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Ian Birchall

Under their thumb

(April 1987)

From Socialist Worker Review, No.94, April 1987, p.34.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

SINCE I wrote my article on 50 years of Tribune (February SWR), Tribune itself has produced its own anniversary issue.

This contains an interesting article by Chris Mullin (editor from 1982 to 1984) which makes far more explicitly, and on the basis of first-hand experience, the point I tried to make in my article, namely that Tribune is financially and thus politically dependent on the trade union bureaucracy.

Tribune’s front cover carries the slogan “Labour’s Independent Weekly”. Mullin (and he should know) denies this; he writes:

Tribune is not an independent newspaper. It is heavily dependent on the goodwill of trade union leaders for advertising and other support ... More than once during my editorship trade union general secretaries explained to me the direct relationship between their advertising and editorial views of which they approved. One or two even cut off advertising without bothering to explain.”

The point is clear. We shall not be able to count on Tribune in any struggle in which the union bureaucrats are on the wrong side (and that’s likely to be most of them). The only independent newspaper is one based on the finance and activities of its own supporters.


Ian Birchall
Enfield SWP

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