Posts Tagged ‘Trotsky’

Tony Benn on the Misrepresentation of ‘Moderates’ versus ‘the Left’ in the Labour Party

September 28, 2020

I fond this passage, ”Moderates’ versus ‘Left Wing’ – a Misleading Description’ in Tony Benn’s Argument’s for Democracy, edited by Chris Mullin (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1981). In it, the great man shows that its the Labour party as a whole that’s moderate, and those the media describes as moderates aren’t always moderate Labour, but just as likely Tories or Lib Dems. He writes

First, the uxse of the adjectives ‘moderate’ and ‘left wing’ mjerits some examination. The Labour Party, being avowedly socialist in its aims, is itself left wing and so are all its members, as compared to the Conservatives and Liberals. Moreover, the term ‘moderate’ is equally confusing. By any world standard of socialism, the entire Labour Party is exceptionally moderate, offering, even in its supposedly ‘full-blooded’ manifestos in the past, the most modest proposals for changes in the structure of wealth and power, all to be achieved firmly within the framework of parliamentary democracy, complete with regular and free general elections. The main characteristics of the ‘left wing’ of the party are that it may be more analytical and philosophical in its approach, and more committed to carrying through the policies agreed at conference, once they have been endorsed by the electorate and a Labour government is in power. By contrast, some of the self-proclaimed ‘moderates’ have ended up in other political parties. Whatever else they turned out to be, the were not moderate socialists but committed Conservatives or Liberals. Thus the labelling now in general use is not very accurate in describing the wide spread of opinion within the party, and the spirit of tolerance to be found among people of differing views. (p. 35).

Everything Benn said is right, and unfortunately as true now as it was when he wrote it nearly forty years ago. The Labour Party has always been very moderate in its approach to socialism. That’s why it aroused such scorn from Lenin and the Communists, and why historically even other continental socialists, who had more moderate views, looked down upon the Labour party as something that wasn’t really, or was just barely, socialist.

And we’ve seen that the so-called ‘moderates’ in the Labour party were and are anything but. They’re neoliberal Thatcherites, true-blue Tories. They were caught intriguing against Jeremy Corbyn in order to prevent the Labour Party winning the 2017 and 2019 elections. In their struggles to overthrow him, some of them even appealed to Tories and Lib Dems to join constituency Labour parties. One of the intriguers was, apparently, a member of a Conservative internet group, and more extreme in his bitter hatred of Corbyn and his supporters than the real Tories. But you’ll be purged as a member of the hard left and an anti-Semite if you dare mention this. It’s only Corbyn and his supporters that are infiltrators.

As for Jeremy Corbyn and the Left, I’ve said many times before: Corbyn wasn’t particularly. The policies he adopted and advocated were traditional Labour policies of a mixed economy, strong welfare state, properly nationalised NHS and strong trade unions able to protect working people. This is the social democratic consensus which governed this country from the end of the Second World War to Thatcher’s election in 1979. It is not even remotely Communist or Trotskyite. But the media have bellowed and screamed that it is, and unfortunately there are too many people who believe this flagrant lie. People who have no idea what Communism is, or what Trotsky said.

Tony Benn: the greatest Labour leader and Prime Minister this country never had.

The Tories Are Economic Saboteurs – Get the Gulags Ready!

September 8, 2020

The former Soviet Union had a series of legislation defining and punishing economic crimes. As all industry and agriculture was nationalised and the country a single-party totalitarian state, any attempt to disrupt this situation was considered subversive and attack on the Soviet system and state itself. This meant that people could be jailed for organising a strike or industrial dispute, or for simply trying to set up their own, independent private company. This was actually permitted under the Soviet Constitution, but was limited to self-employment. Thus when Gorbachev started glasnost and liberalising the economy in the 1980s, one of the first developments was the rise of private taxis by people with their own cars. Under hardliners like Brezhnev, however, any attempt to set up one’s own company was strictly punished, and the offending entrepreneur sent to the gulags. It was declared to be and punished as sabotage and anti-Soviet activities.

Stalin justified his terror and mass arrests in the 1930s through lies that the Soviet Union and its economic development were under threat from an army of saboteurs. Secret agents and collaborators with the capitalist West, including the followers of his exiled rival, Trotsky, were active causing disaffection with Stalin’s personal rule and plotting to cripple and destroy Soviet industry and agriculture. 30 million Soviet citizens were falsely accused, convicted and either executed or sent to the gulags to die of starvation and overwork.

But now in neoliberal, capitalist Britain, the Tory party really does seem to be trying to sabotage this country’s industry and agriculture. Boris Johnson’s Tory are heavily funded by hedge funds, who are shorting the British economy. They’ve gambled on a no-deal Brexit ruining Britain. And so Boris and his coterie are pushing for precisely that type of exit from the EU. Yesterday the Boorish Bozo and his minions announced that they were going to tear up the deal they’d already agreed with the EU, in order to push for something better. This, as Mike has pointed out, just shows the EU that we can’t be trusted. It’s weakened our position, and made such a disastrous Brexit even more likely. At the same time, it’s been estimated that a third of British farmers could go under in five years thanks to such a Brexit and the probable imposition of agricultural tariffs by the EU.

If Boris and the Tories, or at least his faction, are determined on a no-deal Brexit, because it will destroy British firms and farms, for the enrichment of the hedge funds, then they are guilty of economic sabotage.

In the Soviet Union, they’d be sent to the gulag for it. But as it stands, they’re supported by the British media, and so distort and spread lies blaming everyone but themselves, especially the EU.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/09/07/if-johnson-is-ready-to-renege-on-eu-withdrawal-agreement-whats-the-point-in-a-trade-deal/

I can’t remember where I read it, but one of the commenters on Mike’s blog also suggested that after Boris has done his job and wrecked our once great nation, he’ll take his money and flee abroad.

Which is what any number of truly horrific dictators have done throughout history. I’m thinking of people like Idi Amin, the butcher who ruled Uganda in the 1970s. After he was ousted he fled to Yemen or Jordan or somewhere, where he holed up very comfortably in a luxury hotel.

One of the problems with the developing world is that its dictators and ruling class loot their countries and peoples without putting anything back. They don’t spend the money they’ve stolen consuming any of their nations’ traditional products. They just hoard it abroad in Swiss bank accounts. Mugabe in Zimbabwe is a case in point.

And Boris and the Tories are doing something similar. Which means that what is said about these tyrants can be said about them:

The Tories are kleptocrats trying to turn Britain into a third world country!

If there are people, who count as ‘economic criminals’ who deserve to be thrown into a forced labour camp, it’s them.

Liverpool to Put Information Plaques on Buildings and Monuments with Connections to Slavery

August 24, 2020

The Black Lives Matter protests across the world have prompted the authorities in Liverpool to examine once again their great city’s connection to the slave trade. According to an article by Jean Selby in today’s I, for 24th August 2020, the city is going to put up information plaques around the city on areas and places connected to the slave trade. The article’s titled ‘Liverpool to acknowledge its history of slavery’. I think it’s slightly misleading, and something of a slur, as the City has already acknowledged its connection to slavery a long time ago. It has an international slavery museum, which I think may have started as a gallery in its maritime museum way back in the 1990s. This has inspired Black rights and anti-racism campaigners to approach the council here in Bristol calling for a similar museum down here. From what I gather from the local news website, The Bristolian, Asher Craig, a councilor for St. George’s in Bristol and the head of the local equalities body, told them to go away and find a private backer first. This is the same Asher Craig, who in an interview on Radio 4 showed that apparently she didn’t know about the slavery gallery in Bristol’s M Shed, nor about the various official publications, including a 1970s school history book for local children, that discuss Bristol’s history in the slave trade, and told the Beeb she wanted a museum of slavery here in Bristol. According to The Bristolian, the campaigners are dismayed at the city’s refusal to build such a museum following the examples of Liverpool in the Britain and Nantes in France.

