A Socialist Tour
The following brief account of the visit to this country of two American colleagues is reproduced from the September-October Western Socialist as [it’s] likely to be of interest to our readers—Ed. Com.)
Fulfilling the ambition of many years, two American comrades took a two-week trip to Britain to meet the members of the Socialist Party of Great Britain and participate in their activities.
Never to them did life in the Socialist movement seem more momentous and meaningful than those two weeks.
Here are a few of the highlights.
While flying across the ocean, the comrades engaged a fellow plane passenger in an intensive (12-hour) explanation of Socialism. When the plane landed at Shannon, Eire, he gave them a dollar for a Western Socialist subscription; a few hours later, when the plane landed at London, he decided to join company with them for the day, meet the SPGB comrades, and attend the outdoor meeting at Hyde Park.
From the time they landed at London airport, and were met by two wonderfully patient comrades with motorcar and motorcycle and driven to an inviting home for a most refreshing reception, until they left Prestwick airport two weeks later with friendly farewells from Glasgow comrades, they were simply overwhelmed by the sheer warmth and cordiality of the comrades. Everywhere they went they received a grand welcome, and the hospitality in the homes was genuinely gracious. A welcoming social was held at the Head Office, London, at which about 150 comrades exuberantly expressed themselves in group dancing, singing and discussing—for a most enjoyable evening.
The afternoon of their arrival, the comrades headed for their first outstanding destination—Hyde Park. There they met a goodly number of comrades and saw some SPGB speakers in action. They had little time to listen for, in response to persistent requests, they took the stand to speak to large and attentive audiences. The crowds at this and other outdoor meetings at which the comrades spoke, looked and acted much like those on Boston Common and asked similar questions. However, at every meeting, they asked about conditions in U.S., the possibility of Socialist expression, the influence of “McCarthyism.” Opposition came mainly from a few vociferous Communists; heckling was far less than anticipated, and there was usually a round of applause for Socialism.
Starting with the meeting at Hyde Park, the comrades were almost completely absorbed in Socialist activities. In the fifteen days in Britain they spoke at eight outdoor meetings (Hyde Park 2, Lincoln’s Inn Field 3, East End Market 1, Portsmouth 1, Glasgow 1), ten SPGB Branch meetings, one Executive Committee meeting, and a lecture at Workers’ Open Forum, Glasgow. Besides these organized meetings, there were numerous group discussions with comrades until the wee hours of most mornings. It was inspiring and instructive to listen to and participate in the critical and interesting discussions on various aspects of Socialist theories and analyses. At every branch meeting the need was stressed for closer co-operation, correspondence between the overseas comrades, articles for the WS. Emphasized was the fact that WE ARE AS ONE and WE ARE NOT ALONE.
While in London an extremely encouraging message was received from a Glasgow comrade stating that a 17-year-old member had just appeared before a Tribunal and had been exempted from military service. “Part of my defense on behalf of the comrade was the production of a copy of the January, 1945 Western Socialist (in which appeared a most effective article dealing with a Socialist analysis of war by the young defendant’s mother). All the Glasgow members present at the Tribunal agreed the WS was a very powerful card to play.”
A meeting with two members of the Editorial Committee, both of whom had helped edit the Socialist Standard for more than 30 years, proved very valuable. There was an exchange of information, helpful suggestions were offered, and closer cooperation in the future was assured. Most important was the fact that surplus articles would be made available for The Western Socialist thus enhancing the possibility of its monthly issuance.
To reciprocate in a small way for the splendid cooperation by the SPGB with the WSP throughout its existence, the American comrades made a donation toward launching a fund to employ a full-time paid organizer. This project, which was presented to the Executive Committee for consideration, received a very favourable response wherever the comrades travelled. Incidentally, while in Glasgow, a comrade made a generous donation to the WSP.
A fascinating trip through the heart of England was made possible by the splendid cooperation of a Lancashire comrade who drove 215 miles to London in his “jalopy” and then travelled back with the comrades through Oxford, Warwick, Stratford on Avon, Litchfield, Kenilworth, and the Midlands to Burnley where wonderful hospitality awaited them. While plenty of the countryside was beautiful, a perpetual poll of blackness and misery seemed to hang over the entire industrial area. Much seemed to remain just as Engels described it in 1844. The stone barrack-line slums were everywhere; the smoke seemed to darken everything.
The trip to Burnley made possible a hasty visit to Manchester where, within a few hours, a meeting at the home of a comrade was arranged. About 25, among them a charter member of the SPGB, met for a stimulating discussion of Socialist problems.
One of the most inspiring incidents of the visit took place at a comrade’s home. There, in a kitchen, a group of comrades from England, Ireland, Scotland and United States discussed their common problems, spoke the same Socialist language, adhered to the same principles. Before leaving for the Workers’ Open Forum meeting, they stood around a table, firmly grasped hands in a symbol of international solidarity, and expressed the hope for the speedy realization of an international Socialist conference.
Climaxing the trip (only a few hours before plane time) was a meeting at the Workers’ Open Forum, Glasgow, addressed by the two comrades. The hall was jampacked by more than 450 workers who, except for some heated opposition in question and discussion by a small group of Communists and Anti-Pariiamentarians, enthusiastically received and loudly applauded the Socialist case.
After the meeting the comrades were surrounded by well-wishers, and more than a hundred lined the side-walk to cheer them on their way. En route to the airport, a fifteen-minute stop was made at a comrade’s home, where a goodly group of Glasgow members, who had been present at the meeting, expressed great enthusiasm, sang comradely songs, and further cheered the comrades on their way. Awaiting them at the airport, 30 miles away, was another group of Glasgow comrades who stayed with them for a grand confabulation until enplaning time, almost 3 a.m.
In a letter recently received from a comrade at Burnley, Lancashire, the Mowing estimate of the trip is expressed:
“That your visit to England and Scotland aroused tremendous interest is beyond doubt. In London and Manchester (and over the ‘phone to Glasgow) we learned from many comrades something of the great enthusiasm which is but one of the results of your tireless endeavours to visit as many branches and meetings as was possible during your all too brief stay. . . . Our Comrades in America will feel tremendously encouraged when they realise the full import of your visit to Britain. I feel sure that I am merely expressing what hundreds here are already thinking and saying, that your momentous visit must and will be the forerunner of many more involving many comrades. And equally important, it must be two way traffic, and who knows?—maybe it won’t be very long before delegates from all the Companion Parties will be converging on some city in Europe or America for the first Socialist International Conference.”