Graeme Kemp says: "It was great to see Jesus on the front cover of the Weekly Worker" (Letters, January 10).
How do you know it was a picture of Him? His features aren't described in the Bible. I wouldn't let it bother you unduly, Graeme.
Deaf as a post
Mike Martin is yet another Trotskyist who is unable to separate the name "Communist Party of Great Britain' from Stalinism (Letters, January 10). In fact the CPGB had a pre-Stalinist period and now has a post-Stalinist presence. The Socialist Equality Party is not the only organisation to have had "the merit of having assessed their own history". As shown by John Bridge's piece, the CPGB has fully critiqued its past, warts and all.
We are not at all nostalgic. Moreover, Stalinism was not just "a case of a certain pernicious faction gaining the upper hand". Of course it had a social base. But it ruthlessly pursued the counterrevolutionary interests of a bureaucratic social layer and inevitably betrayed working class interests. But like all dyed-in-the-wool sectarians, comrade Martin has to ferret out fictitious examples of our Stalinism for his own peculiar reasons.
We took the name 'CPGB' despite its history - and not because of its size, but principally because the founding of the Communist Party was and still is the organisational high point of the class war in Britain. Secondly it conforms to a communist tradition of unsentimentally taking the name of the state that is our primary revolutionary target.
Comrade Martin only proves that there's none so deaf as those that don't want to hear. We are not "looking for forces to merge with among the remnants of Stalinism or left radicalism". We are trying to reforge the Communist Party. We take this struggle for Marxism into the ranks of various left groupings (mostly Trotskyist rather than Stalinist or left radical). We are opposed to halfway houses, which comrade Martin describes as "left-moving reformist or nationalist movements".
We struggle for the independent development of the working class. And, yes, we are perfectly aware that we are unpopular with the sect leaders, precisely because we keep drawing attention to the fact that their programmes all carry "the seeds of their own destruction".
Deaf as a post
Deaf as a post
Benjamin Klein argues well enough against the farce that is liberal "no-platformism' in the anti-fascist struggle. But there are serious issues which are left unresolved in his apparent zeal to destroy fascism in a debate.
Firstly, he claims that no-platform tactics have "failed miserably". I would argue that this isn't so - there is no "no platform' policy for council elections, but there are such policies on the majority of campuses and on the NUS nationally. The period of astonishing growth for the BNP has not been replicated proportionally on campuses; even in ultra-rightwing Exeter, we were able to pass a no-platform policy comfortably before Christmas. Furthermore, in periods where militant anti-fascist groups were stronger, fascist organising did become vastly more difficult. Like it or not, large areas were spared racist violence by the boots and fists of AFA, Red Action and the like.
Benjamin claims that Chris Strafford subtly uses a liberal conception of debate, where everybody is polite and tolerant and shake hands at the end. And, at an abstract level, Ben is right to consider debates as part of determinate social struggles, processes and discourses, and always concrete and specific. However, this is on another level misleading. When he brings up the example of debates in the early 20s between German communists and Nazis, for example, he is talking about proletarian beer-halls as the site of the battle of ideas, both sides replete with squads of armed militants to keep each other in check.
One should not imagine, before such an audience, and in the circumstances of a powerful (and heavily armed) working class movement prepared to face the fascists blow for blow in the streets, that a debate would be anything to be feared. Indeed, we would almost certainly win. The fact is, though, in the 21st century, anti-fascist "debate' takes place in these staged debating society face-offs, and on media outlets of the Newsnight type. Such debates really are of the no-hard-feelings, friendly-handshake variety.
And the reason that such debates are worse than useless is this: fascism, while occasionally prone to besuited faux respectability, represents not a racist programme backed up by violence, so much as a programme of organised racist violence. Such violence almost always intensifies in BNP wards after they get a man in - not because BNP councillors have a bad aura, but because that is simply what fascist militants do where they are strong and have decent cells.
