Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Socialist Unity: From Soviet Union to the GDR, and the People’s Republic of China.

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The Duty of Every Revolutionary is to Defend the Soviet Union.

The Workers’ World Party, the Morning Star, the Party of Socialism and Liberation, George Galloway’s Green Shorts, and Socialist Unity, have been discussing joint-action. Internationally. That at least is the message we hear. As part of this on-going merger initiative study-groups have been organised.

The below is an extract from a verbatim account (leaked to TC)  of one such meeting. On The Socialist Sixth of the World. Hewlett Johnson (Fred Kite collection).

Introduction (Ydna Wennam).

Today is the anniversary of the publication of The Socialist Sixth of World (Second Edition, 1939). For generations this book has inspired socialists. For all its faults, and Hewett’s  account here is a little too over-optimistic; but is a useful reminder that for the majority of its citizens the Soviet Union was a society that basically worked. There mass popular participation in the organisations helped in sustaining the society. To those who talk of labour camps and GPU, NKVD, or GUGB, these bodies and their operations were actually quite popular,  at   least as far as one can tell from their  enthusiastic  endorsements at Party conferences and public rallies. There was political repression, but you need to look at what actually happened, rather than assuming some Orwellian template. The groups who were liable to be persecuted were anti-social semi-criminal people; and those who courted political (and sadly sometime just social) links with the West. Let us not forget that the Soviets were encircled by hostile powers. Or that some groups openly encouraged the ‘overthrow’ of socialist power. There were widespread reports of wrecking and illegal factional activity. We can all accept constructive reservations.  But the opposition to the Soviets seems to be towards any attempt to even understand the USSR, or to acknowledge the degree to which it deviated from the Western propaganda stereotype.

Johnson came from a religious background – like many comrades in the fast-growing Respect Party. Yet he recognised that  the Soviet Union’s official atheism allowed full scope for private belief – if kept well  and truly to oneself. In fact the regime was “Christian in spirit”. A society in which “Love is the fulfilling of the Law” (page 368) Nor was he uncritical. “The order of Soviet Union is far from perfect” he noted, “Naturally the new order lies open to criticism in a hundred minor points.”(Page 87)

The material achievements of the Soviet Union were already apparent in the 1930s when Johnson wrote. He cites the growth in the agricultural production: the sugar-beet harvest alone is to show a further increase of 37.2% – as the five year plan products. “The sale of soap in the Soviet Union has increased many dozenfold since 1913.” (Page 212). Tea-leaf output is to be increased by 1939 to 3 million!  In an amazing anticipation of modern green thinking the author states that “Home grown food saves transport” (page 159) Rippling corn fields, and ballet in the evening!

We cannot recommend this book too highly – for all the comments one may one have about its details. Its message is clear. Who could not inspired by these lines? “Dawn breaks over the east. And in that fresh dawn men see the promise of a new world, nor a perfect world, and not a Utopian world, but at least a  world freed from poverty and explotiation…a world where mankind, realised at last from much that binds it to the earth, may find within itself a nobler and more enduring goodness and beauty.”(Page 384)

I pause for a moment to let this sink in.

Nor did this progress leave everyday life unaffected. The USSR , regarding personal sexual relationships, and respect for women as being the equals of men, then the Soviet Union was a surprisingly innovative and successful society. Stalin’s closest comrades, such as Beria, gave women many opportunities. And can I say that the Party General Secretary was a good dancer, a superb one, unlike Churchill…

Pages to follow…..


Written by Andrew Coates

October 10, 2009 at 10:07 am

8 Responses

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  1. I picked it up many years back, an amusing historical relic, but the whole debate at SU on the GDR misses a key point:

    who has the final say in a society?

    In the GDR it wasn’t the workers.

    It was the Politburo of the SED.

    And they were under the USSR’s Politburo.

    It is that simple.


    October 10, 2009 at 12:57 pm

  2. The nostalgia displayed by some sections of the Left for all things Eastern Bloc is something that never ceases to confound my tiny freaking mind. When I read the original post @ SU I thought it was some kind of clever irony, a joke perpetrated by brains greater than mine.

    Modernity has put his finger on it: ‘Who has the final say in a society?’. The words ‘test’ and ‘litmus’ spring tiger-like to mind.

    It’s a question that should be tatooed on every Lefts’ forehead, painted on the ceiling above their bed and inscribed on their fridge magnets. They might actually get somewhere.

    But I’m not holding my breath.

    Weston Bay

    October 10, 2009 at 11:14 pm

  3. entdinglichung

    October 11, 2009 at 10:55 am

  4. Only a matter of time before SU blog has a piece on North Korea 🙂


    October 11, 2009 at 1:33 pm

  5. Ah yes, good ol’ North Korea- cyclist’s paradise (yes Andrew, I’ve seen the video ;o)

    And so eco-friendly too! Just like that other workers’ paradise in the Caribbean whose name eludes me…

    Weston Bay

    October 11, 2009 at 2:07 pm

  6. I’m not sure who generated this “account,” but it is complete news to those of us in WWP. Especially funny since the former WWPers in PSL won’t even cooperate with us on the most basic actions.

    Joint actions between these groups could be desirable and possible. Merger initiative? Not hardly.


    October 11, 2009 at 3:16 pm

  7. Andy Newman doesn’t do irony, whiich is surprising as he seems to think he’s an intellectual giant of the left with a sophisticated analysis of everything he writes about i.e. everything. In reality he’s a skin-deep Stalinist who’s crude vote Labour lesser evilism reveals him to have the political know-how of our cat.


    October 11, 2009 at 5:10 pm

  8. The funniest bit is that the WWP took the post so seriously that they (on Leftist Trainspotters)thought the claims about Galloway and them went back to their (real) co-operation on the Convey for Palestine.

    Andrew Coates

    October 13, 2009 at 10:18 am

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