Sunteți pe pagina 1din 99

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 Butlers 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 exam- ples 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
















Current Business

The Proposed European Union Constitution

THE government has decided to allow a referendum on the draft European Consti- tution, although they do not say when this is going to be held. Socialists must de- cide, 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 num- ber of insalutary ones, so that asking people to accept or reject it wholesale is some- thing 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 pro- cedure 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 nation- al parliaments, to be sent afterwards to the European Parliament. None of this was to the liking of the special European Convention which draft- ed 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 to- wards 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 re- gional 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-



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 whol- ly 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 so- cialists 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 be- tween 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 judi- cial 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 para- mount status. It is here that we see the real deficiencies of the draft, not in the re- strictions 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 contrib- ute 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 plan- ning. 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. Ar- ticle 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 sec- tion 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 environmen- tal development of developing countries, with the primary aim of eradicating pov- erty’. 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 quan- tity 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 Parlia- ment, the Greater London Authority and a significant number of English local au- thorities. At those elections, New Labour received, in John Prescott’s words, ‘a kick- ing’ 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 hum- ble 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 is- sue), open splits in the party or aid the emergence of a credible Labour left. The La- bour 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 govern- ment especially given that many who abstained or registered a protest vote at


these, relatively unimportant, elections will return to Labour when the general elec- tion 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 Eu- ropean elections, where they lost both seats and votes to the UK Independence Par- ty. 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 Co- alition (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. Ac- cording 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) elec-

tions Respect polled somewhat better than the Socialist Alliance did in 2000 (stand- ing 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 geograph- ical 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 Pres- ton, 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 abysmal-

ly. 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 Eng- lish 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 re- gion, 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 appar- ently did, clearly goes way beyond forging tactical alliances with Muslim groups in


opposition to racism, Islamophobia and war. Those socialists who supported Re- spect 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 espe- cially when, even with those votes, Respect is still clearly incapable of actually win- ning anything. As for the performance of rest of the left on 10 June, there’s little of encourage- ment 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 im- pression. However, the IWCA did get two more councillors elected in Oxford, add- ing 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 elec- tions 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 suc- cess, 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 rot- ted 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 cer- emony, 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 em- ployed staff. The Interim Government has about as much independence from Wash- ington 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 pri- or 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 indi- cates 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 to- wards Iraq was based. Senior US diplomats and military leaders have openly criti- cised 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 in- creasingly strong attacks in the US media. The use of Iraq’s ‘Weapons of Mass De- struction’ 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 for- mer’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, re- construction is slow, amenities and social services remain in a parlous condition, un- employment is still very high, and general discontent is evident in much of the coun-

try. 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 de- votion to Bush. Although the Butler Report did not actually accuse Blair and his government of deliberately misleading parliament or the public, it was no Hutton- style whitewash, and criticised both the intelligence work and government proce- dures. 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 mar- tial law, reintroduced the death penalty, closed down Al Jazeera television, and en- dorsed a massive military assault upon Najaf. Washington is gambling on the oppo- sition to its occupation going into decline and sufficient indigenous police and mili- tary 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 with- drawal, 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 dicta- torship 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 de- signs in the Middle East and beyond have been severely dashed. To continue to oc- cupy Iraq, whatever fig-leaf of self-government might exist, is to court growing re- sentment in both Iraq and the region as a whole; to withdraw would be to admit de- feat 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 pro- motion 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 pro- gramme, 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 cam- paign, 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 pro- moting a broad political programme, covering all aspects of people’s lives, and pro- moting a vision of society that we would like to see come to fruition. In such circum- stances, 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 Mus- lims’. (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 organisa- tion vulnerable to infiltration by extreme Muslims with all their reactionary baggage.

A Respect branch in north-east London tagged onto a Muslim ‘church parade’ cele-

brating 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 Par- ty, 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 gen- eral 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 reli- gious 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 Brit- ain’s Muslims, and avoiding the question of class politics. This is clear when one con- siders 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 cen- tral 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


German’s celebration of their promotion of their ‘culture and religion’ is dumb- founding. 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 ultra- religious 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 secular- minded people from a Muslim background.


Respect’s orienting to Muslims is an opportunist venture based upon a tempo- rary 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 con- strued 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 reli- gion, and one sect within any one religion, are carefully segregated from other kid- dies. 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 op- portunist 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 Eu- ropean 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 ParisBerlin axis in Europe, and the centripetal integrationist tendencies within the EU. Whilst the new constitution is not, as Europhobic com- mentators 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 ParisBerlin 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 eco- nomic 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 por- tray 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 op- pose 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 Brit- ish 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 mud- died 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, seiz- ing on justified complaints that the pro-EU brigade delicately avoid tackling cor- ruption, bureaucracy, pointless meddling along with silly scare stories and out- right chauvinism. The pro-EU lobby cannot respond in kind, as it is extremely diffi- cult 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 in- tegration, 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 in- troduce 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 An- drew Roberts, What Might Have Been: Imaginary History From Twelve Leading Histori- ans (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 decision- making 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 Vir- tual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals (Macmillan, 1998). It does show the prej- udices of its ‘young fogey’ editor, as Roberts, like Ferguson before him, and seem- ingly 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, Rob- erts 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 Marx- ism it is painful to have to tell a learned historian that Marx and Engels consid- ered 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 clas- ses 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 ventur- ing 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 pro- cess 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 indi- cate 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 at- tempts 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, im- aginative. 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 indus- trialists, 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 flog- ging mountaineering equipment in Mexico. Counterfactual history, however, only makes sense if the imaginary events fol- lowing 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 risi- ble. 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 Bolshe- viks 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 par- ty. 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 by- your-leave from the Provisional Government, the Bolsheviks, or anyone else. Roberts is only half right about the Bolsheviks rapidly tail-ending the Menshe- viks. In Lenin’s absence, the likes of Kamenev, Rykov and Tomsky would have grav- itated towards the left-wing Mensheviks, perhaps even joining the Provisional Gov- ernment. The more impulsive ones, such as Bukharin, would have taken a more mili- tant 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 mecha- nism to do so. Russia was undergoing a deep and worsening crisis throughout 1917. The Pro- visional Government was facing economic collapse, military failure, sharp class con- flict in both urban and rural areas, and territorial disintegration. How could any government successfully deal with all that within the framework of a liberal democ- racy? 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 be- yond 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 dicta- torship than a liberal democracy. The sorry fate of parliamentary democracy in East- ern 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 them- selves 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 regu- lator 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 re- lationship. Paul Flewers

