J. T. Murphy

Twilight or Dawn?

Source: Peace News, The International Pacifist Weekly, December 7, 1956
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). 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.

WHEN in the first week of November, Sir Anthony Eden double-crossed the United Nations, and, with France unleashed war against a victim of aggression, namely, an almost defenceless Egypt. I felt I could not stand aside from any effort the people of Britain may take to bring down the Eden Government.

Therefore, after years of political detatchment and public inactivity, I rejoined the Labour Party.

I did this because it is the greatest organised opposition to the Government capable of quickly bringing about its resignation and replacing it with one which could, in some measure, restore our moral prestige in the eyes of the nations of the world.

This one cannot.

When the Soviet Government invaded Hungary “at the request” of the Hungarian Government and proceeded to smash, with overwhelming military might, an uprising of the mass of the people crying aloud for national freedom, I did what I have never done before since the Russian Revolution began in 1917.

I went to my trade union branch (AEU) and moved a resolution of protest directed against the Soviet Government, denouncing the military invasion of Hungary, demanding the withdrawal of the Red Army and supporting Hungary’s claim for national independence.

But that is not all. From the year 1916 until 1953 I was a convinced Marxist. From 1920 when I met Lenin in Leningrad and attended what was really the foundation Congress of the Communist International, I was a convinced Leninist.

Leninism is a development of Marxism in more militaristic terms.


From 1921 to 1932 I was a leading member of the British Communist Party. During those years, several of which I spent in Russia, I was also a leader of the Communist International and its kindred organisations.

When I resigned from the ranks of Communism at the introduction of “Stalinist” methods into the leadership of the British Party, it was not because I had ceased to be a Marxist or Leninist in principle. It may have been conceit on my part, but I regarded myself (on the issues upon which I quarrelled with my colleagues in the leadership of the Party) as a much more consistent exponent of Marxism than they.

Whether I was so doesn’t really matter, except that it meant I became inhibited from questioning the validity of the basic principles of Marxism and Leninism.

Hence my subsequent criticisms of Stalin and the regime he dominated were always tempered with sympathy for the Soviet Union and its problems, a deep appreciation of its mighty achievements, and always from the Marxist or Leninist point of view.

All this can be confirmed by reference to my books, the last of which was a biography of STALIN, written during the war and published in 1944.

Shortly after the end of the war, I became more and more distressed at what I regarded as violent distortions of Leninism by the Stalinists.

But I got no satisfaction when I turned away from them to gaze on the Western scene.

It appeared to me, especially after Churchill’s Fulton speech, that both sides of the “Iron Curtain” were as much alike as peas out of one pod and that the terms “Democracy” and “Peace” had entered into the coinage of “double-talk” of politicians, statesmen, and diplomats alike.


In Russia it was all glorified in the “Stalin Cult.” In Britain the same thing came under the “Churchill Cult.” In America we have it as the “Ike Cult.”

Everywhere it appeared to me that the voice of Jacob diverted attention from the hands of Esau and “Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards Men” had become the halo surrounding the Hydrogen bomb before it falls to transmute universal life into universal death.

I withdrew from all political activity and identity with any movement, feeling there was something fundamentally wrong somewhere, maybe in my own mode of thinking and understanding of life and the course of history.

I took Voltaire’s advice literally and began to “cultivate my garden,” and critically examine and reflect on the way I had come.

The outcome of a couple of years or more of intensive study of Marxism, Leninism, the Russian Revolution and world affairs, etc., was that I ceased to be either Marxist or Leninist.

I now regarded these respective “isms” as a mixture of mythology and over simplified theories of history, harnessed to a militaristic party of social conquest for the establishment of its own militaristic dictatorship.

Rejecting them I began to make for myself a re-evaluation of principles and re-orientate my thinking.

I continued to “cultivate my garden” for it is not easy to change one’s habits of thought 30 years old, and refrained from public activities until the “Stalinists” of East and West, including those of the USA brought us to the brink of rocket and hydrogen warfare.

This is what I now saw.

The Western powers (particularly Britain had, in between the two wars, carved out of Arab territory a colony named Palestine.

After the second world war, a piece of this became the State of Israel, with the approval of the United Nations including all the big powers, Russia being no exception.

Egypt has refused to recognise the new State from its inception. In the last year or so the Western powers have turned the “pocket State” Israel into an arsenal in the name of the preservation of peace and independence.

