Although Mr. Wimborne was the challenger, he declined to open the debate when he met our representative at Manor Park on April 4th, so Comrade Dawkins took the platform and outlined the propaganda carried on by the S.P.G.B., stating that the audience well knew what Socialism was as expounded by his comrades and himself. And he defied Mr. Wimborne to deal with Socialism and not to saddle the S.P.G.B. with the vagaries of Messers. Quelch, Blatchford, Ramsay Macdonald, or the kidnapped Victor Grayson. Nor was he to set up any Aunt Sally and then proceed to knock the poor old lady down and scalp her, for the satisfaction of exhibiting a reeking trophy to the public gaze.
Mr. Wimborne opened by admitting that the capitalist system was not perfect. He claimed however, that the horrible tyranny which would be set up if the Socialists had their way would be far worse. He quoted from a book he called “Allinson’s History of Europe” showing the massacres which were perpetrated in France during the Revolution, and he described the S.P.G.B. as the Jacobins of the Socialist movement, who would ruthlessly slaughter all who disagreed with them. Brotherhood was a dream which could never be realised. Christianity had tried for 2,000 years to bring it about and failed. All the great teachers had failed, then how could a few men calling themselves the Socialist Party of Great Britain hope to do what every great genius had failed to do? Now under present conditions the best man came to the top. There was plenty of scope for talent to display itself. But under Socialism the commune would decree what work every man and woman should do. What would happen if the commune decreed that Comrade Dawkins should sweep the roads? Dawkins would decline and then the awful machinery would be set to work. The President would put down his foot and say: the roads want sweeping—Dawkins is a handy man with a broom and Dawkins shall sweep the roads. Mr. Wimbourne then came to his remedy for the existing evils. First we must trust to scientific development. And we must all admit that things are getting better, said he, whereat the audience set up a roar of derisive laughter. You may laugh and jeer, retorted the speaker, but you forget Old Age Pensions and the Workmen’s Compensation Act, which bring solace to the old and to the widows of the killed. This statement moved the crowd to redoubled laughter, and even to actual rudeness, whereupon the disheartened protagonist of Liberalism vacated the platform.
Comrade Dawkins dealt with his opponent’s points seriatim and in Dawkinesque style. He pointed out that Mr. Wimborne need not have gone to the early struggles of capitalists for supremacy to show how they will murder without scruple all who jeopardise their material interests, and instanced Cecil Rhodes and Co., who butchered thousands of the Matabele in the quest for gold and diamonds.
Our comrade then showed the fraud of Old Age Pensions and the Workmen’s Compensation Act, and demonstrated that scientific development, instead of helping the working class, was kicking them in the bread basket every time. Each new application of science to industry was militating against the working class and must continue to do so under private or class ownership in any form.
With regard to the harrowing spectacle of Dawkins sweeping the roads, Dawkins pointed out that degrading as Mr. Wimborne and his superior friends thought such a job was, hundreds of thousands of men were eager for that work now, at a few shillings per week recompense, that many men now do far dirtier and more unpleasant jobs and don’t care who sees them where no social inferiority is implied. Under Socialism no useful, necessary work would be held degrading. Our whole outlook would be altered and such things as the rewarding of men like Kitchener and Cromer with hundreds and thousands and people like Madame Curie with a mere pittance would be regarded as sheer lunacy.
Briefly it was thus.