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October. The Story of the October Revolution, China Miéville. Critical Left Reflections.

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October. The Story of the October Revolution, China Miéville. Verso. 2017.

Autumn and the 100th Anniversary of the October Revolution are drawing closer. The harvest of books on the new Soviet Power is still being gathered. It is, no doubt somebody has written, the duty of socialists to study, and this crop comes, for many, at the top of the left’s reading list. Should we begin with Lenin and the debates that have arisen after the publication of Lars Lih’s Lenin Rediscovered: ‘What is to Be Done’ in Context (2008)? The 17th century Jansenist theologian, Saint-Cyran, claimed to have gone through Saint Augustine’s writings, 22 volumes, ten times, and his writings against the Pelagian heretics thirty. (1) There are Leninists whose familiarity with the Collected Works of Lenin  exceeds that modest accomplishment. Far better, if we are to grasp what was a stake in Russia in 1917, to start first with accounts of events: the contending politics and theories, Bolsheviks and their opponents, are embodied in the acts of the revolution.

China Miéville’s contribution is, as he announces, “a short introduction for those curious about an astonishing story, eager to be caught up in the revolution’s rhythms. (Page 2). If it is more than as a “story” that he tells the tale, Miéville, from the radical left, and the accomplished author of the BasLag weird fiction trilogy, brings a freshness and enthusiasm to the narrative, which begins in the 19th century Tsarist Russian opposition, the 1905 Revolution, and above, all the immense tragedy of the Great War which overshadowed the events that unfolded. October leaves little doubt that the immediate alternative to All Power to the Soviets was not a coalition of the left, but the threat of a successful far-right coup that would have accomplished what General Kornilov had failed impose. Miéville has both charmed and irritated those already familiar with the plot, and, one hopes, instilled both interest and caution in those not.

The Saint-Cyrans amongst the left have not been slow to argue about the take on Lenin’s Letters from Afar (March 1917), which called for the Bolsheviks to take state power. For some this remains a “bombshell”, advocating an accelerated move towards a socialist regime, telescoping previous alliances and revolutionary ‘stages’ into an immediate drive towards something close to socialism. But Miéville claims (following Lars Lih) that, “His argument that the revolution must continue remained clear, as did his exhortation to worker, ‘you must perform miracles of proletarian and popular organisation to prepare for your victory in the second stage of the revolution’ – a stage not of socialism, he would soon clarify, but of taking political power, of winning over the Soviet, to ensure the victory of the (necessarily bourgeois, democratic) revolution (Page 98). It was “continuity Bolshevism, and yet contained the seeds of a distinct and more trenchant position”. (Page 99) Readers who wish to make their own judgement can follow debates on the relationship between socialism, the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry and other aspects of Bolshevik programme and doctrine.

Defending the Revolution.

Of far greater interest are Miéville’s defences of the Revolution. In a concluding chapter there is a series of reflections on its outcome, to put it simply, Stalinism. The state organised Red Terror was, in a manner familiar to anybody acquainted with Miéville’s former organisation the Socialist Workers Party, explained as a result of external circumstances. The Civil War was the cause, ““Under such unrelenting pressures, these are months and years of unspeakable barbarity and suffering, starvation, mass death, the near-total collapse of industry and culture, of banditry, pogroms, torture and cannibalism. The beleaguered regime unleashes the Red terror.”(Page 312). Yet, ““there is no doubt that its reach a depth expand beyond control; that some agents of the Cheka the political police, seduced by personal power, sadism or the degradation of the moment are thugs and murders unconstrained by political conviction and wielding new authority. There is no shortage of testimonials as to their dreadful acts.”(Ibid).

October does not examine the view that the “dictatorship of the proletariat” unconstrained by the rule of law is fertile ground for abuse, thugs and murders. One may disagree with Kautsky’s critique of Bolshevism. But if Lih is correct that Lenin accepted the view that the democratic republic was an important stage in the “ripening of the proletariat” it is not the view that this is a “stage” “the essential basis for building up a Socialist system if production” that favours the eventual conquest of political power, that strikes us most today. It is his opinion that “people’s rights” such as “the protection of minorities” are the bedrock of socialism. (2)

The Dictatorship of the Proletariat. 

