Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 14, 2009

Joseph Stalin nostalgia?

Filed under: socialism,Trotskyism,ussr — louisproyect @ 5:12 pm

 

My general tendency is to avoid Stalin-Trotsky debates and have even ruled them as out of order on Marxmail since they inevitably lead to flame wars and have very little relevance to politics today. As proof of the latter, my closest political associate was the late Mark Jones who was about as hard core a Stalinist as they come. But we found that our agreements about the environmental crisis and imperialism superseded whatever disagreements we had about the Spanish Civil War, etc.

If pressed, I will defend Trotsky’s analysis of fascism, the popular front and all the rest. I am sharply critical of Trotsky’s party-building methodology but have yet to read a more cogent analysis of the tragic events that led to the rise of fascism and WWII. For the most part, this analysis has achieved intellectual hegemony. If you read New Left Review, Monthly Review, and other influential Marxist journals, you will find very little special pleading on Stalin’s behalf.


Calvin Tucker

Andy Newman

It has been years since I ran into anybody on the Internet who was trying to refurbish the image of Joseph Stalin. Back in 1996, when the mailing list that preceded Marxmail was in operation, a group of about 10 people showed up all around the same time in order to advance the cause of Sendero Luminoso. Almost immediately they got into flame wars with a Spartacist League supporter and Morenoite, causing the list to eventually implode. When I launched Marxmail in 1998, I resolved to keep these kinds of fights off the list.

I should add that the flame wars did not just involve Trotskyists versus Stalinists. Among the Maoists, there was a particularly nasty fight over who was the authentic representative of Chairman Gonzalo outside of Peru. The London-based Adolfo Olaechea condemned his Queens, NY-based rival Quispe in terms that could have been lifted from Vishinsky.

In addition to his Sendero work, Olaechea was a friend of the London-based Stalin Society whose website is adorned with a flattering portrait of the deceased tyrant and these words:

The Stalin Society was formed in 1991 to defend Stalin and his work on the basis of fact and to refute capitalist, revisionist, opportunist and Trotskyist propaganda directed against him.

In the USA, this kind of pedal to the metal Stalin worship is limited to the fringes of of academia and the organized left. The best known Stalin apologist in the academy is the unlikely named Grover Furr, a Montclair State literature professor who maintains a vast library of Stalinist apologetics at http://chss.montclair.edu/English/furr/homepage.html. He has the most intriguing defense of the Moscow Trials, namely that the same standards were applied by Vishinsky that you can find in American courts:

Concerning evidence: The testimony of others, unsupported by physical evidence, is enough for conviction even in the United States. Often – as in the case of conspiracy – physical evidence is not to be expected. And physical evidence can be faked, forged, altered, etc., just as personal testimony can be.

Wow, I had never considered that. How reassuring. What a splendid case for the superiority of socialism.

Furr has a solid ally in the Progressive Labor Party, a formerly Maoist sect that was fairly influential in the 1960s. On their website, you will find inspirational material such as “Stalin’s Successes, Humanity’s Gains”. I suppose they think by invoking Stalin’s name they will eventually be transformed into a mass party bearing some resemblances to the Communist Party of the late 1930s. As I recall, Billy Batson turned into the comic book hero Captain Marvel by uttering the word “Shazam” but I doubt that saying “Stalin” will have similar transformative powers.

It should be said that a more intelligent defense of Stalin (I am being charitable here obviously) does not deny that he was a brutal dictator but tries to “contextualize” him and find the silver lining around a dark cloud in socialist history. The best exponent of this approach is John Arch Getty, the American historian who is not related to the oilman and friend of the Soviet Union, the late John Paul Getty.

Getty’s main argument is that the Soviet working class was “willing to trade free speech for cheap food”. He also insists that the number of executions that took place under Stalin was around 2 million, a figure lower the estimate of other Sovietologists. Getty is quite skilled at seeming reasonable, a must for somebody operating in academia. In an article titled “Trotsky in Exile: The Founding of the Fourth International” that appeared in the Jan. 1986 Soviet Studies,  Getty writes: “It seems reasonable to assume that Trotsky’s activities were grist to the mill of those hard-line Moscow politicians who favored repression of the opposition.” This sentence is obviously open to multiple interpretations, including one that amounts to “He had it coming”.

For reasons that not entirely clear to me (although I do have some suspicions to be outlined below), there are a couple of websites in Britain that have bought into the more sophisticated brand of Stalin apologetics that is associated with Getty. One is Andy Newman’s Socialist Unity blog that I wrote about in my last post. As a corollary to the Sir Winston Churchill boosterism there, you find a rather informed defense of Stalin’s policies by Newman and his co-thinkers, mostly in the comments section.

It stands to reason that if you endorse the CP’s “people’s anti-fascist” coalition with the blood-soaked British Prime Minister, you are likely to buy into the rest of the crapola. Two of Newman’s most vehement supporters are the brothers Calvin and Noah Tucker, who operate the website http://21stcenturysocialism.com along with Uri Cohen. Calvin Tucker and Cohen are ex-members of the Communist Party in Great Britain and split to form a group associated with the magazine Straight Left that you can read about in a wiki. They wanted the CP to be more “pro-Soviet”, a policy that seems consistent with their current beliefs.

It is quite a paradox to see these characters operating in the name of socialist unity and 21st century socialism when they seem so intent on bringing back the 1930s. Thank goodness that the Latin American left that they hold up as a model has chosen not to follow their lead. In a speech to the World Social Forum in 2005 that has been described as the first call for 21st century socialism, Hugo Chavez said: “We have to re-invent socialism. It can’t be the kind of socialism that we saw in the Soviet Union, but it will emerge as we develop new systems that are built on cooperation, not competition.” Apparently, this insight was lost on Newman and the Tucker brothers who have a kind of nostalgia for the 1930s that is best limited to the big bands and screwball comedies.

I first got the sense that something was amiss back in October 2008 when an excerpt from Georgi Dimitrov’s speech to the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International, 1935 appeared without comments on the Socialist Unity blog. Dimitrov is best known as the architect of the Popular Front strategy that led to a disaster in Spain, when the coalition between bourgeois parties and the CP took a hard line against the kind of radical measures that could have rallied the people against Franco.

In the comments section, Newman chided a Trotskyist for bringing up Spain since “the USSR was the biggest provider of arms to the Spanish republic by a country mile.” As somebody who spent a number of years in the British SWP, Newman obviously knew that this was not under dispute.

One of his tag-team partners Noah Tucker joined in with a burst of rhetoric that I have not seen since the 1960s:

Andy has already pointed out that the USSR armed (not disarmed) the Spanish Republican forces. Perhaps I should also remind you that it was the Soviet Union- and also China, the GDR, Czechoslovakia etc, and after 1960 Cuba, who provided the revolutionaries in the Third World with the munitions with which to fight imperialism.

Where do you think that the Koreans and the Vietnamese got their MiGs from? Who provided the ANC, and Zapu and Zanu with AK47s?

So there you have it. Revolutionary politics boils down to armaments. Who needs strategy and tactics when the Manual of Arms will suffice?

If you go to the 21st century socialism website, you will find a plethora of well-researched but mostly wrong-headed analyses of 20th century socialism in the In Depth section.  You will not find any explicit defense of Stalin but there is an implicit defense of his policies of the sort found in “The Soviet Model and the economic cold war“, written by one Marcus Mulholland. (To my knowledge, Mulholland is not involved in recruiting hedge fund managers to work in emerging markets.) It amounts to a ringing endorsement of Stalin’s economic policies:

Industries in the Soviet Union were run directly by government ministries on the basis of overall plans developed by the state planning commission, known as Gosplan.  According to Hanson, the instructions to each enterprise during Stalin’s leadership included guidelines or directions on a range of matters including:

The product mix: what to produce and in what proportions;

Output targets;

Who will supply the enterprise, with what and how much;

A labour plan: how many workers and the total wage bill;

Who are the customers and what they should each be provided with;

The prices of inputs and outputs;

An investment plan, for replacing and modernising equipment.

I hate to rain on Mulholland’s parade, but Stalin’s rule was marked mostly by a lack of planning. Despite the announcement of 5-year plans, the economy had more in common with bureaucratic fiat than scientific planning. All this is discussed in chapter 5 entitled “The Disappearance of Planning in the Plan” in Moshe Lewin’s  “Russia USSR Russia”.

The Soviet government announced the first five year plan in 1928. Stalin loyalists, like Krzhizanovksy and Strumlin, who headed Gosplan, the minister of planning, worried about the excess rigidity of this plan. They noted that the success of the plan was based on 4 factors: 1) five good consecutive crops, 2) more external trade and help than in 1928, 3) a “sharp improvement” in overall economic indicators, and 4) a smaller ration than before of military expenditures in the state’s total expenditures.

How could anybody predict five consecutive good crops in the USSR? The plan assumed the most optimistic conditions and nobody had a contingency plan to allow for failure of any of the necessary conditions.

Bazarov, another Stalin loyalist in Gosplan, pointed to another area of risk: the lack of political cadres. He warned the Gosplan presidium in 1929, “If you plan simultaneously a series of undertakings on such a gigantic scale without knowing in advance the organizational forms, without having cadres and without knowing what they should be taught, then you get a chaos guaranteed in advance; difficulties will arise which will not only slow down the execution of the five-year plan, which will take seven if not ten years to achieve, but results even worse may occur; here such a blatantly squandering of means could happen which would discredit the whole idea of industrialization.”

Strumlin admitted that the planners preferred to “stand for higher tempos rather than sit in prison for lower ones.” Strumlin and Krzhizanovksy had been expressing doubts about the plan for some time and Stalin removed these acolytes from Gosplan in 1930.

In order for the planners, who were operating under terrible political pressure, to make sense of the plan, they had to play all kinds of games. They had to falsify productivity and yield goals in order to allow the input and output portions of the plan to balance. V.V. Kuibyshev, another high-level planner and one of Stalin’s proteges, confessed in a letter to his wife how he had finessed the industrial plan he had developing. “Here is what worried me yesterday and today; I am unable to tie up the balance, and as I cannot go for contracting the capital outlays–contracting the tempo–there will be no other way but to take upon myself an almost unmanageable task in the realm of lowering costs.”

Eventually Kuibyshev swallowed any doubts he may have had and began cooking the books in such a way as to make the five-year plan, risky as it was, totally unrealizable.

Real life proved how senseless the plan was. Kuibyshev had recklessly predicted that costs would go down, meanwhile they went up: although the plan allocated 22 billion rubles for industry, transportation and building, the Soviets spent 41.6 billion. The money in circulation, which planners limited to a growth of only 1.25 billion rubles, consequently grew to 5.7 billion in 1933.

Now we get to the real problem for those who speak about “planning” during this period. As madcap and as utopian as the original plan was, Stalin tossed it into the garbage can immediately after the planners submitted it to him. He commanded new goals in 1929-30 that disregarded any economic criteria. For example, instead of a goal of producing 10 million tons of pig iron in 1933, the Soviets now targeted 17 million. All this scientific “planning” was taking place when a bloody war against the Kulaks was turning the Russian countryside into chaos. Molotov declared that to talk about a 5-year plan during this period was “nonsense.”

Stalin told Gosplan to forget about coming up with a new plan that made sense. The main driving force now was speed. The slogan “tempos decide everything” became policy. The overwhelming majority of Gosplan, hand-picked by Stalin, viewed the new policy with shock. Molotov said this was too bad, and cleaned house in the old Gosplan with “all of its old-fashioned planners” as he delicately put it.

When Stalin turned the whole nation into a work camp in order to meet these unrealistic goals, he expanded the police force in order that they may function as work gang bosses. Scientific planning declined and command mechanisms took their place. As the command mechanisms grew, so grew the administrative apparatus to implement them. The more bottlenecks that showed up, the greater the need for bureaucrats to step in and pull levers. This is the explanation of the monstrous bureaucratic apparatus in the former Soviet Union, not scientific planning.

So the question remains, what would attract radicals in 2009 to the Soviet leader who arguably was responsible for the counter-revolution of the 1990s? Given the atomization of the Soviet working class, a necessary consequence of a police state whatever J. Arch Getty writes, it was fairly easy for the bureaucrats to opt for private property. Trotsky predicted that there would be fierce resistance to such measures but he could not have anticipated how socialism would serve only as an empty vessel by the time Gorbachev came on the scene. We can thank Stalin for Gorbachev even though the naïve supporters of a Stalin revival cannot understand that the two figures are dialectically interrelated.

The answer is to be found in the impotence of the left. Frustrated by the failure of the antiwar movement to have achieved success in Iraq or Afghanistan and by a never-ending diet of neoliberal economics, there is yearning for a muscular left that could have stood up to the capitalists. Despite his history of placating the imperialists, Stalin enjoys a reputation of implacability that owes more to Cold War stereotypes than reality. It is this mythology that has mesmerized Newman and the Tucker brothers and nothing else.

167 Comments »

  1. “[J. Arch Getty] also insists that the number of executions that took place under Stalin was only around 31,000.”

    I’m no Getty expert and haven’t read much of what he’s written, but in his and Oleg Naumov’s ‘The Road to Terror’ (1999), Getty writes that ‘According to the NKVD archival material currently available, 681,692 persons were shot in 1937-38 (compared with 1,118 persons in 1936).” (p. 591). On the page 588 he also has a table where the total number of people shot by the secret police (GPU, OGPU, NKVD) in 1921-39 seems to be something like 750,000 at a quick glance.

    Comment by jjonas — September 14, 2009 @ 6:12 pm

  2. I have to protest at your unkind depiction of Andy Newman as that Nazi bloke from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. A member of the Home Guard would surely be much more apt?

    Comment by prianikoff — September 14, 2009 @ 6:27 pm

  3. Based on my experiences and knowledge of the middle and late 1970s left, I would have to say that the Stalin cult was a lot more widespread amongst the activist left back then when it was being popularized by the myriad of Maoist sects then this later-day cyber- Stalinophilia is. At least here. Russia is obviously a different story.

    What’s a lot worse is the lingering influence of Pop Front Stalinist reformism, especially “lesser evilism,” that dominates the mainstream liberal left “progressive” milleau here. Indeed, that they choose to call themselves “progressives” in the first place shows just how ingrained this kind of stuff is. Needless to say, none of them would think twice about citing old Uncle Joe, or even his local stand-in, Earl Browder. as the source or inspiration of their politics. That’s what make’s it way more dangerous. Some one like Carl Davidson or Leslie Cagan can do, and has done, a hell of a lot more damage to the activist left and the mass movements than any of the blokes cited here.

    Comment by MN Roy — September 14, 2009 @ 7:58 pm

  4. What a refreshing post, Louis. You should be writing columns for Russian newspapers.

    Comment by Thomas Campbell — September 14, 2009 @ 8:20 pm

  5. Except, Louis, as you know I have never defended Stalin, as I have often explained to you.

    This is all simply assertion on your part, and an attempt at guilt by association.

    Comment by andy newman — September 14, 2009 @ 9:31 pm

  6. Andy Newman: I have never defended Stalin

    Is this a joke? You post a speech by Dimitrov from 1935! This is like some blogger saying that they never supported George W. Bush after posting an article by Paul Wolfowitz.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 14, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

  7. Still fighting the good fight there, Proyect. Courageously slaying the ghost of Stalin once again.

    Comment by A Reader — September 14, 2009 @ 10:14 pm

  8. Louis, you seem ignorant of the fact that in British social democratic politics there is a long tradition of the popular front, indeed it was a defining characteristic of the Labour left during the 1930s, with figures like GDH Cole, Sir Stafford Cripps and Nye bevan advocating it as the strategy for anti-fascism. All of these figures were staunch anti-Stalinists, but agreed with the specific policy of the Popular front, as indeed did the POUM in Spain.

    You will also obseve that Dimitrov’s very interesting speech concerned the question of national culture, where Dimitrov held a different position from Stalin.

    Clearly from your other arguments you are quite ignorant of social democratic politics in general, which is quote understandable living as you do in a country without a mass social democratic party; and you are also quite ignorant of the particularity of british labour politics.

    by the way, there are real supporters of Stalin on the british left, the supprters of Harpal Brar’s CPGB(ML), I have nothing in common with their politics whatsoeveer.

    you seem to operate with a desire to pigeonhole people, and yet have a very crude understanding of what the categories even mean.

    I am not a Stalinist, as I have explained to you many times. . It is crude cyber-bullying from you to call people Stalinists just because they disagree with you; and it is distasteful juvenalia for you to mock my physical appearance – the only previous expereince I have of anyone doing that was on the Sormfront web-site.

    Comment by andy newman — September 15, 2009 @ 12:45 am

  9. Popular Frontism is a Stalinist concept; the fact that social democrats went along is not an argument against the Stalinist character of Popular Frontism. Dimitrov would nog have SURVIVED if his speech would have been considered non-Stalinist by Stalin; he was a loyal follower. Yes, there are nuances within Stalinism. Not all Stalinists even LIKED Stalin. Stalinism is not a fanclub, but a political tendency. Pushing Popular Frontism and uncritically posting Dimotrov’s speech is a symptom of Stalinist policics. Louis Project is right on target, and the defence of Andy Newman simply fails.

