SPGB Reaches Out To Non-state, Non-market Groups

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ajjohnstone
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May 28 2021 22:30
SPGB Reaches Out To Non-state, Non-market Groups

It may be of interest to some and a total irrelevancy to others but the SPGB carried a motion at its online annual conference.

Quote:
'This Conference is of the view that the Party should take positive steps to contact others who stand for a non-state, non-market society and invite their participation in friendly forums, combined talks, day-schools and social events, so as to put our perspective'.'

It now requires ratification by party poll to become official SPGB policy.

Previously it referred to 'fellow-travellers (e.g. anarchists, libertarian socialists, etc)' but fellow travellers was thought to possess a negative connotation so to make things clearer and highlight what we believe in and locate those who believe in our case, it was rephrased

For any who wish to take us up on this invitation, I would refer to the logistic advantages of possessing a well-equipped premise to hold any meetings and such like.

Also, note the non-adversarial use of the words such as 'debates' being dropped

Maybe the Thin Red Line can be made a little bit broader?

ajjohnstone
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May 29 2021 09:40

I was idly speculating to myself where we could all collaborate constructively since it would be fairly easy to identify points where we disagree and how after a few beers emotions could be riled up and rancour prevail (or am I the only bad drunk?)

It seemed to me that the present situation of 'no war but class war and that includes so-called wars of national liberation is one we could have all coalesced about.

Anti-nationalism in general is another principle where we would have more in common than in differences. But now that Brexit has disappeared from the political headlines, other than the prospect of another Scottish referendum, and I'm not sure it would draw much interest.

So that leaves the pandemic and the lessons that could be learned. Even some members of the SPGB felt lockdown and social distancing was a pretext for authoritarianism and it did raise the question of global administration V. local decision-making.

But i think for all of us...the way we could adapt to online democracy within our organisations and conduct Zoom and Discord public meetings was perhaps the most immediate impact for us all.

Just thought i put some meat to the bones of the SPGB more related hostility clause.

Dyjbas
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May 29 2021 10:49

Regarding "no war but the class war" the CWO and ACG did put out this little platform back in 2019 as a basis for internationalists to come together and we held meetings throughout the country attended by comrades from various tendencies.

For us in the CWO the slogan is always relevant but the current situation with Israel/Palestine makes it all the more so.

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darren p
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May 29 2021 13:04
ajjohnstone wrote:
But now that Brexit has disappeared from the political headlines

On the contrary this one is going to run and run. The troubles in Northern Island are likely to flair more due to the fact of there being a customs border in the North Sea and there's already stories of EU citizens being detained in immigration centres after turning up in the UK without Visas...

imposs1904
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May 29 2021 14:32

What a pious and laughable bullshit motion. I honestly hope that other groups in the 'non-market socialist' sector dismiss it for the meaningless gesture that it is.

To say I'm an increasingly semi-detached supporter of the SPGB is to put it mildly. Anyone want to buy a shop soiled socialist blog? It's yours for the knockdown price of nineteen pounds and four pence.

alb
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May 29 2021 16:57

Actually the amended motion specifically excludes “anarchists, libertarian socialists, etc” who do not stand for both a non-state and a non-market society. Which of course excludes most of them, and it only envisages events to put the SPGB perspective and doesn’t envisage any “collaboration” with them. It merely reflects practice in recent decades of a move from confrontational debates to discussion forums. But if anyone wants a confrontational debate the SPGB is always up for one.

ajjohnstone
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May 29 2021 22:45

ALB, of the groups who are active on Libcom, could you name those who are not for a non-state, non-market society and who you would still exercise the hostility clause against for being a pro-capitalist political party.

But my focus was on shifting the consciousness of our fellow-workers, where we all suffer trouble to convey a message that we do all generally accept within our separate groups. (Brexit may indeed be one of those continuing topics, DarrenP, and I think it another that we all view as British nationalism and present a reasonably coherent opinion upon).

I think it is clear that none of us has any influence with certain messages and one answer is to combine our voices so that it is louder and possible is heard by more. We all have a pitiful audience.

