Thursday, January 16, 2020

Moscow's orphans (1998)

Book Review from the January 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

‘The British Communist Movement and Moscow’, by Mike Mosbacher. Libertarian Alliance, 1997.

Have you ever wondered what became of the Communist Party after the collapse of state capitalism in Russia and East Europe? This short pamphlet will tell you.

The official Communist Party – or Communist Party of Great Britain, to give its full name, by which it was only known on formal occasions and in an international context – in effect dissolved itself in 1991 when it changed its name to Democratic Left and became a trendy left green-feminist-gay pressure group. Its previous policies, however, were kept alive by the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) which broke away in 1988 and which still publishes the Morning Star. In Scotland another group of ex-CPers set up the Communist Party of Scotland in 1992. An earlier breakaway in 1977, the New Communist Party, still exists but has become, according to Mosbacher. little more than a group denying the atrocities that occurred under Stalin in the same irrational way as Nazis deny those that occurred under Hitler.

Immediately after the CPGB changed its name to Democratic Left in December 1991 this name was taken up by a group which had no historical, political or, for that matter, legal right to do so. The organisation that goes under this name, and publishes the Weekly Worker, is in fact a super-Leninist sect, apparently originating as a splinter from the Turkish Communist Party, which employs the same unscrupulous tactics of infiltrating other organisations (at the moment Scargill’s SLP) as the Trotskyists; indeed, according to Mosbacher, it does have Trotskyist members.

Mosbacher, surprisingly perhaps for a supporter of the mad free market ideas of the Libertarian Alliance, has produced a useful and well-informed little pamphlet. He gets our position right too when he states:
  “The Socialist Party of Great Britain takes the view that the Soviet Union never was socialist in the first place. This has been its position since 1917. In a way this party goes further than any other on the revolutionary left in criticising the Soviet Union, in that it views Leninist principles and modes of organisation as non-socialist, indeed anti-socialist”.
Adam Buick 

Letters: Why Socialism Must Be World Wide (1998)

Letters to the Editors from the January 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

Why Socialism Must Be World Wide

Dear Editors,

I have read the articles in the November Socialist Standard setting out the basic socialist philosophy with much interest and benefit.

In its articles on Russia the Socialist Standard pointed out, in 1934, that socialism “is impossible in one country alone, owing to international economic interdependence”.

This fact still applies, so how would a socialist Britain, having abolished money, exchange goods with a predominantly capitalist world?
Bryan Fair, 
Dorchester, Dorset

A “socialist Britain” is an impossibility for the same reason that a “socialist Russia” was in 1934: capitalism is a world system into which all countries are locked and from which none can escape on its own.

Various countries, beginning with Russia but also others like Cuba and Nicaragua, have tried to escape from the laws of the world market economy but only at the price of establishing a state capitalism which in the end has had to take into account world market pressures anyway.

In fact it could be said that an isolated “capitalist Britain” is just as impossible as an isolated “socialist Britain”. Ever since capitalism first began to develop about 500 years ago it has involved multi-lateral trade between different countries so making them mutually interdependent; in fact one definition of capitalism is that it is the world market, the world trading system.

As capitalism has developed countries have become more and more interdependent. International trade on which all parts of the world now depend for the daily lives of their inhabitants (just think what you had for breakfast) reflects the underlying fact that production itself involves working on materials that have in part come from different parts of the world.

At one time the typical pattern was that raw materials would come from one part, be worked up into a finished product in another, and then sold there or in some other part. Nowadays, not just raw materials but also parts and semi-finished products are exported and imported. The best known example is perhaps the “world car”, as most cars now are, whose various components are produced in a number of different countries and which is only assembled in one particular country.

So “interdependence” is the key fact of economic life today. Because capitalism is a world system so must be socialism, the system which will replace it. In fact, socialism recognises that all parts of the world are interdependent today and seeks to bring social and institutional arrangements into line with this underlying productive fact by establishing a worldwide democratic community with, besides local and regional (“national” in today’s parlance) administrations, a world administration. Frontiers become obsolete, as does adherence to a particular nation-state. We all become citizens of a united world, Earth-people not “British” or “American” or “Russian” or “South African” or whatever.

