Category Archives: Art & Culture

Single Shot Espresso: Ukraine Supplemental – Interview with Dmitry Kolesnik

Court Proceedings of the Moscow Trials

Please download and distribute freely.

Late Night Marxism – Episode 1 – January 2014

Introducing my new monthly podcast “Late Night Marxism with Espresso Stalinist.” Hope you enjoy it!

 - E.S.

Mark Twain on New Year’s Day


“Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drinks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.”

Thoughts on Georges Soria’s Denunciation of “Trotskyism in the Service of Franco”

soria_trotskyismby Espresso Stalinist

Recently I was reading a PDF of the 1938 pamphlet Trotskyism in the Service of Franco: Facts and Documents on the Activities of the P.O.U.M. in Spain by Georges Soria. Soria was a representative in Spain of the French communist paper L’Humanité and also wrote for the International Press Correspondence of the Comintern. The material for the pamphlet was originally published as a series of articles reporting on the situation of the Spanish Civil War.

Forty years after its original publication, Soria is said to have denounced the work and its contents as a forgery.

The work has subsequently been dismissed as a fabrication for a number of years. It is now cited by Trotskyists as evidence of a “Stalinist” campaign to smear the P.O.U.M. as fascist agents. Jeffrey Meyers, a biographer of George Orwell, called it “a vicious book” and Orwell himself dedicated lengthy passages in his novel “Homage to Catalonia” to blaming the Communists for similar accusations, and for the loss in Spain as a whole. The pamphlet has become a tool to denounce the heroic role of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) in the Spanish Civil War as counterrevolutionary.

The copy of the full pamphlet in its 1938 form on the Marxists Internet Archive (MIA) comes with an editor’s note that cites the original author apparently claiming the work and its contents are a complete forgery:

“Forty years later, in a work about the Spanish civil war (Guerra y revolución en España 1936-1939, III, 78-79), Soria himself stated – without mentioning anything about his own role in disseminating the accusation  – that ‘the charge that the POUM leaders were ‘agents of the Gestapo and Franco’ was no more than a fabrication, because it was impossible to adduce the slightest evidence’ and the whole story was ‘an extension into the international arena of the methods that constituted the most somber aspect of what has since been called Stalinism’” (Marxists Internet Archive).

It’s worth noting MIA are not the first ones to use these quotes to “disprove” the Soria pamphlet. Many scholarly and non-scholarly books have used them as well.

As the MIA editor’s note shows, the original source for these quotes from Soria is the book “Guerra y revolución en España 1936-1939.” This source is not available to me. However, I did find another source that details the full unedited quotes by Soria which are being cited as proof his work is a forgery: the book “Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution” by Burnett Bolloten.

Within this source there is enough information to argue that the way the quotes from Soria are often presented is quite deceptive. Here I will present only what are actual quoted words from Soria, and omit the words and phrases MIA inserted between them. The first quote that is commonly used is that Soria said that:

“[…] the charge that the POUM leaders were ‘agents of the Gestapo and Franco’ was no more than a fabrication, because it was impossible to adduce the slightest evidence.”

The second quote, which MIA and others present as being about “the whole story,” (more on this later) meaning about the entire contents of Soria’s pamphlet, says:

“[…] an extension into the international arena of the methods that constituted the most somber aspect of what has since been called Stalinism.”

These passages in quotes are the only portions of the editor’s note that were actually said by Soria. Now I will present the full and unedited Soria quotes in their original context as cited in Bolloten’s book. All portions in brackets [ ] without the annotation “E.S.” appeared in brackets in the original Bolloten text. The first full quote reads as follows:

“Forty years later however, in an attempt to exculpate the Spanish Communists from responsibility for the death of Nin, he [Soria – E.S.] stated that ‘the accusations leveled against Nin in Spain in the form of the couplet: ‘Where is Nin? In Salamanca or Berlin?’ were ‘purely and simply…an extension into the international arena of the methods that constituted the most somber aspect of what has since been called Stalinism.’”

So Soria was not, in fact, talking about his pamphlet, but rather the story surrounding the disappearance of Andrés Nin, the founder of the P.O.U.M., where he was freed from prison by fascist agents. Soria then blames the NKVD for the death of Nin, which is what he dismissed as “an extension into the international arena of the methods that constituted the most somber aspect of what has since been called Stalinism.”

Bolloten even goes on to condemn Soria for his “attempt…to exonerate the PCE by shifting responsibility for the crusade against the P.O.U.M. and for the disappearance of Nin to the phenomenon of ‘Stalinism’” (507). So the Soria quote specifically speaks of the charges against Nin and one story of his disappearance.

The MIA editor’s note however, frames this quote as being about “the whole story,” implying that it’s about his original work and all charges of the P.O.U.M. acting as agents (either de-facto agents or actual spies) of Franco or Hitler:

“the whole story was ‘an extension…[Soria quote continues as above].”

As we can clearly see however, in this first quote Soria was not talking about his pamphlet or the “whole story,” but specifically about the alleged liberation of Andrés Nin from prison by fascist agents, which Soria recounts in the pamphlet, though he does not mention the involvement of the Gestapo but rather implies that fascist agents may have been involved.

Bolloten then cites the second Soria quote used by MIA in the same paragraph, which contains even greater pronounced differences with the MIA citation. The original says:

“On the one hand, the charge that the leaders of the POUM, among them Andrés Nin, were ‘agents of the Gestapo and Franco’ was no more than a fabrication, because it was impossible to adduce the slightest evidence. On the other hand, although the leaders of the POUM were neither agents of Franco nor agents of the Gestapo, it is true that their relentless struggle against the Popular Front played the game nolens volens of the Caudillo [General Franco]” (Bolloten 507).

So despite Soria claiming that the charges of the P.O.U.M. leadership, including Nin, being fascist spies was without evidence, he still blamed the P.O.U.M. for taking an ultra-left position and undermining the popular front in Spain, which still rendered de-facto service to the fascists. In other words, even if the Trotskyists and ultra-lefts in the P.O.U.M. were completely innocent of all charges and were not agents of the Gestapo or Franco, they “only” offered de-facto, and not de-jure, service to Franco.

The phrasing here says that even though he claims there is no evidence of the P.O.U.M. leadership being fascist agents and spies, Soria does not deny the fact that they rendered service to Franco, using the phrase, “nolens volens,” meaning “whether willing or unwilling.”

The editor’s note on MIA omits this second phrase for obvious reasons. There are a number of other interesting points regarding these full, unedited quotes that are worth pointing out.

In these quotes Soria does not denounce his original work – merely the specific charge that the P.O.U.M. leadership were spies of the Gestapo and Franco. He does say it was “impossible to adduce the slightest evidence,” which can be said to imply that the documents and sources he cites in the pamphlet are, at least in part, forgeries. However, this is not stated specifically. In fact, Soria does not mention his work at all! This is implicitly stated by the editor’s note on the MIA page, which states that Soria spoke “without mentioning anything about his own role in disseminating the accusation.” His “role,” of course, was the pamphlet!

To some extent MIA makes a valid point about Soria never mentioning his own “role” in the charges that he claims was a “fabrication…[without] the slightest evidence.” Assuming the work is a complete fabrication, Soria never claimed to have been coerced to write the pamphlet, and never mentions an outside party forcing him to do so. Therefore, even in the case that it is a complete forgery, until there is proof that Soria authored it under the influence of an outside force, the blame must be placed not on the Soviet Union, “Stalinism” or the PCE, but on Soria the author for allegedly forging the evidence in his articles in the first place, and allowing those articles to be published as a pamphlet.

It’s also worth repeating that though Soria expresses his belief that the charges against the “P.O.U.M. leadership” being fascist spies was false and without evidence, this does not mean everyone in the P.O.U.M. was innocent of such activities, and Soria says explicitly that the P.O.U.M.’s actions still helped Hitler and Franco, even if unwillingly. One must ask then: how does this in any way exonerate the P.O.U.M.?

Furthermore, why Soria should choose forty years after the publication of the original document, long after such a “confession” of forgery could have had any effect whatsoever on the anti-fascist war in Spain or its outcome is unclear, thought it must be pointed out that these words were said after Soria became sympathetic to the Eurocommunism of the PCF, and during the era of “de-Stalinization,” where the virtues of making slanderous statements and denunciations regarding the Stalin era were looked upon with favor both inside and outside the Soviet Union. The pace for this was set by the many utter falsehoods uttered by Khrushchev at the 20th Congress, and the decades of revisionism that followed.

CONCLUSION: Until there is more direct evidence that Georges Soria denounced his articles and the documents he cited in them as forgeries, there is no reason to “dismiss” them from consideration as evidence, and though he later claimed the charges against the P.O.U.M. leadership were baseless and there was no evidence for them, implying that at least part of the original work was false and/or mistaken, the conclusion that Soria admitted his work and all of its contents were complete forgeries cannot be supported by the existing facts.

Frederick Schuman on Kulak Destruction of Crops and Livestock


“Their [kulak] opposition took the initial form of slaughtering their cattle and horses in preference to having them collectivized. The result was a grievous blow to Soviet agriculture, for most of the cattle and horses were owned by the kulaks. Between 1928 and 1933 the number of horses in the USSR declined from almost 30,000,000 to less than 15,000,000; of horned cattle from 70,000,000 (including 31,000,0000 cows) to 38,000,000 (including 20,000,000 cows); of sheep and goats from 147,000,000 to 50,000,000; and of hogs from 20,000,000 to 12,000,000. Soviet rural economy had not recovered from this staggering loss by 1941.

[...] Some [kulaks] murdered officials, set the torch to the property of the collectives, and even burned their own crops and seed grain. More refused to sow or reap, perhaps on the assumption that the authorities would make concessions and would in any case feed them.

The aftermath was the ‘Ukraine famine’ of 1932—33 [….] Lurid accounts, mostly fictional, appeared in the Nazi press in Germany and in the Hearst press in the United States, often illustrated with photographs that turned out to have been taken along the Volga in 1921 [….] The ‘famine’ was not, in its later stages, a result of food shortage, despite the sharp reduction of seed grain and harvests flowing from special requisitions in the spring of 1932 which were apparently occasioned by fear of war in Japan. Most of the victims were kulaks who had refused to sow their fields or had destroyed their crops.”

– Frederick Schuman, quoted in Douglas Tottle, “Fraud, Famine, and Fascism: the Ukrainian Genocide Myth from Hitler to Harvard,” page 93-94.

1984 CIA Propaganda Booklet on the U.S. Invasion of Grenada


From Wikipedia:

“Rescued from Rape and Slavery is a 14-page comic published in 1984 by the Central Intelligence Agency but ostensibly credited to the non-existent “Victims of International Communist Emissaries.” The comic was developed by the Commercial Comic Book Company, the largest American provider of educational comics. The script is by Malcolm Ater and the art by Jack Sparling. Upon completion of the book, Ater, also head of the company, met his CIA connection in a Washington DC taxicab, where he exchanged the art boards for a suitcase full of cash.

The comic, described as “heavy-handed propaganda” by Randy Duncan in The Power of Comics, was airdropped over Grenada prior to the American Invasion of Grenada. The purpose of the Rescued from Rape and Slavery comic was to “justify the American intervention in the country, by describing the rise of communist forces there and how their presence demands military intervention.” The comic outlines President Ronald Reagan’s justifications for the invasion: alleged oppression and torture of the local inhabitants, threats to American medical students on the island, and a potential domino effect leading to more Communist governments in the Caribbean.”


Patrick Stewart as Lenin on the Duty of the Revolutionary


“The duty of a revolutionary is to fight those forces or personalities which impede or obstruct the process of the socialist revolution…Objectively, the enemy can be your best friend, your lover, your Party colleague, the chairman of your local branch, the editor of your Party journal. The enemy is he who impedes the course of the revolution. The battle, for now, Comrade Trotsky, is not with the Tsar; it’s with ourselves.”

 - Patrick Stewart as Lenin in “Fall of Eagles”

Diego Rivera’s Dirty Little Secret


Diego Rivera’s dirty little secret: His murals are magnificent celebrations of socialism; his friendship with Trotsky and his marriage to Frida Kahlo are leftist legend, but new evidence shows that he betrayed his comrades to his enemies. Phil Davison reports

by Phil Davison

Thursday 25 November 1993

In 1932, Diego Rivera was commissioned to paint a mural for the RCA building in New Yorks Rockefeller complex. The sight of the Mexican artist at work pleased John D Rockefeller no end: this was to be a great public painting for New York and a great enhancement to the glory of Rockefeller. He was the happiest of millionaires until he noticed that among the many characters of this enormous and heroic vision was one Vladimir Ilich Lenin.

Rivera was asked to paint him out, but refused. The work was covered up and eventually destroyed. Rivera repainted it almost exactly in the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, and called it Man at the Crossroads with Hope and High Vision to the Choosing of a New and Better Future.

