Fear of war
So, as slaves, we sit and wait. The activities of our masters have brought all to fear. Fear of war, fear of reprisal for war. Fear is the key. Our rulers fear. They have lived with fear for many decades. That populations of the west, in recent decades, have largely been fear-free, totally the spin-off from barbarism perpetrated on other populations. Distant populations are now redundant to the requirements of capital. The workforce of the west, quickly catching up.
Faraway rulers unite behind western dictates, through fear. They can bluster and some may even oppose, but rising unemployment in the west, accompanied by social unrest, will not be missed by their populations, countless millions already impoverished. Fear born of self-preservation unites the collective bourgeoisie.
For some time now, their statistics have shown them their future: rising disgust from populations sickened by political corruption and lies. Declining material existence across the spectrum of industry, mass unemployment. Left to its own, the global depression of the growth of profit would have delivered anger to western populations. The global depression has not gone away. Contingency plans will have been prepared as decline deepened. Which to chose, depending on the manifestation of decline. War on the world comes right out of the top drawer. As long as the bourgeoisie hold sway, their collective war on the world was inevitable.
Previous global conflicts were between competing bourgeoisie. Capital has made today?s bourgeoisie the ultimate collective war machine. The continued dominance over the global workforce its only reason for existence. The world is well stocked for world war. The fear of the bourgeoisie the drive. The slave mentality of the workforce of the world the last hope of our rulers.
America is not a united nation. It too has massive divisions. Americans may be in shock but not all Americans see Wall Street as their natural home. In times of rising unemployment divisions will not be healed by more war and more body bags arriving at American shores. This is not the 20th century, where internal conflict could be exported through war. This was coming through global depression and is the logical outcome of this deepening moment of decline. This, the greatest fear of our rulers. So, they react. In doing so they bring the end-game for capitalist society ever nearer. Nowhere in the corridors of power of globalised capital are there any voices of reason. The world teeters on the brink, humanity on the edge, brought there by ignorance of reality. More horror can only delay the process to rational thought. Fear-driven populations do not dwell on why, especially if they lack information to do so.
So, as slaves, we await our fate. The transition to a higher form of society was never going to be easy. That transition is now dependent on horror inflicted in the heart of the beast. The muck of ages has to be cleared before humanity becomes one. What remains as the dust settles can never go back to capitalism. This is the dangerous blind-spot that our fear-ridden rulers can never see.
Fear of war
It is a pity that Lawrie Coombs, in his otherwise accurate article on the formation of a United Left in Unison, chose to misrepresent the position and past record of the Campaign for a Fighting and Democratic Unison, which is, if Lawrie had been a member of Unison for any length of time, a far broader organisation than the Socialist Party. It includes a genuine range of broad left views, including those of current members of the Labour Party and non-aligned individuals.
I do not understand his criticism that we seek to mirror the official structures of Unison. This is purely in terms of organisational structures: eg, regional bodies and a national leadership. If, as I would hope, the United Left grows and becomes a pole of attraction to those rank and file members seeking to defeat privatisation and to fight for a left leadership of the union, then we would see the development of structures on a district, branch and workplace level. Where has it been argued by the CFDU or the Socialist Party that all that is needed is a loose, coordinating body?
The CFDU achieved much with limited resources and membership. This experience should not be denied or thrown out of the window because the SWP have decided to come on board. The United Left in the coming period will need to reach beyond the current activists to ordinary members who will be drawn into struggle despite the efforts of Prentis et al. Hopefully the new United Left will be able to rise to this task.
I note with interest the report on the debate at your Communist University, ?Which way for the Socialist Alliance?? Weekly Worker (September 6). In this article your leading comrade, John Bridge, describes the manifesto of the Socialist Alliance as ?in many ways an exemplary document: eg, the euro and Europe, crime and rehabilitation, women?s rights, abolition of the monarchy and the second chamber, etc.?
Comrade Bridge, along with several other leading CPGB and SA comrades, also puts his name to the ?For a democratic and effective Socialist Alliance? statement that you ran on the front page of the same issue. This statement includes the claim that the SA manifesto ?culminates in socialism?.
So it would seem that the theoretical leader of the CPGB would have us believe that the explicitly reformist programme of the Socialist Alliance (all attempts to include points dealing with the state, revolution and workers? power having been overwhelmingly rejected at the policy conference earlier this year) represents an exemplary programme that leads to socialism! So much for fighting for a ?revolutionary programme? ...
Mind you, I suppose I should not be surprised, given that the CPGB gave political support to Ken Livingstone?s barely even reformist programme and open cross-class coalitionism in the London mayoral election last year.
I would also add my astonishment to that of other recent letter writers concerning the implicit political support given to the petty bourgeois KLA by your comrade Ian Donovan.
All in all, it would seem that your claims to represent a revolutionary working class alternative to the reformist Labourism that infects so much of the British left are just so much hot air. Instead you happily ride on the coat-tails of these reformist and nationalist misleaders, at best providing left cover for their betrayals of our class.
While I don?t want it to look like I have some sort of personal vendetta against Eddie Ford, his article ?Intentions and reality? on the Russian Revolution was, if anything, worse then that on Bakunin.
Eddie started by falling into the trap I suspect Iain had set. Eddie blames ?appalling realities of war and invasion? for Bolshevik policy. Unfortunately for him the specific examples he is replying to - the abolition of the election of officers in the Red Army and Lenin?s support for one-man management with ?dictatorial power? against self-management - both come from the period before May 1918. And just about anyone would agree that the civil war only really started with the rising of the Czech legion in May of 1918.
