A week or so before thousands of workers decided to spend some of their holiday on a trip to London to witness the extravagant 80th birthday celebrations of an aristocratic parasite, four members of the Socialist Party of Great Britain harmonised their holiday with a propaganda tour around the country. While some went to worship a hand-waving grandmother of no noted talent, we were campaigning for the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced, to put the means of life into the hands of the whole community by democratic action.
From London we drove to Bolton. Through South Yorkshire, noticing the number of ‘Factories for Sale’, the insanity of a society which periodically slumps into depression was graphically apparent. Workers thrown onto the slag heap of the unemployed, people hungry and shivering while factories and raw materials are guarded from use because the owners of these means of life would not stand to make a profit at such a time. In Bolton we were encouraged by the branch’s programme of weekly propaganda meetings on assorted topics and their methodical and energetic canvassing campaign. A public meeting on “The Class Struggle” was held that evening in the York Hotel.
The following morning we travelled from Bolton across England to Seaham for a debate with the Liberals, organised by the North-East branch. Recently, letters from members of the SPGB have appeared in virtually every edition of the Sunderland Echo and have stirred up a lively correspondence and interest in socialism. The debate was on the motion “Reform or Revolution?” Andrew Ellis, a prospective parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Party and their speaker at the debate, put the case for the piecemeal patching up of capitalism. The case for revolution was then put to the large audience with vigour and wit. Zestful contributions from the floor followed, including one from the chairman of the local Conservative Association which challenged the Socialist Party to debate at a later date.
We left Seaham the next morning in time to arrive in Scotland for the regular Saturday afternoon outdoor socialist meetings organised by the Glasgow branch in Exchange Square. A boisterous assembly was addressed by three speakers in all, and the meeting, not being brought to an end when one democrat from the audience tried to heave the speaker off the platform, continued until early evening. Edinburgh branch run regular outdoor meetings at their “Speaker’s Comer”, the Mound, and it was to there that we travelled the next day. With a short break for supper the meeting ran on from 3.00pm to 10.00pm and was addressed by six speakers—and this just within earshot of the hapless caterwaulings of the local Salvation Army, still singing to the skies for a solution to capitalism’s chaos.
Leaving Scotland and journeying southwards our next stop was for a two-and-a-half hour outdoor meeting at St Peter’s Square, Manchester, which began at lunchtime. Comrades from Bolton and Manchester have used this speaking station before and it is now likely that it will soon be a regular socialist meeting site. That evening we had a good attendance at an indoor meeting at the Wheatsheaf public house, addressed by a party speaker on the title “Thatcher and Murray: Partners in Capitalism”.
From Manchester we went to Stoke for a debate with the Communist Party where a note informed us that, although the CP speaker had agreed in writing to debate, his branch had advised him to withdraw on account of the wording of the motion, which had already been changed once to suit them. The Communist Party is renowned neither for its principled consistency (it urged the working class to vote for the Tories when Stalin had concluded a pact with Churchill after 1943), nor its willingness to openly debate its political position against the SPGB. The socialist speaker, however, provided the audience with a comprehensive criticism of the Left and an explanation of socialist principles.
An outdoor afternoon meeting which we held in the Market Square, Derby—our next stop—was temporarily halted by some hooligans who, having jettisoned the speaker from the platform, justified the action with an earthy praise for the Tory Party. A meeting was held that evening in the Garrick Hotel on the question “Is A Third World War Inevitable?” where, after the speaker’s address, a contentious argument with a local Labour councillor—a CND member who learnt nothing from the movements 60’s failure—dominated the discussion. The following morning the speaker was interviewed live by Radio Derby on the subject of War. The fluent and provocative statements made by the party speaker prompted Radio Derby to agree to hold a phone-in programme the next time a public meeting is organised by the SPGB in Derby.
From Derby we made our way homewards, stopping off for a final outdoor meeting at the Martyr’s Memorial, Oxford. A sizeable crowd gradually congregated on this sunny afternoon and a local comrade agreed that future meetings on this site would be useful. Our 1,400 mile tour ended that evening.
Activity in France
Socialists in France, aided by comrades from Britain, have been carrying out organised socialist propaganda in France since the beginning of this year. Socialisme Mondial, the French-language journal of the Socialist Party of Canada, is now on sale in a number of Paris bookshops as well as in Marseilles, Nancy, Metz, Rheims and Aix-en-Provence. So far three public meetings have been held, the first in Rheims in March, the other two in Paris; one a debate on Mayday with Charles Loriant of the Mouvement Francais pour l’Abondance par le Socialisme Distributif, the other a straightforward presentation of our case by comrade H. Moss in July. The two Paris meetings were very successful both in terms of outsiders present, and of literature sold. It is planned to hold regular meetings in Paris from September onwards. The French comrades have also brought out as a pamphlet a translation of four of Engels’ 1881 articles from the Labour Standard on trade unions and the wages system.
The Queen Mother
The following resolution was unanimously carried at the Islington branch of the Socialist Party of Great Britain at its meeting on 4 August, 1980. A copy has been sent for publication in the Islington Gazette. We are sure that many Socialist Standard readers will agree with its content:
“Islington branch of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, on this eightieth birthday of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, hereby resolves to express its hostility to the existence of the monarchy and the parasitic class it represents. In an age when one third of the world’s population suffers from malnutrition, when millions throughout the world face the indignity of the dole queue, when 53,000 families in Britain alone are homeless, when health facilities are cut back while money is spent on nuclear warheads, for the workers of this country to be ecstatic that an aristocrat has survived to be eighty is distasteful in the extreme. The concern of our party remains with the wealth producers of the world, including those who face old age in poverty and with the threat of hypothermia. Let Kings and Queens be left to the history books; let working people create a better society for ourselves.”