Brian Pearce

Constant Reader:

The Worker on Hyman Levy's Book

(March 1958)

From The Newsletter, 22 March 1958.
Transcribed by Christian Hogsbjerg.

Bert Ramelson’s review

The most serious feature of Bert Ramelson’s review of Hyman Levy’s new book in the Daily Worker of March 11 is its implicit opposition to the very existence of the State of Israel.

‘Faced with the problem of how a Marxist could justify what has been achieved as a result of ruthless imperialism [Levy] resolves it by simply ignoring historical fact’, wrote Ramelson.

This attitude is not surprising, in view of the resolution passed by the recent Cairo conference, under Soviet-Nasserite leadership, which condemned not just the government or the ruling class of Israel but the State itself as a menace to Arab freedom.

But it compares oddly with what the Stalinist Press wrote in 1948–49. Take, for example, the Labour Monthly of September 1949 (p. 277):

‘The plans of imperialism were also foiled in Palestine ... The Jewish people who had suffered so terribly in their long history, who had been murdered by the million by Hitler, and for whom the Western capitalist countries did not provide security after the war, were firmly determined to fight to the end the battle for their national independence.

‘But such was not the intention of Anglo-American imperialism. The reactionary governments of the Arab countries were thrown against the young Israeli State...’

Again, when Ramelson sneers at Levy’s advocacy that the Soviet Government should ‘subsidize newspapers, books and plays in a language that few under 50 years of age can understand’, presumably he forgets that for a long time – including some time after it had ceased to be true! – the official encouragement of Jewish culture in the USSR was held up to us an example of the enlightened national policy of Stalin.

Incidentally, it seems not to be as well-known as it should be among people interested in these matters that there is a Gypsy theatre in Moscow, called the ‘Romen’ (Romany) Theatre.

Noyes thinks again

Alfred Noyes, the poet, is reported as calling for the British Government to allow independent experts to examine the alleged diaries of Roger Casement.

As head of British propaganda in the USA during the first world war Noyes was responsible for using extracts from the ‘diaries’ to sabotage the campaign to get Casement reprieved.

Whatever one’s view of the probable facts of the matter, it does the old man credit that, being now shaken in his belief in the authenticity of the documents, he should raise his voice for an investigation.

One would like to see a little of the same selfless honesty among prominent Western Stalinists, who must surely by now be doubtful – if they were ever sure – about the genuineness of the Moscow trials.

What a sensation it would cause if, say, Pollitt or Dutt were to call for independent examination of the NKVD records to check on the ‘evidence’ linking Trotsky with the Gestapo!

Machines and tractors

The decision to transfer to the collective farms the machinery formerly owned by the Machine and Tractor Stations has been accompanied by a lively discussion in the Soviet Union of the theoretical as well as the practical problems involved.

Some, who saw the destiny of the collective farms as being transformation into State farms, held that the new measure was a step in the wrong direction.

The comment on this view in Khrushchev’s ‘theses’ on the MTS (given in full in Soviet News of March 7) reflects significantly the pressure for greater control of the economy by the producers themselves.

In effect he says that it is rather the State farms that must become more like collective farms, in so far as powers of self-management of the State farms by their workers ought to be increased. (‘Leninism teaches us that as we advance to communism we must manage the economy on an increasingly broader democratic basis.’)

Marx House gloom

The annual report, of Marx House for 1957–58 – makes gloomy reading, with its account of falling membership, dropping income, reduced number of lectures (‘entirely due to the difficulty in obtaining lecturers’) and increasing dependence on support from abroad.

The Marx Memorial Library contains much very valuable material, some of it not easily accessible elsewhere, and this should be made more widely available.

Perhaps some way can be found to release it from the dead hand which is now obviously killing the organization in charge of it?

What tangled webs

Oh, what tangled webs they weave, whenever they practise to deceive!

According to the Reuter report from Moscow, the volume of the Large Soviet Encyclopedia containing the article on Stalin, which has just appeared, states that ‘Beria, Yagoda and Yezhov ... used Stalin’s “erroneous thesis that the class struggle would intensify” as Socialism progressed to “liquidate a number of men who were honest and faithful to the party.”’

But Yagoda was removed from the headship of the NKVD in September 1936, whereas Stalin’s ‘thesis’ was given to the world at the February–March 1937 plenum of the central committee.

From Arnot to Klugmann

Last week’s World News reveals that ‘on the recommendation of the [Communist Party] history commission, the executive agreed to appoint James Klugmann to prepare the draft of the history of the party’.

Klugmann was the author of From Trotsky to Tito (1951), which was subsequently withdrawn by the party.

R. Page Arnot, originally named as writer of the history draft, appears to have been dropped from the job.

Last updated on 10.10.2011