Torab Saleth’s recent article, ‘Wrong side of the barricades’ (June 12), quotes Trotsky: “Once let the ‘bear’ - the peasant - stand up on his hind feet, he becomes terrible in his wrath. But he is unable to give conscious expression to his indignation. He needs a leader.”
Does this quote suggest a revolutionary, libertarian attitude or authoritarian, neo-racist filth? What became of those peasants?
I write regarding the redrafting of your Draft programme.
The most serious contribution you can make to Britain’s political and social structure is your policy of ultra–democracy.
Policies like drugs, abortion and fox-hunting, which has generated enough interest for a million people to have signed a petition, could, after due notice and serious media debate (which would be an upgrade in itself), at the end of a year be voted on, referendum style. You may have 10 or so policies to vote for or against, ranging from a millennium dome adventure to the most serious agendas.
The implementation of this alone would strip the bourgeoisie of their ability to maintain the status quo, and a dynamic, progressive world built on people power would go forth (and conquer).
I’m afraid comrade Bob Davies has misunderstood me (Letters, June 19). I do not regard violence as the defining characteristic of fascism. Politics and violence go together like a horse and carriage. Do Mugabe’s thugs make his regime fascist? Or is he a Bonapartist, or a military dictator? Historically, both have been more common threats to democracy than fascism. So we shouldn’t be concerned only with the danger of fascism.
Classical fascism of the 1920s and 30s organised amongst the masses to bring counterrevolution from below. It defended the overall interests of capitalism not by being loyal to the capitalist state but by openly campaigning for its transformation under their absolute control. The petty bourgeoisie was the only large-scale social base available to the fascists that they could rely upon to challenge for state power.
Organising around this class is not the same as organising lumpen thugs. They aspired to military discipline rather than petty criminal violence. This is why the mainstream parties and particularly groups like the Countryside Alliance and Ukip are more likely to pose a fascist threat than the British National Party, because they have more respectable class connections. The left has come to associate fascism with thuggery and forgotten all about its necessary class base.
Also, for opportunist politicians there isn’t much point in organising a counterrevolutionary party unless you are living in revolutionary times. The natural tendency for parties with fascist origins that want to remain in present-day politics is to drift towards right wing opportunism. These are the politics the BNP stands on now, so these are the politics we need to deal with, as well as exposing their thoughtless, bone-headed criminality for what it is: bone-headed criminality and not much more. I have no objection to the left exposing the BNP’s Nazi traditions and dreams, but in concentrating solely on this issue we paralyse our political activity against them.
In 1997, New Labour famously announced that its administration would eliminate boom and bust. Well, we’ve had the boom. Now we are experiencing the bust.
Just as in the movie, the British economy is going through a perfect storm. We have rising inflation at the same time as falling residential property prices. Britain, under New Labour, has been turned into a central American banana republic with a financial aircraft carrier parked in the middle of the City of London.
To understand what the future holds for Britain one just has to look at the USA. The economy of the United States is about two years ahead of Britain. For example, house prices in California have fallen by a third since 2005 and there is the growth of tent cities composed of homeless people.
I can see the same thing happening in Britain in the coming period. We will see boarded-up homes at the same time as homeless people living in tents and caravans.
Robbie Folkard (Letters, June 12) attacks Communist Students for proposing Marxism as a condition of entry to Education Not for Sale. But CS only asks that comrades accept the platform of the majority. If everyone at the Reclaim the Campus conference had been honest about their politics, ENS would now be guided by a Marxist platform.
Comrade Folkard asks: “Before we get to the revolution, beyond shouting ‘Marxism’ from the rooftops, what are students supposed to fight for?” Bizarrely, he calls the CS platform “vague ramblings”, but “free abortion on demand, free 24-hour childcare” are quite clear, as are our other demands around education, immigration and imperialism.
But it is also important to win the battle of ideas. We should fight openly for a bigger vision of what we want the student movement and society as a whole to be, instead of following the rotten political method which led to Respect and a dead end.
To trick the working class into politics and a movement which has other intentions beyond those laid out is dishonest, and treats the working class as stupid drones to be led into revolution by their bellies. That, comrade, is elitism: believing that your ‘revolutionary’ ideas cannot be understood by the masses. Instead, we have to win them to communist ideas. Comrade Folkard wants to postpone honesty until later, when “the student population has become more active, when the movement begins to have confidence in itself, then the situation will need addressing.”
Federalism versus democratic centralism is a worthy discussion and I ask the comrade to come and debate this question at the Marxist discussion group in Manchester in the near future. The historical “titbit” of the failure of the anarchists during 1873 revolution to give coordinated leadership to the working class is a prime example of the bankruptcy of federalism. In the revolution of 1917 it was the democratic centralism of the Bolsheviks that enabled the working class to unite and beat back reaction and take power.
Comrade Folkard misunderstands the term ‘vanguard’. The vanguard of the working class is composed of all those who see the necessity of the working class organising as a political force to seize power. A communist party does make up a section of the vanguard, but is not a substitute for the working class. It represents the best vehicle for human liberation.