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of London journos writing pieces about places like Bristol and Liverpool blithely claiming, or implying, that only now are they acknowledging their role in the abominable trade. I can remember getting very annoyed with the News Quiz and some of the comedians on it over a decade ago when I similar story came up about Liverpool. Jeremy Hardy, a great left-wing comedian sadly no longer with us, said something suitably sneering about the city and slavery. But the impression I have is that it’s London that has been the most sensitive and most desperate to hide its past in connection to slavery. Nearly two decades or so ago, when I was doing voluntary work at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum, I had the privilege of meeting a young Asian artist. She was working on a project commemorating the slave trade by making models of old factories and mills from the foodstuffs they produced, which had been cultivated through slavery. She told me that she’d approached a number of towns and their museums, and received very positive reactions to her work. They had all been very willing to give her whatever help they could, though some of these towns had only been in the slave trade for a very short time before being squeezed out by competition from Bristol and Liverpool. As a result, they often genuinely had little in their collections connected to slavery. But they were willing to give any help they could. But her experience with the Museum of London had been quite different. They made it plain that they didn’t have any holdings on slavery whatsoever. I’ve been told since then that things are a bit different, and that individual London boroughs are quite open and apologetic about their connection to the slave trade. But it does seem to me that it is London that is particularly defensive and secretive when it comes to commemorating its own history of slave dealing.

Back to the I’s article, which runs

Liverpool will address its ties to the slave trade with a series of plaques around the city explaining the history behind its street names, building and monuments.

The city council plans to acknowledge the role the port city played in colonialism and the vast wealth generated from the trafficking of human beings. According to the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool ships carried about 1.5 million slaves, half of the three million Africans taken across the Atlantic by British slavers.

Falkner Square, named after an 18th-century merchant involved in the slave trade, is among those expected to have a plaque installed.

“We have to be led by our communities on how to do this and do it in a way that is sensitive to both our past and our present,” mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said as he announced the project yesterday. He was marking Slavery Remembrance Day – which commemorates the anniversary of a 1791 slave uprising in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

He continued: “I do not believe that changing street names is the answer – it would be wrong to try and airbrush out our past. It’s important that we have a sensible and informed discussion about theses issues. We need to judge the past with a historical perspective, taking into account today’s higher ethical standards and, most importantly, how everyone, from every community in the city, feels about it.”

And advisory panel, chaired by Michelle Charters, recommended the creation of Eric Lynch slavery memorial plaques, named in honour of Eric Lynch, a Ghanaian chief who is a descendant of African slaves and spent his life drawing attention to the city’s slavery history.

His son, Andrew Lynch, said: “These plaques are a tribute to Eric’s long years of work as a black community activist and educator, teaching the people of Liverpool to acknowledge and understand their historic inheritance in an honest and open way, and uncovering the contribution made by black people throughout our great city.”

This all sounds actually quite reasonable. I think it’s fair to put the plaques up for those wanting such information. And I really don’t believe those places should be renamed, as this is a form of rewriting history. You shouldn’t try to erase the past, although I accept that some monuments, like those of Colston, are unacceptable in today’s moral and political climate for very good reasons.

However, I think this says less about Liverpool’s history and more about the present desperate state of the Black community in Britain. Back when I was working at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum all those years ago, I remember talking about some of the materials we had on slavery and its history by West Indian academic historians. I heard from some of the staff that some of this was actually quite controversial in some of the West Indian nations, but for reasons that are completely the opposite to the situation in this country. They’re controversial, or were then, among Black West Indians, who feel that they’re racist against their White fellow countrymen and co-workers. Apparently after one book was published, there was a spate of letters in the local press by Black people stating that their bosses or secretaries were White, and certainly weren’t like that. I think if the Black community in Britain shared the same general level of prosperity and opportunity as the White population, there would be precious little interest in slavery and its commemoration except among academics and historians. It would be an episode from the past, which was now mercifully over, and which the Black community and the rest of society had moved on from.

I also think that demands for its commemoration also come not just from the material disadvantages the Black community in general suffers from, but also its feelings of alienation and marginalisation. They feel that they and their history are being excluded, hence the demands for its commemoration. However, I think the reverse of this is that such demands can also look like expressions of anti-White sentiment, in which the present White population is demanded to be penitent and remorseful about something they were not responsible for, simply because they’re White.

And there are also problems with the selection of the events commemorated International Slavery Remembrance Day. This looks like Toussaint L’Louverture’s Black revolution on Haiti. L’ouverture was inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution. It was he and his generals that overthrew the French authorities in what is now Haiti, giving the country its present name and making it a Black republic in which power and property could only be held by Blacks. It naturally became a shining beacon for the aspirations of other Black revolutionaries right across the Caribbean and even the US. Major Moody discusses it in his 1820s report on slavery, which critically examined whether Blacks were prepared for supporting themselves as independent, self-reliant citizens after emancipation. His report included correspondence from Black Americans, who had been freed by their owners and moved to Haiti, but still kept in touch with them.

Moody was not impressed with the progress of the revolution, and concluded that Blacks weren’t ready for their freedom. This shocked many abolitionists, as Moody himself was a married to a Black woman. But if you read his report about Haiti, you understand why. After successfully gaining their freedom, the Haitians had been faced with the problem of maintaining it against European aggression on the one hand, and economic collapse on the other. The result was the imposition of virtual enslavement back on the plantation workers, who had fought so hard for their freedom. The country’s estates were divided up among the generals. The former slaves were forbidden to leave them, and quotas of the amount of sugar they were required to produce were imposed. If the poor souls did not produce the required amount, they were tortured or burned to death. It seemed to me when I read the Blue Book Moody published, kept in the Museum’s libraries, that Moody’s decision against supporting immediate emancipation for the enslaved peoples of the Caribbean was based on a genuine horror of such atrocities and fear that this would be repeated across the West Indies.

I don’t think Marxist historians would be surprised at the brutality that arose after the Haitian revolution. Marxist revolutionaries like Lenin believed that history followed certain deterministic laws, and were acutely interested in the French Revolution. From this they believed that all revolutions followed an inevitable pattern. After the initial gains of freedom, the revolution would be overthrown and a period of reaction arise, created by a dictator. Just like Napoleon had overthrown the French Revolutionaries to create a new, imperial monarchy. In their own time, they were afraid that the new Napoleon, who would undo the Russian Revolution, would be Trotsky. And so they missed Stalin’s threat. The reintroduction of slavery by L’Ouverture’s generals is just part of this general pattern in the progress of revolutions. Nevertheless, like the destruction of personal freedoms following the Russian Revolution and then Stalin’s Terror in the 1930s, it does raise the awkward question of whether it should, like the Russian Revolution, really by celebrated or commemorated without significant caveats.

This aside, I’m sure that following Liverpool’s decision, there will also be demands for Bristol to do the same. There is already a slave walk around the docks in Bristol and a plaque commemorating the slaves exploited and traded by Bristol merchants. The M Shed has a gallery on Bristol and the slave trade, which includes a map of various streets and properties in the city and its surroundings built and owned by slavers and those with connections to the trade. And the latest monument, set up in the 1990s, is a remarkable bridge down on the docks. This has two horns either side of it, but has been named ‘Pero’s Bridge’ after one of the very few slaves traded by the city in the 18th century, who identity is known.

