Brian Pearce

Constant Reader:

Then They Will Understand

(April 1958)

From The Newsletter, 12 April 1958.
Transcribed by Christian Hogsbjerg.

‘The most important thing about this demonstration,’ said the lady who gave me a lift to Aldermaston station, ‘is the way it has drawn in the young people.’

‘Yes,’ I agreed, ‘and we were told they weren’t interested in public affairs.’

‘It’s politics they don’t care about,’ was the reply, ‘and that’s because there’s so little to choose between the parties. This demonstration wasn’t political.’

Later, when we were discussing how different people had heard about the Aldermaston march (she had read of it in the New Statesman) my friend remarked what a pity it was that the BBC didn’t give advance publicity to such things – ’but then. I suppose they couldn’t, that would be political...’

There for the taking

When politics is seen to be a battle of right against wrong, as the Aldermaston march was seen – that is, when the Labour Party puts itself fairly and squarely at the head of campaigns on fundamental issues like the unilateral scrapping of the H-bomb – there will be an end to this ‘indifference of the younger generation to politics’.

Then they will understand, in terms that will make sense to them, why the Labour Party is their party.

Aldermaston has shown that the support of Britain’s youth is there for the taking. If Gaitskell and Bevan had been beside Allaun and Swingler instead of with Norstad, what tremendous consequences for good that would have had.

Solid and useful

Number four of the New Reasoner contains a wide range of good things. Malcolm MacEwen discusses The Two Camps, showing how the Soviet intervention in Hungary played into the hands of Western reaction and how important it is for us all that the Soviet Union become a socialist democracy.

‘And this evolution,’ he writes, ‘can only proceed by means of an intense internal struggle to overcome the resistance of the ruling bureaucracy in party and State, which wields immense power, even if it no longer resorts to terrorist methods.’

A poignant short story by Tibor Dery, now in one of Kadar’s jails, tells of a communist released from one of Rakosi’s after a seven-year stretch, during the ‘thaw’ period that raised so many false hopes.

Some anonymous Impressions of Boris Pasternak, whose novel Dr Zhivago; is to appear here in June, are brief but illuminating – but why is that awful play Unforgettable 1919 fathered upon Vsevolod Ivanov, when it was committed by Vsevolod Vishnevsky?

Alan Pickard, in What Is A Democratic Trade Union? writes on some of the problems spotlighted by the recent troubles of the Electrical Trades Union.

Christopher Hill reviews the all-too-short selection of Gramsci’s writing that was published last year by Lawrence and Wishart after a prolonged battle by the translator, Dr Louis Marks, with the King Street pundits, and recommends them to ‘those Marxists who have fallen back on liberal standards for their critique of the crudities of Stalinism’.

Gordon Cruickshank contributes a survey of the present set-up in Gomulka’s Poland.

It seems doubly regrettable that a journal containing such solid and useful matter should be marred by a stupid gibe about Trotskyists.

Wages and the bomb

THE March-April number of Labour Review carries an editorial linking the wages struggle with the fight against the H-bomb and another (An Unreasonable Reasoner) taking up sharply the treatment of Trotskyism in the New Reasoner.

Other features include an article by Michael Banda on the Algerian revolution, with an analysis of the clash between the FLN and the MNA; two letters by the late Pat Dooley which played an important part in the 1956–57 struggle in the British Communist Party; and ‘Joseph Redman’ on King Street’s reactions to the Moscow Trials of 1936–38.

The last-mentioned is the fifth of the studies in the history of the communist movement which I have contributed to Labour Review under the name of ‘Joseph Redman’, and it appears just about a year after the Reasoner pamphlet The Communist Party and the Labour Left, 1925–29, for which the pseudonym was first coined.

Produced as an aid to pre-Congress discussion in the Communist Party, that pamphlet embodied material which had been refused by World News, and I understand that it has sold over 800 copies and is still selling.

It has helped, I hope, to ensure a more critical reception than might otherwise have awaited Klugmann’s Official History – if and when that sees the light.

Liberal or Labour?

The Labour candidate for Finchley raises, in his letter in Tribune of April 4, a thought-provoking question when he notes the failure of any of the party’s frontbenchers to take part in the Torrington by-election campaign.

If one is trying, to sound like a Liberal, or as near as mayn’t seem any different to a Liberal voter, then it is obviously worse than useless to speak for Labour in a constituency where the Liberal tradition and organization are as strong as in Torrington. The result would only be to swell the Liberal vote.

The Liberal ‘revival’ makes it more necessary, not less, for Labour’s leaders to emphasize what separates Labour from Liberalism – indeed, it can be argued that the Liberal ‘revival’ is in part due to their failure to make this emphasis in recent years.

Walter Holmes, in the Daily Worker of April 5, tells of his father’s good advice to him that the Liberals ‘were no more friends of the working people than were the Tories. And so the only advantage a working man could get out of an election was to vote socialist when he had the chance.’

He adds: ‘As a rough working rule I have found his advice sound.’

There have been exceptions, of course, to this ‘rough working rule’: in the Aylesbury by-election in 1938, for instance, the communists called on electors to vote Liberal against Labour, in accordance with their ‘Peace Alliance’ strategy of that period.

Who knows whether The Line may not veer that way again?

Twenty years after

‘This book will live for centuries.’
– Khrushchev on John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook the World, in his interview with the Times representative, reported in Pravda, February 16, 1958.

‘Inaccuracies and legends cannot have value at this stage.’
– J.R. Campbell, Daily Worker, April 11, 1938, defending the Communist Party’s refusal of permission for publication of Ten Days.

‘It is a little naive, I think, to ask communists to popularize an inaccurate account of the internal affairs in Bolshevik leadership in 1917.’
– Pat Sloan, on the same matter, in Controversy, March 1938.

Last updated on 10.10.2011