Friday, March 16, 2012

Back to Battersea

The election manifestos arrived yesterday, earlier than expected. Already 1,000 have been distributed in Battersea (that leaves 19,000). The area leafletted included the John Burns Primary School, named of course after John Burns, the Man with the Red Flag in the London Dock Strike of 1889 when he was a member of the Social Democratic Federation. Later he was elected MP for Battersea and became a Cabinet Minister in the 1905 Liberal Government. He was in fact the first "working man" to be a member of the Cabinet, not that that made any difference.

The Battersea branch of the SDF was very active and a substantial proportion of them joined the SPGB when it was founded in 1904. In fact the meeting in May that year at which it was decided to form in the near future a new party on sound, anti-reformist and democratic lines was held in Battersea. So this is a bit of a return to our roots.

The last time we contested elections in this area were those for Battersea Borough Council in November 1906 when we put up 9 candidates in three wards. The following extract from the manifesto for those elections still applies:
The candidates of the S.P.G.B. therefore, whilst quite prepared to use the local powers for such small temporary benefits as may be forced from the capitalists' hands for the workers in those districts, nevertheless do not seek suffrages for this, which can only be a secondary business of the political party of the workers. The fact, pointed out above, must be strongly reiterated, that the powers of the local bodies are strictly limited and are controlled by the Government.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters into municipal contests as a step in the work of capturing the whole political machinery. Fully realising, and pointing out to the workers, the strict limitations of the power of local bodies, making no promises that are beyond our power to fulfil, we ask the members of our class, when (but not before) they have studied these facts and realised their correctness, to cast their votes for the candidates of the S.P.G.B. who alone stand on the above basis.
Like them our candidates today are standing on a straight programme of socialism and nothing else and have "no programme of ear-tickling, side-tracking, vote-catching 'palliatives'" and have "not climbed into prominence on the backs of the working class, by posing as 'leaders' of unemployed deputations, 'right to live' councils, and similar confusionist conglomerations." We leave that to others.

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