1920s >> 1926 >> no-267-november-1926

The “Daily Herald”—and Truth

The “Daily Herald” of August 30th last contained an editorial in reply to a letter from a railwayman, which is published on the same date under the heading, “Tell us the Truth.” Here is the letter, with certain irrelevancies deleted :—

“. . .I know that the miners’ cause is a just one and wants fighting for, but for goodness’ sake, why are we kept in the dark about the calling off of the General Strike? We railwaymen are looked down upon as Scabs by a large majority of miners. 1 was at a large meeting at Dewsbury last Sunday, and the speakers were frequently interrupted by the miners calling Mr. Thomas and Mr. Bromley _____, and blaming them for the extension of the present lock-out. Now, in my opinion, the leaders are keeping something back from the workers, and the “Daily Herald” being the workers’ paper, why cannot you let us know what is behind it all? …. The railwaymen are blamed for handling coal. Now how can we help it? … Cannot we be informed as to the whole of the facts concerning the calling off of the General Strike, and the true reason for calling it off ?”

Now let us appraise the “points” contained in the railwayman’s letter ; they may be summarised as follows :—

(1) He feels acutely the invidious position into which he and his fellow workers have been forced by the abrupt termination of the strike ; (2) He considers the reasons already advanced for calling off the strike to be spurious ones; (3) He suspects that the leaders in whom he has reposed his trust are “keeping something back” ; and (4) he appeals to the “workers’ paper “to inform himself and his fellow-workers of ” the whole of the facts concerning the calling-off of the “General” strike, and the true reason for calling it off.”

Doubtless to the surprise of the railwayman, and in the face of all precedent, the “Herald” actually deigns to “deal with” the letter in a leading article, which is headed “Nothing but the Truth.” Letters of criticism from the Socialist Party or Manifestoes from the Miners’ Federation will, of course, continue to receive the attention of the waste-paper basket, but as we can very well believe, the letter in question is “typical of many that have reached us,” and hence the leading article.

“Nothing but the Truth.” Here then, we shall find the long-looked-for facts, honestly stated, free from omissions and interpolations ! Now we shall learn why thousands of workers of all callings were abandoned by their “leaders,” and the compensating advantages to the workers in leaving the million miners to struggle and starve alone ! We shall find no attempts to divert attention from the sole point at issue ! No mis-statements; no evasions; no adroit twisting and equivocation ! Clear, blunt, and candid exposition of the facts ! Here, at last, we will find the truth and nothing but the truth, shall we not? WE SHALL NOT !

In the opening paragraph of the article, the “Herald” indicates its dislike for methods of abuse:—

“At the Minority Movement Conference on Saturday, a great deal was said about the calling off of the General Strike, and the “traitorous” conduct of Trade Union leaders. This is the stock-in-trade of Communists. As we know from published documents, abuse and detraction of those who hold official positions in the Labour Movement have been commanded from Moscow as a means of breaking that movement up. ”

Here we find once again the “Communists” (so soon, too, after the advocacy by the “Herald” of the “United Front” !) playing the part of a bogey, a part which has been assigned in succession “to Chartists, Atheists, Radicals, Fenians, and Anarchists.” The word Moscow, it would appear, has now become the “stock-in-trade” of political charlatans, and to possess a potency only equalled by the “mystic” word “Abracadabra,” which was so essential to the mediaeval “sorcerers” who preyed upon the credulous aristocracy. The paragraph is obviously intended to divert attention from the weakness of the case put forward.

If the object of the passage quoted is not to distract attention from a weak case, the only other inference we are able to draw is that a “Communist” must never be believed because he is a “Communist,” and not because he can be proved to be in the wrong.

The article continues :—

“Unfortunately, such tactics, transparent and discreditable as they are, have an effect upon simple minds. Anything that is constantly repeated gets a lodging in numberless minds. . . . Our comrade wants to know what is the dark and gruesome mystery surrounding the General Council’s action. Why don’t the “Daily Herald,” he asks pathetically, tell its readers the truth? ”

In the excerpt below, which follows immediately after the last paragraph quoted, the “Herald” comes tardily to the point at issue :—

“The ”Daily Herald’ has done that all through. The truth is simple. No mystery ! Nothing gruesome or sinister ! The General Council ended the Strike because they believed that the Samuel Memorandum offered the best chance of settling the coal dispute which the miners were likely to get; and events are now proving that the Council were right.” (Their italics.)

What these “events” are the “Herald” does not enlighten us, and our imagination is unequal to the task of conjuring up what is meant. Perhaps the passing of the Eight Hours Act or the repudiation of the Samuel Memorandum by the Government are the “events” alluded to? Or is the Government’s backing of the coalowners in their desire for district settlements the culminating proof of the tightness of the action taken by the General Council ? We would like so much to be informed of these “events” which prove that the miners are in a better position through the withdrawal of the backing of the other unions. But perhaps the transcendental sagacity of the General Council is beyond the ken of ordinary minds ! We note that the General Council ended the strike because they “believed” the Samuel Memorandum “offered,” etc. Blessed are they that believe ! Verily the General Council must have mistaken this Samuel for his biblical namesake, whom we are told was “called of God,” for he appears to have been a god-send to the Council in their anxiety to find a pretext for ending the strike. Indeed, despite the fact that neither the Government nor the coalowners had accepted the Samuel Memorandum (and both have since repudiated it) and also in spite of Samuel’s own declaration that he was acting entirely on his own initiative and without authority from the Government, the “Herald ” would have its readers to infer (if we take the statements in this article in conjunction with others previously made by the General Council) that the General Council “believed” that the Samuel Memorandum “offered” the best chance to honour their repeated promises,

“to stand firmly and unitedly against any attempt to degrade further the standards of life in the coalfields.” (General Council Industrial Committee, Feb. 26.)