Trotsky on the Failure of Capitalism

January 16, 2020

I found this quote from Trotsky on how capitalism has now outlived its usefulness as a beneficial economic system in Isaac Deutscher and George Novack, The Age of Permanent Revolution: A Trotsky Anthology (New York: Dell 1964):

Capitalism has outlived itself as a world system. It has ceased to fulfill its essential function, the raising of the level of human power and human wealth. Humanity cannot remain stagnant at the level which it has reached. Only a powerful increase in productive force and a sound, planned, that is, socialist organisation of production and distribution can assure humanity – all humanity – of a decent standard of life and at the same time give it the precious feeling of freedom with respect to its own economy. (p. 363).

I’m not a fan of Trotsky. Despite the protestations to the contrary from the movement he founded, I think he was during his time as one of the leaders of the Russian Revolution and civil war ruthless and authoritarian. The Soviet Union under his leadership may not have been as massively murderous as Stalin’s regime, but it seems to me that it would still have been responsible for mass deaths and imprisonment on a huge scale.

He was also very wrong in his expectation of the collapse of capitalism and the outbreak of revolution in the Developed World. As an orthodox Marxist, he wanted to export the Communist revolution to the rest of Europe, and believed that it would be in the most developed countries of the capitalist West, England, France, and Germany, that revolution would also break out. He also confidently expected throughout his career the imminent collapse of capitalism. This didn’t happen, partly because of the reforms and welfare states established by reformist socialist parties like Labour in Britain and the SPD in Germany, which improved workers’ lives and opportunities, which thus allowed them to stimulate the capitalist economy as consumers and gave them a stake in preserving the system.

It also seems to me that capitalism is still actively creating wealth – the rich are still becoming massively richer – and it is benefiting those countries in the Developing World, which have adopted it, like China and the east Asian ‘tiger’ economies like South Korea.

But in the west neoliberalism, unregulated capitalism, certainly has failed. It hasn’t brought public services, like electricity, railways, and water supply the investment they need, and has been repeatedly shown to be far more inefficient in the provision of healthcare. And it is pushing more and more people into grinding poverty, so denying them the ability to play a role as active citizens about to make wide choices about the jobs they can take, what leisure activities they can choose, and the goods they can buy. At the moment the Tories are able to hide its colossal failure by hiding the mounting evidence and having their hacks in the press pump out favourable propaganda. But if the situation carries on as it is, sooner or later the mass poverty they’ve created will not be so easily hidden or blithely explained away or blamed on others – immigrants, the poor themselves, or the EU. You don’t have to be a Trotskyite to believe the following:

Unfettered capitalism is destroying Britain – get rid of it, and the Tories.

No! KKK’s David Duke and BNP’s Nick Griffin DON’T Support Corbyn!

November 25, 2019

Really brilliant post yesterday by Zelo Street, demolishing the Tory lies that David Duke, the head of the KKK in Louisiana and Britain’s own Fascist abomination, Nick Griffin, support Jeremy Corbyn. The claim was made a year or so ago by the Times and the Scum in order to add some spurious credibility to the anti-Semitism smears against the Labour leader and his supporters.

This began with Henry Zeffman in the Thunderer writing

A white supremacist and former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan praised the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership as a sign that people were recognising ‘Zionist power’ and ‘Jewish establishment power’. David Duke, who led a branch of the KKK based in Louisiana in the 1970s, told listeners to his radio show in 2015: ‘It’s a really good kind of evolutionary thing, isn’t it, when people are beginning to recognise Zionist power and ultimately the Jewish establishment power in Britain and in the western world.”.

The problem with this was that two years after the claim Zeffman had uncovered, Duke had seriously revised his opinion of Corbyn, calling him ‘Marxist filth’. 

And the BNP’s former fuehrer has crawled out from whichever stone he’s been hiding under ever since his stormtroops gave him the heave-ho to make it clear that he does not, after all, support Jeremy Corbyn either. After reading headlines claiming that Corbyn’s speech to the CBI raised the issue of anti-Semitism once again, Griffin tweeted

Have read that headline several times. Can easily be read that someone at the Mail still has the occasional ‘hurrah for the Blackshirts’ moment!

Zelo Street remarks that the Heil’s history is so notorious that even Griffin knows about it. Which I suppose he would, actually being one of the Fascists the Heil supported back then. But in an answer to the question who he would personally support in the election, Griffin responded

None of them. Though I did give the Zio-media a stick to beat Corbyn by saying I’d vote for him on foreign policy grounds. But unless he comes out to oppose the UK sanctions on Syria that are killing thousands of children & adding to the refugee flood, I won’t be doing so”.

It should come as no surprise that neither Duke nor Griffin support Corbyn. And in Griffin’s case, he makes it clear that he only said he did in order to cause trouble for the Labour leader.

Despite Conservative claims on both sides of the Atlantic that the Nazis were socialists, because they said they were, Hitler’s crew were far from it. Both the Nazis and the Italian Fascists were strongly in favour of private industry. When in power, they both embarked on massive privatisation programmes. The Nazis celebrate the entrepreneur of part of the biologically superior elite, who had a natural right to rule. And before the Nazi seizure of power, Hitler told a meeting of leading German businessmen that he had no intention of nationalising anything and private enterprise needed a strong ruler to protect it. Under Mussolini, the Italian Fascists declared that private industry was the best economic system and the very foundation of the country and state.

David Duke is a member of the Republican Party, or he was. Who are very keen on protecting and extending private enterprise against the state – not just in industry, but in healthcare and education, and also against the environment. So are other members of the Klan. A few years ago Duke frightened the Republicans by threatening to reveal the identities of other Republican politicians, who wore white sheets at their klonvocations. Of course Duke was going to find out eventually what Corbyn really stood for, and denounce him as a Commie. Just like the Tory press has been trying to smear him and his followers as Communists, Trotskyites, Stalinists or whatever.

And Duke obviously didn’t know about Corbyn’s Jewish supporters.

Contrary to what the press and media want you to believe, Corbyn ain’t an anti-Semite and has Jewish supporters. People like Jewish Voice for Labour, Jewdas, the Jewish Socialist Group, and London’s Haredi community. Because he’s actually stood up for Jews and Jewish issues. Mike and the other left-wing bloggers have put up lists of the numerous occasions Corbyn intervened on the community’s behalf. He has the support of Shraga Stern and London’s Haredi community because he stopped their historic burial ground from being redeveloped. And rather than wanting the mass carnage of Israelis, he simply wants an end to the Israeli state’s system of apartheid and oppression of the Palestinians. But that enrages Israel and its apologists, who unable to refute the allegations against them with fact, simply turn to smearing their opponents – including and especially self-respecting Jews – as anti-Semites.

Duke’s comment about Corbyn looks like his ideas about the Labour leader came from the biased reporting of the lamestream media. I dare say Duke would have gone berserk if he’d realised then that Corbyn is pro-Jewish and anti-racist, with Jewish supporters, along with those from Britain’s other ethnic communities.

However, if Duke and Griffin aren’t supporting Corbyn, other members of the far right are supporting the Tories. Like Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, alias Tommy Robinson, formerly of the EDL, formerly of PEGIDA, former special adviser on Islam to UKIP. And for some reason the Tories are keeping very quiet about his support, while definitely not repudiating.

They can’t really, not when so much Tory strategy is based on stirring up hatred against ethnic minorities and immigration, particularly Islam. Mates Jacobs uncovered a whole mass of islamophobia, racism and anti-Semitism in the social media groups for supporters of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg. Some of whose members even believed in the same ‘great replacement’ nonsense – the conspiracy theory that the Jews are deliberately introducing and encouraging non-White immigration in order to destroy and replace White Europeans – that Duke and the Klan believe in.

Corbyn doesn’t have the support of David Duke or Nick Griffin. But the Tories have the support of Tommy Robinson, and some of their members certainly have extreme right-wing views. Which is why Boris isn’t going to have an inquiry into Tory islamophobia until after the election.

