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Posts Tagged ‘Communist Party of Britain

“Britain should leave the EU on WTO terms” – the Story Behind the Communist Party of Britain’s Call.

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Communist Party of Britain Brexit Sub-Committee.

Britain should leave the EU on March 29, liberating a future Labour government from EU Single Market rules and trading with EU and other countries on WTO terms if necessary, Britain’s Communists declared at the weekend.

At the first meeting of its new Executive Committee elected at the 55th Congress, the Communist Party said that the ‘pro-EU Tory minority regime’ and the EU Commission could not be trusted to reach any withdrawal agreement that did not serve the interests of big business and the capitalist class.

‘Locking Britain into the EU Customs Union would make any such agreement even worse’, Robert Griffiths explained, ‘because it would outlaw import regulation to protect strategic industries such as steel, while also impeding a mutually beneficial fair trade policy with developing countries’.

Britain’s Communists urged the labour movement to reject ‘anti-democratic manoeuvres’ to extend Article 50 in order to delay and possibly cancel Brexit. Instead, the CP executive called for a ‘People’s Brexit’ to leave the EU, its Single Market, Customs Union and new pro-NATO military structures so that a left-led Labour government will be free to pursue left and progressive policies that benefit the workers and the people by investing in transport, the environment, housing, productive industry and public services.

‘Britain should leave the EU on WTO terms’, Communists propose

Communist Party calls for Brexit on World Trade Organisation terms (The independent Daily Paper of the Left, the  Morning Star).

The Morning Star has  yet to track down the insider’s account of the reasons for this call, and even the highly rated Skwawkbox has not, so far, published the ‘low down’

But the Newshounds of Tendance Coatesy are hot on the story that has rocked Britain’s left.

Our investigative reporters suggest that the announcement may be a sign of these possibilities:

  • The CPB has made the barking announcement so that anything, absolutely anything, Andrew Murray and Seumas Milne suggest for  Labour’s Brexit plans,  will look reasonable.
  • The Party has decided to follow Chantal Mouffe’s Left Populist strategy of hegemonically uniting  Gammon discursive articulations, with the most advanced sections of the labour movement,  through a chain of equivalences, in a People’s Brexit.
  • The WTO, as identified by cde Aaron Bastani, is the most advanced form of capitalist accelerationism whose rules will ensure the swift coming of total luxury communism –  faster than Novara Media’s Griffin farms in Norway.
  • Roger Griffiths and his mates have never got over the 1970s Alternative Economic Strategy and its protectionist proposals.
  • The CPB actually believes this load of old cobblers.

The Central Committee of Tendance Coatesy is in permanent session debating our response.

On a serious note, it seems that the CPB is prepared to throw the Irish people to the Unionist wolves.

 

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Morning Star Warns of “subterranean” communications between “elements” in Labour and “EU powers that be”.

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Morning Star Warns of “subterranean” pro-EU Labour.

On Thursday the Morning Star carried this Editorial.

Brexit delay endangers democracy

The danger is clear. Every suggestion, explicit or subliminal, that exit from the EU is an option that can be deferred, either for now or infinitely, threatens Labour’s hard-won credibility with its core electorate of working people.

The serial undermining of Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to respect the referendum result has many seats of subversion.

Some can be found in the shadow cabinet, even among those charged with implementing conference policy. Some on the back benches where unfulfilled ambition ends in speculation about forming a new centre party of class collaboration or reconstituting a Blairite tendency to the same ends.

There are many subterranean channels of communication between elements in Labour and the EU powers that be.

The Communist Party of Britain run daily advised the Labour Party,

It needs to see beyond a full Brexit on March 29 to the next stage in the struggle for a people’s government.

Labour should support the “full Brexit” first, of course.

Last night Channel Four carried a report by  Michael Crick with David Aaronovitch on the Four Ms, Corbyn’s key advisers.

These are, Corbyn’s strategy and communications director Seumas Milne, his chief of staff Karie Murphy, her friend Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, and Andrew Murray, adviser to Mr Corbyn and chief of staff to Mr McCluskey.

Crick referred to the background of Milne and Murray in the 1980s Communist Party of Great Britain faction, Straight Left.

Aaronovitch has written in the Times on this in this article Corbyn’s clique are the old guard Brexiteers

The Times journalist made, the accurate, observation that these, and others, remained stuck in the mid-70s ‘Broad Left’ (from Michael Foot, Tony Benn, to the old Communist Party of Great Britain and much of the Trotskyist left) opposition to ‘Common Market’ and all of its works.