Was Soviet Power, on the basis of interpreting Lenin’s reflections in State and Revolution (1917), made up of “working bodies, executive and legislative at the same time” a vehicle for these rights? Could take the state and politics back into the hands of the – restricted – electorate who controlled them? Lenin’s model was the barely over a couple of months long Paris Commune (8 Mar 1871 – 28 May 1871), a pluralist assembly, a heroic stand,  but which ended in a deep split between the patriotic majority of Blanquists who wished to fight by any means to the end, and an opposition of Proudhonists  and supporters of the First International (Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray, Histoire de la Commune de 1871,  Published, 1876 and a standard source for Marxists for many years). Its own administrative achievements – contested – aside, this perhaps illustrates the difficulties of revolutionary democracy in war.

As Isaac Deutscher memorably commented, the Bolsheviks refused to allow the “famished and emotionally unhinged country to vote their party out of power and itself into a bloody chaos” are not hard to grasp. (3)

They had always tacitly assumed that the majority of the working class having backed them in the revolution, would go on to support them unswervingly until they had carried out the full programme of socialism. Naïve as the assumption was, it sprang from the notion that socialism was the proletarian idea par excellence that the proletariat, having once adhered to it would not abandon it. (Ibid)

The Russian Dictatorship of the Proletariat had immense ambitions. Soviet power was a lever to the transition towards socialism. But disagreements arose over the methods used to that aim. Those opposed to the militarisation of labour in War Communism, to the One Man Management that emerged, Taylorism, and what is called ‘bureaucracy’ indicated that the content, the social institutions, of ‘socialism’ were not something that was already there in the “programme”. No number of warnings about external threats can retrospectively annul the fact that the dissident voices within the left, the critics of Bolshevism whose views were far from the ‘formalism’ of Kautsky and the social democrats who rejected the revolution en bloc,

In a more open-minded fashion than many who wish to defend Lenin and the Bolsheviks’ state of grace,  Miéville says, Those who count themselves on the side of the revolution must engage with these failures and crimes. To do otherwise is to fall into apologia, special pleading, hagiography – and to run the risk of repeating such mistakes.”(Page 317) But without human rights, how can we judge such abuses? Without such standards – not trumped by the necessities of the moment – what do we have left? This is more fundamental than the ban on Bolshevik “factions” that took place at the  10th Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) 1921, that is –initially limited – clamp down on the freedom of inner-party debate. But even if the Party had reached agreements to tolerate loyal extra-party opposition, say with left Mensheviks and ‘non-party’ representatives in the Soviets – that is accepting disagreements in terms that they set, there was no prospect of accepting pluralism as such, that is the right of an opposition to say what they wish. As the twenties wore on this was no longer a matter of the external constraints of civil war, ‘temporary measures’, but became a matter of doctrine.

The Russian Revolution, it is customary to say, contained many potentials. Miéville points to the sense of popular power that it unleashed. Government decrees, on women’s rights, decriminalising homosexuality, and the recognition of national rights as the USSR was formed from different ‘republics’, and – within the limits of the censorship – artistic creatively briefly flourished. But the strategy of a ‘transitional dictatorship’ was the worm in the fruit.

******

(1) Page 293. Tome l. Port-Royal. Sainte-Beuve, Charles-Augustin. 3rd Edition. 1867.

(2) The Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Karl Kautsky. Ann Arbor. 1964 (1919)

(3) Page 505, The Prophet Armed. Trotsky 1879 – 1921. Isaac Deutscher. Oxford University press. 1979.

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Ken Bell, Labour Leave, EU “scab influx” of Migrant Labour and “gobby Birds”.

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The ‘Good Old Cause’ Says leading Labour Leave Writer.

 

arry’s Place, Sarah AB,  broke this story (though it had been going around Facebook yesterday afternoon)..

 So here it is: as HP calls it,

Labour Leaver on ’scab’ migrant labour

This piece has been cross-posted by Labour Leave. (who have removed it….)

Trigger warning: the author shows the curious mixture of xenophobia, Stalinist nostalgia and sheer  lunacy that marks out some of the Lexit, pro-Brexit, self-styled left.

