What have the British National Party, David Irving, 'equality watchdog chief' Trevor Philips, Dr Julian Lewis (not to mention a large number of other MPs) and groups such as Unite Against Fascism in common? It is not simply that all are would-be dictators; they uphold capitalism, each aiming to run in a particular way. A safeguard against them is needed, but it cannot come from force. The only safeguard is Socialist understanding. So, against the wishes of Lewis, Philips et al., let odious characters such as Nick Griffin and David Irving appear at at tomorrow's planned Oxford Union's Free Speech Forum, state their case, and have its worthless stupidity publicly demolished.
That is what these 'defenders of freedom' fear. The Socialist Party has a long tradition of offering the platform of debate to everyone. We have on occasion, for example, debated the National Front only to find members of the International Socialists (now known as the Socialist Workers Party) attempting to shout down both speakers. Why? They simply did not want the fascist claptrap exposed - because it would have exposed theirs too. To them, a brawl in the street is preferable to argument, and the support of hooligans acceptable because they cannot get that of enlightened men and women. One further example should help clarify the Socialist position. On the 8th May 1973 a Professor Eysenck, infamous for his views about the 'intellectual abilities of American negroes', was forcibly prevented from expressing his views at the London School of Economics. The World Socialist Society at LSE made the following statement on the importance of free speech.
"As members of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, we are opposed to all censorship, whether it be through the legalized violence as enforced by the courts of the capitalist state or by the violence of self-appointed moral or political guardians. Let there be no misunderstanding of the meaning of what happened last week. A body of people decided that the rest of us should not be allowed to hear certain views they considered objectionable; they took it upon themselves to use physical violence to achieve this end - and succeeded. In other words, they successfully censored what we should hear. But will they stop here? Will they now proceed to prevent Eysenck expressing his views in writing? And, after that, will they burn the books he has already written? And what are the prospects for those of us who disagree with them if ever they win control of political power? Will we be shot or just put into concentration camps? These are serious questions since they are the logical extensions of the policy pursued by last week's political censors.
There is a further point: all censorship - especially censorship of this kind, allegedly exercised for the benefit of the working class - is an insult to the intelligence of ordinary working men and women since it implies that they cannot be trusted to hear or read certain ideas and are incapable of making rational judgements on the merits of rival ideas. Those who favour censorship always assume that they are somehow superior to ordinary people and have the right to decide what ordinary people should or should not hear. Censorship is an elitist policy - but those who favour it here at the LSE such as the Maoists and Trotskyists have nothing but contempt for the ability of the working class to understand Socialist ideas and to establish Socialism by and for themselves.
The classic case for allowing unpopular minority views to be expressed - including those with openly anti-democratic ones like fascism AND Maoism - has never been refuted: if they are wrong then their case will perish in the course of free, rational discussion; if they are right then censorship delays discovering this. As our resolution passed by the Union last Thursday puts: "only in the healthy atmosphere of free expression can ideas be debated, false ideas debunked and sound ideas developed". We are always prepared at all our meetings to give opponents of Socialism a chance to express their views. For we are convinced that our views are right and this will be shown in any free debate - and if we are wrong we wish to know so that we can stop wasting our time. WE STATE unambiguously that ALL censorship is anti-Socialist and anti-working class.
Last week's incident has done one thing, if nothing else. It has brought into the open those who favour censorship of political ideas: the Maoists and Trotskyists. They have placed themselves in the same camp as the fascists themselves and stand exposed as the dangerous enemies of the working class prostituting the good name of Socialism.
We stand for the common ownership of the means of production, without distinction of race or sex, organised democratically." (Socialist Standard, June 1973)