Brian Pearce

Constant Reader:

Hiding the Face of the Party?

(April 1958)

From The Newsletter, 5 April 1958.
Transcribed by Christian Hogsbjerg.

As the movement for the banning of nuclear weapons spreads through the country, a discussion along these lines is taking place in a number of local Labour Parties:

The second course is recommended as less likely to drive away Tories, Liberals and others who are against nuclear warfare but not at present pro-Labour.

To some, however, it seems an opportunist procedure, reminiscent of Stalinist ‘peace movement’ manoeuvres, likely to lead nowhere in the long (or even the short) run.

What do readers think?

Industrial action on rents

Those who seem bewildered at the idea of industrial action to fight the Rent Act have perhaps forgotten how the principle of rent restriction was first established in this country.

It happened during the first world war. The leadership of the 1915 engineers’ strike in the Glasgow area remained in being after the strike was over, as the Clyde Workers’ Committee, and they turned their attention to resistance to rent increases.

I quote the account given by Ralph Fox in his The Class Struggle in Britain, 1914–23:

‘A rent strike was declared and all efforts of the landlords to collect the increased rents or to evict the strikers completely failed, chiefly due to the activities of the women pickets.

‘The landlords attempted to overcome this opposition by summoning the workers in the debt court. The day the first two workers appeared in the debt court to answer a summons for non-payment of rent the Clyde Workers’ Committee called a general strike throughout the district and the workers marched in thousands from all directions to demonstrate outside the court.

‘The magistrates were completely overawed and rapidly got on the telephone to the Ministry of Munitions in London to learn what they should do.

‘They were told to release the prisoners, and a few days later the Government, thoroughly alarmed, passed an Act forbidding the raising of workers’ rents for the period of the war.’

Lover of exiles

‘It was the fortieth anniversary of Byelorussia’s Independence Day yesterday. Celebrants went to the Chelsea flat of Lady (Frances) Phipps. “I love people in exile, don’t you?” she said.’
Evening Standard (In London Last Night), March 26.

What actually happened on March 25, 1918, which Lady (Frances) Phipps’s friends see fit to celebrate was the setting-up by a group of anti-Bolshevik politicians, after the German army had occupied Minsk, of a self-styled ‘government’ whose first act was to send a message of thanks to the Kaiser for having ‘liberated’ Byelorussia.

The country’s real independence day is January 1, the day when, in 1919, Soviet power was established there.

Well said, George!

‘It symbolizes the struggles of trade unionists in peace and war. When Mr Tom Yates, TUC chairman, released the Union Jack (why not the Red Flag?) which shrouded it, it was on public view for the first time.’
– George Sinfield, in Daily Worker, March 28, on the Epstein statue at the new TUC offices.

Now then, George, what’s this? If it’s all right to carry the Union Jack in Communist Party processions, why was it out of place on the occasion mentioned?

Last updated on 10.10.2011