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International Socialism, Summer 1961


John Fairhead

Leninism falsified


From International Socialism (1st series), No.5, Summer 1961, pp.30-31.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


St. Antony’s Papers No.9
International Communism
Chatto and Windus. 18s.

Most of the latest collection of St. Antony’s Papers are without interest. Two (Guy Wint on Communism in India and Wolfgang Leonhard on The Present Phase) are mere think-pieces. The former contains nothing unsaid in Minoo Masani’s The Communist Party of India and John Kautsky’s Moscow and the Communist Party of India. Its analysis, however, is if possible less careful and its facts less accurate. Mr Leonhard, despite forty-two footnotes, has failed completely to evaluate or even discuss the Sino-Soviet differences.

Earl Browder, in an essay ambitiously entitled Socialism in America, does his best to place his theory of ‘American exceptionalism’ within a Marxist framework. To Mr Browder, the slump of 1929-34 ‘came like a bolt of lightning from a clear sky’. He does not mention De Leon, Debs or the IWW. But he does, as its former General Secretary (1930-44), write these frank words on the CP USA: ‘Beginning (the thirties) as an ultra-left sect, ... it gradually merged with the organised labour movement and the New Deal in all practical activities, while retaining the facade of orthodox Marxism for ceremonial occasions. It became the most successful reformist party in the Marxist tradition that America had seen ... (?)’

The late R.N. Carew Hunt has a fairly informative piece on Willi Muenzenberg, founding father of innumerable front organizations and first General Secretary of the Young Communist International, who broke from Stalinism in 1937 and was duly murdered in 1940.

Undoubtedly, however, the first two papers are the meat in this otherwise vegetarian larder. Jane Degras, writing on the united front tactic of 1918-28 (her dates) follows Stalin in attempting to equate Lenin’s struggle against Bordiga and the other ‘ultras’ in 1920-21 with Stalin’s opportunist cultivation of Chiang Kai-Shek and the British TUC. This allows her to ignore the successes of the Leninist United Front (for example at the Tours Congress of the French Socialist Party in 1920 and the Halle congress of the German Independents in 1921) while presenting the Stalinist blunders as its logical corollary.

Richard Lowenthal, writing on the bolshevisation of the Spartacus League, alone presents a serious argument. The dispute between Lenin and Luxembourg on the character of the revolutionary organisation is fairly summarized. Yet it is unfair (though only partly so) to Luxembourg to describe Paul Levi as her political heir. And the methods of the ‘Leninists’, Kun, Radek and Rakosi, were criticised by Lenin at the time and extensively by Trotsky afterwards.

Workers seeking enlightenment on the history of bolshevism will not expect to find it in such a source. Serious bourgeois scholars in search of a critique of Marxist organisational method are likely to be disappointed.

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