John MacLean Internet Archive                                                    Transcribed by the John MacLean Internet Archive

Letter on first release from prison

by John Maclean

Source: The Call 19th July 1917, p.4
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Copyleft: John MacLean Internet Archive ( 2007. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Dear Comrade, — Permit me this opportunity to thank all comrades and their friends for the work done to obtain my release and for the money gathered to defray legal expenses and to maintain my family. I regret that the holiday feeling, added to an ingrained antipathy to work, will debar me from replying to all the good souls who have written and telegraphed to me on my return to life (for prison is death). I also thank all those who offered us accommodation for a holiday here and there over the British Isles, but as my wife left it to Comrade George Lansbury to get us lodgings anywhere on the English Channel we feel sorry we are unable to accept the host of invitations.

In my lone cell I resolved that, on my return to civil life, I would appeal to the workers to demand the release of conscientious objectors, especially those detained in ordinary prisons, on the grounds of the harsh treatment meted out to them. I know what they are suffering from what I saw in Perth Prison. I wish to instance the case of Comrade James Maxton, an Edinburgh teacher, not the James Maxton, of Barrhead, and of the N.A.C. of the I.L.P. This comrade is in a most critical condition so far as his nervous system is concerned. His condition, I assume, is no worse than many others. It consequently is our duty to do all we can for their immediate release.

At the same time I particularly appeal to everyone on behalf of Comrade Peter Petroff and his wife. These good comrades came to serve the cause in Glasgow at my suggestion. I consequently assume all responsibility. They did nothing here that they were not entitled to; at any rate, to put it mildly, they did nothing to justify their internment. The British Government has no case against them, and thus has no grounds for their continued detention. Unless they are immediately released, I ask our Russian comrades (who, by the way, along with the Irish rebels, were largely responsible for my own liberation) to cease negotiations with the British Government until both are set free. Meantime, let us get on the move.

Although my medical adviser, after a careful examination, states that I am only suffering from a slight nervous strain and a general catarrh, I mean to holiday it till the start of the Economic Class on the first Sunday of October. In view of the notoriety imposed on me by my dear old friend, Lloyd George, and his Government, I am confident that the class this year will witness an enrolment of at least five thousand. Brainy bodies here are as convinced as I am that I was singled out because of the tremendous influence of the class prior to and during the war, and therefore I feel justified in continuing the policy of laying stress on the class. It is essential that all comrades in and around Glasgow should at once begin the work of “boosting” the class. Everyone knows that on the success of the class depends the establishment of the Labour College.

Significant developments are immediately ahead when the Government, through the Defence of the Realm Act, is absolutely forbidding the sale of gunshot ammunition. The tremendous height of prices, unaccompanied by proportionate rises in wages, has already established what I contended would ensue after the war from the triumph of conscription. The reality of the class war is going to be covered over by the expedients suggested by the Reconstruction Committee, whilst the rate of exploitation of the workers is increased to cover the annual cost of the war and its consequences. In the sphere of politics the votes on the new Bill indicates that reaction is going to be triumphant and the workers impotent. It is amply evident that the capitalist class is doing everything possible to prevent the workers breaking their chains whilst the war is petering out and immediately after it terminates, and is cunningly devising measures to further enslave our class by the measures just indicated.

The sooner we set about a powerful agitation the better. This must be accompanied by a strong effort to realise Socialist unity. Unless, we have one great Socialist Party before peace has been finally established and the Army and Navy reduced to the normal of future times we are going to muddle along in the old haphazard fashion, impotently protesting amidst increasing slavery and robbery. I am absolutely convinced that the best policy for Socialists is Socialist unity. It makes me smile to hear Socialists, who refuse to accept unity of Socialists as their first plank, urging on the workers the need for industrial unity. We Marxists do not need to be afraid of our principles, for this brutal, bloody war has laid bare to the dullest of intellects hosts of facts as evidence of the correctness of view of those who accept Marxism in its completeness. The men discharged on the return of peace will back up the policy of thoroughness simply as a natural outcome of their own war experiences, so that in the long run Marxism must prevail. Let us of the B.S.P. leave no stone unturned to consummate that unity of forces so absolutely necessary for the stemming of reaction to-day and to-morrow, and for the accomplishment of economic freedom the day after.

Yours, hotter than ever,
P.S. — I defer a description of my prison experiences till a more convenient season.