Posts Tagged ‘Brian Macarthur’

Hubert Humphrey on Civil Rights

November 18, 2016

I found this 1948 speech by Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic mayor of Minneapolis, who was then a candidate for the senate and later became vice-president under Lyndon Johnson, defending Black Civil rights in The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Protest, ed. by Brian MacArthur (London: Penguin 1998).

We are here as Democrats. But more important, as Americans – and I firmly believe that as men concerned with our country’s future, we must specify in our platform the guarantees which I have mentioned.

Yes, this is far more than a party matter. Every citizen has a stake in the emergence of the United States as the leader of the free world. That world is being challenged by the world of slavery. For us to play our part effectively, we must be in a morally sound position.

We cannot use a double standard for measuring our own and other people’s policies. Our demands for democratic practices in other lands will be no more effective than the guarantees of those practiced in our own country.

We are God-fearing men and women. We place our faith in the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God.

I do not believe that there can be any compromise of the guarantees of civil rights which I have mentioned.

In spite of my desire for unanimous agreement on the platform, there are some matters which I think must be stated without qualification. There can be no hedging – no watering down.

There are those who say to you we are rushing this issue of civil rights. I say we are 172 years late.

There are those who say this issue of civil rights is an infringement on states’ rights. The time has arrived for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.

People – human beings – this is the issue of the twentieth century. People – all kinds and all sorts of people – look to America for leadership, for help, for guidance.

My friends, my fellow Democrats, I ask you for a calm consideration of our historic opportunity. Let us forget the evil passions, the blindness of the past. In these times of world economic, political and spiritual, above all, spiritual-crisis, we cannot, we must not, turn from the path so plainly before us.

That path has already led us through many valleys of the shadow of death. Now is the time to recall those who were left on that path of American freedom.

For all of us her, for the millions who have sent us, for the whole 2 billion members of the human family, our land is now, more than ever, the last best hope on earth. I know that we can – I now that we shall – begin here the fuller and richer realization of that hope, that promise of a land where all men are free and equal, and each man uses his freedom and equality wisely and well. (pp. 205-6).

I thought Humphrey’s speech need restating after Donald Trump’s election victory and the very real danger he now poses to freedom and equality in America. Trump’s surrounded and supported by Fascists. He’s promoted a racist and anti-Semite, Steven Bannon, as his chief strategist in the White House and is now preparing to initiate legislation require Muslims to be registered, as if they were enemy aliens. All of them, even if they are innocent of anything even remotely anti- or un-American.

And where Trump leads, I fear Europe will follow. He has an ally in Nigel Farage, many members of whose party, UKIP, are venomously xenophobic and bitterly anti-Muslim. Then there’s the threat of Marine Le Pen and the Front National in France, and the Alternative fuer Deutschland in Germany. Not to mention the waves of Fascist intolerance now spreading throughout eastern Europe, most notably in Hungary with Viktor Orban’s Fidesz Party.

The civil rights struggle in America was a profound inspiration and influence on Black people’s struggle for civil rights here in the UK. There is, or was, even a civil rights museum in Birmingham. That’s the Birmingham over here, not Birmingham, Alabama. Decent Europeans and Americans need to stand together against this new Fascist threat against freedom, equality, toleration, human dignity and everything liberals have campaigned for since the French Revolution.

Palestinian Leader Haidar Abdul Shafi on his People’s Plight

August 9, 2016

I found this speech by Haidar Abdul Shafi in the Penguin Book of Twentieth Century Protest, edited by Brian MacArthur (London: Penguin 1998). Mr Shafi was the leader of the Palestinian delegation to the 1991 peace conference in Madrid. Although it’s a quarter of a century old, it’s still very relevant as the Israeli state, under Netanyahu, is still going ahead with its decades-long policy of oppression, deportation and the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians. This is despite the protests and campaigns by human rights activists across the world, including many Jews, including Israelis. I’m putting it up here, as this is the real reason behind the allegations of anti-Semitism directed against members of the Labour party, and the continuing libel that Labour has a problem with Jew hatred. The people libelled as anti-Semites aren’t. They even include Jews and people, with a long history of anti-Fascist, anti-racist campaigning and activism. They are being denounced as anti-Semites as a shameful attempt to discredit them and so rule criticism of Israel off-limits.

Here’s the speech.

