New Interventions

Volume 11, no 4, Autumn 2004
Current Business — The European constitution — the left and the elections — the crisis in Iraq — Respect and Islam — Europe and British politics — counterfactual history — Israel and anti-Semitism Al Richardson, A Forgotten Work of Leon Trotsky Introducing Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution to Brest-Litovsk John Sullivan, Rolling Your Own Handy hints for setting up a left-wing group Walter Kendall, Isaac Deutscher as a Prophet How Isaac Deutscher got the Soviet Union wrong Eric Shelton Jones (1919-2003) Remembering a former New Interventions Editorial Board member CLR James, Intervening in Abyssinia An article and a letter on the war in Abyssinia Paul Flewers, A Happy Land Far Far Away Fellow-travelling with Sir Bernard Pares and Sidney and Beatrice Webb A Basic Guide to the Butler Report Lord Butler’s Report on the Iraq War Loren Goldner, Didn’t See the Same Movie The strange story of Maoism in the USA Glyn Beagley, Workers’ Democracy in the Revolutionary Process Democracy and workers’ revolution — the Russian and Spanish examples Nigel Balchin, Trotsky or Notsky Taking the mickey out of the Moscow Trials Paul Flewers, Paul Foot (1937-2004) Farewell to an irreplaceable figure Reviews — Rod Shearman’s songs, the Yugoslav catastrophe, British trade unionism, democracy and the Third World, the story of Gareth Jones Letters — Iraq and the USA, the left in New Zealand 2 18 23 25 29 31 35 50 51 62

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Current Business
The Proposed European Union Constitution THE government has decided to allow a referendum on the draft European Constitution, although they do not say when this is going to be held. Socialists must decide, nonetheless, whether to recommend a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’ vote. It should be said at the outset that a referendum is a crazy way to proceed, since the draft contains many provisions that are unexceptionable alongside a number of insalutary ones, so that asking people to accept or reject it wholesale is something of an insult. In what follows, I will try to indicate some sections which deserve our support, as well as those we should condemn. The first obnoxious feature of the draft Constitution lies in the procedure for amending it. A proper EU Constitution ought to finish once and for all with the procedure whereby every time fundamental changes are tabled in the EU, a new treaty has to be negotiated. This method inevitably leads to progress at the pace of the slowest, and affords ample scope for nationalist objections and roadblocks. Instead of recognising this, Article IV-7 provides for the signing of a new treaty to amend the constitution as and when required. A much better way would be to have a vote on the amendments in the European Parliament, changes to be adopted on a two-thirds majority. It should also be possible to propose constitutional amendments in national parliaments, to be sent afterwards to the European Parliament. None of this was to the liking of the special European Convention which drafted the Constitution, the reason being that in its view the EU was still significantly a Europe des patries, as General de Gaulle once famously expressed it. The constituent nation-states still determine the political direction of the EU: the EU powerhouse is not the Parliament, nor even the Commission, but the Council of Ministers, which is controlled by the various national governments. The draft Constitution proposes that decisions in the Council of Ministers shall be taken by qualified majority, that is, either a bloc constituting 62 per cent of the population of the EU or two-thirds of the members of the Council of Ministers as well (Articles I-22, 24). (This proposal firms up what, very broadly, happens now.) Short of abolishing all national governments and having an EU-wide ministry commanding a majority in the EU Parliament, one cannot envisage the abolition of the Council of Ministers, and that may not even be desirable — there are arguments for and against — but what one can do is work towards the diminution of the Council of Ministers’ powers. The EU Parliament should, in the immediate future, be the locus of sovereignty within the EU. Under the draft Constitution, it is envisaged that the EU Parliament will have not more than 736 members (under current proposals the number is 732). This seems a shade large, and points to the somewhat unwieldy nature of a grouping of 25 states. It would make more sense to split up the continent into some four distinct regional groupings, viz:  A West European Federation, comprising the Iberian Peninsula, France, Britain and Ireland (possibly), the Benelux countries, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Malta — with the possible addition of Poland and the Czech Repub-


lic.  A Scandinavian Federation, including the Baltic States and possibly also Britain and Ireland.  An East European Federation (Russia, Belarus, the Ukraine, the states of the North Caucasus, plus — possibly — Poland and the Czech Lands).  A Balkan Federation. But all this is music of the future: right now we are saddled with the current set-up, with a Parliament to match. A key requirement is that the powers of this Parliament be maximised. It is allowed under the draft Constitution to elect the Commission President (Article I-19). It should be given the power to ratify all the Commissioners as well, and, contrary to Article I-33, should have power to override the Council of Ministers in cases where the two bodies are in conflict. It should also be allowed to appoint the EU Foreign Minister, a role reserved in the draft for the otherwise wholly advisory European Council — a body which would appear to serve no useful purpose whatever (see Article I-20). The EU Parliament should also be empowered to remove individual commissioners if so desired, not being obliged (as at present) to sack the whole Commission if it wishes to censure that body (see Article I-25.5). Interestingly, the draft Constitution specifies a procedure whereby states can withdraw from the EU if they wish. This procedure should be retained. The draft contains a Charter of Fundamental Rights, containing much that socialists would support, and one formulation that they would not endorse. The draft speaks of the need ‘to promote balanced and sustainable development’ involving ‘free movement of persons, goods, services and capital’ (Preamble). Article III-46, however, states that: ‘The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers shall endeavour to achieve the objective of free movement of capital between Member States and third countries to the greatest extent possible and without prejudice to other provisions of the Constitution.’ The right of free movement of capital is thus qualified, even if it can apparently move unhindered between EU member states. It will presumably be up to the judicial authorities to resolve any disputes that may arise in this area, but we cannot rely on the judges to rule in the desired direction. What the working class requires is a clause upholding the right to work, with provision for adequate income for those unemployed or disabled or otherwise unable to work. Such a clause requires paramount status. It is here that we see the real deficiencies of the draft, not in the restrictions upon national sovereignty, or voting rights in the Council of Ministers. Similar objections can be made as regards the EU competition rules as set out. Article I-3 upholds ‘a single market where competition is free and undistorted’, as does Article III-69 on economic and monetary policy. Furthermore, Article III-70 states that: ‘Member states shall conduct their economic policies in order to contribute to the achievement of the Union’s objectives, as defined in Article I-3… The Member States and the Union shall act in accordance with the principle of an open market economy with free competition, favouring an efficient allocation of resources, and in compliance with the principles set out in Article III-69.’ All this is reprehensible, as it clearly prescribes any kind of democratic planning. Such principles ought not to feature in the Constitution at all, and it is on that ground that the draft should be condemned in a referendum. Similar considerations apply in the case of the ‘independence’ of the European Central Bank as set out in Article III-80. The rationale behind this, of course, is that monetary policy is technically complex and best left to experts — but then, if so, why


should elected representatives be given a free rein in other matters which are also technical? Per contra, there are several sections of the draft which deserve our support. Article III-108, for example, defends the principle of equal pay; Article III-116 states that ‘the Union shall aim at reducing disparities between levels of development of the various regions and the backwardness of the least favoured regions or islands, including rural areas’. This is fine, even if virtually impossible to achieve under capitalism. The section on the environment also seems acceptable. Finally, it is worth noting that Article III-193 calls on the Union to ‘foster the sustainable economic, social and environmental development of developing countries, with the primary aim of eradicating poverty’. We cannot oppose that. All in all, it would be better if the draft Constitution could be amended, but since we are not given the opportunity to do this, we must reject it. The argument that by voting ‘No’ we will reduce Britain’s influence in the EU to a negligible quantity can be treated with the contempt it deserves. Rejection, however, is insufficient. The left must intervene in any referendum with its own propaganda, calling (inter alia) for:  A republican United States of Europe.  The Commission to be responsible to the EU Parliament.  Nationalisation of banks and the subordination of the European Central Bank to the European Parliament.  Progressive taxation.  A 35-hour week.  A common minimum income based on the agreed decency threshold.  Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.  Citizenship rights for all qualified individuals resident in the EU for over six months. Chris Gray The Left and the Elections SO-CALLED ‘Super Thursday’, 10 June 2004, saw elections for the European Parliament, the Greater London Authority and a significant number of English local authorities. At those elections, New Labour received, in John Prescott’s words, ‘a kicking’ over the war in Iraq (with the Labour Party reportedly receiving its lowest share of the vote since 1918). The only bright spot in the results for Labour was winning the London Mayor election — and that was only made possible by Blair eating humble pie and readmitting the wholly unrepentant Ken Livingstone to the party. Nevertheless, the results were hardly encouraging for those of us on the left who still hope to see the Blairite ‘project’ derailed at long last, and the opening up of substantial political space for conventional left-of-centre politics. There seems not the slightest possibility that Labour’s electoral drubbing will precipitate the removal of Blair, lead to a change of policy on Iraq (or any other issue), open splits in the party or aid the emergence of a credible Labour left. The Labour leadership remains supremely confident that the party is on course to win an unprecedented third term at the general election that will probably happen in the spring of 2005. ‘Super Thursday’ showed that the opposition to Labour, from both left and right, remains far too weak to have any chance of dislodging this government — especially given that many who abstained or registered a protest vote at

these, relatively unimportant, elections will return to Labour when the general election comes. The smug, self-satisfied arrogance of the Labour Party establishment is certainly galling — but, sadly, in the continued absence of New Labour’s nemesis, it can hardly be said to amount to hubris. The supposed victors on 10 June, the Tories, also suffered, especially in the European elections, where they lost both seats and votes to the UK Independence Party. The Liberal Democrats made modest gains, but the idea that they could ever be serious contenders for government is as much a fantasy as it’s always been. A section of the far left, most notably the Socialist Workers Party, invested its hopes in an organisation that appeared on ballot papers as ‘Respect — the Unity Coalition (George Galloway)’, and in leaflets targeted at mosques as ‘Respect — the party for Muslims’. Respect is an attempt to turn the heterogeneous and disparate movement against the war in Iraq into a coherent, and election-winning, political platform. According to the scribes of the SWP, Respect’s electoral performance on 10 June fully lived up to expectations and more than justified the SWP’s decision to go down this tactical road. ‘Respect is the beginning of the politics of hope. It is the beginning of a mass, left alternative to New Labour’, gushed John Rees after the results were in. There is more than an element of delusion in this. It is true that in the GLA (that is, London Mayor and London Assembly) elections Respect polled somewhat better than the Socialist Alliance did in 2000 (standing in the London Assembly election); and it beat the fascists of the British National Party in the Mayoral vote (albeit by only a whisker). But an analysis of the geographical distribution of Respect’s vote within London makes clear that this was almost entirely because of the addition of Muslim votes. And Respect still received less than five per cent and won nothing. At the council elections, held in much of England outside London, Respect stood few candidates and won not a single seat. Much has been made by the SWP of the fact that Respect polled well (albeit without winning) in inner-city wards of Preston, Birmingham and a few other areas. Once again, these results seem to have been entirely down to Muslim votes. In the European elections, there is no hiding the fact that Respect did abysmally. Its overall share of the vote across England and Wales was only 1.7 per cent, with regional results as low as 0.6 per cent (Wales and the South East), 0.7 per cent (the South West) and 0.9 per cent (Eastern). Only in London was the result anywhere near being, as it were, respectable (4.8 per cent — as per Respect’s London Assembly vote). The breakdowns of the European results by local-authority district confirm the pattern apparent in Respect’s performance at the GLA elections, and in the few English council wards they contested. The only areas where Respect polled more than a handful of votes were those with significant Muslim populations. In the Eastern region, for instance, Respect barely registered at all in some key working-class areas — but there were significant spikes of support in Luton and Peterborough, which have sizeable Muslim communities. At the regional level, it seems clear that those regions in which Respect did worst (Wales, the South East, the South West and Eastern) are the ones with the smallest Muslim populations. Attempting to build an electoral platform on the basis of effectively calling for a vote from Muslims along sectional / religious / communal lines, as Respect apparently did, clearly goes way beyond forging tactical alliances with Muslim groups in


opposition to racism, Islamophobia and war. Those socialists who supported Respect need to ask themselves whether this compromising of the secular traditions of the British left is a price worth paying for the addition of a few extra votes — especially when, even with those votes, Respect is still clearly incapable of actually winning anything. As for the performance of rest of the left on 10 June, there’s little of encouragement to report. In Scotland (arguably the last remaining redoubt of the British far left), the Scottish Socialist Party polled modestly well in the European elections (5.2 per cent) — it didn’t win, but then it hadn’t expected to. ‘These results are neither a cause for celebration nor a reason for despondency’, said the SSP’s Alan McCombes. Those sections of the left in England and Wales that supported Respect could perhaps learn a thing or two from the SSP about level-headed political realism and the managing of their own members’ expectations of electoral success. Dave Nellist and another Socialist Party member kept their council seats in Coventry — but the Labour Party took the third sitting SP councillor’s seat with a majority of just 16 votes. In Lewisham, where the SP has one councillor, the party polled 12.9 per cent in a council by-election on 10 June; but the SP candidate for the London Assembly in the Greenwich and Lewisham constituency polled only 2.6 per cent. SP candidates in other parts of the country polled moderately well. In Liverpool, socialists who stood as Socialist Alliance candidates failed to make any impact. Elsewhere in the country, other elements of the SA who declined to support Respect (mainly the Alliance for Workers Liberty) contested council wards in a few places under the name ‘Democratic Socialist Alliance’, to little effect. The Independent Working Class Association (essentially Red Action by another name) stood in the London Mayor election, and predictably failed to make any impression. However, the IWCA did get two more councillors elected in Oxford, adding to the one it already had — albeit on the basis of an insipidly non-political brand of ‘community politics’. Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party, which contested the European elections across the country in 1999, only managed on 10 June to contest just a handful of council seats in the North West, with no success. The Alliance for Green Socialism contested council seats in Leeds, without success, and picked up just 0.9 per cent of the vote at the European elections in the Yorkshire and the Humber region. In Wales, John Marek’s ‘Forward Wales’ picked up a council seat in Wrexham and scored just 1.9 per cent in the European elections. The sad, bleak truth is that the left in England and Wales has substantially rotted away at the grassroots. Most of the time, and in most places, participation in elections (long regarded on the far left as ‘the lowest form of the class struggle’) is clearly no answer to this situation. Far from being a shortcut to rebuilding the left, contesting elections with no hope of a significant vote actually serves to burn out and demoralise those activists that remain. David Turner The New Iraqi Puppet Show ON 28 June, two days early in order to avoid any untoward actions spoiling the ceremony, the Interim Government took office in Baghdad. Not ‘took power’, as that still remains with the US forces occupying the country and with the US embassy

with its bloated complement of 1500 American staff and another 1500 locally employed staff. The Interim Government has about as much independence from Washington as the old East German government had from Moscow. In short, the quisling Governing Council has been replaced by a quisling government. The fact that one of the members of the government was assassinated and pot-shots aimed at others prior to its inauguration shows that its puppet nature is obvious in Iraq, and the fact that the inauguration was quietly brought forward and conducted in secrecy indicates that neither the occupying forces nor the new government has any real control over events in the country. Apart from the scandal of the systematic ill-treatment of Iraqi prisoners causing great embarrassment for the USA and its allies around the world, there are definite signs that important figures within the US and British ruling circles recognise that things have gone terribly wrong. A US Senate intelligence committee report made severe criticisms of the CIA’s intelligence upon which US government policy towards Iraq was based. Senior US diplomats and military leaders have openly criticised George W Bush’s foreign policy. Bush and his team’s response to the attacks of 11 September 2001, their ‘war on terror’ and the fiasco in Iraq have come under increasingly strong attacks in the US media. The use of Iraq’s ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ as a casus belli has been totally discredited, and the search for them has long become a farce. Whatever Bush’s and Tony Blair’s insistence to the contrary, the ‘links’ between the Ba’athist regime and al Qaeda have been shown as non-existent, and whereas Islamic hot-heads were previously kept firmly down under the former’s stern rule, Iraq is now crawling with them. The situation in Iraq is still very unstable, resistance to the US occupation and their puppets continues unabated, reconstruction is slow, amenities and social services remain in a parlous condition, unemployment is still very high, and general discontent is evident in much of the country. Blair’s behaviour has been remarkable. Showing about as much grasp of the situation as Hitler in his Berlin bunker as the Nazi state collapsed around him, Blair continues to deny that he has done anything wrong, and he still pledges his total devotion to Bush. Although the Butler Report did not actually accuse Blair and his government of deliberately misleading parliament or the public, it was no Huttonstyle whitewash, and criticised both the intelligence work and government procedures. Like the open letter signed earlier this year by 52 leading British diplomats which condemned Blair’s Middle East policies, the Butler Report was an indication of the disquiet within the British ruling class at the government’s involvement in Bush’s adventure in Iraq. If Blair wishes to ignore these warnings, it will be at his peril. The Interim Government in Iraq is effectively the Governing Council mark two, a carefully-selected team of US place-men. Its premier declared that he wants US troops to stay until Iraqi forces can contain any problems, whilst Bush and his team have already stated that the new government will have no control over US forces in Iraq. Within two months of its inauguration, the new government had imposed martial law, reintroduced the death penalty, closed down Al Jazeera television, and endorsed a massive military assault upon Najaf. Washington is gambling on the opposition to its occupation going into decline and sufficient indigenous police and military forces being built up, so that its objective of a solidly-based pro-US regime can be achieved, with plenty of opportunity for US corporations to get their hands on Iraq’s vast resources. The USA’s rivals are hoping that the forthcoming elections will


produce an anti-American government in Baghdad that will demand a US withdrawal, and be more accommodating to them both diplomatically and economically. Should anti-US forces mobilise politically, we should not be surprised if the Interim Government postpones or even cancels the promised elections, if it appears that the potential victors will be calling for a US withdrawal. As it stands today, a new dictatorship is being imposed, but it is one, however, that is totally reliant upon foreign support, and is facing resistance from the start. Whatever happens, it is clear that the hopes of Bush and his neo-conservative team that Iraq would become a secure base from which the USA could project its designs in the Middle East and beyond have been severely dashed. To continue to occupy Iraq, whatever fig-leaf of self-government might exist, is to court growing resentment in both Iraq and the region as a whole; to withdraw would be to admit defeat — and we are not talking about a minor foreign policy issue here. The Second Gulf War was to be the first major move of the New American Imperium, the control of the Middle East as the starting-point for the extension of US imperialism on a Eurasian scale. It is truly an irony of history that the quest for the New American Imperium has gone horribly wrong at the first real hurdle thanks to the headstrong approach of its most fervid protagonists. Paul Flewers A Respectable Result? THE Respect Unity Coalition, the first major initiative launched by the Socialist Workers Party since the death of its founder and leader Tony Cliff, has been a matter of considerable controversy on the left in Britain. Much of the left has treated Respect with circumspection, and some of it with downright hostility, mainly over the promotion of George Galloway as its figurehead, particularly after his announcement opposing abortion, its downgrading of socialism to just one of the words making up the acronym Respect and the absence of this word in its election flyers, its mild programme, and, most of all, its orientation towards Muslims as a religious group. I will concentrate here upon the last point. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with left-wingers working with religious organisations in respect of, say, a demonstration or some other single-issue campaign, or with religious people in day-to-day work in trade unions. Socialists would not present ultimatums in such circumstances; for instance, we would not demand that, for example, Catholics must come out in support of abortion before we will work with them. But we cannot make concessions to our principles either, and we would have to assert our own viewpoint if, say, Catholics started openly to oppose abortion rights, or if anyone espoused anti-gay or racist sentiments (as has been the case with extreme Muslims), on demonstrations. Things are different with an intervention in an election, where the left is promoting a broad political programme, covering all aspects of people’s lives, and promoting a vision of society that we would like to see come to fruition. In such circumstances, any potential alliance with non-socialist forces must be looked at with great care, and no concessions can be made in respect of political principles. So what did Respect do? A Respect flyer aimed at Muslims emphasised that Galloway was a tee-totaller, and proudly proclaimed ‘Respect — The Party For Muslims’. (It should be noted that no corresponding flyers aimed at Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc, were produced.) In South London, the Respect branch reserved two of its committee places for South London Mosque, thus not only allowing a person’s


religion to be the determining factor in his selection, but also leaving the organisation vulnerable to infiltration by extreme Muslims with all their reactionary baggage. A Respect branch in north-east London tagged onto a Muslim ‘church parade’ celebrating the birth of Mohammed. A Respect branch in the Midlands entered into an electoral lash-up with a Kashmiri communalist organisation, the People’s Justice Party, which had just issued a flyer denouncing the Liberal Democrats on the grounds that they defended gay rights. Respect’s candidate in the Leicester South by-election was Yvonne Ridley, whose main claim to fame was being kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and promptly converting to Islam. One suspects that her religious outlook was what inclined Respect to parachute her in as the candidate, as her general political outlook remains obscure. What any of this has to do with the cause of socialism is anyone’s guess. Some of Respect’s results have been good, most notably its winning 15 per cent in the City and East London constituency and 12.6 per cent in Leicester South, and gaining a council seat in Stepney. It is, however, fair to ask how much of this was won by means of the communalist orientation towards Muslims, with all that this implies for future elections when the Iraq business has blown over, as people voting for a party on a specific issue and because of its specific orientation can easily switch their votes to another party should circumstances change. Many other results were rather poor, and it is valid to ask whether many of them would have been any worse had the candidates stood under the Socialist Alliance banner. Socialists defend any religious group against repression and prejudice, albeit without compromising our principles and without defending reactionary practices in which religious groups may engage. However, socialists do not approach religious groups as an undifferentiated mass. Going for the Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, etc, vote is utterly alien to the left-wing tradition. Touting for the Muslim vote inevitably means orienting towards the more religious elements amongst Britain’s Muslims, and avoiding the question of class politics. This is clear when one considers SWP leader Lindsey German’s words about Muslim women’s involvement in the Stop the War Coalition: Young Muslim women, most of whom wear the hijab, have played a central role in organising, speaking at meetings, fundraising and debating policy. Many say they dress in this way not out of deference but because they want to show pride in their culture and religion. (Guardian 13 July 2004) German’s celebration of their promotion of their ‘culture and religion’ is dumbfounding. In one sense, of course, it’s good to see patriarchal norms being challenged by women. But it’s not much consolation when this challenge takes on an ultrareligious form. Whilst socialists defend the right of Muslim women to wear a hijab if they so desire, we must not forget that it symbolises ideas and customs far removed from socialism. It is extremely unlikely that they and Muslim men politicised in a similar way will find their way to the left. The left has long recruited people from communities with a religious identity, but they have customarily been those who were already questioning the community’s religious and cultural tenets from a secular direction. Not only will Respect fail to recruit devout Muslims to the left, its approach will more likely than not repel the left’s natural constituency amongst the more secularminded people from a Muslim background.

Respect’s orienting to Muslims is an opportunist venture based upon a temporary factor — the war on Iraq — and once that crisis is over, there will be little or no more point of contact with them than with any other group of people. The alliance with Muslims will come under pressure in respect of the new law against inciting religious hatred. This law, which socialists must necessarily oppose on the grounds that it gives religions a privileged position within society, and poses a threat to a secular approach as criticisms of any religion’s reactionary practices could be construed as ‘inciting hatred’, was largely the result of lobbying by Muslim politicians and clerics as a misguided response to anti-Islamic sentiments. The alliance will also be put under pressure in respect of the question of Muslim schools. Socialists cannot defend religious schools, as they are intended to ensure that children from one religion, and one sect within any one religion, are carefully segregated from other kiddies. Socialists demand the closure of all religious schools and the incorporation of their resources into the state system. Respect will carefully tip-toe around the new law and the calls for Muslim schools, trying to avoid these questions in order to keep their coalition together. The Respect coalition’s dipping into communal politics through its chasing the Muslim vote is by far the strangest venture embarked on by the SWP. It illustrates a disastrous lack of political sense and a high level of desperation on the part of the party’s leaders. It is impossible to envisage Tony Cliff thinking up something as opportunist as this, whatever the circumstances facing the party. If the left is to make an impact both in elections and generally, it will have to do much better than this. Arthur Trusscott Europe and British Politics THE question of Europe has been conspicuous in the news of late, what with the surprise electoral success of the UK Independence Party, the endorsement by the European Union leaders of an EU constitution, which will be voted on in EU states in the near future, Tony Blair’s announcement that there will be a referendum in Britain on the EU constitution, and his sponsorship of Peter Mandelson as a European Commissioner. The brash unilateralist stance of the present US government has accelerated both the rise of the Paris–Berlin axis in Europe, and the centripetal integrationist tendencies within the EU. Whilst the new constitution is not, as Europhobic commentators claim, a recipe for a federal Europe, it certainly points the way towards considerably increased European integration. Blair, as an uncritical Atlanticist, is sitting upon two stools that are being pulled further apart. He is hoping that the status quo can be maintained, that integration can be stalled, that transatlantic tensions can be overcome, and that Britain can opt out of any EU measure that does not meet with Westminster’s approval. That his endorsement of the constitution was combined with caveats in respect of a British veto over foreign and defence policies, taxation, welfare and workers’ rights, shows this clearly. However, further EU integration will eventually squeeze out that option; Britain will have to go along with the Paris–Berlin axis, or face relegation to the far fringes of Europe with no hope of influencing events. Blair’s stance on the EU is little different to that of the mainstream Tories, in that both combine Atlanticism with a recognition that a British withdrawal from the EU is a hugely problematic issue, as it would almost certainly provoke a deep economic and social crisis in Britain. Just like Blair, Michael Howard and his team hope


that the British fudge over Europe will be able to endure. However, the Tory leaders, directly threatened by Europhobes both within and outwith their party, must portray Blair as little short of a Euro-federalist. Howard’s problems will only emerge when he has to give a recommendation in the referendum, as he is unlikely to oppose the constitution outright, or should, by some unlikely twist of fate, his party win the next general election, and he has to work within the framework of the EU. The intertwined processes of deepening transatlantic tensions and accelerated European integration will before too long lead to a profound debate within the British ruling class in respect of the position of Britain within Europe and the wider world. Factions will be formed, ranging from those who favour withdrawal from the EU to those favouring European federalism, with all points in between. What will start as an internal debate within big business and the state machine will be muddied by the way that opposition to ‘Europe’ has become the focus for all manner of right-wing views, from mild chauvinism to outright fascism. It will not be hard for the right-wing press to whip up anti-EU sentiments, seizing on justified complaints that the pro-EU brigade delicately avoid tackling — corruption, bureaucracy, pointless meddling — along with silly scare stories and outright chauvinism. The pro-EU lobby cannot respond in kind, as it is extremely difficult to enthuse the general public about institutional Europe. Pulled on the one side by pro-EU forces within big business and the state and the pressure of European integration, pulled on the other by a strong Europhobic press and public opinion and continuing Atlanticist sentiments, and mindful of the focusing of right-wing ideas through the prism of ‘Europe’, any future British government will have a difficult time steering through a veritable political minefield. The debate over Europe will introduce a high degree of instability within British politics. Paul Flewers Marxism and Counterfactual History THE appearance of a collection of counterfactual essays under the editorship of Andrew Roberts, What Might Have Been: Imaginary History From Twelve Leading Historians (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2004), provoked an angry response from the radical academic Tristram Hunt in the Guardian on 7 April. Branding, slightly inaccurately, the contributors as ‘a ragged bunch of right-wing historians’, Hunt accuses them of presenting ‘history as wishful thinking, providing little insight into the decisionmaking processes of the past, but pointing up preferable alternatives and lamenting their failure to come to pass’. Roberts’ collection is not the most inspiring of its kind, and does not measure up in depth to, for example, Niall Ferguson’s much more substantial collection Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals (Macmillan, 1998). It does show the prejudices of its ‘young fogey’ editor, as Roberts, like Ferguson before him, and seemingly using the same quotes as Ferguson from EH Carr and Eric Hobsbawm (the one from EP Thompson was in too unparliamentary language to be repeated here, Roberts says), rails against Marxists for having the cheek ‘to denounce the concept of imaginary pasts’ when we peddle ‘the most ludicrous of all imaginary futures’, where the state withers away ‘leaving the dictatorship of the very class of people least qualified to exercise power’. Leaving aside his snobbish assertion about the congenital inability of workers to wield power, and also his ignorance of basic Marxism — it is painful to have to tell a learned historian that Marx and Engels considered that the dictatorship of the proletariat withers away alongside the state, and

that communism emerges as the state and the division of humanity into social classes disappear — it must be emphasised that authentic Marxism does not rule out the possibility of alternative courses of history. Of course, if one restricts oneself to Plekhanov’s terribly mechanistic view in The Role of the Individual in History, whereby if Robespierre or Napoleon keeled over, another one would come along in a minute — the individual in history as a London bus — and the Stalinist view that history inexorably led up to Stalin (or Mao, or Hoxha), then ‘Marxism’ might be interpreted thus. However, in his key work The Third International After Lenin, Trotsky provides a different perspective. After venturing that the October Revolution was ‘the result of a particular relation of class forces in Russia and in the whole world’ and their particular development within the process of the First World War, he declared: Nevertheless, there is no contradiction whatever between Marxism and posing, for instance, such a question as: would we have seized power in October had not Lenin arrived in Russia in time? There is much to indicate that we might not have been able to seize power. Vulgar materialists might wish to exclude the role of individuals within historical processes, but Marxism does not deny the role of individuals in history; it rather attempts to explain their role within the general course of the historical process, to comprehend how the actions of an individual at a certain juncture can affect the course of history. The role of Lenin in Russia in 1917 is a case in point. As luck would have it, Roberts — or Andrei Simonovich Robertski, as he somewhat excruciatingly calls himself at one point — tackles this very topic, and has Lenin assassinated by a certain ‘Lev Harveivic Oswalt’ (no, it actually gets worse) on his return to Russia in April 1917. Roberts’ course of events is, one must admit, imaginative. We have the Provisional Government, led by Kerensky and including Prince Lvov, Miliukov, Guchkov and the rest, withdrawing from the First World War in April 1917, renouncing its territorial claims upon Turkey, permitting the peasants to seize the land, giving the workers’ councils legal parity with the industrialists, and jailing employers who staged lock-outs. The Bolsheviks themselves lined up with the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries behind the government, and, in the hopeless atmosphere of a burgeoning liberal democracy, disbanded their party in the mid-1920s. And with a sense of humour that clearly has not risen above that of an undergraduate rag-mag (I did warn you), he has Trotsky ending up flogging mountaineering equipment in Mexico. Counterfactual history, however, only makes sense if the imaginary events following the breaking-point from real history bear some realistic relationship with what was likely to occur. Roberts himself is aware of this, saying that ‘characters in What Ifs must act according to their true personalities’. Yet Roberts does precisely the opposite. The idea that Miliukov would have dropped Russian claims upon the Straits, that the Provisional Government would have so rapidly dropped out of the war, that Kerensky would have championed militant peasants and workers, is risible. To proceed from characters to broader factors, whilst it is true that Lenin steered his party towards accepting the idea of the seizure of power, not all leading Bolsheviks would have meekly dropped behind the moderate socialists. The depth of class conflict in Russia did not depend upon Lenin’s presence and ability to steer his party. Under the conditions that pertained in Russia in 1917, workers would have fought for their demands and imposed their authority within the workplace and in

the political arena, and the peasants would have seized the land, without any byyour-leave from the Provisional Government, the Bolsheviks, or anyone else. Roberts is only half right about the Bolsheviks rapidly tail-ending the Mensheviks. In Lenin’s absence, the likes of Kamenev, Rykov and Tomsky would have gravitated towards the left-wing Mensheviks, perhaps even joining the Provisional Government. The more impulsive ones, such as Bukharin, would have taken a more militant line, and without Lenin’s restraining influence would almost certainly have joined with anarchists and other maximalists to launch ill-prepared and ill-fated putsches. In short, the Bolsheviks would have split in two, probably with Trotsky vainly attempting to hold both halves together, but without the authority or mechanism to do so. Russia was undergoing a deep and worsening crisis throughout 1917. The Provisional Government was facing economic collapse, military failure, sharp class conflict in both urban and rural areas, and territorial disintegration. How could any government successfully deal with all that within the framework of a liberal democracy? The only thing that rescued the reputation of liberal democracy in Russia was that the Bolsheviks seized power before its bankruptcy was fully evident. Had the Bolsheviks failed to seize power, the severe and deepening crises affecting Russia in the agricultural, industrial, national and military spheres would have been well beyond the capability of a parliamentary regime to deal with. Even as the Provisional Government was floundering around and Bolsheviks were gearing up for power, the right-wing was mobilising, and, in the absence of a government based on the soviets, it is far more likely that Russia would have faced becoming a harsh right-wing dictatorship than a liberal democracy. The sorry fate of parliamentary democracy in Eastern and Central Europe during the interwar period gives a clue to what would have happened in Russia, where social contradictions were considerably more acute. Despite their deep differences, Roberts and Hunt are both wrong. Hunt is wrong to say that counterfactual history is necessarily synonymous with the ‘great men’ theories of history, or incompatible with theories of history that base themselves upon an investigation of deep-running social forces. And Roberts is wrong to consider that Marxism excludes the idea of different courses in history. History is full of opportunities that were lost, courses that were not taken, and who can deny that on many occasions the reason that history went one way rather than another was because of the actions of one or another important figure in a key position. In his History of the Russian Revolution, Trotsky made the point that the driving force of the Russian Revolution was the power of the militant masses, but that power had to be guided, as with steam in a cylinder, if it wasn’t to be dissipated. We can add that the cylinder needed a hand on the regulator to control the steam, that is, to guide the masses. That regulator was the Bolshevik party, and Lenin had his hand on the regulator at a crucial point in history. Without him, the course of world history would have been very different. One cannot accurately understand history if one views (to use Hunt’s words) ‘the rigorous, data-based study of class, inequality, work patterns and gender relations’ and the ‘story of what generals, presidents and revolutionaries did or did not do’ as polar opposites, rather than being intertwined in a complex relationship. Paul Flewers Des Warren Dies ON 24 April 2004, Des Warren died of pneumonia aged 66, the obituary by Kevin