He’s probably hoping that by that time he’ll be safely in No. 10 and people will have forgotten about the whole scandal. Don’t let him.

For further information, see: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/nick-griffin-does-not-back-corbyn.html

Comedian Alexei Sayle on the Forces Ranged Against Jeremy Corbyn

March 3, 2019

This is another video from Labour Against the Witchhunt, the group formed to defend the victims of the mass smear campaign against supporters of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour party. The video was posted on YouTube on 2nd June 2018, and as Sayle says that he is there to support Marc Wadworth, my guess is that it was recorded as part of the tour Marc Wadsworth did of various cities up and down the country exposing the injustice of his own smearing and expulsion from Labour. Ruth Smeeth accused him of anti-Semitism, because he embarrassed her passing information on to a Torygraph journalist at a press conference. As Wadworth is a veteran campaigner against racism and anti-Semitism, who got Stephen Lawrence’s parents to meet Nelson Mandela and worked with the Board of Deputies of British Jews in the ’90s when the BNP were beating up Jews once again in the east end of London, the charge is risible and obnoxious. But this didn’t stop the press, media and Blairites baying it at every opportunity.

Some of us of a certain vintage remember Sayle as the bald, sweary bloke, who was one of the leaders of Alternative Comedy that came out of the Comedy Store in the 1980s, along with Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, French and Saunders, and Ben Elton. They were an iconoclastic attack on the old style of comedy – anarchic and ‘politically correct’. They firmly rejected the racism and sexism that was part of the ’70s comedy scene. Sayle appeared in the groundbreaking sitcom, The Young Ones, as the heroes’ landlord, and later had his own show on BBC 2. He also did a car advert in which he sang ‘Ello, John, got a new motor?’ until you were heartily sick of it, but the less said about that the better.

He starts by talking about the forces ranged against Corbyn – Capita, neo-liberalism, and fanatical supporters of the state of Israel, for whom it is a fight to the death, and will do anything, to stop the prospect of someone, who prioritises the plight of the Palestinians, of the oppressed than the oppressor, leading a western nation. He says they will lie, cheat and do anything to stop that, and one of the people, who has been sacrificed, who he wanted to speak up for, was Marc Wadsworth.

He then says that perhaps the audience knows the Labour party better than he does, perhaps there’s a plan there. But if it was him, he’d just tell the Board of Deputies to f**k themselves. ‘Not a sophisticated response, but I dunno’. He speculates whether there is a plan to appease them, and wonders if it will work. He then talks about how he was busy with work a couple of weeks previously. It was the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth. (Sayle’s parents where Jewish Romanian Communists, who settled in Liverpool, and much of Sayle’s comedy is about Marxism and the Russian Revolution. He once did a radio series about a football team, which was fable about the Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolshevik revolution). However, the previous October was the centenary of the Russian Revolution. He expected to be busy with work then, and told his agent to block out all of October. However, nothing happened. But he was able to get a gig speaking at the British Library. He goes on to explain that the history of the Soviet Union has a bit of a blemish when you’re talking about Marxism. Some people would disagree. His own mother would never admit there was anything wrong with the Soviet project. The most she would says was, Mistakes were made’. Or as she would say, ‘You can’t make an omelette without murdering 40 million people’.

He goes on to say that the spirit – the purity of spirit – of the Russian Revolution was crushed when the Kronstadt uprising was put down, the sailors, who were asking for a return to the basic principles of Bolshevism, of the Revolution. He goes on

‘It seems to me a tremendous danger that if you concede, if you start to mess with the basic principles of who you are, if you start to make concessions to people like Ruth Smeeth and Wes Streeting, and these people. And if you start to self-harm in the hope of future gain, you are fundamentally undermining what you are about.’

Wise words indeed, as we have seen this week when the party has decided to suspend Chris Williamson for daring to defend the smeared innocent against their accusers.

Al-Jazeera Documentary on Nazism in Hungary

December 1, 2018

This is a very serious video from the Arab news agency, Al-Jazeera, looking at the rise of Fascism in Viktor Orban’s Hungary. It concentrates on the paramilitary sports organization, the Highwaymen’s Army, which is affiliated to the Nazi group Force and Determination, talking to some of its members and showing them training and attending rallies and Hungarian heritage events.

The Highwaymen’s Army

The Highwaymen’s Army is the second largest Nazi organization in the country, and many of its members are former policemen and soldiers. It’s small, with a membership of about a thousand men, formed by Laszlo Toroczkai, the mayor of a town on the Serbian border. He’s one of the main figures in Hungarian Fascism, and has a formed a new party, My Homeland, to appeal to young people. The young people interviewed say that there’s a war going on against the White race, and complain that you can say anything you want, except if you’re White, heterosexual and Christian. They discuss studying political science at university and prospect of careers as Far Right politicians. One of them says that of the 1,000 men in the movement, 700 are ‘complete idiots’, ‘all those alcoholic skinheads’. I’d say that’s a very low estimate. I’d say that out of those thousand people, all thousand are going to be complete morons, regardless of whether they’re shaven-headed drunks. They state that mass immigration has resulted in a clash of cultures, and that the culture ‘invading’ them is not comfortable with European culture.

Orban and Anti-Immigration

There’s footage of Orban, the country’s Far Right president from the Fidesz Party at a rally declaring that Europe is being invaded, and if they let it, tens of millions of migrants will come from Africa and the Middle East, leaving White western young people a minority in their own countries.

It discusses how Hungary was the first country to close its borders, preventing immigrants from entering or leaving, in response to the mass immigration from Syria in 2015, and one of the Fascists interview speaks of his disgust at the immigrants at the railway station throwing back the food and water they’d been given.

Another speaker, Gaspar Tamas, a philosopher and political scientist, who is clearly an anti-Fascist, states that the fear of ethnic minorities is traditional in Hungary, and formed the basis of its policies for 140 years. The fear that they will be swamped by foreigners is found everywhere and at all times, but in eastern Europe goes all the way back to the Ottoman conquests of the Balkans in the 15th-17th centuries. Tamas states that it’s now a myth, as no-one’s threatening Hungary. But it’s the one topic everyone’s talking about.

The documentary states that in 2017 the EU tried to prosecute Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary for not taking in any refugees.

Soros as the Bogeyman of the Anti-Semitic Right

Another commenter states that because there are no immigrants in Hungary, Orban had to invent a new enemy, that of the financier and philanthropist George Soros. Orban has declared that Soros is interfering in Hungarian politics in order to bring immigrants into the country to destroy its people, culture and Christian identity. Tamas explains that Soros is hated and reviled because he supports human rights groups and free university education, which are resented anyway. But they’ve gone back to the old, vile conspiracy theory which explains everything from capitalism to socialism, from Fremenism to human rights, as part of a plot of by the Jews. The film shows posters all over Hungary attacking Soros.

It then moves back to one of the Fascists, who states very clearly that the Jews are exploiting Hungary and influencing its politics. They are the creators of the global financial crisis as part of their plans. He declares his hatred of them, says they should be excluded from public life, and doesn’t consider them human. He says he thinks Hitler’s programme was perfect, and nationalism put Germany back in order, creating a good economy, industry and prosperity from nothing. This is real, deeply chilling anti-Semitism, not the stupid, malign lies of the Israel lobby against decent people in England.

The film explains that most of the local papers in Hungary are owned by companies that support the government, but the Fascists complain that they still don’t know where to look for good information because of the diet of official lies. Which is clearly ironic, given that the government is also extremely right-wing. It shows a group of young Fascists going on a vigilante patrol through one of the towns at night, looking for ‘degenerates’ – drug addicts and drunks. They state that if they find anyone like this, they tell them to calm down and go home, and call the police if they don’t. There’s no hint that they do anything else in the film, but even so, you’re left wondering if they don’t go further and behave like Nazis everywhere behave when they come across something they despise, and start beating their victims up.

