Archive for the ‘Communism’ Category
Die Partei, die Partei, die hat immer Recht!
Und, Genossen, es bleibe dabei;
Denn wer kämpft für das Recht,
Der hat immer recht.
Gegen Lüge und Ausbeuterei.
Wer das Leben beleidigt,
Ist dumm oder schlecht.
Wer die Menschheit verteidigt,
Hat immer recht.
So, aus Leninschem Geist,
Wächst, von Stalin geschweißt,
Die Partei – die Partei – die Partei.
Oh The Party, The Party is always right
And comrade, may it ever be so;
For who fights for the right
He is always right
Against lies and exploitation
[women] Whoever insults life
is stupid or bad
Whoever defends humanity
Is always right
Grown from the spirit of Lenin
Welded by Stalin
The party – the party – the party.
Das Lied der Partei.
Iron Curtain. The Crushing of Eastern Europe. 1944 – 1956. Anne Applebaum. Allen Lane 2012.
A Note on Totalitarianism.
Iron Curtain is an important and deeply researched study of Eastern European Communist states. It begins with their blood-stained birth, illustrates their brightest hopes, and deepest fears, it travels from the sweated labour that built Socialist Cities, to the spying and the stridency of everyday life. Anne Applebaum’s book is equally an investigation into regimes that aspired to “total control” and how they used their power to achieve this.
Anne Applebaum is, as Duncan Bowie observes (Chartist March/April 2013) highly “partisan”. She is married to the centre-right Polish foreign Minister, Radek Sikorski. She is, nobody will be surprised to hear, far from neutral about assessing the damage done in the name of Communism.
It would be derisory, and irrelevant, to make her parti pris stand against the mass of historical detail, mastery of several of the countries’ languages, and weighed judgements that Iron Curtain offers.
Why? The answer comes in the opening pages. The first chapters of Iron Curtain Applebaum overwhelm the reader with the terror brought in the wake of the Second World War. Axis atrocities are laid out in full and the Shoah is never far away from the narrative. Readers of Timothy Synders’ Bloodlands will be acquainted with the terrible reality of destruction on the Eastern Frontiers. But it is other events that stay in the mind the undoubted heroism of the Red Army in fighting its way to Berlin and defeating Nazism, was accompanied by its own brutality against civilians and, in particular, mass rape. The Red Army re-opened camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald almost as soon as they closed them, to house their own undesirables.
The cruelty, oppression, and ethnic cleansing (notably of those of German origin, or even, in Hungary’s case, of those with Teutonic names of other ethnicities) that followed in the first years after the war, principally, East Germany, Poland and Hungary are memorably described. Whole populations of Poles, Rutheniums, Hungarians, were summarily ‘re-allocated’ to new territories.
During the late 1940s Communists consolidated their rule. At the pivot of the system – even before the countries were openly Communist-led – were the security services. Moscow trained local functionaries under the ultimate command of the Soviet NKVD quickly consolidated these. From the Interior Ministries they directed wholesale purges of real and suspected opponents. Executions, consigning people to local camps, even sending them to the Soviet Gulag, followed. The take-over of each state proceeded remorselessly, “first (by) the elimination of right-wing; or anti-communist parties, then the destruction of the non-communist left, then the elimination of opposition within the communist party itself.”(xxxiv)
Yet at the same time the Communist parties were led by true believers. Their Central Committees initially allowed (relatively) free elections because they thought they could win. They thought their doctrine was true. They “really did think that sooner of later the working-class majority would acquire class consciousness, understand its historical destiny and vote for a communist regime.”(P xxxiv)
Harsh policies were a reaction to defeat in elections, notably by the Small Holders’ Party in Hungary, and (if electoral fraud had not obscured this) by the Social Democrats and others in East Germany, ‘patriotic’ parties in Poland, and elsewhere Even in Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria, barely covered in Iron Curtain) where the local Communist parties did have deeper bases (something Applebaum plays down) they were unable to reach a majority on their own.