Maguire, accompanied by a tribute from Ricky Tomlinson, in the Guardian on 1 May 2004, announced. The obituary is very sympathetic and relates the basic details of the frame-up of the building workers in North Wales who had been active in picketing during the 12-week strike in the summer of 1972. The Independent has an obituary by Chris Corrigan in its 28 April edition, Although shorter, it too is sympathetic and provides a brief outline of the case, supplementing to some degree that by Kevin Maguire. Des Warren wrote a pamphlet on the case, which was reprinted later by the Workers Revolutionary Party, and a book, The Key To My Cell (London, 1982), which all give the details of what he insisted was a conspiracy between the then Tory government, the building employers, and the police. It was to criminalise picketing, particularly the flying picket. And he noted the links between the police and McAlpine’s. Six months after the end of the strike, huge numbers of police were drafted into North Wales to find the ‘guilty men’, whom the police had not charged with anything during the strike. The first trial, in Mold, with a jury drawn from peers of those accused, didn’t give the necessary verdicts, so the next one was shifted to Shrewsbury, where the atmosphere was not as friendly, and it led to guilty verdicts, the catch-all charge of ‘conspiracy’ being used, as its vagueness guaranteed success, after the failure in Mold. It led to Warren getting a year sentence, Tomlinson getting two years, and John McKinsie Jones nine months. Tomlinson emerged from jail and became a popular actor and TV personality, whereas Warren was broken in health due to the onset of symptoms akin to Parkinson’s disease caused by the drug cocktail administered in jail known as the ‘liquid cosh’. Des wanted to expose the conspiracy that led to Shrewsbury by issuing a pamphlet, taking action against the Home Office over his treatment, and trying to set up a public enquiry into the whole affair. Then he came up against the Communist Party leadership, which was not interested. He discovered that CP Industrial Organiser Bert Ramelson had been kidding him while he had been in jail, not only was the Shrewsbury Two campaign wound down, but it had never gone beyond appealing to the TUC and gestures to let off steam,. The support that existed within the working class had been held back. The CP refused to provide medical advice, refused to print his pamphlet or promote it, and even suppressed an article detailing the drug abuse that he suffered in jail. He was confused by this, and he met many CP members who were just as puzzled, frustrated, even angered by the party’s attitude. It was rank-and-file members like Jim Arnison who eventually published Des’ pamphlet. Eventually he resigned from the CP in early 1980, later that year joining the WRP, whose building workers in Wigan had given him strong support. Des attributed the CP’s failure to organise an effective campaign to get him and Tomlinson released, as well as the subsequent behaviour, to its upholding of the parliamentary road to socialism. In general that is true, but specifically it owed everything to its trade union policy. Des refers to the fact that ‘the people who most influenced me in the first place to join the Communist Party were full-time officials of the trade unions’ by the time of the Shrewsbury case. One, a former friend, unashamedly saw trade unionism as being about ‘doing deals’. Des mentions the CP members who were elected to full-time union posts after promotion through the party’s ‘recommended list’. Though he sees nothing wrong with supporting left-wingers against the right, he implies that ‘once they become officials they get caught up in the rottenness of bureaucracy’. And:


In some cases there are careerist elements who use the party’s ‘recommended list’ to get jobs. Others get sucked into the bureaucracy and sell their principles. I don’t believe this is the fault of the members themselves, but it comes from the policy of the party. (The Key To My Cell, p313) The policy of building ‘broad left’ groupings in unions, in which CPers and Labour Party left-wingers could successfully combat right-wing sell-out merchants was justified in general, as it led to Hugh Scanlon becoming AEU President, the left in the NUM becoming dominant, etc, but in other cases it resulted in dubious characters getting elected to top posts. In the ETU postal-ballot-rigging scandal when the right wing took over, for example, those elected to the Executive ‘recommended’ by the CP kept going over to the right wing. Eric Hammond was a CP-favoured candidate at one time (I have a collection of ETU election addresses going back to the 1960s). Des Warren experienced it in UCATT. What happened in UCATT was shameful, the CP official policy seemed to be one of — pardon the expression — arse-licking the right wing. It had a soft relationship to UCATT General Secretary George Smith, for whom the often over-used term ‘betrayer’ was apt in general, in the Shrewsbury case fitting. Until their long-term practice of ballot-rigging was exposed and they were voted out of office and replaced by the new left-wing leadership, which found that not only had ballot-papers been removed from head office but the coffers were empty, many CPers and people elected on the ‘recommended list’ were a part of that setup. Des saw this process in the Merseyside area and North Wales. I can relate many instances. One good friend of mine, active with Des and a UCATT lay official, resigned his post and membership when he found that UCATT was selling union cards to lumpers. Head office and the Liverpool office hounded Chester branch over many years, the secretary who’d been active during the strike — part of the ‘conspiracy’ as he took part in the official Action Committee discussions on the picketing — was suspended for ‘using bad language’ to the crooks in head office, his successor was constantly accused of not paying in the dues (he registered them and kept copies of all correspondence), ‘observers’ were sent from Liverpool for key meetings, but members always voted to exclude them. One left-wing official had his union car removed after attending a meeting at Sellafield, a bastion of the right, where he found strippers being brought in after work to keep people around for the key branch meetings. Friends of mine told me how, upon being taken by Barry Scragg (UCATT official, ex-CPer aligned with the left) to the Christmas beano in the Liverpool office, they were mixing with building employers. Brickies in jeans and muddy boots surely lowered the tone of the occasion. (I remember reading in the press of Scargill’s and Heathfield’s mortgages, money donated by Gadaffi, but nothing about the goings on in UCATT, not much about Roger Lyons’ escapades in the MSF, nor the skullduggery in Sir Ken Jackson’s failed re-election campaign in Amicus — Roy Greenslade has apologised over the Daily Mirror’s Scargill stories, an MI5 plot.) Des Warren paid a heavy price for that CP policy. When it was discovered that people taking designer-drugs in California were developing Parkinson’s symptoms, Des was offered £3000 in an out-of-court settlement. Not much considering how his health declined. However, he fought to the end — the last five years confined to a wheelchair — and will probably get more appreciation for what he did posthumously rather than when he lived. He fought the Shrewsbury case as a political one, as an attack on trade unionism, on picketing, and


was abandoned by the movement’s leaders and those of his own party. There would be no movement without the Des Warrens. Mike Jones Sharansky and the ‘New Anti-Semitism’ NATHAN Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident and ‘Minister for the Jewish Diaspora’ in the Sharon cabinet, has been touring US campuses and European capitals, busily waging the ‘Campaign Against the New Anti-Semitism’. One of his arguments deserves special attention. Sharansky claims that even when criticism of Israel’s policies is shown to be factually correct, voicing it may still be branded as anti-Semitic unless the critics can show that they devote an equal amount of time and energy to criticising and condemning each and everyone else in the world who also deserves to be criticised. In short: ‘Singling Israel out is antiSemitism.’ Neat and simple. But is it so? It is unquestionably true that Israel and its conflict with the Palestinians and the Arab world are getting a disproportionate global attention. In fact, it quite often works in Israel’s favour: the killing of 20 Israelis would definitely get far more international attention, a far bigger volume of world-wide sympathy for the victims and condemnation of the perpetrators, than the killing of 20 Africans — often, far more than the killing of 200 or 2000 or even 20 000 Africans. A positive move on the side of Israel would get far more international attention than a similar move by another country; an Israeli leader signing a peace agreement would be more likely to get the Nobel Peace Prize than a leader from a less well-known war-torn country, and so on. Still, in times like the present, the dominant fact is that official Israeli policies do come under intensive fire in many countries around the world, and that many critics do indeed devote far more attention to Israeli acts of oppression and violations of human rights than to similar acts by other regimes around the globe. Are they all anti-Semites? Not necessarily. Several other, plausible explanations could be found to fit the phenomenon:  Not every state that resorts to oppression claims to be a Western democracy, indeed ‘the only democracy’ in its region, and asks for international support on that basis. Isn’t it natural for citizens of other Western democracies to look more closely at the behaviour of a family member?  Not every state that resorts to oppression has been founded by people who were themselves the victims of very cruel oppression, who asked the world for its sympathy and support on that basis, and who often declared that the state they would found would be no ordinary state, but ‘a light unto the nations’. Isn’t it natural for outsiders to judge the actual Israel by the criteria set by Israel’s own Founding Fathers?  Not every state that resorts to oppression has been founded by an ethnic group which claimed the unique privilege of taking back a land where its ancestors lived 2000 years before and got this enterprise recognised and approved by the League of Nations and later by the United Nations — but with the specific reservation that this enterprise not be at the expense of the people then living in the land. Isn’t it natural for outsiders to scrutinise closely whether this stipulation had been adhered to?  Not every state that resorts to oppression had been founded by people who

came from Europe and settled in an already inhabited land. Isn’t it natural for people in countries that put such behaviour behind them to inquire into the behaviour of those who still act in such a manner?  Not every state that resorts to oppression is the recipient of three billion dollars a year in US aid, or the beneficiary of an almost automatic US veto in the UN Security Council. Nor do other states resorting to oppression enjoy the kind of influence in internal US politics that Israel has. Isn’t it natural for US citizens to inquire more closely into the affairs of such a state — and for that matter, the citizens of other countries in a world so dominated by the US?  Not every state that resorts to oppression is the possessor of a considerable arsenal of nuclear warheads and missiles, which it refuses to submit to any international inspection. Isn’t it natural for outsiders to look more closely into the doings of such a country? Still, given all these legitimate reasons, there might well be people and groups who are not motivated by any of them in singling out Israel and its policies, people whose main or only motive is that Israel is a Jewish state, and who would care nothing about its doings were most of its citizens other than Jews. Such people and groups are indeed anti-Semites, and they deserve to be castigated as such. But you need to work at providing a clear proof, Mr Sharansky! Adam Keller From the April-May 2004 issue of The Other Israel, POB 2542, Holon 58125, Israel. Which is the Greater Evil? IT may sound like a strange question: which is the greater evil: the US empire, or the regime of Saddam Hussain that was toppled by the former? But I think it is a question that needs to be answered. To refuse to compare ‘amounts’ of evil is a cop-out. In my opinion, evil has at least two dimensions: intensity and scope. By ‘intensity’ I mean the degree of evil deeds committed. Clearly, some crimes are worse than others; this is recognised by all legal and moral systems. By ‘scope’ I mean the size — in area and population — directly affected by the evil deeds. The ‘amount’ of evil is measured by the product of intensity and scope. Let us compare the US empire with the Saddam regime. As far as intensity is concerned, the comparison is difficult. Saddam’s methods of murder, torture and terror were arguably worse even than those employed by the USA. Also, he used poison gas on a large scale against the Iranians and ‘his own’ Kurdish population. On the other hand, even ignoring the fact that the USA supported the Saddam regime until quite recently, we must take into consideration the fact that the USA is the only state to have ever used real weapons of mass destruction — nuclear bombs — and it has used them against civilian targets. Remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But as far as scope is concerned, there is simply no contest. Saddam’s evil was confined to Iraq (a country the size of California and population of some 24 million); and it was also deployed against Iraq’s immediate neighbours, Iran and Kuwait. The US empire is global. Its gulag of concentration camps and chambers of abuse and torture is spread over several regions of the planet. It acts in a lawless way, violating international humanitarian law, refusing to accept the jurisdiction of


international courts. It has abducted tens of thousands of people in many countries and holds them illegally — for an indefinite and unspecified terms — in conditions amounting to torture, without any recourse to legal aid or family visits. All these prisoners abducted by the USA are presumably innocent, for they have not been proven guilty of any crime. And we must presume that the reason they are held incommunicado is that this enables their US abductors to subject them to abuse and torture. Remember: any one of us, wherever we are can in principle be abducted by US government personnel (including ‘civilian’ mercenaries regularly employed by the USA) and held indefinitely, at the whim of our captors, in one of the USA’s many prisons and prison camps, where we may be abused and tortured without any recourse to any form of law or justice, be in Guantánamo Bay or Abu Ghraib. So, taking both dimensions of evil into account, there is no doubt whatsoever that the US empire is by far and away the greater evil. Moshé Machover

A Forgotten Work of Leon Trotsky
The unexpected death of Al Richardson last November has robbed the socialist movement of a powerful intellect, a dynamic personality and, especially for his comrades, a good friend. As a tribute to Al, we are publishing for the first time an introduction he wrote in 1998 to a projected, but so far unpublished, new edition of Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution to Brest Litovsk. *** LEON Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution to Brest Litovsk came out in the summer of 1918,1 and was subsequently translated into 17 languages, including even Chinese, Turkish and Yiddish. This English version was first published by Allen and Unwin for the general market in the middle of April 1919, and released immediately afterwards in a cheap edition by a special arrangement with the Socialist Labour Party. It has only once been reprinted, in 1963 on pages 23-111 of Unwin’s The Essential Trotsky, as part of a series of the works of modern thinkers including Marx, Engels, Lenin, Schopenhauer and Vasari. Called by Deutscher ‘one of his minor classics’,2 and by Segal ‘an incisive recital of events’,3 the first edition sold out in only three weeks.4 Even its opponents at the time described it as ‘very skilfully written — clear, readable, vivid’,5 ‘essential to read… if one is to have any understanding of the pre-

Al Richardson

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

The postscript is dated 29 May 1918. Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Armed, Oxford, 1976, p378. Ronald Segal, The Tragedy of Leon Trotsky, London, 1979, p200. ‘Trotsky’s Great Book’, The Socialist, 24 May 1919, p222. ‘HS’, ‘Trotsky’s Apologia’, The Manchester Guardian, 22 April 1919.


sent position in the east of Europe’,6 and drafted out with ‘political and forensic skill’ and a ‘mastery of narrative’.7 It is difficult to account for its neglect since. One reason may be that it was soon overshadowed in scope and scale by his classic History of the Russian Revolution, compared to which it seemed to be only ‘a brief aperçu of Soviet history’.8 It does, indeed, suffer in comparison with the later history, which ‘compacted character, imagery and rhythm, to recreate rather than merely to relate events’. But it would be a mistake to explain the larger book’s superiority merely by ‘the refinements of time and a very different enforcement of leisure’.9 Assuming this would be to misunderstand the very different purposes behind the two books. The later book is a history of the entire revolution, with all its background, origins, development and motor forces made clear; it was intended to explain to the world labour movement how real revolutions are made, at a time when people’s memories about this were being dimmed in the fog of Stalinist propaganda. This earlier book does not aim to be a history of the revolution as a general process, but is a study of the 1917 insurrection in particular.10 It was dictated to a staff of former Duma stenographers in the intervals between the negotiating sessions at BrestLitovsk, ‘intended primarily for foreign workers’ due to ‘the necessity of explaining to them what had happened’.11 Only when we analyse the circumstances in which it was written does it become clear exactly what this overriding ‘necessity’ was, which Trotsky had discussed with Lenin before going to the Brest conference. Neither Lenin nor Trotsky ever believed in ‘socialism in one country’. They did not expect the revolution to survive without spreading abroad, and the book ends with the hope that ‘the Imperialist ring which is choking us will be broken by a proletarian revolution’ (p111).12 Truth is always the first casualty in any war, and by the time of Brest Litovsk the world war had been going on for over three years. The sympathy of the working class abroad for the revolution could only be gained by piercing the curtain of wartime propaganda surrounding the Soviet Union with a clear explanation of its causes and aims. Unless they were understood it would not be possible for others to imitate the Russian example. Much of the opposition of the working class to the First World War internationally was on a confused pacifist basis, wrapped up with vague democratic sentiments. Trotsky’s first need was to explain to the working class in the rest of the
6. 7. ‘Who Ruined Russia?’, The New Statesman, 5 July 1919, p350. ‘Trotzky’s Apology’, The Morning Post, 17 April 1919, p5. Those who were shortly to join the Communist Party were, of course, even more enthusiastic. Frank Horrabin describes it as ‘intensely interesting and valuable’ (The Plebs, June 1919, p76), and William Paul as a ‘brilliant history’ (‘Trotsky’s Reply to Churchill’, The Socialist, 8 May 1919, p197). Joel Carmichael, Trotsky: An Appreciation of His Life, London, 1975, p225. Segal, op cit. The anonymous reviewer for The New Statesman, disappointed in the hope of a full narrative of the exposé type, also commented at the time upon its ‘rather thin pages’ (see ‘Who Ruined Russia?’, in The New Statesman, 5 July 1919, p350). For a similar attempt to reduce Trotsky’s later history to ‘drama’, see Baruch Knei-Paz, The Social and Political Thought of Leon Trotsky, Oxford, 1978, pp497-513, plagiarised by Peter Beilharz in History Workshop, no 20, 1985, and Trotsky, Trotskyism and the Transition to Socialism, London, 1987, pp41-8. Despite this, Trotsky does point out that for several years the book ‘served the party as a textbook of history’, was translated into a dozen languages and was issued by the Comintern in innumerable editions (My Life, New York, 1960, p370; History of the Russian Revolution, London, 1965, p1134). Trotsky, My Life, p370. ‘A considerable feat of memory’, according to the editor of the 1963 edition (p22). Page numbers refer to original edition

8. 9.


11. 12.


world why it had been so necessary for the Bolsheviks to resort to armed revolution, and then to use force to dissolve the Constituent Assembly. Kautsky almost immediately denounced the dissolution of the Constituent (p94), and Kerensky was about to appear before the Labour Party Conference in June 1918 to attack the overthrow of the Provisional Government.13 Commentators in this country were quick to pick up on Trotsky’s ‘long apology for the forcible dissolution of the Constituent Assembly’,14 and even WN Ewer, who was shortly to become a communist himself, admitted that ‘the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly was an affront to democratic institutions as the West knows them’. ‘We have already had M Kerensky’s version of one episode of the autumn of 1917 in Russia’, he noted. ‘Now comes Trotsky’s account of events from the March revolution to the Brest Litovsk Treaty. It is shorter and vastly more readable than the Kerensky apologia’.15 The bourgeois press, which was backing Kolchak at the same time as attacking the Bolsheviks for being antidemocratic, naturally highlighted those parts of the book where Trotsky explains the necessity for armed revolution and the superiority of soviets over bourgeois democracy. ‘The publication of the book should do good service in certain quarters in England which persist in seeing a connection between Bolshevism and democracy, and denounce as a threat to democracy any attempt to upset the Bolshevist government’, wrote the reviewer in The Morning Post: ‘These gentlemen had better read what Trotsky has to say about democracy. He has no use for it at all.’16 We need not take too seriously The Morning Post’s own democratic pretensions at this time. Its review actually began with the words ‘The Jew Bronstein’, and the anti-Semitic tone it used whenever it talked about Russian affairs was so pronounced that Lord Rothschild, Gollancz and others were obliged to write in to ‘welcome the suggestion’ that ‘British Jews should disassociate themselves from a course which is doing the Jewish people harm in all parts of the world’.17 The second need was to explain why the Russian government had been obliged
13. Kerensky was, of course, wholly unknown before the events of 1917 catapulted him so unexpectedly into the limelight, his case for the Provisional Government was far weaker than that for the Constituent Assembly, and he was in any case a theoretical lightweight (see The Crucifixion of Liberty, London, 1934). But as the world authority on Marxism, Kautsky’s arguments against the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly were far more serious. He first published them early in 1918 in ‘Demokratie und Diktatur’ (Leipziger Volkszeitung, nos 8, 9-10, 11.I; Sozialistische Auslandspolitik, Volume 4, nos 1-3.I), which must have been known to Trotsky when he was writing this book. Kautsky later developed his thesis in full in The Dictatorship of the Proletariat (August 1918) and Terrorism and Communism (June 1919), to which Lenin replied with ‘The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky’ (Collected Works, Volume 28, Moscow, 1965, pp227-325; also pp105-113), and Trotsky with Terrorism and Communism (London, 1975). Trotsky’s History was in turn quoted as part of the polemic in the Leipziger Volkszeitung (18 October 1918). ‘Trotzky’s Apology’, The Morning Post, 17 April 1919, p5. WN Ewer, ‘The Birth of the Soviets’, The Daily Herald, 26 April 1919, p8. Ewer was among the first to attack Trotsky when the signal went out from Moscow six years later, only himself to be subjected to the same ignominious treatment shortly afterwards. See S Bornstein and A Richardson, Against the Stream, London, 1986, p7. ‘Trotzky’s Apology’, The Morning Post, 17 April 1919, p5. See also ‘HS’, ‘Trotsky’s Apologia’, The Manchester Guardian, 22 April 1919. ‘Bolshevism and Jewry’, The Morning Post, 23 April 1919, p6. The next day the paper’s readers were treated to another anti-Semitic article, this time on ‘Jewry and Germany’. It is amusing to recall that Gollancz was later to be the publisher of Trotsky’s full-length history, and later still for the Left Book Club, which spent the years before the war accusing him of being an agent of Hitler.

14. 15.

16. 17.


to drop out of the war and conclude a separate peace on such damaging terms with the most reactionary force in Europe, the German Imperial government. There were many revolutionaries, both in Russia and outside, who firmly opposed the signing of the Brest peace,18 not to mention the disquiet felt in democratic circles, or the outraged hostility of Entente propaganda. Ewer’s review concentrated wholly upon the point that ‘Russia’s need was peace, and peace was literally inevitable, for the army was incapable of further fighting. The Bolsheviks alone were prepared to make peace. Therefore they came to power.’19 William Paul, quoting a remark of ‘Mr Brimstone Churchill’ to the Aldwych Club, that ‘every British and French soldier killed last year was really done to death by Lenin and Trotsky, not in fair war, but as the result of the treacherous desertion of an ally without parallel in the history of the world’, used the book to reply that ‘every honest and intelligent person knows that the Allies were invited to participate in the peace conferences which took place between Germany and Russia. Whatever doubt anyone may have in the matter is completely swept away by no less a person than Trotsky himself.’ 20 To this extent the book is a logical extension of the revolutionary propaganda made by Trotsky at Brest Litovsk, and has to be understood in that context. To say this does not mean that the book has only an ephemeral and purely historical value. It includes amazingly compact theoretical summaries of such things as the superiority of soviet power over bourgeois democracy (pp46-7, 93), why working-class consciousness develops so rapidly in crisis situations (p47), the necessity for armed insurrection to overthrow the old order (pp51-2), and how the revolutionary party gains a majority for this insurrection by placing the demand for workingclass power on the reformist leaders (pp31, 34, 51, 52). These are what gives the book its permanent value. And we should not be surprised to find such gems in such a short booklet. Many of the greatest Marxist theoretical expositions, including The Eighteenth Brumaire and State and Revolution were quickly written at particular times, and for particular purposes. Extracting the general from the particular is one of Marxism’s essential disciplines. At the same time its laconic style and the circumstances in which the book was written often require further elucidation. Here we are helped by the fact that also on the staff of the Russian delegation at Brest Litovsk was Karl Radek, 21 subject to the same periods of enforced inactivity and at work on similar writing projects, who must have discussed many of the points at issue with Trotsky. For example, without any further identification Trotsky refers to ‘the theoreticians of our party’ who formulated the theory of permanent revolution, foreseeing that it ‘would inevitably place the power of the state in the hands of the proletariat, supported by the wide masses of the poorest peasantry’ (p25). The fact that he says that this was the case ‘even before the Revolution of 1905’ shows that he not only had himself in mind here, and a comparison with the text of Radek’s Paths of the Russian Revolution shows that it was Plekhanov who was intended by this remark.22 Trotsky’s analysis of how
18. For the opposition inside the Bolshevik Party, see Theses of the Left Communists (1918), Critique, 1977; Robert V Daniels, The Conscience of the Revolution, Oxford, 1960, pp70-91; Ronald L Kowalski, The Bolshevik Party in Conflict, London, 1991. Some Left Communists such as the ICC describe the signing of the Brest-Litovsk Peace as a betrayal even today. WN Ewer, ‘The Birth of the Soviets’, The Daily Herald, 26 April 1919, p8. William Paul, ‘Trotsky’s reply to Churchill’, The Socialist, no 212, Volume 18, 8 May 1919, p197. Segal, op cit; Carmichael, op cit. Plekhanov became a defencist during the First World War. ‘The Plekhanov group’ to which Trotsky refers on page 32 was the extreme right wing of Menshevism, grouped around the pa-

19. 20. 21. 22.


the peasantry, normally a diffuse and disorganised class, was made compact and politically active by the war (pp25-6) is developed in much more detail in Radek’s The Driving Forces of the Russian Revolution.23 Trotsky similarly makes no further attempt to explain that if the Menshevik and SR majority in the Soviets before November 1917 had broken its coalition with the Provisional government ‘the struggle of the proletariat for power would naturally shift to the floor of the Soviet organisations, and would proceed in a painless fashion’ (p36). The evidence for this lies in Lenin’s writings, best summarised by Victor Serge.24 ‘Ensign B—’ who disarmed the cadets in the Pavlovskoye and Vladimirskoye military academies in November 1917 (p78) can now be identified with Raskolnikov’s younger brother AF Ilyin-Zhenevsky (1894-1941).25 The reason for Trotsky’s refusal to identify him is probably because at the time of the Brest Litovsk negotiations he was playing a central rôle in the construction of the Red Army, which in the spring of 1918 would only lay him open to reprisals. But the best guide to what Trotsky actually means is usually Trotsky himself, in his later full-length history. His strange remark that the revolution ‘really began’ in 1912, for example (p25) is explained by his discussion of the strike wave figures showing the recovery of the combativity of the working class after the defeat of the 1905 revolution in the later book.26 Paradoxically, the faults of brevity and compactness that Carmichael and Segal see in this book make it an ideal publication for today. Much of what has passed for revolutionary theory for a generation now is frankly academic, exhausting in length and mind-bogglingly abstruse. Young people coming into the movement are bewildered by the apparent wealth they see before them, rather like the story of the emperor’s new clothes. But here we have a textbook demonstration of how theory and practice relate together, easy to handle for the beginner and set in the framework of an enjoyable narrative. He gets basic lessons in revolutionary theory, politics and organisation all at the same time, along with a grounding in the history of the greatest conquest ever made by the working class. And when so many who claimed to be revolutionaries for so long are so anxiously burying the Russian Revolution and all it stood for, this defence by a superb exponent of both the weapon of criticism and the criticism of weapons remains as clear and convincing as the day it was written.

23. 24. 25. 26.

per Yedinstvo. Radek also points to the contributions of Kautsky, Parvus and Rosa Luxemburg in applying Marx’s theory of permanent revolution to Russian conditions: ‘The Paths of the Russian Revolution’, In Defence of the Russian Revolution, London, 1994, pp35-40. K Radek, ‘The Driving Forces of the Russian Revolution’, In Defence of the Russian Revolution, pp21-2. V Serge, ‘Lenin in 1917’, Revolutionary History, Volume 5, no 3, Autumn 1994, p22. FF Raskolnikov, Kronstadt and Petrograd in 1917, London, 1982, p309; AF Ilyin-Zhenevsky, The Bolsheviks in Power, London, 1984, pp x, 6-25. Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, pp55-7.


Rolling Your Own
A Guide to Forming Your Own Political Group
Another blow to the socialist movement and to this magazine was the sudden death of John Sullivan last October. An expert on Spanish politics, John was also responsible for a number of satirical pieces on the British left, and readers will be delighted to learn that Socialist Platform has recently republished John’s peerless Go Fourth and Multiply and When This Pub Closes. The essay below, which was written during the mid-1980s, has not previously appeared in print. *** I: The Material Base ONLY incurable idealists can believe that a viable group can be formed without a material base. You will need to maintain yourself while you write the key documents which expound your theory and develop your programme. Many potentially viable groups used to fall at this first hurdle, but fortunately the Department of Employment’s Enterprise Allowance Scheme (EAS) now gives you £40 per week (but for only one year) while you do the preliminary spadework which will establish whether your group has what it takes to survive in the competitive world of political sects. Formally, political and religious projects do not qualify for the EAS, but the helpful officials at the Department of Employment inform us that the technical difficulty can be avoided if you describe your group as a research agency. If there are half a dozen of you, register with the EAS as a cooperative; if there are more of you, individuals should register as separate schemes, which need not amalgamate until you are at the stage of issuing a journal and going public. The research project will be more plausible to the EAS if you are a social science graduate, but that is seldom a problem, as few people feel ready to launch their own group while they are undergraduates. II: Franchising Before embarking on the onerous task of elaborating your own ideology, ask yourself: ‘Do I really need to?’ Why not apply for the British franchise of an existing International? Recent bust-ups have left some Internationals without a British franchisee (Lambert) or with one which they are dissatisfied with (Mandel, Moreno). You may be pleasantly surprised at the latitude which Internationals allow franchisees in their domestic policies as long as they accept the International’s line on matters of faith and doctrine. If you become a franchisee, you will have the considerable advantage of becoming the recipient of a body of theoretical work which no new group could produce quickly. Those reluctant to accept a franchise sometimes argue that they do not relish having to defend the record of long-established groups in countries which they know little about. That will probably be less of a problem than you might think. Po-

John Sullivan


tential members of your group will be impressed by the existence of prestigious allies, and will be prepared to accept their correctness, rather than agonise about the intricacies of the labour movement in foreign countries. A Friendly State? Should you aim to be the franchisee of a state, not just of an International? It is a possibility, but do be careful. The officials who determine such things usually demand a proven track record. You should also remember that currently popular dictators can easily become discredited. If you think you are up to this, then neither the North Koreans nor Romanians currently have a British franchisee. If you do put in such a bid, insist that you are publicly recognised as the authorised agent. Groups which have acted as unrecognised supporters of specific regimes have often been shabbily treated. In this area, it is not better to be a mistress than a wife. III: Ideology We recommend that you choose between one of two options.  Invent a doctrine which only you understand. You will then be the sole repository of truth and judge of its application (examples Gerry Healy – WRP, David Yaffe – RCG). Potential dissidents will be in the unenviable position of a grumbling peasant faced with a priest’s fluent Latin.  Discover an obscure, preferably dead, theoretician whose thought you can interpret. You will, of course, need to master the appropriate language. Resist the temptation to invent an imaginary figure, as such a ploy would soon be unmasked. It is too late to choose a major figure as a surprising number of people have read Trotsky or Bukharin. But what about Brandler, Thalheimer, Bordiga or Sacristan? For all we know, there may be obscure gems which would glow in the mystifying half-light of translation. There are, for example, Japanese Marxists whose thought processes are incomprehensible to the Occidental mind. A partnership with a Japanese who can write English (but not too clearly) might net you a marketable product. Whether you choose option A or B, it is essential that you study the accounts of existing groups in As Soon As This Pub Closes in order to differentiate your own group from what is already on offer. IV: Recruitment The dense population of existing political groups makes this the most daunting task of all. Having accomplished tasks 1 to 3, do we sally out to the highways, byways and Labour Party branches to trawl for support? Some people in Labour Party branches where all the activists already belong to entrist groups have suggested that the scene is too crowded and that it would be sensible to aim at hitherto untouched social strata such as manual workers, women without higher education and the low paid. We take the point, but all the market research shows that you should stick to the existing market, rather than pursue a new untried one on working-class housing estates. That market consists of students and members of a few white collar unions (NALGO, NUT, AUT, NATFHE). Purely student groups do not survive. Neither do those who recruit significant numbers of manual workers. Why, in any case go to the trouble of recruiting, people completely new to politics when there are about 600 people leaving the Socialist Workers Party each year and a proportionate number from the smaller groups. Concentrate on such people, but avoid ex-members of Militant, whose limited conceptual abilities cripple them once they cut loose from their

organisation’s guidance. Once you become established, you might pay some attention to members of Anti-Apartheid and Friends of the Earth. We do not propose to give more detailed advice here as you should get used to ad-libbing. However, we are cooperating with five separate ventures all still at the EAS stage. We suggested that the projects be amalgamated, but all five refused, alleging irreconcilable differences of principle.

Isaac Deutscher as a Prophet
Another friend of New Interventions who died last autumn was the labour movement historian Walter Kendall, who died after a long and debilitating illness. As a tribute, we republish his critical assessment of Isaac Deutscher which first appeared in the New Interventions pamphlet Isaac Deutscher 1907-1967 in 1992. *** SOMEWHERE in the voluminous tomes of his journalism and historical commentary (I believe in Heretics and Renegades but in a hurried search have been unable to unearth and confirm the precise text), Isaac Deutscher writes that our own age has been one analogous to that which followed the Great French Revolution: One might see that the Revolution of 1789 had been ‘betrayed’, one might be unable to support the men and the monarch that now controlled the French state. Yet one could not oppose them either; for that would be to fall into the camp of reaction and (very often) absolutist monarchy. For the prescient man (or woman), political activism was no longer possible. One must remain ‘au dessus de la Mêlée’, seek to comment upon events and enlighten the combatants concerning the great issues of the day.1 Deutscher saw himself, it seems to me, very much in the same light, this the titles of his three-volume history of Trotsky’s life and times — respectively the Prophet Armed – Unarmed – and Outcast — themselves demonstrate. Deutscher certainly saw himself as a prophet, and once he had been involuntarily expelled from the Communist Party of Poland, once he had subsequently broken (probably with good reason) from the nascent Trotskyist movement, finally freed himself from the moil and toil of day-by-day journalism, he certainly sought to act in the fashion that such a world-view might demand. There are two points at issue here: firstly, the extent to which Deutscher was genuinely an objective observer ‘au dessus de la Mêlée’; secondly, the validity of his expectations, the extent to which his own prophecies have been validated or invalidated by the subsequent course of
1. I finally found this extract, of which I have given my own paraphrase, but only after this article had closed for the press. It appears on pages 20-22 of Heretics and Renegades. Readers can decide for themselves whether I have properly given Deutscher’s sense. They may be surprised to observe, what I had forgotten, that Deutscher implicitly compares himself with Jefferson, Goethe and Shelley.

