To relieve the awful boredom of the day of the Great Yawn, Wednesday 29 July, members of Glasgow branch of the SPGB arranged an outdoor meeting at our regular venue, Royal Exchange Square, under the title, “The Royal Wedding – Who Cares? – We Don’t!”
While the majority of the audience were sane people seeking escape from the dose of undiluted royal nuptials poured out by press, radio and TV, unfortunately there was also present a sick but sizeable minority of “loyalists”. The members of this latter group, although obviously present as an organised gang, were either too shy or ashamed to say which organisation they belonged to or, to judge by their behaviour, which institution they had escaped from. However, their insistence on accompanying our speaker’s opening remarks with a tuneless rendition of God Save the Queen, their ignorant assertion that we were catholics, associates of the IRA and “baby-murderers”, all provided fairly obvious clues to their provenance; there is surely only one organisation whose members assume that all its opponents are catholics. This undemocratic mob of protestant hooligans, literally howling with rage, spent the next half hour demonstrating their declared intention to break up the meeting.
The most articulate statement expressed was, “What this country really needs is a strong right-wing government that will clear out all the papes and darkies and leave it for the protestants”. This of course from one of their intellectual heavyweights who unfortunately must have skipped Sunday- school on the day they were told about the missionaries; otherwise he would have known that just like some “whiteys”, some “darkies” are a bit unclear in the head and have the misfortune to be protestants too.
During all the chorus of abuse and physical threats the SPGB speaker presented the socialist case firmly but reasonably. His patience was exhausted, however, when the ravers in the audience came down again with another serious attack of the god savers’ blues and, in the interest of both good order and musical good taste, he brought the meeting to a close.
This may seem to have been simply another victory for ignorance over reason, but we derive some cheer from the knowledge that the majority of the forty or so people in the audience, having read our poster, wished to know more about our views and had deliberately chosen to attend the meeting rather than waste time at home or in the pub watching the nonsense of the wedding. Most of them remained till the end despite the undemocratic behaviour of the loyalists, whose noise in fact attracted people who might otherwise have passed us by. So, if victory at all, it was not a very famous one, even tinier than that historical non-event that the Orangemen celebrate so noisily when the British summer overheats their brains.
There is a tragedy in the above episode; not the fact that our meeting was briefer than intended, but that ordinary working men, in every other way just like ourselves, sharing our poverty and hardships, should be so blinded by irrational prejudices that they fail to see that it is capitalism, not the pape/protestant/darky/whitey next door, which is the source of their problems and that the only sane solution is socialism, not shooting, assaulting or deporting fellow workers.
There are of course many established institutions in capitalism—the press, radio, TV, schools, universities, churches—part of whose resources are dedicated to reinforcing those prejudices that divide workers. It may seem then that the SPGB is a puny weapon with which to oppose such powerful and manipulative instruments; but what we have going for us is a force much more potent than either our own little organisation or the head-fixing apparatus of the establishment. That is the power of ideas generated by capitalism itself. For no matter how its PR men and women try to dress it up, the system is beyond the control even of the owning class in whose interest it operates and it is in the long run impossible to conceal the anti-social nature of capitalism from the working class, at whose expense and by whose acquiescence alone its continuance is possible.