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International Socialism, Winter 1962


[The Editors]

Letter to Readers


From International Socialism, No.11, Winter 1962, pp.25-27.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Merry Xmas. This year our present to you is us. We – debts and all – are yours. Any five of you banded together by a feeling of common purpose – workers’ control of production and society the world over – and willing to pay half-a-crown per head per month, are entitled to elect one of your number to an EB which will meet quarterly (first meeting to be announced next issue) This ISEB will elect an ISWEB (W=working) which will then elect an ISED (self-explanatory).

We hope you’ll reciprocate by forming IS readers’ groups, by pushing the journal, financing it and so on. Next Christ’ mas should see us doubled in circulation and quadrupled in influence.

This journal has always tried – not very successfully – to poll the views of all its editors on major issues. Communication has been bad; meetings badly attended; and letters left unanswered. This time, however, the editorial line on the Common Market has come in for a battering.

Peter Sedgwick writes:

‘I do not agree one whit with your new Common Market editorial. I do not accept the assumption that a Socialist Britain outside the Six would be isolated, or even that one can predict the specific international alignments of such a Britain, in a sense either inclusive or exclusive of the present Six. It seems mad to me to accept the synonymy of internationalism with Europe, and of Europe with the Six. (cf. Lenin against Trotsky on United States of Europe: very good stuff and highly apposite.)

‘Further, I cannot follow your habit of regarding economic inevitables as unworthy targets for opposition. Kennedy’s response to bases in Cuba was inevitable, but one didn’t oppose it any less. It seems inevitable that capitalism will invest less and less in the underdeveloped world; the Left Labour embrace of the Commonwealth as against the Tories’ desertion of it is a flabbily conceived attempt to resist this inevitable process. One should criticize the flabbiness, not the whole idea of resistance. There are all sorts of good economic reasons (from a bourgeois view point) why capitalists should refuse wage increases: does one therefore tell workers not to demand increased wages but fight for Socialism instead? It seems to me that it is not the issue ‘For or against the EEC’ that is an irrelevancy to the working class, but rather the pretence that it is not an issue. And an analysis of the EEC which still treats it as a straight economic question rather than a most mixed politico-strategico-economic move, is out of this world.

‘It seems that I shall be unable to accept any editorial, however well drafted, that is not Against.’

John Fairhead takes in more than Europe in his opprobrium, and carries disapproval to an illogical conclusion by resigning. He writes:

‘I have already, in a previous issue, made clear my differences from you on the Common Market. You are fond of replying at inordinate length to criticisms directed at you from the side of social-chauvinism as typified by Victory for Socialism and the Communist Party. You have never answered the Marxist argument against the Market. Do you or do you not agree that the European Common Market is designed as the economic arm of NATO? That its continued existence perpetuates the division of Europe? That it is designed to further the process of monopolization and concentrate the power of capital in an offensive against the West European working class? That, last but not least, it is a rich white man’s club whose sponsors hope that it can compete successfully against US imperialism in the neo-colonialist penetration of Africa and Asia? If so, are you or are you not for conducting a campaign against it, counterposing to it, not the pipedreams of a Foot or a Beaverbrook, but the Marxist alternative of the United Socialist States of Europe? And if not, why not?

‘We turn now to the Sino-Indian affair. Constitutional and legalistic arguments we can agree to leave to the jurist. Your denunciation of Nehru’s anti-working class regime and of the predictable treachery of the Socialist and “Communist” leaders is forthright, though you should in fairness have indicated that a strong minority in the CPI, including a section of the leadership, has courageously opposed the Indian Government on this issue, however wrong or confused these people may be on other questions. But why spoil it all by conceding Nehru’s case in the very first paragraph by denouncing Chinese “invasion”? Are we, too, to be partisans of McMahon? One’s estimate of this conflict is determined, naturally, by one’s definition of the class nature of China and India respectively. In a conflict between two states, neither of which is truly socialist, we can only support the army which brings social progress in its wake. That is as true of the Chinese army now as it was of the Red Army in Eastern Europe in 1945.