Walter Kendall


events. Nor is this in any sense an idle exercise. Deutscher was very much a man of his time. Deutscher’s writings were, I believe, immensely influential, they both shaped and in turn reflected the attitudes of a large part of ‘informed’ public opinion at the time in which they were published and written. A judgement on Deutscher is in large degree a judgement on a generation and seems worthwhile undertaking even for this reason and this reason alone. Given the limitations of time and space, I will restrict myself to two volumes, each readily accessible to the general reader. The first, from which I take a single text, is the very revealing volume of essays entitled Heretics and Renegades, which appeared in 1955. The second, from which I abstract more fully, is the work entitled The Great Contest: Russia and the West, which was published by the prestigious Oxford University Press in 1960. Deutscher’s style is a fascinating one, at times orotund, always seemingly precise, appearing astonishingly well-informed, confident, secure, he gives the impression of one who has visited the very inner recesses of the soul of ‘History’, upon his return, out of sheer good will, tells us for nothing what he has there discovered, all unveiled and for the first time. A clear judgement on the Russian Revolution which has dominated so much of our recent epoch is contained in a passage from the essay ‘Two Revolutions’ which appears in Heretics and Renegades. Few anticipations can have been more misplaced. ‘In the countries which France united with her territories’, Deutscher tells us that the historian Sorel found occasion to write: ‘she proclaimed her principles, destroyed the feudal system, and introduced her laws. After the inevitable disorders of war… this revolution constituted an immense benefit to the peoples.’ This judgement, two centuries later, the present author considers will be widely, although by no means universally, accepted. Deutscher now goes on to consider the case of the Russian Revolution which he considers analogous to that of France. ‘I do not believe that the verdict of history on the Stalinist system of satellites will be more severe than it has been on the Bonapartist system’, he opines. Few anticipations can have been more misplaced. Over the last few years, we have seen the disintegration of the (‘socialist’) command economies, the discrediting and final dissolution, then the banning of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, a headlong rush to ‘capitalism’ undertaken by the first elected Russian President backed by a whole galaxy of informal advisors, and with it would seem the tacit, if not explicit, support of the large majority of the population. The true ‘conquests’ of October, by contrast, melt like the winter snow before bright spring sunshine, in front of our very eyes. Of the four essays which comprise the 86 pages of The Great Contest, three were specifically commissioned by the wealthy Dafoe Foundation, and delivered before specially invited audiences under the auspices of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs in turn at Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg. The fourth was specially prepared for an audience at the University of Manitoba. One presumes therefore that Deutscher gave serious consideration to preparing these texts for his lectures, and yet more deliberation before deciding to give them final printed form. This their subsequent publication under the title The Great Contest: Russia and the West makes quite plain. The quotations which I intend to use originate in the main from Deutscher’s last chapter entitled ‘East and West: The Implications of Coexistence’, and deal with the probable outcome of ‘peaceful competition’. The prehistory of the command economy, of Stalinist authoritarian ‘socialism’,


can be briefly summarised. In 1920, Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin, Stalin, Zinoviev, the whole party leadership at first believed that through ‘War Communism’ they could march directly to utopia, ‘rifle in hand’. The result was unparalleled disaster. Then population was reduced to beggary, cities became deserts, millions died of cold and hunger and disease. The New Economic Policy, a shamefaced return to capitalist methods of production, restored prosperity. Then in 1928 came the launch of the First Five Year Plan. At the Seventeenth Congress in 1934, the party proclaimed ‘the foundations of socialist economy’ to be ‘built’. The Eighteenth Congress in 1939 went further, and asserted that socialism had been achieved ‘in essentials’. Khrushchev, full of optimism, at a time in which it appeared that previous high growth rates would go on for ever, promised that full communism would be achieved ‘between 1975 and 1980, provided we have no war’. The Twenty-Second Party Congress in 1961 adopted a new programme which promised that by 1980 national income would increase four times over, industrial output go up six times, labour productivity increase three to five times, real incomes rise by 250 per cent. The long-suffering Russian people will be able to obtain enough consumer goods, ‘want will have been fully and finally eliminated’, and that even before this date ‘all sections of the population will get good and high-quality foodstuffs’. By 1981, ‘consumer demand will be met in full’, the working day would be down to 35 hours (spread over five days). Soviet workers ‘would have the shortest working day in the world’. Every family would have its own ‘separate, comfortable apartment’, ‘rent free’. These changes would be made possible by a massive upsurge in the level of Soviet industrial production. ‘In 20 years’, the new programme declared, ‘Soviet industry will be producing nearly twice as much… as is produced by the whole non-Soviet world’. The average annual increase in Soviet industrial output would be ‘not less than nine or ten per cent’. By 1981, ‘the material and technical basis for communism’ would be well and truly laid, the productivity of labour in the Soviet Union would be the ‘world’s highest’. Output per head of the population would be unsurpassed. Soviet national income would overtake that of the USA in the 1970s; ‘by 1980 our country will leave the United States far behind’; ‘the socialist system will account for about two-thirds of the world’s industrial output’. Isaac Deutscher, in these years a most highly regarded authority on Soviet affairs, wrote around this time that the Soviet Union would be ‘the wealthiest… [and] freest country in the world — at least as free as any country in the West’ well before the 1980s were out. In his widely acclaimed and highly influential Great Contest which appeared in 1960, Deutscher discovered in the Soviet Union ‘an extraordinary richness of thought… the approach of momentous changes… like an historic act of birth’. Russia was ‘pregnant with new world-shaking thoughts’. We were about to ‘witness another flowering of the Russian intellect and culture… worthy of the traditions of Mendeleyev and Pavlov, of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Chekhov, of Plekhanov, Lenin and Trotsky, a flowering which will surpass these traditions and in which the world as well as the Soviet Union will rejoice’. Russia was about to challenge the whole West in open economic competition. Thus ‘the economic ascendancy of the Soviet Union tends to place a huge question mark over the structure of Western society’; ‘Western capitalism will succumb… because of its inability to match the achievements of socialism’. Thus ‘in their Committee for Economic Mutual Assistance [Comecon, now disbanded — WK]… the Russians have set up the nucleus of an international planning authority… [the] planned


international division of labour… [begins] to move economically beyond the nationstate, towards some form of international society’. The ‘communist Common Market’, Deutscher prophesied, ‘will form an entity which, in the last quarter of this century, may be four or five times as large as the North American market, and twice as large as a combined North American and Western European market would be’. Nor was this all. In ‘ten years from now’, that is to say in 1970, Deutscher quite specifically foretold that ‘Soviet standards of living… are certain to be above Western European standards, by 1984 the Russian working day would be down to ‘not more than four or even three hours’. The USSR would achieve economic parity with the USA in the 1960s; ‘by 1965 the Soviet Bloc will produce more than half the world’s economic output’, would end the state monopoly of foreign trade, ‘adopt a policy of Open Doors’, confident that it would triumph in free competition. In the Western world, ‘the popular appeal of communism will… become irresistible... by the time of the next social crisis in Western Europe communism… [will] place itself at the head of the peoples’. Revolution, one was left to assume, would naturally follow. The victory of Soviet-style communism throughout the world would be assured. None of this came about. Soviet growth rates, far from stabilising at around nine or ten per cent a year, steadily declined, were down to about a quarter of these figures by 1989, and were set to decline to zero well before the end of the century. Soviet real consumption in 1976 stood at around 35 per cent of US levels. Soviet Gross National Product in 1980 had still to surpass two-thirds that of the USA, let alone two-thirds of that of the capitalist world as a whole. The overall situation in the former Eastern Bloc satellites was at this time, by and large, no better. In Poland, the economy was in a state of collapse, living standards had plummeted by around 25 per cent in the last few years. In Romania, the masses existed at a level of penury and deprivation unthinkable in Britain even during the worst of the wartime years of isolation and submarine blockade. Likewise Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the former Un-Democratic German Republic were each confronted with economic and political crises that it was beyond the wit of their selfappointed leaders to resolve. ‘The rest’, as they say in the movies, ‘is history’. Gorbachev now indicated that in case of need the Brezhnev Doctrine no longer held, the Soviet military would no longer come to the aid of any satellite state threatened by internal disorder. The Hungarians opened their border to Austria. A trickle of East Germans fleeing the Un-Democratic German Republic by this route, became first a stream, then a torrent, finally a kind of tidal wave which in its consequences and concatenations, swept all the Eastern Bloc communist regimes away. Nor was the Soviet Union for whole decades praised as the ‘Fatherland of all Toilers’ to be exempt. The Gorbachev reforms finally outran their initiator altogether. The Soviet Union disintegrated into a series of largely independent states. The command economy has been abandoned. The Russian leadership of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the other smaller states no less, seek to build capitalism under the guise of the market economy, in its place. On 11 November 1992, the Russian President Boris Yeltsin lunched with the Queen in Buckingham Palace, and invited her to dine in the Kremlin in return, an offer which we understand was gratefully accepted. So where stand the high hopes, the fulsome expectations which Deutscher boldly enunciated not so long ago? They are shattered and disproved by ‘History’, every one. Already, even now, barely a matter of months, a few short years from the time of the Soviet-Eastern Bloc collapse, it seems scarcely credible that such wildly


misplaced expectations could ever have been seriously entertained at all. If Deutscher genuinely believed himself an impartial observer ‘au dessus de la Mêlée’, he was most grievously mistaken. His work will increasingly be regarded less as ‘History’ and more as ‘Apologetics’. The new waves of students, of socialist activists, will find such triumphal self-delusion a matter for wonder, will be greatly puzzled to understand why so many of the best minds not just of one, but more nearly two whole generations could have been so wilfully self-deceived. For make no mistake, Isaac Deutscher was not alone. The fulsome Introduction to the 1969 reissue of Heretics and Renegades, written by one widely regarded as the veritable doyen of Soviet Studies, will serve as but one example to make this plain, stating that ‘in the last 15 years of his life’ Deutscher was ‘much more effective a student of Soviet affairs than the multitudes of critics who have sought discredit [what they termed] his Utopianism and optimism’. There existed ‘solid grounds for the faith and optimism of which Isaac Deutscher was so persuasive an expositor’. The piece is signed, with proper modesty, EH Carr, Trinity College, Cambridge.

Eric Shelton Jones (1919-2003)
Eric Jones, a former member of the Editorial Board of New Interventions, died last year after a long illness. The following is the text of the eulogy read by Cilla Taylor at Eric’s funeral. *** MIKE Taylor and I have known Eric since 1980, when he moved from Kew to Windsor. However, his connections with Slough were even earlier, as he had taught chemistry at Slough College (now Thames Valley University) from 1954. He taught there, full-time and later part-time until 1984, giving 30 years of stalwart service. Mike met Eric through Communist Party politics, and I met Eric through Mike. What struck me about Eric was that he had an enquiring, interesting and energetic mind. He asked stimulating questions, and he read widely and voraciously on a variety of subjects. He had a wonderful book collection in his home in Wood Close, Windsor, and his shelves were lined with books like an Oxford don’s room. It was stimulating being in his company. Above all, he was interested in Marxist philosophy, and also in science and politics. He wanted to make the world a better and a more just place. He was very committed to Marxist philosophy and to science, which he saw as the tools for making the world a more humane place. This was what fuelled him and drove him on. He was also keen on the practical applications of science, and was passionately interested in environmental matters. He liked to quote Francis Bacon, the late sixteenth-century philosopher and scientist, who when asked what was the point/use of science, replied that science is ‘for the merit and the emolument of life’. He had read Silent Spring (1962) by Rachel Carson, an inspiring book on the effects of synthetic pesticides on the environment, and this also fuelled his thinking. He was a great campaigner and committed fighter against injustice. For years he was involved in the trade unions, the Co-op, CND (the Campaign for Nuclear


Disarmament), the Labour Party and the Communist Party. Also he was very much involved in the Windsor Poll Tax campaign. In conjunction with the Slough industrial chaplain, Bob Nind, Eric set up the Slough branch of the Ecumenical Committee for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) in the summer of 1994. Since then it has merged with the World Development Movement and Oxfam. In the early 1990s, Eric set up in London the Marxist Forum for Philosophy and Science. I remember in 1997 Eric being very enthusiastic about chaos theory and grappling with quantum theory and dialectics. He described quantum theory as ‘weird’, ‘contradictory statements at the same time’, and that ‘it blows the brains out’. It stretched even Eric’s outstanding scientific brain, but he was very enthusiastic to grasp it because if one could master quantum physics, it would be a key to understanding nature and the universe. His lectures on science and philosophy held at Mike and Bonnie Ambrose’s house in Windsor in 1987 were outstanding. He took a prominent part in the Christian–Marxist dialogue initiated by Father Tim Russ, the Catholic priest of Our Lady of Peace Church, Burnham–St Andrews Shared Church. The discussions were held at the house of Phyllis Wallbank and Rev Newell Wallbank, a retired Anglican vicar. Eric also enjoyed the arts, including classical music, Tchaikovsky rather than chamber music. He also enjoyed cycling, and in his 70s cycled to Vine House, near Basingstoke. He did admit that he took the train back home, but one way is quite an achievement. Also he went to Brittany on a cycling holiday. He loved literature including Oscar Wilde and the plays of George Bernard Shaw. He strongly recommended the American writer, Jack London, author of People of the Abyss, a fantastic book and social commentary of the East End of London in the early twentieth century, and The Iron Heel published 1907, a fantasy of the future that is a terrifying anticipation of fascism. Eric enjoyed his food, and had a variety of cookery books in his extensive book collection. He loved Chinese food, and we went several times with him to his local Chinese restaurant in Windsor, and have good culinary memories. He enjoyed travel and we had a wonderful weekend with him in Calais in the summer of 1997, a few months before he fell ill. He loved France and got in the spirit of it all. Above all, he loved Wales and went to North Wales around two years ago on a holiday, and caught up with his roots. Eric was a strong personality, and sometimes sparks flew and feathers were ruffled in the Marxist Forum when there were disagreements. He could be intolerant at times in meetings if people disagreed with him intellectually. In many ways, he was a man with a mission, not a religious missionary, but he had the crusading zeal of a missionary. His message, however, was secular, not spiritual. He was larger than life in many ways. He enjoyed life and he lived life to the full. He appreciated the finer things of life: a glass of wine, good food, going out to Saville Gardens, etc. Eric did not believe in an afterlife, but I do, and I am convinced that he is now enjoying the afterlife, and is having dialogue with Communists, Christians and Jews. Mike Taylor adds: I knew Eric through the Communist Party of Great Britain, where Eric and I did not always agree. However, we came to share very similar views. Eric invited me to join the discussion group that became the Forum for Marxism, Science and Philosophy. This group managed to unite former CPGB members


and former Trotskyists in a fraternal discussion group which ranged very widely. The group produced a few issues of a modest magazine. Eric also joined the editorial board of New Interventions, which had similar aims. Eric was probably more interested in the science and philosophy than some of the other participants. In his 70s, he went back to university with a project to investigate an interesting problem relating to controlling chaos in a particular chemical reaction. He continued to explore new ideas even after his stroke laid him low and he had to go into a home. Another one of the mourners said that his reach was beyond his grasp. It was meant as a criticism, but I consider it a compliment.

Intervening in Abyssinia
In 1935, Italy ruled the colony of Eritrea, next to Ethiopia (then called Abyssinia). Italy had tried to invade Abyssinia before. Following a border incident in late 1934, Mussolini began to assemble troops to attempt another invasion. The Emperor of Abyssinia, Haile Selassie (‘Power of the Trinity’), appealed for help to the League of Nations, an association of states dedicated to world peace, and dominated by Britain and France. On 4 September 1935, the League appointed a Committee of Five to report on the threat of war. On 18 September, the committee proposed that in order to support Abyssinia’s independence and development, the League should provide European specialists and advisors to make the country a virtual economic protectorate. In the final mix, Italy’s interests would also be acknowledged. This was the document that CLR James discusses below. The question can be raised: should we not support international action to promote peace and progress? Perhaps there are lessons here for those who have recently defended ‘humanitarian intervention’. In the event, Mussolini rejected the League’s plan, and ordered his army and Blackshirt legions to invade. Sanctions threatened in the House of Commons never materialised. However, Sir Samuel Hoare, the architect of a further peace plan which simply let Italy keep those parts of Abyssinia that it had already conquered, was swept from office by the force of public opinion. Bob Archer has kindly given Revolutionary History Editorial Board members access to John Archer’s papers for cataloguing and possible publication. John Plant found the following article and letter by CLR James among John Archer’s file on James. The article appeared in The New Leader, the weekly paper of the Independent Labour Party, on 4 October 1935, and the letter — a remarkable document — appeared in the issue for 5 June 1936. ***

CLR James

Is This Worth a War? The League’s Scheme to Rob Abyssinia of its Independence
BELOW will be found a full analysis of the League of Nations Report on Abyssinia.


The author, CLR James, is a Negro and Socialist. He is chairman of the Finchley ILP. He writes fiercely. He says that it is ‘a brazen lie’ that the British government is defending the independence of Abyssinia, and passionately warns British workers against being led to support League sanctions in order to put a ‘stranglehold’ on the Ethiopian people. Only independent and united action by the British and African workers can overthrow imperialism. ‘Gallant little Belgium’ was bad enough, but ‘the independence of Ethiopia’ is worse. It is the greatest swindle in all the living history of imperialism. The British government, having mobilised world opinion and many of its own workers behind it, has put a stranglehold on Ethiopia, as tight as anything Italian imperialism ever intended. The proposals of the Committee of Five expose the brazen lie that any independence is being defended. The document is short and concise. The public services of Ethiopia will be divided into four departments: Police and Gendarmerie, Economic Development, Finance, and Other Public Services. As usual with imperialist banditry masquerading under the name of law, the means of repression stand first on the list. The Foreign ‘Specialists’ Foreign specialists will organise a corps of police and gendarmerie, which will be responsible for ‘strictly regulating the carrying of arms by persons not belonging to the regular army or to the police or gendarmerie forces’, in other words, disarming the people. This group of specialists will be responsible for ‘policing centres in which Europeans reside’, and ‘ensuring security in agricultural areas where Europeans may be numerous and where the local administration may not be sufficiently developed to provide them with adequate protection’. Thus the local population being disarmed will be taught the proper respect due by black men to white in imperialist Africa. Mussolini was going to do the same. But he rather stupidly demanded the disbandment of the army. These foreign specialists will not disband the army. The army will be allowed to carry arms. Egypt, which is also independent, has an army of only 10 000 men, so ill-equipped that they are useless for anything except to show how independent Egypt is! The regular army of Ethiopia has never been large. The strength of the country has always been in the fact that the whole population was the army. Once the gendarmerie has done its work, imperialism can go safely ahead with civilisation. Under Section II, Economic Development, foreigners will ‘participate in land tenure, mining regulations, exercise of commercial and industrial activities’; also public works, telegraphs, etc, all the things imperialism needs for its trade. It will be the same old exploitation that is going on in every part of Africa today. First, the imperialists called the exploited areas colonies; next, protectorates; then, mandates. Now it is ‘helping a sister nation’. The name will make little difference to the native deprived of his arms, herded into compounds, working in mines at a few shillings a week without trade union protection, with special police and gendarmerie to teach him the way he should go. He has preferred his feudal slavery. He will look back to it in years to come as to a golden age. Section III, Finance, shows that the League advisers will also be responsible for


‘assessment and collection of taxes, fees and dues’. How they will revel in it! Loans also (from which the City will grow fat), and ‘control of pledges assigned to the service of the loans’. This means that, as in China and other parts where imperialism has been ‘helping’ the native ruler, customs and similar dues will be collected by the imperialists at once and sent to investors in Europe. Britain can default, but Ethiopia, like India, will have to pay if the native sweats blood. After the service of the loans will come the paying of salaries, money for the gendarmerie, telegraphs, roads, railways, etc. The balance will then go to education, etc — as we can see in India after over 200 years of British rule, where the percentage of illiterates is over 90. Section IV deals with justice. The mixed courts which try cases between foreigners and Europeans will be ‘reorganised’. Also there will be a reorganisation of ‘native justice’. We recommend in this connection the study of the report published last year on native justice in British East Africa. Who will apply all this assistance to the long-lost sister nation of Ethiopia, so happily found at last? First, the police and gendarmerie. Wherever European settlers live in great numbers, and on the frontiers, the gendarmerie ‘will participate in general administration to an extent varying according to the standard reached by the local authorities and the nature of the problems to be solved’. Carte blanche. But even elsewhere the imperialists will not leave anything to the Ethiopian government at all. Each of these four sections will have at its head a ‘principal adviser’ sent by the League. These four will have above them a chief, who will be a delegate of the League of Nations accredited to the Emperor. If this League Emperor is not specially appointed, then the four advisers will themselves elect a chief. These gentlemen, in addition to controlling police and gendarmerie, finance, commerce and justice, also ‘must be able to rely on the effective cooperation of the Ethiopian authorities’, and this even where they have not got special powers. Better still, there is going to be a central organisation both to coordinate the work of the assistance services and to secure for them ‘the necessary support of the Ethiopian Government’. The League Emperor and his advisers will thus do as they like in the country and have the full support of the Ethiopian government. The delegate and the principal advisers will, of course, be appointed by the Council of the League, ‘with the agreement of the Emperor’. Thus he can choose between British Imperialist No 1 or No 2 or French Imperialist No 3 or No 4, or Swedish No 1 or Belgian No 2. How much choice will he have? Hobson’s Choice But more than that. The Emperor will not be able to appoint freely a single one of the staffs of these advisers. The advisers will submit names to him from which he can choose, or even if he appoints some agents the League adviser will have to give his endorsement ‘according to the nature and importance of their functions’. Finally, what control, even nominal, will the Ethiopian people, or even the Emperor, have over all this? None whatever. These advisers, will ‘make reports which will be communicated to the Emperor at the same time as they are addressed to the Council of the League’. Thus, the advisers are not to be bothered with the Ethiopian government at all, which, however, will be able to ‘submit to the Council any observations it may wish to formulate in regard to these reports’. At the end of five years the plan is to be reviewed. But, by this time, imperialism will have sunk its teeth and claws so deep into the country that nothing but a revolution by


the Ethiopian masses will ever hack them out. The imperialists have been after Ethiopia for a long time, and they have got it at last. All that Italy gets, however, is a promise of her predominant interests to be recognised. It isn’t good enough. Musso the Monkey put his fingers into the fire, but the British lion has snatched the nut. No wonder Garvin, in Sunday’s Observer,1 shouts that it isn’t fair, that Mussolini should have some, enough at least to show Italy that Fascism is not all bluff and does bring home the goods some time. If war is averted this way, then Eden and Laval can go back home, carrying peace with honour, and enough of Ethiopia to keep the home fires burning a little longer. Now is there any British worker, any Negro in Africa, who, having understood this infamous document, is prepared to urge League sanctions and follow the imperialists in their defence of the ‘Independence of Ethiopia’? Having got the Emperor to agree to all they wanted, the imperialists have now remembered their treaty obligations and begun to allow arms to go in. A shipment from Belgium has arrived; also anti-aircraft guns from Switzerland. The French are getting ready to protect the railway from Djibouti to Addis Ababa. This is to ensure the little sister nation Ethiopia getting arms and supplies during the war. The British worker, the Negro anxious to help Ethiopia, should keep himself far from this slime, which may so soon become blood. Use Your Own Power Workers of Europe, peasants and workers of Africa and of India, sufferers from imperialism all over the world, all anxious to help the Ethiopian people, organise yourselves independently, and by your own sanctions, the use of your own power, assist the Ethiopian people. Their struggle is only now beginning. Let us fight against not only Italian imperialism, but the other robbers and oppressors, French and British imperialism. Do not let them drag you in. To come within the orbit of imperialist politics is to be debilitated by the stench, to be drowned in the morass of lies and hypocrisy. Workers of Britain, peasants and workers of Africa, get closer together for this and for other fights. But keep far from the imperialists and their Leagues and covenants and sanctions. Do not play the fly to their spider. Now, as always, let us stand for independent organisation and independent action. We have to break our own chains. Who is the fool that expects our gaolers to break them?

Fighting for the Abyssinian Emperor2
Sir May I make my position in regard to fighting for Abyssinia clear? Early last year I offered myself through the Abyssinian Embassy here to take service under the Emperor, military or otherwise. My reasons for this were simple. International Socialists in Britain fight British imperialism because obviously it is more convenient to do so than to fight, for in1. 2. JL Garvin edited the Observer throughout the 1930s. Under his editorship, the paper maintained a right-wing line, showing sympathy for the foreign policy objectives of the fascist states. The letter was found in John Archer’s papers with the following inscription: ‘PS: A comrade sent me this cutting from New Leader, 5 June 1936, after my article was submitted — JA.’ It is not clear to whom the PS was addressed, or to which article Archer refers.


stance, German imperialism. But Italian capitalism is the same enemy, only a little further removed. My hope was to get into the army. It would have given me an opportunity to make contact not only with the masses of the Abyssinians and other Africans, but in the ranks with them I would have had the best possible opportunity of putting across the International Socialist case. I believed also that I could have been useful in helping to organise anti-Fascist propaganda among the Italian troops. Actual Experience And finally, I would have had an invaluable opportunity of gaining actual military experience on the African field where one of the most savage battles between capitalism and its opponents is going to be fought before very many years. As long as the Emperor was fighting imperialism I would have done the best I could. The moment, however, any arrangement had been come to which brought the country within the control of European imperialism a new situation would have arisen, and I would have identified myself with those bands, hundreds of thousands of them, who are still fighting, and for years are going to carry on the fight against imperialistic domination of any kind. I did not intend to spend the rest of my life in Abyssinia, but, all things considered, I thought, and still think, that two or three years there, given the fact that I am a Negro and am especially interested in the African revolution, was well worth the attempt. Unfortunately, Dr Martin, the Minister, told me that he thought my work with the International Friends of Ethiopia would better serve the struggle against Italy. When, however, that body decided to support League Sanctions and possibly lead British workers to what Marxists knew from the start would be an imperialist war, I broke at once with the society. Faithfully yours CLR James London

A Happy Land Far Far Away?
Fellow-Travelling With Sir Bernard Pares and Sidney and Beatrice Webb
To Moscow, to Moscow To have a quick look. Home again, home again Write a fat book. THAT was the response of a cynical poet to the 1930s phenomenon of fellow-

Paul Flewers


travelling.1 We are talking here about the ‘Red Decade’, the time when a wide variety of people became enamoured with the Soviet regime, or at least with various aspects of Soviet society, and when many of them were willing at best to give the regime the benefit of the doubt, and at worst to forgo any real sense of objectivity. It was a decade during which the Soviet Union underwent a remarkable process of economic transformation under a series of Five Year Plans, being forcibly and rapidly transformed by the regime from a largely rural society into a major industrial power. It was also a decade during which the country endured a period of tremendous hardship, frightful terror and gross inhumanity. Of course, not everyone succumbed to the lure of Stalinism, right-wing conservatives, free-marketeers of the Hayek school and the non-Stalinist Marxist left kept a respectable distance from Moscow, and many liberals and moderate conservatives and social democrats treated the Soviet Union as a gigantic pick’n’mix, accepting its economic planning and welfare measures, whilst firmly rejecting the political system. But the 1930s did see a remarkable array of intellectuals become infatuated with the ‘socialist sixth of the world’.2 The odysseys of Sir Bernard Pares and Sidney and Beatrice Webb — from a rejection of Bolshevism to an identification with Stalinism in the mid-1930s — show the manner in which the development of the Soviet Union under Stalin could exert an attraction upon previously critical observers. In one sense, they represented two different schools of thought. Pares — a pioneer of Slavonic studies in Britain — was a liberal, whilst the Webbs — I am not alone in treating the Webbs as a singular phenomenon3 — were a brace of Fabian reformist socialists. In another sense, their mutation by the middle of the 1930s into effective apologists for Stalinism made them outstanding representatives of a typical trend of the decade. Both Pares and the Webbs show the contradictory pressures that the Soviet Union exerted on thinkers during the 1930s. Pares’ acceptance of the legitimacy of the Soviet regime after 1935 sat uncomfortably with his lifelong commitment to liberal values, and forced him to resort to what can most kindly be called wishful thinking about the possible evolution of the Soviet Union. The Webbs’ conversion to a position of an enthusiastic endorsement of the Soviet regime — or, to be more precise, to what they imagined that regime to be — fitted in to a great degree with their Fabian étatist views, yet stood at odds with their domestic political approach, which was very much gradualist and parliamentary. Neither the Webbs nor Pares saw the Soviet system as something suited to Britain, and both shared a contemptuous attitude towards the indigenous Communist Party.4 Paradoxically, the lingering unease that Pares and the Webbs felt about certain aspects of Soviet society, together with their previously critical stance, may well have made their positive appraisal appear more
1. 2. 3. Samuel Selwell, ‘Bloomsbury-Bolshie Ballads’, Adelphi, March 1933, p94. In respect of this, see David Caute, The Fellow Travellers: A Postscript to the Enlightenment, London, 1973; Paul Hollander, Political Pilgrims: Travels of Western Intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China and Cuba, 1928-1978, New York, 1981. As do others. For example, in his obituary of Beatrice Webb, Leonard Woolf stated that whilst as personalities they were quite different, so far as their political and theoretical work went, they constituted ‘a composite personality’ (L Woolf, ‘Beatrice Webb (1858-1943)’, Economic Journal, June-September 1943, p284). Beatrice Webb called the Communist Party of Great Britain ‘a ludicrous caricature of a revolutionary movement’ (N and J MacKenzie (eds), The Diary of Beatrice Webb, Volume 4, London, 1985, p289). Pares was no less dismissive, see his Russia and the Peace, Harmondsworth, 1944, p157.



credible than the uncritical writings of, say, DN Pritt or John Strachey.5 I: Bernard Pares: The Belated Liberal Convert Bernard Pares was born in 1867, and after a public school and university education, became interested in Russia, making regular visits there between 1898 and 1914. Politically a liberal, he had close contacts with Russian liberals, and spent a fair amount of time in Russia during the First World War, establishing close contacts with prominent individuals in both the Tsarist administration and the Provisional Government, before returning to Britain in September 1917. Pares was a pioneer in the development of Slavonic studies in Britain. He started up the School of Russian Studies at Liverpool University in 1907, and from 1919 was a central figure at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at the University of London, eventually resigning as its Director in 1939. In 1922, he and Robert Seton-Watson launched the Slavonic Review (later the Slavonic and East European Review), which was for many decades the only academic journal published in Britain that dealt with Eastern Europe and Russia. Pares has been praised for being one of the few academics who saw the necessity ‘for the extensive and systematic study of Eastern Europe at a time when its need was scarcely recognised’.6 A bitter opponent of the Bolsheviks, Pares was sent by the British government to Siberia in early 1919 to liaise with anti-Bolshevik forces. He worked mainly with Admiral Kolchak, in order, so he recalled, to explain to the public the nature of the British intervention and the need for a government in Russia based upon a constituent assembly. It seems to have escaped Pares’ mind that the Omsk Provisional AllRussian Government, which represented the very political forces that supported the concept of a constituent assembly, had been dispersed by a Cossack coup and replaced by Kolchak’s dictatorship shortly before his arrival. He returned to Britain at the end of 1919 to resume academic work, and to speak against ‘the application of Bolshevist principles and programme’ in Britain. His antipathy towards the Soviet regime — a full-blown uncompromising anti-communism that owed more to conservatism than to his professed liberalism — led Moscow to turn down his requests to visit the Soviet Union for the next 16 years, and he was not to return to Soviet territory until the very end of 1935.7 For a decade and a half, Pares maintained a concerted campaign against Bolshevism through articles in the press and at his very popular lectures. Ever hopeful of the return of liberal democracy to Russia, he continually predicted the demise of the Soviet regime, and warned British governments not to lower their guard against the revolutionary menace emanating from Moscow.8 And then something strange happened. In early 1935, Pares was attacking the Soviet regime in his customary style. Equating the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany,
5. Strachey, the chief promoter of Stalinised Marxism in Britain in the 1930s, split from Stalinism in 1940, but Pritt, a Labour MP until 1940 and apologist for the Moscow Trials — indeed, he could be described as a budding British Vyshinsky — never deviated from it until his death in 1972. Walter Laqueur, ‘In Search of Russia’, in W Laqueur and L Labedz (eds), The State of Soviet Studies, Cambridge, 1965, pp4-8. B Pares, My Russian Memoirs, London, 1931, passim; Moscow Admits a Critic, London, 1936, pp8ff; A Wandering Student: The Story of a Purpose, Syracuse, 1948, passim. See, for instance, ‘Government Warned Against the Soviet — Sir B Pares Decries Dealings with Russia — Regime Doomed — Topical Lecture at Swanwick’, Derby Daily Telegraph, 21 November 1929; ‘Peril to Britain’, Yorkshire Post, 18 July 1933, cuttings in Pares papers PAR/1/6.

6. 7. 8.


he flayed out at Stalin’s rule, lambasting ‘the wholesale manufacture of the slave soul’, the ‘wholesale massacres’, the ‘wholesale atmosphere of suspicion, espionage and evasion’, the ‘wholesale compelling of all wills to knuckle under in every detail of life and thought to one’, and ‘the terrible regime of timber and other camps’.9 Yet only a few months after this uncompromising assault, Pares had made his first authorised trip to the Soviet Union, and his opinion was to change radically. The general impression of the Soviet Union that Pares now presented was that the worst aspects of the upheavals of the early 1930s were over, and that things were definitely getting better. Admitting that most of his stay was limited to Moscow, and he was unable to ascertain conditions outwith the capital, he noted that people seemed well fed, the shops were well stocked, and although elderly people still felt hardship, there was no evidence of pauperism, and there were no beggars or homeless waifs. Like many observers, he was greatly impressed by the factory and farm he visited, as he was by the Bolshevo model prison — weren’t they all? — the nurseries, educational and cultural facilities, although he was disconcerted by the excision of Trotsky, literal in some instances, from the displays in the museums.10 Pares considered that the Soviet Union was approaching a new NEP. Uneasy after Hitler’s victory in 1933, and wishing to maintain the status quo in Europe, the Soviet regime hoped to safeguard its position in a dangerous world by allying with the Western democracies, and having completed the most vigorous stages of construction, it was moving towards a more constitutional form of government, as it was ‘sincerely anxious to obtain the goodwill of the population as a whole’.11 Pares was cheerfully optimistic, and as the economy was now running smoothly and scapegoats were thus no longer required to cover for economic failings, the wreckers’ trial could ‘pass into the background’. Despite being a little uneasy about the ‘ubiquity’ of Stalin, there was a positive side: ‘It is almost as if communism were being absorbed into the other peculiarities of Russia, or, to change the metaphor, as if after the revolution we had Napoleon.’ And despite the usual antipathy of Englishmen and Russians, and no doubt especially of Russophile Englishmen, towards Napoleon, this was not meant in any negative sense.12 Elsewhere, he considered that ‘communism as a world challenge’ was in retreat, and that the newly-revived Comintern was merely ‘an organisation for propaganda behind the fronts of enemy countries… an adjunct of national defence’.13 Extending his lecture circuit to include fellow-travellers’ meetings and conferences,14 he informed his audiences that Stalin had restored certain property rights to the peasantry, and had given up trying to eradi9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. B Pares, ‘New Trends in Eastern Policies’, Slavonic and East European Review, Volume 13, no 39, April 1935, pp533, 543-4. Pares, Moscow Admits a Critic, op cit, pp35ff. Ibid, pp11, 20. Pares seems to have forgotten that whilst the NEP liberalised the economy, it was accompanied by a final clampdown on rival political parties and the start of the erosion of political debate within the Soviet Communist Party itself. Ibid, pp20, 34, 91. B Pares, ‘The Isolation of Russia’, Listener, 16 December 1936, p1146. Pares addressed the West Central London Branch of the Friends of the Soviet Union on 6 May 1936, the flyer advertising it stated: ‘He was a convinced opponent of the Soviets.’ (Friends of the Soviet Union flyer, nd, my emphasis) Pares also provided a foreword for the official British text of the 1936 Soviet Constitution (Constitution (Basic Law) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Draft), London, 1936, p27), and spoke to a big assembly of the Congress of Peace and Friendship with the USSR in March 1937 (see letter from the CPF to B Pares, 17 March 1937, Pares PAR/7/9/1).


cate religion and the family.15 Pares still had his complaints. The odd paragraph in Moscow Admits a Critic shows that he did not like the political restrictions upon academic work, and he hinted that there were still some three million people in concentration camps. 16 But all in all, the verdict was largely in favour of Moscow. Despite its prickliness over adverse comments, it could be fairly said that Pares was one critic whom the Soviet regime could well admit into its embrace. As if to spite Pares’ forecast of imminent liberalisation, the first Moscow Trial took place a mere two months after his book appeared. Apart from being a little doubtful about the alleged association of the defendants and Trotsky with the Gestapo — links between Jewish communists and Hitler’s secret police were a bit hard to credit! — Pares was all too ready to accept the validity of the trial: Personally, I am clear that there were plots in the Left Opposition aiming at the murder of Stalin and other prominent officials. There would be nothing unintelligible in this. Stalin has constantly been accused of lukewarmness in the cause of the world revolution, and the past history of Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev, bred like Stalin himself in the atmosphere of conspiracy, is in keeping with such a belief.17 The widespread suspicions about the validity of the Moscow Trials passed Pares by. He declared that most of the defendants admitted ‘conspiring together against Stalin’, and it was ‘not necessary that we should doubt them, in whatever way their evidence was originally obtained’. He concluded with a remark that deserved a prize for sheer fatuousness: ‘The bulky verbatim reports were in any case impressive.’18 He assured his readers that the purges fell mostly upon members of the Communist Party, and ‘precisely on those fanatical champions of world revolution’ who followed Trotsky. Moreover: ‘Stalin has put himself forward as the friend of the man in the street, and removed one after another local officials who had grown old in the abuse of their authority.’ So with, on the one hand, this brisk taming of the bureaucracy, and, on the other, the introduction of a series of social and political reforms and a return to more conventional morality, Stalin had ‘tended to create a real body of national support behind the government’.19 In his acceptance of the trials and purges, Pares went considerably further than many other sympathetic observers, who recoiled at the more violent aspects of Soviet life. Pares reached his nadir with the secret trial and execution of the Soviet marshals in June 1937. Not only did he blithely accept the validity of the main accusation against them — ‘there was really a plot to eliminate, and of course kill, Stalin’ — he also endorsed the accusation that they met their demise because they had refused to break off relations with the Wehrmacht high command after Hitler had come to

15. 16. 17. 18. 19.