Today, 36 years after his death, it is Diego Rivera who is a man at the crossroads. Two American academics researching for a book on Riveras friend Leon Trotsky have discovered that this artist-hero of the Mexican left worked for the United States as an informer.

He was thrown out of the Mexican Communist Party (not for the first time) when he objected violently to the 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact, and soon afterwards he started feeding information to the Americans: he supplied lists of Communist infiltrators high within the Mexican system and reported 60 political assassinations by officially-ordered death squads. He warned that Communist refugees from the Spanish Civil War had been trained by Moscow to set up cells on the Mexico-US border and infiltrate north. He told Washington that the Nazis and Soviets were jointly increasing their influence in Mexico and that the Mexican Communist Party was being financed largely by sympathisers north of the border. Only the fact that the Americans took much of Riveras information with a pinch of salt dissuades one from using the terms secret agent or spy.

The socialist content of Rivera’s work, as well as his friendship with Trotsky, mark him out if not as a revolutionary hero, then at least as a symbol of the left. His paintings, and notably the powerful murals he left in public buildings throughout the capital and the nation, ensured his reputation not only as a man of the people, but as Mexicos best-known artist. His name and works are presented by Institutional Revolutionary Party still in power after 64 years as an example of patriotic Mexican greatness.

The new and startlingly different picture of Diego Rivera is revealed in US State Department and FBI documents uncovered by Professor William Chase, of Pittsburgh University, Pennsylvania, and his assistant, Dana Reed, during their researches on Trotsky. The Mexican political and cultural establishment has been stunned by this weeks publication of the references by a journalist, Rossana Fuentes-Berain, in Mexico’s business daily El Financiero.

Diego Rivera’s was a political as well as an artists life. He was born at Guanajuato in central Mexico in 1886. During his twenties, while his country was engulfed in revolution, he was in Europe, mixing with Picasso and Chagall in Paris and studying Tintoretto and Michelangelo frescoes in Italy. He went home in 1921 and soon joined the Mexican Communist Party, but was expelled in 1928 after expressing sympathy for the views of Trotsky dumped by Stalin and shortly to flee Russia. In the same year Rivera married Frida Kahlo, who is now recognised as one of the finest women artists of the century.

When the exiled Trotsky was roaming Europe, unable to persuade many countries to let him in, Rivera used his contacts to get him into Mexico in 1937. It was Kahlo who went to meet the gaunt, goat-bearded figure as he disembarked from an oil tanker at Tampico. According to some accounts, they were later to have a brief but temptestuous affair.

Trotsky settled down with the Riveras in Kahlo’s home in the colonial village of Coyoacan, now a suburb of Mexico City the so-called Casa Azul (Blue House), now a museum. But after disagreements with the muralist, he moved to another house nearby in May 1939 a break that may have sparked Riveras decision to act as an American informant.

Trotsky escaped a first assassination attempt in his new home in May 1940, when a group of Mexican communists, including Rivera’s fellow painter and muralist David Siqueiros, staged a Chicago-style machine-gun attack on the house. Rivera himself was among the suspects, not least because he disappeared to California, with, as the Chase-Reed documents show, the secret assistance of the US State Department.

Three months later, on 20 August 1940, Rivera had a more solid alibi. He was in San Francisco when Frida, by then his ex-wife, called to say: They killed old Trotsky this morning. A Soviet agent had unceremoniously buried an ice pick in Trotsky’s skull while the exile read his mail.

After the first assassination attempt on Trotsky, Rivera had gone into hiding, saying later that he had feared for his own life. The documents obtained by Chase and Reed show that the US embassy in Mexico City secretly helped the painter, who by that time had the Hollywood actress Paulette Goddard in tow, to cross the border into Texas. There are reports from US diplomats in Mexico City to the State Department on secret conversations with Rivera, and FBI reports showing how FBI agents tailed the painter across the United States and tapped his phone.

Rivera’s FBI file number was 100-155423. One report, dated as far back as 18 October 1927, when Rivera was travelling in the US, shows that he had long been of interest: Agent then went through the train and found the man occupying Car number 8, Lower 7, was the only one that resembled a Latin. Agent obtained a seat in this car and later, when this man and other passengers left for the dining car, looked over his baggage, and found Subject’s name on one of the tags. It goes on to describe the subject as having a broad, Indian-type face,wearing a wide-brimmed stetson hat, dark grey suit, tan shoes and carrying a dark gray overcoat and yellow slicker. On arrival at Pennsylvania Station, New York, about 2pm, agent was met by special agent (blacked out) who took up the surveillance

All this material leaves no doubt that Rivera was passing information to the Americans. Whether or not that information was accurate and several diplomats pointed out the painter’s tendency towards exaggeration is another question. True or not, it was all music to the ears of the FBI chief, J Edgar Hoover. Perhaps because Rivera’s warnings of Nazi-Soviet collaboration in Mexico tallied with Hoover’s fears, the FBI tapped the artist’s phone in 1940 while he was in San Francisco to paint a mural. So far there has been no official reaction from the US or Mexican governments, nor from the painter’s grandson, the film maker Diego Lopez Rivera. Communist old-timers, however, were unsurprised. Some recall Rivera as paranoid and egotistical, pointing out that although he was ostensibly opposed to the Mexican government of the time, he eagerly accepted contracts to paint murals in public buildings, such as his magnificent historic masterpiece in the main gate of Mexico Citys Palacio Nacional.

The revelations about Rivera are surprising enough, but Chase and Reed are promising to shatter some much bigger illusions. Reed told the Independent the two academics had also uncovered some very damaging stuff about Trotsky. We’re still trying to get hold of some FBI stuff on him . . . in fact, I can tell you we have concrete information that Leon Trotsky, too, was an informant of the US government.


Grover Furr reviews Robert Thurston’s “Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934 -1941”

As always, the publication of an article does not necessarily imply an absolute endorsement of the entirety of its content.

– Espresso Stalinist.


by Grover Furr, from Cultural Logic, Volume 1, Number 2, Spring 1998

Robert W. Thurston, Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996). $30.00.

Anti-Stalinism Hurts Workers, Builds Fascism

1. Billions of workers all over the world are exploited, murdered, tortured, oppressed by capitalism. The greatest historical events in the twentieth century — in fact, in all of human history — have been the overthrow of capitalism and establishment of societies run by and for the working class in the two great communist revolutions in Russia and China.

2. The Russian Revolution was the first of them, blazing the trail for all revolutionaries to come. Its history — its successes and failures — are the essential textbook for all workers and others who recognize the need to get rid of exploitation and build a better world run by those who toil.

3. Naturally the world’s capitalists do not want this learning process to happen! So the ruling class try to spread anti-Communist lies, the purpose of which is to demoralize potential revolutionaries and make us passive. These wrong ideas — wrong both in the sense that they are incorrect AND in that they serve the exploiters’ interests, not the interest of workers — include racism, religion, sexism, and anti- communism.

4. The main form anti-communism has taken for the past several decades has been anti-Stalinism. If workers and others can be convinced that any attempt to build a communist society — one based upon need, without exploitation, run by and for the working class — will end up “as bad as or worse than” Nazi Germany, then we will never really make the attempt. This means we will be reduced to struggling only for reforms under capitalism. This reformism is ultimately acceptable to the capitalists since it leaves them in control forever.

5. A second way the bosses use anti-Stalinism is to justify fascist repression and murder of any workers’ attempts to rebel against capitalism. After all, if “Stalinism” is “worse than Nazi Germany”, and if any attempt to build communism can lead only to “Stalinism”, then any and all repressive measures to suppress revolution are justified, including torture, mass murder, and fascism itself. This anti-communism has been the main justification for imperialist slaughter in the period since World War II, as indeed it had been for the Nazis’ aggression and atrocities.

6. Because it is the main ideological form of anti-communism, fighting anti-Stalinism is therefore a vital, life-and-death issue for the world’s workers — for all of us. This review essay will show how a new (1996) book can be useful in doing just that, and it also outlines some of the limitations of that book.

Strengths of Thurston’s Work

7. Thurston’s main points are as follows:

– The mass arrests and executions of 1936-38 in the USSR were not planned, but were panicked reactions to plots against the Soviet government.

– These events were not intended to, and did not in fact, spread “fear and terror” throughout the Soviet population, but rather were carried out against perceived enemies with the support and often the active participation of the Soviet population.

– They occurred at a time when the USSR was under enormous threat from hostile nations. (In addition, communists the world over were being imprisoned, tortured and murdered by capitalist regimes, though Thurston does not refer to these facts.)

– The numbers imprisoned and executed were far less that the inflated estimates claimed by anti-Communist sources.

– Rather than being cowed and demoralized by mass arrests and police activity, the growing Soviet industrial working class enjoyed an active voice inside the factories, encouraged by Soviet leaders to speak out about conditions in the plants and outside.

– The “acid test” of whether the workers and peasants supported Soviet socialism or were alienated from and hostile to it came with the Nazi invasion. Thurston shows that the Soviet people determinedly repulsed this massive onslaught by rushing either to join the Red Army or the factories to increase military production, while the Red Army fought with a dedication, effectiveness and morale utterly unmatched by the best Western capitalist armies.

8. Thurston’s introduction outlines what he calls the “standard version” (xiv) or “orthodox view” (xvi) of Stalin and the USSR in the ’30s, invoking the name of Robert Conquest — which he will then prove wrong. (Conquest, a former British Secret Service agent, is the foremost anti- communist liar about the Stalin years.) He also points out also how the present capitalist rulers of Russia have every motive to build anti-Stalinism.

9. This chapter also demonstrates that the Soviet legal system was evolving along recognizably capitalist lines in terms of its judicial process during the early ’30s. On the one hand, this contradicts the view of the Cold Warriors that the USSR was “totalitarian”, and this is Thurston’s main point: that the USSR was becoming more “liberal”, giving citizens protection against arbitrary police action, for example.

10. It reveals, however, how much the Bolsheviks relied on Western capitalist models, in the judicial system and elsewhere (education, culture, industry), for models of how to build a communist society. Here, the Bolsheviks’ view of communism was, as we can see now in hindsight, in many respects a “reformed” version of capitalist relationships. Learning from the Bolsheviks’ shortcomings as well as from their own experience, left forces within the Chinese Communist Party later challenged reliance on police and courts with reliance on the working class and poor peasants through political struggle, public trials, and an emphasis on self-criticism and being held accountable to the masses — a process that eventually reached its high point during the Cultural Revolution before it was finally defeated.

11. Chapter Two disposes of some ancient anti-Communist lies. Thurston shows there’s no evidence Stalin murdered either his second wife in 1932 or Politburo colleague Sergei Kirov in 1934. Both of these fairy-tales have been refuted by other scholars before Thurston but are still accepted without question as true by anti-Stalinists. Concerning the three big “Show Trials” of 1936-38, Thurston highlights the evidence that the basic charges against the defendants were in fact true. This was generally accepted even by keen Western observers at the time, like Joseph Davies, sent by President Roosevelt to check out the Soviet government (see his book Mission to Moscow), and confirmed long ago too by staunch anti-Communist scholars like Robert V. Daniels (see his Conscience of the Revolution, 1960).

12. Thurston shows that there was “wrecking” — industrial sabotage — in the economy under Yuri Pyatakov, whose confession to this effect is also shown to have been voluntary, not coerced (46). Even the charges against Nikolai Bukharin, main defendant in the 1938 trial, are shown to have been true in the main, as documents from Bolshevik archives prove (35-42). Thurston also states that some accusations against the defendants were “fabrications”, but he never gives any evidence to support this charge. In fact — though Thurston does not discuss this — it is quite likely that suspicions of “wrecking” were exaggerated by the recklessness built into the industrialization campaign, caused by the emphasis on “increasing productive forces” by sharpening wage differentials, privileges, and therefore class antagonisms: in short, by socialism, the mixture of communist and capitalist elements which communists since the days of Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program had believed was a necessary interim stage between capitalism and a classless society.

13. Finally, Chapter Two also reaffirms that the massive arrests did not take place until after the arrests and executions in June 1937 of the military commanders led by Marshal Tukhachevsky. Stalin and the Bolshevik leadership clearly believed there was a real conspiracy, and there’s much, though not conclusive, evidence that such a conspiracy indeed existed. Chapter Three demonstrates that the Soviet government reacted in panic to the disclosure of such high-placed treason. There’s no evidence at all that Stalin was out to “terrorize the country”.

14. Nikolai Ezhov, the leader of the political police (or NKVD), was the person most directly responsible for the massive arrests and executions. Usually demonized by Cold-War historians, Ezhov was a long-time Communist with an honorable record, a worker since the age of 14, before being entrusted by the Politburo with the task of directly overseeing the repression of what all believed to be a massive counter-revolutionary plot.