We, the people of Palestine, stand before you in the fullness of our pain, our pride, and our anticipation, for we long harboured a yearning for peace and a dream of justice and freedom. For too long, the Palestinian people have gone unheeded, silenced and denied. Our identity negated by political expediency; our right for struggle against injustice maligned; and our present existence subdued by the past tragedy of another people. For the greater part of this century we have been victimised by the myth of a land without a people and described with impunity as the invisible Palestinians. Before such wilful blindness, we refused to disappear or to accept a distorted identity. Our intifada is a testimony to our perseverance and resilience waged in a just struggle to regain our rights. It is time for us to narrate our own story, to stand witness as advocates of truth which has long lain buried in the consciousness and conscience of the world. We do not stand before you as supplicants, but rather as the torch-bearers who know that, in our world of today, ignorance can never be an excuse. We seek neither an admission of guilt after the fact, nor vengeance for past inequities, but rather an act of will that would make a just peace a reality.

We speak out, ladies and gentlemen, from the full conviction of the rightness of our cause, the verity of our history, and the depth of our commitment. Therein lies the strength of the Palestinian people today, for we have scaled walls of fear and reticence, and we wish to speak out with the courage and integrity that our narrative and history deserve. But even in the invitation to this peace conference, our narrative was distorted and our truth only partially acknowledged.

The Palestinian people are one, fused by centuries of history in Palestine, bound together by a collective memory of shared sorrows and joys, and sharing a unity of purpose and vision. Our songs and ballads, full of tales and children’s stories, the dialect of our jokes, the image of our poems, that hint of the melancholy which colours even our happiest moments, are as important to us as the blood ties which link our families and clans. Yet, an invitation to discuss peace, the peace we all desire and need, comes to only a portion of our people. It ignores our national, historical and organic unity. We come here wrenched from our sisters and brothers in exile to stand before you as the Palestinian under occupation, although we maintain that each of us represents the rights and interest of the whole.

We have been denied the right to publicly acknowledge our loyalty to our leadership and system of government. But allegiance and loyalty cannot be censored or severed. Our acknowledged leadership is more than [the] justly democratically chosen leadership of all the Palestinian people. it is the symbol of our national unity and identity, the guardian of our past, the protector of our present, and the hope of our future. Our people have chosen to entrust it with their history and the preservation of our precious legacy. This leadership has been clearly and unequivocally recognised by the community of nations, with only a few exceptions who had chosen for so many years shadow over substance. Regardless of the nature and conditions of our oppression, whether the disposition and dispersion of exile or the brutality and repression of the occupation, the Palestinian people cannot be torn asunder. They remain united – a nation wherever they are, or are forced to be.

And Jerusalem, ladies and gentlemen, that city which is not only the soul of Palestine, but the cradle of three world religions, is tangible even in its claimed absence from our midst at this stage. It is apparent, through artificial exclusion from this conference, that this is a denial of its right to seek peace and redemption. For it, too, has suffered from war and occupation. Jerusalem, the city of peace, has been barred from a peace conference and deprived of its calling. Palestinian Jerusalem, the capital of our homeland and future state, defines Palestinian existence, past, present and future, but itself has ben denied a voice and an identity. Jerusalem defies exclusive possessiveness or bondage. Israel’s annexation of Arab Jerusalem remains both clearly illegal in the eyes of the world community, and an affront to the peace that this city deserves.

We come to you from a tortured land and a proud, though captive people, having been asked to negotiate with our occupiers, but leaving behind the children of the Intifada, and a people under occupation and under curfew who enjoined us not to surrender or forget. As we speak, thousands of our brothers and sisters are languishing in Israeli prisons and detention camps, most detained without evidence, charge or trial, many cruelly mistreated and tortured in interrogation, guilty only of seeking freedom or daring to defy the occupation. We speak in their name and we say: Set them free. As we speak, the tens of thousands who have been wounded or permanently disabled are in pain. Let peace heal their wounds. As we speak, the eyes of thousands of Palestinian refugees, deportees and displaced persons since 1967 are haunting us, for exile is a cruel fate. Bring them home. They have the right to return. As we speak, the silence of the demolished homes echoes through the halls and in our minds. We must rebuild our homes in our free state. (pp. 427-9).

