No 1546 8th December 2018
Brexit humiliation and bitter recriminations signal the total paralysis of a ruling class being squeezed to oblivion by the relentless pressures of world trade conflict, growing international war tension and increasing world revolt like the Paris riots. But fake-“lefts” mislead the working class by taking sides, when staying in Europe or leaving it are both disastrous. Smug Euro complacency and backward import control and anti-foreigner scapegoating all need fighting. But moralising “welcome all migrants” sanctimonious anti-racism is no answer to wage stagnation fears, service cuts and housing shortage. Workers need a perspective of the capitalist system in catastrophic crisis collapse with revolutionary class war the only way forwards, to overturn the ruling class and seize all the banks, factories farms and fisheries. First step is to build the revolutionary party to develop and train workers with Leninist science. Reactionary nationalists need countering but so too the false posturing of the fake-”left” – TUC, Labourites, Trots and Stalinists.
The unprecedented infighting and recriminations over Brexit, with a ruling class split into multiple factions all at each other throats, can be understood only with the broadest perspective of world capitalist breakdown and incipient revolutionary turmoil.
Resignations, vicious insults, threats, parliamentary chaos and recriminations being flung in all directions demonstrate total paralysis of the British bourgeoisie in the face of the greatest collapse and catastrophic failure in all history.
All the arguments by the “left” over which side to take are avoiding this crucial issue and its revolutionary implications.
They are fooling the working class precisely because they suggest there is a way forwards to a better life, “if only the Brussels bosses' bureaucracy could be got off our backs” (and cheap migrant labour be stopped) on the one side or by “avoiding the breakdown into chauvinism and economic isolation” on the other and completely fancifully “working within a united Europe for better conditions”.
As the EPSR has already tried to explain (eg issue 1544) jumping either way still leaves the working class subject to the ruthless exploitation of world capitalist monopolies, be they German and French etc, or those of the “world market”, particularly the giant American combines aggressively supported by Trump. Trade war pressures forcing down living standards and wages will continue to grow inexorably.
Either side there is no escaping the crisis by “better” or “real” or “extreme” democracy, supplemented with “left pressure” or not, by social-pacifist “no to war” protest or by “policies to end austerity”.
“Getting back sovereignty” or “fighting for change across Europe”, are both expressions of reformism completely misleading people with delusions about the continuing existence of capitalism and disarming them from a grasp of the reactionary dangers of its collapse.
Only revolutionary class war to completely overturn capitalism can change anything, as the gathering slump chaos, ecological and environmental disasters and horrific wars are proving.
The entire post-war world order – and centuries of colonialist rule before that – is breaking down because the economic basis of capitalist production for private profit has reached its end point, tangled once more in the slump contradictions that its greed and exploitation repeatedly brings.
Hair-raising war provocations off the Crimea by Hitler-loving Ukrainians, tooled-up US troop “defence” hysteria against poor unarmed Mexican border migrants, riots and frustration on Paris’ Champs Élysée and endless “war-on-terror” blitzing horror in the Middle East, are all further symptoms of a world monopoly capitalist system reaching total collapse.
Ever sharpening antagonisms between the major monopoly powers are already ripping up all the pretences of “international community”, the "rule of law" and “democratic principles” (Yemen, ghastly Khashoggi murder, etc) which have governed the relative “stability” imposed at the end of the Second World War,(“United Nations”, IMF and World Bank etc) when the US finally became the unchallenged “top dog” of the capitalist neo-colonialist order through destroying or indebting its rivals.
The old stable balance with its pecking order of the bigger powers and their “plundering rights” to the Third World exploitation is up in the air, the biggest of all United States now rampaging around the world with war and threats of war, to aggressively head off any challenges.
The tensions were palpable at the Buenos Aires G20 summit, and despite the desperate attempt at a “multilateral” final statement, the tone was antagonism and the overriding issue was the belligerent US tearing up of even the limited and hard-won “accords” of the World Trade Organisation.
There is turmoil everywhere: Putin facing the Ukrainian war provocation, Macron burning streets and barricades, May the Brexit mess, and Prince Mohammed bin Salman a possible coup attempt in Riyadh (despite the cynical support (!!) this murderous thug got from one capitalist leader after another). Government of the Zionist occupation of Palestine is mired in corruption and near collapse.
Any still remaining vestiges of post-war supposed globalised “civilisation” (in reality only ever for the minority in the richest countries anyway and forced on it anyway by Cold War fears of growing Soviet communist might post-war) will give way completely soon enough when the 2008 credit meltdown returns, which it must once desperate Quantitative Easing $trillions of worthless credit creation reaches inevitable saturation point.
Printing money has never been anything but a temporary solution to the “overproduction” difficulties which the profit making system always arrives at by its very nature, unable to sell to the impoverished masses of the world the ever increasing output of its corporations, every one trying to pump out enough on its own to dominate the world market while plundering, polluting and devastating the environment at the same time (see Marx, Lenin, EPSR economics box).
Whatever specific form the next great lurch in economic catastrophe takes, be it another cascade of Lehman Brothers type world bank failures, raging inflation, or the increasingly predicted collapse of the dollar and the international trade networks (see recent EPSRs eg 1542), - perhaps all of them at once, – it will punch right through the thin middle class Western complacency which has persisted for decades, and the still continuing brainwashed anti-communist prejudice it sustains, complete with reactionary sneering at the twentieth century workers states and their titanic achievements, (despite their many errors).
It will shatter the inertia in the working class too, much of it still infected by the petty bourgeois shallowness and smugness in the “well-off” consumerist economies, which live on the back of rapacious Third World exploitation.
Even those whose lives have just about staggered on despite the “austerity” for many, will be plunged overnight into desperation, as many have been in the waves of regional economic collapse “foreshocks” seen for the last fifty years (oil crisis, Stock Exchange “Black Mondays” etc, Mexico economic collapse of the mid-1990s, Latin American and Argentinian bankruptcy 2002, south-east Asian currency meltdown, endless Japanese stagnation, European “austerity” etc etc), and as many poorer workers have been already in the richest of countries by the only partially averted global bank collapse.
Domestic police repression, surveillance, censorship (overt and indirect like the CIA/Zionist “left anti-semitism” campaign), hate-fermenting and reactionary bigotry, already well in train, will be escalated to split and divide the inevitable working class upheavals and explosive social revolt that are coming everywhere as the whole system collapses into ever worsening Slump and chaos.
Worse, the warmongering turmoil and horrors imposed by Western imperialism on the Middle East and around Ukraine, acclimatising the world to war destruction and already wiping out millions of lives by the destruction of half a dozen countries to distract attention from its crisis disaster and intimidate any challenges to its rule, will spread ever further, hyped-up by non-stop demented Goebbels propaganda against assorted “Islamic jihadist” or “rogue state” bogeymen from Russia and China to Iran, Myanmar, Cuba and Venezuela.
And it will all topple into all-out conflict at some point, seemingly from some small incident just as World War One erupted apparently over the 1914 assassination of a minor Austrian royal, but in fact from the intractable inter-imperialist rivalries built up over several decades of increasing economic stagnation, imperialist colonial rivalry and arms-race escalation.
All this is the vital framework to make clear the Brexit “debate” where, by pitching in on one side or the other, all the “left” groups completely mislead the working class as the EPSR has repeatedly explained (eg issue 1544), falling for the diversion and distraction it is for workers.
It is the astonishing paralysis and bitter recriminations within the British ruling class (and echoed in all its reformist and class collaborating offshoots like “official trade unionism” and Labour) about what to do next which is the real story, not Brexit as such and which side might or should “win” etc.