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 Cor- rigan 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 dur- ing 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 Parkin- son’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 Organ- iser 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 work- ing 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 mem- bers 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’ pam- phlet. 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 par- liamentary road to socialism. In general that is true, but specifically it owed every- thing to its trade union policy. Des refers to the fact that ‘the people who most influ- enced 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, unashamed- ly 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 ‘rec- ommended 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 ‘recom- mended 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 jus- tified 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 emp- ty, many CPers and people elected on the ‘recommended list’ were a part of that set-

up. 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 ‘conspir- acy’ 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 cop- ies 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 Liver- pool 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 settle- ment. 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 appre- ciation 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 Dias- pora’ 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 anti- Semitism.’ 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 inter- national 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 viola- tions 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 Isra- el’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 res- ervation 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 stipula- tion 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 be- haviour 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 ar- senal of nuclear warheads and missiles, which it refuses to submit to any inter- national 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 popu- lation of some 24 million); and it was also deployed against Iraq’s immediate neigh- bours, 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 re- course 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

Al Richardson

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 com- rades, a good friend. As a tribute to Al, we are publishing for the first time an intro- duction he wrote in 1998 to a projected, but so far unpublished, new edition of Trot- sky’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 Par- ty. 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-

1. The postscript is dated 29 May 1918.

2. Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Armed, Oxford, 1976, p378.

3. Ronald Segal, The Tragedy of Leon Trotsky, London, 1979, p200.

4. ‘Trotsky’s Great Book’, The Socialist, 24 May 1919, p222.

5. ‘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 supe- riority merely by ‘the refinements of time and a very different enforcement of lei- sure’. 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 back- ground, origins, development and motor forces made clear; it was intended to ex- plain 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 for- mer Duma stenographers in the intervals between the negotiating sessions at Brest- Litovsk, ‘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 pro- letarian 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 interna- tionally was on a confused pacifist basis, wrapped up with vague democratic senti- ments. Trotsky’s first need was to explain to the working class in the rest of the

6. ‘Who Ruined Russia?’, The New Statesman, 5 July 1919, p350.

7. ‘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 ‘in- tensely interesting and valuable’ (The Plebs, June 1919, p76), and William Paul as a ‘brilliant his- tory’ (‘Trotsky’s Reply to Churchill’, The Socialist, 8 May 1919, p197).

8. Joel Carmichael, Trotsky: An Appreciation of His Life, London, 1975, p225.

9. 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 Trot- sky’s later history to ‘drama’, see Baruch Knei-Paz, The Social and Political Thought of Leon Trot- sky, 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.

10. Despite this, Trotsky does point out that for several years the book ‘served the party as a text- book of history’, was translated into a dozen languages and was issued by the Comintern in in- numerable editions (My Life, New York, 1960, p370; History of the Russian Revolution, London, 1965, p1134).

11. Trotsky, My Life, p370. ‘A considerable feat of memory’, according to the editor of the 1963 edi- tion (p22).

12. Page numbers refer to original edition


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 immedi- ately 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 Assem- bly’, 14 and even WN Ewer, who was shortly to become a communist himself, admit- ted 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 ac- count 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 anti- democratic, naturally highlighted those parts of the book where Trotsky explains the necessity for armed revolution and the superiority of soviets over bourgeois democ- racy. ‘The publication of the book should do good service in certain quarters in Eng- land 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 Trot- sky 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 ac- tually 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 ‘Brit- ish 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 unex- pectedly 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 Crucifix- ion 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; Sozi- alistische 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 Prole- tariat (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 Oc- tober 1918).

14. ‘Trotzky’s Apology’, The Morning Post, 17 April 1919, p5.

15. 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 Rich- ardson, Against the Stream, London, 1986, p7.

16. ‘Trotzky’s Apology’, The Morning Post, 17 April 1919, p5. See also ‘HS’, ‘Trotsky’s Apologia’, The Manchester Guardian, 22 April 1919.

17. ‘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.