15. Ezhov set high quotas for executions, which the police felt had to be met. There were many examples of police arresting and executing people either to “meet quotas” or from outright corruption. Recent research by Thurston ‘s colleagues suggests that between six and seven hundred thousand persons were executed during 1937-38. (See the article by Getty, Rittersporn, and Zemskov in American Historical Review, October 1993).

16. A few comments are in order here. First, the concept of “quotas” for executions appears to come from Lenin’s practice during the Civil War, although Thurston does not say so. After the Bolsheviks revolution privileged and propertied people throughout Russia opposed the Bolsheviks and Red Army, and White (anti-Communist) forces routinely executed Communists, workers who supported them, and all Jews. Under Lenin’s urging the Bolsheviks would take hostages from among the upper classes, threatening to execute them if the Whites opposed them.

17. It should be clear that such “quotas for execution” were completely inappropriate in a situation in which the Bolsheviks held state power and could confine anyone suspected of anti-Communist activity until their cases could be investigated. Such executions, whether of the guilty or, as was inevitable, of the innocent as well, serve no mass political function, as would public trials, investigations, and a concept of justice based upon the direct participation of the working class — an issue noted by Vyshinsky himself.

18. Anti-Communist “scholars” have repeatedly produced fantastically high figures for Soviet executions and jailings during the “purges”. Thurston challenges those inflated numbers with strong archival evidence. On page 137 he explicitly states that the inflated estimates are too high. On page 11 Thurston has a chart showing there were 1,196,439 camp inmates in 1937, a slight decline from the previous year (this included criminals as well as those arrested for political crimes, but does not include prison inmates). For purposes of comparison, we should note that this is much smaller than the US prison population today! While it seems clear to us now that many of those prisoners charged with political crimes (104,826, or 12.8% of the total) were not in fact guilty, that prison population is a long way from the Cold-War anti-Communist “guesstimates” of between 7 and 15 million prisoners — and some guess much higher still, 20 or 30 million!

19. Thurston shows there were, in fact, other real anti-Soviet plots in addition to the “Tukhachevsky Affair” (mass arrests and executions of military officers), including some spies within the NKVD itself. He also provides overwhelming evidence to show that the arrests targeted elite sectors — managers, specialists, intellectuals, party officials, and not “workers or poor peasants, the favored children of the new regime” (76). Naturally communists should not support unjust accusations against anyone, regardless of their class background. What this fact shows is that socialism — the continuation of capitalist relations of production and a capitalist notion of economic development — involved the continuation of class antagonisms under somewhat different forms, class antagonisms that found expression in the mass arrests and executions.

20. Thurston puts these events squarely in the context of the aftermath of the extremely violent years of 1914-21 (the beginning of World War I to the end of the very bloody Civil War) and, more immediately, of the sharpening international situation of the late ’30s, when Nazi Germany and all the imperialist countries were unmistakably bent upon surrounding and destroying the USSR.

21. However, even at that Thurston underplays the danger facing the Communist movement. On pages 34-5, he mentions the German reoccupation of the Rhineland in March 1936, unchallenged by the French who wanted Hitler to rearm, so as to pit him against the USSR. He mentions the start of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936, but not the huge military support given to Franco, leader of the Spanish fascists, by Nazi German and fascist Italy, nor the phony “neutrality” of England, France, and the USA which cut the Spanish Republic off from international aid. He mentions fascist Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in December 1935, unchallenged by the other imperialists, but never the Japanese fascists’ seizure of Manchuria in 1931 or the Anti-Comintern Pact between Germany, Japan and Italy (1936-37), or the Japanese invasion of China (1937). Stalin would later express the Soviet view that the other imperialists were encouraging the Germans to attack and destroy the Soviet union:

“They kept on urging the Germans to go farther and farther east: ‘You just start a war against the Bolsheviks, and all will be well’” (quoted in Alexander Werth, Russia at War, p. 39).

22. Also left out is the Nazi decimation of the German Communist Party, the largest in Europe, beginning in 1934. In 1936, when the Soviet “purges” began, German Communists were being tortured and murdered by the thousands in German concentration camps, and similar treatment was being meted out to Communists and workers in dozens of other capitalist lands — as, in fact, it still is. Little wonder that the Soviets weren’t prone to treat too kindly those it considered to be German spies and agents!

23. And Thurston repeats, time and again, what his sources show him: the Soviet government favored workers and poor peasants over all others in the population, while they were being exploited, killed, etc., in every other country in the world! Thurston’s own evidence shows that the USSR was a “dictatorship of the working class”.

24. Some police agencies treated evidence as very important, though many did not. Conditions in the labor and punishment camps, the so-called “Gulag”, Thurston argues, were bearable both before and after the period 1937 to 1938, but very bad during this period, reflecting the fact that most police, and even prisoners, were convinced those arrested during this time were traitorous conspirators who deserved the worst treatment.

25. By January 1938, Thurston shows, complaints of unjustified repression were flooding the Central Committee, and the Plenum began to demand that expulsions from the Party be reviewed for unfairness. The next month Andrei Vyshinsky, formerly the head prosecutor at the “Show Trials”, complained about conditions in the labor camps and demanded punishment of camp officials who permitted bad conditions. He also insisted that those who fabricated evidence be arrested. In fact a number of trials of such fabricators did take place this year and the next, often with great publicity.

26. The need to pay greater attention to physical evidence, as opposed to confession, was re-emphasized. By the middle of 1938 the great period of panic, mass arrests, and executions was over. Police procedures were regularized; conditions in the camps improved; many of those falsely arrested were released and exonerated. Trials of NKVD men who had tortured and framed people were held, and the NKVD purged of such people.

27. Certainly the Soviet state was justified in acting to arrest preemptively, in times of crisis, anyone suspected of treason. But there was no reason for executing people on the same flimsy basis; they could certainly have been imprisoned pending a serious review of their cases. Had this been done, many or most executions would not have taken place. What is more, well-publicized trials of those who were guilty, with evidence publicly given, would have raised political consciousness, as did the Chinese Communist Party’s public trials of landlords in the period after their seizure of power, in which peasants openly accused those who had exploited and murdered them.

28. Chapter Six, “Life in the Factories”, shows that the Stakhanovite movement was, in fact, a mass movement which gave all workers the opportunity to gain recognition for improving production and technique, rather than a cynical way of “speeding-up” the workers, as it has been described by anti-Communists. Thurston argues that, in fact, Stakhanovism gave workers more power. Workers’ views and criticisms were respected; supervisors and foremen ignored them at their peril.

29. But here too we see that “socialist” relations of production were basically a reformed version of capitalist relations of production. While acknowledging the communist, collective aspects of the Stakhanov movement, we can see in retrospect how it inevitably became associated with speed-up, given the retention of a wage system. Thurston’s book neglects this aspect of the movement.

30. Thurston quotes some American workers who had also worked in the USSR as saying that conditions of work, and the atmosphere in the factories, were better for Soviet workers in the 1930s than for workers in the US (192). But he then undercuts their view — far more informed than his own — in the next sentence, where he writes that “Soviet workers were hardly better off or freer than their American counterparts”.

31. Ironically, he has already cited evidence on page 170 that at least some Soviet workers had shorter working hours than US workers. At the time, many people thought Soviet workers were, in fact, better off than were American workers. One of them was Walter Reuther, later the anti-Communist president of the United Auto Workers, who worked in a Soviet auto factory in the 1930s. In a passage not cited by Thurston, Reuther wrote home:

Here are no bosses to drive fear into the workers. No one to drive them in mad speed-ups. Here the workers are in control. Even the shop superintendent had no more right in these meetings than any other worker. I have witnessed many times already when the superintendent spoke too long. The workers in the hall decided he had already consumed enough time and the floor was given to a lathe hand to who told of his problems and offered suggestions. Imagine this at Ford or Briggs. This is what the outside world calls the “ruthless dictatorship in Russia”. I tell you … in all countries we have thus far been in we have never found such genuine proletarian democracy… (quoted from Phillip Bonosky, Brother Bill McKie: Building the Union at Ford [New York: International Publishers, 1953]).

32. Thurston says nothing about free medical care, cited in many studies of and novels about the Soviet Union in the 1930s. And much of his chapter shows how Soviet workers had a tremendous amount of input and right to criticize. Thurston also doesn’t mention that millions of US workers were unemployed in the ’30s, while the Soviets had a labor shortage. He omits the fact that US workers trying to unionize for better conditions were being violently attacked, and often killed, by the police, the military, and employer-hired goons. Conditions for the working class in Europe generally were even worse, with fascist or virtually fascist regimes, all viciously anti-working class, in most countries.

33. The final chapter deals with the response of the Soviet population to World War II. Here too Thurston concludes that the Soviet regime retained much loyalty and enthusiasm among the population. Soviet soldiers fought against the Japanese in Mongolia with high morale in 1938, where their military leadership was excellent, and against Finland and then the German Wehrmacht in 1940 and 1941, where both political and military leadership was initially poor and led to larger casualties than necessary. In the opening days of WWII, the Red Army fought well, counterattacking against far superior Axis forces, often fighting to the last man, rarely surrendering unless surrounded or demoralized by huge casualties and a hopeless situation. German officers uniformly remarked that the Soviets fought far better than any Western army (215).

34. Civilian morale was generally high in June 1941, even in Soviet-occupied Eastern Poland. The Polish fascist state had been racist towards Jews and Ukrainians in Eastern Poland, and therefore many of the Ukrainian population were supportive when the Soviets marched in, especially since the Soviets mainly repressed the enemies of the workers and peasants — landowners, Polish officers, and police — and did not collectivize the peasantry. But Ukrainian nationalists in Poland had already basically turned towards the Nazis, so many “Western” Ukrainians welcomed the Nazi invasion. German officers recognized that the Ukrainians in Soviet territory were very different, much more loyal to the USSR and often very hostile to the pro-Nazi West Ukrainians, as Thurston shows.


35. The research reported in this book because it will help to combat anti-communism and lies against Stalin and the USSR generally during his time. However, Thurston’s work also suffers from serious shortcomings. First, while he combats many anti-Communist lies with good evidence, Thurston also makes many statements critical of the Bolsheviks without any evidence. There are many instances of this.

36. Even more serious are Thurston’s historiographical shortcomings. Not a Marxist of any kind, Thurston frames his analysis entirely in bourgeois historical terms. Therefore, Thurston’s book is valuable when, and only when, he bases his conclusions on primary source evidence. Even when he does, this evidence must be put into an historical materialist, scientific framework in order for important lessons to emerge clearly.

37. Like all the other works of the anti-Cold War researchers — called “revisionists” or “Young Turks” — who have helped to refute anti-Stalin and anti-Communist lies, this is a work of bourgeois history. These works of research take capitalism for granted, and so have a capitalist bias from the outset. Though they come up with important evidence, and often use it well, they do so from an academic perspective. They may refute egregious Cold-War lies, but they never reject anti-communism, the fundamental premise of capitalist scholarship.

38. Most important for our purposes, the “revisionists” do not ask the questions which Marxists, and all those convinced that capitalism must be overthrown, need answers to: namely, What can we learn, positively and negatively, from the history of the USSR? What were the Bolsheviksí successes? Why did these dedicated communists fail?

39. Although it can’t provide answers to the questions revolutionaries need to ask, Thurston’s work, like those of other more objective, though bourgeois, researchers, can help us if we use them according to historical materialism, the scientific method of Marxism or communism.

40. After all, to learn the correct lessons, both positive and negative, from the Bolsheviks’ experience, the history of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union and why it eventually turned into its opposite, we need something in addition to the Marxist method of understanding history, or dialectical and historical materialism. We also need an accurate account of what, in fact, happened, not a farrago of anti-Communist lies and horror stories.

41. It is here, in refuting anti-Communist lies, as well as in discovering what did happen in reality, that Thurston’s work, and that of other honest bourgeois historians, can be very helpful. Let me give two brief examples.

1. Capitalist Relations and Class Antagonisms within the USSR:

42. Thurston shows time and again that those most likely to have been arrested and executed during the panic of 1937-38 were officials, leaders, managers, officers, and “higher- ups” in general. This fact shows that there was a considerable divorce between “leaders” and ordinary workers and other citizens. How could this be?

43. Marx recognized that “all history is the history of class struggle”. The Bolsheviks believed that everything must be subordinated to the fight for industrialization and production. After the early ’30s they used “material incentives” to reward workers and managers, developing large wage differentials and, therefore, differences in living standards among workers and between workers and managers, Party leaders and rank-and-file members, and in every other aspect of society. Believing too that productive technique was “class-neutral”, they kept capitalist production relationships in the factories and capitalist relationships of hierarchy and inequality generally in society. Women still did all the housework as well as their jobs, putting real limits on the extent — real, also — to which sexism could be fought.

44. In short, social relationships in the USSR were “reformed” capitalist relationships more than they were truly communist egalitarian relationships. This had to give rise to new class antagonisms and create resistance to the disappearance of old ones.

