the outdoor meetings at Castle Street, Kingston, on Saturday evenings has prompted the branch to hold meetings at the same place on Friday evenings. ‘‘The Fountain” at New Malden is now being considered as a further outdoor station as a preliminary to a series of indoor meetings in that locality later in the year.

 

The Overseas Secretary reports that the recently formed Dublin Socialist Group is progressing very satisfactorily. Meetings held at the hall at 33, Lower Gardiner Street, on Sunday evenings are a stimulating success. The subjects cover a wide range and each meeting is reported, and future ones announced, in the Dublin Evening Mail. Readers of the Socialist Standard in any part of Eire are invited to contact the group through M. Cullen, 34, Lower Buckingham Street, Dublin. We have received a collection of news cuttings taken from Dublin daily and evening papers which show that the group is making itself known in that city.

 

The International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam, which lost most of its journals and periodicals during the war, is now re-collecting material and is being supplied with Party literature.

 

Attempts are being made to link up a number of ex-members and friends in Africa in order that their socialist activities may be co-ordinated.

 

The World Socialist Party of U.S.A. have sent us the report of the 1948 National Conference held in Boston on May 30th and 31st. Some of the problems’ discussed by the delegates are problems that beset our own Party or have had to be thrashed out by us in the past. In particular is the ever present problem of maintaining a sufficient financial income to continue socialist activities. The finances of a Socialist Party, dependant upon the shallow pockets of its working-class members and friends, are always a source of headaches.

 

Another common problem to both our organisations is to find ways and means to increase the circulation of our literature. The W.S.P. conference discussed a number of projects With this object in view, the result of which we may soon see embodied in their journal, “The Western Socialist

 

We note with interest that a $1,000 drive is to be instituted in an effort to put their full-time National Organiser back in the field.

 

Also discussed was the suggestion that some form of organisation be established to embrace socialists who reside in parts of the world where no Socialist Party exists, and who desire to keep in touch with the socialist movement in an organised manner.

 

Next year’s conference venue will be Detroit.

 

Greetings are sent to all comrades in Great Britain.

 

C. C. Groves,

 

General Secretary.