On April 14th, the T.U.C. Negotiating Committee re-affirmed their declaration of February 26th :—

“This Committee reiterates its previous declaration to render the miners the fullest support in resisting the degradation of the standard of life, and to obtain an equitable settlement of the case with regard to wages, hours, and national agreements.”

And again on May 1st, the “Daily Herald” informs us :—

“A firm declaration was presented to the Premier by a joint Sub-Committee reiterating the original declaration that there must be no reduction of wages, no lengthening of hours, and insisting on a National Agreement with a national minimum percentage.”

Further, in the “British Worker” of May 11th, Mr. A. Pugh declares that :—

“From the moment the mineowners issued lock¬ out notices to their workpeople the question at issue, so far as the General Council was concerned, was the withdrawal of those notices as a condition preliminary to the conduct of negotiations. From that we have never receded.”

Such firmness and unity. Such eagerness to “believe” in the good faith of capitalist emissaries—such reluctance to vindicate their own ! The “Herald” says “the truth is simple,” but from our experience of its component parts we are unable to classify the General Council with the truth in relation to simplicity.

In the portion of the article which follows, the “Herald” endorses the validity of its claim to be the Paper with the Punch (especially for the workers !) :—

“If the miners’ representatives had agreed to accept that Memorandum as a basis for negotiations, work could have been resumed three-and-a-half months ago, and no mineworker would have got less than 50s. a week. The only men who would have had to sacrifice anything would have been those who were most highly paid. This, as Mr. Bromley explained to the locomotive men, seemed a reasonable settlement.”

O Truth, how many falsehoods are broadcast in thy name ! In our September issue, we published particulars from pay-tickets, promiscuously selected, of a South Wales coal-hewer, and the amounts received weekly demonstrate clearly that even before the lock-out the highest paid grade of miner was not guaranteed a wage even approximating to 50s. a week. Mr. A. J. Cook, the Miners’ Secretary, in the course of a cutting reply to the same leading article we are analysing, also riddles the 50s. myth :—

“All we were ever offered was that wages should not be reduced to less than 7s. 6d. a day, and all wages below that were still to remain the same. No weekly guarantee has ever been given at all.” (“Daily Herald,” August 31.)

For reasons easily comprehended, the “Herald”” has kept a wise silence with regard to criticism of its erroneous statement. In the passage “work could have been resumed three-and-a-half months ago,” the “Herald” unwittingly discloses that the anxiety of the General Council was not so much to secure the withdrawal of the lock-out notices (one of the declared objects of the strike) as to induce or coerce the miners to accept a compromise which would further reduce their appalling standard of existence. Additional confirmation of the “firmness,” and “determination” of the General Council to fulfil their pledges to the miners may be noted in the remarks of their Parliamentary spokesman and Privy Councillor Mr. J. H. Thomas, who appealed to capitalist M.P.’s “to avert what I believe to be the greatest calamity for this country.” (Hansard, May 3rd.) If an early resumption of work by the miners was the sole desire of the Genera! Council, we are at a loss to understand how the continuance of support from the unions involved in the strike could have prolonged the miners’ struggle more than it has been by leaving them in isolation. But the “Herald” has a logic of its own ! We might also inform the “Herald” that the miners could have resumed work more than three-and-a-half months ago, nay, they need not have been locked out at all, had they agreed to any terms of employment that might be offered by the mine-owners ! After all, it is not the miners who determine when and how they shall work, and the “Herald” seems to overlook the fact that such trivial matters are the prerogative of the employing class, who will only relinquish those rights when they are wrested from them by a class-conscious working-class, politically organised to achieve emancipation.

The final quotation from the. article follows on directly from the previous extract.

“When it (the “offer”) was finally rejected by the Miners’ representatives, the General Council felt that it would be “futile” to ask the Unions to continue their sacrifice for another day. . . . That is the reason why the Strike was called off. There is no other. The truth is plain to everyone who looks for it. We have restated it here in response to our railway comrade’s appeal, and because it is necessary to point out once more that the Minority Movement’s attack is not honest criticism offered in the interest of the Labour Movement, but deliberate venom intended to help on the destruction of that Movement, and the substitution of Communism for it.”

So we see now that when the offer that was not made was rejected by the miners, the General Council felt (not thought) that it would be futile to ask the unions to continue their “sacrifice” for another day. They therefore most benevolently decided upon the sacrifice of thousands of members of the constituent unions, and complacently provided the conditions for a future massacre of the remainder when the deserted miners are finally pulverised. The further reference to the Minority Movement does not assist the case advanced by the “Herald.” As we have persistently stated it is not possible for the Minority Movement or any other freakish body to introduce Communism merely by changing the leadership of the General Council.

We have dealt with this leading article of the “Daily Herald” at some length only as a specimen of the fustian that is passed off by that journal as being : “From the workers’ point of view.” As a medium for disseminating news, the “Herald” is behind its Capitalist competitors; as an exponent of Socialist ideas, it is worthless and of more value to the Capitalists in bemusing and mis-teaching the workers than many other journals which do not claim to speak wholly on behalf of the working-class. Until a larger number of the workers understand and desire Socialism, a daily paper devoted to the propaganda of Socialist principles remains a project for the future. In the meantime, the SOCIALIST STANDARD will continue to advance the object of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, which seeks to organise all workers who desire to replace the present system of capitalism by a system based upon the possession and administration by the whole community of the means necessary to produce and apportion wealth to the full needs of all.

W. J.

(Socialist Standard, November 1926)

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