The Times piece also contained paragraphs on Andrew Murray’s  views on the Ukraine and the way he blamed the ‘EU’ for intervening against Russian President Putin’s plans to destabilise the independent country.

One could add that there was this campaign which Corbyn’s adviser on Brexit helped launch in 2014

Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine’ launched in London

Last night (2 June 2014) saw the founding meeting of the ‘Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine’ campaign, which was hosted by the Marxist Student Federation in SOAS, London.

Over  150 people attended the meeting to hear Richard Brenner (Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine), Lindsey German (Counterfire), Boris Kagarlitsky (Institute for globalization studies and social movements), Andrew Murray (Communist Party of Britain), Alan Woods (International Marxist Tendency) and Sergei Kirichuk (Borotba) discuss the threat of fascism in Ukraine, the role of imperialism in the current situation and the need for a campaign in support of the antifascist resistance in Ukraine to provide a counterweight to the lies and distortions of the Western media.

This is what Murray, apparently somebody taken seriously in UNITE and the Labour Party, said,

Andrew Murray explained that “fascism is as fascism does” and that the recent attacks by fascist thugs, such as the brutal murder of protesters in Odessa, show that we are talking about real fascism, not just the equivalent of UKIP in Britain. He also warned against prettifying the intervention of the EU as if “over there” it is a good thing whilst “over here” it is not. He also stressed that the Left should be united and put pressure on the British government to cease its support of fascism in Ukraine.

Having the past brought up sent the Morning Star into a rage.

Nick Wright, who does media work for the Communist Party of Britain, wrote this,

David Aaronovitch follows in the footsteps of Paul Mason

“The befuddled Times journo takes a swipe at Corbyn.”

Leaving aside the details of this spat between old chums,  and the reference to Paul Mason that few will grasp, the column concludes,

For Aaronovitch the aim is, as he states without equivocation, to win over Corbyn or “to neutralise” Corbyn.

So again the target is not the praetorian guard but Corbyn himself.

Nick Wright is proud enough of his scattered broadside to put it on his blog.

Nick Wright was also a member of Straight Left.

The ghosts of the 1970s left, with its backing for the Alternative Economic Strategy, put into place outside the ‘Common Market’, complete with import controls – no doubt still a popular demand – continue to haunt many minds.

The Lexit Left demanding the “full Brexit now”  has some influence outside of the Corbyn inner circle.

But not much.

There are no doubt those who take the views of  those supportive of Tony Blair (at the time) who now wish to see the UK remain in Europe to promote their vision of “stakeholder capitalism” (Saving Britain by Will Hutton and Andrew Adonis. 2018).  The case against Leaving is never more valid than now, when the details of the dire economic and social effects of Brexit emerge every day. But warmed up ideas for stakeholding and “transforming our economy”, policies that included worker and wider social participation in a reform of how companies operate , that were not implemented under either Blair now Brown, lack credibility.

As Aaronovitch said, the mainstream left, in Labour and the Unions, moved to a more supportive position on the EU during the 1980s, when Jacques Delors began as president of the European Commission (1985 – 1995) for more pragmatic reasons. European labour and social legislation are seen as a bedrock for people’s rights.

Much of the radical left these days is behind Another Europe is Possible, from the centre-left Open Labour, the democratic socialist  Chartist,  Marxist groups, like Socialist Resistance and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, the Left Unity party, Greens, and many people of no direct affiliation.

This has a much a more radical agenda which can be seen here:

THE LEFT AGAINST BREXIT – AN INTERNATIONALIST CASE FOR EUROPE

“Brexit is a hard right Tory project – the only way to resist it is from the left. This pamphlet puts forward our distinct, left wing reasons to oppose leaving the EU.”

This is a serious grass-roots alliance that, this week, had this coup:

Written by Andrew Coates

January 26, 2019 at 1:29 pm

Communist Party to Launch “People’s Brexit” Campaign as “historic achievement of a Leave result” is “under threat”

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Will Leader of Trade Unionists Against the EU heed the Communist Call?

London for a People’s Brexit could prove to be an historic turning point.

The Communist Party has worked non-stop these last three years holding meetings the length and breadth of Britain to argue the case for a left exit from the EU bosses club.

