Genuine article

In terms of trying to have one’s cake and eat it, the article by Don Preston (‘Criticism of the past’ Weekly Worker August 20) really goes to ridiculous lengths.

As part of the debate on the former Soviet bloc that has recently begun in the Weekly Worker, comrade Preston polemicises against the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’s allegedly “pseudo-third camp” position which “championed the cause of Polish Solidarnosc, Thatcher and Reagan’s favourite ‘trade union’”, and sagely concludes: “We have seen where Solidarnosc’s real nationalism led an independent Poland - to capitalism and Nato.” Making his views on this clear, comrade Preston states that Arthur Scargill was “undoubtedly correct” to label Polish Solidarnosc as being “anti-socialist”.

Yet earlier, comrade Preston attacks “dogma-encrusted Trotskyists who refuse to entertain the notion, as a matter of faith, that the USSR was an exploitative formation - on the block-headed grounds that to admit such a self-evident truth immediately catapults you into the arms of the blackest counterrevolution”, and of course cites myself as a prime example.

If this is ‘block-headedness’, then I plead guilty. However, it is not at all. For if Arthur Scargill was “undoubtedly correct” to label Solidarnosc as “anti-socialist” - in other words as counterrevolutionary - then the question immediately arises: counterrevolutionary in relation to what? Counterrevolution, in general, is the opposite of revolution, and there must be something in some way progressive for it to overthrow.

If the eastern bloc states were exploitative class societies, that were in no sense an advance on capitalism, then it is utterly irrelevant that the Polish workers’ movement was influenced by Polish nationalism and in some cases anti-semitism, in deciding whether or not to support them against the state of their “exploitative” ruling class or not.

The British workers’ movement is strongly influenced by ‘left’ forms of British nationalism and there are elements of it who are to varying degrees influenced by racism. However, in the event of a frontal confrontation of the British workers’ movement with the forces of the bourgeois state, it would be obligatory for communists to use every avenue to secure the victory of the working class, despite its reactionary leadership. If Poland (and the rest of the Warsaw Pact bloc) were exploitative class societies, then there could be no different criteria applied to such organisations as Polish Solidarnosc.

Comrade Preston still thinks that Polish Solidarnosc was counterrevolutionary, but at the same time he thinks that the former Soviet bloc was equally as bad as capitalism. This is a ridiculous, contradictory position, that is untenable and will only bring ridicule, not only from the likes of myself, but also from the likes of comrades Osborne, Matgamna, etc. They are not “pseudo-third campist” at all. They are the genuine article. If comrade Preston does not like their embrace of reactionary anti-Soviet forces, he should stop trying to appropriate their theories. Conversely, if he wants to appropriate their theories, he will have to put up with their reactionary bedfellows. 

Ian Donovan
Revolution and Truth

No contradiction

I read with great interest Steve Riley’s recent short article on the former USSR (Weekly Worker July 30). He writes: “The Soviet Union on the world stage intervened to suppress uprisings yet inspired the world communist movement for half a century.”

Actually there is no contradiction in this dichotomy. The Soviet bureaucracy considered that the uprisings in Western Europe over this period were not so pregnant with revolution after all - certainly not worth risking military attack by England and France and later nuclear attack from the USA. On the other hand, Stalin indeed signed an agreement with Churchill sacrificing Greece to capitalism, but gained instead Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Albania and East Germany for the ‘socialist camp’.

Later, outside Europe, the bureaucracy, when it came to the crunch against the risk of nuclear attack, did agree to a communist takeover of China, North Korea and Laos. Cambodia, of course, was bombed ‘into the stone age’ by the USA.

The main area of controversy depends on whether or not there were potential or actual pre-revolutionary situations in Western Europe throughout this period. In retrospect, it now seems politically naive to postulate any situation in Western Europe after 1933 as ‘pre-revolutionary’ after the main German working class movement had been annihilated by fascism. Later from 1939 to 1945, the German army occupied the whole of Europe and annihilated the west European working class movements. Then, from 1945 to 1990, came the final blow. West European working class insurrections could unleash nuclear bomb attacks on themselves and on the USSR.

There are many topics to discuss and little time to reach a well balanced, dialectical consensus. Otherwise, this problem will continue to bedevil the future cooperation of former Stalinists, Trotskyists, Schachtmanites and others in Socialist Alliances and other campaigns.

