The Morning Star editorial description of Labour’s reintroduction of a proscribed list of left organisations as using a sledgehammer to crush “a small bag of nuts” was quite right.
The membership of the four groups picked on by the party’s rightwing NEC majority – Labour Against the Witchhunt, Labour in Exile Network, Socialist Appeal and Chris Williamson’s Resist - can probably be numbered in the hundreds, while what the right is concerned about is the hundreds of thousands who flooded into the party full of hope in Corbyn.
Party membership is said to have dropped by only round a hundred thousand in Starmer’s short time in office, which leaves the right with a much bigger problem than the symbolic victims they have chosen to bully. But then there is Niemöller’s warning to worry about: first they came for the communists, etc … Those organisations on the left who do not stand up and defend socialists being exiled by the Starmer regime today can expect a knock on their door tomorrow.
So the news which has leaked out on the grapevine from last week’s secret meeting of the Chatham House Left (so called because it forbids reporting of its discussions, mimicking the private meetings of the ruling class) has responded to the NEC’s backward move by deciding (by a majority vote) to invite proscribed organisations LAW and LIEN to participate in their discussions. (Socialist Appeal, I understand, has been in the talks for some time already. Resist is not invited, of course, because it campaigns against Labour in elections.)
However timid and cautious some of the 25 or so left groups involved have been, inviting proscribed organisations is a brave decision which confronts Labour’s right wing with the vital working class principle of solidarity: an injury to one is an injury to all.
Also welcome is the news that the group will soon take a first step out into the open with a statement announcing its ‘Unite the Left’ conference.
I would like to voice my overwhelming support for the ideas put forward by Eddie Ford in his article, ‘Generation Left terrifies right’ (July 29), and Jack Conrad in a recent Online Communist Forum talk with regards to the question of youth and socialism. We must view the findings of the Institute of Economic Affairs survey and the situation generally with extreme optimism.
First, allow me to indulge in some nostalgia: I first encountered the CPGB (and thus the Weekly Worker) as an essentially non-political, idealistic 14-year-old on an anti-austerity demonstration in 2016. You’ll have to buy me a few drinks if you want the full story, but suffice to say it was not fancy stalls, petitions or placards which got my attention, but a serious attitude to politics and their own history.
The very fact that the current generation take up the banner of identity politics, Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion, etc. should fill us Marxists with hope - not because we agree with the shallow politics of movementism and tailism (the majority my fellow youngsters know full well that these movements are not a real solution), but precisely because it is so crude and primitive. And so, in a strange turn of events, I share the words of the IEA when I say that we must engage with ‘millennial socialism’ and that to “dismiss it or deny it exists” is crass ignorance.
Today the youth masses are clawing for political direction and have grasped at the only forces that have come to hand. If they are willing to unquestionably accept identity politics as gospel, just imagine what a force putting forward scientific socialism and the world-historic mission of proletarian revolution could achieve!
Despite all the talk of millennial Corbynistas, the Labour Party proved an unwelcome arena for young people. At roughly the same time as I was eagerly eating up not chips, but Lars T Lih’s ‘All power to the soviets’ Weekly Worker supplement series, in the high school canteen, my friends and I were also being forcibly removed from Labour and Momentum meetings for daring to hand out copies of the dreaded Labour Party Marxists. Meetings were designed to put off newcomers and serious politics was met with the iron fist of the local Lansmanite councillor.
As for the Marxist left, there is one big problem - or should I say 57 little problems - in our way. Thankfully, apart from small and fleeting waves of ‘hipster Stalinists’, young people have stayed away from the menagerie of sects and ‘vanguard parties’.
Neither sects nor tailism will do the trick. We need a serious organisational platform if we are to make any progress - although tempting, mass recruiting raw students is not the place to start. We must turn to the experienced existing left and call for principled unity on the basis of a basic Marxist programme and democratic-centralist discipline. We need a mass Communist Party if we are to reap the rewards of ‘generation left’.
Andrew Northall tells us: “It was necessary to destroy the enemy within in order to destroy the enemy without - the latter, of course, intimately connected with the former” (Letters, July 22). But who was the “enemy within” for Stalin? In an interview with Roy Howard, president of Scripps-Howard Newspapers, on March 1 1936, and reprinted in The New York Times, Stalin explains:
Howard: Does this, your statement, mean that the Soviet Union has to any degree abandoned its plans and intentions for bringing about world revolution?
Stalin: We never had such plans and 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 a misunderstanding.
Howard: A tragic misunderstanding?
Stalin: No, a comical one. Or, perhaps, tragicomic.