Vox Political: Simon Wren-Lewis on the Spectre of Fascism Behind Brexit

June 23, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has also put up a very important piece by the economist, Simon Wren-Lewis, on the terrible racism and lies behind the Brexit campaign. He notes that not only has the Brexit campaign lied massively, the fact that their lies have been repeatedly revealed as lies does not seem to have stopped them or their campaign. Despite being repeatedly told the truth, the supporters of Brexit continue to believe that migrants are all a strain on the economy and the NHS. He discusses the way the centre right here and in the US are being taken over by extremist, populist politicians – meaning the Republicans and Trump across the Pond, and BoJo, Gove, Patel and the Conservatives over here, as well as the murder of Jo Cox, a politician, who stood against it. He also makes the point that this racism could become even more vicious and extreme if Britain does leave the EU, and the trade deals that the Brexiters have promised don’t materialise. He makes the point that Britain doesn’t have any immunity from the rise of such pernicious racism, and it cannot be allowed to pass.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/23/euref-why-defeating-brexit-is-so-important/

Mike has illustrated this piece with a picture of Enoch Powell, whose infamous ‘rivers of blood speech’ is still referred to as a telling prediction of the truth by right-wingers like Nigel Farage. Mike’s absolute right here. The NF used to sell a Union Jack badges. Around the edge of them was written the slogan ‘Enoch was right’. In fairness to Powell, before he completely lost his sense politically, he had done much that was admirable. He was a member of CND, and in 1959 made a speech attacking the British abuse of Mau-Mau prisoners at the Hola Camp in Kenya. This is included in The Penguin Book of Twentieth Century Protest, edited by Brian MacArthur, pp. 254-6. He wasn’t personally racist, and could speak Urdu. Nevertheless, his speech, and his absolute opposition to non-White immigration, gave an immense filip to the racist right and other Conservative opponents of immigration like the right-wing journalist, Simon Heffer.

The prof’s piece is also interesting for some of his remarks of his commenters. Most seem to be Brexiters absolutely outraged that anybody could decently oppose their plans for Britain. But one comment especially caught my eye because of what it said about Maggie’s favourite economist, von Hayek.

The commenter quoted the ideologue of neoliberalism from a piece he wrote to one of the papers supporting Maggie Thatcher’s anti-immigration stance in 1979. Hayek claimed that respectable society in Austria wasn’t anti-Semitic, and deplored attacks on Jews, before the First World War. It was only when ‘unassimilable’ Jewish immigrants flooded into Austria after the First World War that attitudes towards them changed. The commenter states that this was also Thatcher’s attitude, and has been the attitude of people like the Brexiters ever since.

The commenter’s right, but I found von Hayek’s claims that there was little anti-Semitism in Austria before World War I unconvincing. Hitler claimed in Mein Kampf that he only became an anti-Semite after he saw a Jew dressed in a kaftan while wandering through the backstreets of Vienna. This was when Hitler was a tramp, and his biographer, Joachim C. Fest, has made the point that the Jew he saw was probably a refugee displaced from the eastern provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which stretched as far as Ukraine, by the pogroms which broke out in the late 19th century. Many of the ethnic German schoolchildren and younger generation in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the late 19th century were Pan-Germans, wishing to unite with the Wilhelmine Empire further north, and with a racist hatred of Slavs and Jews. Discussing his experience of late 19th century Vienna, Hitler describes his admiration for Karl von Lugerer, the mayor of Vienna and leader of an anti-Semitic party. Apart from von Lugerer’s anti-Semitism, Hitler also admired his mastery of propaganda. Nevertheless, anti-Semitism increased in Austria considerably during the Council and Communist Revolutions that broke out there, as in Germany, just after the First World War. These were initially popular, but were increasingly resented after a series of church burnings. Many of the Communist battalions responsible were led by Jews, and although the Communists in the Soviet Union and elsewhere were militant atheists, who attacked and persecuted all religions, this was particularly blamed on the Jews. Gentile Austrians also felt themselves threatened by Jewish success in business, especially in banking.

Despite von Hayek’s comments, the rise of anti-Semitism in Austria was not simply a result of the sudden influx of ‘unassimilable immigrants’. It was partly due to the strained ethnic tensions caused by rising nationalism amongst the various peoples of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and a reaction to the anti-religious activities of committed Communists during the 1919 revolutions. Nevertheless, von Hayek’s comments supported Thatcher’s anti-immigration policy, just as fears of unassimilable immigrants now fuel the Brexit campaign.

