Tories spread Stalinist smear

Submitted by cathy n on 9 December, 2019 - 10:02 Author: Colin Foster

The far right blogger "Guido Fawkes" has taken up the story, first invented by the anonymous Stalinist Red London Facebook page, that Socialist Organiser (a forerunner of Solidarity) "published pro-paedophile articles". And the Express is recycling Fawke's story.

Fawkes and the Express aim to smear Jeremy Corbyn as well as us, complaining that Corbyn wrote frequently for Socialist Organiser in the 1980s.

The bit about Corbyn writing is true. The rest is not.

Fawkes's prize exhibit is an article from Socialist Organiser in January 1981 which protested against the use of the catch-all and archaic charge of "conspiracy to corrupt public morals" against people of the Paedophile Information Exchange.

The article distanced itself clearly from PIE's main defenders, saying that "unequal power relations make adult-child sexual relations oppressive, not liberating".

Fawkes's other exhibits? A short follow-up piece condemning a two-year jail sentence imposed on the archaic charge, but insisting that "children need protection against sexual abuse by adults".

And a letter criticising us! The letter was unclear in its conclusions, but suggested that our substantive article had been too dogmatic about adult-child sex relations being oppressive. It was a criticism of our collective view, not an exposition of it!

An academic survey notes that "the PIE trial was widely regarded as unfair for its reliance on conspiracy charges. Alan Rusbridger [wrote in the Guardian, 14 March 1981 of] 'the resurrection of a notoriously vague law which had recently fallen into disuse'."

Fawkes cannot understand a basic of the rule of law: opposition to people being jailed on catch-all and arbitrary charges, even if you abhor those people's views. He has the same "lock them up, any old how, and throw away the key" approach as Boris Johnson. He is attacking not just us, not just Jeremy Corbyn, not even just Labour, but basic liberal values.

The archaic charge was judge-made law, dating back centuries, vague and odd since no substantive offence of "corrupting public morals" existed. It had most recently and notably been used against gay men who advertised for friends and partners in an underground magazine, even though gay sex between consenting men had been decriminalised in 1967.

Zoe Williams in the Guardian six years ago (25 February 2014) commented aptly on a smear campaign against the Labour MP Harriet Harman by the Daily Mail similar to Fawkes's attack on us, and, by association, Corbyn. The Mail's case against Harman was based on her work with the National Council for Civil Liberties, which had been concerned about civil-liberties issues with PIE.

Williams wrote: "This campaign against Harman is nasty, ominous, calculating, anti-intellectual and could happen to anyone. The Daily Mail is like a blackmailer - if you give in to it, it just wants more.

"It should be possible to say 'those were different times' without that equating to 'paedophilia is a temporally relativistic crime, and was OK in the 70s'. The PIE was in favour of lowering the age of consent to 10. This, we are now all in accord, is far too young.

"But age of consent was a huge topic for debate at that time, for a number of reasons. Homosexuals had to be five years older than heterosexuals before they were considered mature enough to consent. That, to our eyes, looks pretty homophobic.

"Victoria Gillick, at about the same time, was taking the Department of Health and Social Security to court for allowing her daughter, aged 15, to go on the pill without parental consent".

And, as we all now know, the Catholic Church was sheltering a lot of child abuse while using its still-considerable weight against adult sexual freedom and against rational and open discussion of sexuality.

The main threat to children in the 1970s was as ever not from foolish leftists but from traditional authoritarian families and from not-at-all-libertarian institutions like the Catholic Church.

A distinctive thing about Socialist Organiser was that while we criticised the "death to nonces" fever of the right-wing press, from early on we also criticised semi-anarchist tendencies then common on the left.

We were clear that we supported age-of-consent laws. We have made the case in article after article. One of our responses to the "Red London" smears collects some references.

The instructive thing about the Fawkes/Express piece is the coming-together, on the same pitch, of the Tory right (Fawkes) and the Stalinistic left (Red London).

In the Boris Johnson era, some of the battles for reason and liberty which seemed to have been won between the 60s and 90s may need to be fought again. On more than one front.

More: • briefing on Red London and their smears

(29.12.19) A complaint about the Express article has been sent to the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

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