‘Communism on the Retreat in Russia’, Hampstead and Highgate Express, 3 March 1939, Pares PAR/1/6. Pares, Moscow Admits a Critic, op cit, pp72, 91. B Pares, ‘The Russian Situation’, Slavonic and East European Review, Volume 15, no 44, January 1937, p347. B Pares, Russia, Harmondsworth, 1940, p202. He told his lecture audiences that allies of Trotsky were engaged in the ‘deliberate wrecking’ of machines (‘Russia Since the Last War’, Midland Daily Tribune, 8 November 1941, Pares PAR/1/6). B Pares, ‘Russia’s Role Today’, Listener, 20 April 1939, p818.


power: ‘For this Tukhachevsky and his comrades paid with their lives.’20 So irrespective of whether they were plotting to eliminate Stalin, or merely hobnobbing with now unfavoured opposite numbers abroad — quite different degrees of criminal behaviour, one might think — that was their lot, and quite right too. A strong advocate in the late 1930s of an Anglo-Soviet alliance, Pares’ stance on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in August 1939 was contradictory. Unlike the Stalinists and their allies, who saw it as a blow for peace, he recognised that it gave Hitler the chance to avoid a fight on two fronts. Yet he insisted that it ‘was never an alliance, whether political, military or economic’,21 and that the Soviet advance into Poland was intended to prevent the Wehrmacht from driving too far eastwards. 22 He denounced the Soviet invasion of Finland, yet qualified his opposition almost out of existence by recalling Stolypin’s remark to him that he, Pares, would scarcely like a border with a foreign country at Gravesend.23 Moreover, his insistence that ‘there were no Quislings and no fifth column’ in the Soviet Union after the German invasion on 22 June 1941 was soon shown to be absurd,24 and his subsequent works failed to mention the fact that alone amongst the Allied states, the Soviet Union provided Hitler with a massive Quisling army. Once the Soviet Union had joined the Allies in June 1941, Pares was in his element. As domestic patriotism intermeshed with an explosion of pro-Soviet feelings, he threw himself into the work of presenting the new ally to the British public. On behalf of the Ministry of Information, he both embarked upon a gruelling schedule of meetings on the Soviet Union, and helped to brief official spokesmen who addressed other gatherings. He stated that the wartime enthusiasm for the Soviet Union was not merely because of its steadfast resistance to the Nazi forces: ‘We were ourselves, in our own chosen way, now living collectively, as was inescapable in the conditions of a besieged city, and the community principle was at the root of the Russian resistance.’25 Needless to say, Pares’ change of heart attracted attention. The exiled Russian liberal Adriana Tyrkova-Williams accused him of having become ‘a veritable troubadour of a new Stalin’, whilst Malcolm Muggeridge drew a very unfavourable comparison between his Moscow Admits a Critic and Walter Citrine’s much more critical book I Search for Truth in Russia.26 Other reviewers found Pares’ book a disappointment, and claimed that there was ‘little to differentiate this small book from any casual traveller’s passing impressions’.27 On the other hand, the left-wing journalist Mostyn Lloyd stated it was ‘rather absurd’ to see Pares’ book as ‘the recantation of a converted sinner’. It was sensible to praise the Soviet regime’s social achievements, and he added that Pares’ ‘love of Russia and the Russians’ had ‘always transcended his dislike of Bolshevik principles and methods’, as if this could

20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27.

Pares, Russia, op cit, pp202-3. Pares, Russia and the Peace, op cit, p18. B Pares, A History of Russia, London, 1947, p587, and New York, 1966, p545. Pares, Russia, op cit, pp248-9. Pares, A History of Russia, op cit, p592 (1966 edition). Pares, A Wandering Student, op cit, p372. A Tyrkova-Williams, contribution to debate in H Wickham Steed, ‘The Anti-Bolshevist Front’, International Affairs, Volume 16, no 2, March 1937, p195; M Muggeridge, ‘When Knights Are Bold’, Fortnightly, August 1936, pp151-3. JL Stocks, ‘Two Visitors to Russia’, Manchester Guardian, 24 July 1936, Pares PAR/1/6. See also Man O’Moray, ‘The New Russia’, Edinburgh Evening Dispatch, 29 July 1936, Pares PAR/1/6.


convincingly explain his new outlook.28 Being praised by the hard-line Stalinist Pat Sloan for his stance on the Moscow Trials was not particularly edifying and could not have endeared Pares to his old friends,29 but it was logical, as he more or less endorsed the Stalinist line on this and many other issues, as critical reviewers noticed.30 Pares emigrated to the USA during the war, and continued his academic work there. However, his calls for East-West understanding were rapidly submerged in the rising tide of the Cold War, and he died in April 1949, lambasted on the one side by Cold Warriors, and on the other by American Stalinists.31 II: Sidney and Beatrice Webb: Stalin’s Fabian Fan Club Unlike Pares, the lives of the Fabian theoreticians Sidney and Beatrice Webb have been described in detail,32 and need not be more than touched on here. Born in 1859 and 1858 respectively, and married in 1892, Sidney and Beatrice Webb were by the end of the century seasoned authors with a long list of published works. Lynch-pins of the Fabian Society, a moderate socialist think-tank, the Webbs combined an incurable élitism with ultimate technocratism. Their idea of socialism was the precise ordering of society, with everything planned out in advance, and everyone working to that plan. Society was to be a well-oiled machine, run by disinterested experts standing above the political mêlée. Like the Liberal collectivists, they believed in ‘a deliberately organised society’ and ‘the application of science to human relations with a view to betterment’, but whereas the Liberals looked to ‘the existing governing class’: We staked our hopes on the organised working class, served and guided, it is true, by an élite of unassuming experts who would make no claim to superior social status, but would content themselves with exercising the power inherent in superior knowledge and longer administrative experience.33 The Webbs’ top-down conception of socialism meant that democracy would be strictly circumscribed, and certainly would not mean the masses running their own affairs, except in respect of the most mundane issues. Leadership had to remain with ‘an élite of unassuming experts’. It is no surprise that many socialists considered that the Webbs’ concept of socialism would merely lead to the replacement of the capitalist class by a new ruling élite.34 Nor can one be surprised that Beatrice Webb’s diaries contained many snide comments about the working class and socialists who sided with them,35 and that the Webbs were amongst those left-wingers who were in fa28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. CM Lloyd, ‘Russia Revisited’, New Statesman, 25 July 1936, p128. P Sloan, ‘Moscow Trials’, Spectator, 26 February 1937, p360. ‘The Listener’s Book Chronicle’, Listener, 1 May 1941, p642; ‘Modern Russia’, Times Literary Supplement, 25 January 1941, p46. See his son Richard’s introduction to the 1966 edition of A History of Russia, op cit, p xiv. See, for example, Lisanne Radice, Beatrice and Sydney Webb: Fabian Socialists, Basingstoke, 1984. M Cole and B Drake (eds), Our Partnership by Beatrice Webb, London, 1948, p97. See Logie Barrow and Ian Bullock, Democratic Ideas and the British Labour Movement, 1880-1914, Cambridge, 1996. The Webbs’ élitism is carefully discussed by Terry Austrin, ‘Fabianism and Stalinism’, Critique, no 27, 1995, pp21-52, and Marcel Liebman, ‘The Webbs and the New Civilisation’, Survey, no 41, April 1962, pp58-74. In 1916, she sneered at the ‘labour men’ elected to representative bodies, calling them ‘mere office-mongers’ compared with ‘men of trained intelligence or even with experienced middleclass administrators’ (N and J MacKenzie (eds), The Diary of Beatrice Webb, Volume 3, London,



vour of eugenics.36 At first the Webbs opposed the Bolsheviks, paradoxically not because of their anti-élitist appeal, but because, as Beatrice wrote in 1920, the Soviet state was ‘the most rigid form of state socialism’, and ‘the “servile state” in being… a servile state run by fanatics’ who had no respect for ‘the “bourgeois fetish” of personal freedom’.37 She subsequently condemned the Soviet system as ‘a repetition of Russian autocracy’, and added that a regime founded on violence and ruled by ‘a militant minority’ would hardly be capable of democratising itself.38 And yet a clue to her future allegiance to Stalinism can be seen in her shockingly contemptuous attitude towards the victims of the famine that raged in the Soviet republic in 1922: Russia to me is not much better than China — and whoever suggested… subscribing to save a Chinaman from death by famine? The always present doubt whether by saving a Chinese or Russian child from dying this year, you will prevent it from dying the next year, together with the larger question of whether those races are desirable inhabitants, compared to other races, paralyses the charitable impulse. Have we not English children dying from lack of milk?39 Beatrice Webb’s attitude towards democratic freedoms was decidedly ambiguous. In 1926, after a trip to Sicily, she thought that Mussolini’s regime was ‘a ghastly tragedy’ for intellectuals, yet added: ‘To the ordinary man… the Mussolini government is a relief from anxiety and bother: there is more efficiency and regularity and honesty in public and private affairs.’40 And no doubt the trains ran on time, too. Here, one can see a condemnation of official restrictions upon intellectuals — people like her and her husband — and a contemptuous attitude towards ‘the ordinary man’. As late as 1928, Beatrice Webb doubted if living conditions for the Soviet masses were any better than under the ancien régime. She concluded that the ‘oligarchy’ openly considered that its ambitions justified its ‘uncompromising dictatorship’ and ‘the employment of any amount of force, and even of drastic oppression of individual dissentients’.41 What almost certainly pushed the Webbs into eventually dropping most of their qualms and qualifications about the Soviet Union was the great economic crash in the USA in 1929, its after-effects around the world and the feeble efforts of the Labour government to deal with them in Britain, and the contrast posed by the great advances the Soviet Union was making under the First Five Year Plan. As the plan swung into action, Beatrice Webb recognised that only in the Soviet Union was there a government which understood that a state could not ‘guarantee livelihood except
1984, p271). Workers’ control was ‘the fumbling of the workers in their own limited affairs’. She hoped that the General Strike of 1926 would represent ‘the death gasp of that pernicious doctrine of “workers’ control” of public affairs through the trade unions, and by the method of direct action’ (N and J MacKenzie, Volume 4, op cit, pp77, 97). See Diane Paul, ‘Eugenics and the Left’, Journal of the History of Ideas, Volume 45, no 4, October 1984, pp567-8. N MacKenzie (ed), The Letters of Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Cambridge, 1978, p141; N and J MacKenzie, Volume 3, op cit, p361. N MacKenzie, op cit, pp176-7, 207. N and J MacKenzie, Volume 3, op cit, p394. N and J MacKenzie, Volume 4, op cit, p68. B Webb, ‘Introduction’ to A Wicksteed, Life Under the Soviets, London, 1928, pp vii, xiii-xiv.

36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41.


under the conditions of a managed population’.42 She was dividing the Soviet population between leaders and led, or, more accurately, managers and managed, with the implication that the former had the right to ‘manage’ the latter, and there is something sinister in her emphasis of the word ‘managed’ in view of her acknowledgement as late as February 1931 of the brutal way in which Stalin’s regime ‘managed’ its population.43 The fruit of the Webbs’ new-found fondness for the Soviet regime was Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation?. First published in December 1935, it was republished with additional text and without the ? in 1937.44 A gigantic tome of over a thousand pages, Soviet Communism in many ways covered familiar ground, as its authors reiterated, if at inordinate length, many of the points previously made by members of the pro-Soviet lobby. As such, it rapidly became a leading symbol of 1930s fellow-travelling, although one wonders how many purchasers of this impressive-looking but tediously dull book actually managed to finish it, or even got beyond the first hundred pages. Generally speaking, the Webbs were very impressed with the Soviet Union. The government had taken on a task that no other had ever undertaken: No government outside the USSR has ever frankly taken as its task the complete recasting of the economic and social life of the entire community, including the physical health, the personal habits, the occupations and, above all, the ideas of all the millions for whom it acts — in short, the making of a new civilisation.45 And it had done very well indeed. It had developed a vast planned industrial sector, and had successfully collectivised agriculture. It had made great advances in scientific research and application. It had implemented equal rights and facilities for national minorities and women. Its cultural and social policies and achievements were a wonder to be seen. There was still much to be done, and the implementation of some schemes was behind schedule, but all in all things were going wonderfully well. A planned, ordered, new civilisation was being constructed before one’s very eyes. Naturally enough, the Webbs were very interested in the institutional organisation of the Soviet Union, and vast slabs of Soviet Communism were devoted to intricate descriptions of the machinery of Soviet bodies at all levels, from the village committees at the base of the great pyramidal structures to the All-Union executives at the summits. Cooperative, trade union and planning bodies did not escape their attention, and they too were described at great length. The Webbs were at pains to prove the democratic credentials of the Soviet Union. The country had ‘a government instrumented by all the adult inhabitants, organised in a varied array of collectives’, based upon democratic centralism, ‘an up42. 43. 44. N and J MacKenzie, Volume 4, op cit, p219. Ibid, p239. S and B Webb, Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation?, London, 1935; S and B Webb, Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation, London, 1937. A further edition appeared in 1944, and was republished in 1947. The main text of the first edition was not altered in the second and third editions, and any changes consisted of additional introductions and chapters covering events occurring since 1935. Unless otherwise stated, all references here are to the 1937 edition, which was aptly distributed by the Left Book Club. Webb, Soviet Communism, op cit, p107.



ward stream of continuously generated power’, which was ‘transformed at the apex into a downward stream of authoritative laws and decrees’. They emphasised the participation of the general population in the myriad local and factory committees, and in the planning process.46 However, this support for popular participation was heavily qualified. The Webbs emphasised on several occasions that decisions made in Soviet institutions could always be negated by higher organs, and implicit throughout this book is the supremacy of ‘centralism’ over ‘democratic’ in the governmental structure. They repeatedly condemned the concept of workers’ control as parochialism — indeed, with barely disguised glee, they noted no less than four times how the Soviet government wound up the practice of workers’ control in the factories — and having judged that consumers and producers were only interested in their own narrow interests, insisted that the organs of planning must be firmly centralised, although they did graciously permit workers to propose their own counter-plans in the factory which would increase — but seemingly never reduce! — local plan targets.47 And so, for all their talk of democracy, the Webbs’ élitism was clear. For them, a public meeting of any size ‘without intellectual leadership’ was ‘but a mob’, and so an agency was necessary to give that leadership and thus avert anarchy — and that agency was the Communist Party. The party was the undisputed legitimate leadership of the Soviet Union, and its members at all levels were not merely serving the community as ‘principal administrators’ when in office, but were ‘continuously educating, inspiring, guiding and leading the whole people’. Party membership was not a job, but ‘the vocation of leadership’, with a place in society not unlike the Jesuits in a Roman Catholic country, and it required adhering to a stringent political and personal discipline, and giving leadership to the nation as a ‘life-duty’. Regular purges cleansed the party of careerism, ‘disgraceful personal conduct’, deviations from the party line and factionalism, and thus maintained its moral rectitude.48 The Webbs denied that the Soviet Union was ruled by a dictatorship, and certainly not by any single man. There was ‘everywhere elaborate provision’ for ‘collective control’ over collegiate decisions and personnel appointments ‘at any stage of the [institutional] hierarchy’, and ‘in any branch of administration’. As for the party, it could only issue directives to its own members, and it could only influence the public through persuasion. Stalin was no dictator, he was the wrong sort of character for that role. A leader, yes, but one who worked carefully with his colleagues, and was loved by the population, as one could tell by the hero-worship he evoked.49 In sum, the party’s leading role at all levels in national affairs was accepted by the Soviet population: If it exercises power, it does so by ‘keeping the conscience’ of its own members, and getting them elected to office by the popular vote. Even when not holding public office, the party members act as missionaries among the non-party citizens in the organisations of every kind throughout the USSR. It is in this way that the party secures the popular consent

46. 47. 48. 49.

Ibid, pp7, 51, 67, 416-7, 450, 645, 739. Ibid, pp31, 65-6, 72, 166-9, 301-3, 604-8, 645, 689-90, 700-3, 739. Ibid, pp6-7, 339-41, 374ff, 417. Ibid, pp429ff.


to, or at least the popular acquiescence in, the policy that it promotes.50 Other familiar fellow-travelling themes emerge in Soviet Communism. The Webbs insisted that there was no famine in 1932-33, but merely local hardships caused by ignorant peasants who did not know what was good for themselves,51 and who were sometimes whipped up by anti-Soviet agitators into sabotaging the new collective agriculture. The GPU’s management of the White Sea canal project was praised, particularly in respect of the convict labourers, who, ‘realising that they were engaged on a work of great public utility’, entered into the spirit of things by engaging in ‘socialist competition’, ‘gang against gang, locality against locality, as to which could shift the greatest amount of earth’. Their attitude towards the Moscow Trials was less triumphalist than some, but they nonetheless managed to give an explanation that accepted the regime’s assertion that the defendants were guilty of treason.52 After appreciating the regime’s abortion facilities in the first edition of the book, the Webbs subsequently justified the official clampdown on abortion in the later editions, without either explaining or acknowledging the contradiction.53 They endorsed the use of wall newspapers and other devices to humiliate less efficient workers, and hailed the growing differentials in workers’ pay, the increasing use of piece-work, and the giving of privileges to shock-workers.54 The technocratic Webbs placed more emphasis than many fellow-travellers upon the replacement of private property in the Soviet Union by economic planning. Not only did the overthrow of capitalism permit the ending of vested interest, it would ensure that a greater proportion of the nation’s resources, both material and human, could be put into operation and used more efficiently, and the wasteful competition, unemployment and boom-and-slump cycle of capitalism would be overcome. Moreover, as the overthrow of capitalism ended the exploitation of the working class and thus removed the basis for class struggle, there were no reasons for workers to go on strike. They were certain that the growth of inequalities would not lead to the emergence of new classes, and they assured their readers that the existence of differing social strata (as opposed to ‘distinct social classes’, which had disappeared) merely showed a functional difference amongst the ‘intellectual leaders’, lesser post-holders and workers, and were of little importance.55 Like Pares, the Webbs were not totally satisfied. Having waxed eloquently upon the ultra-democratic credentials of the regime, and stated that the only prohibitions on expression were against expressions that were ‘fundamentally in opposition’ to the regime, they then proceeded to complain about the ‘disease of orthodoxy’, the treatment of the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin as a holy writ, and the ‘deliberate discouragement and even repression… of independent thinking on fundamental social issues’. As the future progress of humanity relied upon ‘the power
50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. Ibid, pp340-1. Over a year before the Webbs’ book appeared, one critical observer condemned this sort of reasoning, see WH Chamberlin, ‘Russia Through Coloured Glasses’, Fortnightly Review, October 1934, p391. Ibid, pp258ff, 590, 1152. The third edition of Soviet Communism (op cit, p437) asserted that there was no ‘fifth column’ in the Soviet Union because the Moscow Trials had dealt with ‘these undesirable citizens’. Both the second and third editions of Soviet Communism carried the two contradictory texts. See pages 826-33 and 1202-6 in the 1937 edition, and 670-4 and 962-5 in the 1947 edition. Webb, Soviet Communism, op cit, pp701-3, 749, 761-7, 1206ff. Ibid, pp169-73, 630ff, 703, 719, 796.


to think new thoughts, and to formulate even the most unexpected fresh ideas’, this ‘highly infectious’ disease was in danger of cramping people’s creative powers. Rooting it within ‘the concentration of authority in a highly disciplined vocation’, it had led to ‘an atmosphere of fear among the intelligentsia, a succession… of accusations and counter-accusations, a denial to dissentient leaders of freedom of combination for the promotion of their views’, and was particularly virulent amongst ‘the less intelligent of the rank and file’ of the party.56 And like the question of abortion, the contradiction between this complaint and their insistence upon the democratic nature of the regime remained neither explained nor acknowledged. Ultimately, the Webbs were not concerned about democracy in general. An article by Sidney Webb in 1933 echoed his wife’s sentiments about the question of freedom in Mussolini’s Italy. On the one hand, he was concerned that the inability of citizens to express ‘any fundamental objections’ to the regime would eventually stifle the necessary development of new ideas, whilst, on the other, he claimed that Soviet workers enjoyed remarkable freedom of expression, as they could freely criticise their factory management. It is clear that his assertion that it was ‘prudent’ for workers not to show ‘doubts’ about the regime lest they became suspected of being counter-revolutionaries was not so much a caution against their engaging in political dissidence than an imprecation to be grateful for small mercies. Altogether, the concern shown by the Webbs over the ‘disease of orthodoxy’ had little to do with intellectual freedom, and much more to do with freedom for the intellectual.57 It was not hard to criticise and poke fun at the Webbs. The right-winger Arnold Lunn called them ‘decent and kindly folk’ living amidst ‘a curious blend of uplift, mutual improvement societies, high teas and advanced revolutionary ideals’, who would be ‘completely happy in heaven’ if given ‘some population statistics to play with, or a cherubim or two to cross-index’. Striking a more serious note, he stated they were ‘bureaucrats by passionate conviction… fascinated by a state every aspect of which was controlled by an all-powerful bureaucracy’.58 This infatuation with bureaucracy and the power of the state did not go unnoticed. An exiled Russian liberal declared: If the power of the state is unlimited, and that power is practically exercised by one party whose power is overwhelming, when all that was once believed to be inviolable — the natural rights of the individual — has passed into dreamland, when the greatest crime is, as the authors endorse, the crime against such a state, we are indeed at the turning point where a ‘new civilisation’ is in the making.59 The Webbs were criticised for being more interested in the plans than in the results — ‘nothing is gained by mistaking the word for the deed’ — for relying too much on the Moscow Daily News propaganda sheet, and for failing to subject official state-

56. 57. 58. 59.

Ibid, pp42, 913, 997-9, 1132, 1212-3. S Webb, ‘Freedom in Soviet Russia’, Contemporary Review, January 1933, pp13, 19. A Lunn, Revolutionary Socialism in Theory and Practice, London, 1939, pp90-1. Alexander Meyendorff, ‘A New Picture of Soviet Russia’, Contemporary Review, March 1936, pp283-4. The left-wing intellectual Harold Laski raised the same concerns, see ‘Book Reviews’, Political Quarterly, Volume 9, no 1, January 1938, pp130-3. A decade later, Laski made the same point, then praised ‘the richness of this remarkable book’ (H Laski, The Webbs and Soviet Communism, London, 1947, p20).


ments to criticism.60 They were accused of using ‘the most amazing dexterity’ to highlight Soviet achievements ‘while obscuring the more unseemly developments’: ‘The result is a great mass of information filtered so thoroughly as to be almost wholly free of the homely tang of reality.’61 William Beveridge criticised them for failing to show how planning could supplant the price mechanism in an economic system.62 Trotsky asked rhetorically how in 1200 pages they could avoid any reference to ‘the Soviet bureaucracy as a social category’, and replied that they effectively wrote their book ‘under its dictation’.63 EH Carr felt that their ‘verbal contortions’ to prove the democratic nature of the Soviet Union betrayed ‘twinges of an old-fashioned liberal conscience’ that would be rejected by official communists as rotten liberalism.64 Perhaps they were in private, but, apart from insisting in a somewhat patronising manner that there was much in the book that appeared ‘to fall short of complete inner understanding’ and which could ‘be usefully subjected to critical discussion’, Rajani Palme Dutt, the main theoretician of British Stalinism, was well pleased with their work.65 Praise came from other familiar quarters, including the US fellow-travelling journalist Louis Fischer, and the New Statesman listed it as ‘probably… the most important political book’ in its ‘Best Books of 1935’.66 Moreover, it was also heavily used by writers, as if its size alone made it a work of genuine authority. Hence the leading British Stalinist Johnny Campbell used it to ‘prove’ the level of popular participation in Soviet institutions,67 and, showing a flagrant disregard of the eighth commandment, the Christian socialist Noreen Blythe plundered it unmercifully to show the wonders of Soviet society.68 But even friendly reviewers insisted that they naively understated the level of ‘dragooned uniformity’ in their new civilisation.69 Writing Soviet Communism was an exhausting effort for our two ageing Fabians, who were both hitting 80 years of age by the late 1930s, and in declining health. Their allegiance to Moscow was tried by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the subsequent partition of Poland and invasion of Finland, but their faith was restored after June 1941, when the Soviet Union took on the might of the Wehrmacht. Rather fittingly, Beatrice Webb died in April 1943, when the Soviet Union was held in high esteem in Britain. Sidney Webb, on the other hand, died in October 1947, amidst the opening salvos of the Cold War that would see the eclipse of the fellow-travelling spirit that Soviet Communism above all symbolised. III: The Lure of Stalinism So what made Pares and the Webbs run? Pares always denied that he was an apologist for the Soviet regime. His much reprinted A History of Russia continued to excoriate Lenin for building a ‘totalitarian party’ and his party for ‘terrorising’ their op60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. JB Condliffe, ‘USSR’, International Affairs, Volume 15, no 3, May 1936, pp464-6. Violet Conolly, ‘USSR’, International Affairs, Volume 17, no 5, September 1938, p735. W Beveridge, ‘Soviet Communism’, Political Quarterly, Volume 7, no 3, July 1936, p362. LD Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed: What Is the Soviet Union and Where Is It Going?, London, 1937, p132. EH Carr, ‘Russia Through Fabian Eyes’, Fortnightly, February 1936, p244. R Palme Dutt, ‘Notes of the Month’, Labour Monthly, January 1936, pp3-26. L Fischer, ‘The Webbs on Russia’, New Statesman, 7 December 1935, pp895-6; ‘Best Books of 1935’, New Statesman, 25 January 1936, p124. JR Campbell, Soviet Policy and Its Critics, London, 1939, p153. N Blythe, Which Way Tomorrow?, London, 1938. AL Rowse, ‘Books of the Quarter’, Criterion, April 1936, p504.


ponents. Neither did he hide the horrendous course of Stalin’s collectivisation programme.70 But these were historical factors. Although he wrote cuttingly of ‘the ignorant and insipid adulation of everything that was Soviet, which so many travellers brought back from the escorted tours’,71 he had effectively made his peace with Stalin and Stalinism in 1935. Apart from his continued disquiet about the suppression of democratic rights in the Soviet Union, his criticisms of the system after that date were over isolated issues, best exemplified by his suspicion that the Soviet army had allowed the Nazis to smash the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.72 Even then, these discordant notes did not disturb the generally favourable tenor of his accounts. However, there is evidence that he could tone down his initial, more critical thoughts. He stated in an untitled typescript that the Stalinist take-over of Czechoslovakia in 1948 represented ‘the suppression of a superior civilisation by an inferior one’, yet his public rebuke in Russia: Its Past and Present was much milder.73 In a wireless broadcast in early 1939, Pares denied that he had any political agenda, and added that his lifelong business was ‘to study Russia in order to see where cooperation was possible between Russia and our own country in the best interests of both and to face frankly any obstacles to such cooperation’. 74 However, many others who, like Pares, demanded an Anglo-Soviet alliance in the late 1930s made no concessions to Stalin’s regime. So why did he downplay the repressive nature of Stalinism? He told a Devon audience in 1938 that he originally thought that the First Five Year Plan ‘would fail’,75 and its success must have impressed him. It is also very clear from his visit to the Soviet Union in 1935 that the country had made a good impression; it was a far cry from the chaotic, lawless mess he had seen in 1919, and, moreover, the regime was by the mid-1930s both retreating from what he saw as its more outlandish early ideas and practices, and using ‘all the enormous resources of Russia… for the good of the community — a grand idea’.76 With this in mind, he came to believe that the process of democratisation which he had expected to take place through the overthrow of the Soviet regime, was now being implemented by that regime. In effect, he succumbed to the very rationalisations born of superficial observations for which he condemned the fellow-travellers. With this reevaluation of the Soviet regime, and with his particularly passionate conviction in the possibilities and advantages of a close Anglo-Soviet relationship and East-West cooperation, a belief which he took right into the Cold War,77 he would not be inclined to bring to the fore the negative features of Stalinism. To this we must add Pares’ assessment of the role of the Soviet Union in the wider world. Since 1935, he had praised Stalin for having ‘publicly countered Trotsky’s programme of “permanent revolution” with one of common-sense construction at home’ and cooperation with any friendly foreign government, for having ‘definitely preferred to a foreign policy of revolution the association of the Western
70. 71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77. Pares, A History of Russia, op cit, pp537, 539, 566ff (1947 edition), pp495, 497, 524ff (1966 edition). Ibid, p578 (1947 edition), p535 (1966 edition). Ibid, pp547, 561 (1966 edition). B Pares untitled typescript, nd, Pares PAR/9/3/3, p3; Russia: Its Past and Present, New York, 1954, p205. B Pares, ‘Russia’s Role Today’, Listener, 20 April 1939, p817. ‘Russia Today’, North Devon Journal, 31 March 1938, Pares PAR/1/6. ‘Communism on the Retreat in Russia’, Hampstead and Highgate Express, 3 March 1939, Pares PAR/1/6. Pares, Russia: Its Past and Present, op cit, p215.


democracies against Hitler (especially during the Spanish Civil War)’, and for producing ‘not a generation of world revolutionists, but a new race [sic] of technicians, each with a vigour of purpose that was new to Russia in her work of home construction’.78 In other words, Stalin had housetrained official communism, starting at home, and the Soviet Union was no threat to the capitalist system. Over the final 14 years of his long life, Pares was regarded as a talented commentator who had been disoriented by unexpected developments in his field of study.79 A popular lecturer and author of many best-selling books, he rapidly became yesterday’s man after his death; these days he is almost forgotten. In retrospect, it is clear that Pares’ hopes for the democratisation of the Soviet regime were woefully optimistic, as, although high Stalinism expired with its author a mere four years after Pares’ own death, the Soviet Union did not democratise itself until it was at death’s door in the late 1980s. On the other hand, although Pares’ call for East-West cooperation was doomed to irrelevance in the decades of institutionalised hostility between the Soviet Union and the West, it is clear that he understood what the Cold War theoreticians were unable or unwilling to see, that having dropped the idea of world revolution once Stalin was in charge, the Soviet Union was a stabilising factor in global affairs, and was finished as a revolutionary Marxist force. Pares railed against the Cold Warriors who saw Stalinism as a global revolutionary force: ‘… to shift on to Stalin the old menace of his bitterest enemy Trotsky seems to me unpardonable and a travesty of all the facts.’80 In this crucial aspect, Pares was more aware of the essence of the international role of Stalinism than those who, in his words, ‘continued to talk of Russia in terms of 1917-21’.81 As for the Webbs, their transformation into apologists for Stalinism can be ascribed to wish fulfilment, a desire that made them forsake the critical attitude that is necessary for a scientific appraisal. Beatrice Webb wrote revealingly in her diary in April 1932: ‘All I know is that I wish Soviet communism to succeed, a wish which tends to distort one’s judgement.’82 To this one can add the Webbs’ unfamiliarity with the Russian language, and their consequential heavy reliance upon the regime’s English-language propaganda material, and their very limited first-hand knowledge of Soviet life. Much of Soviet Communism was lifted from official Soviet publications, and for the most part they merely retailed the impression which the regime wished to promote of an efficient governmental machine working in the interests of the population. They were oblivious to the evidence of many observers who noted the chaotic nature of the Soviet socio-economic formation, they poured scorn on those who tried to assemble a critique of Soviet society through systematising the problems, inefficiencies and abuses exposed in the Soviet press, and they dealt superficially with the critical material that they did bother to read. To take one example, they felt that the main thrust of Trotsky’s The Revolution Betrayed was against ‘financial inequality’, and completely overlooked his intricate analysis of the transformation of the Soviet party-state apparatus into a ruling élite. Furthermore, their understanding of bureaucratism was extremely superficial, viewing it as institutional inefficiency, rather than as a social phenomenon that could be — and in this case
78. 79. 80. 81. 82. Ibid. See ‘Russia’s History’, Times Literary Supplement, 17 January 1948, p31. Pares, A Wandering Student, op cit, p390. B Pares, ‘Britain and Russia’, Fortnightly, March 1942, p185. N and J MacKenzie, Volume 4, op cit, p284.


was — a core causal factor behind the rise of a new ruling élite.83 After decades of studying the generally reliable information published by government departments and non-governmental institutions in Britain, they were reluctant to question the veracity of Soviet statements and statistics. Ironically, for all the Webbs’ obsession with facts and figures, when challenged in a debate over the catastrophic decline in Soviet livestock — of which she was aware — Beatrice Webb retorted that this was ‘not the place for a detailed argument about statistics’.84 It is entirely logical that the Webbs only championed the Soviet Union after the democratic core of Bolshevism had been extinguished, and the party-state apparatus had become a self-conscious ruling élite. Bolshevism during and for some time after the October Revolution was permeated with a democratic ethos, best exemplified in Lenin’s State and Revolution, which was utterly alien to the Webbs. The Webbs were more inclined than Pares to re-evaluate positively the October Revolution, but they could never view it as the working class seizing and wielding power. By the mid1930s, they convinced themselves that the Soviet party-state apparatus was by now pretty much the selfless steward of a new civilisation, the ‘élite of unassuming experts’ managing in a humane manner the transformation of society in the interests of all, and that they had finally seen their dream of a well-ordered, efficient future coming to fruition in the present. They had quietly discarded their criticisms of the authoritarian aspects of Stalin’s regime, and even though they still had a few qualms, they were not going to let anyone ruin their otherwise beatific vision.