The important aspect for workers is the humiliating weakness of the British bourgeoisie and the world scale disaster which underlies that turmoil, as it desperately writhes to and fro between allying with the Euro bloc of imperialist countries and standing “free” to trade in the world market (in reality tailending American imperialism, the traditional Anglo-Saxon ally).
Whichever way it jumps, British capitalism is doomed even before the rest of the system soon enough inevitably disintegrates into barbaric war, potentially far worse even than WW1 and WW2 combined.
The moribund British ruling class, which has long been out-competed and out-manoeuvred on world markets and has sold nearly all its industrial and financial (City) capabilities to overseas owners in order to survive at all, is one of the worst placed of all the bourgeoisies to cope with the rapidly deepening aggressions as the major powers jostle to keep their heads above water in the desperate conditions of world credit failure and collapse.
Sticking with Europe puts it in the firing line of Trump’s America First belligerence, which is more and more obviously hostile to Europe as one of the main rivals for world trade. It also costs it dear in economic subsidies, as well as keeping it unpalatably under the thumb of long time rivals like Germany and France, which for all the fanciful democracy-delusion notions of “European harmony” and “never going to war again”, are as bitterly hostile as ever, between themselves and particularly against Anglo-Saxon imperialism.
But leaving is just as fraught and the more so as the ever intensifying capitalist monopoly networks continue to consolidate unstoppably; as the Japanese prime minister made a point of reminding Theresa May at the Argentinian summit, it is access to the EU which keeps the big investments coming into the UK.
Hence the desperate “compromise” of the latest “deal” as the ruling class struggles to avoid shooting itself in both feet economically rather than just one.
Increasingly the obvious dependence of the British establishment on the European links has become clear, and particularly the interest of big capital and City finance.
The Brexiters can tell each other all the fairy stories they like about “British achievements” and the supposed superior qualities of “an island race” with its “special talents” and mythical “British values” (no different to the ultra-hypocritical and arrogant ‘moral’ posturings of every other bourgeois nationalism) but the reality is one of failure and humiliation for a ruling class which long ago ran its former Empire “glory” into the ground (including retreating from “Northern” Ireland after being fought to a standstill by the heroic national-liberation struggle, a defeat for the ossified ruling class that can never be overcome, despite the underhand reactionary treachery of the bigoted DUP attempt to arm twist Westminster to turn the clock back but whose dirty blackmail bluff will collapse along with the Tory government if they try to push it).
The fantasies of the old imperialist wing of the ruling class that Britain will be ‘free’ to trade elsewhere are pie-in-the-sky and nothing but a cover for the dismantling of even those regulations and standards that Europe imposes (for its own monopoly interests obviously, not those of workers per se), allowing the British economy and its workers to be opened up for even more ruthless plundering by mostly American international monopoly finance interests (like the hedge and investment funds which unsurprisingly some of the main chinless wonder protagonists are associated with, such as Jacob Rees Mogg and John Redwood).
Chlorinated chicken imports, hormone beef and further NHS sell-offs are obvious aspects but US wheeler-dealing, itself almost bankrupt with national debt, wants much more than that – hence Trump’s contemptuous recent dismissal of the May compromise proposal to the EU on withdrawal.
And while possibly “relaxed” control of the City dealings might let it hold on to some of the most disreputable elements of world finance and its money-washing profiteering of gangster, oligarch and petty tyrants’ funds, it will do nothing for the working class.
Even the bourgeois press spells some of this out:
There is something ridiculous about Brexit Britain. It is a Carry On movie set in the past: we are living not at a historic moment but one laden with trivialised history. Boris Johnson tells us that with Brexit the nation will find its bojo as it found its mojo under Churchill. Brother JoJo tells us Brexit is the greatest failure of British statecraft since Suez; the greatest crisis since the Second World War.
Brexiters claim a deep continuity in British history betrayed by EU membership. Pro-EU people claim that the UK has never got over imperial delusions of grandeur. The reality is that both grotesquely over-egg continuity.
The problem is not just getting history wrong, but that history is invoked at all. The UK today could not dream of fighting the Second World War, or even invading Egypt. In 1940, Churchill led a great global force, second to none in the world. In 1956, Anthony Eden was at the head of the largest and richest economy in Europe with armed forces which more than matched this.
Today the UK is “just” another European power – a big Canada rather than a small United States, on a par with France and Germany, and on many measures behind them....In 1900, the UK was a cosmopolitan place. It was full of immigrants, from Europe. Food came in from all over the world, free of tariffs too, much from Europe. British coal was vital to both Baltic and Mediterranean nations.
In turn, Britain depended on Swedish and north African iron ore; its eggs and its bacon came from Denmark and the Netherlands; Belfast linen depended on Baltic flax; the mines and railways on European timber. The newspapers and books were made of Scandinavian trees and North African grass.
The gravity model applied then as it does now. Even in 1950 the British economy was different from the continental European ones, not least in its weak agriculture. Even in war, Britain couldn’t feed itself. That historical reality was profoundly changed by British national policy, which transformed the nation after 1945. In many, many ways, continental Europe and the UK converged, on a continental model of national self-sufficiency. By the 1980s the UK was nearly self-sufficient in food, something nearly unthinkable in 1945 or 1914. After 1945 it also became a modern industrialised nation.
After 40 years in the EEC/EU, the economy has changed radically again. London is where world capitalism does business, no longer one where British capitalism did the world’s business, as before 1914. Foreign capitalists own the infrastructures and factories of the UK, rather than the other way around. The world owed the British rich a living – they now depend on the capital of foreigners. Politics have changed radically, too. The Conservatives were once the party aiming and failing to create a common market of the British empire. Yet in government at the head of the largest and most efficient economy in Europe, they turned decisively in 1961 into the party that applied for accession to the Common Market, having failed to get the EEC even then to budge an inch on its policies. Labour was the party of economic nationalism and of most anti-marketeers. Since then those positions have reversed.
...There has also been far too much emphasis on the ideas of Brexiter politicians as imperialist or nationalist. Far more significant is a pining for Edwardian unilateral free trade. Rather than rebuild what is left of the British nation’s industry and agriculture, they would destroy it.
What Brexiters say about the British present deserves more attention. Where once there was a ludicrous declinism seriously underestimating British power, now a daft revivalism seems to be at the core of buccaneering Brexiter thinking.
They promise a global Britain, a global champion of free trade, a global innovation hub, a military power even in the South China Sea (but with low immigration). They pretend this already exists or is latent, as a leftover from before 1973, or as a product of the Thatcher revolution. This, too, is delusional, not least because there is no national British inventive effort, nor British national industry, nor even a national arms industry.
Brexit is not a portentous destiny that overhangs our politics. It is a mess of irreconcilable nostalgias. We shouldn’t grant to the Brexiters their own argument that they are somehow more in tune with the essence of Britishness as experienced through history, which we risk doing if we think they are helped by ghosts from the past. It is not a reflection on the realities of British life, of the present or of the past. It’s a very local phenomenon, which even if carried through, would barely register at European, much less global level. For the only power Brexiters have is to make us poorer, to inflict self-harm on the economy, and to damage further what little reputation British politicians have. Delusional as well as deluding, these banana-monarchy conmen and conduits for dark money want to trap us in a historicised never-never land.
