A Propaganda Tour In America
The writer was appointed by the E.C. as fraternal delegate of the Socialist Party of Great Britain to the World Socialist Party Conference, held in Boston on 30th and 31st August, 1958.
A propaganda tour of North America was arranged in conjunction with the World Socialist Party, the Socialist Party of Canada, and a number of sympathisers in Vancouver.
On arrival at Boston, on Friday, 29th August, a warm welcome was given, Comrades Rab and Gloss having stayed up all night to meet the plane. Saturday and Sunday was spent at the World Socialist Party Conference, and at one stage it did not seem likely that the writer would ever leave Boston, such was the hospitality shown. A meeting was held on Boston Common on Labour Day, Monday, 1st September, at which Comrade Gloss (Boston local), Comrade Miller (Detroit local), and the writer spoke. The meeting last three hours, and gave me my first experience of speaking to American audiences. This was the first meeting held on the Common for some years, and was attended by approximately 200 people. Over £2 of literature was sold.
On Tuesday, 2nd September, I left for Los Angeles, California, a distance of about 3,000 miles, and was met on arrival by Comrade Evans and his wife. Again, the same warm hospitality was shown me. The Los Angeles and district programme was a very full one. September 4th, Long Beach University by the sea, 192 present; September 5th, Monteray Park, discussion with Socialist Party of America (Reformist), 28 present; September 6th, return visit to Long Beach University by the sea, open-air Debate 190 present. Saturday evening, 6th September, guest on Tom Duggan’s T.V. programme, Channel 13, 10.30 p.m. This was a 20-minute interview, which covered a wide range of subjects relating to Socialism. This was the first time a Socialist speaker appeared on television there. This television station caters for some two million viewers. Some of the questions referred to “Money under Socialism,” “Is the American worker better off?”, “Is Russia Socialist?”, ‘Has the S. P. G. B. any connection with the Communist Party?”, “The object of the Socialist Party,” “The international character of Socialism,” and numerous other questions. Unsuccessful attempts were made to get a tape recording of the interview from the T.V. studio. Sunday, 7th September, 10 a.m., Santa Monica Forum, Lincoln Park, a meeting dealing with the failure of the British Labour Party. Sixty people attended this meeting, which terminated at 12.30 p.m. On the same day in the afternoon there was an outdoor meeting in McArthur Park, Los Angeles; 200 present and approximately 30s. literature sold. This gave the writer his first baptism of American Communists, who interrupted in the beginning, but finally listened. The meeting lasted two hours, Comrade Fred Evans being the chairman. The stay in Los Angeles came to an end with a dinner, which was attended by a number of Comrades and their wives. After the dinner, tape recordings were played, conveying greeting from Comrades in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland, England, and Canada.
On to Vancouver from Los Angeles, a distance of something like 1,200 miles, flying up the American Western seaboard. An hour’s halt at San Francisco gave me the opportunity to telephone Comrade J. McDonald, for years one of the stalwarts of the Pacific Coast. Arriving at Vancouver via Seattle, seven Comrades provided a reception committee at the airport. Tuesday, 9th September, a radio broadcast was arranged at 5.30 p.m. on C.B.C Radio. This was an interview with Mr. Ian Errol in a programme entitled “On the Scene.” The main points covered in the interview were the difference between the Socialist Party and Reformist organisations, like the C.C.F. of Canada, Social Democrats, Germany, British Labour Party, etc., and “Was Russia Socialist?” We were given a tape recording of this interview, and it was played to the recent Autumn Delegate Meeting. Wednesday 10th September, a meeting was held at the C.C.F. Hall, North Vancouver, on “The British Labour Party.” About 40 people were present. The next day I was able to take a six-hour boat trip for a change and landed at Victoria, Vancouver Island. Comrades Luff, Broomfield, and other Comrades, real old-timers of the movement, met me at the pier. The same hospitable reception, and concern for my personal comfort was shown. Later in the evening a meeting was held in a local C.C.F. hall, 45 being present. A very good collection was taken up, and four members of the audience, including a Dutch seaman on a visit to Victoria, became yearly subscribers to the SOCIALIST STANDARD. I returned by boat to Vancouver on the Friday evening. Saturday, 13th September, an informal discussion was held at the home of two young Comrades. This was most interesting and some tape recordings were played. Three further subscriptions were received for the SOCIALIST STANDARD for two years. In the evening a meeting was held at the Moose Hall, Vancouver, at which 150 people attended. This was an outstanding meeting, and the energy and resource employed by those Comrades who organised it is well worthy of mention. Practically every parked car and cafe in Vancouver was adorned with the handbill advertising the meeting, usually without the consent of the owner. The title of the meeting, chosen by the Canadian Comrades, was “World Unrest—Why?” The meeting never flagged; it started prompt at 7.30 p.m. and finished at 10.50 p.m. It could have gone on until midnight. Comrade Ray McLeod was chairman. The S.P.G.B. Propaganda Committee are repeating this meeting at Denison House, Victoria, S.W., on Sunday 30th, at 7.30 p.m. The writer met many members of the old Socialist Party of Canada, one of whom had travelled 80 miles to attend the meeting, and reckoned it was worth it. Sunday, 14th September, concluding meeting in Vancouver, Stanley Park Forum; again, an outstanding meeting, subject “Socialist Theory and Practice.” The hall was overcrowded, over 100 being there. The bulk of the meeting was taken up with discussion, and no less than eight opponents took the platform in opposition. After the meeting the writer had to catch a plane for Winnipeg, leaving Vancouver 11.30 p.m. A rush to the Airport, and a night flight over the Rockies, and the World’s Breadbasket, arriving early morning at Winnipeg about 1,200 miles away.
