The Morning Star and the “single, divisive individual”

stalin For some months now, Red Youth has been receiving requests to contribute financially towards an advert in the Morning Star, ostensibly to commemorate the birth of JV Stalin. This advert was being prepared by Second Wave Publications, a small left-wing publisher.

In the course of their efforts to publish this advert, comrades at Second Wave ran into a stumbling block in the shape of the editor of the Morning Star, Richard Bagley. We publish below the correspondence that has followed between a supporter of the advert – CPB Morecombe Bay & Lancaster branch secretary Norman Hill – and Mr Bagley, along with the original advert. Our readers may in this way judge the issue for themselves, while becoming better acquainted with the present editorial policy of the Morning Star.

It is our opinion that both the political outlook of the designers of the advert and the editorial policy of the Morning Star represent considerable obstacles to the struggle of the working class in its fight against capitalist crisis and for socialism.

On the one hand, Second Wave seeks to ‘celebrate’ Stalin in such a grossly abstract and amateurish manner that it would be better to spare him the shame, whilst the Morning Star would rather not discuss the matter at all, lest it expose their total capitulation to barely-concealed opportunism, economism and social democracy.

Any celebration of the life of Josef Stalin must be closely connected to, and make absolutely clear, the world-historic significance of the man, his work, and his achievements in the building of socialism if it is to have any relevance to the working class today.

The building of the Bolshevik party and the victory of the great October socialist revolution in 1917; the successes in the building of the world’s first-ever socialist society; the dramatic rise in the standard of living for millions of Soviet citizens, who had in just a few short years left feudal and primitive social conditions behind for good; the victory of the USSR over fascism; the firm leadership given by JV Stalin during these and other challenging and cataclysmic struggles … all this barely scratches the surface of the significance of Stalin and the Soviet experience for us today.

Here is a man who in death, as in life, inspires the most furious and passionate hatred of the bourgeoisie and its troto-revisionist hangers on. And the inspiration for this hatred rests not with the man, his personality or habits, but with his politics and with the achievements associated with those politics – namely, the defence of the principles of scientific socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Under the leadership of JV Stalin, the whole world watched with awe as the peoples of the Soviet Union set new heights for heroism and progress, abolished the exploitation of man by man, destroyed the feudal and capitalist relics of Russian tsardom, united the formerly colonial subjects of the Russian empire into a mighty force for socialism, liberation and progress which touched every corner of the globe and made the single greatest contribution to the ending of colonial subjugation for millions of starving, wretched and oppressed people.

Quite shamefully, Richard Bagley, rather than admit to and celebrate the above, seeks to belittle the role and contemporary relevance of the builder of socialism and inspirer of the defeat of fascism, asserting that he is merely a “single, divisive individual” who “died sixty years ago”. A more clumsy, ignorant and painfully dismissive statement we could not expect to be confronted with in another 60 years!

Even the most crass of bourgeois historians could not be found guilty of such outstanding stupidity. Comrade Bagley, a titan of the international working-class movement, brushes aside the earth-shattering contribution of Josef Stalin in such a matter-of-fact way it almost leaves one breathless.

But whilst such craven capitulation to the troto-revisionist fraternity is really quite tragic, it is to be expected. For, perhaps unbeknown to our friends at Second Wave Publications, comrade Bagley is not the only titan running the show; he is but a mouthpiece for his bosses back at Ruskin House – Griffiths, Haylett and the whole bunch of similarly dismissive Khrushchevite mummies who occupy the leadership of the Communist Party of Britain.

This sour and ageing gentry long ago abandoned all fidelity to Marxism Leninism, taking themselves over to the side of social democracy with a zeal and enthusiasm, the magnitude of which can only be matched by their combined egos. Such anti-communist comments as those made by Mr Bagley furnish further proof, if any were needed, that the party of Harry Pollitt and Willie Gallacher is certainly not the party of Bagley, Haylett, Griffiths and co.

