The debate with Conservative at Ealing Town Hall on April 4th commenced late owing to the late arrival of the Conservative representative, David Eccles, M.P., and it finished early owing to his request to get away by 9.30.
W. Waters opened the debate for the S.P.G.B. by warning his opponent not to waste time attacking the Labour Party, as most Conservatives do when debating with us. If an indictment of the Labour Party was called for, we could do it far better than any Conservative. The question, “Which Party should the working class support?” prompted other questions, such as. “What is a political party?”; “Why are there many parties?”; “Is it necessary to support any?”, and if so, “ Which one?” A political party is an organisation that seeks to control the machinery of government in order to serve the interests of a section of the community. It was because there are varying interests to be served that there are a number of political parties. Landlords, industrialists, etc., have separate sectional interests, but they also have a common interest as owners of the means of production. The working class had interests opposed to these groups of the capitalist class. It is necessary for the workers to have a political party to express their interests or they would be forever at the mercy of the capitalists. The workers should support the party that aims at the abolition of the social system that keeps them in subjection. Supporting other parties, such as the Conservative Party, would solve no problems for the working class. The Conservative Party had a history of vicious opposition to working class interests, intense exploitation of the workers and suppression of their organisations. In conclusion Waters pointed out that the S.P.G.B. placed a different meaning on the word “support” to the Conservatives. The Conservatives asked for the confidence and trust of the workers, the S.P.G.B. said that the overthrow of capitalism required that the workers should understand and actively work for that objective. The Conservative Party would use the workers, the S.P.G.B. was a party the workers could use.
David Eccles opened by stating that he had, that day, gone into the lobby of the House of Commons and asked three Labour M.P’s. what they knew of the S.P.G.B. Two of them had denied any knowledge of the Party and the third had used filthy language. He admitted that he was unable to understand the object of the S.P.G.B., it was a new animal to him. He could only conceive of common ownership as a system where the state took over industry on behalf of the community. That was what the Labour Party was doing. It was not always in keeping with the interests of the nation. Private enterprise should be encouraged with the state being used to prevent any abuses such as the restrictive activities of monopolies. The small trader was the backbone of the country and he should be assisted. The Conservative Party aimed at a property-owning democracy with everyone owning his own house. Property was power and it was the object of the Conservative Party to spread the power over as wide a section of the people as possible. It aimed at a more fair distribution of property and an opportunity for everyone to get on. Social services were a means of redistribution, they were a substitute for property. Transferring property to the state means more power to the ministers. A property-owning democracy would give a larger freedom of choice. Mr. Eccles said that he could not understand how Waters could carve out a section of the people and call it a working class.
Waters commenced his second contribution by again defining the working class—that section of society which had no other means of obtaining its livelihood except by the sale of its ability to work. His opponent was a man who had been elected to a responsible position—to the job of governing. Any man in such an important job should make himself acquainted with the political ideas that were held by the people that he professed to represent. Despite the warning given, his opponent had spent his time opposing the Labour Party programme of nationalisation but without using the word. The Industrial Charter of the Conservative Party, which had been described by Conservative Sir Waldron Smithers as the most revolutionary document since the Communist Manifesto, was an example of what the Conservatives offered the working class. Boiled down it amounted to a scheme to get more out of the workers without giving them more of the wealth they produced. It claimed to offer new incentives such as dismissal from employment on a seniority basis. A recent employee might only get a week’s notice whilst an older hand might get, perhaps, a month’s. It was for such nonsense as this that the Conservatives sought the support of the workers.
David Eccles said that his opponent’s ideas were the result of a mixture of envy and philanthropic desire and the offspring was a rather ugly dream. How could property be abolished? It was beyond conception. He had travelled to Ealing by train and the railway he came by was property. Was the railway to be abolished? Were houses to have no keys so that anyone could walk in? Who would distribute the goods that were made if they were not owned by someone? The whole proposition was a dream. It was alright to dream, but the Conservative Party was more realistic. If his opponent’s definition was analysed it would be found that all but one per cent, of the nation were members of the working class. He was satisfied that the people wanted something more than a dream. Nine million of them supported the Conservative Party and if only his opponent at the next election would expound the same ideas as Water?, he, Eccles, would feel that his seat was safe.
Waters replied that it was beyond belief that anyone should think that a railway was property just because it was a railway. It became property when some person or group of persons had the right to dispose of it. Referring to the idea that everyone should own his own house. Waters quoted from a newspaper dated February, 1932, when a Conservative Party had a majority in Parliament showing that Welsh miners who had bought their houses during more prosperous times, had to surrender the mortgage when unemployed and drawing relief, and as they had little chance of redeeming it, the house property was lost to them, after a lifetime of saving. The Conservative Party was responsible for the Trade Disputes Act, 1927, the Incitement to Disaffection Act, 1934, the Public Order Act, 1937, not forgetting the Taff Vale Judgment of 1901 and the Means Test of 1931. Waters quoted from Conservative sources to show that the co-partnership idea proposed by the Conservative Party offered nothing to the workers but an inducement to work harder for their employers’ benefit. Nine million workers may have supported the Conservative Party but although the Conservatives might fool some of the workers all the time, or all the workers some of the time, they would not fool them all for all the time. The days of the capitalist class were numbered and with its passing would also go its lickspittle lackeys.
David Eccles said that the ideas expressed by his opponent were isolated. The S.P.G.B. would isolate England. We had to sell our goods abroad in order to get the things we needed from other countries. Our great problem was the dollar shortage. His party was concerned with the practical problems of living not with dreams. He was pleased to have been invited to debate with the S.P.G.B. He had learned much and regretted that he must leave early.