1970s >> 1974 >> no-837-may-1974

Students against Democracy

Liverpool was proud of The Beatles and its connection with that Cunard Line. What the city thinks of the conference of the National Union of Students held there early April is another thing. Hundreds of delegates from universities, polytechnics etc. assembled for their annual jamboree. Over the years, this conference has endorsed some pretty queer ideas, but 1974 will go down as a vintage year.

 

This assembly debated students’ grants; elected a new President (a political loner we are told) by 21 votes; didn’t agree to send a delegation to Czechoslovakia to see if the Czech students’ union were democratic enough to form links with the NUS (would their journey have been really necessary?). Then came the body blow to democracy and the right of people to express their views. The outcome of this debate intimated they had a lot in common with the Communist-Party-dominated Czechoslovakia.

 

A majority of the delegates “voted yesterday to take whatever measures were necessary, including disruption of meetings, to prevent members of racialist or fascist organizations from speaking in colleges” (Guardian, 5th April, 1974). Mr. Steve Parry, the union’s Communist national secretary said: “It was all very well to talk about principles of freedom and democracy, but if people had known, in the days when Hitler was campaigning, what they know now, would they have let him speak? One or two individuals disrupting meetings was not enough. There had to be mass action.”Another presumably intellectual and would-be working-class leader, Mr. H. Feather, wanted to drive the racialist and fascist organizations off the streets — you must pulverize them. All good emotional stuff to warrant a standing ovation, which of course it received.

 

But let us leave the heady atmosphere of the conference hall and look soberly at what has been suggested. Ideas not popular with students must be suppressed. At the conference these ideas are listed as fascist or racialist, but of course in reality it doesn’t stop there.

 

The Communist Party who now urge the working class to vote for the Labour Party took a different point of view in 1930. The following is taken from the Daily Worker 29th January, 1930:

 

  Workshop meetings should be called . . . and resolutions in the support of our Party should be carried, but the mere passing of resolutions is not enough. There should not be a Labour meeting held anywhere, but what the revolutionary workers in that district attend such meetings and fight against the speakers, whoever they are, so-called “left”, “right” or centre”. They should never be allowed to address the workers. This will bring us in conflict with the authorities, but this must be done. The fight can no longer be conducted in a passive manner. We must lead the masses in struggle against this Government and the time has arrived to use every conceivable means of political agitation. The ‘Communist Party and its organ, the “Daily Worker” will lead the working class, fighting boldly and openly, against this government of scoundrels and agents of capitalism.

 

The government of “scoundrels” was the Labour government elected in 1929 whose Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald had been supported by the C.P. for many years. Is further comment necessary?

In 1943 the West Ham branch of the Socialist Party of Great Britain challenged the local branch of the Communist Party to debate the respective objects of the parties. A reply from their branch secretary dated 23rd February stated that “the Communist Party has no dealings with murderers, liars, renegades or assassins. The Communist Party of Great Britain refuses with disgust to deal with such renegades. We treat them as vipers, to be destroyed.” Methinks they protest too much but we leave our readers to form their own judgement on this outburst from the “holier than thou” brigade. Time and time again, the Communists have tried to break up our outdoor meetings — if not by violence, by concerted hooliganism.

And when it comes to the “Hitler campaign”, might we remind Mr. Parry that the Communist Party were prepared to do a deal with the Nazis in 1939? No question then of violently suppressing the Nazi ideas, but the fêting of Ribbentrop with champagne toasts. The Daily Worker (now Morning Star) had a headline of August 23rd, 1939: The German-Russian talks are A VICTORY FOR PEACE AND SOCIALISM. You could have fooled us.

During the 1939 war the Government shut down the Daily Worker for printing views which were considered to be against the war effort (during the CP spell of opposition to the war). The national press and politicians approved this suppression, and whilst the Daily Worker did nothing to enlighten the workers about Socialism (they were proud of their horse-racing tips), the Socialist Standard (Feb. 1941) stated that the SPGB has its own point of view. True to our basic principles we do not support suppression of opinion, however false we believe that opinion to be.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has personal experience of what happens when such a decision as that of the NUS is operative. We arranged a debate in North London against the National Front. An opportunity for the audience to weigh up the two conflicting schools of thought — socialist or nationalist. We were of the opinion that the audience would be able to judge for themselves the validity of the arguments. But our dear “lefty” types thought otherwise. They broke up the meeting. Did they consider the audience to be such a bunch of morons that they could not judge? Obviously they did, and this might just be the reason why these “revolutionaries” wish to appoint themselves as leaders of the masses. They know what is good for us — they know what we should hear.

Democracy, never a favourite word in their vocabulary, means a method of conducting affairs where a majority decision is reached on the basis of all information being readily available. Who are these self-styled dictators, who in the name of democracy, wish to decide what we shall or what we shall not hear? The suppression of “unpopular views” by violence does not eradicate these ideas. This can only be done by a free exchange of ideas.

It is obvious that a university education can turn out just as stupid and dangerous people as the ordinary elementary school.

C. M.