Peter Petroff August 1911

Some Comparison of Methods of Organisation II

Source: SDP News (Monthly Journal of Internal Affairs for the S.D.P.), August 1911;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

In the previous article we outlined methods for approaching the workers used in Russia. In forming a district organisation, the first step is to obtain a footing in every industrial establishment by getting hold of a few individuals, so as to influence through them the great mass of the workers. Much time and effort is spent with them in order to quicken the process. The organiser himself goes among them, and directs their work. By the adoption of such means, it is within our own experience that a number of the workers in a given locality, while undergoing the process of conversion, have actually been working for the Party without themselves becoming members. By such a process they have been completely won over, finally becoming official, active members of the Party. When the organisation is formed, the new group becomes responsible for everything going on, so that the members in such a locality are mostly representative of a number of sympathisers and others. When a meeting or demonstration, or any other action is projected, every member must say beforehand how many people he can bring. Therefore, our meetings are gatherings of interested people, and not a collection of chance passers-by, and so our speakers know how to appeal to their audiences, and to appeal successfully.

Before a meeting starts, the crowd is already waiting, and in the meantime the members go among them and speak with them to discover their disposition. When the speaker arrives, he at once gets apprised of the nature of his audience, and generally of its psychology. When they leave the meeting they are not left to the mercy of various other influences. The members must follow them up in every phase of their life, watch their development, supply them with literature, and take them to suitable meetings; and what is more important – to make them work; and thus extend further the circle of influence.

The district committee must, of course, centralise all these various groups, control the organisation of local and Party affairs, and thus in reality represent a branch of the Party.

A number of districts are united in a city committee, which unites and leads the work within its own limits – unites and leads, but not like our London Committee, for instance, which registers the number of meetings to be held and the number of speakers to be supplied to them by the branches. The work is not clerical; their business is to watch the political and economic situation, to analyse it, and, in accordance with circumstances and the decisions of the Party, lead politically the work of the city. They not only adopt resolutions that are put to the meetings, and thus supply the speakers with subjects, but are constantly in touch with the whole organisation for every conceivable purpose. On important questions they issue leaflets or arrange the distribution of leaflets issued by the E.C., call Party meetings for discussion of various decisions of the E.C., and other matters. In this way the public get constant reminders of the attitude of the Party towards contemporary questions. This is, perhaps, one reason why the Russian workers are conscious of the necessity of a Socialist daily Press, and why, during the “days of freedom,” there were in Russia about thirty daily papers, a number of reviews and Socialist magazines.

All this work is carried out on a larger scale by provincial committees, comprising several towns. But this would have been impossible without the aid of the central executive and the leading Party organ; for if there is no political life in the Party there can be no enthusiasm and no organisation.

The E.C. centralise all these various organisations of the Party, direct all the best speakers and organisers, and appoint them to places where they are most suitable; help the branches in various schemes of organisation and political activity; provide, as far as possible, suitable literature, and direct the work of the Party in various ways, or in connection with other organisations. They have to watch the economic and political situation in the country, the course of action of the Government, and the movements of other parties, define the position of the working class, and on every particular occasion lay before them a certain line of action, and do all they can in order to unite the Party for its realisation. That includes the activity of our members inside the trade unions, so that all through the country we very often find the trade union members of the Party conducting a campaign, in which the Party organs also play a great part. Every phase of the trade union movement is fully explained in the Party organs, and thus the trade unionists are trained to look to the Party for guidance.

The E.C. lead our sections at trade union, co-operative, and other congresses, appoint commissions for the questions discussed there. These commissions, having in view the general lines of the party, get together in collaboration with our representatives all the material for the use of the latter.


(To be concluded.)

Unfortunately after a year the SDP News ceased publication in August 1911