Morning Star readers in the dark
Not a word has yet appeared in the ‘official communist’ Morning Star about the civil war raging around it. Even unofficial industrial action by the editorial staff which prevented the Star’s appearance on February 5 merited only an apology to advertisers, but no explanation to readers.
The suspension on January 24 of editor and Communist Party of Britain political committee member John Haylett, supposedly for allowing Star equipment to be used for CPB purposes, is still unknown to Star readers. The charge is outrageous, especially given the fact that the Morning Star makes full use of the CPB’s fax facilities whenever the Star’s machine breaks down. Labelling this crime as "gross misconduct", as every shop steward knows, indicates management’s intention to go for dismissal.
Following the effective one-day strike, the official NUJ ballot of the 15 editorial staff is certain to result in an overwhelming majority for industrial action. The People’s Press Printing Society management - the cooperative which owns the Star - finally agreed to meet NUJ industrial organiser Bernie Corbett on February 11. He told the Weekly Worker that management brought together a thick pack of documents against Haylett, covering a period of three years, and that the NUJ chapel’s description of “trumped-up charges” therefore seems appropriate.
This proves that, although Haylett’s suspension was obviously in retaliation for the replacement of Mike Hicks, husband of Morning Star boss Mary Rosser, as CPB general secretary, nevertheless it had been in preparation over a long period. His suspension was premeditated, having been worked upon ever since he won the editorship over Mary Rosser’s son-in-law Paul Corry. Blood is thicker than principle at the Star. The management committee motion for Haylett’s suspension was moved by CPB member and TGWU official Pat Hicks - brother of Mike. No wonder this ‘official communist’ dynasty is known as “the North Koreans”.
The ballot result will be announced on Tuesday February 17. A further seven days’ notice is required before industrial action can legally begin. Whether Rosser confronts the seemingly inevitable strike action by editorial staff by recruiting scab hacks, Murdoch style, or by implementing her threat to hit the NUJ with the anti-trade union laws against which the Star has campaigned for decades, the paper is set to destroy any remaining reputation as a defender of workers’ rights and seriously undermine the residual support it still has in the workers’ movement.
While a retreat by Rosser cannot be ruled out, the protracted and tenacious nature of the seemingly pointless struggle for power on the CPB executive committee (no political differences are admitted), together with Rosser’s crass stupidity, makes this most unlikely. If Haylett challenges his dismissal, the appeal will be heard by the 15-strong PPPS management committee, which, given its composition, can be expected to back Rosser. The next round would be fought at the Morning Star’s annual general meeting in June, where Rosser, on past practice, may rule out of order any motion she does not like, leaving disenchanted CPB shareholders the remedy of costly legal action. Elections, however, could tip the balance on the management committee. The power struggle will depend, therefore, on the ability of the CPB leadership, under new general secretary Robert Griffiths, to mobilise its supporters for the PPPS AGM - against the best efforts of the clique which controls the paper. Already Rosser has moved to block the recruitment of new shareholders - ie, voters - before the AGM (an unprincipled pact with Scargill is not impossible).
Predictably the CPB political committee has been denied space in the paper it regards as its political voice. The Weekly Worker was not surprised, therefore, to receive the following fax message:
“On January 28, after receiving a report from the general secretary, an emergency meeting of the CPB’s political committee decided to:
- declare its support for the NUJ chapel and its decisions;
- reiterate its confidence in John Haylett as editor of the Morning Star; and
- condemn the suspension of John Haylett and the establishment of the committee of inquiry as a blatant contravention of the disciplinary rules and procedures agreed with the chapel, and of natural justice.
“The political committee’s view is that the PPPS management committee’s actions were precipitate, a grave misjudgement, and that they risk bringing the paper into disrepute in the labour movement. The political committee calls for the immediate reinstatement of John Haylett, and for the dispute to be resolved between the PPPS management committee and the NUJ.”
Apart from the charge of “bringing the paper into disrepute in the labour movement”, the political committee pretends it sees no politics in the dispute, presenting it as a trade union matter, and hiding the fact that it is part of a prolonged factional war for control of both the CPB and the Morning Star. This deception of both the CPB membership and the Star readership is characteristic of both sides. It is precisely the rejection, by both camps, of openness - of freedom of criticism in print, in public - that lends itself to the bureaucratic struggle for personal control by this or that clique. In political if not moral terms, there is little to choose between them.