Dead Russians

Jack Conrad defends Lenin and Trotsky, and issues a health warning about Arthur Scargill, George Galloway, Robert Griffiths and others who want to forget, belittle or maintain silence over the crimes of Stalin

George Galloway, the Respect leader and MP, does not want us to talk about them. Robert Griffiths, general secretary of the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain, does not want us to talk about them. Arthur Scargill, leader of the Socialist Labour Party, does not want us to talk about them either. Dead Russians.

No, not only the 10 to 20 million who unnecessarily died in the Soviet Union between 1928 and 1953 because of forced collectivisation, political famine, the purges and the gulag system, the casual disregard for life, etc. Three names in particular should be put aside and go unmentioned. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Leon Davidovich Trotsky and Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin. Forget them, keep them to yourself, deny them any contemporary relevance - especially in front of new members, electors and the mainstream media. That is the plea, the instruction, the credo.

Addressing Respect’s 2008 annual conference, Galloway - author of the Fidel Castro handbook (2006) - recommended populism, the red, white and blue of social patriotism, and with feigned regret told assembled delegates that: “Dead Russians, I’m afraid, must be discussed in private”.1 Nevertheless, Galloway mourns the “disappearance of the Soviet Union” in his autobiography I’m not the only one (2004). The “biggest catastrophe of my life,” he caterwauls. And, of course, unforgettably he saluted the “courage”, “strength” and “indefatigability” of Saddam Hussein, the Stalin of Iraq, on Arab TV. No less to the point, Galloway has a long record of expressing a visceral dislike of “Trots”.

A short while later, Griffiths, speaking as the CPB’s fraternal representative at the above-mentioned Respect conference, fulsomely agreed with Galloway. Keep dead Russians “private”. Ordinary people will not understand talk about Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. Yet over a pint or three, ensconced in his favourite pub in the Cathays area of Cardiff, Griffiths tells anyone who cares to listen about Stalin’s inspiring mission, his great foresight in carrying out forced collectivisation and how the purges put paid to a fifth column of traitors, hirelings and spies.

Few bother nowadays with Scargill and his SLP rump. Its triennial congress took place on November 15 2008, safely hidden away in Blackpool (Claremont Hotel, North Promenade, Blackpool, FY1 1SA). The thumbnail report on the SLP’s website assures us that Scargill made a “rousing speech”.2 But - surprise, surprise - no details are given. So what King Arthur said this time round remains a mystery. Nevertheless, when the SLP did matter - in 1996 and 1997 - this would-be labour dictator routinely ‘joked’; and with the supreme confidence that comes from having 3,000 congress votes ready in one’s back pocket (just in case there is a danger of losing a vote). “Nobody cares”, he would scornfully pronounce, what “one dead Russian said to another dead Russian on a wet Wednesday in 1917.”

However, Scargill is another committed Stalin partisan. In his case alcohol and lack of sobriety has nothing to do with it. As far as I know he is teetotal. Anyway, according to Scargill - speaking in 1997 at a rally organised by the pro-Stalin Committee to Celebrate the October Revolution - the “ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin” explain the “real world”. Despite that, it is a “mistake to talk about the events” which led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Bizarre. And, going on to say far more about himself than his ‘four great teachers’, he claims that “if Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin” were alive today, they “wouldn’t be talking about theoretical problems”, but discussing what the “real struggle is about”.3 For Scargill that means supporting trade union disputes and giving them a political coloration. And, perfectly in tune with Scargill’s unreconstructed Stalinite politics, we find him demanding a revival of British deep coal production, retention of the British pound sterling, a British withdrawal from the European Union and a British road to national socialism.

Why the shying away from history by Galloway, Griffiths and Scargill? The staggering hypocrisy, the arrogant condescension, the promotion of ignorance and the attempt to impose silence? The warnings against others discussing Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin and openly, unambiguously and fearlessly stating their viewpoint when it comes to what, after all, are world-historic personalities? It may be done in the name of so-called ordinary people, winning their votes and guarding against confusing, unnecessary and potentially divisive mixed messages, but there is clearly another agenda at work.

Leave aside those in the labour movement who are politically educated, politically engaged, politically experienced. Those whom Marxists call the vanguard or advanced workers (eg, readers or potential readers of the Weekly Worker). So-called ordinary people are not stupid, unable to take a moral stand; nor are they so easily hoodwinked or uninterested. On the contrary, certainly when it comes to Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, they - certainly most of them - show a keen interest. At least that is my experience.

Tell someone you happen to get into conversation with on a long train journey, the workplace canteen, your favourite pub, the local coffee shop, at a family gathering, etc, that you are a Marxist, a communist, a revolutionary socialist. How do they typically respond?

A few snarl with bigoted hostility. Others offer indifferent condolences. But on average there will be a definite, if guarded, sympathy and a willingness to discuss and find out. Especially since the economic downturn, the bail-out of the banking system and the ideological collapse of the ‘You can’t buck the market’ version of bourgeois economics. Karl Marx - voted thinker of the millennium by Radio 4 listeners - commands an ever higher reputation. Above all amongst the ever growing number who angrily denounce the iniquities of capitalism, the greedy bankers, the dozy trade union officials and the bankrupt political establishment, and who one way or another favour radical global change.

That said, most so-called ordinary people instantly ask about Stalin, the mass killings, the complete absence of elementary freedoms in the Soviet Union, the lies, the grey poverty, the 1989-91 collapse, etc. Tell them you are anti-Stalin and implacably opposed to Stalin’s system of bureaucratic socialism. Four out of 10 will say that the October Revolution and the theory and practice of Lenin and Trotsky led directly to Stalin.

Tell them, no; show them that this is untrue. That, while Lenin and Trotsky made mistakes, they were committed body and soul to the overthrow of capitalism and did their utmost to achieve human liberation. That in his last year of life Lenin wanted first to curb Stalin’s power and then to crush him politically. That from the mid-1920s till he was killed by Stalin’s assassin, Trotsky devoted himself to exposing Stalin’s system, to upholding the internationalist programme of Bolshevism and trying to rescue the October Revolution from degeneration through a political revolution.

Three out of 10, those who have some knowledge, some acquaintance with what calls itself the far left, no matter how passing or superficial, will then point to its Stalinite forms of organisation, lack of democracy, horrible mistreatment of young recruits, the craziness and self-imposed marginality.

