Editorial from the first issue of the
Militant, October 1964
Editor: PETER TAAFFE (Walton Young Socialists)
The MILITANT is being published at the present time because
of the need to provide a conscious socialist lead for the labour
movement, particularly the Young Socialists, in face of the
problems that loom before us.
The chronic crisis of
British imperialism and capitalism are spotlighted by the
recurring balance of payments crises which affect the economy
every few years. British capitalism endeavours to solve its
problems at the expense of the working class through such
measures as wage freezes. At the same time the profits of
the capitalists rise to record levels. The uneasy pretence of
"You never had it so good " is only a trap for the
unwary and more politically backward sections of the middle
class and the workers.
For conscious socialists the problem is to make the mighty
labour movement aware of the impossibility of solving the
national and international problems of our time such as peace
and security, prosperity and abundance, without taking decisive
measures against capitalism.
Only through the most meticulous, scrupulous and patient
arguing to convince the mass of the labour movement of the need
for international socialism can a way be found to the broader
masses of "ordinary" "non-political" people
who are not consciously devoted to politics. On all the
important issues we will endeavour to mobilise the left-wing
workers in the Young Socialists, the trade unions, the wards and
GMCs of the Labour Party, and the Cooperative bodies.
Transport House has especially shown its bureaucratic
ineptitude in its treatment of the Young Socialists and its fear
of healthy discussion among young people. At the same time
certain tendencies have played into the hands of Transport House
by their sectarian and hooligan attitudes. Instead of trying to
win the sympathy and support of the labour and trade union rank
and file which has always had a sympathetic attitude to the
enthusiasm, energy, drive and even impetuousness of youth, they
have alienated this sympathy by going outside the movement with
futile adventures, which in any case only involved a handful of
The Young Socialists can only be a spearhead if it remains an
organic part of the movement itself. The resolutions of the YS
must be carried into the broad labour movement. Above all, the
YS must understand that at the present time, although an
invaluable component, it is still only a small part of the
Last edition of the
Militant announces "Coming Next Week: The
The job is to carry the message of Marxism to the ranks of
the labour movement and to its young people. There is room for
all tendencies in the labour movement, including the
Above all the task is to gather together the most conscious
elements in the labour movement to patiently explain the need
for these policies on the basis of experience and events.
MILITANT will endeavour to seriously gather the facts and
arguments to provide the ammunition for this struggle to rearm
the labour movement. Soberly we hope to present a Marxist
analysis, whether of industrial disputes, the housing crisis, or
the crisis in the Congo, to take a few examples at random, with
suggested solutions in the interests of the working class. The
most important thing is that we wish to tell the truth to the
working class, against the lies and exaggerations of the
capitalist class and the half truths of Labour's officialdom.
It is only the rank and file of the labour movement who can
defeat or change the leadership if it does riot carry out the
measures which are necessary for the movement to survive. We
need to educate and be educated. In the beginning ours can only
be a monthly voice, but within that confine we will endeavour to
deal with the main problems that face the movement.
Our aim is to be the Marxist voice of the Young Socialists
and the militants in the labour movement. The sacrifice and
collection of money among militant workers and Young Socialists
has made possible the production of the paper. It is your paper.
Write for it, sell it, criticise it to make it a better paper,
send reports to it, collect money for it. Make it the mass
journal of militant labour and socialist youth.
From an interview with David Shayler, former
MI5 agent turned whistle blower, by Ken Smith and Molly Cooper in The
Socialist, issue 212, 29 June 2001
ONE OF of the main things we wanted to
ask was what exactly did MI5 get up to when monitoring the Left:
"The surveillance of the Left was absolutely
enormous", says David Shayler.
"If you think that 'subversives'
are trying to undermine the security of the country then it all makes
sense. But I never accepted that initial proviso.
"In the 1980s, MI5 was
obsessed with surveillance. Militant were a big part of that.
Degsy [Derek] Hatton has got one of the biggest files in MI5."
With the exception of the Angry
Brigade, so-called subversives in Britain were never people who took
up arms. The Left were using democracy as it was intended, they had
meetings, went on demonstrations, stood in elections, tried to recruit
people using argument. Now these are all things that should be
"When I arrived in MI5 and was
sent to the counter-subversion section in 1992 they were still bugging
Militant and Socialist Workers' Party HQs.
"Eventually the reason that they
didn't continue large-scale telephone tapping [which he claims
eventually stopped in 1996] is because it's too resource intensive.
There's no lack of room to do it. MI5's automatic reaction is often to
tap somebody's phone. We saw this in the case of Victoria Brittain,
the Guardian journalist. They tapped her phone for a year in an
operation that cost three-quarters of a million pounds to do
absolutely nothing, where they didn't even follow procedure.
"As MI5 took over more Irish work
[after the end of the Cold War] they had fewer and fewer English
language transcribers to do the 'subversive' stuff. So they had this
backlog of tapes and they destroyed them.
"So on the one hand they'd applied
for a warrant saying these people are a threat to national security,
then they have all this stuff about them and just destroy it. The
arguments don't work one way or the other.
"The desk officer for Militant
said once they had ceased being to be 'entryist' [ie, working in the
Labour Party] there's no reason for surveying these people any more.
Although their declared aims are to try and create a different form of
democracy, they're not doing that by any form of underhand means.
Therefore we should stop intercepting these phones.
"This went all the way up through
management as everything does in MI5 and everybody agreed up until the
Branch Director. Now, Branch Directors in MI5 are like feudal lords
protecting their own little fiefdoms and he just said no. He said what
I want you to do is take information bump it up and put up a case to
"Which she was forced to, because
in MI5 you don't have a trade union to stand with you, management will
always stand together.
"Telephone tapping is not as
expensive as physical surveillance but it's very expensive
nevertheless. So you have all this expense because the Branch Director
wants to keep his own little fiefdom.
"In the 1980s, MI5 was obsessed
with surveillance. Militant were a big part of that. Degsy [Derek]
Hatton has got one of the biggest files in MI5.
"And during the miners' strike,
agents were reporting on Scargill throughout the entire strike. This
was to ensure the government always knew what the miners were doing.
And if you knew what they were doing then that puts you in a position
Rise of Militant, by Peter Taaffe,
published in 1995, is the first real account of
Militant, its ideas, organisation and the role of prominent
public figures associated with it.
previous books have been written about Militant. But
this is the only one which gives an authentic account of how
Militant played such a prominent role in Liverpool in the
1980's and the successful battle to defeat the Poll Tax.
from Socialist Books
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