We played a small but important part in the referendum outcome in which 17.4 million people voted to Leave. We have pamphleteered relentlessly, held indoor and outdoor meetings, lobbied the TUC and sought progressive allies who could argue alongside us for the interests of the people in a struggle dominated so far on both sides by the Right.

The historic achievement of a Leave result is now under threat. The labour movement and Labour Party are divided when unity could never be more vital. There is more than a whiff of opportunism in both organisations. Some elements claiming to be on the left have taken billionaires’ money to campaign to undo the massive democratic mandate and force us to vote, vote and vote again till we vote for EU membership.

This Thursday, we have played a central part in bringing together political forces, including some in the Labour Party, on the left and in the trade unions for a public meeting in support of a People’s Brexit. And at this meeting, if attendance is significant, we want to persuade participants to turn it from a meeting into an all-Britain campaign. From there, the case for a People’s Brexit can be taken to major cities and towns across England, Scotland and Wales.

We urge you to circulate that flyer as far as you can to those who you think may attend. If you are already planning on attending don’t come alone. Bring friends, workmates and fellow community, union, anti-racist and women’s movement activists. It’s going to be an historic night.

Please come along, raise your voice and take part!

Yours in comradeship,

Robert Griffiths
General Secretary

Communist Party

 

There is no news about whether Paul Embery (perhaps he is busy writing for the Sun) or Arron Banks, who funded Trade Unionists Against the EU, will attend.

Word has it, however, that these likely lads are already up for it:

Written by Andrew Coates

November 21, 2018 at 12:56 pm

Communist Party of Britain Calls for “Mass Campaign” for “People’s” Brexit.

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“Deluded deliberations of ‘left-wing’ and liberal remainers” says Communist Stalwart.

An emergency resolution submitted by the party’s Oxford branch said the agreement would “prevent our country from adopting any radical programme that would reassert workers’ rights, require firms to adopt mandatory sectoral collective bargaining and enable industrial regeneration through state aid and the comprehensive public ownership of utilities.

“It is a charter for big business, as set out by the government’s business advisory council, and principally designed to protect financial services” at the expense of other sectors of Britain’s economy.

The congress rejected arguments that the agreement should be accepted as preferential to bids by Labour’s right wing, the Liberal Democrats, Scottish and Welsh nationalists and the Greens to reverse the electorate’s 2016 decision to leave the EU, with mover Dave Stavris arguing that it would preserve all the worst aspects of EU membership.

And London district’s Alex Gordon quoted the Morning Star to the effect that, rather than Ms May’s deal being described as “Brexit in name only” it should be labelled Leave in Name Only — “if you’re lino they’ll walk all over you.”

But the party vowed to oppose both the deal and undemocratic efforts to keep Britain in the EU, saying that the left should fight for a general election to return a left-led Labour government that “meets the needs of working people and frees us to initiate international relations based on co-operation and peaceful development.”

Party members would work to build a mass campaign for a People’s Brexit and congress called for a big turnout for People’s Brexit launch meetings in London and Halifax this Thursday.

Communists call for mass mobilisation against May’s bogus Brexit

The Communist Party of Britain’s allies, the “thriving through chaos” revolutionaries of  Counterfire want to make a go-it-alone Britain a “beacon of hope” for the whole world.

Britain is not leaving a progressive paradise but a bloc with chauvinistic neoliberalism hardwired into it. The left has no business defending membership and promoting reform of a rotten structure. The sooner the structure collapses the better.

The left should rather be mobilising in the streets and workplaces to scrap neoliberalism at home. That could make the island a beacon of hope for struggles on the continent and an ally of progressive peoples everywhere. The task is not easy but it faces the left in every country. We have to rise to the challenge if we do not want Britain becoming an off-shore tax haven for the super rich.

Liberals lament Britain leaving the European Union, but the politics of the bloc is increasingly right wing and nasty, argues Vladimir Unkovski-Korica

(an academic and a member of the Serbian  Marks21. Serbia is not yet a full member of the EU).

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If a “mass moblisation” lights this Lighthouse, the new Pharos, what exactly is a successor to the Tory government going to do to negotiate a ‘People’s Brexit’?

Where is there own ‘draft’ of a negotiation strategy replace the May draft agreement?

Or are they too willing to tumble out into the good graces of the WTO and Trump with a ‘hard’ popular anti-austerity Brexit?

Answer comes there none.

But there is little doubt that these statements indicate yet more signs of growing polarisation in British politics.