Iron Curtain’s principal thesis is that Communist rule under the period of High Stalinism (that is, from the late 1940s to 1956) saw an effort to eliminate any independent life for civil society. “The nascent totalitarian states could not tolerate any competition whatsoever for their citizens’ passion, talents and free time.”(Page 185) They took over youth groups, women’s leagues, churches, trade unions, independent educational movements, and, above all, the mass media, beginning with the Radio. In doing so, “They managed, undermined and sometimes eliminated churches, newspapers, literary and educational societies, companies and retail shops, stock markets, banks, sports clubs and universities.”(Page 496) Read the rest of this entry »
Comrade: There’s a Place for You in the People’s Assembly!
Conference – Resisting Austerity in Europe and the UK.
SERTUC, the Southern & Eastern Region of the TUC, held an important meeting last Saturday.
At Congress House we began by hearing speakers from Greece, Portugal and Ireland on their labour movements’ resistance to the economic and social crisis.
The depth of this crisis was underlined by the Greek comrade, Marina Prentoulis, who spoke of how even middle class Greks were unable to heat their homes and even eat normally.
Fernando Mauricio from the Portuguese CGPT was impressive in underlining “Our Common Struggle” against the Troika of the IMF the European Commission and the European Central Bank.
The Irish speaker, Paul Murphy, summed up the main point: the economic crisis was being used, as the “shock doctrine” to implement far right privatisation policies.
After a short break comrade Owen Jones brought us back to the UK in his appeal for us all to back the People’s Assembly.
The Tendance intervened on the need to build the People’s Assembly on a regional basis.
Lunch was the opportunity to exchange ideas on how to do this.
In the afternoon there were other excellent speakers on topics that ranged from the privatisation of the NHS, Schools, and, most signficantly, the call for a TUC led General Strike.
Personally I could have done without the Socialist Party’s Single Transferable Speech on the latter.
As for the anti-European Union stuff, what is anybody going to replace it with?
Another, Socialist, EU?
But, the day was well worth it.
That Stathis Mithroleos ofSyriza’ dropped in was a real plus.
Labour movement activists, inspired by a hope for a better future, came away with a real glow.
Megan and her comrades should be well proud of their efforts.
Comrades, Build the People’s Assembly!
Yesterday in Le Monde on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Stalin’s death (5th March 1953) there was a supplement on the Great Terror.
The Supplement includes Identity photos of the victims. Unlike the well-known figures whose memory was effaced from the public record, many images remain of ordinary people.
More details are in: La Grande Terreur en URSS, 1937-1938, de Tomasz Kizny, Nicolas Werth, Arseni Roguinski, Christian Caujolle. Avant-propos de Sylvie Kauffmann. Editions Noir sur blanc, 412 p., 40 €.
Vestiges invisibles de la Grande Terreur
Photos of the sites of mass executions and common graves, including these.
Boutovo, near Moscow, where people condemned to death were shot.
Tomsk, in the centre of Russia. It is estimated that there are 10,00 corpses in this ravine.
Sectarianship, A User’s Guide.
“In one of the unpublished notebooks of Rilke there is an unpublished phrase….‘If you’re not one up (Biztleisch) you’re one down (Roteleisch).’”
Stephen Potter. Lifemanship.
As the SWP heads towards the March 10th Special Conference, feelings are running high. Public reticence by the opposition In Defence of Our Party faction (IDOP) has not stemmed the flood of allegations of sexual abuse, or the intensity of inner-SWP conflict. Unhelpful contributions, without the best interests of the SWP at heart, appear on the Internet, exploiting this newfangled device to spread their poison.
Yet there were happier times on the left. An epoch, now dimly remembered, when Alex Callinicos could play croquet with Tony Cliff, on grandfather Lord Acton’s lawn. House-guest Gerry Healy would hit in the face anybody who got in the way of the ball. Other luminaries of the left, from Peter Taaffe, Tariq Ali, to Sean Matgamma, would often pop over for a pleasant weekend.
It is no coincidence that the classic guide to the British Workers’ movement, ‘As soon as this Pub closes’ appeared during this period. It instructed a generation. It may need updating (no reference to the Weekly Worker, Permanent Revolution, the Anti-Capitalist Initiative, to start with) but it remains a monument.
Is all this to be lost amongst more sordid revelations and fisticuffs?