Trade, as the buying and selling of goods, ceases to exist but not of course the transfer of goods from one part of the world to another. This will still take place, even if the people of socialist society might decide to produce everyday items of individual consumption more locally than at present. This won’t be trade because it won’t be an exchange of equivalents measured in monetary terms. It will just be the transfer of materials and products from one part of the world to other parts where they are needed, without anything needing to be transferred “in exchange”

A Stalinist Writes

Dear Editors,

I saw your review of the book Children of the Revolution; Communist Childhood in Cold War Britain and read it with interest. I must now buy the book, although I anticipate being enraged.

Being born in 1940 I well recall my childhood and teenage years as the son of Communist parents. Wonderful, loving Stalinist parents. Stalinists they must have been because they refused to go along with the demonisation of Joe.

I was brought up on the Daily Worker and books were always plentiful. I could go my own way, I was just one of the fortunate few with access to both sides. After a brief mid-teen crisis when I wanted to be the “gum-chewing good guy” and not a “gook” or an automaton under the control of “State Capitalism” I became a Communist.

Like your reviewer I too joined first the YCL and later the CP. However, I never quit. I went instead from believing that Stalin was of his time to now knowing that Stalin was right. He remains right to this day.

I remember telling my Dad that I wanted to go to Sunday School with some of the kids. This Stalinist said “go ahead”. I went once, never again. I remember too, being on a train with him in 1956 when a man came in the carriage asking for cash and help as he was a poor Hungarian on the run from the Russian hordes. My Dad put his glasses in his top pocket and told him “there are two ways to leave this carriage, by the window or the door, take your pick”. Predictably, this fighter against Red tyranny scurried through the door.

Because, comrades, sometimes the tanks have to be sent in and if the Hungarian counter-revolution had succeeded or the Czech one in 1967 [sic], the chaos that is now Eastern Europe would have occurred sooner with other generations suffering what is being suffered now thanks to revisionists, counter-revolutionists, traitors, the weak, corrupt and the liberal.

And who is counting the dead now, as they pile up all over Eastern Europe. But it’s OK, Wall Street and the CIA, the controlled media play it down, because after all, no-one’s nationalising anything without compensation. Nothing to worry about. Business as usual.

And when the cattle cars are filled again it will be that much harder to defeat the enemy next time without Joe and his Red Army.
Paul Barrett, 
Penarth, Mid Glam

We have no reason to believe this letter is a spoof. It confirms the view about the “New Communist Party” expressed in the pamphlet by Mike Mosbacher reviewed on our books page and explains why they are known as the “Tankies”. Such people have done the cause of genuine socialism no end of harm by associating it with the vicious one-party state-capitalist dictatorship that existed in Russia under Stalin and where people were also transported in cattle cars to slave-labour camps where they died in their millions.

Party News Briefs (1948)

Party News from the December 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

Bloomsbury Branch  received a letter last May from Max Aitken, M.P. accepting a challenge to debate with the Party. This letter, dated 14th May, 1948, was a reply to one that had been sent to Mr. Aitken, and in it he said “. . .  I am quite willing to debate on any subject with a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain . . .” Subsequent letters dated 29th May and 5th June, were sent to Mr. Aitken suggesting the Holborn Hall as a venue, a subject for debate, offering to make and pay for all arrangements and giving a choice of dates. A request for a reply to these letters was sent on June 18th. There followed a reply from Mr. Aitken’s secretary who said that, as soon as Mr. Aitken returned from abroad he would bring the correspondence to his notice. A letter of acknowledgment was sent. On August 10th, when it was learned that he was back in London, Mr. Aitken was sent a further letter asking him to name the day. On September 11th, yet another letter was sent to him by registered post asking for an early reply. Bloomsbury Branch is still waiting.

It appears that we must add Mr. Aitken to the list of M.P.s who have valiantly accepted debate with us and then found that they were a little chilly below the ankles.

Kingston Branch has, at last, found a branch room in Kingston. The room is warm and comfortable and the situation convenient. The address is 9, Vicarage Road, enter by the door in Wood Street, facing Bentalls Stores. The first meeting at Malden Library was not an enthusing success, due, in part at least, to the fact that the branch’s advertising efforts were spoiled by the bills being covered with opponents’ posters. All the same, despite a small attendance, the literature sales were very good and the audience showed its appreciation of our case by contributing a bumper collection to defray expenses.

