Echo from past
Hillel Ticktin’s piece on the latest capitalist crisis made interesting reading, particularly his statement that “the opportunities for the left are growing. Its reaction ought to be to stress the fact that the system does not work, the need for planning and for the working class to take power, for socialism ...” (‘Drip-feed capitalism’, September 25).
I am reminded of a pamphlet written in 1932 by the only socialist party in the UK still in existence from that period: “Capitalism from time to time develops acute industrial and financial crises; and at the depth of these it does appear to many observers that there is no way out, and that society cannot continue at all unless some way out is found. Men of very different social position and political convictions have been driven to this conclusion: reactionaries and revolutionaries, bankers and merchants, employers and wage-earners ...
“Our knowledge of past history and of the way in which the social system develops convinces us that no crisis of capitalism, however desperate it may be, can ever by itself give us socialism. Socialism cannot come by stealth.
“It can only come by the deliberate act of workers who understand socialism, and are organised politically to obtain it through control of the machinery of government. The blind revolt of desperate workers would cause great distress and destruction. It might prove troublesome to the capitalist authorities, who would have to exert themselves to suppress it, but the outcome would not be socialism ...
“Until a sufficient number of workers are prepared to organise politically for the conscious purpose of ending capitalism, that system will stagger on indefinitely ... So long as the workers are prepared to resign themselves to the evils of capitalism, and so long as they are prepared to place in control of parliament parties that will use their power for the purpose of maintaining capitalism, there is no escape from the effects of capitalism ...”
Echo from past
Echo from past
I hope the CPGB will consider participating in the picket of the TUC HQ on October 28.
The occasion is a proposed ‘celebration’ of the farewell speech of Dolores Ibárruri Gómez (La Pasionaria) to the International Brigades on November 1 1938. Here she justifies and glorifies the Stalinist popular front defence of ‘democracy’, which bloodily suppressed the Spanish revolution from 1936 to 1939. In particular it implicitly justifies the counterrevolutionary suppression of the Barcelona working class in the terrible May days of 1937, which was the high point of counterrevolution. This was, let us remember, only politically opposed on the ground by the tiny Trotskyist Bolshevik-Leninists and the Anarchist Friends of Durruti. The mass opposition of the revolutionary Barcelona working class was therefore effectively unrepresented by the centrist, ex-Trotskyist POUM and anarcho-syndicalist FAI/CNT.
In defence of the heritage of these revolutionary workers and political ancestors of ours and to prepare new revolutionary offensives we need to answer this attempt to sanitise the bloody counterrevolutionary history of Spanish and world Stalinism. The trade union bureaucracy needs a left cover in the coming period of developing recession and class struggle and the Stalinists aim to fill their traditional role in this. However, just as in 1936-39 it was not only the Stalinists who betrayed, but the leadership of the FAI/CNT and the POUM, today we find the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party seeking to defend the left union bureaucrats in the PSC, Unison, Unite, etc.
In the National Shop Stewards Network the SP refuse to abandon the bureaucrats’ mutual defence clause that forbids ‘interference’ in the internal affairs of TUC-affiliated unions and reduces every annual ‘conference’ to a rally in support of Crow, Serwotka and Caton and other left bureaucrats without any serious attempt to mobilise the bases against the leadership to win the trade unions to revolutionary political leadership. And every year the crimes of the bureaucracy, albeit the more rightwing ones, are laid bare by the parade of union militants victimised by the bosses without any serious defence or those directly victimised by the bureaucrats themselves or in open or covert collaboration with the bosses.
The anti-union laws fulfil their aims of not only making trade union struggle more legally difficult, but also, and in conjunction with this, of strengthening the hold of the bureaucracy over the rank and file by citing legal threats to union funds, as in Gate Gourmet.
So the Trotskyist Tendency of the Campaign for a Marxist Party is calling this picket by an initial invitation to those left Trotskyist and anarchist groups who might be expected to respond favourably. Once the initial list of sponsors is assembled, we can make a joint public appeal to the rest of the left and issue a press release.
Orwell ends well
There is an article on Orwell on the AWL home page. What is the CPGB’s position on the life and ideas of George Orwell?
Orwell ends well
Orwell ends well
David Walters accuses me in my September 11 letter of confusing socialism in one country with the slogan of the seizure of power, which he defines as the socialist revolution (Letters, September 25). In fact, I expressly warned that this confusion would be left-opportunist.
The second point is that Walters’ claim that the seizure of power is socialism is untrue, particularly in the case of Russia in 1917, where Lenin’s argument for going beyond the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry was based on what he considered to be the imminence of the European revolution, and not on Trotsky’s ultra-left theory of permanent revolution.
Walters then goes on to say that partisans of Stalin promote the misconception that calls for socialism equal the call for building the first stage of communism confined to a single country (namely Russia). However, the confinement of the first stage of communism, usually referred to as socialism, is not the desire of communists, but the result of uneven development.
Trotskyism can be summed up as the view that the first stage of communism was not possible in a single country. This was certainly not the view of Lenin, who, while calling for a cultural revolution back in 1923, remarked: “This cultural revolution would now suffice to make our country a completely socialist country” (CW Vol 33, Moscow 1977, p475). Trotsky, who was in the leadership of the party at this time, did not oppose Lenin for his ‘national Bolshevism’, but when Stalin took the same line Trotsky split the party over it.
