Peckham and adjoining districts were once described officially as “a huge dormitory.” The observation contained more truth than it was intended to convey. To awaken the workers out of the slumber of hopeless apathy which capitalist politicians, aided by reformers and pseudo-Socialists, have induced, we of the Peckham Branch are advocating the principles of the near approaching social revolution, especially by insisting on the necessity of a clear recognition of the class-war, in working-class political action, in practice as well as in theory. If in the determined pursuit of the object we have before us we have been compelled to regard and to treat as opponents the speakers of the S.D.F., the I.L.P., and the L.R.C. or other persons aggrieved, let them understand that we never shall cease to oppose them so long as they continue to obscure the plain teaching of Socialism that the political ascendancy of the working-class is the prime condition of working-class emancipation, or even of the alleviation of the miseries suffered by the workers.
Meetings have been held at Elm Grove on Thursday evenings when speakers were available, otherwise we have attended the meetings of the local Trades and Labour Council, and effectively elucidated the class-war principle by means of questions and criticism. The meetings of the S.D.F. have also been attended with the same object, notwithstanding unsuccessful attempts in this quarter to prevent criticism by the S.P.G.B. “Let truth and error grapple” is evidently no motto of the S.D.F., or why should they be so particularly anxious to avoid opposition? At the Kenuington Triangle on Sunday mornings good meetings have been held. This spot must have persistent attention if the mischievous advocacy of nostrums, based on the assumption that the capitalist-class may be persuaded to legislate itself into political oblivion, is to be counteracted. No more fitting term than “impossiblism” could be applied to the wretched reform propaganda upheld by the S.D.F. speakers here. Large and successful meetings on Peckham Rye on Sunday evenings have to be recorded. The sustained interest shown at these gatherings proves how the straightforward exposition of revolutionary Socialism by our speakers is better understood than the delusive “palliation” propaganda.
On June 27th several members attended a lecture on Labour Representation by Mr. J. J. Stephenson (treasurer, L.R.C.). According to Mr. Stephenson, the election of Messrs. Crooks and Shackleton foreshadows the coming triumph of Labour in Parliament. Evidently conscious of his utter inability to meet the criticism offered, this protagonist of Labour evaded the points raised by deliberately bantering and irritating those who disagreed with him. We have publicly challenged Mr. Stephenson to debate, under conditions in which his discreditable tactics will not enable him to conceal the significance of facts or to ignore the soundness of Socialist principles.
The mass meetings of Sunday, June 18, on the Rye, addressed by Anderson, Belsey, and Lehane, were highly successful. About 800 persons attended the evening meeting, which was justly described in the Dulwich Post as “one of the best Socialist meetings ever held to our recollection.” The report referred to concludes: “So finished one of the most intellectual treats we have ever had to listen to from young men supposed to be in a hurry. These young workmen are in earnest.”
Indeed, we are in a hurry; we are m a hurry because we are in earnest.
W. G. Killick
In Finsbury Park “the happy hunting ground of quack theorists and freak showmen, ranging from the riddlers of perpetualism to the riddlers of Sissle, Frissle and Fryers of the soul in torment,” we have carried on our propaganda of discontent with and revolt against wage-slavery and capitalist profit-squeezing. Whilst having opposition from and debate with representatives of both Liberal and Tory tricksters, we have practically given the “order of the boot” to those pseudo-Socialists, who, after many years of vain effort, have had to quit the field. All the capitalist champions and political fakers have strutted up nobly week after week to defend their “honorable” and ”religious” system of pauper-making, and to quash this (small?) party of straight hitters and straight thinkers. We are desirous not so much of vanquishing our platform opponents, as to win the working-class by logic, reason, and common sense to a consciousness of their position in this class-struggle, and eventually to swell the ranks of the S.P.G.B. “The harvest is great and the labourers are few.”
Our audiences have ranged from 200 to 800 in Finsbury Park, while the interest manifested at our Wednesday night meetings at Highbury corner, gives us great encouragement. Other branches please note that our one endeavour is to be the strongest branch of the Party, both numerically and financially, and to capture the “Northern Heights” of London for Socialism and the S.P.G.B.
