Paul Anderson, Tribune column, 3 February 2002
I appear to have upset the editor of the Morning Star, John Haylett, by referring in passing in this column to the Communist Party of Britain as the publisher of his organ (Letters, January 30).
I apologise for misleading readers: the Star is, of course, published by the People's Press Printing Society, a company set up by the Communist Party of Great Britain (not the same thing as the CPB) many moons ago in order to persuade the rest of the Left that it did not in fact control its daily paper -- even though the sole purpose of the paper was to disseminate the CPGB's (and Moscow's) view of the world.
No one was convinced at the time or indeed for many years later, but the scam went sour for the CPGB in the 1980s, when its Eurocommunist leadership discovered too late that the PPPS had fallen into the hands of diehard Stalinists opposed to what they saw as the Eurocommunist dilution of the party line. The Euros failed in an attempt to oust them from the PPPS but subsequently expelled them from the party, and the Stalinists set up the CPB, which had roughly the same position in the PPPS – de facto but not formal control – that the CPGB had when the company was set up.
Since then, the CPB – never a large organisation, not least because its Stalinism is deeply unattractive to all but psychopaths – has declined in membership, and there have been several spats over the Star's relationship with it. But unless I've missed something (and I might well have done, because there are several more important things in my life than following the vituperative world of British Stalinism), the CPB remains the dominant force in the PPPS to this day.
I'm sure Mr Haylett or one of his comrades will put me right on this if I've got it wrong. But even if the CPB these days has only the tiniest of roles in the PPPS, it's impossible to take seriously his claim that the Star is now a paper of the broad left that deserves the support of the whole labour movement.
I accept that it carries some good journalism. I read it every day for its industrial coverage, which, although a pale shadow of its former self, remains more comprehensive than that of any other daily apart from the Financial Times.
But the Star's politics stink. It is the last refuge of the worst of the old British Left. It remains sickeningly nostalgic for the police states of formerly existing socialism in east-central Europe and the Soviet Union. It consistently fawns over the vile dictatorships that run Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam and China. It was shamefully enthusiastic for Slobodan Milosevic. On Britain's relationship with Europe – surely the most important single question facing the British Left right now – it is as relentlessly and bone-headedly Europhobic as any right-wing Tory paper. It has nothing intelligent to say about how to revitalise our flagging democracy. It has no understanding of how the world has been changed by information technology. Its coverage of cultural politics is laughable. And even in the area its reporting is strongest, industrial relations, its editorial attitude is ludicrously confrontational.
In short, the Star is precisely the left daily the British left doesn't need. Which is not to say that I wish it dead – but I've had enough of its people whingeing that the left owes it a living. It doesn't. To get the respect and circulation it wants, it has to earn it. And it won't do that with its current neanderthal politics.
On a different matter entirely, I find myself in the distressing position of agreeing with Gerald Kaufman on an issue of policy. This week, he forced Jack Straw on to the defensive in the House of Commons over the government’s plans to give Spain a share of sovereignty in Gibraltar. Mr Kaufman argued – with reason – that the wishes of the people of Gibraltar should be paramount in determining the territory’s status, and demanded that Mr Straw promised to abide by the results of a planned referendum on the imminent deal with Spain. Mr Straw pointedly refused. So much for democracy, it seems, if it gets in the way of cosying up to Jose Maria Aznar, Spain’s right-wing prime minister and Tony Blair’s closest political ally in Europe.