45. Thurston’s research can help us see that the mass arrests and executions of 1937-38, which were “concentrated among the country’s elite” (232), reflected these class antagonisms at the same time Stalin and the Soviet leadership believed they had abolished class struggle. Without these capitalist relations the “panic” of the late ’30s and, in fact, the future evolution of the Soviet Union towards, first, state capitalism and, as now, “free-market” capitalism, would not have been possible.

2. Elitist Relations within the Party:

46. In 1938 and thereafter specific cases of police corruption, neglect of evidence, frame-ups, and other negligence were publicized and those guilty punished. Many cases of rehabilitation, both of the living and of those unjustly executed, took place. Nevertheless the Bolshevik leadership under Stalin never really underwent a thorough, public self-critical review of how any injustice could have happened, in order to get to the bottom of it.

47. There is also the question of why people like Zinoviev, Bukharin and others were in important positions of power to begin with. They had demonstrated rotten politics for years. Zinoviev had quit the party in fear rather than take part in the October Revolution. Bukharin had lied many times — Thurston documents this — and had even plotted with the Socialist Revolutionaries against Lenin during the Civil War. (The S-R’s then plotted to overthrow Lenin, and very likely tried to kill him.) They had been expelled from the Party.

48. What was the point of handing them major leadership posts? The Bolsheviks should have trained other members to do their jobs and not relied on these particular intellectuals. Perhaps the concept of a party of “professional revolutionaries”, a “cadre” party — Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin and others had worked for the Party all their lives — had not yet been entirely abandoned for the better concept of a mass party of the working class.

Conclusion: Fight Capitalist Lies

49. Thurston’s work is useful in debunking anti-Communist lies. And his work is only one of a growing body of what has been called “revisionist” research on the history of the USSR. These works use the same kind of bourgeois historical methodology, rules of evidence, logic, and documentation, commonly used in less contentious fields of history, but hardly ever in the study of the communist movement.

50. For the first time, an outline of the major events in the USSR during the Stalin years is beginning to emerge, although the anti-Communist “Cold Warriors” — often joined by enthusiasts for Leon Trotsky — are still actively spreading their lies and contesting every bit of research which contradicts their preconceived ideas, what is virtually a “Cold-War Party Line”.This is exciting, and heady, material!

51. But it is for revolutionaries and workers of today to use research like Thurston’s towards this end. Neither this work nor any others like it can provide the historical materialist framework without which human history will not reveal its truths.

Revisionists’ Research on Soviet History: A Brief Bibliographical Note(Note: It is a daunting task to keep abreast of the exciting research into the history of the Soviet Union during Stalin’s leadership. The “revisionists”, of which Thurston is a leading representative, have split the field of bourgeois Soviet history, and there is much animosity on both sides. In addition, it’s very helpful to be able to read Russian, both in order to look at original sources, and to follow the research now being published in Russia that Getty is publishing there, for example. What follows is only a brief introduction.)

1. There are a number of strands in the “new” history of the Soviet Union during the Stalin years. The work of the late E. H. Carr, and of his successors at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Russian and East European Studies, led by R. W. Davies, and represented heavily in the journal Soviet Studies (since volume 45, 1993 retitled Europe-Asia Studies); the research of Jerry Hough, Sheila Fitzpatrick, and Roberta Manning, the inspiration and, in some cases, the teachers of the younger “revisionists”; and the younger cohort themselves. I will concentrate on this third group.

2. The book under review is an excellent place to begin. But, to my mind, the first and groundbreaking work of this school is John Arch Getty, Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938 (Cambridge University Press, 1985). A much revised version of his Ph.D. dissertation at Boston College, 1979, under Roberta Manning, this work is fundamental. One has to read it to get a feel for how completely the “accepted” version (Conquest-Solzhenitsyn, et al. — what Thurston calls the “standard version” or “orthodox view”) of this period must be rejected, how completely dishonest their “scholarship”, how poor their use of evidence. After Thurston, begin with Getty, and a careful reading of his footnotes.

3. The year after Getty’s book was published, the revisionists achieved recognition as a distinct school within Soviet history with Sheila Fitzpatrick’s article “New Perspectives on Stalinism”, The Russian Review 45, 4 (October 1986), 357-373, which the editors published together with four criticisms by established Cold-War historians, and a reply by Fitzpatrick, “Afterword: Revisionism Revisited”. A year later the same journal published eleven responses to Fitzpatrick’s article, including five by the leading younger scholars (William Chase, J. Arch Getty, Hiroaki Kuromiya, Gábor Rittersporn, and Lynne Viola), two supportive articles (by Jerry Hough and Roberta Manning), and an explicit attack by Conquest.

4. Robert Conquest’s voluminous work is the target, acknowledged or not, of much of the research on this period of Soviet history. Getty leads off his book with a brief exposé of Conquest’s irresponsible methods (Origins, p. 5 and note 12, p.222). The work of Steven G. Wheatcroft on the size of Soviet forced labor camps and number of deaths has developed as a refutation of Conquest and those whose research resembles his, like Steven Rosefielde. This debate continues today, and was launched by Wheatcroft’s article “On Assessing the Size of Forced Concentration Camp Labour in the Soviet Union, 1929-1956″, Soviet Studies 33 (April, 1981), 265-95. Conquest’s typically weak reply, with argument “from authority”, is in Soviet Studies 34 (July 1982), 434-39.

5. Wheatcroft and Conquest continue to criticize each other’s studies vigorously. For Wheatcroft’s research, begin with what appears in Europe-Asia Studies. For example, in “The Scale and Nature of German and Soviet Repression and Mass Killings, 1930-1945″, EAS 48 (December 1996), 1319-1353, Wheatcroft attacks the facile, anti-Communist comparison of Stalin with Hitler. The abstract reads:

     Repression and mass killings carried out by German and Soviet leaderships during the period 1930-45 differed in several respects. It appears that the German leader Adolf Hitler put to death at least five million innocent people mainly because of his antipathy towards Jews and communists. In contrast, Soviet leader Josef Stalin ordered the murder of some one million people because he apparently believed them to be guilty of crimes against the state. He was careful about documenting these executions whereas Hitler did not bother about making any pretence at legality.

6. A few other works which base themselves on recently-published Soviet archival documents and give the lie to Conquest-type horror-stories include: Nicolas Werth, “Goulag: Les Vrais Chiffres”, L’Histoire no. 169 (Septembre, 1993), 38-51; J. Arch Getty, Gábor T. Rittersporn, and Viktor N. Zemskov, “Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Pre-war Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence”, American Historical Review 98 (December, 1993), 1017-49; R.W. Davies, “Forced Labour Under Stalin: The Archive Revelations”, New Left Review, 214 (November-December 1995), 62-80.

7. Other works explicitly critical of Conquest include: Jeff Coplon, “In Search of a Soviet Holocaust: A 55-Year-Old Famine Feeds the Right”, Village Voice, Jan. 12, 1988 (on the web at Coplon interviewed many of the foremost historians of the USSR, including many “Cold Warriors” as well as some “revisionists”; all rejected Conquest’s phony research on the Ukrainian famine, Harvest of Sorrow (Oxford, 1986), incidentally showing how Conquest was paid by Ukrainian nationalist groups which had collaborated with the Nazis.

8. Thurston was, I think, the first and (to date) the only historian of the Soviet Union to dare to attack Conquest in an academic journal: see Thurston, “On Desk-Bound Parochialism, Commonsense Perspectives, and Lousy Evidence: A Reply to Robert Conquest”, Slavic Review 45 (Summer 1986), 238-244.

9. A six-part series exposing the Nazi origins of the Ukrainian famine myth while remaining critical of Soviet actions from a communist viewpoint, can be found at the Progressive Labor Party website at; read its notes for scholarly references to that time. Another PLP series, this time in four parts, of Stalin, the PBS television series, and the accompanying book Stalin: A Time for Judgment, by Jonathan Lewis and Phillip Whitehead (New York: Pantheon, 1990), begins at These articles contain yet more references to “revisionist” scholarship, and end with a brief bibliography of suggested further readings, at An appreciative but critical review of Getty’s Ph.D. dissertation, the basis of his 1985 book, is at

10. This should be enough for anyone interested in studying the latest critiques of the Cold-War lies about Stalin and Bolshevik history, the wars within the field of Soviet history, and the best results of bourgeois historiography, to sink their teeth into.

11. Finally: there is an important theoretical issue which I deal with briefly towards the end of my review, and which is not apparent in any of the social-historical and empirical research of the past twenty years or so. That question is: How can the method of dialectical and historical materialism be brought to bear on the “facts” as we are coming to know them, in order to draw valid conclusions from the Bolsheviks’ successes and errors, so that future communists may build upon the past without repeating its mistakes?

12. These works can help us learn something about what did happen, and help us refute anti-Communist lies. But the task of learning from the past to build towards a communist future is up to us.


William Blum on the Development of the Soviet Union


“History does not tell us what a Soviet Union, allowed to develop in a ‘normal’ way of its own choosing, would look like today. We do know, however, the nature of a Soviet Union attacked in its cradle, raised alone in an extremely hostile world, and when it managed to survive to adulthood, overrun by the Nazi war machine with the blessings of the Western powers. The resulting insecurities and fears have inevitably led to deformities of character not unlike that found in an individual raised in a similar life-threatening manner”

 - William Blum, “Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions since World War II”

Bill Bland: The National Question in Britain


By W.B.Bland (“Communist League”, London UK)
for The National Committee for Marxist-Leninist Unity (Britain).


Geographically, the British Isles consists of two main islands: Great Britain and Ireland.

Great-Britain consists of three communities: those of England, Wales and Scotland.

There is general agreement among those who regard themselves as Marxist-Leninists that the people of Ireland constitute a nation, a nation distinct from the nation (or nations) occupying the island of Great Britain. Politically, however, Ireland is divided into two separate states; the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is nominally independent, but is in reality dominated by British imperialism, is a neo-colony of British imperialism. Northern-Ireland is politically a part of ‘the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’, is a colony of British imperialism. Progressive people support the unification and the right to self-determination, to independence, of Ireland.

This article is concerned with two questions:

1) whether the peoples of Scotland, Wales and England constitute separate-nations, or whether they form part of a single British nation; and

2) whether separate Marxist-Leninist Parties should be formed in Scotland, Wales and England, or whether there should be a single Marxist-Leninist Party for the whole of Britain.

The Definition of a Nation

The English word ‘nation’ is derived from the Latin ‘natio’, originally meaning:

” birth, hence a creature’s entire offspring at one time, hence a clan’s offspring, hence a people’s, hence that people itself”.

(Eric Partridge: ‘Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English’; London; 1966; p. 428).

Marxist-Leninists define the term ‘nation’ as follows:

A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture”. 

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Marxism and the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 307).

To constitute a nation, a community must possess all the above characteristics:

“It is sufficient for a single one of these characteristics to be lacking and the nation ceases to be a nation. . . . It is only when all these characteristics are present together that we have a nation”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ibid.; p. 307, 308).

Furthermore, a nation is a:

“. . . historical category belonging to a definite epoch, the epoch of rising capitalism. The process of elimination of feudalism and development of capitalism is at the same time a process of the constitution of people into nations”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ibid.; p. 313).

In order to determine, therefore, whether the peoples of Scotland, Wales and England constitute separate nations, it is necessary to determine whether each of these communities possesses all the characteristics listed by Stalin. If it does not, it is not a nation.


” a common-language is one of the characteristic features of a nation”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ibid.; p. 304).

Clearly, the people of England possess a common language — English. The minority languages which once existed in England — Manx and Cornish — have long been extinct. Manx is a Celtic language:

“formerly spoken on the Isle of Man but now extinct”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 7; Chicago; 1994; p. 802)

while Cornish is a Celtic language:

” . . formerly spoken in Cornwall, in south-western Britain; it became extinct in the 18th or early 19th century as a result of displacement by English”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 3; Chicago; 1994; p. 640).

The people of Wales, for the most part, also speak a common language. But this is not Welsh, a Celtic language which is spoken by only a small and declining minority of the population, mainly in the rural areas. According to official figures, the proportion of the population of Wales and Monmouthshire speaking only Welsh has declined from 508 thousand (28.6%) in 1891 to 26 thousand (1.0%) in 1961.

(‘Census of England and Wales: 1891, Volume 4: General Record’; London; 1893′ p. 82; ‘Census 1961: Wales (including Monmouthshire): Report on Welsh Speaking Population)’; London; 1962; p. viii; Charlotte A. Davies: ‘Welsh Nationalism in the 20th Century: The Ethnic Option and the British State’; New York; 1989; p. 39).