A Basic Guide to the Butler Report
Exam Question # 6: Write a brief report in the style of Lord Butler about at least two major historical events. 1. The Atomic Bomb was dropped on Japan in 1945 leading to horrendous loss of life. While it is true that it was the faulty intelligence of Mr Albert Einstein that came up with the idea that caused the bomb to be invented, it is the collective responsibility of humankind for having much too informal a system of creating things in the first place. 2. Napoleon visited Waterloo in all good faith. Those Butler Report Conclusions In Full I am satisfied that…  The Prime Minister was not dishonest except in good faith.  Weapons of mass destruction found.  Weapons of mass destruction concealed by George Galloway and Andrew Gilligan.  New information demonstrates Dr David Kelly was ‘probably right to kill him83. 84. Webb, Soviet Communism, op cit, p776, 1207, 1211-2. Mrs Sidney Webb [sic] and Wilson Harris, ‘Efficiency and Liberty: Russia’, Listener, 9 February 1938, p281. For her knowledge of Soviet livestock data, see Soviet Communism, op cit, p246.


self’ in the first place.  Mistakes were made but they were ‘not very bad ones’.  No mistake was made that can be traced to ‘any individual or any human agent’.  Boat should be left ‘unrocked’.  Recommendations made ‘but government may ignore them if they see fit’.  Most British soldiers ‘still alive’. In conclusion, I am satisfied that while no particular statement by the government on the subject of Iraqi weapons programmes turned out to be true or substantiated by evidence, and while there were was much evidence to suggest this both now and prior to the invasion, well… it hasn’t turned out too badly has it? I mean, our political system is better than Albania’s isn't it? So what are you worrying about? Come on, let’s draw a line under this, it’s getting boring. Continued page 9400.

Didn’t See The Same Movie
The Bankruptcy of ‘Third World Marxism’
The revolutionary movement that emerged in Britain during the 1960s was largely spared the antics of ‘Third World Marxism’, or Maoism. Here, Loren Goldner, a New York-based Marxist, takes a detailed look at the ‘Marxist-Leninist’ left in the USA, by means of a review of a recent history of the movement written by one of its leaders of the time. *** ‘The sleep of dialectical reason will engender monsters.’ WITHOUT exactly setting out to do so, Max Elbaum in his book Revolution In The Air,1 has managed to demonstrate the existence of progress in human history, namely in the decline and disappearance of the grotesque Stalinist–Maoist–‘Third World Marxist’ and Marxist-Leninist groups and ideologies he presents, under the rubric of the New Communist Movement, as the creations of pretty much the ‘best and the brightest’ coming out of the American 1960s. Who controls the past, Orwell said, controls the future. Read at a certain level, Elbaum’s book (describing a mental universe that in many respects out-Orwells Orwell), aims, through extended self-criticism, to jettison 99 per cent of what ‘Third World Marxism’ stood for in its 1970s heyday, in order to salvage the one per cent of further muddled ‘progressive politics’ for the future, particularly where the Democratic Party and the unions are concerned, preparing ‘progressive’ forces to paint a new face on the capitalist system after the neo-liberal phase has shot its bolt.
1. Max Elbaum, Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Mao and Che, Verso, London and New York, 2002.

Loren Goldner


I lived through the 1960s too, in Berkeley of all places. I was in an anti-Stalinist revolutionary socialist milieu (then called the Independent Socialist Clubs, which by the late 1970s had spawned eight different offshoots), a milieu the author identifies with ‘Eurocentric’ Marxism. We argued that every state in the world from the Soviet Union to China to Cuba to North Vietnam and North Korea, by way of Albania, was a class society, and should be overthrown by working-class revolution. We said the same thing about all the Third World ‘national liberation movements’ and states resulting from them, such as Algeria, and those in the then Portuguese colonies (Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau). We were dead right, and Elbaum’s ‘Third World Marxists’, who cheer-led for most or all of them, were dead wrong. This is now clear as day for all with eyes to see. We based our perspective on realities that did and do not to this day exist for Elbaum and his friends: the question of whether the Russian Revolution died in 1921 (Kronstadt) or 1927 (the defeat of the Left Opposition). In Elbaum’s milieu the choice was between 1953 (death of Stalin) and 1956 (Khrushchev’s ‘Secret Speech’ to the Twentieth Party Congress. ‘Eurocentrics’ that we were, we took note of Stalin’s treacherous and disastrous China policy in 1927 (which Mao Tse-Tung at the time had criticised from the right); of Stalin’s treacherous and disastrous Third Period policy and its results in Germany (above all), but also throughout the colonial world (for example, the 1930 ‘Communes’ in Vietnam and China). We provided a critique of Stalin’s treacherous and disastrous Popular Front policy, which led to a mutual defence pact with France, the reining in of the French mass strike of May-June 1936, and above all to the crushing of the anarchists and Trotskyists (and with them the Spanish Revolution as a whole) in Barcelona in May 1937 (it also led to the abandonment of anti-colonial agitation by the Vietnamese and Algerian Communist Parties in the name of ‘anti-fascism’). We were disturbed by the Moscow Trials, whereby most of the remaining members of Lenin’s central committee of 1917 were assassinated, and by the Stalin-Hitler Pact, through which Stalin handed over to the Gestapo dissident factions of the German Communist Party who had sought refuge in the Soviet Union. We read about Elbaum’s one-time hero Ho Chi Minh, who engineered the massacre of thousands of Vietnamese Trotskyists in 1945 when they advocated (with a real working-class base) armed resistance to the return of English and French troops there after the Second World War (Ho received them warmly under the auspices of the Yalta agreement, wherein Uncle Joe had consented to further French rule in Indochina). Stalin had done the same for Greece, where again the Trotskyists were slaughtered while pushing for revolution, and in Western Europe, where the French and Italian resistance movements were disarmed and sent home by their respective Communist parties. We studied the workers’ uprising in East Berlin in 1953, and the Hungarian Revolution (and Polish working-class unrest) of 1956; we distributed Kurón and Modzelewski’s brilliant Open Letter to the Polish Workers Party of 1965. We were heartened by the Polish workers’ uprising in Gdansk and Gdynia in December 1970, which arguably heralded (through its 1980-81 expansion) the end of the Soviet empire. Elbaum mentions none of these post-1945 working-class revolts against Stalinism, which were undoubtedly too ‘Eurocentric’ for him — they did after all take place in Europe — assuming he heard about them. At the time, he and his milieu would have undoubtedly described them as revolts against ‘revisionism’. From 1970 onwards, I moved into the broader, more diffuse anti-Stalinist mi-


lieu in the Bay Area. We read Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary, and Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia; we discovered Lukács’ History and Class Consciousness, and the Situationists; we saw Chile’s Popular Front of 1970-73 once again crushed by the same collaborationist policies which Elbaum’s Stalinist lineage had first perfected in France and Spain in 1936, and unlike Elbaum and his friends, we were hardly startled when the Chinese Communist Party embraced Pinochet. It had not escaped our ‘Eurocentric’ attention that China itself had pushed the Indonesian Communist Party to adopt the same Popular Front strategy in 1965, leading to the massacre of hundreds of thousands (a success for US imperialism that more than offset the later defeat in Indochina), or that it had applauded when the Ceylonese regime (today Sri Lanka) bloodily repressed its Trotskyist student movement in 1971. We were similarly not shaken, like Elbaum and his friends, when China went on to support the South African intervention against the MPLA in Angola, or call for the strengthening of NATO against Soviet ‘social imperialism’, or support the rightwing regroupment against the Communist-influenced Armed Forces Movement in Portugal in 1974-75. We ‘Eurocentrists’ snapped up the writings of Simon Leys, the French Sinologist, documenting the crushing of the Shanghai proletariat by the People’s Liberation Army in the course of the ‘Cultural Revolution’, the latter lasting from 1966 to 1976. Elbaum and his friends were at the same time presenting this battle between two wings of the most elephantine bureaucracy of modern times, as a brilliant success in ‘putting politics in command’ against the capitalist restorationists, technocrats and intellectuals, and burning Beethoven for good measure. All of these writhings of Chinese Stalinism struck us more as the second-time farce to the first time tragedy of the world-wide ravages of Soviet Stalinism from the 1920s onwards. Elbaum and his friends cheered on Pol Pot’s rustication campaign in Cambodia, in which one million people died; no sooner had they digested the post-1976 developments in China after Mao’s death — the arrest and vilification of the Gang of Four, the completion of the turn to the USA in an anti-Soviet alliance — when, in 1979, after Vietnam occupied Cambodia to depose the Khmer Rouge, China attacked Vietnam, and the Soviet Union prepared to attack China. How difficult, in those days, to be a ‘Third World Marxist’! Marxism and ‘Diamat’ We had been shaped by the world-wide renaissance of Marxism set in motion by the serious diffusion of the ‘early Marx’ and the growing awareness of the Hegelian dimension of the ‘late Marx’ in the Grundrisse, Capital and Theories of Surplus Value. We leapt upon the ‘Unpublished Sixth Chapter’ of Volume 1 of Capital as demonstrating the essential continuity of the ‘early’ and ‘late’ Marx (although we did not yet know Marx’s writings on the Russian Mir and the ethnographic notebooks, which drew an even sharper line between a truly ‘late Marx’ and all the bowdlerised productivist versions coming from the Second, Third and Fourth Internationals). A familiarity with any of these currents put paid to the ‘diamat’ world view and texts which were the standard fare of Elbaum’s world. It was of course ‘Eurocentric’ to rethink Marx and official Marxism through this new, unexplored continent, and ‘not Eurocentric’ to absorb Marx through the luminosity of Stalin, Beria and Hoxha. The Marx who had written extensive journalism on India and China from the 1840s onwards may have been ‘Eurocentric’, but the brain-dead articles emanating from the Peking Review about the ‘three goods’ and the ‘four bads’ were, for these people, decidedly not.


Rosa Luxemburg and everything she stood for (including her memorable writings — no doubt Eurocentric — on primitive accumulation in the colonial world and her rich material on pre-capitalist societies everywhere in Einfuehrung in die Nationaloekonomie) meant nothing to these people. Her critiques of Lenin, in the earliest months of the Russian Revolution (not to mention before 1914), and of the right to national self-determination, did not exist. Elbaum and his friends were not interested in the revolutionaries who had criticised Lenin during the latter’s lifetime (or at any point), and they remained blissfully unaware of Bordiga, Gorter and Pannekoek. The philosophical critiques of Korsch and Lukács similarly meant nothing to them. They never heard of the 1940s and 1950s CLR James, Raya Dunayevskaya, the early Max Shachtman, Hal Draper, the French group Socialism or Barbarism, Paul Mattick Sr, Maximilien Rubel, the Italian workerists, Ernst Bloch or Walter Benjamin. They seriously argued for the aesthetics of China’s four ‘revolutionary operas’ and songs such as ‘The Mountain Brigade Hails The Arrival of the Night Soil Carriers’, while the serious Marxist world was discovering the Frankfurt School (whatever the latter’s limitations) and Guy Debord. Then there was the influence of Monthly Review magazine and publishers. Baran and Sweezy had migrated from the Soviet Union to various Third World ‘antiimperialists’ to China; they were infused with the ‘Bandung’ climate of 1955 and the brief moment of the Soviet–Chinese–neutralist ‘anti-imperialist’ bloc. Names such as Sukarno, Nasser, Nkrumah loomed large in this mind-set, as did the later ‘TriContinental’ (Latin America–Africa–Asia) consciousness promoted by Cuba and Algeria. Baran and Sweezy’s book of 1966, Monopoly Capital (which, years into the crisis of the Bretton Woods system, did not even mention credit) became a major theoretical reference for this crowd. This was supplemented by international names such as Samir Amin, Charles Bettelheim, Arrighi Immanuel, and the South American ‘dependency school’ (Cardoso, Prebisch, et al). But the lynchpin was Lenin’s theory of imperialism, with its idea of ‘imperialist super-profits’ making possible the support of a ‘labour aristocracy’ and thereby the reformism of the Western working class, against which this whole worldview was ultimately aimed. Even today, after everything that has discredited Sweezy’s economics, Elbaum still uses ‘monopoly capital’ as one of his many unexamined concepts. Because in the world of Elbaum and his friends, while the reading of Capital may have been on the agenda of many study groups (in reality, in most cases, the study of Volume 1, which is tantamount to reading Hegel’s Phenomenology only on the initial phase of ‘sense certainty’ of English empiricism and scepticism), it was far more (as he says) the pamphlets of Lenin, or if the truth be known, of Stalin, Beria, Mao, Ho and Hoxha which were the main fare. (My favourite was Beria’s On The History of Bolshevik Organization in the Transcaucasus, reprinted around 1975 by some long-defunct Marxist-Leninist publisher.) Elbaum is honest, in retrospect: ‘the publishing houses of the main New Communist organizations issued almost nothing that remains of value to serious left researchers and scholars.’ He might have added that it wasn’t worth reading at the time, either, except (briefly) to experience ideology run amok. Whereas for the political world I inhabited, the question was the recovery of soviets and workers’ councils for direct democratic workers’ control of the entirety of production (a perspective having its own limits, but far more interesting ones), by Elbaum’s own account the vision of the socialist society in Marxist-Leninist circles was rarely discussed beyond ritual bows to the various Third World models, today


utterly discredited, or the invocation of the ‘socialism in one rural commune’ of William Hinton’s Fanshen, or the writings on Viet Cong ‘democracy’ by the indefatigable Wilfred Burchett (who had also written lyrically about Stalin’s Russia 30 years earlier). The real Marxian project of the abolition of the law of value (that is, the regimentation of social life by the socially necessary time of reproduction), existed for virtually no one in the 1960s, not for Elbaum, nor for me. But the Monthly Review/monopoly capital world-view, in which capitalism was understood not as a valorisation process but as a quasi-Dühringian system ultimately of power and domination, meshed perfectly with the (in reality) populist world view of Elbaum et al. Through Baran and Sweezy, a kind of left-wing Keynesianism pervaded this part of the left, relegating the law of value to the capitalism of Marx’s time and (following Lenin) seeing everything since the 1890s as power-political ‘monopoly capital’. This ‘anti-imperialism’ was and is in reality an ideology of Third World élites, in or out of power, and is fundamentally anti-working-class, like all the ‘progressive’ regimes they have ever established. It did not trouble Elbaum and his milieu that the role of the Third World in international trade had been declining through from 1900 to the 1960s, or that 80 per cent of all direct foreign investment takes places between the three major capitalist centres of the USA, Europe and East Asia (so much for Lenin’s theory of imperialism); the illusory prosperity of the West, in their view, was paid for by the looting of the Third World (and, make no mistake, the Third World was and is being looted). The ultimate implication of this outlook was, once again, to implicate the ‘white’ (that is to say, Eurocentric) working class of the West in the world imperialist system, in the name of illusory bureaucratic-peasant utopias of labour-intensive agriculture. This working class in the advanced capitalists countries had meanwhile, from 1955 to 1973, carried out the mounting wildcat insurgency in the USA and Britain, May 1968 in France and the ‘creeping May’ of 1969-77 in Italy, apparently not having been informed by Elbaum’s ‘Third World Marxists’ that they were bought off by imperialism. Unexamined Concepts A number of unexamined concepts run through Elbaum’s book from beginning to end: revisionism, anti-revisionism, Leninism, Marxism-Leninism, ultra-leftism. Elbaum never explains that ‘revisionism’ meant to this milieu above all the ideological demotion of Stalin after 1953, and that therefore those who called themselves ‘antirevisionists’ were identifying, implicitly or explicitly (and usually explicitly) Stalin’s Russia with some betrayed ‘Marxist orthodoxy.’ In his counterposition of ‘revisionism/anti-revisionism’, Elbaum does not devote one line to the consolidation, in 1924, of the grotesque concept of ‘socialism in one country’, a concept that would have made Lenin (whatever his other problems) wretch. (Not for nothing had Lenin’s Testament called for Stalin’s removal as General Secretary, another ‘fact’ that counted for nothing in the mental universe of ‘Third World Marxism.’) For someone who is writing about it on every page, Elbaum has, in fact, no real theory of Stalinism whatsoever. Whereas the milieu I frequented stayed up late trying to determine if the seeds of Stalinism were in Leninism, Elbaum and his friends saw mainly or entirely an unproblematic continuity between Lenin and Stalin, and affirmed it. As for ‘Marxism-Leninism’, Elbaum does admit that it was a concoction of Stalin. In its subsequent career, ‘Marxism-Leninism’ could mean anything to anyone, anything of course except the power of soviets and workers’ councils which in every failed proletarian revolution of the twentieth century — Russia in 1905 and 1917-21,


Germany in 1918-21, Spain in 1936-37, Hungary 1956, France 1968 — had more genuine communist elements than all the large and small totalitarians in Elbaum’s ‘Third World Marxist’ pantheon put together. ‘Ultra-leftism’ for Elbaum means little self-appointed vanguards running amok and demarcating themselves from real movements. Elbaum seems quite unaware of the true historic ultra-left. One can agree or disagree with Pannekoek (whose mass strike writings influenced Lenin’s State and Revolution), Gorter (who told Lenin in 1921 that the Russian revolutionary model could not be mechanically transposed onto Western Europe) or Bordiga, who called Stalin the gravedigger of the revolution to his face in 1926 and lived to tell the tale. But such people and the genuine mass movements (in Germany, Holland and Italy) that produced them are a noble tradition which hardly deserves to be confused rhetorically with the thuggish antics of the (happily defunct) League for Proletarian Socialism (the latter name being a true contradictio in adjecto, inadvertently revealing bureaucratic dreams: Marxian socialism means the abolition of wage-labour and hence of the ‘proletariat’ as the commodity form of human labour power). As indicated above, figures such as Korsch, Mattick, Castoriadis and the early CLR James (whatever their problems) can similarly be considered part of an ultra-left, and unlike the productions of Elbaum’s milieu, their writings are eminently worth reading today. One Dutch Marxist organising in Indonesia in 1908 had already grasped the basically bourgeois nature of nationalism in the then-colonial world, an idea Elbaum was still catching up with in 2002. Elbaum’s ‘Internationalism’ ‘Internationalism’ for Elbaum means mainly cheerleading for the latest ‘Third World Marxist’ movement or regime, but in reality his vision of the world is laughably America-centred. He refers on occasion (as a source of inspiration for his milieu) to the French mass strike of 1968, which swept aside all self-appointed vanguards, ‘Marxist-Leninists’ first of all. This is lost on Elbaum. By the early 1970s, Trotskyist groups had clearly out-organised the Marxist-Leninists, and for what it’s worth, today the two largest Trotskyist groups, Lutte Ouvrière and the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, together account for 10 per cent of the vote in French elections and are now larger than the Communist Party, without a Marxist-Leninist in sight. In Britain, similarly, Trotskyist groups out-organised the Marxist-Leninists hands down, played an important role in the 1972 strike wave (never mentioned by Elbaum), and today the British Socialist Workers Party (not to be confused with the American rump of the same name) is the largest group to the left of the Labour Party. Elbaum refers in passing to the Japanese far left of the 1960s as an influence on some Japanese-Americans, but he seems blissfully unaware that the Zengakuren was overwhelmingly anti-Stalinist and mainly viewed Russia and China as statecapitalist. The most creative and internationally influential currents of the Italian 1970s, the so-called operaisti or workerists, were breaking with Leninism from the early 1970s at the latest. (To be fair, in Italy and in Germany, large Maoist and Marxist-Leninist groups did exist, and the Trotskyists were basically marginal.) On the subject of Trotsky: I am not a Trotskyist, and have basically (as previously indicated) since my callow youth viewed all so-called socialist societies as class societies, and not (as Trotskyists do) as ‘workers’ states’. But I have more respect for Trotsky (who should be distinguished from the Trotskyists) than I ever had or will have for Stalin, Mao, Ho, Kim Il-Sung, Castro, Guevara or Cabral. Wearing the blinkers of his milieu, Elbaum shows real ignorance of Trotskyism.


(‘Third World Marxism’s philistine hatred for Trotsky, while generally not stooping to 1930s ‘Trotsky the agent of the Mikado’-type slanders, was exceeded only by such ignorance.) Blinded by his milieu’s acceptance of complete and positive continuity between Lenin and Stalin, the world events of the early 1920s, which decisively shaped both Trotskyism and the above-mentioned ultra-left (and the last 80 years of human history) have no importance for him. Hence (as indicated earlier), the triumph of ‘socialism in one country’ after 1924 and the total subordination of all communist parties to Soviet foreign policy are totally unproblematic for these people, as were all the débâcles of the Comintern mentioned earlier. Similarly, the question of the relationship of the Bolshevik party and Soviet state to the soviets and workers’ councils, that is, the question of the actual working-class management of society, which was settled (in the negative) by 1921, is of no consequence either. It’s Eurocentric to be concerned about Soviet history before the rise of Stalin, not Eurocentric to admire Stalin’s Russia with its 10 million peasants killed in the 1930s collectivisations, its massacre of the Bolshevik Old Guard in the Moscow Trials, its factories operating with killing speed-up under direct GPU control, or its 20 million people in slave labour camps at the time of Stalin’s death. For such a view, ‘revisionism’ must therefore be Khrushchev’s (equally top-down) attempt to decompress (a bit) this nightmare. The memory of Stalinist Russia still weighs on the consciousness of masses of people around the world as the seemingly inevitable outcome of trying to do away with capitalism, and reinforces the still potent neo-liberal mantra ‘there is no alternative’. Why the people Elbaum describes as the ‘most dynamic’ part of the American left in the 1970s were so taken with the Stalinist legacy never seems to strike him as a major problem to be addressed. Permanent Revolution Elbaum might also inform himself about Trotsky’s (and Marx’s) theory of permanent revolution, which was the centrepiece of the Bolsheviks’ internationalist strategy in 1917, and its repudiation by Stalin the key to all the post-1924 politics swallowed whole 45 years later by Elbaum’s ‘Third World Marxists’. Permanent revolution — rightly or wrongly — meant the possibility that a revolution in a backward country like Russia could link up with revolution in the developed European heartland — or even inspire it: see Marx’s preface to the 1882 Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto — and in that way be spared the bloody primitive accumulation process which every capitalist country from Britain to Russia to contemporary China has necessarily undergone. It is this theory, and not some ‘Eurocentrism’, that made (the small minority of) honest Trotskyists keep their distances from regimes using ‘Third World Marxism’ as a fig-leaf for capitalist primitive accumulation. Most Trotskyists were howling with the wolves that ‘Vietnam Will Win!’. Well, we have seen what Vietnam (and even more, Cambodia) won. This is hardly the place to describe the devolution of Trotskyism since Trotsky, but honesty and courage of convictions were not the strong suit of the Mandels and Barneses and Pablos who shaped it after 1940. Elbaum sees the American SWP as the main face of Trotskyism for 1960s and 1970s leftists in the USA (and he’s right about that), and claims that Trotskyism’s involvement with ‘old 1930s issues’ and ‘European questions’ was the main hindrance to a larger impact of Trotskyism when the Third World, from China to Vietnam to Cuba was supposedly sizzling with revolution and the building of socialism. In point of fact, watching the SWP (like their French counterparts Ligue Com-


muniste) in the 1960s and 1970s, I could only laugh up my sleeve watching the way they buried their critique of Stalinism (as in the case of the Vietnamese NLF) in the fine print of their theoretical journals, while rushing after popularity, waving NLF flags, in exactly the milieu influenced by Elbaum’s ‘Third World Marxism’. To take only one anecdotal example: in a debate in Berkeley in 1969 between the ISC and the SWP, we put SWP spokesperson Pete Camejo up against the wall about the massacre in 1945 of the Vietnamese Trotskyists in front of a large New Left audience, and Camejo conceded that, yes, Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh had, in fact, well, oppressed the Vietnamese comrades of the Fourth International. I’m sure most of the New Leftist cheerleaders present considered our point to be ‘ancient history’ — 24 years earlier! — today, as they watch Vietnam rush into ‘market socialism’ with investment capital from Toyota and Mitsubishi, I’m sure they don’t think about it at all. I remember Camejo’s brother Tony telling a similar audience that we couldn’t be too critical of black and Latino nationalism in the USA because blacks and Latinos had not yet passed through their ‘bourgeois revolution’, as if American blacks and Latinos did not also live in the most advanced capitalist society in the world. But he had put his finger on a certain reality, since many of the black and Latino nationalists of the 1960s and 1970s were in fact on their way to middle-class careers, once the shouting died down, as uninterested in genuine proletarian revolution (and the true twentieth-century examples of it) today as they were then. (They were and are in this way no different from the great majority of the white New Left.) Elbaum approvingly quotes Tariq Ali attacking those (such as myself and the ISC to which I belonged) who saw no difference between ‘Mao Tse-Tung and Chiang Kai-Shek, or Castro and Batista’, whereas all of world history since Ali uttered that remark has demonstrated nothing except that the main difference made between old-style US-backed dictators and ‘Third World Marxist’ dictators with state power is that the latter better prepare their countries for full-blown capitalism, with Mao’s China exhibit A for the prosecution, and Vietnam following close behind. Furthermore, Elbaum never seems to notice that many of the twentieth-century Marxists still worth reading today — and he apparently has not read them — such as the early Shachtman, James, Draper and Castoriadis, made their most important contributions in a break to the left of Trotskyism. In 35 years in leftist politics, I have met many ex-Stalinists and Maoists who became Trotskyists and council communists; I have never met anyone who went in the opposite direction. Once you have played grand master chess, you rarely go back to draughts. Finally, while Elbaum rightly says that the turn circa 1969 of thousands of New Leftists to the American working class was largely fruitless, he does neglect one important counter-example, namely the success of the International Socialists (the renamed ISC after 1970) in building the Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) and through it being the sparkplugs for the election of Ron Carey as President of the Teamsters in 1991. There is no question that this development, however much it turned into a fiasco, was the most important left-wing intervention in the American labour movement since the 1940s. I no more wish to go off on a long tangent about that terribly-botched episode than I wish to expound on the history of Trotskyism; I left the IS milieu in 1969. It is rather, again, to show Elbaum’s blind spot to the real flaws of his own tradition. The IS’s success with TDU came at the price of burying (at least for the purposes of Teamster politics) the fact that they were socialists, not merely honest trade unionists (it turned out that Carey wasn’t even that). Anyone educated in a Trotskyist group (and the IS, despite its rejection of the socialist char-


acter of the so-called ‘workers’ states’ was Trotskyist on every other question), in contrast to most Stalinist and Maoist groups, develops a healthy aversion to the trade union bureaucracy and to the Democratic Party. Elbaum provides a long history of how Maoism evolved out of the wreckage of the old CPUSA after the 1960 Sino-Soviet split. Some of these groups looked back to the CP under Browder; others preferred William Z Foster. But almost all of them saw something positive in the CP’s role during the Roosevelt era, both in the Democratic Party and in the CIO. The problem of those working off Trotskyism was, on the contrary, the ‘bureaucracy’ that developed in exactly the era of CP influence; the problem of those working off Marxism-Leninism was ‘revisionism’. (Stalinists and Maoists for some reason don’t have too much to say about bureaucracy, except — as in the ‘Cultural Revolution’, when they are supporting one bureaucratic faction against another.) And the concept of ‘revisionism’ rarely inoculated these people against seeking influence in high places, either with Democratic politicians or with trade union bureaucrats, as the CP had done so successfully in its heyday. It is certainly true that many of Elbaum’s Marxist-Leninists did neither. But he seems to ignore the fact that the ability of a group like the IS to intersect the Teamster rank-and-file rebellion of the 1970s and thereafter had something to do with the fact that they, in contrast to every MarxistLeninist around, were not approaching the American working class with tall tales about socialism in Cuba or Albania or Cambodia or North Korea. The oh-so-radical defenders of Beijing’s line, whether for or against the ‘Gang of Four’, turned out to be defending a considerable part of the global status quo. Finally, if Elbaum would lift his head from the rubble of ‘Third World Marxism’, he might notice that in Britain and France Trotskyist groups have a solid mass base (whatever one thinks of the politics involved), whereas Marxist-Leninists are almost nowhere to be seen; and even in the politically-backward USA, groups such as the ineffable ISO, not to mention the youthful anarchist scene, are attracting more young people interested in revolution than any Marxist-Leninists. Being for the overthrow of every government in the world lets you see and do things that the baggage of Pol Pot or Shining Path or Kim Jong-Il conceals. It is now time to turn to the merits of Elbaum’s book, which, contrary to what the reader may conclude from the above, it indeed has. First — and with this I have no quarrel — Elbaum attacks the ‘good sixties/bad sixties’ vision of figures such as Todd Gitlin, for whom the late-1960s turn to revolution was the ‘bad sixties’, compared to the early 1960s Port Huron vision of participatory democracy. Revolution was necessary then, and is necessary today, whatever the current ideological climate might favour. Elbaum is also right in criticising Gitlin’s (and many others’) almost exclusive focus on the white New Left, seeing the movement essentially collapse with SDS in 1969-70, and not recognising its extension, particularly among blacks and Latinos (not to mention the thousands of white New Leftists who went into the factories, and the wildcat strike wave which lasted until 1973). Race and Class But Elbaum does put his finger on the fact that the Third World MarxistStalinist/Marxist-Leninist and Maoist milieu was much more successful, in the 1960s and 1970s, in attracting and influencing militants of colour. And he is equally right in saying that most of the Trotskyist currents, not to mention the ‘post-Trotskyists’ to whom I was closest, were partially blind to America’s ‘blind spot’, the centrality of race, in the American class equation. The ISC, when I was in it in Berkeley in the late


1960s, was all for black power, and (like many other groups) worked with the Black Panthers, but itself had virtually no black members. Trotskyist groups such as the SWP did have some, as did all the others, but there is no question that Elbaum’s milieu was far more successful with blacks, Latinos, and Asians (as was the CPUSA). To cut to the quick, I think that the answer to this difference was relatively straightforward. As Elbaum himself points out, many people of colour who threw themselves into the ferment of the 1960s and 1970s and joined revolutionary groups were the first generation of their families to attend college, and were — whether they knew it or not — on their way into the middle class. Thus it is hardly surprising, when one thinks about it, that they would be attracted to the regimes and movements of ‘progressive’ middle-class élites in the Third World. This was just as true, in a different way, for many transient militants of the white New Left, similarly bound (after 1973) for the professional classes, not to mention the actually ruling-class offspring one found in groups such as the Weathermen. Elbaum does point out that the white memberships of many Third World Marxist groups were from working-class families and were similarly the first generation of their families to attend college. He also shows a preponderant origin of such people in the ‘prairie radicalism’ (that is, populism) of the Midwest, in contrast to the more ‘European’ left of the two coasts, one important clue to their essentially populist politics. These are important socialhistorical-cultural insights, which could be developed much further. Charles Denby’s Black Worker’s Notebook (Denby was a member of Raya Dunayevskaya’s New and Letters group) effectively identifies the middle-class character of the Black Power milieu around Stokely Carmichael et al, as well as black workers’ distance from it. The Detroit-based League of Revolutionary Black Workers similarly criticised the black nationalist middle class, though it was hardly anti-nationalist itself. It is undeniable that the 1960s movements of peoples of colour in the USA were influenced by the global climate of the de-colonisation of most of Africa, the Middle East and Asia following the Second World War, and the ‘de-centring’ of actually Eurocentric views of Western and world history, following the 1914-45 ‘de-centring’ of Europe in the new lines drawn by the Cold War. They were similarly influenced by — and themselves were the main force enacting — the shattering of centuries of white supremacy in American society. It would be idealistic and moralistic to explain their attraction to ‘Third World Marxism’, Maoism and Marxism-Leninism by the meaningless assertion that ‘they had the wrong ideas’. One important part of the answer is definitely the weight of arriving middle-class elements in these political groups, who are today to be found in the black and Latino professional classes. But the typical black, Latino or Asian militant in the USA waving Mao’s Little Red Book or chanting ‘We want a pork chop/Off the pig’ was not signing on for Stalin’s gulag, or the millions who died in Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ in 1957, or mass murder in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, or the ghoulish torture of untold numbers of political prisoners in Sekou Toure’s Guinea (where the black nationalist Stokely Carmichael spent his last days with no dissent anyone ever heard about), any more than the working-class militant in the CPUSA in 1935 was signing on for the Moscow Trials or the massacre of the Spanish anarchists and Trotskyists. All the above real history and theory blotted out or falsified by ‘Third World Marxism’ was available and known in the 1960s and thereafter to those who sought it. The question is precisely one of exactly when groups of people in motion are ready to seek or hear certain truths. What Elbaum can’t face is that the entirety of ‘Third World Marxism’ was and is anti-workingclass, whether in Budapest and Poznań in 1956, or in Jakarta in 1965, or in case of the


Shanghai workers slaughtered in the midst of the ‘Cultural Revolution’ in 1966-69. Workers, white and non-white, in the American 1960s sensed this more clearly than did Elbaum’s minions, blinded by ideology. As Marx said in The Eighteenth Brumaire, speaking of the English Revolution of the 1640s: … in the same way but at a different stage of development, Cromwell and the English people had borrowed for their bourgeois revolution the language, passions and illusions of the Old Testament. When the actual goal had been reached, when the bourgeois transformation of English society had been accomplished, Locke drove out Habbakuk. When the upwardly-mobile middle-class elements of the 1960s and 1970s New Left and Third World Marxism, both white but also important numbers of blacks and Latinos, had established themselves in their professional and civil service jobs and academic tenure, suburban life and VCRs drove out Ho, Che and Mao. Things went quite differently, above all, for blacks without a ticket to the middle class, as one can see in the difference between the ultimate fates of even the Weather Underground after years on the run, and black political prisoners such as Geronimo Pratt. ‘Marxist-Leninists for Mondale’ But, to conclude, if Elbaum has offered us hundreds of pages on the wars of sects and ideologies that no one — himself included — misses, it is not from an antiquarian impulse. The real agenda is spelled out in one of the effusive blurbs on the dust cover: ‘Finally, we have one book that can successfully connect the dots between the battles of the 1960s and the emerging challenges and struggles of the new century.’ The give-away is Elbaum’s treatment of the Jesse Jackson presidential campaigns of 1984 and 1988, which are presented as something almost as momentous as the 1960s, and which offered the few Marxist-Leninist groups (‘Marxist-Leninists for Mondale’ as someone once called them) still around their last chance at mass influence. In contrast to the 1960s, the Jackson campaigns came and went with no lasting impact except further to illustrate the dead end of the old Rooseveltian New Deal coalition and the Keynesian welfare-statism that was the bread and butter of the old Democratic Party and of the CPUSA’s strategy within the Democratic Party. And when all is said and done, this fatal legacy of the CP’s role at the height of Stalinism in the mid-1930s is Elbaum’s legacy as well. Just as he tells us nothing about the true origins of Marxism-Leninism and ‘Third World Marxism’, Elbaum tells us nothing about the CPUSA coming off its 1930s ‘heroic’ phase, herding the American working class off to the Second World War through the enforcement of the no-strike pledge, the calumny of any critic of US imperialism’s moment of arrival at world power as a Hitlero-fascist, and applause in the Daily Worker for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So it is necessary to connect some further dots: this book aims at being a contribution to some new ‘progressive coalition’ wedding the American working class to some revamping of the capitalist state in an all-out drive to ‘Beat Bush’ around a Dean campaign (or something like it) in 2004. It joins the groundswell of dissent among capitalist forces themselves, currently being articulated by the likes of George Soros, Jeffrey Sachs, Joseph Stieglitz and Paul Krugman as the still-dominant neo-liberal paradigm of the past 25 years begins seriously to fray. While Elbaum’s book makes occasional passing reference to economic hard times in the 1970s, he doesn’t see the extent to which American decline has circumscribed any possible agenda of ‘reform’, which can only be some kind of ‘Tax The Rich’, share-the-declining-wealth kind of


left populism, with suitably ‘diverse’ forces that will probably be the final fruit of the ‘progressive’ middle classes, white and people of colour, that evolved out of Elbaum’s ‘Third World Marxism.’ Despite what Elbaum thinks and what he and his milieu thought 30 years ago, the fate of the world is in the hands of the world working class. In contrast to 30 years ago, however, this working class is no longer limited to North America, Europe and Japan, but is now spread through many parts of the ‘anti-imperialist’ Third World, led by China. The East will be red again, not as the bureaucratic–peasant hallucination of the ‘Third World Marxists’ of the 1960s and 1970s, but as a genuine working-class revolt against precisely the forces that used ‘Third World Marxism’, in the Third World as in the USA and Europe, to muddle every social question and advance their social stratum. The remnants of these forces are positioned today in and around the Democratic Party and the trade union bureaucracy, as well as in the antiglobalisation movement, readying themselves again to revamp the capitalist system with torrents of ‘progressive’ rhetoric, as they did in the 1930s and 1940s. The only thing that is ‘progressive’ in today’s world is working-class revolution.