Working together on specific projects is not unity but I do consider it as a step towards such a goal, even if Imposs considers it a meaningless gesture. I acknowledged that there exists still fundamental differences among us all which may not be reconciliable.

I think all here accept that groups have an approach that is aimed at recruitment, even if it does mean poaching members from others with similar goals. We will still compete in the realm of ideology, especially as we all carry the baggage of the past and have been reluctant to jettison even though conditions are no longer the same to justify them.

We shall await the party poll of all individual members to see if they agree "... friendly forums, combined talks, day-schools and social events, so as to put our perspective" is the way to go

We won't stop them from presenting their own perspective on such occasions, having always held the view that democracy means offering our platform to those who do not agree with ourselves.

And a final comment to Imposs, if we do not do something soon, we will be involved in a liquidation closing down sale of much more than a very slightly used blog.

imposs1904
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May 30 2021 01:42

"And a final comment to Imposs, if we do not do something soon, we will be involved in a liquidation closing down sale of much more than a very slightly used blog."

Then liquidate it. Or do a SLP - or, for older folk, a Proletarian Party - and shut up shop. It's preferable to that garbage, pious motion. To borrow the late Al Richardson's old saying, this is nothing more than 'resolutionary socialism'. That's part of the reason it pisses me off. That, and its political and historical illiteracy.

This isn't directed at you; this is directed at the authors of that motion: Shame-faced SPGBers are a pain in the arse, IMHO.

alb
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May 30 2021 08:51

ajj, I'm afraid you've got the wrong end of the stick. What has gone out for a vote of the membership is not a new motion but an amendment to a resolution carried a couple of years ago that was so badly drafted that the movers themselves moved an amendment the following year to make clear that the proposed events would to discuss how to get to socialism, not to join campaigns for the various immediate demands of some of these groups.

What is being voted on this year is a further amendment clarifying that not all anarchists and "libertarian socialists" stand for a "non-state, non-market society":

"That, in the resolution carried at 2019 Conference, as amended by 2020 Conference, the words 'fellow-travellers (e.g. anrchists, libertarian socialists, etc)' be deleted and replaced by 'others who stand for a non-state, non-market society'."

ajjohnstone
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May 30 2021 18:07

ALB, I try not to mislead people. I made clear in my post that it was an updated clarification of an earlier resolution passed.

Quote:
It now requires ratification by party poll to become official SPGB policy.
Previously it referred to 'fellow-travellers (e.g. anarchists, libertarian socialists, etc)' but fellow travellers was thought to possess a negative connotation so to make things clearer and highlight what we believe in and locate those who believe in our case, it was rephrased

But formally as recorded in the minutes of the conference

Quote:
11. Motion: 'That, in the resolution carried at 2019 Conference, as amended by 2020
Conference, the words 'fellow-travellers (e.g. anarchists, libertarian socialists, etc)' be
deleted and replaced by 'others who stand for a non-state, non-market society', so as
to read: 'This Conference is of the view that the Party should take positive steps to
contact others who stand for a non-state, non-market society and invite their
participation in friendly forums, combined talks, day-schools and social events, so as
to put our perspective'.'
West London Branch
Buick – This is just following up on the previous discussion last year at ADM.
Foster – We discussed this in West Midlands, and everyone was in favour. Fellow travellers has
both positive and negative connotations. This makes things clearer.
Rosonov – Our branch also supports this, as it highlights what we believe in and locates those who believe in our case

By posting the outline of the motion on Libcom i was following its spirit by taking positive steps by contacting organisations that reflect that caveat "who stand for a non-state, non-market society".

I also indicated that there were some principles where agreement would not be possible but that there others where we did share a general agreement and mentioned those, war, nationalism, a need for global administration on the pandemic (I could have added global warming, too) and the more mundane matter of how groups organise and communicate remotely online to exercise fuller democracy.