They also discuss their problems with Gypsies, saying that the areas in Budapest occupied by the Romany have the highest crime rates, and that Magyars and Romanies cannot live together in peace.

The Need for Belonging

A commenter says that most of the young people who join these groups do so for a sense of belonging, not because they believe in the ideology. But once they’ve joined, step by step they come to believe in the ideas of the group. The young lads in the group thank the Almighty that their country isn’t a war zone like central London, and state that they’re trying to preserve their Christian values – temperance, honesty and bravery. They talk about temperance in respect to dealing with the ‘degenerates’. They say they’ll try to talk to them, but if they attack them, they fight back.

The documentary then shows the Kurultaj cultural festival, where Hungarians dress up and celebrate the Huns and their leader, Atilla, from whom many Hungarians believe they are descended. It’s a belief which is rejected by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The festival shows displays of horsemanship, archery and traditional dances by people in Hunnish costume. At this event, campaigner collect signatures for a petition protesting against the Treaty of Trianon of 1920, the treaty after the First World War that resulted in Hungary losing 2/3 of its territory.

The Effects of the Collapse of Communism and the 2008 Crash

Another commenter states that many people in Hungary now feel abandoned, and so look book on an idealized past when everything was beautiful and perfect, when people had jobs and Hungary was a European power.

The documentary then shows one of the Fascists walking around his old neighbourhood, an area of apartment blocks surrounded by green spaces and trees. He tells how everything fell apart with the collapse of Communism, and the promises made were not fulfilled. The film states that after Communism collapsed, the economy shrank by 20 per cent, and only regained its pre-1989 levels ten years later. It’s now a prosperous area, but the local people can’t afford the new homes being built. They’re bought by the rich from the capital, as well as wealthy Russians and Germans. The documentary states that before the financial crash of 2008, many Hungarians were encouraged to take out their mortgages in Euros. When the crash came, the value of the Hungarian currency collapsed and the cost of the mortgages increased massively, becoming unaffordable. The Fascist states that his parents owned a flat, but had to sell it. It wiped out a lifetime of work. He came home from work to find his parents crying, and says he wouldn’t wish that on his worst enemy. He states that he felt angry, and that it became clear to him that the Jews were behind it, which made him go down his path towards Fascism.

Homophobia and Anti-Gay Pride Concerts

The film then moves to a mass Fascist counter-protest against a Budapest Gay Pride rally. This attracts a mob wearing Black T-shirts, some of them Ultra football hooligans, and bikers in leather waistcoats. They chant ‘Dirty fa***ts’ and ‘Hey, Hey, you’re nothing!’. One of them declares that no-one respects normality anymore. Another man states that there’s no Adam and Bill in the Bible, only Adam and Eve. They also chant ‘Ban it!’ and ‘Hungary! Hungary!’. The MC at the anti-Gay Pride Concert, the speakers blaring out Heavy Metal, declares that gay people shouldn’t come there, as they can’t guarantee their safety. With every gay person, society loses a potential husband or wife. Another Fascist says that in his opinion, the homosexuals are being used as tools to force something unnatural down peoples’ throats. During the concert the crowd starts making the right-armed Nazi salute. Another black-shirted young man holds his right arm crossed against his chest, in what appears to be another nationalist salute. The guy has the same chillingly blank yet fanatical expression on his face that you see on photographs of German Nazis from the Third Reich.

Conclusion: Hungarian Fascism

Gaspar Tamas appears again to state that the new Fascism isn’t like the old. They’re aren’t triumphal marches or dreams of world conquest. It’s simply an uneventful glide towards the precipice. He states that it was dangerous ten years ago. Now it’s here. The film ends with one of the interviewed Nazis denying that he’s homophobic, xenophobic or a Nazi, and people will get nowhere calling him that, although he’s willing to have a debate. He’s just, he says, a guy who has love, for his nationality, his religion and his race. He’s just, he says, an 18 year old guy.

I’m not surprised at the resurgence of the Far Right in eastern Europe. Many of these countries, like Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, were for centuries subject to foreign domination. They were ruled by Germany, Austria and Russia, and had to fight hard for their independence and to retain their own ethnic identity and language. And there are still anxieties about its loss. In Hungary, for example, schoolchildren were taught ‘We are Hungarian. We speak Hungarian’, and the loss of two-thirds of the county’s territory, including to Romania, is felt very deeply.

The Hungarians were oppressed under Communism. Janos Kadar, the dictator after the Hungarian uprising, was a Stalinist thug. An underground Hungarian writer had a poem, in which he looks down at his shoes, and finds that, as he still has shoelaces, he isn’t in prison. It’s an ironic statement on the lack of freedom in Communist Hungarian society. But its people had jobs and some measure of prosperity, which was destroyed with the move to capitalism. There result was massive psychological dislocation. And with the effects of the 2008 crash, the old resentment against Jews and the nonsense about the Jewish banking conspiracy has returned.

As for Orban and Fidesz, they’re using Soros in the same way that Big Brother uses Bernstein in Orwell’s novel, 1984. It’s the way Stalin blamed everything wrong with his Communist order in the USSR on Trotsky, but this time from a Fascist, rather than Marxist viewpoint. It’s the four-minute hate with jackboots.

One of the anti-Fascist commenters at the start states that if you want to see Europe’s future, look at Hungary. And they have a point. An increasing number of people in Europe and America do believe that their countries are being invaded by unassimilable, mostly Muslim immigrants from Africa and the Middle East. They have swallowed the lie of White genocide, and the stupid idea that behind all this is a Jewish conspiracy. And there were people in this country who looked with fear on the migrants, who made their way up through the Balkans towards wester Europe in 2015.

This is the reality that David Rosenberg, one of the left-wing, socialist, anti-Zionist bloggers is trying to warn us about. There is a rising threat to Jews in eastern Europe. But it’s denied by the Israel lobby in this country, because these regimes buy arms from Israel. So they can’t be anti-Semitic.

Every one of us, who loves democracy and racial pluralism, needs to unite to fight this, before it overtakes Europe and America, and the horrors of Nazism return.

Private Eye: Have We Left-Wing Bloggers Touched a Nerve?

October 3, 2018

I’ve posted a number of articles over the past couple of years criticizing Private Eye for its anti-Corbyn bias amongst other issues. I’ve pointed out that, while I’ve now gone back to reading it, I stopped for a period a little while ago because I was just so sick of its constant attacks on Corbyn as a Trotskyite, member of the Hard Left, anti-Semite and so on. And it seems I wasn’t alone. In this fortnight’s issue for 5 – 18 October 2018, the satirical magazine has taken aim at left-wing bloggers boycotting Private Eye and the Guardian through their ‘Dave Spart’ character.

Spart is a caricature of the militant, barely articulate and ideologically confused far-left activist, and has been a staple of the magazine since at least the 1980s, if not long before. His rants appear as an ‘Alternative Voice’ column. And this issue’s column, on page 30, runs as follows

Long-term Private Eye contributor Dave Spart calls for a boycott of Private Eye

Yet again we see the sickening neoliberal hegemony of the fascist Private Eye as its faux anti-establishment public schoolboys completely persecute and smear the millions and billions of ordinary working and non-working British people who are revolutionizing the way this country … and … er … we call for this boycott of Private Eye … due to its manifestly alt-right anti-Corbynist policies … er … in fact even the word “boycott” with the implicit phallocentricity inherent in the world “boy” and its troubling narrative of penetrative male action is deeply problematic and should be replaced instead by the neutral term “personcott”; hence we will be peroncotting Private Eye and the Guardian and er … er … we have the total support of many hugely popular modern leftist websites and media outlets allied with us, including leftsquelch.org, skwawkybudgie.geocities, and redbloodoftraitorblairistscum.blogspont, and we will not rest until all of us are united in a positive and friendly campaign to destroy the neo-Blairist agendum of the disgraced Soho junta and its so-called (That’s enough Spart. Ed.)