In Manchester a comrade has, during the past six or seven months, been engaged on a one-man literature drive. Going from door to door in the Manchester district, he had, at the end of October, sold 2,440 pamphlets. sales amounting to over £40. He expects to be well past the £50 mark by the end of the year. We understand that he has mainly concentrated on selling the pamphlet, “Principles and Policy of the Socialist Party” and he tells us that next year he will take the whole stock of ”Is the Labour Government the way to Socialism,” some four to five thousand copies, and he ‘‘will shift the lot.” This is a wonderful job of work, but the comrade tells us that he is really only just scratching the surface. Given a team of five or six assistants he considers that he could really “make things hum” around Manchester. He further recommends his scheme to London branches. "It is a method,” he says, “’that must be relentlessly followed up week after week. If some London branches co-operated to work in a chosen area and had every house 'taped’ for several calls, at the end of six months, I think you could really expect things to develop. Is there any possibility? When I see what a puny slice of the real possibilities rewards my labours, I want a hundred pairs of legs . . .” From figures given in his letters we learn that from October 16th to October 23rd he sold, single-handed, 110 pamphlets, and that the figure would have been higher had it not been for poor weather and lengthy discussions with some of the workers at their homes when he called on them. This is undoubtedly a great job well done and the greatest compliment we could pay this comrade would be to attempt to emulate his example.

The W.S.P. of U.S. send us some encouraging news. A new local is in the process of being organised in San Francisco. Also at Chicago local members are going about the job of organising a new local with determination. The Detroit local, formed last year, has made considerable gains. New York local is holding regular classes and discussions. Some ”members at large” (members who reside in districts where no branch exists, as our Central Branch members) are extremely active. An instance is given of one in Ohio who has recently collected $15 for Party funds, obtained 20 new subscribers to the Western Socialist and puts the Socialist case at local forums and discussions. Los Angeles local is also conducting regular activities. Boston is as active as ever—attracting large audiences resulting in fine literature sales and a number of new contacts. Headquarters at Boston is ‘‘open seven days a week from early morning to, frequently, late at night.” From some standpoints the Western Socialist has made advances, ‘‘but, 'Red scares,’ thought control propaganda, etc., have had some effect on contacts and subscribers. Also, some of the locals and Companion Parties have cut their W.S. orders.” The paper is now badly in debt. S.O.S.

The Dublin Socialist Group reports further progress. There was recently formed in Dublin a Civil Liberties organisation. At a meeting of this organisation held at the Mansion House, Dublin, our comrades spoke from the floor with such effect that they were reported even in The Cork Examiner which spoke of them as being "well briefed” and an "advanced Socialist Group.” Their meetings at The Boilermakers Hall are still a success. They have now held over 30 consecutive meetings in this hall since the group was formed in the early part of this year. A sixth member of the group has now made his public speaking debut. Like all Socialist organisations, they have to count their coppers before they embark on any line of activity. Irish readers please note.

The Publicity Committee reports that enquiries have been received from individuals who have read the volume of "Collected Socialist Pamphlets” in their public library. Is this Party publication in YOUR public library? It should be !

Paddington Branch is making arrangements for the kick-off for the election campaign. The campaign will be opened with a meeting at the Metropolitan Theatre this month.

An ex-Comrade (deceased) made the Party the beneficiary under his will for the sum of £1,400. The General Secretary has reported that ho has received a cheque for £1,276 17s. 10d., this being the sum remaining after the deduction of death duties.

Two New Discussion Groups have recently been formed, one at Derby and the other at Barking in Essex. Interested readers will find the respective addresses on other pages.

In Africa we have a number of comrades who are anxious to get on with some Socialist work. They reside as far apart as Nigeria and Natal, The Gold Coast and Rhodesia, but all are in contact with one another and are eager to correspond with, or otherwise contact, all readers of the Socialist Standard living on the African continent. The following is from a letter received from a comrade who tells us that he is "a full-blooded African ”:
   ”. . . The idea of a World Socialist Party appeals strongly to me. It lifts the ideal of Socialism above national boundaries and sovereignties. The difficulty, as I see it, is organisation, and organisation means finance. The unequal fight between a Capitalism hoary with age and triumphant with remarkable successes, and nascent Socialism, is disheartening to contemplate. We see how even the S.P.G.B.'s activities are being seriously hampered by lack of funds. Centuries of unrestricted growth have sent Capitalism’s roots deep down into the fertile soil of societies. The tasks confronting Socialists in Africa are even more formidable.
    “But the work must be done — and done doggedly and tellingly. To this end those of us who dream dreams and see visions have to address ourselves.
   “Africa is calling all writers—all those who have some gift or claims to self expression—to sing of the triumphs and failures, joys and sorrows of this continent which is now stirring with all the vim of centuries of suppressed energy. It would be of great advantage if Socialists take this tide of African Renaissance now in its flood . . . . you can count on my full co-operation in anything that lies within my power.”
African readers can be “linked-up” by writing to the Overseas Secretary of the S.P.G.B.