That cannot be just my own experience. And it most definitely underlines for me the correctness and urgency of fulfilling the task we have set ourselves - overcoming illusions in halfway house projects, dissolving the bureaucratic centralism, dogmatic stupidity and artificial divisions of the sects and uniting the Marxist vanguard as the Marxist vanguard. If we could do that, a party of many millions would soon be within our reach. Then we could turn the world upside down. So-called ordinary people are clearly more and more ready, if only there was a solid organisational framework, a trained body of cadre and programmatic unity and clarity.

Replying to honest questioning evasively, with obfuscation, saying, in effect, that history does not matter or should be put aside, is certainly seen - yes, by those so-called ordinary people - for exactly what it is. A crude attempt to gag awkward critics, a way to shrug off mass killings and a flimsy cover for an ongoing admiration of Stalin and bureaucratic socialism.

The truth will out. Not surprisingly so-called ordinary people want nothing to do with any kind of neo-Stalinite project. After all, if by some dreadful historical fluke its advocates were ever to be catapulted into state power, we would see either a British reformist damp squib or a British version of China, Cuba and North Korea. No wonder Respect, the Morning Star’s CPB and the SLP are widely regarded with contempt. They richly deserve oblivion.

Apologetics

Of course, if they are sufficiently pressed, if stung, if forced, mealy-mouthed criticism of Stalin comes from the Galloway-Griffiths-Scargill camp. They and their friends, minions, co-thinkers and imitators, as I have shown elsewhere, should be categorised as “belittlers”, not out-and-out approvers or deniers, when it comes to the crimes of Stalinism.4

However, given the source, criticism inevitably slides into, merges with and becomes indistinguishable from apologetics. We saw a sorry example from Kenny Coyle, writing in these pages - former international secretary of the CPB, he now resides in Hong Kong and gains a living from Grub Street journalism and serving as a loyal mouthpiece for the pro-capitalist Chinese bureaucracy.5

A short aside. The CPB has shifted from collectively prostituting itself to the Soviet Union to collectively prostituting itself to the People’s Republic of China. Thus, in the run-up to the August 2008 Olympics, the CPB formed itself into a propaganda agency for the Beijing regime’s ‘enlightened’ rule of Tibet. Coyle was the pimp. Five of his wretched Morning Star articles (plus two editorials) were reproduced as a CPB pamphlet: Tibet: colony or part of China?

Despite the new Chinese paymaster, there remains an undying attachment to bureaucratic socialism written in Cyrillic letters. Even in its grudgingly reproachful goodbye to the “command system” - its November 1992 41st Congress resolution was a diluted, bowdlerised and neutered plagiarisation of 1930s Trotsky - the Soviet Union is remembered for “building socialism in a backward country”, developing “large-scale industry”, taking huge strides in health, housing and social services and making “a tremendous impact” on the struggles for national liberation and peace (Stalin’s counterrevolution, the terror and international sabotage go unmentioned).6

“Avoidable” flaws appeared that went uncorrected. But fundamentally the Soviet Union was blocked from realising its full potential by “hostile imperialist forces”, Nazi invasion and the US cold war.

In a glowing introduction, Robert Griffiths does touch upon Stalin. He even concedes that there were “brutal crimes” and “thousands - hundreds of thousands, if not millions - of victims”. Many of them “loyal communists and Soviet citizens”. On balance, however, “the positive features” of the Soviet Union “far outweigh the negative ones”. And, flying in the face of history and showing that he has not learnt a thing, Griffiths owns up that he “does not accept” that building “socialism in one country” was “impossible”. Astonishing.

Know them by their friends. Griffiths closes his introduction boasting of the CPB’s “comradely relations” with the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.7 This ghastly red-brown outfit, led by Gennady Zyuganov, is rabidly nationalistic, openly defends Stalin and peddles anti-semitism.

Back to the main thread. Along with inspiring “triumphs”, Stalin sometimes acted over hastily, took badly misjudged decisions and, yes, committed crimes that damaged socialism, argues Coyle - exactly like a defence lawyer.7 Coyle’s tactics are to muddy, trivialise, divert, plead for sympathy, blame others and thereby create the shadow of doubt needed for acquittal.

Eg, Stalin and his leadership were “not all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful” and cannot therefore bear prime responsibility for the collectivisation famine of 1932-33 that devastated the Soviet Union (with Ukraine, Kazakhstan and the northern Caucasus republics being particularly affected). Yet Stalin was undoubtedly an autocrat, wielding powers the tsars would have envied. He is on record as flatly denying that there was anything amiss - the official line at home and abroad - and the Soviet regime successfully duped, misled or simply purchased a range of western journalists so that they repeated the lie. Stalin certainly refused to listen to pleas from local officials in Ukraine requesting the release of food stocks and a reduction of grain procurement quotas. Robert Conquest concludes that the probable motive “was to break the spirit of the most recalcitrant regions of peasant resentment at collectivisation”.8 But - genocidal conspiracy or bureaucratic cock-up - around eight to 12 million are said to have perished.

Naturally, Coyle latches upon anyone who can ‘authoritatively’ discredit such accounts. His main ‘expert witness’ on the 1932-33 famine is more than a little suspect, however - the Canadian journalist, Douglas Tottle. In 1987 his Fraud, famine and fascism: the Ukrainian genocide myth from Hitler to Harvard was published by Progress Publishers in Toronto (linked to the ‘official’ Communist Party of Canada). According to Coyle, this “superb” book “provided the most far-reaching demolition job of the ‘terror-famine’”.9

Tottle fixes upon how William Randolph Hearst’s yellow press, Nazi propagandists and Ukrainian nationalists seized hold of, manipulated and embellished the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine. Doubtless true. But what Tottle sought to do was no less problematic. Alibi the Soviet system and towards that end downgrade or explain away the collectivisation famine - planning was “amateurish”, there were Ukrainian “saboteurs”, unnecessary “Stalinist excesses”, etc, etc.10

Volodymyr Shcherbytsky, the Soviet Union’s boss in Ukraine from 1972-89, publicly acknowledged the fact, extraordinary scale and political exacerbation of the collectivisation famine in December 1987. A bombshell for ‘official communists’ everywhere. Tottle’s book, which had just been published, was quickly withdrawn in pained embarrassment (and presumably remaining stocks pulped). Hence today it is a prized possession … for some. Fraud, famine and fascism sells at a premium over the internet (when I accessed Amazon it was offering a single used copy for Canadian $413.50). Giving such a work gushing praise, treating it as a reliable authority, following its agenda, speaks volumes.