Hopefully, this "practice in recent decades of a move from confrontational debates to discussion forums" and the inclusive language used in the motion which I highlighted is now noted by other groups here, and that they can approach us with their own suggestions to set up "friendly forums, combined talks, day-schools and social events" which will attract a prospective larger audience than each group perhaps could on their own, and demonstrate a unified class position on particular issues better to actually raise all of our profiles with the public and exercise whatever influence we can bring to bear on our fellow-workers understanding and awareness on those topics, and I referred to a current example that brought out tens of thousands supporting a theocratic national liberation front where all of our analyses overlapped and we could consolidate our message to contest left's.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 17 2021 22:51

Result of the Party poll

[b]Motion[/b]

“That, in the resolution carried at 2019 Conference, as amended by 2020 Conference, the words*'fellow-travellers (e.g. anarchists, libertarian socialists, etc)' be deleted and replaced
by 'others who stand for a non-state, non-market society',

So as to read: "This Conference is of the view that the Party should take positive steps to contact others who stand for a non-state, non-market society and invite their participation in friendly forums, combined talks, day-schools and social events, so as to put our perspective”.

For 94
Against 2

Motion Carried

Something to note is that if membership is to be defined by members interested enough to vote, the ballot return, the SPGB's effective membership is now around 100.

Battlescarred
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Jul 18 2021 09:05

The last time I read a public statement about SPGB membership figures ( a couple of years ago) it stood at 308, with 42 of those living overseas. So under a third of members voted in the ballot.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 18 2021 10:26

The 2021 party poll mailed out 308 ballots (seems as if our recruitment has also stalled)

Our internal member-only business list is 105 which confirms your third being interested enough to be involved.

I myself live abroad and have been very amiss that even though the facility of voting by e-mail is available, and being active in other ways, I never participate in the party polls.

When I first joined in the 1970s I remember the membership was over a thousand (SpikyMike might be able to confirm more accurately the figure). There were dozens of healthy branches and my own branch met weekly as did the EC. I have a vague memory that the circulation of the Socialist Standard was almost 7000. It has now a print-run of 800.

How does it fare with other political organisations? I'm not sure but I suspect that the malaise is one we are all share and suffer from. More the reason that I personally support the idea of collaborating so that we exercise more political clout.

As always, the SPGB even if it is not flattering, we try to be transparent about ourselves.

imposs1904
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Jul 20 2021 05:47

"When I first joined in the 1970s I remember the membership was over a thousand (SpikyMike might be able to confirm more accurately the figure). There were dozens of healthy branches and my own branch met weekly as did the EC. I have a vague memory that the circulation of the Socialist Standard was almost 7000. It has now a print-run of 800."

The SPGB didn't have a membership of over a 1000 in the early 70s. I've seen a figure of 800 for 1974 (in one of those academic books about "the left") but I'm even a bit skeptical about that.

The Socialist Standard print run in the 70s was maybe 5000.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 20 2021 10:04

I joined at 17 in 1971.

1,100 or 1,300 members still rings a bell for me as does the 7000 circulation figure. But age does strange things to memories so I am willing to stand corrected. Perhaps I'm mixing up our peak membership numbers.

Conference reports online don't go that far back so someone will have to do a manual search in the archive room or a contemporary offer a better recall than myself.

Your own work uploading old Standards will give a better insight than myself into the branch directory, the outlets for the Standard, and the number of meetings.

The 70s were optimistic times for us all. We were on a high (and not just metaphorically)

Edinburgh branch had more members than IS and IMG and probably including Militant in the city combined and the city council was regularly threatening legal action against it for fly-posting. I remember a WSPUS visitor (RAB?) saying his first impression on seeing the large numbers of various home-made silk-screen posters reminded him of the Maoist Cultural Revolution. Summer Saturdays saw selling the Standard on Princes St, and around the Rose St pubs on Fri and Sat evenings. Outdoor meetings were held at the Mound on Sundays afternoons and evenings with a thriving audience (remember the old restrictive licensing hours which was a factor). In Winter indoor meetings were held.

The weekly branch meetings at the Freegradeners Hall on Picardy Place (now a casino) was well attended. As a party, we punched well above our weight and it was a branch of young members, the exception being a Cde, Urquhart, a retired old-timer, and we all regularly engaged in debates among ourselves on controversial topics like changing the name to the World Socialist Party (yes, that has a long pedigree).