If you want to know what these people think of the pro-European left and campaigns such as Another Europe is Possible CPB supporter Nick Wright offers a clue,

Is a 21st century National Government of class collaboration taking shape?

It is significant that liberal opinion, whether in the poisonous form of Guardian and BBC journalism or as the deluded deliberations of ‘left-wing remainers,’ is most implacably opposed to the stand taken by the Labour leadership on these issues.

The sight of people who once marched against the Iraq war marching in lock step with Tony Blair, Alistair Campbell, George Osbourne and David Cameron shows just how deeply embedded liberal ideas are in sections of the left.

Answer:

As Internationalist Left Campaigns for Corbyn’s Option of a Second Brexit Vote, Brexit Bolsheviks Plan Monster Rally.

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Anti-Brexit campaigners unfurl a banner on Westminster bridge on November 15, 2018 in front of the Houses of Parliament in London. - British Prime Minister Theresa May will give a press conference this afternoon amid intense criticism from lawmakers over her Brexit deal. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

Internationalist Left Mobilises Against Brexit while Brexit Bolsevicks Plan Monster Meeting Next Week.

Corbyn Confirms Support For ‘People’s Vote’ Campaign Remaining On The Table

In an email to Labour Party members this evening, Jeremy Corbyn confirmed that Labour supports the campaign for another public vote on Brexit “remaining on the table” if a general election is not possible.

The Labour leader’s message reads: “If we cannot get a General Election, in line with our conference policy, we will support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.”

Although this is simply a reiteration of existing party policy, ‘people’s vote’ campaigners have expressed concerns about Corbyn’s recent comments on the efforts to secure another referendum on Brexit.

At Labour conference in September, the composite motion agreed by the party pledged to “support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote” should it not be able to secure a general election.

But last week Corbyn gave an interview to Der Spiegel in which he said Brexit could not be stopped, and later told Channel 4 that he wouldn’t agree with Jo Johnson’s call for another referendum.

Interviewed in a ‘Reach Fest’ event on Wednesday night, Corbyn was asked whether he would back a public vote and replied: “That’s not a priority”.

If Theresa May’s deal is voted down and the opposition cannot force a general election, it is hoped by some pro-EU Labour groups that the party will get behind the ‘people’s vote’ campaign as a way of breaking the deadlock.

There may then be some debate over whether to exclude the option of ‘no deal’, which Remainers would argue could be dangerous, and whether to include the option to remain in the EU, which may cause others to worry about the optics of re-running the 2016 referendum.

From the E-Mail.

As I said in Parliament earlier today, people around the country will be feeling anxious about the industries they work in, the jobs they hold and the stability of this country.

We do not accept that the choice is between the government’s deal and ‘no deal’. We will work across Parliament to stop a ‘no deal’ outcome. Labour has set out our alternative plan for a sensible Brexit that would work for all of our nations and regions, bring Parliament and the country together, support jobs and our economy and guarantee rights, standards and protections.

If Parliament votes down this shambolic Tory deal — as seems likely — this will represent a loss of confidence in the government. In those circumstances the best outcome for the country is an immediate General Election that can sweep the Tories from power and deliver the Labour government this country desperately needs.

If we cannot get a General Election, in line with our conference policy, we will support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.

Jeremy Corbyn
Leader of the Labour Party

On   Labour List  Sienna further comments,

The question is what happens after Theresa May’s deal is voted down the first time. We know forcing a general election is highly improbable. Does she go back, renegotiate with the EU, have it pass in the Commons on the second go after economic chaos has put enough fear into MPs? Or will a ‘people’s vote’ initiative be backed by Labour and somehow gain a majority in the House? Corbyn has seemed reluctant to give the campaign his backing, worrying groups such as Another Europe is Possible, but he confirmed in an email last night to members that Labour “will support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote”. Reluctant though the leadership and many MPs may be, another public vote may become the only way of breaking the deadlock.

The Brexit Bolsheviks are already mobilising against Internationalism.

The sight of people who claim to be on the left promoting National sovereignty and a ‘People’s Brexit’ as the cornerstone of Labour strategy, and claiming to be socialists, when their politics are those of Spiked and Brendan O’Neill reminds one of these lines from Finton O’Toole.

“Who, in other words, are “the people” to whom power is supposedly being returned? Here we find the other thing that dare not speak its name: English nationalism.”