Journals and Papers are requested for overseas comrades. In particular we are asked for weekly issues of newspapers. Any member or friend who has copies to send can be supplied with addresses to which to send them.
W. Waters.

Party News Briefs (1948)

Party News from the November 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our Autumn Delegate Meeting was held at the Conway Hall, London, on Sunday, 26th of September. It was well attended, including delegates from provincial branches. The work of delegate meetings is to review and discuss the half-yearly report of the Executive Committee. This usually gives rise to interesting discussions, but does not result in many resolutions being tabled. This recent delegate meeting was unique in that respect. The number of resolutions submitted to the chairman was outstanding and denoted that branches intend to use this between-conferences meeting to hasten along activities which they regard as urgent.

Lengthy discussion took place on the proposition to produce a pamphlet on our Party's attitude to war. Every delegate who spoke urged that a publication of some sort on this pressing subject should take precedence over any and every other proposed pamphlet. Some argued that it was necessary to produce an exhaustive work on the subject, but the majority were more anxious to get something turned out quickly, and it was widely agreed that our previous pamphlet, War and the Working Class, with certain deletions and additions, should form the basis of the new pamphlet which was so urgently needed. Even this did not satisfy all. It was further suggested by some delegates that an immediate leaflet, bulletin or manifesto should be issued to tide over until the pamphlet was ready.

Another item in the report that caused considerable discussion was the brief item on electoral activity. The relative merits of different constituencies from the Socialist viewpoint were hotly debated. The action of the Executive Committee in making arrangements to contest North Paddington again at the next General Election was opposed by some delegates, but the delegate meeting endorsed the E.C.’s action.

The suggestion that an associate membership be established to enable ex-members who have taken up permanent residence overseas and socialists who reside in countries where no companion party of Socialism exists, to be attached to our Party, was discussed. Some delegates saw many flaws in the idea and some thought it might be detrimental to the Party's interests. But the suggestion was considered worthy of further discussion, and so it was referred back to be brought forward again to the next Annual Conference when a more detailed scheme is to be presented.

The report to the meeting contained a detailed list of the propaganda meetings, indoor and out, that were held during the first six months of the year. In considering this item it was complained that some branches did not submit reports of all the meetings that they held, and that some speakers did not keep their speaking engagements. With reference to the latter complaint, it was pointed out that the formation of new branches on the outskirts of London had the effect of extending the London propaganda area. It was a considerable distance for a speaker to travel, after his day’s work, to attend a meeting at Croydon, Kingston or Edgware, and it was difficult to get transport right across London late at night. Other reasons for these faults were advanced. It has been arranged to call a meeting of speakers and branch organisers at Head Office to discuss this problem in greater detail.

One short paragraph in the report is worthy of the attention of readers of the Socialist Standard : "The balance on General Fund, £369, is still low and the adverse trend during the period from April to June points to the need for greater donations during the coming months both for general expenses and the printing of further pamphlets.”

Kingston and Ealing Branches' outing to Southsea on October 3rd was a success. A 33-seater coach filled up with members and wives between Ealing Broadway, Twickenham and Hampton Court, and deposited them by the sea at Southsea at a few minutes to twelve. On the South Parade, it was discovered, was an asphalt area set aside as a place for public meetings. A platform was erected here with a notice that a meeting would be held at 2.30 p.m. Members then dispersed to eat, swim, lounge on the beach or disport themselves in whatever manner they thought fit. Everyone reassembled at 2.30 at the meeting place, including a few members who reside on the south coast, and a large audience soon gathered and remained until the meeting terminated at 5.20 p.m., in order that members might catch the coach home without hurry. The weather remained warm and sunny all day and everyone expressed satisfaction with a day well and usefully spent. There must be more such outings next year. They give a fillip to the enthusiasm of members who are isolated in coastal towns and villages and they provide opportunities for enjoyable days in the company of other party members, as well as useful propaganda efforts.

