The Turner Controversy was a dispute within the Socialist Party of Great Britain regarding the nature of socialism instigated by Tony Turner. The dispute ultimately led to an exodus of members who went on to form the short-lived Movement for Social Integration.
Movement for Social Integration
|Split from||Socialist Party of Great Britain|
When membership and activity was at a peak in the period after the Second World War, Turner began giving lectures for the Party on what socialism would be like. The content of these lectures led him to develop a position that caused enormous controversy in the Party by the early to mid-1950s and which was elaborated by Turner and his supporters in articles in the Party’s internal discussion journal of the time, Forum.
Three interlocking propositions underpinned the ‘Turnerite’ viewpoint:
- that the society of mass consumerism and automated labour which capitalism had become had to be swept away in its entirety if alienation was to be abolished and a truly human community created. This meant a return to pre-industrial methods of production, on lines inspired by Tolstoy and William Morris’s News From Nowhere.
- that the creation of the new socialist society was not simply in the interests of the working class but was in the interests of the whole of humanity, irrespective of class, a proposition they thought it essential for the Party to recognise in its everyday propaganda, and
- the means of creating the new peaceful and cooperative society had to be entirely peaceful, indeed pacifist (and in the view of some, possibly even gradual).
This view was in direct contradiction to the Party's Declaration of Principles, which identifies socialism as being the product of the class struggle and which states that the socialist movement will organise for the capture of political power, including power over the state’s coercive machinery, should it need to be used against a recalcitrant anti-socialist minority.
A series of acrimonious disputes between the ‘Turnerites’ and the majority of the Party culminated in a Party referendum and then a resolution being carried at the 1955 Party Conference to the effect that all members not in agreement with the Declaration of Principles be asked to resign. Turner, having survived a previous attempt to expel him, promptly did so, along with a number of other members including Joan Lestor (later to become a Labour minister) and the psychologist John Rowan. Some of these ex-members formed a short-lived Movement for Social Integration, though the impact the dispute had on the Party as a whole was almost entirely disruptive and negative. Indeed, it did not recover its vitality for some years, until the wave of radicalisation that grew up in the late 1960s.
- Socialist Party of Great Britain (November 1954). "Socialism - or Clause 6?, Forum 26". London: Socialist Party of Great Britain. Cite journal requires
- Socialist Party of Great Britain (January 1955). "Socialism and Clause Six, Forum 28". London: Socialist Party of Great Britain. Cite journal requires