Crisis in the Swp: the Echo of History from 1957

The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is not the first organisation in the British left to undergo a crisis over perceived abuses of power, and members criticising the lack of internal democracy. Evan Smith has provided a great service by posting up a brief but detailed account of the events of the 1957 Special Congress of the Communist Party (CPGB), called to discuss the  fallout from Soviet invasion of Hungary in the previous year, and the growing awareness in the party’s ranks of the crimes of Stalin. I strongly recommend you read the whole article. Central to the debate was an internal commission to discuss the workings of “democratic centralism”.

As Evan explains:

On May 19 [1956], the Executive Committee published the statement in the [the Party's weekly] World News that acknowledged the ‘abuses and grave injustices’ of the Stalin era, but offered no further probing into the experience of the Soviet Union or the People’s Democracies of Eastern Europe (MacEwen, 1976: 27). The EC conceded the need for further investigation into the Party’s internal democracy and announced the creation of two Commissions – the Commission on ‘The British Road to Socialism’ and the Commission on Inner-Party Democracy. … …

The Commission on Inner-Party Democracy consisted of fifteen members, ten of whom were full-time salaried Party officials and five of them members of the Executive Committee. Four of the other five members were known to be critical of the Party leadership, which included Historians’ Group member, Christopher Hill. The others were Malcolm MacEwen, the Features Editor of the Daily Worker Kevin Halpin, a vehicle inspector and Briggs Factory Branch Secretary, and Peter Cadogan and Joe Cheek, who were both teachers.  Control of the Commission was shared between the chairman, John Mahon, an ‘inflexible Party functionary with limited imagination’, and Betty Reid from the Central Organisation Department

The operation of the commission was flawed, because its remit was disputed, and it proceeded by exchange of written papers, which encouraged polarisation between majority (loyalist) and minority (reformist) positions, resulting in two seperate reports. The differing perspectives also reflected how these two groups saw the effectiveness of the CP, and how large they preceived the crisis to be.

 In fact the crisis was acute:

On February 13, 1957, the CPGB’s Central Organisation Department announced the membership of the Party as 25,570, down from 33,095 in February 1956 (World News, 23 February, 1957). Hyman Levy and Christopher Hill reminded the Party Congress of the loss of over 7,000 members, which the Executive Committee member Mick Bennett had described as a ‘handful’ (World News, 18 May, 1957). Hill replied, ‘If three or four more handfuls like that went there would be no Party left… It is criminally frivolous to be treating this flippantly’. The Party leadership tried to portray the mass exodus of members as ‘a revolt of the intellectuals’ and the ‘revisionists’

The accurate occupational composition of the members that left between February 1956 and February 1958 is not known, although there is enough anecdotal evidence to conclude that a large number of industrial workers left the Party as well as the intellectuals.

The leadership was contemptuous of those who had left:

Those who had left the Party were described by Andrew Rothstein as ‘groups of backboneless and spineless intellectuals who have turned in upon their own emotions and frustrations’ (Cited in, Beckett, 1995: 137). The ‘revisionists’ were seen by the Party leadership to have created a non-Marxist and non-class based assessment that owed more to bourgeois liberalism, while affiliating themselves with Marxism. In Marxism Today in February 1958, James Klugmann still declared that ‘revisionism’ was ‘the main danger in the international Communist movement’. Klugmann wrote that the Twentieth Congress had revealed ‘profound mistakes’, but some ‘confused the mistakes with the principles’ of Marxism-Leninism and ‘in a moment of half-panic began to throw out the principles’. Those who had left the Party had ‘lost their socialist integrity’ and produced an ‘emasculated Marxism’ reduced to a form of ‘reformism and liberalism’. 

The majority were also adamant that their verion of “democratic centralism” was justified by the need to the CP to be an interventionist party, whereas they believed that factions and debate would weaken their resolve, and effectiveness:

The Majority Report perpetuated the official line that the Stalinist ‘cult of the individual’ was not the result of democratic centralism, but a ‘violation of the practices of democratic centralism’ (Pelling, 1975: 177). The serious error of ‘too general an emphasis on centralism and an insufficient emphasis on democracy’ had resulted in ‘not enough being done to bring the membership into the discussion of Party problems’ and the failure to ‘take sufficient practical measures to build strong Party branches’ (Cited in, Laybourn & Murphy, 1999: 152). The Majority Report’s recommendations to further the growth of Party democracy were minimal, essentially recommending that members be consulted ‘wherever possible’ by the Executive Committee before deciding new policy, along with for the right of members to express contending views in Party branches and press and the right to challenge the ‘recommended list’ of the electoral system on the floor of Party Congress. Most importantly, the Majority conceded that more discussion should be given in the Party press and a theoretical journal (which later became Marxism Today) should be published (MacEwen, 1976: 39). Although this right to discussion, as Pelling (1975: 178) wrote, did not mean the ‘freedom to advocate ideas hostile to the interests of the working class and contrary to the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism’. The Majority Report, presented by John Mahon (1957: 45), argued that democratic centralism ensured that the Party adhered to the ideals of Marxism-Leninism and offered unity in the class struggle because it did not ‘tolerate alien ideology in its ranks.’

Even before the commission met, its chair John Mahon, had written in World News on September 1 1956 that, ‘Experience shows that the method of organisation known as democratic centralism is the only one through which this struggle can be effectively carried through’.

Party officials … believed that democratic centralism was a principle to be adhered to and stated in a draft [to the commission] on democratic centralism that it was the individual member’s duty ‘to accept the majority decision [of the Party organisation] and carry out to the full the policy of the Party’ (Cited in, MacEwen, 1976: 33). Once ‘the line’ had been decided by the Party leadership, discussion among members must have stopped, although Party policy was in many cases not … discussed, with ‘the line’ already determined by the Political or Executive Committees (MacEwen, 1991: 197). MacEwen’s suggestion to the Commission that members who disagree with … majority decisions should be allowed to ‘retain all their rights of discussion and criticism under the Party rules’, and that these rights did not interfere with the ‘spirit of class solidarity and party loyalty’, was rejected by the majority.

John Mahon’s report on inner-party democracy (1957: 45) stated, ‘factional activity of any kind is not permitted because it destroys the unity of the Party.’

The Minority arged that “The crimes of the Stalin era were directly attributed to the ‘iron discipline’ inherent in democratic centralism, stating ‘it must be presumed that the enormous power concentrated in the hands of a very small leadership by the rules of democratic centralism facilitated the assumption of dictatorial power’ (MacEwen, 1976: 35).”

The effective leader of the Minority was Chritopher Hill, a major intellectual figure.

Hill argued in the World News (May 18, 1957), [that the Majority Report] perpetuated the ‘cosy world of illusion’ that suggested that the principles of democratic centralism could be adhered to with a ‘little tinkering’. He criticised the Majority Report for failing to critically analyse the problems of democratic centralism, including the lack of serious enquiry into criticisms from the branches and individuals, how the control of the Party press was exercised and the ‘self-perpetuating leadership’ that dominated the election of the Executive Committee. The Majority Report was ‘slogan-shouting’ and not a serious historical analysis of the facts, with Hill announcing in the World News, ‘We shall get nowhere in the long run if we base our policy on what we should like the facts to be, and not on what they are’.

The Minority Report did not dismiss democratic centralism out of hand, and argued that in a practical sense, just as in the trade unions, some degree of democratic centralism was needed, but proposed that while accepting the ‘broad principles of democracy and of centralism as the basis of Party organisation’, there had to be a ‘proper balance between the two’ (MacEwen, 1976: 40). The Minority Report made several proposals, among the most significant were:

the right of Party members to meet with others before Congress to discuss political questions or prepare political statements, provided notice was given to the district committees

recognition of the rights of individuals or groups to publish matter independently and to circulate it to branches;..

the recommended list to be abolished; (Cited in, MacEwen, 1976: 40).

However, the majority were triumphant. A Pyrrhic victory for the bureaucratic leadership, who rejoiced in their own self-belief that they were the personification of socialism itself, but were sowing the seeds of future crises and disillusionment.

 ‘Even if the party membership were to be reduced to nought,’ Hyman Levy wrote in The New Statesman (27 April, 1957), the leadership ‘would still remain The Party’.

194 comments on “Crisis in the Swp: the Echo of History from 1957

  1. Now there are a number of things that are interesting, when compared to the current crisis in the SWP. Firstly, there were no expulsions, secondly, the leadership itself convened a special Congress to thrash out the differences, and thirdly the minorty were afforded the opportunity to produce their own report which was distributed to Congress, and were able to reply in the party’s publications.

  2. The relatively healthy internal regime may be one reason why the ‘loyalist’ CPGB survived in relatively good shape.

    There was the money, as well, and that’s an asset the SWP leadership does have. I remember an interview with Ken Weller, where he said he’d once found himself wondering why so few CPers had jumped ship when he did, and idly started listing everyone he could think of in the London area who owed their salary to the party (directly or as a union full-timer). He gave up when he got to 50.

  3. Phil: There was the money, as well, and that’s an asset the SWP leadership does have.

    true, the CP had a formidable industrial arm that would help to get people elected; and in practical terms, the CP’s industrial fractions, factory branches, and advice and coordination from the Industrial Department were tangibly useful to workplace militants.

  4. Thanks Andy for putting this up on the SU blog. I think the bit from the 1957 congress that most applies to the SWP crisis is that even when the special conference is called, the Party leadership will still try to determine the outcomes. Levy’s quote is a very pithy summary of the scenario.

  5. Evan: even when the special conference is called, the Party leadership will still try to determine the outcomes

    Yes, the packing of the commission on democratic centralism with individuals on the payroll was a particularly blatant example!

  6. Jack Bron on said:

    What is the purpose of this article? Are are we just being treated like idiots? Many people on the left know all this anyway so why write it? And what has it got to do with the SWP anyway apart from a few (convenient) references?

    It strikes me that people who write this sort of stuff – and much else on web at the moment – prefer to waste their time rather than trying to develop socialist organisation in this country. Moreover, many of the other comments on the web about the SWP/Delta controversy seem more interested in making pathetic and stupid little point-scoring when they know sod all about how the SWP organises its inner structures.

    And no, I’m not a member by the way, and also have sensible criticisms of the way the matter has been handled. But to start banging on about the CPGB, or sharia law as in one case, gets us all nowhere.

  7. Jack Bron: And no, I’m not a member by the way,

    It is a strange phenomenon how so many non-SWP members leap to their defence on the Internet.

    Of course, everyone ALWAYS tells the truth about themselves on the Internet, that is well known.

    Jack Bron: they know sod all about how the SWP organises its inner structures.

    I was in the SWP for almost 20 years, man and boy.

  8. Pingback: Discussing the CPGB 1957 Congress at Socialist Unity | Hatful of History

  9. Jack Bron: Many people on the left know all this anyway so why write it?

    I personally didn’t know that much about it until I read Evan’s article.

    But your point is presumably that it is a waste of time trying to understand things, better to rush off to the next *urgent* intervention.

  10. uncle albert on said:

    Jack Bron: What is the purpose of this article?

    Plenty of purpose. It can be useful to derive a perspective from comparisons with how others have responded in similar situations.

    And, more importantly, the information made available by Andy serves as a warning to those with no knowledge of such sects/cults, who might consider joining, particularly impressionable youngsters.

    Better to be forewarned than to find out too late and waste your life.

  11. Just a quick post to say that I don’t think there are enough articles being posted on this blog about the SWP. I’ve only counted 458 in the last week. Come on, get your finger out.

  12. jack: I don’t think there are enough articles being posted on this blog about the SWP

    If I learned one thing from Tony Cliff, it is give people what they want.

  13. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    There is no comparison between the events in the CPGB in the second half of the 1950s and the SWP today; and anyone who suggests this just shows their political illiteracy and ignorance. I can say this because I have studied this period, politically and academically, and its development on the New Left and other Left organisations, which I may say that also includes the Labour Party at the time. This is just pure hyperbole!

  14. stuart on said:

    Agree with Jimmy, there is no comparison. The working classes of Poland and Hungary were in revolt against the Stalinist regimes in 1956. The politics pursued by communist parties was guided by the interests of the USSR. What has this got to do with the SWP?

  15. Graham on said:

    Whereas the practice followed by the SWP leadership in this case has far more to do with their own (material) interests than any principled politics Stuart?

  16. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Post 14 agree with this, but also more importantly the revelations from the February 1956 20th Congress ‘Secret Speech’ which detailed Stalin’s heinous crimes. Which was ironically carried on by the Khrushchev bureaucracy just 9 months later? Of course there will be many here who will equate the Khrushchev’s “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences” speech to the events around the ‘unnamed’ one in the SWP. It is a tenuous link and, again, cannot be considered a comparison between the two organisations from two different epochs. Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong in looking at the rich history of the events of 1956 that impacted on the British, and international, Communist Parties and how they attempted, and did not, to cope with them. A fascinating epoch in my opinion and while I was just a baby/toddler/young child during this time, I wish I was a young adult involved in socialist politics during the period.

  17. Jimmy Haddow: There is no comparison between the events in the CPGB in the second half of the 1950s and the SWP today; and anyone who suggests this just shows their political illiteracy and ignorance

    WEll I agree that the CPGB was a much more significant org than the SWP is, with greater social weight, size, implantation in the unions, experience and clout. It also had more serious intelectuals.

    However, furthermmore the form of the party’s internal regime was even in 1957 more liberal than the SWP’s today; but the relevance is the debate about how democratic centralism can lead to abue of power and a self perpetuating leadership clique.

  18. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    I better watch what I say or I will be deleted/blocked for disagreeing with Mr Newman, but once again pure hyperbole, myth, and political and theoretical codswallop. That organisation, in which I mean the Communist Parties of Britain, and internationally, had no more a democratic centralist structure than if the Catholic Church was a democratic centralist organisation. And it had lost that style of ‘democracy’ when the Stalin clique and the Soviet bureaucracy consolidated its power, which was not Lenin and Trotsky’s way or programme, and transmitted it down to the national CP organisations that is how it has to be done.

  19. Jimmy Haddow: when the Stalin clique and the Soviet bureaucracy consolidated its power… transmitted it down to the national CP organisations that is how it has to be done.

    Well anyone who studies the internal debates in the CP in the period you are discussing will know this is not true. Obviously therr were some like Palme Dutt who were marrioneettes of Moscow, but that was not unbiquitous, or even the norm.

  20. Karl Stewart on said:

    The CP in the 1950s was some 20 times bigger than the CP of today, which itself is larger than Jimmy’s SP and now probably has more members than the terminally failing organisation that the title of this article refers to.

    So of course there are many, many differences between then and today – but a key difference is that the CP then had real social, political and industrial weight, so a crisis in the CP actually made a difference.

    And the differences were argued over seriously, serious alternative viewpoints were put forward, argued over and, even in this period, when the CP was just beginning the struggle to emerge from the Stalin period, there was not a purge of members.

    So there is a huge difference with JimmyH’s party, which has NEVER addressed its own issues of the cult of personality and which still, even today, continues to treat the writings of Trotsky as sacred religious catechisms.

  21. Jimmy Haddow: I better watch what I say or I will be deleted/blocked for disagreeing with Mr Newman,

    Andy why not just ban him for bad manners?

    His victim complex is getting really boring.

  22. Karl Stewart on said:

    No, keep him in – don’t feed the Joan of Arc complext. It’s like those letters that people write to newspapers saying: “…and I’m sure you won’t publish this…”

  23. Manzil on said:

    Karl Stewart: So there is a huge difference with JimmyH’s party, which has NEVER addressed its own issues of the cult of personality and which still, even today, continues to treat the writings of Trotsky as sacred religious catechisms.

    You’re just saying that because you’ve not read the Transitional Programme carefully enough.

    Why don’t you come and have a seat over here, and we can talk. Have you heard the good news?

  24. Karl Stewart on said:

    I do read your “good news” often Manzil, but I don’t often see critical voices there.

  25. People complaining about the relevance of this article should pay attention to the fact that the CPGB — a Stalinist organisation — actually had MORE DEMOCRATIC INTERNAL STRUCTURES that the SWP! That is scandalous!

    This is an article that does a very good job at mapping out the contours of the current crisis:
    http://libcom.org/library/credit-unto-death-anselm-jappe

  26. #26 I used to sell it. Average of 30 per week.

    I even once sold 100 on a demo I wasn’t meant to be on.