But as reality bites, cloth will be cut to size, delusions dispatched, and the huffing and puffing will end. Brexit cannot in reality really happen. The explaining of realities will have to begin – that our productivity is low and stagnant, our health outcomes not the best, our people not the best educated or most enterprising, our entrepreneurs hardly the most important of the age.
Any real politics of improvement will recognise we are not in the Premier League but in the lower divisions, and that football long ceased to be a game foreigners did not play.
• David Edgerton’s latest book is The Rise and Fall of the British Nation
Even this understates the already rotten condition of British imperialism by the 1940s, knocked over by the first WW2 Japanese gun barrages and German tank attacks and only rescued partly by American imperialism (itself looking to elbow it out of the Empire, as it did post-war) and far more by the titanic anti-Nazi revived revolutionary struggle of the Soviet Red Army with which it desperately allied.
It also implies that “Remain” is a “realistic” option too, instead of making clear that taking either side avoids the overriding issue, that it is living in the unplanned uncontrollable anarchy of the “free market” subject to its exploitation as mere “hire and fire” fodder (if able to find work at all) which does for the working class and keeps it permanently subjugated, not being under any specific national section of it; inside the European monopoly bosses club or outside in the vicious US dominated “world arena” makes no difference.
Making clear the weakness and confusion of the ruling class is the crucial element to build workers’ class war confidence.
Focusing workers minds on either one side or the other as the entire “left” does, treacherously leads the working class away from seeing the crisis collapse itself as the only question to concentrate on and feeds the illusions that there is some kind of future within capitalism if only the “right choices” are made.
Either direction, the hurricane crisis continues and will wipe out huge swathes of economies everywhere.
It is that reality which leaves the ruling class factions all at each others throats since none of the proposals can give a satisfactory outcome.
Cutting loose completely is a disaster as multiple analyses make clear (despite the Brexit fanatics decrying them).
But all the halfway house negotiations and capitulations leave the British in a worse position - still subject to the ruthless competition of European imperialism, already pushing hard to take over the London City’s financial pre-eminence, the last remaining string in the British bourgeois bow (the much vaunted “service industry” which Thatcherism pushed, to displace the troublesome industrial and mining sectors):
London will lose up to to €800bn (£700bn) in assets to rival financial hub Frankfurt by March 2019 as banks start to transfer business to the German city before Brexit day.
The lobby group Frankfurt Main Finance released the figure after it was confirmed that 30 banks and financial firms had chosen the city as the site of their new EU headquarters.
But with several banks – including JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley – planning to spread their operations across a number of cities including Dublin and Paris, the lobby group believes the number of firms committed to expanding or setting up offices in Frankfurt will be closer to 37.
Ultimately it will mean draining billions of pounds worth of assets from London to companies’ German operations within months.
Bank of England says no-deal Brexit would be worse than 2008 crisis
“All in all, we expect a transfer of €750bn to €800bn in assets from London to Frankfurt, the majority of which will be transferred in the first quarter of 2019,” said Hubertus Väth, the managing director of Frankfurt Main Finance.
Banks, insurers and other financial services companies are in a race against the clock to clinch licences and bolster their continental workforces before Britain leaves the EU.
Without a comprehensive trade deal between the UK and EU that covers financial services, companies risk having no replacement for lost passporting rights, which currently allow firms to serve clients across the bloc.
The proposed Brexit withdrawal agreement has yet to gain parliamentary approval, putting in doubt a transition period that would extend cross-border access for banks until December 2020. This means firms have little choice but to shift employees, assets and clients from the UK in preparation for a no-deal and no-transition scenario.
“Banks are faced with the choice of either relocating only what is absolutely necessary or preparing for the relocation of the entire business,” Väth said.
“In any case, it is clear that considerable second-round effects will follow,” he added, highlighting the possibility that further job losses and asset moves were on the horizon.
Lloyds, Standard Chartered, Credit Suisse, Citigroup and Nomura are among the banks that are planning to expand or set up new offices in Frankfurt in light of Brexit.
The City minister, John Glen, last month backed Bank of England estimates that Britain is likely to lose about 5,000 City jobs by the time the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019.
So much for Brexit fantasies about Britain as a “European Singapore” (which is a highly artificial phenomenon in itself, a section of Malaysia deliberately sliced off as a pseudo-state by British imperialism, to use its bottleneck sea-trade position to “prosper” by siphoning off a large percentage of the entire region’s output value).
But Remain leaves the British as second string to the European powers under the bureaucratic impositions from Brussels.
It leaves untouched too the central issue which drove most of the working class response, namely difficulties many workers feel are imposed by the import of huge numbers of cheaper workers, particularly from East Europe in the last decade.
This has been the main motivation for much of the working class Brexit support which identifies Europe and its free migration rules with the undercutting of wages, competition for jobs and competition for services and social provision, housing and medical care.
Its mistaken and chauvinist notions that the Slump burdens of austerity, cutbacks and wage stagnation, and more generally the rottenness of late capitalist society, its crime, degeneracy and unfairness, are caused by immigrants are hopelessly narrow.
But keeping workers back from seeing the much broader question of capitalist crisis and the real enemy, ruling class exploitation and dominance will not help this.
Worse still fostering such views as the “left” Brexiteers do, (either overtly or by implication) is not just leading workers up the garden path but leaving them wide open to the most backward racist hatreds and scapegoating sentiments inflamed by the reactionary UKIP and extreme right groupings.
Clannishness and jingoistic hostility in general are also fed by the warmongering atmosphere which has been promulgated and pumped up for two decades from the demonisation and blitzing of Serbia initially, to the demented and meaningless war-on-terror to sustain imperialism’s blitzing and suppression of the Middle East (and indirectly, bullying intimidation of the entire Third World) and the horrors of the Yemen war massacres and deliberately imposed famine now threatening 12 million or more.
All of that remains unchallenged by the whole “left” spectrum or mostly gone along with through “condemnations” of the terrorist upheavals from 9/11 onwards, and denunciation of “jihadism” and “Islamic terrorism” etc.
Tackling the anti-migrant question by denouncing a large section of the working class as reactionary in the way the “politically correct” fake-“left” does, suggesting these Brexit attitudes reflect “inherent racism” and calling for this to be countered by moralising high “principles” about “welcoming all immigrants” and “anti-racist” struggle is to abandon any hope of informing and educating the working class about what they are facing and the struggle they need to take up against the capitalist system itself.
There is certainly a legacy of racism and misplaced “superiority” still embedded in the working class of the “advanced” countries, and particularly the British working class which has been corrupted by nearly two centuries of collusion and collaboration with an imperialism that at one time was the unchallenged power on the planet.
The British ruling class deliberately bribed and paid off what Frederick Engels and Lenin both described as a “bourgeois working class”, saturated throughout, except perhaps in a few poorest proletarian layers, with a sense of entitlement to a share in the super-profits sweated and plundered from the ruthlessly suppressed colonies.
Such mentality has been diminished by the decline of British bourgeois world influence and retreat underway for at least 100 years, (culminating in the ongoing withdrawal from such colonial remnants as the last northern section of Ireland, and shortly anomalies like Gibraltar – also seeing a another mini-defeat conceded in the proposed Brexit settlement), but has not entirely been shaken and still thoroughly saturates the trade union and Labourite “labour movement” leaderships with influence over workers.
But can only be countered by the comprehensive fight for a revolutionary perspective, as the EPSR has said many times, a process of revolutionary education.
That is something far distant from petty bourgeois reformist notions of “improving the world by better education” which fake-“left” groups have tried to sneer at the EPSR in the past, missing all grasp of the battle for Leninism in unity and conflict with the working class, and drawing advanced workers into the struggle for theory as developing cadres.