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 out- raged 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 Brim- stone 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 be- tween Germany and Russia. Whatever doubt anyone may have in the matter is com- pletely 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 his- torical value. It includes amazingly compact theoretical summaries of such things as the superiority of soviet power over bourgeois democracy (pp46-7, 93), why work- ing-class consciousness develops so rapidly in crisis situations (p47), the necessity for armed insurrection to overthrow the old order (pp51-2), and how the revolution- ary party gains a majority for this insurrection by placing the demand for working- class 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 for- mulated 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 Kow- alski, The Bolshevik Party in Conflict, London, 1991. Some Left Communists such as the ICC de- scribe the signing of the Brest-Litovsk Peace as a betrayal even today.

19. WN Ewer, ‘The Birth of the Soviets’, The Daily Herald, 26 April 1919, p8.

20. William Paul, ‘Trotsky’s reply to Churchill’, The Socialist, no 212, Volume 18, 8 May 1919, p197.

21. Segal, op cit; Carmichael, op cit.

22. 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-


the peasantry, normally a diffuse and disorganised class, was made compact and po- litically 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 con- struction 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 him- self, in his later full-length history. His strange remark that the revolution ‘really be- gan’ in 1912, for example (p25) is explained by his discussion of the strike wave fig- ures 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 bewil- dered by the apparent wealth they see before them, rather like the story of the em- peror’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 or- ganisation 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.

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.

23. K Radek, ‘The Driving Forces of the Russian Revolution’, In Defence of the Russian Revolution,


24. V Serge, ‘Lenin in 1917’, Revolutionary History, Volume 5, no 3, Autumn 1994, p22.

25. FF Raskolnikov, Kronstadt and Petrograd in 1917, London, 1982, p309; AF Ilyin-Zhenevsky, The Bolsheviks in Power, London, 1984, pp x, 6-25.

26. Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, pp55-7.


John Sullivan

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 responsi- ble 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 docu- ments which expound your theory and develop your programme. Many potentially viable groups used to fall at this first hurdle, but fortunately the Department of Em- ployment’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 diffi- culty 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 re- search 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 your- self: ‘Do I really need to?’ Why not apply for the British franchise of an existing In- ternational? Recent bust-ups have left some Internationals without a British franchi- see (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 ad- vantage 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-


tential members of your group will be impressed by the existence of prestigious al- lies, 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 cur- rently 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 franchi- see. If you do put in such a bid, insist that you are publicly recognised as the author- ised 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 reposi- tory of truth and judge of its application (examples Gerry Healy WRP, David Yaffe RCG). Potential dissidents will be in the unenviable position of a grum- bling peasant faced with a priest’s fluent Latin.

Discover an obscure, preferably dead, theoretician whose thought you can in- terpret. 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 un- masked. 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 clear- ly) might net you a marketable product. Whether you choose option A or B, it is essential that you study the accounts of ex- isting 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 Mili- tant, whose limited conceptual abilities cripple them once they cut loose from their


organisation’s guidance. Once you become established, you might pay some atten- tion 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, al- leging irreconcilable differences of principle.

Walter Kendall

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 commen- tary (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 involuntar- ily 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 ob- serve, what I had forgotten, that Deutscher implicitly compares himself with Jefferson, Goethe and Shelley.


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 pre- cise, appearing astonishingly well-informed, confident, secure, he gives the impres- sion 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, de- stroyed the feudal system, and introduced her laws. After the inevitable disorders of war… this revolution constituted an immense benefit to the peoples.’ This judge- ment, 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 Interna- tional 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 sub- sequent 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 ap- peared 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 prom- ised 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 con- sumer 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 in- dustry 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 af- fairs, 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 tradi- tions of Mendeleyev and Pavlov, of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Chekhov, of Plekhan- ov, 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… be- cause of its inability to match the achievements of socialism’. Thus ‘in their Commit- tee for Economic Mutual Assistance [Comecon, now disbanded — WK]… the Rus- sians have set up the nucleus of an international planning authority… [the] planned


international division of labour… [begins] to move economically beyond the nation- state, towards some form of international society’. The ‘communist Common Mar- ket’, Deutscher prophesied, ‘will form an entity which, in the last quarter of this cen-

tury, 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 specifical- ly foretold that ‘Soviet standards of living… are certain to be above Western Europe- an 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

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 stand- ards 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 dur- ing 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 self- appointed leaders to resolve. ‘The rest’, as they say in the movies, ‘is history’. Gorba- chev 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 ex- empt. The Gorbachev reforms finally outran their initiator altogether. The Soviet Un- ion 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

by the time of the


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 re- issue of Heretics and Renegades, written by one widely regarded as the veritable doy- en 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 opti- mism of which Isaac Deutscher was so persuasive an expositor’. The piece is signed, with proper modesty, EH Carr, Trinity College, Cam- bridge.

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 Wind- sor. However, his connections with Slough were even earlier, as he had taught chem- istry 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 ener- getic 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 pol- itics. 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 mak- ing 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 six- teenth-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 ef- fects 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 Move- ment 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 enthusias- tic to grasp it because if one could master quantum physics, it would be a key to un- derstanding 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 ChristianMarxist dialogue initiated by Father Tim Russ, the Catholic priest of Our Lady of Peace Church, BurnhamSt 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 in- cluding Oscar Wilde and the plays of George Bernard Shaw. He strongly recom- mended 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 centu- ry, and The Iron Heel published 1907, a fantasy of the future that is a terrifying antici- pation 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 Marx- ism, 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 interest- ed 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.

