totalitarianism: religious and political

17 03 2013

It is often suggested by the supporters of capital, and denied by its opponents, that Fascism and Soviet Communism bore more than a superficial resemblance, says Roy Ratcliffe. Indeed, whilst fervent supporters of capital frequently declare them equivalent evils, some anti-capitalists declare them as absolute opposites. For those not stubbornly sheltering in ideological trenches or overly burdened by dualistic modes of thinking, the matter cannot be left to the partisans of either of these camps. It is undoubtedly true, that under Stalin, Soviet communism, with its one-party format, concentration camps, summary execution of opponents and total control of all aspects of life, (with the exception of industrialised gassing), shared many symptomatic elements, with the Nazi Fascists of Germany.

fascism_and_communism

The question that remains to be answered, from an anti-capitalist perspective is whether this resemblance was superficial and coincidental or fundamental and related. The fact that during their ascendancy, communists and fascists fought each other with undisguised hatred and ferocity (and often still do) should not be considered a sufficient weight of evidence to eliminate any further inquiry as to fundamental and related similarities. It is sufficient to recognise the fact that some religious orders of the same overall Abrahamic denomination (Judaic, Christian and Muslim) have also fought each other with undisguised viciousness and loathing whilst sharing the same overall ideology and even the same founding documents. From this, and other cases, we can conclude that opposition and malice, even taken to the most obscene and inhumane lengths, do not necessarily cancel out any fundamental and related similarities between organised ideologies and movements. Therefore, in this contribution I wish to reflect upon two of the ideological assumptions shared by totalitarian movements – of all persuasions – for to do so sheds some light upon a important question which negatively effects the present and future anti-capitalist struggle.  The ideological assumptions I refer to are those transmitted to Europe and the west via a particular strand of Greek philosophy.

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The party as a faction: the origins of Bolshevism

20 05 2012

In a recent debate between, Lars T Lih, Paul Le Blanc, and Pham Binh(1) there is confirmation of existing knowledge, that the Bolshevik party was not formally proclaimed, in Prague, at the conference of the Russian Social Democratic Party in 1912; nor was it the formal aim of Lenin to create a separate Bolshevik party. Again the debate clarified, that in 1912 there was not a birth of a party of a new type, free of opportunism, but the birth of a myth of such a party. The main point is: for all intents and practical purposes, the RSDLP that emerged from Prague, in 1912, was a Bolshevik party, in all but name.

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stalinism and fascism in 1930s italy

17 03 2011

Pietro Tresso (pseudonym, Blasco) was one of the early leaders of the Italian Communist Party. He was forced into exile by the fascist régime in 1929, and then expelled from the party on 1930 on account of his critique of the Stalinist claim that social democrats should be treated as fascists. Tresso helped create the Nuova Opposizione Italiana but also joined the Trotskyists in France, where he was exiled.

In August 1938 Tresso wrote this article in Quatrième Internationale, explaining that the Stalinists were not anti-fascists, but rather manoeuvred to curry favour with the black-shirts to suit the USSR’s diplomatic interests. The dark warnings in Tresso’s article did indeed play out. In August 1939 Stalin signed a pact with Hitler, abandoning his previous anti-fascism. In 1944, liberated from the Puy-en-Velay prison camp in German-occupied France, Tresso was himself murdered by Stalinists. Read the rest of this entry »





cuba: the island of happiness ?

19 09 2010

“Even Communist Cuba has got with the programme that we need to cut  the budget deficit and actually get spending under control. We’ve got comrade Castro on the same page as the the rest of us.  We’ve just got to get the Labour Party and the trade unions on to that planet at the same time.” – David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions, September 15th

This week the state-run Cuban trade union confederation announced government plans to lay off 1 million public sector employees, some 20% of the working population. Half of the cuts will be over the next six months alone, in what marks a stunning retreat for the Communist Party and a sharp attack on working-class living standards. President Raúl Castro has targeted workers’ “dependency” on the public sector: by which he means, the same bureaucratic and management apparatus which closely monitors many aspects of everyday life in the country.