William Beveridge on the Six Great Evils

June 21, 2016

I also found this piece by William Beveridge, the author of the Beveridge Report, which laid the foundation for welfare state and the NHS, in the Penguin Book of Protest, edited by Brian MacArthur. In it Beveridge attacks the six great evils his welfare reforms were intended to combat.

My case is that this is very far from being the best of all possible worlds, but that it might be a very good world, because most of the major evils in it are unnecessary – either wholly so or to the extent to which they exist today. The evils which are wholly unnecessary and should be abolished are Want, Squalor, Idleness enforced by unemployment, and War. The evils which are unnecessary to the extent to which they exist today and which should be reduced drastically are Disease and Ignorance.

The six Giant Evils of Want, Squalor, Disease, Ignorance, Idleness and War as they exist in the modern world, are six needless scandals. The Radical Programme which I propose to you is a war on these six giants. As a Liberal I propose it as a programme for the Liberal Party. Let me take the giants in turn, beginning with the easiest to attack.

Want means not having enough money income to buy the necessaries of life for oneself and one’s family. Want in Britain just before this was utterly unnecessary. The productive power of the community was far more than enough to provide the bare necessaries of life to everyone (that, of course, is something quite different from satisfying the desires of everyone). Want arose because income – purchasing power to buy necessaries – was not properly distributed, between different sections of the people and between different periods in life, between times of earning and not earning, between times of no family responsibilities and large family responsibilities.

Before this war, as is said in the Beveridge Report, ‘want was a needless scandal due to not taking the trouble to prevent it’. After this war, if want persists, it will be ever more of a scandal. it is contrary to reason and experience to suppose that, with all that we have learned in war, we shall be less productive after it than before. And we know also just how to prevent want – by adopting Social Security in full as set out in the Beveridge Report. This means guaranteeing to every citizen through social insurance that, on condition of working while he can and contributing from his earnings, he shall, when he is unable to work through sickness, accident, unemployment or old age, have a subsistence income for himself and his family, an income as of right without means test, and not cut down because he has other means…

Squalor means the conditions under which so many of our people are compelled to live, in houses ill-built, too small, too close together, either too far from work or too far from country air, with the air around them polluted by smoke, impossible to keep clean, with no modern equipment to save the housewife’s toil, wasting the life and energy of the wage-earner in endless crowded travel to and from his job. Squalor is obviously unnecessary, because the housing which leads to squalor is made by man, and that which is made by man can by man prevented.

The time has come for a revolution in housing, but an essential condition of good housing is town and country planning; to stop the endless growth of the great cities; to control the location of industry so that men can live both near their work and near country air; to manage transport in the national interest, so as to bring about the right location of industry.

Only on the basis of town and country planning should we build our houses and they must be built not just shells, but fully equipped with every modern convenience, with water, light, power, model kitchens for clean cooking, refrigerators, mechanical washers for clothes. As is said in the Beveridge Report: ‘In the next thirty years housewives as mothers have vital work to do to ensure the adequate continuance of the British race and of British ideals in the world.’ They must be set free from needless endless toil, so that they may undertake this vital service and rear in health and happiness the larger families that are needed.

A revolution in housing is the greatest contribution that can be made to raising the standard of living throughout this country, for differences of housing represent the greatest differences between various sections of our people today, between the comfortable and the uncomfortable classes.

Disease cannot be abolished completely , but is needless to anything like its present extent. It must be attacked from many sides by measures for prevention and for cure. The housing revolution, of which I have spoken, is perhaps the greatest of all the measures for prevention of disease. It has been estimated that something like 45,000 people die each year because of bad housing conditions. Scotland – your country and my country – used to be a healthier land than England – with a lower death rate – till about fifty years ago. Now it has a higher death rate, because in the past fifty years its health has not improved nearly as much as that of England. The big difference between the two countries lies in housing, which in many ways is worse here. Let us put that right for our country. Next to better housing as a means of preventing disease ranks better feeding. Experience of war has shown how much can be done to maintain and improve health under the most unfavourable conditions by a nutrition policy carried out by the state on the basis of science. It is essential for the future to make good food available for all, at prices within the reach of all, and to encourage, by teaching and by price policy good nutrition instead of mere eating and drinking.

