Bill Bland on Sectarianism

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1) Bland on the refusal of the early British anti-revisionists to allow people who were on the point of breaking away from the CPGB to do so, and belong to the anti-revisionist movement:

“WB: They wouldn’t allow it. They were sectarian in a way in that it had to be all or nothing and so they only lasted for a brief period. McCreary died, he was ill, and his money was always important, his father was quite wealthy, and it was his money that had supported the organisation, its paper and the whole thing fell to pieces after McCreary died. The next thing that came up was Mike Baker’s organisation, the MLOB. Baker was the next one to approach me and my position was the same, and he made the point that he agreed with me that it shouldn’t be necessary at the moment for everybody to withdraw from the CPGB. If they were able to do any work within it of any sort, fair enough since there were still people there who were confused and honest, therefore potential recruits, so he agreed with me and we formed the MLOB on that basis. At this time, we hadn’t analysed Mao Tse Tung thought at all when the MLOB was formed, and it was taken for granted by everybody that Mao Tse Tung was the leading Marxist-Leninist in the world.”

MEMORANDUM To Cmdes VS & JM (India) From the Newly Formed Communist League – Following the Expulsion of Mike Baker & the split in the then Marxist-Leninist Organisation Britain.

Date Sent: circa Autumn months 1976 (First published by Alliance & Communist League in 2002 on web)

2) On the various sectarian views that prevented the work of the Albania Society in the UK:

“WB: That’s right. We founded this society which gradually prospered over the years and grew to several hundred members, published a journal, ‘Albanian Life’ regularly, and I think did some useful work in that way. Then as soon as the MLOB changed its line, all the Maoists in the Society who had previously been active and supportive began to demand that Bland go on the grounds that my organisation, to which I belonged, had published a report which was anti-Mao Tse Tung and therefore anti-Albanian, and therefore I shouldn’t any longer be allowed to be secretary of the Albanian Society. Instead they organised a faction within the society to get rid of Bland, and at the next AGM they organised a miniature cultural revolution in the society. The chairman at that time was a Maoist called Berger, she wrote articles on wine, her husband was a leading member of the friendship society with China. They organised this sort of cultural revolution at the AGM whereby a lot of people who had never been members of the society before appeared and demanded the right to vote, and Berger as chairman ruled that they had the right to vote because we were a democratic society and therefore anyone who walked in off the street to vote should be allowed to vote. This was the masses speaking you see. Unfortunately they hadn’t got quite enough people to outvote the other members, and our members didn’t agree with this particular line that it was reasonable grounds for sacking me, and so they lost the vote and I got re-elected as secretary and the Maoists walked out. They then formed another New Albanian Society which rapidly split into four or five other groups all of which rapidly disappeared, except the one that was financed by the Chinese, namely the one around Reg Birch. They called themselves the New Albania Society and functioned for several years with full support from China.

JP: Did they have any official standing as far as the Albanians were concerned?

WB: The Albanians recognised them immediately as the Marxist-Leninist Party in Britain. There were two organisations – there was the Communist Party of Britain run by Reg Birch, and there was the broader New Albania Society, both of these were officially supported by the Albanian Party of Labour. At that time they broke of relations completely with us. We had a meeting and decided what we should do: Albania is a socialist country, we accept that, we don’t agree with their line on this particular point, but none the less we stand for solidarity and support for the Albanian Party of Labour and the Albanian regime, therefore we would continue to support Albania, whatever their attitude to us might be. We carried on exactly as we had done, sending our literature to them regularly over the next six or seven years, until 1978, the Albanian Party changed its line and came out attacking Mao Tse Tung as being revisionist, his line as being revisionist.

Immediately Birch broke off relations with Albania, dissolved the New Albania Society without even consulting its membership. There were just notices in the post saying ‘as from today the society is dissolved’, full stop. At that time the one person who still had contacts with the Albanians was the expert on folk music, the president of our society Bert Lloyd. Bert Loyd made regular trips to Albania to record folk music, not as president of the Albania Society but in a personal capacity. We asked him if he would point out to the Albanians on his next visit that it was rather ridiculous to have no Albania friendship society because there was no one except for ourselves, with whom they would not speak. And so we said diplomatically that he might raise this with them and point out that it didn’t seem sensible to us that the situation should continue in the new circumstances. So he did raise it with them, and I was invited to Paris first of all to speak to the ambassador there, who seemed very suspicious of the whole situation. I couldn’t see any reason why, the whole thing seemed perfectly straight forwards, never the less he was suspicious, and he said he would make our points to Tirana and write to me in due course. Eventually the reply came back ‘yes, we would like a delegation from the Society to go to Albania’. There was no mention of what had happened over the previous ten years, no self criticism at all, but never the less they resumed good friendly relations with the society which was the main thing. The question of self-criticism was a matter for the Albanians and not for us really. We agreed in principle all the way through. And so that was the situation through to the counter-revolution.