And then he went on to assure western imperialism - for clearly this is his target audience - as well as his international supporters: “The export of revolution is nonsense. Every country will make its own revolution if it wants to, and if it does not want to there will be no revolution ... But to assert that we want to make a revolution in other countries, to interfere in their lives, means saying what is untrue, and what we have never advocated.”
Thus the great ideals of the Russian Revolution, which inspired the working class and oppressed of the whole world, were explicitly repudiated. On July 18 1936, a revolution broke out in Spain in response to Franco’s coup of the day before. In great, heroic struggles the workers of Barcelona stormed the police and army barracks and defeated the coupists. Whole regions, including Madrid, followed. The working class then seized the factories, and the peasants seized the land and made their revolution from below.
But it lacked a mass revolutionary leadership like the Bolsheviks to form a workers’ state and unite the insurgent masses. And they faced their ‘enemy within’ here: Joe Stalin’s counterrevolutionaries led by Stalinist hack Palmiro Togliatti and organised by NKVD assassin Alexander Orlov, head of the “special operations” network in Spain. They undertook the grizzly work of assassinating all past and present revolutionaries who opposed Stalin then or in the past, as he had done in the USSR from the early 1930s.
Far from sticking to his declared principle that “every country will make its own revolution if it wants to”, this “tragicomic” error could not be allowed to stand: he had to appease the ‘democratic imperialists’ of Dimitrov’s 1935 7th Comintern Congress popular front mythising. That is before he made his close alliance with Hitler on August 23 1939 to appease the ‘fascist imperialists’.
If socialist revolution were to triumph in Spain, it would surely quickly re-establish its internationalist forward thrust to world revolution in the USSR itself. Now the same revolutionary socialist “enemy within” had to be eliminated in the USSR, even if those former revolutionists he put on trial were by then political corpses, as Trotsky observed at the time. Hitler killed all his enemies, but Stalin killed all his ‘friends’ - or at least all those former friends who had any connection with the Russian Revolution - to assure western imperialism he could be relied upon to assist it to smash any revolution that might break out in any country, particularly the imperialist countries, that threatened ‘peaceful coexistence’. Stalinism was now all for “peace and socialism”, as the strap above the Morning Star title and every other true Stalinist newspaper tells us every day. No more of that revolution nonsense.
Andrew asserts: “It is telling that Gerry does not even attempt any defence of the rightists and leftists convicted in the Moscow trials, for which there are published volumes of detailed documentary evidence of their guilt. It is funny, but I have never heard any so-called debunker of the Moscow trials able to disprove even one scintilla of the evidence provided.”
One Grover Furr argues in a similar fashion, although in excruciating and turgid detail. But his only evidence of this massive conspiracy consists of the confessions extracted under torture, and threats to kill family members and friends, who were also murdered en masse just for knowing the accused. But Grover encountered a problem: apart from the bogus trial confession ‘evidence’, when the archives of the Nazi regime and of Japan were opened after their defeat in World War II, they found not a “scintilla” of any such evidence, as Andrew likes to put it. In a subsection of his long dissertation, Why is there no German or Japanese evidence of Trotsky’s collaboration?, Furr tackles this question.
He explains that just because the evidence was not found does not mean it is not there: just that no-one has found it yet. And “such collaboration might well not leave any evidence” - it was a verbal, unwritten conspiracy, he asserts. The proposition that such a massive conspiracy over eight years alleged at the three show trials and that of Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky and all the other Red Army leaders left no traces in these archives is just beyond belief - simply ridiculous. But “it seems likely that further evidence implicating Trotsky may be contained in archives that are still classified ... conspiratorial information of this kind is typically not written down at all.” The leaders of the USSR were so sympathetic to Trotskyism that they were hiding all the proof they had! Of course, the truth is that the first possibility that Grover Furr examines and rejects - “Trotsky never collaborated with the Germans or Japanese. All the Soviet evidence is fabricated” - is the correct one.
For a detailed refutation of Grover Furr, his unprofessional methods, his reliance on simple assertion without primary sources, see the essay by fragmentedmachine at reddit.com: ‘To what extent is Grover Furr’s account of the Moscow Trials supported by third party research?’
The author commented four years ago: “Furr’s work is amateur and wouldn’t even get a passing grade in a decently rigorous undergraduate course. It’s laden with dubious argumentation and poor source evaluation. To give a specific example, let’s look at Furr’s approach to the lack of non-Soviet sources corroborating or confirming the central charges of the Moscow Trials, which pretty much all revolve around collaboration with foreign powers.
“Furr begins by noting that, ‘In countries still extant it is normal to keep intelligence archives secret indefinitely. This is certainly the case in the USA. We suggest it is logical to suspect the same thing in the case of Germany and Japan.’ This rather conveniently ignores that not only is Nazi Germany no longer extant, but that many of the important government archives were under the Soviet occupation zone in Berlin, and neither East German nor Soviet scholars who had access to such documents were known for their fondness for Trotskyists.
