Source: “Demand Petroff’s Release” (letter) The Call, 2 August, 1917, p.3, (515 words)
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Chris Clayton
Copyleft: John MacLean Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2007. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
Dear Comrade, — I make no excuse in returning to the internment of comrade Petroff, and I’ll return and return to it till the “freedom-loving” and “democratic” British Government frees him. The Government admits it has no evidence against him, but that it “fears” his pro-German tendencies and activities on the Clyde. Good.
In “Justice,” before my imprisonment, and in THE CALL after my release, I publicly took full responsibility for Petroff’s invitation to the Clyde and his actions whilst there. For the third time publicly I tell the Government that I am the responsible party.
If Petroff’s conduct was pro-German, so was mine to a far greater extent. If Petroff is kept in confinement, so ought I. If the Government has been forced to let me out — and force dictated its policy in my case — then it ought to save its face by letting Petroff out. If it does not let him out, then it exposes itself to the world as a tyrant that lets the real culprit out because of the popular clamour for his release, and retains the relatively innocent man (and his wife) because he is unknown except to the salt of the British working class and because, therefore, he has not the same force behind him.
But every working-class fighter knows that I am not a pro-German, though some think I am in the wrong. I am anti-capitalist, irrespective of country or colour. That exactly is Petroff’s position, too. Petroff certainly criticised the stupidity of the British Government in relying on the Tsar and the Tsar’s entourage. On the strength of his statements I repeatedly told the headwarder at Peterhead that Kitchener’s tragic end was likely due to treachery on the part of the Tsar’s entourage. Everybody believes that today. Was Petroff a pro-German in making such a statement? I should rather accuse him of being an anti-German, or a pro-Briton. This is but one of the many true statements and criticisms coming from Petroff, and I must confess that most of his assertions have been proved by the course of the war. He and I fought one another over Britain’s tactical moves; e.g., in Salonica. Petroff has proved to be right up till the present: Maclean wrong. I am not afraid to admit it.
This shows, or ought to show, that Petroff did nothing, and said nothing he was not entitled to, as an internationalist with perhaps a bias towards Scotland, if not England. (He learned his English in my house years ago!)
Britain’s reputation in the future depends on its attitude towards this brilliant man — Petroff. I wish thus publicly to give it fair warning. I already wrote the Home Secretary privately and got a blank refusal. If he and his colleagues do not appreciate what Petroff’s detention means, then they must accept the future consequences.
Again, I request the release of a clean fighter for justice and freedom, an innocent man — Petroff (and his wife).
Of course, our comrade Askew ought also to be out. His internment is outrageous.