In a recent debate between, Lars T Lih, Paul Le Blanc, and Pham Binh(1) there is agreement that, it was not the formal aim of Lenin to proclaim the birth of the Bolshevik Party in 1912 in Prague at the conference of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. Nor was it the formal aim of Lenin to create a separate Bolshevik Party. Again the debate clarified, that in 1912 there was not the birth of a party of a new type, free of opportunism, but the birth of a myth of such a party. Yet for all practical purposes, the RSDLP that emerged from Prague, in 1912, was a Bolshevik Party, in all but name.
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. Continue reading “stalinism and fascism in 1930s italy”
David Broder writes on the disappointed revolutionary aspirations of the WWII-era left
The recent collapse of dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia marked inspiring victories for the mass uprisings in the Arab world. However, these revolts have again posed an age-old question of revolutionary politics: is the aim to get rid of this or that leader, or to overthrow the system as such?
This question was sharply posed in the late World War II period when mass resistance movements besieged fascist régimes across Europe. These movements were dominated by activists who believed in the desirability of communism.
But as such, the maintenance of capitalist order after the war was a major defeat. Why did resistance not mean revolution? Here I shall focus on the examples of France and Italy. Continue reading “a hope unfulfilled: communists in world war II”
“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. Continue reading “cuba: the island of happiness ?”
Mark Hoskisson departs from the conventional Trotskyist interpretation of the Russian Revolution, in his analysis of Thermidor and the Russian Revolution. (Permanent Revolution issue 17). His conclusion is that the political counter-revolution took place inside the Bolshevik party in 1921 and was led by Lenin and supported by Trotsky.
Yet Mark still dismisses the possibility of Bolshevik values, and methods of organisation, prior to 1921, contributing to the betrayal of the political aspirations of 1917. He still clings to the orthodox view that the Bolshevik Party could somehow be a custodian of workers’ power, despite substituting itself for the working class following 1917, as long as the right to form factions were preserved. Hence, the banning of party factions in 1921 is seen as the historic turning point. Mark asserts that Bolshevism’s descent into counter-revolution marked a distinct break with, not a continuation of its fundamental character and politics in the period 1912 to 1920. Continue reading “The red jacobins : no substitute for workers’ freedom”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. Continue reading “the commune bristol reading group 25th april: the soviet union”
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. Continue reading “the social fabric of stalinism”