We’ll keep the Red Flag flying here!

I still call myself a Marxist, because it was Karl Marx in his book ‘Das Kapital’, which I read in my teens, which really made me understand things like the law of the surplus value of labor, which enabled capitalism to exploit the workers. Also to appreciate the science of Historical and Dialectical Materialism, which teaches the inevitability of progress from primitive communism, tribal society, thru feudalism and capitalism to Socialism and hopefully Communism Proper, the final self-governing utopia where the State and all artificial regulators like money, police, armies, law courts, prisons, etc. have gone.

This final stage is very idealistic, and I now would be quite satisfied with achieving the Socialist stage. The Communist stage would need a very high level of mass participation in the running of society, and the Socialist experience in the Soviet Union and the allied Socialist countries does not look promising. It seems rather than the masses learning to govern themselves through a one-Party system or one-Party dominated coalition, a privileged ruling clique or bureaucratic ruling class took over. While the basis of Socialism remained, with full employment, security in old age, good public services, the abolition of illiteracy, equality for women, cheap rents and public transport, good health services available to all, cheap basic necessities, etc. the system was distorted by this bureaucratic clique creaming off the best. Also the centralized State monopolies tended to be inefficient.

In my view the Bolsheviks in Russia led by people like Lenin and Trotsky made many serious mistakes very early on, which laid the foundations for Stalinism and all the horrors which followed, not just in the Soviet Union, but copied in Mao’s China, in Kim Il-Sung’s North Korea, and most horrifying of all carried to excess in Pol Pot’s Kampuchea (Cambodia). The crushing of the Kronstadt rebellion by Trotsky’s Red Army under the orders of Lenin crushed the original aims of the Revolution in my opinion, and consolidated a bureaucratic dictatorship which became more ruthless under Joseph Stalin. Eventually this bureaucracy caused the break-up of the Soviet Union and the failure of Socialism in the allied Warsaw Pact countries, as well as in places like Yugoslavia and Albania. A domino effect indeed.

Marxism-Leninism made the fatal mistake of exercising the Dictatorship of the Proletariat thru a single Party or a coalition (as in North Korea, East Germany and Czechoslovakia) dominated by the Marxist-Leninist Party. This situation came about during the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, a country which never had a democratic tradition. All Socialist and anarchist alternatives to the Bolsheviks were crushed, and the final nail in the coffin of democracy was when Leon Trotsky and Lenin crushed the Krondstadt demands for a real people’s Socialist democracy.

The term ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ really is just another word for democracy. Assuming the proletariat or working-class makes up the majority (and by working-class I mean anybody who labors for a salary rather than living off unearned income) then it just means the majority’s wishes rule. However I consider the term oudated since it does not recognize or accommodate the rights of minorities. I would therefore reject the term Dictatorship of the Proletariat, while recognizing the need for some stability by establishing a Socialist Constitution.

Under such a constitution Socialism would be enshrined as the basis of the economic and political system, thus the working-class would be permanently in power. However their wishes could be expressed through any number of political parties and organizations, so if one Socialist government became too corrupt and bureaucratic it could be voted out and another political party voted in to administer their brand of Socialism. For the record I maintain the Yugoslav system of Market Socialism with competing cooperatives and individual publicly owned enterprises was superior to the huge State monopolies, though some things such as the public transport networks, the telephone and postal systems, the utility companies which all require national grids or networks are best run as a State monopoly.

A Socialist Constitution would need to be protected by an elected President in charge of the security forces to insure no political party gained power in an election and tried to dismantle Socialism as the basis for society. This is not undemocratic; rival political parties in Western countries have run capitalism for years, under written or unwritten constitutions defending the status quo. A Socialist Constitution would establish some stability, but would not preclude a return to capitalism if the population really desired it. They would, however, have to first reject the Socialist Constitution in a referendum by a substantial majority and replace it with an alternative constitution.

In this way Socialism could be protected from attempts by successive governments with slender parliamentary majorities, often minority governments if the total vote is taken into account, to privatize industries and services. This would only be possible if a substantial majority of the eligible electorate voted in a Constitutional referendum to replace the Socialist Constitution with an alternative one.

I therefore am happy to call myself a Marxist, since it was his ideas, along with those of people like Friedrich Engels and the British pioneer of the cooperative movement, Robert Owen, who inspired the early Labour Party, which sadly has now rejected Socialism and ceased to represent the working class.

We have a new party on the Left called Left Unity, and hopefully this can stimulate a move towards a real Socialist or Marxist alternative to the three main at present capitalist parties. It is hoped that if it doesn’t achieve power itself, Left Unity will do for the Left what the UKIP has done for the Right of politics, i.e. force Labour to move Left and closer to its Marxist and Socialist traditions. Restoration of the part of Clause IV calling for public ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and exchange would be the first and most important step towards achieving this objective.

Russia – what did they expect?


There is a lot of protest about the clampdown on freedom to demonstrate and the anti-gay promotion legislation in the Russian Federation. My response is, what did they expect? Given how the West treated Russia after the break-up of the Soviet Union, and how the Russian people themselves voted in various elections, the West and the Russian people really have themselves to blame.

