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A leaflet distributed by the CPGB(M-L) (the M-L stands for More-Letters) first in June 2012 attempts to  briefly explain their position on Trotskyism: why it is anti-Leninist and counterrevolutionary, and why we ought to be Stalinists. [Read here] I don’t know what kind of leafleting session this must have been – in which communities can they go where people have a basic understanding of the concepts involved? More to the point, are there really enough people concerned about these questions to justify a leaflet? This confusion aside, there are some serious flaws with the old arguments presented, and with the assumption that Trotskyism and Leninism are directly opposed.

The writer begins by criticising Leon Trotsky’s most important theoretical contribution: the theory of Permanent Revolution – the theory that socialist revolution must occur in all capitalist countries, not just in one country alone. It is not a proper criticism, as the writer does not start by explaining the argument in favour of the theory. It is worth understanding that Marx and Engels had the same basic idea. One of the earliest expressions of it was in Friedrich Engels’s Principles of Communism, written in 1847. He answers the question of revolution in one country alone by saying:

“By creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the peoples of the Earth… into such close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens to the others. … It is a universal revolution and will, accordingly, have a universal range.”

Marx looked at the Paris Commune of 1871 and said that it could have only lasted if the same revolutionary activity was mirrored in Germany and Prussia. V.I. Lenin also seemed to adopt the theory, and in December 1917 wrote a short article, For Bread and Peace, that ended: “The socialist revolution that has begun in Russia is… only the beginning of the world socialist revolution.” The alternative proposed by Josef Stalin was a theory of Socialism in One Country. (In Isaac Deutscher’s essay on the emergence of the theory, he argues

An almost perfect leaflet from May 2012

An almost perfect leaflet from May 2012

that Stalin formulated it primarily to propose the opposite to Trotsky.) Even in a country that stretched as far as the Soviet Union, it still found itself isolated, surrounded by capitalist hostility. Weak working class leadership around the world and British and American interference combined made this dream impossible, but it is not enough to blame Churchill: the theory itself can’t deal with capitalist hostility. It isn’t a case of “having the temerity to go on and try to build socialism”. This doesn’t mean I cannot oppose imperialism in North Korea or Cuba, just because I don’t share the same optimism about socialism in those countries. In general I have found Trotskyists broadly agree with the aims of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, even if they apply Tony Cliff’s “state capitalist” model to the country. Stalinists today often set up a false dichotomy, that you must support a country absolutely or not at all. You are either with the Free Syrian Army, or you are with Assad, for example.

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I’m looking to write some rebuttals to the publications by the London-based Stalin Society, with the aim of being “With Lenin Against Stalin“. By Friday or Saturday, I should have a response up to the GPGB(M-L)’s leaflet, ‘Trotskyism is a tool of the capitalists…‘, but for the much longer texts of the Stalin Society, I’d much prefer to work with someone else, preferably with a good knowledge of Soviet history. It won’t be necessary to defend every Trotskyist organisation, every stupid statement made by the Socialist Worker, or everything Trotsky wrote: just some of the more serious false accusations about his theories and life.

This isn’t an urgent matter I’ll admit, but if the Stalin Society or the CPGBML or the New Communist Party gain any popularity then it will be necessary to win the argument, so let’s be prepared.

If you are interested let me know in the comments, giving me a way to contact you.

Response to Tom Streithorst’s ‘Marginal Marx’, a book review of Karl Marx: a nineteenth century life.

Leftists everywhere must have enjoyed the moment yesterday when they realised it was the 195th birthday of Karl Marx. It’s a meaningless anniversary of course, but this kind of thing serves as a reminder for how relevant and applicable some aged political theory can be. I was rudely interrupted from this line of thought when I stumbled across a piece by a five-year-old journalist who has never read anything by Karl Marx and who dismisses supporters of the labour theory of value as ‘tedious’.

Streithorst points out that Marx’s philosophy is indebted to Hegel, Ricardo, Adam Smith, and others. This is no secret and Marxists, as far as I’ve seen, have no illusions about this. The mistake is in saying that the labour theory of value was already outdated by the time Capital was being written. If this was about the Ricardist model then there might have been a fraction of a point. But Marx brought his own substantial changes to the theory, most notably the concept of abstract social labour. The theory of value and surplus value explains how uncompensated labour allows a section of society to become a ruling class and alleviate itself from the burden of its own necessary labour. This was true in different ways in feudal society, plantation slavery, 19th century capitalism, and remains an injustice  and the backbone of capitalism today.

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Last Friday Hank Green of Vlogbrothers uploaded the boldly titled 4-minute video North Korea: Explained. It was a decent introduction to the current stare-off and will hopefully encourage more people to talk seriously and without phobia or sensation about the country, but unsurprisingly Hank is very Ameri-centric in his outlook, putting too much trust into his own country’s terrifying military power.

He rightly points out that the DPRK could launch a nuclear attack against South Korea, Japan, and Guam, but “almost certainly will not.” US military occupies much of South Korea, and so against these two huge allies, DPRK does not compare. It is also true that the provocations coming from the North are nothing particularly new – as any casual observer of their state media can tell you – although it is not quite like anything we’ve seen recently, particularly with the suspension of work at the Kaesong industrial zone and encouraging ambassadors to leave for their safety. But the nuclear weapons of the US are far more the greater threat to Asia: this was neglected to mention. Between 1945 and 1992, there were 1,054 nuclear weapons tests conducted by the only country that has used nuclear weapons in warfare. Is anyone really naive enough to think that the US government is above killing foreigners?