The fears in the working class are caused by real and ever tightening austerity savagery and these are easily turned onto blaming foreign workers and foreign bosses.
They have been massively increased in the last decade and a half by an enormous increase in migrant labour use, also reflecting the weakness of British capitalism itself especially in the “small business sector”, now so inefficient that most of it could not survive at all, let alone make any profit, without tapping the huge pool of primarily East European workers made available by EU expansion.
It is a point made by every small businessman interviewed in the endless Brexit vox pops in the news.
Because those workers are from economies with far lower living costs than the West, they are able or willing to take, or are forced to take, lower wages than those necessary or previously established for workers based here.
The same applies to the health and other services where decades of under-investment in training and educational capacity by the useless, inefficient and greed-ridden ruling class, is compensated by drawing in skilled workers and professionals from economies more devastated by the crisis than Britain itself, essentially stealing the investment made by other countries to plug the self-inflicted shortfall.
As the EPSR has frequently explained, such use of migrant labour by capitalism has been a deliberate policy to create division, undercut working conditions, and disrupt the capacity of the working class to organise to defend itself, while simultaneously draining the best, fittest, youngest and most adventurous workers from their own countries, thereby removing them from the struggle they would find themselves challenged with there to change their own conditions by revolution, and defusing the economic tensions by alleviating the high unemployment in their home countries and by the remittances they send home.
These factors apply particularly in the former workers states where the raw carpet-bagging gangsterism of restored capitalism was bringing their economies to their knees within ten years of the “end of communism” and rapidly driving populations back towards a nostalgia for the stability of former times (even despite the dull and deadening lack of inspiration the revisionist leaderships had provided).
Only by getting them to join Europe and then allowing such “free movement” mass worker exodus and Brussels subsidies for infrastructure could keep the pot from boiling over.
The mass lowering of wages and even near-slave conditions now commonplace in picking crops in agriculture made possible in the richer countries, then also reduces costs for basic necessities (cheap supermarkets) taking the pressure off general wages and conditions demands, and temporarily off spontaneous revolutionary outbursts.
None of which justifies or reduces the need to battle hard against racist and scapegoating persecution which poisons and divides the working class. But when no better and broader explanation is made, then especially more backward, ill-educated and lumpen sections will respond to the fascist and chauvinist groups who put forwards simplistic explanations (encouraged by the ruling class “populists”) and will only be driven further that way if blamed as personally and morally responsible for such racism, as the EPSR has explained many times:
Neo-nazi skinhead racism is now rampant in some areas of Germany, France, and other continental countries, for example. And given bourgeois society’s refusal to even consider examining the very nature and structure of capitalism itself as the cause of mounting social disorder and unpleasantness,– where else are minds (which are intellectually limited to popular-television and Mediterranean-resort culture) likely to seek ‘causes’ for why society is going rotten than in the obvious thing they see that is ‘new’ or ‘different’ in postwar life, – namely the arrival of large ethnic minorities all over Britain.
Such small-mindedness will need fighting on a far broader front than just single-issue anti-racist campaigning. Without an understanding of world imperialist crisis and the inevitability of communist revolutions everywhere, trying to mobilise the current working-class mentality to eschew blind-alley race-prejudice with the slogan: “Unconditionally oppose all immigration controls” is worse than useless. This barminess, widely supported in the Trot press, is the fruit of posturing that ‘moral principles’ should, and can, rule politics.
This is subjective-idealist nonsense at its worst. The fascist victimisation of asylum-seekers is odious and dangerous filth that working-class communities must be fought-with over, as hard as possible. But it is just as big and loony a diversion to try to persuade workers to go round saying “Asylum-seekers welcome here” instead. Economic migrants are not all necessarily petty-bourgeois-minded opportunists, eager to embrace all the West’s crap values, but the chances of them being outstanding communists and determined revolutionaries are even less likely.
What people fed up with life in Turkey/Albania/Bangladesh/Nigeria/etc, really need to be doing is taking up the fight for revolution there, not helping swell the illusion of the ‘good life’ under Western imperialism, and distracting local anti-capitalist struggles with welfare demands, which are more pure reformism.
Not for ages after world socialist revolution will a planned new planetary order be sufficiently well-established to start creating a genuine ‘freedom for all to move and live where they want’. And it can only create more confusion than clarity to adopt it now as a slogan supposedly disruptive of capitalism. What the world proletariat needs the ruling class off its back for is not “for everyone to be free to do what they like” but for the working class to be free to build a strong, affluent, secure, educated society where voluntary mutual discipline can eventually resolve all difficulties with the best reasoned argument available. [EPSR No1057 12-09-00]
All migrants need protecting and embracing. All migration needs exposing as an imperialist-system anti-revolutionary racket, for the present. The international working class should start urging workers everywhere that revolution is the best answer to ‘hopeless’ conditions, not migration, which sooner or later can only mean going from the frying pan into the fire. Enforced political asylum-seekers need helping to build those revolutions.[EPSR No 1071 09-01-01]
...how are longer-established residents expected to react when hard-to-come-by jobs start going to ‘economic migrant’ newcomer ‘foreigners’???? How are longer-established residents likely to respond to the ‘explanation’ that “these poor people have only come here to better themselves”, especially in an ‘advanced’ and ‘sophisticated’ a country of extravagant consumerism such as Britain where mindless unserious smut, advertising gimmicks, and trashy pop music are relentlessly heaped on people’s heads as ‘culture’ to try to guarantee that there is no room for the tiniest scrap of political philosophy in anyone’s brain????
The backward basis for racist responses and disastrous divisions in the working class is there as the crisis deepens towards serious social conflict. Capitalism’s degenerate cultural trap for a massive diversion to split the working class (so that the chances of a united revolutionary reply to deepening slump and poverty should be as close to zero as possible), has been well laid.
The worst way to fight this diversion is to denounce workers for racism. All that this does is take everyone’s eye off the main issue more than ever. Reactionary ‘political correctness’ is the Council of Europe’s sinister game. The hypocritical ‘moral’ pressure on ordinary people to feel guiltily ‘xenophobic’ because they react enviously and politically backwardly to what they see as ‘foreigners’ taking their jobs is almost certain to drive more and more of the poor, lumpen, and petty-bourgeois minded into the arms of the nationalists like the BNP.
The only hope of a solution to this threat is a massive education-drive to explain the degenerate rottenness of the whole capitalist system and society, - for all countries in the world whether they have immigrant-population minorities or not, - a decay that is menacing everyone on earth with horrors far worse than mere job losses; and which warmongering tyranny can only be halted and reversed by communist revolutionary action by the whole proletariat of the planet.[EPSR No1085 17-04-01]
Ironically it is the “left” Brexit supporters who are now promulgating this sanctimonious self-righteousness as loudly as the liberal “Remainers”, as the reactionary Little Englander implications of their position have inevitably swamped any supposedly more allegedly “revolutionary” rationale for supporting Brexit.
The SWP Trots for example keep quiet about Europe but loudly sloganise on welcoming immigrants.
And so too the Stalinist-worshippers in Lalkar/Proletarian who have loudly declared anything but full Brexit to be a “betrayal”. As looked at before (No 1544) this is ostensibly because it will “weaken Europe and the US” which is a) not necessarily the case particularly relative to each other in trade war and b) of little use to workers unless accompanied by an all out class-war perspective.