In the last twelve months Russia has supplied arms to Egypt, who was virtually without arms, also for “the preservation of peace and Egyptian independence.”

“Stalinists” all

It happened, immediately after Egypt had nationalised the Suez Canal, that Israel’s “patience was stretched to the limit of endurance.”

The limit was reached just at the time that the Suez Canal Company supporters, namely the British and French Governments, were angered “beyond endurance” because ships continued to pass through the Suez Canal as freely and as efficiently after the Egyptians had nationalised the Canal as before that event.

Israel conveniently launched an offensive “preventive war” on Egypt, on the principle that he who gets his blow in first before the enemy is ready to strike, stands the best chance of winning. The timing was excellent.

When the Israelis reached within fifteen miles of the Suez Canal, the British and the French crashed in to “stop the fighting,” posing as self-appointed policemen “with teeth,” and destroying the forces of the victims of “aggression” leaving the “aggressor” unscathed.

In the process they blocked the Canal.

When the reformed Stalinists of the East treated Hungary as Britain and France had treated Egypt in order to “prevent counter-revolution” there was nothing left to distinguish the “Stalinists” of one country, from another, no matter which side of the Iron Curtain they were or what their political and social systems.

Bulganin warned the West that Russia can bombard them with rockets. Gruenther, the spokesman of the North Atlantic Alliance, warned Bulganin that they could retaliate in kind and reduce Russia to ashes.

Add to these facts that Britain, France and Israel have demonstrated to the world the advantages to be gained in getting in first before the referee blows the whistle.

Power Disease

All the Great Powers regard international Charters of liberty, Commonwealth bonds of friendship and co-operation, and treaties of alliance, as of no account in times of self-interest by ignoring them and lying to the people.

It now appeared abundantly clear to me that whatever the political complexion of all these States, they suffered from the power disease inherent in every institution created by man as it grows from small beginnings to ever larger dimensions.

With growth comes centralisation of authority, which carries with it the vesting of social power in the hands of an oligarchy demanding obedience to its authority.

This is especially so in all war institutions created by States.

It is an obvious feature in the growth of the State, political parties, the Church, trade unions, industrial organisations, Press and publicity institutions, etc.

The current language of the leaders of all these institutions is war language, even when they talk peace. They talk “strategy” “alliance” “the enemy” “defence” “security” “mobilisation” “ideological warfare” “military pacts” “security purges” “brain washing,” etc.

All questions of social welfare and well-being are conditioned either by the wars of yesterday or preparations for the war of tomorrow.

Abolish War

A remarkable and utterly demoralising scene spreads across the world. The Eden Government and its supporters along with Moltett of France and his supporters, wash their hands in the tears of the people of Hungary while Bulganin and Khrushchov wash theirs in the Suez Canal and treat Hungary as a colonial preserve.

The United Nations “Security Council” and the Governments of Russia and China, stand guard with watchful military eyes over the demarcation lines of the dismembered nations of Korea and Vietnam.

Over the whole earth the Governments of America, Russia and Britain hold aloft the mushroom hydrogen umbrella of universal death, daring each other to be the first to shoot in an international suicide pact while exchanging notes on disarmament.

Every disarmament conference since the first world war has broken down under the sheer weight of hypocrisy and “double-talk”—talking peace and indulging in an arms race!

Not one statesman went to any one of the hundreds of sessions determined to rid the world of war by abolishing the means of war. Every statesman aimed at putting his rival at a disadvantage in the relationships of military power.

It was so between the two wars; it is now. All talk national defence in the name of peace when what they really have in mind is a truce pending the hotting up of the “cold war” into the hot war although it means mutual destruction.

Hence the great, indeed the dominant issue before mankind is no longer (if ever it was the issue) socialism versus capitalism, or any other “ism,” but life versus death, the elimination of the military power disease from the life of man that the age of reason, common sense and human fellowship may be born and flourish.

We are moving through a twilight and nobody knows whether it is the twilight of the dawn of this new age or the approaching darkness of universal death. I do not know.

I know only this: just so long as the nations permit Governments of men to rule over them whose minds are obsessed by power, who think only in terms of military strength, balance of power, defence of power, engage in doubletalk, and lie to the people, mankind is in the hands of the socially diseased paranoiacs heading the human race to its doom.

Hence my third decision. I went to the editor of Peace News and asked that I may be identified with it in their campaign to abolish war and the weapons of war from the face of the earth.

Henceforth I wish to serve only the forces of light and life against those of darkness, ignorance and death.