The websites mentioned in Spart’s rant sound like spoof versions of real sites. Leftsquelch could be a version of Left Foot Forward, skwawkiebudgie is a spoof amalgam of the Skwawkox and the Canary, and redbloodoftraitorblairistscum could be just about every leftwing blog that sees Blair and his followers for what they actually are, Thatcherite entryists rather than true supporters of the Labour party and its traditional values.

The piece about boycotting the Guardian clearly comes from the hashtag campaign on Twitter calling for a boycott of the Groan between 7 and 9 pm on the 28th September 2018, a few days ago. This went to no.1 on Twitter after the hacks at the paper went berserk at the thought that the Canary’s editor in chief, Kerry-Anne Mendoza, was going to give the speech at a memorial lecture for a pioneering Black woman journo. Obviously that campaign and its success has also touched a deep nerve with the Eye and its contributors, if not also with the hacks of that ailing rag.

But there’s also much that the Eye’s caricature left out. Private Eye hasn’t just attacked Corbyn and his followers as Trotskyites. It also appears to support the anti-Semite smears against them, as I also blogged about. Last issue, the Eye published a piece attempting to rebut Dorothy Macedo’s claim in her letter to the Eye the previous week, that the anti-Semitism smears were baseless libels. The Eye instead claimed that Momentum believed that there was more anti-Semitism in the party than they had believed. This is the view of Jon Lansman, Momentum’s chief, but it’s not the view of many of its members, of which Macedo herself is one, nor of Jewish Labour party and socialist organizations like Jewish Voice for Labour, Jewdas, and the Jewish Socialist Group. But they’re the wrong kind of Jews, so the establishment and the press, including Private Eye, ignore them or, like the Jewish Chronicle, simply smears them in turn as anti-Semites.

It’s interesting to note that Spart talks about the Eye and the Groan smearing working and non-working people, but doesn’t mention the smears themselves. Which are that Corbyn and his supporters are all Trots and anti-Semites. Clearly the Eye finds it difficult to back up the smear that they’re all Trotskyites with any supporting evidence. The Spart character frequently contradicts himself, and if the Eye felt it was able to provide any evidence to rebut the assertion that it was all a smear, it would have done so, putting it in Spart’s mouth as part of the denial. They might have made him say something along the lines of

Yet again we see the sickening neoliberal hegemony of the fascist Private Eye as its faux anti-establishment public schoolboys completely persecute and smear as Trotskyites the millions and billions of ordinary working and non-working British people who are revolutionizing the way this country through the principles of Leon Trotsky … er … er…. Or something like that. (My additions highlighted in black.)

Nor did they mention the other, rather more pernicious libel directed at Corbyn and his supporters: that they’re all anti-Semites. That libel is clearly so deeply engrained in the British press, that it can’t even be publicly claimed to be so, even in jest.

Now I doubt that Hislop and co. at the Eye are even aware that this blog even exists, much less care about what it says. But from reading the article, it’s clear that other, much larger and popular blogs are saying the same things I am, that they have got the Eye worried. Hence the spoof. And however much it’s disguised as satire, the Eye and the Groaniad are clearly worried by the power of the Net and new media, and particularly by the backlash against the Groan’s sour attitude towards Kerry-Anne Mendoza. Mendoza’s an outsider, coming from on-line, not print journalism. The Canary is popular and widely read. She and it are a challenge to established, and establishment print journalism and its groupthink. And she and the rest of the New Media and their readers, followers and commenters showed how powerful they were through the wave of immense support for the hashtag campaign against the Guardian.

Private Eye is partly based on the magazine revealing news and information that it is not revealed elsewhere in the press, and by providing the ‘news behind the news’ about stories in the press, and politics, business, the unions and so on. But thanks to the internet, there are other, online news sites and organisations doing the same thing, and reading them also reveals the Eye’s own bias.

And so despite the satirical jollity, the Eye and the Guardian are worried. And the Spart piece today shows it.

Democratic Socialist on the Von Mises Institute’s Lies About the Pinochet Coup

November 5, 2017

I’ve blogged several times about the Von Mises Institute. They take their name from Ludwig Von Mises, one of the founders, along with Von Hayek, of modern libertarianism.

And they’re a deeply, deeply unpleasant lot. They hate the welfare state, demand the complete privatisation of every state enterprise or service, and are thoroughly racist. Von Mises’ himself was a member of Dollfuss’ austrofascist government, before fleeing to America when the Nazis invaded. He was instrumental in setting up the Chicago School, which included Milton Friedman, the father of Monetarism, and which provided the economic doctrines for Pinochet’s disgusting regime in Chile. Von Mises, like Friedman, used to go down there to see how their doctrines were working out under the old dictator.

During the Cold War they used to publish pseudo-scientific racist and eugenicist literature, arguing that Blacks were mentally inferior to Whites, and that there was no point in setting up a welfare state, as you’d just be wasting your money keeping alive the biologically unfit. Which means Blacks, as well as poor Whites. Or indeed, anyone who isn’t rich and White. More recently they’ve been pushing the lie that the American Civil War wasn’t about slavery, but about tariff control and states’ rights. Which is rubbish, because the leaders of the Confederacy said they were going to war to defend slavery.

In this video, Democratic Socialist, who sounds Antipodean to my ears, tears apart the lies in an article about the Pinochet coup by George Reisman in the Institute’s wretched journal.

Reisman claims that Pinochet was absolutely correct to overthrow the government of the Marxist president, Salvador Allende, because Allende was planning to overturn democracy and incarcerate and kill millions in concentration. Pinochet did not do any of this himself. If he had lived in Germany, he would have stopped Hitler coming to power, and would similarly have overthrown the Russian Revolutionaries under Lenin.

This is all hogwash.

Democratic Socialist uses the Pinochet Coup to demonstrate that it seems to bear out Trotsky’s comments that Fascism is the highest stage of capitalism, when it is challenged by the workers. He begins by stating that capitalism is the system under which the means of production are owned privately by a group, which then forms the working class. It needs a state apparatus to defend itself from being attacked and taken over by the exploited workers. This is followed by footage of Hitler’s ‘Minister for Public Enlightenment’, Nick Robins-, sorry, Josef Goebbels, ranting about how Hitler had saved Germany from the threat of Bolshevism. Just as Pinochet claimed he had saved Chile from Communism.

In fact, Allende had been democratically elected and his government had been in power for three years when Pinochet overthrew him. Allende himself never imprisoned anyone, did not shut down any opposition radio stations or newspapers, nor set up a single concentration camp.

But Pinochet certainly did. He imprisoned thousands of Chilean left-wingers. If you read the text shown in the video, it gives the number of people imprisoned by the b*stard as 3,000. Reisman claims that these victims were not innocents. They were. One of them was Victor Jara, a popular singer and musician. Apart from imprisoning and torturing members of the Chilean left, he also used football stadiums as the venues for their execution.