    Comment by rooieravotr — September 15, 2009 @ 2:11 am

  10. Yes, class-collaborationist “coalitionism” was a hallmark of Social Democratic reformism, especially during WWI, long before Stalin, Dimitrov and Browder gave it a make over as the “Popular Front.” Only they gave it a communist figleaf, identifying it with the Soviet Union and the Russian Revolution in the eyes of the most militant workers, who would never have swallowed it if it had just come from discredited social democrats. In doing so they rendered a great service to capitalism, derailing revolutionary and pre-revolutionary situations in Spain and France. In the US, they “only” made sure that there was no independent labor party by pushing the CIO into the dead end of the Democratic party from which it has never escaped. Of course, the Stalinists took it to extremes that even the social democrats wouldn’t sink to, i.e., “Communism is 20th Century Americanism,” while some of the more “radical” social democrats, like Norman Thomas in the US, even opposed it for a while. So while class collaborationist reformism is as much a social democratic as a Stalinist “tradition, it’s one that no self-respecting socialist, let alone “communist,” should be proud of.

    Comment by MN Roy — September 15, 2009 @ 2:39 am

  11. Andy: Can you give an example, of any time Lenin recommended that the working class not be independent?

    Comment by Renegade Eye — September 15, 2009 @ 5:27 am

  12. #11

    The assumption implied in your question is that Andy is a Leninist?

    Maybe, like many who refuse to life on that planet called delusion, he’s jettisoned such illusions in favour of living in the real world.

    Comment by John Wight — September 15, 2009 @ 6:02 am

  13. I don’t know why you guys give or wast your time with Andy Newman who other than running the Socialist Unity site is in reality a nothing or as I call him a dick-head. It was interesting if not telling that he closed down the slander thread yesterday.

    We all have better things to do than waste to much time with Newman and his like who fall to the feet of George Galloway in worship and prayer. Last year I was in Galloway’s House of Commons office, and on his walls hung pictures of Winston S. Churchill.

    Comment by Jim Lawrie — September 15, 2009 @ 9:07 am

  14. This is all rather comical. All you do is repeat the usual Trotskyist diatribes against Stalin that have as little to do with the modern historical analysis of Stalin’s reign as the Stalin apologia of the Stalin Society school does. First accusing people of being Stalin apologists for pointing out things that worked under Stalin (which really are irrefutable), and then positing that everything that went wrong went wrong because people didn’t listen to Trotsky’s equally unfounded speculations, is ideological in the extreme.

    The miserable aspect of this whole slapfight is perpetually that people seem unable to go beyond the ‘Stalin vs Trotsky’ model and realize that neither of them necessarily got everything right or everything wrong, and that it is way overdue that we stop this 1930s politicized view of events that are by now historical. Repeating the “if only Trotsky had gotten his way” school of historiography is not going to do that any favors.

    Comment by Matthijs Krul — September 15, 2009 @ 9:08 am

  15. Sorry slightly OT: is that Young Stalin book any good? Looks like an interesting story.

    Comment by Christo — September 15, 2009 @ 10:26 am

  16. Getty’s main argument is that the Soviet working class was “willing to trade free speech for cheap food”. He also insists that the number of executions that took place under Stalin was only around 31,000.

    You have never read Getty’s works. And it shows. If you read it, you would realize Getty and his co authors say around 700,000 people were killed by Stalin regime.

    Getty and his co authors like Roberta Manning have done important scholarly work based on Russian archives. It is disgraceful that you tar him as a Stalin apologist.

    This is the tactic used by Cruise Missile Left when dealing with opponents of bombing of Serbia. Anyone who disagrees with their interpretation is a Milosevic apologist. That’s the line followed by them.

    Comment by wjohnson — September 15, 2009 @ 11:39 am

  17. “Can you give an example, of any time Lenin recommended that the working class not be independent?”

    Well of course, you are asking theis question based upon Trotskyist misconceptions of the popular front, rather than an actual analysis of the historical phenomenon, and its theoretical support. The popular front assumed not only the idependecne but also fought for the hegemony of working class and socialist forces, in alliance with all other democratic forces, including those members of the exploitng classes who had a temporary and ocnjunctural shared interest woth the working class over a specific issue.

    A specific example from lenin’s own life would be the alliance with the peasantry, to form a worker-peasant government.

    Comment by andy newman — September 15, 2009 @ 11:49 am

  18. I have only skim read the Young Stalin biography, it is sort of interesting, but the actual personality of Stalin has little beraing on the nature of his regime, where he was really the personification of the bureaucracy, rather than a personal dictator. It is interesting that the only biography to appear in his lifetime in the USSR was suppressed.

    A much more revealling book on how the bureaucracy operated in human terms is the very good biograhy of Lavrentii Beria by Amy Knight. Both a study of the mediocrity of tyrants, and the social conditions that make them. Very interesting section on the brief period when Beria ran the USSR, and introduced a wave of liberalisation – there is a paradox as with Andropov, that the secret policemen often act as liberalising reformers.

    Comment by andy newman — September 15, 2009 @ 12:10 pm

  19. On Getty. I stand corrected on the number of victim’s of Stalin’s repression. I picked up the number 31,000 from one of his critics during a cursory google examination. But my hostility toward Stalin is not primarily based on his reign of terror in the USSR. It has more to do with the fucked up reformist politics that has led to failed revolutions all over the planet. It should be remembered that the popular front in Cuba meant CP collaboration with Batista. It took Fidel Castro to break with these shitty politics. Ironically, the Cuban revolution accomplished more in terms of creating an alternative to Stalinism than any effort mounted by the Fourth International. Leon Trotsky was right about Stalinism being the syphilis of the workers movement, but he didn’t have a very good handle on prophylactics.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

  20. Getty and his co authors like Roberta Manning have done important scholarly work based on Russian archives.

    Again, the purpose of this post was not to debunk Getty. I have no strong opinions on his research since I am obviously not familiar with the details. However, I did read his article on Leon Trotsky and found it quite toxic. It creates the impression that the opposition deserved what it got because it advocated “force” against the Soviet government. Horrible stuff really.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

  21. I’ve long ago given up trying to correct L Proyect’s numerous scatterbrained errors in his cruelly overlong writings. I would like to point to one error, however, in his lengthy rant concerning my friend Adolfo Olaechea. Adolfo was never the “chairman” of the Stalin Society. He did give a particularly prescient talk on modern fascism before that body in September of 1993, and wrote a brief precis of some internal politics pertaining to SS a short while afterwards. But he was never a member of the leadership of the Stalin Society, and was certainly not at any time its guiding light.

    Comment by Louis Godena — September 15, 2009 @ 1:09 pm

  22. so let me see if I understand this.

    In louis’s eyes, anyone who carroes out detailed scholarly research into the USSR of the Stalin period and descibes the societyy as it actually existed is an apologist for Stalin.

    Because presumebly the correct approach is to read some partisan accounts from trotsky, and then cherry pick the facts that back that ooint of view.

    The popular front was supported by social democrats, and indeed by some pro-capitalist forces, but everyone who agrees with the Popular front, social democrat or not, is a Stalinist in Louis’s view.

    But then Louis concedes that Stalin’s terror is not his main objection to Stalin, the problem is that Stalin had “fucked up reformist politics”

    So this explains Louis’s inability to distinguish between social democracy and Stalinism; and his propensity to assume that any opposition to Trotskyism is inspired by “Stalinism”.

    This I beleive is the problem with operating by book learning, divorced from actual participation in a diverse mass labour movement.

    Does anyone take this guy seriously?

    Comment by andy newman — September 15, 2009 @ 1:20 pm

  23. So Louis, what is your political defence for mocking my physical appearance?

    Don’t you see that this is crude cyber-bullying?

    Are you gong to go as far as the Stormfront website and mock my wife’s appearance as well?

    Comment by andy newman — September 15, 2009 @ 1:24 pm

  24. Andy Newman is correct. The practical politics of Social Democracy and Stalinism overlapped in the 1930s and 40s. Both relied on trade union bases, but the CP was of course distinguished by its ties to the Kremlin. More recently social democratic parties have deepened their ties to the bourgeoisie and are carrying out policies that are indistinguishable from bourgeois parties, New Labour being the prime example.

    Andy Newman is welcome to popular front politics, but as his co-thinker John Wight readily admits this has nothing to do with Lenin. And, moreover, this has nothing to do with Marx.

    Basically, their socialism is socialism in name only. They are *liberals* committed to piecemeal reform within the capitalist system, an understandable tendency given the TINA mood of many ex-revolutionaries.

    They hate the idea of being constrained by the class struggle principles of Marxism and are seduced by the dubious charms of Stalinism and the popular front when the left had real muscle, even if it was stripped of its ability to organize proletarian revolution.

    In any case, I think that it is real progress that these people admit to preferring “living in the real world” to Leninism. I for one am convinced that Leninist parties, Leninist strategy and Leninist principles (applied Marxism, in other words) are the key to the survival of the human race and the natural world.

    My mistake was assuming that Socialist Unity was committed to the project of breathing new life into the Leninist project. Now that it has become clear that its main goal is popular front politics and liberalism, there will at least be some ideological clarification that was lacking in the past.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2009 @ 1:34 pm

  25. Proyect: “Leon Trotsky was right about Stalinism being the syphilis of the workers movement, but he didn’t have a very good handle on prophylactics.”

    Not terribly impressive coming from someone who had no problem with the SWP when it was a ‘left’ press-agent for various anti-communist reactionaries – including Polish “Solidarnosc”, Company “Union” of Wall Street, the CIA and the Vatican – during the early 1980s.

    Comment by Red Cloud — September 15, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

  26. So Louis, what is your political defence for mocking my physical appearance?

    None. It was a joke that a humorless prig would take offense at. I should add that your constant squealing about being slandered or mocked is not going to score any political points. Everybody understands that it is an attempt to win sympathy, a goal that is totally subverted by your filthy defense of British genocide in Bengal.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

  27. […] Apparently, according to Louis Proyect over at his blog, I am a “Stalinist”. […]

    Pingback by SOCIALIST UNITY » A REPLY TO LOUIS PROYECT — September 15, 2009 @ 2:01 pm

  28. Louis

    I am simply calling you up on your apolitical amd dishonest approach to argument.

    If you knew me and understood my personality you would understand that I don’t play to the gallery, and I have no desire for sympapthy or need for validation. It is simply unacceptable to make jokes about people’s physical appearance in the socialist movement.

    And our lies keep coming. you clearly are flundering on arguing the facts, and so resort to anathamatisation, and misrepresenting my arguments.

    I have never defended the Bengal famine, what I did was provide a materialist explanation of the factors that gave rise to the famine to explain that it was not directly equivelent to the Nazi holocaust.

    This was necessary due to your ideailist and inpressionist method of argument, whereby you equated the British Empire as being as bad or worse than the nazi regime in Europe; simply by saying that millions dies under both systems, so they are equally bad,

    This is pure ultra-leftism on your part. Indeed you argue like an impressionable teenager new to politics. The bengal famine was bad, so for you any attampt to understand it is defending it; Stalin was bad, so any attept to analyse what actually happned in the USSR is for you Stalinism.

    You simplpy lie, and lie and lie.

    I did not defend the famine, The British were criminally responsible, and should have acted sooner to decrease the price. But part of the reason they failed to do so was an ideological adherence to manchester school economics, and an inadequate model of understanding the dynamics of famine.

    This is entirely different to the deliberate mass exterminatioon of an entire category of people based only on theiri ethnicity.

    the Nazi regime also deliberately smashed every manifestation of independenct laboour organisation, their punitive man made famine in Holland in 1944 killed 18000 as a reprisal fro a rail strike.

    In contrast, in Britain the labour movement wwere in coalition government, and were making substantial social gains; and prepparing the ground for withdrawl from the south asian colonies when they won the election.

    Only a fool can fail to distinguish between the two sides.

    Comment by andy newman — September 15, 2009 @ 2:08 pm

  29. Matthijs Krul: The miserable aspect of this whole slapfight is perpetually that people seem unable to go beyond the ‘Stalin vs Trotsky’ model and realize that neither of them necessarily got everything right or everything wrong

    Okay, I’m game. What did Stalin get “right”?

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2009 @ 2:08 pm

  30. Andy Newman: I have never defended the Bengal famine, what I did was provide a materialist explanation of the factors that gave rise to the famine to explain that it was not directly equivelent to the Nazi holocaust.

    Well, clearly your “materialist explanation” stood on rather shaky legs considering the fact that you deleted this from your blog:

    In the post itself Andy had justified his own omittance of the famine by saying that well respected histories of the Second World War, including Angus Calder’s, The People’s War often omit it as well, which doesn’t strike me as a particularly strong argument. That at the time people in England rarely cared or thought much about India is understandable, but more than sixty years onward and in the context of the war as a “People’s War”, things like the Bengali famine need to be mentioned and evaluated, as it shows how some peoples mattered more than others.

    Moving on to the meat of Andy’s argument about the famine itself, what struck me was that, while he agrees with Louis on the reality of it (though not its importance, as mentioned), he (unconsciously) seems to want to lessen the crime of it, by coming up with all sorts of reasons as to why it wasn’t a crime as much as an accident. He compares it to deliberate acts of nazi terrorism (though the famine in Holland was due more to the liberation of most of its agrarian parts before the densely population of western Holland than to deliberate starvation), worse tragedies in Eastern Europe and finally argues it was caused by “callous incompetence” and “faulty economic theories” rather than design. These phrases may sound harsh, but their main effect is still to remove responsibility for the famine from those who administered Bengal and those who profited from the panic.

    This idea that atrocities like the Bengali famine taking place under (imperialistic) capitalism are unintended side effects for which nobody can be held responsible is a widely used excuse for the crimes of capitalism, which are not tolerated when used to diminish responsibility for similar atrocities taking place under Stalinism, say. The famine in Bengal is like the famines in the Ukraine in the thirties, a foreseeable consequence of deliberate policies introduced without the consent of the people they affected; at best both these atrocities were treated as acceptable costs, at worst these were the intended outcomes of these policies. Let’s not forget that part of English colonial rule in India was the deliberate destruction of the old local, village based support networks that used to prevent or alliviate famine earlier and its replacement by a nation wide free market. It was in this context that the deliberate decision was made by the government to divert part of the harvest to English soldiers, to not interfere in the free market and let speculation continue that priced what was available out of reach of much of the population. The famine was not a tragic accident, but the unavoidable outcome of these decisions and hence as much a crime as if these people had been gunned down instead.

    Capitalism as a system has avoided much of the guilt for its crimes because we are trained to only look at the goals the bosses in business and government want to achieve and to see the negative consequences of achieving those goals either as a natural part of the system or at worst as regrettable accidents. What we need to realise instead is that these consequences cannot be decoupled. If a water company is privatised and then raises its prices beyond the reach of the poorest third of the population, this means that deaths due to cholera caused by drinking unsafe water are as much a goal of the company as the increased profits, as the latter is not realisable without the former. Socialists should know this and not make excuses.

    full: http://cloggie.org/wissewords2/2009/09/12/dudefight-or-what-do-the-bengalis-matter/

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

  31. Incidently.

    Luis, it is simply a question of manners, that as I have in fact objected to you making a joke abouy my physical appearence, then it is offensive for you to continue to do so.

    nd even more offensive for you to defend your rudeness by saying that i am only objecting becasue I am a “humourless prig”.

    It is importnat to have respect for political opponents in order to have a debate based upon reasoned argument. You on the other hand seek to construct a context for argument where your opponents are vilified, pigeonholed, mocked, delegitimiased, and slandered by spurious guilt by association with other people.

    You ask what Stakin got right? Well as you have entitely adopted his approach to political argument, I presume you thnk he got that right.

    Comment by andy newman — September 15, 2009 @ 2:15 pm

  32. Okay, I plead guilty to being rude. Now when are you going to plead guilty to spin-doctoring the killing of 3 million Bengalis?

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

  33. I have banned Martin Wisse from my blog due to the snide and destructive nature of his interventions.

    His argument adds nothing of substance. Except that he misrepresents my argument – I never defended the famine as an accident; i described it correctly as the product of a particular set of material conditions, combined with criminal incompetecne, racism and flawed ideological toolkit for dealing with the famine by the Indian governmenr.

    the bengal famine was the product of rampant laissez faire capitalism, and a faulty understanding of the dynamics of famine. That does not make it the equivelent to the nazi death camps.

    The nazi holocaust in addition to being much wider in extent, was a deliberate and conscious act of mass murder.

    Martin Wisse’s “wisdom” is that the Bengal famine was the product of capitalism. For sure. that is why we are socialists, to avoid such horrors of the free market.

    But is your conclusion, and Martin Wisse’s, that there is no difference between the general horror of capitalism, and the specific horror of the nazi manifestation of capitalism?

    interstingly, by saying that the death camps were in the same category as the Bengal famine, you are in the same territory as the holcaust deniers. As this strips out of the Nazi holocaust the question of deliberate genocidal intent and anti-Semitism.

    Comment by andy newman — September 15, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

  34. Just a point of fact Louis – the Gosplan economist Vladimir Bazarov was emphatically not a “Stalin loyalist”. A glance at the proceedings of the Menshevik Trial of 1931 should be enough to demonstrate that. If you, or anyone else, would like to know more, I published a biographical essay on him in Socialist History No. 34. Bazarov’s Marxism was vastly more subtle and erudite than almost anything the Bolsheviks – of any persuasion – could offer by the 1920s.

    Comment by Francis King — September 15, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

  35. I am guilty of thinking that the Nazi holocaust – deliberate genocide on an industrial scale – was a crime against humanity of a different order of magnitude to famines created by capitalist and colonial rule.

