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International Socialism, Summer 1964

[The Editors]

Letter to Readers

From International Socialism (1st series), No.17, Summer 1964, p.26-26.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Bert Bensen, the American lecturer now being hunted for deportation, is taking considerable personal risk in asserting a very rudimentary right – the right to self-defence against administrative persecution. He deserves the support of everyone to whom civil liberties mean anything; he certainly deserves better than the shabby treatment he has received from Judith Hart MP (“Mr. Bensen has become a fugitive from justice (!) ... we cannot approach Mr. Brooke on Mr. Bensen’s behalf”) or from the National Council for Civil Liberties who have politely washed their hands of the affair. Most readers will not have had the opportunity of reading his statement to the press, in which he justifies his flight from what Mrs. Hart is pleased to call “justice.” We reprint it here in full:

In the US we learned as school-children that American concepts and practice concerning the protection of individuals from the arbitrary acts of government administration came directly from English practices and tradition. If in America we grow cynical and frustrated by the contradiction between the liberal American ideal and the American realities, we may still retain the illusion that the ideal and practice are still consistent back where they came from. But now I have been in England two-and-a-half years. Now I am subject to a deportation order, a most serious attack on personal freedom, and find that English Law makes no provision for a challenge, that a Home Secretary, a mere chief administrator, is not responsible either to the Courts or to Parliamentary representatives. Now that I have seen for several years, now that I am directly experiencing the shoddy underside of English reality, I can no longer agree with the many Englishmen of all shades of opinion who have told me that in England there is more respect for the individual, by Law and by custom than in my own country. After two-and-a-half years in England, during which time I have supported the anti-nuclear movement and have been studying social problems in this country, Henry Brooke, the Home Secretary, signed a deportation order against me, but will give no reasons for this action other than that my continued presence in Britain “would not be in the public interest.”

Solicitors and MPs acting in cooperation with the National Council for Civil Liberties have been unable to learn the reasons, despite repeated and patient attempts. It is therefore impossible to refute any untrue allegations that may have been made against me. Perhaps Mr. Brooke has before him a file of information put together by the Home Office and Special Branch. He claims that he has considered “all the relevant information.” This is impossible. It is like a judge saying that he has considered all the relevant information and made an irreversible decision after hearing the Prosecution in secret and giving the Defence no allegations to which they can reply. I believe that the information Brooke has before him is either untrue, incomplete, or irrelevant, in short completely inadequate to justify a deportation order.

When methods that so flagrantly defy natural justice are used by the Government against the individual, the individual, if he is not to be crushed, and allow others to be crushed after him – must fight back, as best he can. This I must now do. I have had recourse to all legal methods of action. All that has been obtained is a promise from the Home Office that I will be deported in a “civilised” manner.

I intend to resist the attempt to deport me by all means at my disposal. My presence was not required when the decision to deport me was being taken. I don’t see why it should be forthcoming when the authorities seek to put their plan into effect.

I shall not be at home for a few months. I trust friends and supporters will understand my motives and will keep the real issue alive during this period. I propose eventually to reappear, at a time of my own choosing, to challenge his most unfair deportation order. This will be in the Autumn, shortly after the return of a Labour Government At present Judith Hart and other Labour MPs, in cooperation with Eric Lubbock, Liberal MP and Chairman of the Parliamentary Civil Liberties Committee, have criticised Brooke’s action. Will a Labour administration have a more “civilised” attitude to the question of civil liberties? Will it respect the right of individuals publicly to challenge arbitrary Executive decisions?

I have written today to Harold Wilson, enclosing a copy of this statement, in the hope that under the Labour Government in October I shall again be welcome in Britain, for I hope that Labour’s conceptions of what is or is not “in the public interest” differ fundamentally from those of Tory Home Secretary, Henry Brooke.

We record with sorrow the death in May of Alfred Rosmer. Born in 1877 in New York, Alfred Griot – Rosmer was a pseudonym that he adopted from Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People – was a life-long internationalist. In 1915 he played a leading part in the preparations for the minority conferences of Zimmerwald and Kienthal that followed the collapse of the Second International; and he was the leading spirit in the anti-war “Comité pour la reprise des Relations Internationales.” He was a personal friend of Trotsky from this period until Trotsky’s murder in 1940, and represented the French Communist Party at the second Congress of the Third International in 1920, contributing at the same time to the formation of the Red Syndicalist International. From 1921 to 1922 he was the PCF representative in Moscow; like most of the old leaders of the revolutionary syndicalist wing, he supported Trotsky’s “Left Opposition” to Stalin after Lenin’s death in 1924, and at the end of that year he broke with the PCF to collaborate with Pierre Monatte in the publication of the journal la Révolution prolétarienne, with which he was closely associated until his death. He assisted Trotsky in the foundation of the Fourth International, and for the rest of his life was active, as worker and writer, in the international movement. In 1960 his was among the signatures to the Manifesto of the 121, directed against the Algerian War; for this he was rewarded with a plastic bomb attack on his home the following year. Among his many publications perhaps the most notable are Moscou sous Lenine (published in 1953 with a preface by Albert Camus – extracts were translated in The New International), and his unfinished and monumental l’Histoire du Mouvement Ouvrier pendant la guerre (Vol.I, 1933; Vol.II, 1959). A consistent internationalist and revolutionary all his life, he fought always for democracy against totalitarianism and bureaucracy, and continued the struggle until the very end of his life. We are not so many that we shall not miss him and his example greatly.

Note on contributors

Our major contributors this quarter are:

Note by ETOL

1. There is no article by Victor Serge in this issue of International Socialism.

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