Category Archives: Polemics & Refutations

John Callaghan on Rajani Palme Dutt and Evidence for the Moscow Trials and Anti-Soviet Conspiracies

On pages 279-280 of the book Rajani Palme Dutt: A Study in British Stalinism by John Callaghan (Lawrence & Wishart 1993), the author writes the following:

“… the evidence points overwhelmingly to Dutt’s satisfaction with the Communist record. In preparing his book on The Internationale, for example, he had considered the inclusion of an anecdote to illustrate the ‘basic guilt of the accused’ [in the Moscow Trials]. Fortunately, although Dutt changed his mind about publication, this curious fragment survives and acquires an especially sinister light today in view of the fact that the Soviet state itself eventually admitted the falsity of the charges brought against the leading Bolsheviks in question. Dutt’s ‘evidence’ concerns ‘a lengthy day’s visit to the village at some distance from Moscow’ where Bukharin and Radek were at work in the summer of 1935. Here ‘under the seal of absolute secrecy’ they apparently ‘gave him a serious and alarming account… of the net in which they had become involved and of the dilemmas with which they were faced’. Dutt was told in very general terms, with no names mentioned, of how ‘opposition to the party, however much it might be felt to be justified at a given moment, can lead by its own logic step by step into the camp of counter-revolution’. He was accordingly advised to never enter this ‘fatal path of conflict with the party’ and retired with ‘the memory of this talk… like a nightmare’ weighing on his mind during the ensuing period. At first Dutt tried to convince himself that these old ‘friends and comrades’ had presented ‘an allegory to test him’ but he had ‘a lurking suspicion’ that their confessions of guilt were true and only failed to report them to the party by taking refuge in the ‘cowardly evasion’ that he had no grounds for certainty concerning their sins. Thus ‘when the trials followed, of Radek, and subsequently of Bukharin, it was as if a weight were lifted from the writer’s [Dutt’s] consciousness that, however terrible, the facts at last were out’. Dutt now read the trial statements of both men and as he did so ‘he felt as if he were reading the same story a second time, since their narrative corresponded so closely with what they had told him on that summer’s day and evening in 1935, even with many of the same phrases.'”

The source given is: Dutt, ‘Radek-Bukharin conversations ommitted from The Internationale’, 11 March 1964, CPGB archive.

Stalin’s Four Attempts at Resignation

Joseph Stalin was elected as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU in April 1922 during the 11th Congress of the Party. Between then and until his death, he asked to be relieved of his duties as General Secretary a total of four times — all of which were rejected.

On Lenin’s motion, the Plenum of the Central Committee, on April 3, 1922, elected Stalin …  [as the] General Secretary of the Central Committee, a post at which he has remained ever since.

Alexandrov, G. F. Joseph Stalin; a Short Biography. Moscow: FLPH, 1947, p. 74

Stalin’s first attempt at resignation (likely in 1925) from the post of General Secretary was at a meeting of the Central Committee after the 13th Congress (held in May 1924). This was rejected unanimously by all the delegations, including Trotsky. Stalin remarked on this later in 1927 in a speech at a meeting of the Central Committee:

It is said that in that “will” Comrade Lenin suggested to the congress that in view of Stalin’s “rudeness” it should consider the question of putting another comrade in Stalin’s place as General Secretary. That is quite true.

Yes, comrades, I am rude to those who grossly and perfidiously wreck and split the Party. I have never concealed this and do not conceal it now. Perhaps some mildness is needed in the treatment of splitters, but I am a bad hand at that.

At the very first meeting of the plenum of the Central Committee after the Thirteenth Congress I asked the plenum of the Central Committee to release me from my duties as General Secretary. The congress itself discussed this question. It was discussed by each delegation separately, and all the delegations unanimously, including Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev, obliged Stalin to remain at his post.

What could I do? Desert my post? That is not in my nature; I have never deserted any post, and I have no right to do so, for that would be desertion. As I have already said before, I am not a free agent, and when the Party imposes an obligation upon me, I must obey.

A year later I again put in a request to the plenum to release me, but I was again obliged to remain at my post. What else could I do?

The next two attempts to resign from the post of General Secretary was a year after in 1926 and later in 1927. The British historian Robert Service who specialized in Russian history wrote about this in his biography of Stalin:

On 27 December 1926, he wrote to Sovnarkom Chairman Alexei Rykov saying: ‘I ask you to release me from the post of Central Committee General Secretary. I affirm that I can no longer work at this post, that I’m in no condition to work any longer at this post.’ He made a similar attempt at resignation on 19 December 1927.

All three of these previous attempts were rejected. The last attempt to resign was in 1952, about five months before Stalin’s death, during a meeting of the Central Committee where he urged the Central Committee to relieve him of his duties. This too was rejected. 

In a speech given by him to the Central Committee that mainly criticized Molotov for some of his decisions, he was interrupted near the end of the speech by someone from the floor.

VOICE FROM THE FLOOR – We need to elect comrade Stalin as the General Secretary of the CC CPSU and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR.

STALIN – No! I am asking that you relieve me of the two posts!

MALENKOV – coming to the tribune: Comrades! We should all unanimously ask comrade Stalin, our leader and our teacher, to be again the General Secretary of the CC CPSU.

Originally posted by Socialist Musings.

Grover Furr on Archival Evidence for the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites

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“Shortly after the Leon Trotsky Archive at Harvard’s Houghton Library was opened in January 1980, Trotskyist historian Pierre Broué discovered letters between Leon Sedov and his father Trotsky that proved the existence of a bloc between Trotskyites and other opposition groups within the USSR. Sometime in the middle of 1932 Sedov informed his father as follows:

“[The bloc] is organized. In it have entered the Zinovievites, the Sten-Lominadze group and the Trotskyites (former ‘[capitulators]’). The group of Safar. Tarkhkan has not formally entered yet – they stand on too extreme a position; they will enter in a very short time. – The declaration of Z. and K. concerning their enormous mistake in ’27 was made during negotiations with our people concerning the bloc, immediately before the exile of Z and K.” [70]

About the same time American historian Arch Getty was discovering that Trotsky had secretly sent letters to at least Radek, Sokol’nikov, Preobrazhenskii, Kollontai, and Litvinov. The first three had been Trotskyites before publicly recanting their views. Getty did not find the letters – only the certified mail receipts for them. Getty realized this meant that the Trotsky Archive has been ‘purged.’ These letters had been removed. Other materials had undoubtedly been purged as well. [71]

The only reason to “purge” the archives would have been to remove materials that would have seemed incriminating – that would have negatively impacted Trotsky’s reputation.As an examination of the question of the letter to Radek shows, the letters that we know were removed proved, at the very least, that Trotsky lied during the 1930s by claiming he never maintained contact with oppositionists inside the USSR when, in reality, he was doing so, and by claiming that he would never agree to a secret bloc between his supporters and other oppositionist groups in act he had done precisely that.

Evidently Broué found the implications of this fact very disturbing. He never mentioned Getty’s discoveries of Trotsky’s letters to his supporters and others inside the USSR or the purging of the Trotsky archive, even though Broué cites the same Getty publications (an article and a book) in a very positive manner. [72]

Therefore it has been well established by scholars by the mid-1980s that a Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc did in fact exist and that it was formed in 1932 and that Zinoviev and Kamenev were personally involved. Sedov also foresaw the entry into the group of Safarov, who in any case had a group of his own.

In an interview with the Dutch social-democratic newspaper Het Volk during the second half of January 1937, at the time of the Second Moscow Trial, Sedov stated, in a slip of the tongue, that “the Trotskyists” had been in contact with the defendents at the First Moscow Trial of August 1936. [73] Sedov specifically named Zinoviev, Kamenev and Smirnov. Concerning Radek and Piatakov Sedov went on to say that “[t]he Trotskyists have had much less contact with them than with the others. To be exact: no contact at all.” That is, Sedov tried to withdraw his “slip” about Radek and Piatakov.

But Sedov did not even try and retract the information that preceded it: that “the Trotskyists” had indeed been in contact with “the other”: Smirnov, Zinoviev, and Kamenev. This interview, “slip of the tongue” included, was published in a provincial edition of Het Volk on January 28, 1937. It was noticed by the Communist press, which called attention to Sedov’s “slip of the tongue.” (Arbeideren, Oslo, February 5, 1937; Abejderbladet, Copenhagen, February 12, 1937.) Thanks to Getty we now know that the Communist press was correct. Sedov’s remark really was a “slip of the tongue.” We know that Sedov was lying because Getty had found evidence of Trotsky’s letter to Radek. Trotsky has indeed been in touch with Radek. Sedov’s first remark, about “much less contact,” was accurate.

Therefore we have good, non-Soviet evidence, confirmed by the Trotsky Archive, of the following:

  • A “bloc” of Zinovievites, Trotskyites, and others including at least the Sten-Lominadze and, perhaps, the Safarov-Tarkhanov group (with whom they were in any case in touch) and involving Zinoviev and Kamenev themselves, was indeed formed in 1932.
  • Trotsky had indeed been in touch with Zinoviev and Kamenev, as well as others, probably through his son and chief representative Sedov.
  • Trotsky was indeed in touch with at least Radek and Piatakov.
  • Trotsky really did send a letter to Radek, who was in Geneva at the time, in the Spring of 1932, just as Radek testified in the January 1932 Moscow Trial.
  • There is no reason to accept Trotskyist historian Pierre Broué’s conclusion that thus bloc was “ephemeral” and died out shortly after it was formed, because we know the Trotsky Archive was purged at some time, while Broué had no evidence to support that statement.

[….]

The Harvard Trotsky archive yielded to Broué and Getty unmistakable evidence that the “bloc” did exist; that Trotsky was in contact with the bloc’s members and his own supporters inside the USSR, and that Trotsky lied consistently about all these matters both in the Bulletin of the Opposition and to the Dewey Commission. No scholar today denies this. Kirilina, Lenoe, and Egge simply ignore the whole matter.

The NKVD of the 1930s termed the complexly-interlocking set of oppositional conspiracies the “klubok,” or “tangle.” If any of these conspiracies were acknowledged to have existed, it would be hard to deny the existence of the rest, since all the defendants implicated others in a chant that, directly or indirectly, connected them all. Admitting that the bloc of Trotskyites and Zinovievites did in fact exist would present the danger of a “slippery slope” to any historian who wanted to deny the validity of the other conspiracies. For once it is conceded that the first alleged underground opposition conspiracy really did exist, and therefore that both the Khrushchev and Gorbachev official reports, rehabilitations, and official historians were lying, it logically follows that other conspiracies, which these same sources also denied, might have existed too.

 – Grover Furr, “The Murder of Sergei Kirov: History, Scholarship and the Anti-Stalin Paradigm,” pages 131-133, 136.

Footnotes

[70] Harvard, Trotsky Archive 4782 p. 1; see Broué in Cahiers Leon Trotsky 1980 p. 36; Broué, “Party Opposition to Stalin…” p. 100.

[71] Other materials were certainly removed – “purged” – with traces of their removal remaining. For example, excerpts from a discussion between Trotsky and Sedov concerning the slogan “remove Stalin” (‘ubrat Stalina’) remain in the archive, but the full letters from which the excerpts were made are not there.

[72] We will examine this whole question in detail in a forthcoming work.

[73] “Het process te Moskou. Wie niet wil bekennen al doodgeschoten?” Het Volk 28 Jan. 1937 pp. 1 and 5. My sincere thanks to Sven-Eric Holmstrom for tracking down this article and generously providing me with a copy.

V.I. Lenin on Communist Participation in Bourgeois Parliaments

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“It is with the utmost contempt—and the utmost levity—that the German ‘Left’ Communists reply to this question in the negative. Their arguments? In the passage quoted above we read:

‘. . . All reversion to parliamentary forms of struggle, which have become historically and politically obsolete, must be emphatically rejected. . . .’

This is said with ridiculous pretentiousness, and is patently wrong. ‘Reversion’ to parliamentarianism, forsooth! Perhaps there is already a Soviet republic in Germany? It does not look like it! How, then, can one speak of ‘reversion?’ Is this not an empty phrase?

Parliamentarianism has become ‘historically obsolete.’ That is true in the propaganda sense. However, everybody knows that this is still a far cry from overcoming it in practice. Capitalism could have been declared—and with full justice—to be ‘historically obsolete’ many decades ago, but that does not at all remove the need for a very long and very persistent struggle on the basis of capitalism. Parliamentarianism is ‘historically obsolete’ from the standpoint of world history, i.e., the era of bourgeois parliamentarianism is over, and the era of the proletarian dictatorship has begun. That is incontestable. But world history is counted in decades. Ten or twenty years earlier or later makes no difference when measured with the yardstick of world history; from the standpoint of world history it is a trifle that cannot be considered even approximately. But for that very reason, it is a glaring theoretical error to apply the yardstick of world history to practical politics.

Is parliamentarianism ‘politically obsolete?’ That is quite a different matter. If that were true, the position of the ‘Lefts’ would be a strong one. But it has to be proved by a most searching analysis, and the ‘Lefts’ do not even know how to approach the matter. In the ‘Theses on Parliamentarianism,’ published in the Bulletin of the Provisional Bureau in Amsterdam of the Communist International No. 1, February 1920, and obviously expressing the Dutch-Left or Left-Dutch strivings, the analysis, as we shall see, is also hopelessly poor.

In the first place, contrary to the opinion of such outstanding political leaders as Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, the German ‘Lefts,’ as we know, considered parliamentarianism ‘politically obsolete’ even in January 1919. We know that the ‘Lefts’ were mistaken. This fact alone utterly destroys, at a single stroke, the proposition that parliamentarianism is ‘politically obsolete.’ It is for the ‘Lefts’ to prove why their error, indisputable at that time, is no longer an error. They do not and cannot produce even a shred of proof. A political party’s attitude towards its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest ways of judging how earnest the party is and how it fulfils in practice its obligations towards its class and the working people. Frankly acknowledging a mistake, ascertaining the reasons for it, analysing the conditions that have led up to it, and thrashing out the means of its rectification—that is the hallmark of a serious party; that is how it should perform its duties, and how it should educate and train its class, and then the masses. By failing to fulfil this duty and give the utmost attention and consideration to the study of their patent error, the ‘Lefts’ in Germany (and in Holland) have proved that they are not a party of a class, but a circle, not a party of the masses, but a group of intellectualists and of a few workers who ape the worst features of intellectualism.

Second, in the same pamphlet of the Frankfurt group of ‘Lefts,’ which we have already cited in detail, we read:

‘. . . The millions of workers who still follow the policy of the Centre [the Catholic ‘Centre’ Party] are counter-revolutionary. The rural proletarians provide the legions of counter-revolutionary troops.’ (Page 3 of the pamphlet.)

Everything goes to show that this statement is far too sweeping and exaggerated. But the basic fact set forth here is incontrovertible, and its acknowledgment by the ‘Lefts’ is particularly clear evidence of their mistake. How can one say that ‘parliamentarianism is politically obsolete,’ when ‘millions’ and ‘legions’ of proletarians are not only still in favour of parliamentarianism in general, but are downright ‘counter-revolutionary!?’ It is obvious that parliamentarianism in Germany is not yet politically obsolete. It is obvious that the ‘Lefts’ in Germany have mistaken their desire, their politico-ideological attitude, for objective reality. That is a most dangerous mistake for revolutionaries to make. In Russia—where, over a particularly long period and in particularly varied forms, the most brutal and savage yoke of tsarism produced revolutionaries of diverse shades, revolutionaries who displayed amazing devotion, enthusiasm, heroism and will power—in Russia we have observed this mistake of the revolutionaries at very close quarters; we have studied it very attentively and have a first-hand knowledge of it; that is why we can also see it especially clearly in others. Parliamentarianism is of course ‘politically obsolete’ to the Communists in Germany; but—and that is the whole point—we must not regard what is obsolete to us as something obsolete to a class, to the masses. Here again we find that the ‘Lefts’ do not know how to reason, do not know how to act as the party of a class, as the party of the masses. You must not sink to the level of the masses, to the level of the backward strata of the class. That is incontestable. You must tell them the bitter truth. You are in duty bound to call their bourgeois-democratic and parliamentary prejudices what they are—prejudices. But at the same time you must soberly follow the actual state of the class-consciousness and preparedness of the entire class (not only of its communist vanguard), and of all the working people (not only of their advanced elements).

Even if only a fairly large minority of the industrial workers, and not ‘millions’ and ‘legions,’ follow the lead of the Catholic clergy—and a similar minority of rural workers follow the landowners and kulaks (Grossbauern)—it undoubtedly signifies that parliamentarianism in Germany has not yet politically outlived itself, that participation in parliamentary elections and in the struggle on the parliamentary rostrum is obligatory on the party of the revolutionary proletariat specifically for the purpose of educating the backward strata of its own class, and for the purpose of awakening and enlightening the undeveloped, downtrodden and ignorant rural masses. Whilst you lack the strength to do away with bourgeois parliaments and every other type of reactionary institution, you must work within them because it is there that you will still find workers who are duped by the priests and stultified by the conditions of rural life; otherwise you risk turning into nothing but windbags.”

 – V.I. Lenin, “‘Left-Wing Communism’: An Infantile Disorder”

Michael Parenti: Is Nicaragua More Democratic Than the United States?

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[From: Covert Action Information Bulletin, Number 26, Summer 1986]

To justify the policies of attack, encirclement, embargo, and destabilization directed against Nicaragua, the Reagan administration has charged that the Sandinista government is on the road to totalitarianism, that it denies religious and political freedom and is a threat to the security of its neighbors. The goal of U.S. policy, claims President Reagan, is to bring about a pluralistic open society in Nicaragua, a goal that never loomed very large during the fifty years of the Somoza dictatorship. More recently in a book on the Nicaraguan revolution. journalist Shirley Christian echoed this line, arguing that the contra war was a justifiable attempt ”to force the Sandinista Front into accepting major structural changes toward an open political society.”

In response to this position, supporters of the Sandinista revolution have argued that Nicaragua does have a pluralistic society, is attempting to make a better life for its people, has no aggressive designs upon its neighbors, and instead is itself being invaded along two of it borders. Others have shown that by every standard, Nicaragua’s elections have been more open and democratic than El Salvador’s and its society more humane than most others in Latin America.

Indeed it can be further argued that by every standard Nicaragua is a more democratic society than the one waging aggression against — and I do not mean Honduras. By every major democratic criterion, Nicaragua comes off looking better than the United States. Let us begin with a comparison of the national elections held in November 1984 in both the United States and Nicaragua [1]

Popular Participation

One crucial measure of an open political system is the degree of popular participation. Most voting studies in the United States and elsewhere find that nonvoters show a high degree of alienation from the political process; they believe voting is not a means of effecting changes, and they often fail to see a meaningful choice in the candidates presented to them. (This is the view also of a surprisingly large number of persons who vote in the United States.) Therefore a comparison of the respective rates of turnouts in the Nicaraguan and U.S. election might be worth pondering for a moment.

The turnout in the United States in the 1984 election was little less than 53 percent of the eligible voters, one of the lowest of any western nation. Yet the press took little note of this and instead treated Reagan’s reelection as a landslide victory and democratic mandate. In contrast, voter turnout was nearly 82 percent in Managua and 75.4 percent in Nicaragua as a whole. Yet this turnout was described in the U.S. press as “disappointing” because the Sandinistas had hoped for an 80 percent national turnout. (Left unmentioned was the fact that in Nicaragua the voting was voluntary, unlike most Latin American countries.)

Range of Political Choice

Elections that offer little choice are said to be wanting in democratic standards. The choice in Nicaragua was noticeably wider and more democratic than in the United States. Seven parties ran for seats in the national assembly and for the presidency, representing a broad ideological range: from those on the far left (who damned the FSLN for its moderate policies and for allegedly betraying the workers and peasants) to those on the center and right (who accused the FSLN of exercising a rigid control over the country, wrecking the economy and leading Nicaragua to war). All these charges and countercharges were reported and debated extensively in the public and private press in Nicaragua.

In the United States the choice was limited largely to Democrats and Republicans, who in many races are often hard to tell apart. True, there were a variety of minor parties but these were not accorded the same opportunity for participation as were the various opposition parties in Nicaragua, as we shall see.

Access to the Ballot

A variety of parties may compete in an election but if they are denied roughly equal conditions of competition or access to the ballot or shoved to the side of the political arena, it cannot be said that democratic competition exist. In the U.S. all fifty states have laws, written and enforced by Republican and Democratic officials, regulating party access to the ballot — often in ways restrictive enough to keep smaller parties from participating, thus depriving the electorate of the freedom to choose someone other than a Democrat or a Republican. Minor parties are often required to gather a large number of signatures on nominating petitions in a limited time. Thus in Pennsylvania third-party state-wide candidates must collect 36,000 signature in a three-week period; in Maryland candidates are required to collect over 55,000 signatures in a short time. Sometimes a 5 percent requirement for signatures has been interpreted to mean 5 percent of voters from every district within the state — an impossible task for a third party whose base might he confined to a few urban areas.

In some states votes who are registered with the major parties are not allowed to sign or circulate minor-party nominating petition. Petitions are sometimes thrown out by hostile officials on trivial and sometimes unlawful technicalities. (as happened to the Communist Party in Illinois and Connecticut in recent elections) compelling minor parties to pursue expensive court battles that further drain their financial resources.

