Written: August 1942
Source: Socialist Appeal, vol. 4 no. 11 (August 1942)
Transcription: Harry 2007
Markup/Proofread: Emil 2007
The attack on the Socialist Appeal last month by the entire national and provincial press, the right wing Tories, the Communist Party, the Liberals, the miners’ misleaders—was launched with one object—to get the Socialist Appeal suppressed.
So farcical were the charges, so irresponsible were the allegations of the miners’ officials that the campaign collapsed—for the moment. But this is by no means the end of the matter. It serves as a warning of the most serious nature to the entire working class.
For it was not merely the Socialist Appeal that was under fire: it was the struggle of the miners for the betterment of their lot; it was the right of the working class to organise independently, to seek its own solution to the tremendous problems of today; to fight for power. This is what was being attacked. The Socialist Appeal bore the brunt, because through it is expressed the true aspirations of the workers; through it is offered the road of independence and hope for the workers—and doom for the capitalist class…
The campaign in the Press went hand-in-hand with the campaign in Parliament. The right wing Tories advanced to the attack from every possible angle: paper supplies, personnel, internment under 18b, and suppression of the paper. These reactionaries, who stand for the method of force and suppression against the working class at the present time, gladly seized the opportunity of attacking the most conscious representatives of the working class. They are longing for the time when they will be able to use the methods of fascism in Britain. Today it is the Trotskyists, tomorrow it could be the I.L.P., and finally they would be after the scalps of Morrison, Bevin and the Labour leaders themselves. But at the moment they would have it seem that in this attack on the Socialist Appeal, these ultra-reactionaries were motivated solely by their disinterested love for the labour movement and the Soviet Union.
This newfound love for the organisations of the workers and the Soviet Union ill-befits them. The impudence of these people posing as friends of the Soviet Union against us, when it was but yesterday that they were preparing for war against Russia at the time of the Finnish events, and who have always fought and conspired against the Soviet Union and the labour movement, while we have consistently fought and defended the Soviet Union and the labour movement against all attacks. All this is typical of the brazen hypocrisy of the ruling class.
The attitude of the Press and of the reactionary M.P.s is a commentary on the situation in “democratic” Britain today. What capitalist paper or political party would have questions of this character asked about their reporters, paper supplies etc? The pro-Nazi Daily Mail for instance? It is taken for granted that the capitalist press and organisations should have the right to conduct its normal functions without interference by the state. But when it comes to a Socialist newspaper, in which the downtrodden and oppressed find a voice, then no inquisition or persecution is too severe.
The paper which carried out the most determined and persistent campaign was the mouthpiece of the coal-owners, the Daily Telegraph. Dismissing Hall’s allegations from the outset, the Telegraph conducted a campaign day after day because they are only too well aware of the real situation in the coalfields and the fact that the Socialist Appeal voices the true aspirations of the miners.
They based their campaign for our suppression on a sober estimation of our programme, printing sections of this programme in order to illustrate its dangers to their class. Their industrial correspondent underlined this in his remarks while interviewing us: “This paper is dynamite! Even the Daily Worker in its militant days didn’t touch your programme!”
Nevertheless, at first sight it might seem astonishing that such a fearful assault should be waged on a small organisation and its Press. The daily newspapers mentioned, possess between them a circulation in a single day more than what the Appeal possesses in a year. Yet they are afraid! This arises out of the uneasiness of the ruling class at the present time. The masses of workers are dissatisfied with the existing state of affairs. The most reactionary sections of the ruling class are already thinking in terms of suppression and dictatorship as a means of keeping the workers in check. The workers are beginning to realise the shameless profiteering of the capitalists and the mockery of equality of sacrifice. That is why they want to silence those who consistently and untiringly fight for the interests of the workers. It is not our number today, but the fact that our programme will become the programme of the masses tomorrow, which has driven the most reactionary sections of the ruling class to take the offensive against us.
But the question can be asked: why should the miners’ leaders appeal to the Tories for aid? Apart from the irresponsible Mr. Hall, there is Mr. Will Lawther, the President of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain. It was they who raised the question first, and provided the right wing Tories and the coal-owners with the opportunity of launching an offensive against the workers’ press. The reason is that these “leaders” would resort to any vile means to defend their bureaucratic domination of the union and the privileges which flow from them.
The reasons for the monstrous slanders on the part of these union leaders, arises out of the fact that they have lost the confidence of the miners in their leadership. Their shameless stand on the side of the coal-owners in recent strikes, has led to disgust and disillusionment among the rank and file. The miners are beginning to see that such rotten leadership can only lead to capitulation to the coal-owners. The Trotskyists have been putting forward among the miners and other workers, the necessity of turning the unions into fighting organs really representative of the workers and to replace the present leadership by more militant ones. Now at the first signs of a threat developing to their positions, these leaders run whining to their masters for help, not scrupling to use such dirty weapons as the slander of pro-Nazism.
The most encouraging feature of this attack, and one that bodes well for the future of Socialism in Britain, is that while the coal-owners, the capitalist press, the right wing Tories, the miners’ leaders and the Stalinists united for a unanimous assault on the Socialist Appeal, we had the sympathy and support of the broad masses of the working class. The readers and supporters of the Socialist Appeal were angered and indignant at this vile attack. Not a single one faltered in support of their paper. Not only those who had read the Appeal in the past, but thousands of new sympathisers were gained. Dozens of letters were received from miners, soldiers, engineers and other workers, with whom we had never been in touch before, enquiring about our paper and organisation. Far from weakening, the attack strengthened us in the eyes of the working class.
The Government has refused to suppress the Socialist Appeal at the present stage, on the grounds of our weakness. There is apparently no question of democracy and the freedom of the press involved! It is purely an estimate of strength and potentialities. When we gain the ear of tens of thousands of workers, then apparently all democracy will go by the board. So we see the ruling class is prepared to tolerate opposition, only so long as that opposition is not effective. The moment the working class evinces a desire for change, at that moment all rights of free speech and free press are cast aside and the rulers resort to methods of suppression, and ultimately to fascism. The only road to defeat Fascism, both at home and abroad, lies in defending the rights and interests of the workers wherever they are menaced, and in marching ahead to the establishment of workers’ power and socialism. That is the programme of the Socialist Appeal.
Workers! Trade Unionists! Miners! Readers of the Socialist Appeal! It is your paper that is under attack! It is you and, your rights they are attacking! And it is in your hands that the real defence of the Socialist Appeal lies.
This is but a dress rehearsal. Tomorrow the working class will be faced with even more powerful attacks, as the situation in Britain grows ever more tense. In the struggle, the workers need a fighting paper and a fighting leadership. Let your answer to the attacks on the Socialist Appeal be that you resolve to give it even greater support than in the past.
Join the ranks of the Workers’ International League and help us to build a party that will make the programme of the Socialist Appeal a living reality.