Glasgow Branch has been holding highly successful outdoor meetings at Drury Street (off Renfield Street) in the busy centre of the city, and they hope to keep this’ street going as a permanent outdoor stance. At 7 p.m. on Sunday, 10th October, a series of indoor meetings commenced at the Central Hall, 25, Bath Street. These meetings will continue fortnightly throughout the winter months. Debates are also being arranged and challenges have already been sent by the branch to practically every M.P. in the Glasgow area.

From Leeds we learn that a literature sales drive has met with outstanding success, and a member of Bradford and District branch writes to ask if other branches, members and readers of the S.S. will submit ideas on "new and novel methods of stimulating and maintaining the circulation of The Socialist Standard.”

From an opponent we are more accustomed to receive curses than compliments. But compliments do sometimes come from unexpected quarters. The following is from the Daily Graphic, Wednesday, October 6th, page 2. It is contained in an article by “Candidus” entitled " 'Idealists' who fear free speech ”:
  "The only Socialists who have been consistent in their attitude to Russia—and, for that matter, in their attitude to genuine Socialism—are the members of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, commonly known as the S.P.G.B. The ‘official’ Socialists are terrible snobs. They have a deep respect for size, so they sneer at the S.P.G.B. as the 'Small Party of Good Boys.’ But, dialectically, the S.P.G.B. possess all the aces, not least in reference to Russia.
  "From the outset the S.P.G.B. detected the true nature of the 1917 Revolution and foresaw the consequences of it. They have just published a brochure entitled 'Russia,’ which is a collection of the articles on the Soviet Union that have appeared in their periodical from 1917 onwards.
   "I am far from sharing the S.P.G.B.’s political philosophy. I should, however, be less than fair if I did not bear testimony to the Party’s remarkable record of consistency and acumen, as manifested in this brochure. It is easy for me to respect an antagonist who is both honest and intelligent. I may add, as a final word, that the articles in the brochure are written in admirable English.”

Our comrades in U.S.A. tell us that their recent Socialist Seminar was a great success and that another is scheduled for next month (October). They wish us to draw attention to the fact that they have a number of bound volumes of the “Western Socialist” from 1943 to 1946 for sale at 2 dollars for a two-year volume, and that selling some of these volumes will be a great help in their present financial crisis.

The new S.S. Poster is now ready. It can be used for newsagents’ stands or meetings or some branches may wish to make small mass displays. The number printed is 2,000.

Birmingham Branch is sending out invitations to 55 trade union branches in the district to hear a Party speaker on one of the subjects likely to be of interest to trade unionists.

"Collected Socialist Pamphlets" is now in full swing. In the London area the public libraries of Leyton, Hackney, Hammersmith, Finsbury, Shoreditch, Walthamstow, Deptford, Watford and Bexleyheath have already purchased copies. In the provinces copies have been supplied to Sheffield, Durham (University), Middlesbrough, Oswestry, Wigan, Stourbridge, Warrington, Eccles, Bradford, Kidderminster, Preston, Clydebank, Aberystwith (University), and Bridgend. Eastbourne, Kirkcaldy and Crewe decided to take copies after inspection. Portsmouth and Gravesend librarians, however, after perusal, decided against purchase. Will these two districts remain the undeveloped areas of Socialist awareness? Five copies have gone to Bombay. “Collected Socialist Pamphlets” is a strongly bound, special library edition, published at 8s. 6d., and intended for public libraries only. It contains the pamphlets on “Socialism,” “Nationalisation or Socialism,” “Questions of the Day,” “Principles and Policy of the S.P.G.B.” and Report of Debate on Federal Union. The price is the lowest possible in view of the present cost of binding. Containing in all 307 pages, it compares favourably with most books issued at the present time. All librarians in the U.K. and Northern Ireland have been given particulars of this volume, and if they have not ordered a copy, it is because there has been no local demand. It now rests entirely with members and readers of The Socialist Standard as to whether other libraries are supplied.
W. Waters