From the March 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard
What happened when the BBC's "Newsday" interviewed the industrial organiser of the Communist Party would have been more suitable for the Goon Show, or Monty Python. Bert Ramelson, keeping a perfectly straight face, point-blank denied everything that the Communist Party was founded on and peddled for over thirty years!
True it is, as he said in the interview, that he only joined the CP in 1936; whereas some of us knew it intimately since 1920. However, that should not prevent him (or anybody else) knowing the facts. The interviewer did not know a great deal about the subject, and questioned from a prepared brief.
But even the political department of the BBC had heard that the Communist Parties were founded on "Leninism". That is, seizure of power by an intrepid, resolute minority of "professional revolutionists", leading the working class — who would then lead the "toiling masses" (meaning peasants) to socialist victory. For thirty years a vast mass of pamphlets, books and newspapers flogged the Leninist dogma of the "dictatorship of the proletariat", meaning minority action.
Many able writes waded patiently through Marx's work to show that, from The Communist Manifesto onward, Marx never used this then-popular French slogan to mean anything else than majority democratic methods. For instance, Lucien Laurat, who in Marxism and Democracy quotes The Communist Manifesto:
The first stage in the working class revolution is the constitution of the proletariats as the ruling class, the conquest of democracy.
No use! For thirty years CP writers and speakers denounced democracy and exhorted the workers to follow "Marx's best disciple" Nikolai Lenin. Parliament was a useless "gasworks", elections a waste of time (although they regularly took part in them, but "only for propaganda, comrade"). The state would be smashed and "bourgeois" parliaments replaced by Soviets, "the workers' democracy".
The theses of the Communist International, Third Congress, prescribed the basis of Communist Parties. They must be organized with strict military discipline, based on "democratic Centralism", meaning complete obedience to the edicts of the Central Committee, or E.C., and prepared for "heavy civil war". The Programme of the Third International included armed insurrection.
For many a long and weary year the speakers of the Socialist Party strove manfully against an avalanche of Communist falsification of Marxism and distortion of Socialism. Exploiting every possible grievance of the workers — "the Leninist tactic": especially the mass unemployment of the 'thirties. Communist-inspired Hunger Marchers were batoned by the police after the General Strike ended in disaster; to be followed by yet another "change of tactics" by the CP.
When the war broke out poor old Pollitt, not realizing that Stalin had signed a pact with Hitler, proclaimed it a "just war", wrote a pamphlet "How to Win the War, One Penny" — and was promptly sacked by Moscow. After Hitler invaded Russia, the "imperialist war" of the western imperialist powers became "a war of liberation against German Fascism" and Pollitt was reinstated, although not as General Secretary of the Party.
Stalin had wiped the "Communist International" out of existence once he had the prospect of nuclear weapons. Understandably, the interviewer politely raised the question of the CP's present policy, and its past. "Was it not the case that the CP had advocated 'the dictatorship of the proletariat' in the past?"
"Not any more", replied Bert. Not any more! And do you know why, dear reader? Let Bert tell you. Because there has been "so much misunderstanding of what Marx really meant". He actually said this. "Marx meant the action of the vast overwhelming majority", said Bert; the CP has not used the phrase in any document since 1950, to avoid any more misunderstanding.
He was then asked if the British CP is a constitutional party, now willing to obey the majority vote. Yes! said Bert. But, said the question-master, didn't the CP try to take control of the trade unions? No, said our industrial organizer, not any more — we only organize our members in trade unions to help the unions, whose job is not political but economic. He would up by saying that the CP hoped to be able to join in a Coalition Government of Left-wing Labourites, like the Communists in France or Italy.
When one considers that Stalin systematically exterminated everyone within reach, and certainly everu one of those prominent in the Russian CP prior to Lenin's death . . . when we recall Trotsky's extravagant calls for ruthless terrorism and the wiping-out of all opponents, and that many were shot by Stalin for daring to doubt his infallibility — we can only describe Bert as the best thing since electronic ignition.
Funnily enough, in the same week that Bert did his comic turn (19th January) the BBC was running a series involving Russia, called "Fall of Eagles". It was not expertly informed, but at least tried to achieve some resemblance to the facts. It showed the famous 1903 Congress, where Lenin founded the Bolshevik faction. Bert Ramelson did not even mention Lenin's name. Poor old "Ilyitch" is dead and buried, along with the thirty-eight volumes of his Collected Works.
And yet, up to and after 1950, famous scientists in Russia did not dare try to publish reputable work without the customary sickening adulation of Comrade Stalin — "Lenin's greatest disciple". How fortunate for Bert that he wasn't the industrial organizer then. He'd have got twenty years in a labour camp — if he was lucky!