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WAPPING - A Nationalist Perspective

Tom Acton

"MURDOCH is bad news” ― "There's no stopping Wapping!" As the dispute between Rupert Murdoch and the members of SOGAT and the NGA, sacked by him, grinds on the slogans of left and right sound ever more stale and empty. The dispute has rightly attracted the attention of many Nationalists, yet all too often a radical and constructive 'third position' on the print-workers struggle has been ignored as Nationalists have relapsed into sloganeering as meaningless as a Sun editorial.

What is generally ignored is that there are two, completely different, issues at stake: firstly ― should new printing technology be introduced? Secondly ― how should the industry be owned and controlled?

TRADITIONALLY UNCERTAIN

Historically radical Nationalists have always been uncertain how the press should be owned and controlled. Ideally we always wanted a large number of newspapers to be published, reflecting a wide range of differing political / social / economic standpoints. Additionally new newspapers reflecting innovative editorial standpoints ought to be comparatively easy to found. In short, radical Nationalists always sought the application of Distributist principles to the newspaper publishing industry.

In the past the harsh facts of economic realities have made these ideals seem impracticable. Printing equipment for a large-circulation daily was so expensive that the capital requirements for founding a new paper were enormous. Worse still, production costs were so high that papers needed a very high circulation to be viable ― with the inevitable consequence that only a small range of newspapers could co-exist at any time.

Full utilisation of modem printing and distribution technologies can cut by up to 80% the capital needed to found a new paper. Not only that, but the production cost per copy is greatly reduced, so that newspapers can become economically viable with comparatively modest circulations, thus creating the possibility that a large number, perhaps over 25, could co-exist.

HIGHLY DESIRABLE

Bearing this in mind Nationalists must face the fact that the introduction of modern printing technology into the newspaper industry is highly desirable; in fact it is vital to the creation of the Distributist state we seek. From the point of view of building a distinctively Nationalist voice in the media, modern printing technology probably advances by a decade the day when we can reasonably expect to see a Nationalist daily newspaper in existence.

During the miner's strike Nationalist principle led the National Front to support the NUM's fight against pit closures. This did not, of course, mean that we supported the Marxist policies of Arthur Scargill. Now Nationalist principle makes us support the introduction of new printing technology, but that does not mean that we support Rupert Murdoch.

NATIONALIST IDEAL

As said above, the Nationalist ideal ― made feasible by new technology ― is for a large number of newspapers, each with a comparatively low circulation, so that no one newspaper could become too influential in affecting public opinion. These papers should aim to represent as many different political viewpoints as possible ― Nationalist/Socialist/Libertarian, etc. ― as well as distinct social and industrial groups. For example, there could well be a market for a newspaper aimed at farmers and those who work on the land. More local and community based papers would also be desirable.

These newspapers must, however, not be owned and controlled by small cliques of international capitalists and plutocrats, like Murdoch. In a Nationalist Britain they must be owned and controlled primarily by cooperatives of printworkers, journalists and editorial staff. Additionally, however, representatives of the local community or social or political group each newspaper is aimed at could be represented on the editorial board of that paper. For example, in the case of a farming-orientated newspaper, representatives from farmers' associations could well sit on their editorial boards.

In short, the Nationalist response to the Wapping dispute could be summed up by saying: "Yes to new technology - No to Rupert Murdoch".

So where does that leave the unemployed print-workers on the Wapping picket lines?

Firstly it must be recognised by Nationalists that printworkers cannot achieve a transformation in the newspaper world on their own. It is a weakness of many anti-Establishment political activists ― be they Nationalist / Marxist / Anarchist or whatever ― to expect organised labour to do their dirty work, and create their desired state, for them. We must recognise that the power of the press barons like Murdoch can only be broken by the triumph of Nationalism in Britain.

In the present dispute the print-workers can only achieve a limited ― but nonetheless significant ― victory. They must however radically change their objectives. At present they accept the total domination of the media by Capitalism: their main objective is simply the restoration of their lucrative jobs and once more be the well-fed poodles of the Capitalist media. Consequently, however much we may loathe Murdoch, no intelligent and principled radical Nationalist could simply call for "Victory to the Printworkers" as long as the main demand of those printworkers is to be paid lots of money for producing the Sun with its 'Tits'n'bums'n'Toryism', and frequent vicious anti-NF propaganda, come to think of it.

ONE HOPE

Yet there is one hope for the sacked printworkers, one way in which they can not only win back employment as printers but win self-respect and genuine control over their jobs and lives, but it will require a radical change in the printworkers objectives, plus the firm support of the Trades Union movement as a whole.

It has long been a complaint of the TUC that there is no union-orientated paper, that organised labour has no voice. Now is the time of golden opportunity for the leadership of the TUC to break the Tory press monopoly they have so long complained about, as there is, at present, a unique combination of skilled labour and capital available.

A new newspaper run on co-operative lines should now be founded to break the monopoly of the press 'barons' like Rupert Murdoch.

There are 10 million trades unionists in Britain who would form the natural readership of a working class/trades union orientated newspaper. Even if only one tenth actually read such a paper that would be more than sufficient to make it viable. Thanks to Murdoch there are, of course, plenty of otherwise unemployed print-workers these days. There are, almost certainly, sufficient journalists and editorial staff sympathetic to the idea of a 'labour' paper to enable it to attract such staff fairly easily.

The capital to found such a venture ought to be easily obtainable. The effective organisation and militant picketing by the News International printworkers forced Murdoch to offer them over £50 million to get off his back. With continued pressure it is likely that ― despite Murdoch's protestations to the contrary ― that concession could be forced out of him again.

Capital ought to be forthcoming from the Trades Union movement itself, which currently invests most of its millions in Government securities ― unless of course trades unions actually prefer to invest in the Capitalist state, rather than in British workers.

One thing that the printworkers should not do, however, is to take up Murdoch's offer of using his old presses ― rather they should invest in new technology and make it work for them.

The leadership, not just of the print unions, but of the Trades Union movement as a whole is on trial at Wapping. They must do something over the next few months or the printworkers resistance will slowly crumble. Founding the first serious non-capitalist daily must surely be their best long-term option.

Nationalists on the picket-lines at Wapping should be amongst the most militant agitators there, but they should be fighting for the printworkers' right to control their own futures, not for their 'right' to work at Murdoch's wage-slaves, producing his anti-British and anti-Nationalist propaganda.