The Annual General Meeting of the People’s Press Printing Society (PPPS) is a good time to review the history of the Morning Star and to assess, critically and self-critically, whether it is currently performing its due role in the service of the working class at home and abroad.
It is in that spirit that we address this open letter to you. In formal terms, the Morning Star is owned by you, its shareholders. In essence, you are the custodians for its real owners – the Morning Star is, or at least ought to be, an asset of the working-class movement.
Founded on 1 January 1930 as the Daily Worker, the paper was the product of the struggles and sacrifice of the British working class and its party, the then revolutionary Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), as well as of the international proletariat and its vanguard, the Communist International.
This was the paper envisaged by V I Lenin in his famous letter to Comrade Thomas Bell of 13 August 1922, in which he said it was important to “Start a daily paper of the working class, for the working class … To start it not as a business (as usually newspapers are started in capitalist countries), not with big sum of money, not in the ordinary and usual manner – but as an economic and political tool of the masses in their struggle.” (Collected Works, Volume 32)
Such indeed was the case. As Matthew Worley wrote in his book, Class Against Class, The Communist Party in Britain Between the Wars: “The Daily Worker began its existence without such journalistic rudimentaries as lighting, heat, a telephone, or a tape machine.”
This did not daunt its revolutionary spirit. In its founding issue, the paper declared itself “an antidote to the poison gas of the bourgeois and pseudo-Labour press”.
For its first 19 years, the Daily Worker was edited by Comrade William Rust, one of the greatest communist leaders ever produced by the British proletariat, a comrade who placed nothing higher than his loyalty to the Communist International and to the Soviet Union, that is, to the international working class and to the country where the working class ruled, where the dictatorship of the proletariat existed.
With such leadership, the Daily Worker could survive every challenge, from a ban by the distribution wholesalers, imposed shortly after publication commenced and which was to last 12 years, to the 18-month ban imposed by Labour home secretary Herbert Morrison.
To this day, the Morning Star is produced from William Rust House. It is a well-deserved tribute to a great communist. But, in political terms, can we say that today’s Morning Star carries forward the proud traditions of Rust and his comrades – of unyielding support to lands where the capitalist class has been overthrown, of support to every struggle against imperialism, and of staunch fidelity to Marxism Leninism and resolute struggle against social democracy?
Sadly, even a cursory examination of the contents of today’s Morning Star shows this to be very far from the case.
When, in April this year, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) launched an experimental communications satellite, the Morning Star uncritically echoed the comments of Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), who, without a word about the hundreds of satellites launched by other nations, or of the ability of US imperialism to destroy the planet many times over with its nuclear weapons, denounced the DPRK’s actions as “provocative” and “unhelpful”. Indeed, Hudson went on to compare the DPRK unfavourably with the USA!
“In a week where we have seen many positive strides by the US and Russia towards a safer world, with fewer nuclear threats, this is particularly unhelpful.” (Quoted in ‘CND condemns N Korea rocket launch’, Morning Star, 5 April 2009)
Sadly, there is no reason why the Morning Star should not report Hudson’s remarks in less than laudatory tones because, besides being the chair of CND, she is also a prominent member of the revisionist Communist Party of Britain (CPB), which, in reality, controls and runs the paper.
As our party commented at the time:
“The US objects strongly when its virtual monopoly of space is in any way challenged, even by a peaceful communications satellite, and the appeasers of CND and the CPB/Morning Star, instead of standing up and supporting the right of the DPRK to launch a satellite for whatever reason it wants, including defence if it should so choose, give lectures to a socialist country for ignoring the threats and lies of US imperialism and their lackeys.” (‘CPB cowardice over Korean satellite’, blog.cpgb-ml.org, 7 April 2009)
This was by no means the only occasion on which the CPB-controlled Morning Star has flaunted its hostility to socialist Korea. On one disgracefully memorable occasion, the paper even accused the Korean people of practising cannibalism! Reviewing a book by an anti-communist defector, the Star wrote:
“His village fed on weeds like wormwood and dandelion boiled repeatedly into weak soups. Executions and even cannibalism add to the unremitting gloom and doom.”
And just for the avoidance of any doubt, the reviewer asserts:
“I have no doubt that most of the truly awful daily living conditions described here are broadly accurate.” (‘Growing up in North Korea’, 29 August 2005)
Such accusations of cannibalism come from the lowest depths of the anti-communist and racist sewers of the imperialist disinformation and intelligence agencies. This calumny was directed at Soviet Russia in the 1920s, the People’s Republic of China in the 1960s, and the DPRK in the 1990s. It was a lie, a lie and a lie. To see it repeated in a working-class newspaper is a truly shameful occurrence that would have Comrade Rust turning in his grave.
Other socialist countries fare little better than the DPRK in the pages of the Star. Last summer, as the Chinese people, and people throughout the world, looked forward with pride to the Beijing Olympics, the paper gave space for Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn to call for the games not to take place.
“The TV pictures of the capital on Monday showed a fetid smog covering the whole city and the gleaming new stadiums invisible … What a fantastic wake-up call it would be for the whole world if the Olympic Games had to be suspended to allow the air to clear to make it safe for athletes to compete.” (‘Wake-up call on pollution’, 29 July 2008)
In the event, of course, not only was the air safe for athletes to compete, but Beijing is universally held to have hosted the world’s best ever Olympics – no thanks to the ‘fetid’ Corbyn or the Morning Star.
