Saturday, June 15, 2013

The People's Convention of January 1941 - The Peoples Assembly 2013

The People's Convention January 1941

The Peoples Convention
Sunday 12th January 1941
London 2,300 delegates

Delegates tell of their struggle

Daily Worker 14th January 1941

Continuing the discussion on the political resolution in the after noon session of the People's Convention, Councillor Craig Walker, of Yorkshire, spoke of
the great movement which had been begun by workers of all kinds—textiles, clothing, miners, engineers, civil servants and administrative workers—in the West Riding. This movement spread far outside the shores of this country;

It was going to revolutionise politics. Mr. Steve Lawther, of Tyneside, said that in this war, as in the last, we were promised a brave, new world.

Depression and derelict industries were Tyneside's share in the new world.

Recently the president of the Dur ham Miners' Association had said that in their struggle the miners and the owners were on one side and Hitler on the other. The biggest coal owner in the north. Lord Londonderry, had been a friend of Hitler. The coal owners' organ had written that there was. something to be said for Nazi methods. These people were not on the same side as the miners.

Mr. Lawther emphasised Point Four of the Convention's purposes, for emergency powers to take over banks, land and industry and organise production in the interests of the people as of vital Importance.

Bomb Proof Shelters

Mr. Warman, of Coventry, spoke of the air bombardment of that city in relation to the Convention. Under the raids, the whole of the social amenities of the town had
broken down. Among the people, many had been brought, through the failure to provide adequate bomb-proof shelter, to realise that the policy of the Government was not in the Interests of the people but of the wealthy, and to support demand Number Two, for adequate ARP.

Mr, Scanlon, of Manchester, described how workers in factories and works there had collected large sums to send delegates to the Convention. They welcomed the Convention's
economic programme, realising that only the people themselves could solve their problems. The meetings at which these delegates would reported back to the workers who had s them would be most important. The Rev. Bryn Thomas, of Swindon, said the old economic system had failed us. "Ledger wealth" would have to go, "real wealth" would take its place. Mr. Morrison had said the Convention was a Communist plot to entrap the people.

Mr. Thomas said he had made thorough study of the policy of the Communist Party, and he was con-vinced that unless we secured a People's Government and made an ally of the Soviet Union we should be relegated to the limbo of the past.

Land Workers
Mrs. Allison McLeod, of Somerset, declared that the land workers were coming in on the side of the factory workers. No industry was so inefficiently run as agriculture : it needed to be run by the people—collectivised and socialised.

Referring to the bad housing conditions of land workers and the problem of evacuation, Mrs. McLeod said there were many great houses round Bath and Bristol, all standing empty. They should be taken over.

Mr. Parry, speaking for London Tube Shelter Committees, said that when the " blitz " began, the whole Metropolitan population was totally unprovided with deep shelters or adequate protection. He sketched the movement for organising shelter in the tubes, the struggles which they had to secure and maintain rights, the efforts which were still being made to drive them out of such shelters and concluded with a message of support from the Shelter Committees for the aims of the Convention.

During the afternoon session, Mr. W. J. R. Squance introduced the resolution on the organisation and campaign of the Convention, In a speech which was reported In the DAILY WORKER yesterday.

He was followed by Mr, F. Anderson. a worker In. Parkhead Forge, Glasgow who described the intense conviction with which workers in that plant and throughout Clydesidee supported the Convention and were prepared to do anything that was necessary to win a People's Government.

A speaker from the Engineering and Allied Trades Shop Stewards' Council said he believed that the hot reception given to Bevin at Glasgow was a sign that the workers were prepared to do something.

The shop stewards were the key to real leadership in the workshops. The speaker urged that workers in factories should elect shop stewards, get together with workers in other factories and aet up a local shop stewards' movement, join the national organisation, build up their own Press, and particularly the DAILY WORKER. (Applause.)

