Thursday, July 05, 2012

Past Reflections

This is the first of what will be a regular, if occasional, series of recollections from Socialist Party members.

Back in the 1960s Glasgow branch of the Socialist Party of Great Britain had two outstanding speakers. These were Alex Shaw, a veteran orator and the most amusing speaker I ever heard, and Dick Donnelly, a young man with a quick wit. This was before I joined the Party and every Sunday evening, weather permitting, I would go to the meeting at West Regent Street, to get my weekly fix of the case for Socialism.

I got much education and enjoyment from those meetings but the most memorable one was on a Sunday evening in 1960. When I arrived Donnelly was sitting patiently on the platform because the Communist Party was noisily celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Daily Worker, (its newspaper) in the middle of West Regent Street. A stage had been built from which the editor of the Daily Worker, George Matthews, would address the large turnout of C.P.ers and the Young Communist choir were there to warm-up the audience.

Matthews gave his speech after which the dismantling of the stage and the sound system were begun and the celebrations were over. This was what Donnelly had been waiting for. He got on the platform, started to speak and this attracted a large bunch of the C.P.ers. What followed was a hammering of the C.P.ers as Donnelly denounced and ridiculed them and their party.

The highlight was his reading out a poem in praise of Stalin penned by some Russian hack. This poem was surely the most servile, stomach-turning example of the idolatry heaped on Stalin.

    “O Great Stalin, O leader of the Peoples,
    Thou who didst give birth to man,
    Thou who didst make fertile the earth,

(After this line, Donnelly added “He’s not even doing that,
they haven’t buried him yet”)

    Thou who dost rejuvenate the Centuries,
    Thou who givest blossom to the Spring,
    Thou who movest the chords of harmony,
    Thou splendour of my Spring, O Thou,
    Sun reflected in a million hearts”

This appeared in “PRAVDA” on August 28th 1936 and is on page 4 of the January 1950 edition of the SOCIALIST STANDARD

Despite all the hostility of the C.P.ers Donnelly continued routing them and exposing the record of their party. In the end they were reduced to a sullen silence and that was the evening I’ll never forget.

Incidentally, also on page 4 is a similar cringe-making piece glorifying Stalin. This was published in ”PRAVDA” on February 1st 1935 and it ends with this absurdity.

“Everything belongs to Thee, chief of our great country….
And when the woman I love presents me with a child
the first words it shall utter will be: Stalin."

See what I mean?

Vic Vanni


Darren said...

Thanks for posting that.

I enjoyed it.

elfprincess said...


Oh, my. Reading your post about him has just triggered a flood of memories.

When I met him in person in 1978 or 1979 in the Glasgow home of a Socialist Worker gal pal - we were visiting from London, whence we had relocated in 1972 - my then husband almost fell over. He was ten years older than I and a great admirer of the younger Donnelly! I confess that, since I was then barely 20, I had never heard of him. Husband proceeded to unintentionally embarrass DD by means of unashamed hero worship - which was nice, to be honest - and to then disgrace himself (hub) by commencing a rant about the only cause he ever talked about in those days - 'The Palestinians, an' at'. Hub greatly admired the Redgraves and had become fixated on this topic for some time previously. DD - very hungry! - supped tinned cream of tomato soup, dunked bread and sipped whisky, all the while manifestly NOT reacting to my poor ex-hub's words. Finally DD lost it and said in impassioned (and rather desperate!) tones, 'It's no aboot the Palestinians, man! It's aboot the whole world!'.

DD then knelt on the floor beside me and one of my pals and said, 'Come oan hen! Pit oan some good music'. So we checked out the 'record collection' and did just that.

DD could have let rip but he didn't. He contained his frustration and gained my admiration, too! And now, so many years later, reading your blog about him was so welcome I just had to respond.

I dearly hope DD is still alive and active. I have been checking out every DD or RD I can find tonight! I even emailed one in the hope that he was the 'real' DD. I apologised in advance in case he wasn't.

Thank you for that wonderful post!

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