Russia has never had a tradition of democracy. The ruthless, autocratic Tsarist regime with its vast empire was overthrown in early 1917 and replaced by the short-lived Karensky government, then came the Bolshevik Revolution later that year and, like in Tasarist times, all opposition was crushed, even Socialist alternatives to the government line. Lenin and Trotsky laid the foundations for the Stalinist terror which followed, which only mellowed when he died, but still it remained a bureaucratic dictatorship.

After the break-up of the Soviet Union, which incidentally I still regard as a tragedy, opportunities were missed which could have made the Russian Federation into a real democracy. In fact, the Soviet Union itself could have survived in a more democratic form, perhaps as a looser federation of Socialist republics which allowed free elections with other political parties competing to administer Socialism.

Unfortunately, although Gorbachev was trying to implement reforms such as ‘perestroika’ and ‘glasnost’, a hard-line coup overthrew him in August 1991, and although this was crushed, his successor Boris Yeltsin presided over the break-up of the USSR.

The Soviet Union, along with the other Socialist countries, had achieved much despite the bureaucratic ruling clique and the inefficient State monopolies. This included full employment, security in old age, good public services, the elimination of illiteracy, good health services, etc. However there was a lack of freedom, and I cannot help feeling Russia was probably one of the worst places to experiment with Socialist revolution. The autocratic tradition of the Tsarist regime was carried over to the Bolshevik one very early on.

Then finally we came to 1991 and the break-up of the Soviet Union. The Warsaw Pact was disbanded, so logically, now the Cold War was over, NATO too should have been disbanded. Instead former members of the Warsaw Pact, excluding the Russian Federation, were invited to join the Western NATO military alliance. Is it really any wonder the Russian Federation felt threatened? As countries in the Soviet sphere of influence for years fell into the arms of NATO? Little attempt was made to reach out to the Russian Federation itself, and disbanding NATO would have been the first step.

Then we have the domestic Presidential and other elections in the Russian Federation. Although they became members of other political parties, as in many other former Socialist countries, the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats remained largely in power, and were voted back in by the electorate. For Heaven’s sake, Putin was a hard-line KGB man, so what do people expect? A benevolent democracy?

After the fall of the USSR many Russians demanded the rehabilitation of Joseph Stalin, and called for a new hard-man to rule the country. This was surely mainly due to the West’s continuing hostile attitude to post-Soviet Russia, and the encroachment of the aggressive NATO military bloc to the very borders of the Russian Federation itself. Even into countries formerly part of the USSR. Former Socialist countries now in NATO are Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania and Croatia, with probably more clamoring to join. The three Baltic states were part of the Soviet Union since WWII.

There was a big opportunity in the 1989-1991 period to end the Cold War, disband the two rival military blocs, and create an atmosphere in which true democracy and freedom could flourish, be it under a Socialist constitution or some other kind of constitution. Instead the Russian Federation has been hounded into a corner by the expanding NATO states, and the Russian people have responded by electing hard-liners into power, former KGB men, and many longing for a new ruthless Stalin-like figure to confront the West and knock the country into shape.

The West, and particularly the USA, is largely to blame for this state of affairs. Once the Cold War was over, all nations should have come together under the UN umbrella and created a more peaceful, democratic era where various economic and political systems could flourish without restricting freedom. This great opportunity was squandered, and now the result is an increasingly dictatorial Russian Federation which feels threatened by the eastward expansion of NATO and the continued existence of Western nuclear weapons presumably still targeted on the Russian Federation and its people. This is not the way to achieve a peaceful world and the abolition of nuclear weapons worldwide which Barack Obama and many others have said they want to achieve..


Conscientious Objection to Military Service

I recently read an on-line autobiography of a famous medium who was a CO in the Second World War because he couldn’t kill anybody, knowing the trauma spirits experienced when suddenly catapulted into the next world.

What I couldn’t understand was that, unlike some of his fellow conscientious objectors, he was willing to don military uniform and to do work which directly assisted the war effort. So he was helping to build railways and military roads, and even load ships with military supplies. Meanwhile his wife worked in a munitions factory, and his stepson was bombing civilians and others in Germany and German occupied countries.

Each must decide for themselves and live with their own conscience and beliefs, but I find it a little illogical. Having said that on analyzing my own pacifist beliefs I realize it is the actual killing or pulling of the trigger which is impossible for pacifists to do. In my case I can perfectly well see the need for armed police at least in certain situations, and for the need for them and security forces to shoot to kill in certain extreme circumstances, such as when facing armed criminals or terrorists about to detonate a bomb.

However I doubt I could ever pull the trigger myself, but am willing to let others do it for me. Which means were I younger I should never apply to join the police or any security force.

This brings to mind a pacifist I knew years ago who became a security guard, but when I questioned him as to what he would do if someone tried to steal the money he was paid to protect he said he’d just let them take it as he couldn’t use violence against them. This is of course a very dishonest policy; accepting a job when you know you could never carry it out.