    Comment by andy newman — September 15, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

  36. Andy Newman: I have banned Martin Wisse from my blog due to the snide and destructive nature of his interventions.

    Well, people can judge for themselves whether he was being “snide”. He certainly was destructive. His riposte left your excuses for the British killing of 3 million Bengalis a pile of smoldering rubble. I really feel sorry for you trying to justify the crimes of Stalin and Churchill. It is beyond the skills of the average human being.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2009 @ 2:32 pm

  37. Francis King: A glance at the proceedings of the Menshevik Trial of 1931 should be enough to demonstrate that.

    I’d rather rely on the trial of Alice in Wonderland by the Queen of Roses.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

  38. Don’t be silly Louis – he was arrested in connection with the case and featured in the indictment. That is not evidence of his guilt. It is evidence that Stalin didn’t like him. And the disdain was mutual.

    Comment by Francis King — September 15, 2009 @ 2:36 pm

  39. Louis #24

    “Andy Newman is welcome to popular front politics, but as his co-thinker John Wight readily admits this has nothing to do with Lenin. And, moreover, this has nothing to do with Marx.

    Basically, their socialism is socialism in name only. They are *liberals* committed to piecemeal reform within the capitalist system”

    You sem to have a very impoverished understanding of the real life variety of the actually existsing labour movement.

    For you there is a polarisation between Trotskists and Stalinists; and a polarisation between liberals and leninists.

    Do you have nay understanding of mass social democatic politcs, and how the trade unions impact on politics in countries where there are social democratic parties.

    For sure, you live in the exceptional and particular case of the USA, where social democracy is a marginal force, but you shouldn’t generalise your own expereince and seek to extend it to countries where mass social democracy is a substantial force.

    You clearly don’t understand the political dynamics of such societies, and the nuanced approach that socialists need to develop.

    Comment by andy newman — September 15, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

  40. #36

    You are misrepresnting me again. I did not ban Martin for this comment, I have banned him in the past for his general impact on debate on the blog.

    And Martin hardly had the devastating impact that your state. It revealed martin Wisse for what he is, a pedantic ultra-left, who seeks to polemicise against arguments that he has often failed to understand.

    Comment by andy newman — September 15, 2009 @ 2:41 pm

  41. A classic battle between reformist traitors – each arguing in defense of their own imperialist bourgeoisies:

    The British side apologizes for for British imperialism, and upholds Stalin’s class collaboration with the ‘progressive’ British bourgeoisie against fascism.

    The U.S. side (Proyect)denounces collaboration with British imperialism quite eloquently, but – when it counted – lined up behind U.S. imperialism against the U.S.S.R., a workers state.

    Comment by Red Cloud — September 15, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

  42. Just checking, but is this sensitive character the same Andy Newman that routinely disparages Trotskyists on his site as ‘cult members’?

    Comment by Mike — September 15, 2009 @ 2:59 pm

  43. Yes, the very same Andy Newman who attacked me as being in collusion with racist enemies of China who raise the “yellow peril” threat. His bleating about being hit below the belt comes straight out the world of professional wrestling.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2009 @ 3:05 pm

  44. Andy Newman: It revealed martin Wisse for what he is, a pedantic ultra-left

    Btw, Andy, every time you declare yourself the winner in a debate with either Martin or me or whoever, it is a sign of insecurity. If you were truly the winner, there would be no need to make such a declaration. This kind of empty bravado is generally associated with somebody unsure of himself or herself. Where did you pick up these unseemly demagogic tricks, btw? Like the constant bleating about being hit below the belt or declaring yourself the victor in a bout? From the degraded Stalinist circles you are obviously hanging out in or from watching professional wrestling on the telly?

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

  45. just checking, but is this sensitive character the same Andy Newman that regularly denounces people he disagrees with as being racists? Or is it the one that thinks desribing women as ugly is a form of political debate. Or maybe it’s the same person who when called up on his own behaviour and censorship tells people he can do what he wants on his own blog. Like most bullies he’s someone who can dish it out but not take it.

    Comment by martin ohr — September 15, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

  46. Francis, being a Stalinist loyalist and being murdered by Stalin is not a contradiction. It happened all the time.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2009 @ 3:27 pm

  47. Louis.

    I am as prepared for a knockabout style of debate as the next (wo)man.

    But I am also able to stand my ground arguing the substantive issues, with the facts, and honestly ackowledgeing the point of view of those Ii am debating with.

    You it seems cannot hack it arguing your position because you have a shaky grasp of the fact, a doctrinaire and bookish misunderstanding of the ideologies, and it seems a very impoverished real life expereince of dealing with politics outside the goldfish bowl of the left groups.

    So you resort to misrepresentation and anathamatisation as a substitute for reasoned argument. All I am doing is calling you on it, and it seems that you have utterly failed to substantiate your arguments, you just pile on more abuse and lies, without once being able to provide a reasoned and coonvincing counter-argument.

    You self-assessment that you are some sort of Marxist intellectual reminds me of the delusional people who can’t sing and audition for American Idol.

    Comment by andy newman — September 15, 2009 @ 3:27 pm

  48. Louis – indeed it did – although it was mainly in the later 1930s that Stalin loyalists started falling into the Bolshevik meat-grinder. But if you knew anything at all about Vladimir Bazarov, you would know that he was not a Stalin loyalist. He was one of a group of non-party economists of a generally Menshevik persuasion who did some very important work on the methodology of planning before the Stalin group tore up all that work in favour of a crude mobilisation economy. Intellectually and philosophically, Bazarov was a Bogdanovist. There is more to Marxism than just Stalinists and Trotskyists, happily.

    Comment by Francis King — September 15, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

  49. Andy Newmao:”All I am doing is calling you on it, and it seems that you have utterly failed to substantiate your arguments, you just pile on more abuse and lies, without once being able to provide a reasoned and coonvincing counter-argument.” Pot to Kettle…

    Comment by martin ohr — September 15, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

  50. Btw, Andy, every time you declare yourself the winner in a debate with either Martin or me or whoever, it is a sign of insecurity. If you were truly the winner, there would be no need to make such a declaration. This kind of empty bravado is generally associated with somebody unsure of himself or herself. Where did you pick up these unseemly demagogic tricks, btw?

    What you observed in Andy is called a “nuanced approach,” which, if Andy Newman is to be be taken at his word, is necessarily acquired through long immersion in soc dem politics.

    Comment by lajany otum — September 15, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

  51. I am a “Stalinist”
    Comments Off

    Humourless,no, but perhaps not intentionally.
    Louis, given Stalinandy’s support for law & order, I think the “r” in “prig” may be an unnecessary addition.

    Comment by skidmarx — September 15, 2009 @ 3:42 pm

  52. Louis,

    Well done, you are sucessfully deploying all the skills of a demaogogue to avoid the substantive issue.

    However, there are substantive issues ehre, that you are simply failing to address.

    Do you in fact think that the propensity for the horror of famine under capitalism means that all capitalist rule is similar to nazism?

    Specificaly, do you think that Bengal famine caused by Manchester school economics was essentially the same as the deliberate genocidal holocaust of the nazis?

    Do you accept that people can both disagree with trotsky and also agree with the popular front, and still not be Stalinists?

    do you agree that a full understanding of what happned in the USSR cannot be gained solely by reference to trotsky’s partial and partisan understanding?

    Despite the provocations I have attempted to try to clarify the political differences between us in these excahanges, and yet whenever I make a substantive argument, you simply revert to the knockabout.

    Comment by andy newman — September 15, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

  53. My only comment on this would be, why bother Louis? He’s an insecure, Stalinist ego-maniac. Isn’t that enough?

    Comment by bill j — September 15, 2009 @ 4:29 pm

  54. #53

    Well the idea that i am “insecure” is as self-evidently proposterous as the old canard that the highly self-regarding Tony Cliff could be described as a “self hating jew”

    Comment by andy newman — September 15, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

  55. If anything, this whole spat shows that the idea that these are merely historical issues is wrong.
    Errors that go unacknowledged or uncorrected, tend to come back and haunt you.

    Newman defends the Peoples Front line, but doesn’t defend the Stalinist Terror.

    Proyect is less concerned with the Stalin’s Terror than his screwing up of international revolutionary possibilities.

    But the two pheonomena can’t really be separated.
    – the primary target of the wave of repression of the 1930’s was the left-wing of Bolshevik Party.
    Not only was the terror of the late 30’s aimed at preventing the Soviet oppositions coalescing to overthrow Stalin, it also was designed to show the capitalist powers that the USSR was a reliable ally.

    As to its current revelance?

    In Russia, it’s not just a question of nostalgia.
    The anniversary of the outbreak of war has been a sensitive issue there.
    At the moment there’s something of a Stalin revival going on, based on his role as a “national hero”.
    Amongst the Western left, the whole debate about WW2 still provides a very succinct exposition of political differences in contemporary politics.

    Comment by prianikoff — September 15, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

  56. As someone who’ve spent a large part of his childhood under the Gorbachev regime I’m constantly looking back to that time and attempt to grasp and reevaluate that time.
    By 1985 the economy was in ruins as a result of the occupation of Afghanistan. Soft capitalism, in the form of Bazaars and the Black Market was nearly omniverse as the result of the non-functionality of consecutive 5 year plans which caused severe shortages on basic stocks.
    The farmers were left to fend for themselves and were allowed to sell their wares directly in the bazaars.
    Ukranians, Kazakhs, Georgians ralying up demanding secession.
    You couldn’t get anything if you didn’t have freinds, you ate bread and cheese and drank milk.

    Gorbachev was well aware that the ship was sinking. His policy was basically a fire brigade, putting out fires anywhere, he stood up against a powerful and hostile opposition within Kremlin.
    Like in our western nations the bureaucracy was more powerful that the party head, it was even worse in the case of Brezhnev.
    So basically he had no policy, he entered a burning house that was inevitably burning to a crisp and his plan was to water it, you wount save the nation that going to its doom so fast, but you follow your basic instincts.
    That’s what happens when the planning apparatus becomes completely incapacitated.

    There is no place to compare Gorbachev to Stalin, Gorbachev himself said that he tried to bring Lenin’s NED (ofcourse it was too late by than) to the fore, a plan Stalin originally supported if i remember but turned violently against it once he assumed party leadership.
    Stalin didn’t care to put out no fires, he got a fresh and motivated nation to mould and experiment with irresponsibly.

    Comment by Michael T — September 15, 2009 @ 6:37 pm

  57. Oh I see, I was banned. Interesting. I seem to remember Andy being a bit miffed by my occasional comments earlier, but thought he was man enough to take a bit of disagreement. Guess not.

    Andy is of course free to do with his blog as he wants, but it is telling that he would ban me (and rude not to tell me). It shows a deep seated insecurity. I won’t claim any great insights or debating skills, but apparantely my sometimes awkward questions are “destructive” and “ultra-left” [1]. Let my record speak for itself.

    [1] Really, the seventies are thirty years in the past. These days being an old fashioned Labourite is ultra-left.

    Comment by Martin Wisse — September 15, 2009 @ 6:38 pm

  58. “Specificaly, do you think that Bengal famine caused by Manchester school economics was essentially the same as the deliberate genocidal holocaust of the nazis?”

    See? That’s what I meant. The Holocaust is deliberate, while the famine was only “caused by Manchester school economics”, shifting the blame from the people who governed during the famine to an impersonal system. Can you really not see how you are minimising the guilt of those who allowed the famine to happen? And would you have described the Ukrianian famines in the same way?

    Comment by Martin Wisse — September 15, 2009 @ 6:47 pm

  59. Yeah, I did the same thing and googled “Martin Wisse” in socialistunity.com. I could find nothing that is remotely calculated to get you banned. Now, of course, I am totally the opposite and expect to get banned in most places. And I never complain about it when it happens. But it simply amazes me that Martin was banned. His post on the Bengalis is both civil and substantive. I would be very surprised if Andy could be more specific about the banning. What post got Wisse excluded from socialistunity.com? Inquiring minds would love to know.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2009 @ 6:48 pm

  60. Incidently, I was only banned after I posted on the Bengali famine.

    Wuss.

    Comment by Martin Wisse — September 15, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

  61. Prianikoff – on the question of the terror, I think there is a danger of confusing the Stalinist smokescreen with the reality. In the early 1930s, the official rhetoric was against “wreckers”, “kulaks”, “Mensheviks” and “Anglo-French imperialism”, but the main victims at that time were the countless millions of Soviet peasants either deported to the steppe and deprived of their rights, or herded into a 20th-century form of serfdom on the “collective” farms. Likewise, in the mid-late 1930s, although the main rhetoric was against “Trotskyites, Zinovievites, Bukharinites” etc. etc., the primary target of the NKVD was not “the left wing of the Bolshevik Party” but officials, officers, bureaucrats and managers that the leadership blamed for failures and problems in the economy, the armed forces and so on. So far as I can see, there was no significant “Soviet opposition” to speak of by then, except in the fevered imaginations of the Soviet leaders and their secret police chiefs.

    Comment by Francis — September 15, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

  62. So now calling you insecure is anti-Semitic? What does calling you touchy get?

    Comment by bill j — September 15, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

  63. Oh and in the case of the Ukrainian famine, being a good Stalinist, Andy Newman doesn’t admit it occurred from what I understand. And in as much as he may admit it, puts it down to one of those hard decisions socialist governments have to take in power.

    Comment by bill j — September 15, 2009 @ 7:02 pm

  64. Newman may not be a stalinist, but his defense of China’s prejudice against Muslims in China was just bizzare: http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=4353

    Similarly, his downplaying of Mugabe’s harmful reforms: http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=3709

    Operation Murambatsvina anyone?

    Comment by Jenny — September 15, 2009 @ 7:12 pm

  65. We tightened up on people who comment in a snide and sarcastic way, hence Jim Denham, martin Ohr, skidmarx and a few others, including Martin wisse.

    it is not my policy to get into a discussion about it. It simply is a fact that they are banned, and the debate is the better for it.

    I have shown some slack to Jim Denham recently over a thread about a meeting he was actually present at.

    I am certainly prepated to debate with people who disagree with me, and my record on that is clear, but another moderator suggested to me about a year ago that martin wisse in particular should be banned, which is why his comment was deleted.

    why would Ii have deleted Martin’s half baked ramblings, but not all the other comments critical of my position? That doesn’t make any sense.

    It is not about the content of disagreement, it is about the approach to debate. The moderators (i.e specifially not my decision) did not feel that Martin Wisse’s general approach is constructive to debate.

    I can see that you are running a new idea with your pop-psychoanalysis about me being “insecure”. on the contrary, almost no comments are deleted, and almost no one is banned from Socialist unity, and I tolerate very robust criticism. However some individuals create a nasty atmosphere. It has long been the advice of other moderators and friends who had advised me to be more restrictive, but I held out for a long time with a very permissive policy. It is still very permissive but now just a little bit less so.

    Naturally, googling the comments that are still there will not show you the ones that he was banned for, and which were deleted.

    With regard to the Bengal famine, martin is as usual too intellectually disadvantaged to grasp the point. Individuals were criminally negligent in the Indian government, as I have oft times agreed this was due to both institutional racism and commitment to laissez faire economics, as well as a poor understanding of the dynamics of how famines develop, which realy was a systemic rather than personal failure.

    Yes individuals were to blame, but it is also true that this was through the working through of a genuinely impersonal system of capitalist economic relations. Famines have occured at various times under capitalism, as the Manchester school ideological inderstanding of the price mechanism assumes that rising prices will trigger increased demand. It cannot therefore cope with absolute scarcity, or the indeed cannot cope with the human necessity of some commodities which means that individuals make socially rational but economically irrational decisions about hoarding.

    Such famines created by capitalism and exagerated by colonialism are morally criminal, and that is why socialists seek to end colonial domination, and oppose the operaton of the free market.

    At no times have I minimised the famine or exonerated its perpetrators (paradoxically it was Wavell who ended the famine, simulataneous to increaing the level of political repression aginst the independecne movememt)

    But I have pointed out that the famine was not a crime in the same category as the nazi holocaust, neither in conscious intent, nor in ideological and political impact.

    In the same way that death through reckless endangerment is a differnt and lesser crime than pre-meditated murder. Both killers are criminals, but society holds the murderer to be worse than the manslaughter.

    Similarly, whereas Axis victory would have been a crushing set-back for humanity, and the total defeat of the labour movement in Europe, in contrast Allied victory was the context in which India did in fact gain independence; and also empowered the advance of the labour movement in europe. Axis victory would have ideologically reinforced in stone the racism that it was predicated upon; allied victory exposed the unsustainable contradiction between the ideology of freedom and liberation, and the relaity of segregation in the US army, and the continued colonial domination of the British Empire. That is why the polictis of the Western Empires was different to the politics of the nazis.

    Comment by andy newman — September 15, 2009 @ 9:01 pm

  66. By the way, I am sure that depsite being banned, some of martin’s comments will have been allowed, as maintaining consistency with the high volume of comments is a hard job

    Comment by andy newman — September 15, 2009 @ 9:07 pm

  67. Andy Newman: But I have pointed out that the famine was not a crime in the same category as the nazi holocaust, neither in conscious intent, nor in ideological and political impact.

    So what. The casualties of imperialism are largely “collateral damage” in the pursuit of profit. Some scholars estimate that 17 million Africans died during the Middle Passage. Who cares if they did not die because some slave trader deliberately set out to kil them. If you die from being packed into a ship like a sardine or if you are gassed at Buchenwald, the net effect is murder. In the first case, it was a function of chattel slavery, the first stage of capitalism. In the second case, it was a function of capitalism in its dotage. Nazism represented the most irrational aspects of the system in which Jew-hatred trumped profit-making.

