Brian Pearce

Constant Reader:

Socialism and the Struggle against War

(January 1959)

From The Newsletter, 31 January 1959.
Transcribed by Christian Hogsbjerg.

With much in Peter Cadogan’s letter (January 17, p. 24) about the lessons to be drawn from the suffragette experience for the anti-rocket-base campaign today, I am in agreement.

But it should be pointed out that the Marxists of 1910–14, though they waged special anti-war campaigns, never separated the struggle against war from the struggle for socialism, but always brought to the fore the real causes of war and real road to its abolition.

And why does Cadogan say that the struggle for socialism was not ‘on the agenda in 1910–14’? Was it ‘on the agenda’ in 1917? And if in Russia, why not here?

Further, why the identification of socialism with the Independent Labour Party?

Lenin, in 1912, wrote of this party as being ‘“independent” only of socialism, and very dependent indeed upon liberalism’ – though, he noted, ‘even in the ILP the protest against Liberal-Labour politics is growing’.

In the Stalin manner

Anybody who hopes that the new History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union will be substantially more objective than the notorious Short Course of 1938 had better stop hoping, if the chapters on 1917–20, recently published in the Moscow journal Kommunist, are typical of the whole.

As in the old days, the authors contrive to tell us in some detail the story of the revolution and the civil war without recognizing the part played by the leader of the October insurrection and organizer of the Red Army.

The only mention accorded to Trotsky is in connexion with his dispute with Lenin over tactics at the Brest-Litovsk peace conference – of which a much over-simplified account is given. (As usual, the list of members of the ‘war faction’ omits Dzerzhinsky, he having become one of the saints of Stalinist mythology; a statue to him was recently unveiled in Moscow.)

Oh yes; we do also learn that Trotsky was too fond of tsarist officers and had the wrong idea about the comparative importance of the eastern and southern fronts.

Omission – and admission

Nevertheless, it should not go unremarked that these chapters omit any mention of the alleged conspiracy by Trotsky and Bukharin in 1918 to murder Lenin, which bulked big in the ‘evidence’ at Bukharin’s trial in 1938.

This amounts to an admission that the charge was false.

When are British Communist Party members going to demand a plain, explicit statement from their leaders about the Moscow trials which perverted the thinking of a generation of communists? Perhaps at this year’s congress?


‘We should declare our support for men who come out on strike even against the instructions of the unions – especially where it can be seen that by following the usual negotiating machinery the job in dispute would be finished before the case could be settled.

‘We should support the formation of inter-branch link-ups and organize rank-and-file movements where they do not already exist.’

No, that is not a quotation from the report of the rank-and-file Conference called by those terrible Newsletter people, nor from any of the numerous follow-up meetings held since.

It comes from the report of a rank-and-file conference held in September 1933, on the initiative of a paper called the Militant Trade Unionist.

Signatories to the call for the conference were Tom Mann, Alex Gossip, Percy Collick, Bert Carter and (of course) Jack Tanner.

Auld acquaintance

While selling The Newsletter outside the Communist Party’s ‘Burns Night’ meeting in St Pancras Town Hall, I noticed, among the party dignitaries who passed me on their way in, Bob Stewart, a veteran leader of British communism, now head of the department which expels members from the party.

He it was who, at the Fifth World Congress of the Communist International, on July 8, 1924, called for demonstrations everywhere to Egyptian consulates to demand the release of eleven Egyptian communists who had been arrested by the country’s de facto ruler, Zaghlul Pasha – this although Zaghlul was at least as much of an anti-imperialist ‘progressive’ as Nasser is.

Nowadays, of course, such matters are left to what another of the Burns fans called, as she passed us, ‘those horrible Newsletter people’. Burns would have had an unforgettable phrase for these renegades from their own best traditions.

Last updated on 11.10.2011