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Spgbcritic 1982 Darcy Camden

Spgbcritic 1982 Darcy Camden

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Published by Wirral Socialists
Spgbcritic 1982 Darcy Camden
Spgbcritic 1982 Darcy Camden

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: Wirral Socialists on May 01, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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"Report of statement byComrade J. D'Arcy (Camden Branch) on the question'What Is Wrong With The SPGB?'given at Islington Branch (Spring 1982) (reported by P. Lawrence)Report of Statement given by Comrade J. D'Arcy (Camden Branch) given at Islington Branch - Spring 1982 -on the question - "What is wrong with the SPGB?"First I would like to mention what would appear to be the difference within the membership of theSPGB, because there is a difference - and I think that difference is manifested throughout the Party -the way in which things are moving and the way in which there seems to be a general degeneration- a deterioration - of the Party and its organisation. I think this will eventually have an effect on propaganda - it has already had an effect in my opinion on the way in which the written propagandais put out - I don't think it is anything like the kind of thing that we should be saying as socialistsand I'll go into that detail if necessary later.But the first thing would appear - that the SPGB as an organisation formed in 1904 - had set aboutits business - had set up its Declaration of Principles-and it has more or less stood still since then -'itrelies entirely on its declaration and therefore this was becoming mere of a kind of catechism thanan actual live guide to activity.I'll mention this at the beginning because this has been a criticism that has been levelled at myself and other people - that we more or less just mouth what we have read or agreed upon some manyyears ago - and we have not shown any regard to time or place - and this is to some extent thedifference between the ossified, steam age SPGB'er who hasn't taken anything into account - buthas just continued to more or less repeat the Declaration of Principles and that this view wouldcover all contingencies. Now this is the kind of criticism that has been levelled at - as I say - anumber of members of the Party.Well, one thing I would like to point out is that there is another angle -that you get within any political party - and this did happen in one particular case when I joined the SPGB a very long timeago - and that is a general impatience with younger people - who have got more time and moreenergy - and of course they can move around more than people who have been in the movement for a number of years - who have taken on commitments and so on - and they slow up a bit. So thereis of course this rather technical argument - that inevitably the younger generation will stand on theshoulders of the old and they will carry on the thing - but they will spice it up a bit - and they will asI say push it forward. They will be contemporary people - whereas the older crowd will be more inthe nature of what one might describe as reactionary, Now one position of the Party many years ago was that about two or three years after I joined theSPGB during the last war, I was secretary of a Branch called the Bloomsbury Branch - there were65 members in the Bloomsbury Branch - there are one or two of them here - and of course i used tocome to the meetings as secretary - and I used to sit at Rugby Chambers - and sometimes we got aquorum and sometimes we didn't. It wasn't a very pleasant business sitting in that room waiting ona quorum to turn up - and of course we got fed up with it.Young members of the Branch got competely fed up with it and said - look, we are actually carryingthe dead wood - we'll just have to get out and do something - so we did - we went out - that is a fewof us left Bloomsbury Branch - we didn't give them any notice - we formed another Branch - weformed the St. Pancras Branch - and among other things we said - look - we don't want to beconnected to this old branch because there is a lot of dead wood in it. We want to be active - wewant to run meetings - we want to do a host of things that these old people don't seem to beinterested in.Of course what we overlooked at the time - we didn't have any disagreements -we werefundamentally happy with the organisation - we said that the Party's case was OK - but we want tospend more time at it - we want to go at it a bit harder - but if we carry on like this we are just notgoing to get anywhere.
There was no question of principle or different point of view.Of course what we had overlooked was that a large number of the members were engaged in HeadOffice work - were engaged in the running of the Editorial Committee - there were 6 members of the Branch on the EC at the time - and they were engaged in the running of Party functions whichwe were unaware of - we didn't know this - or at least we didn't pay much attention to it - of courseit showed in retrospect that we might have sat back a bit and had a look at the thing rather objectively. As it happened it didn't do us any harm to form the new Branch.Well this is a clear case of a sort of generation gap argument - the old generation beingoverwhelmed by the new generation and so on - and I would have liked to have thought that thiswas the trouble with the SPGB - the idea that here you have got some people in the Party who aregetting on - and getting a bit past it - and here is a lot of young fellows coming up and they want toshoulder the responsibilities for running the Organisation - doing the things that are necessary tomaintain and sustain the Socialist Party - and I would have liked to have thought that that was thecase.Unfortunately I can't accept that point of view. Having had a look at the situation I don't accept it isa matter of people wanting to do what you have done but wanting to do it better. That unfortunatelyin my opinion is not the case.I think that what is the case - and it is becoming more and more clear - the trouble with the SPGB isthat a number of members in the SPGB - quite a large number of members in the SPGB - have gotthe short cut mentality - they've got the view point that somewhere along the line we can cut thecorners of what we have to do - you can to some extent have more flexibility in what you do withyour associations with other political people - you can engage in activities which are anathema tothe established principles as laid down in the Declaration of Principles - and I think that the presentcontroversy in the SPGB largely centres on this question of the members of the Party - and I mightsay here it is'nt just young members - because we have some very old - if you like have nursedgrievances in the Party for many, many years - and joined forces with the young