S1R,-1 should be glad if you would allow me to comment on Hugh Kay's reference (May 18) to the election to the post of general secretary of the National Union of Seamen and the "hacking" which he says is being given to one of the candidates by the Association of Liberal Trade Unionists and the Liberal News.
I think that a case of this sort presents a difficult problem of professional morality for a journalist: exactly the sort of problem which Roman Catholic trade unionists -and Anglican ones. like myself are always being urged to solve by reference to the strictest Christian standards.
So far as I know, your correspondent is right to say that Mr. Jim Slater is being backed by the Seamen's Reform Movement. It may also be true that members of one or other of the Communist factions are backing. him. 11 so. I doubt whether he welcomes their support and, from what 1 know of seamen, I doubt even more strongly whether their support will help his cause. You do not mention, though I consider it relevant, that the union's acting genera] secretary the only other candidate you mention was eleoted to the assistant secretaryship with Reform Movement backing eighteen months ago.
As author of the articles on the subject in "Liberal News", I should like to say that they were written after an unnamed official of the N.U.S. was quoted by the "Sunday Pictorial" as claiming that Mr. Slater's candidature was part of a Communist "plot" to gain control of the union. This story was also published in the N.U.S. journal, "The Seamen", which is, of course, controlled by the acting general secretary, himself a candidate in the present election.
"Tribune" came in at this point by pointing out that it was unfair and irregular for an official who was also a candidate to use the union journal to "smear" a rival candidate. As Port Correspondent of the trade union feature
in "Liberal News", I had already poured all the ridicule at my command on the "Pictorial's", to my mind, despicable use of tainted evidence to make a "story". I added, for good measure, that, in my own judgment, Mr. Slater was a wen-respected. responsible seaman, distinctly unpolitical in outlook "who led the N.S.R.M. strike on the North-East coast, it is true, but did so with the backing of 99 per cent of the seamen concerned.
Now the moral issue is this: ought a Christian journalist to repeat. or even to report in such a way that it will be inferred, that a candidate for union office is a Communist or "fellow traveller" without certain knowledge that what he is inferring is true?
Let us be fair. No journalist is in a position to check all his facts; but is this a field in which a Christian trade unionist, at any rate, can safely rely on anonymous charges by interested parties or even from professional anti-Cornmunists when they conflict with what he could have learned from those who have met and talked, or worked, with Mr. Slater.
Richard Rowe Croydon.
SIR,-Hugh Kay mentioned that Jim Slater, a candidate for the position of General Secretary of the National Union of Seamen, is being backed by "the Communists, the Seamen's Reform Movement, the left-wing weekly 'Tribune', and somewhat surprisingly by the Association of Liberal Trade Unionists and the weekly, 'Liberal News'."
He then goes on to keep bringing nut the old Communist smear, etc., etc., but he never mentions that Jim Slater is also being backed by the ten thousand Catho lie seamen who ship out of the port of Liverpool. Paddy Neary, (Chairman, National Seamen's Reform Movement).
1 Canning Place. Liverpool I.