Marie Lynam correctly takes a strong position of defence of Iran against US aggression and sharply differentiates between oppressed and oppressor nations (Letters, July 25). Of course, Trotskyists do not see the defence of the Iranian government as our ultimate goal and always look to the working class - in Iran and globally - as the only real, ultimate gravedigger of imperialism and all capitalism via Trotsky’s programme of permanent revolution. ‘Unconditional but critical support’ means we do not seek to whitewash the brutal history of the theocratic leadership; the crushing of the Iranian revolution from 1980; the mass executions of leftists and national minorities; and those obscene, barbaric, ongoing public hangings of gays on those cranes.
Marie may argue that in conditions of the impending war against Iran by US-led imperialism it is inappropriate to raise these issues now. And it is true that right now we emphasise defence against imperialism vis the anti-imperialist united front - always seeking to strengthen and raise the class-consciousness of the working class against imperialism now, in order to prepare it to overthrow supreme leader Ali Khamenei and president Hassan Rouhani in the internationalist-orientated socialist revolution.
But really by far the worst section of the letter is the apology for Stalin and the corrupt counterrevolutionary Stalinist bureaucracy that betrayed the great Russian Revolution led by Lenin and Trotsky. In the first place Trotskyists always refer to the USSR after 1928, with the crushing of internal party democracy, as a ‘degenerated workers’ state’, not just a ‘workers’ state’, as Marie does. Similarly with eastern Europe, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Cuba, the term is ‘deformed workers’ states’ to indicate they were born in the image of the degenerated state in the USSR.
Is it true that the defeat of Hitler “drew a historic line under the colonial ambition of world capitalism”? The US replaced the European colonial empires of Britain, France, Italy, etc by the far more efficient exploiting system of the rule of finance capital led by the US and neocolonial oppression via local proxies. This involved all those regime-change coups like Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 and CIA assassinations like that of Patrice Lumumba (Congo) in 1961.
So it’s entirely incorrect to propose that ‘the Soviet workers’ state broke the foundations of colonisation - hence of capital accumulation”. Capitalist accumulation has proceeded swimmingly, along with more vicious, efficient methods of neoliberalism, pioneered by Milton Friedman from the Chicago school, and embraced so enthusiastically by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. If that neoliberal agenda is now running out of steam, we can see its replacement is far-right, oppressive regimes, the threat of world war by Trump, Johnson and Netanyahu, and looming fascism to the right of them.
And Marie’s unalloyed praise for the ‘Red Army’ hides the fact that during the whole of World War II Stalin was allied with imperialism: with Hitler from August 1939 to June 1941 and then with Churchill and Roosevelt to kill the prospect of revolution, as happened in Russia after World War I. Stalin betrayed the Spanish revolution to appease French, British and US imperialism; the Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance was signed in 1936, when France was in the throes of a pre-revolutionary situation in the general strike in May-June 1936. The Spanish revolution began on July 17. The Popular Front governments in both states were initiated to betray a pre-revolutionary situation in France and actual revolution in train in Spain in order to appease the ‘democratic imperialists’.
Roy Howard interviewed Stalin for Communist International (March-April 1936):
“Howard: Does this statement of yours mean that the Soviet Union has to any degree abandoned its plans and intentions to bring about a world revolution?
“Stalin: We never had any such plans or intentions.
“Howard: You appreciate no doubt, Mr Stalin, that much of the world has long entertained a different impression?
“Stalin: This is the product of misunderstanding.
“Howard: A tragic misunderstanding?
“Stalin: No, comic. Or perhaps tragicomic ...”
Then came the Stalin-Hitler pact of August 1939, when the Spanish revolution was not yet cold in its grave. Molotov revealed the degree of the political collapse of the bureaucracy in a speech on October 31 1939 to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR:
“One may accept or reject the ideology of Hitlerism, as well as any other ideological system - that is a matter of political views. But everybody should understand that an ideology cannot be destroyed by force, that it cannot be eliminated by war. It is, therefore, not only senseless, but criminal, to wage such a war as a war for the ‘destruction of Hitlerism’ camouflaged as a fight for ‘democracy’.”
The resumption of the popular front with the ‘democratic imperialists’ after Hitler ‘betrayed’ Stalin and invaded the USSR was equally counterrevolutionary. Stalin allowed the Nazis to crush the Warsaw uprising from August to October 1944, ‘resting’ the ‘Red Army’ on the banks of the Vistula, while Hitler annihilated this great workers’ uprising. They then proceeded westward, nowhere allowing any workers’ movement to succeed. All Germans were Nazis, according to Stalin, and there was no call to rise up, as the ‘Red Army’ had ‘come to liberate you’.
This army raped up to two million women in Germany, Hungary, Romania and Croatia, as it swept westward. When the Yugoslav communist, Milovan Djilas, protested to Stalin, he said: “Can’t he understand it if a soldier who has crossed thousands of kilometres through blood and fire and death has fun with a woman or takes some trifle?”
