Showing posts with label Socialist Party of Great Britain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Socialist Party of Great Britain. Show all posts

Friday, June 21, 2013

Discussing the SPGB Case

A collation and re-editing and reformatting of various contributions to the RevLeft discussion thread adapted from here

The Socialist Party of Great Britain is the oldest socialist organisation in the UK and have far outlived most other groups. As for recruitment, the SPGB has perhaps the highest rate of member retention of any group and certainly isn't miniscule in comparison to other “Marxist” parties, (its among the larger groups in Britain which doesn’t say too much, though). Most “Marxist” groups disillusion and burn-out more people than they recruit. The master-disciple relationship is perpetuated in many “socialist” parties where the theorists of the executive committee “do the thinking” in private meetings and the rest “do the action”. The SPGB answer to how socialists should organise is transparence with all meetings being open to the public as the best education for the class self-organising for themselves.

It is only right and proper that the Socialist Party’s case is subjected to the closest scrutiny. We encourage questioning. Marx said his personal motto was to “Doubt Everything.”  Nevertheless it is comical  to read criticism of the party from those on the Left who decline to look in the mirror and identify their own even more stark failings. Of course, the SPGB are not perfect in its communication or interaction with the working class and we are always striving to improve but are the others on the Left any better at it!!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Past Reflections 2

 Another installment in the recollections of members and once again from Glasgow member Victor Vanni.

The party’s heyday began with WW2 and lasted into the early 1950’s. During this period party activities and membership grew and this certainly applied to Glasgow branch. Huge audiences attended indoor and outdoor meetings and from 1945 to 1948 the branch even had a rented shop and eventually enough members to form a second branch in the city until 1961 when the two branches amalgamated.

By the time I joined in 1963 the branch’s activities were really expanding. Several parliamentary and council elections were contested while new, successful outdoor speaking stances were established, but the big day of the week was Sunday when two outdoor meetings were held in both Glasgow and at The Mound in Edinburgh. If Donnelly was the speaker in Glasgow then Shaw spoke in Edinburgh with the order reversed the following week.

These meetings at the Mound were my own favourites. The afternoon meeting was usually good but, the evening meeting was the big event, especially during the three weeks of the Edinburgh Festival when the large audiences included visitors from all over the world and the party’s case would always get a good reception. These meetings created enough interest to get Donnelly interviewed on TV at The Mound and we had a regular following who came every week to see our opponents get a drubbing. These meetings paid-off by getting new recruits for the party and soon there were enough to form an Edinburgh branch.

When the Glasgow contingent returned from Edinburgh they would head for the new branch premises to meet other branch members and swap stories about the meetings in both cities. These premises were provided by the generosity of Sid Earp, a veteran Canadian comrade, who was visiting Glasgow and they enabled the branch to hold its meetings and classes there until 1969 when the building was emptied prior to demolition.

But not all speaking stances were successful. An example of this was in the early 1970’s when the branch decided to try holding outdoor meetings in nearby Paisley, a town with a violent reputation. The meeting was held at 3pm on Saturday afternoons in Dunn Square at Paisley Cross but there was trouble ahead. The problem was that when the pubs closed at 2.30pm local yobs would come to Dunn Square to continue drinking until the pubs re-opened  and they gave us a hard time just because we came from Glasgow.

There were some unpleasant incidents but the end came when at one meeting a burly member of the audience was so angered by one of the yobs that he picked up the man and threw him on to a wooden bench which shattered leaving him howling in agony amid the wreckage. We never went back to Paisley after that.

There are other articles in the SOCIALIST STANDARD dealing with branch history. They are the September 1979 and May 2004 issues. There is also an excellent verbatim report of a debate in Edinburgh in 1970 between us and I.S. The party was represented by two Glasgow members.
Vic Vanni    

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Mayday Rallies

SPGB members and sympathisers will be out and about at the Mayday rallies in Edinburgh and Glasgow this coming weekend, distributing Socialist Standards and leaflets .

Details of Saturday's Edinburgh Mayday Rally here

Details of Sunday's Glasgow Mayday Rally here

Mayday belongs to the workers – we have a world to win, and we can win it.

