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Siffleet Arthur

Arthur Siffleet

The 1920s Communist, Arthur Siffleet, wrote a working class novel "The Broken Baton" (1926) about miners fighting back against police brutality during the lock out that followed the general strike.  It deals with a police assault on colliers who are trying to prevent a shift of blacklegs entering a pit. It reveals a growing resentment at the preparations for his first mission of a newly-recruited constable, Jim, who is from miners’ stock himself,. He spectacularly redeems himself: “In a flash Jim’s Working class instincts blazed up”. In the melee that ensues, he cracks his baton on the Inspector’s head without it being found out that he is the culprit. It seems that Siffleet may have had one or some short stories published also.
 
But Siffleet was also mainly a major activist in the early Communist Party, and a strong advocate of its affiliation to the Labour Party.  He was delegate from Tooting British Socialist Party branch, in South London, to the Communist Unity Convention 1920. (Tooting is part of Wandsworth.) He was accompanied by fellow Tooting BSP member, P Whitaker. Sifflett spoke in favour of Communist Party affiliation to the Labour Party.
 
The record noted that “In favouring parliamentary action because we simply could not afford to omit its use, he did not imply that he attached undue importance to it. He was of the opinion that there was no time for us to convert the electorate to any extent and get our men on the floor of the House of Commons in any number. He believed the revolution was too near for that.  Sifflett went on the answer “comrade Stewart’s reference to guns, we did not want guns if we could avoid them; but force would not be withheld so far as the master class were concerned. The workers must consider the question of armed force if necessary, to meet what would be brought against them. It was not enough to say, ‘Wait until the time’, because we should find the other man armed and ourselves with nothing but ideals. We must avail ourselves of the parliamentary weapon, but not overrate it. Its only utility was for the education of the masses to bring about the social revolution.”
 
Siffleet also appears in a report in The Communist, December 1920 on a recent London Labour Party conference, which he attended along with a good many other Communists who were also active in the Labour Party: 

“Mrs. Watts, Mile End Labour Party, opened the discussion in a quiet but well-reasoned speech. The specious plea that (Communist) affiliation should be refused because of the attitude of the National Labour Party was summarily dismissed. The Executive’s plea that discipline was necessary was severely castigated by an exposure of their leniency to delinquents of the Right. Comrade Alderman Addington,
North Islington Labour Party, seconded.”
 
“We had had an indication of the arguments which would be advanced by the Executive. They had issued a series of extracts from our Convention report which they claimed justified our exclusion. In dealing with these, Comrade Arthur Sifflett was merciless. He characterised the tactics of the Executive as rivalling those exposed by Upton Sinclair in “The Brass Check.” Item by item, he showed how the extracts had been torn from their context and deliberately misrepresented. If we called some leaders traitors, our accusations were endorsed by Jack Jones in the House on Wednesday. If we foresaw the capitalists using violence Fred Bramley, late Chairman of the London Labour Party, also predicted it in Friday’s “Herald.”
 
Herbert Morrison replied for the Executive. He completely justified our attacks. Commencing with a statement that he bore no animosity, he proceeded to be as venomous as possible. Notwithstanding the exposure made by Siffleet, he continued to quote and misrepresent. Naively he confessed that everybody tears extracts from contexts and uses them for their own purpose. Then, in a burst of rhetoric, he asked if London was to be governed by London or Moscow.
 
Comrade Vaughan, Mayor of Bethnal Green, followed up the attack on the Executive.”