In some states minor parties must pay exorbitant filing fees: $5,000 Louisiana for an independent candidate. To get on the ballot in all 50 states, a third party would have to expend an estimated $750,000 in filing fees and other expenses and collect 1.2 million signatures, a feat accomplished in 1984 by no third party. And the trend is toward less and less ballot access: in the last 12 years, sixteen states have tightened the restrictions. Between 1980 and 1984, for example, the states of Indiana and North Dakota quadrupled the number of signatures required to get on the ballot.

In Nicaragua, in striking contrast, the electoral law favors the smaller political parties. In 1984 any party could register to field candidates by merely presenting a national directorate and two representatives from each of the country’s nine regions. One of the parties that so registered, the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) asked to withdraw from the contest four days before election day. The Electoral Council ruled that it was too late for a party to pull out but that individual candidates could withdraw their names if they chose. None did so.

Accessibility to the Electorate

Being on the ballot does little good if the bulk of the voters have never heard of you or never hear *from* you. Third parties in the United States are given almost no national media coverage during campaigns. News media focus exclusively on the two major parties, failing even to report the votes that third parties get on election day (usually between one and two million all together), thus treating the minor parties as if they do not exist. Lacking the huge sums available to the major parties, especially the Republicans, the smaller parties are unable to buy major media time and space of their own. The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974 finances the major parties, giving each tens of millions of dollars for their presidential campaigns, but the smaller parties can obtain federal funds only after they glean 5 percent of the national vote (about 4 million votes for any one party) In sum, they cannot get the money until they get the 5 percent, but they cannot yet the percent until they get the money.

In contrast, the Nicaraguan electoral law provided public financing of 9 million cordobas ($321,000) for each participating party *regardless of size* and guaranteed an equal amount of time each day on the state-run radio stations and television channels. Each party was also permitted to receive unlimited funds from private donors, including people and organizations outside Nicaragua, a provision that worked to the advantage of the centrist and rightist parties. As the campaign got under complaints from the participating parties led to changes in the electoral law, including an increase in radio and television time, an additional 3 million cordobas in government campaign funds for each party, and a lengthening of the campaign period. Parties were also guaranteed access to products in short supply in Nicaragua: paper. printing facilities, transportation and gasoline. The various parties also produced their own party newspapers, together with leaflets and billboards.

Absence of Coercion

Instances of coercion and harassment of candidates have not been an unusual occurrence in U.S. elections. In the United States third-party candidates especially those of a pronouncedly leftist hue have run into difficulties of this sort. Harassment may not be confined to the candidates themselves but may include their supporters and canvassers. In 1972 in Vermont persons who merely signed Communist Party ballot petitions found their names publicized by town clerks in an effort to embarrass them into withdrawing their signatures. Generally though, in modern times American elections have not been marked by violence nor by any serious degree of threat against candidates. The coercions are largely of the legal kind noted earlier which work well enough against third parties. In regard to individual voters, however, it should be noted that not every American citizen has the right to an uncoerced vote, as testified by the continuing need for a Civil Rights Voting Act, the renewal of which President Reagan opposed.

Turning to Nicaragua, we find there were serious acts of violence and murder in the 1984 election — all committed by the force supported by the Reagan administration. The contras killed the presidents of two polling stations and two volunteer workers involved in registration. In the Jinotega mountains, one polling station worker’s throat was cut by the contras in front of his wife and family. On election day a member of the electoral police was shot to death by contras in La Tronica. In all, twelve election workers lost their lives in assaults by counterrevolutionaries .

The election was less than flawless in its procedures, but the overall performance was one that the Nicaraguan democracy can be proud of. There was free and open campaigning in every area of the country except in some war zones. According to estimates by the Supreme Electoral Council, there were some 250 public rallies. In general the election was characterized by untrammeled and vigorous political debate. If the FSLN was instituting a totalitarian regime, it was going about it in the wrong way.

About five of the public rallies were marred by incidents of violence but no serious injuries were reported. During the first months of the campaign a number of parties also reported that their campaign workers had been harassed by members of the FSLN, or that their posters had been destroyed. The Sandinista leadership denounced these incidents and they seemed to diminish thereafter. In addition, several rallies held by the Nicaraguan Democratic Coordinating Committee (CDN). a coalition of conservative business-oriented parties that abstained from the election, were disrupted by fights between CDN supporters and Sandinista counterdemonstrators. These rallies were technically illegal since the CDN had refused to participate in the election and indeed spent its time during the campaign attacking the electoral system itself. Once the CDN decided to conduct what seemed like a sabotage of the electoral effort (in the eyes of FSLN supporters), clashes with counterdemonstrators were difficult to avoid.

Because of these incidents, Arturo Cruz claimed that he was attacked by ‘mobs’ and that free electoral competition did not exist. It should be recalled that the country is at war and that Cruz openly identified with the enemy and was not at any time functioning as a legal or serious candidate. When Cruz, a banker in Wellington, arrived in Managua five months before the election, the CDN suddenly announced he would be their unified presidential candidate. Without officially registering as a candidate, Cruz toured the country for several days, drawing small crowds As suddenly as he arrived, he left, announcing he would not run under the prevailing electoral conditions. Throughout this period the U.S. media and the U.S. government described him as the “major opposition candidate” and treated his nonparticipation as evidence that the election was an unfair and meaningless exercise. In conflict with this view is the one expressed in the report, cited herein, by U.S. citizens in Nicaragua:

In general, our perception of the electoral campaign period is that the harassment and fistfights were scattered incidents that did not affect the generally free atmosphere of the electoral process. We found our neighbors and co-workers unafraid to voice their opinions, and heard and read virulent criticism of the FSLN. We know of no pressure on Nicaraguan to vote for the Sandinista Front. In particular, we found no truth in the charge made by _La Prensa_ that the cards which entitle families to receive subsidized food allotments were controlled in a concerted effort to influence Nicaraguans” votes. We conclude that the electoral campaign provided Nicaraguans with abundant information on which to base a free decision about their vote.

A similar conclusion was reached by the 460 official observers from all over the world who were free to check out all aspects of the voting process and ballot counting. None of the eleven participating parties filed any charges of fraud.

System of Representation

The FSLN won 64.9% of the vote, a victory that was only a few percentage points higher than the one enjoyed by Ronald Reagan in 1984. The two runner-up parties, both center-rightist, won 13% and 9% respectively. The National Assembly seats were allocated according to proportional representation so that minority parties were assured of 35 of the 96 seats (including six seats that under the electoral law are allotted to the losing presidential candidates of each party). All this was dismissed by Reagan as “an electoral farce without any meaningful political opposition.”

In contrast, the single-member-district electoral system used in the United States is much less representative and therefore less democratic. The party that polls a plurality of the vote, be it 40, 50 or 60 percent, wins 100 percent of a district’s representation, while smaller parties, regardless of their vote, receive zero representation. Proportional representation provides a party with legislative seats roughly in accordance with the percentage of votes it wins, thus assuring minor parties of some parliamentary presence. But the single-member, winner-take-all system magnifies the strength of the major parties and leaves the minor parties with a percentage of seats (if any) that is far lower than its percentage of votes. The winner-take-all system deprives third parties not only of representation but eventually of voters too, since not many citizens wish to “waste” their ballots on a party that seems incapable of establishing a legislative presence

Minorities

There are other criteria by which the American and Nicaraguan democracies might he compared. For instance, there is the treatment of minorities. Much is made of the Sandinistas’ forced relocation of Miskito Indians during a time of serious border attack, a policy that quickly proved not only wrong but in some instances wrongful. Today Managua is now trying to undo its previous policy and resettle the Miskito on their lands, an approach that compares favorably with the U.S. treatment of Native American Indians, to say the least, and with the forced relocation of the Japanese into concentration camps during World War II, uprooting them from California communities, that — unlike Nicaragua — were never threatened by enemy invasion. Nor did the U.S. government ever compensate the Japanese for the losses they sustained in the way of homes, businesses and farms

Political Dissent

There is the more general question of Freedom of communication for dissenting ideas. La Prensa is not the only opposition voice in Nicaragua. About half of the radio and television stations in the country are privately owned and most of these give the government a daily ideological pounding that makes National Public Radio look like the tepid establishment mouthpiece it is. The various political parties also produced their own newspapers during the campaign. There is a war going on in Nicaragua. The country is encircled by hostile forces. has endured invasions on both of its borders and has suffered much loss of life and destruction of property. Yet the censorship imposed is no worse and probably less restrictive than what the U.S. government imposed during World War II, and Managua’s treatment of dissenters and collaborators has been far more tolerant and liberal than the treatment accorded Tory sympathizers during and immediately after the American revolution or dissenters who received long prison terms during World War I.

In the United States, dissenting views that go beyond the mainstream. or even much left of center, are rarely allowed time or space in the major media, but are consigned to small-circulation magazines that teeter on the edge of insolvency. In short, there is a greater plurality of ideas, ideologies, and debate in Nicaragua than in the United States. On this score Nicaragua is a more open, more pluralistic society. It may not always remain so however. Subject to enough threat and siege, assault and murder, the Nicaraguans will start tightening up, choosing security over dissent, survival over pluralism. Indeed, it is miraculous that they haven’t already done so. The signs are there; President Daniel Ortega has said: “In the hardest moments we have to convert the defeats into more ideological unity, more political unity … [and] more organization.” (Miami Herald, August 4, 1985).

If the U.S. Government were really interested in encouraging pluralistic dissent in Nicaragua it would pursue a policy quite the opposite of the one now in the saddle, offering Managua friendship and support and the hope for peaceful independence and security. Democracy is a delicate flower that does not do well when repeatedly stomped upon.

Religious Freedom

The Reagan administration has charged that there is religious persecution in Nicaragua. But the Catholic church is alive and well. Elements of its clergy and laity can be found playing prominent roles on both sides within Nicaragua, struggling hard to build — or destroy — the revolution. Religious practice is not interfered with. The Rev. Miguel Gray, a Nicaraguan Baptist minister, hailed the religious freedom enjoyed in that country and pointed to the building of 19 additional churches since 1979 in a desperately poor country where not too many buildings of any kind are going up.

The level of religious tolerance in the United States today is as good as might be found anywhere. But in recent years the disturbing intolerance manifested by such groups as the Moral Majority, and the President’s open association with the religious Right, including his announcement that “ours is a Christian nation,” might cause us to give more attention to the question of religious tolerance here at home.

Human Needs

If democracy means more than a set of procedures but implies something, about the substantive conditions of life, then here too poor Nicaragua looks better than rich America in the era of Ronald Reagan. Decades of colonialism, Somocista pillaging, earthquake, revolution and counterrevolution, have left Nicaragua with a legacy of extreme poverty, yet the very worst is not happening to the poor citizens of that country as it is to the poor on the streets in Washington D.C.; no one is starving and no one has been tossed aside like so much human refuse.

Finally, in comparing Nicaragua with the United States. we might consider the degree to which each country is interfering with the political development and security of the other. As Reagan himself aptly put it: “Democracies do not spend a lot of money on arms, build large armies or invade or destabilize their neighbors.” With typical Orwellian inversion he was aiming this remark at Nicaragua but it applies most perfectly to hi own administration, which spends more money on arms and more time destabilizing and invading neighbors than we could ever imagine Nicaragua doing. The truth is also inverted when Reagan calls the Sandinistas “terrorists.” To be sure, there is plenty of terrorism going on in Nicaragua and plenty being exported to other countries in Central America, but it is conducted by contra mercenaries and Honduran, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran death squads and military, all financed and advised by the U.S.

Those “democratic socialist” critics on the left, who give qualified and skittish support to Nicaragua, who are quick to point out how they have “problems” with some of the things the Sandinistas are doing, who impose flawless democratic standards upon a tiny country that is under mortal siege from the Yankee Colossus, those critics might want to consider the realities of the situation. It is the United States which should be the object of their professedly democratic concerns; it is the U.S. which falls so dismally short of practicing the democratic pluralism it preaches to others, exporting violence and terrorism and pummeling a smaller neighbor that is trying to develop a democratic society of its own.

If one criterion of democracy is that a country not act like a thug and aggressor in its dealings with another country even to the point of refusing to show up in (world) court to defend itself when so charged — then United States under Reagan comes off looking tar less fair, less open, and less democratic than Nicaragua.

(*) Michael Parenti writes and lectures frequently on U.S. domestic and foreign politics. His most recent book is _Inventing Reality: The Politics of the Mass Media_ (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1986).

Source

Communist Party Alliance: On Sectarianism

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The ‘left’ in Britain is characterised by sectarianism. What are the main reasons for this in an imperialist country? John Green examines the causes.

The Causes of Sectarianism

Bourgeois Social Conditions

Divisions in the revolutionary movement are not formed simply from ideological differences, but sometimes represent class and social divisions. The social conditions of many of those who describe themselves as Marxist-Leninist in this country are largely at the root of their sectarianism.

Britain is an imperialist country. In this country, productive industry ranks a poor second to profits received from exploiting other countries, which through a system of ‘aid’ and debt are maintained in neo-colonial servitude. This determines that a petty-bourgeois mentality is created in a section of the proletariat and the intelligentsia in Britain, and this sectarian mentality infects many of those who are drawn into the ranks of the revolutionary left. Thus for some communists the prime requirement of communist unity is that they themselves must lead it. Any initiative, to be acceptable to these “leaders”, must be their own idea. When those affected by this petty-bourgeois mentality do occasionally and for a time gain the leadership of a grouping, democracy, principle and all else is subordinated to their own leadership pretensions.

Expediency

A form of sectarianism which is no less damaging is met with in those opportunists who refuse to work with others not on the basis of principle, but on the basis of expediency, for tactical gains. These do great harm to the cause of revolutionary unity, in that they appear to legitimise the absence of principle.

Dogmatic Doctrinairism

Another form which sectarianism often takes is in insisting upon adherence to the elaboration of Marxism-Leninism by a great historical figure as an ’ a priori ‘ requirement before any attempt to form revolutionary unity can take place. They use this position as an apparently principled justification for their unwillingness to collaborate. This is a mistake. Ideological unity cannot be based upon an historical figure. It must be around fundamental questions of principle, strategy and tactics, and each disputed question must be put under discussion. Only by doing this, can the real lines of demarcation, which are concealed behind these allegiances, be drawn and unity be attained.

Opposing Sectarianism

Dialectical Unity

The first principle for the proletarian revolutionary who is not, like the petty-bourgeois revolutionary, willing to compromise with imperialism until unity is achieved on terms exactly to his satisfaction, is to achieve a dialectical, fighting unity with fellow communists. The unity we must work for is around Marxist principles consolidated in a programme.

The unity of the Communist Party must be a dialectical unity, one which contains contradictions. We need to be able to disagree whilst working together to achieve the Party programme. We must not slurry over contradictions within our ranks for the purpose of preserving formal unity, but we must not transform these differences into a sharp dividing line.

Dialectical unity finds expression within prevailing social conditions. Where there is disagreement on historical questions, unity can exist within a party where objective circumstances permit. This is the case when circumstances are unchanging and principles are not yet being tested by prevailing social conditions. Only at the turning-points, where objective social circumstances are in a process of rapid change (e.g. a revolutionary situation is emerging), do significant differences emerge.

It is important to realise that these differences will not necessarily reflect at all the great questions of the past. Even where people have taken a view on an apparently similar historical question, new circumstances may elicit a new understanding of contemporary events. Prevailing social conditions may demand a change in ideas.

Formal (Idealist) Unity

To unite only with those with whom we agree on historical questions is a form of idealist unity, not dialectical unity, in that it brushes aside consideration of prevailing conditions and absolutises differences. This purist approach leaves the question of building unity for the purpose of revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat to the indefinite future, when no doubt prevailing social conditions will force us to address these questions. The proponents of this absolute ‘unity’, in practice, subordinate questions of principle to organisational questions.

Attempts at idealist unity look for formal organisational means to efface differences or manage them without resolving them, such as by banning the disputed subject.

The principle of dialectical unity should not be confused with the policy of those groupings who struggle for organisational objectives instead of principles. Such groupings, it is true, unite people of different views, but they subordinate the clarification and resolution of their differences to success in the organisational struggle. This would be only a formal unity. A party built on such lines would tend to fall apart in the course of sharp struggles. If organisational means were employed to preserve the autonomy of those with an aversion to centralism, there would be a lack of internal discipline and the party would not serve the interests of the proletariat. The lumping together of autonomous groupings which do not recognise (or recognise only formally) the legitimacy of the elected leaders, and even creating institutions for the advantage of factions, would be an expression of idealist unity. It would subvert democratic centralism and lay the basis for the principle of opportunism.

Abstract Unity

Unity on the basis of abstract principles would also result in a purely formal unity. This was evident at the time of the split with the opportunists of the Second International during World War One. Trotskyists of the past claimed to uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat, but in practice counterposed socialism in one country to world revolution. For this reason, discussions need to clarify the depth of existing differences.

Non-Antagonistic Contradictions

Different trends emerge in the party in the course of struggle and it is possible for these to be in unity at a certain juncture when objective circumstances make this necessary in order to achieve the Party programme or to defend party policy. Examples of this are the unity of Bukharin and Stalin to defeat the left deviation; and the fact that Trotsky was for a time a leading member of the Bolsheviks (but lost little time in demonstrating his inability to adhere to Party discipline). It is only at turning-points in social conditions that significant differences emerge. At such times, ‘one becomes two’, but in such a way that the party is strengthened.

During certain periods, contradictions may be non-antagonistic. Part of the sectarianism of Marxist-Leninists in this country is that they frequently fail to distinguish non-antagonistic contradictions at particular periods. Differences over the ‘historical’ application of Marxist-Leninist principles are non-antagonistic contradictions unless prevailing social conditions are such that the questions that called forth these historical questions are again raised from the realm of the possible to become living questions.

The Party Programme

Differences continually emerge from objective conditions and must be resolved within the party. The party must establish a political programme and an organisational structure designed to put the programme into effect. The purpose of the organisation is to realise the programme.

The form of organisation appropriate to the Communist Party is democratic centralism, which contains both differences (democracy) and concrete unity (centralism).

It is the programme, rather than merely abstract adherence to principles, which is primary and which decides the nature of the party and who is able to further its objectives.

Lines of Demarcation

Lenin, in the Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra, declared ‘Before we can unite, and in order that we may unite, we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation. Otherwise, our unity will be purely fictitious, it will conceal the prevailing confusion and hinder its radical elimination.’ The unity he was working towards was the unity of Marxists, in opposition to those who ‘corrected’ Marxism and removed its revolutionary content.

From the Soviet period up to the present day, lines of demarcation have been drawn between those who upheld the principles of Marxism-Leninism, of which Stalin represented the main defence, including the possibility of socialism in a single country and proletarian internationalism, and those who attacked these principles (Imperialism, Social Democracy, Trotsky, Soviet revisionists).

These principles were developed and applied historically through practice and it is our task to continue to apply and develop them in our own practice today. We must view our principles in the fullness of their historical application but must not allow our differences to bar us from achieving revolutionary unity.

Author: John Green
The Marxist-Leninist Research Bureau
NCMLU

Source

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).”

Stalin’s ‘Anti-Semitism’

 

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The accusation that Stalin was an anti-Semite is a strange one. Neither Stalin’s written texts nor his actions indicate anti-Semitism. Indeed, they indicate precisely the opposite, as I will show in a moment. So those who wish to make the accusation have to rely on hearsay – second- and third-hand snippets from passing conversations, whether from an estranged daughter or from those within and without the USSR who were not favourably disposed to Stalin.[1] And once such a position is ‘established’, it is then possible to read some of his actions and written comments in such a light. For instance, the ‘anti-cosmopolitan’ campaign of the late 1940s becomes a coded ‘anti-Semitic’ campaign. Or the ‘doctors plot’ of 1952-53 – in which leading doctors were suspected of seeking to assassinate government officials – is seen as an excuse for a widespread anti-Semitic purge and deportation,[2] halted only because of Stalin’s death (we may thank Khrushchev for this piece of speculation). However, the only way such an assumption can work is that many doctors in the Soviet Union were Jewish; therefore the attack on doctors was anti-Semitic. Equally, even more doctors were Russian, but for some strange reason, the plot is not described as anti-Russian.

