Letter to the Editors from the August 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard
We have received the following letter criticising a statement contained in our July editorial: —
July 3rd, 1934.
Re Editorial, July issue, 1934, referring to Blackshirt meeting at Olympia, I am astonished when you say that they, i.e., members of the audience, "only got what they asked for,” surely this should not be the considered expression of a Socialist organisation when referring to members of an audience who make slight interruptions. It is apparent from eye witnesses’ accounts (see Daily Herald, June 9th, 1034) that interruptors were brutally treated; you put it rather mildly when you say they were "roughly handled," for people to be knocked unconscious, then kicked.
Even, as you say, that "those who went to the Fascist meeting with the intention of creating disorder and making the meeting impossible," that is no justification for the excessive violence that was used in removing interruptors, and for you to say (I cannot help repeating) that they "got what they asked for" is beyond my comprehension. What an amazing expression. I am sorry to see such expressions appearing in Socialist Standard.
The remainder of article I am in perfect agreement.
Yours faithfully, T. W. C.
In the first place we think that our correspondent has misunderstood somewhat the meaning of the passage he criticises.
Among the audience at Mosley’s meeting at Olympia on June 7th there were a large number of people who went there simply to hear what Mosley had to say. Among this section of the audience there were some who did what is customary at public meetings, they made interruptions of the kind not usually objected to by public speakers. There were others at the meeting who quite obviously went there for the deliberate purpose of creating disorder and making the meeting impossible. It was of these latter and not the former that we said they "only got what they asked for, and have no reason to complain if they were roughly handled."
That does not mean, as our correspondent thinks, that we approve of the violence of the Fascisms who organised the meeting, or that we consider that the amount of violence they used was not excessive for the purpose of putting out the interrupters.
We strongly disapprove of all violence used in political discussion, because we know that, no matter from what quarter it comes, it is harmful to the working class and to Socialism. The capitalists use their control of the machinery of government, including the armed forces, to suppress working class resistance. That that is contrary to working class interests needs no arguing. Fascists, under the usual pretence of promoting the welfare of "the public" or even the interests of the workers themselves, are prepared to use violence at their meetings, probably because they believe it has some value to them as an advertisement. That violence, wielded by an organisation which stands for capitalism, is every bit as harmful to working class interests as is the violence used by other defenders of capitalism.
Lastly, we have the Communists and others preaching civil war, advocating armed revolt and street fighting, and boasting of their activities in the direction of organised interference with public meetings of all kinds. Every one of these forms of violence is directly and unqualifiedly anti-working-class in its effects, even although those who are responsible for it believe that they are helping the workers thereby. Violence of this kind is harmful because it distracts the attention of the workers from the real problems of winning over the majority to Socialism and of capturing the machinery of government; because it gives the capitalists an excuse to suppress Socialist propaganda and to drive organisation underground; and because it prevents the workers from hearing and considering either the merits of the Socialist case or the hollowness of the Fascist case.
Those who organise or encourage such activity are to be condemned absolutely from the standpoint of working class interests and Socialism.