There are signs that something of the spirit of those glory years has not gone away. Comrade Dave Dudley remains active. Splintered Sunrise/Soviet Goon Boy has proved himself (there is no higher praise) a worthy successor to ‘As soon as’. By describing the SWP Treasurer as a master of Father Crilly economics, Andy Newman has tapped into this rich vein
As the SWP falls into the sear yellow leaf comrades must defend this, the British ‘sectarian tradition’.
(Below: Extracts from ‘Sectarianship.’ Tendance Coatesy. 2013)
What is a Sectarian? “You, you and (especially) you”. That is the answer. But there is another reply. It is to be found in the practice and unceasing struggle of accredited Sectarians, licensed to be so named. We are a large group, and a growing one, formed at our Ipswich ‘Centre’ (123 full-timers). Our graduates have been active in the SWP battles and indeed elsewhere.
Stephen Potter is, as we say, “our look me up to”. He defined Sectarianship (which he called ‘Lifemanship’ pre- our epistemological break) as “how to make the member of another faction feel that something has gone wrong.”
Some think the purpose of factional fights is win a sect’s ‘line’.
But the true Sectarian, with or without rudeness, is out for another goal. Such a trained individual is able to make the other person – or ‘class enemy’ – feel ‘one-down’ (Roteleisch, also a term used by the Frankfurt School and the Platypus Society). That somehow She or He may be prey to serious political errors.
Our other master is James P. Cannon. Some might have heard tales that the founder of the American Socialist Workers Party (not to be confused with the above SWP) was the type who spent his life telling people how he’d got one over on his enemy of the moment. That, and the fact that after his death his party has ended up as a New York Real Estate company with 30 members, could lead to the conclusion that he could not be trusted in telling a child how to tie its shoe laces correctly.
We disagree. Cannon was highly skilled in Sectarianship. He remarked in the History of American Trotskyism (1944) that, “when it is a question of fighting for some political idea, Trotskyists can stay awake longer and speak longer and more frequently than people of any other political type.”
Cannon knew a sectarian when he saw one, often in the most surprising places. In 1930 he waged a “bitter fight” against admitting somebody to the New York Branch on the justifiable grounds that we wore a corduroy suit, had long hair and sported a “trick moustache”. That the man later became an Oehlerite proves Cannon’s worth.
The Trotskyist leader fought such “weaklings”, “traitorous gangs” “labour skates” for so long that he developed an unerring talent. Talking of later in the 1930s Cannon described his one-time allies in the US Socialist Party as follows, “They were inexperienced and untested. They were ignorant, untalented, petty-minded, weak, cowardly and vain. And they had other faults too.”
Cannon’s skills were put to good use in the 1950s. He linked up with Gerry Healy and Pierre Lambert in that decade’s struggle against Pabloite liquidationism and its “spineless lackeys” engaged on “cadre-wrecking” expeditions on his home turf. The SWP leader left his imprint on a golden moment in the history of Sectarianship and of International Trotskyism.
The current (UK) SWP leadership has much to learn from Cannon who also said, “Party membership implies the obligation of 100% loyalty to the organisation, the rejection of all agents of other, hostile groups in its ranks, and intolerance of divided loyalties in general.” (The Struggle for a Proletarian Party. 1943) If only IDOP would listen and confine itself to sectarian – and cromulent - opuscules against Christopher Hitchens!
One can but hope to emulate the masters.
This seems a daunting task.
But it is not so!
Let us take a simple example.
Somebody who has signed the SWP ‘loyalty pledge’ is holding forth. She or He has got going on the numbers of Socialist Workers sold by the branch (normally exaggerated by a factor of three), and that the local workers were gagging for a General Strike.
Here we recommend Stephen Potter’s Canterbury Block.
Quietly add, “Absolutely it’s very encouraging, but not in the (add name of workplace).”
Since the SWPer is unlikely to know more about this workplace than its name, she or he is caught off guard. The flow is interrupted. An element of unease is introduced. Others may be encouraged to speak up, and point out that the call for a General Strike has had fewer echoes amongst the masses than Posadist’s programme for interplanetary socialism.
“But not in..” is a useful tool ….