The people of Scotland, for the most part, also speak a common language. But this is not Scottish Gaelic (Erse), which is spoken only by a small and declining minority of the population, mainly

“. . . along the north-west coast of Scotland and in the Hebrides islands”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’. Volume 10; Chicago; 1994; p. 566)

According to official figures, the proportion of the population of Scotland speaking only Gaelic has declined from 44 thousand (1.1%) in 1891 to 1 thousand (0.02%) in 1961. (‘Census of Scotland: 1891′, Volume 1: London; 1892; p. xxi; ‘Statesman’s Year Book: 1998-1999′; London: 1998; p. 1,411;

Charles W. J. Withers: ‘Gaelic in Scotland: 1698-1981: The Geographical History of a Language’; Edinburgh; 1984; p. 239).


” . . many of those recorded as monoglots were old women”.

(Charles W. J. Withers: ibid.; p. 238).

Thus, the common language of the people of Scotland is, for the most part, English.


“. . . a common territory is one of the characteristic features of a nation.”

(Josef V. Stalin: op. cit.; p. 305).

Clearly, the peoples of Scotland, Wales and England each have a common territory. The people of Britain — that is, of Scotland, Wales and England combined — also possess a common territory.


“. . . a common economic life, economic cohesion, is one of the characteristic features of a nation”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ibid.; p. 306.)

As Stalin makes clear, a community possesses ‘economic cohesion’ when its economic life is welded together by well-established physical ties (means of communication, division of labour, financial bonds, etc.) so as to form a single economic whole which, if it does not exist at a particular moment in the form of a separate state, is capable of such separate existence without significant disruption of its economic life.

If, on the other hand, one community is welded to another by well established physical ties, which date back to the rise of capitalist society or beyond, so that they form in combination a single economic whole and their separation would cause significant disruption to the economic life of both, then neither of these communities considered separately possesses economic cohesion.

Scotland, Wales and England have been welded together for many centuries. As early as the 12-13th centuries:

“Edward I of England established authority over Wales”,

(‘Cambridge Encyclopaedia’; Cambridge; 1997; p. 1.126).

and the ‘Statute of Wales’ of 1284:

“.. . annexed Wales to the crown of England”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 29; Chicago; 1994; p. 126).

Then, following the victory of the Welsh noble Henry Tudor (who became Henry VII of England) over Richard III at Bosworth Field in 1485, Wales was finally

“. . . politically united with England at the Act of Union, 1535″.

(‘Cambridge Encyclopaedia’; Cambridge; 1997; p. 1.126).

In the case of Scotland, James VI of Scotland was the great-great-grandson of Henry VII of England and the legitimate successor of Elizabeth I:

“On Elizabeth’s death in 1603, he was recognised as the rightful king of England. Thus the Crowns of England and Scotland were united”.

(‘Encylopaedia Amercana’, Volume 24; New York; 1977; p. 419).

The formal union of the two kingdoms of Scotland and England

” . . . was achieved in 1707..”

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 29; Chicago; 1994; p. 116).

by the ‘Treaty of Union’ of that year.

London is the financial, communications and cultural centre of Britain. There is a common market throughout Britain -the same branded goods are on sale in branches of the same multiple stores in Inverness, Swansea and Manchester. Scottish, Welsh and English capital is inseparably blended into British capital. There is no ‘English monopoly capital’, no ‘English imperialism’; there is British monopoly capitalism, British imperialism. The separation of Scotland, Wales and England would cause great disruption of the economic life of all three communities, as a result of these long-standing physical ties. Thus, Scotland, England and Wales taken separately do not possess economic cohesion, and so are not nations. Britain, however, does possess economic cohesion.


“. . .a common psychological make-up, which manifests itself in a common culture, is one of the characteristic features of a nation”.

(Josef V. Stalin: op. cit.; p. 307).

Clearly, Britain has, for the most part, a common culture. There are, it is true, immigrants to Britain who have brought with them aspects of other national cultures. In Scotland and Wales, too, cultural elements exist which appear to be distinctively ‘national’ in character. In the case of Scotland, one thinks of Highland dress, of the bagpipes and of such Highland sports as tossing the caber. In the case of Wales, one thinks of the harp and the Eisteddfodds. It must be noted, however, that these ‘national’ elements in the cultures of Scotland and Wales are of significance mainly in the rural areas, and that they are survivals from the past which are declining in importance in relation to the culture of Scotland and Wales as a whole.

For the most part, therefore, Britain has a common culture.

To sum up: the communities of Scotland, Wales and England do not possess all the essential characteristics which go to make up nations, and so do not constitute separate nations. The community of Britain, however, does possess all the essential characteristics which go to make up a nation. Despite, therefore, the existence of declining survivals of pre-national languages and cultures in Scotland and Wales, Britain constitutes a nation, a single nation.

That Britain constitutes a single nation is not only a logical deduction from Stalin’s general principles on the nation, it is Stalin’s explicit view:

“The British, French, Germans, Italians and others were formed into nations at the time of the victorious advance of capitalism and its triumph over feudal disunity.

But the formation of nations in those instances at the same time signified their conversion into independent national states. The British, French and other nations are at the same time British, etc., states. Ireland . . . did not participate in this process”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Marxism and the National Question’, in: ‘Works’. Volume 2; Moscow; 1952; p. 313-14).

“The British, French, Germans and Italians were formed into nations at the time of the victorious development of capitalism and its triumph over feudal disunity”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 5; Moscow; 1953; p. 16).

“In the West — in Britain, France, Italy and, partly, Germany — the period of the liquidation of feudalism and the constitution of people into nations coincided, on the whole, with the period in which centralised states appeared”.

(Josef V. Stalin: Report on the Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question, 10th Congress of the RCP (B), in: ‘Works’, Volume 5; Moscow; 1953; p. 33).

“Hence the necessity for a stubborn, continuous and determined struggle against the dominant-nation chauvinism of the ‘Socialists’ of the ruling nations (Britain, France, America, Italy, Japan, etc.”

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The Foundations of Leninism’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 6; Moscow; 1953; p. 152).

“Such nations must be qualified as bourgeois nations. Examples are the French, British, Italian, . . . American and other similar nations”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The National Question and Leninism’, in: ‘Works’. Volume 11; Moscow; 1954; p. 353).

A ‘Black Nation’-within Britain?

In October 1979, a meeting in London called with the aim of setting up an Afro-Asian-Caribbean organisation in Britain adopted a resolution which declared:

“We now virtually face a two nation situation in Britain, one comprising the majority (i.e., indigenous whites), and the other a loose conglomeration of people originating from the Caribbean, Asia and Africa…These negative and hostile political activities have forced the predictable separate ‘National’ identity among our people”.

(Resolution of Meeting called to form an Afro-Asian-Caribbean Organisation, in: Harpal Brar: ‘Bourgeois Nationalism or Proletarian Internationalism?’; Southall; 1998; p.73).

Basing himself on the Marxist-Leninist interpretation of the national question put forward by Stalin, Brar correctly writes off the concept of separate ‘black and white nations’ in Britain:

“If we apply Stalin’s rigorously scientific definition to that ‘loose conglomeration of people originating from the Caribbean, Asia and Africa’, to wit, the black population of Britain, can we say that this ‘loose conglomeration’ constitutes one nation and that another nation is constituted by ‘the majority, i.e., the indigenous whites’? Most emphatically we cannot.

What common language do the black people of Britain speak? We find that either they do not speak a common language at all, for some speak Bengali, others speak Punjabi, yet others Hindi, others still Arabic and a multitude of other Asian and African languages; or, to the extent that they speak a common language, this is none other than the English language, the language they share with the majority, i.e., ‘the indigenous whites’, if you please. Thus it can be seen that if the community of language is one of the characteristics of a nation, this characteristic is either found wanting among the blacks of Britain or it is a characteristic which they share with the whites.

Take the question of territory. What common territory do the black people in Britain inhabit? It is clear that they do not. They are spread throughout the British Isles. . . . To the extent that they . . . inhabit a common territory, they are obliged no less to share this common territory with the ‘indigenous whites’ as well. So, once again, we find that the attempts of our esteemed gentry to conjure up two nations out of a figment of their own imagination smash their heads against the stone walls of mistress reality.

Is there an internal economic bond which welds the various components of the black population in Britain into a single national whole as distinct from the internal economic bond which welds all the people? . . . Is there, in other words, a community of economic life, of economic cohesion, specific to black people? Once again, to the misfortune of the authors of the resolution, we have to answer this question in the negative.

And when we come to the question of the ‘specific spiritual complexion’, the ‘peculiarities of national culture’, and the psychological make-up of what the authors, in a truly Freudian slip, correctly describe as ‘the loose conglomeration’, matters are wonderfully chaotic.

After all this, what is left of the . . . ‘nation’ constituted by a ‘loose conglomeration of people originating from the Caribbean, Asia and Africa’? Nothing but the blackness of their skin, which is not . . . a characteristic of a nation . . . From this it is not difficult to see how senseless, platitudinous, ignorant and futile are the attempts of this gentry artificially to constitute two nations in this country – one black and one white. . . .

Thus it is clear that the black population of Britain does not constitute a separate nation”.

(Harpal Brar: ibid.; p. 76-77, 79).

Assimilation is:

“. . . socio-cultural fusion, wherein individuals and groups of differing ethnic heritage acquire the basic habits, attitudes and mode of life of an embracing national culture”.

(‘Webster’s Third International Dictionary of the English Language’; London; 1961; p. 132).

and, in the course of time, the black population of Britain will, like other immigrants of the past, be assimilated into the British nation:

“Despite the obstacles of racial discrimination, and overcoming these obstacles, the black population is sooner or later bound to be assimilated and form part of the British nation, in exactly the same way as the assimilation of earlier migrants took place. . . . Black people, far from constituting a separate nation, are bound to be absorbed into the British nation”.

(Harpal Brar: op. cit.; p. 79).

Of course, this assimilation is not a one-way process:

“The black people . . ., while being assimilated over many generations, are bound to impart variety and richness to the British culture. . . . British culture (as indeed other cultures) has undergone and is constantly undergoing transformation while still remaining British. . . . Take just one example: the British diet. Engels already in the 19th century noted it had become spicy as a result of Britain’s trading position and it has become spicier still since the arrival of black workers in Britain. . . . This, however, is only a trivial example. The most important contribution of black people is to the development of British democratic and working-class culture through their struggle against racial and national oppression, and through their struggle against exploitation and their support for proletarian and liberation movements all over the world”.

(Harpal Brar: ibid.; p. 84).

Wherever one finds black separatism, Brar notes,

“One can be sure of the presence of a white liberal lurking around the corner to give a helping hand to his disadvantaged black brother. So it is in this case. The high priests of black separatism . . . receive, not unexpectedly, full support for their bourgeois, divisive and anti-proletarian madness from . . . the liberal bourgeois Ken Livingstone”.

(Harpal Brar: ibid.; p. 43).

For example, writing in the ‘Morning Star’, the newspaper of the revisionist ‘Communist Party of Britain’, of 12 August 1993, Livingstone refers to:

“the rise of racism and the extreme right in Europe today”,

(Ken Livingstone: ‘Strength in the United Fight’, in: ‘Morning Star’, 12 August 1993; p. 5).

and writes:

“The fight against these twin evils must be led by the black and other minority communities who are the target of racist attacks. . . .Because black and minority communities are the first target of racists and fascists, these communities must have the leading role in the antiracist and anti-fascist movement”.

(Ken Livingstone: ibid.; p. 5).

Thus, according to Livingstone, the struggle against racism must be led, not necessarily by the best anti-racists, but by black people whether or not they are, as individuals, the best people to do this. As Brar correctly points out, under the programme of the Anti-Racist Alliance (ARA) and Livingstone, white people can join the struggle against racism only:

‘ . . . as mere auxiliaries”.

(Harpal Brar: op. cit.; p. 4).

This, despite being euphemistically called ‘black self-organisation’, is in fact, racial discrimination, is, ultimately, racial separatism. Writing in the ‘Morning Star’ of 7 February 1994, Bennie Bunsee makes this clear when he says:

“The situation is intensified as black people, in their pilgrimage toward black liberation, realise that every aspect of their oppression . . . leads them to assert their national identity and historical personality, based upon their own history, language, culture and civilisation, as they try to break away from the clutches of Western influence”.

(Bennie Bunsee: ‘Taking Hold of the Reins’, in: ‘Morning Star’, 14 February 1994; p. 6).

Bunsee concludes another article in the ‘Morning Star’ of 16 August 1993, with separatist sentiments which could well have emanated from the fascist British National Party:

“Allied to this demand of black people is the rejection of concepts like ‘integration’ and multiracialism or multiculturalism “.

(Bennie Bunsee: ‘A Right to Self-Organisation’, in: ‘Morning Star’, 16 August 1993; p. 7).

Brar justly comments:

“Ever since the founding of the ARA, the ‘Morning Star’ has’ provided every facility to the leaders of the ARA to help them propagate their reactionary, divisive ideology of black separatism”.