Kenneth Bell (4 followers) writes,

Let’s be honest, the left argument against the EU is not an anti-immigration one. Rather, it’s about the wholesale importation of scab labour by management to cut British wages and put us in our place, both economically and socially. That is a fact that Jeremy Corbyn made clear when he said that people will still move around after we leave the European Union. However, he then went on to say: “What there wouldn’t be is the wholesale importation of underpaid workers from central Europe in order to destroy conditions, particularly in the construction industry.

The man of the moment goes on to say,

I can describe them as genuine scab labourers because they come from countries which had the type of economic system that we want for ourselves. One that guaranteed full employment, a functioning health service that was free at the point of use, and two weeks holiday every year at a Black Sea resort. Most important of all was the fact that management were little more than errand boys, with the major economic decisions being taken by the government and the unions.

Sadly, because socialism was introduced courtesy of the Soviet army, it was seen as something imposed on those countries from outside, so we can fully understand why the peoples of Eastern Europe wanted the Soviet Union out of their countries. However, throwing out the socialist baby with the Soviet bathwater has never made any sense to me, nor I suspect would it to any of the British workers who now spend a lifetime doing a crap job for a crap wage for a crap employer.

Bell is oh so keen on Brexit,

A year ago today we voted to free ourselves from the clutches of Brussels. We had been told by various scum sucking Federast types that if we voted for freedom we would be condemning Britain to another generation of right-wing Tory rule, a line that I look back on today with a head-shaking grin.

Enjoying our new found liberty Bell has developed a frolicsome  line in humour.

“This is a scold’s bridle, used to keep scolding woman, or gobby birds as we now call them, quiet. Photographed in the Edinburgh Museum today.”

His unique line on women’s issues is not doubt widely shared amongst his Lexit comrades.

Pippa Middleton is Still Best Viewed From Behind.

A fierce commitment to free speech opened Belly’s heart to this guest post:

Guest Posting: The Wankery that is Intersectioanality

According to well-established rumour Bell is in line for a weekly Morning Star column.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 29, 2017 at 4:35 pm

July’s Must: Posadists, Gerry Downing and New Worker Debate Labour After the Election.

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There comes a time in any serious activist’s busy life when they must address the key issues of the class struggle.

Be there!

(Thanks to Cde BW).

Background reading.

THE QUEST FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE

July 31st 2015 Posadists Today.

“The ability to see has progressed not so much from the optical, but from the social point of view. It is true that we can see today thousands of kilometres away with new instruments and better mathematics. The true vision, however, is that of Marx: Marx who saw that capitalism would be destroyed.” J. Posadas.

The Posadiststoday.com give importance to the recent discovery of Kepler-452b, an exceptional exoplanet in the constellation of Cygnus, with an Earth-like year and a Sun-like star. This event took place around the time of the publication of the new NASA photos of Pluto and its Moons. And on 2nd of July 2015, the Russian PROGRESS spacecraft M-28M cargo ship had safely reached the International Space Station.

Encouraged by those capital events, we have chosen to summarise (immediately below) an extract from the journal LE MONDE of 21.7.2015 about the human quest for intelligence in the universe. We give importance to this article because J Posadas wrote many fundamental Marxist texts on this subject – texts which represent a unique and historic contribution to the Marxist method. To illustrate the point, we reproduce further below two texts by him entitled: “Flying Saucers, the Process of Matter and Energy, Science and Socialism”, J Posadas, 26.6.1968 – and “Childbearing in space, the confidence of humanity, and Socialism”, J Posadas, 12.8.1978.

Posadiststoday.com

Gerry Downing:

Today new ideologues and renegades join the old swamp of opportunism; Karl Kautsky finds a new champion in Lars T Lih. Max Shachtman and Raya Dunayevskaya, previously only defended by Sean Matgamna, find new adherents in Cyril Smith, The Commune, Permanent Revolution, the Movement for Socialism, etc. István Mészáros and Cliff Slaughter et al seek to trump the Bolshevism of Lenin and Trotsky with the counter-revolutionary reformist dross of history from the likes of Kautsky. IDOT does battle with all these petty bourgeois ideologues,
enemies of humanity’s communist future.  

Text of article following above here.