Ignorance cannot be abolished completely, but is needless to anything like its present extent. Lack of opportunity to use abilities is one of the greatest causes of unhappiness. A revolution in education is needed, and the recent Education Act should be turned into the means of such a revolution. Attacking ignorance means not only spending money on schools and teachers and scholars in youth, but providing also immensely greater facilities for adult education. The door of learning should not shut for anyone at eighteen or at any time. Ignorance to its present extent is not only unnecessary, but dangerous. Democracies cannot be well governed except on the basis of understanding.

With these measure for prevention must go also measure for cure, by establishing a national health service which secure to every citizen at all times whatever treatment he needs, at home or in hospital, without a charge at the time of treatment. It should be the right and the duty of every British citizen to be as well as science can make him. This, too, was included in my report more than two years ago. Let Us get on with it.

Unemployment, as we have had it in the past, is needless. The way to abolish unemployment is not to attack it directly by waiting until people are unemployed and then to make work for them, but to plan to use the whole of our manpower in the pursuit of vital common objectives.

The Radical Programme for attacking the five giants of Want, Squalor, Disease, Ignorance and Idleness through unemployment is all one programme. We abolish unemployment in war because we are prepared to spend up to the limit of our manpower in abolishing Hitler. We can equally abolish unemployment in peace by deciding to spend up to the limit of our manpower in abolishing social evils.

The last and the greatest of the giant evils of the world is War. Unless we can win freedom from war and from fear of war, all else is vain. The way to abolish murder and violence between nations is the same as that by which we abolish murder and violence between individuals, by establishing the rule of law between nations. This is a task beyond the power of any nation but it is within the power of the three great victorious nations of this war – the United States, Soviet Russia and the British Commonwealth. If those three nations wish to abolish war in the future they can do so, by agreeing to accept impartial justice in their own case and to enforce justice in all other cases, but respecting the freedom and independence of small nations and the right of each nation to have its own institutions so long as these do not threaten harm to its neighbours. By doing so, they will accomplish something far more glorious than any victory in war. In the past statesmen have prided themselves in getting ‘Peace with honour’. The formula of the future – the only one that can give us lasting peace – should be ‘Peace with justice’. Honour is national, justice is international. (pp. 173-5).

As you can see, it’s quite dated in its conception of gender roles – men go out to work, while women stay at home and raise the large families the state and society need. And after the Nazis and Fascist groups like them, any talk of national ‘races’ looks extremely sinister, though there isn’t any racist undertones here.

And Beveridge was exactly right about the evils he wanted to combat, and they’re still very much alive now. Nutrition and pricing have all returned with the campaign to improve a tax on sugary foods and drinks, and so combat the obesity epidemic and rising levels of diabetes.

And the other issues have all returned thanks to Maggie Thatcher. She deregulated and privatised public transport, which has led to further inefficiencies on the roads and railways. She and the regimes that have followed her were and are determined to destroy the welfare state, including the health service, which Cameron and Clegg both wanted to privatise.

And the result has been rising levels of poverty. It’s time we scrapped Thatcherism root and branch, and went back to the founding principles of the welfare state. The principles that were put into practice by Labour’s Aneurin Bevan.

The American Socialist Party, 1912, on ‘A Yoke of Bondage’

June 20, 2016

The fact that Bernie Sanders, the self-styled Socialist and most liberal member of the Democrat Party, got so far in the Democratic presidential nominations shows that there is a real desire amongst many American for a genuinely left-wing alternative to the corrupt corporativism represented by Trump and Shrillary. America does have a Socialist tradition. I’ve put up here a film by an American women’s film group on the I.W.W., the ‘Wobblies’, the extreme left-wing American trade union, founded at the beginning of the 20th century, and which wanted the workers to own and control the means of production. There was also a Socialist party, strongly identified with the career of Eugene V. Debs, who at the height of his career polled 900,000 votes in his election campaign against Wilson, Roosevelt and Taft. I found this piece by his party, ‘A Yoke of Bondage’, in The Penguin Book of 20th Century Protest, edited by Brian MacArthur (London: Penguin 1998).

A Yoke of Bondage

The Socialist Party declares that the capitalist system has outgrown its historical function, and has become utterly incapable of meeting the problems now confronting society. We denounce this outgrown system as incompetent and corrupt and the source of unspeakable misery and suffering to the whole working class.

Under this system the industrial equipment of the nation has passed into the absolute control of a plutocracy which exacts an annual tribute of hundreds of millions of dollars from the producers. Unafraid of any organised resistance, it stretches out its greedy hands over the still undeveloped resources of the nation – the land, the mines, the forests and the water powers of every state of the Union.

