1950s >> 1956 >> no-623-july-1956
The following letter of criticism of the S.P.G.B, has been received from a South Wales reader of the “Socialist Standard”
A little while ago I came across a copy of the Socialist Standard. As I perused its pages, a surge of thought carried me back some 30 odd years to the days of my boyhood. I could see once again, the street corner where a group of derelict men listened to the speaker on the platform. I moved forward and there painted in front of the platform were the words “Socialist Party Gt. Britain.” I recalled the mental agility of the speaker; the art of vective when the occasion arose and the good humoured banter with which he raised a laugh—in days when there was little to laugh about. When I looked at the “Socialist Standard” recently I shook my head sorrowfully and asked “ What has the S.P.G.B. accomplished during those years?”
To the general public, the words “Socialist” and “Labour” are synonymous and any attempt to tell them that there is an organization known as the S.P.G.B., whose policy is different from Labour, would meet with wide eyed amazement. Has, therefore, the philosophy of my street comer orator of long ago been of no avail?
The basis of any true Socialist society must include the principles of your party. But is your party likely to achieve its aim when, with half the century gone, it has yet to gain a seat in Parliament? I take it that you desire to gain that distinction, for it would seem that without Parliamentary representation and ultimate majority, the S.P.G.B. is just a wasted effort.
I have no doubt the party contains many able men but while other parties strive to gain control of the country the S.P.G.B. do nothing and its propaganda makes about as much noise as a weathercock on a steeple.
Regarding the Labour Party. Although there is a divergency of views within it which weakens it, it is, however, a party of the people and commands the support of those for whom there is no other party to which they can turn in an effort to oust capitalism. Can we, as members of the public be expected to support a party which has no voice in the affairs of the country? For such as myself. Labour gives a glimmer of hope that there is a chance that from it may yet evolve a Socialist Government
It is possible that one may have to sacrifice one’s Socialist Principles to gain one’s Socialist Ideal.
Does the word “Socialist” appeal to the public? I don’t think so. The S.P.G.B. can never become a popular party by retaining its present title. During the war, Richard Acland’s Commonwealth Party rapidly gained new friends. I’m sure the secret lay in the name.
These remarks are intended to be constructive. They may be wide of the mark with regard to the aims of your party but the sympathies of the writer are with Socialism.
Someone once said “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” Mr. Willock, like many more at the present time stands bewildered amidst the chaos of capitalism hoping that the Labour Party will justify its existence. The fact that, despite the control of Parliament, and a multitude of reformist schemes, Mr. Willock still looks for a “ glimmer of hope ” that the Labour Party will one day become Socialist, is indeed significant. Perhaps our correspondent agrees that the Labour Party has never been Socialist, is not Socialist, and shows no hope of becoming Socialist (we have no way of knowing how much hope Mr. Willock finds in a “glimmer.”)
Having apologised for the Labour Party Mr. Willock then goes on to criticise the S.P.G.B.—a Socialist organization. He says that “Socialism” and “Labour” are synonymous to the general public. Quite true; it is something we too deplore. For Mr. Willock’s “glimmer of hope” to become somewhat brighter one would suggest that the Labour Party begins now to advocate Socialism. Unfortunately such a thing would be quite impossible for that organization short of disbanding itself. Its members who become Socialists could with very little trouble join the Socialist organization already existing—namely the S.P.G.B.
Our correspondent goes on to say that without Parliamentary representation the S.P.G.B. is a wasted effort. He also says we do nothing to propagate our views. Really Mr. Willock? The $P.G.B. certainly does propagate the view that it is of prime importance to capture Parliament (see our Declaration of Principles), but surely in order to capture Parliament for Socialism the majority must understand and want Socialism. Mr. Willock unconsciously condemns himself when he criticises us for not having captured Parliament. It is only Mr. Willock and the rest of the working class who can capture Pariiament, the S.P.G.B. can be their instrument for doing so—if they desire it.
Mr. Willock, having admitted that Socialism must include the Principles of our Party, still doggedly tries to find another excuse for the lack of support he and others show towards Socialism. He points out the “need” for a change of title, and uses the Commonwealth Party as his unfortunate illustration. Since he has a sneaking regard for the S.P.G.B. one wonders why in the name of common sense does he still cling to his “glimmering hope” the Labour Party. Seriously, does our correspondent think any gain would be forthcoming by trying to “sell” Socialism by any other name, does he think it would work: Is he ashamed of Socialism?
He asks what have we accomplished? . What, may we ask, does he expect us to accomplish? The real point to remember is that the small band of Socialists accomplishes little itself but the working class can accomplish what it wills when it wills it. It is up to our correspondent and others to bring Socialism about, not by doling out wise advice but rather by setting an example.
Finally, now that our correspondent has once again contacted the S.P.G.B. (an example of the S.P.G.B. propagating Socialism) he should continue to read and criticise. His view that one should sacrifice Socialist principles in order to foster Socialist Ideals is quite illogical. Not to hold Socialist principles in a Capitalist society is to support capitalism.