PETER FROST reminds us of the sad demise of the Daily Herald, leaving the Morning Star as the only socialist daily left in Britain
JUST when you thought the disgraceful selection of reactionary utterings that are British newspapers couldn’t get any worse, it has.
We have seen the concerted attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, the wholehearted support for David Cameron’s anti-union laws and much more.
Papers race to outdo each other with more racist headlines about immigrants and refugees, culminating in a despicable Mirror headline: “Illegal immigrant aged 13 found wandering along busy motorway.”
Anyone with even half an ounce of common decency would have called the poor victim a child.
And then, like some carrot-coloured cherry on a rather disgusting cake, Rupert Murdoch has hoisted disgraced Rebekah Brooks back onto the throne to rule over his reviled British newspaper empire.
The only spark of light in this otherwise dark, dark world is a single bright shining star. The one you are reading now.
The Morning Star is the only socialist daily newspaper published in Britain. It is the only national daily wholly owned by its readers, rather than tax exile millionaires or secretive trusts.
No less than nine national trade unions and one trade union region have seats on the Star’s management committee: Community, CWU, FBU, GMB, NUM, NUM North East, POA, RMT, Ucatt and Unite.
This adds up to more than half of Britain’s trade union members having a say in running the Morning Star.
The Star has a regular weekly column by Jeremy Corbyn and has done for over 10 years. No wonder the Morning Star is the only paper that actively campaigns for working-class politics — the only paper that supports the People’s Assembly and reports authoritatively on union disputes and struggles up and down the country.
The Morning Star has a long and proud history. Originally called The Daily Worker, the paper was founded in 1930.
Since 1945 the paper has been owned by a broad-based readers’ co-operative, the People’s Press Printing Society (PPPS).
No other daily newspaper carries such a range of voices from the left — trade union leaders and rank-and-file activists, left Labour MPs and the Communist Party, the Stop the War Coalition, the anti-fascist campaigns Hope Not Hate and Unite Against Fascism, the Green Party and more.
Protecting and supporting the only pro-union working-class paper has always been important and it is even more crucial today.
It would be easy to take the Morning Star for granted — “It’s been going since 1930,” you might say, “so we’ll always have it on our side.”
Others might say: “It is always there on picket lines and on marches and demonstrations. Wherever workers defend their rights, you will find the Star.”
However an important lesson from history explains why no trade unionist, no socialist, should ever take that complacent view, should ever take the Morning Star for granted.
Would you believe that the Trade Union Congress (TUC) once had its own newspaper to rival the Tory anti-union opinions of the rest of Fleet Street?
Not only that, but that the TUC’s own paper had the largest circulation of any paper anywhere in the world.
In December 1910 London printers were locked out when they demanded a 48-hour week.
They published a strike bulletin called The World and it sold 13,000 copies. Just a month later they renamed it the Daily Herald and circulation soared.
When the strike was over, key Labour and trade union leaders George Lansbury and Ben Tillett realised the Daily Herald was just the kind of left-wing newspaper the movement needed.
Playwright George Bernard Shaw (below) gave £300 (£25,000 today) to the cause. The Daily Herald was reborn on April 15 1912. Within a few years sales reached nearly a quarter of a million.
Just like today, when most Tory-leaning Fleet Street papers condemned strikes and strikers, the Daily Herald encouraged workers to take industrial action. It backed women fighting for the vote too.
The Herald’s strident and decidedly militant voice sometimes upset right-wing Labour leaders, but by 1914 the paper was selling 150,000 copies a day.
Then came the war. Bosses were happy to declare trade unions and strike unpatriotic.
The Daily Herald adopted a brave anti-war position and as a result saw a slump in sales. In order to survive, the Herald became a weekly.
In March 1918 the Daily Herald held a huge rally to salute the Russian revolution. Twelve thousand people attended and 5,000 more were turned away. Circulation was now almost a quarter of a million.
In May 1919 the Herald published a secret War Office instruction to commanding officers to seek out and train strike-breakers.
After many denials, Winston Churchill had to admit the document was genuine.
During the 1921 miners’ lockout, the Herald collected £20,000 for the miners’ children. In September 1922 the TUC took formal control of the Daily Herald.
When Ramsay MacDonald formed a minority government, the Herald attacked this Labour sellout, stating: “The Herald is the organ, not of your government, not of a party, but of the labour movement.”
By 1925 circulation was around 360,000.
MacDonald was still complaining, this time about the communist sympathies of some Herald journalists.
During the 1926 General Strike the paper sold 713,000 copies.
In 1930 the TUC sold a 51 per cent share of the newspaper to Odhams Press. The TUC thought the paper needed commercial marketing and promotion expertise, Odhams needed the printing work.
A new editor made the paper more mainstream and by 1933 the Daily Herald became the world’s best-selling daily newspaper, with certified net sales of over two million.
Sadly what it gained in professionalism it lost in political direction and fire. The once great campaigning paper slowly sank into mediocrity. Circulation drained away.
Finally in the early 1960s the International Publishing Corporation (IPC) acquired Odhams’s shares. It bought out the TUC stake in 1964 and changed the Herald to the Sun. But this sun never got to shine.
By 1969 the Sun had even fewer readers than the Herald at the end of its existence.
IPC cut its losses and sold it off to an Australian chancer called Rupert Murdoch.
The once proud voice of Labour and the trade unions floated away down the sewage-filled gutters of Fleet Street and washed up in the cesspit at Wapping. Today the Sun is a hateful rag.
It was a sad end to a great paper, but a lesson for all trade unionists and socialists today — we still have one paper that still stands up for us and our socialist principles. We must never allow the Morning Star to go the way of the Daily Herald.
This article first appeared in the Morning Star TUC special 14 Sept 2015