Mind you, I am convinced now that there was a very strong revisionist faction in the leading positions of the party long before Hoxha’s death, and the whole thing came to a head only after that period, but it was a continuation of policies followed previously. For example, when we sent a delegation just after Hoxha’s death I think it was, I went with Steve Day, we were the two delegates elected to go, and they asked us what we would like to see and do, and so we gave them a short list of things we would like to do. One of them was to take a film of the area around the Corfu Channel to make a film about the Corfu channel incident, and also some research that I wanted to do from the Albanian library. Now we were a little taken aback by the fact that first of all they were unable to find an interpreter for us, they had no one there who could speak English, we were not allowed to take any photographs of the Corfu channel, and everything we asked to do including my visit to the Albanian National Library was for some reason not possible. They sent us round the country, it was enjoyable but it was purely a holiday, there was nothing we were able to do of any political value whatsoever. The whole 10 out of the 13 days we were there we were just driving around the country in a private car. I pointed this out to Steve and said ‘these people are bloody revisionists!’ you know, I’d met the same people before in the CPGB and they behaved in exactly the same way as people in the CPGB had behaved. I’m convinced now that these were symptoms of degeneration that had already set in, that revisionism had already won many of the leading positions within the party, but it was not coming out openly.”

IN MEMORIAM: William B. Bland 1916-2001 Interview Performed by JP with Bill Bland, 10th July 1994, Great Northern Hotel, Euston

3) How do progressives and “Marxist-Leninists” – of other than pro-Hoxha stripes – change their views? By weight of evidence, says Bland.

“WB: You see, first of all there is a great reluctance many people tend to be conformists, you like to be able to agree with your contemporaries, your associates, therefore I think that is a barrier to objective research, to objective findings, because then if your individual view is unpopular you become unpopular and therefore you tend to say what other people want you to say. I do think that this is something that has to be avoided. For example, the CL’s line on Dimitrov is unpopular because it is something new. It is not something that is anti-Marxist-Leninist, it is something which is either true or untrue depending on the facts. Now if your facts draw you to a particular conclusion I think it is essential for an organisation or party to come out with a correct point of view, under no circumstances should they say ‘well we can’t say that, its unpopular, therefore we will say nothing about it’; I think it is absolutely unpardonable for an M-L organisation. If one is correct, then sooner or later the passage of time will confirm the correctness, but if you are incorrect then it wont, and of course you must immediately rectify your incorrect fine. But not to put a line forward that you think is correct merely to be popular, I think is contrary to all the principles of Marxism. I think we’ve never done that.

I remember when we put forward our first research report on China, at that time most people who regarded themselves as M-Ls were running around waving the little red book, and they felt that this was something like running into a Catholic church and overturning the altar, they felt exactly the same way, and they responded in exactly the same way, yet gradually, over the years, more and more M-Ls have come out accepting the views we put forward in 1960. I think that under no circumstances should we ever…. of course we have to be sure that we are right, we go over and over the facts again, but once we are convinced that there is no other explanation, for example accepting that Dimitrov was a leading revisionist, then we should say so. I think not to say so merely to be popular is unpardonable. All new views are unpopular at first, it is merely a reflection of their newness. People tend to be conservative, they don’t like changing their point of view if they can avoid it, they have to be forced to do so by the weight of evidence, by the weight of incontrovertible facts, and this is the way I think the CL ought to work, small as it is. It is the only way that any organisation large or small should work.

4) Some examples of broad Front work that Bill Bland led the CL into with non-Hoxhaites:

(i) The MLRB:

JP: What about the Marxist-Leninist Research Bureau, that has a similar role in investigating important topics?

WB: The weakness there is that so far we have not felt able to investigate controversial topics. The New Communist Party was holding a meeting on Yugoslavia, and they had got together all the people who are supportive of the view of the Yugoslav government to present their case. Now our case is not popular among people among people who regard themselves as M-L. Never the less I feel we should put it forward, not in a destructive way, to call people traitors and fools but merely to present the facts as we see them, and invite them to seek another explanation for these facts. People are very reluctant to discuss things on the basis of facts. People like Harpal Brar, a very high political level, a loyal supporter of Stalin, there is no doubt he is very sincere in his support of Stalin and Marxism-Leninism, never the less, if you say ‘right, lets discuss Mao’ he will not discuss Mao, he will merely say ‘I don’t want to discuss it, I don’t agree with you, that’s all there is to say’. If you don’t agree, why not? Maybe you are right, tell me why you don’t want to agree? Somehow, he doesn’t want to do that.