Harry Pollitt leader of the CPGB
Harry Pollitt leader of the CPGB

How can such men claim any allegiance to communism? Or, rather, how arethey able to convince the rest of their party that they stand in the tradition of the old CPGB? Are the members so insipid? Are they so in awe of their full-time officials? The statement by the illustrious editor of their paper could not be further from these words of Harry Pollitt: ”Stalin – the man who really believed in the working class and evoked from it all that creative genius and energy which has astounded the world for over 30 years and will do more so in the future.

How poor Comrade Pollitt would hate to hear that the inheritors of the Daily Worker/Morning Star, rather than being inspired to further creative genius by the life work of Comrade Stalin, instead choose to skulk away, brushing him aside and doing their best to pretend that Stalin and Soviet socialism never existed!

It is not Stalin who has no relevance to the working class in its fight against austerity but Bagley and company. It is not Stalin who is divisive but Bagley and all the rest of the revisionists and Trotskyites who work so hard to keep every class-conscious worker tied to the imperialist Labour party and divided from their comrades-in-arms in the oppressed countries.

Bagley has absolutely nothing to teach us about the struggle against austerity and war. Rather, it is Stalin whose words ring out today, as clear, true and full of hope and promise as ever:

JV StalinEither place yourself at the mercy of capital, eke out a wretched existence as of old and sink lower and lower, or adopt a new weapon – this is the alternative imperialism puts before the vast masses of the proletariat. Imperialism brings the working class to revolution.

————————————————————————————————————————

The offending advert
The offending advert

—- Forwarded Message —–
From: N Hill
To: Richard Bagley
Sent: Tuesday, 10 December 2013, 23:41
Subject: Stalin Commemorative Birthday Advertisement

Dear Editor,

You have censored an advertisement commemorating the birthday of Josef Stalin on the grounds that publication of the proposed half-page advertisement would ‘bring the paper into disrepute’.

I am interested to know how you arrived at this conclusion: was it based purely upon intuition or was it based upon factual evidence arising from some previous event? If the latter, please provide details.

Please provide me with some reason/s for your decision to censor the advertisement despite a fee and date of insertion having already been agreed with your advertising department some weeks before you made your decision (and then immediately departing for your holiday – leaving no time for an appeal to be made for you to reconsider).

You will be aware that a commemorative birthday advertisement was published in December last year without any problem so has there been a change of policy that has been kept secret from shareholders of the PPPS and the leadership of the Communist Party of Britain?

Norman Hill – in personal capacity

Secretary Morecambe Bay and Lancaster CPB,

Treasurer Northern District Committee CPB,

PPPS shareholder,

Communist Party member and Morning Star reader, supporter and promoter for 34 years.

From: N Hill
To: Richard Bagley
Sent: Friday, 13 December 2013, 9:39
Subject: Fw: Stalin Commemorative Birthday Advertisement

Dear Editor,

This is a second request for reasons leading you to conclude the advertisement would ‘bring the paper into disrepute’ and to subsequently censor it.

A response will be appreciated.

Norman Hill

From: Richard Bagley
To: N Hill
Sent: Friday, 13 December 2013, 13:09
Subject: Re: Fw: Stalin Commemorative Birthday Advertisement

Comrade,

Apologies for the delay in replying to your email of December 10th but we are currently short-staffed at the paper.

I recognise your long-standing support for the paper so I welcome your request for more information on this issue.

As a long-term supporter you will be aware that each year PPPS members endorse the editorial link between the Morning Star and the Communist Party of Britain’s programme Britain’s Road to Socialism.

My role as editor, alongside many other responsibilities, is to ensure that the content of the paper reflects and assists the development of the strategy highlighted in that document, with the aim in the first instance of forging a popular democratic anti-monopoly alliance.

That is the central political role of the Morning Star as a daily newspaper with the historic and current goal of wide circulation.

Content destined for the paper’s pages cannot be allowed to fundamentally undermine this strategic objective.

The advert that you refer to does not pass this test.

I hope that this clarifies the issue.

In solidarity,

Richard Bagley
Morning Star Editor

From: N Hill
To: Richard Bagley
Dear Editor,

I thank you for your reply and I am sorry to learn that the paper is short-staffed – I hope this is but a temporary situation.