CLR James

Intervening in Abyssinia

In 1935, Italy ruled the colony of Eritrea, next to Ethiopia (then called Abyssinia). Ita- ly 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 pro- mote 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 ac- cess 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 ap- peared in the issue for 5 June 1936.

* * *

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 de- fending 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 inde- pendence 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 Eu- ropeans 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 dis- armed will be taught the proper respect due by black men to white in imperialist Af- rica.

Mussolini was going to do the same. But he rather stupidly demanded the dis- bandment 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’; al- so 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 ser- vice 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 for- eigners 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 gen- eral 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 advis- er’ sent by the League. These four will have above them a chief, who will be a dele- gate 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 authori- ties’, 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 ad- visers will thus do as they like in the country and have the full support of the Ethiopian gov- ernment. 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 be- tween British Imperialist No 1 or No 2 or French Imperialist No 3 or No 4, or Swe- dish 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 Em- peror, 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 obser- vations 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 rec- ognised. 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 impe- rialists 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 im- perialism all over the world, all anxious to help the Ethiopian people, organise your- selves 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 cove- nants and sanctions. Do not play the fly to their spider. Now, as always, let us stand for independent organisation and independent ac- tion. We have to break our own chains. Who is the fool that expects our gaolers to break them?

Fighting for the Abyssinian Emperor 2

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 in-

1. 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.

2. 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 capital- ism 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 domi- nation of any kind. I did not intend to spend the rest of my life in Abyssinia, but, all things consid- ered, 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

Paul Flewers

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-


travelling. 1 We are talking here about the ‘Red Decade’, the time when a wide varie- ty of people became enamoured with the Soviet regime, or at least with various as- pects of Soviet society, and when many of them were willing at best to give the re- gime 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 rapid- ly 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 tremen- dous hardship, frightful terror and gross inhumanity. Of course, not everyone suc- cumbed 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 treat- ed 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 re- jection 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 phe- nomenon 3 were a brace of Fabian reformist socialists. In another sense, their mu- tation 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 Un- ion 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 posi- tion 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 Sovi- et 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. Samuel Selwell, ‘Bloomsbury-Bolshie Ballads’, Adelphi, March 1933, p94.

2. In respect of this, see David Caute, The Fellow Travellers: A Postscript to the Enlightenment, Lon- don, 1973; Paul Hollander, Political Pilgrims: Travels of Western Intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China and Cuba, 1928-1978, New York, 1981.

3. 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 Jour- nal, June-September 1943, p284).

4. Beatrice Webb called the Communist Party of Great Britain ‘a ludicrous caricature of a revolu- tionary 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,



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. Po- litically 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 prom- inent individuals in both the Tsarist administration and the Provisional Government, before returning to Britain in September 1917. Pares was a pioneer in the develop- ment 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 Sla- vonic 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 Rus- sia. 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 constitu- ent assembly. It seems to have escaped Pares’ mind that the Omsk Provisional All- Russian Government, which represented the very political forces that supported the concept of a constituent assembly, had been dispersed by a Cossack coup and re- placed 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 con- servatism 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 ter- ritory until the very end of 1935. 7 For a decade and a half, Pares maintained a concerted campaign against Bol- shevism 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


6. Walter Laqueur, ‘In Search of Russia’, in W Laqueur and L Labedz (eds), The State of Soviet Studies, Cambridge, 1965, pp4-8.

7. 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.

8. 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 Novem- ber 1929; ‘Peril to Britain’, Yorkshire Post, 18 July 1933, cuttings in Pares papers PAR/1/6.


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 au- thorised 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 home- less 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 nurse- ries, 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 con- struction, 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 wreck- ers’ 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 be- ing 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 English- men and Russians, and no doubt especially of Russophile Englishmen, towards Na- poleon, 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 Com- intern was merely ‘an organisation for propaganda behind the fronts of enemy coun- tries… an adjunct of national defence’. 13 Extending his lecture circuit to include fel- low-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 eradi-

9. B Pares, ‘New Trends in Eastern Policies’, Slavonic and East European Review, Volume 13, no 39, April 1935, pp533, 543-4.

10. Pares, Moscow Admits a Critic, op cit, pp35ff.

11. 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.

12. Ibid, pp20, 34, 91.

13. B Pares, ‘The Isolation of Russia’, Listener, 16 December 1936, p1146.

14. 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 Repub- lics (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 Ge- stapo 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 luke- warmness in the cause of the world revolution, and the past history of Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev, bred like Stalin himself in the atmos- phere 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 Sta- lin’, and it was ‘not necessary that we should doubt them, in whatever way their ev- idence 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 fol- lowed 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 bureau- cracy, 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 mar- shals 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. ‘Communism on the Retreat in Russia’, Hampstead and Highgate Express, 3 March 1939, Pares


16. Pares, Moscow Admits a Critic, op cit, pp72, 91.

17. B Pares, ‘The Russian Situation’, Slavonic and East European Review, Volume 15, no 44, January 1937, p347.

18. 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).