Monday, April 07, 2008

election address

What’s the alternative to the profit system?

That's the issue in this election, says THE SOCIALIST PARTY candidate in Lambeth and Southwark Danny Lambert.

On 1 May, you will have your occasional ration of democracy with the opportunity to vote for the Mayor of London and the Greater London Assembly.

It's all very well having a vote but are you normally given any real choice? Let's face it, if it wasn't mentioned on the front of the election leaflet, could you tell which party was which?

It's tempting – in the absence of any real alternative – to get drawn into the phoney war that is political debate today. Whether Labour, Tory, Lib Dem, Greens or the others, they all spout empty promises. And it all amounts to the same thing – vote, vote for us and we’ll do this, this or this for you. As if they could.

None of them offer any alternative to the present way of running society. That’s why they always fail to deliver. The profit system requires them to put profits before people, to put saving money above meeting people’s needs.

Do you really think who wins an election makes any difference to how you live?

And do politicians actually have much real power anyway?

Can they control world market and financial forces or do they have to adjust and trim their policies to fit in with these?

Reality Check
Do any of the political parties address any of the real issues:
 Why can money always been found to fight a war while hospitals, schools and local services are always strapped for cash?
 Why do some people get stressed working long hours while others get stressed from the boredom of unemployment?
 Why are there homeless people in the streets and empty houses with "for sale" signs?
 Why is there still child poverty even in Britain?
 Why is there no world agreement to limit carbon emissions when scientists say this must be done to avert the threat of global warming?
 Why is there world hunger in a world that can grow enough for all?

So what's the alternative?

This time, in this constituency, you have a real choice. We in THE SOCIALIST PARTY are standing to put forward an alternative to capitalism and the madness of the market – a society of common ownership and democratic control. We call it socialism.

But real socialism. Not the elite-run dictatorships that collapsed some years ago in Russia and East Europe. And not the various schemes for state control put forward by the old Labour Party. For us socialism means something better than that. We're talking about:
A world community without any frontiers where the Earth’s resources would be the common heritage of all.
 Wealth being produced to meet people's needs and not for sale on a market or for profit
 Everyone having access to what they require to satisfy their needs, without the rationing system that is money.
 A society where people freely contribute their skills and experience to produce what is needed, without the compulsion of a wage or salary.

If you agree If you don't like present-day society ... if you are fed up with the way you are forced to live ... if you think the root cause of most social problems is the profit system, then your ideas echo closely with ours.

We are not promising to deliver socialism to you. We are not putting ourselves forward as leaders. This new society can only be achieved if you join together to strive for it. If you want it, then it is something you have to bring about yourselves. Nobody can do it for you.

If you agree with what we say, you can show this by voting for THE SOCIALIST PARTY candidate, DANNY LAMBERT.And if you want to know more about us, call in at our election office at 52 Clapham High Street, SW4 or return the reply coupon on the last page (no stamp required). You can or email us or visit our website at

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Vision of Socialism

Not looking forward to the Queen's Christmas message , then why not download and listen to one of the Socialist Party talks that Darren has upload.

Stephen Coleman discusses William Morris and his Vision of Socialism . Download from here .

Friday, December 14, 2007

Chartist Thinkers

Another upload of lectures given by Stephen Coleman , this time part of a series called Socialist Thinkers and , in this talk , it is James Bronterre O'Brien , one of the leaders of early workers movement , the Chartists , that Coleman discusses .

Again , many thanks to "Brooklyn" Darren for taking time to make these talks available to the internet .

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Listen to the Party

Socialist Courier wishes to draw readers attention to the availability on the internet of a talk given by Stephen Coleman of the place of the SPGB in the history of the labour movement that can be got as a download by going to link :

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Ills of Capitalism

Prescriptions issued in Scotland for anti-depressants have risen more than four-fold in less than 15 years, an NHS report has revealed. For every 1,000 people there were 85 daily doses of the drugs dispensed in 2006, compared with 19 doses in 1992.