The Marxist theory of the state: Deformed and Degenerated Workers’ States and Capitalist States/.Reply to RCIT Part 3 (assessment also of the positions of Workers Power/LFI, Ted Grant and the Socialist Party/CWI, Socialist Appeal/IMT, the Spart family ICL/IBT/IG, Mandelites/USFI/US SWP, David North’s SEP/WSWS/ICFI and a passing look at the Cliffite UK SWP).

New Worker:

The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Democratic Korea’s Path of Peace and Unity.

Update:  Britain on the brink

To understand the gravity of the tasks that fall to the leadership of the revolutionary proletariat in the present conjuncture we can only cite the latest Socialist Appeal.

“In developments of such magnitude twenty years are more than a day – though later on days may come again in which twenty years are embedded.” (Karl Marx, 9 April 1863)”

The British ruling class, who have ruled Britain for the last 200 years, are also gripped by a sense of despair and despondency, as things go from bad to worse. In the 1930s, Trotsky referred to the ruling class “tobogganing towards catastrophe,” which is an apt expression. He went on to say: “The economy, the state, the politics of the bourgeoisie and its international relations are completely blighted by a social crisis, characteristic of a pre-revolutionary state of society.” (The Transitional Programme)

In many ways, we are faced with a similar situation unfolding today. In fact, the events in Britain have a striking resemblance to the situation that existed in 1931, which Trotsky described as a pre-revolutionary situation. Despite all the power in their hands, the capitalist establishment have seemingly lost control of the situation. They have certainly lost control over the Labour Party, which they regarded in the past as a useful prop to the capitalist system.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 26, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Stalin Christmas Cards from the Communist Party of Great Britain – Marxist-Leninist.

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Xmas Cards

Xmas Cards

£3.50

Andrew Murray, Chair of the Stop the War Coalition, one-time Communist Party of Britain big-wig, and now a Labour Party member, recently wrote, “Stalinism and Trotskyism appear to be back in vogue.”

We understand these cards as selling like red-hot cakes amongst certain in vogue circles.

It is said that this image is already in the printing for the next batch of cards:

 

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This is not being considered:

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Written by Andrew Coates

December 15, 2016 at 5:05 pm

Posted in Fascism, Stalinism

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Comrade Murray Leaves the Communist Party of Britain and Enters the Labour Party.

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Welcome Comrade Murray!

The chief of staff of Unite’s leader, Len McCluskey, has left the Communist party to become a Labour member.

Reports the Guardian. 

Andrew Murray, who last year said communism represented “a society worth working towards”, joined Labour’s ranks recently, a Unite spokesman said.

Murray, a former Morning Star journalist and longtime chair of Stop the War, said in a Guardian interview last year that his adherence to communism prevented him from joining Labour.

“All my children are in the Labour party,” he said. “One has been in the Labour party a long time; the other three are all there as a result of Jeremy’s surge. But no, I’m a member of the Communist party. That’s where I am. Communism still represents, in my view, a society worth working towards – albeit not by the methods of the 20th century, which failed.”

Last week Murray’s daughter, Laura, claimed that members of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and other Troyskyist groups were seeking to take control of Momentum, the grassroots organisation that supports the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, from its founder, Jon Lansman.

“Jeremy Corbyn will inevitably make one compromise or concession that isn’t ideologically pure enough for them, and they will abandon him and Labour altogether to turn Momentum into a rival leftwing party,” she wrote.

In her blog she further claimed that a row over the form of an internal voting structure at a meeting of Momentum’s national committee had ended in bullying and intimidation. She accused AWL members of bullying those whom they suspected of being “rightwing” or “alt-Stalinist” members.

Richard Angell, director of Progress, the centre-left pressure group, said that with or without the AWL, Momentum – due to its intention to move Labour from the mainstream and deselect current MPs – remained a threat to Labour’s election hopes.

“The argument that is being propagated by Lansman – and his media supporters Owen Jones and Paul Mason – is that Momentum minus the AWL would be totally fine. This is not true,” he wrote on his blog.

Angell added of Murray Sr’s conversion: “It’s more than regretful that Labour’s ability to attract previously staunch communists has not been able to counterbalance the loss of support in Sleaford, Richmond and national opinion polls.”

This is one of comrade Murray’s recent contribution to left debate.

