Source: Militant, no. 333 (December 3, 1976)
Transcription: Francesco 2010
Proofread: Fred 2010
Markup: Niklas 2010
The Times, which in periods of political calm pretends to a lofty disdain of the yellow, “popular’ press, has now joined the ranks of the witch-hunters in trying to smell out “subversion” and “plots” in the Labour Party. It has launched a scurrilous attack on the Militant.
And no wonder! For the programme of The Times for the next period is a cut of nearly £8,000 million in public expenditure. That would mean the end of the “welfare state” and all the reforms gained by the working class in the last fifty years of struggle. One of the counter-reforms they support is a charge of £1 for every doctor’s visit and 50p for every patient’s attendance at the surgery.
The immediate triggering of this hysteria in The Times, Telegraph, Express and Sun has been Callaghan’s letter to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party opposing the appointment, already made, of Andy Bevan as National Youth Officer. This is an enormously popular appointment for the ranks of the Young Socialists, the majority of Labour Students, and for many active members of the constituency parties.
In this sense, Callaghan bears his share of responsibility for this vile outburst. The august Times does not fail to stoop to the methods of the rest of the press if it feels that the interests of the capitalist class are threatened.
Not satisfied with controlling the Tory and “Liberal” parties, they want to control the policies of the Labour Party and even the appointment of Labour Party officials. The crisis is revealed by the witch-hunt against the unemployed “scroungers”—not the idle rich or the corrupt capitalists with subsidies and tax concessions of £4,000 million a year—but the ordinary workers, forced into the ignominy of signing on the dole.
The Liberal spokesman, Pardoe, wants the unemployed forced virtually to chain-gang status—performing work on the roads at dole wages—on penalty of losing unemployment pay in the event of refusal. Thus Hitler built the autobahns in Germany with slave labour.
It is in this atmosphere of capitalist crisis that this campaign to determine the representation in Parliament and the officials as well as the constitution and membership of the Constituency Labour Parties is taking place. The ultra-rights of the Social Democratic Alliance can only see “Moscow” plots, “crypto-Communists” and Trotskyist “agitators” as the reason for the change in mood of members of the party.
Thus all sorts of lies and nonsense is disseminated by the press about the appointment of Andy Bevan as National Youth Officer. There was no sinister plot. The usual sub-committee took the decision which was unanimously endorsed by the NEC and overwhelmingly—apart from a tiny minority of right-wingers—ratified by the Annual Conference of the Party. The scant respect for conference decisions is shown by the opposition of Callaghan and the right after the conference and the delay they have produced in implementing the decision.
The opposition of the Labour agents on “trade union” grounds is untenable. Many of these officials were appointed in the period of the Gaitskell era and still believe that they are living in the Stone Age of Labour politics. Many recent appointments, including top positions in Transport House, have been filled by people who were not members of NULO (National Union of Labour Organisers).
The orchestrated baying of the capitalist press, with the shrill shrieking of The Times, will cut no ice with Labour Party members. In the period of right-wing domination they treated the Tribunites [Note: supporters of the Tribune journal and traditionally the left of the party] and Nye Bevan in the same hysterical fashion. If they could succeed in changing the course of labour politics, deciding the selection of MPs and officials, after the attacks on the “Trotskyists”, would come the attack on the Tribunites and any left forces in the Labour Party.
That is why The Times published (1st December) an article by a GLC member of the Social Democratic Alliance, already half way out of the Labour Party, demanding action against Trotskyists and at the same time accused Basnett and Jones of being agents of Moscow, for not coming to the rescue of Prentice, Tomney and other extreme right wingers.
Representatives of Tory and Liberal infiltration—certainly in their reactionary ideas—they cannot understand the change of mood in the constituency parties, trade union branches, and shop stewards committees.
If they could hunt out anyone who disagreed with their capitalist views, it would not be long before they succeeded in witch-hunting the Tribunites in their constituencies and turning the Labour Party into a moribund organisation. They fear open discussion and the pitting of their capitalist-influenced ideas against the ideas of Marxism.
They insult the rank and file of the labour movement, treating them as if they were idiots and fools, to be influenced by fly-by-nights flitting from constituency to constituency. As if the workers in the constituency parties were not worried by the day-to-day problems and also those of the long term future. As if they can be influenced by strangers and people not living and working side by side with them in the constituencies and factories.
In fact, one of the crimes charged to left wingers in Bradford is that they were bringing many new members into the party branches! “Left wingers are believed to have won new members for branches”!
This witch hunt will fail, among other reasons, because of the justified hatred and distrust of the Labour Party for the capitalist press and their day to day poisonous propaganda against the labour movement. The Express, before this blew up, day after day had been conducting a sick and vitriolic campaign against Callaghan—whom they are fawning on as “Big Jim” now that they approve of his handiwork. They have maintained a conspiracy of silence against the Young Socialists and their ideas up until now. The media have given enormous prominence to the demonstrations of the National Front—50 strong—while ignoring demonstrations of thousands by the Labour Party Young Socialists.
The real problem for them is that the friends of capitalism in the right-wing of the Labour Party are being discredited by the crisis of the system which cannot give adequate homes, decent living standards, security and jobs to the working class.
The right wing is losing support in the constituencies and trade union branches, in all the organisations of the labour movement. Ultra-right wing MPs have become remote from the problems of their constituencies, especially from the active members, the salt of the earth, who are active because they are the most concerned about the problems of society.
These MPs, threatened by the change of mood, are putting forward the doctrines of the divine right of MPs to their nice, comfortable seats and the income and privileges which go with them. Consequently their fury and their appeal to the capitalist media to help them witch hunt those who put forward Socialist policies in the trade unions and Labour Party.
On Monday Nov 29th, the AGM of the Tribune Group of MPs, meeting at the House of Commons, voted to support the appointment of Andy Bevan, the LPYS National Chairman, to the post of Labour Party National Youth Officer.
Over two dozen Constituency Labour Parties have already sent resolutions to the Labour Party NEC demanding that Bevan’s appointment should be implemented without further delay. Many more are expected to do so before the next NEC meeting on December 15th.
Bevan’s own Constituency Labour Party, Newham North-East, voted unanimously to support his appointment at its last meeting on Nov 24th. Commenting on this Andy Bevan said, “It was particularly pleasing to receive the support of many Party members who have made no bones about opposing my political views but who realise that I do represent the views of the great majority of Young Socialists and who recognise the honest and open way we put our case forward and the hard work we do.”