Presenting a blindingly obvious point as if it were against the need for a communist party, Folkard quotes: “Genuine liberation can only come through the self-activity of the working class on a mass scale.” But a communist party is built by the self-activity of the working class on a mass scale, armed with a programme for human liberation. The revolution will be led by the most active sections of our class, who will have won the majority of the class to socialism, or it will sink in a bloodbath of reaction. Folkard’s anarchistic view that revolution will come from mere agitation, and then revolutionary workers must sit back and hope for best, would only lead to one thing: defeat.
Iain McKay (Letters, June 12) writes in the paper of a Leninist organisation which encourages the most full and open debate, but strangely insinuates that the same Leninists do not use free and open debate. His letter is living proof that he is wrong.
McKay says that anarchists invented workers’ councils and direct action. But workers’ councils were an organic growth of working class organisation, and were supported by Marxists - if not all. Had they been an anarchist invention, then surely anarchist influence would have been more evident in the Russian and German revolutions? Direct action has existed as long as the working class has existed - self-activity and independent action for a specific demand or aim, such as a strike or an occupation. It is arrogant and stupid in equal measure to believe that anarchists have a monopoly on advocating “strikes, occupations, boycotts and so on”.
McKay’s claim that the failure of the revolutions in Russia and Spain was all the Communist Party’s fault is ridiculous. In 1936 Spain the anarchists held the support of the most radical sections of the working class and a revolutionary union of over two million workers. It is pathetic to blame Stalinists for the failure of the CNT to give adequate leadership to the working class. Instead of smashing the state, the anarchists defended it! The CNT, in brilliant anarchist tradition, dropped working class independence to become a minor partner in an essentially bourgeois government. The CNT was the biggest revolutionary organisation in Spain during the revolution. If the failure of the revolution lies with anyone, it is the leadership of the CNT.
The Russian Revolution highlights the necessity of a communist party. Yes, one-man management was wrong. Yes, the subordination of trade unions to the party was wrong. But if they had not taken power and smashed the Kerensky government, the working class would have remained participants in the great slaughter, choleric and starving. The failure of the revolution in Russia lies more in the material conditions and isolation than in the mistakes of the Bolsheviks.
Your correspondents who express hostility to so-called ‘Stalinism’ seem to me to be in reality hostile to the achievements and proud record of the world proletariat and its political expression, the international communist movement, and are therefore hostile to Marxism, the emancipation of the working class and the scientific and concrete realisation of this, socialism.
These achievements simply cannot be denied or wished away and indeed are fully acknowledged by contemporaneous bourgeois sources, whom I could quote in detail, as well as by socialists who are a little more honest and open-minded than some of your correspondents.
So how about we start to take the gloves off and defend the achievements of the world working class movement, in straight defiance of our bourgeois enemies and their fellow-traveller ‘leftists’, revisionists and social democrats?
These achievements included:
The 1917 October revolution, which destroyed the capitalist state from top to bottom and replaced bourgeois domination with the first fully achieved proletarian dictatorship, as a step along the way to world revolution and the emancipation of the proletariat and the whole of humanity.
The formation in 1919 of the world party of the proletariat, the Communist International,the most formidable weapon that has ever threatened the world bourgeoisie.
In the face of furious resistance from the defeated exploiter classes at home and counterrevolutionary intervention from without, encircled by hostile capitalist powers, the working people of the USSR, led by their Bolshevik Party, transformed a backward, poverty-stricken country into an advanced, powerful state.
By 1930, the establishment of a new socialist society and civilisation covering one sixth of the globe, where production had been brought under the conscious control of the associated proletariat, the conscious organisation of production under a central national plan, the practical delivery of the emancipatory vision set out in the Communist manifesto.
By 1937, the Soviet Union achieved first place in Europe and second place in the world in terms of industrial output. A poverty-stricken and largely illiterate populace of over 170 million changed within two decades into a free, happy, healthy, educated and prosperous people.
The entire economy of the country placed in the possession of the workers and peasants, serving the objects of raising the well-being of the people and of creating socialist abundance. The economy operated for the benefit of the socialist community of the people and where social use became a reality and a supreme principle.
The radical socialist reconstruction of agriculture on the basis of its collectivisation and mechanisation, which ensured record and growing harvests, delivering vital food for the people and raw materials for industry, the abolition of the last capitalist class, the kulaks, the abolition of poverty in the countryside, and the introduction of a prosperous and cultured life for the peasants, and a coming together with the industrial workers, helping reduce the difference between town and country.
The 1936 Soviet constitution provided unprecedented political, economic and social rights for all working people, based on the common, collective and cooperative ownership of property by the people. It gave true socialist democracy, government by the people, demonstrating that the USSR was the most free and democratic society in the world at that time, as well as the major resource for peace and the struggle against war, fascism and capitalism.
The major role in the defeat of fascism in World War II, which would not have been possible without the prior successful elimination by the people’s state security services of the fifth column of spies, traitors, wreckers and assassins, installed in the rear of the USSR by its fascist enemies.