Stalinism and Trotskyism appear to be back in vogue. Their shrouds are being waved — entryism here, a purge there — to terrify bystanders to the struggle over the future of the Labour Party, writes Andrew Murray.

“This illustrates the extent to which “dead Russians,” using the term slightly loosely, still hold the imagery and lexicon of the international left in thrall nearly a century after the October revolution.”

He continues on this site.

Far be it for me to suggest that Cde Murray has joined Labour to engage in the fray against the ‘Trotskyists’…..

Written by Andrew Coates

December 11, 2016 at 1:29 pm

Communist and Workers’ Parties Meeting in Vietnam: on Syria, and the EU.

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In the Morning Star Robert Griffiths reports,

Communists United Against Imperialism

THIS year’s international meeting of Communist and Workers Parties at the end of October took place in Hanoi, Vietnam against a global background of economic slowdown, political upheaval, rising military tension, forced mass migrations and growing climate instability.

This is of interest:

At least 25 parties also signed a solidarity statement calling for an end to “war, terror and human catastrophe” in Syria. (1)

It condemned the imperialist powers and their reactionary allies in the Middle East for creating a major crisis of war and destruction in the region. Their aim is to consolidate imperialist hegemony, ensuring unrivalled control over the flow of oil and free access to natural resources and markets.

“The US and EU powers are considering altering the existing borders of Syria and Iraq and creating new statelets in their place based along ethnic and sectarian fault lines,” the statement continued. “The New Middle East Plan is speedily taking shape.”

Making a distinction between foreign forces in Syria invited in by the Assad government and those not — who are in breach of the UN Charter — the signatories declared that there could be no military solution to the conflict.

Instead, communists called for all key non-terrorist players to return to the negotiating table without preconditions, respecting the independence and territorial integrity of the country. The arming and funding of terrorist organisations inside Syria should cease.

“The future of Syria and its government should be decided by the Syrian people alone, by their own free will,” the statement demanded.

As is this,

Most of the parties from Europe condemned the austerity, privatisation and militaristic policies of the European Union.“The Brexit vote of the British working class was a blow to the EU imperialists, and important support for our fight against the EU and the EU-EEA Agreement,” declared Svend Jacobsen of the Communist Party of Norway.

Eddie Glackin from the Irish CP said that the referendum result had “caused panic in the Irish ruling class and its subservience to London, Brussels and Washington DC.”

Not to be outdone:

Danish communists pointed out that people in their country had voted against their own rulers and the EU in a referendum last December, to retain national and democratic control over home affairs. Bo Moeller, the international secretary of the Communist Party in Denmark, told the meeting that “a break with the EU will be a major step towards our goal of socialist revolution.”

The German Communist Party (DKP) condemned the “unreformable” EU and its recent anti-refugee deal with Turkey. (1)

“Europe does not need a European Union as a capitalist construction guided by imperialist ideas and practice,” insisted DPK secretary of international relations Gunter Pohl.

We await the socialist Brexit revolution with bated breath.

 

(1)  For an end to war, terror and human catastrophe in Syria

We, the undersigned communist and workers parties meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, during the 18th IMCWP, strongly believe that the policies and actions of the imperialist powers and their reactionary allies have created an unprecedented political, social and humanitarian catastrophe in the Middle East. The region is currently going through a major crisis of war and destruction. It has been the focus of carefully orchestrated attempts by US-led imperialism to consolidate its hegemony and to ensure unrivalled control of the flow of oil, the ability to freely plunder the region’s resources and to exploit its markets.

We are concerned that if the current situation continues, the Middle East has only a future of further wars, destabilisation and imperialist domination to look forward to.  Wars and terror in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan, the ongoing occupation of Palestine by Israel, as well as political crises in Lebanon and Egypt have scarred the face of the region.

The real beneficiary of the current situation is imperialism and its plans for continued economic, political and geostrategic domination.

The US and EU powers are considering altering the existing borders of Syria and Iraq and creating new statelets in their place based along ethnic and sectarian fault lines. The New Middle East Plan is speedily taking shape.

Currently there are a number of countries, some legitimately invited by the Syrian government, and others in direct contravention of the UN Charter that are militarily involved in the conflict in Syria.