So what it is here, in my opinion is this: rather than basing one’s views on fact, he’s basing his view on preconceived prejudices which Brar is unwilling to change or challenge. It’s like the attitude of the Catholic church in the middle ages, you didn’t discuss whether God existed or not, you just had to accept it because even discussing it was equivalent to treason, to heresy, and it seems to me that these people do have that view. They are unwilling to discuss it. Take a member of the NCP again, they cancelled a meeting which they forgot to tell me about and there was only a chap there who was editor of the paper. He wanted to discuss Mao Tse Tung thought, and I said read this stuff I’ll leave it with you, it may be wrong and if so, if you point out where we are wrong, we’ll correct it. ‘Yes I’ll do that’, you see, and that was a year ago. I left the stuff with him and asked him to fix a date for a further discussion, but no, he won’t do that. This means that he is only prepared to blindly follow the line of his party, and this isn’t going to do his party any good. If the line is wrong, then his party is not being served by his support for it. If the fine is incorrect then his job as a party member is to bring his objections forward and have them discussed at the highest level, and this they are unwilling to do, whether its Brar or the NCP.”

4) Some examples of broad Front work that Bill Bland led the CL into with non-Hoxhaites:

(ii) The Stalin Society

“WB: Well today we are in a situation where everyone who calls themself an M-L is in favour of building a new Marxist Leninist party. The Majids say that; Ivor Kenna says that, they all say it, but when you come down to it, it is necessary to draw a dividing line between the most blatant revisionist trend, which is Maoism, and Marxism-Leninism. You cannot build a party which contains both revisionists and Marxist-Leninists, it will fall to pieces at the first blow. Therefore our line in the Stalin society to try and utilise this for the purpose of support of Stalin, as we are all agreed, but also for discussing in a friendly way, the points on which we differ, so that on the basis of fact the members can be aware of the two opposed points of view and make their own decisions, and this seems to me to be to be an absolutely inevitable consequence of building a party which is taken seriously. And the same thing applies to a society that has a Marxist-Leninist paper, that we find out what we can agree on and that is the integral policy of the paper. Other questions on which we disagree we leave open for the time being and publish articles on both points of view, not in a hostile way but in a friendly way based on facts, and in that way, all those who call themselves M-Ls we say here, presented objectively, are the particular points of view why one policy is wrong, and the other answer is right, is Marxist-Leninist. I think that this is an essential way forward in building a party in the present circumstances.”

4) Some examples of broad Front work that Bill Bland led the CL into with non-Hoxhaites:

(iii) ISML:

JP: The international journal which is being suggested I think we have already discussed and we felt that this could play a useful role and should be open to Maoists to contribute to, and put down their views, and essentially, should be forced to express themselves in writing so that everyone could see where they do stand.

WB: The fact that they have expelled all the M-Ls, with the exception of yourself, from the Stalin Society is a sign not of their strength but of their weakness. If Adolpho is really sincere in saying that it is a good thing that we be allowed to put forward this rubbish so that it can be exposed, then he would be in favour of us continuing to put our view forward, but in fact he voted for our expulsion. And this to my mind exposes his hypocrisy. We are anxious to put forward our point of view, we don’t pretend that we’re infallible, we may be wrong, if so we regret it and we will criticise ourselves. But in order that we should be shown to be wrong we have to hear the other point of view, and this is what they are unwilling to do, to participate in any sort of objective discussion of facts.

(5) Events in the Stalin Society that Led up to Bland’s Expulsion From the Stalin Society

“Brief Introduction: The Stalin Society was formed on the initiative of Bill Bland, when he circulated a note suggesting that this would be a timely step; coming upon the open embrace of capital by Gorbachev. With this, the revisionist “official” soviet parties were manifestly crumbling. His intent was an open broad front organisation – open to all who call themselves Marxist-Leninists. Given the later development of the hijacking of the society for sectarian ends, he and the CL were forced to write this critique. It is noteworthy that subsequently, in order to further enable themselves to ‘safely’ and ‘constitutionally’ expel Bill Bland for his insistence on an open and non-sectarian conduct and debate within the society, the hijackers led by the husband and wife team of the Majids – cancelled all overseas subscriptions.

It should not be thought that the contents of this exposure of the manoeuvres of the Stalin Society are of purely historic interest. The critique contained here-in, centres on two aspects that the world-wide Marxist-Leninist movement is still coming to grips with.

