File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1996/96-11-13.154, message 113

Date: Wed, 13 Nov 96 08:18:58 GMT
Subject: M-I: Re: Failure of early CP's - Stalin's fault or home grown

Louis G points to the weakness of the early Chinese CP
as an explanation for its failure in 1927 and 1929.

I am not an expert on the Chinese CP. Nevertheless, I feel
he is wrong. Since I cannot argue my case in terms of the
Chinese CP, I shall argue it in terms of the British CP,
which failed in 1926, one year earlier than the Chinese CP.

We all know that Louis G writes off the working class as the agent
of change today. He is projecting this back on to China in the
20's. In the particular examples we are discussing ( Britain
+ China ) , his pessimism in regard to the working class lets
Stalin ( not some abstract "Stalinism" , Joe Stalin the human
being ) off the hook. This is further, extreme evidence, of my
often repeated assertion that concessions to Stalinism are
proportional to the extent to which the working class is written

Was the British Communist party weak ? OF COURSE it was. In comparison
to the German, Italian, or French mass parties it was a pathetic shadow of
the Russian Revolution. As late as 1920, Lenin was arguing that since
the British Revolutionaries were so split over the Labour Party,
Parliament, and ultra leftism, they should if necessary form themselves
into two separate Communist Parties, if they could not agree on one !

We can discuss the tactics of the German Communist Party in 1919. We 
can compare Luxembourg + Lenin. The closest the British Working class
has come to revolution, in 1919, we cannot even discuss the possibility
of a successful revolution, since the Communist Party did not even exist
in embryonic form. The British Communist Party even in embryo was
formed in the decline of the post WW1 revolutionary wave, more so
than other CP's.

Nevertheless, by 1926, despite its mistakes, false turns, immaturity,
etc, it had established itself as a credible opposition to the Labour
Party. It was a small party with mass influence, although this influence
was considerably weaker than the influence of the Labour Party. In 1926,
it was without doubt possible to warn of the coming sell out of the
Trade Union Bureaucracy, and to try and organise rank + file workers
to resist the sell out. Trotsky argued for this strategy in 1925, warning
against trusting even the left most Trade Union leaders, understanding
that they would not openly break with the right wing union leaders.
"Purcell, Hicks, and Cook" were not to be trusted. Cook was the miners
leader A MILLION MILES more left wing than Scargill today.

Such an orientation may or may not have avoided the defeat of the General
Strike. It may or may not have been able to wrest control of the strike
>from the Union Bureuacrats. It would definitely have enabled the CP to 
lessen the demoralising effect of the defeat on the best militants. It 
would definitely have allowed the CP to come out of the strike with its
position in relation to the Labour Party strengthened. As it was, they 
followed Stalin's advice. their idiotic slogan was "All power to the
TUC General Council" ie "all power to the sell out merchants", and the defeat
of the General Strike strengthened the Labour Party and weakened the CP.
So we had the Labour Government of 1929 and the Great Betrayal of Ramsey
MacDonald in 1931. The CP took until the mid 30's to recover.

What was the relationship between the weakness of the British CP and
Stalinism ? 

By 1926, the CP was definitely in a position to challenge for the leadership
of the strike. Its early weakness had not prevented it achieving this position
in the British working class. What stopped it making this challenge was its
reliance on Russian advice. It relied on Russian advice because it had made
so many mistakes between 1920 and 1925, mainly because it was a new party in
an era of revolution. Had this advice been given in the interests of world
revolution, this would not have mattered. As it was, it was given in 
the interests of the foreign policy of the Stalinist Bureaucracy. 

It is possible that this advice could have been rejected. But this could
only have happened if the British CP had had a real tradition of theory
modified by practise stretching back at least a few years, say, to the
beginning of the Great Unrest in 1910. Tragically, this was not so.

As regards China, I do know enough to argue that the Chinese CP was too
weak to take power in 1927 is nonsense. The Chinese working class HAD POWER.
It wasn't a case of whether or not to TAKE POWER, it was a question of GIVING
IT BACK to the Kuomintang. Under Stalin's orders, they did give power back,
and were massacred for their pains.

In both cases, the CP's HAD overcome their initial weakness, but the early
weakness meant they lacked the confidence, traditions, and experience, to
tell Stalin to get lost.

In retrospect, in Britain, the mistake the revolutionaries had made was
not to begin to organise the smallest embryo of a revolutionary party
before 1919. In Britain, this did not happen for political reasons, nothing
to do with the objective circumstances. [ Perhaps in the Chinese case, this
was not the case. It may well be that the Chinese workers movement only
really started after WWI, in which case this would be a meaningless
argument ].

In Britain in 1910 - 14, The right went with the Labour Party,
the left with the Syndicalists and the syndicalist orientated parties
like the SLP. But, if we are not to repeat this mistake, pessimism
about the ability of the working class to make a revolution is the
very first obstacle we  must overcome. After all, an army will not
take the field if it does not believe it has at least a chance of
winning. To be quite honest, Louis G is well to the right of the
trade union leaders like Purcell in 1926 or even Scargill today on
this question.


Adam Rose


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