Coyle not only defends. He has Stalin’s programme, politics and lack of moral scruple as his operative method. That much must already be clear. He is, however, simultaneously ashamed of Stalin and Stalinism. Like most other Stalinists, Coyle wants to dissociate himself from the crimes of Stalin and towards that end he uses Stalinism as a political swear word. A kind of psychological displacement follows.

Eg, my “tirade” against his apologetics “go some way to helping to answer the question: ‘How did Stalinism happen?’” An ‘official communist’ variant of Karl Popper’s hoary old thesis: Marxism’s “denunciation”, “dogmatism” and “polemical excess” against opponents inexorably leads to the gulag.11 Palpable nonsense, of course. No, for Marxism harsh polemics are simply a means of laying bare and calling attention to the truth.

Coyle even has the nerve to accuse me of ‘third period’ Stalinism. ‘Third period idiocies’ is the self-chosen title of his Weekly Worker piece. Pitiful. In the late 1920s and early 30s ‘official communism’ branded the Labour Party as just another bourgeois party. Furthermore, it actually equated social democrats with fascists. “Twin brothers,” quipped Stalin. Hence they were ferociously denounced as social-fascists. ‘Official communists’ also started to label Trotskyites agents of Hitler - not that that stopped in 1935, as Coyle, with airbrush in hand, guiltily implies (the CPB is joined at the hip with the Socialist Workers Party in the Stop the War Coalition). Anyway, as a result of the refusal to distinguish between fascists and social democrats, the Communist Party of Germany was instructed to shun the united front tactics that might have prevented Hitler’s rise to power. That was ‘third period’ Stalinism.

Coyle has the perfect right to denounce this sorry chapter in the sorry history of ‘official communism’, but he has no right to attribute to me such tarnished, pernicious and quite frankly repulsive views. Clearly though, Coyle and his CPB have some explaining to do.

After all, Rob Griffiths privately revels in pro-Stalin braggadocio. And does he not consider the Labour Party a straightforward bourgeois party nowadays, or something very close to it? Certainly the CPB sees itself as the “re-establishment” of the old ‘official’ CPGB, which only dared criticise Stalin with hindsight, when he was safely in his grave, after Nikita Khrushchev’s 1956 ‘secret speech’ - and then only in the most wretched, equivocal and canting manner. By contrast the Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB and its precursor, the Leninists of the CPGB - founded 30 years ago in 1979 - place themselves historically in the tradition of the left and united oppositions of the 1920s, albeit critically.

Such incompetent attempts at counterattack not only backfire. Coyle reveals himself to be a moral pygmy. He was replying to my Weekly Worker supplement devoted to the question of “how many died because of Stalin’s system” (incidentally the supplement disputed the figures of the anti-communist ‘exaggerators’).

The blinkered nitpicker Coyle makes great play of disputing footnote 24. Here I wrote that his “two-part” article in the CPB’s Communist Review had been reproduced as a CPB pamphlet. In fact, he went on to write a third part. A mistake on my part, sure, but nothing to get excited about. I was entirely concerned with his second part, ‘Bodycount politics’, which, as the title suggests, dealt with how the death toll under Stalin is politically exploited by cold war and rightwing opinion-makers.12

Because of his Stalinite affiliations, method and apologetic intentions, Coyle feels obliged to pounce on this trivial error in order to throw doubt over my “antiquated” statistics concerning the scale of the 1928-53 death toll. In Coyle’s words, “given his article’s emphasis on arithmetical accuracy, Conrad does not get off to a great start”.13 Putting aside the quibble that this is simply innumerate, note 24 (there were 35 in total) can hardly be considered a “start” in anybody’s language. I continue to estimate that there were something like 10-20 million premature deaths in the Soviet Union between 1928-53.

My necessarily indirect way of arriving at that admittedly inexact figure - the political criteria employed, choice of sources and approach to demographic and other statistics - was fully explained in my ‘Dripping from head to foot with blood and dirt’ supplement and does not need repeating here. Albeit over a longer period of time, I concluded that Stalin oversaw a system which was responsible for more deaths than the Nazi killing machine within the Third Reich. These are the numbers that matter.

Revisionists

An unmistakable lacuna exists in Coyle’s reply. No alternative figure for the number of premature deaths under Stalin is offered. He can only play puerile games, cast feeble aspersions and turn to authors who serve to minimise. Towards that end Coyle tries another, rather stronger, line of defence. The Soviet studies revisionists in bourgeois academia - Robert Thurston, J Arch Getty, Sheila Fitzpatrick, etc.

Members of this loose school of thought managed to secure some well remunerated university chairs in the 1970s and 80s and thereby gained some wider political influence. This suited the interests of a broad coalition of forces - rogue businessmen, transnational corporations, mainstream liberal politicians, left reformists and ‘official communists’ - those who wished to boost commercial relations, promote global cooperation, peaceful co-existence or even convergence with the Soviet Union.

Arms limitations agreements under Jimmy Carter were enthusiastically welcomed as a breakthrough of sanity, while talk from Ronald Reagan and his administration about an ‘evil empire’ was derided as madness. Ditto Reagan’s highly publicised pledge to consign “communism” to the “ash heap of history”. In comparative terms the US conservative right were therefore revolutionaries when it came to the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. The Soviet studies revisionists were inclined to accept the status quo and argue for piecemeal reform. They certainly thought that, while the Soviet Union faced problems, it would last long into the future.

Not that this should be taken as a suggestion that what they produced was entirely worthless. Far from it. Useful work was done. Archives were investigated, facts and figures were collated, along with lots of new translation work. Soviet studies revisionists put a corrective methodological stress on the role of interest groups, including the broad mass of the population, as opposed to high politics, official ideology and international relations.

On the positive side the revisionists challenged the standard academic account of the 1950s and early 60s which dismissed the 1917 October Revolution as a historical aberration, a mere coup, which prevented Russia from developing into a ‘normal’ liberal democracy - see Leonard Schapiro, Robert Daniels, Richard Pipes, Martin Malia, etc. The authorities in Moscow were not displeased. Under Mikhail Gorbachev a number of their books and articles were published. There were critical plaudits. Even awards.