In spite of the multiplication of labour-saving machines and improved methods in industry which cheapen the cost of the production, the share of the producers grows ever less, and the prices of all the necessities of life steadily increase. The boasted prosperity of this nation is for the owning class alone. To the rest it means only greater hardship and misery. The high cost of living is felt in every home. Millions of wage-workers have seen the purchasing power of their wages decrease until life has become a desperate battle for mere existence.

Multitudes of unemployed walk the streets of our cities or trudge from state to state awaiting the will of the masters to move the wheels of industry.

The farmers in every state are plundered by the increasing prices exacted for tools and machinery and by extortionate rents, freight rates and storage charges.

Capitalist concentration is mercilessly crushing the class of small businessmen and driving its members into the ranks of propertyless wage-workers. The overwhelming majority of the people of America are being forced under a yoke of bondage by this soulless industrial despotism.

It is this capitalist system that is responsible for the increasing burden of armaments, the poverty, slums, child labour, most of the insanity, crime and prostitution, and much of the disease that afflicts mankind.

Under this system the working class is exposed to poisonous conditions, to frightful and needless perils t life and limb, is walled around with court decisions, injunctions and unjust laws, and is preyed upon incessantly for the benefit of the controlling oligarchy of wealth. Under it also, the children of the working class are doomed to ignorance, drudging toil and darkened lives.

We declare, therefore, that the longer sufferance of these conditions is impossible, and we purpose to end them all. We declare them to be the product of the present system in which industry is carried on for private greed, instead of for the welfare of society. We declare, furthermore, that for these evils there will be and can be no remedy and no substantial relief except through Socialism under which industry will be carried on for the common good and every worker receive the full social value of the wealth he creates.

Society is divided into warring groups and classes, based upon material interests. Fundamentally, the struggle is a conflict between the two main classes, one of which, the capitalist class, owns the means of production, and the other, the working class, must use these means of production, on terms dictated by the owners.

The capitalist class, though few in numbers, absolutely controls the government, legislative, executive and judicial. This class owns the machinery of gathering and disseminating news through the organised press. It subsidizes seats of learning – the colleges and schools – and even religious and moral agencies. It has also the added prestige which established customs give to any order of society, right or wrong.

The working class, which includes all those who are forced to work for a living whether by hand or brain, in shop, mine or on the soil, vastly outnumbers the capitalist class. Lacking effective organisation and class solidarity, this class is unable to enforce its will. Given such a class solidarity and effective organisation, the workers will have the power to make all laws and control all industry in their own interest. All political parties are the expression of economic class interests. All other parties than the Socialist Party represent one or another group of the ruling capitalist class. Their political conflicts reflect merely superficial rivalries between competing capitalist groups. However, they result, these conflicts have no issue of real value to the workers. Whether the Democrats or Republicans win politically, it is the capitalist class that is victorious economically.

The Socialist Party is the political expression of the economic interests of the workers. Its defeats have been their defeats and its victories their victories. It is a party founded on the science and laws of social development. It proposes that, since all social necessities today are socially produced, the means of their production and distribution shall be socially owned and democratically controlled.

In the face of the economic and political aggressions of the capitalist class, the only reliance left the workers is that of their economic organisations and their political power. By the intelligent and class conscious use of these, they may resist successfully the capitalist class, break the fetters of wage slavery, and fit themselves for the future society, which is to displace the capitalist system. The Socialist Party appreciates the full significance of class organisation and urges the wage-earners, the working farmers and all other useful workers to organise for economic and political action, and we pledge ourselves to support the toilers of the fields as well as those in the shops, factories and mines of the nation in their struggles for economic justice.

In the defeat or victory of the working-class party in this new struggle for freedom lies the defeat or triumph of the common people of all economic groups, as well as the failure or triumph of popular government. Thus the Socialist Party is the party of the present-day revolution which makes the transition from economic individual to Socialism, from wage slavery to free co-operation, from capitalist oligarchy to industrial democracy. (pp. 41-44).