As for preventing Hitler from coming to power, Democratic Socialist points out that both Hitler and Pinochet had the backing of the capitalist class, and both claimed they were saving their countries from Marxism. This is accompanied with footage showing troops in coal-scuttle helmets doing a kind of goose-step. They could be Nazi storm-troopers, but they’re not. Democratic Socialist doesn’t point this out, but they’re actually Chilean soldiers. Pinochet was a fan of Adolf Hitler, and deliberately modelled the uniforms of the Chilean army on those of Nazi Germany. And to anyone from the Right, who wants to dismiss this as coming from a tainted left-wing source, I didn’t get it from a left-wing newspaper. It came from an article in the Daily Mail years ago. So definitely not from a left-wing source!

Democratic Socialist also puts Reisman right about the possibility that Pinochet would have saved Russia from Communism. Well, that was what the Russian Civil War was about, when the Whites tried to overthrow the Bolsheviks. They had thousands of little Pinochets, but were defeated as they faced an army of armed revolutionaries, not unarmed, innocent civilians.

He then goes on to demolish the claim that Pinochet stepped down voluntarily in 1988. He didn’t. He was forced out by the other members of his vile junta after he lost a referendum. Pinochet himself was planning to overturn it.

And unsurprisingly, Reisman claims that Pinochet’s economic reforms benefitted ordinary Chileans. They didn’t. They simply plunged them into even worse poverty.

Democratic Socialist also compares Pinochet’s regime with Castro’s revolution in Cuba. Pinochet overthrew a democratically elected government, and imprisoned and tortured innocents. Castro, by contrast, overthrew the Bautista dictatorship, which was also supported by the capitalists, and which had killed thousands of political opponents.

He also takes issue with the claim that capitalism has not killed anyone, or is not responsible for the same number of deaths as global communism. He shows this to be untrue by citing the figures for the famines in China and India created by capitalism, and of the horrific punishments inflicted by capitalist regimes when their workers aren’t productive enough.

He ilustrates the last with pictures of Black Africans with missing limbs. These are from the poor indigenous people of Zaire, formerly the Belgian Congo, when it was the personal possession of King Leopold in the late 19th and early part of the 20th centuries. These people were forced to cultivate and produce rubber for the king. If they were unable to meet their quotas, they were flogged or had their hands and feet hacked off. If you want to see the photos for yourself, along with some of the other grim depictions of slavery and the slave trade through the ages, try Susan Everett’s Slavery, published by Buffalo Books. It’s a big coffee table book, rather than academic text, but it does cover slavery throughout history, including the ‘Coolie Trade’ in indentured Indian and Chinese migrant workers.

This is very much the type of pernicious lies which the Republicans and the Libertarian wing of the Tory party over here have been trying to spread about Pinochet’s regime in Chile. Thatcher was very much part of the Libertarian wing of the Tory party, and she was very much a friend and admirer of the old b*stard, when he came over here for medical treatment. Or to evade arrest after a left-wing government took charge of the country.

And far from Allende destroying democracy and setting up concentration camps, part of what made him so dangerous to the Americans was that he was democratically elected and was not destroying democracy in Chile. This undermined the right-wing attempts to present Communism as a threat.

The Communist regimes have been responsible for massive repression and famine across much of the world, from Stalin’s Soviet Union to Mao’s China. I wouldn’t like to say that capitalism has killed more people than Communism, but it has certainly produced millions of deaths. For example, capitalist ideas about the sanctity of free trade were partly responsible for a horrific famine in India, which carried off millions. See the book Late Victorian Holocausts, which is shown in one of the pictures in the video above.

Pravda International on Ukrainian Anarchist Revolutionary Nestor Makhno from c. 1988.

November 2, 2017

This is the centenary year of the Russian Revolution, which broke out in October/November 1917, depending on which calendar is being used – the Julian or Gregorian. One of the results of Gorbachev’s reforms in the 1980s was that historians were at last able to examine and reappraise other left-wing revolutionaries against the former Russian empire, who would previously have been dismissed or attacked by the Communists as ‘bourgeois socialist’ or counterrevolutionary, simply because they weren’t Communists. The edition of Pravda International which I managed to dig out the other week, vol. 3 no. 5, dating from around 1988/89, began a series of articles by Vasily Golovanov, reprinted from the Literaturnaya Gazeta, about the Ukrainian anarchist, Nestor Makhno, who led an uprising of the workers and peasants in the Ukraine during the Russian Revolution and Civil War in the 1920s.

Nestor Ivanovich Makhno: the ‘little father’ of the Ukraine

The introduction to the article ran

The Makhnovist Insurrectionary Army of the Ukraine – an independent popular movement which expropriated the estates of the landed gentry and distributed the land to the peasants, fought the Austrian invaders, the White Armies of Deniken and Wrangel, finally, Trotsky’s Red Command – took its name and inspiration from it charismatic military leader, Nestor Makhno. VASILY GOLOVANOV’s article in Literaturnaya Gazeta illustrates how the revolutionary potential of the peasantry – not only in the struggle to overthrow the old landowning system in Russia, but also in the work to create a new society – has been largely ignored or underrated.

In the history of the revolution, no figure is so shrouded in mystery and contradiction as Nestor Ivanovich Makhno. Even while he was still alive the most unlikely rumours circulated about him.

One story goes that when he was baptised, the priest’s vestments caught fire, which signified to all present that the child would be a rebel. Other rumours have it he was sentenced to hard labour for the murder of his brother, and that during the first months of the revolution he robbed his own villagers to buy a house in Moscow where he lived in luxury – a story put about by the Austrian troops who occupied the area after the treaty of Brest Litovsk, when Makhno was already a partisan. It is precisely these ‘facts’ that have coloured our view of this almost mythological figure.

Due to the black and white view of history in the 20s and 30s no serious historical works deal with Makhno. The journal War and Revolution published an analysis of Makhno’s partisan warfare tactics, but to date there has been no research on Makhno as the social phenomenon he was. Labelled a bandit, his memory has been stowed away among the historical archives in the hope that time would erase the image of the man who had led the peasant war in the Ukraine.

Makhno was born of a poor, fatherless peasant family. At 16 he was apprenticed to a carpenter in his home village Gulyai-Polya in the Ukraine, where joined a local anarchist group involved in carrying out expropriations.

In October 1907, following the death of a postman during the hold-up of a post coach, the police hunted the group down in earnest and by the following year 14 people had been arrested. All broke down under interrogation and blamed Makhno for the murders, but still he would not confess.

Due to his youth, Makhno’s sentence of 20 years’ hard labour was commuted to imprisonment in the Butyrky prison in Moscow, where he spent nine years shackled hand and foot for bad behaviour. But it was in prison that Makhno met his mentor, Peter Arshinov, a fellow Ukrainian anarchist whom he trusted completely.

Released after the February 1917 revolution, Makhno – now 28 and without a penny to his name – returned to his native Gulyai-Polya where he found himself playing a central role in village affairs. Elected chairman of the Peasant Union, he was also made head of the Council of Peasant Deputies.

But the pace of events did not allow for the luxury of reflection. In June, workers’ control was proclaimed and a Committee of hired Farm labourers was set up under the Union of Workers and Peasants to act against the landed gentry. In August, during Kornilov’s advance on Petrograd, Makhno organised the confiscation of weapons held by the landowners and bourgeoisie in the region.

The regional Congress of Soviets and the Gulyai-Polya anarchist group next called on the peasants to ignore the caretaker government and the Central Rada (council) and declared the immediate expropriation of land from the churches and landowners. They also set up free agricultural communes on the estates with – as far as possible – the kulaks and landowners being included in the communes.

By October the estates had been expropriated and the land ploughed up despite ‘threats from government agents’. With sedition in Gulyai-Polya threatening to spread to neighbouring provinces, the caretaker government sent a representative to punish those who had confiscated the weapons. Makhno summoned the government agent to the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution and ordered him to ‘leave Gulyai-Polya within 20 minutes, and the boundaries of (his) revolutionary territory within two hours’. After this incident no one ever troubled this strange Soviet region against until the German invasion in June 1918.