Throughout its history under Stalinism the Soviet Union saw extraordinary levels of repression, along with state control over every sphere of life. Nonetheless, people determinedly, often showing great ingenuity, pursued their own individual, family and sectional interests. With that in mind the revisionists brought to the fore the “chaotic administration, indecision, lack of planning, a wide disparity between central pronouncements and local outcomes, the relative autonomy of some social processes”, etc.14

The revisionists were determined to ‘normalise’ Soviet society. Interest groups in the Soviet Union were equated with those in the west. The idea of the country being run by a single leader was contemptuously rejected for many centres of influence and power. Experts in particular were said to shape policy. There were those who in the name of even handedness foolishly talked about the post-Stalin regime seeing a mass level of political participation through trade unions, the Komsomol, elections, etc. The case was even made that the Stalin regime relied on mass support and was pushed by those below into intensifying the purges so as to eliminate unpopular managers, grasping kulaks, rivals for accommodation, etc.15 A grain of truth, of course, but no more.

There follows a corresponding concentration on the small scale, the empirically measurable and what was going on with everyday lives rather than a searching out of the underlying laws that governed the Soviet Union and painstaking construction of a general theory adequate to the task of explaining and predicting its movement through history. Quite obviously that would require Marxism.

Naturally, issue was taken with the totalitarian paradigm that dominated Soviet studies in academia from the 1950s through to the early 60s - undergoing a revival after the 1989-91 collapse. Totalitarianism as a concept, it should be noted, was first popularised by Benito Mussolini and the Italian fascists in the 1920s, but widely used by Marxists such as Trotsky in the 1930s. However, it was colonised by the conservative right after World War II and claimed as uniquely theirs.

Many differences exist within this school, but its representatives were united in their basic approach - worship of the market and a corresponding hostility to the October Revolution. While some saw the Soviet Union as a continuation of tsarism and others a break from it, no distinction was drawn between the Soviet leadership of the early 20s and the Stalin regime.16 The Soviet Union was unforgivably run along non-market lines, and dreadful consequences were seen as ineluctably following.

Nonetheless, whereas the revisionists saw the Soviet Union, especially post-Stalin, as some kind of normal society, the rightwing totalitarian school was unremitting in its denunciations of the repression. And, once again, it has to be said that the right wing were more revolutionary here. No alternative power, no spark of democracy, no public expression of opposition was brooked in the Soviet Union - either from privileged CPSU functionaries, plant managers, trade union officials, intellectuals, churches or popular associations of any kind. That is, till things started to come apart at the seams in the late 80s and the system began to disintegrate.

Repression enabled the Stalinist state to disorganise workers to the point of atomisation. Not that the totalitarian school was at all concerned about the inability of workers to fight for their long-term historic interests by forming themselves into a party - why 1989-91 produced Boris Yeltsin, not socialism. Paradoxically the atomisation of workers was facilitated by the anti-capitalist nationalisations inherited from the October Revolution. The state was the employer, the trade union as well as the gendarme, and state power reached down to each and every shop floor. The workforce was spied upon and lived in constant fear. The KGB was ubiquitous. Meanwhile, workers subsisted on very low living standards, endured constant shortages, pokey apartments, poor-quality consumer goods and endless frustrations with petty-minded officialdom.

Obviously revealing its cold war agenda, however, the rightwing totalitarian paradigm insisted that the Soviet leadership was driven by its so-called Marxist-Leninist ideology to constantly expand abroad - see Adam Ulam, Robert Conquest, Leszek Kolakowski, Zbigniew Brzezinski, etc. That went hand in hand with vastly exaggerating the Soviet Union’s internal cohesion and the military threat it posed. The essential defensiveness of Soviet foreign policy was entirely missed or deliberately ignored.17

Inevitably then, as with the Soviet studies revisionists, the rightwing Sovietologists completely failed to locate the Soviet Union’s inherent and inescapable structural weaknesses and contradictions: use-value and target-value, quality and quantity, the drive to maximise outputs and inability to control the pace of individual labour, the waste, the limits imposed by population numbers, etc. The dynamism that seduced so many in the 1930s thereby gave way to the stagnation of the 1970s and finally the 1991 downfall.18

Deaths

Because of the constricting positivism and the resulting theoretical poverty of the revisionists, the Russian archives are turned into something of a cult - despite restricted access, inbuilt biases and incomplete and withheld files. But another excuse for number-crunching, translation work and, when all is said and done, second-rate analysis. Not that I ignore, dismiss or decry the use of these archives - as Coyle stupidly claims (and, revealing the vacuum at the heart of his account, he tries to turn this non-issue into another cheap comedy show because I did in fact quote them on a number of occasions in my ‘Dripping from head to foot’ supplement - sad and, given the subject, decidedly not funny).

In the same banal manner, Coyle lambastes me for not realising that Soviet studies revisionists do not “downplay the crimes of Stalinism”. But that is exactly what they do and why Coyle and co are attracted like flies to shit. Having burrowed away in the archives, the revisionists have discovered no lists of 10-20 million deaths or anything like it. But does anyone seriously expect the FSB - successor of the KGB and NKVD - to hand over such information? If, that is, it was fully collected in the first place (unlikely), and if what was collected has not been held back, censored or shredded (likely). As is well known, there is an ongoing campaign being conducted from the Kremlin to rehabilitate Stalin. The stated aim of Vladimir Putin is to make Russians proud of their history once more. Under these conditions the revisionists have produced death tolls that widely vary from less than a million to four million, five million and more. Coyle and his type instinctively prefer, as one would expect, the lower figures.

Hence his general secretary, Griffiths, finds a strange sort of comfort in the “evidence of Moscow state, party and Comintern archives” - as seen through the minimising lens of J Arch Getty, etc. “The number executed when the purge was at its height, in 1937 and 1938, totalled slightly under 700,000.” That is a “shocking and unforgivable figure,” sighs Griffiths, “but it is not the tens of millions claimed by anti-Soviet propagandists down the decades”.19

But, as I have shown, even the higher figures produced by the Soviet studies revisionists are almost certainly a gross underestimate. Just because they are not detailed in the files handed over by archivists and administrators of the State Archives of the Russian Federation, Central Archives of the Security Service of the Russian Federation, Archive of the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation, etc does not mean that many, many more did not die. They did. Though to show how many requires an indirect approach - census returns, population projections, estimates of famine victims, those who died because of deportation, maltreated in the gulags, the cannon fodder driven to their deaths in the Finnish war, etc. Arithmetic precision is impossible.