Workers’ Democracy in the Revolutionary Process
I: The Russian Revolution SOVIETS, workers’ councils, trade unions and workers’ parties as concepts current in the political thought of the British labour movement have achieved a mixed status. Ignored or denigrated by the right to the point of extinction, overlooked by many of the left, their remaining supporters are often to be found on the ultra-left fringes where eulogy and romanticism abound. This short essay will attempt to rescue them from obscurity, concentrating on two particularly rich experiences — the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Spanish Civil War of 1937-39. The Paris Commune of 1871 and the Russian Revolution of 1905 each provided its own particular signals of the opening of a struggle for socialism and workingclass state power. The Paris Commune provided the first living example of the working class seizing hold of the levers of economic and social power, constructing a democratic, elective and participatory state. The Paris Commune was a workers’ state; that is why the French ruling class drowned it in blood, as revenge for this opening statement by the proletariat of its historical intention. Traumatised and shocked by the experience of retribution, which also shattered the First International down to its foundations, the European working class beat a retreat. Revival was delayed: not until the 1890s, with the development of the Second International, did some measure of confidence return. The organisation of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Germany, alongside a mass trade union movement, and the Belgian general strike for suffrage reform in 1893 were signs of renewed confi-

Glyn Beagley


dence. But it was the Russian Revolution of 1905 which re-established the principles of the Paris Commune. Emulating the Communards, the workers in the main industrial centres of urban Russia set up their own councils, drawing support especially from the factories and working-class districts. Delegates were elected directly to these new assemblies. The idea of soviets, that is, of labour and peasants’ councils — first promoted during the attempted revolution of 1905, and immediately realised by the revolution in February 1917, as soon as the tsarist regime broke down — the idea of such councils controlling the political and economic life of the country is a grand idea. The more so as it leads necessarily to the idea of those councils being composed of all those who take a real part in the production of national wealth by their own personal effort.1 But the ruling class view with undisguised horror the prospects of their ownership and control being supplanted by an alternative institution which has the potential to rule society. They cannot be expected to give up lightly and walk away from the source of their social existence, and in fact the first flush of victory is unlikely to lead immediately to the overthrow of the bourgeois state. In both the Russian and the Spanish experiences, a period with not one but two power centres opened up, creating a process in which workers and peasants concentrated their efforts on establishing their own forms of control within the economy and society, whilst the old ruling classes attempted to reconstruct the apparatus of the state, which had split asunder, in an attempt to reassert an unchallengeable control over the economy and civil society. This is the situation of dual power: the remnants of the old order, its army, civil service, judicial orders and the dominance of the capital accumulation process, on the one hand, find themselves in conflict with another contending centre of power, that of the workers and peasants, who have challenged managerial control in the factories and set up councils of factory workers, likewise peasant committees, which have seized the latifundia or large estates from the landlords, and committees of soldiers refusing to take orders from the officer caste. This twin or dual-power regime expresses the conflict between the major social classes, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, at its most intense and unstable. In 1914, the Russian ruling classes (an uneasy alliance between the still feudal tsarist monarchy and the fledgling bourgeoisie) brought the country into the First World War against the Central Powers. Military success against the inwardly decaying regimes situated in the southern section of the western front contrasted harshly with hard-fought battles against the Kaiser’s army to the north. The incompetent tsarist monarchy looked to the Military-Industrial Committee as a suitable institution to mobilise the bourgeoisie and the patriotic section of the working class behind the war effort. The State Duma — an elected standing consultative conference of the bourgeoisie — enjoyed a twilight existence, caught between the monarchy and the historical demands of a modern bourgeois state. War contracts and war profits oiled the wheels of this whole grisly affair. Whilst the peasant-based army increasingly disintegrated and the urban working class queued for bread, the regime played with its fate. In September 1915, the Tsar dissolved the Duma, and the workers of Moscow and Petrograd responded with strikes at this affront to liberalism’s slender hopes. In
1. P Kropotkin, Peasants in the Russian Revolution.


May 1916, the Duma was convoked again, but by the autumn of that year it was evident to all that Russia’s military position was hopeless. A Duma delegation made friendly visits to the French and British, coming away empty-handed, but convinced that after the major Entente powers had defeated Germany they would fasten upon a ruined Russia their imperial grip. Contacts were made with German diplomats in Stockholm, and tentative negotiations opened for a separate peace. Strikes and discontent increased, 120 000 workers engaged in strike actions as a protest against the court martial of Baltic sailors accused of membership of an underground organisation (the Bolsheviks). Employers organised a lockout, and between 200 000 and 300 000 workers responded with the largest strike of the war.2 In the six months from September 1916 to the start of the 1917 revolution, a little over one million worker-days were lost in Petrograd, three-quarters of these in political strikes. The Duma, convoked in May 1916, was by the autumn of that year dissolved by the seemingly omnipotent Tsar. The bourgeoisie, desperate to prevent an eruption from below and chafing under the autocratic restraints of the tsarist yoke, urged the State Duma ‘not to disperse until the formation of a responsible government is attained’.3 No doubt this government, if it was to be responsible, would have to be made up of parties already entrenched in the Duma, that is representatives of the enfranchised bourgeoisie. What role there might be for the mass of poor peasants or for the urban workers was at best unclear. The last session of the Duma was convoked on 14 February 1917. On 17 February, at the Putilov works in Petrograd, a strike started for higher wages and the reinstatement of dismissed union activists; by 22 February the management declared a lock-out, and all 36 000 workers at this giant factory stopped work in protest. The next day, 23 February, was International Women’s Day: a strike and protest march gathered support amongst the women textile workers of the Vyborg district. Angry at the war, high prices and the final disappearance of bread from some bakeries, they picketed the metal-working and engineering factories. Some 90 000 workers in 50 factories joined the strike; there were clashes with the police. On 24 and 25 February, the strike gathered momentum, resulting in a virtual general strike in Petrograd as 240 000 workers joined in. Anti-war and antigovernment slogans were popular, the police fired live rounds into the crowds on 26 February, but military units failed to hinder the crowd. Isolated cases of mutiny occurred amongst the soldiers; the sacking of police stations began. Finally, on 27 February — victory! The strike was total: students, artisans, white-collar employees all expressed their support; the crowd approached the soldiers’ barracks, and the mutiny became a mass of events. The police force was finally dispersed, the remaining stations burnt out, and political prisoners were liberated from the jails. Having set out, unprepared for all eventualities, upon an insurrectionary road, the working class, by insurrectionary methods: general strikes, mass fraternisation with army personnel, destruction of the police force as a viable organisation, literally lurched forward from one historical period into another. However, as an oppressed class workers are unable immediately to assemble a new ready-made state. With nothing to fill the vacuum at governmental level, they fall back upon those institutions which remain accessible: trade unions, trusted political parties, along with
2. 3. D Mandel, The Fall of the Old Regime and the Petrograd Working Class, Macmillan, 1982, p63. LD Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, Gollancz, 1965, p55.


those that can be improvised in a relatively short space of time. Following the successful general strike and insurrection of February 1917, the Petrograd workers set about removing certain members of management from the factories: ‘At the Putilov Works, 40 administrators were removed in the course of three days, many in wheelbarrows.’4 Police, administrators, foremen and shop managers were the obvious targets for the workers’ anger, especially as many of these people had daily enjoyed the exercise of managerial prerogative over the workers. As the workers purged the factories, a weak management was in no position to resist a new phase of selforganisation. Factory committees were set up out of mass meetings of the workers; delegates were elected both to the local soviet and to the factory committee — a kind of expanded shop stewards committee, but with vastly increased powers and terms of reference. For instance, the provisional factory committee of the radiotelegraph factory suggested the following items for debate and approval by a general assembly of workers: (1) Length of the working day. (2) Minimum wage. (3) Mode of payment of labour. (4) Immediate organisation of medical aid. (5) Labour insurance. (6) Establishment of a mutual aid fund. (7) Hiring and firing. (8) Resolving various conflicts. (9) Labour discipline. (10) Guarding the factory. (11) Rest periods. (12) Food provision. (13) Rights, duties, elections and existence of a permanent factory committee.5 The local soviet — a Russian word for council — was a delegate type of body, rather like a large trades and labour council with joint shop stewards committee affiliation. It was open to delegates from all kinds of workers’ and labour organisations, free from the bureaucratic restrictions of the TUC. Trotsky records: The organisation created on 27 February in the Tauride Palace and called ‘Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers Deputies’ had really little in common with its name. The Soviet of Workers Deputies of 1905 and the organisers of the system arose out of a general strike. It directly represented the masses in struggle. The leaders of the strike became the deputies of the Soviet, the selection of its membership was carried out under fire. Its Executive Committee was elected by the Soviet for the further prosecution of the struggle; it was this EC which placed on the order of the day the armed insurrection. The February Revolution, thanks to the revolt of the troops, was victorious before the workers had created the Soviet.6 In February 1917, Russia stood as the polar opposite of British labour, whose overriding concern was not with the turmoil of dual power, but rather with the penetration of existing bourgeois parliamentary institutions. Yet this did not prevent the appearance, in form at least, of an attempt in Russia to establish a system of representative bourgeois democracy. Small and weak though it was, it found some of its most enthusiastic supporters within the leading bodies of the workers’ movement,
4. 5. 6. Mandel, op cit, p97. Ibid, p107. Trotsky, op cit, p234.


and in their success or failure depended the outcome of the revolution. For if they were able to establish a sound and workable system of parliamentary democracy which could have replaced the soviets, then the road would be opened for capitalism in Russia. However, such was the power and unity of the general strike and insurrection at the end of February 1917, and such was the state of disarray within the Tsarist– bourgeois alliance that the soviets hardly needed to appear. Instead an Executive of soviets was set up unilaterally and with limited reference to those who had brought about the successful insurrection. This new Executive Committee was entirely different to the historical precedent of 1905. It was a Soviet Executive Committee in name only: its members were virtually self-appointed, they had not participated in organising the workers’ strikes or the street battles with the police as their 1905 counterparts had done. On the contrary, they were drawn from another source, that of the right-wing echelons of the Russian Social Democracy and its labour movement élites in the widest sense: the Mensheviks, in alliance with the Socialist Revolutionary Party, who in turn drew their traditional support from the peasantry. The liberal and radical circles of the city now politically dominated the Soviet Executive Committee. Through this body, which at the time was Petrograd-centred, the leading circles and groups of the right wing of the workers’ and peasants’ movement organised itself and attempted to gain a base from within the revolutionary camp, attempting at every opportunity to speak in the name and with the authority of a victorious insurrection. To quote Trotsky again: The immense authority of the EC from the very day of its birth rested on its seeming continuance of the soviet of 1905. This committee, ratified by the first chaotic meeting of the soviet, thereafter exerted a decisive influence both upon the membership of the soviet and upon its policy. This influence was the more conservative in that the natural selection of revolutionary representatives which is guaranteed by the red-hot atmosphere of struggle no longer existed. The insurrection was already in the past.7 In case anyone is in doubt that the Russian revolution faced problems of political leadership and direction, created by the existence of a labour bureaucracy, then perhaps a fuller examination of the situation will clarify matters: ‘The Soviet remains on one side. They [the Executive Committee] treated it like a meeting: “Not there nor in the general meeting is the policy brought out; all these ‘plenary sessions’ had decidedly no practical importance.” (Sukhanov)’8 All of the major political parties whose members had participated in the insurrection, the Mensheviks, SRs and Bolsheviks, supported the creation of the soviets, at least on paper. They did so for their own particular reasons: in the case of the Mensheviks and SRs, it was as a counterweight to the threat of tsarist reaction and as a political base from which they could conduct their negotiations and alliances with the bourgeoisie — in particular with the first Provisional Government; in the case of the Bolsheviks, it is probably because the urban workers, particularly in Petrograd and Moscow, gave their support to the soviets. During this phase in the revolution, the Bolsheviks did not conceive of the soviets as an alternative government which would form the basis of a new workers’ state once the second (‘October’) revolution
7. 8. Ibid. Ibid, p237.


had been carried out. The soviets in Petrograd (which was the epicentre of the Russian Revolution) thus came to represent a compromise between two historical social blocks. Politically speaking, they represented a compromise between a rank-and-file revolt by the factory proletariat, in which skilled workers with radical politics played no small role, and a leadership team of those parties who hoped for a parliamentary democracy within which they would occupy the ‘left-wing’ benches as opponents of the main bourgeois party, the Constitutional Democrats or ‘Cadets’. Hence the political tasks which confronted Lenin, Trotsky and the whole of the Bolshevik party were not totally dissimilar to the strategic issues which have continued to dog the footsteps of revolutionaries ever since: how to free the working class from political domination by reformist leaders; how to construct a new majority within the working class, one that can move forward to socialist revolution by carrying out a democraticallyagreed seizure of state power and instituting a planned economy. A further look at the composition of the Petrograd Soviet, out of which the Soviet Executive Committee was created and also the First All-Russian Congress (a kind of confederation of soviets drawn from the vast Russian Empire) is highly instructive. … for every two worker delegates in the soviet, there were five soldiers. The rules of representation were extremely elastic and they were always stretched to the advantage of the soldiers: whereas the workers elected only one delegate per 1000, the most petty military unit would frequently send two. The grey army cloth became the general tone of the Soviet. But by no means all the civilians were elected by workers. No small number of people got into the soviets by individual penetrative ability. Radical lawyers, physicians, students, journalists representing various problematical groups or most often representing their own ambition. This obviously distorted character of the Soviet was even welcomed by the leaders, who were not a bit sorry to dilute the too concentrated essence of factory and barrack with the lukewarm water of cultivated Philistia. Many of these accidental crashers-in, seekers of adventure, self-appointed Messiahs, and professional bunk shooters, for a long time crowded out with their authoritative elbows the silent workers and the irresolute soldiers.9 In this milieu, the Bolsheviks were in a minority, drawing what support they could from the under-represented Petrograd working class, who themselves were still closely allied to the Mensheviks. The SRs were happy with the high profile given to the soldiers — often peasants in uniform — and both SRs and Mensheviks could live quite easily with the petit-bourgeois radicals who had now been attracted into the Soviet. The Mensheviks represented one side of Social Democracy, ably complemented on the reverse side by the SRs. Beneath this block, the Bolsheviks would have to elucidate a particular strategy which could bring forward the working class to political leadership, revolution and state power. Meanwhile the Soviet Executive Committee could go about its business of constructing alliances with the bourgeoisie, unaware of its impending demise. Its membership was a joint leadership team of the luminaries of the Menshevik and SR parties — Kerensky, Dan, Martov, Tseretelli. Like their counterparts in the German rev9. Ibid, p234.


olution of November 1918, they desired a political revolution in the strictly limited sense, and eschewed all prospects of social revolution. Our revolution is a political one. We destroy the bastions of political authority, but the basis of capitalism remains in place. A battle on two fronts — against the Tsar and against Capital — is beyond the forces of the proletariat. We will not pick up the glove that the capitalists are throwing down before us. The economic struggle will begin when and how we find it necessary.10 The Soviet Executive Committee, in consultation with the Imperial Duma (the old tsarist consultative assembly) had agreed on 15 March 1917 to the formation of the Provisional Revolutionary Government. This government was revolutionary in name only; during March it effectively handed its embryonic state power back to the bourgeoisie, who gratefully accepted it. In consultation with the Duma, the Soviet Executive Committee agreed who should be appointed to the various ministerial posts: Miliukov for Foreign Affairs, Guchkov as Minister of War, Kerensky for Justice and Prince Lvov as Prime Minister. Within days the government policy was clear: ‘Miliukov declared in favour of the annexation of Constantinople and the alleged desire of the nation to bring the war to a decisive victory.’11 Having secured control of the Soviet in Petrograd, the Soviet’s Executive Committee having handed power back to the bourgeoisie, the Menshevik and SR majority now prepares the final stroke in the political sphere. Feeling secure enough to carry forward the ‘Europeanisation’ of the Russian Revolution into a parliamentary system, via a Constituent Assembly, they called the First All-Russian Conference of Soviets for the end of March. Soviets and committees of workers, soldiers and occasionally of peasants had been appearing in increasing numbers of towns and villages, spreading out from the principal centres of Petrograd and Moscow. They radiated outwards, like the ripple wave effect of a stone dropping into water. Yet many of these provincial soviets and committees, politically speaking, represented the same forces as those dominant in the ones in the major cities. Once again, the real revolutionaries and class-struggle elements found themselves in a minority: the Soviet Executive Committee in Petrograd felt safe. The conference filled out the Petrograd Executive Committee with 16 conservative provincials, thus legitimising its state character. That strengthened the right wing still more. From now on they frightened the malcontents by alluding to the provinces. The resolution on regulating the membership of the Petrograd Soviet — adopted 14 March — was hardly carried out at all. It is not the local soviet that decides, but the All-Russian Executive Committee.12 Now that this budding labour bureaucracy felt safe from any challenge that the Bolsheviks could organise, it set about establishing national all-Russian credentials in order to assist its modus operandi with the bourgeoisie, thus ensuring that sufficient social weight was available to it as it played its part in the construction of a bour10. 11. 12. Quoted in Mandel, op cit, p86. Trotsky, Lessons of October, New Park, 1971, p73. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, op cit, p237.


geois-democratic system. Its social and political base was the petit-bourgeoisie. From the Marxist point of view, this raises important and interesting questions, for if the Soviet Executive Committee was petit-bourgeois, then what was its historical position in the Russian Revolution? How does this square with the assessment that the petit-bourgeoisie can have little or no independent role to play in relation to the main social formations (the proletariat and the bourgeoisie)? The Russian Revolution encapsulated both the bourgeois-democratic revolution — late and delayed in comparison with the rest of Europe — and the proletarian socialist revolution — early and in advance of the rest of Europe. Russia stood at the historical crossroads, combining aspects of both revolutions in one uneven process of dual power. The Soviet Executive Committee was the sharpest and clearest expression of this historical contradiction, containing within its ranks both the radical petit-bourgeois democrats, who were similar to the Independents of the British Revolution of the seventeenth century, and the Labour bureaucrats, who dominated the corporatist compromise — a compromise shaped by the established working-class institutions (like our TUC and Labour Party) on one side, and the bourgeois representative democrats’ state on the other. The Soviet Executive Committee was thoroughly Russian and yet thoroughly European, for every European bourgeois revolution has had to face the problem of establishing bourgeois hegemony. The February Revolution, which gave impetus to bourgeois political control of the state apparatus, was no exception. Yet for the Soviet Executive Committee from day one, its alliance with the bourgeoisie took overwhelming precedence; in contrast, any alliance with the proletariat was forced on them by the existence of the soviets and the role played within them by workers, soldiers and peasants. In this sense, it was a very unhappy and unrewarding buffeting to which the Soviet Executive Committee was subjected, as it tried to balance between the two contending class forces. The Soviet Executive Committee was both prefigurative and post-figurative, for it looked backwards and also (paradoxically) sideways at the rest of Europe. II: The Spanish Civil War Often a regime of dual power — with its parallel state structure — is ushered into being by an insurrection. In the Spanish situation, the militarist nationalist right rose in rebellion against a bourgeois government, expecting little popular resistance. Instead they met head-on, from the opposite direction, a workers’ counter-coup; revolution and counter-revolution intermingle in a civil war, as the workers of Barcelona and Madrid arm themselves against Franco. On 17 July 1936, the right rose in insurrection, but they got a big surprise: the people rose in a way reminiscent of 1707 and 1808. The leading group of the government dissolved as the workers of Madrid and Barcelona armed and fought back. In Madrid, General Franjul, leader of the rightists, was captured and army morale quickly collapsed, but in Barcelona General Goded held out for two days. The rightist-inclined guardia (asaltos and Mozos de Escuadra) were all Republicans, the air force failed to back the army and under pressure from the workers joined the fighting. After two days of street fighting, the army revolt was put down. The real power fell immediately into the hands of the CNT. In the next few days half of Spain was reconquered from the insurgents.13 This counter-coup against the right was motivated by the need for workers to defend themselves against the prospect of a further deterioration in their social posi13. See Franz Borkenau, The Spanish Cockpit, Ann Arbor, pp62-3.


tion. For should Franco and the general have successfully carried through their military pronunciamento against the Republican government without any opposition, then not only the Republican government, but more especially the workers’ movement — its trade unions, the Socialist parties, the Communist Party and the Anarchist Federation — would have been subjected to the iron heel. Opposition to Franco was insurrectionary in character, it could be nothing else. Six out of the seven largest towns were soon in the hands of the left. The opening scenes from quite different decades and quite different countries, Russia and Spain, geographically so far apart, bear a striking resemblance to one another. In each example, not one but two centres of power stand confronting each other over an abyss which now lies between them. As the bourgeois state splits up and fragments, dual power comes into being; a new political reality shapes the landscape. A pattern has begun to emerge from within the revolutionary process; social polarisation and upheaval lead to insurrectionary events in which the most politically advanced and socially concentrated elements of the working-class movement in Barcelona and Petrograd break through the consensus, confront the state, and inflict real defeats on the ruling orders. Presented with the immediate issue of who should rule, workers look to their traditional organisations, those with which they are most familiar — trade unions, labour parties, communist parties, anarchist federations, trades councils, shop stewards or factory committees — hoping that the leadership will respond, and that those sections of society who have not yet participated in the process (peasants, military personnel, civil servants, sections of the working class and the middle classes) will then quickly follow through the breach that the insurrectionary events have opened up in bourgeois domination. Workers press their own organisations to unite in a common front, so effectively avoiding or resolving any serious divisions between the vanguard and the active supportive element, which might exacerbate an already uneven tempo of consciousness and development. Under these circumstances, if the initial opportunity for establishing a workers’ state with a workers’ government is lost, then a longer period of dual power will ensue. Indeed, it would be the only alternative, for if the immediate missed opportunity is not to turn into a rout, then some semi-permanent form of organisation must be established by the insurrectionaries. But in Spain the insurrection failed immediately to dismiss Franco and the Madrid Republican government from the stage of history; likewise in Russia, where the Tsar was not under real pressure, and the bourgeoisie remained optimistic about their own future success. For in Russia, as in Spain, insurrection had succeeded in splitting the state formation, opening up a cleavage throughout society and tearing asunder all of the old time-honoured assurances about social relations. But who would fill the vacuum that had now opened up? For until either the bourgeoisie or the proletariat and its allies could seize power, then both of these classes would have to ride the storm of dual power. As the initial burst of insurrectionary enthusiasm ebbed away, and the latent strength of both major classes found expression in the actual dual power regime, workers based themselves on the traditional organisations of organised labour. Frank Borkenau’s first encounter with the Spanish revolution was when he crossed the French-Spanish border early in August 1936. In his compelling eye-witness account, he describes his travelling documents as little more than a letter of recommendation from a fairly well-known Spanish Socialist. He had no passport or visa,


just a ticket to Barcelona; however, officials and police officers declared his case to be political, and referred him to the ‘Committee’: There were, in fact, two committees in Port Bou, one for the railway station, the other for the town. The first was composed of representatives of both the CNT (Anarchists) and the UGT (Socialists) railway unions in equal numbers; the latter consisted of one representative respectively of every pro-government party existing in the town. Whilst the railway station committee was exclusively a workers’ committee based in the two local trades unions, the town committee was — because of its party political basis — of mixed social profile. We went to the offices of the town committee, which had taken its seat in the building of the Ayuntamiento (the municipality) where it was officiating side by side with the old municipal officials and the old local police. Outside floated a large red flag with hammer and sickle.14 In both the Spanish and Russian revolutions, coordination of traditional organisations and improvisation of new ones occurred side by side, but with both of them eventually tending to operate at distinct levels: firstly, at the workplace or point of production, and, secondly, in the surrounding localities or districts, where there was a preponderance of workers’ residences. In Spain the Ayuntamiento and in Russia the local soviet looked after the distribution of food, provision of transport, occupation of certain buildings and the manifold tasks of workers’ dual power in civil society, whilst within the economy factory committees in Russia and trade union defence committees in Spain attempted to express the workers’ drive for control over the productive process. So far, our examination of dual power and its outcome in Spain has been limited to establishing its existence in history, and not its nature or character. It shows similarities with and differences from the Russian experience. The Spanish revolution was from day one set into the context of a civil war against fascism. Civil war always disproportionately affects the least mobile classes in society: the peasants cannot leave the land, it is their very livelihood, their family and their source of social existence; the workers of Spain could not leave the mines and factories, especially when many of them had been placed under some form of control, or at least continued the promise of future production for the anti-fascist effort. This may go some way to explaining the violent retribution visited upon the bourgeoisie, landlords and members of the church hierarchy, all of whom had threatened the Popular Front government. The working class does not rise in insurrection at the drop of a hat; indeed, it often enters this process out of compulsion and after all other avenues have been closed off, but with little systematic insight into the revolutionary tasks and objectives implicit in this process. In the wake of the crushing of the Asturias Commune in February 1934 (a localised uprising in the Asturias mining region which produced a self-governing soviet type of system), the left in Spain was stung by the depth of reaction, with 1000 workers killed and 30 000 imprisoned for as long as 18 months. The pressure for unity was great, and increasing all the time. Before long it found its expression: the Socialists with the UGT were joined by Republicans and Communists in establishing the Popular Front. The Anarchists, the main working-class movement in Spain, dropped
14. Ibid, p68.


their opposition to ‘politics’, and urged electoral support after the perceived failure of direct action during the Asturian Commune. In February 1936, the Popular Front election lists won out against the right. The Republicans, who were a small section of progressive movement, formed a government with Manuel Azaña as President and Santiago Casares Quiroga as Prime Minister. If the masses who voted for the Popular Front knew what they disliked — the unreformed army, the hated authoritarian guardia, the church hierarchy, the landlords (with their oppressive latifundia) — did they, or the parties leading the Popular Front, agree on what to install as a suitable replacement? In a word: No! Agreements about the future were absent, yet with the defeat of the right the moment for decision had arrived. The left had won a clear majority in the elections, a majority of the working class was both increasingly restless from the immediate past, and felt the need to grasp this new opportunity in order to secure some benefits from the government, which they looked upon as being ‘theirs’. The Spanish ruling orders moved quickly in order to nip this threatening situation in the bud. When the army rose with Franco on 17 July 1936, it believed that the workers would not resist, because they were disillusioned with the Republican government. The generals who followed Franco had prepared their plans as thoroughly as possible from the military point of view; the armed services believed themselves to be the kernel of the now threatened state, and acted accordingly. Feeling the state to be threatened by both the Second Republic and the election of the Popular Front government, the men of the state acted to defend it by insurrection against the government, seeking to replace it, or else to pressurise its leading personnel so that a compromise that guaranteed both order and safety for the monarchist bourgeoisie could be ensured. As the state’s kernel entered into revolt against those who were supposed to be governing the state, they quickly achieved their first objective: the government disintegrated. Casares Quiroga, the Prime Minister, broke down politically if not personally. Diego Martínez Barrio, another Republican, took over and immediately recognised how hot the seat was. There was no democratic space left any more: it was either Franco or the workers, who by this time were fighting the troops in the streets and forcing the main naval base at Valencia to surrender — indeed sailors may well have risen in revolt against their officers’ orders. Barrio and the Interior Minister Felipe Sánchez Román refused the workers arms despite the fact that they were dying defending the government, and then resigned. The second (Barrio-led) Republican government fell, and a third, led by José Giral as Prime Minister, took office. All of this happened on one day: 19 July 1936. The workers of Madrid and Barcelona did not wait for Giral any more than they had waited for Barrio or his predecessor Quiroga: by 19 July they had already acquired enough arms, and in the next few days they took more. The focus of Republican power shifted away from the government: in Madrid, the UGT became the real power, and in Barcelona it was the CNT. The proletarian defence of the Popular Front government was so effective that in those July days power fell into the hands of the workers and peasants and their own organisations. In the next few days, half of Spain was reconquered from the insurrectionists. Neither the Anarchists nor the Socialists took government office, but they alone retained real power in their respective strongholds, and exerted it through the defence committees created in the days of street-


fighting.15 The fate of both bourgeois and socialist revolutions, looked at from within the framework of the Russian and Spanish experiences, throws into sharp relief the uneven, different and particular features of each individual country, as part of an international process which within itself contains the general essence of European class struggle, revolution and counter-revolution. In Russia, the bourgeois revolution was hardly more than a dream — the people imagined a free press, a universal franchise with a parliamentary system and political parties. In Spain, some of these reforms had already been achieved: women gained the vote in 1936, in time for the general election; by Russian standards, Spain was already ‘free’. Yet the unreconstructed nature of the state and the resistance of the landowners gave Spain its own particular character. For if Russia was the mirror opposite of Britain and France, then Spain was uniquely Spanish: it lived halfway — part feudal, monarchical and militaristic, but also part republican and parliamentary. This particularism was so deeply etched into the national life of Spain that it even expressed itself as a pattern of regional developments. In the south, Andalusia, overwhelmingly and exclusively agrarian, felt the heavy hand of the latifundia; it epitomised the backwardness of Spain, whilst in the north the developed and industrialised area of Catalonia, with its striving for independence, stood in stark contrast to the peasant society of other parts of the country. Spain was in 1936 at the crossroads, waiting expectantly to bring Andalusian backwardness into the orbit of Catalan progress. But how was this Spanish risorgimento to be carried out? How were the major cleavages in Spanish society to be overcome, without disturbing the fabric of the state and the economy? For any attempt to resolve these contradictions would of necessity open up questions which could not help but bring to the surface all of the issues relating to political power. Which social class could lead Spain out of its uneven pattern of development and secure a stable future? The bourgeoisie, like the Russian ruling élites, wished to cast off the remaining fetters of feudalism, within outdated modes of accumulation, yet the church, with its intimate connection with both state and unreformed landowners, showed no interest in allowing this to happen if it was for one moment likely to threaten its survival. The church was only one example, for behind the church stood all those other social forces who clung desperately to the vestiges of absolutism. The ruling class in Spain by the 1930s became a kind of social and political amalgam similar to that of Russia in 1917. The bourgeoisie knew that it must move forward to a more fullyfledged capitalism expressive of its own political dominance, whilst not allowing any opening for either the restoration of dictatorship or the intervention of a working class buoyed up with too many expectations and equally determined not to return to the old days which might seize hold of a political revolution and turn it into a socialist revolution. Thus in shaking itself free, once and for all, from its remaining obligations to the remnants of feudalism, the bourgeoisie had to deal effectively with a combative proletariat seeking to maximise its gain from such an opportunity. Virtually the last thing it wanted was a power vacuum caused by an unresolved power struggle within the ruling orders, but even that was preferable to dual power, soviets and the threat of socialism. The point of departure of the Spanish revolution was armed struggle, it was accompanied by popular mobilisation in defence of a government which workers had
15. Ibid, p65.