  27. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Christ Karl Stewart your political and theoretical ignorance knows no bounds. How can you write such compost and call yourself politically educated. At no stage have you discussed what is written on the card but have just made a whole scale, and I will use this word, ‘Stalinist, non-political attack on comments that are politically related to what is written on the card.

    Vanya you are ignorant and do not have any idea what has been going on behind the scenes between Mr Newman and myself for the reason the comment I made. I suggest that you keep you bad manners to yourself.

    Mr Newman in post 19 says that “Well anyone who studies the internal debates in the CP in the period you are discussing will know this is not true.” Well obviously Mr Newman I disagree with you interpretation of that. If you had read what I had said which was “it had lost that style of ‘democracy’ when the Stalin clique and the Soviet bureaucracy consolidated its power, which was not Lenin and Trotsky’s way or programme, and transmitted it down to the national CP organisations that is how it has to be done.” That means the consolidation took place decades before the late 1950s during the late 20s into the 30s when the transition from the policy of world revolution to that of socialism in one country expressed a sharp right turn in the Communist International and the bureaucratic centralism of making the National Communist Parties in the ‘Embassies’ for the Stalin clique and Soviet Bureaucracy.

  28. Manzil on said:

    Vanya:
    #26 I used to sell it. Average of 30 per week.

    I even once sold 100 on a demo I wasn’t meant to be on.

    When did you find these masochistic tendencies first emerge, Vanya?

    I’ve never understood the appeal of lefty papers. All so bloody boring. At least Socialist Worker has a decentish production, but it doesn’t break out of the Socialism for (treating people like) Idiots model.

    Now I’m about as capable of selling people things as I am of outrunning Usain Bolt, but even if that weren’t the case, I can’t imagine trying to flog people these rags on the street.

    I rather hoped the internet would kill off this approach, but no such luck.

  29. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Manzil when I go out on my stalls for the Socialist Party Scotland I take my laptop with me and get them to download the Socialist so they can take it home to read. Also ask them to download a few leaflets too. I mean the only way to build a socialist organisation that is up to the task for the socialist transformation of society is through the internet. That is the way to meet the ordinary person on the street.

  30. Manzil: Now I’m about as capable of selling people things as I am of outrunning Usain Bolt,

    So you wouldn’t be interested in 200 fire-damaged radio-alarm clocks from Taiwan then?

  31. Manzil on said:

    Vanya: So you wouldn’t be interested in 200 fire-damaged radio-alarm clocks from Taiwan then?

    I can see how you made it to 100 copies on that demo now Vanya, go on then, you’ve sold me.

    D’you have any Latvian video recorders going?

    Incidentally, it’s one of my greatest disappointments is that you don’t see ‘Made in Taiwan’ on all the cheap plastic and electronic stuff you can buy for kids any more. Always ‘Made in China’. Small children now will never have the exciting mystery of wondering, “Where the smeg is Taiwan?”

    As to Karl’s comment about critical voices, I guess it’s good in a way that you can bounce around from the websites of Socialist Worker, the Morning Star, various left groups’ sites, blogs and what have you. The nature of the internet offers critical voices even if the editors don’t.

    Although there’s nothing quite like being able to walk into Southampton’s October Books and watching the lefty volunteer try not to judge you as they ring up your copy of Permanent Revolution.*

    *(Before the ‘Trot-killers’ turn up to trumpet their confirmed prejudices, this was not serious. Karl, your criticisms have shaken me to the very core. I feel unable to use SU as my informal support group, and may well have to get stuck back into the sectarian bitchfest instead.)

  32. Karl Stewart on said:

    Good point about the traditional party-line “lefty papers” by the way and I do think a combination of the internet and the appearance and growth of The Big Issue have effectively killed this off/ are killing this off.

    This is another area where I think the CP has got it right – they have the CP publication Communist Review and they also produce CP newsletters for specific labour movemenr events.

    And CP members actively support the broad paper of the left and TU movement the Morning Star, but as a daily left newspaper, not as a party organ, so the emphasis is on distribution to newsagents, not street sales.

  33. Manzil on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    Aye, the Morning Star is the only regular Left organ (stop it Vanya) I actually enjoy reading.

    The CP approach does seem to make sense. Periodic theoretical journals are a much better source of effort, given the Left’s limited resources. I quite enjoy reading the IS journal etc. Even very small sects can have interesting things to say when they’ve got time on their hands to produce it.

    But a daily/weekly ‘party-line’ voice is just not serious for any existing group – and the wider support of the trade unions for the Star and the toehold it has in lots of newsagents etc. makes it the obvious choice for people who want a broad socialist platform printed in black and white.

    A friend of mine recently spoke at a public debate, which included among the speakers someone from Socialist Appeal (who I didn’t know organised in, well, this century). They got chatting afterwards and despite being only vaguely sympathetic he was offered a weekly column in their paper.

    Does it need saying that THIS IS NOT A HEALTHY SIGN for the Left press?

    But seriously: the internet, it’s bloody brilliant. Probs focus on that. Even if Leon Trotsky didn’t have much to say on the subject, desperately scouring his works on the topic though I’ve been.

  34. Manzil: Left organ (stop it Vanya)

    I feel a Frankie Howard moment coming on here.

    Manzil: Socialist Appeal (who I didn’t know organised in, well, this century).

    Compare their position on Venezuela with that of your chosen side of that split.

  35. Ross Bradshaw on said:

    Trotsky might have kept his thoughts on the internet, dark side and all, to himself, but he did say “If the leaders seek only to preserve themselves, that is what they become; preserves, dried preserves.” Not sure why that one leaped out at me.

  36. john Penney on said:

    Jack Bron,

    There are a number of perfectly predictable background agendas emerging around the blogosphere and other media shitstorm that the bringing out into the light of the undemocratic and cultist internal regime of the SWP has produced. For example:

    1.A number of Leftie-inclined “celebrities” are simply self interestedly distancing themselves from an organisation previously seen as convenient for promoting their personal career progression, but now seen as politically toxic. Of course a lot of these folk have known about the real nature of the SWP regime for years – because they were so often a part of it. Self interested hypocracy rules here.

    2. A number of people holding views that at best are confused about the reactionery, murderous, nature of the world’s previous stalinist and neo stalinist “socialist” regimes, or at worst are simply unabashed worshippers at the shrine of the “true socialist nature of the USSR” and its identical dictatorial but social ownership- based regimes, see the start of the breakup of the “state capitalist” theory promoting neo-Trot SWP as a possible opportunity for all the stalinism apologia stuff to get back into the political mainstream – possibly at the thereby poisoned core of a new realignment of the UK Left. (Frankly anyone who still believes that stalinist “socialism” in its various state forms had or has any progressive historical role shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the Left – they are carriers of ideological totalitarian plague spores).

    OR 3. Genuine radical or revolutionery socialists who want to work with other socialists on a project to create a mass base radical socialist party with the objective of eventually creating a socialist society based on the exercise of democratic workers power – using the current highlighting of the long death dive of bureaucratic Trotsky/Leninism as a tool to understand what is wrong with these political models, their mistaken ideological , behavioural and organisational assumptions and practices. So we can try to do it right the next time.

    Any other motive and purpose than 3. is to my mind both simply voyeuristic train crash watching or delighting in the now inevitable death agonies of the SWP, whilst hoping to assist with the return of even crappier, less attractive, even more undemocratic Left politics in the future.

  37. Andy Newman: some like Palme Dutt who were marrioneettes of Moscow

    No.

    Neither Rajani Palme Dutt, nor others who were aligned to him or drew from the viewpoint which he developed in the context of Britain and its declining empire, (of whom I was one, though I joined the YCL a year before he died) were puppets.

    Palme Dutt deserves particular credit for ensuring that from within the British Communist Party, and by extension the wider left in Britain which the Party influenced, a very strong and principled anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist position, was exerted- despite the pressures and temptations offered to the working class and progressive people in an imperialist country.

    Dutt’s connections with India, where the UK was of course the colonial power, were key in his projection of the relationship between the working class movement in the occupying or dominating power and the anti-imperialist liberation movement.

    This was acknowleged by Communist Party general secretary John Gollan in 1974:

    “The close alliance of the socialist world forces, the national liberation movement and the working class of the capitalist countries is the triple force which is determining the course of human history, By his work on the national liberation movement and the role it could play, Raji made a signal contribution to the development of that alliance.”

  38. Manzil on said:

    Vanya: I feel a Frankie Howard moment coming on here.

    Compare their position on Venezuela with that of your chosen side of that split.

    I feel suitably chastised, don’t worry. But when you realise my alternative is the SWP, and all the state capitalist nonsense that goes along with that, I’d hope you’d give me the benefit of the doubt.

    Besides, Alan Woods may enjoy his junkets to Caracas, but I think it’s fair to say Socialist Appeal exists more because its members like going to GCs than its line on progressive governments.

    In much the same way my own decisions have considerably more to do with involvement in trade union and anti-cuts politics than the sadly ultra-left views of many towards Cuba, Venezuela etc.

    Now tell me who or what you currently belong to or identify yourself with, so I can trawl through their website and declare your guilt by association. It’s only fair. :P

  39. Manzil on said:

    Ross Bradshaw:
    Trotsky might have kept his thoughts on the internet, dark side and all, to himself, but he did say “If the leaders seek only to preserve themselves, that is what they become; preserves, dried preserves.” Not sure why that one leaped out at me.

    Which also, handily, provides us with an orthodox Trotskyist line on marmalade.

  40. Karl Stewart on said:

    john Penney,
    Or you could have saved yourself a lot of words by just saying:
    There are three types of people:
    1. Silly people
    2. Really, really nasty people
    3. Nice people like ME!!!

  41. Manzil on said:

    Noah,

    Dutt was also responsible for the CPGB’s disastrous role in encouraging the Moscow-directed anti-Royist takeover of the CPI, dissolving the Workers’ and Peasants’ parties – which wrecked the burgeoning united front between the (heavily CP-influenced) Bombay labour movement and the mass nationalist movement, let the reactionary right monopolise the politics of Congress in the aftermath of the 1929 crash, and left the CPI completely vulnerable to the predatory attentions of the colonial regime.

    As he said of Stalin, I think it’s fine to recognise RP Dutt’s sun had some serious spots also.

  42. At least Socialist Worker has a decentish production, but it doesn’t break out of the Socialism for (treating people like) Idiots model.

    This prompts another memory – the Day I Nearly Joined the Socialist Alliance. I’d been out of things for a bit, and I was doing some shopping when I bumped into some guys with a petition. I had heard of the SA, and these guys really impressed me – they gave me the usual sort of “local activists getting together across party lines to try and make a difference” spiel, but it sounded like they really believed it. They just seemed really human. I asked the guy something – I forget what – and he said Oh, you’ll need to talk to Gary*, he’s not here at the moment. I decided not to wait, but I did pass them again on my way home. Gary had evidently got back from leafleting the newsagent/buying a Twix/having a slash/whatever: a large man with a megaphone and an expression of bored professionalism had taken up a position in front of the stall, where he was HECtoring passers-by, ALL on two notes, as IF he was selling an EVENING paper, making EVERYTHING sound TOTALLY boring and GIVing the imPRESSION he thought we were ALL idiots for NOT having JOINED the PARTY alREADY…

    Is it too much to hope that the party’s weirdly aggressive/patronising megaphone technique will be one of the casualties of the crisis?

    But a daily/weekly ‘party-line’ voice is just not serious for any existing group

    Reminds me of Jim Higgins’s comment on Militant’s plans to go daily – so little changed from issue to issue that it would make more sense to go the other way and switch to bringing out a Militant Annual.

    *Name has been changed as a result of faulty memory.

  43. Manzil: Now tell me who or what you currently belong to or identify yourself with, so I can trawl through their website and declare your guilt by association.

    Respect is my only political affiliation.

    But Mw 22.21

  44. During the 1980s, the CPGB’s internal bulletin ‘News and Views’ was a superb read. Full of anadoyne but uplifting stories about CPGB election campaigns, but managed to avoid any mention of the internal struggle between the Morning Star Chaterites (soon to become the Communist Campaign Group upon expulsion) and the Marxism Today Eurocommunists.

    Then the Eurocommunists went and liquidated the party! And now it is all dust! History is a valley of bones, as Hegel said. But he also said ‘A party is not a party without a split’ which seems a bit more prescient.

  45. Manzil: …anti-Royist takeover of the CPI… etc etc

    With the benefit of hindsight & whatever modern research is available, it might be of historical interest to consider if Raji Palme Dutt got it right or wrong on that particular issue.

    But either way, what precisely has that to do with what I said in my previous post? I didn’t claim that Dutt was some kind of Communist intellectual saint, incapable of ever getting anything wrong. Whoever was?

    Merely I propose that Dutt made a major and valuable contribution to the anti-imperialist position of the left in the UK.

    Odd that you should feel the need to detract from that.

  46. Manzil on said:

    @ Vanya. I’ll begin assembling the file.

    Noah: Odd that you should feel the need to detract from that.

    It’s not ‘odd’, it’s called a discussion. Don’t be so bloody prickly.

    You were lauding his contribution to anti-imperialism in the context of Andy’s designation of him as a ‘marionette of Moscow’. I gave an example where his influence over anti-imperialism was actually profoundly damaging and was fuelled by his obedience to the Comintern line.

    And given the relative failure of India to address its massive social problems as a result of the bourgeois triumph within the national movement, nor is it merely of ‘historical interest’. And plenty of Indian Communists were critical at the time, bereft of hindsight though they were.

  47. Manzil on said:

    Phil: Is it too much to hope that the party’s weirdly aggressive/patronising megaphone technique will be one of the casualties of the crisis?

    Or, indeed, megaphones usage full stop. The vuvuzelas of politics…

    I take it the SA didn’t get another recruit that day after all?

  48. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    The Socialist Party Scotland use megaphones all the time when we doing our public stall work and they are a great success. I personally do not use the megaphone because I prefer the personal touch of going up to a person and engaging them in discussion and ask them if they want to either sign the petition at the stall we are doing or to buy a Socialist, Scottish version, newspaper and/or the Socialism Today journal, the British version. Also with great success! Public activity, such as street stalls, is the best way to reach ordinary working class and middle class people, not just in the trade union

  49. I take it the SA didn’t get another recruit that day after all?

    Sadly no.

    It’s not the megaphone itself, it’s that “evening paper” way of using it – with that extra level of bored arrogance that says that this particular evening paper has all the answers, everyone knows it’s got all the answers, and the only reason you haven’t bought it already must be that you’re an idiot.

    Still, maybe it works for them.

  50. Manzil: You were lauding his [Palme Dutt's] contribution to anti-imperialism

    Yes I was, and no apology for that.

    The Communist Party’s involvement in the anti-colonial and solidarity campaigns at the time were crucial, and he played a key role in this.

    And I notice you don’t critique what I actually said, re: Dutt’s importance in the anti imperialist movement in the UK during the 20th Century.

  51. @ Phil. Evidence suggests that it doesn’t!

    I don’t mind people on stalls having conversations, but blasting people in the ear with megaphones seems akin to street-performance, and thus about as welcome as syphilis or Britain’s Got Talent.

    Noah: And I notice you don’t critique what I actually said, re: Dutt’s importance in the anti imperialist movement in the UK during the 20th Century.

    Because I don’t disagree with it? You don’t ‘own’ his reputation. I was making a point of direct relevance to the question of his anti-imperialist role. Are you always so defensive?

  52. Manzil: obedience to the Comintern line etc etc

    OK. So, during the 20th Century there was an anti-imperialist movement, much of it led by communists, and influenced by the socialist countries.

    They got some things right and some things wrong.

    And your point is… what exactly?

  53. Noah: They got some things right and some things wrong.

    And your point is… what exactly?

    That there were serious consequences for that, and that your hagiography didn’t change the fact Andy Newman’s characterisation of Dutt was, I thought, broadly accurate, at least in the example I mentioned. Because that was what Andy had referred to and what you were flatly refuting. People say things, and other people, reading that, reply in kind. That you disagree with them is besides the point.

    Am I honestly having to explain what a fucking dialogue is?

  54. Manzil: Andy Newman’s characterisation [...] what Andy had referred to and what [oh, horror!] you were flatly refuting

    What, you are now Andy Newman’s bag carrier?

    Much as I like Andy, I was not aware he had a vacancy for that position.

  55. Jimmy Haddow: The Socialist Party Scotland use megaphones all the time when we doing our public stall work and they are a great success.

    How do you quantify success, Jimmy?