In this article Eduardo Semtei, a former Venezuelan government bureaucrat, describes his impressions of ordinary Cuban citizens’ lives. Although The Commune does not share Semtei’s politics – for instance, he harshly criticises the Venezuelan government for subsidising Cuba – his comments do offer an insight into existing social relations and the warped model of “socialism” on the island. Read the rest of this entry »





anna walentynowicz: an inspiring class fighter

20 04 2010

by Chris Ford

Alongside the Polish elite who died in the Smolensk air crash on 10th April was someone whose passing marks a sad moment in the history of the workers’ movement: Anna Walentynowicz.

Whilst the bourgeois media are marking her death as another opportunity to portray her life as part of the ‘fall of communism’ and a vindication of capitalism, this is not how Walentynowicz should be remembered. She was a true working class heroine: if this class fighter had lived in the West her obituaries would be pure vilification, portraying her  as someone from a bygone age. Read the rest of this entry »





the commune bristol reading group 25th april: the soviet union

17 04 2010

The next Bristol reading group session will be on Sunday 25th April at 6pm in Café Kino on Ninetree Hill, Stokes Croft, Bristol.

The session will discuss the nature of the Soviet Union and the crushing of workers’ self-emancipation. Suggested background reading below. All welcome: email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com for more info. Read the rest of this entry »





the working class and the british nation state: a reply to the morning star

27 03 2010

by Chris Ford

The national question continues to be an issue of primary importance to communists and the workers movement as a whole.  The nation-state has not been transcended – transnational corporations remain tied to their home nation-states and capitalists draw on the military and political power of their states to promote their interests.  Our era of global capitalism has further institutionalised the system of national oppression and inequality which is a characteristic of bourgeois society.  How should we respond to this question has been a matter of controversy for generations of communists.

One mistaken response has been to consider globalisation has rendered the nation a superfluous construct; this has fuelled a trend which views struggles, such as against neo-colonialism, as a diversion from the real business of class struggle.  We find this in such views as equating the unity of the UK state with the unity of the working class such as on the Scottish question.  Another trend, prevalent in the UK, has come to adapt itself to the dominant nationalism of the UK state, British nationalism.  This social-patriotism emerged in the working class during the growth of the British Empire in the second half of the 19th century. We find it expressed in some aspects of the anti-European Union current, represented most vocally by the Stalinist Communist Parties. Read the rest of this entry »





bristol reading group on state socialism, sunday 28th march

10 03 2010

The third Bristol reading group session will be on Sunday 28th March at 6pm in Café Kino on Ninetree Hill, Stokes Croft, Bristol.

The session will discuss state socialism and its critics. Suggested background reading below. All welcome: email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com for more info. Read the rest of this entry »





the social fabric of stalinism

21 02 2010

Second in a series ‘Laurat in wonderland’ by João Bernardo: see here for part 1

When free expression and open organisation was allowed – before February 1922 when Lenin authorised the political police to operate within the Communist Party itself – the leftist opposition never ceased to criticise the economic system then being established. In 1920 and 1921 the Workers’ Opposition attacked the power the old management had won back in the Soviet economy and the control political organs exercised on workplace union organisation: yet this tendency was closer to the union bureaucracy than it was to the rank-and-file workers.

Within the Communist Party the rank-and-file perspective was expressed above all by the Democratic Centralist group, formed in 1919. Contrary to what one might imagine, the name of this group was not at all a reference to the Leninist form of internal party regime, bur rather the means of economic organisation. Members of this faction admitted the necessity of central planning but considered that this must be premised on democratic bases, characterised by the management of enterprises by workers’ committees: and not Lenin and Trotsky’s system of management by a technocracy of specialists, including former administrators and even the old factory owners. Read the rest of this entry »





beyond the party-state, beyond the big bang

13 02 2010

A paper by Nathan Coombs for Sunday’s Communist Theory Forum

Wherever we look in the history of communist politics we see states which in one form or another have become dictatorships; the economic and political structures reduced to stifling bureaucracies. Can this be explained merely by recourse to contingent factors: the fact that revolution did not break out in Europe in the 1920s, imperialism against the socialist states during the Cold War, and so on?