in some numbers supported and voted for. Almost without any preconditions each party or trade union on the Republican side organised its own militia. Often these militias would federate together to form a local junta; the most powerful of these were to be organised in Catalonia. The ‘Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias of Catalonia’ directs the struggle. The Anarchists have three representatives for the CNT and two for the FAI. The UGT was given three, though it was small, to encourage similar organisations elsewhere. The POUM has one, the peasant organisation one and the Stalinists one. The left bourgeois parties have four, making a total of 15. In actuality the Central Committee is dominated by the CNT, the FAI and the POUM.16 The relationship between bourgeois and socialist revolutions forms the framework for both the Russian and Spanish revolutions. Yet these relationships need to find their institutional form, and from the point of view of the oppressed there is a striking similarity in the outcome: the attempt by the workers and peasants of Russia and Spain to find sufficient unity in action in order to rid themselves of exploitation presses down on the existing organisation of the classes. The political parties and trade unions are dragged into the search for power; they are forced to federate, and, at the highest level of struggle, to reach out over and beyond the normal spheres of operation consistent with the old political order. They are — often against the will of the leadership bodies — forced to form new types of organisation — soviet-type organisations. Spain was uniquely Spain, it lived halfway, part feudal, part monarchical and militarist nationalist, but also part bourgeois, republican, industrialised and striving for parliamentary opportunities, as expressed by developed Catalonia. Spain in 1936 was at the crossroads waiting to resolve the unevenness of under-development which was creating intolerable contradictions; the future was log-jammed. It was this log-jam that the workers hoped would be broken by the Popular Front government, and which Franco moved to break on behalf of the old order. In those fateful days of mid-July 1936, the state split into two distinct parts, dual power became a reality. The government went through three successive changes in one day; workers turned to their own resources, innovated and built new organisations of class power, often based on trade unions and traditional working-class political parties, but quite crucially the leadership of these organisations failed to take governmental power. Instead, they handed the power of a new state, a workers’ state in formation, into the hands of the Giral government. In Russia, the first Provisional Government was set up in accordance with the wishes of the Menshevik-dominated Executive Committee of the Soviet. In Spain, the government of Giral could not have ruled for one hour, let alone one day, if the majority of the official leadership had not wanted it so. The Central Committee of the Catalan Anti-Fascist Committees, the most advanced outpost of the ‘Spanish Soviet Executive Committee’, fudged the issue: For with the defeat of the Spanish military in the streets of Barcelona, the executive power of the Madrid government in Catalonia had disappeared and all administrative power of the Central Madrid Government, even
16. Felix Morrow, The Spanish Revolution, New Park, 1976, pp274-5.


that of controlling the Spanish frontier, had passed automatically into the hands of the Catalan Regional Government.17 This government, which became known as the Generalitat, had little or no armed power of its own. It was forced to rely on the leadership of the workers’ parties and their trade unions to carry much of the effort of the Anti-Fascist Committees, who with their armed militias stood between Franco and the destruction of that very Popular Front. Yet the CNT/FAI, the Socialist Party/UGT, the Communist Party and the POUM all ignored their majority within the soviet-type bodies: worse still, they continually refused to form a government and undertake the elementary duty to generalise the embryonic soviet forms thrown up by the defensive anti-fascist struggle, and go onto the offensive. This could only be successfully achieved if the soviet form was developed as the kernel of a workers’ state. In short, the demand for the official leaders to take power was in Spain every bit as relevant as it had been in Russia, for it is not a propaganda slogan just to be used on the front pages of left papers, it is a demand which ties together all the hopes and aspirations for a workers’ state and a workers’ government. Instead of this, the leaders refused to take power, and were then cast into the role of standing astride the revolutionary process, attempting to halt it in its tracks. They thought it possible to bring about a fully democratic Spain without fully defeating both Franco and capitalism. But to achieve this the social revolution unleashed by the workers and peasants would have to be carried forward in step with the assault on military objectives: victory through revolution was on the agenda, but the Spanish Mensheviks and SRs baulked at the thought of such a solution. Franco lived to retrieve his initial set-back, and then went on to impose the Spanish bourgeoisie’s own particular class ‘solution’ to the crisis of Spanish society. III: Russia and Spain in Retrospect ‘It is necessary to recall once again that in the course of six months in 1917 the soviets in Russia had a coalitionary SR and Menshevik majority.’18 Trotsky, participant in and historian of the Russian Revolution, rhetorically recalls the balance of political forces within the soviets from February to the end of August 1917. By the beginning of September 1917, the Bolsheviks were gaining majority support in a majority of soviets across the country. They were no longer confined to Petrograd and the more militant centres, having moved from being in a minority position to one where they were in a majority. In doing so they had prevented the defeats of the July Days turning into a rout, and they now stood within sight of a new second attempt at revolutionary insurrection. It is this overturn of political leadership within the soviets, the defeat of the SR and Menshevik majority, which allowed the Bolsheviks to replace the forces of class compromise with a new revolutionary leadership. It is this process which provides a crucial insight into the success of working-class revolution in Russia, but its failure in Spain. We can only address ourselves here to the political essence of the issues at stake. A fully-developed assessment would require discussion of all the factors affecting the outcome of both the Spanish and Russian revolutions, taking into account the relations between base and superstructure in both cases, together with the balance of class forces. However, it is legitimate to concentrate on the main political feature embodied in the revolutionary struggle for state power in the
17. 18. Borkenau, op cit, p67. Trotsky, The Lessons of October, op cit, p7.


course of both the Spanish and the Russian revolutions: what lay between success and failure, in relation to the political process, was the whole question of the revolutionary party and its ability to develop a strategy suitable for, and applicable to, the prevailing circumstances. However, before reaching the obvious conclusion that in Spain, if only a revolutionary party, with firm leadership based amongst the working class, had been equipped with the correct strategic orientation towards the mass organisations, then the trade unions, the Communist Party, the Socialists and Anarchists would have discarded their mistaken ways, we should attempt to place into focus the other difficulties, for the problem of under-development and the sharp unevenness of the revolutionary process was so cruelly expressed in the case of Spain. The blunt unwillingness of objective and subjective factors to move in greater unison is striking, for capitalist reaction had already conquered in Italy and Germany, together with the militaristic regimes in Portugal and Greece. On the left, the working class remained dominated by a combination of Stalinist and reformist apparatuses, unlike the situation in Russia, where a revolutionary party with some base in the vanguard of the working class had, in spite of repression, organised successfully in the period preceding the outbreak of revolution. It should be recalled that in Russia all the workers’ parties, to a greater or lesser extent, favoured the setting up of soviets, while in Spain none of the workers’ organisations, except for tiny minorities, were soviet-style bodies: We succeeded in creating soviets in Russia only because the demand for them was raised, not by us alone, but by the Mensheviks and SRs as well, although, to be sure, they had different aims in mind. We cannot create any soviets in Spain precisely because neither the Socialists nor Syndicalists want soviets.19 The Mensheviks and SRs in Russia were quite willing to create soviets because they saw them as a bulwark guardian against Tsarist counter-revolution, which they could politically control and through which they would lay the basis of the Constituent Assembly as a link in the chain establishing a fully-fledged bourgeois representative democracy of a parliamentary type. The soviets were for them a means to an end — which their German followers Ebert, Noske and Scheidemann of the SPD were capable of achieving — without allowing the revolution to spill over from a political to a social one. The role of the Social Democratic leaders in establishing a bourgeois parliamentary republic in Germany was achieved over the bones of the vanguard of the working class. Soviets became for them an arena within which they had to contest for the political leadership of a mass movement. Eventually the Social Democratic leaders won the majority, but not without some sleepless nights and a substantial measure of collusion with the armed wing of the bourgeoisie, the Freikorps. By the end of the 1920s, the dialectic of history had stretched itself across Europe. Russia, backward and retarded in its capitalist development, had become the most advanced outpost of the working class. Germany, earlier in its development than Russia but delayed in relation to Britain, had produced its half-completed revolution. Caught between the full organisation of a sovereign workers’ state of soviets and the unreformed Junkerdom of the German bourgeoisie, it had issued forth a rather unstable and soon-to-be extinguished republic. But if Germany was stuck in an unpleasant half-way house,
19. LD Trotsky, The Spanish Revolution (1931-39), Pathfinder Press, 1973, p163.


faced with the impending doom of fascism, then Britain, the most precocious of the capitalist states, had a working class which had only just managed to shake off the legacy of Lib-Labism, of a dependent alliance with an openly bourgeois party. The problem of an unevenly-developed and disunited working class is not a new one. It is the overriding problem to which the Bolshevik leadership applied itself throughout 1917. The creation of a revolutionary majority within the soviets was not the result of clever exposure-type politics, but rather the result of the historical conjuncture of a weak and delayed bourgeois development combined with a small concentrated working class which sought political leadership, carrying through all the required demands of democracy and socialising the economy. Thus two stages of history were collapsed into one. The bourgeois and the proletarian revolutions were realised by the highest expression of the unity of the working class, the coalescence of a revolutionary party, soviets and the overthrow of the bourgeois state, which had existed under conditions of dual power from February to October 1917. So if ‘organisational unity with the majority of the working class cannot be created under this slogan’,20 that is, the slogan for the creation of soviets, then new and different approaches have to be found. Here Trotsky notes the role of workers’ control in the factories and the establishment of anti-fascist committees, which, alongside the military columns of the various workers’ organisations, provided the raw material for a fresh approach to the development of a united front in the Spanish situation, the highest expressions of which were the soviets in Russia and the workers’ junta in Spain. The Spanish workers attempted to move forward, in particular during the June-July days of 1936, especially in Catalonia, where in Barcelona they created organisations largely reminiscent of soviets, but so powerful was the official leadership and so weak the impact of revolutionary politics that step by step and bit by bit the opportunity to create a national network of soviets that could embrace the whole of the proletariat was squandered by the official leadership of the main workers’ and peasants’ parties. This was not an unprecedented experience. Trotsky observed: A revolutionary situation, confronting the proletariat with the immediate problem of seizing power, is made up of objective and subjective elements, each bound up with each other and to a large extent conditioning each other. But this mutual dependence is relative. The law of uneven development applies fully also to the factors of a revolutionary situation. An insufficient development of one of them may produce a condition in which the revolutionary situation either does not come to an explosion and spend itself, or, coming to an explosion, ends in defeat for the revolutionary working classes.21 It is the under-development of the subjective element, the revolutionary party and its strategy, in the course of the Spanish Civil War, which so marks out the contours of the unevenness of political relations, or, put in another way, the fullness of the objective conditions did not in the Spanish situation call into being a fully-fledged subjective element — the revolutionary party and the united front strategy for taking power. But even if a revolutionary party had existed in Spain prior to the Civil War, it would only have been half of the elementary equation necessary to secure a successful result. For the Russian Bolshevik party, faced with more favourable condi20. 21. Ibid LD Trotsky, Fascism, Stalinism and the United Front, p7.


tions in some respects (several years of preparation, including the dress rehearsal of 1905, and a labour movement in which soviets, albeit for opportunist reasons as well as principled ones, were acceptable to a very broad band of the workers’ and peasants’ movement) had to experience substantial political challenges to its existing strategy prior to April 1917. Indeed not until the April Theses became party policy was the crisis fully resolved within the Bolshevik party. In other words, the problem of the unevenness of development between objective and subjective factors was present also in Russia, even if it was historically reduced, being correspondingly elevated in Spain. Revolutionaries organising for revolution have at their disposal the subjective factor, revolutionary political consciousness, which if handled creatively may become transformed into its opposite, the objective power of the proletarian party and the apparatus of an independent workers’ state. Once the April Theses in Russia had lifted the sights of the Bolsheviks away from any further attempt at the construction of an intermediate stage between the overthrown Tsarist regime and the establishment of a proletarian state, then the need to assemble a majority for this project required new tactics and a new strategy. The problem became one of winning a majority of the working class away from the control of the right-wing Menshevik and SR leaders, who wished to take the soviets into a subservient relationship with the forthcoming Constituent Assembly, a goal achieved by their German equivalents in the crisis of 1918-19. Trotsky has some very interesting things to say about this whole development. The Bolsheviks were faced with a whole series of paradoxical political relations: from day one the overwhelming majority of the workers, an increasing majority of soldiers and (after July) a growing number of peasants looked towards the soviets. They supported these soviets with increasing clarity and determination, yet the same soviets were dominated by a right-wing leadership ensconced within the Soviet Executive Committee, who acted in relation to the mass movement in a thoroughly bureaucratic manner, desperately willing to hand back to the bourgeoisie every vestige of soviet power in return for a parliamentary system — providing the Tsarist counter-revolution did not cut off their heads in the meantime. How could the Bolsheviks relate to this situation? How were they to deal with this central problem of political leadership in the post-April period? Lenin and the party put the socialist-led workers’ state at the top of the agenda. From April to September 1917, the Bolsheviks demanded that the SRs and Mensheviks break with the liberal bourgeoisie and take power into their own hands. Under this provision the Bolshevik Party promised the Mensheviks and SRs as the petit-bourgeois representatives of the workers and peasants its revolutionary aid against the bourgeoisie; categorically refusing, however, either to enter into the government of the Mensheviks and SRs or to carry political responsibility for it.22 It should be recalled that during the semi-insurrectionary events of July 1917 in the main urban centres of Petrograd and Moscow, many workers, without prior knowledge or preparation amongst the soldiers, set off an ill-timed initiative against the Provisional Government and its supporters inside the Soviet Executive Committee. This confused conflict inevitably led to armed clashes between the most advanced elements of the workers and regiments supporting the government. This sit22. LD Trotsky, The Transitional Programme, p33.


uation was unwelcome to the Bolsheviks, who remained convinced that the workers of Petrograd and Moscow were politically too far advanced in relation to the rest of the working class, the majority of the soldiers and the overwhelming majority of the peasantry. However, the Bolsheviks were drawn into partially supporting the semiinsurrection, partly because it was being led by the industrial working class, who were organised via the factory committees, which formed the core of the urban soviets, and these bodies were developing an increasingly sympathetic relationship with the revolutionary left. The Bolsheviks used their influence both to support and criticise this conflict with the Provisional Government, but, as events unfolded, the government, with the backing of the Soviet Executive Committee and certain loyal regiments, gained the upper hand, and the workers had to retreat. The Bolsheviks temporarily withdrew the demand that the Soviet leadership ‘break with the bourgeoisie’. A comprehensive alliance of all sections of the oppressed had not yet blossomed. By the end of July, as the incipient mass movement for insurrection died down in the main cities, a peasant movement of land seizures, including confiscation of manorial and church lands, grew. This opened up a fresh focus of class struggle activity. The peasant revolution had, up to the end of the July Days, been lying semidormant in the Russian countryside, beneath the centuries-long oppression and the harsh circumstances of the post-1880s capitalist settlement. Suddenly the peasantry, its patience exhausted by unfulfilled promises of land reform, decided to take matters into its own hands. Peasant soviets appeared with the land seizures, and peasant unions made their mark for the first time. A new confidence began to seep back into the mass movement. The alliance between the government and the Soviet Executive Committee became less secure, while the monarchist/militarist reactionary right prepared for the Kornilov revolt. The issue of state power and the Bolshevik approach to it were back on the political agenda. In this context, the demand that the Bolsheviks addressed to the Mensheviks and SRs — ‘Break with the bourgeoisie! Take power into your own hands!’ — had for the masses tremendous educational significance. ‘The obstinate unwillingness of the Mensheviks and SRs to take power dramatically doomed them before mass opinion and prepared the victory of the Bolsheviks.’23 The transitional approach was central to the Russian revolutionaries’ political orientation, elaborated during the course of events in 1917. Their demands were of a wide and varied nature — ‘Land, Peace and Bread’, ‘All Power to the Soviets!’ ‘Defend the Eight-hour Day Act’, etc — aimed straight at the existing leadership for as long as those groupings enjoyed majority support among the oppressed and exploited. The Bolsheviks effectively constructed a majority for the socialist soviet revolution by grasping the existing subjective factor of prevailing consciousness, and turning it into an objective asset in the hands of the working class. The central tenets of Marxism — the transitional programme, the united front and the democratic centralist revolutionary party — are all geared to one overriding objective: to turn the base of the working class against its traditional leadership in an attempt to carry out a social revolution, to carry through in a conscious political fashion the inherent unconscious or semi-conscious striving of the workers for class unity in action, because it is only with maximum class unity in action that the workers have ever achieved any success. It is the task of socialists to locate their primary political work in the mainstream of the traditional organisations of the workers, no
23. Ibid, p34.


matter how difficult that may be. The mass reformist Stalinist parties and the trade union apparatus are central here. It is the ability of this bureaucratic reformist apparatus to deliver some measure of material reforms to the working class which gives it its political weight and support. The bourgeoisie — for as long as they can afford to — need to do deals with this reformist bureaucracy to some extent, in order to pacify the workers. Not until the Russian revolutionary outbreak of February 1917 could the Russian reformists take advantage of what they had always sought, the opening up of a bourgeois democratic revolution, allowing the Mensheviks to balance between the poles of the crisis. The political rearming of the Bolshevik party by Lenin’s April Theses, the inconclusive outcome of the July Days, the onset of peasant revolts in the countryside after July-August, the failure of the Kornilov revolt in the face of an intransigent Military Revolutionary Committee led by Trotsky all contributed to the context of insurrection in October. But what undercut the Mensheviks, politically speaking, was the loss of majority support inside the soviets, as the Bolsheviks made their united front demands. Germany: How Not To Do It It is tempting to locate the Russian Revolution as the initiator of an interwar European ‘golden age’, with the Spanish Revolution closing off this historical period of ‘classical’ working-class revolution. But such a view would only confirm a romantic eulogy of the past, setting it in a valedictory historical context from which little or nothing could be rescued and learned. This view, that the working class was revolutionary but is not now revolutionary, takes the Second World War as its cut-off point. Before then, the radicals tell us, the working class was genuinely proletarian, but afterwards it lost its way, becoming content with a reformed version of capitalism: no successful overturns of state power and capitalist property relations have been achieved since the bureaucratic Stalinist revolutions of 1945-47. Yet this observation is based on a wrong interpretation of ‘classical’ working-class revolution and misunderstands the real changes that have undoubtedly taken place in the European revolutionary process. The classical soviet was the highest expression of the unity of the working class, but it carried in its very kernel all the paradoxical weaknesses and strengths of the older pre-soviet forms of organisation of the proletariat — trade unions, shop stewards’ committees, works councils and political parties. There is no pure soviet form, unsullied by reformism or, since the isolation of the Russian Revolution, unblemished by Stalinism. Existing divisions and conflicts reappear in the soviet bodies, especially if the first immediate insurrectionary opportunity is missed and a situation of dual power opens up. To understand the periods in the aftermath of the great wars one has to comprehend the prewar defeats, the bureaucratisation of the working-class movements, and the consequential setback to the whole revolutionary process. A good example is that of Germany in the immediate post-First World War period. The outbreak of the November 1918 Revolution in Germany was centred on the Baltic Sea ports, in particular Kiel, Hamburg and Bremerhaven. It then spread across Germany until it infected the capital itself, Berlin. However, by the time this revolutionary tide had reached the capital, the Social Democratic leadership had managed to pull itself together, taking the initiative in setting up the workers’ council for Greater Berlin. It did this not because it supported independent workers’ and soldiers’ parliaments. On the contrary, these were clearly supporters of the bourgeois Constituent Assembly, who intended to create a bourgeois parliament in much the same way as the


Russian Mensheviks and the Spanish Republicans. The German Social Democrats set up the councils in Greater Berlin because they had no other alternative. If they wanted to retain credibility with their own working-class supporters and retain the opportunity to intervene in events, then they had to establish a platform inside the revolution from which they could then destroy the revolution. The Social Democrat leaders had put their whole party machine to work to ensure their dominance at the assembly. The previous day, while the revolution was raging in the streets, they had set up their own soldiers’ and workers’ council, made up of a dozen handpicked Social Democrat workers and three of the party leaders. They had then rushed thousands of leaflets to the barracks demanding ‘no fratricidal strife.’ The politically raw soldiers were given the impression that anyone who questioned the need for unthinking unity between the different ‘socialist’ parties was a splitter, wrecker and saboteur. More than 1500 delegates packed out the meeting hall. The Social Democrats had managed to get the soldiers there early, so that they took up almost all the space of the floor, forcing the more politically experienced workers’ delegates into the balconies. The soldiers were not interested in the niceties of debate. Many waved fists and guns. There were frequent interruptions of speakers, especially anyone who seemed to question the slogan of unity at any price. In this atmosphere it was difficult for the left-wing workers’ delegates to object when Social Democratic notables took charge of the platform.24 Ebert, a principal leader of the Social Democrats, spoke up for the formation of the ‘pure socialist’ joint government of the SDP and the Independents Socialists (USPD). Haase of the Independents joined with Ebert. The soldiers were ecstatic with joy: the revolution had won! The resolution moved at the assembly sounded revolutionary enough. It proclaimed that Germany was a ‘Socialist Republic’: ‘All power lies with workers’ and soldiers’ councils. Peace is the watchword of the revolution… Brotherly greetings to the Russian workers’ and soldiers’ government.’25 Here, then, was a ripe chance for the revolutionaries to practice the methods of the Bolsheviks, later codified by Trotsky in his work ‘Tactics and Strategy of the United Front’, to take the official leaders at their face value and start in a systematic manner to address demands to them relating to the formation of a workers’ state, by calling on the Eberts and Haases present at that meeting to take the power of industry, finance and commerce into their hands. Obviously, one such demand in a meeting of that type would not have solved all the problems of the developing revolution. But it would have given the more politically aware workers’ delegates an opportunity to place the leadership in a difficult position, crucially without prematurely breaking with the more backward sections of the meeting, including the soldiers, who were still very much under the influence of Ebert and Haase. It would have given an opportunity to the left to reopen the whole debate on such questions as government,
24. 25. C Harman, The Lost Revolution: Germany 1918 to 1923, Bookmarks, 1982, p48. Ibid, p49.


state power and the role of the councils. Instead, it seems, history recorded a different story, for, in spite of the revolutionary intentions of the Spartacist grouping led by Luxemburg and Liebknecht, they hesitated, for whatever reason, to address such demands to those who they knew would only betray. They failed where Lenin in particular had succeeded. In the records of this conflict there are some apparent discrepancies between the accounts of Chris Harman and John Riddell. Both Harman and Riddell record 10 November as the date of the first major meeting of the Greater Berlin Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils. They confirm that the soldiers’ delegates were in the majority, and that the SDP had been very busy in the run-up period, working hard to achieve a clear majority amongst potential delegates, in which they were eminently successful. However, Harman records ‘more than 1500 delegates present’,26 whereas Riddell presents another figure: 3000.27 Nevertheless, both record the demand of ‘Unity, Unity and Unity’ at any price, often voiced most loudly by the soldiers’ delegates, who were often pro-SPD, lukewarm towards the USPD, and openly hostile towards the Spartacists, especially Liebknecht. Furthermore, both Harman and Riddell agree that the SPD demand was centred on parity between SPD and USPD representatives on the leading body established by the Circus Busch, with the Spartacists excluded as far as possible. Harman records that ‘the previous day [9 November], while the revolution was raging on the streets, they [the SPD leaders] had set up their own “Soldiers’ and Workers’ Council” made up of a dozen handpicked Social Democratic workers and three party leaders.’28 I can find no reference to this attempt at an SPD partysponsored council anywhere in Riddell. Yet Harman goes on to record that the meeting on 10 November elected as an executive 12 majority Social Democratic (SPD) soldiers and 12 workers — six from the SPD and six from the USPD.29 Riddell notes a similar process with similar results, but based on slightly different figures: 14 soldiers — all USPD — together with 14 workers’ delegates on a parity basis between the SPD and the USPD, that is, seven each.30 However, the really interesting thing is not the dissimilarity in the recorded figures so much as the agreement between both Harman and Riddell over the political preparation for the meeting, the bureaucratic mechanism used, and, above all, the account of the Spartacists’ contribution to the debate at this crucially important juncture. A hostile atmosphere prevailed when Liebknecht rose to speak. His contribution failed to place any demands on the USPD/SPD leadership for the furtherance of the revolution. Instead, he presented a series of formally correct criticisms aimed at the official leadership, and finally called: The soldiers’ councils must be in the vanguard of the defence of the councils’ power. No significant portion of the councils’ power can be placed in the hands of the officers. The reins must be primarily in the hands of the simple soldiers. (Loud shouts: ‘They are’) In the provinces several high officers have been elected chairmen of the soldiers’ councils. (Protests) I tell
26. 27. 28. 29. 30. Ibid. J Riddell, The German Revolution and the Debate on Soviet Power: Documents 1918-1919: Preparing the Founding Congress, Anchor Foundation, 1986, p50. Harman, The Lost Revolution, op cit, pp48-9. Ibid. Riddell, The German Revolution, op cit, p50.


you: Enemies surround us! (Shouts: ‘You are twisting the facts!’) The revolution’s enemies are insidiously using the soldiers’ organisation to their own ends. (Persistent commotion) I know how unpleasant this disturbance is, but even if you shoot me I will say what I believe to be necessary. The triumph of the revolution will be possible only if it becomes a social revolution. Only then will it have the strength to ensure the socialisation of the economy, happiness and peace for all eternity. (Applause from some, persistent uproar, renewed shouts: ‘Unity’)31 The USPD/SPD leaders must have breathed a sigh of relief. No pressure had been placed on them by the rank and file of the assembled delegates which might have put their vision of unity to the test. The official leadership had achieved its aim of securing parity as a mechanism by which they could control the executive committee, on the assumed basis of party precedence, without the revolutionaries being able to force them to define what unity actually entailed. For the revolutionaries present at that meeting had failed to develop demands which stood fully within the heartfelt need for workers’ and soldiers’ unity against the officers and their capitalist allies. Instead, Liebknecht and his supporters allowed themselves to be sidetracked into a diversionary debate over one aspect of revolutionary organisation and representation — namely, the position of officers within the councils, and the social composition of the councils’ leadership.

Trotsky or Notsky
This delightful parody of the allegations made at the Moscow Trials penned by the radical novelist Nigel Balchin was first published in Night and Day on 19 August 1937. Balchin’s piece shows that the propaganda issued by Moscow and retailed by the Communist Party and fellow-travellers during the ‘Red Decade’ was not taken seriously by everyone. Night and Day was an independent left-wing journal published for a short while in the late 1930s. It folded after being served with a writ by a Hollywood film company in response to a sharp review written by Graham Greene. We extend our thanks to Ron Heisler for bringing this article to our attention. The Sir Basil Zaharoff mentioned at the end of this piece was an infamous arms dealer who specialised in selling matériel to both sides in wars; the Mrs Harris, we regret, remains a mystery. *** SOMEBODY has been pointing out that the Soviet history books must be getting a little sketchy. Apparently when some member of the Old Guard is liquidated, all mention of his services to the revolution is expunged from the history books. The name of Trotsky has disappeared long ago. The next generation of Russians will presumably be taught that the Red Army ‘just growed’. And with the latest liquidations it begins to look as though the October Revolution was carried out by Lenin and Sta31. Ibid.

Nigel Balchin


lin aided (with that subtlety and snakiness which seems to characterise enemies of the USSR) by a number of Fascists and Capitalist Tools, who helped in the setting up of the Communist State for the fun of having something to wreck and sabotage. For my own part, however, I am less interested in the historical side of the matter than in its psychology. And during the last couple of years, I have become more and more fascinated by the psychology of the man Trotsky. He seems to me a supreme example of the lengths to which your real dyed-in-the-wool Fascist will go to gain its own tyrannous ends. Consider: 1. For many years prior to the Russian Revolution, Trotsky was in exile, posing as a Communist. We now know that he wasn’t a Communist at all. He was, and always has been, a Fascist. In fact, he may almost be said to have invented Fascism. For there he was subtly working for Fascism years and years before anybody else, Mussolini and Hitler included, realised that there was such a thing. The reasonable assumption is that Trotsky hated Communism so much that he went abroad and plotted to bring Communism about in Russia, so that when Communism had been brought about in Russia, he would have something nice and big to overthrow. Few of us, I suspect, would have thought as far ahead as that. 2. Returning to Russia (still disguised as a Communist) he created the Red Army. This, clearly, was a masterstroke. For he must have seen, with his uncanny foresight, that a strong Red Army would frighten the life out of Germany, bring about Fascism there, and so provide him with somebody to plot with and somebody to offer the Ukraine to. 3. In order to strengthen his disguise, he got himself kicked out of Russia, not, mark you, as a Fascist but because he pretended to want to carry on the principle of World Revolution against the wishes of the eminently conservative Stalin. That, I think everyone will agree, was rich. 4. Since then of course he has surpassed himself. Living in apparent innocence in Norway, he even succeeded, by the simple device of leaving a repeating gramophone playing the works of Marx in his bedroom, in persuading the childish Norwegians that he was in their homes, at times when he has been proved to have been in Berlin, New York, Rome, Tokyo and Tooting. To avoid suspicion he has organised (vide Press) an attempt to overthrow the government of Belgium and replace it by Communism; and has attempted to cover his guilty relations with Germany by persuading Hitler to express great dislike of all Jews, and Russian Jews in particular. Few have realised that all this Jew stuff in Germany was just Trotsky being subtle again. 5. In the meantime, he has been corresponding with almost everybody in Russia in complicated codes. I have seen one of these dastardly code epistles. It ran ‘Ywha etha ellha ontda ouya urderma Alinsta? Etga noa ithitwa. Uchma ovla. Rotskita.’ After hours of patient effort the GPU succeeded in decoding the message — a plain incitement to murder Stalin and establish Fascism. In return for this Judas-like betrayal he is understood to have been promised the first pick of all General Goering’s cast-off uniforms. Yet even now I doubt if the simple and trusting Russians have plumbed the full depths of this man’s subtle villainy. Consider. As we have already said, we have now reached a point where the Russian Revolution is seen to have been brought about by Lenin, Stalin, and a lot of Fascist hirelings. Suppose Trotsky is plotting with Stalin? You see the implication? In a little while there will be another big trial, Stalin will be proved to be a disguised Trotskyist Fascist, and the people of Russia will


wake up one morning to find themselves faced with the possible alternatives: a) that what they had always supposed was a Communist Revolution wasn’t a Communist Revolution at all, but a Fascist Revolution (in which case they are clearly all Fascists, which would be a disconcerting discovery), or b) that historically speaking there hasn’t been a revolution at all — which is silly. But this is to anticipate. For the moment I will content myself, for the benefit of those who find Trotsky a fascinating character, with throwing out a broad hint which may send a flood of light over the whole matter. In recent years comparatively little has been heard of Mr Winston Churchill. Many of us have smiled quietly at the way in which the public has been gulled into accepting the Conservative Member for Epping, in an ordinary trilby, as the Winston Churchill we once knew, and have been wondering where he would turn up next. I would suggest that in their ability to turn up in the oddest places, in the knack of being right in the thick of positively every funny business, and above all in their slightly bewildering political evolutions, the resemblance between Trotsky and the earlier Mr Churchill is, to put it mildly, suspicious. I suggest that Trotsky and Winston are two of the four best-known disguises of this mysterious Arch-Conspirator. The others, of course, are Sir Basil Zaharoff and Mrs Harris.

Paul Foot (1937-2004)
THE past few years have not been kind to the revolutionary left in Britain. Apart from experiencing a wide range of problems which will be familiar to readers of this magazine, we have also seen the passing of not a few of its more prominent and colourful characters. Paul Foot’s death on 18 July at the age of 66 is a serious blow to the socialist movement. I first came across Paul Foot’s writings some years before I became a socialist. As a youngster trying to get to grips with the world around me, I read his ‘Footnotes’ column in Private Eye with growing interest. Here he exposed not merely the crookery of the rich and famous and their helpmates, but the hypocrisy of many of those who claimed to be honest, or to be on the side of ordinary people. Looking back, these writings did much to prepare me for joining the socialist movement. Similarly, as I started to move towards the Trotskyist left, Foot’s famous introductory to revolutionary politics, Why You Should Be a Socialist, did much to draw me along, although I was never to join the organisation that it was promoting, the Socialist Workers Party. Foot was a great admirer of George Orwell. And like Orwell, Foot was a great believer in the idea of decency in politics. This can be seen in both his political writings and his campaigning journalism. Foot’s relentless investigations into corruption, venality and hypocrisy were part of that quest for decency, but, unlike many investigative journalists working with a similar intent, his exposés were combined with a thoroughgoing commitment to socialism. Foot recognised that the muck that he raked up was neither merely the foibles of greedy men nor some sort of accidental by-product of today’s world, but was an inevitable part of capitalism. His investigative journalism was therefore inseparable from his involvement in the socialist movement.