    I used to do the megaphone thing at street stalls on Saturdays. Now I go running and watch Football Focus :)

  56. Noah,

    “Am I honestly having to explain what a fucking dialogue is?”

    Apparently I am.

    Noah, people offer opinions. Like when you read the comment about Dutt, and disagreed with it, you brought up relevant information in reply. Without – shock horror – even asking for permission! Because that’s what this whole ‘blog’ is about, yeah? I then did the same thing. Do you see how it works?

  57. John: I used to do the megaphone thing at street stalls on Saturdays. Now I go running and watch Football Focus

    All three of those things fill me with fear and hatred. :P

  58. Noah: What, you are now Andy Newman’s bag carrier?

    Much as I like Andy, I was not aware he had a vacancy for that position.

    I’m sure Andy is an equal opportunities employer so it will be properly advertised.

  59. One of the most significant expulsions from the CPGB over Hungary was Peter Fryer, the longstanding Party member and Daily Worker correspondent sent to Budapest to cover the events and whose articles about the reality of the uprising were suppressed from the Party’s paper. Fryer was expelled by the CPGB on his return to Britain for his views on the Hungary revolt. Attracted to Trotky’s critique of stalinism, he joined Gerry Healy’s group, which transformed itself into the ‘Socialist Labour League’ (SLL) and became a home for many departing the CPGB as it entered its terminal decline in the wake of the Hungary crisis. Fryer’s superb political and journalistic skills were put to use as editor of the SLL paper, the Newletter. Although convinced about Trostkyism after his decades in the CPGB, Fryer fell out with Healy’s version of trotskyism which he condemned as being as undemocratic as the CPGB that had suppressed and expelled him. He resigned from the SLL in 1959. His resignation letter included a critique of Healy’s leadership of the SLL that has a striking similarity to the issues raised by the current-day SWP crisis:

    “We who came into the Trotskyist movement from the Communist Party, hard on the heels of the experience of Hungary and our struggle with the Stalinist bureaucracy in Britain, were assured that in the Trotskyist movement we would find a genuine communist movement, where democracy flourished, where dissenters were encouraged to express their dissent, and where relationships between comrades were in all respects better, more brotherly and more human than in the party we had come from. Instead we have found at the top of the Trotskyist movement, despite the sacrifices and hard work of the rank and file, a repetition of Communist Party methods of work, methods of leadership, and methods of dealing with persons who are not prepared to kotow to the superior wisdom of the “strong man”.

    The removal of the general secretary and the establishment of a collective leadership which trusts the members and is trusted by them, the establishment of mutual confidence among members and a spirit of socialist brotherhood in place of suspicion, lies, bullying and blackmail: these are what is needed, in my opinion, if the League is to do the job it was founded to do.”

    Fryer spent the whole of his life as a trotskyist but never joined another organisation, becoming one of Britain’s most renowned writers on race issues. In 1986 I heard him give an inspiring speech at a meeting on the 30th anniversary of Hungary, organised jointly by a number of left groups after the WRP imploded. That joint meeting was one of the steps towards the positive merger of forces coming from the IMG and WRP traditions that became today’s Socialist Resistance. The recent meeting in London, and forthcoming meeting in Manchester organised by Socialist Resistance, the Anti Capitalist Resistance and the Independent Socialist Network, together with the Left Unity initiative of the last couple of weeks, give encouragement that out of the SWP crisis reformation and regroupment of left forces will be achieved in spite of the armchair cynicism of most of the commentators on the increasingly misnamed Socialist Unity site. You can find out more by visiting the Left Unity, Anti Capitalist Initiative, Socialist Resistance and Independent Socialist Network sites.

    Fryer sadly died in 2006 before the SWP began their current decline in the wake of their behaviour in Respect. Fryer’s works on Hungary and his resignation letter with its appeal for an open, critical and above all democratic revolutionary socialism deserve careful reading in today’s situation. They can be found here:
    http://www.marxists.org/archive/fryer/

  60. Stuart and Jimmy Haddow are quite right. There is no comparison between the CPGB’s internal crises and what is going on in the SWP. The CPGB, in 1956-57, and again at the end of the 1980s, tore itself apart over events of world-historical importance, events of direct consequence to millions of people…

  61. Noah: Bizarre. I specifically stated that Dutt & other communists were not ‘saints’.

    Yeah, yeah. It’s called hyperbole. I engaged in it for dramatic effect upon discovering what a massively over-sensitive and crabby individual you appear to be.

  62. Manzil: Because that’s what this whole ‘blog’ is about, yeah? [...] you see how it works?

    Well Manzil, what I see is that you are a bit full of yourself and eager to impress.

  63. #66. There were two minor typos but I was prevented from editing them due to subsequent rapid posting:

    “Fryer spent the whole of the rest of his life as a trotskyist …”

    “forthcoming meeting in Manchester organised by Socialist Resistance, the Anti Capitalist Initiative and the Independent Socialist Network …”

    Apologies.

  64. Yes Noah, god forbid I offered an opinion. And one that disagreed with yours at that! :o

    “Bag carrier”, “full of yourself”, “eager to impress”. Aye, my days revolve around the approval of strangers on the internet like yourself. Next time I’ll take that ‘reply’ button to be a bit of an ironic gimmick.

    Spirit of Budapest: That joint meeting was one of the steps towards the positive merger of forces coming from the IMG and WRP traditions that became today’s Socialist Resistance. The recent meeting in London, and forthcoming meeting in Manchester organised by Socialist Resistance, the Anti Capitalist Resistance and the Independent Socialist Network, together with the Left Unity initiative of the last couple of weeks, give encouragement that out of the SWP crisis reformation and regroupment of left forces will be achieved in spite of the armchair cynicism of most of the commentators on the increasingly misnamed Socialist Unity site.

    If that’s the Independent Socialist Network of Nick Wrack and co. (“Scottish Counterfire” calling itself the International Socialist Group has gotten me all confused) then I imagine the regroupment discussions will consist of how every other party is shit, the ISN party-of-no-parties is the core of the new socialist party, and how there are great successes just around the corner if only we put a bit more effort in.

    Which isn’t exactly that different from the lines of the SP, SWP etc. Begging the question, if that isn’t working for them individually, why bother all failing to realise it together?

    (Also, what bit of the WRP ended up in today’s Socialist Resistance?)

  65. Manzil…
    If that’s the Independent Socialist Network of Nick Wrack and co. (“Scottish Counterfire” calling itself the International Socialist Group has gotten me all confused) then I imagine the regroupment discussions will consist of how every other party is shit, the ISN party-of-no-parties is the core of the new socialist party, and how there are great successes just around the corner if only we put a bit more effort in.

    In answer to your questions: “Yes, it’s that ISN” and “No, you imagine wrongly” respectively. You will get a chance to hear Nick Wrack speak on the subject in Manchester at the weekend, as he did in London last week when Phil Hearse and Simon Hardy spoke. The videos are on the SR and ACI websites. Cat Rylance (ACI) and Terry Conway (SR) are the other speakers in Manchester.

    MANCHESTER: Socialist organisation and democracy today
    2pm Saturday 9th February, Methodist Central Hall, Oldham St, Manchester M1 1JQ
    Organised by the Anticapitalist Initiative, Socialist Resistance and the Independent Socialist Network
    Speakers: Cat Rylance (ACI), Terry Conway (SR) and Nick Wrack (ISN)
    A number of recent debates on the revolutionary left have raised issues about the lack of democracy in traditional conceptions of socialist organisation. But where does this conception of ‘Leninism’ come from and why does it still hold such an attraction in the 21st century? This panel will bring together activists who want to see a more democratic and plural conception of revolutionary organisation, which encourages free thinking, participation and autonomy.

  66. Cheers for the heads up. :)

    Spirit of Budapest: “No, you imagine wrongly” respectively. You will get a chance to hear Nick Wrack speak on the subject in Manchester at the weekend, as he did in London last week when Phil Hearse and Simon Hardy spoke.

    I spoke to him not two months ago after a public meeting he’d done to set up a TUSC branch, where just those views were put forward (although in politer terms, given a lot of SWP and SP members had come along!). Our local small group of ISN members here have since worked hard to set up TUSC as a functioning party in its own right, which is a legitimate position – I wasn’t having a pop. I just don’t agree with it.

    I am however interested to see what comes of it, as Wrack seems quite sincere and both Socialist Resistance and the ACI have both been putting forward some interesting stuff since the SWP blow-up.

  67. Please keep buying The Socialist. My work depends on it. :-) I hear what you say Manzil, been trying get the editors to visually improve it for years but am still waiting………..

  68. Manzil: I spoke to him not two months ago after a public meeting he’d come set up a local TUSC branch, where just those views were put forward (although in politer terms, given a lot of SWP and SP members had come along!). The small group of ISN members here have since worked tirelessly to try and set up TUSC as a functioning party in its own right, which is a legitimate position – I wasn’t having a pop. I just don’t agree with it.

    That’s not their policy any more.

  69. Manzil: Yeah, yeah. It’s called hyperbole. I engaged in it for dramatic effect upon discovering what a massively over-sensitive and crabby individual you appear to be.

    In other words, you were talking rubbish.

  70. red snapper:
    Please keep buying The Socialist. My work depends on it. I hear what you say Manzil, been trying get the editors to visually improve it for years but am still waiting………..

    Haha. Well now I feel bad!

    I’ll pay solidarity price just for you. I’ll slip the money in an envelope marked ‘FAO Red Snapper’!

  71. Noah: In other words, you were talking rubbish.

    Someone’s grumpy. :P If you don’t actually want to discuss Dutt – or indeed, anything at all, apparently – which I was more than happy to do, until you took such offence, why are you even commenting?

    Spirit of Budapest: That’s not their policy any more.

    Oh? I hadn’t heard. So what’s their new policy?

  72. Francis King: Stuart and Jimmy Haddow are quite right. There is no comparison between the CPGB’s internal crises and what is going on in the SWP. The CPGB, in 1956-57, and again at the end of the 1980s, tore itself apart over events of world-historical importance, events of direct consequence to millions of people…

    Obviously the reasons for the splits in the CPGB in the 1950s and the SWP now are completely different. But what I thought was interesting was that the reasons for the splits in both periods raised questions about party discipline and democracy within the party structure, and a ‘special congress/conference was called (partly) to address the issue of ‘democratic centralism’.

  73. Thanks manzil, but please don’t feel bad. Doing what I can. :-)

    Interesting little story about the left and photos in general. Some years back me along with a fellow photographer had an exhibition of photos we took during the G8 protests in Germany. About 30 or so nice A3+size images that I hand printed and mounted myself during the Socialism event later that year. They were displayed right outside the main hall at ULU. Practically everyone walked right past without even bothering to have a look and not a single comment in the visitors book even though most of the work featured the CWI and their glorious intervention during those protests. In contrast a few years before, myself and the same colleague exhibited similar earlier international protest material during Marxism, the room was usually pretty packed and over 1,000 comments in the visitors book even though you had to walk over 200 yards to the exhibition venue. Make of that what you will. :-)

  74. Evan: Obviously the reasons for the splits in the CPGB in the 1950s and the SWP now are completely different

    In the mid 1950s the world communist movement was grappling with new problems. A serious counterrevolutionary offensive in the two European socialist countries where fascist regimes had been strongest ten years earlier (Germany and Hungary) was underway and in the western European capitalists states the domestic communist movements were adapting to the heightened climate of anti communist hysteria. In these circumstances the 20th CPSU congress turnabout inevitably produced a crisis, of confidence for some people and courage for others.
    The party leadership took the matter seriously. A widespread discussion took place in the branches and the party press. Prominent representatives of the trend most opposed to the leadership positions were incorporated on the commission set up to report to the congress. A very full discussion took place.
    It did not produce a split in the British Communist Movement, no breakaway organisation with a claim to the heritage emerged. Over the piece some thousands of people left, a tiny handful became trotskyists, from the opposition a group of intellectuals left but continued working in a broad left wing milieu and were never really were able to make a serious or continuing connection with organised workers. Within less than a decade the CPGB had replenished its numbers to top 35,000.
    I joined the party from the YCL in that 1965 Year of Party Building and my impression from that period is that most people who had left the party simply vanished into private life. But some clearly went into trade union or Labour Party work.
    As Francis says, these were matters of world historical importance.
    They involved millions of revolutionaries; parties in every part of the world, many exercising state power, others in clandestinity or armed struggle; decisive sectors of the organised working class in the main industrial countries; the best representatives of the creative intelligentsia in may countries, world leaders in science, philosophy, the arts.
    The issues under dispute went to the main questions of revolutionary strategy and organisation upon which the actions of millions of revolutionaries turned.
    By way of contrast the the SWP’s travails centre on the inability of that organisation – over a number of years – to deal with an allegation of rape with simple humanity and common sense.
    There really is no comparison.

  75. Karl Stewart on said:

    Spirit of Budapest
    You clearly admired this person, but why, from a left-wing prespective, would someone have opposed the 1956 Soviet intervention into Hungary?

    Noah,
    I agree Dutt was instrumental in breinging a strong anti-imperialist perespective into British communism.. But on the negative side, he did take an appalling position during the 1939 controversy ewithin the CP over the Hitler/StalIn pact.

  76. I understand it must be hard for Trotskyites, lacking any popular support, anytime, ever, but the desperation to cling to Islamic extremists/CIA stooges/liberals/nationalists/fascists/any flavour of the week as if they were fully fledged trots is pathetic.

    I mean ‘Spirit of Budapest’ wtf?

    I don’t doubt that there was a nationalistic element in 56 that had genuine greivances about Soviet domination of their country, but ignore the lynching of communist party members and Jews at your peril. Ignorance of the influence of organised fascists typifies the trot approach. Nothing is simple and black n white. There were various factions at work in 56, including fascists, liberals and other anti-socialist elements.

    I used to consider it a must to reject the suppression of 56 (and 68) and mourn the loss of a potential ‘socialism with a human face’, but now I am not so sure it is that clear cut. Especially when there is evidence of fascist activity, when you know the CIA is keen to exploit a situation, and when years later these promoters of ‘socialism with a human face’ have all dropped any pretence of being socialist at all.

    I mean if today a protest movement kicked off in Cuba and among the demands were some degree of socialist sentiment but anti the government, would the CIA not be involved? What would the best approach?

    No doubt some ordinary Cubans are here demanding only a few liberal reforms within a socialist system, but who is really pulling the strings here?

    I guess it’s not a great comparison as Cuba is not being dominated by a larger neighbour trying to impose their rule (apart from the USA!) in the same way the people’s democracies were dominated by the soviets.

    But still. ‘Socialism with a human face’ is what we all want, but even if some people wanted this in Hungary and Czechoslovakia (which I’m sure they did) were their actions the best way of achieving this? Where there different agendas going on here?

    I’m not saying I have changed my mind completely and now enthusiastically cheer on the tanks like the cliché, but I certainly don’t think representing 56 and 68 as simply a genuine case of people wanting socialism with a human face is wholly accurate.

  77. Noah and Manzil, stop it. You both write excellent stuff on here, you’re both on the same side. You two both post stuff that people really want to read. So, shut up and instead imagine you’re two mates having a friendly disagreement – just try to realise that when you’re writing text, you have to try 100 times harder not to look like a jerk. Neither of you do, but you both think each other does.

    I want to read both of you, so just remember you’re on the same side and talk like mates instead of talking as if you’re trying to show each other up. (I’m deliberately not taking sides as to who started it or why or who’s right – I genuinely love reading what both of you have to say, and so do the rest of our readers)

  78. Francis King: There is no comparison between the CPGB’s internal crises and what is going on in the SWP.

    Nick Wright: There really is no comparison.

    Well yes of course the difference is between the CP being a real party, able to influence events (although occassionaly behaving like a sect); and the SWP which is a sect that is 10 years on from its last foray into the real world, with the anti war movement.

    Neverthless, when Marx in the 18th Brumiare wrote about history repeating itself he was making a serious point, that a superstructure of ideologies and institutional forms persists after their foundation in the material world has been undermined by changes in the social and economic base; so when social crises occur, the political actors often attempt to inappropriately recapitulate responses that are farcically doomed to failure
    It is also true that institutional forms of organization have their own dynamic, and relationships depend during the occassions upon psychological factors which operate between individuals, and within groups whether or not the group has an effective social impact or not.