19. B Pares, ‘Russia’s Role Today’, Listener, 20 April 1939, p818.


power: ‘For this Tukhachevsky and his comrades paid with their lives.’ 20 So irrespec- tive of whether they were plotting to eliminate Stalin, or merely hobnobbing with now unfavoured opposite numbers abroad quite different degrees of criminal be- haviour, 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 de- nounced 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 inva- sion 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 pro- vided Hitler with a massive Quisling army. Once the Soviet Union had joined the Allies in June 1941, Pares was in his ele- ment. 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 ad- dressed other gatherings. He stated that the wartime enthusiasm for the Soviet Un- ion 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 trou- badour of a new Stalin’, whilst Malcolm Muggeridge drew a very unfavourable comparison between his Moscow Admits a Critic and Walter Citrine’s much more crit- ical book I Search for Truth in Russia. 26 Other reviewers found Pares’ book a disap- pointment, 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 jour- nalist Mostyn Lloyd stated it was ‘rather absurd’ to see Pares’ book as ‘the recanta- tion 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 ‘al- ways transcended his dislike of Bolshevik principles and methods’, as if this could

20. Pares, Russia, op cit, pp202-3.

21. Pares, Russia and the Peace, op cit, p18.

22. B Pares, A History of Russia, London, 1947, p587, and New York, 1966, p545.

23. Pares, Russia, op cit, pp248-9.

24. Pares, A History of Russia, op cit, p592 (1966 edition).

25. Pares, A Wandering Student, op cit, p372.

26. 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.

27. 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 en- dorsed 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 incur- able élitism with ultimate technocratism. Their idea of socialism was the precise or- dering 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 stand- ing 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 experi- ence. 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 capital- ist 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 fa-

28. CM Lloyd, ‘Russia Revisited’, New Statesman, 25 July 1936, p128.

29. P Sloan, ‘Moscow Trials’, Spectator, 26 February 1937, p360.

30. ‘The Listener’s Book Chronicle’, Listener, 1 May 1941, p642; ‘Modern Russia’, Times Literary Supplement, 25 January 1941, p46.

31. See his son Richard’s introduction to the 1966 edition of A History of Russia, op cit, p xiv.

32. See, for example, Lisanne Radice, Beatrice and Sydney Webb: Fabian Socialists, Basingstoke, 1984.

33. M Cole and B Drake (eds), Our Partnership by Beatrice Webb, London, 1948, p97.

34. 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 Civili- sation’, Survey, no 41, April 1962, pp58-74.

35. 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 middle- class 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 free- dom’. 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 pre- sent 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 chil- dren 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 trage- dy’ 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 mass- es 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 individu- al 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 La- bour 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 doc- trine of “workers’ control” of public affairs through the trade unions, and by the method of di- rect action’ (N and J MacKenzie, Volume 4, op cit, pp77, 97).

36. See Diane Paul, ‘Eugenics and the Left’, Journal of the History of Ideas, Volume 45, no 4, October 1984, pp567-8.

37. N MacKenzie (ed), The Letters of Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Cambridge, 1978, p141; N and J Mac- Kenzie, Volume 3, op cit, p361.

38. N MacKenzie, op cit, pp176-7, 207.

39. N and J MacKenzie, Volume 3, op cit, p394.

40. N and J MacKenzie, Volume 4, op cit, p68.

41. B Webb, ‘Introduction’ to A Wicksteed, Life Under the Soviets, London, 1928, pp vii, xiii-xiv.


under the conditions of a managed population’. 42 She was dividing the Soviet popula- tion 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 some- thing sinister in her emphasis of the word ‘managed’ in view of her acknowledge- ment 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 repub- lished 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 au- thors 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 impres- sive-looking but tediously dull book actually managed to finish it, or even got be- yond 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 communi- ty, 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 scien- tific research and application. It had implemented equal rights and facilities for na- tional 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 organisa- tion of the Soviet Union, and vast slabs of Soviet Communism were devoted to intri- cate 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 Un- ion. The country had ‘a government instrumented by all the adult inhabitants, or- ganised in a varied array of collectives’, based upon democratic centralism, ‘an up-

42. N and J MacKenzie, Volume 4, op cit, p219.

43. Ibid, p239.

44. 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 re- published in 1947. The main text of the first edition was not altered in the second and third edi- tions, and any changes consisted of additional introductions and chapters covering events oc- curring since 1935. Unless otherwise stated, all references here are to the 1937 edition, which was aptly distributed by the Left Book Club.

45. 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 gov- ernmental 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 coun- ter-plans in the factory which would increase but seemingly never reduce! lo- cal 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 leader- ship 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 edu- cating, 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 per- sonal 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 cer- tainly not by any single man. There was ‘everywhere elaborate provision’ for ‘collec- tive 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 through- out the USSR. It is in this way that the party secures the popular consent

46. Ibid, pp7, 51, 67, 416-7, 450, 645, 739.

47. Ibid, pp31, 65-6, 72, 166-9, 301-3, 604-8, 645, 689-90, 700-3, 739.

48. Ibid, pp6-7, 339-41, 374ff, 417.

49. 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 in- sisted that there was no famine in 1932-33, but merely local hardships caused by ig- norant 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, par- ticularly 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 ‘so- cialist 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 Af- ter 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 edi- tions, without either explaining or acknowledging the contradiction. 53 They en- dorsed 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 up- on 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 ex- istence of differing social strata (as opposed to ‘distinct social classes’, which had disappeared) merely showed a functional difference amongst the ‘intellectual lead- ers’, lesser post-holders and workers, and were of little importance. 55 Like Pares, the Webbs were not totally satisfied. Having waxed eloquently up- on the ultra-democratic credentials of the regime, and stated that the only prohibi- tions on expression were against expressions that were ‘fundamentally in opposi- tion’ to the regime, they then proceeded to complain about the ‘disease of ortho- doxy’, 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 fun- damental social issues’. As the future progress of humanity relied upon ‘the power

50. Ibid, pp340-1.

51. Over a year before the Webbs’ book appeared, one critical observer condemned this sort of rea- soning, see WH Chamberlin, ‘Russia Through Coloured Glasses’, Fortnightly Review, October 1934, p391.