    Your problem is that you are an apologist for “ordinary” imperialism over and against the subspecies operating out of the Third Reich. When I saw that picture of Churchill, my stomach turned. What in god’s name is a “socialist” blog doing writing encomiums to a filthy imperialist pig like Churchill? The answer is obvious.

    You are steeped in British nationalism. In rejecting Marxism as something associated with the “left ghetto”, you have put on the Union Jack and bought into the sick, ugly, degenerate social patriotism that prompted Lenin to write in 1916:

    In a letter to Marx, dated October 7, 1858, Engels wrote: “…The English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that this most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat alongside the bourgeoisie. For a nation which exploits the whole world this is of course to a certain extent justifiable.” In a letter to Sorge, dated September 21, 1872, Engels informs him that Hales kicked up a big row in the Federal Council of the International and secured a vote of censure on Marx for saying that “the English labour leaders had sold themselves”. Marx wrote to Sorge on August 4, 1874: “As to the urban workers here [in England], it is a pity that the whole pack of leaders did not get into Parliament. This would be the surest way of getting rid of the whole lot.” In a letter to Marx, dated August 11, 1881, Engels speaks about “those very worst English trade unions which allow themselves to be led by men sold to, or at least paid by, the bourgeoisie.” In a letter to Kautsky, dated September 12, 1882, Engels wrote: “You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy. Well, exactly the same as they think about politics in general. There is no workers’ party here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal-Radicals, and the workers gaily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the world market and the colonies.”

    On December 7, 1889, Engels wrote to Sorge: “The most repulsive thing here [in England] is the bourgeois ‘respectability’, which has grown deep into the bones of the workers…. Even Tom Mann, whom I regard as the best of the lot, is fond of mentioning that he will be lunching with the Lord Mayor. If one compares this with the French, one realises, what a revolution is good for, after all.”[10] In a letter, dated April 19, 1890: “But under the surface the movement [of the working class in England] is going on, is embracing ever wider sections and mostly just among the hitherto stagnant lowest [Engels’s italics] strata. The day is no longer far off when this mass will suddenly find itself, when it will dawn upon it that it itself is this colossal mass in motion.” On March 4, 1891: “The failure of the collapsed Dockers’ Union; the ‘old’ conservative trade unions, rich and therefore cowardly, remain lone on the field….” September 14, 1891: at the Newcastle Trade Union Congress the old unionists, opponents of the eight-hour day, were defeated “and the bourgeois papers recognise the defeat of the bourgeois labour party” (Engels’s italics throughout)….

    full: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/oct/x01.htm

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2009 @ 9:39 pm

  68. Louis. You ‘quoted’ Calvin Tucker as follows:

    “Andy [Newman] has already pointed out that the USSR armed (not disarmed) the Spanish Republican forces. Perhaps I should also remind you that it was the Soviet Union- and also China, the GDR, Czechoslovakia etc, and after 1960 Cuba, who provided the revolutionaries in the Third World with the munitions with which to fight imperialism.

    “Where do you think that the Koreans and the Vietnamese got their MiGs from? Who provided the ANC, and Zapu and Zanu with AK47s?”

    And you desparaged this comment as: “a burst of rhetoric that I have not seen since the 1960s.”

    As is absolutely clear from the thread on the Socialist Unity website where you found this comment, these short paragraphs were not written by Calvin Tucker. They were written by me.

    Although I am sure that Calvin would not disagree with what I wrote. Nevertheless; whether your mis-attribution was merely careless, or was perhaps prompted by your desire to link a quotation with somebody whose photo and CV you could find on the web- your failure to check your facts does seem to be part of a pattern.

    And as for the content of those paragraphs. You berate them as ‘a burst of rhetoric’. Yet they are purely factual.

    The USSR and its allies, and also China, were the main source of foriegn military, political, financial and diplomatic support for the Third World liberation struggles during the Cold War period.

    That’s a fact. Yet you seem to regard it as a dreadful sin to tell that truth.

    Comment by Noah — September 15, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

  69. My attribution was careless. Thank you for bringing your authorship of those crude formulations about weaponry to my attention.

    You write:

    “The USSR and its allies, and also China, were the main source of foriegn military, political, financial and diplomatic support for the Third World liberation struggles during the Cold War period.”

    Maybe you didn’t get my point. The real need in the 3rd World was political leadership, not Soviet arms. Fidel Castro bought his guns on the black market, not from Moscow. Meanwhile, the fucking Stalinists in Cuba supported Batista on and off from the 1930s to the 1950s. That’s the real problem, not a lack of guns.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2009 @ 10:47 pm

  70. Btw, Louis. I have to add that your personal attack against my brother Calvin, and my great friend and political collaborator Uri- on the basis of of your ‘expose’ of their work in the executive search sector- is utterly vile and disgusting.

    You know nothing about the circumstances which Calvin and Uri have had to contend with. Though perhaps I should remind you that the effects of the Thatcherite reforms on the UK economy meant that people with no formal qualifications have had no recourse, from the 1980s onwards, to well-paid employment in the docks, mines, car factories, and other mass-employing industries.

    But even so. While, much as I love them, I would not compare Calvin Tucker and Uri Cohen to the great Frederick Engels… would you have made such an attack against Mr Engels, on the basis of his personal involvement in UK capitalism?

    Comment by Noah — September 15, 2009 @ 11:15 pm

  71. I just thought it was a real joke–all the Stalinist bluster mixed with placing executive managers in developing countries. Like something out of a David Lodge novel.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2009 @ 11:19 pm

  72. This unprovoked and entirely innacurate McCarthyite personal attack goes beyond even the wildest fabrications written about me by the nutbar-wing of Venezuelan far right. Using a search engine to unearth out of date details of my professional career (I was at that time a self employed consultant in a limited company consisting of three people), and then linking that to my political activity is the sort of gutter blogging more usually associated with the likes of Harry’s Place.

    Proyect’s intent, presumerably, was to damage my career and threaten my livelihood. No doubt the agents of the Honduran dictatorship, one of whom who posted an appeal for personal information about me on the website of ‘El Heraldo’ whilst I was reporting from inside the country during the military coup, will be grateful to Proyect for his unpaid but woefully poor research.

    Pryect’s fabrications and distortions, in no particular order, are set out below:-

    1. I have never debated anything with him, least of all the USSR in the 1930s. This is a complete fantasy.

    2. I did not write the quote he attributed to me about the USSR funding and arming national liberation movements, although any analysis of anti-imperialist struggles of that period would be rendered almost meaningless without acknowledging such incontrovertible facts.

    3. I have never written anything in defence of Stalin’s repression in any publication, let alone argued that the Latin American left should base itself on the USSR in the 1930s. Proyect attempts to bolster his fabrications by quoting Hugo Chavez in support of his position. No doubt Proyect is unaware that Hugo Chavez has quoted me at great length on prime time Venezuelan TV.

    4. Are you or have you ever been…? Yes. I was a member of the British Communist Party until its dissolution in 1992 – and therefore I could not, as Proyect falsely claims, been involved in a “split” to form anything. “[But] you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

    If Proyect has, he will delete his smears about me and post a full apology.

    Comment by Calvin — September 15, 2009 @ 11:43 pm

  73. 1. Who says I “debated” you? In my opinion, your website has Stalinist politics.

    2. Yes, your brother was the author. I got the two of you confused. Now if I can only get the two of you indignant young gentlemen to engage with the politics, namely how Stalinism undermined national liberation struggles.

    3. “No doubt Proyect is unaware that Hugo Chavez has quoted me at great length on prime time Venezuelan TV.” The next time I am in Britain, I would love to touch the hem of your garment.

    4. Okay, I still take it that you belonged to a faction that advocated a more “pro-Soviet” stance? That is really the only point that interested me since it explains your Stalin nostalgia.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 15, 2009 @ 11:54 pm

  74. Oh really, Louis. You remark: “The real need in the 3rd World was political leadership, not Soviet arms.”

    A most revealing remark. Illustrating, I regret to say, both your pacifism and your softness towards imperialism.

    You think that the Third World was lacking in ‘political leadership’?

    Compared to who, or what?

    You think that, instead of supplying guns and rockets to Ho Chi Minh and Nelson Mandela, the Soviet Union should rather have… done what, exactly?

    As for Cuba. The revolutionaries asked the USSR not for political direction, but for trade, investment, and weapons.

    Comment by Noah — September 16, 2009 @ 12:01 am

  75. I see that Noah Tucker evaded my point about Batista. It figures. Here he is, getting weak in the knees over the popular front. And when I point out that this meant getting in bed with Batista, he changes the subject. Fascinating how people who got their training in the CP learn how to be so dodgy.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 16, 2009 @ 12:04 am

  76. Proyect: “I see that Noah Tucker evaded my point about Batista.”

    What on earth are you on about?

    Not that I’m any great expert on the Cuban revolution, but I would tend to regard Che Guevara and Fidel Castro as the best authorities on that subject.

    As I said before, I don’t think that the Third World during the late 20th Century suffered from a paucity of political leadership.

    Comment by Noah — September 16, 2009 @ 12:31 am

  77. “I see that Noah Tucker evaded my point about Batista.”

    What on earth are you on about?

    —-

    Okay, let me put this in terms that even you might understand. For the past period, you have been defending the popular front on Socialist Unity. In Cuba, the popular front meant an alliance between the Cuban Communists and Batista. The Cubans formed OLAS in order to create an alternative to the hidebound class collaborationist politics of the Latin American CP’s that rested on the popular front conceptions you defend. In Bolivia this meant undermining Che Guevara. In Nicaragua it meant opposing the Frente Sandinista.

    For people who claim some expertise on Latin America, you seem shockingly unaware of Stalinism’s treacherous past. Or maybe you are aware and choose to sweep it under the rug. Frankly, I don’t know which is worse. Ignorance or duplicity.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 16, 2009 @ 12:44 am

  78. “The USSR and its allies, and also China, were the main source of foriegn military, political, financial and diplomatic support for the Third World liberation struggles during the Cold War period.”

    Only because when these movements were useful in their proxy fight with the US, not from any highminded solidarity with the oppressed people of Africa, Asia or South America. The USSR was always quick to drop its support when it could get a better deal from its supposed enemies or when the costs were too high to continue. It never lifted a finger to stop the massacre of leftist, communists and trade unionists in Latin America, nor allowed its support for liberation movements to influence how it treated its subject countries in Eastern Europe. It was pure realpolitik.

    Comment by Martin Wisse — September 16, 2009 @ 8:34 am

  79. Oh cor blimey

    This is all getting a bit silly.

    Let us contexualise the actual nature of the dispute.

    The contention is being made that the Bengal famine of 1943-1944 (and for some of you, the Ukraine famine of 1932) is sufficiently symmetrical with the Nazi holocaust to void any moral and political difference between the British and German governments in WW2. The result of which is that you no longer consider there is a legitimate anti-fascist aspect to the allied war against Germany, thus meaning that the position of socialists in Britain should have been “revolutionary defeatism”, analogous to the position that you attribute to Lenin for the first world war.

    My argument is not to defend the Bengal famine (why would I?), but that the nature of the famine was one created by the operation of free market capitalism in a colonial context.

    Famines are complex social phenomena, and the measures needed to prevent them are not always obvious, for example the post independence Bengal famine of 1974 happened in a time of no food scarcity, and indeed an increased rice yield. (doubly post independence, as the famine occurred after independence from both Britain and after the war of independence from Pakistan)

    Lord Lithlingow was criminally negligent; and the colonial racism operates that having unleashed impoverisation through the impersonal mechanism of capitalist market forces, the resulting desperation of the Indian poor was considered by the British to be an innate aspect of orientalism; and hence the tardy response was informed by a racially exaggerated indifference to the suffering of the poor. But as my own maternal grandmother died of malnutrition in England in 1936, I can attest from experience that this class of imperialist monsters were almost as indifferent to the suffering of the poor at home.

    However, there is also an important aspect that within their flawed understanding of the mechanism of the economics of famines, it was not entirely self-evident which economic levers to exercise.

    The occurrence of famine in the USSR, for example in 1926, shows that even socialist governments struggle to know how to manage the problems of supply and demand. The debates in the Soviet leadership in this period show considerable confusion about the mechanisms that could be used to solve the problem.

    However, all that the famine shows is that both sides were colonialist in intent and reality, and that both had capitalist economies.

    It does not answer the question of whether Nazism is a distinct form of capitalism, whereby the working class and democratic institutions are completely suppressed by terror. Nor does it answer the question of whether in the struggle against fascism, there might be a temporary coincidence of interests between the workers movement and the capitalists of the liberal democracies.

    Quoting me out of context, and misrepresenting my position to be “defending” the famine is simply sloppy thinking on your part.

    Comment by andy newman — September 16, 2009 @ 8:38 am

  80. Proyect’s basic lack of human decency and the ABC of socialist solidarity is an interesting phenomenon.

    having come over with a red mist, he has used the real names and biographical information abouot socialists in Britain, completely indifferent to what their personal situations might be and then linked them by association with Stalin – a mass murderer.

    This shows a reckless indifference to what the affect might be on the future or present employment situation of myself or the Tuckers. he has no knowledge whether or not accusations of supporting Stalin could damage us in our personal and professional lives.

    None of us have ever defended Stalin’s terror or the purges, but Louis thinks it is fair game to smear us and link them and me with Stalin, becasue we disagree with him over the popular front.

    He has of course also created a political myth of stalinism, that i can readily see might be used by right wingers in the trade unions to discredit me in the future.

    But of course these practical considersations of personal security, and not providing ammunition for the right wing are of no consequence to Louis, who it seems is obly peripherally engaged with involvement in the actuallu existing mass labour movement.

    Comment by andy newman — September 16, 2009 @ 8:55 am

  81. Louis says:

    The casualties of imperialism are largely “collateral damage” in the pursuit of profit. Some scholars estimate that 17 million Africans died during the Middle Passage. Who cares if they did not die because some slave trader deliberately set out to kil them. If you die from being packed into a ship like a sardine or if you are gassed at Buchenwald, the net effect is murder.

    Another red herring from Louis.

    Colonial slavery and the slave trade were indeed a crime on the same scale as the nazi holocaust. I agree, what has that got to do with the argument?

    The nascent British labour movement, along with liberals did campaign against it. First banning slavery in Britain itself, then the slave trade; and banning slavery in all British colonies.

    The British labour movement also campaigned vigorously in support of the United States in the civil war and labour movement pressure effectively blocked British goverment attempts to provide naval and military support to the Confederate States of America.

    As slavery was not still in existence in 1939, it has no bearing on WW2.

    Comment by andy newman — September 16, 2009 @ 9:07 am

  82. Francis King “…in the mid-late 1930s, although the main rhetoric was against “Trotskyites, Zinovievites, Bukharinites” etc. etc., the primary target of the NKVD was not “the left wing of the Bolshevik Party” but officials, officers, bureaucrats and managers that the leadership blamed for failures and problems in the economy, the armed forces and so on. So far as I can see, there was no significant “Soviet opposition” to speak of by then, except in the fevered imaginations of the Soviet leaders and their secret police chiefs.”

    The repression against “economic saboteurs” and low-level officials, was an inevitable consequence of the unrealistic economic targets imposed on them.
    But the existence of a political opposition in the mid-late 30’s wasn’t simply the product of a fevered imagination, or political paranoia.

    Until 1937, the generation of Bolshevik leaders which had made the revolution in 1917 was still intact.
    Thus, it continued to be a potential threat to Stalin’s faction. Oppositionists in the party were either expelled or sent into exile.

    Besides the Bulletin of the Left Opposition, the Ryutin Platform had been circulated in 1932 before being rapidly supressed. It specifically criticized forced collectivisation and the unrealistic pace of industrialisation, calling Stalin the “gravedigger of the revolution”.

    But during the Spanish Civil War and with the threat of a World War looming, the Stalinists launched a full-scale civil war within the Left.
    Trotskyism was ascribed to almost all of them, whether they were “rightists” or “leftists”. This was slanderously amalgamated with fascism.

    In his memoirs, Pavel Sudoplatov reports a conversation he had with Beria and Stalin when he was put in charge of the operation to eliminate Trotsky.
    Beria was concerned about the “Troskyite efforts to infiltrate and.. take over the international left wing movement”
    “Trotsky and his followers were a significant challenge to the Soviet Union, competing with us to be the vanguard of the World Communist revolution”
    Stalin then added ” Trotsky and his followers should be eliminated within a year, before war breaks out”.
    (“Special Tasks” page 67)
    This explains not only the way that all the defendants in the Moscow trials were linked to Trotskyism, but also the international campaign mounted by the Communist Parties to reinforce the slander campaign.

    It’s also highly probable that there was a genuine plot within the Army to depose Stalin, in view of the real danger to the country’s security posed by his foreign policy and military doctrine.
    While Trosky regarded a military coup to remove Stalin as a Bonapartist solution to a political problem, there were thousands of military staff who had served under his leadership in 1918-24 and later supported the policies of the Left Opposition.
    Vadim Rogovin reports that in 1937, the Head of the Frunze military academy reported that the majority of Communist Party members there had adopted Trotskyist positions.
    (“1937, Stalin’s Year of Terror” p.400)
    So to some degree, Stalin’s purge of the Military leadership was a preemptive measure. One which caused enormous damage by 1941

    Comment by prianikoff — September 16, 2009 @ 9:32 am

  83. Martin – the relationship between ideological affinity and realpolitik in Soviet foreign policy is a complex one. The states and movements the Soviet government chose to support generally had some sort of ideological affinity with “socialism” as it was understood in the USSR. The relationship was often calculating and cynical on both sides – sometimes Third World clients would swap sides if the US was offering a better deal (Egypt? Somalia?). But the primary concern of the Soviet leadership was always with their state’s own security. It wasn’t going to starve the USSR or risk World War 3 in defence of someone else’s struggle halfway round the world.