Post-World War II, the emergence of the people’s democracies in eastern Europe, the triumph of the Chinese, Korean, Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions, the achievement of independence by scores of Asian, African and Caribbean countries. The extension of socialism to one third of the globe.
The achievement of strategic nuclear parity with the Nato imperialist alliance by the 1970s, thus containing and deterring the threat of a nuclear first strike by western imperialism, limiting the threat of a world holocaust.
The extension of Soviet hegemony primarily in Asia, South America and Africa during the 1970s, thus checking and rolling back western imperialism, serving the interests of all working and oppressed peoples in the world.
The successful, effective and appropriate defences of socialism and routs of capitalist counterrevolution in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland between 1956 and 1983.
It is true that the Soviet Union of the 1970s and 1980s was far from perfect. Had democratic selection processes been working better, perhaps in the mid-1970s we might have seen the Brezhnev-Kosygin clique replaced by a more proletarian-orientated and unifying Suslov-Andropov-Chernenko leadership, capable of launching a real socialist renewal programme, to reverse the relative negativities and distortions within Soviet society, by reverting to an all-round adherence and systematic implementation of the ideas, values and principles of Marxism-Leninism in all areas of soviet life - economic, social, political and cultural. Including the nipping in the bud of an out-and-out revisionist tendency in the CPSU.
Perhaps we can now have a debate on the basis of scientific socialism and verified historical fact, rather than lies and distortion, and in the interest of the unity and forward march of the world working class? Those who cannot meet this standard should surely face the judgment of Solomon …
Claims v. reality
Enso White states my quoting of Engels was “meant to shock the CPGB.” Far from it, it was meant to show that quoting ‘The Bakuninist at work’ is a double-edged sword. Not only did Engels seriously distort Bakunin’s ideas; his recommendation that workers send representatives to parliament ended up confirming Bakunin’s predictions that it would generate reformism.
White states that I “[eschew] democratic elections and [have] no idea of combining parliamentary methods with other tactics”. Anarchists do eschew “democratic elections” when that means electing governments to rule us. We have no problem with electing mandated, recallable delegates. In fact, we have advocated that since the 1840s. As for “combining parliamentary methods with other tactics”, well, that was what social democracy claimed to do. In the end, the reformist pressures of the former ended up vastly outweighing the latter - as anarchists had long predicted.
I had “no idea” that Marxism involves ignoring the lessons from history, but apparently it does. White informs us that Marxists “do not fetishise any particular tactic. Nothing is automatically ruled in, nothing automatically ruled out”. Anarchists, in contrast, rule out those tactics that have repeatedly failed. I would think that is a sensible position to hold, but I am willing to be persuaded otherwise.
White confuses the matter no end by claiming Engels’ comment on the republic being “the specific form for the dictatorship of the proletariat” equates with the CPGB advocating “the working class taking the lead in the battle for extreme democracy and the call for a democratic republic.” So, the CPGB does not call for the republic to be smashed and replaced by a system of workers’ councils? Does it really think socialism can be introduced by electing a workers’ party into office? When did the CPGB reject Lenin’s arguments in The state and revolution? Can we expect an official statement on this conversion to the Socialist Party of Great Britain’s quintessential Marxist position? Or, perhaps, he is, like Lenin, confused by what “specific form” means?
He states that the CPGB “have explained again and again” what “the ‘form’ of the dictatorship, or rule, of the working class” would be. Ah, yes, of course. We need only see what the CPGB say they want and in no way compare it to the reality of a communist party in power. By this criterion, then, New Labour is doing very well in fighting child poverty. After all, they “have explained again and again” how reducing child poverty is their goal. The awkward fact it has risen need not bother us.
White ends by stating that “the aim of the democratic republic is clear and so is the content we want to give it.” This reminds me of Stalin’s 1905 diatribe against anarchism, where he denied that Marxists aimed for party power. He stressed that there was “a dictatorship of the minority, the dictatorship of a small group … which is directed against the people … Marxists are the enemies of such a dictatorship, and they fight such a dictatorship far more stubbornly and self-sacrificingly than do our noisy anarchists.” The practice of Bolshevism and the ideological revisions it generated easily refute Stalin’s claims. The practice of Bolshevism showed that his claim that at “the head” of the “dictatorship of the proletarian majority … stand the masses” is in sharp contradiction with Bolshevik support for “revolutionary” governments. Either you have (to use Stalin’s expression) “the dictatorship of the streets, of the masses, a dictatorship directed against all oppressors”, or you have party power in the name of the street, of the masses.
The fundamental flaw in Leninism is that it confuses the two and so lays the ground for the very result anarchists correctly predicted and Stalin denied. That is why anarchists, unlike White, compare the claims of Leninists with the reality of their regimes. We do not question the commitment of (most) Leninists to the aim of a free socialist society; we simply point out that the ideology and methods advocated cannot produce that result. Not only do we have logic on our side; we also have substantial empirical evidence to support our analysis.
Still, why bother doing that when we can simply read what Leninists say they are aiming for?
Claims v. reality
Claims v. reality