Murdoch’s Editorial Interference and Right-Wing Bias

June 7, 2016

The phone hacking scandal has been rumbling on for what seems like forever now. For a moment it looked like Murdoch himself was going to end up in court, because of allegations that he personally interferes in editing his newspapers. According to Private Eye, he almost appeared before the beak a few years ago on a libel charge, after Michael Foot sued the Times for claiming that he was a KGB agent, based on the unlikely word of Oleg Gordievsky. Gordievsky was a former KGB agent, and self-confessed liar. From what I recall, a number of the Times’ staff were highly sceptical of the allegations, with the exception of the editor, David Leppard. And so the paper printed the story that Foot, a principled democratic socialist, whose loyalty to his country should never have been in doubt, was a KGB agent codenamed ‘Comrade Boot’.

Murdoch’s managed to escape these scrapes with the law, and wriggle out of them when he has been forced to appear before public enquiries and parliamentary committees, by claiming that he doesn’t interfere with his papers’ editorial policies. Mark Hollingworth, in his book The Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship, points out that Murdoch largely doesn’t need to. He appoints editors he knows will follow his political line, like Andrew ‘Brillo Pad’ Neil, who before he became editor of the Sunset Times was one of the editors on the Economist. Neil told his staff at a meeting of the Gay Hussar pub in London that he fully supported Thatcher’s policies on monetarism and privatisation, although on macroeconomic policy he claimed he was further to the left, and more like David Owen. (p. 18).

The News of the World

But Hollingworth makes clear that the Dirty Digger does interfere with the editor’s running of his newspapers, and certainly did so when he took over the News of the World at the end of the 1960s. Hollingsworth writes

However, when Murdoch was faced with an editor who didn’t share his political views and wanted a semblance of independence, the situation changed dramatically. when he took of the News of the World in 1969, Murdoch told the incumbent editor, Stafford Somerfield: I didn’t come all this way not to interfere.’ According to Somerfield, the new proprietor ‘wanted to read proofs, write a leader if he felt like it, change the paper about and give instructions to the staff’. As the paper’s long-serving editor, Somerfield was used to a fair amount of independence and he tried to resist Murdoch’s interference. In 1970 Somerfield was dismissed by Murdoch.

A similar fate befell another News of the World editor a decade later. Barry Askew had been appointed by Murdoch in April 1981 after a successful career as the crusading editor of the Lancashire Evening Post during which he published a series of stories about corruption among local public officials and institutions. However, when Askew and the News of the World declined, like the Times under Harold Evans during the same period to give the Conservative government unequivocal support, Murdoch took action. ‘He [Murdoch] would come into the office,’ said Askew, ‘and literally rewrite leaders which were not supporting the hard Thatcher monetarist line. That were not, in fact, supporting – slavishly supporting – the Tory government.’

Askew believes the big clash came over an exclusive story about John DeLorean, the car tycoon. A freelance journalist, John Lisners, had persuaded DeLorean’s former secretary, Marian Gibson, to reveal details about her boss’ business practices and alleged irregularities. It was a superb story, backed up by other sources and also cleared by Gibson’s lawyer-Clarence Jones.

However, just after noon on Saturday 3 October 1981, Murdoch telephoned Askew, as he invariably did every week, to discuss the main stories. Askew told him about the DeLorean scoop and Murdoch appeared initially to be enthusiastic. Later that afternoon Murdoch arrived at the office in Bouverie Street and went straight to the ‘back-bench’ to read the DeLorean material. One of the key sources was William Haddad, who had worked for Murdoch on the New York Post. On learning of Haddad’s involvement, Murdoch said: ‘He’s a leftwing troublemaker’, although he later denied saying this. ‘I may have referred to Bill’s love of conspiracy theories.’

Murdoch then consulted his legal advisors and they decided the story was legally unsafe. The story was killed. The next day the Daily Mirror published the same story on its front page and the rest of the media followed it up. Interestingly, according to Ivan Fallon and James Srodes’ book DeLorean, it was Murdoch who arranged for Lord Goodman to act as DeLorean’s lawyer to discourage the rest of Fleet Street from pursuing the story. Within a year DeLorean’s car firm was bankrupt. Within two months, in December 1981, Askew was dismissed and he returned to Lancashire a bitter man. ‘I don’t think Fleet Street gives a damn about ethics, morality or anything else. It gives a damn about attracting a readership that will attract an advertising situation which will make a profit which will make the press barons powerful politically.
(pp.18-20).