Alf Packter


Bob Paul’s letter (‘Setting our own agenda’ Weekly Worker August 27) defending the CPGB policy of calling for the abolition of the age of consent is entirely unconvincing. He fails to explain why the demand for adults to have the right to have sex with children without state interference is in the interests of the working class and part of the process of the self-formation of the working class into a ruling class. Indeed, when the essence of the matter is so expressed, the anti-human, stupid and ridiculous nature of the demand becomes apparent. If MI5 had the ability to insert a demand into the communist programme in order to discredit us in front of the working class, the demand to abolish the age of consent would be high on its list.

Is the demand to abolish the age of consent being advanced or supported by young people who are being denied a sexual life by the capitalist state? I think not. There is a case for the age of consent to be lowered to remove state interference with sexual activity between young people. The precise details of such a change are open to discussion, but the guiding aim should be to allow young people to control and develop their own sexual life while providing them with protection against sexual exploitation by adults. But is there any evidence to suggest that the state is actively intervening to stop 14-year olds having sex with each other? Again I think not.

Of course it is obvious to any communist and even any consistent democrat that the age of consent should be equal for homosexuals and heterosexuals, and the present difference is a form of gay oppression which we must combat.

Bob Paul does not seem to want to face up to the reality that there exists a group of people, commonly designated paedophiles, who obsessively desire to have sex with pre-pubescent children. Is our answer to this problem, however much its prevalence is exaggerated by the bourgeoisie media, simply to state that the state has no role to play in protecting children from such abuse, indeed even campaign (through “protest meetings, strikes and councils of action”, it would seem) for the state to keep its nose out, as it should “not be allowed to set a political agenda which determines who should sleep with whom”? Maybe we should also oppose intervention by the state to protect children who are physically abused by adults on the grounds that we should not allow it to set a political agenda which determines who assaults whom? Comrade, what is the weather like on your planet? The call for the abolition of the age of consent is in reality libertarian, anti-working class, anti-communist rubbish.

 To pose the question concretely, if a known paedophile moves into an area, do we say there should be no legal impediment to his perverse activities or do we demand that the state provide resources to help him overcome his problem while ensuring the children of the area are safe from his attention?

Sandy Johnstone

Quite correct

In response to Ann Murphy’s article (‘The fantasy world of Dave Craig’ Weekly Worker August 27) the Revolutionary Democratic Group wants to make its position very clear. The RDG fully supports the open letter (July 14) from the Campaign for a Federal Republic to the Socialist Party executive committee. (The Campaign is one of the affiliated organisations of the Scottish Socialist Alliance.)

The importance of the demand for a federal republic as against the nationalist call for Scottish independence is not about the numbers game. It is about politics. In terms of numbers, size and strength, Scottish Militant Labour with its call for Scottish independence is vastly more important than the tiny Campaign. In terms of fighting for a federal republic, the Campaign is more important.

The Campaign is correct to publicly oppose the move towards a Scottish Socialist Party and warn that this move is a fundamental mistake which can do long- term damage to the working class. The Campaign is quite correct to state that they might not join the new party if it is formed.

The Campaign is quite correct to call on the SSA to pursue an alternative course of action - namely, to discuss with all-British or all-UK organisations how to form, merge or join an all-British (UK) organisation or party. This discussion should obviously include the Socialist Party, Socialist Labour Party and SWP. No doubt this is not intended to be an exclusive list. For obvious reasons, the Socialist Party is the first door that the Campaign should knock on.

The Campaign is quite correct to write directly to the SP executive and raise these matters. The SP executive is the most important political factor in how this whole disaster is played out. The Campaign is quite right to ask the Socialist Party to publish its letter and a longer explanation of its views on the national question and also to publish the views of other affiliated organisations. It is important that the rank and file of the Socialist Party should be as fully informed of the different positions as possible.

To point to the correct and politically necessary course of action is not the same as pointing to what is likely. The SP executive committee did discuss the letter and decided to do nothing at present. This is hardly a surprise to members of the Campaign or the RDG. It is hardly a surprise to the readers of Weekly Worker. It was not a surprise to Ann Murphy either. But at least we should thank her for telling us what we already know.

We call on the Weekly Worker to give full support to the open letter, by publishing it as soon as possible. Of course we welcome constructive criticism. But we would urge you not to let your obvious anger and frustration with your ex-members cloud your judgement. Support or critically support the letter. To do otherwise is to give aid and comfort to the forces of petty bourgeois left national socialism.

Revolutionary Democratic Group Organising Committee