And the communist parties entered government in eight European countries to save capitalism from workers’ revolution, which had developed into actual revolutionary uprisings in northern Italy and Greece, as well as Vietnam. Palmiro Togliatti entered a government led by the fascist, Pietro Badoglio, in 1943 to betray the Italian revolution and set about the grisly work of assassinating the revolutionaries in his own party - again to appease the ‘democratic imperialists’.
The regular plea that Stalin defeated fascism is, in reality, a plea to imperialism to acknowledge the service that Stalinism does for imperialism in betraying socialist revolution and murdering Trotskyists; and nostalgia for the time when Churchill praised Stalin for agreeing to put down the revolution in Greece. Churchill noted that the British massacres in Athens were widely and strongly criticised in the US press and by the US state department, and also in The Times and the Manchester Guardian in Britain, but added:
“Stalin, however, adhered strictly and faithfully to our agreement of October, and during all the long weeks of fighting the communists in the streets of Athens, not one word of reproach came from Pravda or Izvestia” (Cahiers Léon Trotsky No23, September 1985, pp35-60).
Marie comes across as very much a semi-Trotskyist, semi-Stalinist in her letter.
Brian Kugelmann says he made a “gross mistake” when he had a “little crack” at me (Letters, July 25). He is sceptical that I was “amused” by his put-down. So now I am laughing my cotton socks off. I argued that Brian’s mistake was political and so I did not take it personally. He denied this. He claimed it was simply personal: that is, non-political and uncomradely.
In fact Brian’s decision to ‘have a go’ expressed a definite class point of view. I was, of course, speculating that he was irritated because he is an ultra-remainer - a liberal-left, Trotskyist version of Jo Swinson. Brian says this is wrong. He explains: “I don’t have strong feelings either way on Brexit. Both sides bore me and don’t interest me remotely.”
He continues: “As for Corbyn’s ‘remain-democrat stance’, first I did not know Corbyn had one; second I don’t know what it is; and, third I don’t care.” Everybody should recognise this as reflecting the social attitude of a class disinterested in the political struggle of the working class. It became known as ‘economism’.
This is a theory of middle class interests, best preserved by a non-political or depoliticised working class. Their intermediate position is threatened if the working class starts thinking and acting politically. Hence their ‘Marxism’ is entirely academic. This is why Paul Smith had to remind Brian that “the Weekly Worker is not an academic journal”, because Paul sensed his attitude.
Working class people - especially the politically active section - are very interested in the EU and ‘Brexit’. It impacts directly on their present and future. It is a matter of supreme indifference for economists and academic Trots, whose lives are insulated from Tory austerity and Brexit policy. More than this, the Brexit crisis is providing an education in class politics, the like of which we have not seen before.
Peter Manson claims: “We are heading for a constitutional crisis ... and certainly an early general election” (‘Volatile times ahead’, July 18). The economists don’t care. They look down on the working class and hold them in contempt. They feel revulsion - similar to Brian when he sees tramps and ‘down and outs’ on a train and does not want to make eye contact with them in case it all goes badly wrong!
Boycotting the political struggle puts Brian closer to the CPGB line than he realises. He does not recognise or grasp that political struggle has divided ‘remain’ supporters between ‘remain’-democrats and ultra-remainers. He doesn’t draw a class line between Corbyn and Tom Watson or Jo Swinson. He says he doesn’t understand it. But being ignorant never stopped economists or academic Trotskyists from having a “little crack”.
Peter Manson explains the CPGB/Weekly Worker line, reflected by Labour Party Marxists. He is clear about the past and the future. In 2016 the CPGB was “perfectly clear” in its call for a boycott. The future is equally clear in “a workers’ Europe, in which principled working class organisations cooperate in the drive towards a new, post capitalist world”.
However, in the present battles we learn the CPGB is “utterly opposed to the nationalist agenda of ‘leave’” (my emphasis), but displays ‘studied ambiguity’ in the fight between Corbyn and Watson-Swinson. Peter says the Labour right wants “to ditch its commitment to abide by the result of the 2016 referendum” and “come out right now for a clear-cut ‘remain’ stance”. Where to stand on that?
I repeat Peter’s words to help Brian understand the distinction between a ‘remain’-democrat and an ultra-remainer. In this class tug-of-war, the Labour leader is being dragged along in the direction of the Liberal Democrats. I condemn the CPGB for standing aside instead of openly defending Corbyn and being “utterly opposed” to the ‘remain’-reform position of Watson and Swinson, acting as Brexit facilitators.
Let us end with Brian’s “gross mistake”. Paul Smith observes that the Weekly Worker “encourages free expression over various aspects of socialist theory and practice” and is open to “cranks” of all types. I continue calling out the present tactics of the CPGB for sitting on the fence in the tug-of-war between Corbyn and Watson-Swinson. Corbyn is now being dragged along by them. Socialists should dig in and defend the old high ground with an independent, democratic, class position.