(Harpal Brar: op. cit.; P. 28).

and correctly notes that

“. . . the struggle against racism requires the joint efforts of the entire proletariat, without distinction . . . . The ARA have set their face against this, the only correct way of fighting racism”.

(Harpal Brar: ibid.; p. 11).

The Development of Nations

A nation,

“. . . like every historical phenomenon, is subject to the law of change, has its history, its beginning and end”.

(Josef V.Stalin: ‘Marxism and the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 2; Marxism; 1953; p. 307).

In fact, nations are a product of the development of capitalist society:

“Modern nations are a product of a definite epoch — the epoch of rising capitalism. The process of elimination of feudalism and development of capitalism is at the same time a process of the constitution of people into nations”.

(Josef V. Stalin: “The Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 5; Moscow; 1953; p. 16).

Nations did not exist prior to the development of capitalist society:

“How could nations have arisen and existed before capitalism, in the period of feudalism, when countries were split up into separate, independent principalities which, far from being bound together by national ties, emphatically denied the necessity for such ties? . . . There were no nations in the pre-capitalist period, nor could there be, because there were as yet no national markets and no economic or cultural national centres and, consequently, there were none of the factors which put an end to the economic disunity of a given people and draw its hitherto disunited parts into one national whole”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The National Question and Leninism’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 11; Moscow; 1954; p. 351).

The development of communities to nationhood goes through three fundamental stages:

firstly, that of the tribe;

secondly, that of the pre-nation or nationality;

and thirdly, that of the nation.

The English word ‘tribe’ is derived from the Latin ‘tribus’, tribe. and has the meaning of

“A group of persons forming a community and claiming descent from a common ancestor’.”

(‘Oxford English Dictionary’, Volume 18; Oxford; 1989; p. 503).

It is the typical form of community under primitive communism and, as has been said, is based upon kinship.

With the development of tools and techniques, classes appear and primitive communism gives way to slavery and then to feudalism:

“In conformity with the change and development of the productive forces of society in the course of history, men’s relations of production, their economic relations, also changed and developed.

Five main types of relations of production are known to history: Primitive communal, slave, feudal, capitalist and Socialist”.

(‘History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union: Short course Moscow’; 1939; p. 123).

As the tribal community disintegrates, tribes come together into federations and kingdoms; a common language, based on one of the tribal languages, appears; a common psychology and a common culture emerge. This process leads to the eventual development of a new type of community: the pre-nation or nationality — a community based no longer on kinship, but on geographical location. A pre-nation has a common territory, a common language, and a common culture; it does not, however, possess economic cohesion. A pre-nation is the typical form of community under slavery and feudalism.

“Of course, the elements of nationhood . . . did not fall from the skies, but were being formed gradually, even in the pre-capitalist period. But these elements were in a rudimentary state and, at best, were only a potentiality, that is, they constituted the possibility of the formation of a nation in the future, given certain favourable conditions. The potentiality became a reality only in the period of rising capitalism, with its national market and its economic and cultural centres”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The National Question and Leninism’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 11; Moscow; 1954; p. 351).

With the development of capitalism within the framework of feudal society, the development of pre-national characteristics was accelerated, and alongside this the process of establishing economic cohesion throughout the territory of the pre-nation. This latter process transforms the pre-nation into a nation:

“With the appearance of capitalism, the elimination of feudal division and the formation of national markets, nationalities developed into nations”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Concerning Marxism and Linguistics’, in: ‘Selected Works’: Tirana; 1979; p. 511).

As Stalin said, the development of a pre-nation into a nation is not inevitably completed. It is completed only:

” . . . given certain favourable conditions”.

(Josef V. Stalin:- ‘The National Question and Leninism’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 11; Moscow; 1954; p. 351).

When, for example, two or more pre-nations are in course of development on adjacent territories, their development towards separate nationhood may be arrested at a certain stage and give way to fusion, to their merging into a single nation. This single nation will have the language and culture of one of the pre-nations participating in this fusion, and the languages and cultures of the other pre-nations participating in the fusion will gradually disappear:

“Linguistic crossing cannot be regarded as the single impact of a decisive blow which produces its results within a few years. Linguistic crossing is a prolonged process which continues for hundreds of years. . . . .

Further, it would be quite wrong to think that the crossing of, say, two languages results in a new, third language. . . . As a matter of fact, one of the languages usually emerges victorious from the cross, retains its grammatical system and its basic word stock, and continues to develop in accordance with its inherent laws of development, while the other language gradually loses its quality and gradually dies away”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Concerning Marxism in Linguistics’, in: ‘Selected Works’; Tirana; 1979; p. 523).

As will be shown, this has been the pattern of development, of the British nation, which has evolved from the fusion of several pre-nations – principally those of Scotland, England annd Wales.

The Development of the British Nation

For geographical and ethnical reasons, the development of pre-nations in the British Isles took place principally in six distinct regions: in the Isle of Man, in Cornwall, in Scotland, in Wales, in England generally and in Ireland.

The Development of the Manx Pre-nation

The Manx pre-nation developed in the Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea, and:

“. . . became attached to Norway in the 9th century. In 1266 it was ceded to Scotland, but it came under English control in 1406 when possession was granted to the Stanley family (the Earls of Derby) and was later purchased by the British”.

(‘Statesman’s Yearbook: 1998-99′; London; 1999; p. 1,482).

The Manx language was:

“. a member of the Goidelic group of Celtic languages”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 7; Chicago; 1998; p. 802).

The Manx pre-nation did not complete its development to nationhood, but was absorbed. into the English pre-nation and, later, in the 19th century, into the British nation. The Manx language:

” . . . was displaced by English”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia-Britannica’, Volume 7; Chicago; 1998; p. 802). 

and is:

“. . . now extinct”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 7; Chicago; 1998; p. 802).

The Development of the Cornish Pre-nation

The Cornish pre-nation developed in the extreme south-west of the English mainland, in Cornwall.

After the Norman Conquest of England in 1066:

“the indigenous manors of Cornwall were taken over to form the basis of an earldom”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 3; Chicago; 1998; p. 642).

and in 1337, the Duchy of Cornwall:

“. . . was created by royal charter by Edward III for his eldest son, Edward the Black Prince”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 3; Chicago; 1998; p. 642).

Since then:

“the monarch’s first-begotten son at the time of his birth”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 3; Chicago; 1998; p. 642).

has been created Duke of Cornwall.

The Cornish pre-nation did not complete its development into nationhood, but merged into the English pre-nation and, later, in the 18th century, into the British nation. Since then, Cornish:

“has not been spoken as a living language”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 3; Chicago; 1998; p. 642).

The Development of the Scottish Pre-nation

By the middle of the 9th century, the tribal kingdoms of the Scottish mainland had been united into:

“A largely Celtic monarchy”,

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 10; Chicago; 1998 p. 562).

Then, in the 13th century, England

“. . . attempted to impose direct English rule over Scotland”,

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 10; Chicago; 1998 p. 562).

but in the 14th century was forced to recognise:

“Robert Bruce . . . as King Robert I of Scotland’.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 10; Chicago; 1998 p. 562).

The Shetland and Orkney Islands, north of the mainland of Scotland, were from the 9th century:

“. . . ruled by Norway and Denmark”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 8; Chicago; 1998 p. 1,001).

but in the 15th century became part of the Scottish pre-nation when they:

“. . . passed into Scottish rule . . . in compensation for the nonpayment of the dowry of Margaret of Denmark, queen of James III”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 8; Chicago; 1998 p. 1,001).

The Scottish pre-nation did not complete its development to nationhood, but merged with the developing English pre-nation.

The Development of the Welsh Pre-nation

The Welsh pre-nation had, by the 13th century, developed to the point where the old tribal kingdoms had been united under Llewellyn ap Grufydd, who:

“. . . proclaimed himself Prince of Wales and received the homage of the other Welsh princes.”

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 7; Chicago; 1998 p. 427).

In the 16th century:

“Wales was incorporated within the realm of England”,

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 12; Chicago; 1998 p. 461).

and its native culture underwent:

” . . . progressive Anglicisation”,

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 12; Chicago; 1998 p. 461).

so that the Welsh pre-nation did not complete its development to nationhood, but merged with the English pre-nation and, later, into the British nation.

The Formation of the English Pre-Nation

By the 10th century, the English pre-nation had developed to the point where the West Saxon king, Athelstan, had become:

“. . . the first king to have direct rule of all England”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 29; Chicago; 1998 p. 29).

The development of the English pre-nation was interrupted in the 11th century by the Norman Conquest. The feudal system introduced into England by the Normans differed fundamentally from that on the European Continent in that its estates consisted of:

” . . . manors scattered through a number of shires”,

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 29; Chicago; 1998 p. 31).

thus making the lords much weaker relative to the central (royal) state power. This contributed greatly to the early rise of capitalism in England.

The civil war which broke out in Britain in the 17th century:

“. . . was a class struggle, was revolutionary and was progressive. . . .The bourgeoisie of the 17th Century. . . . just because they were the historically progressive class of their time, . . . could not but fight for their own rights and liberties without also fighting for the rights and liberties of all Englishmen and of humanity as a whole”.

A.L. Morton: ‘A People’s History of England’; London; 1979; p. 229).

The Fusion of the Welsh and English Pre-nations

In 1276, Edward I of England:

“invaded Wales and subjugated Llewellyn in 1276-77″.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 7; Chicago; 1998 p. 427).

In 1485, Henry Tudor, the grandson:

” . . . of Owen Tudor, a Welsh squire”,

defeated and killed Richard III of England,

” . . . at the Battle of Bosworth. Claiming the throne by just title of inheritance and by judgment of God in battle, he was crowned on October 30″.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 5; Chicago; 1998 p. 839).

As a result:

“. . . it was widely felt in Wales that at last a true Welshman by origins and upbringing ruled in London”.

(Graham Jones: ‘A Pocket Guide: The History of Wales’; Cardiff; 1990; p. 47).

And when Wales was:

“. . . politically united with England at the Act of Union, 1535″,

(‘Cambridge Encylopaedia’; Cambridge; 1997; p.1,126).

“. . . articulate Welshmen were fully convinced that the political incorporation of England and Wales . . . had been a conspicuous success story. . . . Affluent and educated Welshmen confidently declared that the assimilation of England and Wales had been a happy and gladsome marriage of equals”.

(Geraint H. Jenkins: ‘The Foundation of Modern Wales: 1642-1780′; Oxford; 1993; p. 301).

The Fusion of the Scottish and English Pre-nations

James VI of Scotland was the:

” . . . great-great-grandson of Henry VII (of England — Ed.) and the legitimate successor of Eliizabeth I. . . . On Elizabeth’s death in 1603, he was recognised as the rightful king of England. Thus the crowns of England and Scotland were united”.

(‘Encylopedia Americana’, Volume 24; New York; 1977; p. 419).

Scotland and England:

” . . . remained separate kingdoms under a single monarch — except for the brief period during the English civil war when the monarchy was deposed — until 1707″.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 10; Chicago; 1993; p. 563).

The union of the two kingdoms of England and Scotland was:

“. . . strategically as well as economically desirable. That union was achieved in 1707″.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 29; Chicago; 1994; p. 116).

The Treaty of Union of 1707:

” . . . was the immediate product of the exclusion of developing Scottish mercantile interests from England’s expanding imperial trade”.

(Michael Keating & David Bleiman: ‘Labour and Scottish Nationalism’; London; 1979; p. 21).

Following this,

“. . . during the Victorian age, Scotland enjoyed a prosperity so great by comparison with that of the past that unionist sentiment seemed likely to destroy Scottish national self-conciousness altogether”.

(Harold J. Hanham: ‘Scottish Nationalism’; London; 1969; p. 11).

The Formation of the British Nation

The development of the Scottish pre-nation and of the Welsh pre-nation did not proceed to the formation of nations. It was interrupted in such a way that these pre-nations fused with the developing English pre-nation to form the British-nation.

The Development of the Irish Nation

The Irish pre-nation was developing across the Irish Sea, but had not had yet reached the point of the formation of a united kingdom when the forces of Henry II of England of England:

“invaded Ireland in 1171″,

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 6; Chicago; 1998; p. 379).

and Henry:

” . . . proclaimed himself overlord of the entire island”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 6; Chicago; 1993; p. 379).

In January 1801, Ireland was politically united with Britain in:

“. . . the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland”.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 6; Chicago; 1993; p. 380).

Despite the continuing foreign oppression, capitalism — and with it, the Irish nation – continued to develop. By the 19th century, these developments had given rise to an Irish national movement:

“In the West, Ireland responded to its exceptional position by a national movement”,

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Marxism and the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 315).


” . . an Irish provisional government was proclaimed in 1916″.

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 6; Chicago; 1993; p. 380).

In order to defeat the Irish national movement, the government collaborated with the Protestant settlers in the north of the country (Ulster) to impose in 1920 partition of the country into two parts:

” . . Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, each to have its parliament and each to retain representatives in the British parliament”.