Sadly, it is still only too easy to find unreconstructed Stalinites. Needless to say, they deny that there is anything questionable about Stalin’s great show trials, forced collectivisation, the gulag system, the deportation of whole national groups during World War II, etc.

Surely most prominent is Prachanda, the mono-named leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). With much, often bemused, global media coverage, he was sworn in as the kingdom’s prime minister in August 2008. Then there is José María Sison of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The CPP continues to conduct a low-key guerrilla struggle. Nor should we forget ‘president’ Gonzalo, aka Abimael Guzmán, leader of Peru’s Shining Path. Though captured and imprisoned, he continues to be the object of a certain kind of fascination. Another denier is Ludo Martens, leader of the Belgium Party of Labour and author of a string of pro-Stalin books and pamphlets - a few wonderfully (mis)translated into English.

In Britain the most notable ultra-Stalinite is Harpal Brar. Once a member of the SLP’s executive committee, he is now chair of the CPGB (Marxist-Leninist). Brar fronts the unashamedly named Stalin Society. His publication, Lalkar, savages Griffiths for being a lily-livered liberal because he accepts that Stalin was responsible for any crimes at all. As to Griffiths’ admission of 700,000 deaths, this is just anti-Stalin propaganda, snorts Lalkar. Only 100,000 people were sentenced to death, it maintains. However, many of them “had committed violent crimes such as murder and rape”.20 Even then, sentences were often commuted to various terms in the gulag. On the basis of this type of reasoning, Stalin’s penal system is compared favourably with the situation in the US today.

As I have remarked, and continue to maintain, “when it comes to Stalin’s terror system”, these absolute deniers “exhibit an eerie similarity to rightwing deniers of the Nazi holocaust”.21 In actual fact, because they claim to represent the left, the Stalinites and ultra-Stalinites are worse politically, as far as we should be concerned, than far-right nutters. Exactly in that spirit Trotsky remarked that Stalinism serves as the “most powerful factor” in demoralising workers living under fascist dictatorships and “in this respect, as in others, Stalin acts merely as Goebbels’ assistant”.22

Coyle fumes, snarls and protests. He only succeeds in making himself look completely contemptible. Rushing to the side of the absolute deniers, he furiously exclaims: “Conrad is not the first charlatan to equate communists and fascists.” This is not “forgivable polemical excess”; it is a “political provocation”. Merely to note the “eerie similarity” between Harpal Brar, “a prominent Asian leftist”, and Nick Griffin, BNP leader, when it comes to denying mass murder (the former under Stalin, the latter under Hitler), apparently shows a “scandalous detachment from the realities of race in imperialist Britain” (sic).

On the contrary, it shows that Coyle will resort to the ‘race card’ in order to defend a fellow Stalinite. I know Brar a little and he would be the last to duck the question of Stalin and his system using such a pathetic device. Brar is a UK citizen, a member of a British organisation, intelligent and in his own way an honest opponent when it comes to debate. He certainly makes no bones about his affinity with other ultra-Stalinites, whatever their skin colour, whatever state they happen to live under, whatever their country of origin. As for Coyle, I say he shows a “scandalous detachment” from the inhuman suffering witnessed under Stalin, which, as with Hitler’s holocaust, no-one should deny, belittle or excuse.

What John Rees has in common with Galloway, Griffiths and Scargill

What is really significant, what is really disturbing, what is really worrying about the Galloway-Griffiths-Scargill denial of history and promotion of forgetting, is not the miserable apologetics of Coyle and co.

Many, far too many, on the contemporary left, be they loyal rank and filers, experienced cadre, licensed web masters or favoured thinkers, go along with the Galloway-Griffiths-Scargill-imposed bar on Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, effectively concur that the history of revolutionary Marxism is “mostly bunk” and abide by the injunction against even referencing the terror, the gulags and the millions of deaths in ‘united front’ publications. Testimony to unforgivable programmatic, political and moral surrender.

John Rees - when he rode high as national secretary of Respect, stood for a European parliamentary seat in the West Midlands, preeningly appeared on BBC2’s Newsnight and directed the SWP according to his latest whim or hunch - displayed all the morbid symptoms.

“Shibboleths”, such as proletarian socialism, republican democracy, secularism, open borders, gay and women’s rights, and a workers’ representative taking only the average worker’s pay should not be allowed to stand in the way of what people out there “want” and of “making a difference” by getting elected.23 A classic right Labour argument fielded in almost exactly the same way by the likes of Ramsay MacDonald, Clement Attlee, Hugh Gaitskell, Harold Wilson, Neil Kinnock, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Without a shadow of doubt, comrade Rees was subordinating the SWP to Galloway and their mutual allies in the Muslim ‘community’ and the labour bureaucracy (and therefore in the last analysis to the bourgeoisie). Respect, let me emphasise, was not a ‘united front’ or even a ‘united front of a special kind’. The latter being a sneaky term coined by Rees and the SWP in order to provide an ‘orthodox’ cover for their crass right opportunism.

Note, in the texts of the third (June-July 1921) and fourth congress (November 1922) of Comintern - the Communist International - a united front is a temporary fighting agreement with social democrats which gives the communist minority enhanced access to the reformist majority of workers. And, whatever its particular configuration, the united front expressly does not involve communists suspending their duty to criticise reformist leaders.

Respect was an unpopular popular front of a special kind. A pact between a sect and a few trade union tops, mosques, celebrities, businessmen, etc, but taken to the level of a registered political party. Respect was therefore implicitly premised on the absurd pretension of eventually forming a government, presumably with a view to establishing a British socialism. A concentrated variant of the grand cross-class coalitions recommended, fought for and supported by the post-1935 Comintern and fourth period ‘official communism’. Which did see Georgi Dimitrov - general secretary of Comintern from 1934-43 - expressly promising that communists would indeed suspend criticism of reformist leaders. In other words, Respect was a revival, a re-invention of Stalinite politics.

To put such a monstrosity together, to stop Respect instantly flying apart, to get it speaking and moving as one during election times, the left majority (the SWP) gagged itself and allowed the right minority to set the political agenda. Otherwise the right would simply walk away and thus cut off its social connections, standing with the bourgeois media and financial contributions. The right would certainly not accept a conference vote in the disciplined manner normally expected in democratic organisations. What resulted was endless backroom deals and concession after concession from the SWP. A modus operandi encoded in Respect from its very inception.