How Brexit Broke Up Britain

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Written by Andrew Coates

November 16, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Andrew Murray Defining Labour’s Brexit Strategy?

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Andrew Murray now a Player at Labour ‘Strategy” meetings.

There were considerable concerns expressed, when it was announced that Andrew Murray, full title,  Andrew Drummond-Murray of Mastrick, whose father was Slains Pursuivant, one of Scotland’s most senior heraldic titles, was to become a key adviser to Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy Corbyn makes Unite’s Andrew Murray a part-time consultant.

“Former communist, loathed by those on Labour’s right, will help hone party’s Brexit strategy.”

Guardian February the 26th 2018.This worries extended far beyond “Labour’s Right’”.

Those backing the politics of Another Europe is Possible were far from happy to see somebody wedded to the Sovereigntist anti-EU stand of Murray’s former party, the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), having a central role in shaping Labour’s policy on Europe.

These views are justified. This key section of an article in the New Statesman yesterday indicates……..

Most of the piece is about taxation.

But this stands out:

At a recent strategy meeting, Andrew Murray – who works part-time as Len McCluskey’s chief of staff and part-time in Corbyn’s office – argued that the Labour Party should vote for Theresa May’s deal to avoid a no-deal exit. At that point, Abbott intervened to disagree. She argued that the party’s pro-European membership would never forgive them for bailing out a weak Tory government and that May’s Brexit agreement would in any case be a disaster that Labour should not be seen to endorse.

Then she warned her old friend Corbyn that their pro-Remain constituents in the north-east of London would be “protesting outside your house” if Labour voted for May’s deal. “That last point really spooked him,” recalls one of the attending staffers.

How the “end of austerity” presents a challenge to the Labour Party Steven Bush.

So, Murray is a player at a Labour “strategy meeting“.

For a different view see (extract)

WHY DEBATING BREXIT IS STILL VITAL FOR THE LEFT

John Palmer says a Schrodinger’s Brexit, neither in nor out, is the likely outcome from the May government unless Labour forces a General Election while keeping a people’s vote on the table.

……….

Labour is right to say to May that unless you produce a deal that meets the six tests we will vote it down. Corbyn can also say that Labour is in a much better position to negotiate a much more satisfactory relationship. Labour is far more supportive of EU-proposed reforms on workers’ rights, anti-discrimination measures and tougher environmental controls than any Tory government. The EU knows this too and would likely allow more time and offer more negotiating concessions to a British government led by Jeremy Corbyn to get an agreement leaving the UK in the EU.

Labour, however, needs to spell out its willingness to be more positive in any new negotiations if it wins an early general election. It is worth remembering the ‘renegotiation’ of Harold Wilson in 1974/5 after Labour rejected the Heath Tory government’s EEC Accession Treaty. It is not unprecedented for Labour to go back and renegotiate with Europe. There is little in Labour’s programme to provoke hostility from the EU. No EU opposition has been expressed to the  proposed nationalisation of rail, energy and utilities, contrary to what Lexiteers have alleged.

The rest of the EU wants the UK to remain – renegotiating a completely new relationship after the past 45 years, post-Brexit, would be a nightmare. If Corbyn wins an election and says to Brussels ‘we would like urgent talks with you’ he is likely to meet a weary but a positive response. You don’t say ‘No’ to a newly elected government. The need for more time might require some extension of article 50. There may soon not only be a new government in the UK. There will also be a new European Commission taking office next year and also a newly elected European Parliament.  So any new negotiation will take time.

In terms of how Labour should approach a people’s vote, I have some sympathy with John McDonnell in not wanting to risk everything on a referendum – if we got anything like the same result as in 2016 the right would be on a rampage. The question is what happens if Labour cannot force an election? In that event, a People’s Referendum should remain on the table. There was a strong consensus on this issue at the party conference. The questions will be set by Parliament not by Government. It would make sense to have tripartite options: ‘support the package’, ‘reject the package’, or ‘reopen negotiations on membership.’

The problem with a referendum is that it can only be indirectly couched within a broader context of policies and arguments on inequality and social justice. I believe the best time for a referendum would be after a new Labour government had returned with its reform and remain package from Brussels. If that has to take place after March next year when we leave the EU, it should include an option to re-apply for membership on the terms negotiated with Brussels.