But really my point to Battlescarred is that compared to the past the SPGB is without a doubt in decline and the one-time growth of young members has now become composed of elderly and frail members and his observation that 2/3rd membership are not particularly active is accurate.

But when I was in the IWW it also had an issue with what was called "red carders", those who joined from a romantic attachment to the Wobbly's little red membership card and didn't participate much.

I suggest we are not the only organisation on Libcom that struggles to recruit fresh new blood. It is just we are more open about weaknesses and perhaps has more to lose.

But I'm getting nostalgic over an unfulfilled past. Don't forget I was a signatory of "Where We Stand" of the Libertarian Communism faction which failed to achieve its aims. We believed we were the future.... But Alas...

Battlescarred
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Jul 20 2021 10:09

Then I think I must know you.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 20 2021 14:05

The more I thought of it, the more the figure 700-800 seems to resonate.

I cannot imagine a drop of at least 300 members in a matter of a few years as being very likely.

When I resigned from the SPGB I hung around the anarchist groups in Edinburgh initially centred on the 1st of May bookshop.

One had two medical doctors in it, one person I remember was called Alan who did the Wonder-Woman front cover for Black Flag that got it banned by feminists, another was a female doctor whose name I forget now.

Then there was another different at the time of the first Scottish Referendum. I remember it produced a leaflet. But also that at meetings it attempted that you can only speak by holding something in your hand.

Later, I participated in a punk-inspired anarchist group but they viewed me as an old hippie.

Then I let politics lapse to concentrate more on the unions, writing occasionally short pieces for MikeV's CounterInformation on the postal workers strikes in Edinburgh

I gave some insider info on the CWU unofficial strike actions to another postie in Social Revolution

Then the IWW. First in the mid-1990s

I wrote of the postal strikes for Industrial Worker also

https://mailstrom.blogspot.com/2009/12/wobbly-days.html

And when that earlier IWW group fizzled out, I re-joined when it was revived again a few years later., resigning over some individual personal conflicts which were unhealthy and it was better I left.

I rejoined the SPGB while still an IWW member as it had become a more tolerant organisation after it expelled what became the Socialist Studies current.

So that is roughly my political history. Perhaps indeed our paths crossed somewhere along the line, Battlescarred.

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jondwhite
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Jul 21 2021 02:29
ajjohnstone wrote:
I joined at 17 in 1971.

1,100 or 1,300 members still rings a bell for me as does the 7000 circulation figure. But age does strange things to memories so I am willing to stand corrected. Perhaps I'm mixing up our peak membership numbers.

Conference reports online don't go that far back so someone will have to do a manual search in the archive room or a contemporary offer a better recall than myself.
...

Conference reports here go back to 1936.
https://libcom.org/library/spgb-conference-delegate-meeting-reports
The main study of membership numbers is by P. J. Rollings.
Who are the others who stand for a non state and non market society who will be contacted for combined talks to put the socialist perspective?

alb
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Jul 21 2021 06:40

The resolution (as amended) does not say that the purpose of any meeting would be to jointly present the case for a non-market, non-state society but that it should be a discussion between people who share the same objective as to how to get there (the SPGB has never said that that they are the only people who want socialism as defined in this way), each presenting their own perspective on this.

The words “our perspective” in the resolution refer to the SPGB perspective; which of course is that the working class should use the electoral system to win political control with a view to introducing a non-market, non-state society. As virtually all other groups standing for a non-market, non-state society are against this there’s plenty of room for discussion and debate.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 21 2021 06:55

I read 1970-80, Fascinating reading of how "heretical" and "controversial" a few of the branch resolutions were in the early1970s and how swift a decline took place.

1974 confirms Imposs guess of 5,000 (while in 1937 it was 8,000)

As for your question, jond, I suspect those who participate here on Libcom could be possible candidates for collaboration and cooperation.

But is it for the SPGB to initiate and make the first move? It has only unlocked and opened the door. Will we be knocked down in the rush for joint ventures? I don't know.

I think it will be a matter of horses for courses.

Our positions differ on some things but overlap on others

But even when we do disagree, an open forum exchange could be positive for both sides in acquiring a receptive audience