Councillor Frank Davies, of Ammanford, said he spoke mainly on behalf of unemployed miners, of whom there were thousands in the Amman Valley. Yet when he came to London he was told of high prices charged for coal.
Soldier Speaker
Those thousands of unemployed miners were ready and anxious to give the people coal, but they must have a People's Government to make that possible.

The next speaker was a soldier, and as he mounted the rostrum in uniform he was greeted with tumultuous cheering.

Thanking the Convention for the opportunity to speak on behalf of "civilians in uniform," he gave a vivid and rapid review of conditions of Army life which had made him and other soldiers come to support the People's Convention.

Food—a dominating consideration to a soldier—came, first. He described how good material was spoiled by bad management and unskilled cooks, yet men who commented on it in plain soldier's language were given punishment.

Barrack-room discipline—the Imposition of absurd regulations by officers of public school tradition; promotion given because of family or class relationships; leave given as a privilege when it should be organised as a right—these were matters which had led him and his comrades to think of a People's Government as the way to win the soldier a square deal.

Harry Pollitt, who followed, also received an ovation. He recalled how in 1911 Tom Mann had set afoot a great movement among the people of this country, and showed how the present People's Convention ' movement was in the tradition of the great struggle for democracy Its policy programme was no paper development. This Convention would be followed by such a campaign of reporting to the people as this country had never seen before.

The essence of the Convention was not only the talk for which they had come together, but the bringing of the masses into action by every conceivable means.

It was a race against time. On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, hand-picked trade union functionaries would meet to formulate a policy the essence of which was industrial conscription That challenge could only be met in that way, " and you," said Pollitt, " know what that is."

Let them feel that they were the real custodians of the liberties of the people. The soldiers, as the previous speaker had shown, were with them; by uniting and using their forces they had the power to realise the People's Government.

Convention Elects Leaders for New Battles


AS its National Committee to carry forward the people's fight in these next crucial weeks and months, the People's Convention has elected already 26 men and women whom the people can rely on for fighting spirit, for understanding, for the force that gets things done.

Here they are—and I would like the capitalist Press to give an exhibition of just how it is going to " laugh this off," considering that this National Committee very obviously consists of the leading figures of the militant trades union movement, of the Labour movement, of the scientific world, and of all those who are fighting for a better life for the people.

Harry Adams is known to all. Harry Adams is District Organiser of the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers. Harry Adams knows more about the working conditions in the biggest city of Britain than Bevin and Morrison will ever learn.

There is W. J. R. Squance—needs no introduction, as a former member of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress.

There is D. N. Pritt, K.C., M.P.,— expelled from the Labour Party because, in his own phrase "the leaders wouldn't even follow."

Next we have Lieutenant-Commander Edgar Young, whose work to try to save Czechoslovakia from the machinations of our ruling class at the moment when our ruling class was busy handing it and its great arms factories over to Hitler is well known.

J. B. S. Haldane, the man who—if the callous Government had listened
to the finest scientific advice In the country could have saved the lives of thousands, is a loudly applauded member of the National Committee.
As Mr. Pritt said recently: " Just ask yourself whether you would rather have in charge of A.R.P. a great and expert scientist, who himself has been in the front line in the last war and in Spain—or Ellen Wilkinson?"

Arthur Horner, President of the South Wales Miners' Federation Is on the Committee.

So is Krishna Menon, of the Indian National Congress.
And along' with these sit:
The Dean of Canterbury,
W. Zak, ot the Amalgamated Furnishing Trades Association,
R. P. Dutt, of the Communist Party,
William Gallacher, Communist M.P.,
George Dutch, of the London Co-op Society Management Committee,
William Pearson, President of the Lanarkshire Miners' Union,
Jack Owen, famous figure of the Amalgamated Engineering Union in Manchester,
Dr. Barton, of London,
Michael Best London Tenants' leader
Councillor Skilbeck of Hammersmith,
Councillor Craig Walker, of Leeds,
Reverend Stanley Evans, East London clergyman,
Councillor Mrs. Mabel Lewis, of South Wales, famous in ARP work,
Jack Sussman, representing the youth,
W. Swanson, aircraft shop steward,
George Crane, another prominent shop steward.
Miss Beatrix Lehmann, the most famous of West End actresses,
Ben Frankel, internationally known musician,
Miss Mary Baxter, of Scotland.


