The Late Dispute in Islington
Statement by the E.C.
R.B. (Goodmayes.)—The matter stands thus—A number of members of the Islington Branch were found guilty, by a party vote, of action detrimental to the interests of the organisation and injurious to the cause of Socialism, and they were expelled therefore. They now refuse, we understand, to accept the Party’s decision, and still pose as members of the Islington Branch. This is ludicrous enough, but when at the same time that they are asserting their membership, they proclaim to the world that the Party is rotten and corrupt, the matter becomes sheer farce. We regret exceedingly that our late comrades should place themselves in so deplorably ridiculous a position, but that is their business, not ours. Our business is to warn everybody concerned against the false pretence they make of membership of the S.P.G.B.
The above paragraph which, in answer to a correspondent, appeared in THE SOCIALIST STANDARD of December, 1906, caused several other enquiries to reach this office, and in reply to them we publish the following statement in accordance with the notice which appeared in the January issue. The facts of the case are as follows : A certain branch—the members of which have since been expelled and the branch dissolved—submitted a certain resolution to an annual conference of the Party. The resolution after being discussed was defeated. A vote of the Party was afterwards taken as to whether the conference was in order in discussing the matter at all. The Party vote ruled the conference out of order, and this decision was submitted to and accepted by every branch of the Party.
The Islington Branch was not content to leave the matter thus ; it first of all requested a formal withdrawal of the resolution in question. The E.C. answered that as the branch concerned had accepted the finding of the Party vote it was unnecessary to proceed any further in the matter. The Islington Branch was not satisfied with this, however, but instead of requesting the E.C. to take a vote of the Party as to whether the branch in question should be asked to rescind the resolution complained of, or endeavouring to obtain the support of five other branches to compel the E.C. to do so— both of which alternatives were open to it within the constitution of the Party—the Islington Branch, because the E.C. would not insist on “the removal of the said resolution from the books of the branch concerned” (which would have involved the falsification of the branch’s records), accused the E.C. of criminal neglect, and forthwith stopped all propaganda work, thus violating the Party’s rules, which reserve to the E.C. the supervision of the work of the Party. It then proceeded to endeavour to depose the E.C., but signally failed to get the necessary support from the Party membership. The E.C. meantime could do nothing but place the matter before the Party. Our rules do not allow our E.C. to expel any member or any branch, but provide for the Party members settling all disputes themselves.
The E.C., therefore, under the only rule of the Party’s constitution governing disputes between E.C. and branches, (Rule XIX) placed the matter in the hands of the Party. In accordance with this Rule the case came on for hearing at the next Delegate Meeting of the Party. Islington was officially represented by its own delegate, and six of its members were present. No delegate of any branch had instructions to vote for Islington’s expulsion, but when the case for the E.C. was heard and Islington’s delegate would not even try to defend the branch’s actions, and when the six members who were present were asked to speak either for their branch, or on their own behalf, and further when one of them (Mr. Lehane) was told that he was the prime mover in, and cause of, all the trouble, and was challenged to deny it and defend himself and his branch, and when he and the others were unable to say a single word in defence either of themselves or their branch, or in support of the charges they had made against the E.C., the delegates present took their silence as evidence of their having no defence, and as an insult to the whole Party.
Acting under rule XXII, the only rule in the Party’s constitution governing Delegate Meetings, the delegates proposed a resolution calling for a vote of the Party as to whether the members of the Islington Branch supporting its attitude should be expelled the Party. Every delegate present voted for this except the Islington delegate. The resolution was submitted to the Party vote and an overwhelming majority voted for expulsion.
The E.G., therefore, had to declare them expelled the Party.
Even this did not satisfy them, and. refusing to accept the majority vote of the Party, they proceeded to “expose” the Party to the general public, and. while declaring the Party to be rotten and corrupt, etc.. still claimed and boasted of membership in it.
Two pamphlets, compiled by Mr. Lehane, have been issued to expose the “rottenness” of The Socialist Party of Great Britain. These pamphlets carry their own refutation, and as we have no intention of lowering the tone of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD—a tone Mr. Lehane was justly proud of when he was in the Party—to the level of the “Political Comic Cuts” or the “Penny Prevaricator,” nor any desire to insult the intelligence of our readers, we respectfully decline to treat seriously the garbage served up in those productions. This much only need we add : Mr. Lehane was for a considerable time our general secretary. In office he proved a good servant to a party which, however, could not and cannot tolerate a master, good, bad or indifferent. Being, however, in that position, Mr. Lehane knew the Party thoroughly from its very centre, and therefore we can only accept the weakness of his “exposure” as a glowing-testimony to our strength. The whole dispute was as unfortunate as it was unnecessary, and we have no wish to prolong the agony or embitter personal feelings in the matter. It has, however, proved that the membership of the S.P.G.B., much though it may appreciate and love its public champions, loves the Principles of Socialism more, and that hero worship, or on the other hand, personalities, can have no place in its propaganda.
Knowing this, we are confident that many of those with whom we have had so recently to differ will soon be with us again, fighting in the ranks where all are fighters but none are leaders.