J. T. Murphy

J. T. Murphy’s Reply to Gutter Attack

“Forward,” MacDonald, Scotland Yard, and “Mr. Brown”

Source: Workers’ Life, May 18, 1928
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

J. T. MURPHY has sent the following letter to the Editor of “Forward,” Glasgow:—

SIR,—In your issue of May 5 there appears an unsigned article concerning myself which calls for correction and comment.

Firstly, permit me to inform you that you are wrong with your information re myself the Aberavon constituency. No such decision as you announce has been made by the Communist Party of Great Britain, and your suddenly awakened interest in my biography in its present setting is somewhat out of place.

Nevertheless, the meaning of this sudden interest should be clear to everybody. It is obvious that you are annoyed because the Communist Party has decided to oppose Labour candidates in the forthcoming General Election; and, rather than enter into discussion of the reasons for the change of policy on the part of the Communist Party, you seek to sow distrust of its leaders in the minds of the workers (article No. 1 selects me first), by inferring that we are guilty of shady transactions with the Government Secret Service.

Of course, this method is not new in the history of the workers’ struggle against capitalist agents such as the “Forward” and its editorial staff. Only quite recently the Russian White Guardist paper “Poslednia Novestiv” (edited by Milyuhof in Paris), fabricated an interview with Mr. T. Kennedy, M.P., in which the latter was made to say, among many other things, that it was proven that I was an agent of Scotland Yard. Added interest is thus given to your article, in that “Forward” steps into the shoes of the White Guardist elements, apparently believing that you can effect the same end but not so crudely, i.e., to get workers to believe that I am an agent of the Government.

But why are you so late in the field? The articles from which you quote, and which I wrote after all the materials upon which they were based had been in the possession of the Editors of the “Daily Herald” for weeks, were printed in that paper in 1919 as part of a campaign of exposure of the attempts then being made to corrupt the Shop Stewards Movement.

After Nine Years

It has, it seems, taken the After “Forward” nine years to ponder over these articles before it can venture forth with its queries, and you are the first people in Britain to publicly infer against me either collusion with Scotland Yard or lack of integrity.

“The facts of the situation are briefly as follows:—

During 1917-18, the years of great activity of the Shop Stewards’ and Workers’ Committees, there were evidences of attempts being made to corrupt the above movement by people who ostensibly posed as the friends of “Industrial Peace.” There was much suspicion that they emanated from Scotland Yard, but no positive proof existed. When “Mr. Brown” approached me with his proposals I at once reported to my colleagues of the Sheffield Workers’ Committee, who agreed that (1) I should appear to accept his proposals; (2) that I should provide no information but what was public knowledge; (3) that I should write no articles for him; (4) that a committee should be formed to supervise all correspondence and to give direction; (5) that all monies should be in the hands of the committee; (6) that efforts should be made to trace “Mr. Brown’s” real connections; (7) that immediately there was danger of being committed to actions subversive to the interests of the workers, the relations with “Mr. Brown” should be broken; (8) that an exposure should be publicly made.

This plan was carried through and the integrity of all concerned is obvious from the publicity made by myself and our committee on our own initiative

Besides placing the material at the disposal of the Daily Herald, which launched a campaign with me for a public investigation of the Government relations to workshop espionage, the matter was raised in the House of Commons on Bank Holiday, 1918, by the late Mr. W. M. Pringle, M.P., who had been legally consulted by the Sheffield Committee, composed of A. Booth (A.S.E. Branch Secretary), E. Raynor (member of the A.S.E. District Committee), and E. Lismer (Branch Secretary, Steam Engine Makers’ Society).

Who Was Mr. Brown

All the above information was available in the articles and correspondence from which you quoted, had you been honest enough to present it to your readers in an honest way. But it is clear from the manner in which you present the information that you are as little concerned in presenting it honestly as you were in helping the “Daily Herald” and myself in the exposure of the “Mr. Browns” of 1919.

In addition to your excursion into gutter politics, I am informed that Mr. J. R. MacDonald made a statement at a meeting in Aberavon to the effect that he was to be opposed by “a person who could tell them all about Scotland Yard. He had been in their pay and had supplied them with information on working-class affairs.”

Mr. MacDonald, evidently using your article, was referring to myself and apparently knows “Mr. Brown” and from whence he came. It is interesting to observe and also significant that, like the “Forward,” he did not come forward and help in the campaign of 1919.

Nevertheless, there is still a chance for you to make good your previous omissions. I am still interested to learn whether “Mr. Brown” was from Scotland Yard’s Special Section, and especially am I interested in the demand for a public investigation into all the work of the Special Branch of Scotland Yard, particularly in view of Mr. MacDonald’s information. I am sure that the members of the above Committee are equally interested, and I need not assure you that the Communist Party is also interested in this demand.

I therefore make the proposal to you that you immediately raise the matter with the Labour Party E.C. and demand that a special committee be set up on which the Communist Party will have representation to go into the whole question of the Sheffield affair and the activities of the Special Branch of Scotland Yard with a view to its liquidation.

This should be undertaken by a special committee representative of all sections of the working-class movement.

Before such a committee, working to such an end on behalf of the workers, I am prepared and I am sure all the other comrades are prepared to give all the information available as set out above. I feel sure that this proposal will meet both with your wishes and the wishes of the National Labour Party and of the T.U.C., in view of your and their special experiences in relation to the police and the Special Branch of Scotland Yard.

Abolish the Branch

You will remember, and I am sure your readers will be well aware, that Mr. MacDonald was head of the Government in 1924, and in addition to being responsible for placing Colonel Wedgwood to charge of military plans for the operation of E.P.A. against the striking transport workers, he must—along with Mr. Henderson who was the “Jix” of the same period—be held responsible for the continued existence of the whole activity of Scotland Yard, including its Special Branch, during those nine months of open coalition with the capitalist parties.

We experienced during this period the special attention of Scotland Yard Special Branch (witness how we hauled its members from beneath the platform of our Conference), culminating in the arrest of J. R. Campbell.

There is no doubt, therefore, that all the gentlemen associated with the Labour Government, and especially the two named, could give a tremendous amount of authentic information as to the ramifications of Scotland Yard and the way they used it against the workers’ movement.

It would therefore, be exceedingly valuable for them to reveal before a public enquiry how they did this, and what are their present relations to this anti-working class institution for which they were once responsible.

A public investigation into the workings of the special branch of Scotland Yard, its relations to the Labour Party and the General Council, and the demand for its liquidation, is the only open course to take. I am ready for such an investigation. Are you?

Yours, ect.,
J. T. Murphy