people and of course many of you are here - and we have got this twin movement as it were going on - on the onehand the youngsters falling for this rather tempting argument that the Party should not have theserigid - if you like - the expression used against members like myself was -we should not have these'doctinaire people' who have a rigid interpretation of the Party's case.Well, try as I might over many years I have never been able to discover what this means - nobodywill give a name to it - nobody has over told me what a rigid interpretation is as opposed to a rather fluid or flexible interpretation-nobody has ever told me what 'doctrinaire' means in relation to theParty's Declaration of Principles. :I should hate for example to be speaking in Hyde Park or Tower Hill - and someone asks me aquestion - and I reply to the question by reciting clause 4 or clause 5 or clause 6. In other wordswhether you like it or whether you don't - the Party and its members - old and young - have to livein this world and have to deal with the facts of this situation.In short, this 'doctrinaire' argument - suggests to me - or the 'rigid interpretation' suggests to me -that there are members of the Party - I think this Branch is among them - - who do not hold - that arigid interpretation or a doctrinaire approach to the Party's case - who hold that somewhere alongthe line - the SPGB has got to show some red blood - they have got to move in-have got to moveinto the real world - they mustn't miss any opportunities - they have got to try and use whatever  propaganda they can - even if it means showing their slip just that little bit - being a bit coquettish - but not of course going the whole hog - and the intention I would say is the same intention-that wehave got - I have never regarded that basically the members of the Party are reformists - I have saidin the past that certain members of the Party have reformist attitudes which is a different thing - asfar as I am concerned I shall argue - I have got the information here for the reason why I take this point of view.But, by and large - the real issue as far as I see it - is that there are members who want to moveaway from the Party's Declaration of Principles -and create some other new circumstances. I alsotake this view that a lot of members will not face up to the implications of the Declaration of 
Principles - they feel that they can move outside them in some way or other-and that of course Ithink is fatal - that I think is wrong - I say we can deal with this later. Now I would like to go back – I don't think this business started with the secret meetings which asyou know took place with the gentleman who is present this evening who was going to put the Partyon Broadway - in other words he got the vision that it was these old ossified characters who werekeeping the movement back and therefore he was going to move things - and of course we had thefamous secret meetings - which really from an SPGB point of view was an absolute scandal - butanyway we had these secret meetings and a number of members here attended these meetings -certain procedures were agreed upon -certain tactics were adopted and we saw the effect of them afew years ago -going back four or five years.Well let me just recap on one or two similar campaigns that happened in the Party. A few vearsafter World War II - we had a number of members in the Party who took this same point of viewwhich is being held - which - I think is held - that the Party really ought to show its got a bit of 'red blood' in its veins - it should not try and move itself too far away from the general stream of politics- it shouldn't be too hostile - it should be more friendly -it should have a more accomodatingattitude.There were members of the then Hackney branch - and a number of them of course started to arguewith the EC - different things - and eventually it was debated throughout the Party - and it finishedup with these members being unable to convince the majority of people within the Party and theyleft the Party - and some of them joined the Labour Party - that was the Hackney controversy.Well the next controversy after that which followed the same line was a controversy where we had -a group of people joined the Party - I can mention these names Mr. Chairman as they aren'tmembers - people like Miller and Barnsdale, Stefan and a number of people who joined the Party -eventually they became members of the EC - who presented a document to the Party called 'WhereWe Stand.' Now we examined this and I have got a copy of it here if anybody would liketo read it or hear of it - but this was a general series of vague propositionswhich did not reflect the viewpoint of the SPGB. It kind of made certainvague innuendoes - it didn't mention the word specifically about smashingthe state - it talked about extra Parliamentary activity and a number of thingswhich we did not consider at the time at the EC was the Party's case. Andwe said so at the time. Now this was signed by a number of people who put this view again that the Party should widenitself - the members who signed this eventually took part in all sorts of reformist activity - a number of them became members of the Aberdeen Group - as you'll remember published leaflets whicheventually the EC had to take action on - a number of these members who signed this statement-some were expelled and the others left - all except one - this one member was returned to the Party -or rather he turned and rejoined the Party after he had made a statement to the EC that he entirelyrepudiated the contents of the statement 'Where We Stand' - so this was the same line of argumentthat the SPGB really were not in the 20th. Century at all.So as I say - the line we took was why is it that members of the SPGB find it necessary to sign adocument - 'Where We Stand' - when they had already signed a document - the Declaration of Principles - indicating where we stand. Why was it necessary to change course - did this supplementthe D of P? -or did it in fact take a different view? - and of course it did take a different view. Now the last controversy as you know was the famous one of Comrade Weidburg, Now this took adifferent line. In the past these various controversies -' they failed - or rather the members whostarted upon them were'nt abld to bring them to a conclusion - a satisfactory conclusion - becausethey could not meet the weight of the criticism of the members who were in the Party.In other words many of them were putting forward their stuff but when it came down to it - arguingthe propositions that were argued at the time and the members were answering - they could not faceup to it - and this is why the Weidburg campaign took a different turn.I mena the members who signed this statement 'Where We Stand' - or the one member who left and

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