Editorial Notes

The Case of J.T. Murphy

(June 1932)

Written: June 1932.
Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 23 (Whole No. 119), 4 June 1932, p. 4.
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The sensational resignation of J.T. Murphy from the Communist Party of England, coinciding with a furious campaign against him in the official press is a striking illustraton of the fearful instability of the Centrist regime. Just think: Murphy was one of the founders of the Party, and an outstanding member of the Central Committee. He was a wheel-horse of Stalin, not only in the British Party, but in the Comintern as well, and won many decorations for his part in the war against “Trotskyism”. He preached the “monolithic unity” of the Stalinist appointees, and with his colleagues of similar kidney, he symbolized it. Now, out of a clear sky, this same Murphy is cast out of the Party. And those same epithets which he bandied about so handily – “counter-revolutionist”, “renegade”, etc. – are falling on his own head.

The case of Murphy also illustrates how irresistibly, over what apparently contradictory roads and even through the instrumentality of the most hostile persons, a correct political idea will make its way. Murphy lived politically, he maintained his position in the leading staff for years, by virtue of his readiness to repeat every slander against Trotsky, to condemn every idea of the Opposition as counter-revolutionary. And then, such is the cruel logic of politics, he finds himself outside the Party because he can no longer condemn the Opposition slogan of “credits for the Soviet Union”! What irony! And what powerful testimony to the force of that slogan of the Left Opposition!

Murphy has not become a supporter Of the platform of the Bolshevik-Leninists. Far from it. Not in a day, nor even in a year, can a man cleanse his mind of the accumulated filth and poison deposited through nine years of servile acquiescence to the epigones’ reaction. But not even a Murphy, it seems, could remain wholly indifferent to the havoc that Stalinism has wrought in the British Party. He ventured, after a very long stupor, to resort to independent thought about the problems of the British working class and their relation to socialist construction in the Soviet Union. And – Lo and Behold! – the first idea that came to him was one that had been elaborated long ago by those whom he had expelled and slandered: the idea of economic collaboration with the Soviet Union and long term credits.

Was Murphy ignorant of the source and origin of the idea that brought his downfall in the Party? It is not impossible. The denunciation of the Opposition became such a routine matter for the flunkeys of Stalin that many of them found it unnecessary to read what they condemned. Here again the epigones elucidate the Bolshevik method reversely. If the revolutionary Marxists carefully study the works of all their opponents and report them conscientiously in order to refute them as they really stand with the greater precision, the Stalinists, for whom Marxism is nothing but a false-face, require an unheeding ignorance of every viewpoint except the official one. An objective study of what others say without official authorization, and above all a careless repetition of an unofficial thought, unfits a man for the Stalin machine. Murphy violated one of these conditions, if not both. Hence his excommunication.

Murphy has issued a statement on the affair, a copy of which appears in the British New Leader for May 20. In this statement he throws some light on the method of “ideological mobilization” which he did a full share to bring to full bloom in the Party, and which is now brought into play against him.

He says:

“Within a few hours of the appearance of the Daily Worker article (the statement of the Political Bureau against him – Ed.) resolutions equally denunciatory began to pour in without a single person asking if I had anything to say, and before it was possible to become acquainted with the issues which had been raised. (This) is an indication of the automatic, unthinking way in which the Party machine operates and churns out its approval of resolutions.”

Yes, that is the way it is done, – “the automatic, unthinking way”. It has been going on for a long time now, and it is not without reason and explanation. The Prussianization of the Party – enforced by those who abuse the good faith of the members and their confidence in the Comintern – was necessitated by the reactionary struggle against those who truly represent the ideas and the tradition of the Russian revolution. They could not wage this struggle successfully any other way. But the structure based on these methods cannot stand. One crack after another appears in the foundation. The case of Murphy signifies another of these ominous cracks, and a very significant one too.

Last updated on: 27.6.2013