Brian Pearce

Constant Reader:

Oh, Mr Chancellor!

(March 1958)

From The Newsletter, 15 March 1958.
Transcribed by Christian Hogsbjerg. by Christian Hogsbjerg.

Church and State

In the February issue of New Hungary, organ of the British-Hungarian Friendship Society, a report of a discussion in the Hungarian National Assembly includes the following:

‘Chancellor Janos Mate, a Catholic priest, spoke appreciatively of improved relations between Church and State.

“The counter-revolutionaries damaged and destroyed churches, while the revolutionary workers’ and peasants’ government is restoring them,” he said.’

Well, there it is. You may have thought hitherto that the Hungarian rebels were a lot of Catholic Action boys, rarin’ to put Cardinal Mindszenty in power. But it turns out that more probably they were Spanish-type anarchists, intent on church-burning.

Whichever way you slice this stuff, it’s still boloney.

Dr Kettle’s advice

‘The people of Hungary live to fight another day,’ writes Arnold Kettle in the March Marxism Today. But he doesn’t mean what you and I mean; for he goes on to tell us that ‘at a grim cost the socialist revolution has been saved’.

In the same article, by the way, he makes a mysterious reference to some recent British ex-Stalinist having made ‘a passage from communism to open bourgeois liberalism via Trotskyism’. No name, of course.

Incidentally, I hear that Dr Kettle recently shouted to a friend who was offered a Newsletter leaflet: ‘Don’t read it – it’s Trot stuff!’

One wonders if he has applied this principle to what some consider a major Marxist contribution to his own subject – Literature and Revolution, by L.D. Trotsky. (What prospects, by the way, of a review in Marxism Today of the recent reprint of that remarkable book?)

Lenin on the Jews

Hyman Levy’s study of the Jewish question reminds me of a once-famous statement of Lenin’s, made in a lecture he gave in Switzerland on the Russian revolution of 1905:

‘The Jews provided a particularly high percentage (compared with the total Jewish population) of leaders of the revolutionary movement. In passing, it should be said to their credit that today the Jews provide a relatively high percentage of representatives of internationalism compared with other nations.’

This statement, though included in the useful pamphlet What Lenin Said about the Jews, compiled by R.F. Andrews (Andrew Rothstein) and published by the Communist Party in 1936, practically disappeared from circulation in Stalinist literature after 1937.

It had become one of those items from what were still called ‘the immortal writings of great Lenin’ which it was not done to publicize, because they reflected too sharply upon the practice of would-be-great Stalin.

Worker’s Notebook chauvinism

In the same connexion, I note that Walter Holmes, in his Worker’s Notebook in the Daily Worker of February 28, refers to the economist Paul Einzig as ‘the Transylvanian oracle of the Financial Times’.

That Einzig is an enemy of the working class is undoubted, but to use his national origins against him is top much like the Mosleyite approach to politics, which would make the most significant thing about the Cohen Council the name of its chairman.

Chauvinism of this sort, previously anathema, began to be injected into the British Communist Party in 1935, and developed rapidly in the years immediately following.

Challenge, the organ of the Young Communist League, used to refer to Franco’s soldiers from Morocco as ‘black troops’ and publish ‘anti-wog’ type cartoons about them.

That Franco was able to use these Moorish regiments at all was, of course, a result of the Spanish communists’ refusal to call for recognition of the right of Morocco to self-determination, ‘in order not to antagonize’ the Spanish (and French) bourgeoisie.

William Paul’s best-seller

William Paul, a famous communist propagandist of the 1920s, has died. The Daily Worker of March 11 recalled that ‘his book on the State ... was a bestseller towards the end of the first world war’.

It was indeed, and The State, Its Origin and Function makes good reading even today. Thus:

‘The revolutionary socialist denies that State ownership can end in anything other than a bureaucratic despotism ... Industry can only be democratically owned and controlled by the workers electing directly from their own ranks industrial administrative committees.’

Another famous work of Paul’s was Communism and Society, published in 1922. Communist Party branches now discussing The British Road to Socialism would find it stimulating. For example:

‘If the communists did get a majority in the House of Commons they would destroy the political power of capitalism and hand over all governmental functions to the new industrial government that would have its being in the local and national administrative committees created and built up by the working class ...’

Rothstein and Ulbricht

THE recent troubles in Ulbrichtland remind me of a curious incident at the ‘brains trust’ held by the British-Soviet Friendship Society in London’s Conway Hall, shortly after the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party.

Pat Sloan, John Platts-Mills and Andrew Rothstein disgraced themselves by the frivolity and evasiveness of their replies to questions; the only member of the panel who seemed to appreciate the seriousness of the occasion was the Rev. Stanley Evans.

One persistent questioner kept demanding to know what the ‘brains’ thought of the statement then just made by Ulbricht that ‘Stalin had done a lot of harm to the Soviet Union’.

At length Rothstein replied: ‘Yes, Ulbricht was reported as saying that, and you, being a Trotskyist, agree with him.’

The Reasoner pamphlet by Joseph Redman on the changes in the British Communist Party in 1929 and how they were made contains the probable reason why Rothstein was so bitter against Ulbricht. What a whiff from the Stalinist snake-pit!

On workers’ councils

A BOOK about workers’ councils, incorporating the experiences of Hungary, Poland and Yugoslavia in recent years, would be a useful contribution to the literature of the movement just now. I wonder if anybody is writing one?

Looking through a file of the Daily Worker recently I noticed a letter in the issue of September 28, 1936, from Pat Sloan:

‘For the purposes of a book which I am writing on “Soviets,” I want all the material I can get on Soviets outside Russia – dealing with Germany in 1918, the Hungarian and Bavarian Soviet Republics, the occupation of the factories in Italy in the autumn of 1920 and Saxony in 1923, and anything that has been published on Soviets in Cuba in 1933–34 and Asturias in 1934.’

This book appears never to have been completed.

Presumably developments in Spain made Sloan realize that to be keen on ‘Soviets’ was now ‘anti-Soviet’ – so instead he gave us, in May 1937, his book Soviet Democracy in praise of the Stalin Constitution which had liquidated the last vestiges of the original Soviet system in Russia!

Last updated on 10.10.2011