Brian Pearce

Constant Reader:

Why Not by ‘Peaceful’ Means?

(June 1959)

From The Newsletter, 6 June 1959.
Transcribed by Christian Hogsbjerg.

Last week I discussed a possible misrepresentation of part of the Socialist Labour League’s programme. To be expected also is the charge that we bloodthirstily seek an armed showdown between the classes as a matter of preference.

In the early 1920s Ramsay MacDonald used to accuse the – then Marxist – Communist Party of deliberately working for ‘heavy civil warrr’, a phrase he took out of its context in a famous document which deserves to be studied by the present generation.

This was The Communist International Answers the Independent Labour Party, a series of replies to questions submitted by the ILP in 1920 to Lenin and his colleagues, about the applicability of their policy in British conditions.

‘It is possible to think,’ wrote the Comintern, ‘that the working class in England can secure government power even without a revolution and by means of parliamentary election victories.

‘The world revolution knows various stages, as that for instance of the Hungarian workers, who received the government power without insurrection and without armed collisions, owing to the capitulation of the Karolyi government.

‘The Russian working class has gained power, not so much owing to the application of armed force as to the fact that the armed forces of the country have gone over to their side.’

However, the document continues, even in the event of a parliamentary victory in Britain, ‘it is most unlikely that this bourgeoisie will give up its power without a struggle and become subject to the paper will of Parliament’.

Need to prepare

For this reason ‘the workers should prepare, not for an easy parliamentary victory, but for a victory by a heavy civil war’.

Even ‘should the workers have succeeded in gaining power without this civil war, that would only signify that the necessity of civil war would confront the working class so soon as it set out to realize its will ...’

Twenty years later, Trotsky put forward the following additional observation on this problem of violence:

‘By anticipation, it is possible to establish the following law: the more countries in which the capitalist system is broken, the weaker will be the resistance offered by the ruling classes in other countries, the less sharp a character the social revolution will have, the shorter it will be, the sooner the society will be reborn on the basis of a new, more full, more perfect and humane democracy’ (Interview to St Louis Post-Dispatch, February 1940).

> Clearly, the course of events in Britain will depend a great deal on whether or not the workers have already taken power in the United States.

As things are, the presence of an American ‘garrison’ in this country is a powerful argument against the possibility of a peaceable transfer of power here.

The Queen Cult

Kingsley Martin, referring in his New Statesman column to the disapproving noises made by Establishment penguins about that journal’s treatment of the Shah of Persia as ‘King Slickey’, wrote recently:

‘One of these days I shall reprint a book I once wrote which quotes what the papers used to say about royal personages.’

Modesty prevented him, no doubt, from naming the book in question, which is The Magic of Monarchy.

Published not long after the coronation of George VI in 1937, it gave an excellent account both of the Establishment’s effort to set the monarchy back on its pedestal after the Mrs Simpson scandal and the abdication of Edward VIII in the previous year, and of the historical origin of this pedestal.

Innumerable clock-towers commemorate Queen Victoria’s jubilees of 1887 and 1897. Martin’s book describes how the most reactionary sections of our ruling class set out to ‘build up’ in the last two decades of the nineteenth century a monarchy which was held in scant respect before, but which they now needed for the purposes of imperialism and to counter the rising class and socialist consciousness of the workers.

Silent ‘rehabilitation’?

The recent review in the Daily Worker of Notes of a Film Director was illustrated by a photograph of the author, the late Sergei Eisenstein, standing in front of a poster advertising a play he directed in 1923.

Prominent among the credit titles is the name of S.M. Tretyakov, a writer who used to be well known in communist circles here for his ‘Roar China’ and ‘Chinese Testament’.

In 1938 Tretyakov was arrested as an ‘agent of Trotsky and Chamberlain’, and apparently died in a concentration camp not long afterwards.

Does the Daily Worker photo mean that Tretyakov has now been ‘rehabilitated’? Or is it merely that the editor supposes that nobody notices these things?

I quote from the review itself: ‘Eisenstein belonged to our world, the socialist world, the world of truth.’

Better part of valour

The resolution put down by the Finchley Advisory Committee of the London Typographical Society for the general management committee of Finchley Labour Party, seeking a declaration of support for the proscription of the Socialist Labour League in place of mere mechanical compliance with it, has been withdrawn.

The reason given was that ‘it is not desired to give these people any further publicity’.

Last updated on 12.10.2011