    This is hardly unique to the Stalin and post-Stalin phase, though. The business of putting the survival of the Soviet state above the real or imagined needs of a “world revolution” began in early 1918, with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. And the leftists of that time denounced that “betrayal” in exactly the same terms as they denounced all subsequent “betrayals”. It was ever thus.

    Comment by Francis — September 16, 2009 @ 9:35 am

  84. he has used the real names and biographical information abouot socialists in Britain,
    Which Andy Newman has never done?
    He has of course also created a political myth of stalinism, that i can readily see might be used by right wingers in the trade unions to discredit me in the future.
    Right-wingers tend to welcome Stalinists like Andy Newman. There was a point in this thread when he was trying to argue that this was all about the Bengal famine but of course it goes deeper than that. His falsification of history, his allowing of abuse on his blog from those he likes while making claims of abuse by those he disagrees with without foundation, his love of the GDR and any other state with a red flag and a fair amount of nationalisation, his characterisation of disagreement as slander (or Sinophobia), it all adds up to a picture Uncle Joe would recognise if he looks in the mirror.
    Like Martin Wisse, the first acknowledgement I’ve had that he banned me from his blog was on this thread.

    Comment by skidmarx — September 16, 2009 @ 9:36 am

  85. Prianikoff – “Until 1937, the generation of Bolshevik leaders which had made the revolution in 1917 was still intact. Thus, it continued to be a potential threat to Stalin’s faction. Oppositionists in the party were either expelled or sent into exile.”

    Well, until 1936-38 it was still alive, physically, but by then almost all of it had kowtowed to Stalin and was no less complicit in the horrors of the 1930s. The handful of brave souls who had not, like Ryutin, were safely tucked away in political isolators. I cannot see that the remaining old Bolsheviks had either the moral, organisational or ideological resources to mount any kind of serious challenge. Who would have taken over? Zinoviev? Pyatakov? Radek? Bukharin? Would any significant numbers of the Soviet population have followed any of them? I rather doubt it.

    Of course Beria would be playing up the danger of “Trotskyists”, which, as you correctly point out, was the blanket term ascribed to all oppositionists, real or (more frequently) imagined. The NKVD had its arrest quotas to meet, after all.

    The military was the one body that could, conceivably, have deposed Stalin. But by the mid-late 1930s, its policy would have been exactly the same – mobilisation of the economy to meet the impending German threat.

    Comment by Francis — September 16, 2009 @ 10:03 am

  86. In Getty’s article cited above by Louis there’s the following interesting passage:

    ‘At the time of the Moscow show trials, Trotsky denied that he had any communications with the defendants since his exile in 1929. Yet it is now clear that in 1932 he sent secret personal letters to former leading oppositionists Karl Radek, G. Sokol’nikov, E. Preobrazhensky, and others. While the contents of these letters are unknown, it seems reasonable to believe that they involved an attempt to persuade the addressees to return to opposition.’ Getty’s footnote adds: ‘Unlike virtually all Trotsky’s other letters (including even the most sensitive) no copies of these remain in the Trotsky Papers. It seems likely that they have been removed from the Papers at some time. Only the certified mail receipts remain.’

    Trotsky specifically denied to the Dewey Commission that he had had any communications with Radek and Sokolnikov. Since they’d already been sentenced, it’s not at all clear why he lied about this, or why the copies of his letters to them were removed from the archive and (presumably) not made available to the Dewey Commission.

    The Trotskyist historian Vadim Rogovin, in a talk which used to be on the World Socialist Web Site but which is no longer online, said:

    ‘When the great revolutionary writer Victor Serge returned to Europe after he had been exiled, he related that he had the chance to meet with many members of the former right opposition, that is the Bukharinist school, and they told him that their attitude toward Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition had changed substantially.

    In the autumn of 1932 supporters of the Bukharin school held a conference in Moscow, at which they discussed the means of opposing Stalin. Three years ago I was able to meet with the 95-year-old Valentin Astrov, who in 1932 was a relatively young, but nonetheless well-known, member of the Bukharin school. The first conference of these young right oppositionists took place in his own apartment in Moscow, and he remembers firmly that they spoke openly about the need to remove Stalin by force. He told his comrades that he had no desire to take part in that type of struggle against Stalin: so the subsequent meetings of the right opposition took place in other locations without his participation. Later Astrov was arrested by the NKVD. When he was being interrogated, the investigators asked, “Tell us what happened in such and such a meeting and at such and such a place.” Astrov could honestly say that he had no knowledge of these meetings.

    At the same time several leading members of the Left Opposition, including many who had previously capitulated, began to step up their activity. This concerns mainly the group that was around Ivan Nikitovich Smirnov. We have information about this from the daughter of a woman who was arrested five times. Tatiana Miagkova’s daughter told me how these members of the Left Opposition used to gather at her mother’s apartment. During the course of these meeting Zinoviev and Kamenev said they were in full agreement with the need to remove Stalin and that they also agreed with the necessity of getting in contact with Trotsky. At that time they said that the worst mistake they had ever made in their lives, worse even than the mistakes they had made in 1917, was that they had broken with the Left Opposition in 1927. So throughout 1932 there was a series of negotiations about how to form a general anti-Stalinist bloc amongst all these different opposition groups. Prior to this, in 1931, Smirnov was able to meet with Trotsky’s son, Leon Sedov, when Smirnov was on an official assignment to Berlin. They exchanged views about the possibility of collaboration between Trotsky and Soviet oppositionists and the exchange of information between himself and Trotsky. From that point firm contact was established between Sedov and Trotsky and the various opposition groups in the Soviet Union.’

    Louis cites Getty’s comment: ‘It seems reasonable to suppose further that Trotsky’s activities were grist to
    the mill of those hard-line Moscow politicians who favoured repression of the opposition.’ Louis writes: ‘This sentence is obviously open to multiple interpretations, including one that amounts to “He had it coming”.’

    But as Getty goes on to say: ‘His activities could not but have provided political ammunition for those in the Kremlin who demanded stern measures. Trotsky’s secret letters to followers in the Soviet Union, his organisation of the 1932 bloc, his formation of the Fourth International, his call for the overthrow of the party leadership by force, and his continued opposition to Comintern policies (particularly to the Popular Front) later made it easy for hard-liners to portray Trotsky as a devious and ‘unprincipled’ plotter who was scheming to return, forming conspiracies, and opposing communist parties both politically and organisationally.’

    The bottom line is that there really was a bloc between the left and the right oppositions, who agreed on the need for the forcible removal of the Stalin leadership and on a political platform (the Riutin Platform, basically) of a return to the market, reversal of a great deal of collectivisation, etc. This convergence on program was noted by Trotsky scholars in the West long before the evidence of the organisational bloc became clear. Rogovin is unsure whether this bloc was linked to a military conspiracy around Tukhachevsky, but doesn’t rule it out. That’s already a large part of what Bukharin actually confessed to at his trial (as distinct from what he was accused of, much of which he denied, and as distinct from the allegations he and others made about Trotsky’s links with the Germans (etc)).

    Re Grover Furr, his and Vladimir Bobrov’s article on and translation of Bukharin’s first confession (pdf) published in the US Marxist online journal Cultural Logic, is of some interest in this connection, but doesn’t seem to have had much discussion.

    Comment by Ken MacLeod — September 16, 2009 @ 10:24 am

  87. Skidmarx demonstrates the mendacity that caused him to be banned.

    I have never once published personal biographical details of the sort that Louis Proyect has done here.

    Comment by andy newman — September 16, 2009 @ 10:43 am

  88. incidently, Trotsky is often regarded as some sort of tactical and strategic genius for guidence on the German, Spanish and Chinese situations, where of course his ideas were not put to the test, and therefore cannot be judged against their historical outcomes.

    but Michael Reiman’s brilliant “The Birth of Stalinism” details the course of the various factions in the CPSU through the 1920s, up until the consolidation of Stalins position in 1928.

    What is interesting is the blundering ineptitude of Trotsky, failing to hold his own supporters together, failing to make alliances with the moderates, provoking the moderates into supporting Stalin at various junctures, and calling street demonstrations on the anniveesaroies of October that challenged the authority of the government, and suggested the desire to split the CPSU, but that in fact had no clear purpose.

    If you challenge the government in circumstances like that, then you had better have the determination to carry it through.

    So the United Oppositioon at one time had the control of the Leningrad and Moscow party organisations, substantial support from the officers in the army and navy, and huge passive good will from the working class.

    Although not aligned with the United opposition, the moderates were not in Stalin’s contol, and they controlled the trade unions, the federal and government, the government of the Russian republic, the foreign office and the diplomatic corps – so they had al the links with other governments.

    Stalin’s supporters only had the GPU and the party machine.

    If Trotsky was such a tactical gebius, how come he didn’t block with the moderates. How is it possible given this arrangement of forces that Stalin could be the winner, unless huge mistakes were made by his opponents?

    Comment by andy newman — September 16, 2009 @ 10:53 am

  89. “Third World clients would swap sides if the US was offering a better deal ”

    There is some evidence from the Soviet politburo records that anticipation of this happening in Afghanistan is what caused Andropov to switch from opposing to supporting the invasion , and he had been the main opponent swaying the CPSU up to then.

    Until the American records are published, we will never know if thie is true.

    But tipping Afghanistan into a pro-Western state in 1979 would have seriously compromied the USSR’s security in the estimation of the Soviet government.

    Comment by andy newman — September 16, 2009 @ 11:03 am

  90. He [Getty] also insists that the number of executions that took place under Stalin was around 2 million, a figure lower the estimate of other Sovietologists.

    Still wrong.

    Getty’s figures for executions are much the same as those of the Trotskyist historian Rogovin, in an interesting piece here: Reliable figures show that during the entire period of Soviet history, approximately four million people were accused and convicted of crimes against the state. Of those, approximately 700,000 to 800,000 were shot.

    Comment by Ken MacLeod — September 16, 2009 @ 11:45 am

  91. Skidmarx: Like Martin Wisse, the first acknowledgement I’ve had that he banned me from his blog was on this thread.

    Since my mind was so boggled by the banning of Martin Wisse, I actually went back through each and every exchange he was involved in and could find nothing remotely inflammatory. Nor could I find any warnings from Newman to “cut it out”. It appears to me that Newman went ballistic over Wisse’s dismantling of his creepy apology for the Bengali man-made famine and deleted the post. When brought to order for this bit of censorship, he made up an ex post facto excuse about Wisse’s supposed bad behavior. It is laughable, really.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 16, 2009 @ 1:07 pm

  92. The question of moral culpability resonates even for those of less marinated in the historical embarrassments of socialism – scientific or otherwise. The Nazis were deluded in their fear of Jews, their true believers aimed at saving the world from us. The economic assassins of Bengal, like the slavers past and present, were merely indifferent. Personally, I’ll send the cool calculators a little deeper into hell than even the sadistic loons. But this is a question of taste and not history.

    Comment by J. Marlin — September 16, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

  93. Francis: This is hardly unique to the Stalin and post-Stalin phase, though. The business of putting the survival of the Soviet state above the real or imagined needs of a “world revolution” began in early 1918, with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. And the leftists of that time denounced that “betrayal” in exactly the same terms as they denounced all subsequent “betrayals”. It was ever thus.

    The problem is not with the USSR’s conduct of foreign policy, which will always involve a pragmatic balancing of internationalism versus survival as a state. Cuba is forced to compromise all the time.

    It is really a problem of the Comintern which bureaucratically imposed leaderships on the CP’s around the world that were willing to subordinate the class struggle to the needs of the USSR. The CPUSA’s no-strike pledge and fierce opposition to a civil rights demonstration during WWII is just one example. This, as I have tried to point out, is the worst sin of Stalinism since it robbed the world of opportunities to effectively oppose capitalism. That is why the Cuban revolution was such a breakthrough. It was the first socialist revolution free from Stalinist distortions and which remains an inspiration to anti-capitalist fighters everywhere.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 16, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

  94. Louis – if you are arguing that the formation of the 3rd (and by logical extension the 4th) International was a bad idea, then I would concur entirely. The whole notion of imposing a single line on very disparate countries with very disparate conditions, opportunities, problems, traditions etc. etc. is bound to lead to mistake after mistake. And if one party is in power and the others are its clients, the position will be even worse. Internationals don’t necessarily have much to do with internationalism.

    Comment by Francis — September 16, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

  95. I am opposed to the idea of Cominterns period. It was a bad idea when Trotsky was still running the show. He instructed the French CP what should go on the front page of their newspaper!

    But in Stalin’s case, we are not talking about mistakes. Mistakes imply that you can sometimes hit the target. But the record of the CP’s since the mid 20s, after Stalin’s rise to power, is one disaster after another. You have to look at the record and generalize about the politics.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 16, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

  96. Louis
    Previous comments have alluded to your un-comradely, false and hyper-hysterical approach to leftists who you happen to disagree with.

    You are consumed by burning hatred of socialism as it existed during the 20th Century. Stalin, Fidel and Mao led revolutionary forces that helped overthrow capitalism in one third of planet earth, in the last Century.

    Most decent leftists, who were mistakenly delighted with the triumph of global Neo-Liberal counter revolution in the 1980s and 1990s , have woken up to a unipolar reality of market savagery and a looming ecological catastrophe, and had subsequently regretted their earlier naive stance.

    But others like you, Louis, soldier on in historic revisionism that tries to portray every aspect of socialism in state power as if it were an ugly crime against humanity. But guess what! You will fail and your own favourite quotation from Hugo Chavez paves the road to your defeat. Because, the revolutionaries who are currently trying to sweep away global capitalism from Latin America will not repeat the same mistakes and distortions of socialist states in the 20th Century, but they all (including Chavez) study the Cuban Revolution and respect its heroic leaders, and by extension the positive experience of real existing socialism during the last century.

    Comment by Uri Cohen — September 16, 2009 @ 2:56 pm

  97. Uri: now who is slandering who?

    Comment by Martin Wisse — September 16, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

  98. Actually, I rather enjoy being slandered. When Andy Newman called me a collaborator with Western bourgeois journalists playing the racist “yellow peril” card against China, I laughed my head off. I rubbed my hands with glee and said, “Boy, I can’t wait to get my own licks in”. I guess Andy had no idea that I have a long, sordid record of eye-gouging and ear-biting.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 16, 2009 @ 3:14 pm

  99. Louis,

    There is no point in you presenting speculation as fact.

    If you look back through the comments on Su blog you will see both that i raun a very liberal comments policy, and that if i make a mistake or act hastily I admit iot and apologise.

    So it is clear that my explanatio for Martin’s Wisse’s deleion is credible based upon my track record, and it is indeed true.

    I don’t want to elaborate on the particular reasons why matin has been banned, partly becasue it is not fair on martin to do so. I am in any event not accountable to you over the question.

    It is manifestly obvious through that i am both willing and able to debate the substantive isue that marin raised, and so your speculation as to why i may have deleted him makes no sense.

    I do note however your preference for dwelling on the tittle tattle and the personal insults rather than engage in the very substantive criticsm that have been posted here both of your political positions, and your uncomradely and disgraceful behaviour.

    Comment by Andy Newman — September 16, 2009 @ 3:14 pm

  100. #99

    Louis, you simply confirm that you are not a serious protagonist of working class politics.

    Comment by Andy Newman — September 16, 2009 @ 3:17 pm

  101. Louis, you simply confirm that you are not a serious protagonist of working class politics.

    The day that anybody finds me describing myself as a “serious protagonist of working class politics”, they have my permission to put me in a nursing home. Such bombastic language is not in my vocabulary. It sounds as pretentious as Uri Cohen’s “soldier on in historic revisionism”. What a couple of knuckleheads.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 16, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

  102. “Stalin’s supporters only had the GPU and the party machine.”

    Is that all!…oh for the good old days…

    Comment by bill j — September 16, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

  103. “Proyect’s basic lack of human decency and the ABC of socialist solidarity is an interesting phenomenon.”

    Quite so. I have no ideological dog in this fight. But in his posts and comments, Proyect comes across once more as a disingenuous, arrogant, rude and pompous c0ck, while Andy, though I disagree with almost all his politics, comes across once more as a decent bloke. And he is clearly not, in any way, an apologist for Stalin.

    Louis, anyone who equates the British Empire with the Nazis, which is effectively what you do, has lost any moral bearings whatsoever.

    Comment by Jonny Mac — September 16, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

  104. “[Stalin] established unity in the Soviet Union. He consolidated what Lenin had begun: party unity. He gave the international revolutionary movement a new impetus. The USSR’s industrialization was one of Stalin’s wisest actions, and I believe it was a determining factor in the USSR’s capacity to resist… I think there should be an impartial analysis of Stalin. Blaming him for everything that happened would be historical simplism.” ~ Fidel Castro.

    http://www.marxists.org/history/cuba/archive/castro/1992/06/03.htm

    “the worst sin of Stalinism [was that] it robbed the world of opportunities to effectively oppose capitalism. That is why the Cuban revolution was such a breakthrough. It was the first socialist revolution free from Stalinist distortions and which remains an inspiration to anti-capitalist fighters everywhere” ~ Louis Proyect, historical simpleton.