The actual effect that Brexit inflames chauvinist attitudes has left the CPGB-ML forced to moralise like the rest of them to cover up the actual opportunist tailending of worker backwardness of its line (no different to when it was skulking around Arthur Scargill’s SLP).
A recent piece attacking the populist parties in Europe starts well enough in fact with an early paragraph declaring:
The problem is that there simply IS no cure for the ills of capitalism within the capitalist system, except to the extent that there is some modest cyclical relief, even within periods of prolonged crisis. The time is well overdue for the capitalist system to be overthrown and replaced with a socialist planned economy. In the circumstances, it is not only the traditional bourgeois parties but also the ‘populist’ parties that will be quite unable to deliver a ‘cure’. Unlike the traditional parties, the ‘populist’ parties will condemn ‘neo-liberalism’ (unbridled capitalism – as if capitalism were capable of being bridled!), promise Keynesian ‘remedies’ as well as the (re)nationalisation of the banks, standing up to creditors and ‘taking control’ of the national economy, but in the end they will prove unable to deliver – as has been the case, for example, with Syriza in Greece, whose basic achievement has been to contain the anger of the masses while their pockets have been picked clean.
“Right” parties such as Le Pen’s in France and in Italy, are equally attacked further on.
A quibble could be made with the notion of “prolonged crisis” and its implication that it could be eventually recovered from, leaving the catastrophic nature of the crisis at best unexplained and almost certainly ungrasped.
But more important here is that Lalkar then reverts to the same liberal platitudes as everyone else including blaming workers for their own backwardness (instead of decades of revisionist backwardness leaving a revolutionary leadership vacuum):
Many of the populist parties are of course selling the ‘anti-immigrant’ snake oil. Italy specifically expects to save billions of euros by refusing to harbour immigrants. Regrettably the European masses are only too susceptible (e.a.) to believing that immigrants are somehow responsible for the fall in everybody’s standard of living – the perfect scapegoats for the ills of capitalism. This narrative is spread by all the bourgeois parties, especially the ‘respectable’ traditional bourgeois parties. The ‘populists’ take advantage of the propaganda to offer ‘solutions’ to the crisis along the lines of expelling, or refusing to accept, immigrants – even bona fide refugees! In actual fact, of course, immigrants tend to strengthen the economies of the recipient countries, bringing all kinds of skills with them, as well as a willingness to work hard – even in the UK it is generally admitted that the NHS, for example, would collapse without the skilled immigrant labour that keeps it afloat. They are able to provide not only nurses and doctors, but also teachers, lawyers, carers, building workers, catering workers, farm workers, etc., etc., often able and willing to do jobs which, because of unsocial hours or their sheer unpleasantness local workers are unwilling to do. In fact, immigrants would never constitute a burden were it not for the fact that they are usually prevented from working, even on their own account, by bourgeois governments intent on spreading the ‘blame the immigrant’ message among the masses.
“Strengthening” bourgeois economies and accepting wages and conditions which past local labour struggles had made intolerable is hardly a positive move towards overthrowing capitalism.
And as explained in the EPSR quotes above, neither is it going to evoke feelings of widespread generosity and calm acceptance, for all the decency and reason that many in the working class might be capable of:
And it should not be forgotten that although anti-immigrant rhetoric does strike a chord among many hard-pressed people, there are probably far more whose heart goes out to those unfortunate enough to be forced to leave their home countries, to face incredible danger and loss of life of themselves and their small children on perilous journeys, and to arrive in countries seeped in hostility towards them. These decent people among the proletariat, surely the majority, who are only too willing to share with those less fortunate than themselves, should be fully supported in their calls for immigrants to be accepted. In due course, these are the decent people who will form the backbone of the revolutionary movement to overthrow capitalism, for these are the people capable of seeing beyond the narrow limits of their own selfish interests in order to put in place a society capable of providing a decent living for all.
Such benevolent nostrums are more like the local vicar’s sermon than Marxism.
They reflect all the dire perspectives of “steady progress towards civilisation” which completely undermined Moscow in steady degeneration away from Lenin’s revolutionary grasp from the late 1920s onwards.
Of course workers are capable of great self-sacrifice in the collective interest, as they were in the miners’ strike, but that will be forged in the course of gigantic upheavals and initially often anarchic chaos, exactly as being seen in France, over the petrol price tax rises, a last straw on the back of austerity impositions and in-your-face inequality.
Or as seen for twenty years in the gigantic mess created by Western crisis warmongering in the Middle East and the response of the masses against imperialism in both “jihadist” and “terrorist” revolt in Iraq, Afghanistan, and to some extent Syria (complicated by Western skulduggery attempting successfully to use parts of the sectarianism for its own reactionary purposes) and even more in the mass spontaneous street revolt in Egypt.
But the Lalkarites have denounced all this, virtually cheering on the General Sisi suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 and other “anarchy” too such as the Italian Black Bloc outbursts in Genoa nearly twenty years ago (see EPSR 1115 eg) and writing off all the great turmoil as merely “headbanging” religious backwardness (except when such shallow characterisation would too obviously put them on the wrong side, as with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad Palestinian militancy in Gaza for example, also fanatical Sunni jihadists but inexplicably exempt from the Brarites’ disapproval).
Unity and generosity of struggle by the working class will come but can only be forged with a clear understanding of all various revolts and struggles in the world, not moralising condemnations.
And that demands the open polemical battle to re-forge and develop Leninist understanding, building a party of scientific leadership.
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Letters to Weekly Worker on the Soviet Union and Lenin’s leadership in 1917 revolution events, particularly his April Theses
In his letter published in issue 1224,[of WW-ed] Andrew Northall makes some excellent points when he demonstrates the confusion and contradictions in the descriptions Jack Conrad makes of the huge leaps in human development within the Soviet Union up to 1961, under the period of Stalin’s leadership and beyond, whilst poisonously arguing that it was achieved by a “counter-revolution within the revolution”, and his inability to come to any conclusions.
Trotsky, in Revolution Betrayed, was similarly forced to acknowledge the enormous successes achieved by the Bolshevik Party-led USSR by 1936, but solely to avoid losing credibility as he renewed his endless predictions of the inevitable ‘collapse’ of its ‘bureaucratic’ leadership. Such enormous successes were not supposed to happen according to his previous 1923 New Course predictions of ‘doom’, and so some concessions to reality were needed.
Even today, some Trotskyists will make similar concessions; to China, for example, by feigning to concede that it remains a workers’ state, whilst spreading defeatism and demoralisation with their endless predictions of “disaster” due to its alleged “bureaucratic degeneracy” or “deformity”.
Unfortunately, Northall does not explain why things had gone so disastrously wrong in the Soviet Union that by 1989 the party leadership tragically, and unnecessarily in economic terms, liquidated the workers’ state dictatorship. He also fails to point out that the endless circular debates on the nature of the Soviet Union within the pages of the Weekly Worker never gets to the point of explaining why any of this is of relevance to the working class today in terms of understanding current domestic and world developments, and the measures needed to end capitalism and build, and defend, a new society based on socialist relations.
He gets it hopelessly wrong when he lauds Lars T Lihs supposedly “pioneering” series of articles published in the WW that allegedly “proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the April theses (1917) and the then Stalin-Kamenev leadership of the Moscow Bolshevik Party were completely in line with Lenin and Bolshevik revolutionary theory to date”. Far from it. Lih’s work is a confused muddle built on sophistry, innuendo and obfuscation that completely fails to understand Lenin’s April Theses battle for understanding against the Bolshevik leadership over the nature of the February Revolution and the tactical responses of the proletarian party then needed to take.
