History,  Trots

From the Vaults: Socialist Worker, 1977-1978

For light entertainment on  a weekend afternoon,  I am sure like many of you, rather than watch reruns of comedy classics such as Fawlty Towers, I like to flick through old issues of Socialist Worker. Recently the box I selected contained 1977 and 1978 issues. I am not sure what was funnier, Karen Beasly’s letter published in the September 2, 1978 issue where she discussed the British Balfour Declaration of 1948 or Paul Foot’s four page special on Palestine in the March 25 1978 issue. Here, the editors decided to include in Hebrew the slogans, “Down with Zionism” and “Revolution to Victory.” Unfortunately for them, they printed the Hebrew text upside down and hence it did not really work so well.

On a different and rather more sinister note, there is the matter of the Socialist Workers Party and their involvement with the banning of Jewish societies on campus. The poster by the name of johng, who on occasion appears in the comments boxes of this blog has often denied that his party, the SWP, were involved in such activity.  The problem he has with this continual denial is what has been published in the pages of Socialist Worker, the newspaper associated the SWP tells a rather different story.

In those days, the student wing of the party was known as the National Organisation of International Socialists Students (NOISS). In an article published in the November 5, 1977 issue of Socialist Worker, Andy Strouthous made it clear:

NOISS – the SWP’s student organisation – is opposed to the funds of student unions being used to promote propaganda in favour of Israel.

For all intent and purposes, this was the same thing as banning Jewish societies. The argument was that the Jewish societies were Zionist and whereas other societies could have access to funds from the student union to organise a society or the ability to book rooms from the student union to meet, the Jewish society could not.  Leading SWP member Alex Callinicos confirmed that this was the case in a letter to the following issue (November 12, 1977) of Socialist Worker:

The NOISS resolution for NUS conference … simply states that student union money and facilities should not be used for activities whose aim is to further the Zionist state’s interests.

Callinicos elaborated that “We are not in favour of physically preventing Zionists from meeting” and “are for the right of Jewish students to organise.”  One can assume from this that Callinicos was not instructing SWP thugs to beat up Jews and that he had no objections to Jews meeting, providing that they did not do it in a room belonging to the students’ union.

The SWP really is a loathsome party comprised of vile individuals.