The Political Notes Column from the October 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard
The bare-faced lies of the Communist Parties of the world have been with us ever since the state-capitalist coup by Lenin in 1917. It is well-known that, apart from anything else, they falsify history by turning Trotsky, who so ably played the role of Lenin’s right hand (with a knife in it) man at places like Kronstadt, into an unperson, even wiping him off group photos of the Bolshevik gang. It was fairly easy for them because they were (still are) able to see to it that the Russian workers were insulated from foreign sources where the truth might emerge.
The French Communist Party had no such luck. One would think, therefore, that they would be somewhat careful. Not a bit of it. Their leader, Marchais, who for a couple of years was one of the so-called Eurocommunists who were prepared to criticise the Russian dictatorship (just a little) has now reverted to his more congenial role of hard-liner. So at the Olympic Games, where he was given the red-carpet treatment like a head of state, he made bootlicking speeches praising the Games and lauding the “intervention” in Afghanistan (somehow one thinks that if the Yanks had done it, the word would have been “invasion” — which it certainly was).
These bootlickings duly appeared on French television and in the press where Marchais got plenty of deserved stick for such things as his references to the freedom which he found existed in Moscow. But when the speeches appeared in L'Humanite (the Paris Pravda) it was too much for the comrades and such things as the references to freedom were censored out. Which in turn was gleefully seized on by the rest of the rags in Fleet Street, Paris. The sad question remains. How on earth can so many millions of French workers still be taken in by these clumsy crooks who turn the name of socialism/communism into a sick joke?
St. Kilda memory
We are familiar with the work of anthropologists who have studied the life-styles of pre-capitalist societies and shown that human beings have not always been competitive, money conscious owners and non-owners; but their examples have usually been regarded as rather exotic—Amazonian Indians, Polynesians and the like. It was all the more interesting, therefore, to see in the Guardian (July 25) an article written in commemoration of the evacuation a mere 50 years ago of the last inhabitants of the island of St Kilda in the Hebrides.
It is fascinating to read remarks about these people (some of whom are still alive in England) that recall very similar observations about savage tribes. We read, for example, that for hundreds of years the islanders existed without the use of money, something that seems to baffle those workers who imagine that apes made money their first priority as soon as they got down from the trees. “There was virtually no crime and no policeman ever landed on their shores.” The island was owned by the McLeods of Skye. “All work to pay the rent (in kind) was done communally as was the sharing out of the sea-bird harvest which was divided according to need.” “Every member of the community relied on the others for survival and notions of individual payment were strange to them. Sheep, a secondary source of wealth, were owned individually but if one man lost some, the others would make up his losses.”
The island was bleak and windswept (still is) but there is no evidence from 17th and 18th century accounts that “the islanders were wretched or dissatisfied. On the contrary, authors wrote of “the relish and gaiety with which they went about their work and of their great love for poetry, music, dancing and other jollity”. But the outside world of capitalism could not leave St. Kilda alone. “The ministers and missionaries proved a decisive influence, mostly for the bad . . . their poetry and music, banned by the ministers, died out . . . A community, which had been a weather-beaten anachronism for a millenium and flourished with it — declined and died.”
Can he really mean it?
“We should not abandon some time-honoured Labour principles namely our commitment to a mixed economy, international socialism. These principles are not incompatible with a successful economic policy” (our italics). As all the governments that have run one of these “socialist-capitalist” economies (Callaghan, Schmidt) have presided over massive unemployment (among other delights), one wonders what the idiot who wrote the above can mean by “successful”? The words of wisdom appeared in a letter to the Guardian on August 18. The writer was someone called John Horam who is apparently the Labour MP for Gateshead West.
How capitalists love “communists”
At the time of writing the present wave of strikes in Poland may be in their last throes. The friendly noises being made by Callaghan and Thatcher could mean one point being overlooked. One would think that the Western capitalists would hope that their “communist” enemies would be overthrown by their own workers. But it’s not so simple. The news at the beginning of August from Hella Pick of the Guardian (and other sources) was that the west is worried. Their banks have made huge loans to the Polish government. If it is overthrown, they are very nervous about losing their money. Capitalists—of whatever variety—are in the end sisters under their skins. Workers of the world, beware!
The Chinese legislature meets this weekend . . . to remove the remnants of opposition . . . To the chagrin of foreigners here in Peking, the agenda includes corporate and individual income tax legislation with rates reportedly based on the US tax code.
(From the Guardian August 30)
How to run a “workers’ state”
Mr. Szydlak, who is a member of the Polish Politbureau, is reported to have told the workers: “The authorities do not intend to give up their power or to share it with anyone else”.
(Guardian August 21)
Even professors can learn
"If one were to ask who is the biggest capitalist on earth, one would have to say: the government of the USSR. It owns and controls practically the whole of Russian industry and agriculture . . . The capital power of the USSR, backed as it is by armed might, is enormously bigger than General Motors or any American capitalist; and it makes ICI here look like a corner drug store.
Other communist governments would follow in that list. It now seems clear that the biggest capitalists in the present age are the socialist states themselves. And the biggest in the Western world are great public corporations like British Steel-state monopolies or nationalised industries. It now seems very hard to argue that more socialism means less capitalism. On the contrary, the state is the biggest capitalist that there is. And nationalisation, or public ownership, makes it bigger still."
(Professor George Watson, Encounter, June 1980)
L E Weidberg
“It has been the iron principle of the National Socialist leadership not to permit any rise in the hourly wage rates; but to raise income solely by an increase in performance”.
Adolf Hitler at the Nazi Congress of Hanover (quoted by Franz Neumann in his book Behemoth).