We are concerned that the conflict in Syria could develop into a large-scale military conflict enveloping the region. From the outset of the crisis in Syria, we have stated that this conflict has no military solution and hence we have advocated a negotiated settlement in Syria respecting the independence and territorial integrity of the country and opposing every manifestation of direct or indirect foreign interference against the national sovereignty of the Syrian state.

We believe that without the people’s struggle and mass solidarity campaigns for peaceful resolution of existing conflicts in the region and in defence of the peoples, the tragedies will only continue to grow. The only victim will be the working people and the poor who have no other option but to take desperate measures in order to survive. In their desperate attempts to flee war and terrorism they have been forced to leave their homes and livelihood behind in a quest to find a place of safety.

We call for the immediate return of all key players in this crisis to negotiations based on the provisions of the UN Charter. There must be no place for any terrorist organization at the table, and the support, financing and arming of the terrorist organisations must be condemned and immediately stopped. The future of Syria and its government should be decided by the Syrian people alone with own free will,and the removal of Bashar al-Assad and the government should not be a precondition for an end to violence and a lasting peace.

We pledge to continue to do the following:

  • Mobilise the widest possible forces against the ongoing interference and aggression of imperialism in the region,
  • Mobilise our movements to disengage with apartheid Israel and pledge varied solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people,
  • Mobilise and organize mass demonstrations and marches for world peace and particularly for genuine peace in the region,
  • Mobilise against sale of weapons of war to apartheid Israel,
  • Organise seminars and other public fora to back the struggle for peace in the region.

Signed by:

  1. Communist Party of Australia
  2. Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB)
  3. Communist Party of Britain
  4. AKEL
  5. Communist Party of Cuba
  6. Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia
  7. Communist Party in Denmark
  8. Communist Party of Finland
  9. German Communist Party
  10. Communist Party of Greece
  11. PPP of Guyana
  12. Communist Party of India
  13. Communist Party of Iraq
  14. Tudeh Party of Iran
  15. Communist Party of Ireland
  16. Communist Party of Jordan
  17. People Party of Palestine
  18. Communist Party of Pakistan
  19. Philippine Communist Party (PKP – 1930)
  20. Portuguese Communist Party
  21. South African Communist Party
  22. Communist Party of Spain
  23. Communist Party of Sri Lanka
  24. Communist Party of Sweden
  25. Communist Party, Turkey
  26. Communist Party of Ukraine
  27. Communist Party of USA
  28. Communist Party of Venezuela

 

(2) German Communist Party Deutsche Kommunistische Partei, (DKP).

For the 2005 federal elections, the DKP endorsed the ticket of the Left Party, successor to the PDS. As of 2008, its membership has dropped to some 4,000, less than a tenth of its pre-unification strength.

The DKP received national public attention in early 2008 when Christel Wegner, elected to the state parliament of Lower Saxony on the list of the Left Party as the first DKP member of a state parliament, allegedly endorsed the Berlin Wall, the Stasi and other aspects of the East German state in an interview. This caused embarrassment to the national Left Party leadership. Despite denying that she made the controversial statements (at least in the form that was reported) she was expelled from the Left Party faction a few days later.

European election vote (2014):  25,204, 0,1%. ( Deutsche Kommunistische Partei)

This is also of relevance:

Dmitri Novikov of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, chair of the Duma’s foreign relations committee, shared these anti-Nato, anti-EU positions. But he also pointed to the erosion of democratic rights, incomes and living standards under President Vladimir Putin and his austerity regime.

Statements by the CP’s on Brexit (Updated)

COMMUNIST PARTY OF BRITAIN:

Statement from the Communist Party of Britain on the EU referendum result

The referendum result represents a huge and potentially disorientating blow to the ruling capitalist class in Britain, its hired politicians and its imperialist allies in the EU, the USA, IMF and NATO. 
The people have spoken and popular sovereignty now demands that the Westminster Parliament accepts and implements their decision. The left must now redouble its efforts to turn this referendum result into a defeat for the whole EU-IMF-NATO axis.
But it is clear that the Cameron-Osborne government has lost the confidence of the electorate and cannot be trusted with the responsibility of negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union. It should resign forthwith.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 17, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Stalinism and Trotskyism both back in vogue says Andrew Murray (Chair of the Stop the War Coalition).