Unfortunately for Stalin’s accusers, even the hearsay indicates that Stalin was opposed to the deep-rooted anti-Semitism of Russian culture. During the anti-cosmopolitan campaign of 1948-49 – which was actually anti-capitalist in the wake of the Second World War – it became the practice in some journal articles to include, where possible, the original family names in brackets after the Russian name. Sometimes, such original names were Jewish. When Stalin noticed this he commented:

Why Mal’tsev, and then Rovinskii between brackets? What’s the matter here? How long will this continue …? If a man chose a literary pseudonym for himself, it’s his right…. But apparently someone is glad to emphasise that this person has a double surname, to emphasise that he is a Jew…. Why create anti-Semitism?[3]

Indeed, to the Romanian leader, Gheorghiu-Dej, Stalin commented pointedly in 1947, ‘racism leads to fascism’.[4] At this point, we face an extraordinary contradiction: those who would accuse Stalin of anti-Semitism must dismiss his deep antipathy to fascism and deploy the reductio ad Hitlerum. If one assumes, even subconsciously, that Hitler and Stalin were of the same ilk, then it follows that Stalin too must be an anti-Semite. Apart from the sheer oxymoron of an anti-fascist fascist, this assertion seems very much like the speculative thought bubble that becomes ‘true’ through a thousand repetitions.[5]

I prefer to follow a rather conventional approach, instead of relying on hearsay, gossip and speculation. That approach is to pay attention to his written statements and actions. These are rather telling. Already in ‘Marxism and the National Question’ (1913), in which Stalin deals extensively with the Jews and the Bund (The General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia), he points out that dispersed minorities such as the Jews would be given the full range of protections, in terms of language, education, culture and freedom of conscience, within a socialist state. This would become his standard position, reiterated time and again and contrasted with the tsarist autocracy’s fostering of pogroms.[6] It was also reflected in extensive programs among Jews, including the fostering – not without problems and failures – of Yiddish, Jewish institutions and the significant presence of Jews at all levels of government.[7]

From time to time, Stalin had to deal with outbursts of anti-Semitism that still ran deep in Russian culture (thanks to the residual influence of tsarist autocracy). For example, in 1927 he explicitly mentions that any traces of anti-Semitism, even among workers and in the party is an ‘evil’ that ‘must be combated, comrades, with all ruthlessness’.[8] And in 1931, in response to a question from the Jewish News Agency in the United States, he describes anti-Semitism as an ‘an extreme form of racial chauvinism’ that is a convenient tool used by exploiters to divert workers from the struggle with capitalism. Communists, therefore, ‘cannot but be irreconcilable, sworn enemies of anti-semitism’. Indeed, in the U.S.S.R. ‘anti-semitism is punishable with the utmost severity of the law as a phenomenon deeply hostile to the Soviet system’. Active ‘anti-semites are liable to the death penalty’.[9]

This was no empty boast, as those who accuse Stalin of anti-semitism seem to assume. It is worth noting that article 123 of the 1936 Constitution ensured that this position was law.[10]Active anti-Semitism, even racial slurs, were severely punished. It may be surprising to some, but one of the key tasks of the NKVD (precursor to the KGB) was to counteract waves of residual anti-Semitism.[11] Yes, one of the jobs of the infamous secret police of the USSR was to root out anti-Semitism.

Further, the ‘affirmative action’ program of the Soviet Union,[12] enacted in Stalin’s capacity as Commissar for Nationality Affairs (1917-24), was explicitly a program in which territories of identifiable ethnic minorities were established, with their own languages and forms of education, the fostering of literature and cultural expression, and local forms of governance. As for dispersed minorities, even within such regions, they were provided with a stiff framework of protections, including strong penalties for any form of racial denigration and abuse. Already in 1913 Stalin had prefigured such an approach, specifying among others ‘the Jews in Poland, the Letts in Lithuania, the Russians in the Caucasus, the Poles in the Ukraine, and so on’.[13] They too – in a program of indigenization (korenizatsiia)[14] – should be able to use their own languages, operate their own schools, law-courts and soviets, and have freedom of conscience in matters relating to religion. Indeed, by the mid-1930s the Jews too were identified as a ‘nation’ with territory, having the Jewish Autonomous district in Birobidzhan.[15] This importance of this move (part of Crimea had also been proposed) is rarely recognised. It eventually failed, but it was the first move towards Jewish territory in the modern era.[16]

A final question: what about the attacks on Judaism as a religion? In 1913, Stalin wrote of the ‘petrified religious rites and fading psychological relics’[17] fostered by pockets of the ‘clerical-reactionary Jewish community’.[18] Is this anti-Semitic? No, it is anti-religious. Judaism too was subject anti-religious campaigns, which had the result not so much of divorcing Jews from their religious ‘roots’ but of producing a profound transformation in Jewish institutions and culture, so much so that one can speak of a ‘sovietisation’ of Jewish culture that produced Jews who were not religious but proud of contributions to Soviet society.[19]

What are we to make of all this? Do the hearsay and implicit assumptions speak the truth, or do Stalin’s words and actions speak the truth? I prefer the latter. But if we are to give some credence to the hearsay, then it may indicate a profoundly personal struggle for a Georgian, who was brought up with an ingrained anti-Semitism, to root it out in the name of socialism.

[1] For useful collections of such hearsay, see Erik Van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Patriotism  (London: Routledge Curzon, 2002), 201-7; Erik Van Ree, “Heroes and Merchants: Stalin’s Understanding of National Character,” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 8, no. 1 (2007).

[2] Jonathan Brent and Vladimir P. Naumov, Stalin’s Last Crime: The Plot Against the Jewish Doctors, 1948-1953  (New York: HarperCollins, 2003); Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar  (London: Phoenix, 2003), 626-39.

[3] Van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Patriotism, 205.

[4] Van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Patriotism, 205.

[5] As a small sample, see Benjamin Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 138-45; Vojtech Mastny,The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity: The Stalin Years, vol. Oxford University Press (Oxford, 1996), 157-58, 162; Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice  (New York: W. W. Norton, 1999), 33-38; Philip Boobyer, The Stalin Era  (London: Routledge, 2000), 78; Konstantin Azadovskii and Boris Egorov, “From Anti-Westernism to Anti-Semitism: Stalin and the Impact of the ‘Anti-Cosmopolitan’ Campaigns of Soviet Culture,”Journal of Cold War Studies 4, no. 1 (2002); Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, 310-12; Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin  (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007), 264; Van Ree, “Heroes and Merchants: Stalin’s Understanding of National Character,” 45; Paul R. Gregory, Terror By Quota: State Security from Lenin to Stalin (An Archival Study)  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 53, 265.

[6] I. V. Stalin, “The Russian Social-Democratic Party and Its Immediate Tasks,” in Works, vol. 1, 9-30 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1901 [1954]), 20-21; I. V. Stalin, “Rossiĭskaia sotsial-demokraticheskaia partiia i ee blizhaĭshie zadachi,” in Sochineniia, vol. 1, 11-32 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1901 [1946]), 21-23; I. V. Stalin, “To the Citizens: Long Live the Red Flag!,” in Works, vol. 1, 85-89 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1905 [1954]); I. V. Stalin, “K grazhdanam. Da zdravstvuet krasnoe znamia!,” in Sochineniia, vol. 1, 84-88 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1905 [1946]); I. V. Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” in Works, vol. 2, 300-81 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1913 [1953]), 319-21; I. V. Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” in Sochineniia, vol. 2, 290-367 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1913 [1946]), 308-10; I. V. Stalin, “Abolition of National Disabilities,” in Works, vol. 3, 17-21 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1917 [1953]), 17; I. V. Stalin, “Ob otmene natsionalʹnykh ogranicheniĭ,” in Sochineniia, vol. 3, 16-19 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1917 [1946]), 16; I. V. Stalin, “The Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question: Theses for the Tenth Congress of the R. C. P. (B.) Endorsed by the Central Committee of the Party,” in Works, vol. 5, 16-30 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1921 [1953]), 17, 27; I. V. Stalin, “Ob ocherednykh zadachakh partii v natsionalʹnom voprose: Tezisy k Х s”ezdu RKP(b), utverzhdennye TSK partii,” in Sochineniia, vol. 5, 15-29 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1921 [1947]), 16, 26; Stalin, “Concerning the Presentation of the National Question,” 52-53; Stalin, “K postanovke natsionalʹnogo voprosa,” 52-53.

[7] Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 58-71, 77-84; Anna Shternshis, Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939  (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), xv-xvi.

[8] I. V. Stalin, “The Fifteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U.(B.), December 2-19, 1927,” in Works, vol. 10, 274-382 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1927 [1954]), 332; I. V. Stalin, “XV s”ezd VKP (b) 2–19 dekabria 1927 g,” in Sochineniia, vol. 10, 271-371 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1927 [1949]), 324.

[9] I. V. Stalin, “Anti-Semitism: Reply to an Inquiry of the Jewish News Agency in the United States,” in Works, vol. 13, 30 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1931 [1954]), 30; I. V. Stalin, “Ob antisemitizme: Otvet na zapros Evreĭskogo telegrafnogo agentstva iz Аmerik,” in Sochineniia, vol. 13, 28 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1931 [1951]), 28.

[10] I. V. Stalin, “Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, With amendments adopted by the First, Second, Third, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Sessions of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., Kremlin, Moscow, December 5, 1936,” in Works, vol. 14, 199-239 (London: Red Star Press, 1936 [1978]), article 123; I. V. Stalin, “Konstitutsiia (osnovnoĭ zakon) soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik (utverzhdena postanovleniem chrezvychaĭnogo VIII s”ezda sovetov soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik ot 5 dekabria 1936 g.),” (Moscow: Garant, 1936 [2015]), stat’ia 123. This also applied to the earliest constitutions of republics, such as the RSFSR, Ukraine and Belorus. See Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 52-57.

[11] Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 84-88; Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 169, 186-87.

[12] Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939  (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001); Terry Martin, “An Affirmative Action Empire: The Soviet Union as the Highest Form of Imperialism,” in A State of Nations: Empire and Nation-Making in the Age of Lenin and Stalin, ed. Ronald Grigor Suny and Terry Martin, 67-90 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

[13] Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” 375-76; Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” 362. See also the exposition of the seventh and ninth clause of the Party Program, concerning equal rights, language and self-government in I. V. Stalin, “The Social-Democratic View on the National Question,” in Works, vol. 1, 31-54 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1904 [1954]), 42-46; I. V. Stalin, “Kak ponimaet sotsial-demokratiia natsionalʹnyĭ vopros?,” in Sochineniia, vol. 1, 32-55 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1904 [1946]), 43-47.

[14] Korenizatsiia, a term coined by the Bolsheviks, is ‘derived directly not from the stemkoren- (“root”—with the meaning “rooting”) but from its adjectival form korennoi as used in the phrase korennoi narod (indigenous people)’ Martin, “An Affirmative Action Empire: The Soviet Union as the Highest Form of Imperialism,” 74.

[15] Stalin, “Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, With amendments adopted by the First, Second, Third, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Sessions of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., Kremlin, Moscow, December 5, 1936,” article 22; Stalin, “Konstitutsiia (osnovnoĭ zakon) soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik (utverzhdena postanovleniem chrezvychaĭnogo VIII s”ezda sovetov soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik ot 5 dekabria 1936 g.),” stat’ia 22.

[16] For a little detail, see Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 71-76.

[17] Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” 310; Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” 300.

[18] Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” 374-75; Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” 361.

[19] Shternshis, Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939, 1-43.

Source

Socialism and Bureaucracy

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In the following article, A. Clark examines the problem of bureaucracy from the point of view of a society going through a process of socialist transformation. He suggests that the continually advancing technological revolution in the field of computerisation and the communication and information revolution will serve as the material base to resolve most or even all of the problems associated with bureaucracy.

THE SOCIALIST REVOLUTION ENCOUNTERS BUREAUCRACY

The first successful socialist seizure of power by the working class did not end, but rather more aptly started with the problems of bureaucracy. Lenin’s initial optimism on having curtailed bureaucracy and its nefarious influence was short-lived. This was replaced by a more realistic view of the nature of the problem. In 1922, Lenin noted that

‘If we take Moscow with its 4,700 communists in responsible positions, we must ask: who is directing whom? I doubt very much whether it can be said that the communists are directing that heap. To tell the truth, they are not directing, they are being directed’. (Lenin: Vol. 33, pp.288-289)

Here Lenin identifies what was to become a perennial theme of the Russian socialist revolution – the relation between the communists and the soviet bureaucracy, which included the struggle between them. Pre-Revolutionary Russia had behind it a long bureaucratic tradition and this bureaucratic past was superimposed, so to speak, on the new revolution. But in addition to the superimposition of this bureaucratic past on the new revolution, there was the fact that the state increasingly began to direct all aspects of the national economy. Even the collective farms, which emerged after the collectivisation drive in the 1930s, although not state institutions, were not completely autonomous from the state. The extension of state ownership and therefore the role of the state in the economy were bound to increase the size of the state administration and therefore a tendency towards bureaucracy was reinforced.

The increase in the size of the means of administration as a consequence of the extension of the regulatory influence of the state over the economy is not necessarily identical with what is referred to as the problem of bureaucracy, although it is often related to it. In other words, bureaucracy and administration are not the same thing even if usually closely related.

The view that state ownership necessarily leads to an increase in bureaucracy is not a valid argument, although it is a favourite argument for those who want to argue a case against socialism. Most theorists on bureaucracy disagree about the exact meaning of the term, and indeed, the problem of bureaucracy will arise mostly in cases where a bureaucracy is incompetent and dysfunctional. The soviet bureaucracy was a case in point. It had largely been inherited from Tsarism. Lenin had considered that, if the soviet bureaucracy rose to the level of competence of a bureaucracy that existed in one of the advanced bourgeois democratic republics, this would have constituted a big step forward for the Workers State. Had Russia gone through a long period of a bourgeois democratic republic, the problems of bureaucracy as it applies to the functional side of the question may hardly have arisen at all, at least no more than in an advanced capitalist country.

In historical terms Russia skipped a long period of bourgeois democratic development, and so the problems of bureaucracy were posed in a rather sharp, and at times, aggressive manner. To the functional side of the question of bureaucracy were added the socio-political problem of the state bureaucracy, or its leading stratum, consolidating itself into a special, privileged caste elevated above the masses.

BUREAUCRACY AND COUNTERREVOLUTION

The struggle against the soviet bureaucracy consolidating itself into a special privileged caste, which could usurp political power, or subvert the struggle for socialism, is part of the history of the Russian socialist revolution. Lenin in his writings on soviet bureaucracy refers to bureaucratic ‘grandees’. Svetlana, Stalin’s daughter, mentions Stalin’s reference to a ‘damned caste’. [1]

Stalin’s role here was decisive. He was in the forefront of the anti-bureaucratic struggle, which included the struggle against the soviet bureaucracy turning itself into a caste, which could potentially seize political power. This has been described by one writer as Stalin’s anti-bureaucrat scenario. [2] Thus in the middle and late 1930s the struggle against the enemies hiding in the soviet bureaucracy came to a head. Even as early as 1919, Lenin had pointed out that

‘The Tsarist bureaucrats began to join the Soviet institutions and practice their bureaucratic methods, they began to assume the colouring of communists and, to succeed better in their careers, to procure membership cards of the Russian Communist Party’. (Lenin: March 1919, Vol. 29; p.183)

The nature of these purges has confused many bourgeois writers on the revolution. Pseudo-left elements, especially Trotskyists, misconstrue the purges completely suggesting that they represented counterrevolution. In reality, the purges were directed against the counterrevolution, which is the emerging new consensus of the more serious writers although they are anti-Stalinist.

That Trotsky could convince his small band of devotees that the purges were counterrevolutionary is not altogether surprising. After losing political power, Trotsky eventually abandoned the Leninist view on combating bureaucracy. Lenin had argued that the struggle against bureaucracy was a long-term process.
Trotsky rejected this view when he found himself outside of the communist party. On the question of fighting bureaucracy, Trotsky went over to a short-term perspective, misleading those who were ignorant or foolish enough to follow him, to believe that the problems arising from bureaucracy could be resolved by means of a ‘political revolution’. This is precisely what Lenin had warned against, i.e., making a political platform out of the issue of bureaucracy.

Trotsky, rejecting Lenin on this issue and his slogan of ‘political revolution’ against the soviet bureaucracy could only serve the interest of bourgeois democratic counterrevolution. It is perhaps necessary to add here that when the Stalinist leadership turned against soviet bureaucracy, they were not going against Lenin’s advice on how to combat bureaucracy. [3] The Stalinist drive against the soviet bureaucracy served several different purposes. For Stalin, like Lenin, there could be no talk of smashing or overthrowing the soviet bureaucracy. While Trotsky and his supporters were putting forward the ultra-left theory about a counterrevolutionary ‘Stalinist’ bureaucracy, the Stalinists, guided by Marxism-Leninism saw the issue not in terms of overthrowing the supposedly counterrevolutionary soviet bureaucracy but rather purging the counterrevolutionary elements in the soviet bureaucracy.

It is clear that Marxist-Leninists, like Stalin, rejected Trotsky’s short-term strategy for fighting bureaucracy based on the idea of a political revolution. Trotsky had reached this conclusion not because it was scientifically correct, but rather because he saw it as the only means of regaining political power. On the question of fighting bureaucracy, Stalin adhered to Lenin’s line.

The more serious bourgeois researchers into these matters come closer to the truth than any Trotskyist interpretation, thus Getty, when referring to the purges of the middle and late 1930s concludes that

‘The evidence suggests that the Ezhovschchina – which is what most people mean by the ‘Great Purges’ – should be redefined. It was not the result of a petrified bureaucracy stamping out and annihilating old radical revolutionaries. In fact, it may have been just the opposite. It is not inconsistent with the evidence to argue that the Ezhovschchina was rather a radical, even hysterical, reaction to bureaucracy’. (J. Arch Getty: The Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party reconsidered – 1933-1938; p.206) [4]

In Getty’s view, then, the Stalinist purges constitute a radical, ‘even hysterical, reaction to bureaucracy’. This was certainly the apogee of radical Stalinist anti-bureaucratism. For Stalin the soviet bureaucracy had to be purged of all actual and potential counterrevolutionary elements. It was not a question of overthrowing the soviet bureaucracy, as the ultra-left Trotskyists would have, but rather of purging it of all counterrevolutionary elements. Many believe that the Soviet Union would not have stood up to the later Nazi aggression had this action not been taken.

Stalin’s anti-bureaucratic credentials can therefore be clearly established, although the problems of bureaucracy remained and could not be solved until society had reached a higher technical level.

In one form or another, to one degree or another previous socialist regimes have had to face this problem. The Titoite revisionists of Yugoslavia saw the solution in terms of decentralisation. In socialist Albania, the Cultural Revolution, with bureaucracy as one of its targets, began when in 1966 the Central Committee sent an open letter to all party members attacking the evils of bureaucracy. There began a significant reduction in the size of bureaucracy and Albania copied the Maoist line. Those bureaucrats who remained had to spend one month each year performing service in manual labour to keep them in touch with the working class and peasantry.

In truth though, this approach, whether in China or Albania, had no long-term benefits. It did however succeed in alienating the administrative staff, who naturally saw themselves as victims and were resentful of the disruption caused to the economy by these anti-bureaucratic drives.

As previously pointed out, the struggle against bureaucracy in a socialist country has two sides to it. First, there is the struggle against the dysfunctional aspect of bureaucracy. This includes the gradual reduction of the size of bureaucracy, while improving its administrative performance. The other aspect of this struggle is that aimed at preventing the bureaucracy, in particular its managerial layers separating itself from the rest of society – and becoming a privileged caste which can seize political power. Because bureaucracy has no particular ideology or ownership of property holding it together the possibility of it actually seizing political power is rather more problematic than is often realised.

THE WITHERING AWAY OF THE STATE AND BUREAUCRACY

For Marxists, the state is the inevitable product of class society. As classes fade away, the state in the sense of bodies of armed men and all its appurtenances, for the repression of one class by another will fade away. Bureaucracy is one of the forms in which state power in class society expresses itself. The function of the state is to defend a particular social set-up and its ruling class. This applies to socialist society with the same force as it applies to capitalist society. As long as capitalism and the bourgeoisie exist all talk about the withering away of the state is foolhardy in the extreme.

The Soviet State illustrates this point clearly. It had to grow in power and strength in order to resist the pressure of imperialism and world reaction. Those, like the Yugoslav revisionists who attacked Stalin for not promoting a premature withering away of the state, simply demonstrate their anarchist and anti-Marxist conceptions of this process. The state rises and falls with class society. Its departure from the historical stage cannot precede the departure of classes.

Just as Marxist-Leninists want a state that serves socialism, they want the bureaucracy to serve socialism as well. Stalin’s struggle with the soviet bureaucracy is well known and documented. This struggle was certainly inevitable. The essence of this struggle was to get the bureaucracy to serve the interest of socialism. But Stalin understood the contradictory nature of the struggle against bureaucracy. He knew the communist must struggle against bureaucracy while using it at the same time. Bureaucracy is a means of administration by specialists, which is deployed in the interest of socialism by the political leadership of the working class, while at the same time fighting its negative aspects.

When the state takes over the running of industry this can lead to an increase in its administrative functions, and hence bureaucracy. However, it is wrong to view an increase in administrative bureaucracy as a logical result of socialism per se. It is rather a result of the technological level of the given society. Thus, the state of technology comes into play when we consider the extent of the process of bureaucratisation. In other words, the process of bureaucratisation is determined by science and technology.

In today’s world of the continuing rapid advances in the technological revolution, with no end in sight, administrative systems are bound to reflect technological advances. This would suggest that administrative systems will decrease in size while increasing in their ability to process and control information. The old views that state ownership and socialism lead inevitably to an increase in administrative bureaucracy will no longer be plausible. Implicit in all this is the withering away of the state and bureaucracy.

This process, i.e., the withering away of the state and bureaucracy is part of the process of achieving communist society based on advancing technological revolution. For these reasons, it is incumbent on serious Marxists to reject pseudo-left Trotskyist theories that bureaucracies under socialism can be overthrown by means of ‘political revolutions’.

A. Clark.

Notes

[1] Svetlana Alliluyeva: 20 Letters to a Friend; p. 174.

[2] See Lars Lih’s introduction to: Stalin’s Letters to Molotov.

[3] The term ‘Stalinist’ refers to those who supported Stalin.

[4] The word ‘Ezhovschchina’, from the name Ezhov, sometimes spelt Yezhov, was the name of Nikolai Ezhov, who replaced Yagoda as head of Soviet security and subsequently put in charge of the purges.