One is the content of Maoism;

The second is the nature and development of the revisionist blocs inside the USSR and the Comintern.

It is for these reasons that at this stage Alliance feels it – once more a timely – exposure. Alliance Marxist-Leninist (North America); June 2002.”

“COMPASS” COMMUNIST LEAGUE
January 1995, No. 116

“MORE ON THE FIFTH COLUMN IN THE STALIN SOCIETY” Compass 116 (Communist League)

(6) Upon the Various Types of Maoism – Some we can ‘work with’ – Others we cannot!

“FUNDAMENTALIST AND MODERNIST MAOISM

Most systems of religious belief are based on writings regarded as ‘sacred’, and most of these were written long ago. But as man’s knowledge of the universe increases, it is discovered that these ancient writings appear to conflict with fact. In this situation, some people realise that their religious belief was mere superstition and become atheists. Of those who retain their religious belief, some insist that the writings, being sacred, are infallibly true, so that their appearance of falsity must be a mere illusion: we call such people fundamentalists; others admit that the writings cannot be accepted as literal truth, but can be accepted as allegorical truth: we call such people modernists.

Maoism has its fundamentalists and its modernists. As history made Maoism untenable except to those whose prejudices overrode their reason, genuine materialists came to realise that Maoism was merely a brand of revisionism. Among other Maoists, Fundamentalist and Modernist trends appeared.”

“COMPASS” COMMUNIST LEAGUE January 1995, No. 116 TABLE CONTENTS:” MORE ON THE FIFTH COLUMN IN THE STALIN SOCIETY” Compass 116 (Communist League)

(7) What does broad Front Work Mean? It means that DESPITE differences on other question – agreed to ends and principles of the BROAD FRONT – are the only basis for assessing WHO can JOIN the broad front:

“THE TACTICS OF BROAD FRONT WORK

A broad front is an organisation of people who agree to campaign on the objective of the broad front, in spite of differences they may have on other questions. The Stalin Society is a broad front organisation of people who agree that Stalin was a great Marxist-Leninist and who agree to campaign in defence of Stalin in spite of differences they may have on other questions. Members of a broad front who genuinely support its aims naturally work to expand its membership and influence as widely as possible. On the other hand, fifth columnists within the broad front, who wish to sabotage its aims, generally act under the cloak of pseudo-leftism, striving to erect sectarian barriers within the front on questions other than those embodied in the aims of the broad front. Over two years ago, Kamal Majid, husband of the present Secretary of the Stalin Society, Cathie Majid — speaking at a conference in the name of the Stalin Society — said:

“The Stalin Society is open to everyone. But of course we don’t expect you to come in without criticising yourselves. . . . Trotskyists, Khrushchevites or Brezhnevites . . . have to criticise themselves first. They have to criticise their past, and then we will accept them as . . . members of the Stalin Society”.

(Kamal Majid: Statement in Name of Stalin Society at International Marxist Convention, May 1992).

This declaration, like so many of the Majids’ utterances, is devoid of any truth. At no time has it been the policy of the Stalin Society that people who wish to join the Society must undertake a criticism of their past before they can be accepted as members.

What is the effect of Majid’s false statement?

Most people who now support Stalin, or who will come to support him in the future, have in the past accepted some of the bourgeois, Trotskyist or revisionist slanders about Stalin. Neither the Stalin Society, nor the Marxist-Leninist movement, can be built only from people who have never for a moment been misled by such slanders. To claim, even though falsely, that such people must pass a ‘purification’ test in a manner acceptable to the Majidist fifth column, is to seek to place barriers between the Stalin Society and tens of thousands of honest potential members.

Yet at meeting after meeting of the Stalin Society the Chairman, the Maoist Wilf Dixon, has permitted Kamal Majid to attack the New Communist Party as ‘traitors’.

In May of this year, the General Secretary of the New Communist Party. Eric Trevett, wrote in the party’s paper:

“I accepted the critique of Stalin in the 20th Congress resolution. Now I no longer think endorsement of that resolution justifiable.”

(Eric Trevett: Stastement in ‘New Worker’, 27 May 1994).

The New Communist Party is one of the largest of organisations calling itself Marxist-Leninist, and all who genuinely support the aims of the Stalin Society cannot but welcome this statement. But at the next meeting of the Stalin Society, Kamal Majid declared that this statement made it necessary to attack the New Communist Party harder than ever!

It is clear that the Majidist attacks on the New Communist Party at meetings of the Stalin Society have no relation whatever to the aims of the Society.