Dr Kohli, a medical adviser for NHS Quality Improvement Scotland, said the rise was partly due to a new generation of drugs.
However Shona Neil, chief executive of the Scottish Association for Mental Health, said :-
"Social problems are a bigger factor in the increase than the new drugs - these figures show a huge cry for help from people from deprived backgrounds."
Depression affects about one in five people at some point in their lives.

An appropriate moment to promote a day-school in London at the SPGB Head Office
Saturday 24 November from 1pm
Living in a sick society Speaker: Brian Johnson (Disability Counsellor)
Capitalism on the couch Speaker: Peter Rigg (Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist)
Whose messing with your head? Speaker: Ed Blewitt (Clinical Psychologist)

Monday, April 30, 2007

Edinburgh and Glasgow May Day Rallies

The 2007 Edinburgh May Day march and rally will be on Saturday May 5th . Assemble East Market Street 11.30 am . Rally in Princes Street Gardens (West End) 1 pm .

On Sunday May 6th , in Glasgow , the traditional May Day Rally will take place . Participants should assemble in George Square at 11am. The rally will leave for the City Halls and Old Fruitmarket at 11.30am for speeches at 1.15pm .

The Socialist Party will be in attendance at both events , busily handing out leaflets and distributing free copies of the May issue Socialist Standard and we will also have a literature stall , stocked with books and pamphlets .

Seek us out . We are always happy to discuss the Party's case for Socialism .

Monday, April 16, 2007

Vote Socialist Party

Laying it on the line , with no weasel words , no kissing of babies , no false promises , no political platitudes .

And here once again , a clear , concise challenge for the voters to think before they choose .
Where no SPGB candidate is standing , declare for "World Socialism" by writing it across your ballot paper .

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Vic Vanni’s posting on this site has generated a lot of comment at the Socialist Standard MySpace blog

Vic doesn’t have a computer so he apologises for the delay of this response.
(Could Darren post this on his MySpace blog?)

Sorry, but I can’t reply to all of the responses to “ The Road to Hell” but there are some that I must comment on.

First, I want to make clear how much I admire Michael Moore. I’ve watched all his TV programmes, his movies and read some of his books. Many others criticise some of what capitalism does – we have John Pilger, Mark Thomas and others, but, like Michael Moore, they have nothing to put in its place, but Michael Moore is special.

He’s special because of his originality, humour and, above all, his courage. I would never have the nerve to beard the lions in their dens as he does, but it still isn’t enough.

I’ll begin with you, Hollywoodartchick.
I can agree with much of what you said but I’m a tad wary of “the coalition” you want to see built. The trouble with coalitions is that they are made-up of groups, which have different agendas and have only come together over some single issue or other. What is required is a united, worldwide movement determined to replace capitalism with the new society of common ownership and democratic control.

This movement would need to understand and desire socialism: Karl Kautsky was a master of Marxist theory but was, in his political activity, just another reformist, even so, he did explain this need beautifully
“Every conscious human action presupposes a will: the will to socialism is the first condition for its accomplishment”.
I wish I’d said that.

Phil, you think that consciousness doesn’t come in a flash but comes step by step.
You are right and I’m a case in point. I could never have made the leap from near political ignorance to any kind of understanding of Marx’s theories without being influenced by others along the way.

You see Michael Moore as a stepping-stone to a growing consciousness for many. I started in the British Labour Party and learned from some of the people I met there, but stepping-stones, if they are to be useful, should lead to somewhere worthwhile, but I would never have got there if I hadn’t stumbled across those who introduced me to socialist ideas. Getting that introduction is absolutely essential.

Next up is you, Carl. Michael Moore was your hero but is no longer because, despite his attacks on capitalists, he has supported politicians who are itching to run American capitalism. He is only following in footsteps of generations of “progressives” who usually justified supporting these politicians because they were “the lesser evil”. Of course, if elected, they would do whatever it takes to maintain and extend the interests of American capitalism. We only have to remember Kennedy, Carter and Clinton to see that.

Cindy, you’re kidding yourself if you think Michael Moore “knows very well how capitalism works”. If he does then he should at least know that profits can’t be “fair” or “reasonable” as he would like. They MUST be maximised, not out of greed, but because this is necessary for businesses to keep up with or get ahead of the competition.