Indeed Lenin himself would have disagreed with Eddie?s excuse. He wrote: ?... those who believe that socialism will be built at a time of peace and tranquillity are profoundly mistaken: it will everywhere be built at a time of disruption, at a time of famine.? Trotsky wrote in 1920: ?I consider that if the civil war had not plundered our economic organs of all that was strongest, most independent, most endowed with initiative, we should undoubtedly have entered the path of one-man management in the sphere of economic administration much sooner and much less painfully.?
The civil war has become the traditional excuse for people with a romantic attachment to Leninism but who are unwilling to stand over what the Bolsheviks actually did in power. This excuse isn?t viable if you seek to build a revolutionary movement today: you need to choose between the real path of Lenin and the real anarchist alternative. As Lenin says above, the revolution will be difficult - fooling ourselves about what will happen now just undermines our chances of success in the future.
Eddie ends at the traditional bottom of the barrel for romantic Leninists. This is the bizarre slander that an army which included Jewish commanders, supplied arms to Jewish communities and, for those who wished, had Jewish units was anti-semitic. I speak of course of the Makhnovists, of whom one Jewish historian, M Tchernikover, wrote: ?It is undeniable that, of all the armies, including the Red Army, the Makhnovists behaved best with regard to the civilian population in general and the Jewish population in particular.? Indeed despite the virulent anti-semitism in the Ukraine in that period there were no pogroms carried out by units of the Makhnovist army. Any pogroms which occurred in the area they controlled were rapidly investigated and those responsible were executed.
Essentially Eddie?s account is not a defence of Leninism, but rather one that seeks to evade having to make such a defence. This is very typical of Leninist parties today, in particular of the SWP. The CPGB would be much better served by confronting this history and the politics behind it head on. You would probably remain Leninists, but at least then your party and readers would have an understanding of what this meant.
I would, however, congratulate the Weekly Worker on actually printing Iain?s article and the various letters it has generated. This is very unusual for a Leninist group and it to be commended.
Again your readers will find plenty more material on all this on the web, this time at http://struggle.ws/russia.html.
I really am appalled by the ignorance among many Marxists about anarchism. If you want to attack your enemies, at least get information about them right.
I didn?t really understand Phil Kent?s letter on Bakunin and the peasants (Weekly Worker September 13). I do know that what Bakunin did, after he had become an anarchist, was to warn with great prescience about the rise of intellectual and scientific elites that would attempt to hijack any revolution by the masses. This goes against Kent?s assumption that Bakunin believed in rule over the peasants by ?clever scholars?, which I have never come across in Bakunin?s writings.
But on to something far more serious - Eddie Ford?s slanders and calumnies against Nestor Makhno and the Makhnovist movement, in particular the charges of anti-semitism - something disproved by all serious scholars of the movement.
When Makhno?s father died before Nestor was one year old, a Jewish family, the Vitchinskys, gave his mother material and moral support. The Vitchinskys passed information to Makhno that the tsarists were on his trail in 1908. When he was in the tsarist prison of Butirky, one of his closest friends was the Jewish anarchist, Iossip Ader of Kovno, who was like a brother to him.
Many of the first of the oppressed to join the Russian anarchist movement were Jews, and Makhno, as an active anarchist, was aware of this. In the anarchist communist group of Gulyai Polie, Nestor?s home village, was the Jew, Chmerka Kchiva, and there was a wide spread of different communities in the local Union of Poor Peasants, which included Jews, Russians, Germans and Ukrainians. When the anarchist communist group was refounded in Gulyai Polie in 1917, many new Jewish militants joined it, including Chaim Gorelik.
Within the cultural department of the Makhnovists three out of five were Jews - Elena Keller, Iacha Sukhovolsky, and Josef Gotman. Isaac Teper, editor of The Voice of the Makhnovist in Kharkov, was Jewish, and equally members of the Nabat Confederation of Anarchists, who worked alongside the Makhnovists were Jewish - Mark Mrachny, Gorelik, Aron Baron and Voline. Several Makhnovist commanders were Jewish - Taranovsky and Charovsky, etc. The Jewish artillery battery of Gulyai Polie, led by Abraham Schneider, fought extremely bravely for the Makhnovists. Makhno?s life was saved in 1918 by Moise Kogan, a Gulyai Polie Jew, later the president of the local soviet.
The only reason given for the killing by the Makhnovists of Grigoriev, who led his own army in the Ukraine, was his virulent anti-semitism.
In exile in Paris Makhno associated closely with Jews like Ida Mett, Valetsky, David Poliakov, Ranko and Gricha Bartanovsky. Shwarzbart, a Ukrainian Jew who shot dead the Ukrainian nationalist leader, Petliura, in Paris, had been a Makhnovist and was a friend of Makhno in that city (Makhno argued with him against taking Petliura?s life).
In the region occupied by the Makhnovists many efforts were made by them to supply the local Jewish communities with arms for self-defence. Indeed, Soviet authors of the 20s dismiss the charges of anti-semitism against the Makhnovists. Lebeds writes: ?The Makhnovist command and the Revolutionary Military Soviet had declared war on anti-semitism, in contrast to the atamans who ? openly utilised the watchword ?Down with the communists and the Jews?. Makhno and his staff insisted in their proclamations on the inadmissible character of anti-semitism and fought its manifestations by extremely repressive means.?
Teper wrote that, ?Makhno was far distanced from nationalism as from anti-semitism, as many reproached him with?, and Antonov-Ovsenko affirmed that, ?There was no foundation to accuse Makhno of personally supporting anti-semitic tendencies. Much to the contrary, he did all that was possible to combat the pogroms.?