1950s >> 1957 >> no-639-november-1957

Party News: Inspiring Conference in U.S.A.

Report of Our Fraternal Delegate

As a delegate from the Socialist Party of Great Britain I attended the Conference of the World Socialist Party of the United States on August 31st and September 1st and subsequently visited Detroit, Winnipeg and New York.

The Conference was attended by about 30 members and sympathisers, many of whom had made a Long journey to get there. One had come over 3,000 miles from Los Angeles, three about 800 miles from Detroit, and four about 200 miles from New York. This is an example of the difficulty our comrades in America are faced with owing to the scattered nature of the membership in such a large country. Some who wished to attend were unable to do so owing to the distance from Boston and the time they would have had to take off from work.

The proposals, ideas, arguments and general discussion were almost identical with what takes place at our own conferences, and was a striking example of how parties based on the same principles react in a similar way to conditions that are largely the same.

On the evening of the first day a social was held, which was attended by about fifty members and friends. At the social films of activities were shown and the recordings from groups in different parts of the world. This was a very inspiring part of the Conference, and an indication of the genuine international character of our movement. Recordings came from Los Angeles, San Francisco, on the west coast of the U.S.A.; from Canada, Australia and London, the latter included a recording of our Austrian comrade. There was also a recording from Ireland, which came too late for the Conference, but was heard afterwards, and also a cable with greetings from Iceland.

The recordings were a considerable advance upon the customary cables of greetings. To me it was very heartening to hear comrades from so many distant places actually speaking to us; particularly when I recognised the voices of two former members of the S.P.G.B. speaking from Australia.

The recordings had such an effect that at the Conference the next day resolutions were passed recommending that recordings should be taken of public and class lectures to be exchanged between parties and branches for their mutual advantage.

On the second day of the Conference there was a dinner in the evening, at which the Conference discussions continued until the room had to be cleared. The next day there was a picnic to a park just outside Boston. After this most of the delegates had to make their way home.

The warmth and comradeship of my reception at the Conference was something I will always remember. Also the work of one of the Boston comrades, who spent most of the first night and the next day transferring the different recordings on to spools so that they could be sent abroad without delay for others to hear.

On Friday morning, September 6th, I went with Comrade Rab to Detroit, taking films and recordings with us. Here again I met the same warm and comradely reception. I spoke at a meeting on Saturday evening, at which there were many questions and a lively discussion. Owing to a misunderstanding, the meeting was not advertised as early as it might have been, and I understood afterwards that some who would have attended learned of it too late to do so. There was another meeting later, in a member’s house, to which about 40 turned up. I said a few words and then Comrade Rab took over. We both answered questions.

While in Detroit a number of members and friends went for a picnic across the Canadian border to Lake Erie and had a very pleasant time. I was also taken for a trip to the factories and learned that there were about 150 thousand out of employment. Some huge factories had completely closed down, partly due to automation, which requires only one storied buildings, and partly, I was informed, because industry was slowly moving out of Detroit

On Friday, 13th September, I left for Winnipeg. There I also met the same warm reception I had become familiar with. I arrived after 1 a.m. to find four members waiting to collect me. They took me to the member’s house where I was to stay, and I was staggered to find a group waiting up to greet me. After a short time they had to disperse, as most of them were due at work the next day.

On Sunday afternoon I spoke at a meeting. The attendance was not what the members had hoped, but there were over fifty present. There were good questions and discussions, and a collection that covered the expenses of the meeting and left some over. There was also a good sale of literature.

On the following Wednesday evening I was given ten minutes to address the Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council. I had a good reception, and a considerable number of Western Socialists and Socialist Standards were distributed. It seemed to me, after listening to a political discussion at the council meeting (about 100 delegates were present), that there was good material there for our Canadian comrades to work on.

On Thursday morning, the 19th September, I left for New York, arriving there at 6 p.m. I spoke the same evening at a small meeting that was hurriedly arranged. The next two days I was shown around New York.

On Saturday evening, 21st September, I left for Boston, arriving at midnight. On Sunday night I spoke at a meeting of members and friends at Headquarters, largely giving my impressions of my visit. On Monday night the Boston comrades held a farewell party for me, where I said goodbye to those I had met for such a short and inspiring time. The next morning I left for London.

I would add a few words on my impressions—necessarily scanty.

The standard of living appears to be much higher than in England. Apart from the rush hour in the subways, there is no sign of rush and tear. The cities are cleaner and more open. Even the factory districts I saw are clean and fresh looking compared with European. Boston has a factory, which I only saw by moonlight, that is graceful, set in gardens, and looks like the type we hope to see in the future. In general there is none of the smokiness we see here, and the factories are not crowded together. I was told it is different in Chicago, but I did not see that city. The streets are very wide, and there are special roads for fast moving traffic. The buildings are huge—apart from the skyscrapers—and the shops immense, clean and light,. The houses I have been in are charming and mainly built of wood.

All the time I was in the U.S. and Canada the members everywhere could not do too much for me. The hospitality I received was amazing. It was the best time I have ever had in my life. Everywhere I went I was struck with the enthusiasm of members who are ploughing a much harder furrow than we are. They have told me of their intentions to stir things up in the future, and I am convinced that the next member of the party that goes there next year will witness the result of these intentions. I have made many new friends that I will take care to keep contact with, and whom I will always remember with warmth.

Before concluding, I must pay a tribute to the herculean efforts of Comrade Gloss in securing recordings from distant parts and for organising my trip so successfully. Also to Comrade Rab, with whom I spent many cordial and exciting days. With these two and other members and friends I had numerous pleasant and inspiring discussions.

Finally, I must add how valuable I think these interchanges of visits are, and I hope it will be possible for a much larger interchange in the near future. The better we know each other and the more closely knit our international movement is, the faster we will progress towards the end we all have in common

Gilmac.