The week before, the Morning Star had given gushing coverage to an anti-Olympics event called by ‘No Sweat’, a front for the Trotskyite Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL), one of whose other claims to fame is carrying Israeli flags at Gaza demonstrations. With not a word about the fact that, in the last few decades, socialist China has lifted some 400 million people out of poverty, the Star wrote:
“Anti-sweatshop campaigners staged an ‘Unfair Olympics’ on the streets of central London on Tuesday evening to highlight the appalling exploitation of workers making merchandise for the Beijing Olympics …
“‘It’s just weeks away from the biggest corporate sports and sweatshops fest the world has ever seen,’ Mr Jordan went on …
“He charged: ‘Far from being a celebration of “universal moral values”, the Olympics has become an orgy of naked corporate greed.’” (‘Olympic Games “an orgy of corporate greed”’, 22 July 2008)
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam comes in for similar treatment. Last month the Star reported:
“A US-based human rights group criticised Vietnam’s record on workers’ rights on Monday, accusing the government of trying to eliminate independent unions … HRW [Human Rights Watch] Asia director Brad Adams said: ‘By arresting the most prominent labour leaders, the Vietnamese government is trying to wipe out the independent trade-union movement.
“‘The government continues to harass independent labour activists, who are seen as a threat to the Communist Party because of their ability to organise large numbers of people,’ Mr Adams charged.” (‘Vietnam accused of crackdown on union leaders’, 4 May 2009)
Even the tiny People’s Democratic Republic of Laos does not escape the Star’s anti-socialist wrath. On several occasions recently, the paper has waxed indignant over the fate of a pregnant young British woman held in prison on charges of heroin smuggling, referring repeatedly to “the notorious Phonthong prison where inmates claim they are held in horrific conditions, beaten and abused”. (See for example, ‘Pregnant prisoner is facing a firing squad’, 1 May 2009. Incidentally, the Lao authorities have stated that pregnant women may not be executed in their country.)
Needless to say, the Star has not investigated conditions in the prison. It is content to rely on Reuters news agency and similar sources. And what the Star ‘forgets’ to tell us is that if indeed conditions in Lao prisons leave something to be desired, that might just be connected to the fact that this tiny country of less than 7 million people, most of whom live on subsistence agriculture, was hit by an average of one B-52 payload every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, between 1964-73. US bombers dropped more ordinance on Laos than was dropped in the whole of World War II. And, of the 260m cluster bombs dropped, 80m failed to explode. This deadly legacy, which still claims the lives of many Lao citizens, especially children, is far more worthy of our concern than is a single drug smuggler.
Under William Rust, the Daily Worker took a courageous stand in support of all those fighting against British imperialism, especially in India and Ireland. Daily Worker foreign editor Arthur Clegg served a prison term for his activities in support of Indian independence. You would expect, therefore, that today’s Morning Star would stand four square behind the heroic Iraqi resistance. Again, sadly, the opposite is true. The recent upsurge in the Iraqi resistance drew this disgraceful response from the Star:
“Iraq’s vice-president has called for national unity after militants struck in Baghdad and Kirkuk, killing at least 23 people. Three US soldiers were among those killed when a bomb exploded near a popular outdoor market in the southern Dora district on Thursday …
“The increase in violence comes as the US military prepares to pull out of Iraq’s cities and towns by June 30 and has sparked fears of a return to the sectarian violence that brought Iraq to the brink of civil war three years ago. Iraqi vice-president Tarek al-Hashemi called for national unity in the wake of the violence. ‘The evil and criminal powers are back once again to continue their criminal actions against our patient people,’ Mr Hashemi said in a statement.” (‘Iraq calls for unity against militants’, 21 May 2009)
What is it that prevents today’s Morning Star from following the line of the original Daily Worker – from resolutely supporting those fighting for national liberation and those engaged in the building of socialism; of supporting that struggle in every part of the world?
The answer lies in the fact that the Star’s editorial line is dictated by the CPB and reflects its revisionist programme, Britain’s Road to Socialism. By following this programme, which flies in the face of every Marxist-Leninist teaching on the nature of the state, and spitting on the graves of millions of victims of Labour imperialism, today’s Morning Star has betrayed the proud traditions of the Daily Worker, for the paltry reward of becoming the hod carriers of social democracy. As such, at too many crucial moments, the Morning Star puts its loyalty to the labour aristocracy and to the imperialist Labour party above what should be its duty, to support those fighting against imperialism and those fighting for and building socialism.
In the view of the CPGB-ML, this was not what generations of communists and workers fought and struggled for. Nor is it what many good comrades who still today struggle to sustain the Morning Star, through sales pitches, donations to the fighting fund, book sales, and so on, believe in and stand for. Our party, therefore, calls on all PPPS shareholders, all Morning Star readers and supporters, to join us in fighting for a return to the original revolutionary standpoint of the Daily Worker, so that the Morning Star might once more become a weapon in the hands of the revolutionary proletariat, basing itself on the science of Marxism Leninism, to help lead the British proletariat to power, in firm unity with our comrades throughout the world.