Eleanor Marx Aveling 1897
Source: Justice, 16 January 1897, p.3;
CopyLeft: this text is free of copyright restrictions;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
DEAR COMRADE, – We have recently completed a lecturing tour in Lancashire under the auspices of the S.D.F. This tour has confirmed and deepened certain impressions made by precedent tours of the same kind – impressions by no means confined to Lancashire alone, with one notable exception. The first three general suggestions to be made are the outcome of experience in all districts that we have visited where the Federation has branches.
(1) Qualification of lecturers. It would be impossible, and probably it would be unwise, to prevent any member of the Federation from lecturing on any subject he might choose. But it does seem very necessary that official lecturers, who are regarded as representing the Federation and teaching its principles, should have, on matters of principle, clearly defined ideas, and even definite instructions. Whilst, of course, the published programme of the S.D.F. is binding upon any one lecturing under the auspices of that body, there are certain matters not directly dealt with by that programme upon which the official lecturers should certainly be agreed. For example, the attitude of Social-Democrats to trade unionism and the theory of value. Upon the first important question counsels are very divided, and those of us who advocate the necessity of Socialists joining the union of their particular trade are encountered with the statement that lecturer A. or B. the week before had advised all Socialists to keep outside the trade unions. As to the second purely economic question, it is confusing for young Socialists to be told by a lecturer of the S.D.F. that the only people who know anything about it are the Jevonians of the Fabian Society. It is not, of course, contended that every authorised lecturer of the S.D.F. should prove himself thoroughly versed in economics. Let each one speak according to his knowledge – of economics, statistics, trade unions, the history of the movement, its literature, and so forth. But let each one speak from a common platform as far as matters of general principle and immediate practice are concerned. Those that deal with the especially scientific side of Socialism ought, in these days of carping and more or less shrewd criticism, to satisfy the i Executive that they know a certain amount of the subject.
(2) Payment of lecturers. This is confessedly a very difficult, question. Everybody is agreed that mere out-or-pocket expenses must in every case be paid. But after? In some; cases nothing is paid for the actual services of the speaker; in others, varying sums, that are apparently in all cases small. Of course, we are only at speaking of the S D.F. here. It seems that what is wanted is uniformity. Perhaps some small fee should be paid to a lecturer. He would be still at liberty, if circumstances warranted it, to return the sum to the party. These payments, which would not affect the regular organisers and officers of the Federation who have a regular salary, should be kept low, to prevent the danger of people on the make being filled with the desire to let off lectures.
(3) Reports from lecturers. Would it not be well for all lecturers to make a practice of sending in to the Executive a few notes of facts they have learnt and impressions they have gathered from their visits to different towns? This sort of work is well done by our organiser; but, from what he has himself said, it appears that he would be only too glad to have his public reports supplemented and extended by private reports to the Executive n from the many men and women travelling about the country. These three points – qualification of lecturers, payment of lecturers, reports from lecturers – might with advantage be made the subject of discussion by the General Council, who would take the best steps to obtain the opinion of branches and of lecturers upon them. The fourth suggestion, which affects Lancashire and Yorkshire especially – i.e , this question of child labour – must be held over till next week. – Yours fraternally,
Eleanor Marx Aveling