George Walford: The (Anarcho-)Socialist Party of Great Britain (35)

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IC31 gave the text of a letter sent on 26 November 1987 to the Secretary of the Party, asking for the terms on which they would accept paid notices for the SOCIALIST STANDARD drawing the attention of their members to IC‘s comments on the Party and its case. The letter offered them a free quarter-page in IC for each one inserted, paid, in the STANDARD. So far no reply has been received, and this has to be borne in mind when reading their complaints that their capitalist opponents refuse them free access to the media.

THIS PARTY set out in 1904 to get a majority for ‘socialism.’ During the 84 years since then the world population has increased by thousands of millions while the number of ‘socialists’ remains in the hundreds – not hundreds of millions but hundreds of people. They have farther to go to reach their majority than when they started. They believe they are making progress.

The high-spot of these past two months, at least as far as meetings go, was provided by Islington Branch. On Thursday 14 July Peter Lawrence for the Party, and Richard Headicar from outside it (and not declaring any other allegiance) spoke under the title ‘1968 – the “Revolution” that Wasn’t.’ Under that title, but not on that subject. Mr. Headicar spoke mostly of his experiences in CND up to about 1968, and Mr. Lawrence spent much of his time explaining that ownership of a business by those who work in it is not what the Party means by ‘socialism.’

For an (A-)SPGB meeting the occasion was strangely amicable, nobody getting slagged off except ourselves. The source of this unaccustomed peacefulness was Mr. Headicar, who was warm, friendly, sincere, entertaining and sympathetic towards the Party. Best of all, he expressed support for no other organisation and thereby avoided arousing their declared determination to wage war against all other parties. Whether he would be able to preserve the peace with closer contact we doubt; he said nothing to suggest that he accepts the Party’s estimate of the importance of class.

Peter Lawrence’s talk supported IC‘s view of the Party even more strongly than most statements by its speakers; all he needs to do now is to realise this. We have shown (for example in “IC Versus SP,” available on request, please enclose a stamp) that the Party’s activities can best be understood when its object is taken to be not the establishment of ‘socialism’ but the development of a structure of propositions which enables it to win most arguments. The claim Mr. Lawrence made for it was not that it is making progress towards ‘socialism’ but that its theory enables it to make correct predictions. He doubtless looks forward to the time when the head of the last ‘socialist’ heaves itself for a moment above the radioactive rubble, gasping triumphantly: ‘We said this would happen! We were right all along!’

One thing more has to be said. Mr. Headicar quoted an ironical remark by a friend of his on leadership. We failed to pick up the irony and, in discussion, quoted the remark as evidence that he did not understand the Party’s case. We apologised to him afterwards, but in fact the blunder did him no harm at all; it just made us look (and feel) rather more not very bright than usual.

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from Ideological Commentary 35, September 1988.