52. 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 un- desirable citizens’.

53. 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.

54. Webb, Soviet Communism, op cit, pp701-3, 749, 761-7, 1206ff.

55. 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 accusa- tions and counter-accusations, a denial to dissentient leaders of freedom of combina- tion 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 ar- ticle 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 sti- fle the necessary development of new ideas, whilst, on the other, he claimed that So- viet 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 work- ers not to show ‘doubts’ about the regime lest they became suspected of being coun- ter-revolutionaries was not so much a caution against their engaging in political dis- sidence 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 bu- reaucracy 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 exer- cised 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 en- dorse, 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. Ibid, pp42, 913, 997-9, 1132, 1212-3.

57. S Webb, ‘Freedom in Soviet Russia’, Contemporary Review, January 1933, pp13, 19.

58. A Lunn, Revolutionary Socialism in Theory and Practice, London, 1939, pp90-1.

59. 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 Com- munism, 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 refer- ence 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 theo- retician 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 social- ist 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 ‘dra- gooned 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 sub- sequent partition of Poland and invasion of Finland, but their faith was restored af- ter 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 apolo- gist for the Soviet regime. His much reprinted A History of Russia continued to exco- riate Lenin for building a ‘totalitarian party’ and his party for ‘terrorising’ their op-

60. JB Condliffe, ‘USSR’, International Affairs, Volume 15, no 3, May 1936, pp464-6.

61. Violet Conolly, ‘USSR’, International Affairs, Volume 17, no 5, September 1938, p735.

62. W Beveridge, ‘Soviet Communism’, Political Quarterly, Volume 7, no 3, July 1936, p362.

63. LD Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed: What Is the Soviet Union and Where Is It Going?, London, 1937, p132.

64. EH Carr, ‘Russia Through Fabian Eyes’, Fortnightly, February 1936, p244.

65. R Palme Dutt, ‘Notes of the Month’, Labour Monthly, January 1936, pp3-26.

66. L Fischer, ‘The Webbs on Russia’, New Statesman, 7 December 1935, pp895-6; ‘Best Books of 1935’, New Statesman, 25 January 1936, p124.

67. JR Campbell, Soviet Policy and Its Critics, London, 1939, p153.

68. N Blythe, Which Way Tomorrow?, London, 1938.

69. AL Rowse, ‘Books of the Quarter’, Criterion, April 1936, p504.


ponents. Neither did he hide the horrendous course of Stalin’s collectivisation pro- gramme. 70 But these were historical factors. Although he wrote cuttingly of ‘the igno- rant 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 Sta- lin 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 dis- cordant notes did not disturb the generally favourable tenor of his accounts. Howev- er, 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 in- terests 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 na- ture 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 re- sources 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 imple- mented by that regime. In effect, he succumbed to the very rationalisations born of superficial observations for which he condemned the fellow-travellers. With this re- evaluation 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 in- clined 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 Trot- sky’s programme of “permanent revolution” with one of common-sense construc- tion 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. Pares, A History of Russia, op cit, pp537, 539, 566ff (1947 edition), pp495, 497, 524ff (1966 edi- tion).

71. Ibid, p578 (1947 edition), p535 (1966 edition).

72. Ibid, pp547, 561 (1966 edition).

73. B Pares untitled typescript, nd, Pares PAR/9/3/3, p3; Russia: Its Past and Present, New York, 1954, p205.

74. B Pares, ‘Russia’s Role Today’, Listener, 20 April 1939, p817.

75. ‘Russia Today’, North Devon Journal, 31 March 1938, Pares PAR/1/6.

76. ‘Communism on the Retreat in Russia’, Hampstead and Highgate Express, 3 March 1939, Pares


77. Pares, Russia: Its Past and Present, op cit, p215.


democracies against Hitler (especially during the Spanish Civil War)’, and for pro- ducing ‘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 construc- tion’. 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 com- mentator 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 be- came yesterday’s man after his death; these days he is almost forgotten. In retro- spect, 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 in- ternational role of Stalinism than those who, in his words, ‘continued to talk of Rus- sia in terms of 1917-21’. 81 As for the Webbs, their transformation into apologists for Stalinism can be as- cribed 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 prob- lems, inefficiencies and abuses exposed in the Soviet press, and they dealt superfi- cially 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 ‘finan- cial inequality’, and completely overlooked his intricate analysis of the transfor- mation of the Soviet party-state apparatus into a ruling élite. Furthermore, their un- derstanding of bureaucratism was extremely superficial, viewing it as institutional inefficiency, rather than as a social phenomenon that could be and in this case

78. Ibid.

79. See ‘Russia’s History’, Times Literary Supplement, 17 January 1948, p31.

80. Pares, A Wandering Student, op cit, p390.

81. B Pares, ‘Britain and Russia’, Fortnightly, March 1942, p185.

82. 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 gov- ernment departments and non-governmental institutions in Britain, they were reluc- tant 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 cata- strophic decline in Soviet livestock of which she was aware Beatrice Webb re- torted 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 mid- 1930s, 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 ex- perts’ 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 com- ing to fruition in the present. They had quietly discarded their criticisms of the au- thoritarian 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 re- sponsibility 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 Gil- ligan.

