Correspondence: Stalinism & the Colonies, New International, Vol. XIII No. 7, September 1947, pp. 219.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
The strong emotional reaction of the Ceylon comrades to my political charge that their organization “... has gone far along the road leading to capitulation to Stalinism” is easy to understand. In part, it is due to a spontaneous and healthy reaction and recoil before such an unpleasant possibility; in part it is due probably to a failure to understand my statement as signifying, in no sense of the word, any organizational concessions to Stalinism, but rather a serious political tendency to (a) build up the “progressive” role of Russia in the colonial movement; (b) create the illusion that Russia and its parties and organizations play a progressive, revolutionary role in the world. My charge was and remains a political charge and must be understood (and answered) as such. Unfortunately, the heated reply of the Ceylon comrades is not only hardly to be considered as an answer, but it only lends weight, as we shall try to show, to the original charge!
Of course the Ceylon comrades are, subjectively speaking, from the viewpoint of their aims and desires, not Stalinists. However, as they well know, political trends, results and directions cannot be judged in such terms. I maintained, on the basis of several quotations from the Samasamajist, the English organ of the Ceylon Unit, that the Party had a dangerous position, as revealed in its description of the events in Iran (Persia), last year, where the Soviet Union was painted up as a supporter of the democratic masses of that country. The independent aims of Russia (call them imperialist or what you will) with respect to Iran simply did not exist for the Ceylon author! One would have thought he was dealing with the Russia of Lenin’s day. The quotations in my notes, taken from his article, were, I believe, clear and unambiguous – too much so.
In subsequent issues of the Samasamajist that I have seen, the same uncritical attitude toward Russia and its relation to the colonial movement is entirely patent. The activities and role of Stalinist organizations as such (e.g., the Communist Party in Ceylon) have, it is true, been dealt with in a most effective and critical fashion, but the activities and maneuverings of the “degenerated workers’ state” on the international scene are either ignored or glossed over. I have yet to see, in the press of the Ceylon comrades, a critical estimate of Russia’s role in China (surely of great importance for colonial revolutionists); or of Ho Chi Minh and the Indo-Chinese Stalinists; or of Stalinism’s general strategy with respect to the colonial movement.
But let us grant that my charge against these comrades was unfair. A mere reading of their reply to me indicates how seriously off the track they are, how completely they fail to grasp Russia’s role in the world in general and the colonial world in particular. The puppet Tudeh Party, deliberately contrived by Stalin, becomes a mass democratic movement in their eyes. (It has now faded into oblivion until Stalin will conveniently revive it for another crack at Iran.) The Iranian forces of democracy are under the “patronage” (kindly? wise? helpful? friendly?) of this Party and the Soviet Union. And whose side is Russia on? “... the democratic and working class forces (fighting) to organize themselves to overthrow feudal reaction and end British imperialist domination of the land of Iran.” Everyone can read this for himself and then ask himself whether my analysis that these comrades have gone far along the road to political capitulation to Stalinism is an exaggeration. If this is what Russia is doing in the colonial world then, by every ounce of revolutionary common sense, our movement must give it full and unqualified support. But even the most orthodox “Workers’ Staters” have hardly gone this far.
Even the Ceylon comrades know better, as is indicated by the glaring contradiction contained in their article. The very next paragraph after that which describes the progressive role of Russia (encouraging the democratic and working class forces) contains the remarkable statement that, “An independent working-class organization is not encouraged; working-class organizations are made subordinate to capitalist parties.” Now, aside from the debatable statement about Stalinism in the colonies subordinating itself to capitalist parties (as in China, for example?), is not the contradiction all too glaring? Surely the Ceylonese comrades are terribly confused and disoriented in their approach to the Stalinist movement. Their confusion lies in their failure to understand precisely how, in what sense and for what purposes Russia attempts to make use of the democratic, nationalist and proletarian forces in the colonies. The publications of the Workers Party, in their concrete analysis of events in China, Indo-China, India and the colonial world in general have tried to answer this question – namely, that Russian imperialism, an aggressive and expanding order, in fundamental conflict with American imperialism, seeks to use, traduce, take possession of, manipulate, control and, above all, subordinate to itself, the legitimate, progressive movements of struggle in the colonies. The comrades in Ceylon, hypnotized by outworn formulas, are blind to these newly revealed characteristics of the Russian system. It is this blindness that makes it impossible for them to see, let alone face, the realities of Russian imperialism, and to conceal all events behind the rationalization of “the safety of the Soviet Union.” The manipulations and actions of the Indian Communist Party and even the minute Ceylon Stalinist movement are related to Russia, not merely the opportunist desires of local Stalinist spokesmen. But the viewpoint of the Workers Party on Russia has often been expressed and we need only refer to it. This is the overall analysis that must be answered.
The comrades in Ceylon suffer from many serious misconceptions regarding the Workers Party and The New International. “The LSSP is not convinced that capitalism has been restored in the Soviet Union,” the article declares. Well, neither are we and we have argued long and loudly against this conception. Nor do we hold that “the Totalitarianism of Fascism and that of Stalinism” have no differences, as the article declares. Is it not clear that the Ceylon party, no doubt for excellent reasons, is simply unfamiliar with the Workers Party viewpoint? To be in a position to attack an opponent, it is elementary to know what your opponent maintains. This job must still be fulfilled by the LSSP and it will be, we trust, in the near future. Material presenting our views is widely and easily available since the end of the war.
Finally, a brief word on the more personal aspects of the article in reference. Regrettable and unpleasant as it may be, the Ceylon LSSP leadership is entitled to its opinion of Henry Judd. I have certainly never claimed to be any “specialist” on the colonial revolutionary movement, nor have I written the many “articles and brochures” on this subject that I apparently am given credit for. The Ceylon and Indian parties did see fit to order and circulate several hundred copies of my one brochure India in Revolt, however. More important is the fact that the numerous accusations against me – riotous imagination, unverified facts, highly colored and exaggerated articles, etc. – are matters that must be proved. Nobody in the movement any longer accepts at face value these denunciatory statements and worthless polemics. Proof and examples are needed, comrades of the LSSP. Name-calling seems to be an unfortunate penchant of yours, as witness the denunciation of those comrades within your own ranks with whom you have split. No objective foreign comrade, seeking to discover the political and organizational basis for this recent split, can find it in your resolutions or articles! We may learn, perhaps, that your opponents are “Parlour Bolsheviks, Bohemians, etc., etc.,” but little else. This sort of thing is absolutely no good for our movement.
So, regardless of their personal estimate of me, I must conclude by reiterating my long-standing respect and admiration for the success and mass work accredited to the Ceylon comrades. They have accomplished things, and shown us how to do things that no other Trotskyist organization can boast of. The problem before them is a political one – that is, will they gain that essential political understanding and clarification without which all their efforts and successes will lead to nothing? It is far from present today, and articles such as the above hardly will be of help. We hope it represents the last expression of its type, and that in the future the pages of our respective publications will be open to an objective, scientific, socialist discussion of our common problems.
Last updated: 28 November 2014