Following the German invasion, Makhno travelled to Moscow for advice. There – according to Makhno – he met Lenin who was greatly interested in his agrarian changes. In his memoirs Makhno recalls Lenin asking three times how the peasants understood the slogan ‘All Power to the Soviets’. Makhno replied that to them it mean the Soviets and all bodies under their control, should be responsible for setting policy at local level.
‘In that case, the peasants in your region have been infected with anarchy,’ Lenin is reported to have said.
‘And is that such a bad thing?’ responded Makhno.
‘I don’t mean to say that it is. On the contrary, I would be very glad since it would accelerate the victory of Communism over capitalism,’ Lenin explained – adding that he considered peasant anarchy to be a temporary ailment which would soon pass.

Makhno left Moscow with the opposite conviction. Although he was a ‘soviet’ anarchist, his understanding of the revolution was very different from that of the Bolsheviks. Makhno naturally did not recognise that the party had any leading role to play. For him, the ‘lowly’ regional soviet was the only organisation which could directly express the will of the people; the hierarchy of the soviets was to him absurd and the proletarian state – personified by bureaucrats – was a dangerous lie.

In December 1917, when the Bolsheviks had consolidated their position in the Levoberezhna, their relationship with the anarchists was friendly, despite obvious differences of opinion.

During this period Makhno worked in the legal commission of the Aleksandrovsky revolutionary committee, a body which reviewed cases of people arrested under Soviet power, but it was work he did not enjoy. Moreover, when they started arresting the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, Makhno was on the point of storming the local jail.

The row over the elections to the founding congress, which he dubbed the ‘political game of cards’, also annoyed him. ‘The parties won’t serve the people, but the people the parties. Already they are talking about “the people”, but it is the parties which are running things,’ he told his new comrades-in-arms. But they did not agree with him and he resigned from the revolutionary committee and returned to Gulyai-Polya – to escape from the distortions of ‘politics with a capital P’.

In Gulyai-Polya an agricultural commune had been set up on the former estates of the gentry. Peasants and workers, who owned no property were allocated land and equipment confiscated from the land owners and kulaks.

The attempt by the Gulyai-Polya soviet to set up a direct exchange with the city is interesting. The village soviet sent flour to the workers in the Prokhovorovskaya and Morozowskaya textile mills with a request for cloth in exchange. But because the authorities opposed this petty bourgeois method of supplying the towns, the cloth sent by the textile workers was intercepted by the authorities and shipped instead to Aleksandrovsk. Subsequent events may possibly have brought the disagreements between the nascent ‘proletarian’ model of socialism and its ‘peasant’ alternative to a head and led to some sort of compromise, but the unexpected German invasion of the Ukraine prevented this development. It is not easy to explain why Makhno parted company with the Bolsheviks, since there was a period when his relationship with the Reds was official and apparently permanent.

Makhno returned from Moscow in 1918 disappointed with some of his fellow anarchists who he felt had ‘slept through’ the revolution. While he had little sympathy for the Bolsheviks’ ‘staid’ revolution, Mkahno nevertheless realised that none of the opposition parties had a leader of Lenin’s stature or strength to ‘reorganise the road of revolution’. For this reason he amalgamated the peasant insurgent ‘army’ – which had liberated a large area of eastern Ukraine from Petlyurov – with the Bolsheviks.

By agreement with the Red Army High Command (March 1919), Makhno’s army was allowed to keep the name Revolutionary insurgent Army. They were sent communist commissars and weapons, and came under the tactical direction of the command fighting Denikin. Yet for months later the idyll came to an end when, according to the generally accepted version of events, Makhno opened the front to the White due to a rift between himself and the Bolsheviks.

I Teper, one of Makhno’s cultural department, who wrote an account of the period, blames the assortment of semi-criminals who surrounded Makhno, flattering him as the ‘second Bakunin’. Yet it was not vanity which separated Makhno from the Bolsheviks. It is difficult to know why, having ceased to support Soviet power, Makhno did not go over to the Whites, but stubbornly continued to fight on against all odd on two fronts at once. In his opinion the revolution had not added a single thing to the peasant conquests on the left bank of the Dnieper; they had held the land even before the Land Decree was passed. Then, when they started founding state farms in the Ukraine the peasants’ response to this wholesale ploughing up of land was to ensure they did not leave a single shred of anything which could be used by the state farm.

Tension was also growing between Moscow, Kharkov and the countryside. Attempts to imagine the new society and how it differed from capitalism, have led Marxists to believe that under socialism all areas of the economy should be nationalised, right down to the smallest peasant smallholding. That was why in 1919 most communists thought of the peasantry as the last bourgeois class not conscious of its social obligations; they looked upon it as a material which the proletariat needed in order to fulfil its historical mission. A Kollontai wrote at the time: ‘In the Ukraine, now that worker and peasant power have been consolidated, the inevitable gap is starting to appear between these two irreconcilable elements… the petty bourgeois peasantry is totally opposed to the new principles of the national economy which come from communist teaching.’

Hence the cruelty of the food policy, and the trend of describing all peasant protests against food allocation and the resolutions passed by arbitrary peasant congresses, as ‘kulak protests’. A series of spontaneous, sometimes very violent uprisings swept through the young republic during the summer of 1918, only quietening down during the White invasion. But the understanding that the interests of the agrarian petty bourgeoisie could not be ignored came only three years later, after a series of outbursts culminating in the Kronstadt rebellion where, under the slogans of ‘free Soviets’ armed peasant troops and units of the Red Navy established a revolutionary commune which survived for 16 days, until an army was sent to crush it.

Taranovsky, one of Makhno’s lieutenants, the commander of the Jewish division at Gulyai-Polya.

Another of Makhno’s lieutenants, Fyodor Shchus.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the following issues. Makhno is discussed in George Woodcock’s book Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements, 2nd edition (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1986). The Anarchist Reader, (Fontana Press 1986) also edited by George Woodcock, also contains a passage by Peter Arshinov, ‘Makhno’s Anarchism in practice’ (pp.236-42).

The kulaks, denounced by the Bolsheviks, were the rich peasants, who they considered formed a separate class exploiting the landless peasants beneath them. It was against this section of the peasantry that the collectivisation policy was directed. The results, particularly in the Ukraine, as an horrific famine, which carried off millions of people. I think the death toll for Ukraine was seven million. Despite wanting to reappraise Makhno, Golovanov still follows Marxist ideology in describing him as petty bourgeois, and expecting him to side with the counterrevolutionary forces of the Whites following his break with Lenin. In fact, it’s not hard to understand why Makhno did not do so: it was precisely because he was an anarchist that he didn’t join the Whites in their campaign to re-establish Tsarism and the traditional quasi-feudal, capitalist hierarchy. Some historians have also concluded that Makhno’s revolution in Ukraine was also quasi-nationalistic. It was a form of national independence movement, but the Ukrainians had not then developed a complete idea of themselves as forming a separate nation, and so Makhno’s anarchist revolution formed as a kind of substitute.

Makhno ultimately failed, the Bolshevik Red Army reconquered Ukraine, and Makhno and his followers fled into exile, dying in Paris. When the Germans invaded in 1942, the were welcomed by many Ukrainians as liberators, only for opinion to turn against them when the Nazis began to behave as Nazis, treating them as Slav subhumans to be brutalised and exploited. It was only following the Fall of Communism that Ukraine became an independent state during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Makhno’s revolution in Ukraine and his resistance to the Bolsheviks have nevertheless been an inspiration to subsequent anarchist revolutionaries across the world. And it’s interesting to speculate how different world history would have been, had he won, and created an independent, anarchist Ukraine.