Saturday, February 19, 2005

The battle for Waterloo

This morning members of West London branch were out leafletting in the eastern end of the constituency round Waterloo station. It actually stretches as far as the London Television centre on the South Bank. We set up our stall outside Queen Elizabeth Hall near where the secondhand booksellers have theirs. We knew we risked being moved on, but the first security guards who spotted us were surprisingly sympathetic (one said he was against the Iraq war) and let us stay. The second couple, who came along an hour and half later, were more officious, explaining that the South Bank was run by the South Bank Corporation which didn't like tourists being upset by being given leaflets with political views with which they might not agree. We said that there was an election coming and that the Socialist Party was standing a candidate in the Vauxhall constituency which included this part of the South Bank. They said we should go and ask permission from someone at the box office at the Royal Festival Hall. We didn't bother as we'd already been there an hour and half and were getting cold. So we packed up the stall and went to help the comrades putting leaflets through letter boxes. But not before we'd had a look at the bookstalls. The stall nearest to us turned out to have an interesting collection of books on politics, history, the trade unions and literature. The stallholder explained that they had come from the library of the late Paul Foot and that he had many more since he had bought 26 ft's worth of his books (not the pick of the collection, he added, since these were being auctioned along with his furniture). We bought a copy of the autobiography of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the "Rebel Girl" of the pre-WWI IWW, a pamphlet on "Socialism and Nationalism" and a 1985 book on leisure in capitalist Britain which had a section devoted to discussing the theory of work and leisure of Stanley Parker, billed as one of the pioneers of "the sociology of leisure" in this country. Paul Foot was obviously a well-read bloke. He was also a leading member of the SWP and on sale from his collection was a pamphlet The ABC of Socialism by John Rees which outlines the SWP's case for their form of state capitalism (since that's what they stand for, not socialism) as well as his own SWP pamphlet which we always thought should have been called Why Paul Foot should be a Socialist. Also on sale were the official Labour Party Conference Reports for the 1960s and 70s when Paul Foot was a member of the Labour Party (without illusions of course).
Anyway, we distributed our quota of leaflets and, incidentally since that was not our main purpose, sold one Socialist Standard (though comrade Roland wasn't too flattered at being mistaken for a Big Issue seller).
Back at the Socialist Party's Head Office in 52 Clapham High St at the other end of the constituency we switched on the radio and who should be on but the local MP for Vauxhall (for Labour, apparently), Kate Hoey, addressing a meeting of the unspeakable before they set out to chase the uneatable. Perhaps she'll soon be calling on her Tally-ho friends to come to Vauxhall to deal with the urban fox problem here.
The next item on the news, incidentally, was that the Welsh Nationalist Party had announced it was to launch a "socialist" opposition to the Labour Party. This seems to be a bid to steal Labour votes in the English-speaking valleys of South Wales where the Welsh Nats usual policy of "jobs for the Welsh-speaking boyos" doesn't go down so well as in Welsh Wales. Still, it's nice to think that some people think that calling yourself a socialist can still attract support. Let's hope that actually being a socialist will also work.

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