The tempting answer for communists is to focus on these facts, lump the blame at the feet of Stalinism, or the leaderships of the Communist parties. This way guilt is apportioned and we can rest secure that the fundamental idea is fine; it is just the flawed implementation at the source of the problems, or the external pressures at work. Such an approach can be surmised by the optimistic refrain: ‘never mind, things will work out fine next time!’ Read the rest of this entry »





new pamphlet: the collapse of the eastern bloc and after

7 01 2010

The latest pamphlet produced by The Commune looks at the regimes which existed in the Eastern Bloc and the state of the working class in those countries today.

The pamphlet features a symposium of critical Marxists from Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, and Bosnia on the twentieth anniversary of the historic events of 1989-91 and the lessons for communists today. Click here for PDF. Read the rest of this entry »





twenty years after the berlin wall fell

16 11 2009

November marks twenty years since the fall of the Berlin wall. This event represented one of the high points of a great mass struggle against the tyrannical order in the Eastern Bloc, and led to the downfall of the Soviet Union. But with the defeats of movements opposed to both these statist régimes and the free market, the popular movements of 1989 are now used to prove there is no alternative to capitalism.

wallfall

Here we present sections of a series of interviews with communists from the former Eastern Bloc focussing on the struggles of the time, what system really existed in the “communist” countries and what has happened to the working class over the last twenty years. Read the rest of this entry »





issue 9 of the commune

12 11 2009

The November issue of our monthly paper The Commune is now available. Click the image below to see the PDF, or see articles as they are posted online in the list below.

issue9cover

To purchase a printed copy for £1 + 50p postage, use the ‘donate’ feature here. You can also subscribe (£12 a year UK/£16 EU/£20 international) or order 5 copies a month to sell (£4) online here. If you want to pay by cheque, contact uncaptiveminds@gmail.com.

are we ready for a winter of discontent? – by Sheila Cohen

post strike: this is no deal – by Joe Thorne

underground pay deadlock – by Vaughan Thomas

what is the union bureaucracy? – by Alberto Durango

occupation and state building in the new afghanistan – by Jessica Anderson

mixed reactions to cwu-royal mail deal – interview with a communist postman

manchester students build solidarity with post workers – by Mark Harrison

honduras: democracy has not been restored – by Socialismo o Barbarie

month long strike in france: ‘papers for all!’ – interview with Seni cleaners and piece from Où va la CGT?

communism twenty years after the berlin wall fell – interviews with eastern european activists

scottish ruling class: division over union – by Allan Armstrong

obituary of chris harman – by Andy Wilson

university occupations in austria – interview with vienna student activist

question time row: did the straw man really slay the griffin? – by Adam Ford

communist recomposition and workers’ representation – by Chris Ford

‘full and open debate’ on post-no2eu project: ok, when? - by David Broder

building from below: the work of paulo freire – by Dave Spencer

the global commune, january 16th

activities of the commune around britain

 





extracts from ellis hillman’s ‘the nature of the stalinist parties’

12 11 2009

note by David Black: The Nature of the Stalinist Parties – a document of several thousand words – was published in the internal discussion bulletin of the Socialist Review Group in May 1951, with five sections:

1 The Importance of the Nature of the Stalinist Parties for our Movement

2 The Classical Trotskyist Position

3 The Stalinist International as the Instrument of the State-Capitalist Bureaucracy

4 The Social Composition Of The Stalinist Parties

5 Political Conclusions

thorezussr

Hillman concluded that the SRG could make no impact on the membership of the Stalinist British Communist Party, which he sought to show was becoming increasingly petit-bourgeois. Therefore, he argued, the SRG should concentrate on building in the Labour Party. In practical terms, as Ian Birchall has suggested, Hillman was more in tune with Shachtmanite ‘Third Campism’ than James/Boggs/Dunayevskaya. The ‘immovability’ of the CP membership proved to be a temporary phenomenon; but it was only shaken up by world events (especially Hungary) rather than pressure from the Far Left. As regards Dunayevskaya, I should point out that her later analysis (from 1953 onwards) was markedly different to that of ‘State-Capitalism and the World Revolution’ (1950). The latter, in my view, while important, was wrong on a lot of things (such as the national question), and inadequate on others (especially philosophy).

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