    I remember within the SWP when I was a member on several occasions during the late 1980s raising my concern that cult of bureaucratic leadership, and culture of conformity was recapitulating in comical miniature the more unfortunate aspects of the CPs in the era of high Stalinism. It didn’t make me popular.

    Also, history is itself a political intervention. My purpose here is to flag up three factors, firstly that as a real party, with real social weight and responsibility, the CP in 1957 conducted an appropriate and meaningful internal debate; with no hissy fits and silly expulsions; they also has a caliber of industrial n a trade union militants and independent thinking intellectuals that meant that the debate was grounded in the real world. Secondly, the SWP opposition are banking on a recall conference, the example of 1957 shows that the cards are stacked against success via that route, even where a conference is called. Thirdly, I find it amusing to highlight the similarity of position between Alex Callinicos today, and the SWP leaderships talk of individualism and liberalism, with similar positions and language from people who the SWP would regard as incorrigible Stalinists.

    That itself is a political intervention into the SWP’s debate

  79. Jimmy Haddow: The Socialist Party Scotland use megaphones all the time when we doing our public stall work and they are a great success.

    John: How do you quantify success, Jimmy?

    Surely the success is self evident by the mighty force in Scottish politics that they have become.

  80. Georgey Boy: …

    I don’t doubt that there was a nationalistic element in 56 that had genuine greivances about Soviet domination of their country, but ignore the lynching of communist party members and Jews at your peril. Ignorance of the influence of organised fascists typifies the trot approach. Nothing is simple and black n white. There were various factions at work in 56, including fascists, liberals and other anti-socialist elements.

    Peter Fryer was the Daily Worker correspondent sent to Hungary and had been a loyal CPGB member since 1942. He wrote a book, ‘The Hungarian Tragedy’, originally published in December 1956 after the Daily Worker refused to publish his eyewitness reports and he was expelled from the CPGB. In Chapter 8, updated in 1986, he describes the second Soviet invasion and dismantles the arguments used by its apologists. The Book is available in full from the link I gave. An extract responding to the specific point you raise is below, but the whole of Chapter 8 merits full attention. Far from displaying ‘ignorance of the influence of organised fascists’, Fryer describes the situation and its distortion as follows:

    The third argument in favour of Soviet intervention is that there was ‘White Terror’ raging in Hungary, and that for the Soviet Union to have refused to intervene would have been ‘inhuman’. Leaving aside the still uncertain question of whether anyone ever did appeal to the Soviet Union to intervene, let us make quite sure what White Terror is. just as Red Terror is the organised, systematic repression by a proletarian dictatorship of its counter-revolutionary opponents, so White Terror is the organised, systematic repression by a bourgeois dictatorship of its revolutionary opponents.

    Heaven help Andrew Rothstein and those others who call the state of affairs in Hungary on November 1, 2 and 3 ‘White Terror’ if they ever come face to face with real White Terror. In ten days the Versailles army which suppressed the Paris Commune of 1871 slaughtered between 20,000 and 30,000 men, women and children, either in battle or in cold blood, amid terrible scenes of cruelty and suffering. ‘The ground is paved with their corpses’, gloated Thiers. Another 20,000 were transported and 7,800 sent to the coastal fortresses. That was White Terror. Thousands of Communists and Jews were tortured and murdered after the suppression of the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919, and hideous atrocities took place at Orgovány and Siófok. That was White Terror. In 1927 Chiang Kai-shek massacred 5,000 organised workers in Shanghai. That was White Terror. From the advent of Hitler to the defeat of fascist Germany untold millions of Communists, Socialists, trade unionists, Jews and Christians were murdered. That was White Terror. It is perfectly true that a section of the population of Budapest, outraged to the pitch of madness by the crimes of the secret police, was seized with a lust to exterminate Communists. It is true that the innocent suffered as well as the guilty. This is a painful and distressing fact. But to describe the murder of a number of Communists (which all observers agree was confined to Budapest) as ‘White Terror’ necessitating Soviet intervention is to describe events in Hungary in a one-sided, propagandist way. How many innocent Communists were murdered in Budapest? Twenty? Fifty? I do not know. But certainly fewer – far, far fewer – than the number of AVH men who were lynched. At the Agony of Hungary exhibition in London, and in all the hundreds of photographs I have seen, there was not a single one showing a lynched Communist. But there were many showing lynched AVH men in their uniforms. [1] There was one sequence showing a woman in civilian clothes being molested by a crowd, who accused her of being an AVH spy. The caption stated that the crowd let her go.

    Now the only circumstantial evidence for the murder of Communists is that put forward by André Stil in an article translated in World News of November 24. Stil arrived in Budapest on November 12, nine days after the second Soviet intervention. His article was published in Humanité on November 19. Even bearing in mind the assertion of Coutts and others I spoke to that forty of those killed in the Budapest Party headquarters were AVH men, it is impossible to find Stil’s account of the treatment of the seven Communists whom he names anything but convincing and horrible. Yet Stil is obviously performing the disagreeable task of a propagandist making the most of a small number of atrocities. His need to have the attack on the Party headquarters begin on October 30 makes him antedate the Soviet withdrawal from Budapest by three days; he describes ‘the vandals attacking the liberation monument built upon the Gellért Hill’, whereas in fact the main figure was not attacked; and, worst of all, he mentions the AVH and its crimes in the following curious and oblique way:

    Many of those who were there did not at first believe that the Party and its active members were being attacked, but that the attack was directed to the members of a secret police about whom the most unlikely stones were being told. (my italics – P.F.)

    I have met Stil and have a great personal respect for him, as comrade, journalist, novelist and militant, but I should be dishonest if I did not say that the words I have italicised are unworthy of him. The truth about the ‘White Terror’ has been told by Bruce Renton:

    In the provinces only the AVH was physically attacked. (New Statesman, November 17) I had seen no counter-revolutionaries. I had seen the political prisoners liberated … I had seen the executioners executed in the fury of the people’s revenge … But there was no ‘White Terror’. The Communists walked free, the secret police were hanging by their boots. Where then was this counter-revolution, this White Terror? (Truth, November 16)

    The arguments in favour of the second Soviet intervention do not hold water. But even if Nagy had been making concessions all along the line to fascism, even if counter-revolution had succeeded, even if White Terror had been raging, it must be said, and said openly and with emphasis, that from the standpoint of Socialist principle the Soviet Union would still not have been justified in intervening. The Soviet aggression against Hungary was not merely immoral and criminal from the standpoint of the Hungarian people. It was a clear and flagrant breach of what Lenin called ‘that elementary Socialist principle … to which Marx was always faithful, namely, that no nation can be free if it opresses other nations’. November 4, 1956, saw the leaders of the Soviet Union defy Lenin’s warning never to ‘slide, even in trifles, into imperialist relations with the oppressed nationalities, thereby undermining entirely our whole principle of sincerity, our principle of defence of the struggle against imperialism’.
    http://www.marxists.org/archive/fryer/1956/dec/8_revolution_and_counter.htm

    Fryer became a lifelong opponent of racism and fascism and wrote what became wide acknowledged as some of the best books ever on the experience of black people in Britain.

  81. Spirit of Budapest: ut even if Nagy had been making concessions all along the line to fascism, even if counter-revolution had succeeded, even if White Terror had been raging, it must be said, and said openly and with emphasis, that from the standpoint of Socialist principle the Soviet Union would still not have been justified in intervening.

    This is the point at which Fryer’s analysis fails. By this logic there should have been no intervention in Spain against fascism by the Soviet Union and should have been no invasion of Nazi Germany.

    Where does this sentiment leave the principle of internationalism?

    The Soviet Union did not oppress nations. It did however liberate nations from the oppression of fascism and capitalism.

  82. Karl Stewart on said:

    Spirit of Budapest,
    I’ve never read Fryer’s book and I know little about the details of what happened in Hungary in that period.

    My view has generally been one of the Soviet Union acting to prevent anti-jewish progorms and widespread killings of communists.

    I’m sure there would have been innocent people killed too and also many genuine well-meaning people among the anti-government activists too, and one can appreciate the shock and horror a young and perehaps hitherto idealistic English visitor might have felt when confronted with thiis reeality.

    One thing that I’m curious about though, is that if he had been a “loyal party member since 1942″ what positions had he taken on issues during the Stalin period?

  83. The trouble with painting Hungary in 56 as a socialist-leaning movement is that it stands largely in ignorance of the motivations of the people involvement which were above all nationalistic. It was all about ridding the country of its new socialist character, symbolised by cutting out the middle of the Hungarian flag.

    I sympathise with those who were genuinely concerned about the role the Soviet Union was playing and extent to which it dominated the country-and I’m sure some would have been taken in by the socialistic rhetoric of some of the leaders of the counter revolution, but you would have to have your head firmly wedged in a liberal, idealistic sand if you fail to see that in the main it was a counter revolution, one that deployed groups of fascists who lynched Jews and communists. That the CIA’s Radio of Free Europe was broadcasting not just messages of support to the rebels but advice in terms of military strategy. There were a whole host of different groups with different agendas, but even those motivated by reasons of nationalism or misguided ideas of a different socialism, were effectively acting out a counter revolution.

    If 56 had succeeded do we really think Hungary would have become a Trotskyite paradise? Or would it have reestablished capitalism, joined NATO or worse reverted back to the former fascist state?

    I think we accept that sometimes people say things they do not mean for political reasons. If we take the words of those involved in Hungary 56 and Czechoslovakia 68 they only wanted a more independent version of socialism, but if that is the case why are the leaders of 68 today liberals who are anti-socialist and who supported the restoration of capitalism?

    It seems obvious that. There would be elements in the people’s democracies wanting to reestablish capitalism, but what makes Hungary so scary is the strength of the fascist forces, that had been so powerful only a few years previously.

    One interesting fact is that, for instance, the founder of the current fascist movement Jobbik is Gergely Pongrátz-a leader of the 56 counter revolution.

  84. Graham: Whereas the practice followed by the SWP leadership in this case has far more to do with their own (material) interests than any principled politics Stuart?

    For your argument to stand up you would have to demonstrate how the SWP has shifted its politics. Feel free.

  85. Andy Newman: I find it amusing to highlight the similarity of position between Alex Callinicos today, and the SWP leaderships talk of individualism and liberalism, with similar positions and language from people who the SWP would regard as incorrigible Stalinists.

    Amusing, but annoying too.
    We need to make a distinction between the exercise of the authority that is necessarily invested in leadership because of the real responsibilities that leadership carries in class struggle with the exercise of arbitrary authority to protect an internal regime.
    The mechanism needed is inner-party democracy. I have no problem with the power invested in leadership and no problem with putting pressure of functionaries to work more effectively. Some people do this well and some badly. But I do find the practice of appointing local leaders from the centre bizarre.
    The Communist Party practice is for district secretaries to be elected members of the district committee, who thus first have to be a delegate elected by a branch to the district congress, secondly then elected by the committee itself. In the past, on occasion, someone might be ‘parachuted’ in but if they were to stay they had to be elected at a subsequent district congress.

  86. #88. Point taken. Sorry.

    Nick Wright: The Communist Party practice is for district secretaries to be elected members of the district committee, who thus first have to be a delegate elected by a branch to the district congress, secondly then elected by the committee itself. In the past, on occasion, someone might be ‘parachuted’ in but if they were to stay they had to be elected at a subsequent district congress.

    Mind if I ask what the role of the CP district secretaries is? Is it akin to the SWP full-timers, or more of a CLP secretary-at-large? (Representant en mission, perhaps? :D)

  87. Never heard of the ISN before today; it looks to be an umbrella group waiting to happen, not a million miles from the Socialist Network (final version of the Socialist Movement), or for that matter the Socialist Alliance. The parallels don’t fill me with confidence!

    Interested to see Will McMahon’s name alongside Nick Wrack’s – is Will not ISG/SocRes these days? (I suppose I could always ask him.)

    As for the ISG (Scotland) – another new one on me – I’m appalled, appalled I say, at the total absence of sectarian trivia about this SWP splinter on SU. I mean, they’ve got Bambery and everything. Never mind writing stuff about issues that matter to people – we* demand a higher standard of leftist trainspotting!

    *The masses and me (I’ll check it with them later).

  88. stuart,

    Stuart, I don’t have to do anything of the sort, the organisational practice of the SWP leadership, both in this particular case and more widely is the issue rather than any abstract shift in their political positions.

    i.e it was in the interests of the SWP existing leadership to expel (silence) any effective opposition before the conference, just as it was in the interests of the same grouping that the complainant didn’t address the conference

  89. Nick Wright: I sympathise with those who were genuinely concerned about the role the Soviet Union was playing and extent to which it dominated the country

    I am sure the Soviet leadership was concerned to protect the socialist character of production relations in Hungary. But I suspect that uppermost in their thoughts was the need to prevent Hungary becoming a base from which to once again assault their own country.
    Not surprising considering that a decade previously the Red Army had been obliged to defeat a fascist Hungarian Army allied to nazis.
    It is nonsense to make a distinction between ‘communist’ and the Hungarian security forces as Spirit of Budapest does above. If the Hungarian communists had a heightened awareness of the need for effective security organs it may be connected to the price they paid when the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919 was defeated.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Terror_(Hungary)

  90. stuart on said:

    Graham:

    Stuart, I don’t have to do anything of the sort, the organisational practice of the SWP leadership, both in this particular case and more widely is the issue rather than any abstract shift in their political positions.

    So you are happy to make accusations about unprincipled politics but not actually engage in an exploration of the politics.

  91. Karl Stewart:
    Spirit of Budapest,
    … one can appreciate the shock and horror a young and perehaps hitherto idealistic English visitor might have felt when confronted with thiis reeality.

    One thing that I’m curious about though, is that if he had been a “loyal party member since 1942″ what positions had he taken on issues during the Stalin period?

    It’s a nice attempt at deflection, but Fryer was neither young nor hitherto idealistic. He wrote down what he saw and was expelled from the CPGB for telling the truth. From Ken Coates’ Obituary of Peter Fryer:

    Peter had joined the Communist Party in Britain in 1942, and became a member of the staff of the Daily Worker in 1948. The following year he received his first assignment in Hungary, to report upon a show trial of the eminent Hungarian Communist, Laszlo Rajk. This was one of a series of purge trials which were calculated to put the impress of Soviet control over the so-called people’s democracies in Eastern Europe. These both insisted upon Russian hegemony, and continued the frenzied vilification of President Tito and the Yugoslav Communists. In Hungary it was Rajk, in Czechoslovakia it was Slansky, in Bulgaria, Traicho Kostov. The similarities with the infamous trials in Moscow before the Second World War were all too evident to all but the true believers.

    Peter dutifully wrote the official story for the Daily Worker and gathered plaudits for his loyalty, and the raw material for a tortured conscience, as the truth later dawned on him. Rajk was apparently promised his life and a secure retirement in Russia, provided only that he perjured himself in the Court in Budapest. Needless to say, the promise was broken, and he was apparently garrotted when the sentence was finally carried out. Huge posthumous ceremonies later celebrated his life.

    Peter was sent off to Hungary again in July and August 1956, to write more articles about the events in Hungary. To his astonishment he found himself witnessing a full-scale revolution, and he wrote truthfully about what he saw. Far from being delighted with their scoop, the Daily Worker rushed to suppress it. The editor not only suppressed the contents of Peter’s stories from his newspaper, but even withheld them from the other members of the paper’s staff. On his return to London, Peter was shocked to find what had happened to his despatches, and felt that he had no alternative but to resign from the Daily Worker. Subsequently, he was expelled from the Communist Party.

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/fryer/obit02.htm

    I recommend you read the Hungarian Tragedy book before you jump to conclusions about what you have heard second hand. Fryer was the CPGB member on the ground and he was expelled for telling the truth about what he saw. You say you have a critical mind and favour openness. It’s the history of your organisation and you need to examine it.

  92. Spirit of Budapest: This was one of a series of purge trials which were calculated to put the impress of Soviet control

    Spirit of Budapest: In Hungary it was Rajk, in Czechoslovakia it was Slansky, in Bulgaria, Traicho Kostov.

    This is nonsense. I have read a great deal about the rajk and Slansky affairs, and it is totally wrong to suggest that these were motivated by any aspiration to impress the USSR. What is more, at that time, there was far from being a unified view in the CPSU over their attitude to the states of Eastern Europe.

    It is a big mistake to underestimate the degree of independent agency, particularly in the Czech Party; and the complexity of domestic politics.