What alternative service would I have been willing to do were I to face conscription? In fact it was abolished a few years before I would have been called-up, and anyway my physical deformities would probably have excluded me. I would have been willing to work in the medical corps, maybe in the catering corps, but would never agree to put on uniform.

What I would have preferred, but what would have been impossible of course, would have been to go to Germany and join their medical teams treating soldiers and civilians injured by Allied weapons. Of course this would never have been allowed by either side, and on arrival in Germany I’d have been imprisoned.

Nowadays it is much more complicated as there is no conscription but our taxes are used to pay for illegal weapons of mass destruction like Trident and, of course, for military escapades overseas. People have tried unsuccessfully to withhold taxes they consider would be used for military purposes, but most of us do not even have that option since PAYE means taxes are deducted from salaries before we even see them.

Kronstadt Rebellion

This event remained hidden from me during my membership of the British Communist Party and in the years I was politically active in the peace movement. Eurocommunists, Trotkysists and Stalinists all kept silent about this crucial event in Soviet history, or else it was dismissed as merely one battle in the Civil War which followed the Great October Socialist Revolution. To criticize the crushing of the Kronstadt rebellion would mean not just attacking Trotsky, but Lenin himself. It would mean, as others have said, that Lenin and Trotsky among other Bolsheviks, rather than Stalin, instituted the repressive regime which allowed a bureaucratic ruling clique to emerge and led to Stalin’s show trials, the purges and ultimately to the hard-line coup against Gorbachev and the final collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Stalin and Trotsky are considered by various Marxist-Leninist factions as legitimate targets for criticism, but Vladimir Illyich Lenin is not!

Clearly the reason this revolt is so little discussed and analyzed by Marxist-Leninists is that if accepted as a genuine rebellion by soldiers and sailors who helped the Bolsheviks to power in the Revolution it would make Lenin and Trotsky responsible for all that followed, including the reign of terror and the purges of Stalin and the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It was, in fact, not Stalin who crushed true Socialist democracy, but Lenin, Trotsky and their allies in the Bolshevik Party, so enabling a bureaucratic elite, a new ruling class, to take over the organs of State power, institute a regime of terror, and ultimately,  to destroy the Soviet Union itself.

It can be seen from the aims of the rebellion as set out below that it was perfectly reasonable and did not open the way for the overthrow of Socialism. It has been associated with the anarchist movement, but that in my view is still a leftwing movement closely allied to the Communist ideal for a self-governing utopia.

Reading the demands below, it seems to me all they call for is democracy for the working class, peasantry and their allies under a Socialist Constitution; nowhere is there anything which would advocate the establishment of  any pre-Socialist, Tsarist, feudalist or capitalist system.  Rather they set out an agenda which would have allowed the young Soviet state to develop into a true Socialist democracy.

According to Wikipedia, these were the demands of the Kronstadt rebels:

Petropavlovsk resolution

On February 26, delegates from the Kronstadt sailors visited Petrograd to investigate the situation. On February 28, in response to the delegates’ report of heavy-handed Bolshevik repression of strikes in Petrograd (claims which might have been inaccurate or exaggerated), the crews of the battleships  Petropavlosk and Sevastopol held an emergency meeting, which approved a resolution raising 15 demands:

  1. Immediate new elections to the Soviets; the present Soviets no longer express the wishes of the workers and peasants. The new elections should be held by secret ballot, and should be preceded by free electoral propaganda for all workers and peasants before the elections.
  2. Freedom of speech and of the press for workers and peasants, for the Anarchists,, and for the Left Socialist parties.
  3. The right of assembly, and freedom for trade union and peasant associations.
  4. The organisation, at the latest on 10 March 1921, of a Conference of non-Party workers, soldiers and sailors of Petrograd, Kronstadt and the Petrograd District.
  5. The liberation of all political prisoners of the Socialist parties, and of all imprisoned workers and peasants, soldiers and sailors belonging to working class and peasant organisations.
  6. The election of a commission to look into the dossiers of all those detained in prisons and concentration camps.
  7. The abolition of all political sections in the armed forces; no political party should have privileges for the propagation of its ideas, or receive State subsidies to this end. In place of the political section, various cultural groups should be set up, deriving resources from the State.
  8. The immediate abolition of the militia detachments set up between towns and countryside.
  9. The equalisation of rations for all workers, except those engaged in dangerous or unhealthy jobs.
  10. The abolition of Party combat detachments in all military groups; the abolition of Party guards in factories and enterprises. If guards are required, they should be nominated, taking into account the views of the workers.
  11. The granting to the peasants of freedom of action on their own soil, and of the right to own cattle, provided they look after them themselves and do not employ hired labour.
  12. We request that all military units and officer trainee groups associate themselves with this resolution.
  13. We demand that the Press give proper publicity to this resolution.
  14. We demand the institution of mobile workers’ control groups.
  15. We demand that handicraft production be authorised, provided it does not utilise wage labour.