The Majids are no young inexperienced novices to the revolutionary movement, and it is clear that in attacking the New Communist Party, they are indulging in conscious sabotage of the Society. The Majidists’ campaign of disruption is, naturally, fully supported by the Maoist speakers invited by the Committee to give talks at the September and November meetings of the Stalin Society.

Adolfo Olaechea said:

“There are some who, 38 years after the 20th Congress, realise that they ‘can no longer continue upholding it’. That is good but hardly sufficient. . . . Such people ought to sit in the dock while the proletariat faces them with all their failures. They must liquidate all their conduct, all their line.”

(Adolfo Olaechea: op. cit.; p. 28).

In their Open Letter on ‘The Stalin Society Dispute’, Ted Talbot and Harry Powell dismiss the case against the Majidist disruptors as, for the most part:

“trivial”;

(Ted Talbot & Harry Powell: ‘The Stalin Society Dispute’; p. 1).

and based on:

“. . . personal animosities.”

(Ted Talbot & Harry Powell: ‘The Stalin Society Dispute’; p. 1).

They accuse our member Bill Bland of:

” . . . an amazingly opportunist statement.”

(Ted Talbot & Harry Powell: ‘The Stalin Society Dispute’; p. 2).’

when he says:

“The point is not whether these statements (the attacks on the New Communist Party — Ed.) are true or false.”

(Bill Bland: ‘The Situation in the Stalin Society’ (January 1994);l p. 3).

Although Talbot and Powell cease their quotation at this point, Bill Bland goes on to say :

“The point is that, even if true, in the context of the Stalin Society, . . . these statements are divisive and disruptive. They weaken and hinder the development of the Stalin Society.”

(Bill Bland: ibid.; p. 3).

Tony Clark, in an undated Open Letter to members of the Stalin Society declares that this policy seeks:

” . . . to place certain organisations and their leaders above criticism.”

(Tony Clark: Open Letter to Members of the Stalin Society; p. 1).

and that the policy:

“is rooted in opportunism.”

(Tony Clark: Open Letter to Members of the Stalin Society; p. 2).

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth than that we wish to place any organisation or individual ‘above criticism’.

We merely maintain that it is wrong and disruptive to permit attacks on members, or potential members, at meetings of the Stalin Society on questions unrelated to the aims of the Society.

It needs no advanced level of Marxism-Leninism to understand that the same statement may be tactically correct in one set of circumstances, but wrong and counter-productive in another set of circumstances.

For example, no one was a more consistent opponent of the treachery of social-democracy than Lenin. At the beginning of 1922, the Communist International, led by Lenin, was striving to organise a conference of the three Internationals:

“. . . for the sake of achieving possible practical unity of direct action on the part of the masses”. (Vladimir I. Lenin: Letter to N. I. Bukharin and G. Y. Zinoviev (February 1922),in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 42; Moscow; 1969; p. 394).

The fifth columnist Grigory Zinoviev, who later confessed to treason against the Soviet state and was executed, wrote a draft resolution on the proposed conference which called social-democratic leaders of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals ‘accomplices of the world bourgeoisie’. While this characterisation was undoubtedly true, Lenin objected to it in the resolution concerned on tactical grounds:

“My chief amendment is aimed at deleting the passage which calls the leaders of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals ‘accomplices of the world bourgeoisie’. You might as well call a man a jackass. It is absolutely unreasonable to risk wrecking an affair of tremendous practical importance for the sake of giving oneself the extra pleasure of scolding scoundrels.”

(Vladimir I. Lenin: Letter to Members of the Politbureau of the CC, RCB (b) (23 February 1922), in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 42; Moscow; 1969;p. 400-01).

Again, Marxist-Leninists accept that, as a general principle, it is correct to expose the reactionary role of religion. But an aspiring Marxist-Leninist who intrudes into a Catholic Church during mass shouting: ‘Down with the Pope!’ is not acting in accordance with correct Marxist-Leninist tactics.

In Lenin’s words, during a strike:

” . . . atheist propaganda in such circumstances may be both unnecessary and harmful — not from the philistine fear of scaring away the backward sections. . . . but out of consideration for the real progress of the class struggle, which in the conditions of modern capitalist society will convert Christian workers to Social-Democracy (i.e., Communism — Ed.) and to atheism a hundred times better than bald atheist propaganda. To preach atheism at such a moment and in such circumstances would only be playing into the hands of the priest and the priests, who desire nothing better than that the division of the workers according to their participation in the strike movement should be replaced by their division according to their belief in God.”

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘The Attitude of the Workers’ Party to Religion’ (May 1909), in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 15; Moscow; 1963; p. 40).”

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