  93. Andy Newman: This is nonsense. I have read a great deal about the rajk and Slansky affairs, and it is totally wrong to suggest that these were motivated by any aspiration to impress the USSR. What is more, at that time, there was far from being a unified view in the CPSU over their attitude to the states of Eastern Europe.

    It is a big mistake to underestimate the degree of independent agency, particularly in the Czech Party; and the complexity of domestic politics.

    These are Ken Coates’ words. Fryer was at the trial of Rajk and wrote the reports for the Daily Worker, so I presume you have read them? This is what Fryer had to say about it in December 1956:

    I attended the trial of Rajk for treason in 1949, and, in common with other Communist journalists there, I was convinced by the evidence and by the lengthy and detailed confessions of Rajk and his fellowaccused. It is all too obvious now that the trial had two purposes. First and foremost it was designed to provide ammunition for the attacks of the Soviet leaders on Tito and the Jugoslav Communist Party. It was on the basis of the Rajk trial that Tito was first called a fascist, and a fantastic plot was alleged, reaching right back to the Spanish Civil War and involving the Deuxiéme Bureau, British Intelligence and the US Secret Service. Largely basing himself on the Rajk trial James Klugmann wrote a book called From Trotsky to Tito (1951). The book was withdrawn, rather belatedly, last April, but Klugmann remains in charge of the education of British Communists. The second, internal purpose of the Rajk trial was to crush every vestige of opposition to Rákosi and his fellow Stalinists within the Hungarian Party. Rajk was in a leading position in the Party during the days of illegality. He was popular, hard-working and honest. He had doubts about the wisdom of Rákosi’s leadership. He had to be got rid of, as an awful example to dissenters.

    While I was in Hungary last July and August I was told how Rajk was made to confess. First he was tortured by Farkas’ son. Then, when the softening-up process had made him suitably receptive, a Soviet Communist – ‘a Beria man’, I was told – put it to him that the Soviet Union needed his confession as a weapon against Tito. If he agreed to do this important political job he would (though officially dead) be well looked after in the Soviet Union for the rest of his life, and his child would be given a good education. He agreed. When they came to take him to the execution, which his wife Julia was made to witness, they put a gag – a piece of wood – in his mouth to prevent his revealing to the soldiers how he had been betrayed. His last words were: ‘What are you doing to me?’

    A final turn of the screw was the removal of his child from the custody of its mother, and its rearing, by strangers, under another name.

    When Rajk and three other Communists executed with him were reburied with full honours last September the ceremony was attended by 200,000 of Budapest’s citizens. It was a pity the Daily Worker carried no report of this not inconsiderable event. Its readers might then have been better prepared for the October 23 uprising.

  94. Karl Stewart: Spirit of Budapest,Are you saying Fryer “loyally” reported on these 1949 trials, and that he didn’t express doubts about them?

    According to Ken Coates writing in 2006, at the time in 1949 no he didn’t have any doubts. Fryer lived with Ken Coates in Nottingham for a few months after he left the Healy group and presumably discussed it extensively with Coates. See the quote above in Fryer’s own words from Hungarian Tragedy about how and why he changed his mind when he returned to Hungary in 1956.

  95. Karl Stewart on said:

    Spirit of Budapest,

    Yes I’ve read the quote. Thanks for posting it up & I’ll try to read the book.

    Do you think the position Fryer took after the 1956 events might have been partly down to his own feelings of guilt for what he’d done seven years earlier?

  96. Karl Stewart on said:

    According to you, Fryer had lied in his reports of those 1949 show trials.

    So on returning to the country seven years later, a country in chaos, and meeting people who were expressing furious anger at those show trials, along with many other demands and grievances, do you think it’s possible he might have experienced powerful feelings of regret for what you’ve described as the lies he’d told back then?

  97. Karl Stewart: According to you, Fryer had lied in his reports of those 1949 show trials.

    I don’t think lying is what Fryer is quoted as having done: In 1949, “in common with other Communist journalists there, I was convinced by the evidence and by the lengthy and detailed confessions of Rajk and his fellow accused”, then only later, in 1956, “While I was in Hungary last July and August I was told how Rajk was made to confess”. He didn’t lie; he just assumed the trials were legitimate.

    Which isn’t to comment one way or the other about whether he felt guilt for his part in reporting on the trial afterwards. Do you believe that Fryer’s guilt, at having unintentionally reported that the trial was fair, would lead him to deliberately misrepresent the 1956 revolt to ‘make up’ for it?

  98. Manzil: I don’t think lying is what Fryer is quoted as having done: In 1949, “in common with other Communist journalists there, I was convinced by the evidence and by the lengthy and detailed confessions of Rajk and his fellow accused”, then only later, in 1956, “While I was in Hungary last July and August I was told how Rajk was made to confess”. He didn’t lie; he just assumed the trials were legitimate.

    Which isn’t to comment one way or the other about whether he felt guilt for his part in reporting on the trial afterwards. Do you believe that Fryer’s guilt, at having unintentionally reported that the trial was fair, would lead him to deliberately misrepresent the 1956 revolt to ‘make up’ for it?

    I only met Fryer once, in 1986, when he spoke at a meeting. He impressed me as a person of great integrity. He was a journalist from a teenager and was sacked from his local paper in Nottingham (hence the Coates’ connection) for the principle of refusing to resign his membership of the CPGB. He joined the Daily Worker staff and reported what he saw. At the meeting in 1986, the thing he stressed most about what shocked him into a different position to stalinism was not just what he saw in Hungary. He thought Hungary was a process of communist reform – it was a Communist government that reinstated Rajk after all – that was wrongly repressed and stamped on by the Soviet invasion. He assumed that this was self-evident and that his fellow CPGB members would come to the same conclusion once they knew what was happening.

    But above all else the thing that shocked him was when he returned to Britain, not realising that his dispatches had not been published, was when he discovered that the editor of the Daily Worker had not even shared them with other journalists on the paper. He felt the only course open to him was to resign from the paper and publish his accounts himself. He did not even resign from the CPGB, again assuming that they could not object to the truth; but they expelled him instead when he decided to go into print with his book, Hungarian Tragedy. His devotion to the truth also led him into conflict some years later with Gerry Healy, as you can read in his resignation statement from the newly formed SLL which he helped set up. He remained a convinced trotskyist for the next nearly 30 years but concentrated on writing. He had reported the Windrush event in the 1940s for the Daily Worker and returned to that theme in writing his superb ‘Staying Power’, the definitive history of black people in Britain.

  99. Karl Stewart on said:

    Vanya,

    I think Kruischev’s attack on the cult of personality, his exposure of Stalin’s crimes and his halting of the terror were clearly massive positives historically.

    However, his formal “programmisation” of the erreoneous notion of communism (not only socialism but communism) in a single country was a major error.

    Stalin had considered this notion (CPSU GS report to the 18th Congress) and had also endorsed (also wrongly) it as a possibility, but Kruschev formally made this notion a policy position.

    So I wouldn’t say I was a “Kruschevite” although in many respects he did play an extremely positive role.

  100. Karl Stewart on said:

    Manzil,

    If everything Spirit Of has said is true, then this Fryer chracter was quite a staunch apologist for stalinism up until his 1956 second visit to Hungary, and had written approvingly of the 1949 show trials.

    So a picture emereges of quite a staunch stalinist, who, some 13 years after the first show trials of 1936, still, apparently, firmly believed in their integerity. When most of even those who might have given some credence to the first trials were extremely sceptical by this time.

    So it’s not unfair to ask the question, why do the same people who don’t believe a single word of what Fryer said in 1949, treat his 1956 account as 100 per cent gospel truth?

  101. Karl Stewart,

    Karl Stewart: Manzil,

    If everything Spirit Of has said is true, then this Fryer chracter was quite a staunch apologist for stalinism up until his 1956 second visit to Hungary, and had written approvingly of the 1949 show trials.

    So a picture emereges of quite a staunch stalinist, who, some 13 years after the first show trials of 1936, still, apparently, firmly believed in their integerity. When most of even those who might have given some credence to the first trials were extremely sceptical by this time.

    So it’s not unfair to ask the question, why do the same people who don’t believe a single word of what Fryer said in 1949, treat his 1956 account as 100 per cent gospel truth?

    Read the account. Fryer was a journalist. He wrote accurately about what he saw. Rajk confessed to the crimes he was accused of. He wrote that down. His writing was published. CPGB figures, not Fryer, used his account to write that this was proof that Tito was a Trotskyite-fascist. Seven years later the same Communist government who convicted Rajk admitted he was innocent. Fryer was sent back to Hungary and interviewed people who said Rajk was tortured and offered a deal to confess and live, but that he was murdered instead. Fryer wrote that down. While he was in Hungary he saw a progressive revolution unfolding. He wrote that down. This time his writing was suppressed. He returned and decided to publish what he had seen. For that he was expelled by the Party he had served. The inconsistency of his treatment was all on the Party’s side, not Fryer’s.

  102. Karl Stewart on said:

    Spirit of Budapest,

    So in 1949, he didn’t notice, or chose not to look for any inconsistencies in the stalinist show trials. His writings at that time assisted in attempts to give some credibility to the stalinist terror.

    And in 1956 he didn’t notice, or chose not to look for, any anti-jewish progroms, any killings of communists, or any reactionary elements at all.

    As I said, I’ll take a read of this book. It’s certainly an account of those events. But where I disagree with followers of the Trotsky personality cult is that I doubt that Fryer’s is the only account of those events.

    For the various Trotsky-cult organisations, Fryer’s is the ONLY account of Hungary 1956 in the same way that for them, Orwell’s is the. ONLY account of the Spanish Civil War.

  103. Ian Birchall on said:

    Karl Stewart: For the various Trotsky-cult organisations, Fryer’s is the ONLY account of Hungary 1956

    I can’t speak for Trotsky-cult organisations as I’ve never belonged to one. Fryer’s account is certainly an important historical document – but so are others. Just a couple to be going on with:

    Dora Scarlett : Window onto Hungary.
    A participant report by a British Communist who had lived and worked in Hungary for several years before 1956. Very rare, but I read a copy in the British Library.

    Balasz Nagy’s account of the Budapest Central Workers’ Council – an account by a Hungarian participant. Available at:
    http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/isj/1964/no018/nagy.htm

    In general I’m surprised that this debate has not referred to the workers councils which grew up in 1956 and which were one of the central features of the rising.

  104. Spirit of Budapest: These are Ken Coates’ words. Fryer was at the trial of Rajk and wrote the reports for the Daily Worker, so I presume you have read them? This is what Fryer had to say about it in December 1956:

    I am not disputing that Rajk and Slansky were framed, and the Slansky affair was part of a monsterous purge somewhat reminiscent of Stalin’s Great Terror.

    I am disputing that Fryer’s account, inevitable impresionistic as a journalist there at the time, really reflects how murky the goings on were in the Hungarian parties at the time. Reflecting currents of anti-Semitism, nationalism, now acknowleged CIA involvement, and complex competing political positions both within the Hungarian and Czech parties, but also how they related to divisions within the CPSU.

    The idea that, for example, the Czech party purged Slanskey to suck up to Moscow – Fryer’s position – is clearly wrong based upon any half thorough examination of the facts

    Not only does Fryer ignore the impact of the power struggle within the CPSU, and discount the fact that while Rajk and Slansky were scape-goats, the CIA and American govt sabotage was a real phenomoneon; but in particular he ignores the obvious fact that the Hungarian and Czech parties had conscious agency in trying to mould the fact of the Soviet involvement in their countries to their own advantage, regardless of what Moscow wanted.

    I have long felt that the Slansky affair was a sort of perfect pivot point for understanding the history of the post war world, and repays serious study.

  105. Andy Newman,

    You are confusing Fryer’s account with Ken Coates’ opinion in his obituary. Fryer doesn’t mention Slansky in his book, Hungarian Tragedy.

    Ian Birchall is quite right to remind us that the defining feature of the Hungarian situation was the rise of independent workers councils. Fryer describes attending a meeting of a workers council on a State farm in Bábolna(Karoly was Fryer’s interpreter).

    The workers’ council meeting comprised some eighty delegates representing every section of the farm. Some sat around a long trestle table adorned with little tricolour flags, others on rows of wooden seats facing the chairman and a woman secretary taking a careful record of the proceedings.

    First there were general speeches: about the revolution, its aims and tasks and prospects, and about Bábolna’s place in a new, genuinely Socialist, genuinely democratic Hungary. I was given a fairly full translation, and I noted down outstanding phrases: ‘We shall obey a democratically-elected Parliament.’ ‘Our duty today is to make sure we elect the best men.’ ‘This is our country now.’ ‘We must set our faces resolutely against any personal revenge. We don’t want Hungarians to kill Hungarians.’ ‘Rákosi cheated and deceived the people.’ One elderly man got up and said:

    I am an ordinary workman. I am convinced that the system we have had up to now was only working for foreign interests. Many of those who joined the Communist Party did so for bad reasons. I ask that those we choose today should be reliable, honest people. We don’t want turncoats.

    He was warmly applauded. Another delegate addressed ‘the English journalist’ directly: ‘Tell the English people and your friends in England about the heroism of this little country.’ Several who spoke made it clear they were Communists, and they were listened to gravely. But there was one man who demanded the banning or voluntary dissolution of the Communist Party as a completely discredited organisation. The next speaker, a serious, bespectacled man of about twenty-five, said:

    I am against demanding that the Communist Party be dissolved, because in a democratic country there should be freedom for all parties. But it will have to be a Communist Party that operates in an entirely new way.

    This clearly expressed the general feeling of the meeting.

    Soon the delegates, in a buzz of excitement, proceeded to the election of their leadership. Three candidates were proposed for the directorship, all local men. The one whom Károly told me was most likely to head the poll was a tall sober-looking man in riding breeches, some forty-five years old, who came over and chatted with us. Károly said he was an agricultural expert. His popularity was shown when a spokesman for one section rose and said if this candidate did not win, that section wanted him as section leader and hereby got its claim in first. The election was by secret ballot. Everyone was given a slip of paper and wrote on it the name of one of the candidates, and then the slips were collected and the votes counted by the chairman. It all took a very long time indeed, and one of the delegates came across and said to me through Károly something that has stuck in my mind ever since: ‘I am sorry it is so slow, but you must understand we have not got any practice in electing people.’ I think my last remaining illusion about the past was destroyed at that moment.

    The agricultural expert was elected director by 57 votes against his nearest opponent’s 13. Then the council elected a committee. Fifteen members were chosen, one or two by the delegates from each section. Again it was a secret ballot, and again these novices in democracy took their time. But at last the committee took office and the council meeting broke up.

    We left with the delegates, but the committee sent word after us that we were welcome to watch its proceedings for as long as we wished. We sat in for about an hour. All kinds of questions, from the most trivial to the most momentous, were under discussion, and it was impossible to miss the sense of responsibility with which these new leaders approached their tasks. Should they continue to use the old, tainted word elvtárs (’comrade’)? Or would it be better to address each other as polgártárs (’fellowcitizen’)? By a large majority the comrades became fellow-citizens. What practical measures should be taken to set up a local militia to keep order and protect farm property? What precisely were the limits of the decisions the director could take without immediately consulting the committee? And, above all, what could this farm do to send food to hungry Budapest? After an exchange of views it was agreed to send a deputation to the national committee at Györ to see how many trucks were available to come to Bábolna and be loaded with meat and milk and eggs and butter and flour for the people of the capital.

    At this point we left them, the young man who had opposed the banning of the Communist Party counting a number of proposals off on his fingers. And what has puzzled me ever since, and what puzzles me greatly, is this: where exactly was the ‘White Terror’ at Bábolna? Where was the ‘counterrevolution’? Where were the ‘reactionaries’? Where were the ‘Horthyites’? Where was ‘the terrible spectre of the fascist beast’ which, according to D.T. Shepilov’s speech at the General Assembly of the United Nations on November 22, had ‘risen over the peaceful fields of Hungary’? just what had the workers of Bábolna done to justify foreign intervention?

  106. Karl Stewart: Spirit of Budapest,

    So in 1949, he didn’t notice, or chose not to look for any inconsistencies in the stalinist show trials. His writings at that time assisted in attempts to give some credibility to the stalinist terror.

    And in 1956 he didn’t notice, or chose not to look for, any anti-jewish progroms, any killings of communists, or any reactionary elements at all.

    As I said, I’ll take a read of this book. It’s certainly an account of those events. But where I disagree with followers of the Trotsky personality cult is that I doubt that Fryer’s is the only account of those events.

