Broadcasting the socialist message

Saturday night saw the first ever television broadcast by the Socialist Labour Party. In some respects, this was quite an historic occasion, as the last official’ appearance on our TV screens of an avowedly revolutionary socialist organisation was by the Workers Revolutionary Party in the early 1970s. This time round, it was Arthur Scargill, not Vanessa Redgrave (who now advocates a ‘tactical’ vote for the Liberal Democrats), delivering the socialist message.

It has to be admitted that the SLP broadcast was a bit disappointing - and a tad dull. The image that came across was that the SLP was a respectable party that would sort Britain out. The dire conditions that workers live under and their desire for change, so eloquently expressed in Ken Loach’s film for ‘Newsnight’ earlier that evening, was absent. Instead we got a shopping list of SLP ‘promises’ – “one million new homes every year for five years”, “pensions to be doubled”, etc - and a distinctly nostalgic yearning for the good old days when everybody left their doors open, because they had nothing worth stealing. The menfolk worked day and night in the factory or down the pit, while the women tried to raise a family on the pittance of a wage they brought home.

Scargill himself looked calm and composed. The Arthur Scargill of the TV broadcast was certainly not the “mad Marxist” of the tabloids’ imagination, and he came across a serious politician. Whatever the limitations of the SLP’s broadcast, we should still welcome the fact that it happened at all.

On the other hand, the BNP’s broadcast was not so welcome - and not just amongst the revolutionary left. Mark Lawson of The Guardian, not unreasonably, found it a bit curious that the BBC blacked out almost half of the Pro-Life Alliance’s broadcast because it violated the Independent Television Commission’s guidelines on taste and decency”, yet was quite prepared (unlike Channel Four, which refused to show it) to screen the BNP’s hate-filled rant against immigrants and blacks: “Those who did run it might like to explain the reasoning by which viewers are protected from upsetting images but exposed to fascist rhetoric” (April 26).

Socialist Worker conducted a vigorous and noisy campaign against the BNP appearing on our TV screens. It stated that “socialists and anti-Nazis should argue for workers to pull the plugs” (April 12) when it came to broadcast time, and pushed Media Workers Against the Nazis to the fore. Naturally, if the media workers had pulled the plugs on the mock fuhrer, Tyndall, this would have sent a powerful message to the likes of the BNP, and marked a tremendous blow for genuine anti-fascism.

The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, takes a different approach. It is appalled that such “offensive” and “dangerous” material could be allowed on British television, and demanded that the “broadcasters should ban any fascist propaganda on TV and radio” (April 25).

This is a very dangerous demand. The Socialist Party seems to believe that the bourgeois state should be the final arbiter of what is “offensive” and what is not; that it should decide what we see and hear. It should have followed the SWP and directed its appeal to the media workers and not the TV bosses (or the state).

The working class should not be treated as children, as the SP thinks. The Independent’s editorial comments on the BNP broadcast revealed more respect for the masses’ intelligence than The Socialist. Referring to Martin Tyndall, it calls him a demented-looking old cove using phraseology and poses cribbed from a Movietone News clip of Oswald Mosley ... However repellent his views, this was merely ridiculous” (April 28). Yet somehow it puts the fear of god into the SP - so much that the very image has to be erased.

As a matter of principle, communists do not look to the bourgeois state for protection - we want to overthrow it, not give it more anti-democratic powers. We want to protect our rights, unlike the SP which wants to throw theirs away. If this means that the BNP get to tout their filth on the television, so be it. Bur we will endeavour to defeat their ideas in whatever way we can - whether it means pulling the plugs, physically breaking up their meetings or destroying their arguments by putting forward our own.

After all, we want access to the TV in order to put forward our revolutionary communist propaganda - and just think how “offensive” and dangerous” the Channel Four mandarins, or Mark Lawson, will find that. We must not allow them the right to silence us.

Eddie Ford