New information demonstrates Dr David Kelly was ‘probably right to kill him-

83. Webb, Soviet Communism, op cit, p776, 1207, 1211-2.

84. 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.

Loren Goldner

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, name- ly in the decline and disappearance of the grotesque StalinistMaoist–‘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 Or- well), 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 Demo- cratic 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.


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 re- sulting from them, such as Algeria, and those in the then Portuguese colonies (Ango- la, 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 aban- donment of anti-colonial agitation by the Vietnamese and Algerian Communist Par- ties in the name of ‘anti-fascism’). We were disturbed by the Moscow Trials, where- by most of the remaining members of Lenin’s central committee of 1917 were assas- sinated, and by the Stalin-Hitler Pact, through which Stalin handed over to the Ge- stapo 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 mas- sacre 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 In- dochina). 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 em- pire. Elbaum mentions none of these post-1945 working-class revolts against Stalin- ism, 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 star- tled when the Chinese Communist Party embraced Pinochet. It had not escaped our ‘Eurocentric’ attention that China itself had pushed the Indonesian Communist Par- ty to adopt the same Popular Front strategy in 1965, leading to the massacre of hun- dreds of thousands (a success for US imperialism that more than offset the later de- feat 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 right- wing 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 Peo- ple’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 bat- tle 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 develop- ments 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, af- ter Vietnam occupied Cambodia to depose the Khmer Rouge, China attacked Vi- etnam, 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 di- mension 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 Re- view about the ‘three goods’ and the ‘four bads’ were, for these people, decidedly not.


Rosa Luxemburg and everything she stood for (including her memorable writ- ings no doubt Eurocentric on primitive accumulation in the colonial world and her rich material on pre-capitalist societies everywhere in Einfuehrung in die Nation- aloekonomie) 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 seri- ously 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 se- rious Marxist world was discovering the Frankfurt School (whatever the latter’s limi- tations) 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 ‘anti- imperialists’ to China; they were infused with the ‘Bandung’ climate of 1955 and the brief moment of the SovietChinese–neutralist ‘anti-imperialist’ bloc. Names such as Sukarno, Nasser, Nkrumah loomed large in this mind-set, as did the later ‘Tri- Continental’ (Latin America–AfricaAsia) consciousness promoted by Cuba and Al- geria. 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 theoreti- cal reference for this crowd. This was supplemented by international names such as Samir Amin, Charles Bettelheim, Arrighi Immanuel, and the South American ‘de- pendency 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 every- thing 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 pub- lishing 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 ideolo- gy 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 Wil- liam 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 earli- er). The real Marxian project of the abolition of the law of value (that is, the regimen- tation of social life by the socially necessary time of reproduction), existed for virtu- ally no one in the 1960s, not for Elbaum, nor for me. But the Monthly Re- view/monopoly capital world-view, in which capitalism was understood not as a valorisation process but as a quasi-Dühringian system ultimately of power and dom- ination, 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 Len- in’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 la- bour-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. El- baum never explains that ‘revisionism’ meant to this milieu above all the ideological demotion of Stalin after 1953, and that therefore those who called themselves ‘anti- revisionists’ were identifying, implicitly or explicitly (and usually explicitly) Stalin’s Russia with some betrayed ‘Marxist orthodoxy.’ In his counterposition of ‘revision- ism/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 Tes- tament 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 writ- ing about it on every page, Elbaum has, in fact, no real theory of Stalinism whatso- ever. 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 un-

problematic continuity between Lenin and Stalin, and affirmed it. As for ‘Marxism-Leninism’, Elbaum does admit that it was a concoction of Sta- lin. 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 genu- ine 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 on- to 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 tradi- tion 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 social- ism means the abolition of wage-labour and hence of the ‘proletariat’ as the com- modity form of human labour power). As indicated above, figures such as Korsch, Mattick, Castoriadis and the early CLR James (whatever their problems) can similar- ly 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, to- day 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 El- baum), 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 Par- ty. 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 state- capitalist. 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 Marx- ist-Leninist groups did exist, and the Trotskyists were basically marginal.) On the subject of Trotsky: I am not a Trotskyist, and have basically (as previ- ously 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 tri- umph of ‘socialism in one country’ after 1924 and the total subordination of all communist parties to Soviet foreign policy are totally unproblematic for these peo- ple, as were all the débâcles of the Comintern mentioned earlier. Similarly, the ques- tion 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 Euro- centric to admire Stalin’s Russia with its 10 million peasants killed in the 1930s col- lectivisations, its massacre of the Bolshevik Old Guard in the Moscow Trials, its fac- tories 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, ‘revision- ism’ 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 Man- ifesto and in that way be spared the bloody primitive accumulation process which every capitalist country from Britain to Russia to contemporary China has necessari- ly 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 ‘Europe- an 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 revolu- tion 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 Left- ist cheerleaders present considered our point to be ‘ancient history’ — 24 years earli- er! — 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 re- member 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 Lati- nos 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 shout- ing died down, as uninterested in genuine proletarian revolution (and the true twen- tieth-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 prosecu- tion, 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 con- tributions 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 im- portant counter-example, namely the success of the International Socialists (the re- named 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 histo- ry of how Maoism evolved out of the wreckage of the old CPUSA after the 1960 Si- no-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 Marxist- Leninist 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 Marx- ism’, 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 over- throw 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’, com- pared 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 Marxist- Stalinist/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 mi- lieu 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 straight- forward. As Elbaum himself points out, many people of colour who threw them- selves 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 move- ments 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 off- spring 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 social- historical-cultural insights, which could be developed much further. Charles Den- by’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 Pow- er 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 Eu- rocentric 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 ex- plain 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 blot- ted 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-working- class, 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 lan- guage, 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 La- tinos, had established themselves in their professional and civil service jobs and aca- demic 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 antiquari- an 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 con- trast to the 1960s, the Jackson campaigns came and went with no lasting impact ex- cept 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 Demo- cratic 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 ori- gins 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 re- vamping of the capitalist state in an all-out drive to ‘Beat Bush’ around a Dean cam- paign (or something like it) in 2004. It joins the groundswell of dissent among capi- talist forces themselves, currently being articulated by the likes of George Soros, Jef- frey Sachs, Joseph Stieglitz and Paul Krugman as the still-dominant neo-liberal par- adigm of the past 25 years begins seriously to fray. While Elbaum’s book makes oc- casional passing reference to economic hard times in the 1970s, he doesn’t see the ex- tent 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 El- baum’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, Eu- rope 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 bureaucraticpeasant hal- lucination 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 ad- vance 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 anti- globalisation 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 revolu-