Color Me Unimpressed: Rejoinder to Jason Unruhe

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“All we can do is to laugh as we gaze at this spectacle, for one cannot help laughing when one sees a man fighting his own imagination, smashing his own inventions, while at the same time heatedly asserting that he is smashing his opponent.”

 — J.V. Stalin.

In recent years, I have heard much talk about a supposed “Cold War” between myself and Jason Unruhe, better known to the internet as Maoist Rebel News. That would seem to imply that we are rivals, sparring partners, or even “frenemies.” To be clear: MRN and ES are not rivals, because that would imply we are comparable or even equals. Our “rivalry” has been entirely in the obsessive mind of Jason, who has taken every opportunity to viciously slander me and many, many others. It is therefore less a “Cold War” and more like a belligerent drunk screaming racial slurs at a certain car every time it drives by (which is a pretty apt metaphor for his past behavior); it is not a boxing match; it is a single incorrigible individual acting out.

But let’s get to business. In my article, “Lin Biaoism and the Third World: How Idealism Distorts Class,” I dissect what I term “Lin Biaoist” tendencies within Maoism and many other communist ideologies. Jason Unruhe has penned what he alleged to be a reply.

I would say this follow-up will act as a refutation of his points, but that would imply that he had any points to begin with. I would also point out my article cited many scholarly and primary sources. Jason Unruhe’s “refutation” cites precisely nothing. Instead, I’ll say this is an exercise in pointing out his flawed complaints and opinions presented as fact. One complaint in particular stood out to me:

“His article is unnecessarily long”

Dear reader, when you see a complaint like this, it’s code for “I didn’t read the article.” While I thank Jason Unruhe for informing us of his ignorance regarding the content of my work, it was completely unnecessary – the contents of his own “refutation” do that well enough. Indeed, I very much doubt Jason even read my article, because he utterly ignores my dissection of “Lin Biaoism” and just repeats his usual slurs.  I don’t pretend, nor do I want to know, the actions or activities of Jason Unruhe, but I surmise what happened is that he saw the title of my article and rushed off to pen his diatribe without actually reading it.

In fact, everything he says in his “rebuttal,” I dealt with extensively in the original article. Let me explain by breaking down the four main “points” Unruhe brings forward. He says:

“Any rift between Mao and Lin Biao is irrelevant to whether or not a theory is correct.”

This seems less like a point against my article and more like a textbook definition of attributing a position to someone that they simply don’t hold. My article extensively catalogues the rift between Mao and Lin Biao because it was a defining moment in Chinese history. Apparently explaining the origins of “third-worldism” is now associating it with a particular rift. I exhaustively cover the rift between Lin Biao and Mao to give context to his ideas and how they form a subset of Maoism, though a distinct one that is different than most. Unruhe has fundamentally misunderstood the entire purpose of the piece, or more likely, has willfully distorted it out of some combination of ignorance and malice.

“Pointing to Mao’s errors isn’t an argument against Third Worldism.”

Technically, I suppose this point is correct. Reality is just as much an argument against “third-worldist” tendencies as anything else. But as was the entire thesis of my article to begin with, modern “third-worldism” is largely based on Lin Biao’s ideas, distortions of Maoism, and anti-Marxist historical figures like Sultan-Galiyev:

“Lin Biao, in an attempt to apply the Maoist concept of people’s war to the international struggle, pioneered an early version of Mao’s later “theory of three worlds” which perceives the world as being a global countryside surrounding a global city. [….] Modern third-worldism is largely based on Lin Biaoism, though it has perhaps its earliest roots in the theories of Mirza Sultan-Galiyev.”

Unruhe continues to not actually address any of the content of the article or my points, or cite any sources of his own. My article discusses the origins of how “Lin Biaoist” ideas came about, and why they are wrong. Even when he attempts to “refute,” he seems content with refuting things no one ever said. The worst example of this can be seen in points three and four:

Mao was not a “Third Worldist,” nor is Third Worldism Maoist. (He doesn’t even understand the term.)

And:

Finally, as he’s had to be told on numerous occasions (showing his blatant dishonesty), Third Wolrdism has nothing to do with Three Worlds Theory. If he had any critical thinking skills he’d know that Three World’s Theory is anti-Third Worldist.

This is one of the more genuinely puzzling accusations he levels, since the fact that Mao wasn’t a “third-worldist” is precisely what I argue in my article:

“It is accurate to say that the roots of modern third-worldism are based in Maoism itself, in the peasant-based theories of Mao and especially Lin Biao. The three worlds theory, or the “theory of the three-part world” developed by Mao Tse-tung in 1974 was based entirely on China’s strategic interests. It was part of Chinese foreign policy in the 1970s as I have mentioned, and part of it was claiming U.S. imperialism was weak, citing for example its defeat in Vietnam, whereas Soviet social-imperialism was a rising and more dangerous imperialist power and a growing threat to humanity, akin to Nazi Germany. This position was supported dogmatically under Hua Guofeng but quietly dropped in the 1980s after the rise of Deng Xiaoping to the leadership of China when Sino-Soviet ties improved. But, as reactionary and mistaken as Mao’s three worlds theory might have been, and opportunist and anti-communist as was the Chinese foreign policy during that era, one cannot say Mao Tse-tung was a third-worldist in the modern sense by any stretch of the imagination. As perverse as the “theory of the three worlds” might be, present-day third-worldists are a perversion even of that shaky theoretical basis.

I then go on to offer numerous Mao quotes that prove he did not support “Lin Biaoist” or “third-worldist” thought in the modern sense. Later on, I note:

“Third-worldists today uphold the theories of Lin Biao and largely reject the Chinese policies during this period, accusing the Chinese leadership, and even Mao Tse-tung himself, of “first-worldism” for supporting the class struggles of the workers in the ‘first world.’”

And one more time:

“For some of these pseudo-Marxists, they do not qualify either as Lin Biaoists or third-worldists because of some various trivial minutiae, such as not outwardly calling themselves such labels, such complexity does their ideology have, you see, that it defies categorization except that which is convenient for its defenders. I do not seek to say that all the differing theories I use as examples of this tendency are precisely the same; what I’d like to point out is the common failing between Lin Biaoism, the theories of Sultan-Galiyev, Kautsky’s ‘ultra-imperialism,’ Mao’s ‘theory of the three worlds,’ and modern third-worldists.

Unruhe might have known this had he read the article. Furthermore, the idea that “third-worldism” isn’t Maoist is shaky at best. While “third-worldist” ideas may penetrate into other ideologies, it should be obvious to even the casual observer that they are largely based on distortions of Maoist ideology, and many such people identify as Maoists. Of course, Unruhe says nothing about the crux of the analysis just shouts about “dogmatists” and “Mao was a first worldist” and “Hoxha was a racist.”

As is typical of both his articles and his videos, he talked and wrote a lot and didn’t say anything of value at all.

Then, of course, he adds his signature comment:

“The two Whatevers of Hoxhaism. Whatever Stalin said is right and Whatever a Marxist of color said is wrong.”

If you look at that statement, it’s a classic “big lie” of Goebbelsian proportions. It’s something so extreme and off-the-wall that someone reading it without any prior knowledge or background would assume he’s correct. It’s also a statement of opinion presented as a statement of fact, and is not substantiated by anything. He presents it as though “everyone knows this,” or “it’s common knowledge” and doesn’t need to be proven – a logical fallacy.

Regarding the “Marxists of color” accusation, the E.S. website, and “Hoxhaism” in general, is positive towards Ho Chi Minh and Che and many other revolutionaries, not to mention that the majority of “Hoxhaist” parties are in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. But hey, what do they know about racism compared to Jason Unruhe.

Finally, though I admit I know little about whatever other “feuds” Unruhe happens to be trying to ignite (most of his slander seems to just be bait so people will reply to him), it’s worth noting that though he accuses myself and the APL of believing, “everything a Marxist of color says is wrong,” on his own website he seems to have an obsessive need to prove that one individual Tom Watts has been ghostwriting articles under Kevin Rashid’s name. That’s a pretty vicious slander, and (guess what!) completely unsubstantiated. But by now everyone should know vicious unsubstantiated slander is Unruhe’s stock-in-trade. For some reason he even feels the need to mention this in his article about me.

Unruhe regularly complains about being slandered and attacked, but he peppers his own rhetoric and half-baked diatribes with plenty of juvenile slander. What goes around, comes around. If all he’s got is to just call me racist every time he sees my name, color me unimpressed.

Lin Biaoism and the Third World: How Idealism Distorts Class

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by Espresso Stalinist

An odd phenomenon is haunting the halls of Maoism – a chauvinist set of ideas loosely forged from the writings of Chinese military officer and politician Lin Biao. These ideas, to the extent to which they form coherent ideology at all, can roughly be termed “Lin Biaoism.” To be perfectly clear, I am under no impression that “Lin Biaoism” is an entirely new ideology. Lin Biao’s works are not significant enough to constitute a new stage of revolutionary science. What does exist is a wing of Maoism, usually associated with the “third-worldist” variety, that upholds the works of Lin Biao in theory and practice. The ideology, such as it is, is not worth refuting. However, its underlying assumptions about proletarian internationalism, imperialism, revolutionary theory and practice are.

I fully expect upon publication these thoughts will have piles of ashes heaped upon them as “first worldism,” as “a total misrepresentation” of the ideas I criticize, and overall rejection of this piece as a reactionary and revisionist writing dedicated to attacking Lin Biao’s theories. But this is par for the course with “third-worldists” of all kinds, who much like anarchists dismiss all criticisms by claiming the author knows not what they criticize. In this essay, I am not concerned with what I allegedly do not know – I am only concerned with what we do know. In this case, what we know about the problems in Lin Biao’s theories.

Lin Biao (1907-1971) was a Chinese revisionist military officer and politician. Born in December 5th, 1907, he graduated from the famous Whampoa Military Academy, then under the command of Chiang Kai-shek. After graduation he joined the armed forces of the Kuomintang (KMT) or Nationalists. During the Northern Expedition he joined the Communist Party. Following the 1927 Shanghai massacre of thousands of workers, trade unionists and Communist Party members, which began the Chinese Civil War, Lin defected to the Red Army. He participated in the Long March and became known as one of the CPC’s most brilliant military commanders and an authority on guerrilla warfare. During the Japanese invasion of China, Lin commanded troops in the Battle of Pingxingguan, one of the few battlefield successes for the Chinese during the first period of the Second Sino-Japanese War. He was forced to retire from active service in 1937 after a serious battlefield injury complicated by tuberculosis and left for Moscow, where from 1937 to 1942 he acted as the representative of the CPC to the Executive Committee of the Communist International, or Comintern.

After the end of World War II and the Soviet liberation of Manchuria from the Japanese, fighting resumed between the Communists and Nationalists. Lin led victorious campaigns of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Manchuria and throughout Northern China against the KMT forces, including the famous Pingjin Campaign, which led to the liberation of Beijing in 1949. His forces then resumed attacks on the KMT in the southeast, which led to securing the major cities of Wuhan and Guangzhou. He was named one of the “Ten Marshals” after the Communist victory and the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Lin mostly abstained from participating politics in the 1950s. In 1962 Lin succeeded Peng Dehuai as commander of the PLA, starting a rectification program among officers and soldiers stressing political education, eventually culminating in the abolition of ranks in the PLA. Lin would rise to political prominence again during the Cultural Revolution.

Lin Biao was the most prominent supporter of the cult of personality around Mao, working to develop it within the PLA in particular. In 1964 it was he who compiled some of Mao’s writings into a handbook, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, also known as the Little Red Book, and ensured it was mass-produced and distributed, first within the PLA, and then throughout the entire People’s Republic.

In September 1965, Lin Biao’s most famous work, “Long Live the Victory of People’s War!” was published, which contains the vast majority of his political theories. It heavily promoted Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war:

“Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war has been proved by the long practice of the Chinese revolution to be in accord with the objective laws of such wars and to be invincible. It has not only been valid for China, it is a great contribution to the revolutionary struggles of the oppressed nations and peoples throughout the world. [….] Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war is not only a product of the Chinese revolution, but has also the characteristics of our epoch.”

And even proclaimed it to be universal:

“It must be emphasized that Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of the establishment of rural revolutionary base areas and the encirclement of the cities from the countryside is of outstanding and universal practical importance for the present revolutionary struggles of all the oppressed nations and peoples, and particularly for the revolutionary struggles of the oppressed nations and peoples in Asia, Africa and Latin America against imperialism and its lackeys.”

It heavily supported the Maoist theory of the revolutionary movement spreading from the countryside to the cities:

“The countryside, and the countryside alone, can provide the broad areas in which the revolutionaries can manoeuvre freely. The countryside, and the countryside alone, can provide the revolutionary bases from which the revolutionaries can go forward to final victory.”

Lin Biao believed this even to the point of arguing against the modernization of the PLA in favor of people’s war. More significantly, in perhaps the most influential part of his pamphlet to modern-day “Lin Biaoists,” Lin Biao applies the Maoist concept of people’s war to the international situation:

“Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’. Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously. In a sense, the contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.”

At the 11th Plenum of the 8th CC in August 1966, a meeting presided over by Mao and guarded by Lin’s troops, the famous big-character poster reading, “Bombard the Headquarters!” was unveiled, written by Mao himself. This was a declaration of war against the “right” elements Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping and other leaders of the party apparatus, and the practical launching of what would come to be called the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” During the Cultural Revolution, after initial control by the Red Guards proved too tenuous the PLA under Lin Biao’s command effectively took over the role of controlling the country previously held by the Communist Party. The GPCR had virtually destroyed the Communist Party and liquidated its organizations, but had greatly strengthened the political role of the army, which largely controlled the provincial Revolutionary Committees and many Ministries and economic enterprises.

The Ninth Congress of the Communist Party of China was held in 1969, during which former President Liu Shaoqi was removed from all posts and expelled from the party. During this Congress Lin built up the cult of Mao more than ever, declaring Mao’s though to be a “higher and completely new stage” of Marxism. He summed up the ideology of Maoism, then called “Mao Tse-tung Thought,” thusly:

“The Communist Party of China owes all its achievements to the wise leadership of Chairman Mao and these achievements constitute victories for Mao Tsetung Thought. For half a century now, in leading the great struggle of the people of all the nationalities of China for accomplishing the new-democratic revolution, in leading China’s great struggle for socialist revolution and socialist construction and in the great struggle of the contemporary international communist movement against imperialism, modern revisionism and the reactionaries of various countries, Chairman Mao has integrated the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of revolution, has inherited, defended and developed Marxism-Leninism in the political, military, economic, cultural, philosophical and other spheres, and has brought Marxism-Leninism to a higher and completely new stage. Mao Tsetung Thought is Marxism-Leninism of the era in which imperialism is heading for total collapse and socialism is advancing to world-wide victory. The entire history of our Party has borne out this truth: Departing from the leadership of Chairman Mao and Mao Tsetung Thought, our Party will suffer setbacks and defeats; following Chairman Mao closely and acting on Mao Tsetung Thought, our Party will advance and triumph. We must forever remember this lesson. Whoever opposes Chairman Mao, whoever opposes Mao Tsetung Thought, at any time or under any circumstances, will be condemned and punished by the whole Party and the whole country.”

During his report to the Ninth Congress, Lin went so far as to proclaim that according to Marxist theory, the main component of the state is the military:

“The People’s Liberation Army is the mighty pillar of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Chairman Mao has pointed out many times: From the Marxist point of view the main component of the state is the army.”

Lin Biao was built up as Mao’s successor to such an extent that during the Ninth Congress, one of the very few congresses held in Chinese history, the idea of Lin as successor in the event of Mao’s resignation or death was literally written into the Constitution of the CPC. It was passed on April 14th, 1969. It stated:

“Comrade Lin Piao has consistently held high the great red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s Thought and he has most loyally and resolutely carried out the defended Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s proletarian revolutionary line. Comrade Lin Piao is Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s closest comrade-in-arms and successor.”

This favored position would not last. A mere four years later, on August 1973, the Tenth Party Congress stated:

“The Congress indignantly denounced the Lin Piao anti-Party clique for its crimes. All the delegates firmly supported this resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China: Expel Lin Piao, the bourgeois careerist, conspirator, counter-revolutionary double-dealer, renegade and traitor from the Party once and for all.”

The events leading up to this posthumous denunciation are highly controversial. Lin Biao, along with several members of his family, died mysteriously in a plane crash over Mongolia in September 1971 in circumstances that are still heavily in dispute. It is generally accepted he was trying to flee to the Soviet Union. According to the official Chinese version of events, Lin Biao had attempted to initiate a pro-Soviet coup d’etat that would topple Mao Tse-tung and Zhou En-lai from power to establish a military dictatorship in China, and when he failed in this endeavor, he attempted to flee and sought refuge in the U.S.S.R. As the plane approached the Mongolian border, a gun fight broke out, causing it to crash. Whatever the case, Lin Biao and all on board died in the crash.

In his political diary, Albanian Marxist-Leninist leader Enver Hoxha characterized the Lin Biao affair as more frivolous than a James Bond thriller:

“The question arises: Why should Lin Piao murder Mao and why take his place, when he himself occupied precisely the main position after Mao, was his deputy appointed by the Constitution and by Mao himself? Lin Piao had great renown in China. The Cultural Revolution, ‘the work of Comrade Mao’, had built up his prestige. Then, what occurred for this ‘mutual political trust and the same ideological conviction’ between Mao and Lin Piao to suddenly disappear to the point that the latter organized an attempt on Mao’s life? And this act looks like an episode from ‘James Bond’”

(Hoxha, Reflections on China Vol. I, p. 465).

The rift between Mao and Lin needs to be expressed in solid political terms and not personal terms such as “lust for power” or “jealously” as bourgeois historians are so fond to do. Hard evidence on this matter seems to be scarce due to a lack of surviving evidence, but a few things are undeniable.

For example, Lin was on his way to the Soviet Union because of a split with Mao and his supporters over domestic and foreign policy. In September 1970, the grouping around Mao Tse-tung pressed for a Fourth Five-Year-Plan, which involved a massive program for mechanization of agriculture to be financed by reducing expenditure on the armed forces. This reduction was to be made possible by bringing about a détente with the United States. Lin Biao’s pro-Soviet faction opposed détente with the U.S. This was denounced by Mao and Zhou’s group as “ultra-leftism.” In December 1970, a movement began for a revival of the provincial Communist Party committees, which had been shattered by the Cultural Revolution. This was strongly opposed by Lin and the army leadership, since it would threaten the military’s ascendancy.

I see only two possibilities to this story, and both are somewhat related:

1) Lin Biao did plan and attempt to carry out a military coup against Mao because he wanted to “save” the country and the party from what he saw as a wrong course, or;

2) It was a conspiracy of the more pro-American elements of the CPC, including Mao and Zhou Enlai, to eliminate the most prominent opponent to their domestic and foreign policy.

In either case, clearly there was a huge rift with Mao’s policies, including regarding military control following the GPCR, and the controversial Chinese foreign policy of the late 1960s and 70s.

It is clear that the contradiction between Mao Tse-tung and Zhou Enlai’s group and Lin Biao’s group was a conflict between the wings of the CPC supporting reconciliation and alignment with U.S. imperialism and modernization of society, and supporting rapprochement with Soviet social-imperialism and the continuation of Lin’s “people’s war’ policies, respectively. In December 1970, Mao Tse-tung said American journalist Edgar Snow that he would like to meet President Nixon, and in July 1971, U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger made a secret visit to China. People’s Daily announced soon after that Zhou Enlai had extended an invitation to Nixon to visit China. This no doubt further inflamed conflicts, and it was obvious there were rifts in the Party from 1970-71.

Declassified transcripts of Mao’s conversations with Nixon record him making an unmistakable reference to the “Lin Biao Affair” in 1972:

President Nixon: When the Chairman says he voted for me, he voted for the lesser of two evils.

Chairman Mao: I like rightists. People say you are rightists, that the Republican Party is to the right, that Prime Minister Heath is also to the right.

President Nixon: And General DeGaulle.

Chairman Mao: DeGaulle is a different question. They also say the Christian Democratic Party of West Germany is also to the right. I am comparatively happy when these people on the right come into power.

President Nixon: I think the important thing to note is that in America, at least at this time, those on the right can do what those on the left talk about.

Dr. Kissinger: There is another point, Mr. President. Those on the left are pro-Soviet and would not encourage a move towards the People’s Republic, and in fact criticize you on those grounds.

Chairman Mao: Exactly that. Some are opposing you. In our country also there is a reactionary group which is opposed to our contact with you. The result was they got on an airplane and fled abroad.

Prime Minister Chou: Maybe you know this.

Chairman Mao: Throughout the whole world, the U.S. intelligence reports are comparatively accurate. The next was Japan. As for the Soviet Union, they finally went to dig out the corpses, but they didn’t say anything about it.

Prime Minister Chou: In Outer Mongolia.”

Before long, China threw off its former policy of anti-imperialism, arguing for a strengthening of NATO, support for German reunification and West European integration, support for U.S.-Japanese Security Treaty, declining support for national liberation movements in South Asia, its support for reactionary “liberation” movements supported by imperialist powers (such as UNITA in Angola), and its support of the semi-colonies of imperialist powers, such as Iran, Pakistan, Zaire, fascist Chile and the Philippines.