In reply to numerous enquiries (kind and otherwise) I beg to state that Watford stands pretty much where it did and the Watford Branch is moderately well, thank you. Not very strong, perhaps, as men count strength (i.e.,
by the number of heads that can be paraded), but strong enough to keep in good evidence through the medium of public meetings of our own and others, — the latter providing us with opportunity for awkward question asking, of which we gladly avail ourselves. Indeed, so awkward do these questions appear to be that speakers on platforms which were once claimed to be “free,” are fearful of dealing with them (although they are intimately connected with the subject matter of their addresses) preferring rather to take the damaging course of refusing to answer. Thus it will interest many to know that Mr. Daniel Irving, S.D.F., declined to reply on the ground that he knew the questioner (who happened to be Comrade Fitzgerald) so that we were reduced to fetching a platform of our own out and addressing a large audience from that. Mr. Glossop, S.D.F., questioned on the subject of the help his organisation has given to capitalist candidates, replied that he was prepared to support “Masterman, Dan Leno, or any other fool against a scoundrel like Rutherfoord Harris.” Thereafter, with the connivance of his chairman (a local character afflicted with hysteria) he declined to deal with the matter further, or to our discuss in public the unhappy position to which his organisation has brought itself, notwithstanding that he was appealing to his audience to join that organisation. They do not, they say, propose to wash their dirty linen in public, failing to see that a public organisation can wash its dirty linen in private only at the expense of any reputation for honesty and straight forwardness they may have, and failing to understand that the statement involved the admission of the dirty linen’s existence, which hitherto they have been concerned to strenuously deny.
However, the editorial injunction (forcefully imposed) is that brevity should be the first law of branch reporters. Therefore I cannot give further incidents of the position here. But space may be allowed me to say that whatever our numerical strength may be, we can he relied upon to the last man to carry on the fight against capitalism and its supporters—cynical or sycophantic, conscious or unconscious — to the best of our ability.
Without a doubt the past two months have been marked by earnest hard work so far as propaganda is concerned. Our usual meeting place — Jolly Butcher’s Hill — has witnessed some really good enthusiastic gatherings. The way our Party speakers encourage questions and opposition is highly appreciated, and has been taken full advantage of. The latest development of the Branch activity is the opening up of meetings on Friday night at High St.. Hornsey, which, so far, are a notable success. Our paper and the Manifesto sell readily, the first issue of the latter having already been disposed of.
In concluding this very brief report we record the satisfaction we have, in common with our comrades in other parts, in seeing the worker waking up to his true interest, and surely beginning to understand the hopelessness of the old capitalist political parties, and all those sections that are dragging at their tail. Our confident hope is that our Party membership will be considerably increased in the near future from this district.
Although we have not reported for the last few months, it is not because of dry-rot by any manner of means. We have had some splendid meetings, our ordinary audience several times outnumbering the attendance at the mass meetings of other bodies claiming to be Socialist. Our straight propaganda, our keen criticism of the local “Labour” party, combined with an outspoken attitude on Trade Unionism, is beginning to tell. The sales of The Socialist Standard have increased and a large number of Manifestoes have been disposed of. Our progress is slow but sure. We believe in making Socialists first and members afterwards. We hope by the time the propaganda season is over that we shall show an increased membership. Our Economic Class, though small, is regularly attended, and the knowledge gained is sure to be valuable to the Comrades attending.
E. J. B. Allen
We have had a lively month in West Ham, winding up with a visit from that promising young comrade, Dick Kent, who told us that he could not speak, and straightway got up on the platform and made himself out the biggest fabricator of the truth in the party. Keep a watch on this young man, Mr. Lecture Secretary; send him out into the highways and byeways. We are getting considerable opposition now, and needless to say we regard this as a most valuable aid to us in our work, and we are nursing it and nurturing it with tenderest care and affection. Efforts are being made (not by us) to organise this opposition, and if these efforts are successful, “That will be Glory—” We have lately had two striking illustrations of the internationally fraternising power of the Socialist Movement. A short time ago a comrade from Poland, a member of the Polish Socialist Party, claimed the fraternal handshake and greeting. He understood very little English, but he understood that Socialism breaks down all national pride and prejudice, jealousy and hatred, that our platform is a barricade erected against the enemy that drove him out of his own country, and does not cease to grind his face in this, and that all are brothers in arms who march and serve faithfully under the red flag. It was sufficient for him that we are doing that, and for us that he was doing that, even if we could not understand a word of each other’s tongue. The second instance occurred on the last Sunday in the month, at Forest Gate, when a young fellow came forward and said “I’m an American, and I’m a Socialist.” “Shake!” says one comrade, “All round” says another, and all round it was. The new chum is a cowboy from the place that is said to be separated from hell by a sheet of brown paper, and he says he might feel “prutty wal at home en London ef ther durn brown paper edn’t took fire.” He was constrained to speak to us because he found us, to put it in his lurid language, “goin’ fer it bull-headed en buck-eyed.” which linguistic caper from the Wild West is not altogether unintelligible even in prosaic West Ham. The wild and woolly one has had our position made clear to him, and he seems anxious to ”take a hand in the great ‘round up.’ ” Having got the East Ham Branch into working order, we are leaving them to their own resources what time we look round for new worlds to conquer. We have put aside the spade and are taking a steam plough to the virgin soil at Leytonstone and Woodford. There is good prospect of our being established in both these places by the end of the present season.
A. E. Jacomb
P S. Does any branch want that spade?