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Image result for stalin trotsky alan wood

Both Stalin and Trotsky Back in Vogue says Chair of Stop the War Coalition.

Stalinism and Trotskyism appear to be back in vogue. Their shrouds are being waved — entryism here, a purge there — to terrify bystanders to the struggle over the future of the Labour Party, writes Andrew Murray.

“This illustrates the extent to which “dead Russians,” using the term slightly loosely, still hold the imagery and lexicon of the international left in thrall nearly a century after the October revolution.”

Andrew Murray is, to repeat, Chair of the Stop the War Coalition and holds some other positions in the labour movement.

He continues on this site.

In a learned analysis of Trotsky’s uncompleted book Stalin (apparently now out in a definitive edition) Murray  outlines within this context the background of the founder of the Fourth International’s final (uncompleted)  book.

It was Trotsky’s last major literary endeavour and he was working on it when he was assassinated by an agent of Soviet security in 1940. It was a biography so unauthorised that it may be the only one in the history of the genre whose author was murdered by its subject while the book was still being prepared.

We should nevertheless get the low-down on the cash involved.

Trotsky had been paid $5,000 for the job by a US publisher who was accurately anticipating a sustained assault on the Soviet leader.

Murray outlines the new version of the text now published by Socialist Appeal

In a herculean labour of love, Alan Woods and Rob Sewell of the Socialist Appeal group — that vindicated element of the old Militant tendency which argued that the fight in the Labour Party was not over — have restored the book to something more like what Trotsky would have intended. (1)

Here are some choice quotes from Murray’s review,

There is more to Trotsky’s bile than Olympian Marxist analysis. His outrage at the fact that he, the great leader of the insurrection and the Red Army, should have come off second best to a man obviously inferior to him in every salient respect — orator, writer, reader of second and third languages and so on — permeates every page.

Furthermore,

The USSR won the war and Stalin emerged stronger than ever, with socialism spreading to half of Europe and much of Asia, perhaps the most significant of the many circumstances which left Trotskyism without Trotsky stillborn as a major political movement.

Trotsky would have found all this quite incomprehensible but perhaps not as incomprehensible as his own political worsting by a nonentity from the provinces. Historians and some on the left will continue to dispute these questions ad infinitum.

Murray concludes,

But no, the Labour Party is not living through “Stalinism” versus “Trotskyism” reincarnated.

Time, perhaps, for a new political vocabulary.

Time indeed.

I shall leave it to the comrades to discuss this review in more detail, including this claim against Trotsky, his assertions about the number of Red Army officers suppressed in the purges are wide of the mark by significant magnitudes.”

Personally I much prefer Boris Souvarine’s Stalin:A Critical Survey of Bolshevism (Translated by C.L.R. James 1939. French edition 1935) (see also this  « Staline » de Boris Souvarine). “Souvarine was a founding member of the French Communist Party and is noted for being the only non-Russian communist to have been a member of the Comintern for three years in succession. He famously authored the first biography of Joseph Stalin, published in 1935 as Staline, Aperçu Historique du Bolchévisme (Stalin, Historic Overview of Bolshevism) and kept close correspondence with Lenin and Trotsky until their deaths.”

According to the one-time Trotskyist Fred Zeller in Témoin du siècle while he visited the Marxist leader in Norway he informed Trotsky of Souvraine’s work.

Trotsky did not have a high opinion of it, noting that the book was even not unreservedly  respectful of Lenin…..

Souveraine was, one observes today, critical of Trotsky, but rightly laid the emphasis on the monstrous crimes of Stalin and the immense social apparatus of repression and killing that was built from the 1920s onwards.

*****

(1) More here: In these videos, Alan Woods and Rob Sewell discuss Leon Trotsky’s great unfinished work, Stalin, which is being published this year by Wellred Books.  Alan Woods discusses the political and theoretical analysis provided by Trotsky, who attempts to explain some of the most decisive events of the 20th century, not just in terms of epoch-making economic and social transformations, but in the individual psychology of those who appear as protagonists in a great historical drama.  Meanwhile, Rob Sewell provides the story behind the publication of this magnum opus – the most extensive edition of the book ever released, completed from the original archive material.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 20, 2016 at 5:16 pm