The claim that everyone and their mums gets sent to a concentration camp is really unknowable at this point. Hank admits that we know very little about the DPRK’s political leaders and day-to-day decision-making. The same critical thinking should be applied to incarceration. When Google Maps claimed to have marked all the main prison camps, they provided no evidence but it was generally treated as factual, when it’s perfectly possible that some of them could have been farms. If we find out that North Korea has a prison population like Mississippi or Louisiana, I’d be more likely to believe the huge claims about concentration camps. But for now, there is enough confirmed tyranny for us to not rely on conjecture.

Hank rightly answers that North Korea is not communist, but for the wrong reasons. He weirdly sites the fact that they have some kind of show-elections. It would be more appropriate to consider the consistent poverty and divide in class. Inequality in the North is even worse than in the strongly capitalist South with its very limited welfare. Of course “communist state” is a stupid term: ‘socialism’ is a better word here.*

Anti-Americanism can be presented dramatically and irrationally but it is essentially a legitimate worldview. Looking past “South: Good, North: Bad” is essentially for any serious discourse. Alternative views aren’t that hard to find, and you don’t even have to look to the nutjobs at the Korean Friendship Association. Kim Young-ik, a South Korean, wrote in the Socialist Worker newspaper (UK) on the 6th a short piece titled US rhetoric and sanctions ramp up dangerous tension with North Korea. He says that “Socialists should not support such actions by North Korean rulers. But their actions and rhetoric are the result – not the cause – of tensions ramped up by the US.” He goes on to claim, like others, that the joint US-ROK military excercises are part of an attempt to extend American imperialism: “It is an open secret that these exercises simulate an invasion into North Korea.”

*Hank was just answering questions from Google’s auto-fill, one of which was: “Is North Korea communist?”

It is also worth mentioning that China, at least formally, is not North Korea’s only ally. Cuba, Russia, and Cambodia are also counted. Hank says that China is NK’s only ally.

A response to the OpinionPanel article Di Canio’s views don’t matter by Chris Jaffray. Quotes from the original article are in bold.

The first point made in this article has been made by all the right-wing press already: why does it matter all of a sudden? This is not a serious criticism or reason to stop talking about the issue. I agree though! He gave the straight-arm salute to supporters in a Lazio match back in 2005, and was rightly fined £7,000 and suspended for a game, but little attention was given after that. Having already made his name in club football in this country, anti-fascists should have been talking about this already. But now is of course the best time to grill him for his sympathy for Italian fascism, since a change of career means he would be in the media’s attention anyway.

“Being a Premier League manager is no serious platform to spout fascist ideology”

A Premier League manager is someone that thousands of young people will look up to, both Sunderland fans and other keen footballers. Cameras will be on him in the training ground, in the stadium, and in live interviews afterwards. It is true that defending Mussolini and showing off his awful tattoos won’t be the focus of his work at Sunderland FC, but it is at least giving these principles some legitimacy. Having sporting heroes displaying fascistic views and iconography might only give the far-right an inch, but an inch is all they need. It also undermines work done by the campaign to Kick Racism out of Football and will encourage a minority of football fans who start racist chants, which in turn reinforces the awful ‘football hooligan’ stereotype, doing nothing good for the image of the sport. It doesn’t make sense to not politicise this issue, when you consider the media presence, heritage, and wealth of our top football league.

“Also, even if he were a fascist (which is ambiguous) and wished to express his point of view, we should still not seek to ban him from management or interrogate him.”

Di Canio has stated, “I am a fascist.” I don’t know if there was something not communicated properly through the translation, but it sounds pretty unambiguous, does it not? Maybe you mean his excuse about fascism ‘in its milder form’ – whatever that means – is not seen as all that disturbing in Italy. The only thing to learn from this, if it is true, is that Italian governments since the National Fascist Party have not done enough to slam Mussolini. Why should we care what Di Canio’s standards are anyway? We have our own ongoing history of fighting fascism, from Cable Street to the EDL.

The idea that trying to shut fascists up is oppressive and they should be allowed to speak only shows that you, like me, are probably in a privileged position that prevents you from being one of the people most victimised by popular fascism. The straight-arm salute was an insult to past victims of totalitarianism, those who fought Nazism in WW2, and to footballers facing racism now. Ex-West Ham goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, a Trinidad & Tobago international, was surprised and offended by this behaviour and believes there is no place for extreme politics in football. The false appeal to free speech is typical of liberal analyses as it is totally void of social context and appeals only to an abstract noun. Giving people like Di Canio and Greek Giorgos Katidis a place in a top football league and therefore the mainstream media could be more problematic even than the relegation of Sunderland FC.

“Although Di Canio’s views probably bear no impact on British politics, they probably have something to contribute on the nature of Italian politics. Mussolini, after all, was no Hitler.”

Comparing people to Hitler is a very easy way to display them in a good light. Who else is ‘a Hitler?’ Anti-Semitism, fascism, and the fact that they considered each other allies are probably similarities enough. Fascism of course has a threat in British politics. With Labour’s gradual move to become essential and ideological ally to the Lib Dems, there is no prominent left-wing oppositional party. This leaves room for anti-immigrant and white nationalist politics to act as the only real alternative. So I’ll stick with UAF’s stance: a ‘No Platform’ policy.