Neither the Muslim Association of Britain nor the Birmingham central mosque would dream of championing secularism and gay rights. Bengali businessmen would hardly rush to embrace proletarian socialism. On religious grounds Galloway opposes women having the freedom to choose whether or not to have an abortion. He is also a committed national socialist. So no free movement of workers. No opposition to immigration controls. Nor did he exhibit any enthusiasm for handing over two-thirds of his parliamentary salary (plus generous allowances) to the movement and living like an ordinary member of the working class. As for trade union officialdom, it was unlikely to bless republican democracy, proletarian internationalism and the equalisation of wages.

Hence, when it came to Respect’s annual conferences, Rees tub-thumpingly demanded that all such principles should be put on hold, muddied or simply rejected. He got his way too.

SWP members, from high to low, raised not a murmur, not a whisper, not a hint of public protest. Instead, they lined up to speak against their own ‘principles’ from the podium and en masse they raised their hands as instructed. More, those very same SWPers clapped and cheered comrade Rees to the rafters. Till, that is, the knives came out on the central committee and Alex Callinicos, Chris Harman and Martin Smith moved to deliver the fatal blow. Shakespearian perhaps, but thoroughly revealing about the complete absence of anything approaching a democratic culture in the SWP.

A welcome development. With the SWP divided above, those below began to question, think and rebel - thankfully overwhelmingly from the left - and to change. Eg, former drone Elane Heffernan defiantly writes: “I fear we have broken entirely with the traditions of the Bolsheviks, who, even in the worst periods of having to organise as a hunted underground force, had much greater traditions of debate, criticism and recall of its leaders.”24 On this occasion she is absolutely right. Except that the SWP, since its foundation, never had anything much to do with the pre-1917 Bolshevik tradition - especially when it comes to “debate, criticism and recall of its leaders.”

October

Looking back to the Bolsheviks and the Russian experience is entirely justified. It is easy to appreciate why.

Man is by “nature a political animal”, according to Aristotle.25 We can also say human beings are historical animals. Society - that includes every family and every individual on the face of the planet - can only be properly understood on a level of determination above, though not separate from, the biological, chemical, atomic, etc.

History - not Georg Hegel’s History with a capital ‘H’, but inherited productive technique, class and national relations, ownership forms, language, competing organisations, jurisprudence, common custom, accumulated political, cultural and economic battles and billions upon billions of daily decisions - exercise a profound influence on the present and therefore form a unity between the past and the future. People live from history.

Not that history simply or automatically repeats itself. There is quantitative and qualitative change. Also the growth of knowledge and awareness. Our species possesses self-consciousness. It has free will. Besides acting instinctively or under a compulsive routine, we seek to achieve our ends according to some plan first hatched in our imaginations.

Trying to satisfy artificial wants, pursuing ever larger financial bonuses, climbing the greasy political ladder, guarding holy truths, huddling up to patriotic values, building international working class solidarity, chasing wild dreams and even studiously researching the past all have their effect - of course, under material conditions bequeathed from the past.

With regard to the latter - that is, historical study - a quote from Niccolò Machiavelli is apposite: “Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past.” But, when it comes to actually making the future - a future really worthy of human beings, a future where each is free because all are free - Marxist political, economic and class analysis, and the resulting party programmes, easily provide the most persuasive, flexible, rounded and far-sighted guide to practice. Proudhonism, Greenism, left Labourism, third worldism, Chomskyism, ‘official communism’ and their many and various hybrids and offshoots are inferior on every count.

History is Marxism’s laboratory. Not for nothing has Marxism been described as dialectical and historical materialism. Moreover, while the proletariat’s Einstein is undoubtedly Marx, its Cern is Russia.

Obviously Russia had its specifics. But general laws too. Here after all, is where the global contradictions of capitalism found acutest expression. Every programme. Every theory. Every party was, as a result, tested to its limits. Alone Bolshevism passed … and it did so with flying colours.

Tsarism was rotten to the core and collapsed due to the weight of accumulated contradictions. But that does not mean that the role, actions and convictions of so-called ordinary people were not decisive. They were. International working women’s day (February 23 1917 in the old Russian calendar) was to be marked in the capital city with leaflets, speeches and meetings. Instead it became the first day of revolution. Proletarian women took to the streets against the advice of the left, demanding bread, peace and freedom - clearly influenced by Marxism, but clearly following no particular strategic road map. Masses of other workers struck in solidarity. St Petersburg was flooded with demonstrators. Though some 200 were shot, soldiers in various regiments refused to obey orders or simply fired into the air. Old certainties, assumptions and fears began to melt away. Militant workers were soon distributing rifles from looted government arsenals. This breathed courage into army units. Mutiny by 60,000 soldiers and general strike merged to become insurrection. Tsar Nicholas II abdicated in March 1917. The days of the Romanov dynasty were over.

Throughout the Russian empire a living torrent burst from the depths into the thrilling light of revolutionary activity. Aspirations soared. Popular organisations multiplied over and again: trade unions, soviets, factory committees, political parties and red guards.

Power shifted from the tsarist autocracy to those below. However, the dominant parties in the workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ soviets (councils) were determined to give power to the bourgeoisie. One result was the hastily put together, self-appointed and cross-class provisional government (initially headed by a prince, it included 10 capitalist ministers). Another was the spectacular growth of Bolshevik influence.

Under conditions of dual power, class struggles moved with breathtaking speed. Time concertinaed. More, the whole political spectrum shifted radically to the left. Aristocratic landlords, military top brass, church patriarchs and bureaucratic bigwigs defensively posed as democrats. The Cadets, the mainstream liberal bourgeois party, camouflaged themselves with Narodnik socialist and later Marxist tinges and hues. Most people, however, were not so easily fooled. In Soviet elections the right got nowhere.

The Socialist Revolutionary Party formed a soggy middle ground. Theoretically eclectic, adopting the terminology of Marxism when needed, it gained the votes of the immature, uninformed or narrow-mindedly confused. Crucially, the peasants. The SRs were, though, to irredeemably compromise themselves by doggedly continuing within the provisional government and trying to shield it from popular anger and criticism. Ministerial portfolios, influence at the top, chauffeur-driven cars, fat salaries and splendid offices, yes. But no end to the slaughter at the front. No break with the rapacious Anglo-French Entente. No halt to the mounting economic breakdown. No land to the tillers.

