Brian Pearce

Constant Reader:

Dictatorship and Class Forces

(June 1958)

From The Newsletter, 7 June 1958.
Transcribed by Christian Hogsbjerg.

At the Newsletter meeting in Hyde Park on Sunday there were two specially active hecklers. One would shout: ‘Up de Gaulle! Algeria is French!’. The other’s line was ‘Up de Gaulle! He’s no fascist – he’s for a free Algeria.’

The legend that de Gaulle stands for justice for the Algerians reminds one of the experience Poland went through with Pilsudski.

Before he took power in May 1926, Marshal Pilsudski cultivated the reputation of being, among other things, the friend of the national minorities of Poland, with a plan for a federal constitution and so forth.

The extreme Right took it quite seriously: so much so that when a political associate of the Marshal was elected President, owing his majority to the votes of Ukrainians and suchlike, they shot him.

A harsher master

Nevertheless, once the Marshal had seized power (with the backing, be it mentioned, of both the Socialist and Communist Parties) all that went by the board.

Not only the workers and peasants but also the national minorities found themselves under a harsher master than ever before, and Polish jingoism flourished.

World-wide horror was caused by the savage ‘pacification’ of western Ukraine in 1930.

It is not a question of the sincerity of General de Gaulle, any more than it was of Marshal Pilsudski’s. What decides these cases is the class forces involved.

Dictators are admitted to power in order to rule on behalf of the biggest landed, banking and industrial interests; and to these they must subordinate any personal whims where important property questions are involved.

A different view of the likely developments regarding Algeria under de Gaulle is given by Seymour Papert elsewhere in this issue.

Sympathetic strikes

I recently attended a meeting where an elderly trade union official and councillor who should have known better assured us that sympathetic strikes were ‘still illegal.’

The 1927 Trade Disputes Act had been, repealed only in part, he said, and the section prohibiting sympathetic strikes remained on the statute-book.

As this may not be an isolated case of misinformation perhaps it will be worth while to recall what the facts are.

Even the 1927 Act illegalized sympathetic strikes only if at the same time, they were designed to ‘coerce the Government’. And that Act was repealed lock, stock and barrel in 1946.

Let me quote the words of Hartley Shawcross, moving the second reading of the repeal Bill:

‘The first section of the 1927 Act, which prohibited certain kinds of strikes, was so much dead wood on the statute- book, and the sooner they got rid of it the clearer the law would be, and the more certain to deal with such strike situations as might arise.

‘Certainly the 1927 Act would be powerless to prevent a general strike that was supported by the trade unions and a large part of the public, and respect for the law might be undermined by keeping on the statute-book a law which was manifestly unenforceable and which might cause resentment in a large section of the population.’

Anti-nuclear clerics

There has been much comment of different kinds about the active participation of a number of clergymen in the anti-H-bomb campaign.

In this connexion it is interesting to recall what Trotsky wrote in an article of 1935 entitled If America Should Go Communist:

‘Even the intensity and devotion of religious sentiment in America will not prove an obstacle to the revolution ... Besides, it should not be forgotten that the Gospels themselves contain some pretty explosive aphorisms.’

Last updated on 10.10.2011