(William L. Langer (Ed.): ‘An Encyclopedia of World History: Ancient, Medieval and Modern’; London; 1972; p. 984).

When the people in the south refused to accept this position, the British government:

“. . . granted (Southern — Ed.) Ireland Dominion status as the Irish Free-State (Northern Ireland retaining the right of keeping the existing arrangement”.

(William L. Langer (Ed.): ibid.; p. 984).

In April 1949:

“. . . the REPUBLIC OF IRELAND was officially proclaimed in Dublin”.

(William L. Langer (Ed.): ibid.; p. 1,177).

In the following month, the British government adopted legislation:

“. . . recognising the independence of the republic, but affirming the position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom”.

(William L. Langer (Ed.): ibid.; p. 1,177).

Thus, Northern Ireland is, in fact, a colony of British imperialism, while the nominally independent Republic of Ireland, is in fact a British neo-colony.

Marxist-Leninists have always regarded British rule over Ireland (or any part of Ireland) as unacceptable colonial oppression and fought for the right of the Irish nation to self-determination:

“What shall we advise the English workers? In my opinion they must make the repeal of the Union’ (i.e., the separation of Ireland from Great Britain) . . . into an article of their pronunziamento“.

(Karl Marx: Letter to Friedrich Engels, 30 November 1867, in: Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 276).

“Marx, in proposing in the International a resolution of sympathy with the ‘Irish nation’ and the ‘Irish people’ preaches the separation of Ireland from Great Britain”.

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 279).

“It was precisely from the standpoint of the revolutionary struggle of the English workers that Marx in 1869 demanded the separation of Ireland from England”.

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ”The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 274).


Within Britain — excluding Northern Ireland — there are no national tasks to be accomplished:

“In those advanced countries (England (i.e., Britain — Ed.) , France, Germany, -etc.) the national problem has been solved for a long time; . objectively, there are no ‘national tasks’ to be fulfilled”.

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘A Caricature of Marxism and “Imperialist Economism”‘, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 295).


“The advanced countries of Western Europe the bourgeois, progressive, national movements came to an end long ago”.

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-determination’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 275).

But if the communities of Scotland, Wales and the black inhabitants of Britain are not nations, are not oppressed nations under the ‘foreign rule’ of the English, if there are no national tasks to be fulfilled within Britain, what is the real character of so-called Scottish, Welsh and black nationalism?

Clearly, they are spurious-nationalisms.

In a genuine struggle for national liberation, workers and national capitalists of the oppressed nations have a certain temporary, common interest. But Scottish, Welsh and black workers and capitalists have no such common interests. The political effect of this pseudo-nationalism is, therefore, to preach class-collaboration in circumstances which make such class collaboration the opportunist surrender of the interests of the working class to those of the capitalist class:

“From this it is not a far cry to ‘common ground for joint action’ on which the bourgeois and the proletarian must stand and join hands as members of the same ‘nation”‘.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The Social-Democratic View of the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 1; Moscow; 1952; p. 38).

Marxist-Leninists understand that the cause of the special problems of Scottish, Welsh and black workers is the existence of British monopoly capital. Thus, the aim of British Marxist-Leninists is to lead a united British working class to overthrow the rule of British monopoly capital.

Political organisations which put forward the concepts of Scottish, Welsh or black ‘nationalism’ in Britain are objectively seeking to divert the working class from building class unity and from their real enemy, British monopoly capital, towards an imaginary enemy: ‘England’.

A Single Marxist-Leninist Party for-Britain?

The second question to be discussed in this article is: whether separate Marxist-Leninist Parties should be formed in Scotland, Wales and England, or whether there should be a single Marxist-Leninist Party for the whole of Britain.

This second question is in no way dependent upon the first question already dealt with, namely, whether the peoples of Scotland, Wales and England form separate nations or whether they form parts of a single British nation.

This is because Marxist-Leninists have always held that there should be one – and only one – Marxist-Leninist Party for each state (.excluding any geographically separate colonies):

“Every party desiring to affilate to the Communist International must bear the name: Communist Party of such and such a country (Section of the Third, Communist International)”.

(Vladimir I. Lenin: “The Conditions of Affiliation to the Communist International’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 10; London; 1946; p. 205).

The 2nd Congress of the Communist International adopted in July 1919 the following thesis on Party organisation:

“There shall be in each country only one single unified Communist Party”.

(2nd. Congress of the Comintern: ‘Theses on the Role of the Communist Party on the Proletarian Revolution’, in: Jane Degras (Ed.): ‘The Communist International: 1919-1943: Documents;, Volume 1; London; 1971; p. 135).

Already in April 1917 Stalin had said:

“Experience has shown that the organisation of the proletarians of a given state on national lines tends only to destroy the idea of class solidarity. All the proletarians of a given state must be organised in a single, indivisible proletarian collective”.

(Josef V. Stalin: Report on the National Question, 7th (April) Conference of the RSDLP (B), in: ‘Works’, Volume 3; Moscow; 1953; p. 58).

This principle applies equally in the case of multi-national states (states which include within their frontiers more than one nation) as in the case of states which embrace a single nation. Tsarist Russia, for instance, was a multi-national state, and Lenin and Stalin fought unreservedly for the principle of a single Marxist-Leninist Party for the whole of Russia:

“We want to draw together the proletarians of the different nations. What should we do? Split up the proletarians of all Russia into separate parties and you will achieve your aim!, answer the Federalist Social-Democrats. . . .

The Social-Democratic (i.e, Marxist-Leninist — Ed) Party which functions in Russia calls itself ‘Rossiiskaya’ (All-Russian — Ed.) and not ‘Russkaya’ (Russian — Ed).. Obviously, by this it wanted to convey to us that it will gather under its banner not only Russian proletarians, but the proletarians of all the nationalities in Russia, and, consequently, that it will do everything possible to break down the national barriers that have been raised to separate them”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The Social-Democratic View of the National Question’, in: ‘Works’. Volume 1; Moscow; 1952; p. 36, 41).

In accordance with this principle, Lenin and Stalin consistently expressed strong opposition to similar moves to establish separate Marxist-Leninist Parties in other multi-national states:

“The idea of national autonomy creates the psychological conditions for the division of the united workers’ party into separate parties built on national lines. Austria, the home of ‘national autonomy’, provides the most deplorable examples of this. As early as 1897 . . . the once united Austrian Social-Democratic Party began to break up unto separate parties. . . . There are now six national parties”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Marxism and the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 342-43).

And, of course, once the principle of separate national Marxist-Leninist parties within a multi-national state is accepted, it becomes logical to work for the splitting of other organisations of the working class, such as the trade unions, into separate national bodies:

“The breakup of the party is followed by the breakup of the trade unions, and complete segregation is the result. In this way the united class movement is broken up into separate national rivulets”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ibid.; p. 343).

The Marxist-Leninist principle on this question is thus quite clear:

There should be one — and only one Marxist-Leninist Party for each state
(excluding any colonies geographically separated from it). And this principle applies equally to multi-national states as to states which embrace a single nation.

As we have seen, Scotland, Wales and England are not separate states, but form part of the state of the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’. This state includes ‘Northern Ireland’, which is a British colony geographically separated from the mainland of Britain.

It follows that, according to Marxist-Leninist principles, there should be one — and only one — Marxist-Leninist Party for the whole of Britain, embracing Scotland, Wales and England.


According to Marxist-Leninist principles,

1) Scotland, Wales and England are not separate nations, but form part of a single British nation; and

2) there should not be separate Marxist-Leninist Parties for Scotland, Wales and England, but a single Marxist-Leninist Party for the whole of Britain.

Author: W.B. Bland
The Marxist-Leninist Research Bureau

NOTE: The second part of this article, dealing with the question of devolution within Britain, was to be written later in 1999. To the knowledge of either the Communist League or the NCMLU – this task was never undertaken.



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Option and the British State’; New York; 1989.
HANHAM, Harold J.: ‘Scottish Nationalism’; London; 1969.
JENKINS, Geraint H.: ‘The Foundation of Modern Wales: 1642-1780′; Oxford; 1993.
JONES, Graham: ‘A Pocket Guide: The History of Wales’; Cardiff; 1990.
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LANGER, William L. (Ed.): ‘An Encyclopaedia of World History: Ancient, Medieval and Modern’; London; 1972.
LENIN, Vladimir, I.: ‘On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 4; London; 1943.
– ‘The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-determination’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 5; London; 1935.
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MORTON, A. L.: ‘A People’s History of England’; London; 1979.
PARTRIDGE, Eric: ‘Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English’; London; 1966,
STALIN, Josef V.: ‘The Social-Democratic View of the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 1; Moscow; 1952
– ‘Marxism and the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953.
-Report on the National Question, 7th (April) Conference of the RSDLP, in: ‘Works’, Volume 3; Moscow; 1953.
– Report on the Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question, 10th Congress of the RCP (B), in: ‘Works’, Volume 5; Moscow; 1953.
– ‘The Foundations of Leninism’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 6; Moscow; 1953.
– ‘The Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 5; Moscow; 1953.
– ‘The National Question and Marxism’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 11; Moscow; 1954.
WITHERS, Charles W. J.: ‘Gaelic in Scotland: 1698-1981: The Geographical
History of a Language’; Edinburgh; 1984.
‘Encyclopaedia Americana’; New York; 1977.
‘Cambridge Encyclopaedia’; Cambridge; 1997.
‘Census of England and Wales: 1891, Volume 4: General Record’; London; 1893.
‘Census of Scotland: 1891, Volume 1; London; 1892.
‘Census 1961: Wales (including Monmouthshire): Report on Welsh Speaking Population’; London; 1962.
‘Morning Star’.
‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’; Chicago; 1994, 1998.
‘Statesman’s Year Book: 1998-1999′; London; 1998.
‘Webster’s Third International Dictionary of the English Language’; London; 1961.


Challenging Capitalism and Patriarchy: An Interview with bell hooks


THIRD WORLD VIEWPOINT: You have written extensively on feminist issues and on racial oppression in America, and your analyses are always thoughtful and incisive but, in terms of being an intellectual in the elitist sense of the word, does it bother you that the masses of African American women and men may, perhaps, not get a chance to know who bell hooks is; may not be reading your material that has so much to say about the struggles that they are engaged in?

BELL HOOKS: I think that I am a lucky person in that I get a lot of feedback from those “masses.” I think that we have such stereotypical notions of working people. There are a lot of Black working people who read and, in fact, 20 years ago, long before white feminists were receiving my work and applauding it, I counted on that basic Black population, particularly Black women who went to the library and checked out my books and wrote to me. My concern is to enlarge that audience, particularly to reach young Black people between the ages of 15 and 25 who are the reading population but who are least likely, maybe, to hear of a bell hooks.

Part of my desire to do that has led me to go to magazines that ordinarily I might not be that engaged with politically, I want Black people to know that there are insurgent Black intellectual voices that are addressing our needs as a people who must have renewed liberation struggle.

Let us talk about the concept of patriarchy about which you write and talk a lot. Patriarchy is a notion of society being dominated by men. Clearly, patriarchy also existed before there was capitalism. Do you believe that the overthrow of capitalism has within it the seeds for ending patriarchy and thus the oppression of women?

I think that what we see globally is that there have been incredible struggles to combat capitalism that haven’t resulted in an end to patriarchy at all. I also think that when we study ancient societies that were not capitalist we see hierarchical systems that privileged maleness in the way that modern patriarchy does. I think we will never destroy patriarchy without questioning, critiquing, and challenging capitalism, and I don’t think challenging capitalism alone will mean a better world for women.

How do you combine the struggle against patriarchy and against capitalism?

I think that strategically, we have to start on all fronts. For example, I’m very concerned that there are not more Black women deeply committed to anti-capitalist politics. But one would have to understand the role that gender oppression plays in encouraging young Black females to think that they don’t need to study about capitalism. That they don’t need to read men who were my teachers like Walter Rodney, and Nkrumah, and Amilcar Cabral.

I think that as a girl who grew up in a patriarchal, working-class, Black, southern household there was a convergence of those issues of class and gender. I was acutely aware of my class, and I was acutely aware of the limitations imposed on me by gender. I wouldn’t be the committed worker for freedom that I am today had I not begun to oppose that gendered notion of learning that suggests that politics is the realm of males and that political thinking about anti-racist struggle and colonialism is for men.

I’m very much in favor of the kind of education for critical consciousness that says: Let’s not look at these thing separately. Let’s look at how they converge so that when we begin to take a stand against them, we can take that kind of strategic stance that allows us to be self-determining as a people struggling in a revolutionary way on all fronts.

In terms of your own political development, would you say that your analysis is informed by a Marxist critique of capitalist society?