This is not a problem where the anti-fascists have the forces to match them punch for punch. But where that isn't true there are difficulties. If the BNP participate in a debate, and 98% of the audience accepts that they "lost', if those two percent become supporters they have won - won a toehold in an area or on a campus where they were previously weak.
The sad fact is that in the past the no-platform policy has allowed the British National Party to play the sympathy card.
I'm sure people can remember that earlier in the decade Nick Griffin staged an eccentric publicity stunt by donning a shirt displaying the statement "Gagged for telling the truth" or words to that effect. This created the impression that somehow the BNP were and are being discriminated against for being advocates of definite and beneficial change in the lives of many British workers, a fallacy that has consistently served them well.
The no-platform policy fails to take up the question of democracy, in the process often appearing as something overtly hostile and intimidating, which allows reactionaries to brand us as being consistently violent towards those we disagree with. We come across as being for free speech in theory, but against it in practice if we don't happen to like what's being said.
Any worker with his brain even partially active can see such hypocrisy a mile off.
Paul Anderson states that "reports of up to four million in Afghanistan and over a million in Iraq instantly refute the thrust of the Hopi campaign" (Letters, January 10).
Quite remarkable. If I knew Hands Off the People of Iran was somehow of the view that the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan - and the terrible repressions involved - were of little significance then I would never have joined.
He also says that "the Iranian regime has to be defended not from its people, but from US-UK threats." Too true! It's become clear to me now that working class internationalism does not in fact stem from an emphasis on the proletariat as a revolutionary force, but something else. The Iranian state is a revolutionary force, and those workers that Hopi seems so concerned about don't enter into it.
We all know (against all evidence) that there is no popular democratic/workers' movement in Iran - or if there is it's of little significance - and if homosexuals are persecuted, they can always go and have a sex change. Sound politics for sure.
Sarcasm aside, if Paul feels that Hopi is in favour of, or indifferent to, a nuclear attack on Iran then he needs to log on to the website and read the very first of our demands. I think it might put his mind at rest.
Constructive criticism of one's own politics is to be welcomed. However, I would advise potential opponents of Hopi to at least find out what we are about before they put pen to paper, because otherwise you just end up embarrassing yourself.
Were we to meet, I'd not begrudge Jim Dymond a glass of ale or wine (Letters, January 10). Nor would I exempt him from a lecture on the health and social dangers of boozing. Problem drinkers might be a small minority, but they are a growing one. Since 2000 the number of admissions for drink-related causes has doubled.
Yes, problem drinkers need help to detox and rehabilitate themselves. And one way of helping is restrictions on the availability of alcohol, leading to the gradual introduction of prohibition. For a start, the drinking age should be raised to 21 and the price greatly increased.
I'm not suggesting the majority of the adult population are tosspots and binge drinkers, but I don't think there is a place for such in a revolutionary movement which of necessity needs to be highly disciplined.
No, the Russian Red Guards, the German Red Front and Vietnam's NLF were not part of the temperance movement. But Red Guards were sent to smash the content of the Winter Palace's wine cellar to prevent drunken outrages. And I doubt if the Red Front and the NLF fought the brownshirts and the Americans under the influence.
I was somewhat bemused to read Dave Douglass complaining about my bedside manner in last week's paper (Letters, January 10). I didn't realise that people read the Weekly Worker in the hope of being seduced.
So I really must apologise to Darling - I mean Dave - and I'll certainly do my best to cover future writings in a liberal dose of Old Spice.
Aye, Dave Douglass, respect to you and Ewan MacColl, the greatest communist artist this country has ever produced - an honour that I thought I had at least John Bridge's agreement on when I asked, and Ewan agreed, to be the honorary president of the Workers Theatre Movement, the cultural front I ran for the CPGB Provisional Central Committee in the late 80s and early 90s.
We recorded the last ever interview with Ewan MacColl on video and I well remember the struggle we had with the producer of a BBC documentary on Ewan when we forced him to give us enough dosh for some of that footage to buy us a set of megaphones for street theatre performances by the WTM and for marches. Ewan MacColl would have appreciated that.
