Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History
Due to extensive correspondence on the Ukrainian question, some other letters have been held over.
We are writing on behalf of the International Communist League to inform you that we did not function as public distributors of the recently published issue of Revolutionary History (Volume 3 no.1), nor did we advertise it, because of the cartoon on the front cover, and the Editor’s Note on page 28. We took only 250 copies of the issue, as this was sufficient for our own use.
First, we note that these two highly contentious items were not brought to the attention of the editorial board at any time.
More substantively, the cartoon is a grossly Stalinophobic sketch, which could have been published by anyone from the Cold Warriors of the Bevin/Attlee Labour Party rightwards through the Daily Mail to the intelligence agencies of British or American imperialism. It represents the viewpoint of those so-called ‘Marxists’ who refuse to see, let alone defend, the tremendous gain for the working class constituted by the defeat of Nazi Germany by the USSR on the Eastern Front, and the subsequent overturn of capitalism throughout most of Eastern Europe that that defeat enabled. It is also shockingly reminiscent of the anti-Semitic, anti-Bolshevik caricatures produced in the Civil War period. In a nutshell, it is of a raw anti-Communist stamp.
The Editor’s Note is also provocative. A unique contribution to the pages of the journal, it argues that the never denied and never repudiated anti-Semitic and anti-black racist views and the history of soliciting funds from the US State Department of Michel Varga should not be brought to readers’ attention on purely diplomatic grounds. In effect the editor’s position is abused, behind the back of the editorial board, in an attempt to protect the reputation of a figure whose “suspicious and highly dubious” political character has rightly been exposed.
Given the above we as an organisation were not prepared politically to compromise ourselves by publicly promoting sales of this issue.
We believe that you and any other members of the board who were involved in the decision to print the cover and the Note cannot fail to have been aware of the controversial nature of these items. The current issue has, as you know, been surrounded by political disputes throughout its history. The most significant of these occurred when an element of the editorial board, comprising Bob Archer for the WRP (Workers Press), Charlie Pottins for the Jewish Socialist Group (also a WRP member) and you as editor, voted to publish three articles by protagonists of a Fascistic Ukrainian nationalist group, the Ukrainian Revolutionary Army, who in the 1940s presented themselves as ‘new class’ theoreticians and radical opponents of Stalinism. Simply judging by the internal evidence of the articles themselves, it was clear that the organisation concerned apologised for Fascism in Poland and credited Fascist groups as having provided the organisational nucleus of their own group , was proud to have assassinated a key Red Army commander in the war between Hitler’s forces and the Soviet workers state , and hopefully enquired: “Will Europe find in herself the strength and wisdom to defend her right of primogeniture and her priority against semi-Asiatic Moscow?”  As we pointed out at the March editorial board meeting where the articles were discussed., such matter would have been fit only for publication in a journal called Counter-revolutionary History.
That the articles were not printed seems to us solely due to the very sharp interventions of our representatives at the editorial board. We were naturally considerably alarmed that such evidently anti-working class material should be proposed and argued for, or benignly neglected through abstention, by a majority of the board. (Those board members who abstained were: Bruce Robinson for Socialist Organiser, Jim Ring, and Bob Pitt for the Workers International League. Dave Bruce for the WRP (Internationalist Faction) refused to vote at all. Workers Power was not represented at the meeting.) We saw at work a profound political divergence, flowing from a Stalinophobic conception, pushed near to the limit, that the ‘enemy of mine enemy is my friend’. It would appear that this divergence continues to operate with undiminished force.
We contacted Barry to arrange for return of the remaining 250 copies that we did not require. The payment due for the copies we purchased was, of course, made promptly.
We did not take this decision lightly or arbitrarily, and in view of its seriousness – and the fact that there was no editorial board meeting until September – a copy of this letter was posted to all members of the board for their information.
1. “In the conditions of the struggle of this organisation against the Polish occupation it was, for some time, under Fashistic [sic], at that time ‘admissible’, influences. But Fascism, with its ideology of power and rule over others, is not specefic [sic] for the nature of a subjugated nation. Therefore, the merit of this organisation lies only in the circumstance that it reared, outside the boundaries of the USSR, cadres of underground fighters.” Summary of an article by I. M[ajestren]ko, Nationalism in a Subjugated Nation, Forward, May 1949
2. “How could such an ‘insignificant, criminal band’ deal out blows of such great political significance to its enemies as the assassination of ... the top commander of the southern Russian front, General of the Red Army Vatutin ...?” Vselvoled Holubynchy, The Russian Ukrainian Underground, New International, April 1949
3. A. Babenko [pseudonym of Ivan Majstrenko], Bolshevist Bonapartism.
Updated by ETOL: 22.7.2003