Foot did err on occasion. It seems that DNA evidence has finally revealed that Foot was wrong about James Hanratty, and that he was not innocent after all. It also seems that Foot was the prime mover behind Private Eye’s campaign against the MMR vaccination programme, which, from what I’ve read elsewhere, is woefully misguided, and has led to an upsurge in kiddies catching the nasty illnesses that the vaccination will prevent. Moreover, he went along with all the twists and turns of the International Socialists–Socialist Workers Party, of which he was a prominent member for over four decades. Whether he felt any qualms about his organisation’s policies and activities, particularly those machinations which transgressed his ideals of political decency, I do not know. But here is not the place to dwell upon Foot’s mistakes. His misjudgements measure little against the long list of injustices that he has exposed over the decades — his last exposé was a lengthy investigation in Private Eye of the Private Finance Initiative racket so beloved by Messrs Blair and Brown — and the manner in which he would provide a simple yet eloquent exposition on the need for socialism. In the fields of both investigative journalism and socialist propaganda, Paul Foot’s death leaves a large space that will be very hard to fill. Paul Flewers

The Rod Shearman Song Book, Old and New Tradition, 2004
ROD Shearman (1934-2001) was undoubtedly one of the finest English songwriters of the twentieth century. His experiences as a seaman, which took him to many different parts of the world, were echoed in the songs that he wrote. Rod’s songs were very much in the English folk tradition, tuneful and with direct, uncomplicated words. So successfully embedded in this tradition were some of them that people listening sometimes asked, ‘Where did you get that song?’, to which Rod replied, ‘I wrote it.’ Rod had the knack of devising melodies that stuck in the memory — an essential requirement for a successful songwriter. Rod’s songs were also a reflexion of his enormous love of life, of nature and of people: it is surely no accident that one of his best remembered songs is entitled ‘Here’s to Friends’. Seafaring, of course, bulked large as a theme in his compositions, but he did not neglect the land, as can be seen from the first song in the collection, ‘As I Walk My Hills and Valleys’, and the beautiful ‘Spring Song’. A reason, however, for drawing Rod’s works to the attention of the readers of this journal, is that Rod’s political affiliation was to the British Communist Party, and as a result many of his compositions were openly political. In this respect, the obvious comparison is with Ewan MacColl, but it must be said that Rod’s songs lack the stridency and hard political edges of much of MacColl’s oeuvre: there is no equivalent of ‘The Ballad of Ho Chi Minh’, or ‘Joe Stalin was a Mighty Man’. Both men, however, were internationalists, and it is noteworthy that four of the songs reproduced here are concerned with Chile and the destruction of Salvador Allende’s government there in 1973. MacColl was innovative in the way he cast political arguments in song form, usually by way of a narrative. Rod, in contrast, usually achieved his effects by evok86

ing personal experience, although he does sometimes tell a story, as in the lightning tour of Scottish history from 1745 to the 1970s entitled ‘Bonny was the Sound’. (It is again a measure of Rod’s success as a writer of folksongs that I first heard of this song from certain Scots comrades who called it ‘The Risen Christ’). The two writers also shared a keen interest in Irish history and politics — three of the songs in the collection are about Ireland. But Rod appears to have gone beyond MacColl in developing two themes prominent in the politics of the second half of the twentieth century, viz, the environment and the rights of indigenous peoples. Rod’s treatment of the first topic is represented (inter alia) by what is possibly the outstanding song in the book, ‘Is the Big Fella Gone?’, which envisages the possibility of the extinction of every species of whale, a song which beautifully captures the mysterious elegance of these great creatures: Sixty tons of streamlined grace Is the whale then no more? Has he disappeared from this earth’s face? Is the big fella gone? … Where the Cachalot so deep did sound Is the whale then no more? Has he left his hunting ground? Is the big fella gone? … One night as I lay sleeping fast Is the whale then no more? I dreamt that this had come to pass Is the big fella gone? Another song entitled ‘Old Bushy Tail’ is an appreciation — some might say an overappreciation — of that much maligned animal, the fox. One of its verses makes the following telling point: They’ve said that you were cunning and devious was your mind This legend it imparts to you and all your kind They’ve spoken of your many wiles With vermin your name they’ve defiled But my own kind leave you standing when it comes to craft and guile. The indigenous peoples represented include the Australian aborigines — in ‘Australia’s Own’, a fine song — and the American First Settlers, in this case in the person of Chief Long Wolf: the return of the Chief’s remains to his descendants is commemorated in a song with this title. Mention of Long Wolf brings me to the question of what the collection does not contain. I can see an argument on grounds of cost against their inclusion, but I do feel that a few explanatory notes on some of the songs would have helped, also a short biography of Rod Shearman himself. Without these aids the collection threatens to be a work primarily for ‘those in the know’, which is a pity, since Rod’s songs deserve the widest possible circulation, and information on points not immediately obvious would surely be beneficial. For example, I must apologise for my ignorance but who, precisely, is (or was) ‘Brother Victor’, subject of a song on page 12? Refer-


ences to ‘the generals’ and ‘Neruda’s poems’ indicate a Chilean context, but we are offered no further clue. A brief explanatory note on the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, the subject of a companion song, would also have come in useful. Still on Chile, the correct Spanish spelling of the title of the penultimate song in the book is surely ‘Venceremos’, not ‘Venceramos’. My last complaint concerns a song the words and music of which I was especially hoping to find, a song about the Second World War called ‘The Rose of Hiroshima’: for some unaccountable reason the editors have not included it. All that said, it’s great to have such a large collection of Rod’s songs available at last. At first glance nine or 10 of these songs can stand comparison with any contemporary composition, and the book is a real help in making them more widely known. And the photographs are superb. It is available at £12 plus £1 p+p from Old and New Tradition, Grove Lodge, Ironworks Road, Tow Law, Co Durham DL13 4AJ. Chris Gray

Diana Johnstone, Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions, Pluto Press, 2002
IN her introduction, Johnstone makes the point that there is no fundamental difference between Republican or Democrat administrations in the USA, and that the continuity of US policy is ensured by a small élite of policy-makers who remain outside party politics. She identifies Morton Abramowitz as a key figure in that élite, having had links to the Afghan mujahudin and Kosovo Albanian rebels. He helped procure Stinger missiles for the former, was an éminence grise for Madeleine Albright, helped set up the International Crisis Group, which designed policy for Bosnia and Kosovo, and acted as an advisor to the Kosovo Albanian delegation at the Rambouillet talks. As President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, he headed a project to develop a new US foreign policy for the post-Cold War era. With no threats to the only superpower, the new policy needed to combine promotion of US interests with proclamation of American ‘ideals’. This would be set out in the Endowment’s 1992 publication: Self-Determination in the New World Order. Yugoslavia would become the guinea pig for this new US policy: the ‘humanitarian war’. Johnstone’s main thesis is that ‘the intervention of the NATO powers… far from being a lastminute rescue, was from the start a major driving factor in the tragic course of events’ (p14). At best, the intervention of the Great Powers was akin to ‘bulls in a china shop’. At worst, they stirred up things for their own ends. Johnstone sees much of the remaining left as having abandoned its critique of imperialism during the 1990s, and, due to its focus on moral and ideological issues related to ‘identity politics’, having provided the ‘human face’ for neo-liberalism. In Chapter 1, leaning on the analysis of Susan Woodward in Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War (one of her two studies published in 1995 by the Brookings Institution, the US equivalent of Chatham House, devoted to the Yugoslav economy; Woodward is fluent in Serbo-Croatian and in 1994 worked for the UN in Yugoslavia with Yakushi Akashi), Johnstone relates how, during the 1980s, Yugoslavia fell into the ‘debt trap’ and was compelled to accept the IMF’s cure. The hardship produced the situation whereby the federation was breaking up by the end of the 1980s, as the leaderships of the richer republics no longer wished to transfer funds to the poorer ones, and moved towards independence. She rightly points out


that the autonomy made it impossible for Belgrade to implement the IMF’s cure, and that it was to further the latter that the autonomy of Vojvodina and Kosovo from Serbia had to be revoked. For so doing, Milošević was hailed by those who would later denounce him as a ‘new Hitler’ and suchlike, particularly by international banker and the US government. Johnstone explains that Yugoslavia was a federation of ‘nations’ or ‘peoples’, and with the ‘Muslims’ of Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1970 there were six. Then there were the nationalities whose nations had established a state elsewhere (Turkey, Bulgaria, Hungary, Albania, etc), plus a series of minority peoples. These nations and nationalities had rights under the constitution. Yugoslavia was a ‘multinational’ country. Only the peoples who joined together to set it up could decide to break it up. Self-determination was the right of peoples not republics, which were administrative units. Milošević did not oppose Slovenes or Croats breaking away, but rightly insisted that the large Serb minority equally had the right to remain in Yugoslavia. Deprived of equality by the Tudjman regime, fearful of the rehabilitation of the Ustashe and associated symbols, the Krajina Serbs held a referendum and voted for autonomy. This was portrayed as an aggressive act, even as an invasion, in much of the European press (ignorant reporters and the use of US public relations firms gave the Zagreb and Sarajevo regimes the upper hand in shaping opinion). While the European Community was preoccupied with becoming the European Union, it allowed Yugoslavia to descend into bloodshed and break-up. Johnstone sets out the legal case that the Serbian government presented to the Badinter Commission — which it never answered. For example, self-determination applies to a nation not a unit of territory; demarcation lines between constituent parts of a federal state do not constitute borders in an international sense; and ‘international law does not, in fact, recognise the right of self-determination in the form of secession of an administrative unit within a federal state (such as California within the United States or North-Rhine Westphalia within the Federal Republic of Germany)’ (p38). In Chapter 2, Johnstone examines certain myths in what she terms the ‘Bosnia cult’, including Izetbegović and his international backers. Some of her facts I used in my obituary of him in New Interventions, Volume 11, no 3. She cites the oft-repeated talk of ‘genocide’ and a ‘Bosnian holocaust’, in which 200 000 to 250 000 people were killed, and quotes sources like George Kenney, an ex-State Department official, who, basing himself on Red Cross figures, gives between 20 000 and 30 000 killed, while the 1996 SIPRI Yearbook gives between 30 000 and 50 000 on all sides. She also relates the three key incidents where civilians were mown down in Sarajevo waiting to buy bread or in the market, whereby the Serbs were blamed, though no evidence backed it up and ballistics experts serving with the UN believed the Muslim side to be responsible. Sanctions on Serbia were imposed for the first incident, demands for airstrikes against the Serb forces and withdrawal of their heavy weapons for the second, while the third led to massive air-strikes by Nato on Serb positions. The role of lobbyists and public relations is looked at. Johnstone illustrates how the ‘Nazi’ label became attached to the Serbs. All sides had set up improvised prison camps and in the autumn of 1992, the International Red Cross gave figures of 1203 detainees being held by the Bosnian Serbs in eight camps, 1061 by Muslim forces in 12 camps, and 428 by Croats in five camps. What made the Serb-run camps different to those run by the Muslims and Croats was precisely PR. The Western media was fed stories to the effect that the Serbs were herding Muslims into Nazi-like concentration camps. To counter these tales Radovan Karadžić invited the ITN TV crew to visit the Serb


camps. ITN got the photo that seemed to confirm the Nazi analogy, and Johnstone gives the background details (the ITN crew filmed from behind barbed wire, the camp itself had no barbed wire around it). She remarks that the Muslims and Croats ‘did not make such a mistake and no photographs of their camps ever reached the public’ (p71). Then she looks at how rape was portrayed as only being done by Serbs, and how the Hague Tribunal was set up and used primarily to punish Serbs. Srebrenica is examined, the events before and after the massacre, the role of the Muslim commander Naser Orić, who enjoyed showing journalists videos of burning Serb houses, heaps of bodies and severed heads, and why Izetbegović pulled him out prior to the Serb offensive, which found the town undefended. Had a deal been done? Was a massacre needed to justify Nato intervention? And so on. Exactly how many Muslim males were killed was unclear, as thousands did make it to safety and others reported killed were found alive (at the time of writing the Guardian of 14 June 2004 reports that the Bosnian Serb authorities have admitted that a massacre did take place, and given information on 32 mass graves, 11 of them previously unknown, perhaps containing 2000 corpses). Chapter 3 compares the development of the mainstream nationalisms in Yugoslavia. Interesting is how the Ustashe exiles fused with Croatian nationalism inside the country, and Tudjman’s key role in this. The Croatian weekly Globus reported on three meetings in Toronto between Tudjman and far-rightist exiles in 1987, 1988 and 1989. One of those present was Gojko Šušak, the pizza magnate, who would later become Tudjman’s Defence Minister (he had useful contacts in Washington). They decided, among other things, that an independent Croatia would reduce Serbs to a minority ‘with a view to expelling them in the event of conflict with Serbia’; the Serbs were seen as the main enemy, not the communists, and western Herzegovina should be included. in the Croatian state (p155). The ‘Herzegovina lobby’ were a key part of Tudjman’s power-base following independence, as well as the most intransigent proponents of a Greater Croatia, in which western Herzegovina would be included. Johnstone makes the point that the US government designed the Bosnian Protectorate at Dayton in late 1995, but that ‘an equally good, or bad, solution could have been found four years earlier, before the war that devastated the region. But such a solution would have been found under European, or even UN, auspices, whereas the clearly stated purpose of US policy was to demonstrate that only the United States had the power and influence to force a solution.’ (pp163-4) (In his Balkan Odyssey, Dr David Owen relates how Clinton’s regime sabotaged his efforts, but he fails to explain why, presumably due to his own Atlanticism.) Johnstone takes up the case of Fikret Abdić who, in the 1990 presidential election, had received far more votes than Izetbegović, but for some obscure reason, perhaps a deal, had stepped aside. Abdić’s popularity resulted from his having ‘transformed the Bihać pocket… from total backwardness into a thriving area of prosperity’ (p158). When Izetbegović, encouraged by the US, rejected the EU cantonisation plan and decided upon war, Abdić broke with him and made his own agreements with both Croats and Serbs to keep Bihać out of the war. The Western media failed to report that during the fighting around Bihać in 1995, it was Muslims against Muslims. Her point is that the US was not supporting Bosnians, nor Muslims, but Izetbegović, in its aims. The US also participated in the arms-smuggling through Croatia. Chapter 4 looks at Germany’s role. Johnstone shows how, just as in 1914 and 1941, the German press in 1991 demonised Serbia. She quotes from a speech to business leaders and army officers in September 1991 by Rupert Scholz, former CDU de-


fence minister and military policy-maker, in which he posed, now that Germany was unified, overcoming the consequences of the First World War. Croatia and Slovenia should be immediately recognised, in order to internationalise the conflict, so that outside military intervention could be justified, with German participation. In December 1991, Scholz denounced calls for stability in Europe, as this implies nations being ‘held fast in unwanted, unnatural or forced state organisations…’ (p169). In other words: ‘European boundaries should not be considered inviolable if they were [those] of “unwanted”… or “unnatural” (widernaturlich) states.’ (p169) Johnstone traces a line of ‘ethnic imperialism’ from Prince Max von Baden, in the latter stages of the First World War, through the Nazi period up to today, whereby ‘peripheral peoples’ are the key to German expansion in Europe. Supporting their claims weakens neighbouring states and strengthens Germany’s influence. Self-determination is merely a weapon… Stir up national and racial conflicts where you can. Every conflict will play into the hands of Germany, the new self-appointed guardian of honour, freedom, and equality all over the world. (Franz Neumann, Behemoth, Oxford, 1944, p145) To that end, the Nazis sought out Flemings, Bretons, and all sorts of previously littleknown Slavic minorities. In the postwar period, West Germany not only subsidised the associations of Germans deported from Eastern Europe, but also a wide range of minority peoples’ organisations. The role of the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst, Federal Intelligence Service) is mentioned. Set up in 1949, it used some of the same agents with a similar orientation as the Nazis. Croatian exiles were cultivated. During the Stalin-Tito split, even the Yugoslav intelligence (UDBA) was cultivated. By the 1980s, the BND was cooperating with its Croatian section in order to aggravate conflicts between Zagreb and Belgrade. Between 1979 and 1982, Klaus Kinkel headed it. In May 1992, he succeeded Genscher as foreign minister. ‘“We must force Serbia to its knees”, declared Kinkel on 24 May 1992, only six days after taking office’ (p186) The BND also re-established links with Albanian separatists. The development of the German Green Party from a leftist, anti-nuclear, antimilitarist and ecology movement into one giving cover to German imperialist ambition is taken up, particularly the roles of Dany Cohn-Bendit and Joschka Fischer, exrevolutionaries on the fringes of terrorism. Looking at Fischer’s rise to the post of foreign minister, Johnstone writes: Strangely enough, the appointment of this upstart, who in the 1970s had hung around with the ultra-leftists who bombed the US army headquarters in Frankfurt, aroused not the slightest qualm in Washington, usually deeply suspicious of far more respectable European leftists. (p192) She hints that something smells here, and mentions the well-coordinated street battles with the Frankfurt police in the early 1970s, undertaken by the ‘Putzgruppe’ (Clean-up Squad), led and trained by Fischer, but does not mention that it used to steal police handguns which later got into the hands of terrorists, even ‘Carlos the Jackal’ (see Till Meyer, ‘Feuer and Flamme für diesen Staat, Junge Welt, 8 January 2001, on Fischer, the Putzgruppe and its links). Whatever took place, obviously Fischer changed sides at some point. Chapter 5 deals with Kosovo, putting events in an historic context. Johnstone points out that the 1974 Yugoslav constitution giving Kosovo autonomy — she is critical of Yugoslavia’s decentralisation, as it allowed national élites with separatist

goals to develop, as well as blocking Belgrade’s reform efforts — led to Albanian domination. By 1981, they ran everything, and this led to Serb and Montenegrin resentment. De facto Kosovo had the powers of a republic, but to grant them de jure would have encouraged secession. Supporters of separatism, in Albania proper, the diaspora, and in Kosovo, sought to utilise the big powers. Johnstone looks at the role of human rights organisations and NGOs with government connections. Just as the National Endowment for Democracy, an NGO set up by Reagan, funded separatists in Kosovo and opposition to Milošević in Serbia, so Human Rights Watch has close ties to the US administration, has many of the right-wingers involved in Yugoslavia’s break-up as members, and was set-up —Johnstone claims — as an alternative to the genuine NGO Amnesty International. Prior to the war, Kosovo was full of NGOs and continues to be today. During the disturbances recently, it was claimed that NGOs were profiteering and even participating in the sex industry. Johnstone looks at those who shaped US policy in the Balkans, and reasons for the US to want a permanent presence there. Then she looks at the UÇK (KLA) and its attacks on Serbs and Albanians alike, in order to drive a wedge between the two communities. Those who were popular and bridged the communities were targeted. She mentions the links with Western intelligence agencies, and how it was transformed from a registered criminal/terrorist outfit into an ally. Interestingly, she explains that in October 1998, Richard Holbrooke got Milošević to withdraw Serbian forces and allow 2000 OSCE verifiers access to Kosovo, but, quoting Brigadier General Heinz Loquai, from the German OSCE delegation, ‘on 17 October, that is, even before the [Kosovo Verification] Mission was officially established, the OSCE President, Polish foreign minister Bronislaw Geremek, named the American diplomat William Walker to head the KVM’ (n84, pp303-4). She recounts some of Walker’s deeds in Central America during the 1970s and 1980s, helping the Nicaraguan Contras, the military and the death squads. By November, 200 verifiers were in place — 150 of them mercenaries from DynCorp. A Swiss verifier ‘understood from the start that the information gathered… was destined to complete the information that Nato had gathered by satellite… espionage work for the Atlantic Alliance’ (p238) Only the Serb forces were obliged to accept the cease-fire, the UÇK reinforced itself and continued its attacks. Le Figaro’s correspondent is quoted, saying that France’s KVM deputy chief Ambassador Gabriel Keller ‘believed that Walker deliberately sabotaged the mission’ (p238). The mission was a CIA front whose aim was to assist the UÇK. The so-called Račak massacre is covered. Račak was a UÇK stronghold. On 15 January 1999, Serbian police encircled the village seeking the killers of five Serbian policemen and two Albanian civilians. As a result, ‘several dozen terrorists were killed’, according to the Serbian authorities. The next day, Walker, led by the local UÇK, discovered bodies outside the village which he described as a ‘massacre’ committed by Serbian security forces. The story went around the world. On 17 March, the Washington Post falsely claimed that the Finnish forensic scientists led by Dr Helena Ranta, ‘had concluded that the victims were unarmed civilians executed in an organised massacre’(p243). In fact, the conclusions were suppressed for years because they did not back up Walker (see New Interventions, Volume 10, no 4). Rambouillet was ‘an exercise in fake diplomacy’, Johnstone rightly says, pointing out that the Serbian delegation represented many of the diverse nationalities in Kosovo, whereas all the known and respectable Kosovo Albanian leaders were sidelined in a delegation headed by UÇK boss Hashim Thaqi. Serbian proposals for ex-


tensive local self-government and guaranteed rights for all ethnic groups were ignored. The US proposal was an ultimatum making Kosovo a Western protectorate run on ‘free-market economy’ lines, in reality independent of Serbia, but it would still be able to influence Yugoslav affairs. The Serbian delegation was ready to go along with the ultimatum because it had no choice, but then Annex B was produced, which gave NATO complete freedom to operate in all of Yugoslavia — a provocation designed to be rejected. The war, the Kosovan refugees, the consequences, both in Kosovo and in Serbia, are looked at, and Johnstone gives her sharply critical view of the accepted mythology. In a Postscript, Johnstone writes: ‘The Yugoslav conflicts of the 1990s were used to assert both US dominance over the European Union through Nato, and Nato’s dominance over the United Nations.’ (p259) She quotes Massimo D’Alema — excommunist — giving ‘prestige’, hanging around with the big boys, as reasons for Italy’s participation, and implies fear on the part of the ex-communists in Eastern Europe. Of course, since Nato’s war on Yugoslavia, things have moved on and the real hard men among the big boys have come unstuck, but one can certainly learn a lot from Johnstone’s polemic. It is well argued, although in a book of this size one cannot exhaust the issues raised. She attempts to destroy myths and put alternative views, which can only be welcomed. The book is provided with an index, and the notes from a wide variety of international sources often give extensive quotes. It is well worth reading. Mike Jones

Rob Sewell, In the Cause of Labour: History of British Trade Unionism, Wellred Publications, 2003
THIS is an excellent book, which covers the history of British trade unionism from its illegal beginnings in the eighteenth century to the present day. Its focus is not narrow: it shows clearly how the impetus towards trade unionism sprang directly from the conditions under which the working class had to live, and how the traditions and actions of the movement were, and are, affected by the political situation facing the class. The sections on the Chartist movement are particularly useful in this latter connexion, as they show how closely the two movements were intertwined. Indeed the book suggests that the ‘Plug Riots’ of 1842, which constituted in effect a general strike, could have led to an insurrection if the necessary political organisation had been in place (see pp73-4). The text does not always dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s, but certain old lessons clearly emerge, together with one or two new ones. Thus the success of the skilled workers’ unions in the period from the 1850s onwards — durable organisations in comparison with their more diverse predecessors—can be attributed to their power to restrict entry into the respective trades (p84). Similarly in 1919 — a most critical year for the British Empire — there was ‘a general strike implicit in the whole situation’ (p153). The treatment of the 1926 General Strike is well balanced and pulls no punches (see especially p202). The effects of the defeat — the 1927 Trades Disputes Act, the emergence of a scab miners’ union in Nottinghamshire (the Spencer union), the falls in trade union membership and Labour Party affiliation money — are well brought out. Generally speaking, the same high standard can be observed in the treatment of subsequent events. The book ends with a strong case put forward against the idea of unions disaffiliating from the Labour Party in the present context (Chapter 30), plus pointers for the future (the last two chapters).


It is also gratifying to see some of the lesser known figures in the history of the labour movement mentioned, for example Harry Quelch (p113), a member of the Social Democratic Federation. Inhabitants of the block of flats in Islington named after him may not necessarily come across the book, but if they do they may be prompted to seek for further information via the history of the SDF. I have only two criticisms. Some of the main plant occupations of the 1970s are mentioned (Plessey, Fisher Bendix, Briant Colour, Norton Villiers Triumph motorcycles, and others, see page 293), but there is not a word about Lucas Aerospace, which was remarkable for the corporate plan put forward by the workforce. This plan was noteworthy for its imaginative proposals for the production of a range of goods for which a social demand existed. Six areas were identified — medical equipment, alternative energy sources, transport systems, braking systems, oceanics and telechiric (remote control) equipment. The most striking proposal was for the production of a vehicle capable of operating on both roads and railways (see Hilary Wainwright and Dave Elliott, The Lucas Plan, Allison and Busby, 1982). The Lucas Plan was a brilliant example of working-class creativity in action, and its rejection by the Lucas management a powerful argument for the overthrow of capitalism, and its replacement by a system of production for need rather than profit. Also there could have been more on women’s and black liberation movements. Despite these shortcomings, the book should be considered required reading by every socialist and trade union member. Chris Gray

Amy Chua, World On Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, Heinemann, 2003
THE first I heard of Amy Chua’s World On Fire was when it was recommended by Clare Short MP on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘A Good Read’. Short then acclaimed the book as being ‘very readable, and it will answer the doubts and worries in people’s minds in drawing a picture of the problem we’ve got’. This problem seemed to exercise many others too, as the cover of this edition proclaims it as ‘the New York Times best-seller’, while on the back a Washington Post reviewer announces his ‘conviction upon closing it that the senseless finally makes sense’. The problem referred to is the one supposedly at the centre of the Euro-US ‘mission’ in Iraq: the sort of Democracy on offer for export — the ‘free market democracy’ that Chua’s subtitle asserts can ‘breed ethnic hatred and global instability’. This is democracy narrowly defined as party competition for election to government, a contest between ‘brands’ to secure the punters’ majority vote. In Short’s view, Chua (a Professor at Yale) is be congratulated on raising the problem of this narrow definition of democracy, which like other kinds of selling relies on ‘buying votes’ through advertising and ‘targeting’ of customers, but excludes concerns about minority rights and social justice. On reading the book, however, I found that Chua puts more emphasis on the danger of democracy at such. Chua’s primary fear is that well-off minorities (the book calls them ‘market dominant minorities’, MDMs) will suffer persecution from politicians wishing to please poor majorities. Examples of such MDMs would be Chinese entrepreneurs in the Philippines, Jewish billionaires in Russia and white farmers in Zimbabwe. Of course, this fear of majority rule by the poor is an old one, going back at least to the eighteenth century, in the works of such as James Madison, David Ricardo and Thomas Babington Macaulay, who were for the free market but against uni94

versal suffrage. Chua however gives it a particularly twentieth-century spin — the ethnic or ‘race’ turn. For Chua, the trouble with the export of democracy is not so much the corruption of elections by money, but demagogic leaders winning through the appeal to ethnic particularism — the Hindu against the Muslim, South-East Asian against Chinese, Black against White. Chua counters the project of spreading democracy by intervention (the Blair– Bush line) by asserting that even in its heartlands market-democracy could be unsafe for such minorities. In the United States itself, rich whites could become an endangered MDM due to the ‘browning’ of America by Latins, Blacks and Asians. Most of the book’s examples are projections of such a nightmare scenario where well-off minorities are powerless in the face of indigenous movements, where the ‘marketdominant’ are no longer important to an economy, and where demagogues can afford permanently to antagonise foreign capital. This may remind many readers of the regime of Idi Amin who ‘Africanised’ Uganda when he was President by expelling well-off Asians. Amin, however, ended his rule some years later on the run from the Tanzanians whose country he had unwisely invaded. However, it’s another African country, Zimbabwe, which features as the book’s prime recent example. Mugabe’s toughness with MDMs, however, can be seen to benefit mainly himself and his party members rather than black Zimbabweans as whole, many of whom are all too aware of the undiscriminating harshness of the Leader’s policies. The problem there is one of good old authoritarianism, not democracy. For ethnic appeals need not always deliver. In 2001, Alejandro Toledo was elected President of Peru on the basis of an indigenous (Amerindian) movement. In the event, Toledo didn’t start beating up on Peru’s market-dominant minority (mainly white). He joined them. The pro-free-market policies he adopted once in government drove his approval rating amongst his fellow Amerindians down to 32 per cent. The impoverished majority quickly saw through his ‘playing the race card’. On the other hand, to get a fairer ‘picture of the problem we’ve got’, one might turn to examples that show just how precarious a democratically-elected government can be in the face of a ‘market dominant minority’, if not an ethnically distinct one. In most nations, that tiny minority the very rich get to influence government in some way. Either by financing political campaigns (or ‘lobbying’ as it is known in the USA) or having their needs specially catered for (or the Treasury as it is known here). In some cases this goes even further. For example, Haiti. Having suffered years of the Papa Doc family, the Caribbean island finally got an elected government in the Fanmi Lavalas party of President Aristide. However, the rich élite of the island didn’t take to Aristide’s social policies, however mild and un-Mugabelike. In September 1991, the military seized power, while the USA turned a blind eye. Later, Aristide was brought back by the USA, but under certain conditions, namely, the adoption of conservative policies and IMF ‘structural adjustment’. Though the FL were elected again in May 2000 by 74 per cent of the vote, questions over electoral irregularities and the forming of a Contra-like opposition, Convergence Democratique, led to instability. The UN then mandated a mainly Franco-American force to invade and ‘overcome a serious political and security situation’ (see Peter Hallward, ‘The Invasion of Haiti’, New Left Review, 27, May/June 2004). This is not to deny ethnic demagoguery as a political force. There is enough disappointment with leaders and discontent with global change to make anyone cleave to parties made up of ‘people like us’. As in India, centrist politicians can en-


courage ethnic chauvinism for their own party’s advancement (a tactic not unfamiliar nearer home). As we know, ethnically divisive appeals can be made on other grounds apart from market domination: political and cultural antagonism, for example. ‘They are taking over’, ‘the government favours them while ignoring the backbone of this country’. World on Fire itself has not much of an answer even for the problem defined in the restricted way it does. In her conclusion, Chua knocks down one by one a number of ‘mixed economy’ schemes such as tax breaks, affirmative action and cancelling the debt, and comes down in favour of charitable gestures by MDMs themselves, namely, deliberate promotion by business of individuals from the less privileged group: Abu Hamza to become David Brent. So in discussions of favouritism and minority rights, an evaluation of what kind of democracy we have is essential. It was Karl Marx who pointed out in The Jewish Question that the limitation of electoral democracy are that it occurs within and therefore is shaped by the limitations of an undemocratic civil society, that is, a class society. Political emancipation (that is, suffrage) is not enough, although this isn’t to say that he meant it had no use at all and so could be abolished. But current institutions and practices aren’t sacrosanct, something that must either be celebrated or ‘lived with’. Furthermore, democratic forms are present in all cultures — Islam’s lack of a central religious authority, group decision-making in traditional Africa, the struggle in Middle Eastern countries by indigenous feminists over the position of women in those cultures. At least in her promotion of this book, Clare Short couldn’t be accused of assuming that ‘democracy’ belongs to one model and can’t be improved. She argued that ‘we’ must not just give elections, but ‘justice and inclusion and getting a chance out of a growing economy’. However, her approach did gloss over the book’s hostility to democracy as such. One consequence was that the primary ‘duty to provide for all’ was echoed by the programme’s host, BBC stalwart Sue Cameron, in this way. ‘Be generous to indigenous communities…’, she suggested, ‘try and redistribute wealth a bit… and then maybe full-blown democracy can follow a little bit later.’ This sounds less like socialism than paternalism. ‘We’ the ‘international community’ — presumably the same community that decided on Haiti’s recent fate — will debate when and what sort of democracy the world will have. Some may go for the imposition of the free-market model (as in Iraq one day soon), others for something ‘before’ that. Far too many liberals (and ‘socialists’) these days, perhaps encouraged by books like this and anti-corruption arguments like Short’s, think that the ‘alternative’ (or supplementary) to Blair–Bush-style invasions is not support for self-determination but paternal ‘interventionism’. One could project another nightmare (perhaps already under way) where ‘international’ institutions full of legal saints and rich leaders (including some from poor countries) bargain over how much democracy each nation should get, how much interference, indeed how much attention. It is in this post-Cold War ‘globalised’ world that ethnic particularism seems one answer to a ‘new colonialism’. However, Matthew Connolly in his book on the Algerian national revolution and its aftermath, views just this ‘clash of cultures’ as not a war between societies (or ‘civilisations’), but rather a jockeying for position within one society, global capitalism: … ‘development’ is the antithesis of international race or class war, not its antidote. Economic integration can cause political and cultural particular-


isms and even separatism to flourish. This can be seen in the way that urbanisation, say, or new communication technologies can exacerbate communal conflicts; it is also revealed by the implausibility of portraying opposing sides as ‘for’ or ‘against’ modernisation (rather than as participants in contests over what modernity means). (M Connelly, A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold Era, Oxford University Press, 2002) The ‘antidote’ to this dialectic of ‘universal’ development (global ‘modernisation’) and ethnic (religious, racial, national) struggle for recognition might be a hard one to mix, if not to put into order. It would be a pan-ethnic movement that stressed a common interest in a social-economic alternative. It wouldn’t deny the roots of ethnic (and other) conflicts in the system of global competition, so there would be a necessary emphasis on the extension and development of democracy (involving rights for majorities and minorities), not its ‘rationing’ — a movement that is anti-racist, anti-capitalist and anti-paternalist. Chris Gray

A New Group in New Zealand Dear Editor On the day after the Anti-Capitalist Alliance’s anti-imperialist conference (People’s Resistance — 2004), another gathering took place. Members of the ACA belonging to the Workers Party, the Revolution group and some belonging to no group merged to form a new Marxist current, the Revolutionary Workers League. The Workers Party and Revolution initiated the ACA in early 2002, and have been working more and more closely together ever since. Last October, at the previous ACA national gathering, they decided to embark on a formal fusion process, with the aim of fusing at the first weekend of June 2004. A number of previously non-aligned ACA activists also took part in the discussions leading up to the fusion. In particular, most of the non-aligned Wellington ACA activists joined in the fusion process, along with individuals in Auckland and Christchurch. Discussion of a draft programme for the new RWL took place over several months leading up the ACA conference and the fusion, and this discussion was open to all ACA activists, regardless of whether or not they were in either WP or the Revolution group. The draft programme benefited greatly from this discussion, and it was adopted at the fusion meeting. The fusion gathering also adopted a one-page document on the requirements of membership, governing the level of commitment expected from members. We recognise that the revolution is not imminent in NZ, we are still in a period of downturn, and there is little point in hyper-activism. Hyper-activism can only lead to demoralisation and burn-out in this period. However, serious commitment is still re-


quired for membership of the RWL, including financing the group, selling the group’s publications (in particular, participating in regular stalls) and being active in an area of work such as anti-imperialist campaigning or workplace organising. The new organisation has small branches in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and aims to have a further branch, or branch core, in Hamilton (NZ’s fourth city) by the end of the year. The fact that WP had a regular paper (The Spark) and the Revolution group had a somewhat regular review (Revolution magazine) gives the new organisation an impressive publication set-up. The Spark will continue to be published every two or three weeks, as the basic paper of the RWL, and Revolution will be the new group’s review/magazine, coming out three or four times a year. The fusion gathering elected a national secretary, a national industrial organiser, a national treasurer, and editorial boards for The Spark and Revolution. A longtime Wellington working-class activist who is not a member of the RWL, but works closely with us and the ACA, was also invited to join the editorial board of The Spark, and has agreed. Interestingly, the RWL has historical links through current members and supporters with all three major far-left groups in NZ in the 1970s and 1980s — the CPNZ (which was pro-China in the 1970s and pro-Albania in the 1980s), the Socialist Action League (which was the NZ section of the Trotskyist Fourth International in the 1970s and for much of the 1980s) and the Workers Communist League (which was pro-China for much of that era). The fusion crosses historical divisions on the left. The Workers Party, for instance, was a pro-Mao (but not Maoist) group, while Revolution was a pro-Trotsky (but not Trotskyist) group. The most prominent founder of the WP came out of the CPNZ while the most prominent founder of the Revolution group came out of the SAL. Differences continue to exist over historical questions such as the degeneration of the Soviet Union and the Stalin/Trotsky debate and some aspects of the Chinese revolution. It was agreed that these are not sufficient to prevent principled revolutionary unity, and can be discussed at leisure in the future by members of the RWL, including publicly in the organisation’s press. Differences over current issues, which anyway cut across the WP/Revolution divide, can also be aired publicly in the new RWL’s publications. This is seen as being more in line with the practice of Lenin and the Bolsheviks than the kind of dogmatic, monolithic ‘culture’ that pervades much of the Marxist left, both ‘Stalinist’ and ‘Trotskyist’. Another striking feature of the new group is its focus on work in the working class. The new organisation and its supporters include several middle-aged workermilitants, with years of rank-and-file organising among fellow manual workers in the timber industry, metal stores and cleaning jobs. Most of the new, young members have also been amassing experience as activists and leading volunteer workplace organisers, most notably in Unite!, the new union for the low-paid and beneficiaries. New activists also have recently gained experience in the Rail and Maritime Union, the Service and Food Workers Union and the teachers’ union. Most of the new young members are students, but both WP and Revolution had a practice of orienting student members to the working class rather than isolating student members in campus activism. Turning students outwards to the class will


continue as an important part of the RWL’s overall orientation to the working class. As well as fitting our idea that students should put their talents at the service of the working class, this approach also enables us to attract the best elements from the campuses. The fact that so many students these days have manual jobs, often doing almost as many hours at such jobs as they spend on their studies, also makes this approach the right one to take towards students. The RWL, at its inception, is still a tiny organisation in the context of New Zealand. However, it probably has a larger activist core than any other group on the left now. This would certainly be the case of the overall ACA, which the RWL is thoroughly committed to continuing to build as a broader, militant left current. Phil Ferguson


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