So, now that I’ve finished this grand history lesson, how does this relate back to modern Maoism? More than you might think after reading, actually. Maoist supporters of the “new-democratic” theory of the Chinese Revolution, as well as the peasant-based theory of “people’s war” largely seek their justifications in Lin’s pamphlet. We have already examined Lin’s representation of the international situation in his 1965 pamphlet. Lin Biao, in an attempt to apply the Maoist concept of people’s war to the international struggle, pioneered an early version of Mao’s later “theory of three worlds” which perceives the world as being a global countryside surrounding a global city. His line as expressed in “Long Live The Victory of People’s War!” represents the absolutizing of the contradiction between imperialism and oppressed nations – and that, more than anything else, is what is key. Lin Biao’s ideas do not speak of the contradiction (at the time) between two opposing systems, socialism and capitalism, or of the contradiction between capital and labor in the capitalist countries, or of the contradiction between the imperialist powers. He misunderstands the entire foundation for the modern revolutionary movement, and raises his vision of the “global countryside” surrounding the “global city” out of dialectical context, treating it as the principal contradiction in the world.

Modern third-worldism is largely based on Lin Biaoism, though it has perhaps its earliest roots in the theories of Mirza Sultan-Galiyev. Sultan-Galiyev was a Tatar pan-Islamic nationalist opposed by Lenin and Stalin. He later began conspiratorial activity, including tried to ally with Trotsky but was rejected, and had ties to the anti-Soviet counterrevolutionary Bashmachi movement. Among other beliefs, Sultan-Galiyev thought that the Muslim peoples were “proletarian peoples” and thus national movements among them were socialist revolutions, that in places inhabited by Muslims, the Communist Party should “integrate” with Islam, which should be brought about by a special Muslim party, and that geographically large territorial units should be formed embracing as many Muslims as possible. He had dreams of creating a pan-Turanian Turkish-Tatar state stretching across Central Asia. He was eventually arrested for his conspiratorial activity and died in prison. Like Sultan-Galiyev, Lin Biao’s analysis is not class-based, and in fact Lin’s pamphlet contains theses very similar to that of “Sultan-Galiyevism”:

“If North American and western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’…the contemporary world revolution…presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples.”

Obviously, no Marxist can deny the contradiction between the imperialist powers and the colonial and semi-colonial countries, which is a major contradiction in the world we live in. Independence and national liberation struggles for independence and national sovereignty led against imperialism is a just struggle which deserves the support of Marxist-Leninists and the world proletariat. But that’s not all Lin Biao does. Here, while recognizing the existence of revolutionary situations and movement in countries in the “third world,” he treats the “third world” as an undifferentiated whole, exaggerating this situation into one in which the entire “third world” is ripe everywhere for revolution. What is also striking about his “countryside versus city” division of the world is his non-class view of the “third world,” its omission of the basic contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and its disregarding of classes and class struggle within those countries, and an utter lack of analysis of the class nature of the regimes which rule there. This way the contradiction between the oppressed peoples and the reactionary and pro-imperialist powers is absolutized.

But the modern preachers of Lin Biaoism go further than to label the “third world” as leader of the liberation movement or the main force in the struggle against imperialism – frequently they proclaim it the only revolutionary force in the world. But to speak about the “third world” as the main force against imperialism and as the main force of the revolution such as the followers of Lin Biaoism, of third-worldism and other theories do ignores (or in some cases intentionally glosses over) the objective fact that the majority of the countries of the “third world” are ruled by agents of imperialism and neo-colonialism. The international view of Lin Biaoism belittles the size and importance of the comprador bourgeoisie and other pro-imperialist forces of the “third world.” To speak of the “third world” as a undifferentiated whole without making any distinction between genuine anti-imperialist revolutionary forces and pro-imperialist, reactionary and fascist ruling classes is to abandon the class struggle and the teachings of Marxism-Leninism openly. It means nothing less than to preach opportunism which cause confusion and disorder among the revolutionary proletariat.

Further, Lin Biaoism says that these countries are the “main anti-imperialist force” in the world. It logically stands to reason that it is not the business of revolutionaries to topple this “main force.” By now, it becomes increasingly apparent that Lin Biaoism is not a scientific approach to Marxism and is in opposition to proletarian internationalism. Lin Biao’s theories deny the role of the vanguard party in both the “third world” and the “first world” nations. Lin Biao’s concepts obscure the character of class struggle, creates illusions and misleads the people. Lin Biaoism is claimed by its followers to be the strategy for revolution today, and yet this strategy has no place for the proletariat or the Marxist-Leninist party. It claims to be a valuable contribution towards a proper analysis of the forces of the world, and yet classes are not mentioned.

Lin Biao’s theoretical understanding is eerily similar to that put forward by Karl Kautsky at the beginning of the century. Kautsky, on the eve of the First World War, postulated that in the field of international relations, a new age was approaching “in which the competition among states will be disabled by their cartel relationship.” He argued “there is nothing further to prevent […] finally replacing imperialism by a holy alliance of the imperialists.” This state of affairs is what he referred to as “Ultra Imperialism.” Kautsky falsely predicted the onset of a new phase of the elimination of contradictions between imperialist and capitalist states. This gave way to reformism, since it remained purely focused on combating “hegemonism” and sees imperialism as a policy, which could be adopted or rescinded at the whim of the ruling class, instead of the latest stage in the development of capitalism. Lenin in contrast, viewed imperialism as the highest and last stage of capitalism – monopoly capitalism that needs the domination of other countries and war. Lenin strongly criticized this theory of Kautsky’s, pointing out his denial of the connection between the rule of monopolies and imperialism, as well as his attempts to portray the rule of finance capital as somehow “lessening” the contradictions inherent in the world economy, when in reality it increases and aggravates them. Lenin summed up thusly:

“The question is: what means other than war could there be under capitalism to overcome the disparity between the development of productive forces and the accumulation of capital on the one side, and the division of colonies and spheres of influence for finance capital on the other?”

(V.I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism).

Uneven development among nations means that capitalists internationally frequently have radically different interests and not all of these interests can be met by full integration of their economic activity within the global marketplace. Any alliance, any “unity” within the capitalist camp is subject to how it benefits the profits of the individual capitalists within such an alliance. Unlike workers, who are able to reap benefits from the struggles of workers all over the world, a capitalist isn’t necessarily benefited by the success of other capitalists. As capitalists are forced to compete for what they perceive to be a limited number of material and market resources, the bonds which have formerly bound them begin to deteriorate.

Lin Biaoist formulations of the world proclaim no actual, concrete program for anti-imperialist struggle, or even for support of national liberation movements of oppressed peoples. What they do, quite in the style of the idealists of the past, is to cloak the question of revolution in bombastic-sounding phrases. Lin Biaoism implicitly capitulates to imperialism by including the reactionaries and comprador bourgeoisie in the same ranks as the people and the revolutionaries of the “third world.” This can only lead to obscuring the radical contradictions characteristic of the monopoly stage of capitalism. Interestingly, Lin Biao portrays imperialism as the main enemy of the world’s people, and yet the same set of theories were used by Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping to ally themselves with imperialism. This is not just a lesson for those in the “first,” “second” or “third” worlds, but the entire world. While some of the supporters of the theory may disagree with specific tactics in the examples I have cited, the overall logic is inescapable.

Of course, there are a never-ending stream of national-chauvinist Marxists who stand ready and willing to assure us that this position of Lin’s conforms more closely to reality than, say, those of Trotsky, who in this case acts as a stand-in for anyone opposed to Lin Biao’s theories, or J. Sakai’s, or Sultan-Galiyev’s, or whoever they happen to be cheering on. These chauvinists are usually quick to conjure demons from oblivion at the sign of the slightest opposition to their theories, such as “Trotskyism” or “Eurocentric” Marxism. Sometimes they are even brave enough to challenge traditional Marxism, which they characterize as ‘Eurocentric” or “mechanical.” As we all know, Marxism consists of choosing between envisioning a dramatic repetition of the events of the Chinese Revolution on a global scale with isolated urban areas in a sea of peasant revolution, or being accused of Euro-chauvinism ourselves. The endless need of revisionists to figure out which demonstrably incorrect line is “closer” to reality never ceases to amaze me, and the debate between Trotskyism, a stand-in for supposedly “Eurocentric” traditional Marxism and Lin Biaoism and its proclamation that the the entire so-called “third world” or “global south” is ready and ripe for revolution is no exception to that.

Today there is much talk about the “first,” “second” or “third” world, a world of “colonized” countries versus “colonizer” countries, of the “global south versus the global north,” etc. All of these terms, of course, conceal the real class nature of these countries. But this is not all, oh no dear reader, not quite all indeed! For recently, these ideas have further paved the way for its modern adherents to apply class labels to entire nations, saying that the “first world” represents a global bourgeoisie and making such claims as the first world populations not representing the true proletariat. Some go even further, and take Lin Biaoist views to outright denying the first world proletariat’s revolutionary potential, dismissing it as inherently reactionary as a class. At first glance, nothing would appear stranger than a group of so-called Marxists in the first world decrying the revolutionary potential of its people. But in fact, it’s no secret that this odd trend of Maoism has emerged as one of the most outwardly vocal, if not particularly politically effective, voices on the American left in recent years.

Whether they claim there are no significant exploited groups in the first world, or that internally colonized peoples are the only real proletariat, or some other variation thereof, modern third-worldism attempts to peddle the same Lin Biaoist theories, despite what differences they may have. Some confuse class as income, while others do not. Some claim that class is one’s personal ideology, i.e. reactionary workers are bourgeois or labor aristocrat, while others do not. Some, like author J. Sakai, claim that every person of European descent in the United States is a net exploiter from the American colonies onwards, and that the U.S. has no proletariat of its own but exists parasitically on colonial peoples, oppressed nations and national minorities, whom he labels the “true proletariat.” Therefore, the entire white working class is reactionary rather than revolutionary and this has always been the case, and therefore working class solidarity between whites, blacks, Hispanics, Natives, Asians and other peoples is impossible. He recognizes white privilege in the form of Euro-American workers being a privileged labor aristocracy which possesses a petty-bourgeois reformist ideology rather than a revolutionary proletarian one. Sakai’s solution is to call for a kind of Bundist separatism, with each racial group creating its own independent organization.

Before I continue, it must be made clear that the labor aristocracy, that is, the stratum of highly-paid and privileged workers bribed by the imperialist bourgeoisie by means of superprofits extracted from colonies and neo-colonies, certainly exists. This has been recognized by all the Marxist classics ever since the strata of the labor aristocracy emerged in Britain in the mid-19th century. This tendency was recognized by Marx and Engels, and they traced this opportunism within the working class movement directly back to British imperialism:

“[T]he English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that the ultimate aim of this most bourgeois of all nations would appear to be the possession, alongside the bourgeoisie, of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat. In the case of a nation which exploits the entire world this is, of course, justified to some extent”

(F. Engels, “Engels to Marx in London,” 7 October 1858).

These views remained consistent over the course of several decades, as seen in this letter from Engels to Kautsky dated twenty-four years later:

“You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy. Well, exactly the same as they think about politics in general: the same as what the bourgeois think. There is no workers’ party here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal-Radicals, and the workers gaily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the world market and the colonies”

(F. Engels, “Engels to Karl Kautsky in Vienna,” 12 September 1882).

V.I. Lenin also identified the source of bribery for the labor aristocracy as the commercial and industrial monopoly of the imperialist countries and their export of capital to the colonial countries:

“Before the war [World War I – E.S.], it was calculated that the three richest countries—Britain, France and Germany—got between eight and ten thousand million francs a year from the export of capital alone, apart from other sources.

It goes without saying that, out of this tidy sum, at least five hundred millions can be spent as a sop to the labour leaders and the labour aristocracy, i.e., on all sorts of bribes. The whole thing boils down to nothing but bribery. It is done in a thousand different ways: by increasing cultural facilities in the largest centres, by creating educational institutions, and by providing co-operative, trade union and parliamentary leaders with thousands of cushy jobs. This is done wherever present-day civilised capitalist relations exist. It is these thousands of millions in super-profits that form the economic basis of opportunism in the working-class movement. In America, Britain and France we see a far greater persistence of the opportunist leaders, of the upper crust of the working class, the labour aristocracy; they offer stronger resistance to the Communist movement. That is why we must be prepared to find it harder for the European and American workers’ parties to get rid of this disease than was the case in our country. We know that enormous successes have been achieved in the treatment of this disease since the Third International was formed, but we have not yet finished the job; the purging of the workers’ parties, the revolutionary parties of the proletariat all over the world, of bourgeois influences, of the opportunists in their ranks, is very far from complete.”

(V.I. Lenin, “The Second Congress of the Communist International”)

“They [Social-Democrats] are just as much traitors to socialism… They represent that top section of workers who have been bribed by the bourgeoisie… for in all the civilised, advanced countries the bourgeoisie rob—either by colonial oppression or by financially extracting ‘gain’ from formally independent weak countries—they rob a population many times larger than that of ‘their own’ country. This is the economic factor that enables the imperialist bourgeoisie to obtain superprofits, part of which is used to bribe the top section of the proletariat and convert it into a reformist, opportunist petty bourgeoisie that fears revolution.”

(V.I. Lenin., “Letter to the Workers of Europe and America,” Pravda; No. 16, January 24, 1919)

Exploitation of the world by imperialist countries and their monopoly position on the global market, as well as their colonial possessions, allowed sections of their proletariat to become bourgeois, and allowed a section of their proletariat to allow themselves to be bribed by the bourgeoisie. Unlike modern third-worldists however, who dismiss the whole of the population of imperialist countries as unexploited and bourgeois, while recognizing the social and economic basis for opportunism and revisionism in the more developed countries, Lenin spoke of the labor aristocracy as a minority of the workers, and that it was the task of the revolutionaries to expose them:

“Neither we nor anyone else can calculate precisely what portion of the proletariat is following and will follow the social-chauvinists and opportunists. This will be revealed only by the struggle, it will be definitely decided only by the socialist revolution. But we know for certain that the ‘defenders of the fatherland’ in the imperialist war represent only a minority. And it is therefore our duty, if we wish to remain socialists to go down lower and deeper, to the real masses; this is the whole meaning and the whole purport of the struggle against opportunism. By exposing the fact that the opportunists and social-chauvinists are in reality betraying and selling the interests of the masses, that they are defending the temporary privileges of a minority of the workers, that they are the vehicles of bourgeois ideas and influences, that they are really allies and agents of the bourgeoisie, we teach the masses to appreciate their true political interests, to fight for socialism and for the revolution…”

(V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”).

He continued:

“The only Marxist line in the world labour movement is to explain to the masses the inevitability and necessity of breaking with opportunism, to educate them for revolution by waging a relentless struggle against opportunism […]”

(V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”).

Enver Hoxha analyzed the origins and class nature of the labor aristocracy, and noted its role in the advent of revisionism and reformism in the Communist Parties as well, particularly in Europe:

“The development of the economy in the West after the war [World War II – E.S.] also exerted a great influence on the spread of opportunist and revisionist ideas in the communist parties. True, Western Europe was devastated by the war but its recovery was carried out relatively quickly. The American capital which poured into Europe through the ‘Marshall Plan’ made it possible to reconstruct the factories, plants, transport and agriculture so that their production extended rapidly. This development opened up many jobs and for a long period, not only absorbed all the free labour force but even created a certain shortage of labour.

This situation, which brought the bourgeoisie great superprofits, allowed it to loosen its purse-strings a little and soften the labour conflicts to some degree. In the social field, in such matters as social insurance, health, education, labour legislation etc., it took some measures for which the working class had fought hard. The obvious improvement of the standard of living of the working people in comparison with that of the time of the war and even before the war, the rapid growth of production, which came as a result of the reconstruction of industry and agriculture and the beginning of the technical and scientific revolution, and the full employment of the work force, opened the way to the flowering amongst the unformed opportunist element of views about the development of capitalism without class conflicts, about its ability to avoid crises, the elimination of the phenomenon of unemployment etc. That major teaching of Marxism-Leninism, that the periods of peaceful development of capitalism becomes a source for the spread of opportunism, was confirmed once again. The new stratum of the worker aristocracy, which increased considerably during this period, began to exert an ever more negative influence in the ranks of the parties and their leaderships by introducing reformist and opportunist views and ideas.

Under pressure of these circumstances, the programs of these communist parties were reduced more and more to democratic and reformist minimum programs, while the idea of the revolution and socialism became ever more remote. The major strategy of the revolutionary transformation of society gave way to the minor strategy about current problems of the day which was absolutized and became the general political and ideological line.”

(Enver Hoxha. Eurocommunism is Anti-Communism. Tirana: 8 Nëntori Publishing House. 1980. pp. 82-83.)

So as we can see, the correct Marxist-Leninist analysis of the labor aristocracy was upheld by all the classics. However, none of this says that a proletariat ceases to exist in those countries. In contrast, modern “third-worldism,” sometimes called “Maoism Third-Worldism” and sometimes not, is the belief that first world workers are non-revolutionary and have the status of a global labor aristocracy lacking a proletarian revolutionary consciousness or revolutionary potential at all, since supposedly imperial capital has tamed them with flashy electronics and consumer products, thus bribing them into passivity. Thus, according to this mode of thought, first world leftists must place their hopes for a revolution on the peoples of the third world. This set of ideas was a common theme in the Maoist-inspired student movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Others since then, particularly since the 1980s, have taken this further and claimed that first world workers actually aren’t exploited at all, and are paid more than the value of their labor, thus making them part of the bourgeoisie complicit in exploiting the third world. In this version of the formulation, the first world is outright reactionary altogether. The only debate between the two types is whether there are any significantly exploited groups in the first world at all, such as prisoners, lumpenproletarians, blacks, Chicanos, etc., or if these people also share in the exploitation of the third world along with their white counterparts.

One of the most common characteristics of modern third-worldism is the tendency to blame the “first world” masses for not rising against capital, and to uphold this as evidence that they posses no revolutionary potential at all. This is especially curious as third-worldists exist almost exclusively within the “first world” themselves, and then mostly in the United States. To explain how they arrived at their revolutionary consciousness, such as it is, they are obliged to make metaphors to individuals like John Brown, and claim that the real reason socialism is not victorious in “first world” countries is that the people there recognize their material interests in following the imperialist bourgeoisie. Some even negate class as an economic classification by saying having a reactionary ideology also makes them labor aristocrats. Of course, if one blames “first world” workers for following and identifying with the dominant ideology of the bourgeoisie, the logical conclusion is to use that same standard for the large amounts of reactionary ideology in the “third world,” too, which tellingly, none of them dare to do. As Marx famously wrote:

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it”

(Karl Marx, “The German Ideology”).

What third-worldists fail to realize is that part and parcel of the material conditions in the U.S. is being subjected to the most powerful, most all pervasive, most advanced apparatus of ideological hegemony the world has ever known. In essence they are asking why socialist ideas are not more widely accepted in the country with the most powerful, advanced, developed and pervasive capitalist media. Most chauvinist of all their justification in relying on the “third world” workers to make the revolution there is that in contrast to the workers in developed countries, who apparently enjoy too many benefits in their minds, the “third world” workers are truly the only one who “have nothing to lose but their chains.” Words cannot describe how incredibly ignorant, and more than that patronizing it is for someone living in the “first world” to point their finger at the entire working class of various nations and declare that they have “nothing to lose” and thus should rise up and potentially face maiming, torture and death so that the third-worldist can sit in his comfortable air-conditioned domicile and post photos expressing “solidarity” on social media. It is strictly up to the parties, organizations and workers themselves in those countries to determine if the time and conditions are ripe for a revolution. Until then, it is arrogant, and dare I say racist, to declare that the entire working population of vast nations have “nothing to lose.” If these renegades actually visited a developing country, they might find that everywhere they went they could find people who would strongly disagree they have “nothing to lose.”

The absolutizing of the phrase which famously ends the Manifesto, namely that the workers “have nothing to lose but their chains,” is just one more example of a recent trend of making political stances out of simple slogans, and increased sloganeering to disguise political dishonesty or even reaction. It’s obvious to any ready that the original phrase was meant by Marx and Engels as a rallying call, instead of an excuse to only classify those people who “have nothing to lose” as revolutionaries or workers. Everyone on the planet, even those living in the most miserable conditions, have “something to lose,” if only their lives and their families. 

It is accurate to say that the roots of modern third-worldism are based in Maoism itself, in the peasant-based theories of Mao and especially Lin Biao. The three worlds theory, or the “theory of the three-part world” developed by Mao Tse-tung in 1974 was based entirely on China’s strategic interests. It was part of Chinese foreign policy in the 1970s as I have mentioned, and part of it was claiming U.S. imperialism was weak, citing for example its defeat in Vietnam, whereas Soviet social-imperialism was a rising and more dangerous imperialist power and a growing threat to humanity, akin to Nazi Germany. This position was supported dogmatically under Hua Guofeng but quietly dropped in the 1980s after the rise of Deng Xiaoping to the leadership of China when Sino-Soviet ties improved. But, as reactionary and mistaken as Mao’s three worlds theory might have been, and opportunist and anti-communist as was the Chinese foreign policy during that era, one cannot say Mao Tse-tung was a third-worldist in the modern sense by any stretch of the imagination. As perverse as the “theory of the three worlds” might be, present-day third-worldists are a perversion even of that shaky theoretical basis.

Modern “third-worldism” – which is an ideological variety of Lin Biaoism – existing outside of the internet has always been negligible. While some early third-worldist movements did exist as activists, none of them have been particularly large and were soon reduced almost exclusively to an internet presence. This has been the case since then. It can therefore be (rightly) inferred that third-worldists almost never have first-hand experience of life and material conditions or conditions of struggle in “third world” countries. It’s always struck me as curious that third-worldism has little to no following in the “third world” itself.

