Eysenck at LSE: Socialist Defends Free Speech
On Tuesday 8 May Professor Eysenck, who holds certain controversial views about the intellectual abilities of American negroes, was forcibly prevented from expressing his views at the London School of Economics. Responsibility for this political censorship was claimed by a Maoist group. Our comrade Dom Zucconi, an LSE student expressed Socialist opposition to this suppression of free speech, as the following report from the Daily Telegraph of 11 May shows:
“Tuesday’s incident was last night described as a “disgrace and discredit to socialism and a brief for fascism” by Mr. D. Zucconi, a student who described himself as a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain when he proposed the motion to apologise to Professor Eysenck.
‘How does one best deal with fascism? With the butt-end of a rifle or with ideas? The political process is a battle of ideas and, unless you can rebut these concepts, you are lost’, he said.
‘In preventing him from speaking, you are resorting to the same tactics you accused fascists of using’, he told the meeting to loud cheers.”
For the record, the precise wording of the motion proposed by Comrade Zucconi and carried by a large majority at the LSE Union meeting was:
“This Union strongly deprecates the conduct of those present at Professor Eysenck’s meeting on Tuesday who appointed themselves to decide that nobody should be allowed to hear a point of view with which they disagreed. We place on record that only in the healthy atmosphere of free expression can ideas be debated, false ideas debunked and sound ideas developed. We therefore apologise to Professor Eysenck for the action of a minority in preventing him from being heard.”
The Socialist Party of course has always practised the principles expressed in this resolution. We have always been prepared to give opponents of Socialism a chance to express their views from our platform. This is because we are convinced that our views are right and that this will emerge from full and free debate—and if we are wrong we want to know, so that we can stop wasting our time.
Censorship, whether through the legalized violence of the capitalist State as enforced by the Courts or by the violence of self-appointed political guardians as displayed at the LSE, is anti-socialist and anti-working class and must be exposed whenever it rears its ugly head.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FREE SPEECH
Statement by World Socialist Society at LSE
As members of the Socialist Party of Great Britain we are opposed to all censorship, whether it be through the legalized violence as enforced by the courts of the capitalist state or by the violence of self-appointed moral or political guardians. Let there be no misunderstanding of the meaning of what happened here last week. A body of people decided that the rest of us should not be allowed to hear certain views they considered objectionable; they took it upon themselves to use physical violence to achieve this end — and succeeded. In other words, they successfully censored what we should hear. But will they stop here? Will they now proceed to prevent Eysenck expressing his views in writing? And, after that, will they burn the books he has already written? And what are the prospects for those of us who disagree with them if ever they win control of political power? Will we be shot or just put into concentration camps? These are serious questions since they are the logical extensions of the policy pursued by last week’s political censors.
There is a further point: all censorship — especially censorship of this kind, allegedly exercised for the benefit of the working class — is an insult to the intelligence of ordinary working men and women since it implies that they cannot be trusted to hear or read certain ideas and are incapable of making rational judgements on the merits of rival ideas. Those who favour censorship always assume that they are somehow superior to ordinary people and have the right to decide what ordinary people should or should not hear. Censorship is an elitist policy — but those who favour it here at the LSE such as the Maoists and Trotskyists have nothing but contempt for the ability of the working class to understand Socialist ideas and to establish Socialism by and for themselves.
The classic case for allowing unpopular minority views to be expressed — including those with openly anti-democratic ones like fascism AND Maoism — has never been refuted: if they are wrong then their case will perish in the course of free, rational discussion; if they are right then censorship delays discovering this. As our resolution passed by the Union last Thursday puts: “only in the healthy atmosphere of free expression can ideas be debated, false ideas debunked and sound ideas developed”. We are always prepared at all our meetings to give opponents of Socialism a chance to express their views. For we are convinced that our views are right and that this will be shown in any free debate — and if we are wrong we wish to know so that we can stop wasting our time. WE STATE unambiguously that ALL censorship is anti-Socialist and anti-working class.
Last week’s incident has done one thing, if nothing else. It has brought into the open those who favour censorship of political ideas: the Maoists and Trotskyists. They have placed themselves in the same camp as the fascists themselves and stand exposed as the dangerous enemies of the working class prostituting the good name of Socialism.
We stand for the common ownership of the means of production, without distinction of race or sex, organised democratically.