    Comment by Calvin — September 16, 2009 @ 3:48 pm

  105. Well, at least we have established that Calvin Tucker is a Stalin supporter, even though it took a Castro quote to make it acceptable.

    Guess what.

    I make up my mind on political issues rather than bow to authority.

    Speaking of Castro, now that Calvin has gone on record as a Stalin supporter, maybe he can explain the wisdom of the Cuban Stalinists’ alliance with Batista since his brother Noah doesn’t seem to have a clue about the role of the popular front in Latin American history.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 16, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

  106. Louis, anyone who equates the British Empire with the Nazis

    Actually, the British Empire was responsible for more total death and suffering than the Third Reich. That is, unless you have a tendency to dismiss the crime of causing the death of 17 million African slaves during the Middle Passage as somehow less bestial than gas chambers.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 16, 2009 @ 3:55 pm

  107. It’s telling that the both Fidel and Chavez (whom Louis has attempted to enlist), take a balanced view of the USSR, including under Stalin – recognising its huge achievements, as well as acknowledging its shortcomings and repression.

    Funnilly enough, Fidel and Chavez lead revolutionary movements, whilst Louis Proyect sits in front of a computer posting my employment details in order to fuck up my professional life. You really are a twisted little fuck, Proyect.

    Comment by Calvin — September 16, 2009 @ 4:05 pm

  108. You really are a twisted little fuck, Proyect.

    I guess this is your explanation for the Cuban Stalinist alliance with Batista. Nicely done.

    Poor thing. What a burden it must be to use Stalin-thought as a guide to explaining reality, especially since the CP’s are moribund. Too bad that Calvin can’t use a time-machine and go back to 1940 when Stalinism had genuine power. He strikes me as a character who would have thrived in that milieu.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 16, 2009 @ 4:09 pm

  109. The British Empire “caused” the death of 17 million slaves during the Middle Passage? Utter, utter crap! You’re historically illiterate! What are your sources for this claim?

    Comment by Jonny Mac — September 16, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

  110. Andy Newman’s obviously blown his gaffe with all this stuff. His criticism of Trotsky boils down to – if he was so good why did he lose? Its might is right all over again. He’s shown that he’s nothing more than a liberal pro-imperialist of a strange UK variety.
    On the actual discussion.
    Trotsky certainly did make mistakes in my opinion in his struggle against the bureaucratic degeneration of the revolution. Bearing in mind this is all written many years after the event with hindsight and so on, I think there root is common and straightforward, he should have been prepared to split the party from the outset. That means he should have made common cause with the anti-bureaucratic components of the Workers Opposition and Democratic Centralists programmes, should have defied and opposed the ban on factions, should have used his position in the army to organise an alternative political centre, should have supported measures in the workers opposition and DC platforms in favour of industrial workers, should have made common cause with his international supporters, the Polish, the French, the Chinese, the Germans and countless others from the outset. Naturally once he did this then everything follows, he should have spoken to the fifth congress of the comintern, he should have defied the bureaucracy at the 14th Congress, he should have published Lenin’s testament, should have refused to step down from the army, etc. all of which only makes sense if you have a perspective of fighting bureaucratism from above and below. Trotsky was fatally compromised by his desire to fight from within. In other words up to the point of expulsion. That’s why he was continually backing down, making unprincipled concessions and so on.
    Unfortunately, he was disoriented by the end of the civil war and accepted the current day myth about the need for party unity, understandable at the time, but with hindsight a fatal mistake.
    Unfortunately that bad practice, following the line – something created by Zinoviev in the Comintern in the early 1920s, the appointment of full timers centrally – something created by Stalin at the time of the ban on factions – the prohibition of airing internal differences externally – something created by the Troika from 1924 on – then slipped into Trotsky’s conception of DC, they were after all contemporaneous with Lenin, and have been inherited, to their great misfortune by the left ever since.
    But there is a difference between political mistakes in a faction fight, and actually wanting to crush democracy, create bureaucracy, a terror apparatus and so on. That was what Stalin actually did. To blame Trotsky for that is like blaming the executed for their execution.

    Comment by bill j — September 16, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

  111. “The British Empire “caused” the death of 17 million slaves during the Middle Passage? Utter, utter crap! You’re historically illiterate! What are your sources for this claim?”

    That should be two million deaths of course. Well within what’s reasonable…for the British empire… I’m sure.

    Comment by bill j — September 16, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

  112. There are different estimates of the number of slaves who were killed:

    http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstatv.htm

    The 17 million figure comes from Rudy Rummel, a notoriously pro-imperialist and anti-Communist scholar. Maybe not all were attributable to British slave traders, but who can deny that the total number of people who died because of British imperialist rule dwarfs the Third Reich?

    Comment by louisproyect — September 16, 2009 @ 4:16 pm

  113. “That is why the Cuban revolution was such a breakthrough. It was the first socialist revolution free from Stalinist distortions and which remains an inspiration to anti-capitalist fighters everywhere”. (Louis)

    Wisse, What slander? Louis statement above speaks for it self as an absurd illogical construct. The total collectivization of the Cuban economy ended up following the Soviet model, helped by Soviet advisers and Soviet assistance, without which Cuba would have been destroyed.

    However, unlike their Soviet comrades, the Cuban revolutionaries never thought or pretended that they have attained the promise of perfect bliss and that Cuban society is where they whished it to be. They told each other the truth that socialism under a harsh imperialist siege is a state of mass popular struggle against many domestic dangers and distortions: pro-capitalist, racist, chauvinist, autocratic, bureaucratic, utopian and reformist to name just a few.

    The Cuban Revolution could never be free from distorsions, but it made a better job of trying to combat these distorsions then the USSR!

    Fidel and his comrades were on the side of the Soviet Union against colonialism and capitalism, not withstanding political differences they had with the Soviet leadership.

    Comment by Uri Cohen — September 16, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

  114. …and a disengenuous, pompous, crooked thinker, who deliberately misrepresents my point of view in order to justify his McCarthyite smear tactics.

    Your argument is self evidently nonsensical. If I’m a Stalin supporter for quoting Fidel, then so too must be the person I’m quoting. Which drives a coach and horses through your attempt to enlist the Cuban revolution in support of your ridiculously unbalanced and hysterical anti-Sovietism. I haven’t heard anything quite like it since Ronnie Regan and his ‘evil empire’ speech.

    Comment by Calvin — September 16, 2009 @ 4:21 pm

  115. Uri Cohen: The total collectivization of the Cuban economy ended up following the Soviet model, helped by Soviet advisers and Soviet assistance, without which Cuba would have been destroyed.

    Really? I am not aware of Stakhanovitism in Cuba. Nor am I aware of using prisoner labor like at the White Sea Canal, where the frozen corpses of workers could be found in the morning near their wheelbarrows. That was Stalinist economic policy, primitive accumulation of the kind found in Victorian England. No wonder you Brits are so googly-eyed over Stalin. He reminds you of your own blemished history.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 16, 2009 @ 4:26 pm

  116. I haven’t heard anything quite like it since Ronnie Regan and his ‘evil empire’ speech.

    Zzzz. Will somebody please wake me when Tucker (either one of them) finally starts talking about Stalinism in Cuba or anywhere else in Latin America for that matter. I wonder what kind of training they got in the CP if they can’t at least muster a half-assed defense of their shitty history.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 16, 2009 @ 4:28 pm

  117. *Louis Proyect sits in front of a computer posting my employment details in order to fuck up my professional life. You really are a twisted little fuck, Proyect* ~ Calvin

    *’You really are a twisted little fuck, Proyect’. I guess this is your explanation for the Cuban Stalinist alliance with Batista.* ~ Proyect

    Um, no. You’re a twisted little fuck for posting my employment details. It’s not a difficult sentence to get your head around, but thank you for giving me the opportunity to say it once again.

    Comment by Calvin — September 16, 2009 @ 4:32 pm

  118. Proyect accuses me of being a Stalinist for broadly supporting Fidel Castro’s assessment of Stalin.

    But then Proyect says: *[The Cuban revolution] remains an inspiration to anti-capitalist fighters everywhere*

    So Proyect is either inspired by a Stalinist, or he is not an anti-capitalist fighter. I suspect it’s the latter.

    Comment by Calvin — September 16, 2009 @ 5:11 pm

  119. You’re a twisted little fuck for posting my employment details

    Louis quoted your details from a public (geddit?!) website. So you put your own employment details in the public domain (but it was not a kind of website that visitors to left wing blogs/websites would likely visit!)

    Comment by NollaigO — September 16, 2009 @ 5:23 pm

  120. What did Stalin do right? Well, I’m sure the answer to this question depends on what you want to credit to a given country’s leadership. But the USSR destroyed the Nazis and industrialized faster than any country in the history of the world, greatly improving the population’s life expectancy, levels of education and culture, and so forth. It is fairly hard to deny this. One can argue endlessly about what Trotsky would have done in his stead, but I’m not particularly interested in counterfactual history of that individual kind.

    Comment by Matthijs Krul — September 16, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

  121. Thank you for your reply, Matthijs, even if it was not to the question I posed. I did not ask about the USSR. I asked about Stalin. But thanks for getting in touch anyhow.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 16, 2009 @ 5:36 pm

  122. #88 A.Newman “Trotsky is often regarded as some sort of tactical and strategic genius for guidence on the German, Spanish and Chinese situations, where of course his ideas were not put to the test, and therefore cannot be judged against their historical outcomes.”
    Whereas, the Stalinist Comintern’s Ideas WERE put to the test and were proven to be DISASTROUS.

    * Hitler comes to power and destroys worker movement and its 4 million strong militia
    * Spanish Popular Front defeated, despite Soviet Arms and Advisers and existence of French Pop Front (which soon falls)
    * Chinese CP massacred by KMT end go on Long March
    Unless of course Newman is criticizing Trotsky for being wrong about things that happened after he died!!!

    #87 Ken MacLeod:
    Interesting, but I’m not sure what your point is.
    Most of this seems to be based on personal recollections and rumour, rather than anything substantive.
    But I would certainly expect there to be some sort of bloc to remove Stalin, given everything that had happened by then. – That’s politics.

    Bukharin, Zinvoviev and Kamenev, whatever their differences were all old Bolsheviks and all of them had personal relations with Trotsky in the past.
    Trotsky had already reached a programmatic compromise with Zinoviev-Kamenev in the mid 20’s to drop reference to “Permanent Revolution” from the Platform of the Joint Opposition.
    He only revived his independent position after it had broken down and Zinoviev and Kamenev capitulated.

    As to the trial allegations.
    The NKVD fabricated lies from half-truths, which is a far more effective way of lying.
    Confessions were generally a result of persistent beatings and threats to family members.
    The allegations about any links with the Germans is obviously total crap.

    I’m afraid I can’t agree with Bill J at #111.
    That’s very much in line with Tony Cliff’s position, but I think it’s ultra-leftist.

    Comment by prianikoff — September 16, 2009 @ 5:43 pm

  123. #105 re.Calvin Tucker’s Castro quote.

    As has been pointed out repeatedly, even Trotsky would probably have agreed with Castro’s proposition
    “Blaming him (Stalin) for everything that happened would be historical simplism.”

    Castro goes on to say:-

    “I have criticized Stalin for a lot of things. First of all, I criticized his violation of the legal framework.
    I believe Stalin committed an enormous abuse of power. That is another conviction I have always had.
    I feel that Stalin’s agricultural policy did not develop a progressive process to socialize land. In my opinion, the land socialization process should have begun earlier and should have been gradually implemented. Because of its violent implementation, it had a very high economic and human cost in a very brief period of history.

    I also feel that Stalin’s policy prior to the war was totally erroneous. No one can deny that western powers promoted Hitler until he became a monster, a real threat. The terrible weakness shown by western powers before Hitler cannot be denied. This at encouraged Hitler’s expansionism and Stalin’s fear, which led Stalin to do something I will criticize all my life, because I believe that it was a flagrant violation of principles: seek peace with Hitler at any cost, stalling for time. ”

    so maybe all this just proves that Castro has always been an unconcious Trotskyist!
    Lol.

    Comment by prianikoff — September 16, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

  124. *Louis quoted your details from a public (geddit?!) website*

    And he did so in order to link my employment to my political activity, whilst making a series of false allegations against me which can now be read by my current and future employers.

    I asked Proyect to remove these details, but he declined, thereby confirming that that was indeed his intent.

    If you think this is acceptable behaviour from Proyect, the words I used to describe him apply equally to yourself.

    Comment by Calvin — September 16, 2009 @ 5:54 pm

  125. the words I used to describe him apply equally to yourself.

    You remind me of the banshees of old, dispensing curses!

    Comment by NollaigO — September 16, 2009 @ 6:07 pm

  126. Proyect: “The best known Stalin apologist in the academy is the unlikely named Grover Furr, a Montclair State literature professor who maintains a vast library of Stalinist apologetics”

    The dubious article that Ken MacLeod referred to in #111 was co-authored by the selfsame Furry Stalinist.
    So I checked out some of his other stuff.

    Here’s a sample of the workings of Furr-thought:-

    “Bukharin’s failure to confess to plotting Lenin’s assassination does not mean
    that he didn’t do it. And we know that Bukharin lied on other occasions, so why
    not in this one?”

    Some of Furr’s sentences appear to make sense.
    This doesn’t prove that what he says about Stalinism makes any sense.

    In fact, it’s complete and utter shit.

    Comment by prianikoff — September 16, 2009 @ 6:34 pm

  127. This is an interesting read, a great example, I had no idea how some people rely on screaming bloody murder when their argument gets destroyed, its really my first exposure to it.
    I thought that the right thing to do is to either go back to the root of your argument and plow it untill nothing sensical is left of it or slowly modify your position in admittance that you’ve made a mistake. But why bother with all of this when you can break out the bawl about being victamized.

    Comment by Michael T — September 16, 2009 @ 6:39 pm

  128. Shorter Andy Newman: “It’s not fair on Martin to discuss why I banned him, but have some innuendo anyway and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”.

    I don’t really care why you banned me, Andy, it’s your blog. I just find it interesting how much you misread me, if you genuinely believe I’m “ultra-leftist”, and even more interesting that this ban for me being so incredibly disruptive and corrosive to discussion comes at a point when I’ve just posted a link to my post on why you were wrong to dismiss the Bengali Famines out of hand in your evaluation of WW2 and Churchill and I’m puzzled on how incredibly persuasive I must be considering Google finds barely ninety mentions of my name on your blog…

    Something doesn’t add up there…

    Comment by Martin Wisse — September 16, 2009 @ 7:33 pm

  129. Louis

    Refusing to remove this article which links Calvin Tuckers employment details with serious (and false!) allegations of him supporting a mass murderer, after he has asked you to remove it, makes you a scab in my book.

    Comment by andy newman — September 16, 2009 @ 8:54 pm

  130. #107

    “Actually, the British Empire was responsible for more total death and suffering than the Third Reich”

    Louis, you have certainly established that you are unrepentant, but sadly you are no marxist.

    The British Empire was very brutal indeed, and the atlantic slave trade is truly comparable to the nazi holocaust.

    But it also spread capitalism around the world, and vastly increased the productive forces, laid the foundations for democracy, and all sorts of other contradictions.

    Comment by andy newman — September 16, 2009 @ 8:59 pm

  131. Nazi Germany has managed to rebuild the German nation that was all but downtrotted and ruined after the first World War.
    You are obviously refferencing Marxs’ evaluations of descovery of the “New World” and the swift spread of Capitalism in Das Kapital, but the way you do it is very unmarxist, you aren’t making any evaluation you are throwing in a diversion and making excuses for the crimes of old-time Imperialism as if to say Britain’s swift spread of markets had helped drive and develope world wide economic revolution so its not so bad that tens of millions of Africans and Amerindians got slaughtered in the process.
    Even if you “didn’t mean it that way” it comes off that way very clearly.
    I too can easily refference that positive evaluation of Nazi Germany from W.E.B. Dubois, and unlike Dubois i could make it an excuse that that proves that it wasnt so bad.. so 5.1 million Jews got slaughtered..

    Comment by Michael T — September 16, 2009 @ 9:13 pm

  132. Andy Newman: But it also spread capitalism around the world, and vastly increased the productive forces, laid the foundations for democracy, and all sorts of other contradictions.

    Fascinating how once you buy into the Stalinist crap, you buy into the Kautskyist stagism that went along with it.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 16, 2009 @ 9:54 pm

  133. I note that Proyect has been been shamed into quietly removing my employment details from his post, and that he has also removed my name from the quote he falsely attributed to me. He has not however had the decency to apologise.

    I do not know Proyect. I have never debated anything with him. I have not participated in the debates on Socialist Unity (or elsewhere) about Stalin, the 1930s, or the popular front. It is therefore difficult to understand why I feature so prominently in his diatribe and why my photo remains posted underneath a picture of Stalin.

    I write mainly about Latin America, where I have reported first hand on these modern day revolutionary struggles for the Morning Star, the web edition of the Guardian, and the 21st Century Socialism website (which I co-edit). During this period I have had the pleasure of working with committed people from a variety of backgrounds and traditions, including social democrats, communists, greens, liberation theologists, and yes, trotskyists. Although I have had differences with all of the above on some issues, I have always tried to put my point of view across in a way that respects the contribution made by those who are involved in real live struggle, especially those at the sharp end of imperialism for whom political struggle is not a parlor game played by white Western bloggers.

