The Saturday afternoon meeting of the Socialist Party at Glasgow’s Exchange Square was “honoured” by the attendance of some members of the International Socialists who, not having a meeting of their own to bore people with, decided to latch on to ours instead. Immediately, our speakers were taken to task for not doing anything about “the current urgent problem facing the working class”.
“Which urgent problem?”
“Unemployment. You never protest against these problems!”
“Wrong”, the speaker replied. “That’s precisely what I am doing this afternoon: protesting not merely against unemployment, but all the problems the working class as a whole suffer directly under capitalism”.
“But that’s not positive enough. What you should be doing is getting out on the streets and marching. That gets definite results.”
“Yes, sore feet. Don’t you understand the basic ABC of capitalism? Employers employ workers to produce commodities. If they can’t be sold on the world’s markers to realize a profit for the owner, then he will have no alternative but to close down his factory.”
“We would occupy that factory”, the critic asserted.
“They tried that in an Italian car factory”, said the SPGB speaker. “Then they made a brilliant discovery: you can’t eat tyres or drink petrol. So they simply came back out”.
“But they would be assisted by their fellow trade-unionists”.
“All that would result in”, said the speaker, “would be a factory full of unpaid night-watchmen”. He added, on the question of the so-called “right to work”: “Unemployment can’t be solved by making slavish demands for an alleged ‘right’ which doesn’t exist. Neither can any tangible difference be made by screeching at trade-union leaders or throwing sticks at Callaghan’s car. How illogical can you be in the IS? First you urge the workers to vote the Labour Party into power – then, when they do get in, you attack them for doing what you voted them into power for: running British capitalism!”
“Tactics, comrade, tactics”, the IS member explained. And, with a straight face, he said: “What you’ve got to do is show the workers the utter futility of voting for the Labour Party, by telling them to vote Labour. That way they experience how awful the anti-working class Labour Party is”.
Trying to prevent himself reeling dizzily off the platform, the SPGB speaker said: “What will happen if you put up candidates at the next election? Will you urge workers to vote Labour in constituencies where you are contesting?” This brought the discussion round to the fact that, despite their avowed anti-parliamentarianism, IS were contesting the election at Walsall. This mental somersault was defended with the claim that workers, disgusted with the National Front, would turn instead to them!
The speaker told the audience that the SPGB had tried to debate with the National Front but the meeting was broken up by “freedom-lovers” who were against the free expression of opinions – including members of IS. Apparently as the only reply they could think of, one of the IS group said: “Do you mean that you actually debated with people like the National Front?”
“We debated with IS too”, said the speaker. “The way to defeat organizations like the National Front is not to suppress them but to have them express their views and then expose them for the gibberish they are. Once armed with Socialist knowledge, no worker will allow himself to be led up every blind alley demanding the thousand-and-one ‘urgent’ reforms which only ensure that capitalism stumbles on a little longer”.
Exeunt IS members shaking their muddled heads, perhaps trying to clear them.