H. M. Hyndman and British Socialism

By Chushichi Tsuzuki; Henry Pelling | Go to book overview
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S.D.F. Membership

THROUGHOUT its history the S.D.F. was extremely reluctant to publish details of its membership. It is true that the Federation, existing as it did in a hostile world, had to assume certain conspiratorial features, but there is little doubt that its secretiveness was partly due to reluctance to disclose its real size for fear of embarrassment. In the eighties, when the Federation went through a series of internal crises, it kept complete silence about its strength, though a few details transpired as a result of revelations by Hyndman's opponents such as Morris, Champion, and Burns.

There was less aversion, however, to revealing the number of branches in existence at any time; and from these figures it is possible to estimate fluctuations in the total membership. Sometimes branch totals were mentioned in Justice; sometimes as in 1884 and in 1900 they can be estimated from a careful reading of the reports of activity week by week. Only in 1894 did the S.D.F. begin to publish the reports of its annual conferences as separate brochures, apparently in imitation of the I.L.P., which did so from its foundation in 1893. An estimate of total membership was given in the 1894 report, but only rarely did one appear thereafter.

Although it is not impossible for certain isolated years to estimate the S.D.F. membership from the amount of dues paid by members, the S.D.F. finances were confused, and usually the conference reports published only the total income and expenditure of the central office. Moreover, the rule concerning membership dues varied from time to time. In the eighties a member was expected to pay 1d. a week to his or her branch, and each branch was asked to contribute at least one quarter of its dues income to the ' Propaganda Fund'.1 This rule, which meant a branch contribution of 1s. 1d. per member per year, continued to operate until at least 1900 and most likely up to

Rule 2, S.D.F. Rules, 1887.


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