Indeed, the most commonly heard statement comrades from the “third world” made to American Marxist-Leninists is that our struggle here, in the very heart of imperialism, will be decisive. Mao Tse-tung himself made many such statements, such as this one from 1970:

“While massacring the people in other countries, U.S. imperialism is slaughtering the white and black people in its own country. Nixon’s fascist atrocities have kindled the raging flames of the revolutionary mass movement in the United States. The Chinese people firmly support the revolutionary struggle of the American people. I am convinced that the American people who are fighting valiantly will ultimately win victory and that the fascist rule in the United States will inevitably be defeated”

(Mao Tse-tung, “People of the World, Unit and Defeat the U.S. Aggressors and All Their Running Dogs”).

As far back as 1949, Mao spoke of the class struggles within the United States between the people and the ruling class:

“To start a war, the U.S. reactionaries must first attack the American people. They are already attacking the American people – oppressing the workers and democratic circles in the United States politically and economically and preparing to impose fascism there. The people of the United States should stand up and resist the attacks of the U.S. reactionaries. I believe they will”

(Mao Tse-tung, “Talk with American Correspondent Anna Louise Strong”).

As well, in a telegram to William Z. Foster in 1945, Mao wrote regarding the defeat of of Earl Browder’s revisionist and liquidationist line:

“Beyond all doubt the victory of the U.S. working class and its vanguard, the Communist Party of the United States, over Browder’s revisionist-capitulationist line will contribute signally to the great cause in which the Chinese and American peoples are engaged the cause of carrying on the war against Japan and of building a peaceful and democratic world after the war”

(Mao Tse-tung, “Telegram to Comrade William Z. Foster”).

In 1963, Mao also issued a statement supporting working class solidarity in the United States against systematic racism:

“I call upon the workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals, enlightened elements of the bourgeoisie, and other enlightened personages of all colours in the world, white, black, yellow, brown, etc., to unite to oppose the racial discrimination practiced by U.S. imperialism and to support the American Negroes in their struggle against racial discrimination. In the final analysis, a national struggle is a question of class struggle. In the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling clique among the whites which is oppressing the Negro people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals, and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people. At present, it is the handful of imperialists, headed by the United States, and their supporters, the reactionaries in different countries, who are carrying out oppression, aggression and intimidation against the overwhelming majority of the nations and peoples of the world. They are the minority, and we are the majority. At most they make up less than ten percent of the 3,000 million people of the world”

(Mao Tse-tung, “Statement Supporting the Afro-Americans in their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism”).

And again in 1968:

“Racial discrimination in the United States is a product of the colonialist and imperialist system. The contradiction between the Black masses in the United States and the U.S. ruling circles is a class contradiction. Only by overthrowing the reactionary rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class and destroying the colonialist and imperialist system can the Black people in the United States win complete emancipation. The Black masses and the masses of white working people in the United States have common interests and common objectives to struggle for. Therefore, the Afro-American struggle is winning sympathy and support from increasing numbers of white working people and progressives in the United States. The struggle of the Black people in the United States is bound to merge with the American workers’ movement, and this will eventually end the criminal rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class”

(Mao Tse-tung, “A New Storm Against Imperialism”).

As I’ve already shown, Lin Biao’s line, which is much more closely followed by modern third-worldists, saw the primary contradiction in the world as between the global city and global countryside, or the exploited poor countries versus the wealthy imperialist countries, imagining people’s war on a global scale. Some even go as far to say that the waging of people’s war is the true test if a movement is truly communist or not. Third-worldists today uphold the theories of Lin Biao and largely reject the Chinese policies during this period, accusing the Chinese leadership, and even Mao Tse-tung himself, of “first-worldism” for supporting the class struggles of the workers in the “first world.” Of course, revolutionaries in the “third world” saying the working class in the “first world” also wage a decisive struggle are not limited to Mao himself.

Cuban poet and revolutionary José Martí once spoke a phrase which was popularized by Ernesto “Che” Guevara: “I envy you. You North Americans are very lucky. You are fighting the most important fight of all – you live in the heart of the beast.”

During the anti-colonial wars in Vietnam against the French, Ho Chi Minh spoke of the French working class as an ally against the French imperialists:

“If the French imperialists think that they can suppress the Vietnamese revolution by means of terror, they are grossly mistaken. For one thing, the Vietnamese revolution is not isolated but enjoys the assistance of the world proletariat in general and that of the French working class in particular.”

(Ho Chi Minh, “Appeal made on the Occasion of the Founding of the Indochinese Communist Party”).

Ho Chi Minh further said he considered the French and Vietnamese proletariat as two forces which ought to unite together in a common struggle against the French ruling class:

“The mutual ignorance of the two proletariats [French and Vietnamese] gives rise to prejudices. The French workers look upon the native as an inferior and negligible human being, incapable of understanding and still less of taking action. The natives regard all the French as wicked exploiters. Imperialism and capitalism do not fail to take advantage of this mutual suspicion and this artificial racial hierarchy to frustrate propaganda and divide forces which ought to unite”

(Ho Chi Minh, “Some Considerations of the Colonial Question”).

He even spoke of the line, notably from the Second International, that people in developed countries and people in colonial and semi-colonial countries should not unite, supporting the line of Lenin and Stalin in calling it reactionary:

“I will explain myself more clearly. In his speech on Lenin and the national question Comrade Stalin said that the reformists and leaders of the Second International dared not align the white people of the colonies with their coloured counterparts. Lenin also refused to recognize this division and pushed aside the obstacle separating the civilized slaves of imperialism from the uncivilized slaves.

According to Lenin, the victory of the revolution in Western Europe depended on its close contact with the liberation movement against imperialism in enslaved colonies and with the national question, both of which form a part of the common problem of the proletarian revolution and dictatorship.

Later, Comrade Stalin spoke of the viewpoint which held that the European proletarians can achieve success without a direct alliance with the liberation movement in the colonies. And he considered this a counter-revolutionary viewpoint”

(Ho Chi Minh, “Report on the National and Colonial Questions at the Fifth Congress of the Communist International”).

In 1926, J.V. Stalin wrote the following in regards to the workers of Western Europe in supporting the Bolshevik revolution:

“Without the support of the workers of the West we could scarcely have held out against the enemies surrounding us. If this support should later develop into a victorious revolution in the West, well and good. Then the victory of socialism in our country will be final”

(J.V. Stalin, “The Possibility of Building Socialism in our Country”).

Modern third-worldists, whether they base themselves on Lin Biao, Franz Fanon, Sultan-Galiyev, J. Sakai or any number of other theoreticians, claim there is a divergence between “European” socialism and oppressed nations, the countries of the “third world.” These ideas are responsible for the strengthening of the notions of “African socialism,” “Arab socialism” and various other incarnations which claim that Marxism and Leninism are only for Europeans, only for white people. It must be asked: what then, separates the Lin Biaoists from bourgeois nationalists? Indeed, what separates them at all from anti-communists? As we can see, to disparage “first world” workers as an overall counterrevolutionary class and proclaim that “third world” workers are the only ones with truly nothing to lose, and to reject solidarity between them is anti-Marxist, liquidates proletarian internationalism and ignores any idea of revolutionary connectivity between the “third” and “first” worlds. The American left has had to put up with constant subversion of revisionist, counterrevolutionary and bourgeois politics which derail the worker’s movement, and that includes those embracing the Lin Biaoist or third-worldist line.

Lin Biao, like Mao Tse-tung during his “three worlds” period, like Karl Kautsky during his opportunist period, and like the sorry assortment of modern Lin Biaoists, rely on empty and bombastic phrase-mongering, petty-bourgeois pipe dreams represented as the highest r-r-revolutionary Utopianism coupled with a lack of analysis of the real functioning and foundations of the modern economic system.

For some of these pseudo-Marxists, they do not qualify either as Lin Biaoists or third-worldists because of some various trivial minutiae, such as not outwardly calling themselves such labels, such complexity does their ideology have, you see, that it defies categorization except that which is convenient for its defenders. I do not seek to say that all the differing theories I use as examples of this tendency are precisely the same; what I’d like to point out is the common failing between Lin Biaoism, the theories of Sultan-Galiyev, Kautsky’s “ultra-imperialism,” Mao’s “theory of the three worlds,” and modern third-worldists.

What these theories demonstrate is that there are problems when one is too quick to apply phenomenon which can be empirically understood at the national level to phenomena occurring internationally. Many theorists have made such non-class-based arguments in which the old notions of class struggle and imperialism are replaced by more “global” perspectives which perceive the main contradictions within capitalism taking place globally. Inevitably, these ideas later lead those theorists and their adherents to anti-Marxist, anti-scientific conclusions which would render their theories less useful for a concrete understanding of capitalism on the world stage. There are problems which arise in trying to mechanically and haphazardly apply these contradictions in a global way.

The triumph and realization of the proletarian revolution is the main aim of our historical epoch. It must and will necessarily permeate all countries without exception, among them the ones in both the “third” and “first” worlds, regardless of their level of development, and regardless at which stages the revolution will be accomplished. Disregarding this universal law and theorizing about whole nations being labor aristocrats, forgetting the fight against the comprador bourgeoisie, evaluating “third world” countries in a chauvinist way and opposing proletarian internationalism can only mean being neither for national liberation or for proletarian revolution. The proletarian revolution must and will triumph in Africa, Asia, the Americas and in Europe, too. Whoever forgets or distorts this perspective and doesn’t actively fight towards this aim, but instead preaches that the revolution has shifted and that the proletariat of certain countries has to either acknowledge itself as inherently reactionary, or ally itself with its “third world” bourgeoisie, is someone who takes a revisionist and reactionary stance.

While Lin Biao deserves credit for his distinguished career as a military officer in the Chinese Civil War, his theories are not a suitable replacement for the Leninist understanding of imperialism and revolution. Given the profound theoretical problems in Lin Biao’s conceptions of a “global countryside” and “global city,” and the evolution of his supporter’s chauvinist theories, I argue based on the evidence I have presented that the Leninist model is still the best framework for understanding the machinations of the capitalist and imperialist system internationally, even in this moment where ephemeral fashionable words like “third world” and “global south” are on everyone’s lips.

In conclusion, perhaps Lenin said it best:

“The flight of some people from the underground could have been the result of their fatigue and dispiritedness. Such individuals may only be pitied; they should be helped because their dispiritedness will pass and there will again appear an urge to get away from philistinism, away from the liberals and the liberal-labour policy, to the working-class underground. But when the fatigued and dispirited use journalism as their platform and announce that their flight is not a manifestation of fatigue, or weakness, or intellectual woolliness, but that it is to their credit, and then put the blame on the ‘ineffective,’ ‘worthless,’ ‘moribund,’ etc., underground, these runaways then become disgusting renegades, apostates. These runaways then become the worst of advisers for the working-class movement and therefore its dangerous enemies”

(V.I. Lenin, “How Vera Zasulich Demolishes Liquidationism”).

Why Does the Pseudo-Left Hate Grover Furr?

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by Espresso Stalinist

Grover Furr is an American professor and author. He has taught at Montclair State University in New Jersey for over four decades, and has written essays, articles and books on Soviet history in both Russian and English. Though his body of work covers a wide variety of topics, his most famous writings study the period of Soviet history under Joseph Stalin, particularly regarding controversies around the Moscow Trials, the Katyn “massacre,” the events in Poland in 1939, the murder of Sergei Kirov, the Ukrainian famine and Khrushchev’s “secret speech.” Furr’s research on the history of communism, Soviet history and the historical falsifications told against socialism is some of the most remarkable, ground-breaking and enlightening in the world. He uses a very precise and admirable document-based approach to research that is exceedingly valuable and hard to find elsewhere.

This approach, unsurprisingly, has won him more than a fair share of enemies and critics, not only on the right but the left as well. Those on the left who attack Grover Furr are the most peculiar of his critics. Professor Furr is someone that sets about examining historical allegations used to attack socialism, and in his published books and articles finds and publishes objective documentary and archival proof that it is not true, or at least deceptive. In other words, he spends a great deal of time and effort countering bourgeois propaganda about Marxism-Leninism. What has been their response? To attack him. One would think someone who speaks Russian, has translated Russian documents and has access to the archives would be of interest to those looking to learn about the history of socialism. One would further think, that a sincere person who considers themselves a socialist or a Marxist would thank Grover Furr for finding proof that a large portion of what we are told about Stalin and the U.S.S.R. are lies.

We live in an age where most Marxist or progressive academics who dare to challenge the status quo are fired, sidelined, driven out of academia or simply deemed irrelevant. Only a fool would pretend that academic repression isn’t a reality. Yet, when it comes to the brave, bold and challenging works Furr has published, critics universally dismiss them without reviewing the evidence he presents. In discussions, I have never heard them say, “No Professor Furr, I disagree with your thesis statement, and wish to make a counter-thesis. Here are my facts, arguments and sources backing it up.” Instead, what I hear over and over is his work dismissed as “absurd,” “insane,” or Furr himself labeled as a “crackpot” or “Stalinist.” There is almost always an attempt to link his methods of research to anti-Semites and fascists, or even outright call him a “Holocaust denier,” implicitly comparing Soviet history with Nazi Germany.

Why do his critics almost universally behave in this manner? The answer is simply: because they can’t refute anything he says.

For all Furr’s research has contributed to our understanding of Soviet history and to refuting the lies told about life in socialist countries, his critics and opponents have not offered any meaningful refutation of his works or even engaged with the evidence contained therein. When pressed to sum up his theses, the evidence he presents to support them, and then to offer counter-evidence and refutations of their own, silence fills the space. Very few, if any of his critics are capable of defining what specific points of his works they disagree with or can prove false. Often they assert things that are already addressed in the article in question. The opponents of Furr’s research, whatever their ideological differences may be, all share one common thread that over time is rendered impossible to miss. For all their ranting and raving, not a single one directly challenges him on the sources or attempts to refute his argument. There is a concrete reason for this – opposition to Furr’s research comes from knee-jerk anti-communism.

The pseudo-left’s endless venom towards Furr’s work is entirely (no, not partially, or even mostly, but from what I have seen, entirely) devoid of counter-criticism, counter-evidence, contrasting research or engagement in any way, shape or form with Furr’s work. At the present time, there are no scholarly refutations of Grover Furr’s work. Hostile reviews, on the other hand, are plentiful. Nor is there any lack of critics who chant “give us more evidence,” demanding a larger amount of evidence to their satisfaction – which of course, is a level of evidence that will never exist, no matter how much of it there is. Another consistent pattern with his critics is that they assume that an author must be able to prove the meaning of their research to the satisfaction of a hostile or skeptical critic in order to be considered valid. If the author fails to accomplish this task, it proves that he or she doesn’t understand what it means, and furthermore their failure to do so is definitive proof that the entirety of the research is consequently meaningless.

The debate on Grover Furr is always about form – the person, his writing style, his alleged motives, his allege dishonesty or lack of qualifications, and never about content – the evidence presented, what it shows, and whether it’s true or not. The infantile pseudo-left responds to science with provocation, facts with hostility, reason with insults, ideological questions with personal attacks, and the deep questions posed by Furr’s work with shallow criticisms. This is not to say that anyone who has criticisms of Furr’s work is automatically opposed to socialism. Far from it – criticism is an essential part of being a Marxist-Leninist. But by and large the criticisms of Grover Furr are not made from a principled standpoint.

“No one takes Grover Furr seriously” is the refrain. Yet, John Arch Getty, Robert Thurston, Lars Lih and many others have praised Furr’s work while disagreeing with his politics. One does not have to completely share Furr’s worldview to find a great deal of value in his essays, articles and books. In fact, any serious researcher, Marxist or not, can learn a great deal from the evidence he gathers to back up his viewpoints, evidence that is almost never studiously read or studied by those who violently denounce it. If the idea that Furr is not a serious academic is a legitimate position to take, then there should be criticisms of his scholarship. Perhaps not surprisingly, I haven’t heard a single argument as to why Grover Furr is an unacceptable source of information other than his opinions aren’t popular. If his arguments themselves cannot be addressed, then his critics have no right to reject the citing of his work.

Much is made of Furr’s “academic credentials,” or alleged lack thereof, to write about the subjects he chooses. He is an English professor they say, and therefore cannot be considered an authority on history. These noble knights dedicated to the defense of “credible” capitalist academia you see, must speak out against Furr. Yet, these same people have no problem with the works of Noam Chomsky, a linguist who writes an endless parade of books on a wide variety of subjects outside of his field, such as criticizing U.S. foreign policy, economy, science, immigration and the Cold War. Anyone who is familiar with Chomsky’s work knows his views are fairly traditional anarchism combined with Enlightenment-era classical liberalism. They are not friendly to socialism, and certainly no threat to anyone in the ruling class. Speaking out against imperialism in of itself is not a particularly radical act, especially when you’re not criticizing it from a Marxist perspective. Many far-rightists and libertarians speak out against U.S. foreign policy as well. Why the double standard? What is the difference between Furr and Chomsky? Quite simple, really. Chomsky is the poster boy of left anti-communism, of a “safe” and defanged leftism deprived of anything not acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Meanwhile, Furr’s research attempts to refute popular anti-communist propaganda instead of accepting it. The pseudo-left would rather back the petty-bourgeois cause than the proletarian one, because they are “radicals” stuck in that method of thinking.

It is is absolutely inarguable that the modern view of the history of socialism has been shaped by those who despise it, and yet phony leftists have no trouble upholding the most vile smears against Soviet, Eastern European and Chinese history. In an atmosphere where the highly dubious works of Robert Conquest and Richard Pipes are upheld as a dogma and treated as material to be seriously engaged with or even refuted, Furr’s work is singled out by both reactionaries and the pseudo-left for outright dismissal and slander.

When denial is not enough, general charges are invented, such as the allegation his presentations of history are “conspiracy theories.” This has also been used to describe the works of other Marxist-Leninist scholars, such as William Bland. I stress again that until there are refutations, one cannot accept these charges. After all, with all the history of capitalist plots we’ve learned, can one seriously accept this level of argumentation? Are the facts true, or not? Blanket cries of “Stalinist” directed against Furr mean nothing. If critics have counter-evidence, then let them step forward and present it. This should not be an unreasonable demand for a Marxist – or for anyone, really.

When Furr speaks of opposition conspiracies within the Soviet Union, or of holes and outright falsifications in the official story of Katyn, these are treated with the utmost skepticism. The idea that the defendants of the Moscow Trials may have actually been involved in terrorist conspiracies to overthrow the Soviet government and assassinate officials is seen as nonsense. Yet, when we are presented with stories of a heinous conspiracy involving J.V. Stalin and a substantial number of other high officials to themselves assassinate Zinoviev, Bukharin and a number of others through judicial means, then this “conspiracy theory” is adopted as the default correct position. It follows that it is easier to go along with the dominant narrative – that is, that of the bourgeoisie – regarding the history of socialism than it is to objectively challenge these ideas.

With the fake left, the formula could not be more simple: U.S. Cold War propaganda is upheld, pro-communist scholarly research is not. Every charge against the socialist countries is true; every defense of socialism is akin to Holocaust denial. Those who would agree, at least in words, that the history of the Soviet Union is falsified by capitalist scholars and reactionaries, and that socialist leaders are routinely subjected to outright slander are declared “insane,” their research or conclusions “absurd,” and derided as “crackpots” or “Stalinists.” The critics do not review the evidence or engage with the thesis; they merely dismiss it. They do not present counter-evidence; they merely assert it. Furr’s fake “left” opponents claim that Furr is “not credible scholarship” only because they don’t agree with it. Furr is only a “crackpot” because they don’t like what he has to say. In their view, scholarly research that counters the bourgeois propaganda narrative of history should be cast aside, silenced, devalued, delegitimized, hidden from the public view and ultimately, destroyed.

It seems to me the “left” needs to look in a mirror and stare itself straight in the eye, and ask: what have we come to, if we cannot refute these works? What exactly does it say, when the entire pseudo-left cannot refute someone who is supposedly “a crackpot with no academic credentials?” What does it say, when they cannot even define the actual content of his work when asked, yet they have already declared it false on the whole? What does it say, when they have no evidence to counter Furr’s claims, but rely on attacking Grover Furr the person?

Any allegations that his works are “below criticism” are disingenuous. If they are worthy of such hostility, then they are worthy of honest criticism. If only all of us checked their facts and cited their sources for all to see like Furr does, rather than rest on our own preconceived notions and prejudices, perhaps the American left wouldn’t be in such a precarious position these days.

The pseudo-left’s hatred has nothing to do with honesty. This is because of anti-communism, not political disagreement, not ideological difference, not a problem with Furr’s research or his conclusions, not an issue with his methods, or legitimate criticism of his evidence. It is a liberal and reactionary view that anything anti-Soviet and anti-Stalin must be true, while anything that challenges that view must be attacked, smeared, demonized, ridiculed and silenced. When evidence is not engaged with or dismissed, and the person themselves is slandered, it is not principled disagreement, it is not ideological difference – it is hate and prejudice.

