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Submitted by AWL on Fri, 20/05/2011 - 13:11

A lie, as has often been observed, can twice circumnavigate our credulous globe before the truth has even got its shoes on. As long as this remains true the hacks, quacks, priests and lawyers will always have one up on the rest of us. Socialists can confront this inevitability with the good old troika of education, agitation and organisation, each in their way a firm shove in the direction of the one big truth in capitalist society: irreconcilable class hostility. A course of action that will achieve absolutely nothing of this kind is Pat Murphy's suggestion that we should back the right of rich judges to prevent rich press barons from revealing the sexual adventures of rich celebrities.

Murphy anticipates the objection that access to injunctions is determined by the ability to afford them without, as far as I can see, answering it. No matter, it is actually a secondary issue: suppose (and good luck with this by the way) that wealth ceased to be the decisive factor in obtaining a gagging order; an authoritarian law based on the principle that it is the state that should define the public interest with regard to the press remains just that regardless of who invokes it, it is also quite a hostage to fortune from a revolutionary point of veiw. The trashiness of the British press (which is hardly something new, as the ancient foreign reporter's standby "Anyone here been raped and speaks English?" suggests) is not the relevant background for this discussion. Is it not just as likely that the sombre, didactic sheets that Murphy remembers were forced into being that way by the long process of heroic self education which several generations of British working-class people bequethed their successors and that the supposed subsequent decline into shit was as a result of the defeat and shattering of that class and its institutions than vice versa?

The salient backdrop against which the recent trend has occured is, unbelievably, ommitted entirely by Murphy. Britain is currently known throughout the world for the bredth and depth of what simply cannot be reported or opined in the newspapers; whether it is the significant international industry sustained by the libel laws or the often hilarious but always sinister manifestations of "official secrecy", those who have an interest in silence and can afford the fleet of lawyers are never short of the means to keep the truth fumbling with its laces. The injunction phenomenon is simply another arrow in the quiver.

Since the Russian revolution and then the Transitional Program it has been a revolutionary demand that the bosses "open the books", the better for their liquidation. This recognises the eternal utility of secrecy to power and censorship to the state. A "better, clearer" censor's charter is not a working class demand: "don't trust the capitalists with your liberties, freedom of speech!" is. Socialists and even principled liberals should respond to the evident conflict between the famous and horny (who Murpey thinks will have LESS sex as a result of being able to hush it up) and the paper proprietors (who have, gasp, been known, on occasion, to commission their own opinion polls) by demanding, as a bare minimum, an end to official censorship and a guarentee on freedom of speech equal to that of the first ammendment to the American Constitution. Only then will we be able to properly expose the hypocracy of the media moguls by showing just how little they care about liberty, and just how much we do.

Robert Fox, Oxford

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