I have always been aware of the editorial link between the paper and CBP’s programme, the BRS, and I fully acknowledge the paper’s invaluable work in helping to build a broad democratic alliance against multi-national monopoly capitalism – this is why I have purchased a daily copy since 1978, became a shareholder of the PPPS and why I have sought at every opportunity to sell and to promote the Morning Star despite periods of financial hardship and, sometimes, open hostility from not only the main class enemy but from members of the labour movement, too. So I am dissatisfied with your reply.

Please explain how publication of the proposed birthday commemoration advertisement would, in your opinion and based upon what evidence, ‘fundamentally undermine the paper’s strategic objective of reflecting and assisting the development of the strategy highlighted in the BRS and the paper’s aim of forging a popular democratic anti-monopoly alliance’ and how, precisely, it ‘does not pass this test’.

I am also curious to know why, when a date for insertion and fee had been agreed with your advertising department in early October, you only decided to ban its publication in early December (before immediately departing on holiday).

In comradeship,

Norman Hill

From: Richard Bagley
To: N Hill
Date: 13 December 2013 16:47:45 GMT
Subject: Re: Fw: Stalin Commemorative Birthday Advertisement

Comrade,

I find it incredible that you are unable to see how the advert submitted would conflict with the paper’s primary goal of forging a popular anti-monopoly alliance. I have said all I am going to say on the matter.

With regards your second point, the advert was rejected when it was brought to my attention. It would appear highly unusual for a fee to be agreed three months early – and indeed, as I understand it, there was an attempt to secure space for the advert at a 30 per cent discount. I can see no reason why the paper would agree to offer such a large discount.

I can only assume that the individual approaching our advertising department was misled, or they have misled you.

In solidarity,

From: N Hill

To: R Bagley

Editor,

Two tragic bereavements in as many months have left me with little stomach for a war of words with you so I simply ask (for the third time), can you please explain why you were of the opinion that publication of the proposed half page advertisement commemorating the birthday of Josef Stalin would have ‘brought the paper into disrepute’ and subsequently prevented it from being printed? On what evidence did you base your opinion? And why was a commemorative advertisement accepted last year without any problem? If you were so concerned about upsetting the perceived fragile sensibilities of a section of the readership why could you not have printed a disclaimer to cover your own back?

These are straightforward questions and ones which I believe deserve a straight forward response. For example, it is not necessary for me to know that the question causes you astonishment or to be presented with the ethos of the Morning Star – which I have known for half my lifetime – or to read the Work Description of the editor of the paper; I just want non-pompous answers to my questions so I may confidently return to subscribing to, funding, and promoting the Morning Star in the knowledge that it is not being steered in a history-denying bourgeois direction.

Norman Hill

From: Richard Bagley
To: N Hill
Date: 25 December 2013 13:58:23 GMT
Subject: RE: Stalin Birthday Ad – Morning Star

Dear Norman,

I am sorry to hear about your recent bereavements and I hope this reply will not distress you further.

I have however no intention of engaging with your detailed interrogation on this issue.

If you choose to define your support for the paper in relation to this advert’s acceptance or not then that is your choice.

It appears, Norman, that you have made up your mind that the paper is a ‘history-denying’ and ‘bourgeois’ publication based on the non-publication of one advert related to a single, divisive individual from Soviet history who died 60 years ago. (Emphasis added by Second Wave)

I have explained why this decision was taken in the light of the very real class challenges that we face in the present, and our party’s strategic policy which requires maximum unity in the face of the worst onslaught on working-class people in 80 years and with no end in sight.

Assessment of Stalin’s legacy and contribution to Soviet history belongs in Communist Review not the pages of the Morning Star, a non-theoretical journal which has enough of the current to focus on without engaging in diversionary and abstract debates on events 60 years ago because it is some people’s peculiar obsession or at the heart of a few individuals’ political compass. (Emphasis added by Second Wave)

I don’t see how anything other than the advert’s publication would put your mind at rest.

This will not happen.

Regards,
Richard Bagley
Morning Star Editor

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