    For the various Trotsky-cult organisations, Fryer’s is the ONLY account of Hungary 1956 in the same way that for them, Orwell’s is the. ONLY account of the Spanish Civil War.

    You don’t seem to have read the extract I quoted in post 91. Fryer acknowledged there were reactionary elements in 1956. But by the same token the progressive elements clearly dominated the situation.

    I don’t know much about Trotsky-cult organisations either. I never had any sympathy personally with the WRP, as by the time I was old enough to encounter it in the late 1970s, it was obvious what it was.

  107. Spirit of Budapest,

    I think the evidence suggests the situation was much more complicated than your assessment that ‘progressive elements clearly dominated’. No doubt there were some demonstrators out for liberal or even social democratic reasons, but lets face it they were eclipsed by the nationalist thrust of the movement because that is what it was all about.

    I understand the situation may have been further complicated by the presence of people proclaiming socialist goals of 56. Sme might have even entertained the idea of these being carried out, although how exactly this would have happened by leaving the socialist camp and joining the imperialists I do not know. Perhaps some were simply lying.

    Lets face it, as in e Czech Republic now with 68, it is an event celebrated by anti-socialists. 56 was a nationalist uprising, indeed it is strange for someone who wants left unity to describe themselves as the ‘spirit of Budapest’-I suggest something more labour movement orientated in the traditions of this country would make a better rallying call than Hungarian nationalism.

    The real problem I have with 56 is the level of organised fascists, the lynching of communists and Jews and the fact that Hungary was a fascist dictatorship allied to the Nazis only a few years before.

    You only have to look at the excited posts on a nazi website to see that 56 involved all sorts of very clearly non progressive types. This is about a Jobbik (a nazi organisation founded by leaders of the 56 uprising) candle light march to celebrate the 56 uprising:

    http://www.stormfront.org/forum/t920771/

  108. Manzil on said:

    Karl Stewart: If everything Spirit Of has said is true, then this Fryer chracter was quite a staunch apologist for stalinism up until his 1956 second visit to Hungary, and had written approvingly of the 1949 show trials.

    So a picture emereges of quite a staunch stalinist, who, some 13 years after the first show trials of 1936, still, apparently, firmly believed in their integerity. When most of even those who might have given some credence to the first trials were extremely sceptical by this time.

    So it’s not unfair to ask the question, why do the same people who don’t believe a single word of what Fryer said in 1949, treat his 1956 account as 100 per cent gospel truth?

    I suppose because he’s being maligned by people who come off like ‘staunch apologists for Stalinism’ not just in 1949, not just in 1956, but in the whole period since.

    You’re having a pop at people who view Fryer’s reporting of 1956 as ‘gospel’, but that’s not what I asked you (I don’t particularly care what “followers of the Trotsky personality cult” believe, I’m interested in the interplay of history and politics). Do you believe he misrepresented what he saw – consciously or not – as a result of his previous communist record? Because if so, presumably we’re saying that the ‘apologist’ who continues to be an apologist is more trustworthy than the apologist who changes their mind?

    On the actual topic of 1956, from what I’ve seen the revolt was dominated by nationalistic, elementary democratic and anti-authoritarian feeling. None of which is inherently bad – especially popular aspirations for national self-determination (or, for that matter, international sympathy for a small country being dominated by a larger one). Likewise the executions of secret policemen doesn’t need to be motivated by virulent anti-communism. If people were tortured by the police in the UK, I don’t think I’d give a shit what their political motivations were if I could get revenge on them.

    Given the likely ramifications of the uprising succeeding, especially in terms of the Cold War balance of power, that doesn’t mean one need support it. But to characterise it as a (substantively, rather than potentially) concerted fascistic or pro-capitalist putsch seems a bit out-there.

  109. Manzil: …
    On the actual topic of 1956, from what I’ve seen the revolt was dominated by nationalistic, elementary democratic and anti-authoritarian feeling. None of which is inherently bad – especially popular aspirations for national self-determination (or, for that matter, international sympathy for a small country being dominated by a larger one). Likewise the executions of secret policemen doesn’t need to be motivated by virulent anti-communism. If people were tortured by the police in the UK, I don’t think I’d give a shit what their political motivations were if I could get revenge on them.

    I replied yesterday to Karl’s points, but my post didn’t get put up, probably because I included an overlong quote from Fryer. As Ian Birchall has rightly stated, the distinctive feature of Hungary 1956 was the creation of the workers councils. Fryer describes attending one of these representing the large bodies of workers on a state farm in Babolna (emphasis added):

    The workers’ council meeting comprised some eighty delegates representing every section of the farm. Some sat around a long trestle table adorned with little tricolour flags, others on rows of wooden seats facing the chairman and a woman secretary taking a careful record of the proceedings.

    First there were general speeches: about the revolution, its aims and tasks and prospects, and about Bábolna’s place in a new, genuinely Socialist, genuinely democratic Hungary. I was given a fairly full translation, and I noted down outstanding phrases: ‘We shall obey a democratically-elected Parliament.’ ‘Our duty today is to make sure we elect the best men.’ ‘This is our country now.’ ‘We must set our faces resolutely against any personal revenge. We don’t want Hungarians to kill Hungarians.’ ‘Rákosi cheated and deceived the people.’ One elderly man got up and said:

    I am an ordinary workman. I am convinced that the system we have had up to now was only working for foreign interests. Many of those who joined the Communist Party did so for bad reasons. I ask that those we choose today should be reliable, honest people. We don’t want turncoats.

    He was warmly applauded. Another delegate addressed ‘the English journalist’ directly: ‘Tell the English people and your friends in England about the heroism of this little country.’ Several who spoke made it clear they were Communists, and they were listened to gravely. But there was one man who demanded the banning or voluntary dissolution of the Communist Party as a completely discredited organisation. The next speaker, a serious, bespectacled man of about twenty-five, said:

    I am against demanding that the Communist Party be dissolved, because in a democratic country there should be freedom for all parties. But it will have to be a Communist Party that operates in an entirely new way.

    This clearly expressed the general feeling of the meeting.

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/fryer/1956/dec/6_babolna.htm

    This is not an ‘impressionist’ account by a naive person. It’s a semi-verbatim report by an experienced journalist, who had previously been the Daily Worker report in the House of Commons in the 1940s and was used to writing up reports of debates and meetings.

    Fryer goes on to conclude:

    At this point we left them, the young man who had opposed the banning of the Communist Party counting a number of proposals off on his fingers. And what has puzzled me ever since, and what puzzles me greatly, is this: where exactly was the ‘White Terror’ at Bábolna? Where was the ‘counterrevolution’? Where were the ‘reactionaries’? Where were the ‘Horthyites’? Where was ‘the terrible spectre of the fascist beast’ which, according to D.T. Shepilov’s speech at the General Assembly of the United Nations on November 22, had ‘risen over the peaceful fields of Hungary’? just what had the workers of Bábolna done to justify foreign intervention?

    That I think is the key conclusion.

  110. Karl Stewart on said:

    Spirit Of, but once again that’s taking Fryer’s account as if it was both true (from someone who you say lied about the 1949 show trials) and as if it were the only account in existence of these events.

    As I said earlier, this is the same as taking Orwell’s Homage as the only account of the Spanish Civil War.

    And this is the problem with the Trostky-cultists, they start with a view that every communist who doesn’t worship the Trotsky cult must be an evil “stalinist” (because that’s the only possible other type of communist there can possibly be.

  111. Spirit of Budapest: Where was the ‘counterrevolution’? Where were the ‘reactionaries’? Where were the ‘Horthyites’? Where was ‘the terrible spectre of the fascist beast’

    Relying on Fryer’s account the Spirit of Budapest appears to saying that the 1956 events in Hungary, in their essence, were characterised by an absence of decisive counter revolutionary tendencies.
    If such was really the case then we have a truly unique situation.
    Ten years after a fascist regime was defeated and a left wing government installed – in which the capitalist class and landowners were deprived of their property – a rising takes place against the socialist government. But in the spirit of fair play the social and class forces that lost their dominant position stand aside in recognition of the determining role that will be played in this drama by ‘factory councils’.
    If only the popular classes of say the same Hungary in 1919, or Spain in 1937, or Chile in 1974 could have counted on such a magnanimous recognition of their historical redundancy by the ruling classes of those countries.
    And may we look forward to a similar situation here?

  112. Manzil on said:

    Karl, I don’t think you have to talk about “Trotsky-cultists” or unfairly allege whether Fryer “didn’t notice, or chose not to look” in order to conclude the 1956 revolt defies simple explanation, and probably constituted a confused and even contradictory medley of events and motivations.

    Fryer’s is a first-hand account of the 1956 events, and so even if ‘Hungarian Tragedy’ is an accurate reflection of his personal observations, it is inherently an incomplete picture.

    The Orwell comparison is actually quite useful. Does anyone really object to his description of the events he personally witnessed? I don’t think so. The issue arises when people suggest that accepting the validity of Orwell’s account necessitates sharing his broader political analysis.

  113. Karl Stewart on said:

    Manzil, the problem I have is that for some, Fryer’s account of these events is the only account. It is the “recommended reading” on this subject and clearly the only account as far as our friend Spirit Of is concerned.
    And yet others have said that there were anti-jewish progroms at that time and also that there were widespread murders of communists. All I’m saying is that perhaps, just perhaps, a view of these events other than Fryer’s might just possibly have some credibility?

    On the Spanish Civil War, Orwell’s account is for some the only account – the “recommended reading”. And again, it might just be that perhaps there might just possibly be other accounts of these events.

    I’m not saying Fryer lied about Hungary in 1956, just highlghting Spirit Of’s statement that Fryer had lied about the 1949 show trials. If this is so, then Fryer’s account of Hungary 1956 is the acount of someone who had lied about events in Hungary seven years earlier.

  114. Manzil on said:

    Karl, I still don’t think saying Fryer “lied” is fair – or at the very least, it’s not an accurate reflection of either Fryer’s account or Spirit’s summary. He didn’t intentionally mislead anyone – and didn’t unintentionally do so in a way which should bring more opprobrium down on his head, or call into question his judgement, more than people who were consistent in adopting the official communist position.

    Now that said, Fryer ‘lying’ in 1949 isn’t central to your overall point, which to a degree I sympathise with. Obviously it’s ludicrous to allege that a personal account, and a highly political one at that, could offer anything but a partial overview – and equally, that accepting the accuracy of the events described should imply support for the wider political viewpoint which informs their work.

    Again, the Orwell case is instructive – in many editions, the chapters detailing his analysis of the Republicans’ various motivations are excised from Homage to Catalonia and placed in the appendix, because Orwell himself understood it was entirely separate from his central account. Basically, and no parallels intended, you can’t blame the Christians for giving Jesus a bad name…

  115. Karl Stewart on said:

    Manzil, up at post (121) Georgy Boy says that those events of Hungary in 1956 are today commemorated by Hungary’s neo-nazis.

    But this doesn’t fit with Spirit Of’s “Fryer’s-account-is-the- only-account” dogma, so he just ignores the neo-nazi angle. As Fryer apparently also did.

  116. Manzil on said:

    Historical events and collective memories of them are a contested arena.

    I imagine a considerable number of British reactionaries fawn over ‘our finest hour’, but that doesn’t mean I should reject the concept of the people’s war against fascism.

    The attitude of Jobbik is deeply worrying. But it doesn’t tell us anything about the revolt itself – unlike, say, reports of anti-Jewish attacks (and subsequent flight abroad of thousands of Hungarian Jews).

    A mass revolt is always, by its very nature, going to be heterogeneous and probably contradictory in its composition – the question is what force ultimately defines its character.

    While I don’t think a simplistic ‘rebels good, communists bad’ analysis is remotely credible, challenging it doesn’t require maligning those, like Fryer, struck by the human cost they personally witnessed.

  117. Jack Bron on said:

    Andy Newman: I personally didn’t know that much about it until I read Evan’s article.

    But your point is presumably that it is a waste of time trying to understand things, better to rush off to the next *urgent* intervention.

    Fine Andy. Go and read a history book then; and there’s nothing wrong with an essential act like that. But why bang on about it with regard to the current crisis? Like so much of what I see on the web, there’s three types of people on this case – one lot who would like everyone else to think they are clever-clever because they want to talk about the effects of Hungary on the CPGB following 1956; a second lot who are frankly just a bunch of mouthy offensive idiots who would probably think that the ‘French turn’ was some sort of esoteric sex act practiced only in the SWP; and a third lot who would perhaps like to have a sensible discussion but are shouted off-line by groups one and two.

    I have read Callinicos’s response in Socialist Review and whilst he is right that there would be a need to ‘invent’ another SWP if the original article collapsed, it still doesn’t do anything to address the key problem that the DC should really have declined to hear Smith’s case simply because he is so well-known to everyone. Had a temporary DC been elected at Party Conference and the hearing been carried out then, a lot of this nonsense would have been avoided. It was an organisational error, nothing more than that, although still a serious one. And having made this error, it is easy for some to claim that democratic centralism is to blame simply because it was then used to insist that the original DC decision be adhered to.

    After that cock-up, it allowed all those in groups one and two to suddenly come out of the woodwork and think that they finally have a reason to exist.

  118. Karl Stewart on said:

    Manzil:
    The attitude of Jobbik is deeply worrying. But it doesn’t tell us anything about the revolt itself – unlike, say, reports of anti-Jewish attacks (and subsequent flight abroad of thousands of Hungarian Jews).
    A mass revolt is always, by its very nature, going to be heterogeneous and probably contradictory in its composition – the question is what force ultimately defines its character.
    While I don’t think a simplistic ‘rebels good, communists bad’ analysis is remotely credible, challenging it doesn’t require maligning those, like Fryer, struck by the human cost they personally witnessed.

    I agree with what you’ve said here Manzil, but just one poiint in resposne.

    It’s true that “maligning” Fryer is not a pre-requisite for disagreeing with the “common-sense” establishment narrative of “heroic anti-communist rebels” fighting the “evil communists.”

    But it’s also true that Fryer is not above criticism and that criticism of both him and his record are perfectly valid.

  119. Jack Bron on said:

    Andy Newman: It is a strange phenomenon how so many non-SWP members leap to their defence on the Internet.

    Of course, everyone ALWAYS tells the truth about themselves on the Internet, that is well known.

    I was in the SWP for almost 20 years, man and boy.

    So what? My party time was over 30 years, which is equally irrelevant.

  120. Karl Stewart:
    Spirit Of, but once again that’s taking Fryer’s account as if it was both true (from someone who you say lied about the 1949 show trials) and as if it were the only account in existence of these events.

    I never said Fryer lied in 1949. Quite the contrary. Rajk confessed to being a Titoist spy, and Fryer accurately reported his confession and conviction. The Daily Worker published Fryer’s account of the trial, as it tallied with the Moscow world view at the time. It was Klugmann who turn it into a fantastical account of how Rajk’s confession proved that Tito was a Trotskyite-fascist agent of the counter-revolution. However Rajk was officially exonerated as innocent in March 1956 by the very state and very Party leader (Rakosi) who were responsible for his conviction. When Fryer went back to Hungary in 1956, he was told what appeared to be the truth (now universally accepted) – that Rajk was tortured until he was ‘persuaded’ to accept an apparent deal from the USSR for his life in return for his confession. Fryer wrote this down too and it obviously seemed a plausible explanation to him. However the Daily Worker refused to publish Fryer’s stories, even though it was by now accepted that Rajk was innocent, as that undermined Rakosi.

    As Ian Birchall has pointed out, there are other accounts of Hungary and you are welcome to try to find evidence that Fryer was inaccurate.

    However for the CPGB coming to terms with Hungary, which is the point of this whole thread, Fryer’s account is critical as he was the official reporter of the CPGB paper, yet the leadership secretly refused to publish Fryer’s accounts and then they expelled Fryer for going ahead with his own publication.

    Far from illustrating a line of tolerance by the CPGB, it reveals a very deep intolerance of any potential embarassing facts that contradicted the Moscow line.

  121. Jack Bron on said:

    uncle albert: Plenty of purpose. It can be useful to derive a perspective from comparisons with how others have responded in similar situations.

    And, more importantly, the information made available by Andy serves as a warning to those with no knowledge of such sects/cults, who might consider joining, particularly impressionable youngsters.

    Better to be forewarned than to find out too late and waste your life.