The question stands: why does the pseudo left hate Grover Furr? The answer becomes plain: they hate Grover Furr precisely because his works challenge the hegemony of the Trotsky-Khrushchev-Gorbachev-Cold War anti-communist anti-Stalin paradigm, the dominant paradigm of the bourgeoisie. In other words, they hate Grover Furr because he is a good communist in an age filled with fake ones. They hate Grover Furr because he is an honest researcher in an age filled to the brim with propaganda. They hate Grover Furr because he has evidence for the conclusions he draws and presents it openly, rather than relying on emotionalism. They hate Grover Furr because he challenges the bourgeois anti-communist understanding of Soviet history. These days pseudo-leftists are not just dishonest or liberal; they are avowed anti-communists.

The DPRK On Race

John Paul Cupp at the top of the Juche Tower, Pyongyang, North Korea, on an official trip by invitation of the North Korean government as head of the U.S. Songun Politics Study Group in 2006

The following is an editorial entitled, “The Idea of a Multinational, Multiracial Society Means Destruction of the Korean Nation” that ran on April 27, 2006 in Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Above it is a press release published in the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) about the article and summing up its conclusions. To avoid accusations of mistranslation, the original article in Korean is linked below, as well as the KCNA release summing up the article in English.

Statements like this published in the state media of a supposedly “socialist” country in the 21st century should raise concerns for anti-revisionists around the world, especially since this is not the first time official DPRK press has made nationalist and racially chauvinist statements, as evidenced by a recent article calling Obama a “monkey” as well as “dirty fellow” and somebody who “does not even have the basic appearances of a human being,” with such passages as, “It would be perfect for Obama to live with a group of monkeys in the world’s largest African natural zoo and lick the breadcrumbs thrown by spectators,” which drew widespread condemnation.

The official ideology of the DPRK is Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism, formerly just Kimilsungism, based on the Juche concept that officially supplanted Marxism-Leninism in 1972. An analysis of the features of Juche reveal that it is a brand of revisionism. Neo-Nazi white supremacists, racism and cultish behavior have also been extensively documented among pro-DPRK groups that promote Juche and Songun.

 – E.S.

Rodong Sinmun Censures Theory of “Multiracial Society”

Pyongyang, April 27 (KCNA) — A strange farce to hamstring the essential characters of the Korean nation and seek for “multiracial society” is now being held in south Korea. In this regard Rodong Sinmun today runs a signed commentary, which censures the farce as an unpardonable bid to negate the homogeneity of the nation, make south Korea multiracial and Americanize it. To deny the peculiarity and advantages of the homogeneous nation now that dominationism and colonialism are posing a threat to the destiny of weak nations is a treacherous act of weakening the spirit of the nation, the commentary says, and goes on: The south Korean pro-American traitorous forces advocating the theory of “multiracial society” are riffraffs who have not an iota of national soul, to say nothing of the elementary understanding of the view on the nation and social and historic development.

If the homogeneity of the nation is not kept, the nation and the destiny of individuals cannot be defended from the U.S. dominationist moves and the attempt of the Japanese reactionaries for invasion of Korea, which is revealed in their claim to Tok Islet, cannot be checked.

The theory of “multiracial society” is a poison and anti-reunification logic aimed to emasculate the basic idea in the era of independent reunification. The anti-national logic is advocated in south Korea, contrary to the aspiration of the fellow countrymen. This is ascribable to the criminal attempt of the pro-American elements including the Grand National Party to make the north and the south different in lineages, block the June 15 era of reunification and seek the permanent division of the nation and the manipulation of the U.S. behind the scene.

The commentary calls upon the people from all walks of life in south Korea to decisively reject the anti-national moves of the sycophantic traitorous forces to tarnish the lineage of the Korean nation and obliterate it, bereft of the Juche character and national character.

Source

The Idea of a Multinational, Multiracial Society Means Destruction of the Korean Nation

Recently, in South Korea, a strange game pursuing the weakening of the fundamental character of our race and making society “multiethnic and multiracial” is unfolding.

Those responsible for this commotion are spreading confounding rumors like South Korea is a “multiracial area” mixed with the blood of Americans and several other races, how we must “overcome closed ethnic nationalism,” and we must embrace “the inclusiveness and openness of a multiethnic nation” like the United States.

The words themselves take a knife to the feeling of our people, but even more serious is that this anti-national theory of “multiethnic, multiracial society” has already gone beyond the stage of discussion. Already, they’ve decided that from 2009, content related to “multiracial, multiethnic culture” would be included in elementary, middle and high school textbooks that have until now stressed that Koreans are the “descendents of Dangun,” “of one blood line” and “one race,” and to change the terms “families of international marriage” and “families of foreign laborers” to “multicultural families.” This is an outrage that makes it impossible to repress the rage of the people/race.

To start from the conclusion, the argument for “multiethnic, multiracial society” cried for by pro-American flunkeyists in South Korea is an unpardonable argument to obliterate the race by denying the homogeneity of the Korean race and to make an immigrant society out of South Korea, to make it a hodgepodge, to Americanize it.

The race (ethnic group) is a social unit of ethnic components formed historically and a community sharing the same fate, and said race exists because it has a character that distinguishes it from other races. Ethnic identity becomes an important weapon in personal and social development. Because of this, all races value their uniqueness and highlight their excellence, and by doing so give strength to awakening and unifying the components of the race. Today, with the wave of “globalization” inundating the world, nations have confronted it and insisted on their ethnic character and built walls to protect it; there is not one nation or race that has denied itself.

In a reality where domination and colonialism threatens the fates of weaker races, to deny the the uniqueness and excellence of our homogenous race is an act of treason preaching the spiritual disarmament of the race.

The pro-American traitors singing the arguments of “multiethnic, multiracial society” have not even a basic understanding of the race’s point of view or the historical development of society and are silly asses without even the slightest ethnic spirit.

Homogeneity, which no other race in the world has, is the pride of our race and becomes the source of the unity needed in the struggle for eternal development and prosperity. Because the homogeneity of the race is so precious, our people have sacrificed blood and lives to walk the long and difficult path of reunification, and now we are cultivating the June 15 era of reunification with all our patriotic fervor. If we cannot save the homogeneity of the race, we cannot protect the fate of either the race of the individual before American schemes for domination, nor can we block the schemes of the Japanese reactionaries to reinvade based on claims of sovereignty over the Dokdo islets. The anti-national character of the arguments for “multiethnic, multiracial society” is that it denies the race itself and entrusts the nation and race to the imperialists.

When people are calling for the entire people to unite their strength and reunify the Fatherland and raise up the majesty of the homogenous race, it’s a serious problem that there arguments to deny the race and obliterate the race have appeared in South Korea. Now is the era of independent unification to end 60 years of division between North and South and to establish the structural homogeneity of the race, and the trend of this age is “to handle things within the race” (uri minjok-ggiri). The argument for a “multiethnic, multiracial society” is a poison that weakens the basic ideology of this era and is anti-reunification logic. Anti-national arguments running counter to the direction of the people in South Korea is clearly the result of criminal schemes by pro-American groups, including the Grand National Party, and behind-the-scenes control by the United States to make the bloodlines of North and South different, block the June 15 era of reunification and make permanent the division of the Korean race.

The issue of mixed-race people being raised in South Korea is completely a product of U.S. military occupation of South Korea. How spiritless these fellows must be that not only do they not raise up the value of having the U.S. military withdraw to bring an end to this tragic reality, but instead are trying to make the problem part of society.

That arguments for a “multiethnic, multiracial society,” which make it impossible to repress ones racial shame and rage, are openly going around South Korea and there are moves to make them a reality shows how dangerous the criminal schemes of the United States to make the world unipolar are.

All sectors of the South Korean people must boldly reject the anti-national schemes of the flunkeyist traitors to toss aside our identity and racial character and even sully the bloodlines of our race and obliterate it. They must also raise up the values of putting the Korean race first and settling everything within our race and actively stand up in the patriotic struggle to protect the Korean race and bring about reunification.

Source

Marxism vs. Indigenism: An Anti-Critique of Ward Churchill

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This article was posted in 2008 by Rowland Keshena on a blog which is no longer active. Though there are some very pronounced ideological problems with this essay (particularly its references to “Stalinism,” as well as the “anthropocentrism” of Marxism and the idea that the concept of domination of nature by man is somehow “Judeo-Christian,” it remains a thorough criticism of the anti-communism of leading figures of the Native community. Thus, I have posted it here to aid in struggling against this anti-Marxist line put forward by several Native scholars and figures.

 – E.S.

I have come out and stated a couple of times that I feel that the critiques of Marxism offered by many in the Indian radical movement seem to come across as either having been born from extreme ignorance and/or extreme sect baiting. It has also been my tendency not to really address the claims of people like Russell Means, as I find him a hypocrite and a not so closeted libertarian (despite claims to being anti-capitalist), Vine Deloria Jr., given his absurd beliefs that equate to American Indian creationism, complete with white people being made by aliens and dinosaurs surviving until the 19th century, or Frank Black Elk as they tend to demonstrate an utter lack knowledge about Marxism. The one who I have reserved space for criticism though is Ward Churchill, given my otherwise great respect for him and his scholarship on American history, his place of greater acceptance (relative to the other I mentioned) in leftist circles and his somewhat more intellectual, but still hallow I find, criticisms of Marxism.

His single greatest attempt to present an Indian/Indigenist critique of Marxism was the book of essays he edited in 1983 called Marxism and Native Americans (on a side note, I have often wondered why the term Native Americans here, given his later use of American Indian, and the wider rejection by that time of Native American by the Indian radicals, and Indian country in general). I will admit that the book does make some good criticisms of Stalinism, particularly its anthropocentrism and its continuation of the Judeo-Christian notion of the domination of the earth by man, leading to a continuation of the ecocidal capitalist notion of “grow or die.” However the book also contained a number of problems for me, one being the gross misrepresentation of Marxism contained within, in that both the criticisms given by Churchill, Means, Black Elk, Deloria Jr and Larson and the arguments for Marxism are largely geared towards and presented from the Soviet Marxist-Leninist (read. Stalinist) model of savagely mutilated and intellectually robbed Marxism.

However the goal of this essay is not to attack this book as many good critiques of it already exist, in particular there is one by Canadian Indian nationalist and dedicated Marxist Howard Adams (which for the life of me I cannot find online), which I find of particular interest as it comes from an Indigenous person instead of a white. With that said, my goal here is take a specific look at an essay from Churchill called False Promises: An Indigenist Examination of Marxist Theory and Practice. In this essay Churchill lays out his primary issues with Marxist theory, in particular the Marxist positions on dialectics, nature, Dialectical and Historical Materialism and the labour theory of value. I will not address his problems with Marxism on the national question as I have already given my thoughts on it many times in the past, including on the problems with Marx and Engels’ original formulation of it. In order to try and have an ordered approach to this critique, I have attempted to keep the are sections of my critique the same as his.

Dialectics and Nature:

To open up the essay Churchill begins with a description of dialectical, or relational, thinking, in particular as he finds it in the European traditions and the American Indian ones, which he sums up in the Lakota phrase Metakuyeayasi (my relatives/relations). He also traces the history of dialectical thinking in Europe, having come into Europe via the the Greeks, who Churchill identifies as having gotten it in turn from the Egyptian civilization, who also apparently in turn borrowed it from the Ethiopians. Next he jumps to Hegel, who he states revived the tradition of dialectical thinking in Europe, and from whom the idea was introduced to Marx and the other Young Hegelians.

He also at this point correctly states that the Hegelian/Marxist concept of thinking in terms of relationships stands solidly opposed to the history of European thought, exemplified in linear rationality. It is here that Churchill’s critique of Marxist dialectics begins, as he sees the primary problem with Marx being that he has a presumption of the supremacy of human agency in determining historical reality. This of course, for Churchill, is a supremely Eurocentric presumption. Churchill sums it up in his essay by saying:

“His (Marx) impetus in this regard appears to have been his desire to see his theoretical endeavors used, not simply as a tool of understanding, but as a proactive agent for societal transformation, a matter bound up in his famous dictum that “the purpose of philosophy is not merely to understand history, but to change it.” (sic) Thus Marx, a priori and with no apparent questioning in the doing, proceeded to anchor the totality of his elaboration in the presumed primacy of a given relation—that sole entity which can be said to hold the capability of active and conscious pursuit of change, i.e.: humanity—over any and all relations, the Marxian “dialectic” was thus unbalanced from the outset, skewed as a matter of faith in favor of humans. Such disequilibrium is, of course, not dialectical at all. It is, however, quite specifically Eurocentric in its attributes, springing as it does from the late-Roman interpretation of the Judeo-Christian assertion of “man’s” supposed responsibility to “exercise dominion over nature,” a tradition which Marx (ironically) claimed oft and loudly to have “voided” in his rush to materialism.”

As Marx quite truly stated in his Theses on Feuerbach, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” Indeed this has come to form the core of much of Marxist theory and practice, however for Churchill to take a quotation like this and make a jump into presuming that Marx was ascribing some kind of transcendental and transhistorical superpower to human agency is inaccurate at best. I also find this critique a little strange in that it comes a completely different direction than many other critics of Marx who felt that he was far to deterministic and actually tended towards undermining the power of human agency.

Marx was quite clear though that what he was looking at was the conditions in which humans can act, and he is clear that these conditions are independent of the will of the actors, a position that is best summed up in these two quotes:

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” – “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon.”

“In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.” – “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.”

We must also take into account that these conditions that Marx speaks of are eminently historical. In other words they had come from somewhere, and they will go somewhere. It also follows on from this that they are eminently social. To sum it up, when Marx speaks on the range of action and the range of inaction available to humans in a particular place and time, he is talking about the constrictions of the social reality; this involves the economics, the politics, the religious, the cultural, so on, so forth. All of these factors for Marx are social.

The next contention by Churchill is that Marx failed to see the human existence as being one relation among several, with Marx most conspicuously leaving out the relation of nature. However for Marx even the concept of nature itself is social. This is because Marx feels that nature is not a given, but rather something that exists only in relation to human being. However, if we take the idea that nature is a relation, and not a deified and transhistorical category, it exists because some humans define it as such, it does not mean that we feel natural events like hurricanes or blizzards will bend to the will of humans, rather we see that the categories we as humans use to define and describe the world around us are also historical and relational, which is to say that they are dialectical.

We also must realize that humanity exists within geography and territory, and hence is effected by the various effects that nature has, such as temperature and landscape. However we must also recognize that we have managed to alter these effects, namely temperature and landscape. In other words, we have been able to alter nature. It’s still relational, still dialectical. Even if we describe nature as being something separate from humanity, Engels is right to point out that whatever we define as nature is going to be historical, continuously coming into being and changing.

Churchill is also quite correct to state that Marx is a humanist and anthropocentric, however I feel his incorrect to conflate this with a continuation of the Judeo-Christian drive to dominate nature. Again I feel this is misleading on Churchill’s part, because while it certainly does very well sum up the history of Stalinism, it conflates this with all of Marxism, and certainly ignores the development of ecosocialism. However, if we go back to Marx himself we can see that even his supposed anthropocentrism is dialectical and does not ignore the myriad relations in which humans exist, certainly not that of nature. Marx’s writings are also not speaking of a Judeo-Christian drive to dominate nature. An excellent rejonder to this often brought up criticism of Marx is the book Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature by John Bellamy Foster. In the book Foster shatters the notion that Marx cared only about industrial growth and the development of economic forces. By covering not just Marx, but also other thinkers like Epicurus, Charles Darwin, Thomas Malthus, Ludwig Feuerbach, P. J. Proudhon, and William Paley he is able to construct a materialist conception of nature and society, and thereby also challenge the mysticism and spiritualism prevalent in the modern Green movement, pointing toward a method that offers more lasting and sustainable solutions to the ecological crisis.

I could say more about that book and the other works of Foster, and indeed I highly suggest that anyone even thinking of calling themselves Marxist or radical read his works, however, summing up his work is not the point of this essay, so instead I will a quote from Engels’ The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man that find to be particularly devastating to Churchill’s argument:

“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. […] Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature – but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.”

The quote speaks for itself, the simple fact is that Marx and Engels were in no way ignorant of humanity’s position as being one relation existing dialectically among many, most certainly not separate from nature, but in nature. This also means that nature is eminently social. To that we can add that Marx and Engels were also both concerned with what we now often refer to as “sustainable development.” Simply, they didn’t think humans fucking up the environment was a good idea. They were actually highly critical of ecological destruction and degradation. As for Churchill’s assertion of Marx continuing the Judeo-Christian of human dominion over nature goes, let us consider Marx’s own words:

“Even a whole society, a nation, or even all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not the owners of the globe. They are only its possessors, its usufructuaries, and, like boni patres familias, they must hand it down to succeeding generations in an improved condition.” – “Capital Vol. III Part VI: Transformation of Surplus-Profit into Ground-Rent.”

The simple fact is that Churchill’s assertion that Marx and Engels support the domination of nature of man is just plain wrong. It goes to show that Churchill, like many other critics of Marx, whether Marxist, non-Marxist, Indigenist, religious or whatever has failed to actually read Marx in anyway but a superficial manner before attempting to present a coherent argument against Marxism.

Historical and Dialectical Materialism:

After attacking Marx’s notions of dialectics and nature Churchill moves on to attempting to examine the heart of Marxist theory, historical materialism. To begin Churchill makes the assertion that historical materialism examining human society as a mass of contradictions rather than as a unified whole, that all of human history is simply the history of contradictions reconciling themselves to production. Churchill then tells us that “‘Productive relations,’ in [the Marxist] schema, determine all and everything.” The so-called orthodox Marxists, according to Albert and Hahnel (whom Churchill cites), assert that Marxism downgrades the “importance of the creative aspect of the human consciousness” and that consciousness rests primarily on objective production relations.

I will admit that there is a grain of truth in Churchill’s assertions here, however he launches into a full scale attack on historical and dialectical materialism before providing a coherent account of them, with his attacks relying on wildly out of context quotations from Althusser and Baudrillard. Because of this it is very difficult to actually provide a defence of them against Churchill’s assertions. Perhaps in this case the best way to present a critique of Churchill is to actually provide a brief summary of historical and dialectical materialism, and in this way hopefully provide an answer to some of his problems.

The primary concept behind Marx’s theory of historical materialism is that all of history is based on, and driven by, material realities rather than mysterious forces. Another way of putting this is that it is not so much the ideas we have that determine our existence as much as it is the factors of our material existence that determine our ideas. This does not mean that ideas have absolutely no effect on the course of history, rather just that they only have effect when put into material action.

The Marxist model of historical materialism looks for the various causes of developments and changes in human societies in the way in which humans collectively make the means to live, thus giving an emphasis, through economic analysis, to everything that co-exists with the economic base of society. But what is meant by economics in this context? We often hear the term “mode of production” get thrown around alot, e.g., capitalism is a mode of production. If we break down, humans need to eat, drink, sleep, etc and in order to do these things they have to produce things, in one fashion or another, and the “mode” is how the production is organized and carried out. Like all other factors, this organization to is intrinsically social and its impact and been seen and felt on all other aspects of society, including: culture, politics, the state, and law. To put it simply, our social relations of production play a major role in how our social relations are organized in general.

However, any given mode of production that a society utilizes does not appear out of thin air and and neither do things like culture and ideas. The fact is that these develop together, and develop because of the course of human actions and interactions. However, importantly, the behaviours and courses of action taken by people are determined by the possibilities, limits, and imperatives of historical conditions.

Additionally it must be noted that economics is not the sole factor in driving the course of human history, as other factors can, and do, play roles in this. The point here is that they can not be separated from one another, and one cannot ignore the foundational aspect of the material social realities. Also, different modes of production can and do exist at the same time, over the same spaces, but it also the case that there is one that is clearly more dominant and determining than others.

So now let us return to Churchill’s original critiques. By now I would hope that a few things have become apparent. Firstly, the mass of human society is a set of contradictions. However these contradictions are parts of a whole and they are determined by the logic of that whole. However the whole is not necessarily “unified,” however Churchill does not really explain what he means by that term anyway. Also, the contradictions do not actually have to reconcile themselves to production. Production is itself upheld by its own set of contradictions. The productive relations are fundamental, but they do not determine “all and everything.” Finally, it is true that human consciousness is determined by their material existence. Existence precedes essence, and not the other way around. However, the whole point of revolution is that the productive relations people enter into are independent of their wills doesn’t mean it has to remain that way.

Labour Theory of Value:

The final area of Churchill’s critique of Marxism that I will examine is Marx’s labour theory of value.

Churchill is partially correct in saying that the LTV forms the core of Marxist thought, as it actually forms the bedrock of the Marxist economic theory of capitalism as a mode of production. In the essay, Churchill describes the LTV as meaning that:

“value can be assigned to anything by virtue of the quantity and quality of human labor—i.e.: productive, transformative effort—put into it. This idea carries with it several interesting sub properties, most strikingly that the natural world holds no intrinsic value of its own.”

Again, this is partially true.

For us to really be able to understand the rationale behind Marx’s ideas on the LTV we examine what Marx is actually attempting to do with it. Marx’s drive behind formulating the LTV was to try and discover “the laws of motion” of the capitalist mode of production. What this means for us, and it is central in our attempt here to refute Churchill, is that Marx’s analysis is entirely specific to capitalism as an economic system.

So what is Marx speaking of when talks about value? Well, he is specifically speaking of the value of commodities. Now by this he means that a commodity is a thing that has some kind of use, though it does not matter how one defines that use. In Capital, Vol. 1 Marx states that the “utility of a thing makes it a use-value.” What he is saying is that things can and do have intrinsic value of their own, though only when they are viewed from the perspective of humans. We also need to be crystal clear about what Marx meant by “use.” If a person derives aesthetic, spiritual, or some kind of non-physical use from a thing it is still a use. It may be a different kind of use-value, but still a use-value none the less. This means that use-value is subjective. However Marx did not mean this when he spoke of “value”.