Meanwhile it will be crucial to work with progressive political forces elsewhere in Europe. Who might they be? Think of the Portuguese left coalition government, Podemos and its allies in Spain, France Insoumise (which has rejected any desire to leave the EU or even leave the Euro), the SDP left, Die Linke and the Greens in Germany, the very successful Green Left and its social democratic allies in the Netherlands and many social democratic and socialist parties from Greece and Italy to Sweden and Finland.

Now is the time for the British Labour party to call for more collaboration with the European left and centre-left parties on a common programme of EU reform and further democratisation. The Labour leadership could call a conference in London to debate the common threats we face and to prepare a common fighting platform to tackle the far right, corruption and climate change across Europe.

Labour should make it clear that following a Labour victory it will prioritise a Reform and Remain strategy for the UK. For now Labour should coordinate with the SNP, Greens and Plaid to ensure a progressive vote against the May deal.

Does Murray even represent the interests of UNITE workers?

Jim Denham argue he does not:

Unite’s McCluskey and Turner – backed by Morning Star – betray automotive workers.

No, I don’t understand what that’s supposed to mean, either: but it sure as hell offers no hope and no way forward for Unite’s automotive members now staring into the abyss at Toyota, BMW, Honda and JLR: presumably, they must be sacrificed to satisfy the pro-Brexit predilictions of McCluskey, Turner and the Morning Star.

Not Forgetting Stalin. Under Two Dictators. Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler. Margarete Buber-Neumann.

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Not Forgetting Stalin.

“There were twenty-eight men and Betty and I in our group. Betty and I, an old professor and a prisoner with a wounded leg, were taken on in a lorry. The men had to walk. We got out on the Russian side of the Brest Litovsk bridge and waited for them to come up, looking across the bridge into occupied Poland. The men and arrived and then a group of GPU men crossed the bridge. We saw them retiring after a while, and the group was larger. There were SS officers with them. The SS commandant and the GP chief saluted each other. The Russian was a good head taller than the German.

The GPU officials still stood there in a group watching us go. Behind them was Soviet Russia. Bitterly I recalled the Communist litany: Fatherland of the Toilers, Bulwark of Socialism, Haven of the Persecuted.”

Margarete Buber-Neumann. 1949

Buber-Neumann was one of around 350 Soviet prisoners handed over to the German authorities between November 1939 and May 1941. This, on Russian initiative, selected, often arbitrarily, Germans held in Gulag and sent them over to the Nazis. Some, on arrival, were interrogated and, if cooperative, were set free. She was not. From time in the Soviet Karaganda forced labour complex, Buber-Neumann was put in

Translated into English in 1949 Under Two Dictators. Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler remains a unique account of Stalinism from a victim of the Gulag, and of Ravensbrück.

The wife of a former leading figure in the German Communist Party, the KPD, Heinz Neumann, the author had sought refuge in Moscow from Hitler’s rule. This was never a safe haven. The focus of internal party attacks, as a “troublemaker” and target for their failure to resist the Nazi advance, he was marked. The Great Terror began. In 1937 the NKVD murdered Heinz for “fractional activity”, after a ritual confession. His death came amongst hundreds of other German, and other exiled, Communists.  The spouse’s arrest came in 1937. She was found guilty of “counter-revolutionary agitation and organisation against the Soviet State.”

In Karaganda they “slept on the bare ground with our head top the walls all in a line, and about five or is yards in front of us a soldier sat on a stool with his rifle over his knees to see that no one made an attempt to escape” (Page 91) In the Gulag she came across the orphans “produced by the forced collectivisation and the famine.” (Page 116). There was back-breaking work, in freezing conditions during the winter, for a daily pound and a half of bread.

Initially the transferred prisoner found the German camp, though grim, was run “with typical Prussian thoroughness” and a higher level of provisions. Nevertheless conditions were harsh. She became a “slave of the Assembly line” in the Industrial Complex, beset with suspicion by Communist prisoners who considered her a ‘Trotskyite’ and “more or less the scum of the earth”. Buber-Neumann was deeply affected when the health of her friend, Jesenka Milena (the recipient of Kafka’s Briefe an Milena) and she  died of kidney failure.

As the war reached its end Buber-Neumann met Auschwitz prisoners who told her of the mass exterminations. It was not long before the Ravensbrück authorities began to murder the old and unfit in two crematoria. She survived and wandered a devastated Germany. Her memoir ends in a moment of joy as the prisoner of two dictators was reunited with her mother and sister in Thierstein.

Kravchenko Trial.