You were there at the People's Convention. You had your spokes man there.

The figures prove it. You, man or woman in one or other of the big air craft factories : you, man or woman in the great war industries of the entire country.

So here are the preliminary figures to date: —

Trades Union organisations elected 531 out of the total of more than 2,000 delegates. Through these were represented three Executive Committees, 14 District Councils, and nearly 400 Branches. No less than 20 Trades Councils were directly represented.

From 220 of the biggest factory Jobs in the country—including the whole core of the armament business— came 433 delegates. The Co-operatives—73 organisations- sent 81 delegates—thus much frightening not only 'the Daily Express which has so often attacked the Co-ops, but also the Co-op, leaders who have lined up with the Big Combine men in the Government. Fourteen women's organisations were represented, 57 youth organisations —and remember that from these youth organisations thousands of young men and women have already been called into uniform.

These figures are still Incomplete. The estimate given here, magnificent as it is, certainly falls very far below the real total of, representation.

What They said

THE People's Convention as it really was—not as they had tried to tell the world it was going to be—hit the capitalist Press like a depth charge.

They had tried to smother it with silence. They had tried to get it "suppressed." They had lied and they had sneered. They had said it was a " Communist manoeuvre."

Then this mighty concourse of the men and women, really gathered—and the mixture of astonishment, concern, and general embarrassment in the capitalist Press was pitiable to see.


Even The Times was compelled by the importance of the event itself to devote a third of a column to a flat little report of a small part of the proceedings—omitting any mention of the speeches from the factory delegates, the Army delegates, the miners' delegates and the youth.

The Daily Mirror Political Correspondent nervously declared that:—

“ It the Government knows lie job it will make a careful study of the ' People's Convention ' held in London. "More than 2,000 delegates drawn from factories, coalfields, railway yards and offices all over Britain attended." Then, after a bit of the customary red-herringism about the Communist Party, he kindly remarks that " 90 per cent. of these men and women, brought from every part of Britain were honest-to-God British citizens."

And he proceeded with the admission that—

" they have too many grievances the Government leaves unanswered. They expected the Labour Ministers in the Government to be their champions. They are disappointed in them.

Labour Ministers behave like pale imitations of Tory Ministers.

" So the people (eel themselves leaderless. They are beginning to turn to the Communist Party."

He concluded with a pathetic appeal to the Government itself to carry out a large part of the Convention demands—just as though the Government had not been furiously rejecting these demands all along and threatening those who raise them.

The Dally Herald report was long, bitter, scared, embarrassed, and reeked of red herrings. Apparently suffering a twinge of conscience, Mr.' Maurice Webb, Herald Political Correspondent,
admitted he expected to be denounced tor " Yellow journalism."
Even he had to admit the tremendous success of the Convention and declared in a comical whine that " the Communists " had " exploited a situation which puts even the Labour Party at a disadvantage."

He concluded with a threat "as to what will happen if "they attempt to carry out the decision to start to capture the workshops, factories and armed forces for their policy."

The News-Chronicle sent their gossip writer who found the Convention "typical of an English crowd," and In the course, of a longish story admitted he had found It "difficult to discover"
the new policy the Convention stands for—a dimcutly not experienced by the delegates.

The Daily Express sent Its Mr. William Barkley to do his best with a bagful of old jeers and denunciations. He got so excited he nearly doubled the number of delegates actually pre
sent—giving an estimate of 4,000. Suddenly dropping the story that the Communists had organised, the Convention, he started a new version—- the Communists, said he, " have muscled in."

Nevertheless he gave, In the course of a violent attack on Mr. Pritt, a number of useful quotations from Mr. Pritt's speech, and lamely declared that the whole thing is due to the political truce—which has prevented people " airing their views."