Malcolm, your views are truly a gospel of despair. Their implication must be that capitalism will last forever because people have been brainwashed into accepting it. Capitalism can’t last forever, Malcolm, nor can anything else in the universe. It is just another stage in social development and, unless it destroys us all first, will eventually be replaced by the “full-blooded socialism” you mentioned. This, of course, would depend on what people like you and me do about it.

I’ve kept the best to the last.
Courtney, you have shown that you understand very clearly that humans are conditioned by circumstances, that it is the capitalist system (or any other property society) that makes we humans do the awful things we do to one another. I found your contribution most heartening. My thanks to you.

While I’m at it, my thanks once again to all who responded and if, as I suspect, I’ve stood on some toes then please visit us again. Finally, if any of you want to know more about us then log on to…. The Socialist Party


Saturday, December 30, 2006

From the Archives - Debate with the I.S.

This is a report of a debate between the SPGB and the International Socialists ( now the Socialist Workers Party ) that took place in Edinburgh in 1970 to an audience of 70 . Whereas , the principles of the Socialist Party has remained steadfast , we can see that the opportunism of the SWP has also remained consistent . Whereas , we still await the rise of socialist consciousness within the working class , the SWP are still waiting for that mythical revolutionary situation to arise . They seek it here , they seek it there , they seek it everywhere .
In contrast , the Socialist Party of Great Britain , as a party of socialists , as a party for socialism , will continue with the distinct unrelenting task of education , agitation and organisation for socialism and nothing but socialism .

Speakers for the SPGB were Jim Fleming and Vic Vanni from Glasgow branch . For the IS the speakers were S. Jeffries and B. Lavery . There was no objections raised by the IS to the report .

Comrade Fleming opened for the SPGB by pointing out that the SPGB was an international organisation that was democratically controlled by all its members; that it was opposed to leadership and the idea of an elite or vanguard leading the working class to Socialism . The muddled policies of the IS and other romantic left-wing groups only confused the working class.
S. Jeffries opened for the IS by saying that he agreed with the SPGB’s Marxist theory but that there was a failure to link up theory with practice. He went on to quote Engels on the need to build the revolutionary movement within the trade unions . It was stupid to rely on the vote . He preferred the overthrow of the system by non-parliamentary means , and said that Marxists should always be prepared for the revolutionary situation when this overthrow would be possible .

Comrade Vanni replied that revolutionary phrase-mongering did not make a socialist and invited the floor to look at the dismal history of the IS . Using back numbers of the Labour Weekly ( now Socialist Worker ) he drew attention to their lack of socialist understanding giving instances such as IS having urged workers to vote for the Labour Party in the 1964 and 1966 elections instead of fighting the real enemy - capitalism . It was not a Leninist elite that would bring about the revolution but capitalism itself by the contradictions inherent in it . IS far from being a vanguard , were in reality politically backward .They considered the workers too dull to learn from history but instead that they have to be taken through the struggles and learn from strikes. He went into some detail on the bankruptcy of their political theory , such as the permanent arms economy and their belief in the collapse of capitalism .IS did not understand what Socialism was , as they saw a need for money banks and the like , saying that instead of being sacked by a boss you would be made redundant by a “Workers Council”. In reality , it all boiled down to a sophisticated state capitalism .
B. Lavery (IS) said the SPGB had made a few mistakes , but this was only because they had always stood to one side of the real struggles . The SPGB’s ideas were grossly oversimple and he could not see that how , when Labour MPs inevitably became corrupted by parliament , socialist representatives would not also become corrupted . There were not only two classes in society today but many , one of them being the peasant class . Whole areas of the world , Africa , Asia and South America were predominantly peasant . The peasants outnumbered workers on a world wide basis and the SPGB was wrong in not taking this into account . He realised the IS support of the Labour Party was a mistake but at least it had raised the consciousness of some workers .

The first question from the floor was to the IS asking how soon after Socialism was established , money could be done away with .

The reply from IS was : only when we had eventually gone through the transitional stages and reached Communism .

The next question to the platform was asking for a definition of Socialism .