Whilst correctly arguing against the Trotskyist claim that, in making his Theses, Lenin had been won over by Trotsky’s “permanent revolution” gibberish and ditched old Bolshevik “stageism”, Lih goes too far in the other direction in his assertion that there was little difference between Lenin and the old Bolsheviks.
Although, in general, the old Bolshevik 1905 theory that a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry would follow the bourgeois-democratic dictatorship during the bourgeois revolution was correct, the specific context of Russia’s bourgeois revolution in 1917 was one of a rapid intensification of the capitalist contradictions resulting from the inter-imperialist world war. This meant that things turned out differently and unexpectedly. The revolutionary-democratic dictatorship arose simultaneously with the bourgeois-democratic dictatorship, resulting in a state of dual power.
The old Bolsheviks had failed to appreciate that the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship had by then been realised in the form of the Soviets of workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ deputies, whose overwhelmingly petty-bourgeois constituency had immediately started to cede its power over to the provisional government of the big bourgeoisie and landed gentry through various agreements and connections. The old Bolshevik theory had been made obsolete by the new reality.
Lenin’s forceful arguments against this old Bolshevik failure of understanding, sustained over a period of two weeks, was necessary because their attachment to a now out-of-date theory was leading them to make dangerous tactical errors.
Their tactic was to break the Soviets away from the provisional bourgeois government, who were for the continuation of Russia’s involvement in the inter-imperialist war, by making demands for peace. They mistakenly saw this as the route towards establishing a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship, which they were anticipating at some point in the future. This dangerously spread pacifist illusions and inadvertently backed up the petty-bourgeois “defencist” position of participating in the war to “defend the revolution”, as Stalin later admitted in Trotskyism or Leninism? (1924).
For Lenin, the task was now to split the proletarians, semi-proletarians and poor peasants in the Soviets away from the conciliatory petty-bourgeois influences by advocating steps towards socialism. These steps were not aimed at realising the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship in full, but to attract the attention of the revolutionary masses and prepare them for socialism.
Calls for an immediate socialist revolution in April would have resulted in disaster for the proletariat as it would have meant fighting a class war against both the bourgeoisie and the entire petty bourgeois peasantry. The poor peasants and rural proletariat would have to be won over to the Bolsheviks through patient explanation. Socialist revolution could only take place once the majority had become convinced of its necessity.
This materialist perspective, recognising that it was not possible to leap past the peasantry, rescued Marx and Engels' permanent, or uninterrupted, revolution from Trotsky’s subjective-idealist nonsense. The Bolshevik leadership was won over to Lenin’s correct understanding.
Nowhere in any of Lih’s lengthy articles does he explain Lenin’s position that the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship had already been realised by February (and neither does Conrad – he talks of its realisation in abstract, but does not say when it was supposed to have taken place in the piece referred to by Northall); and so, when he speaks of “agreement” between Lenin and the old Bolsheviks over the need for a “worker-peasant vlast”, he is taking the old Bolshevik’s line and attempting to present it as Lenin’s as well. The workers and peasants had already taken power, albeit in an embryonic form. Northall does manage to say this at least.
Lih’s confusion is compounded by his failure to describe the state in Marxist terms as a class dictatorship. In fact, he only ever uses the term ‘dictatorship’ when quoting others. He does not recognise it. And so, all his talk of “worker-peasant vlasts” become meaningless. He does not even explain the necessity of revolution. Instead, he attempts to resurrect Kautsky’s notions of “pure democracy”. The revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of February 1917 was not the same as the proletarian dictatorship of October. History had moved on. A new, socialist, revolution had taken place. The workers were now in power, led by the Bolsheviks, and in alliance with the poor peasantry.
Northall extols the virtues of the 1961 CPSU programme for “the reassertion of the leading role of the Communist Party and ultimately to the democratic communist vision and strategy set out in the 1961 CPSU programme” after the death of Stalin but says nothing of the huge philosophical difficulties that the party leadership had already got themselves into by then, under Stalin.
Stalin’s revisionist illusions in the “peaceful road to socialism” and peaceful co-existence with the imperialist powers as a permanent state as opposed to Lenin’s temporary tactic to achieve some breathing space for the USSR had gone so far that, by 1947, Harry Pollitt, Moscow’s approved leader of the British communist party was arguing that “it is possible to see how the people will move towards socialism without further revolution, without the dictatorship of the proletariat”.
The 1961 CPSU programme did nothing to correct such class collaborating brain-rot, which was given further credence by Stalin’s 1952 crystallisation of his “peaceful roads” revision of Lenin’s revolutionary perspectives, Economic Problems of the Soviet Union. By 1960, revisionist confusion had spread so deeply that 81 international communist parties meeting in Moscow disarmingly declared that “war is not inevitable, can be prevented, peace can be preserved and made secure” whist reality was demonstrating that the imperialism was a system of non-stop war, tyranny and aggressive subversion which could only ever be ended by revolution and the establishment of proletarian dictatorships everywhere (see the EPSR’s book Vol 21 Unanswered polemics: Against museum-Stalinism).
The 1968 Red Army suppression of the Czech counter-revolutionary fascist provocation was a healthy sign that the Lenin’s proletarian dictatorship could have been rescued from such stupidity had the correct revolutionary perspective been re-established after Stalin’s death, as was Hungary before it.
The only meaningful reason for examining the history of the dictatorship of the proletariat and its further development this side of the socialist revolution is to demonstrate to the working class that the philosophical approach best able to correctly analyse modern world history, keep this analysis up-to-date, and use it as a theoretical basis for the working class to adopt as a guide in its struggle to end imperialism’s slump and war crisis is Leninism. This needs constantly reaffirming against all attempts to air-brush Lenin out of history, including Lih’s.
Phil Waincliffe – Supporter of the Economic and Philosophic Science Review Leeds
Lenin won over
I take it the heading, ‘Confused’, is Peter Manson’s comment on the contribution of Phil Waincliffe (Letters, November 1). The Economic and Philosophical Science Review man certainly is confused, as he tries to navigate between Trotsky and Stalin.
His difficulty arises from objective reality and his failure to grasp it. Jack Conrad was wrong, apparently, to point to a “counter-revolution within the revolution” up to 1961.Trotsky said that this started in 1929, but, even when he acknowledged the gains of the revolution due (to) the planned economy, he was only doing it to save his ass, it seems, and excuse his abject failure to acknowledge the greatness of Stalin.
Then Phil goes into a long splurge on the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, correctly exposing the pretensions of Conrad and Lars T Lih that nothing changed due to the April Theses - supporting the Provisional Government after the February revolution was the same as opposing it. He is moving dangerously close to Trotskyist territory here, so he has to ward off the threat of endorsing Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution.
You see, Lenin and all the Bolsheviks were right to endorse the democratic dictatorship up to April 1917, but when that was won it was now necessary to change the perspective. But that nasty dual power had emerged because class-consciousness is internationalist and Russian workers could not understand why they could not have a socialist revolution as the German, French and British aspired to. Why should they have to support a government of landlords and capitalists? The masses were far more revolutionary than the ‘democratic dictatorship’ slogan of Kamenev, Zinoviev and Stalin, and wanted all power to the soviets. Lenin understood this immediately and ditched the old slogan, consigning its supporters to the museum of old Bolsheviks.
He now agreed with Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, and the differences between the two greatest revolutionaries of the 20th century fell away, such that Lenin said of Trotsky, “There is no better Bolshevik”, and Stalin was forced to admit that Trotsky had led the actual revolution and secured the vital backing of the Petrograd and Moscow soviets for the insurrection.