Buber-Neumann was a key defence witness in the 1949 Victor Andreevich Kravchenk  libel case. The author of I Chose Freedom had described the Soviet Union in these terms, “The magnitude of the horror has never been grasped by the outside world. Perhaps it is too vast ever to be grasped. Russia was a battlefield strewn with corpses, blotched with gigantic enclosures where millions of wretched ‘war prisoners’ toiled, suffered and died.”  (2) This, and his other works, were attacked by the French Communist Lettres françaises. They criticised it as “fake news”. of”being a traitor, a draft dodger and an mebezzler. His ex-wife appeared as well, accusing him of being physically abusive and sexually impotent.  They described Kravchenko as vain, a drunkard, and a “traitor” to the USSR. “He had fabricated the book’s material with the help of US disinformation services, and was himself a creation of the American secret services.

Whatever Kravehenco’s promotion by the US and right-wing long-standing anti-Communists  his key facts, Buber-Neumann’s evidence underlined, were correct. A recent history of the period notes that her testimony played a significant role in establishing Kravcehneko’s credibility. Les Temps Modernes registered that after her book “one cannot dispute the existence of concentration camps in Russia.” (3)

The independent minded left-winger David Rousset began a parallel prosecution for libel. The same Lettres françaises had claimed that in his writings had “invented” the Russian Gulag, “forging the texts of the Soviet laws, and spreading misinformation.”

The growing evidence – Rousset was able to cite the Russian penal codes own punishments – told. The Communist journal lost both the cases and was condemned for defamation. The result was a public controversy that swept the left. It undermined the influence of the Parti Communiste français (PCF), above all amongst the reading public.

The Gulag and the Left.

The debate about the existence of Soviet camps was far reaching. Were these just crimes of Stalin? It raised again the Soviet-German Pact, the backdrop of the decision to send Margerte Buber-Neumann from one universe of camps to another. What means could be justified (as already discussed and decided largely in Communism’s favour by Merleau-Ponty in Humanisme et Terreur. 1947) in terms of the eventual “goal” of equality and freedom? Was the Gulag, far from disappearing with victory in the Second World War, an essential pillar of a system?

The French left – in common with other lefts – has since that time been shaped by the fall-out from different stands on these issues.

After an initial discussion about whether the Soviet system, which left at least some people alive, was better than the Shoah, a debate, which has yet to conclude, on the nature of the USSR began. The place of forced labour and mass murder at the heart of Stalin’s USSR – was perhaps the most decisive. Claude Lefort, who considered that Moscow’s ‘totalitarian” regime rested on forced labour and repression of dissidence, fell out with others in the leading intellectual left journal of the time, Les Temps Modernes. He, and Cornelius Castoriadis, in Socialisme ou Barbarie, argued that the French Communists, did not just defend the Soviet Union against all comers, but would try to inflict these practices at home. They were a junior part of the same bureaucratic exploiting class.

Other did not and do not consider tyranny and murder to have been the motor of the USSR, but as part of a historically contingent wrong course. Some, even Sartre for a time, thought that the world Communist movement was the only hope for the future whatever regimes and parties may have been at the present. Many of the independent French left while wary of the Communists, pointed to their strength amongst organised labour. They refused to reject their policies en bloc. Orthodox Trotskyists continued to consider that the fundamentals of the USSR, state ownership, were, for all the bureaucratic pile up, privileges and repression, sound.  One can find the same positions across the world’s left.

Coming to terms with the Fall of Official Communism remains a central difficulty for the left. Today, in Britain, all that remains of an already small Communist Party of Great Britain (with some influence in the trade unions and intellectual life) is a minuscule Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and ultra-Stalinist fragments. But there is a more diffuse legacy from those who supported Soviet Union, that continues within the labour movement. Some on the left have not come to terms with the basic facts about Stalinist crimes. Key figures around the Labour leader promote a Boy’s Own view of Stalin, as, if nothing else, a dashing and successful War Leader. Margarete Buber-Neumann reminds us that Stalin’s darkest side was there at that very moment.

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(1) Page 143. Under Two Dictators. Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler. Margerte Buber-Neumann.1949 Pimlico. 2008.

(2) Page  303. I Chose Freedom. Victor A. Kravchenko. The Personal and Political Life of a Soviet Official. Transaction Publications. 2002.

(3) Pages 351 – 360. La Révolution rêvée. Michel Surya. 2004.