The arrogance of Lawrence Parker towards MacColl and Douglass is a disrespectful disgrace and nonsense theoretically (Letters, December 20). If there is nothing positive about national culture, what's the point of a CPGB?
In his 'Firm in principle, flexible in tactics' article, Benjamin Klein seeks to defend his (and the CPGB's) position that no-platforming fascists whenever possible is not always correct (Weekly Worker January 10). This position says we should seek to destroy the fascists' arguments in democratic debate, just as the communists did in Germany in the early 1920s.
Let us first say that it is, of course, wrong to demand that the state bans the fascists, though we would not rush to their defence if it did. We would oppose legislation to take away civil rights to free speech for the good reason that we know it would be used almost exclusively against the left. Historical experience has shown this to be correct. So it is not the fascists' rights we defend against repressive legislation, but our own and those of the organised working class.
Comrade Benjamin can only cite one instance in defence of his 'debate the fascists' position: In the early 1920s the Communist Party of Germany actually organised debates with German fascist groups, including the Nazis, attracting large numbers. This tactic led to an increase in influence for the communists, to the recruitment of many who were impressed not only by its power to mobilise, but by their arguments. And, believe it or not, members of the far right would themselves be won over."
Aside from the fact that it is impossible to prove that even short-term this tactic worked, it legitimises what was one of the worst errors of the early Comintern. In a speech delivered on June 21 1923 to the plenum of the executive committee of the Communist International, Karl Radek sought to conciliate the fascists on the grossly opportunist grounds that both communists and fascists were opposed to the Entente and the fascist Leo Albert Schlageter, who was executed by the French in April for opposing the occupation of the Ruhr, was really a hero who 'sought to serve the German people".
The editors of Labour Monthly (Vol 5, No 3, September 1923), in reprinting Radek's speech, say: "Radek, on behalf of the Communist International sent forth this message into the heart of the fascist camp - a message of sympathy and comprehension for the ideals and heroism of the nationalist struggle, inspiring the followers of fascism among the masses, but relentlessly exposing the double-dealing anti-nationalism and subservience to big business and the Entente on the part of their leaders and showing that the only way for the realisation of their hopes and ideals and the freedom of the German nation lay through the proletarian revolution."
This was surely the wrong united front: it was neither anti-imperialist nor anti capitalist. Surely the allies needed by the communists were the workers who supported the SPD; this was the united front called for in the circumstances. What were these older, more conservative, but highly organised class-conscious workers to think of this speech? It could only be seen as a pact against them, particularly as their leaders, Ebert and Noske, had recently crushed the communist revolution in1919 and then successfully called them out on a general strike to defeat the fascist Kapp Putsch counterrevolution of 1920.
Is that really the example we want to follow? This is some of what Radek had to say: "If those German fascists who honestly thought to serve the German people failed to understand the significance of Schlageter" fate, Schlageter died in vain ... against whom did the German people wish to fight: against the Entente capitalists or against the Russian people? With whom did they wish to ally themselves: with the Russian workers and peasants in order to throw off the yoke of Entente capital for the enslavement of the German and Russian peoples'. His comrades in arms swore at his graveside to carry on his fight. They must supply the answer: against whom and on whose side?"
They were to "throw off the yoke of Entente capital", but Radek certainly was not asking fascists, the storm troopers of finance capital, to overthrow German capital. That would be plainly silly. Anyone could supply the answer with the benefit of hindsight, but the Comintern really should have had a bit more foresight. Trotsky's fight against Stalin's failure to understand fascism was severely undermined by his own history on this; Lenin was already bedridden.
The Stalin-Hitler pact does not seem so strange when we look at Radek's speech. The German Stalinists' mistakes in advocating "After the Nazis us' even after Hitler had taken power and was preparing the concentration camps is understandable if we look at this history. It is clear that comrades even today do not understand fascism and entertain ridiculous libertarian notions like trying to recruit some of them by democratic debate.
Forget it, comrades. Do not give the fascists space to live and breathe before they control the state and give us no space to live and breathe.