But Phil argues that keeping the democratic dictatorship was correct up to then and implicitly that it was correct to maintain this two-stage, ‘socialism in a single country’ ideology in China in 1927 and everywhere else since, which Stalin did with such disastrous consequences. But, if the Bolsheviks had understood and adopted permanent revolution, that inner struggle could have taken place after 1905 and the revolution would not have depended on Lenin alone - an assassin’s bullet could have the potential to scupper it.
Trotsky says that he alone could not have convinced the Bolshevik tops of the need for a second revolution and the actual insurrection in October, which Kamenev and Zinoviev tried so hard to stop by going to the Menshevik press to reveal the details to the police there.
Fortunately, dual power meant that the police were unable to assassinate that leadership.
Then, when Phil is veering too close to Stalin, he lurches left again and denounces Stalin’s “post-war revisionism”, the peaceful road to socialism, etc. This implies he is OK with the Moscow trials, with 1,000 officially recorded executions a day from 1936-38, etc. The lie that Trotsky collaborated with the Nazis was used by Stalin to execute hundreds of thousands of revolutionaries - including Lenin’s comrades who led the Russian Revolution, in which Stalin played an insignificant role.
But we do know who did collaborate with the Nazis and justified it by boasting of the planned division of Poland and then went on to defend fascism itself. These extracts are from a speech made by Molotov, chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, to the Supreme Soviet on October 1 1939, just five weeks after signing the Hitler/Stalin pact. It is absolutely puke-making grovelling to Hitler and the ideology of Nazism:
“However, one swift blow to Poland, first by the German army and then by the Red Army, and nothing was left of this ugly offspring of the Versailles Treaty, which had existed by oppressing non-Polish nationalities ...
One may accept or reject the ideology of Hitlerism, as well as any other ideological system - that is a matter of political views. But everybody should understand that an ideology cannot be destroyed by force, that it cannot be eliminated by war. It is, therefore, not only senseless, but criminal, to wage such a war as a war for the ‘destruction of Hitlerism’ camouflaged as a fight for ‘democracy’.”
Molotov died an old man in his bed.
Gerry Downing Socialist Fight (in WW 1226)
Far from demonstrating a grasp of “objective reality”, Gerry Downing...displays a wilful ignorance of the real-world history and development of the Russian revolutions and the USSR. His sectarian narrow-mindedness is also on view as he is only capable of seeing two positions – Trotskyism or Stalinism; and cannot comprehend arguments in favour of an independent Leninist line against Stalinism’s revisionist failings and Trotskyism’s hostility towards the Soviet Union. For all his claims that “the differences between Lenin and Trotsky fell away” after Lenin’s April Theses, he does not appear to have read a single word Lenin had written about the nature of the February revolution and the tasks of the proletariat. See this flight of fancy, for example: “the nasty dual power emerged because class-consciousness is internationalist and Russian workers could not understand why they could not have a socialist revolution as the German, French and British aspired to.”
Trotsky may or may not have said something like this, but it is nonsense to claim that this has anything to with Lenin. Leninism understands that historical events emerge from material developments, not the ideas people hold in their heads. The unexpected emergence of a dual power in February 1917 Russia (which consisted of the provisional bourgeois government existing alongside the realisation of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship in the form of the Soviets) was due to the inter-imperialist war, the rapid economic growth since 1905, and the fact that, despite increasing industrialisation, Russian society was still predominantly petty-bourgeois. Had Downing read Lenin’s Tasks of the Proletariat in our Revolution and other works, he would have known that proletarian class-consciousness and organisation were insufficient, and its numerical strength was inadequate, and so any socialist aspirations they may have had were not as uniform and consciously revolutionary as he asserts.
Downing high-hande ,dly dismisses my summary of Lenin’s description of the class nature of the dual power as a “splurge”, but he does not show that it is wrong, which would be the case if Lenin had been “won over” to Trotsky’s “permanent revolution” shallowness. It is crystal clear in Lenin’s Letters on Tactics, for example, that he was not advocating Trotsky’s “No Tsar, but a workers’ government” subjectivism. He explained that the socialist revolution could not be arrived at by skipping over the peasant movement (which Downing implies in the above quote), and that a “prolonged period” of patient explanation was required to win the majority (the rural proletariat and poor peasantry) over to socialism. Any attempt to seize power whilst in the minority (Blancism) would have resulted in an unnecessary and self-defeating conflict with both the bourgeois capitalist and landlord class and the petty-bourgeois peasant majority (whose class interests are opposed to the big bourgeoisie).
Downing continues to display his ignorance when he asserts that Lenin had “consigned the supporters of old Bolshevism to history”. Lenin’s raised his polemical struggle against the old Bolsheviks’ failure to appreciate that the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship they anticipated in theory had already been realised in the form of the Soviets, and the tactical mistakes that stemmed from this misunderstanding, in order to win them over to a correct appreciation of reality. He never wrote them off. The debate lasted two weeks, by which time they had all gone over to Lenin’s side and continued to play a leadership role in the Bolshevik Party.
According to Downing. “Trotsky says he alone could not have convinced the Bolshevik leadership of the need for … the actual insurrection in October”. But Trotsky did not even try. It was Lenin who argued that the time was right for an insurrection in October; and after agreement was reached on 16 (29) October continued to write ferocious letters to the Central Committee warning against delays. Trotsky did not openly disagree with Lenin, and later claimed that his views were identical, however he was amongst those arguing for it to be delayed until the Second Congress of Soviets had taken place.
Downing is also wrong to say that Kamenev and Zinoviev, who had voted against the insurrection, “tried so hard to stop [it] by going to the Menshevik press to reveal the details to the police”. Yes, they revealed the unpublished decision in the Menshevik press, and Lenin condemned them as “blacklegs” for doing so and advocated their expulsion from the party, and yes, this had the effect of warning the police that the Bolsheviks were planning an insurrection; however, this does not mean they revealed the plans in order to notify the police. They were not police informers. They had wobbled. Despite this, they took part in the insurrection and were later re-elected to leadership positions.
Trotsky did not “lead the actual revolution”. It was led by the Bolshevik Party, under the guidance of Lenin, who was able to maintain contact with the Central Committee whilst he was in hiding through vital communication lines set up by Stalin. Chapter 40 of Trotsky’s self-serving History of the Russian Revolution shows that the military organisations of the Bolsheviks “appointed the commissars to the combat units of the Petrograd garrisons ‘for observation and leadership’”, “drew up the tactical plans for the conquest of Petrograd” and “carried out the more conspiratative undertakings”. They also “worked out the plans for the nocturnal assault” with the Petrograd Military Revolutionary Committee (plans which were then ratified by the Central Committee). Whilst Trotsky helped to “secure the backing of the Petrograd and Moscow Soviets for the insurrection”, this was not “vital”, as Downing claims. Victory was achieved by the armed masses on the streets. The Soviets were presented with a fait accompli. The working class would have taken power even if the class collaborating petty-bourgeois elements had carried the day in the Congress.
Downing tacks on some poisonous anti-Soviet slander at the end of his letter against the August 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact by claiming that Molotov “defended fascism”. The Soviet leadership entered into the pact with Nazi Germany to buy itself enough time to shore up its own defences against a threatened Nazi invasion. It followed negotiations with Britain and France over military assistance to Poland in the event of German aggression. They failed because the imperialists refused to pledge mutual assistance to the Soviet Union.