    Where I part company with Proyect is that I prefer to build an analysis that begins with the facts, rather than seek to impose an ideological template, however ill fitting, on reality. Proyect is an intelligent man, and it is therefore disappointing, and frankly rather pathetic, that he prefers to squander his talents on the sort of mindless sectariana, labelling, and personal invective that is typified in this post. Screeching “Stalinist” at anyone who takes a balanced view of the socialisms of the 20th century and recognises both their huge achievements as well as their many problems, is the antithesis of Marxism.

    Comment by Calvin — September 17, 2009 @ 1:00 am

  134. Calvin, stop with the persecution complex. I clearly stated that I had strong objections to what I perceived as Stalinist politics on 2 websites: yours and Socialist Unity. I first ran into your website when your brother was on Marxmail and the subject of your analysis of China came up. When Newman called me a collaborator of racist journalists because of my criticism of the way that Uighurs were being treated, I made the connection between your analysis and his although at the time I did not know that your brother was one of Newman’s tag-team partners on Socialist Unity. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and that’s about it. You seem astonished when someone takes you to task for disseminating Stalinist ideology, but your co-editor Uri Cohen wrote a comment here that amounts to classic CP Stalinism. And, meanwhile, you make sure to make the case for Stalin here after a fashion yourself. The case, as I referred to it in my article, is soft Stalinism rather than the junk you find on the Stalin Society website. That presumably is more palatable to the politically naive who come around Socialist Unity and see the awful speech by the awful Dimitrov.

    In any case, I don’t deny that you are doing good work. So is Andy Newman.

    But when you rally around Sir Winston Churchill, you have to expect to get rotten tomatoes thrown at you. This is not personal. It is political. My advice in the future, to save yourself heightened blood pressure, is to avoid writing material that is going to get the dander up of people who have not been trained in the CP and who don’t think that Dimitrov is such a great guy.

    That’s about it. I think this thread has run its course anyhow.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 17, 2009 @ 1:14 am

  135. Andy Newman: But I have pointed out that the famine was not a crime in the same category as the nazi holocaust, neither in conscious intent, nor in ideological and political impact.

    Colonial slavery and the slave trade were indeed a crime on the same scale as the nazi holocaust.

    Given that the African slave trade was driven by the ‘normal’ motive of profit making, not a program to exterminate every last black African, and that the slave trade was brought about through the establishment of a market in human bodies, where the Bengali famine was (according to Newman) brought about by the establishment of a free market in rice, Andy Newman’s rush to compare the slave trade with Nazism while excusing the Bengali famine in terms of “adherence to Manchester school economics” is mealy mouthed to say the least.

    If the British adherence to free market capitalist ideology exculpates the British for the Bengali famine and makes it less of a crime, as Andy Newman says it does, then the same ought to apply to Britain’s involvement in the African slave trade — even taking into account that British policy at the time of its involvement in slaving was based on capitalist mercantilism more than free-trade.

    Comment by lajany otum — September 17, 2009 @ 1:58 am

  136. Andy Newman: But it [British Empire] also spread capitalism around the world, and vastly increased the productive forces, laid the foundations for democracy, and all sorts of other contradictions.

    And for which the Indian, African, West Indian, Aboriginal Australian, etc, subjects of the same empire will be forever grateful. Shite.

    One of the everlasting benefits of the involvement in the second world war for the British and North American ruling classes has been the opportunity for blood soaked criminals to recast themselves as emancipators, and for their apologists to engage in the sort of moral relativism which forever normalises, in this case, the British Empire against the Nazi monstrosity. This is what lies at the bottom of Andy Newman’s defence of the racist and anti-semite Churchill etc.

    Comment by lajany otum — September 17, 2009 @ 2:03 am

  137. Andy Newman: But it [British Empire] also spread capitalism around the world, and vastly increased the productive forces, laid the foundations for democracy, and all sorts of other contradictions.

    And for which the Indian, African, West Indian, Aboriginal Australian, etc, subjects of the same empire will be forever grateful. Shite.

    One of the everlasting benefits of the involvement in the second world war for the British and North American ruling classes has been the opportunity for blood soaked criminals to recast themselves as emancipators, and for their apologists to engage in the sort of moral relativism which forever normalises, in this case, the British Empire against the Nazi monstrosity. This is what lies at the bottom of Andy Newman’s defence of the racist and anti-semite Churchill etc.

    Comment by lajany otum — September 17, 2009 @ 2:04 am

  138. So lot us recap.

    The origin of this dispute is Louis’s objection that socialists in Britain, faced with war with Nazi Germany should have taken a “revolutionary defeatist” position, by analogy with a position that Louis attributes to Lenin.

    Now as the British SWP member JohnG has pointed out to Louis, Lenin did in fact have a more nuanced position after the February revolution; where there was a threat of Monarchist generals deliberately losing Petrograd. i.e. this was a very analogous situation to Petain capitulating in France, and the threat of fifth columnists in Britain in 1939 and 1940. Here, the Bolsheviks advocated “revolutionary defence”, that is, doing nothing to undermine the military defence of Kerensky’s (capitalist) government.

    So far so good. But Louis now introduces the whole red herring of “Stalinism”.

    There is a sleight of hand here, because Louis uses an extremely (and irrationally) broad definition of Stalinism when deciding whether or not to accuse people of being Stalinists, i.e. anyone who supports the popular front; but then seeks to associate anyone supporting the popular front, with the much more narrow definition of Stalinism – i.e those who defend the mass murder of Stalin.

    In the first part of this, Louis displays considerable historical ignorance. He seeks continually to bring in red herrings of popular fronts by the Cuban communist party, or Spain, or wherever. But the issue under discussion is actually Britain.

    In Britain in the 1930 the most prominent ideologists of the Popular front were not aligned to the CP, nor sympathetic to the USSR. The book by the former guild socialist and Labour party theorist GDH Cole “the People’s Front” was a mass best seller, and John Strachey, Stafford Cripps and others were the main proponents of the theory.

    Louis doesn’t understand that support for the popular front was the main dividing line in the movement, and led to the expulsion of Cripps, Bevan and others from the Labour Party. In British circumstances the distinction between the “Popular Front” and the “United Front” was an entirely scholastic one, because the practical thrust was always towards unity between workers parties – and the Trotskyists excluded themselves from this successful anti-fascist unity, but taking a scholastic and divisive approach based upon hair-splitting meaning of words, rather than looking at the substance of events.

    Louis is also incorrect that the CP in Britain at this time were simply patsies of Stalin. They proved they weren’t by the most significant members of the leadership opposing Stalin’s line in 1939. Indeed, the CPGB was almost unique among official communist parties in never building a cult around any member of the leadership (although they did boost and celebrate Tom Mann, a figure outside the leadership). More importantly, members of the CPGB were leading intellectual opponents of Lysenkoism, and JBS Haldane took an uncompromisingly independent position in defence of science; and in the field of philosophy Christopher Caudwell also challenged much of “dialectical materialist” orthodoxy from within the ranks of the CPGB.

    So the actual historically concrete context for this question is that the 1930s saw a popular front that was essentially comprising the left of the Labour party, the Left Book Club, the ILP and the CP, along with some maverick Tory individuals; where the CP showed independence from Moscow over a number of issues; and where Nazi victory in the war would have seen the smashing of all democratic and social gains by the labour movement by the Nazis.

    In this context – Louis argues for neutrality!

    He even claims that this was the position of Trotskyists in Britain, although in fact he is wrong about that as well. He simply assumes the British followed the same position as the Americans.

    So being completely out of his depth, Louis accuses those with much better knowledge and understanding than him of being “Stalinists”

    He published personal biographical details, jeopardising other comnrades’s livelihoods. This is an increasing issue in Britain, where a socialist activist was recently sacked for comments on a blog, and another activist had his benefit stopped.

    But Louis doesn’t care about the real life situation for actual socialists in Britain, nor does he seek to understand the different social and political situation we operate in. He sits in his ivory tower, arguing the toss about abstract ideas, and displaying that American arrogance, that what happens in the USA must be the same as the rest of the world.

    And he disparagages academics who have made a detailed study of the USSR in this period as being apologists for Stalin, just because they deal with the facts, rather than assuming that Trotsky’s word on these subjects is holy scripture.

    Louis is hopelessly locked in a sterile ideological polarisation that occurred in the 1930s. Lashing out at others who deviate from his scholastic, book learned orthodoxy.

    Comment by andy newman — September 17, 2009 @ 11:26 am

  139. andy newman – Skidmarx demonstrates the mendacity that caused him to be banned.
    I have never once published personal biographical details of the sort that Louis Proyect has done here.

    The first sentence is a demonstration of andy newman’s habit of making baseless accusations.What mendacity? I think I was banned because andy newman and co. can’t cope with intelligent criticism of their failing Respect project. After months of abuse from his house goblins and dropping hints about my identity and dragging my family into the abuse had failed to prevent me posting comments,he finally decidedthat only a ban would do. I now realise that perhaps when Martin Wisse mentioned that andy newman was rude in not informing him of his ban that he was alluding to Lenin’s testamental comment that Stalin was too rude to be a general secretary.
    As for the second sentence, well that’s just an outright lie.A damnable lie.
    I might also comment that andy newman has claimed in the past that threads are individually moderated. Yet an uncontroversial comments I made on one of Derek Wall’s threads was also deleted , leading me to think that andy newman is secretly controlling everything.

    I see that of billj comment that He’s an insecure, Stalinist ego-maniac, nemwan only objected to the insecure part. So now he’s accepted that the “Stalinist” tag is appropriate perhaps we can move on.

    Comment by skidmarx — September 17, 2009 @ 11:50 am

  140. Yes, and the People’s Republic of Britain has been celebrating its sixtieth anniversary this year, proving the correct line of the glorious comrades of the CPGB.

    Comment by ish — September 17, 2009 @ 11:56 am

  141. #139 “Louis is hopelessly locked in a sterile ideological polarisation that occurred in the 1930s. Lashing out at others who deviate from his scholastic, book learned orthodoxy.”

    That’s verging on flattering him Andy. There’s an awful lot of the fundamentally unserious controversialist in Proyect, who delights in shock for the sake of it, and in flame wars (well, it drives up traffic doesn’t it Louis?). Anyone who claims “the British Empire” “killed” “17 million slaves”, while claiming to be learned in anti-imperialism, is a clown who can and should be ignored. In fact, I strongly suspect that being ignored is the one thing he can’t stand…

    Comment by Jonny Mac — September 17, 2009 @ 4:05 pm

  142. #139 Actually I think it was me who mentioned the question of “revolutionary defencism”, not John G.

    I didn’t do it in defence of the Wartime Coalition by the Labour Party with Churchill, but in defence of Trotsky’s “Proletarian Military Policy”, which saw the war as inevitabile and argued that Bolsheviks had to be the “best trade unionists” and the “best soldiers”, in order to transform it into a struggle for working class power.

    This was a very different position to the one argued by the CPGB at the time, which varied its position in accord with Soviet Diplomatic needs and dropped its “Peoples Government” slogan for support for a Coalition. This was in a period in which there’d been no election for 10 years and prior to that the LP had been split in 1931 by MacDonald’s defection to a National Govt. So the independence of the L.P was continually being undermined by the subterfuges of its bureaucracy and the British Ruling Class.

    Andy Newman seems to regard the differences in slogans as “scholastic”, but it was the difference between reform and revolution, working class independence or class collaboration. This became clear France after the war and in Italy, where Togliatti joined a government with the King.

    The British Trotskyists of the W.I.L essentially *did* follow the line of James Cannon and the SWP(USA), whereas the RSL continued to oppose conscription and its members didn’t generally join the forces. I used to know Harry Wicks, who was in the RSL and continue to respect his political heritage, but I don’t agree with the RSL’s position in the War. More to the point, the organisation rapidly declined, whereas the W.I.L grew to several hundred members by the end of the war.

    There may have been numerous people in the CPGB with interesting and independent ideas like Haldane and Wintringham (who was expelled), but Pollitt ultimately did what Moscow told him and Dutt was a mechanical hack.

    After the war, it was Stalin who played a big role in drafting the “British Road to Socialism”, which was a fundamental revision of the CPGB’s line. This is clear from documents in the Soviet archives and has recently been a topic of discussion amongst British and Indian Stalinists (and I MEAN Stalinists!)

    The idea that Stalinism as a political current is completely dead and that this is just a historical parlour game is erroneous.
    Here’s a rather revealing contribution on Stalin’s role in formulating the CPGB’s “British Road to Socialism”, from the Indian journal “Revolutionary Democracy”, first publised in January 2009.

    excerpt:-

    “Stalin not only endorsed the British Road. He helped to draw it up. Why?
    In 1950, the CPGB still had, as its long term programme, for a Soviet Britain, dating from 1935. For a Soviet Britain envisaged a revolutionary transfer of power in Britain.
    By 1950 such a revolutionary transfer of power in Britain was unlikely, to say the least.
    Communists in the United States were being persecuted, victimised, sacked, and convicted of ‘conspiracy to overthrow the state by force and violence.’
    In the United Kingdom communist civil servants were purged in 1948. It was not a good idea to say to all and sundry, ‘Yes, our aim is to overthrow the state by force and violence.’ A new programme was needed, quickly.
    The Communist Party of Great Britain was not able to overthrow the British State by force and violence.
    Its unstated main purpose in life was to prevent the Anglo-US imperialists from overthrowing the Soviet State by force and violence.
    The party’s membership of about 45,000 was fragile, not capable of standing up to persecution.
    Indeed, a majority of Finsbury working class members left the party simply because in 1949 HMS Amethyst, which had no business being up the Yangtse in the first place, was fired on by communist Chinese troops.
    The CPGB’s programme had to look acceptable. And so the British Road was born.”
    full:-

    http://www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv15/finsbury.htm

    Stalinism is still quite a strong current within the Communist left in India, the Phillipines, Nepal and Russia, as well as the “anti-revisionist” parties in the West, such as the NCP & SLP in Britain and the Workers Party of Belgium.

    Most of these organisations think the idea of “21st Century Socialism” is just as revisionist as “Trotskyism”.

    Comment by prianikoff — September 17, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

  143. I have said just about everything I wanted to say on this matter, but I do want to point out to Johnny Mac that the loss of African lives is not just a function of those who died in mid-passage but I wouldn’t be surprised if my friends draped in the Union Jack will take fierce exception to this point as well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_slave_trade#cite_note-68

    As Joseph E. Inikori argues, the history of the region shows that the effects were still quite deleterious. He argues that the African economic model of the period was very different from the European, and could not sustain such population losses. Population reductions in certain areas also led to widespread problems. Inikori also notes that after the suppression of the slave trade Africa’s population almost immediately began to rapidly increase, even prior to the introduction of modern medicines.[69] Owen Alik Shahadah also states that the trade was not only of demographic significance in aggregate population losses but also in the profound changes to settlement patterns, exposure to epidemics, and reproductive and social development potential.[70]

    Comment by louisproyect — September 17, 2009 @ 4:32 pm

  144. Obviously I’m with you Louis on the British empire.
    I don’t know about Cliff, I’ve always found his writings to be pretty facile, particularly on Lenin and Trotsky
    Briefly to return to my point about the opposition. This is slightly a misnomer. There wasn’t really an opposition, in the sense of a coherent organised group unifying all those against the bureaucracy, before Trotsky’s expulsion in the late 20s. Trotsky for example did not even sign the Platform of the 46 and did not publicly support it, even though it was probably written by Preobrazehsky with his consent.
    Its obviously easy to be wise after the event, the reason I think its important is because of the implications for “democratic centralism” as traditionally understood by the left. IMO that incorporated key features of the bureaucratic degeneration of the revolution, which had begun really early, indeed while Lenin in particular was still leading the Bolshevik Party.
    This is obvious if you think about Lenin’s change of position on the state. In 1917 he argued that a workers revolution had to smash the capitalist state and create a new form of state based on Soviets. In 1919 he argued that you could build socialism while using a capitalist state. In other words instead of smashing it, the Bolsheviks needed to take it over. In other words the diametric opposite.
    That’s why Lenin supported measures for bureaucratic efficiency over party democracy. After all if you could build socialism through using a capitalist state apparatus then that all makes sense. He began to wake up to the reality towards the end, but even the reforms suggested in his testament are pathetically weak, compared with the scale of the problem.
    Trotsky suffered by being a late comer and lacked experience in internal party struggles, as well as I think being ideological disoriented for most of the early 1920s. That’s not surprising there had never been the degeneration of a workers revolution before.
    What’s clear to me is that what was missing in the struggle against bureaucractic degeneration was a revolutionary party.
    The opposition while it was intent on maintaining its membership of the party literally could not win. Faced with the question, will you fight to the end, they were almost obliged to capitulate, as Trotsky did until the mid to late 1920s. That’s why Trotsky or indeed any revolutionary opposition should have been prepared to fight to the end right from the beginning. That may have enabled the Bolsheviks to reform itself too. By the time the united opposition was formed, itself a debatable step given the low esteem Zionviev and Kamenev were held in by the working class and party, then the bureaucracy was in almost total control and the counter revolution had already taken place.
    .

    Comment by bill j — September 17, 2009 @ 5:12 pm

  145. Hey Proyect, you have made a new friend:

    http://alekboyd.blogspot.com/2009/09/stalinist-calvin-tucker-ridiculed-by.html

    Congratulations on your service to the international working class!

