I was listening to Mike Duncan’s Revolutions podcast. After nine of them, including the English, the American, the French, the Haitian, the July, the 1848, the Commune, and the Mexican revolutions, Mike finally arrived at the Russian Revolution back in May 2019 and is still going strong.
I am always a few episodes behind, so I was listening to #10.94 which was concerned, inter alia, with the 10th Party Congress in 1921 and, in particular, the response of Lenin and Trotsky to the criticism by the Workers’ Opposition and the Democratic Centralists of the Communist Party leadership.
Their response was to accuse the critical organisations of factionalism. Apologies to you Trots out there, but Trotsky was the strongest and most vicious in his condemnation of the WO demands: How could the party which was “the political manifestation of the industrial proletariat” betray the industrial proletariat? To claim this, was to deny both the vanguard role of the party and, thus, the revolution itself.
Of course, in its criticism of the top-down hegemony of party bureaucrats, it was doing no such thing. But Lenin (and Trotsky) were more concerned by the fact that the opposition was organised. The party had already taken over the unions, on the basis that the workers needed no protection from an employer which was their own state. Now, by banning factions, it was extending this theoretical concept to anyone with concerns or criticisms of the party. Especially if they expressed them in meetings or published them in newspapers and periodicals.
But ban them they did. No manifestations of factionalism of any sort would be tolerated, and failure to comply with this resolution “is to entail unconditional and immediate expulsion from the party”. And the power to define factionalism and expel members?
The Central Committee.
This resolution, On Party Unity, is crucial to the future of the party and the country. Because one man, Stalin, saw the opportunity to dictate what was right, what was wrong, who was in and who was out. And if you didn’t like it, you were guilty of factionalism and expelled.
I’m writing this on May Day, less than a month since a Jewish comrade and friend in my constituency was expelled from the Labour Party for anti-semitism.
I’m cautious about drawing precise parallels. But are you concerned about the denial of free speech within the party and the diktats of Starmer and Evans? Do the recent and continuing purges in the Labour Party, aimed primarily at left-wing Jews and socialists, ring a bell?
If it does, then the bell tolls for thee.
Today from the everysmith vaults: The John Adams Violin Concerto. A recent discovery which is haunting me day and night. The recording I have is by Leila Josefowicz and the St Louis Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Robertson. I’ll be checking out others in the weeks to come.