Comrade Fleming answered and first pointed out what the “revolutionary” demands of the IS were ( again quoting the Socialist Worker ) i.e. bringing the British forces back from overseas bases and five days work or five days pay in the car industry .This had nothing to do with Socialism . In contrast , the SPGB did not concern itself with petty reforms . The SPGB wanted the whole world , everything in it and on it , to be the common property of all mankind regardless of colour or sex; all people would take according to their needs and give according to their ability .
The IS then said that a utopian vision was pointless; what was needed to get the workers on your side was a realistic demand.

The next question was about the class structure of society , especially as regards the small shopkeeper.

Comrade Vanni pointed out that in modern society there were two basic economic classes , the capitalist class and the working class . Most small shopkeepers were of the working class as they had to work for a living . The small fringe of people who could not be definitely placed as workers or capitalists was diminishing all the time due to mergers and was relatively unimportant .
B. Lavery (IS) pointed out again that the SPGB was forgetting the peasant class , who were in a majority in Africa and Asia . Although small shopkeepers may be workers they usually supported capitalism . You cannot afford to ignore the people who come between capitalist and workers .

The next question regarded the role of parliament in the revolution .

Comrade Vanni started by quoting Engels on Parliament and the vote, about universal suffrage being one of the sharpest weapons of the working class had. ( Introduction to Class Struggles in France ) . If universal suffrage allowed nothing else at least you knew how many workers were politically conscious . This would prevent the likelihood of the revolution coming about when socialists were in a minority .

The next question referred to Lenin’s role in the Russian Revolution .

The IS began by saying that the revolution depended on smashing the state machine . It was crucial that workers should set up soviets and workers councils The real power was in the factories and once the workers got control of them they would easily smash the state machine . A lot depended on the conditions prevailing e.g. whether sections of the army would desert to fight on the workers side .
Comrade Fleming said it was a grave mistake to think that the working class was capable of smashing the state machine . It was ludicrous to assume that because the workers had occupied factories they would be capable of resisting tanks and bombs . It was essential to make sure the state machine was in the hands of the working class and not leave it in the control of the capitalist class . He concluded by stressing that parliament had tremendous power.

The next question was about the danger of fascism and what were the to parties doing about it .

Jeffries for the IS said the SPGB were not interested in the real problems facing the working class . Socialists should concern themselves with things such as incomes policy and productivity deals.
Comrade Fleming replied by saying that capitalism had played its historic role in solving the problem of production . Now that an abundance of wealth was capable of being produced the only meaningful struggle was for the overthrow of capitalism, which would result in the major problems being solved .

The summing up then followed with Jeffries (IS) saying that only the middle class and small businessmen were interested in parliament. The power of the big capitalists was concentrated in the factories, boardrooms and monopolies; they did not bother with parliament . Working within the Labour Party had produced some results such as the political strike against the government’s white paper on Trade Unions . The IS had left the Labour Party along with the politically conscious workers . The revolutionary party must always be where the workers were and must try to generalize their struggles . It was essential to fight for reforms while pointing out that capitalism was the real enemy . He concluded by saying that it was essential to fight within the labour movement because that was where the action was .

Comrade Vanni wound up for the SPGB saying that it was essential to take parliament into account as there was no doubt as to the power it had over the state machine . Their [IS] meaningless activities centred round demonstrations outside embassies and other buildings usually only succeeded in frightening the caretaker out of his wits . The history of the IS showed their lack of revolutionary understanding ; they always tackled the effects and never got to the root of the problems . The IS might call the SPGB’s vision of the future society a dream but it was much more preferable to the nightmare of the IS with wages and banks and all the paraphernalia of state capitalism . It was the job of revolutionaries not to reform capitalism but to leave that to the people who run capitalism like the so-called Communist Party , Labour Party and Conservatives. The real task to organise and agitate amongst fellow workers for the overthrow of capitalism by the majority of the world’s population using democratic processes if available . “Peacefully if possible , violently if necessary “ was the SPGB’s viewpoint. Instead of fighting for such reforms as “five days work or five days pay” , one should remember Marx when he said “away with the conservative motto , a fair days work for a fair days wage and inscribe on your banner the revolutionary watchword ABOLITION OF THE WAGES SYSTEM”

Socialist Standard July 1970