    ‘Wasting one’s life’ is hardly the phrase to use. Even people in the old CPGB, whom I politcally disapproved of, didn’t ‘waste’ their lives fighting capitalism and fascism. I’m also heading towards seventy, and your comment about ‘impressionable youngsters’ is thoroughly patronising! I just wish I’d have had some political sense when I was a teenager as some of those ‘impressionables’ I meet today.

    If you have any interest in my position on this issue, read my response to Andy Newman. In the meantime, I’ve wasted too much of my time reading all this.

  122. Karl Stewart on said:

    Spirit of Budapest,

    Spirit Of,
    quite frankly it beggars belief that in 1949, well over a decade after the original staliinist show trials had been comprehensively discredited, that anyone could seriously report the same type of trials as fact. But here you are repeating once again how your hero Fryer appaerently believed them.

    And you stubbornly refuse to even consider that a new observer could conclude from this that Fryer might, perhaps, have been wrong about other “facts” he reported.

    Also, once again, you’ve utterly ignored the possibility that, just perhaps, there may be some truth in other accounts of anti-semitism, of fascist and/or neo-nazi suppoert for your “heroic anti-communists”.

    This doesn’t fit your narrative and so you ignore it.

    Personally, I think that if there were anti-jewish progroms and widespread killings of communists then it would have been a majore factor in the Soviet Union’s decision to iintervene.

    Fryer strikes me as someone preimarily concerned with himself rather then supporting any particular cause.

  123. Karl what evidence have you that the show trials had been discredited comprehensively.by 1939?

    In communist circles? While Stalin was still very much alive?

  124. Karl Stewart:
    Spirit of Budapest,

    Spirit Of,
    quite frankly it beggars belief that in 1949, well over a decade after the original staliinist show trials had been comprehensively discredited, that anyone could seriously report the same type of trials as fact. …

    Now you are just being silly.

    Rajk wasn’t some hero of the Bolshevik revolution suddenly denounced as being a counter revolutionary all the time; he was a longstanding Party apparatchik responsible for relations with Communist Parties of other countries, including Tito’s Yugoslavia.

    Rajk confessed to spying for foreign governments and implicated Yugoslavia in the process. It was 1949, the aftermath of the war; there were spies and double agents everywhere. I’ve just been reading about the forthcoming biography of the CPGB’s Klugmann, who wrote the infamous (and discredited) ‘From Trotsky to Tito’ book as well as the Party’s ‘official’ history. Klugmann was both a secret agent for the Soviet Union’s NKVD (forerunner of the KGB), and also an agent (rising to the rank of Major) for the British forces Special Operation Executive in Europe, who persuaded the Churchill Government to back Tito in 1943! The politics of Hungary in 1949 was complex – Rakosi had the triple pressure of fearing Stalin would seek to remove his allies inside the party as part of a purge of Titoists, require him to condemn Tito, and also that Rajk’s growing popularity as a more obviously Hungarian national figure represented a threat to the Serbian Jewish Rakosi.

    Fryer makes clear that his visit to Hungary was his first visit abroad and that having heard Rajk confess to being a spy he was convinced it was true and wrote his reports accurately. It was only later when Rakosi admitted that Rajk was innocent and when Fryer interviewed those with knowledge of Rajk’s torture that he realised the whole thing was a sham. It wasn’t the same thing as the trials of leading Bolsheviks, though of course the methods the stalinists used were the same (and remained in place for decades).

  125. Spirit of Budapest: Rajk wasn’t some hero of the Bolshevik revolution suddenly denounced as being a counter revolutionary all the time; he was a longstanding Party apparatchik responsible for relations with Communist Parties of other countries, including Tito’s Yugoslavia.

    This is a non-sensical distinction. Rajk was a dedicated socialist himself.

    Spirit of Budapest: Rakosi had the triple pressure of fearing Stalin would seek to remove his allies inside the party as part of a purge of Titoists, require him to condemn Tito, and also that Rajk’s growing popularity as a more obviously Hungarian national figure represented a threat to the Serbian Jewish Rakosi.

    So now you yourself are conceding that domestic political factors, not just “wishing to please Moscow” was behid it.

    Extraordinary that you don’t mention th spy ring of the American Field familly, and its impact.

  126. Jack Bron: Fine Andy. Go and read a history book then; and there’s nothing wrong with an essential act like that.

    I am quite familiar with the impact of the 20th CPSU Party Congress and the effects of Hungary; I was not aware of the precise debates at the 1957 CPGB Congress, and I am suprrised that you think everyone is familiar with the detail of that Congress. Sounds like you are showing off to me.

    Jack Bron: it still doesn’t do anything to address the key problem that the DC should really have declined to hear Smith’s case simply because he is so well-known to everyone. Had a temporary DC been elected at Party Conference and the hearing been carried out then, a lot of this nonsense would have been avoided. It was an organisational error,

    No, it is a political scandal, because the SWP is not competent to hear a rape case, whatever the composition of the DC. It reveals the SWP to be a sect, run by a cult.

    Jack Bron: After that cock-up, it allowed all those in groups one and two to suddenly come out of the woodwork and think that they finally have a reason to exist.

    This is pure solipsism. The criticism of the SWP is mainly coming from those who fundamentally disagree with its politcs, and both its organisational form and content.

    The idea that more mainstream views in the Labour movement only have reason to exist because of mistakes by the SWP CC, is extraordinary.

  127. Jack Bron: I was in the SWP for almost 20 years, man and boy.
    So what? My party time was over 30 years, which is equally irrelevant.

    Silly man, you said that I didn’t know how the SWP works, see

    Jack Bron: when they know sod all about how the SWP organises its inner structures.

    Which means that it is not irrelevent that I was in the SWP for 20 years – I do know how it works.

  128. Spirit of Budapest: You are confusing Fryer’s account with Ken Coates’ opinion in his obituary. Fryer doesn’t mention Slansky in his book, Hungarian Tragedy.

    No, I am discusing the assertions, regardless of whether they come from Coates or Fryer.

  129. Spirit of Budapest: It was 1949, the aftermath of the war; there were spies and double agents everywhere. I’ve just been reading about the forthcoming biography of the CPGB’s Klugmann, who wrote the infamous (and discredited) ‘From Trotsky to Tito’ book as well as the Party’s ‘official’ history. Klugmann was both a secret agent for the Soviet Union’s NKVD (forerunner of the KGB), and also an agent (rising to the rank of Major) for the British forces Special Operation Executive in Europe, who persuaded the Churchill Government to back Tito in 1943! The

    (Bit off-topic, but genuinely curious.)

    What definitive proof is there that Klugmann was a spy? He was under the perpetual surveillance of the security services. As you say, he was employed by SOE despite his obvious communist views – and his reports were trusted enough to justify a break with the Chetniks. Wouldn’t an actual relation between Klugmann and the USSR, had it existed, either been discovered in such circumstances, or invoked as a reason for SOE not utilising him or depending on his analyses? Certainly more so than his friendship with Don Maclean. What did he do that a sincere CPGB functionary would not have?

  130. Nick Wright: Amusing, but annoying too.
    We need to make a distinction between the exercise of the authority that is necessarily invested in leadership because of the real responsibilities that leadership carries in class struggle with the exercise of arbitrary authority to protect an internal regime.

    I thnk you are too sensitive. The fact that the SWP are a brittle sect, and that they lack leverage to the real world makes them in a completely different category to the CPGB in 1957.

    However, the SWP does mimic the attitudes and structures of real and more significant socialist forces. There is no problem with leadership, but the type of eadership needed is not the same in all conditions and contexts. Furthermore, bureaucracy always carries its own dynamic, whether in a budgerigar fanciers club, the SWP ot a private corporation.

  131. Karl Stewart on said:

    Spirit of Budapest,
    I disagree, I don’t think those show trials were justified at all. Not in the context of the time or subsequently. They were clearly tortured until they “confessed” and even your “honest Englishman” hero had no excuse for supporting them.

    Spirit Of, you’ve now contributed to this discussion many times and you’ve repeatedly ignored references others have made to allegations of anti-semitism, to anti-jewish progroms, to neo-nazi support, and to widespread killings of communists.

    My view is that if these allegations were true, then this would have been influential in the Soviet decision to intervene.

    By contrast, your reaction to these allegations is to simply ignore them, to turn a blind eye to them as Fryer seems to have done.

    Is anti-semitism not important to you Spirit Of? Or is it something you sympathise with?

  132. prianikoff on said:

    KS@127

    “perhaps, just perhaps, a view of these events other than Fryer’s might just possibly have some credibility?”

    e.g. Sandor Kopacsi “In the Name of the Working Class”

    “On the Spanish Civil War, Orwell’s account is for some the only account – the “recommended reading”. And again, it might just be that perhaps there might just possibly be other accounts of these events.”

    Although it must be treated with caution, the Soviet defector Alexander Orlov’s “Secret History” had a lot of dirt on NKVD activities in Spain.
    This was corroborated in 1992, when Catalan TV found evidence of the forged documents used to frame Nin.
    The forgery was prepared by two members of the Republican Secret Police A. Castalia and J.Jimenez on Orlov’s instructions.
    Nin was arrested on June 10th 1937 and imprisoned at Alcala de Enares.
    He was tortured, but refused to sign a confession.
    So Orlov’s team arranged his kidnap and murder, sending a report to the Moscow centre under the code name “Nikolai”.
    While a deputation headed by James Maxton sought the truth about the POUM and Nin, Pravda continued to smear them as “fascist agents”

    see Vadim Rogovin “1937- Stalin’s Year of Terror, Ch 43, the Barcelona Uprising”

  133. Andy Newman:

    Which means that it is not irrelevent that I was in the SWP for 20 years – I do know how it works.

    Why did you remain in the party on a voluntary basis for 20 years if you regarded it as institutionally sexist?

  134. Manzil: (Bit off-topic, but genuinely curious.)

    What definitive proof is there that Klugmann was a spy? He was under the perpetual surveillance of the security services. As you say, he was employed by SOE despite his obvious communist views – and his reports were trusted enough to justify a break with the Chetniks. Wouldn’t an actual relation between Klugmann and the USSR, had it existed, either been discovered in such circumstances, or invoked as a reason for SOE not utilising him or depending on his analyses? Certainly more so than his friendship with Don Maclean. What did he do that a sincere CPGB functionary would not have?

    I didn’t say Klugmann was a spy for the British, MI5 didn’t trust him enough for that; he was a Special Operations Executive agent working in war zones, something different.

    According to Geoff Andrews who is writing Klugmann’s biography, the recently opened Moscow archives show that he was recruited to the NKVD in 1936 by Arnold Deutsch/”Otto”, alongside Blunt, Burgess, Maclean, Philby and Straight. According to Andrews, Klugmann’s role was as ‘talent spotter’ and mentor for the people who were full-blown spies as he was a very public CPGB member. We’ll have to wait for the biography for the full story.

    In relation to Klugmann, I was pointing out the irony that people could take different positions at different times (eg supporting/opposing Tito), and you are quite right it was entirely consistent that CPGB members should support the British war effort abroad after the entry of the USSR, as well as opposing strikes and supporting the Tories inside Britain. Consistent that is with a position of absolute subservience to whatever line Stalin instructed them to follow.

  135. Andy Newman: Ridiculous simplification, and wildly historically inaccurate

    Simplification I can accept. There were nuances and zigzags of course, the real world is complex because the many sincere individuals involved didn’t always behave as automatons (though some did).

    Ridiculous and inaccurate I do not accept. The overall balance sheet of the CPGB in the Stalin period, from about 1926 to about 1956, is one of overwhelming subservience. The legacy of that lived on for another 50+ years in their outlook.

  136. prianikoff on said:

    #149 Not entirely. There was certainly anti-semitism in Hungary. After all, this was only 11 years after the war and it was on the Axis side!
    Rakosi and Gero’s Jewish origins could also be used to whip up such sentiments, given their harsh Stalinist methods.
    But I don’t think it characterised the political leadership of the Hungarian uprising as a whole.
    This was undetermined at the point it was crushed.

    Further alternative sources on Spain, Hungary:-

    In ‘I Was Stalin’s Agent’, Jesus Hernandez, a member of the Politburo of the Spanish Communist Party and Minister of Public Instruction during the Civil War wrote:-

    “Orlov and his crew approached Nin with the proposal that he would give a `voluntary’ confession in which he would have to admit his function as a spy in Franco’s service.
    Expert in the science of `breaking’ political prisoners, in obtaining `spontaneous’ confessions, they believed that they had found in Andreu Nin’s normally bad health the adequate material for offering Stalin the desired result. But the plan failed. Nin resisted “incredibly”. The barbaric torture that was used on him did not bring him to “that physical and moral collapse that befell some of the more important collaborators of Lenin”.
    He died without confessing, faithful to the ideals and convictions which he had defended during the whole of his life as a revolutionary.”

    Hernandez said that “Commandant Carlos” (Vittorio Vidale), proposed a plan to be applied immediately by the G.P.U.:
    “To simulate a raid by Gestapo agents who would be disguised as members of the International Brigades, an assault on the house in Alcala, and a new `disappearance’ of Nin.
    It would be said that the Nazis had ‘liberated’ him, which would demonstrate the contacts Nin had with the national and international Fascism.

    The truth is that the Stalinist Press printed a version of this sort, a version which no one believed. Hernandez adds that a day after the crime, the agents of Stalin in Spain (Stepanov, Togliatti, Codovilla and Gerö*), had transmitted a message to Moscow which said: “Subject A.N. resolved by procedure A.”

    “It is certain that Nin’s resistance upset the plans of the G.P.U. and their Spanish collaborators. A `confession’ by Nin would have created a dramatic situation in the P.O.U.M. and among the imprisoned leaders. Upon this foundation it would have been possible to operate as in Russia and to show the world that Spain also had “Trotskyist traitors and they admitted their crimes”.
    At bottom, the operation against Nin and the P.O.U.M. was an attempt to justify the Moscow procedures after the event.
    But thanks to the heroic sacrifice of Nin, they were not able to mount a “Moscow show trial” in Spain.
    The leaders of the P.O.U.M. appeared proudly before the Tribunal, placing a portrait of Nin and a bouquet of flowers in the dock, as a homage. They vigorously rebutted the whole of the slanderous accusations of the prosecutor and energetically defended their honour as revolutionaries.
    The Tribunal had no other remedy than to withdraw the accusations of “espionage”.
    The judgement it delivered, in which the revolutionary character of the P.O.U.M. and its legitimacy were acknowledged explicitly, could not be published because it was prohibited by the Negrin Government censor.”

    Wildebano Solano ” The Life of Andreu Nin”

    * In 1956 Ernő Gerő became first secretary of the ruling Hungarian communist party.
    He was regarded as rigid and authoritarian by his comrades in the party leadership.
    During the second day of the Hungarian Uprising, Soviet envoys forced him to resign and he fled to the Soviet Union.
    The Kádár regime initially refused to let him return to Hungary.
    He was finally was allowed back in 1960, but expelled from the Communist Party.

  137. Karl Stewart:
    Spirit of Budapest,

    So you’re comfortable about being on the same side as neo-nazis?

    You are making yourself look completely ridiculous. What’s your point? That the Hungarian rising in 1956 can be entirely explained as being a jamboree of neo-nazi and anti-semitic pogroms and the imposition of ‘White Terror’ across an entire country, in which the Soviet Union came valiantly and with no ulterior motives to the defence of ordinary working people in Hungary?

    Grow up, open your eyes, and debate properly – based on real evidence.

  138. stephen marks on said:

    What is the evidence for ‘pogroms’ and ‘massacres of communists’ in Hungary in 1956? I know of four eye-witness accounts of the events. none of which give any credence to what I have always regarded as a smear by those who suppressed the Hungarian revolution.

    Fryer’s classic eye-witness account has already been referred to, and Karl’s silly attempt to discredit him by claiming he ‘lied’ about the Rajk trial has been dealt with [which hasn’t stopped Karl from repeating it].

    The other three eye-witnesses were all known to me personally. One was Nicolas Krasso, a pupil of Lukacs and the convenor of the central workers’ council of Budapest. You will find a written version of his account here;

    http://thecommune.co.uk/ideas/historical-events/hungarian-revolution-1956/1956-krasso/

    Krasso was later a member of the board of New Left Review and wrote a sophisticated critique of Trotsky and Trotskyism, to which Ernest Mandel wrote a reply.

    I first heard Krasso speak on Hungary 1956 when I was a student, and met and talked with him a few times thereafter. His account and subsquent reminiscences were along the same lines as the interview linked to above.

