J.D Macdougall Justice January 1916

Letter from J.D Macdougall
on behalf of the Glasgow District Committee of the B.S.P.

Source: Justice, 20 January 1916;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Dear Sir, – At the meeting of the Glasgow District Council of the Party held on Saturday night last, I was instructed to write to you in connection with the paragraph which appeared in your issue of January 13 headed “The Imprisonment of Petroff.”

There is a wonderful contrast between this note and the one which you published on December 23 entitled “Who and What is Peter Petroff?

A week or two ago you referred to Petroff in terms distant and mysterious which undoubtedly were meant to convey the insinuation that he was the “agent” of some enemy Government. This intention you now disclaim; evidently all your doubts as to Petroff’s honesty have been removed, and you talk of him familiarly and with the greatest affection. A very comfortable ending, no doubt, to what was becoming a nasty situation, but we do think that we are due from you some explanation as to your sudden change of attitude. If your first comment smacked of mystery, much more so is this the case with regard to your remarkable change of tune.

Formerly Peter was the shady and masterful villain who, for his own private ends, was leading the Clyde workers by the nose, now he is transformed into an innocent and helpless alien entrapped into a dangerous situation by us, wicked and thoughtless, Glasgow Socialists.

It would indeed be interesting to know the real reason for “Justice’s” volte face. Your paragraph is entirely wrong so far as it refers to the reasons why we invited him to the Clyde. We did not ask him here “for the purpose of stirring up opposition to the Munitions Act.” In the first place, opposition to the Munitions Act does not require any artificial stirring up; it is the natural outcome of the irritation felt in the factories with the operation of that measure. Secondly, so far as any reference required to be made in our propaganda to existing economic problems we had plenty of comrades in Glasgow quite capable of doing so, and did not require to send to London for any assistance in this respect.

But we did need assistance in a particular direction, and Petroff was about the only man in London who could have rendered it. Maclean was threatened with imprisonment; we did not know how long, it might have been six months. Preparations had to be made for carrying on the Economics Class during his absence. Not only so, but the “Vanguard” had to be carried on, and we considered the presence of Petroff in Glasgow necessary for its production.

So far as the local situation in connection with The Munitions Act, etc. was concerned, we had no difficulty. Even though Maclean had been in gaol longer, that part of the work of the “Vanguard” could have been done by local comrades.

But in connection with the international situation and Continental movements we were not so well qualified; we felt the need of such an all-round man as Petroff; we invited him, and he came.

It is true that he addressed many meetings during his stay, but upon what subject – the Munitions Act? Not at all; he spoke upon the Russian Socialist movement, the International Socialist movement, and so on. And if a Russian political refugee cannot speak upon such subjects as these without being interfered with, then it is time for us to admit that the boasted right of political asylum in Britain is about dead. – Yours fraternally,

Beltrees, Pollokshaws.
January 17, 1913.