In order for a commodity to be one it has to have some sort of exchange-value. So how do two disparate use-values find themselves being equated for exchange? There is a medium, money in the case of capitalism, which facilitates this exchange. However, what determines the particular exchange-value of a thing? For Marx, exchange-value is created by the labour required to actually produce the thing. This means that exchange-value is determined by the labour required for its production in a capitalist economy. This is what Marx means when he is talking about the LTV. This means that in the capitalist market-economy value is expressed as, and through, exchange-value, and exchange-value has nothing to do with a given thing’s use-value.

It is also entirely possible for something to have a use-value while having no exchange-value, meaning that it is not a commodity. Marx put it like this:

“A thing can be a use value, without having value. This is the case whenever its utility to man is not due to labour. Such are air, virgin soil, natural meadows, &c. A thing can be useful, and the product of human labour, without being a commodity.” – “Capital, Vol. 1.”

With this in mind it is now possible for us to fully understand what Marx meant in Capital when he said, “nothing can have value, without being an object of utility. If the thing is useless, so is the labour contained in it; the labour does not count as labour, and therefore creates no value.” Here he is is quite specifically talking of exchange-value. If a thing is not useful to someone else, it will not be exchanged, and hence has no value in the capitalist economy.

What Churchill says is right on in terms of how a capitalist economy views value and Marx would have no problem in sharing Churchill’s critique, though it’s not actually the critique of Marx or Marxism the Churchill tries to present it as. Churchill says:

“A mountain is worth nothing as a mountain; it only accrues value by being ‘developed’ into its raw productive materials such as ores, or even gravel. It can hold a certain speculative value, and thus be bought and sold, but only with such developmental ends in view. Similarly, a forest holds value only in the sense that it can be converted into a product known as lumber; otherwise, it is mere an obstacle to valuable, productive use of land through agriculture or stock-raising, etc. (an interesting commentary on the Marxian view of the land itself). Again, other species hold value only in terms their utility to productive processes (e.g.: meat, fur, leather, various body oils, eggs, milk, transportation in some instances, even fertilizer); otherwise they may, indeed must be preempted and supplanted by the more productive use of the habitat by humans.”

As for what Churchill refers to as the “Marxian view of the land itself,” I would refer you back to the earlier quotes from Marx and Engels. I should also point out that Marx is very clear that nature is as much a source of wealth as labour, and was quite vociferous in his criticism of those who thought that labour alone was a source of wealth:

“Labor is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists!) as labor, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labor power.” – “Critique of the Gotha Programme.”

Getting back to my earlier point about Churchill’s critique of Marxist ideas on dialectics and nature, it would seem that his critiques of the labour theory of value have little, if any, detailed analysis behind it. Again, it appears that Churchill has attempted nothing but the most superficial reading of Marx and Engels. Hence he comes off as little more than ignorant of what he trying to speak about.

However, the point behind this “anti-critique” of sorts is that what Churchill is presenting in his essay might go on to form the basis of further mistaken critiques of Marxism. I also feel that it is important the truth of Marxist thought is certainly not the kind of Soviet Marxism that Churchill and others repeatedly conflate with Marxism on the whole.

On a final note, I disagree with Churchill that Marxism and Indigenism are mutually exclusive. This perhaps because, rather than use his definition of Indigenism as being a mix of deep-ecology, soft-path technology and anarchism (more like minarchism), I prefer the definition given by Guillermo Bonfil Batalla. His definition of Indigenism boiled down to six basic demands:

* Right to ancestral lands including complete control of land and subsoil, the defence of land and recuperation of land lost.
* Recognition of the ethnic and cultural identity of indigenous people- all indigenous peoples and organizations reaffirm the right to be distinct in culture, language and institutions, and to increase the value of their own technological, social and ideological practices.
* Equal political rights in relation to the state.
* The end of repression and violence, particularly that against the leaders, activists and followers of indigenous political organizations.
* The end of family planning programmes which have brought widespread sterilization of indigenous women and men.
* The rejection of tourism and folklore, meaning the end of commercialization of Indian music, dance and other art forms as well as other forms of cultural appropriation. Instead, respect for true indigenous cultural expressions.

These original six demands, as well as many others such as the rejection of capitalism and neoliberalism, have framed many of the Indian liberation struggles in the Americas over the last century, from sections of the Red Power movement (especially in Canada), to the Zapatistas in Mexico, to the work of Hugo Blanco and others in the Andean region of South America, to the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia, to the current struggles in Canada. There is also absolutely no reason that this form of Indigenism cannot be compatible with Marxism and struggles for socialism, and I am proud to call myself both a Marxist and an Indigenist.

However, the indigenism that Ward Churchill propagates has become, in certain circles, a curse word on the left implying that someone seeks a return to a primitivist life-style, or at least a certain level of deindustrialization. This is also not far off of what Churchill, Means and others seek. However, the simple fact is that true Indigenism, not the vaguely disguised primitivism of Means and Churchill, it is not something people on the revolutionary left should be afraid of, indeed it should embraced alongside the struggles against capitalism, racial/national oppression of blacks and latinos, patriarchy and homophobia/heterosexism, only then can a truly emancipatory struggle be waged.

Maximilien Robespierre: Louis Must Die, That the Republic Can Live

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“On the Trial of the King” by Maximilien Robespierre
3 December 1792

Citizens,

The Assembly has been led, without realizing it, far from the real question. There is no trial to be held here. Louis is not a defendant. You are not judges. You are not, you cannot be anything but statesmen and representatives of the nation. You have no sentence to pronounce for or against a man, but a measure of public salvation to implement, an act of national providence to perform. A dethroned king, in the Republic, is good for only two uses: either to trouble the peace of the state and threaten liberty, or to affirm both of these at the same time. Now I maintain that the character of your deliberation so far runs directly counter to that goal. In fact, what is the decision that sound policy proscribes to consolidate the nascent Republic? It is to engrave contempt for royalty deeply on the people’s hearts and dumbfound all the king’s supporters. Thus, to present his crime to the universe as a problem, to treat his cause as an object of the most imposing, the most religious, the most difficult discussion that could occupy the representatives of the French people; to establish an immeasurable distance between the mere memory of what he was and the dignity of the citizen, amounts precisely to having found the secret of keeping him dangerous to liberty.

Louis was king, and the Republic was founded: the famous question you are considering is settled by these words alone. Louis was dethroned by  his crimes; Louis denounced the French people as rebellions; to chastise it, he called on the arms of his fellow tyrants; victory and the people decided that he was the rebellions one: therefore Louis cannot be judged; either he is already condemned or the Republic is not acquitted. Proposing to put Louis on trial, in whatever way that could be done, would be to regress towards royal and constitutional despotism; it is a counter-revolutionary idea, for it means putting the revolution itself in contention. In fact, if Louis can still be put on trial, then he can be acquitted; he may be innocent; what am I saying! He is presumed to to be so until he has been tried. But if Louis is acquitted, if Louis can be presumed innocent, what becomes of the revolution? If Louis is innocent, then all defenders of liberty become slanderers; the rebels were the friends of truth and defenders of oppressed innocence; all the manifestos from foreign courts are just legitimate complaints against a dominant faction. Even the detention of Louis has suffered so far is an unjust vexation; the fédérés, the people of Paris, all the patriots of the French empire are guilty; and, pending nature’s tribunal, this great trial between crime and virtue, between liberty and tyranny, is decided in favour of crime and tyranny.

Citizens, have a care; you are being misled here by false notions. You are confusing the rules of civil and statue law with the principles of the laws of nations; you are confusing relations between citizens with those between a nation and an enemy conspiring against it. You are also confusing the situation of a people in revolution with that of a people whose government is soundly established. You are confusing a nation that punishes a public official while conserving the form of government, with one that destroys the government itself. We refer to ideas familiar to us to understand an extraordinary case  that functions on principles we have never applied. Thus, because we are accustomed to seeing offenses we have witnessed judged according to uniform rules, we are naturally inclined to believe that under no circumstances can nations equitably punish a man who has violated their rights in any other way; and that where we do not see a jury, a bench, proceedings, we do not find justice. These very terms, when we apply them to ideas different from the ones they normally express, end by misleading us. Such is the natural dominion of habit that we regard the most arbitrary conventions, sometimes indeed the most defective institutions, as absolute measures of truth or falsehood, justice or injustice. It does not even occur to us t hat most are inevitably still connected with the prejudices on which despotism fed us. We have been so long stooped under its yoke that we have some difficulty in raising ourselves to the eternal principles of reason; anything that refers to all the sacred source of all law seems to us to take on an illegal character, and the very order of nature seems to us a disorder. The majestic movements of a great people, the sublime fervours of virtue often appear to our timid eyes as something like an erupting volcano or the overthrow of political society; and it is certainly not the least of the troubles bothering us, the contradiction between the weakness of our morals, the depravity of our minds, and the purity of principle and energy of character demanded by the free government to which we have dared aspire.

When a nation has been forced to resort to the right of insurrection, it returns to the state of nature in relation to the tyrant. How can the tyrant invoke the social pact? He has annihilated it. The nation can still keep it, if it thinks fit, for everything concerning relations between citizens; but the effect of tyranny and insurrection is to break it entirely where the tyrant is concerned; it places them reciprocally in a state of war. Courts and legal proceedings are only for members of the same side.

It is a gross contradiction to suppose that the constitution might preside over this new order of things; that would be to assume it had itself survived. What are the laws that replace it? Those of nature, the one which is the foundation of society itself: the salvation of the people. The right to punish the tyrant and the right to dethrone him are the same thing; both include the same forms. The tyrant’s trial is the insurrection; the verdict, the collapse of his power; the sentence, whatever the liberty of the people requires.

People do not judge in the same way as courts of law; they do not hand down sentences, they throw thunderbolts; they do not condemn kings, they drop them back into the void; and this justice is worth just as much as that of the courts. If it is for their salvation that they take arms against their oppressors, how can they be made to adopt a way of punishing them that would pose a new danger to themselves?

We have allowed ourselves to be led into error by foreign examples that have nothing in common with us. Cromwell had Charles I tried by a judicial commission he controlled; Elizabeth had Mary Queen of Scots condemned in the same way; it is natural that tyrants who sacrifice their fellows, not to the people, but to their own ambition, should seek to mislead vulgar opinion with illusory forms. There is no question there of principle or liberty, but of deceit and intrigue. But the people! What other law can it follow, than justice and reason supported by its own absolute power?

In what republic was the need to punish the tyrant a legal matter? Was Tarquin called to trial? What would have been said in Rome, if Romans had dared say they were his defenders? And what are we doing? We are summoning lawyers from every side to plead the cause of Louis XVI.

We are establishing as legitimate acts what any free people would have regarded as the greatest of crimes. We are ourselves inviting the citizens to baseness and corruption. We could well find ourselves one day awarding Louis’s defenders civil crowns; for if they defend his cause, they may hope to make it triumph; otherwise you would be showing the universe nothing but a ridiculous charade. And we dare to use the word Republic! We invoke forms, because we have no principle; we pride ourselves on our delicacy, because we lack energy; we flaunt a false humanity, because the feeling of true humanity is foreign to us; we revere the shadow of a king, because we do not know how to respect the people; we are tender towards oppressors, because we are heartless towards the oppressed.

The trial of Louis XVI! But what is that trial, if not a call for insurrection in some tribunal or assembly? When a king has been annihilated by the people, who has the right to resuscitate him and make him a new pretext for trouble and rebellion, and whatever other efforts this scheme might produce? By opening an arena for the champions of Louis XVI, you are renewing the quarrels of despotism against liberty, you are establishing the right to blaspheme against the Republic and against the people; for the right to defend the former despite carries with it the right to say anything appropriate to his cause. You awaken all the factions; you revive and encourage dormant royalism: people can take sides freely for or against. What could be more legitimate, what more natural than to repeat everywhere the maxims that his fenders will be able to profess openly at your bar and in your parliament itself! What sort of republic is it whose founders seek out adversaries for it on all sides to attack it in its cradle!

See what rapid progress this scheme has made already. Last August, all the partisans of royalty were hiding: anyone who had dared attempt an apologia for Louis XVI would have been punished as a traitor. Today they are again showing a bold front, with impunity; today the aristocracy’s most deplored scribblers are confidently taking up their poisonous pens once more.

Today, the insolent writings that are precursors to all attacks are flooding the city where you reside, all the eighty-four departments and up to the very portals of this sanctuary of liberty. Today armed men, conscripts, kept inside these walls without your knowledge and against the law, made the street of this city resound with seditious cries demanding impunity for Louix XVI. Today Paris contains within it men brought together, you have been told, to snatch him from the nation’s justice. All that remains for us to do is to throw open these premises to the athletes already flocking to solicit the honour of taking up cudgels on behalf of royalty. What am I saying! Today Louis divides the people’s representatives; some speak for him, some speak against him. Two months ago, who would have suspected that there could be any question over whether he was inviolable or not? But since a member of the National Convention presented the question whether the king could be tried as an object of a serious deliberation preliminary to every other question, inviolability, with which the conspirators in the Constituent Assembly covered his first perjuries, has been invoked to protect his latest attacks. O crime! O shame! The parliament of the French people resounded to the panegyric of Louis XVI. We have heard the virtues and good deeds of the tyrant being praised! We barely managed to rescue the honour or the liberty of the best citizens from the injustice of a precipitate decision. What am I saying? We have seen the most atrocious calumnies against the people’s representatives known for their zeal for liberty greeted with scandalous joy. We have seen one part of this Assembly proscribed by the other almost immediately after being denounced by stupidity and depravity combined. The tyrant’s cause alone is so sacred that it cannot be discussed too freely or for too long: and why should that astonish us? The double phenomenon has a single cause. Those who take an interest in Louis or this like must thirst for the blood of those people’s deputies who are demanding, for the second time, that he be punished; they can pardon only those who have softened in his favour. The plan to shackle the people by killing its defenders, has it ever been abandoned for a single moment? And all the scoundrels who are proscribing them today, calling them anarchists and agitators, will they not themselves whip up the troubles their perfidious system presages for us? If we are to believe them, the trial will last several months at least; it will last until next springtime, when the despots should be making a general attack on us. And what a career to the conspirators! What a feast for intrigue and aristocracy! Thus, all the partisans of tyranny can still hope that help form their allies and foreign armies will encourage the boldness of the court meant to pronounce on Louis’s fate, while their gold is tempting its loyalty.

God in heaven! All the ferocious hordes of despotism are preparing to tear at the breast of our homeland once again, in the name of Louis XVI! Louis is still fighting us from the depths of his dungeon; and people doubt whether he is guilty, whether it is permitted to treat him as an enemy! They want to know what the laws are that condemn him!

The constitution is invoked in his favour. I do not intend to repeat here all the unanswerable arguments developed by those who deign to answer objections of that sort. On this matter I will say a word for the benefit of those whom they have not convinced. The constitution forbade everything you have done. Even if he could only be punished by forced abdication, you could not pronounce sentence without having brought him to trial. You have no right at all to hold him in prison. He has the right to ask you for his release and for damages and interest. The constitution condemns you: fall at  Louis XVI’s feet and ask for his clemency.

Personally, I should blush to discuss these constitutional quibbles any more seriously than that; they should belong on school or palace benches, or rather in the cabinets of London, Vienna, and Berlin. I cannot argue at length when I am convinced that deliberation is a scandal.

This is a great cause, we have been told, and one should be judged with wise and slow circumspection. Is it you who are making it a great cause! What am I saying? It is you who are making it a cause. What do you find in it that can be called great? Is it the difficulty? No. Is it the person? From the viewpoint of liberty, there is none more vile; from that of humanity, none more guilty. Now he can only impress those more cowardly than he is himself. Is it usefulness of the outcome? That is one more reason to hasten it. A great cause would be a popular draft law; a great cause would be that of a poor man oppressed by despotism. What is the motive for these endless delays you are urging on us? Are you afraid of hurting the people’s opinion? As if the people itself feared anything other than the weakness or ambition of its representatives; as if the people were a foul herd of slaves stupidly attached to the tyrant it has proscribed, and wishing at all costs to wallow in baseness and servitude. You talk about opinion; is it not for you to direct it, to fortify it? If it wanders, if it becomes depraved, who should get the blame, if not yourselves? Are you afraid of annoying the foreign kings in league against you? Oh yes, there is no doubt at all that the way to defeat them is to fear them! That the way to confound the criminal conspiracy of European despots is to bow to their accomplice! Do you fear foreign people? Then you still believe in the innate love of tyranny. So why do you aspire to the glory of freeing the human race? Through what contradiction do you suppose that nations which were not astonished by the proclamation of the rights of humanity will be terrified by the chastisement of one of its most cruel oppressors? Finally, we are told, you fear the gaze of posterity. Yes; posterity will be astonished, in fact, by your irresponsibility and your weakness, and our descendants will laugh at the presumption of their fathers, and at their prejudices.

We have been told that genius would be needed to go deeply into this question; I maintain that only good faith is required. It is less a question of enlightenment than of avoiding voluntary blindness. Why is it that what seems clear to us at one time seems obscure at another? Why is it that something decided easily by the good sense of the people changes into an almost insoluble problem for its delegates? Have we the right to have a will contrary to the general will and a wisdom that differs from universal reason?

I have heard defenders of the king’s inviolability advancing a bold principle that I should almost have hesitated to state myself. They said that anyone who, on 10 August, had sacrificed Louis XVI would have been performing a virtuous act; but the sole basis for that opinion can only have been Louis XVI’s crimes and the people’s rights. Well, has a three-month interval changed his crimes or the people’s rights? The reason why he was rescued at that time from public indignation was undoubtedly so that his punishment, formally ordered by the National Convention in the nation’s name, would become all the more imposing to enemies of humanity: but casting new doubt on the fact of his guilt or whether he can be punished amounts to betraying a promise given to the French people. There are perhaps some people who, either to prevent the Assembly from assuming a character worthy of it, or to deprive the nations of an example that would raise minds to the level of republican principles, or for even more shameful motives, would not be sorry if a private hand were to carry out the functions of national justice. Citizens, be wary of this trap: anyone daring to give that advice would only be serving the people’s enemies. Whatever happens, the punishment of Louis will now only be good if it bears the formal character of a public vengeance.

What does the contemptible figure of the last of the kings matter to the people? Representatives, what matters to it, what matters to you yourselves, is that you fulfil the duties that its confidence has imposed on you. The Republic is proclaimed; but have you given it to us? We have not yet made a single law that justifies the name; we have not yet reformed a single abuse of despotism: alter the names, and we still have the tyranny in its entirety, and on top of that factions that are viler, charlatans still more immortal, along with new ferments of troubles and civil war. The Republic! And Louis still lives! And you still place the king’s person between us and liberty! By way of scruples, let us fear making ourselves criminal; let us fear that by showing too much indulgence for the culprit we may be putting ourselves in his place.

Another difficulty. To what sentence shall we condemn Louis? The death penalty is too cruel. No, says another, life is crueller still: I demand that he live. Advocates for the king, is it from pity or cruelty that you want to shield him from the penalty for his crimes?

I myself abhor the death penalty generously prescribed by your laws; and for Louis I feel neither love nor hate; I just hate his crimes. I asked for the death penalty to be abolished in the Assembly you still name Constituent; and it is no fault of mine that the highest principles of reason seamed to it to be moral and political heresies. But you, who never think of citing them in favour of all the unfortunates whose offenses are less theirs than the government’s, by what fluke do you now recall them to plead the cause of the greatest criminal of all? You are demanding an exception to the death penalty for the one individual who can justify it. Yes, the death penalty, in general, is a crime, and for the sole reason that, in keeping with the indestructible principles of nature, it can only be justified where it is necessary for the security of individuals or the social body. Now public security never requires it for ordinary offences, because society can always stop them by other means and make the culprit powerless to damage it. But a dethroned king in the middle of a revolution, which is nothing unless consolidated by the laws, a king whose name along calls down the scourge of war on the disturbed nation: neither prison nor exile can render his existence harmless to the public good; and this cruel exception that justice allows to ordinary laws can be imputed only to the nature of his crimes.

I utter this deadly truth with regret, but Louis must die, because the homeland has to live. Among a peaceable, free people, respected at home and abroad, you might listen to the advice being given to you to be generous; but a people whose liberty is still being disputed after so many sacrifices and battles, a people in whose country the laws are still only inexorable towards the unfortunate, a people in whose country the crimes of tyranny are still subjects of dispute, such a people must want to be avenged; and the generosity for which you are being praised would resemble too much that of a society of bandits sharing our spoils.

I propose that you give an immediate ruling on Louis’s fate. As for his wife, you will send her back to the courts, along with all the individuals aware of the same attacks. His son will be kept in the Temple, until such time as peace and public liberty should be established. As for Louis, I ask that the National Convention declare him from this moment a traitor to the French nation, a criminal towards humanity; I ask that a great example be given to the world, at the same place where, on 10 August, the generous martyrs to liberty lost their lives. I ask that this memorable event be commemorated with a monument to nourish in the hearts of peoples the sense of their rights and horror of tyrants; and in the minds of tyrants, salutatory terror of the people’s justice.