As usual, Luke Akehurst has written a better polling day article than I could ever manage. His advice is filled with the sagacity we’ve come to expect. But as I read it, it reminded me of a section in my Labour Annual 1897 on how socialists should organise.
You should read Luke, then read Sidney Dillon Shallard, writing three years before the foundation of the Labour Representation Committee, in the reign of Victoria, and ask yourself: how much has changed in the past 115 years?
‘Of vigorous Agitation and Education we have no lack. But of Organisation there is far too little. Now, the Socialist Party is not a community of free citizens seeking their own development. It is an Army warring against organised Privilege, Power and Wealth. Armies and especially rebel armies, must be disciplined and their power centralised so far as possible.
The simplest organisation is the most effective. All organisations should grow naturally out of the actual necessities of time and place. Note the beautiful simplicity of labour-saving machinery. Never seek to multiply ‘fancy’ councils, committees and offices.
Appoint such officials, etc, as are clearly needed – and see that they do their work – increasing their numbers when necessary. When anything, however slight, has to be done, make some person or persons responsible. Everyone’s business is No-one’s business.
Suppose you now thirst to fight, say, a SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION, where the cumulative vote gives you a chance. The candidate is selected and address drawn up – the briefer and smarter the better – and in printer’s hands. Then call for canvassers. Workers are now wanted. Give all the windbags a free ticket to Timbuctoo. Canvassing is an undesirable weapon used by our enemies. We must defend ourselves similarly or have our electoral brains blown out.
The main objects of canvassing are 1) to see that each elector has read your programme and 2) to find out your friends and and look after their votes on polling-day.
Keep committee room for workers. Turn out loafers.
I don’t know anything about Comrade Shallard, other than he must have run his elections with a rod of iron, and he and Luke Akehurst would have got on rather well. His later works include a Fabian pamphlet about municipal steam boats, and a book in 1910 which has the intriguing title ‘Has Liberalism a Future?’
This polling day, let’s make the answer ‘no’.