The Times

This editorial interference did not stop with the News of the World. It also extended to the Times, when that august paper was under the editorship of the highly respected journalist, Harold Evans. Hollingworth continues

But by far the most revealing example of Murdoch’s desire to set the political line of his papers also came during 1981 when the Conservative government was very unpopular because of high unemployment. when Harold Evans was appointed editor of the Times in March 1981, he was given official guarantees by Murdoch about editorial freedom. On 23 January 1981, the new owner of Times Newspapers had given formal undertakings that ‘In accordance with the traditions of the papers, their editors will not be subject to instruction from either the proprietor of the management on the selection and balance of news and opinion.’

Within a year, however, Evans had been dismissed, claiming he had been forced to resign over constant pressure by Murdoch to move the paper to the Right. Evans’ added: ‘The Times was not notably hostile to the [Conservative] government but it wanted to be independent. But that was not good enough for Rupert Murdoch. He wanted it to be a cheerleader for monetarism and Mrs Thatcher.’ Murdoch denied the charge: ‘Rubbish! Harry used to come and see me and say, “Rupert, it’s wonderful to have you in town. What do you want me to say, what do you want me to do, just let me know.”‘ On this crucial point, Evans told me: ‘Lie plus macho sneer with a useful ambiguity. It is a lie that I ever asked him what to say… It is true that I asked his view from time to time on developments of the paper. The truth is that far from asking Murdoch “what to say”, I followed an editorial policy often in opinion at variance with his own Thatcher-right-or-wrong view.’

The evidence certainly gives credence to Evans’ interpretation of events, although he also fell out with some of the staff. According to leader writer Bernard Donoghue, features editor Anthony Holden and executive editor Brian Macarthur, there was political pressure on Evans because of what Mrs Thatcher called ‘the Times centrist drift’. When unemployment had reached three million in the summer of 1981 Murdoch and Gerald Long, Managing Director of Times Newspapers, wanted the Times to emphasize the number of people in work. Evans declined and Murdoch snapped at him: ‘You’re always getting at her [Mrs Thatcher].’ The Times editor and his proprietor continually argued over economic policy and on one occasion Evans received an extraordinary memorandum from Gerald Long: ‘The Chancellor of the Exchequer says the recession has ended. Why are you have the effrontery in the Times to say that it has not.’

Evans believes the Times was simply taking a more detached, independent editorial position. But by early 1982, Murdoch was clearly losing patience. According to Bernard (now Lord Donoghue, a leader writer and now a stockbroker at Grieveson & Grant, Murdoch had promised Mrs Thatcher that the Times would be back in the Conservative camp by the Easter of that year. But the editor refused to submit to what he later called ‘political intimidation and harassment’. On 12 March 1982, Evans wrote the following editorial: ‘ Unemployment is a social scandal… We favour a more competitive society as against one which is subject to the monopoly power of capital or the trade unions. Three days later Evans was dismissed.

Such lack of sovereignty and independence by the editor has been prevalent throughout the Murdoch empire. ‘I give instructions to me editors all round the world, why shouldn’t I in London,’ he told Fred Emery, home affairs editor of the Times, on 4 March 1982. However, since 1983 all four of Murdoch’s London papers have taken a consistently pro-Conservative government line and so there has been no need to interfere. According to a report on the Sunday Times’ ‘Insight’ team, this is how the system works: ‘Murdoch appoints people who are sympathetic to him. Thus most of the senior staff like Hugo Young have left or been completely emasculated or replaced… To survive you have to self-censor. You approach a story in a different way than if you’d run it in the way you wanted to.’ (pp. 20-1).

The Sun

Hollingsworth concludes that Murdoch actually rarely interfered with the Sun, as under its editor Larry Lamb, who was knighted by Thatcher in 1980, it had already moved to the Tory right, a policy that was continued by the succeeding editor, Kelvin MacKenzie. (p. 21).

So while Murdoch may not interfere in the day-to-day editorial matters of his newspapers any more, they do reflect his personal political opinions and his own personal style of journalism, as carried out by compliant, sympathetic editors.
There was an outcry when he tried to buy the News of the World in 1969. The paper’s then-management were worried about how he would change the paper. And the same fears were raised again when he went off and bought the Times in the late ’70s or first years of the ’80s. There were indeed plans to refer his proposed purchase to the monopolies and mergers commission, though that might have been when he bought the Daily Herald and turned it into the Scum.

And his critics were right. He is not a fit and proper person to own a paper, and he should never have been allowed to buy them. It says much about Thatcher’s grubby, domineering leadership that he was.