“I could go on, but the whole book is like this - in fact, all his books are like this. He is sloppy with ‘citations’ and cherrypicks constantly. He exhibits classic denialist and conspiracy theory tropes: all the real evidence is purged or missing, and all the evidence to the contrary is forged or irrelevant. Lack of evidence is explained away as being part of the conspiracy. He relies on a sympathetic ear and an unwillingness to actually follow up on sources to be taken seriously by anybody.”
These comments equally apply to Andrew Northall.
What do I know?
It feels a little impolite to butt into the conversation between Andrew Northall and Gerry Downing, which will no doubt continue amicably for some time. However, I was a little surprised by a few comments in comrade Northall’s letter of July 27.
For instance, the paragraph claiming that not even “one scintilla of the evidence provided” could be disproved seems a little eccentric, to say the least. Obviously a communist of Stalin’s calibre wouldn’t allow his people to say, ‘Confess or we’ll kill your family’, would he? But it was quite likely that - especially after a while under ‘enhanced interrogation’ - some of the victims would still feel that they needed to protect Stalin so as to protect the Soviet Union and so provided several scintillas.
I’m reminded of the montage assembled by, I think, David King of Lenin’s central committee of 1917. It starts with pictures of the members: “Rykov shot, Bukharin shot, Sverdlov dead, Stalin survivor” and so on. Six are listed as shot, seven dead (including Lenin). While Trotsky was, of course, assassinated, others ‘disappeared’, but, all in all, the only ones left alive were Stalin and Kollontai.
Many Bolsheviks died in the civil war and then, along with Lenin’s CC comrades, many thousands of old Bolsheviks were murdered on Stalin’s orders. Leaving what? Crawlers who believed (like Andrew Northall, it would appear) - or pretended to believe - that Stalin could do no wrong.
Another of Northall’s paragraph reads: “The centralised, planned operations which took place over 1937-38 had a clear beginning and end. They were targeted and focused primarily on ‘anti-Soviet elements’, ‘people of the past’, ‘counterrevolutionary national contingents’ and very much driven by the rapidly deteriorating international situation, with impending war with the Nazi and fascist states.”
While busy killing old Bolsheviks - ie, “people of the past” - Stalin and his assistants were busy writing ‘history’, as in History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) - short course. I read this some years ago and I was struck by the absence of the names of Bolsheviks from 1917. There are plenty of named Mensheviks, but hardly any Bolsheviks.
Clearly, Lenin and Stalin led the revolution, and the Red Army in the civil war, pretty much all by themselves. Presumably the other members of Lenin’s central committee were already “anti-Soviet elements”. It seems surprising that he and Stalin didn’t root them out earlier! But, as Northall says, “Truth and facts are surely multifaceted and multidimensional.” So what do I know?
For year upon year, we have watched in a mixture of horror and fury (even a dash of despair), as the imperatives of the capitalist paradigm relentlessly promoted hyper-individualism at the expense of everything else.
So has that capitalist creature been poisoning itself, whilst simultaneously now being hoist by its own petard? Has it relied upon ersatz ethical values, upon multi-faceted falsehood of an all-pervasive nature, in order to sustain its perniciousness plus viciousness, its systems of control? Well, precisely and ironically just so - certainly by having managed to convince its populations they have extensive ‘freedoms’, because without restriction they can consume and eventually destroy the natural resources of their own planet Earth!
Genuine freedom of choices? Do they and any of us live within a ‘democracy’ or otherwise benefit from any actual or meaningful ‘rights’? Do any of us have access to core or even almost primeval ‘justice’? Quite categorically not! Absolutely the contrary! Merely we possess those obligations to continue to consume and devour - and in doing so to perpetuate the very system that is poisoning both our body and soul.
So, yes, quite clearly capitalism has been hoist by its various own petards - as detonated by peddling such suicidal and obscene delusions.
Whether or not the home office should have consulted Rugby council before suggesting Rugby should accommodate a small number of asylum-seekers is irrelevant: we in Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition believe that every village, town and city should welcome asylum-seekers, whilst their applications are being heard. But the council is doing the opposite by questioning whether we should even accept new arrivals.
Seeking asylum is a right enshrined within international law. Asylum-seekers are desperate, having travelled hundreds of miles in often dangerous conditions to arrive where they feel safe. They have fled war, persecution or extreme poverty to leave their homeland and many members of their family behind for a new life, as millions have done for many centuries. We should welcome asylum-seekers with open arms and offer them the opportunity to join us in a relatively safe and pleasant environment.