Brian Pearce

Constant Reader:

What Must Be ‘Smashed’?

(May 1959)

From The Newsletter, 30 May 1959.
Transcribed by Christian Hogsbjerg.

The part of the Socialist Labour League’s programme which speaks of the need to ‘smash the capitalist State machine’ will undoubtedly be misrepresented in various ways, for which we must be prepared.

One way in which this traditional communist idea has been distorted, in my own experience, is to turn it into a threat to the rank and file of the Civil Service.

I once heard a ‘training course’ of newly-appointed clerical officers being told that ‘the Reds’ would put them all out of jobs if they ever got power!

What we declare the need to abolish, root and branch, is the repressive part of the State machine.

Lenin himself pointed out (in Will the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?, October 1917) that ‘besides the preponderant “repressive” machinery, the standing army, the police and the officialdom, there is in the modern State a machinery that is closely connected with banks and syndicates, fulfilling as it does a great mass of work of accounting and record-keeping, if one may so express it.

Important distinctions

‘This machinery cannot and must not be broken up. It must be forcibly freed from subjection to the capitalists; the latter must be cut off, broken, chopped away from it with the threads transmitting their influence; it must be subjected to the proletarian Soviets; it must be made wider, more all-embracing, more popular....

‘This “State apparatus” we can ‘’lay hold of” and “set in motion” at one stroke, by one decree, for the actual work of book-keeping, control, registration, accounting and summation is here carried out by office workers, most of whom are themselves in a proletarian or semi-proletarian position ...

‘As for the higher grade office workers, of whom there are very few, but who incline towards the capitalists, we shall have to treat them like capitalists – “with severity.”

‘They, like the capitalists, will resist, and this resistance will have to be broken.’

These distinctions between different parts of the State machine and between the lower and higher Civil Servants are of vital importance for understanding what we have in mind and explaining it to people to whom it is a new idea.

The ghosts walk again

It will be interesting to see how the British Stalinist Press copes with the new Soviet history of the second world war, with its severe criticisms of Stalin for his beheading of the armed forces in 1937–38, his foreign policy in the late 1930s and his conduct of operations.

The knock-down excuse for the secret trial and execution of Marshal Tukhachevsky and his colleagues used to be that it had ‘rid Russia of her fifth column’.

Then quite substantial defections to the Nazis took place in 1941–42 – including General Vlasov, one of the defenders of Moscow, from whose followers among Russian prisoners of war Hitler formed a ‘puppet’ army, as well as large numbers of Ukrainians, Caucasians and central Asians, who were utilized by the German forces.

In 1954 I wrote, in a document to be published by the British-Soviet Friendship Society, that certain Caucasian peoples, as a result of war-time events, had been deported en masse to less vulnerable areas of the USSR.

Following consultation between Andrew Rothstein and the ‘Cultural’ Attache at the Soviet Embassy, this had to be changed to a statement that the peoples concerned had been ‘given an opportunity to develop elsewhere in the Soviet Union’.

Readers were left to deduce that somebody was being rewarded somehow for some piece of good conduct!

Doubtless Rothstein, Dutt and Gollan would like to give those responsible for the new Soviet publication an ‘opportunity to develop elsewhere’, if only they could.

Moan from a monolith

‘They oppose the declared policy of the Labour Party from within the Labour Party.’
– Peter Robshaw on the crimes of the Socialist Labour League, in the London Labour Party’s London News, May 1959.

Last updated on 12.10.2011