This huge party lost unified direction, slid into confusion and then in autumn 1917 cleaved into two completely separate organisations. Left SRs aligning themselves with the Bolsheviks. Right SRs becoming a creature of the Entente, the bourgeoisie and counterrevolution. The centre could not hold. Soon the SRs were to disappear into history, leaving hardly a trace.

What of the Mensheviks? Steeped in a mechanical Marxism, they managed to simultaneously speak for the extreme left of the bourgeois intelligentsia and the moderate, privileged and inexperienced layers of the working class. A precarious balancing act. This produced a large membership in the cities and many first-rate writers and talented speakers. Yet the tectonic pressures of 1917 fractured and reduced them time and time again. While far-left branches, personalities and groupings defected to the Bolsheviks and the right stuck limpet-like to Alexander Kerensky’s increasingly impotent provisional government, the soft left around Jules Martov, the Menshevik Internationalists, dithered and dithered and finally dithered into total paralysis.

In the birthplace of Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin, the anarchists proved entirely marginal. Always revolutionary, they had few if any other worthwhile ideas. The best of the anarchist milieu broke with anarchism.

Meanwhile, the proletariat itself became a collectivity embodied in the Bolsheviks. Virtually everything in the working class that was self-confident, forward-looking and aspired to bring about the world revolution enrolled in Lenin’s party. By the summer of 1917 the Bolsheviks had 240,000 members and formed the biggest bloc in the workers’ soviets. By the autumn there was a clear majority in Russia for the Bolshevik slogan, ‘All power to the soviets’.

The October Revolution broke the unity of the global capitalist order. So no mere political revolution, but a full-blown social revolution and arguably the most important world-historic event since the transition to the Neolithic - which saw the defeat of the female sex, the division of society into classes and the shift to agricultural production.

When soviet power was triumphantly proclaimed and the right socialist Kerensky finally scuttled away into obscurity, it proved that, if formed into a political party, the working class can seize state power. Proved that peasants would rally round the revolutionary proletariat. Proved that capitalism has an end as well as a beginning. Proved that humanity, if led by the working class, can realistically aspire to general freedom.

Nothing was the same thereafter. And not only in Russia. The mass workers’ parties in Europe split. One wing - those who called themselves communists - looked to follow the example of the Bolsheviks. The other - those who kept the soiled name, ‘social democrat’ - to gaining reforms on the back of the Bolsheviks.

The dominant bourgeois political parties, core business circles and the military-bureaucratic elite in the advanced capitalist countries were willing to pay whatever it took to ensure that there would be no more Octobers. An obvious symptom of capitalist decline. Blindly, fearfully, stumblingly they rushed to grant concessions across the board in a desperate act of self-preservation: widened suffrage, social democratic governments, binding arbitration boards with the trade unions, welfare benefits, increased living standards for those in employment, etc.

If they had foreknowledge of the 1929-32 economic collapse, the coming to power of Nazism, World War II, etc - which the best Marxist theory did vaguely warn of - things would undoubtedly have been very different. Yet, given the self-confessed limits of Marxism’s ability to predict the future, the relatively shallow penetration of Marxist culture and the open-endedness of history itself, the majority of the working class in the west myopically, but understandably, followed the line of least resistance. At the urging of their traditional parties, elected leaders and trusted intellectuals - mostly still calling themselves Marxists - they opted for continuing along the broad avenues of reform.

As far as most were concerned, it was that or the huge risks of following in the footsteps of a war-wracked, impoverished, hungry and increasingly undemocratic Russia. While a palpable sympathy existed for the Russian experiment, there was no corresponding wish to emulate 1917.

That notwithstanding, it is surely no exaggeration to say that what bourgeois ideologues smugly call liberal democracy owes its existence in great measure to the self-sacrifice, creativity and daring of those who made the October Revolution. Reforms gained in the west were a modern Danegeld. Eventually, though, a cul-de-sac.

Lenin

For friend and foe alike, Lenin and Trotsky were acknowledged as joint leaders of the infant Soviet Republic. Frequently brilliant theoretical insights and innovations came through studying and absorbing the available writings of Marx and Engels (and Hegel, etc). Of course. But there was more to Lenin and Trotsky than that.

Workers in Russia engaged in unprecedented class struggles that took them far above humdrum trade unionism. Yet they were a small minority surrounded by a peasant sea. Of necessity, the workers’ revolution had to gain hegemony over the revolution in the countryside. Then there was the question of what attitude to take towards the left-talking parties of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, self-determination and the tsarist prisonhouse of nations, the bloodbath of World War I, the collapse of the Second International, dual power. Etc, etc.

All demanded theoretical explanation and practical answers and thus the development of Marxism. That is where Lenin and Trotsky excelled. However, to carry out that task the educators themselves needed educating. Lenin and Trotsky immeasurably enriched their theoretical output by drawing on, engaging with and submerging themselves into the forward-moving revolutionary experience of the masses (and therefore corresponding unity, rivalry and conflict with other first-rate Marxist thinkers such as Georgi Plekhanov, Jules Martov, Vera Zasulich and Alexander Potresov).

The development of Marxism, as a theory for changing the world, is inseparable from the pace, direction, height and organic connections of the real movement of the working class. In the absence of that, cut off from the masses, at best Marxism develops, inch by painful inch, as a means of interpreting the world, mainly by mining past intellectual achievements. That, or what passes for Marxism, ossifies in the soporific papers of the sects and the ivory towers of academia (or turns into its opposite: ie, ceases to be Marxism).

Five salient points which ought to debunk some still far too common myths and misconceptions about Lenin and Bolshevism.

1. Throughout their pre-October 1917 history - that is, from unplanned beginnings in 1903 as the majority faction at the 2nd Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party; then, from 1912, formally as an entirely separate party (though in some remote areas the split with the Mensheviks was sometimes completed only after the October Revolution) - the Bolsheviks were committed to a minimum-maximum programme closely modelled on the Erfurt programme (1891) of the Social Democratic Party in Germany.26

2. This programme concentrated on practical demands and aims. Eg, the main goal of the minimum programme was the overthrow of the tsarist autocracy. Party members were required to accept the programme as the basis of common action, not agree with every passage, clause and sentence. A vital distinction. The Bolsheviks had no wish to create a confessional sect or a league of the pure.