Glyn Beagley

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 sta- tus. 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 res- cue 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 working- class state power. The Paris Commune provided the first living example of the work- ing 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-


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 indus- trial 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 pro- moted 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, creat- ing a process in which workers and peasants concentrated their efforts on establish- ing 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 soci-

ety. 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 fac- tories and set up councils of factory workers, likewise peasant committees, which have seized the latifundia or large estates from the landlords, and committees of sol- diers 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 bour- geoisie, 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 decay- ing 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 institu- tion 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 evi- dent 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 dis- content increased, 120 000 workers engaged in strike actions as a protest against the court martial of Baltic sailors accused of membership of an underground organisa- tion (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 lit- tle 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 erup- tion 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 enfran- chised 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 Vy- borg 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 po- lice.

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 anti- government 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 oc- curred amongst the soldiers; the sacking of police stations began. Finally, on 27 Feb- ruary victory! The strike was total: students, artisans, white-collar employees all expressed their support; the crowd approached the soldiers’ barracks, and the muti- ny 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 institu- tions which remain accessible: trade unions, trusted political parties, along with

2. D Mandel, The Fall of the Old Regime and the Petrograd Working Class, Macmillan, 1982, p63.

3. 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 ex- ercise of managerial prerogative over the workers. As the workers purged the facto- ries, a weak management was in no position to resist a new phase of self- organisation. 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 insur- ance. (6) Establishment of a mutual aid fund. (7) Hiring and firing. (8) Re- solving 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 represent- ed 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 over- riding concern was not with the turmoil of dual power, but rather with the penetra- tion 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 repre- sentative 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. Mandel, op cit, p97.

5. Ibid, p107.

6. 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 Tsaristbourgeois 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 dif- ferent 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 Revolution- ary 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 Com- mittee. Through this body, which at the time was Petrograd-centred, the leading cir- cles 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 in- surrection. 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 influ- ence both upon the membership of the soviet and upon its policy. This in- fluence was the more conservative in that the natural selection of revolu- tionary 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 per- haps 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 decid- edly no practical importance.” (Sukhanov)’ 8 All of the major political parties whose members had participated in the insur- rection, 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 Men- sheviks 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. Ibid.

8. 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 fac- tory 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 Bolshe- vik 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 democratically- agreed seizure of state power and instituting a planned economy. A further look at the composition of the Petrograd Soviet, out of which the So- viet 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 in- structive.

… 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 num- ber of people got into the soviets by individual penetrative ability. Radical law- yers, 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 comple- mented 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 con- structing alliances with the bourgeoisie, unaware of its impending demise. Its mem- bership was a joint leadership team of the luminaries of the Menshevik and SR par- ties Kerensky, Dan, Martov, Tseretelli. Like their counterparts in the German rev-

9. 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 au- thority, 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 pro- letariat. 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 Jus- tice and Prince Lvov as Prime Minister. Within days the government policy was clear: ‘Miliukov declared in favour of the annexation of Constantinople and the al- leged 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 parliamen- tary system, via a Constituent Assembly, they called the First All-Russian Confer- ence 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, represent- ed 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 con- servative provincials, thus legitimising its state character. That strength- ened the right wing still more. From now on they frightened the malcon- tents by alluding to the provinces. The resolution on regulating the mem- bership of the Petrograd Soviet adopted 14 March was hardly car- ried 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 Bol- sheviks 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 bour-

10. Quoted in Mandel, op cit, p86.

11. Trotsky, Lessons of October, New Park, 1971, p73.

12. 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 posi- tion 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 revolu- tion 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 ex- pression of this historical contradiction, containing within its ranks both the radical petit-bourgeois democrats, who were similar to the Independents of the British Rev- olution 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 repre- sentative democrats’ state on the other. The Soviet Executive Committee was thor- oughly Russian and yet thoroughly European, for every European bourgeois revolu- tion 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 allian