    Comment by Calvin — September 18, 2009 @ 12:38 am

  146. Did you actually beat somebody so bad that they required reconstructive surgery? My goodness. Remind me never to visit Kensington. What a talented young man you are. Being quoted at length by Hugo Chavez… Headhunter to the stars… Karate chopping popular frontist…

    Very impressive.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 18, 2009 @ 12:53 am

  147. Louis Proyect. If you want to discuss or debate with me, that’s fine. But if so, please take issue with what I have actually said, and argue against the views which I actually espouse.

    You wrote in your post 78 (attacking me):

    “let me put this in terms that even you might understand. For the past period, you have been defending the popular front on Socialist Unity. In Cuba, the popular front meant an alliance between the Cuban Communists and Batista… etc etc”

    Like I said before- what are you on about?

    It’s news to me that I’ve been “defending the popular front” on Socialist Unity. Not that I’m a particular critic of the idea of the ‘popular front’; however as far as I’m aware, I’ve neither defended nor opposed the validity of that concept- on Andy Newman’s blog or or anywhere else for that matter.

    Perhaps my memory is faulty- if so, please show me the examples and I’ll be happy to be corrected.

    But either way. You will find no articles or posts by me which propose that the ‘popular front’ is a universal concept which can or should be applied at all times and places.

    And neither will you find any articles or posts by me which retrospectively endorse the position taken by the Cuban Communist Party (presumably in the 1950s) which you describe as “alliance between the Cuban Communists and Batista”.

    So what on planet Earth are you on about, Mr Proyect?

    Comment by Noah — September 18, 2009 @ 1:39 am

  148. Louis. You have sunk to a level which is shockingly despicable.

    Aleksander Boyd, who delightedly used your attack on Calvin as the basis for an article on his website, is the representative in the UK of the right-wing Venezuelan opposition. Mr Boyd is an advocate of terrorism and torture as methods of defeating Venezuela’s move towards socialism.

    Aleksander Boyd’s extremist right-wing position is clearly evident from the article. Yet instead of recoiling or even distancing yourself from that article, you gaily picked up from Mr Boyd- and repeated- an insinuation against Calvin, made by that vile fascist.

    To the substance of that insinuation.

    Following the 2004 referendum in Venezuela which was won by Hugo Chavez, Calvin made some posts in an internet debate in which some supporters of the oligarchy were participating; the right-wingers making the usual false allegations of fraud…

    Calvin pointed out that Chavez had won the vote fairly, as attested by Jimmy Carter etc; and two right-wing extremists responded with suggestions of violence against Calvin. To which Calvin riposted that, should they attempt such an attack, they might come off much the worse for it; giving a brief example from his past as a person who has, on occasion, had to defend himself.

    Anyway Louis. Whether it is to some extent out of naivety, or purely from sheer malice; it is clear that not only is Mr Aleksander Boyd delighted to team up with you; but it is apparent that you are willing to team up with him.

    Comment by Noah — September 18, 2009 @ 3:59 am

  149. No one’s going to support some rightwing anti-Chavez nutjob against the Tucker bros.
    But it’s impossible to prevent such people misusing an public debate on the left for their own nefarious purposes. It’s what they do.

    I’d merely suggest that people’s true positions aren’t misrepresented.
    This is something that the Noah Tucker has been guilty of in internet debates.
    For instance, a while back on S.U. he insinuated that I was a supporter of privatisation because I criticized Collectivisation and the Great Leap Forward in China.

    Back to the substantive issues.
    Unfortunately the threads have got intertwined here.
    The main piece of right wing nonsense stemming from the CP’s Wartime Popular Front position has been obscured. viz their support for a Wartime Coalition led by Churchill, which A.Newman glorified and justified in his original article, with the backing of John Wight and several members of the CP-B.

    Andy Newman mentioned the name of Aneurin Bevan in relation to this, but he thereby distorts Bevan and Tribune’s real position during the war. Bevan was actually a trenchant critic of Churchill and well to the left of the CPGB. He was in favour of a Labour government replacing Chamberlain and a left-wing critic of Churchill. He was against the bombing of German Cities, against deploying 1 million troops in the Middle East, for opening the Second Front, For the immediate independence of India and the colonies, for an alliance with the USSR etc.
    He was also against the government’s use of anti-strike laws against Trotskyists. Whereas the CPGB, which itself had its paper banned during the Hitler-Stalin Pact, hypocritically incited the government to jail Roy Tearse and ban Socialist Appeal.
    Bevan did not go all the way with his opposition to the Coalition, but he was the best left-labour opponent of the Churchill and the Tories throughout the war. “Labour Take Power” was certainly the correct slogan from 1939 onwards.

    Comment by prianikoff — September 18, 2009 @ 8:08 am

  150. So after having posted my employment details on his website, falsely attributed quotations to me, and ascribed a set of views to me about topics I have never commented on, Proyect has hit a new low.

    When I was first alerted to Proyect’s diatribe, I wrote: “This unprovoked and entirely innacurate McCarthyite personal attack goes beyond even the wildest fabrications written about me by the nutbar-wing of Venezuelan far right”

    Well, an actual Venezuelan fascist has now written to support Proyect, and no doubt this will be recycled on various far right blogs. The fascist Aleksander Boyd, who openly writes about his desire to torture and murder people, was considered to a sufficiently serious threat to public security, that the former Mayor of London banned from entering City Hall.

    If that were all that Proyect had achieved, it would be bad enough.

    But Proyect decided to go a step further, and recycle the the smears of this open admirer of General Pinochet and is recycling his smears on this website.

    Proyect, you are scum.

    Comment by Calvin — September 18, 2009 @ 10:55 am

  151. heavens. what a collection of unpleasant posers.

    Comment by ish — September 18, 2009 @ 11:13 am

  152. Keep whining to yourself Tucker, what would you say to Norm Finkelstein or Israel Shahak when their words are being misrepresented by REAL fascists, not just pro-imperialist right-wingers? Was it wrong for them to write what they did?
    Especially when it was YOU who brought up Venezuela in the first place and it is only YOU who continue throwing in Venezuela in this discussion (that has long since ran its course).

    #152 is on the money.

    Comment by Michael T — September 18, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

  153. #153 is on crack

    Comment by Calvin — September 18, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

  154. …it’s the only rational explanation for why a “socialist” would think it OK to link my employment details to my political activity, and then team up with a Venezuelan fascist to smear me. You sure your name isn’t really Margaret T?

    Comment by Calvin — September 18, 2009 @ 3:08 pm

  155. Prianikoff, you wrote (#150):

    “I’d merely suggest that people’s true positions aren’t misrepresented.
    This is something that the Noah Tucker has been guilty of in internet debates.
    For instance, a while back on S.U. he insinuated that I was a supporter of privatisation because I criticized Collectivisation and the Great Leap Forward in China.”

    Priankoff. You seem to have taken Louis Proyect’s article attacking Andy, Calvin and myself as a cue for you to toss your own grievance (however irrelevant and off-topic) into the pot.

    However, you don’t include any quotes from whatever interchange which we (presumably) had on the subject of land reform in China, or even a link to the relevant thread on the Socialist Unity blog.

    Ie, you have thrown an accusation against me without providing any means by which anyone can look at the facts on which your allegation is supposedly based. In the absence of which, the principles of ‘mud sticks’ and ‘no smoke without fire’ may tend to apply.

    So, Priankoff, please provide the relevant link. Either that, or withdraw your allegation.

    Comment by Noah — September 18, 2009 @ 7:12 pm

  156. Muscle AND humour, boy you must be a catch.

    Comment by Michael T — September 18, 2009 @ 7:56 pm

  157. #156 Sorry Noah, but I’ve continually tried to steer the “Churchill” and “Stalin” threads back to the topics involved (which are by no means simply historical questions).

    Clearly Newman has raised the issue of the Popular Front because its relevant to the Respect party’s current political strategy in Britain. It’s relevant to the Strategy of the “People’s Charter”, for an alliance of “progressives”, both inside the Labour Party and without and its economic programme of a mixed, regulated economy with low interest rates.
    Not least because, this has just received a vote of approval by the TUC in Britain.
    It also has implications in the USA, where the CP has always had a long-term strategy of critical support for the Democratic Party.

    If anything, a separate thread on the Popular Front would be a very useful debate to elucidate this question further. I for one, am rather interested in the whole question of Popular Front versus United Front Labour Candidates in the late 30’s. Two competing stratgies to oppose Appeasment and the National Govt., which came to a head in the Bridgwater Bye-election, where Vernon Bartlett won as a Pop Front candidate and Aylesbury, where Reg Groves, a Trotskyist stood for Labour and achieved the biggest swing to Labour before 1939. At the time, the CPGB frantically tried to get him to stand down for the Liberal, altough his vote did make any difference to the ultimate victory of the Tory.

    http://www.vernonbartlett.co.uk/

    These are all highly relevant issues that the left has tend to develop amnesia about.

    As to the Tucker issue. No comment. I’m not going to get involved other than to defend you against Venezuelan fascists.

    I’m not that interested in what you do for a living. Just to say, I’ve experienced you continual method of trying to get people to “withdraw” statements, or “allegations” you disagree with before and find it a rather stalinist style of debate.

    I’m not making this up, just go look it up yourself.

    The gist was I criticized Maoist collectivisation and the GLF and said that privatisation of agriculture raised production. You said this was “convential wisdom” and accused me of supporting privatisation (which I don’t). I think what you meant was that the during the rectification period after the GLF agriculture grew faster than under privatisation – which may, or may not be true.
    But the question is, why was the rectification period necessary? I think Castro’s critisms of Stalinist collectivisation (which Calvin posted) provide the answer to that. It shouldn’t have been, it was the wrong policy.

    Comment by prianikoff — September 19, 2009 @ 7:28 am

  158. #Priankoff. “You seem to have taken Louis Proyect’s article attacking Andy, Calvin and myself as a cue for you to toss your own grievance (however irrelevant and off-topic) into the pot.”

    I’ve been almost completely relevant and on-topic throughout. I was just commenting on your debating style, which I’ve experienced before. I did look for the link, but it’s too hard to find.

    Suffice it to say I am not a supporter of privatisation, which you falsely insinuated on the basis of some misconstrued comments about the Great Leap Forward and Collectivisation in China.

    re. the more interesting and relevant question of Popular Frontism in the 1930’s a useful link is here
    http://www.vernonbartlett.co.uk/

    It deals with the Pop Front victory in Bridgewater and also the left Labour candidate Reg Groves, who the CPGB pressurised to stand down for a Liberal in Aylesbury.

    Comment by prianikoff — September 19, 2009 @ 7:43 am

  159. Hi Priankoff. So you are unable to adduce any evidence whatsoever for your claim that I have been “guilty” of misrepresenting people’s positions in internet debates, and that I “falsely insinuated” to you a view which you did not hold.

    All you have to rely on is your memory of an encounter on the subject of land reform in China, which presumably we had quite some while ago on the SU forum.

    Normally, somebody would only be considered to be ‘guilty’ of this or that sin or infringement, when some reliable factual info can be produced. And I have to say that the rather vague recollections of somebody who felt him / herself to be aggrieved (and therefore might have a biased or partial memory of what happened during some or other incident on the web) doesn’t amount to anything very much.

    I asked you either to withdraw your allegation against me, or to substantiate it. I can’t for the life of me see what’s so terribly ‘Stalinist’ about me making that perfectly reasonable request.

    But anyway, and although this is now completely off-topic (unless the actual topic of this thread is: are Calvin, Noah and Andy guilty, or have any of them ever been been guilty, separately or together, of anything whatsoever, at any time or place?) it seems that you remember posting a comment on SU which claimed that privatisation of Chinese agrigulture raised production, and that I contested you on this.

    In which case, I was right and you were wrong. The de-collectivisation (not as yet a privatisation in the strictest sense) of farming in China had no positive and sustained effect on the rate of growth of agricultural production.

    You say in your post above that this “may, or may not be true.”

    It is true. You can see for yourself that it’s true, if you can be bothered to look at the published research.

    The productivity increase of Chinese agriculture from 1969 to 1979, under the collective system, was 55%.

    In the subsequent ten years, following de-collectivisation, the productivity increase was 30%.

    Of course, many other factors are involved- eg the weather, pest control problems, state procurement prices, investment in irrigation, machinery & fertilisers, etc.

    But, very clearly, there is no demonstrable positive and sustained effect as a result of de-collectivisation.

    If you want more detail on this, you are most welcome to read my article on the economic history of the Chinese People’s Republic, which you can find at:

    http://21stcenturysocialism.com/article/how_china_rises_01546.html

    The article cites all its factual sources & references.

    Comment by Noah — September 19, 2009 @ 2:47 pm

  160. I just discovered this in the archives. Its useful in terms of orientating on debates in Britain around questions like “popular frontism” and perhaps provides a link between the 1930s and contemporary argument.

    http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/birchall/1972/01/cpgb.htm

    Comment by johng — September 23, 2009 @ 11:19 am

  161. […] that pink: Nancy Astor and Bernard Shaw with Uncle Joe. Stalin nostalgia. Fauxialism, in Venezuelan, Chinese and British […]

    Pingback by Poumishly « Poumista — September 24, 2009 @ 2:27 pm

  162. Louis,
    I thinks it despicable to be detailing peoples working life details in order to add weight to your political argument with them.

    For that your should be repentant…A much more overtly and unrepentantly pro stalinist website is my own Unrepentant Communist site..

    If you find the 21st century socialism comrades too much to stomach then check out one of my recent post and you will probably suffer some sort of apoplectic fit.

    I think if you are a leftist authoritarian, then we should be allowed to flaunt it, dont hide it in the closet! check out
    http://unrepentantcommunist.blogspot.com/2009/12/me-leftist-authoritarian-like-it-says.html

    Comment by Gabriel — April 23, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

  163. > He also insists that the number of executions that took place under Stalin was around 2 million, a figure lower the estimate of other Sovietologists.

    What Getty has established from extensive studies of the documentary archives, particularly during the 1990s when they were more accessible than they are today under Putin, is that somewhere less than 800,000 executions took place and somewhat more than a million died in the Gulag. Rounding it upwards one may say 2 million. Your reference to “other Sovietologists” really smacks of Cold War naivete however. Would you say that the people who charged Saddam Hussein with having masterminded 911 and possessing weapons of mass-destruction ready to go off on 45-minute notice were merely “other Mideast experts”? Your words make it sound like there was never such a thing as Cold War propaganda and the west merely maintained its WWII alliance with Dear Old Uncle Joe for all these years. Like it or not, cranks like Robert Conquest have indeed made it a point of pushing across the most recklessly inflated charges against Stalin and the Soviet Union in general for many decades. You shouldn’t need to consider yourself “pro-Stalin” to find a lot of this reactionary in character.

    To take a related example, does anyone today still remember the charges made about how Saddam Hussein supposedly gassed perhaps as many as 400,000 Kurds? Does anyone know what became of those charges? The last I had heard was some years ago when there was a report which said that perhaps about 5,000 bodies had been found so far and it wasn’t altogether clear what circumstances the victims had died in. Has anyone heard anything more recent and more precise? Now, all right, let’s suppose that it may turn out that some of these atrocity charges made against Saddam Hussein were significantly exaggerated. Does that mean that one should seek for a restoration of the Ba’athist Party to power? Of course not. But does that make the whole matter irrelevant? No, and it’s very irresponsible for any ostensible Leftist to suggest that it would. Spurious charges made up and tossed out casually are how things like the Iraq war get justified to the public. If it’s an easy matter for Bush and Blair to just throw together charges as they like and assume that no one will contest them because to do so would appear pro-Ba’athist then you can expect that they’ll just keep throwing together whatever fake charges they like. So when cranks like Robert Conquest churn out stories alleging 20 million or more being insanely murdered in a few years by Stalin, then it is relevant to restore some factual accuracy to the matter. You may wish to avoid it by saying “But, but, I’m not Stalinist.” But that isn’t really relevant. An atmosphere in which inflated charges can be freely pushed against Saddam Hussein, Joseph Stalin, etc. can never be conducive to the development of anything outside of establishment parameters.

    Apologetics for Stalin only arise when someone starts saying “Well, I really think it was necessary to have the purges to protect the USSR from fascism.” Only a very small minority have ever gone down that route, and certainly Getty does not.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — May 30, 2010 @ 9:55 pm

  164. For me the real issue is not how many people were killed in the USSR. It is rather the failure of the CP’s to effectively resist the rise of fascism, a failure that led to far more many deaths.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 30, 2010 @ 9:58 pm

  165. “[J. Arch Getty] also insists that the number of executions that took place under Stalin was only around 31,000.”

    You said “only”? 31,000 isn’t few people. And they were executed by theyr political oposition. This is a great “human rights violation”! Political violence don’t means only “body count”. A political regime can kill “only few” (no matter what is “few” or “much”) in political repression and made a great evil by its policies towards economy, security, education, health, foreign relations and so on.

    “It should be said that a more intelligent defense of Stalin (I am being charitable here obviously) does not deny that he was a brutal dictator but tries to “contextualize” him and find the silver lining around a dark cloud in socialist history. ”

    I can’t see the logical nexus between “not deny that he was a brutal dictator but tries to ‘contextualize’ him” and “defense of Stalin”. Contextualization is very important in historical research to build causal explanations of historical facts. Karl Marx, in “The 18 brumary of Louis Bonaparte”, contextualize the dictatorship of Napoleon III. You would say that the Marx’s book is a “inteligent defense of Louis Bonapart”?

    Comment by M.B. — June 3, 2013 @ 3:20 pm


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