3. Organisationally too the SDP was the template. Lenin sought to form the working class into a party throughout the tsarist empire. To a degree he succeeded amazingly quickly. The Bolsheviks counted as a physical force from the 1905 revolution onwards. Including during their 1906-12 temporary reunification with the Mensheviks and then after their final split with them. This was proved by the 1912 elections to the tsarist duma, when the Bolsheviks won the entire workers’ curia. The outbreak of World War I in August 1914 and the accompanying state repression forced the Bolsheviks underground once more. But they retained their base, albeit in the form of widespread sympathy amongst the most revolutionary sections of the working class.

4. Lenin provided consistent theoretical and political guidance. This enabled the Bolshevik part of the working class to successfully negotiate the many and varied hurdles that appeared on the long road to the overthrow of the provisional government and the formation of the workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ republic in October (November) 1917. There was theoretical, programmatic and organisational development, but no break with the past; not in 1905, not in 1914, not in 1917.

5. Giving successful guidance did not mean Lenin was dictator of the Bolsheviks. A cold war caricature. Yes, the party was built top-down in terms of theory. It could not be otherwise. But there were heated central committee debates and tight votes, self-willed editorial boards, regular congresses and conferences, the election of oppositional delegates and committees and the formation of factions in the event of serious political disagreement. Most importantly of all, there was constant open debate at branch, city, district and national level. Indeed, it is fair to say that the Bolsheviks practised the maximum democracy objective circumstances permitted. Even under the most adverse conditions disputes over strategy and tactics and between rival leading personalities were never shamefully hidden away. On the contrary, the Bolshevik press was alive with controversy and argument. Democratic centralism was not synonymous with gagging minorities. Only unity in agreed common actions.27

Trotsky

For his part Trotsky played a truly outstanding role in the 1905 revolution. Despite Trotsky’s young age (he was 26), effectively he led the St Petersburg soviet. And he led it with exceptional ability too. Trotsky was therefore at the storm centre of events that were to unmistakably imprint themselves upon the consciousness of 1917 - hence it is clearly mistaken to see the February revolution as being a purely spontaneous eruption.

Trotsky’s name is also rightly spoken of alongside the theory of permanent revolution. Results and prospects (1906) is a masterly application of the kind of strategy sketched out by Marx and Engels for Germany in the mid-19th century. Democratic and social revolutions interweaving.

Though Trotsky sided with the Mensheviks in the 1903 split, he cooperated with, and drew exceedingly close to, the Bolsheviks during the great year of 1905. Yet numerous factional clashes and polemical disputes followed. Trotsky chose to hold himself aloof from both the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, the big factions of the RSDLP. But he undoubtedly saw Lenin as the main obstacle to his Sisyphean project of cementing unity. In 1912 this saw Trotsky help initiate the August Bloc, which united the Menshevik liquidators and an amorphous little band of Bolshevik and ex-Bolshevik dissidents and malcontents.

Lenin countenanced, indeed energetically fought for, the unity of pro-party, anti-liquidationist Marxist forces. Not a halfway house party, which, in the name of unity with the right, votes with the right and abandons effective party discipline, along with basic principles, and has reformism and trade unionism as its model. Here was the source of Lenin’s intransigent opposition to the majority of Menshevik leaders.

Trotsky thought that mass struggles would overcome what he wrongly saw as superficial differences between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. Both factions, he confidently predicted, would be swept along by the sheer force of cascading events, converge under the pressure of the self-activating working class and in the end fight together as one for the permanent revolution - in Trotsky’s terms abolishing tsarism, proletarian rule in Russia supported by the peasants, and triggering the socialist conflagration in Europe.

As conclusively shown by 1917, an illusory perspective. Menshevik leaders stubbornly insisted that proletarian rule - albeit supported by the majority of peasant soviets - was epochally premature. Nonetheless, when it came not to the party, but the revolution itself - its place in history, the strategic class alliances needed, the international dimension, etc - the similarities between Lenin and Trotsky are striking.

Only a determined dogmatist could ignore the parallels and essential agreements that repeatedly occur in Trotsky’s Results and prospects and Lenin’s Two tactics of social democracy in the democratic revolution (1905). Lenin called his strategy ‘uninterrupted revolution’ - but clearly this was just another way of saying ‘permanent revolution’. Either way, the debt both men owed to the Marx-Engels team is obvious.

In July 1917 Trotsky and his 4,000 comrades in the Mezharonsti threw their lot in with the Bolsheviks and Trotsky was elected onto its central committee. He had found his true home at last. With Lenin in hiding, Trotsky became the main organiser of the October Revolution. He chaired the Revolutionary Military Committee, which planned and directed the seizure of the Winter Palace and other vital government, commercial, military and communication centres.

Shortly afterwards, in March 1918, Trotsky was given responsibility for the Red Army. He built it from the ramshackle foundations provided by the workers’ militia headed by Nikolai Podvoisky. Trotsky put an end to the posturings and the humiliating defeats. He created a million-strong continental force by boldly recruiting former tsarist officers, enlisting a peasant rank and file, re-instituting strict military discipline and over that creating an entirely novel system of commissars to ensure political reliability and control. A winning formula.

Though this body of armed men represented a programmatic retreat from the workers’ militia and conformed structurally in many ways to that of a conventional standing army, the October Revolution provided the ethos, inspiration and directing personnel.

The Red Army’s eventual defeat of the white and interventionist counterrevolutionary forces in the 1918-20 civil war in no small part resulted from Trotsky’s brilliance as a military thinker and hands-on commander. He therefore both helped to make and to save the revolution, albeit already deformed (and not only when it came to the army).

Simultaneously, Trotsky, along with Lenin, played a key role in the formative debates of the Communist International - thereby training a generation of young revolutionaries. Here is where Lenin and Trotsky’s main hope lay. Comintern was to spread, rescue and complete the Russian Revolution. And within a short time span too.

First revolutions in Germany, Austria and Hungary, followed by France, Poland and Italy, then in terms of expectation, Britain, China, Japan, India and Turkey and the formation of a gigantic federation of Europe, the Soviet Union and Asia. Then perhaps Egypt, Arabia, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico … but finally North America. The crowning achievement.

Lenin and Trotsky were to be disappointed. Capitalism proved more durable than calculated. Hence no spread, no rescue,