This leads to Paul Smith’s contribution in the same issue. He repeats the pretence of Trotskyism that socialism in one country originated in 1924, not in 1915, as the facts show. It is necessary to say that, in 1915, eight years before Lenin argued that a cultural revolution was enough to make Russia a completely socialist country, Lenin had opposed the ‘united states of the world’ slogan as premature, “ ... first, because it merges with socialism; second, because it may be wrongly interpreted to mean that the victory of socialism in a single country is impossible, and it may create misconceptions as to the relations of such a country to the others” (CW Vol 21, p342).
If Lenin opposed this slogan because it merged with socialism and because the slogan may mislead people into believing that socialism in a single country is impossible, how is it possible for Smith to claim that Bukharin invented socialism in one country in 1924? This proves the point that Trotskyism is left opportunism and therefore based on conscious political dishonesty. No wonder that he descends into the gutter, playing the ‘race card’ in reverse by claiming that socialism in one country is anti-semitic, and appeals to bourgeois liberal writer Marcel Liebman in support of his argument on a matter of doctrinal importance.
The evidence is so overwhelming against Trotskyism that even Smith is forced, against his will, to concede, grudgingly and indirectly, that in 1915 Lenin did use the phrase of ‘socialism in one country’, but Smith implies that Lenin used it to imply the victory of the revolution. According to the theoretically hapless Smith, the Stalinist use “was a rightwing nationalist response to the defeat of the revolution”.
This, of course, is the orthodox Trotskyist line, which turns reality on its head. The truth is that the Stalinist faction upheld socialism in one country as a leftwing defence of the revolution based on uneven development, although it had failed elsewhere. This meant opposing the Trotskyist defeatists who claimed that the revolution was doomed without early support from the world revolution. By the way, this was Lenin’s view to begin with, because of the backwardness of Russia, but the survival of the regime led Lenin to reject defeatism.
Lenin not only raised the issue of socialism in one country in 1915, but returned to it again in 1916 in his article, ‘The military programme of the proletarian revolution’, where he noted that because of the uneven development of capitalism “... it follows irrefutably that socialism cannot achieve victory simultaneously in all countries. It will achieve victory first in one or several countries, while the others will for some time remain bourgeois or pre-bourgeois” (CW Vol 23, p79).
This debate is not about the relevance of Lenin’s theory, but about whether Stalin derived his position regarding socialism in one country from Lenin. Paul Smith and the Trotskyists are in deep denial when confronted with the truth, which makes them more interesting as cases for psychiatry rather than serious political study. I ask all Trotskyists a question: Why did Lenin oppose the slogan of the ‘united states of the world’ in 1915? I await a reply.
Having decided in advance that the Convention of the Left was going to be no more than a talking shop, I suppose the Weekly Worker was obliged to justify its presumption; maybe this is why Chris Strafford’s report on the CL is so full of contradictions (‘Left doesn’t unite’, September 25).
So there was debate, very sharp debate, as described by Robbie Folkard in another article about the Iran meeting (‘Apologetics versus solidarity’); yet the “20% that divides us was skirted around”. In point of fact, Mark Hoskisson of Permanent Revolution made exactly the point in the ‘Where next for the left?’ session that the 80-20 coalitions that have characterised the recent period are doomed to failure. Yes, there were those who argued that we should just stop arguing and unite, but that is in the nature of an event like the CL, which is the beginning of a process, not the end.
Chris’s statement that no-one involved in the CL’s organisation was interested in unity taking a “party form” just isn’t true. PR were involved, and we have made no secret of the fact we want to see the left united behind a common revolutionary programme. Nor was there some secret agenda-wielding cabal at work behind the CL - anyone who came to organising meetings could play a part.
Chris claims that the CL avoided the question, “Why has the left shrunk even further into the political wilderness?” But this was exactly the motivation behind holding the convention. What was so clear to everyone bar the Weekly Worker, apparently, was the urgency of the desire to face up to what needs to be done and where necessary explore new approaches.
As to no-one asking questions such as what went wrong with Respect - I guess Chris wasn’t at the anti-deportation session, where Respect’s record came in for a hammering from all sides. As far as I can see, the only people wanting to avoid such questions are Respect itself and the Socialist Worker Party. PR have been keen enough to present our analysis of a predictable disaster in which we are happy to say we played no part.
I also find it bizarre that Chris should predict that the CL will only lead to a “few poorly attended local conventions”, when CPGB members in South Wales have been helping to build the Cardiff Radical Socialist Forum (www.radicalsocialist.org), which, among other things, is putting Hands Off the People of Iran on the map in this area. As with the CL, support from the biggest groups on the left has been absent, but, as at the CL, this has been no disadvantage in creating the kind of open debate which attracts both young activists and older lapsed Marxists - both represented in the 30 or so forum attendees so far. Nor has it been a meaningless exercise in fake unity, but a platform for the exposition of revolutionary Marxist ideas.
If similar forums can be built around the country, then we can draw new forces into the process, and the recall convention in November may indeed be the focused, decision-making occasion you would like to see and, as far as I understand, the CL organisers intend.