1920s >> 1921 >> no-198-february-1921

Correspondence: The “Daily Herald” Finds a Defender

The current issue of the Socialist Standard drifted into my hands this week, and I was somewhat surprised to find an article by “D.W.F.” attacking the “Daily Herald.”

 

It may be possible to look down upon the Daily Herald from the lofty pinnacle of Socialism, but is it not possible for Socialists to admit that the “Daily Herald” is in advance of the rest of the daily Press ? It may obtain funds from the co-operative societies and trade unions, and trade union officials may have a voice on the board, but is it not good for the workers that trade unionists have a voice in the policy of just one of the many daily papers ?

 

Why sneer at the “Daily Herald” for advancing its price from 1d. to 2d. because the capitalists will not buy advertisement space ?

 

Why allude to the editor as “the renegade Atheist Lansbury?” I do not judge a man by the opinions he has held, or does hold. I judge him by his works, and I venture to say that George Lansbury will go down in history as one of the few men of this generation who have accomplished something for the betterment of mankind.

 

George Lansbury has spent his life in working for the proletariat; after years of endeavour he has established a workers’ paper that makes its voice heard amidst the retrograde screeches of the capitalist’s Press. If D.W.F. finds the paper not to his liking I would remind him that the circulation is only some 300,000 in a population of forty millions, therefore there is plenty of scope, and I think that instead of “crying down” the most advanced paper we have, he would be better employed in copying George Lansbury (if he can) and starting another advanced paper more in keeping with his personal views.

 

E. Julius Mills.

 

Reply:

 

Mr. Mills having come into possession of the November “S.S.” through its having “drifted” into his hands, has let at least one item of its contents drift into his head, namely, an article by myself applying some moderate criticism to the “Daily Herald.” I say moderate because the criticism would have caused greater displeasure to him had I found time to go into the subject in greater detail. For instance, I did mention that the subject of his championship boxes the compass politically in every issue, or I should rather say, nearly boxes the compass, the qualification being admissible because one point of politics is always avoided, and that is Socialism. This, however, causes no disappointment to the Socialist, who would not look to such a reactionary journal for his principles. Nevertheless it is necessary that the non-Socialist worker who is seeking knowledge shall be warned of the pitfalls set for the unwary in the shape of pseudo-Socialist journals and organisations. The “Daily Herald” coming in the former category, is exposed so that the awakening consciousness of the working class shall not be stifled through its agency. We Socialists have an objection to seeing seekers after truth progressing sideways like the crab ; we know the necessity of forward movement, and as far as we are able we ensure it. Any casual examination of the doctrines propounded in the “Herald” will show the confusion of thought with which its readers are confronted; for instance, side by side with pious protestations that Socialism is the only ultimate cure for the disabilities imposed upon society by capitalism, one will find a medley of appeals for its palliation, such as nationalisation or public ownership of mines, railways, tramways and the like.

 

Let me put a question to my critic. If Socialism is the only thing that can benefit the worker, how can he claim that Lansbury is “working for the proletariat” by inducing them to waste their energies in chasing will-o’-the-wisps which he and his scribes admit will not ultimately benefit the worker, which means that if all their palliatives became accomplished facts the Social Revolution would still have lo be attained? Lansbury and his gang know full well that whilst the workers are engaged in shadow-chasing those things that matter are being neglected, and this is a knowledge shared by all misleaders of the working class, from Tory Coalitionists to Lansbury and his satellites.

 

In reply to the query “is it not possible for Socialists to admit that the “Daily Herald” is in advance of the rest of the daily Press ?” as I said in my contribution to the November issue, the “Daily Herald” tells a little more of the truth than its avowedly capitalist rivals “when it suits the powers behind it“—from which it may be gathered that the “advance” is a mere instrument in their reactionary policy. As to whether it is “good for the workers that trade unionists have a voice in the policy of just one of the many daily papers,” that depends entirely upon the daily paper, and when one finds that the contributors to the “Herald” are interchangeable with nearly the whole field of the capitalist Press, one is not moved to transports of delight in this regard. Let me quote a few of the luminaries of the labour firmament who scintillate from the columns of the “‘Daily Herald“: J. H. Thomas, John Scurr, Ben Tillett, Margaret Bondfield, Ben Turner. How long does my critic think the working class will require to overthrow capitalism if such are to be their teachers?

 

I deny sneering at the ”Herald” for raising its price. The Socialist Party have had to raise the price of the “S.S.” recently, but not because the capitalists would not buy advertisement space. We, being a Socialist organisation, do not accept capitalist advertisements, and surely it should be obvious to my critic that the capitalist is not likely to support that which is out to overthrow him. It is significant that the “Daily Herald” gets even the advertisements that it does. Mr. Mills has probably also noticed that there has been some back-scratching just lately between the paper he champions and the “Evening News” over the new ”Advertisers Demand Nett Sales” dodge, and if he stretches his memory a little he will remember that Mr. Lansbury explained in an article on the “Russian Gold” that the “Daily Mail” and other capitalist papers came to its aid over the period of the paper shortage. Apart from all this it is clear that journals touting for advertisements have to suit their policies to their advertisers’ liking. Could Mr. Mills imagine the “Daily Herald” attacking the Co-operative Wholesale Society or Messrs. Bolsom ?

 

When the class conscious workers decide that the time is ripe for the Socialist daily paper they will support it and see that its welfare is not bound up with the activities of capitalist advertisers. They will want to be posted as to the progress of the movement and the steps the enemy are taking to crush it, not to read about Pelman’s for Pimply Brains. They will expect and get the uncompromising hostility of the capitalist class.

 

No, George Lansbury has not “spent his life working for the proletariat.” On the contrary, he has spent it in very effectively working for himself.

 

The prospect that is offered to me, as a parting shot, that I copy Lansbury—ye gods, a prospect indeed!—by “starting another advanced paper more in keeping” with my views would be very enticing if it were not for the fact that this population of 45 millions includes a few too many millions of people who think as my critic does, and who therefore stand in the way of working-class emancipation by supporting political charlatans and time-servers instead of working for Socialism. In any case, were the workers ready to start a Socialist daily it would not be for me to do it. I or some other individual or individuals might be the instruments chosen, but it would necessarily be controlled by the organised class conscious workers themselves and run according to their dictates, and not “more in keeping” with my views, or those of any other individual.

 

Maybe my critic has got too set in the habit of letting things “drift” into his hands and head, but if not my advice to him is that he should stop the “drift” policy and adopt a new plan. That plan is to study Socialism, understand it, and then join in the fight for the overthrow of capitalism, for the new world which awaits the proletariat when they have discarded their chains—a world in which no man shall be another’s master : all shall be free.

 

D. W. F.