In the October 1939 speech slyly quoted out of context by Downing, Molotov was referring to the defeated Pilsudskiite-fascist ruling class of Poland, who he said had oppressed non-national minorities, when he spoke of “this ugly offspring of the Versaille treaty”. He did not criticise the German invasion of Poland in this speech, but any analysis of speeches made by Soviet leaders at that time would have to take account of the diplomatic language used to avoid breaking agreements. Molotov did, however, point correctly to the hypocrisy of British and French imperialist claims to be “fighting for ‘democracy’” and the restoration of “old Poland” whilst suppressing communists at home and oppressing the colonised nations overseas. He rightly argued that this was a war for the defence of empire against the competing claims of a resurgent German imperialism.
Trotsky got the entire epoch wrong. He endlessly attempted to undermine confidence in the Soviet Union by predicting bureaucratic disaster, from the New Course in 1923 right up to The Twin Star: Hitler-Stalin (1940) where he predicted that the Soviet masses would turn against “the Kremlin bureaucracy” if it entered the war, a war it could not win, and argued that there was nothing to choose between Hitler and “Stalinism”. History proved him wrong. Fascism was crushed by the Soviet workers’ state, led by its party and State leadership, and its defeat inspired socialist revolution world-wide. This does not lessen the wretched crimes, mistakes and distortions of Stalinism. A better understanding based on a higher level of Leninist struggle could have provided the leadership needed and avoided the damaging weaknesses of Stalinist leadership. However, there was no counter-revolution in 1929. If it already was a counter-revolutionary disaster, how does Downing explain the titanic Red Army victory in 1945, and the events of 1989 when capitalism really was restored?
Phil Waincliffe EPSR supporter, Leeds (in WW 1227)
A final letter (so far) remains unpublished by the Weekly Worker:
The attempted put down in WW 1226 of Phil Waincliffe’s letter by Socialist Fight underlines the shallow mechanistic thought and philistinism of all playacting and moralising fake “revolutionaries”.
It is SF (and the Weekly Worker too) not the EPSR which cannot see objective reality. In fact both deliberately evade it by this petty bourgeois academicism and idealism, constantly arguing, angels on the head of a pin style, about some supposed “counter-revolution” supposedly within the Soviet Union and endless convoluted permutations of such.
They are unable ever to agree on when they happened or what form they took because they never did.
And the best proof of that is of course the objective world that Downing urges us all to examine. Good, let’s do so. In that real concrete reality there were the actual restorationist events of 1989-91 which, far from the assorted imaginary counter-revolutionary “takeovers” visible to just a few “clever” and very “knowing” pseudo-lefts like Downing and other Trots and crypto-Trots, had world shattering impact clear to everyone.
While the capitalist world crowed, the conditions of life within the former Soviet Union were immediately turned upside down to heavily detrimental effect on all but a handful of gangster oligarchs (who were not in the main, drawn from the old CPSU opportunistically turning capitalist as Trotskyism has always said would be the case). Conditions remain there despite Putin’s efforts to smooth off the edges and prevent a communist return with a bit of oil money reform and Orthodox holiness (both soon to run out).
And they were so devastating precisely because the evolving socialist conditions previously had been good, despite numerous mistakes and the lack of inspiration from the Stalinist-origin revisionist bureaucracy, and were slowly improving. The record of achievement by the Soviet Union is dramatic, with staggering advances in culture, science and technology (especially space and military), universal medicine, almost cost free housing, education, heating and food basics etc, as your Northall letter said two issues back. Aid and training for the wave of anti-imperialist and outright socialist struggles post-war was huge with many tens of thousands educated in the USSR, and huge engineering and military support outside, building the Aswan dam, arming the Vietnamese, sustaining the Cuban economy etc etc as well as providing inspiration for an entire Third World. Those masses could see straight, not being saturated in the privileged disdain which loves to sneer from the comfort of a “Western lifestyle” built on neo-colonial exploitation.
The giant and unmissable overturn, albeit one the “free market and democracy” complacency and stupidity of revisionist leadership brought on itself rather than a storming imperialist victory, means obviously there was something to be overturned; therefore there could not have been a “counter-revolution” previously. There are only two forms of class rule in the modern world, that based on the private ownership of the means of production - monopoly capitalism - and common ownership under the control of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which is always in movement towards deeper socialism and ultimately communism if it does not abandon revolutionary perspectives. One displaced the other.
For all its weakness and flaws, until the preposterous drunkard Yeltsin (the name Boris is getting a bad reputation) took over, the Soviet Union was and remained a workers state.
Or let’s look at Warsaw where right now the Nazis are on the march in torchlight parades supported by the restored capitalist state, the only result and the only possible result, of the 1989 overturn of the Polish workers state by the CIA and Vatican funded bogus “trade union” Solidarnosc. Yet the Trot poison which cheered on the reactionary Pope-loving Lech Walesa, and the CPGB which blamed the workers state for the problems, still do not admit their gross mistakes.
All the convoluted theories about other class forms, “castes”, “state capitalism” etc from Conrad and other Trots before (he is not that original) are so much flannel to avoid this glaring reality which demonstrated once and for all the complete nonsense and anti-communism of all the Trot defeatism. There were no “political” revolutions; there was only a reinstatement of grotesque capitalist plunder and exploitation.
Looking backwards like this is all done to try and rebuild the anti-communist case, when the facts have demolished it utterly.
And even there, it is nothing but errors and misrepresentation, such as declaring the Hitler Stalin Pact to be a capitulation and support for Nazism, a ludicrous position assertable only by ignoring the gigantic war in 1941-5 in which the Soviets lost some 25 million dead but succeeded in routing Nazism and weakening world imperialism.
The 1939 Pact was a clever move, to buy time for the still relatively undeveloped Soviet Union to keep Hitler at bay, who had been built up for six years as a “bulwark against communism” by the whole of the West, and was ready to destroy it. It turned powerful militarised German aggression westwards and gave Moscow two years to move its industry from Germany’s borders to the safety of the Urals, because they knew what was coming.
As for April 1917, it is only too clear Downing has never read Lenin and knows nothing about it except the distortions of the conceited Trotsky who endlessly predicted, year after year, that the Soviet Union would prove unable to survive. But it did, all the way to 1989 and altered world history forever.
The fact was Lenin, was right and spotted something no-one else had grasped, that the necessary dictatorship of the workers and peasants (which could not be “jumped over” then, or in 1905, as the dilettante Trotsky lightmindedly argued and Downing repeats again, as if just wishing for something means it will happen) had already taken place in February and was sitting alongside the bourgeoisie, in a completely new way, of dual power. That Soviet side, dominated by peasantry, was handing power back. Of course many workers, though not all, wanted to go further which was precisely what Lenin fought for, and achieved in October.
The USSR “failed” later - decades later! - only because Stalinist leadership was unable to analyse the world properly and made great mistakes, compensating by paranoia and sometime criminal repression, and leaving a legacy of ever more complacent revisionist leadership. But much was done correctly too and the workers state itself was titanic.
Trotsky’s “all is rotten” criticism was even worse and gets in the way of seeing Moscow’s mistakes.
Finally, only in Downing’s narrow world can it be that if you don’t support Trotsky you must be a Stalinist, and vice versa, a conclusion from the “box category” thinking typical of the petty bourgeois brain without the remotest grasp of dialectical movement.
The EPSR has nothing to do with either, only the pursuit of the best objective understanding, for which Lenin remains one of the greatest practitioners.
Don Hoskins EPSR editor
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