Absolutely. I think Marxist thought–the work of people like Gramsci–is very crucial to educating ourselves for political consciousness. That doesn’t mean we have to take the sexism or the racism that comes out of those thinkers and disregard it. It means that we extract the resources from their thought that can be useful to us in struggle. A class rooted analysis is where I begin in all my work. The fact is that it was bourgeois white feminism that I was reacting against when I stood in my first women’s studies classes and said, “Black women have always worked.” It was a class-biased challenge to the structure of feminism.

So you would encourage women to get organizationally involved in the struggle against the capitalist system and against gender oppression?

Absolutely. In my newest book, Killing Rage: Ending Racism, one of the big issues I deal with is the degree to which capitalism is being presented as the answer. When people focus on the white mass media’s obsession with Louis Farrakhan, they think the media hate Farrakhan so much. But they don’t hate Farrakhan. They love him. One of the reasons why they love him is that he’s totally pro-capitalist. There is a tremendous overlap in the values of a Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam and the values of the white, Christian right. Part of it is their pro-capitalism, their patriarchy, and their whole-hearted support of homophobia.

Farrakhan’s pro-capitalism encourages a kind of false consciousness in Black life. For example, you have a Rapper like Ice T in his new book, The Ice Opinions, making an astute class analysis when he says that “People live in the ghetto not because they’re Black, but because they’re poor.” But then he goes on to offer capitalism as a solution. This means that he has a total gap in his understanding if he imagines that becoming rich within this society–individual wealth–is somehow a way to redeem Black life. The only hope for us to redeem the material lives of Black people is a call for the redistribution of wealth and resources which is not only a critique of capitalism, but an incredible challenge to capitalism.

You bemoan the fact that you don’t see enough women playing leading roles in political organizations–on the left, in particular. But, in terms of the possibilities of women on the left organizing independently from a feminist perspective, it would seem to me that a number of reasons might be offered to explain this, one of them being that Black men, even though they are sexist, are not perceived to be in control of the levers of power in this society, so that it becomes problematic for Black women in terms of organizing separately as Black women?

I would disagree that my political standpoint begins with feminism. My political standpoint begins with the notion of Black self-determination. In order for me to engage in a revolutionary struggle for collective Black self-determination, I have to engage feminism because that becomes the vehicle by which I project myself as a female into the heart of the struggle, but the heart of the struggle does not begin with feminism. It begins with an understanding of domination and with a critique of domination in all its forms. I think it is, in fact, a danger to think of the starting point as being feminism.

I think we need a much more sophisticated vision of what it means to have a radical political consciousness. That is why I stress so much the need for African Americans to take on a political language of colonialism.We owe such a great debt to people like CLR James and the great thinkers in the African Diaspora who have encouraged us to frame our issues in a larger political context that looks at imperialism and colonialism and our place as Africans in the Diaspora so that class becomes a central factor.

In terms of the need for consciousness of Black women and men to be raised about the issues of gender, what kind of program do you think should be addressed?

I think we equally need Black men to be feminist teachers educating for critical consciousness. I’m actually for a more communal division of labor. If we have a community where people seem to be more hip about gender, but not very hip about class, then I think that we need to strategically go for that framework of understanding which is missing, rather than to assume that one framework should always be centered on.

I believe that Black women are very susceptible to bourgeois hedonistic consumerism because women are so much the targets of mass media. So, clearly, a lot of critical thinking about materialism in our lives is crucial to engaging Black women in revolutionary struggle. So that class, again, comes up and we haven’t had enough Black women leaders.
But the point is, we need to also know how some of these women, many of whom came from bourgeois families, began to acquire a more revolutionary consciousness–if, indeed, they have acquired that consciousness. It’s also easier, a lot of times, for Black women to talk about gender and ignore class because many of us are non-divesting of our support of capitalism and our longing for luxury. I think that it’s one thing to enjoy the good life and to enjoy beauty and things, and another thing to feel like you’re willing to support the killing of other people in other countries so that you can have your fine car and other luxuries.

You have, in effect, through your answers explained the difference between your politics, and, let us say, white feminist politics.

Well, I would say “some white feminist politics,” because I can think of revolutionary feminists who are white. We don’t hear much from revolutionary feminists who are white because they’re not serving the bourgeois agenda of the status quo. They’re a small minority, but they are there and they are useful allies in the struggle. So I try not to use those monolithic terms anymore that I used in the beginning with Ain’t I A Woman because I was 19-years-old when I was writing that book and it reflected a certain degree of political naivete. I am now much more acutely aware of the need for us not to lump all white feminist thinkers together because there are a small group of revolutionary women who are activists in struggle and are more deeply our allies than the mainstream white feminists we hear so much about.

So we should put to rest the notion that feminism is about pitting men against women?

In Feminist Theory, From Margin to Center I said that if you think of feminism as a movement to end sexism and sexist oppression, there is nothing about men in there. To me, a woman can’t be a feminist just because she is a woman. She is a feminist because she begins to divest herself of sexist ways of thinking and revolutionizes her consciousness. The same is true for the male comrade in struggle.

One would think, as in the case of racism, that it’s more in the interest of the woman to develop a feminist consciousness, but that’s the only way in which I think that women have a greater claim to feminism than men. I feel sad that we have allowed these knee-jerk feminists who want to act like it’s a struggle against men…but again that’s the least politically developed strand of feminism. That is the strand of feminism that people most hear about, not the kind of revolutionary feminism that says, patriarchy is life threatening to Black men. When we look at the Black men who are killing each other–who think that their dick is a gun, and a gun is a dick–those men need a critique of that notion of patriarchal masculinity to save their lives. Feminism as a political movement has to specifically address the needs of men in their struggle to revolutionize their consciousness.

In your first book Ain’t I A Woman you took Amiri Baraka to task for his sexist views and his sexist politics. As a result of more outspokenness by you and others, do you see a change developing in the Black community among Black men?

I think that we certainly have seen tremendous changes in Black males. But one of the difficulties is that Black, gay men–I’m thinking particularly of Essex Hemphill, Joseph Bean, and Marlon Riggs–who have been at the forefront of critiquing sexism are not looked on as leaders, as they should be, in our community. When a Marlon Riggs makes a film like Tongues Untied, where he talks about the place of silence in the construction of Black masculinity (he keeps repeating that line, “Silence is my weapon, silence is my shield”), he’s not just talking about gay men who use silence. When we look at Black men, in general, in intimate and personal relations, we see the inability to communicate feelings, emotions, in relation to the people they care about, as a problem. I can’t think of anything that a straight Black man has made that tries to speak to that need of Black men to break through the wall of silence, and to speak about the range of issues that affects their lives as deeply as Marlon in Tongues Untied. And yet, again, even though it has been on PBS, a lot of Black people will see “gay,” and they won’t go any further with it. That’s tragic because gays have so much to offer.

Is the Black community any more homophobic than the white community?

The rhetoric of nationalism is totally homophobic, and to the degree that contemporary Black people are engaged in escapist, non-political, non-revolutionary fantasies of nationalism and the patriarchal family, we are more aggressively homophobic than the larger culture where there are a lot of white liberals and leftists who are not interested in nationalism.

In terms of where we are in the 1990s, are you optimistic? Do you see on the horizon the seeds of a future regeneration of Black, political radicalism?

I see a hunger, especially among Black youth, for more sophisticated answers. Unfortunately, right now, it’s narrow nationalism, narrow forms of Afrocentrism, that are mostly addressing that hunger. Our leading people buy into utopian fantasies of liberation, when in fact our liberation should come from a concrete struggle in the workforce, no fantasies about ancient Africa, and kings and queens. Not that we don’t need to know about ancient Africa to address the biases of Western education.

People forget that the militant struggles of the 1960s were profoundly anti-capitalist. Even Martin Luther King reached a point, before his death, in A Testament of Hope, when he was saying we must be anti-militarist; we must critique capitalism. That has somehow gotten lost in the mix, and I think that this embracing of capitalist ethic of liberal individualism has done more to diffuse Black people’s capacity to struggle for freedom, than any other factor.

On the other hand, when I go to give a talk and there are many more Black men than ever before. There are many more Black people, so it says to me that there is also a burgeoning group of Black people who are ready to educate for critical consciousness, in a more powerful, revolutionary way. The question will be: how many of us will rise as insurgent, revolutionary, Black intellectuals, to be the teachers, and to be the leaders, and to be the people who make certain sacrifices to bring certain insights. We have to think of political insight as a resource that we bring to our diverse Black communities and to our lives.

You are also a cultural critic. There are a lot of Black movies out now–do you think these films are addressing the needs of Black people at this time?

I was told, for example, by a lot of Black people, “Oh, you must see Sankofa,” Haile Gerima’s film. Then I saw that film and I thought, this script of slavery comes right out of Gone with the Wind. It has moments where it affirms Black self-determination, but it’s so sentimental when it comes to gender. We have the sacrificing Black mother who, truly, has a revolutionary consciousness and is not going to go chasing after some retrograde, self-hating mulatto son in the way we see that Black woman doing. It’s kind of sad that this is our vision of a film that begins to address our issues because, once again, it’s on such a banal level.

I think it is worth discussing how useful are fictional narratives of slavery to us in a culture where people don’t know their actual history. I’m much more interested in students reading and knowing the speeches and text of Malcolm X, the person, than going to see that garbled, crossover, colonized version of Spike Lee’s. Until people have concretely studied the teachings of a Malcolm X or a Martin Luther King, it’s dangerous to have fiction become the primary learning point.

I guess there’s still a very strong nationalist hold over us…

That’s a good point. I think nationalism is a non-progressive world vision right now. I think that nationalism is different from Black self-determination because, of course, any vision of Black self-determination that is rooted in a class analysis and a critique of sexism unites us with the struggles of, not only Black people, globally, for liberation, but all oppressed people.

I think that nationalism has undermined revolutionary Black struggle. It’s no accident that people like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were destroyed at those moments of their political careers when they had begun to critique nationalism as a platform of organization; and where, in fact, they replace nationalism with a critique of imperialism; which then, unites us with the liberation struggles of so many people on the planet. If we don’t have that kind of global perspective about our social realities, we will never be able to re-envision a revolutionary movement for Black self-determination that is non-exclusive, and doesn’t assume some kind of patriarchal nationhood. Many of our African nations have failed precisely because they lacked a revolutionary vision for social change that worked, and not because they didn’t have a nation. So, Black Americans must be very, very cautious in embracing the notion of a nation as the redemptive location. The redemptive location lies in our radical politics and the strategies by which we implement those radical politics–not with the formation of a nation.


Thoughts on the George Zimmerman Verdict


“Only in America can a dead black boy go on trial for his own murder.”

 ― Syreeta McFadden

I am deeply saddened and enraged beyond words at the news that Zimmerman has been acquitted of all charges and has therefore gotten away with murder, or rather a lynching. I am far too upset to give any kind of detailed analysis or statement. All I can say is this: mark my words, there will be hell to pay for this soon enough.

This song means so much to me. It brings tears to my eyes. I’ve listened to it so many times during times like these over the years.

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

When the CIA and MI6 tried to overthrow Enver Hoxha: 1949-1953


“The CIA dropped some of its agents here. Flew them in from Italy and dropped them by parachute. But we got them. They had some fine radio equipment. They were going to set up a base here in Albania. At that time my brother was in the Central Committee and said he thought we ought to be able to have some fun out of the CIA too. Everyone agreed. After all, we’d gotten their radios and their codes and all the rest of it. So we informed the CIA in Rome that the revolt was going fine. All we needed was more weapons. And the CIA flew in bazookas and gelignite and all kinds of weapons. And the more they sent, the more successes we reported back. We let the CIA fly in one consignment of weapons after another, and as soon as they came flying in, we snapped them up. They were good weapons. And cheap, too. But in the end even the CIA noticed something was amiss. They’d flown in masses of weapons and still nothing was happening in Albania.Then we told them how we’d been putting them on. Transmitted it in their own code. And then we tapped out Ha-ha-ha.”

 - Quoted in Jan Myrdal and Gun Kessle, Albania Defiant, pp. 14-15

“Philby’s most murderous activity, however, involved the abortive British and American attempts to remove Enver Hoxha’s Communist regime in Albania during the years after 1949. The first British-sponsored teams of Albanian agents were put ashore just as Philby arrived in Washington in October of that year to take up his post, which included joint command of the Albanian operation. He was briefed about it by MI6 before leaving England and we can be sure that he tipped off his KGB friends before embarking for New York. The 20 agents were attacked a few hours after they landed and four were killed.

The Americans then began training Albanians for parachute drops. [....] The ‘roll back’ experiment was designed by the secret services to lean against the Soviet empire and test its strength. But whereas the missions into Poland, the Baltic and Ukraine were designed for reconnaissance, Albanian agents were fully armed and ready for action then and there. Their orders were not to melt in with the population as spies, but to recruit groups of armed men and use their machine guns as necessary. They were equipped to live for long periods in forests, mountains and caves.

 - Source

Further Reading: