Ted Grant

An Open Letter to the Yorkshire Miners’ Association

Our Answer to the Slanders of the President, Mr Joseph Hall

Written: July 1942
Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4 No. 11, August 1942

18th July, 1942.

To the Secretary,

Yorkshire Miners’ Association,

2 Huddersfield Road,

Barnsley, Yorks.

Dear Sir and Brother,

Our Executive Committee has had under consideration the recent statements of the President of your organisation, Mr Joseph Hall, regarding the Socialist Appeal and the people who support it. Mr Halt has lent authority to his pronouncements by stating that he intends to have an official pronouncement from your Council at the earliest opportunity.

In view of the irresponsible and slanderous character of these allegations and of the wide publicity which has been given to his statements in the press, and in Parliament, it is in the interest of the working class and therefore of your Council, that it investigates the question seriously as a representative working class body, and have before it all the available evidence, before making such a pronouncement.

We propose to deal briefly with the following four outstanding allegations made by Mr Hall to the press:

1. “I am convinced in my own mind unrest in the coalfield has been fostered by subversive influences outside the miners’ organisation.”

2. “These influences are definitely subversive and pro-Nazi. Their object is to hinder production and thereby cripple the war effort.”

3. “The effort to lead these boys away and to destroy their faith in the Trade Union movement has gone too far already.”

4. “Young men between 25 and 30 were being paid £10 a week for distributing the Socialist Appeal.”

Bad conditions cause strikes - not “subversive” propaganda

The assertion by Mr Hall that the recent strike wave has arisen as the result of, and has been fostered by, “subversive” influence outside the miners’ organisation, is not only untrue, it is a direct insult to the miners whom he claims to represent. Miners are forced to resort to strike action only because they have no other method of redressing their legitimate grievances of bad conditions, low wages etc, and not at all because elements outside their ranks surreptitiously foster discontent. This is true not only for the miners, but for the working class as a whole, and it certainly cannot be refuted by your Council or any other representative working class body. Each delegate who now plays a leading role in the Yorkshire Miners’ Association, including Mr Hall, has at one time or another in the past been accused by the mine owners as “subversive.” Coming from the lips of a “leader” of the miners, the term smacks of that “MacDonaldism” which dealt such a savage blow to the labour movement in the past decade or two.

Coal Owners are the real Pro-Nazis

Mr Hall’s statement that our organisation and propaganda is “pro-Nazi” and “aims to hold up production” is a gross slander. We challenge Mr Hall to prove that our sympathies and aims are in any way pro-Nazi. Our tendency has consistently fought fascism in every phase of its existence, nationally and internationally. We claim that only our programme can lead to the defeat of fascism in the Nazi or any other form. If Mr Hall suggests that to continue the fight for the minimum demands of the miners and working peoples is “pro-Nazi”; or to demand from the miners’ leaders a fight to implement the declared programme of the unions for the nationalisation and democratic control of the mines – is pro-Nazi, then he has travelled into the camp of the class enemy. He has consciously or unconsciously gone over to the camp of the coal owners. The real pro-Nazis in Britain are the coal-owners who aided Hitler in his rise against the German workers; who today sabotage production in the interest of profits; who wish to introduce Nazi methods against the British working class; and whose extreme representatives, the right wing Tories, as Mr Churchill so recently exposed in Parliament, are even now in favour of a military dictatorship in Britain.

We believe that the task of a serious working class body today is to expose this capitalist sabotage and anarchy which holds up production, and to counterpose a clear alternative programme for the workers. Far from being interested in holding up production, we consider that the situation is too serious to allow the capitalists to retain control. We believe that our programme of nationalisation of the mines and their operation under the unified and democratic control of the miners and technicians, will achieve the maximum productive results, and is the only policy consistent with the interests of our class.

It is the trade union leaders who undermine trade unionism

Mr Hall’s assertion that our propaganda has “undermined the faith of the workers in their trade unions” is completely false. It is an attempt to identify the Yorkshire Miners’ Association with himself and his friends who are in a similar position, and thus to identify his own interests with those of the miners. This conception was developed by J. H. Thomas before he passed finally into the camp of the ruling class. Far from being identical, the interests of the trade union bureaucracy as represented by Mr Hall, and of the rank and file, are antagonistic. Each day the trade union leaders become more and more interlocked with the capitalist state machine instead of breaking sharply and reasserting the independence of the trade union movement. This is becoming more sharply exposed with each successive struggle of the miners to maintain their conditions of life, where the leaders are to be found, not with the miners, but on the side of the coal-owners. It is the present policy and actions of Joseph Hall and his colleagues which is succeeding in undermining the confidence of the miners in their unions. This is particularly true of the younger workers who are impatient to see a fighting union which backs them up in their economic demands. Disgusted at the treatment at the hands of their officials, many in the Wombwell district proposed to tear up their union cards in the recent dispute! Our comrades patiently explained the false and incorrect character of such action and proposed instead to these young workers that they set up a school through the National Council of Labour Colleges to study the history of the trade union movement and to prepare to take over the functions of the trade unions themselves; in this way to convert their unions once more into fighting organisations.

Mr Hall’s “£10 a week” lie can only discredit your Association

The assertion of Mr Hall that “young men between the ages of 25 and 30 are receiving £10 a week for distributing the Socialist Appeal “cannot be other than a deliberate and premeditated lie. His object is to discredit the distributors and policy of the paper in the eyes of the miners. By suggesting that the Socialist Appeal is financed by sources where money is no object, he hoped to lend his statements a sinister ring. However, Mr Hall attempted to afford himself some cover. He claims that he received the story second hand! May we inquire who told him that the distributors of the Socialist Appeal received £10 a week for the job? Was it someone who had connections with the Labour movement or with the Socialist Appeal and its management? Or is it, as we assume, some fanciful individual concocted by Mr Hall to give his story some little credence? Let us assume that some person with whom Mr Hall is not well acquainted, did impart such information to him: is he so gullible that he accepts such a statement for public distribution without checking on it? If so, his conduct is, to say the least, irresponsible and he deserves to be censured. This question is one that your organisation cannot afford to let go unanswered. Mr Sorenson, a Labour MP, and Mr Morrison, the Labour Home Secretary, have now asked the question in the highest public body in the country: what evidence Mr Hall has to back up his assertion. It can only bring discredit on your Council if Mr Hall is without an answer.

The object of Mr Hall’s irresponsible and reactionary attack was to draw the attention of the Government to the Socialist Appeal in order to get it suppressed. In this he had the full support of those newspapers which, in the past, had the closest sympathy for and connections with German and British fascism. Moreover, the paper which clamours most insistently for our suppression is the voice of the coal owners, the Daily Telegraph. By this gesture, Mr Hall has thrown overboard all pretence of being a democrat himself. He proposes to adopt and implement the methods of fascism in Britain.

Demand A Public Inquiry

If Mr Hall were some backward rank and file member of your union, it would be your task to re-educate him in the democratic ideology of the labour movement. But he is your President, and as such his every action is a public gesture in your name. The publicity given to Mr Hall’s reactionary proclamations have already, we believe, rebounded to the discredit of your organisation. Your Council cannot assume the responsibility of demanding the suppression of another working class body, or its press, by the capitalist class. It is your duty to establish a public enquiry into the whole matter, and we feel confident that the thousands of members of the Yorkshire Miners Association would welcome such an inquiry. We propose therefore to your Council:

1. The immediate setting up by your Council of a Special Committee to investigate the allegations of Mr Hall.

2. The investigations of this Committee should be conducted in Public. Our organization, Workers International League, will place a complete file of our political documents for the last 10 years as well as our books and files of correspondence at the disposal of such a Committee.

3. At the conclusion of the investigation, a mass meeting of Yorkshire miners should be called at Barnsley or Wombwell to which the Committee will make its report. Present at the meeting will be Mr Hall, the Editor of the Socialist Appeal, and Mr J. Haston, the contributor of the articles of which Mr Hall complains.

If there is the slightest semblance of truth in any one of the allegations of Mr Hall, there can be no doubt that such a procedure would establish the facts, and the Yorkshire Miners’ Association Council could thus completely destroy any faith which local miners might have in the policy of the Socialist Appeal. The miners would themselves run the distributors of the Socialist Appeal out of the district whenever or wherever they appeared in the future. On the other hand, if Mr Hall is shown to be guilty, as we are confident he will be, of falsehood and misrepresentation, the exposure should be sufficient to drive him out of public life.

Yours fraternally,

E. Grant, Editor Socialist Appeal