Brian’s “gross mistake” is not, as he imagines, making eye contact with the down-and-outs. He should have been a member of the CPGB. Under democratic centralism he would have understood that, although I am welcome to write “ultra-repetitive” letters, the party is ultra-ignoring me. It is simply political tactics. Had he joined the CPGB, he would surely have been warned, before it was too late, against engaging with enemy arguments when you haven’t got a leg to stand on.
Charlatan-comedic, sub-Trumpian Boris Johnson has now been installed as the UK’s prime minister, and this development represents the further nailing-up on Weekly Worker policies in relation to the European Union - and, most poignantly, to Brexit as being nothing more than idiocy blended with tragedy.
Where you and your associated organisations think it right to devote almost unlimited effort, time and dedication in attempts at ‘engagement’ with the UK working class via the Labour Party, you have judged it ‘incorrect’ to do precisely the same in the context of the most powerful - and therefore potentially most productive - element of socio-political events currently on the table.
Sad to say, things have now unfolded pretty much as I feared - to all intents and purposes leaving you lot stranded high and dry, along with a sizeable section of our UK working class, including 75% or more of those at their earlier stage of life who despise anything and everything to do with Brexitism.
The original surreal lunacy and now grotesquely ongoing unravelling of the Brexit scam has thrown up a Year Zero for current-times Marxism as a whole. In rejecting the core attitudes and central position of remainers, you have also rejected far less regulated ‘freedom’ of movement between jobs, as well as equivalent educational and cultural advantages, and thus highly desirable and more relaxed interconnection at many other human levels. Moreover, you have adopted that position at least partially because those for ‘remain’ include nasty little shits of the anti-Corbyn/Blairite rightwinger variety within the Labour Party. This amounts to nothing less than throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
At another level, this attitude on your part represents an absence of dynamically dialectical processes for evaluation, analysis and policymaking around those matters at hand, where instead you opted for mechanical thinking. You have abandoned any sensible/tactical flexibility for the purposes of short-term advantage. Also not to be overlooked is how this ideological rigidity on your part is being clung to in the face of a modern world (aka our current Zeitgeist) that has no affinity whatsoever with any such disconnected purism - something observers with a distinctly less sympathetic predisposition might interpret as an aloofness.
As things currently stand, a very large and foul-smelling dollop of oozing ignominy hangs over many heads - not just of the Weekly Worker, CPGB, etc, but also of 21st-century communism/Marxism as a whole. It’s hanging there, ready to drip and dribble down unforgivingly. That veritable cascade of Big Truth now has to be faced up to with graciousness and dignity, not to forget a genuine humility, and then this humungously disappointing shared legacy of ours can be courageously overcome. An absolute horror show now needs to be superseded in the coming period by long-overdue evolved action to win mass support from a freshly awakened working class.
There is a far more direct source of responsibility - indeed, in this case, all but criminal culpability. The overriding factor is that Labour under Corbynism should have adopted a clear-cut policy of scrapping Brexit, ideally replacing it with the promotion of a socialistic brotherhood throughout Europe - one committed to core changes to the way the EU operates. In place of Boris J and his Team Neo-Colonialist Nostalgia, Labour would have found themselves being the entity swept to that position of parliamentary ‘power’ (despite their burnt-out Keynesian and other such chronic limitations).
Maybe the coronation of Johnson’s populist government will accelerate a backlash, creating a new attractiveness for alternatives - maybe even one that solidifies more broad-based support for Labour at an early general election. However, as any Marxist or communist should know, exactly what that so-called social democratic outfit of Corbynist Labour does with any such opportunity is altogether another matter.
The new prime minister would no doubt love to be compared to Winston Churchill. But Churchill knew what he wanted - to defend the empire - and what he could gamble on - the entry of the US into World War II.
But Boris is a chancer, and more Wisdom than Winston - that is, Norman Wisdom, the knockabout film actor, who also knew how to speak to the heart. Whatever his personal beliefs, Johnson knows how to speak to certain people’s emotions, sounding chords about getting things done, with his optimism and ‘belief in the British people’. He knows how to sing, like Norman, while acting up endearingly clumsily - though Norman did it to play the fool, while Johnson plays us all for a fool.
He may yet follow ‘do or die’ or reach a compromise (a ‘new deal’), or else blame the EU and remainers in parliament for whatever he needs to. He believes he can bluster through, as he’s done before - call it optimism, arrogance or self-deception.
Of course, this time he’s up against people hard to fool like Nigel Farage and the Democratic Unionist Party (though they can be discounted), as well as that majority in the Commons against a ‘no deal’ and a capitalist class who find that their sensible Conservative Party has gone over to petty bourgeois nationalism. He could plump for an emergency general election, which he might win with all his promises, while the Labour right hope his victory could allow them to get rid of Corbyn - who may have given in to remainer pressure, but hasn’t given up on his socialist policies.
Bojo, the posh clown, may risk crashing out or proffer a ruse, doing either without being passionate about anything except coming top. Would you get into a car driven by Boris Johnson?