Comrade Shepherd was there, and took me as a guest to his house. A little social was arranged that evening, and I was introduced to pretty well every Winnipeg member of the Socialist Party of Canada. Tuesday evening, September 16th, an address was given to the Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council, 62 delegates were present, and we received quite a good write-up in the Winnipeg Free Press under the heading “Socialist Raps Labour.” Next evening we held a meeting in the Market Square, and an average audience of 40 people listened. This was the first meeting held there for eight years. On Sunday afternoon, 21st September, a meeting was held at the Labour Temple, Winnipeg, on the subject “Problems of British Workers.” Approximately 45 attended, Comrade J. Milne was chairman. A number of social gatherings were arranged for my benefit, and a tape recording of greetings was made at one of these socials. Comrade Love, who is over 80, starting the proceedings. The Socialist Party of Canada still discuss the impact which Comrade Gilmac’s visit made last year, and how he redoubled their enthusiasm. The late Charlie Lestor, who spent many years in Canada, Moses Baritz, and Adolph Kohn, were all held in high regard. The tales and tribulations of these early pioneers were amusing and refreshing to listen to, as told by their contemporaries.
I left on Monday, the 22nd, early in the morning, for New York, via Toronto. Flew over the Great Lakes and Niagara Falls, arriving New York 4.30 p.m. Another dinner and social was provided by members: again, great hospitality.
Two meetings were arranged, one at Union Square, 14th Street (nicknamed Red Square during depression), and 85th Street. The latter meeting was not proceeded with, although police permission had been received. Instead, we held both meetings at Union Square, at which we distributed about 200 copies of the Western Socialist. Attendance was very good, ranging from 250 to 350. Outdoor speaking in America is pretty well the same as in England, except that the weather is more reliable. There is no special police difficulty unless you cause obstruction. After a tour of New York, including Harlem, Stock Exchange, I left for Boston on the 25th September, renewed old acquaintances, and a meeting was arranged for Friday, September 26th, at the W.S.P. headquarters, Nathaniel Hall, subject “Socialism and Atomic Extinction.” About 40 people attended this meeting. A meeting arranged for Saturday afternoon, Boston Common, had to be abandoned because of rain. On Sunday afternoon, September 28th, a meeting was held on Boston Common, the last meeting of the tour, at which Comrade Gloss and myself were the speakers. There was an average audience of 200. Sunday night I said farewell to the American Comrades, and caught a plane back to Britain at 10.20 p.m.
In all, the tour covered 15,200 miles. Apart from the radio broadcast and television appearance, a total of 18 meetings and lectures were held.
It is not our normal practice in the Socialist movement to mention individual names, but the writer feels it would be less than human if we did not appreciate the efforts of Comrades Rab, Gloss, Morrison, and numerous others in Boston; Comrade Fred Evans in Los Angeles, Comrades Roddy McLeod, Eve Smith, Ahrens and Holtby in Vancouver, Comrades Luff, George Jenkins and others in Victoria, Comrades Milne, Shepherd, Jenkins and many others in Winnipeg; and Comrades Davies, Coombs, Kilgour, in New York, Without the organisation on this inter-Continental scale, the tour as such would not have been possible. It is gratifying to note that the Socialist movement is the only movement which has a common message between the Continents, and contains people who are actively organising and have the ability to organise such an ambitious project. That it was done once means it will be done again and again.
The writer hopes that he may be privileged again in future to renew his acquaintance with his Comrades on the American Continent. They are a grand bunch.