‘Our differences on both the foregoing questions are highlighted and brought to a head in your estimate of the Cuban crisis. Here is a clear case of a US imperialist invasion being thwarted by the determination of the Cuban government to defend the revolution by whatever means. In the long run, we know, that revolution can be defended only by its extension, to South and ultimately to North America; but in the short run, if the threat of nuclear retaliation staves off the immediate threat of invasion, the possession of nuclear weapons is justified. The Kremlin is to be criticized not for supplying these arms, but for withdrawing them.

‘You can see we are poles apart. Let us say good-bye with the minimum of acrimony.’

There is no question of acrimony. On the contrary, many of the issues raised are fundamental. The debate on the Common Market particularly is one in which basic socialist attitudes are tested. It should go on; and we would be more than delighted to thrash out the matter at the length and with the thoroughness we devoted to a debate on Left Reformism some time back. Our pages are open to socialist anti-Marketeers. Fill them.

To judge by reactions, last IS hit home. Fancy-Phillips were ‘splendid’ on the Young Socialists and the collective effort on Labour and the Bomb, although a bit ‘indigestible’ was still ‘very good for all that’. Unfortunately, neither have prompted extended comment.

Not so our editorial profferings. The postbag was grim. ‘Childish’, ‘inane’ – from Oxbridge; a forebearing ‘try to do better next time’ from the Midlands. The main criticism was of the Note entitled Fists Against Fascists, with Peter Sedgwick once again leading from the Editorial Board. He writes:

‘I would not deny that there are occasions when the slogan All Out Against Mosley is right, although even then it may not be a matter of getting groups of people to hit fascists but mainly one of mass obstruction or of heckling (the purpose of the latter should be to expose rather than drown). But I would suggest (1) that it was far better when Mosley spoke in Trafalgar Square only to the pigeons (2) that the real racialists are the Tories, and most anti-fascist activity nowadays specifically diverts attention on to lunatic fringes of no political importance (3) that there is an ugly streak of license to unlimited violence in many Left-wing antifascists, e.g. in the indignation that the police should be protecting the fascists from physical harm that might amount to mutilation, and in the throwing of pennies, a degeneration from the traditional tomatoes) in the faces of Mosleyite youth (4) that it is utterly wrong to oppose anti-racialist legislation like the Brockway Bill; while one cannot rely on legislation to defeat fascism, a law against racial incitement or discrimination would have a limited practical use and a more widespread psychological importance in enabling coloured citizens to feel less excluded (5) that (contrary to the editorial) the present spate of anti-fascist fighting is not a “do-it-yourself” movement, since none of the people doing the fascists themselves are coloured (and a good proportion probably even support the Immigration Bill wholeheartedly) (6) that a useful editorial might be written on anti-fascist activity, including positive proposals to combat racialist sentiment among young people, particularly the unemployed, an examination of the differences between fascism in the Thirties and now (as Marx said, “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce”), and some remarks upon freedom of speech as a right, and upon the uses (and abuses) of violence. Such an editorial would not be entitled Fists Against Fascists, nor would it reply to fears of fascist counter-violence by a provocational “Let them dare!” (The incineration of the Anti-Apartheid offices by fascists was in a sense and to a large extent caused by the people who had earlier bashed in the Union Movement’s premises at the time of the Lumumba demonstrations)’.

We invite readers to read the editorial again. Copies of that issue are still available at 2s 6d each. While on the last issue, there is an acknowledgement and an apology to be made. The Workers’ Bomb, reprinted in Bobby Campbell’s selection of Songs with Teeth was written by Eric Morse. It first appeared in Solidarity, Vol.I No.5 in time for Aldermarch 1961. As for the apology, it appears that Wembley North YS rather than the South branch were asked by Transport House to cease sponsoring Keep Left early in 1961.

This journal does not like reprints as a rule, but we make no apology for reproducing Hal Draper’s Two Souls of Socialism. It first appeared in Anvil, a socialist student magazine in the US some years ago. It has, understandably, been in demand since, hence its republication.

On the evidence of the last Labour Review, there is a deep – on the face of it, unbridgeable – split in their editorial office. Of two articles on imperialism, Tom Kemp’s ends with a triumphant refutation of Kidron’s views on the subject (IS, No.9, Summer 1962); Jeffries’ New Trends in Imperialism which starts on the next page is as equally triumphant a corroboration of some of our main points (and as such is recommended to all readers of this journal). Or did Jeffries address his manuscript to the wrong journal?

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Last updated on 19 March 2010