    The other two eyewtinesses I have met were both more anecdotal. One was Tibor, who I knew as a member of the same Labour Party bramch in the early 1980s. He was a fairly typical Bennite Labour Left and CND supporter – certainly no cold-war rightwinger or anticommunist. His view was in line with the two major accounts referred to – he certainly did see it as a failed attempt at a democratic socialism crushed because Moscow saw it as a threat.

    The fourth was a freelance journalist I met when we were both working as subeditors at the FT. He had fought in 1956 as a teenager, and was actually quite favourable to Hungary as it had turned out post-Kadar, with his more laid-back ‘those who are not against us are with us’ line in contrast with Gero’s infamous ‘those who are not with us are against us’ later to be echoed by George W Bush.

    Combined with economic reforms and resulting prosperity it meant in his view that Hungary was ‘quite a decent place to live’ and he went there frquently to visit relatives. But he was equally clear that none of this would have happened without 1956, which he regarded as entirely justified, though he thought Nagy was unwise in immediately announcing withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact as this was too provocative for Moscow.

    None of these sources could be described as ‘right-wing’ or cold warriors. I should add that both Krasso and Tibor were Jewish, and neither made any reference to supposed ‘pogroms’.

  139. stephen marks on said:

    I don’t understand the point Andy is making about the Field family. Field was a loyal Comintern agent who did splendid work in WW2 helping political refugees flee the Nazis. His contact with the CIA was made during WW2 when the CIA was supplying aid to resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Europe including those led by Communists.

    After Tito’s break with Stalin there was a spate of trials across Eastern Europe of supposed ‘Titoites’. It is idle to distinguish as Andy seems to be attempting to do, between pressure from Moscow and desire to curry favour with the Kremlin on the one hand, and internal party rivalries on the other. Moscow was already suspicious of those communists who had spent the war ‘inside’ in the resistance, as against those who had spent the war in Moscow and were seen by Stalin as more reliable.

    These suspicions were intensified after the break with Tito, the only Communist leader in eastern Europe to have come to power at the head of an indigenous resistance movement and without Soviet support. So the internal faction were purged as potential ‘Titoites’. The Field case was ideal ammunition for this as it was precisely the ‘internal’ communists in the resistance that he was involved in helping. In fact, as I understand, Field was never put on trial and after his release remained in Hungary as a loyal supporter of the regime, even supporting the 1956 Soviet action.

  140. #152 I would suggest that the opposition to the soviet line in 1939 was of some significance.

    #155 As for your insistence that Karl withdraws his suggestion that you are implicated with neo-nazis, I fully agree.

    Btw Karl, you haven’t response to my question- what’s your evidence that by 1939 (or 49 for that matter) that the show trials of the 30s hae been discredited? Do you think that anyone in the CPGB at either time would have believed the evidence that they were, still less expressed such a view publically?

    You have often made the poin that most orthdox communists rejected classical stalinism after the exposure of Stalin’s crimes. But when did that exposure take place?

    Do you think that you would have been condemning the forced confessions and tortures that you insist took place in 1934 as early as 1949? Do you think you would have been able to remain within the CPGB if you had?

  141. Another point Karl’, one I ‘ve made before but will repeat.

    It’s a very silly method of political argument to link people with the far right because of a coinciidence of political positions.

    The BNP opposed the war against Iraq and the main slogan Griffin campaigned under in the euro elections wasfor troops out of .Afghanistn…

  142. Karl Stewart on said:

    Spirit Of,
    I’m withdrawing nothing, so stop your whining and address yourself to the point Georgy Boy made up at post 121 about neo-nazi support for the anti-communists.

  143. Karl- how do you feel about being on the same side as the right wing press and those in the labour movement who scabbed on the NUM by saying that they should have had a national ballot?

    How do feel about endorsing Goering’s defence at Nurenberg with the comments you made about the the history of the USA?

  144. stephen marks: I don’t understand the point Andy is making about the Field family. Field was a loyal Comintern agent who did splendid work in WW2 helping political refugees flee the Nazis. His contact with the CIA was made during WW2 when the CIA was supplying aid to resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Europe including those led by Communists.

    Sorry, I was a bit elliptical. Field was himself framed as an alleged American agent by the senior officer in the Polish secret police, Joseph Swialto, who had been an American agent since 1948. The whole spy ring case was a confection created by SWialto, who defected to the USA in 1954. The fictional spy ring included many communists who had been in the West pre-war, and thus had come accross Field, and who were anyway distrusted.

    In addition, in Czechoslovakia, the intercepted telegram from the US based Voska group warning an unnamed highly placed agent that the secret polce were on to them in 1951, which tipped Gottwald into having Slansky arrested was a CIA forgery

  145. non-partisan on said:

    I also think Karl is being out of order. Karl you haven’t supplied any references or evidence for progroms, or ‘terror’ while ‘Spirit’ has supplied at least 4 eye witness accounts 2 of which i believe are documented.

    So Karl evidence? or at least lower the temperature by accepting Spirit is presenting evidence genuinely.

    And spirit your comments are read by more than Karl, and i for one really appreciate the links and your calmness in the face of provocation.

    Think of the other readers as you reply to Karl, not just to him, and if he doesn’t retract he sets a very bad standard for the conduct of debate on here, which has been improving of late.

  146. non-partisan on said:

    karl ‘georgy boy’s ‘ point at 121 is no more than the fascist Jobbik are ‘claiming’ 56 as thier own.

    What would you expect?

    ‘Spirit’ has clearly said that by the time of soviet invasion the character of the revolution was still to be determined, with many disparate forces vying for leadership, but Imre Nagy a CP apparatchik and for time head of the moevement was vital in disarming the people by asking them to lay down thier arms.

    You or George should supply some evidence for your assertions of ‘terror’ and pogroms.

  147. Karl Stewart on said:

    Posters are wrong to be more concerned with the possibility that Spirit Of’s sensitive feelings might have been hurt than the issue of neo-nazis.

    But there you go!

  148. non-partisan on said:

    How about answering the question posed many times now Karl- evidence! references! it’s not about ‘spirit’ being sensitive, it is about you abusing the form of debate, and what gives you the right to claim I am, or anyone else is, not concerned about neo-nazis

    You fling this stuff about in a way that discredits both you and this site.

  149. I’ve just finished reading Geoff Robertson’s biography of Zhukov. In the section dealing with Hungary in ’56 the reasons given for the hardening of the soviet position after the initial decisionto trust Nagy were to do with the threat of Hungary leaving the warsaw pact and fears about imerialism exploiting the situation.

    The lack of mention of fascism and pogroms doesn’t suggest to me that they weren’t a factor, but they do suggest that there is little justification for using them to tar anyone opposed to the soviet intervention as in league with neo-nazis.

  150. Karl are you going to address any of my points?

    Particularly regarding the extent to which the show trials were discredited by 1949 in communist circles.

  151. Vanya:
    …the reasons given for the hardening of the soviet position after the initial decisionto trust Nagy were to do with the threat of Hungary leaving the warsaw pact and fears about imerialism exploiting the situation.

    From what little I know of the post-91 scholarship, those two factors, esp. the first, do seem to have been the dominant factors in the minds of Soviet decision makers. And moreover, I’m sure a reasonable defence of Soviet intervention could be made on these grounds.

    The problem that faces the ‘pro-Soviet camp’, so to speak, is that even if pogroms and neo-Nazis were involved (which I don’t discount out of hand, but would like to see some evidence of), they still have to prove that intervention was because of this. And I very much doubt that could be done – i.e. these reasons are post-facto justifications, not underlying causes.

    Indeed, one could even draw a certain parallel with WWII and how it has since been justified on a rather different basis that it was originally.

    On the editorial itself, I have a question: I’ve been reading Kevin Morgan’s biography of Harry Pollitt, and in regard to the ’57 conference, he suggests it was a far livelier and more democratic affair than any of those during Pollitt’s tenure. How accurate is that judgement? Because if he’s right, I think the parallel between the 50s CP and contemporary SWP is even more revealing.

  152. Vanya,

    and

    Feodor,

    Hobsbawm’s comments on why the USSR decided to send its troops back in to Hungary are interesting:

    “A day later Moscow (supported by both Tito and Mao) changed its mind. Why, having unanimously and genuinely opted for the political solution did the Soviet regime now choose military force? It is true that Hungary, despite having been offered ‘an even longer leash’ than Poland, clearly wanted total independence, but this does not explain the suddenness of the change. Gati suggests that an incident which took place on the 30th, and is vividly described in Sebestyen, was crucial: the attack by insurgents on the headquarters of the Greater Budapest Communist Party on Republic Square, temporarily defenceless except for a contingent of secret police after the withdrawal of Russian and Hungarian soldiers. The building was taken, the Budapest Party chief – a strong supporter of reform – killed, and 23 secret policemen lynched by the mob in front of the world’s newsreel cameras. It was this demonstration of anarchic fury, combined with Nagy’s increasing concessions to the maximalist demands on the street, that persuaded both Moscow and Beijing that uncontrollable disorder was impending in Hungary.”

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n22/eric-hobsbawm/could-it-have-been-different

  153. BTW, re: the alleged anti-Jewish aspect of the 1956 Hungarian events. I don’t think this should be dismissed out of hand, especially given the country’s fairly recent history at that time.

    Furthermore, the main communist leaders in Hungary (with the exception of Kadar and Nagy) were of Jewish ethnicity; and, according to various accounts that one can find on the web today, the communist security service in Hungary was, or was believed to be, mainly ‘Jewish’.

    Obviously, Jobbik and various other ultra-right racist / nationalist groups lay claim to the Hungarian ’1956 revolution’ legacy. And notably, David Irving also boosts it as an anti-Jewish & anti-communist insurrection.

    There are also one or two other signs that can be gathered from a trawl of the web, however reliable or otherwise, indicating the factor of anti-semitism in the anti-Soviet revolt.

  154. Thanks Noah, that’s an interesting review – and some familiar names in the comments underneath.

    Does anyone know exactly when the Nagy gov withdrew from the Warsaw Pact?

    A quick Google search suggests the decision was broadcast on 31 Oct. That’s the ‘day later’ Hobsbawm refers to, when Moscow changed its mind – beggars belief that he doesn’t mention this.

  155. According to this link 20 000 Jews left Hungary during 1956 because of the anti-Semitic acts of the uprising.

    http://www.porges.net/JewishHistoryOfHungary.html

    I think it is a little unnerving how some posters on here are trying to cover up the pogroms of 56. There were liberal and nationalist currents of the movement, but there was also fascist ones too. Supporting the former doesn’t mean you have to deny the latter.

  156. Re: the alleged anti-Jewish element of the Hungarian 1956 uprising against communism.

    Several posts have been directed at Karl Stewart on this issue.

    While I quite often don’t agree with Karl, there is enough to indicate that he may be right on this matter.

    Eg as one example:

    “Kalmar, who had survived the concentration camp at Birkenau and was liberated from Sachshausen in Germany, says the [1956] uprising reminded him that he would be better off not remaining in Hungary, and that he was a Jew and not a Hungarian.

    “I was never a Communist or a member of the party, but when I heard talk against the Jews, I was not in favor of the revolt. Based on my bitter experience in 1944, I knew that if they were to start talking and inciting against Jews, it wouldn’t stop there. We heard there was graffiti in the streets, ‘Jacob, this time we won’t take you as far as Auschwitz’ – that is, they’ll hang you on the spot. Suddenly, all the Jews became communists, and again they were blamed for everything.”

    http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/divided-we-remember-1.203136

  157. #174 I have no interest in covering anything, but you need to find something better than that article to prove your point- it doesn’t even refer to any specific incidents.

    In fact it seems to have as much to say about problems suffered by Jews under the post-war regime.

    That doesn’t mean I think it’s wrong, just that you need a better source.

  158. Georgey Boy:
    I think it is a little unnerving how some posters on here are trying to cover up the pogroms of 56. There were liberal and nationalist currents of the movement, but there was also fascist ones too.

    I don’t think anyone who attempts to frame the debate in such a selective manner really has a leg to stand on here.

    Hint: you can still accept that Soviet intervention was legitimate while nevertheless recognising that there were also socialist currents in the movement, to use your phrase.

  159. #175 Do you think Karl’s right that a Daily Worker reporter in 1949 in Hungary should have realised that he was witnessing a show trial and that this would have been obvious because by then he would have realised that the Moscow trials in 1934 also were?

    And that his dishonesty in covering for this show trial is evidence that he was also dishonest 7 years later and bent the stick by ignoring evidence that anti.-semitic pogroms were going on?

  160. ^Bet he wishes he’d never made as bold a statement as this in the preface:

    ‘Almost three decades have passed since the events and the crushing of the 1956 counter-revolution in Hungary… Our class enemies… While extolling the counter-revolutionary actions, … have to admit the fact that the past thirty years in Hungary represent a period of steady progress. However, the emigre reactionaries who lament their wrecked hopes, continue to pursue a blindly incorrigible approach, deploring the passing of the ultimate opportunity for a take-over in Hungary. Some who played an important role in those days are overwhelmed by nostalgia and nurse fresh hopes. They are certain to suffer new disappointments, for they have broken away from Hungarian reality and the actual power relations.’

    -emphasis added.

  161. Vanya,

    I think you need to address yourself to Karl on that matter.

    However, I think Karl is right to raise the issues of anti-communism, and anti-semitism, re: the 1956 events in Hungary.

  162. Noah: Vanya,

    I think you need to address yourself to Karl on that matter.

    I have. It’s just that he seems a bit unwilling to answer.

  163. The passage quoted by Feodor says it all really. The Soviet intervention kept that system in business in Hungary for a further 33 years. It’s hard to say what else it achieved.

  164. #179 I scanned through the book you linked to.

    I didn’t noice any references to anti-semitic pogroms, although I may have missed them. And this is in a publication extremely positive about the soviet intervention to say the least. Having said that I didn’t read it in detail so I may have missed that.

    One passage shouted out at me though:

    ‘The situation becomes extremely difficult
    when a contradiction arises between the long-term interests
    of the working masses and their momentary mood. In October
    and November 1956, the mood of the masses inflamed
    by the nationalist incitement of the counter-revolution and
    the demagogy of revisionism, ran counter to the lasting interests
    of the country and the working people.’

    Make of that what you will.

  165. That assumes, Graham, that the fascist element in Hungary after 1956 would have turned out to be stronger than the analogous element after 1989. Possibly it would have done, possibly not. We can’t know either way.

  166. Francis King: fascist element in Hungary after 1956 would have turned out to be stronger than the analogous element after 1989.

    And that the fascists themselves failed to adapt, the experience of West Germany is that properly incentivised, the fascists became democrats very quickly.

    I don’t know about Hungary, but I do know in Germany, at every level in the SED, there was real and justified apprehension of fascist revival, and appretiation of latent fascist sympathy in the population – including the working class. This must have informed the party’s response to political opposition

  167. Morning Star reader on said:

    I don’t think Peter Fryer’s account of the 1956 events should be read in the light of what he wrote about the earlier show trials. A lot of good people were taken in by the latter. The US Operation Splinter Factor did much to feed paranoia in the post-war “People’s Democracies”.
    I think Fryer sincerely wrote about what he saw in Budapest in 1956. His later work on the history of black people in Britain was a major contribution to working class and people’s history.
    Charlie Coutts wrote many of the Hungary 1956 reports that appeared in the Daily Worker in preference to Fryer’s. Coutts was the more experienced journalist and much more knowledgeable about Hungary (warts and all). His account of those times was reproduced in the pamphlet Eye Witness in Hungary. Although genuinely sympathetic to the motives of many of the protesters, he also saw first-hand how the most reactionary elements gained in strength over the weeks of upheaval.
    The lynchings of Hungarian security police, soldiers and Communists were well documented by the Western media at the time (and whose reporters saw many of these acts for themselves). Even fascist historian David Irving in his book Uprising! (which portrays the protesters in the most favourable light possible) points out that the lynchings became so numerous, blatant and brutal that Western politicians and media were worried about the impact on Western public opinion.
    A huge amount of information about the events can be found online at: http://osaarchivum.org/digitalarchive/index.html The interviews with 600+ participants who later emigrated begin at: http://osaarchivum.org/digitalarchive/blinken/list.php?cmd=reset
    Some of these provide the precise details of scores of lynchings of Hungarian police, soldiers and communists.
    Many of the best informed books of recent years on Hungary 1956 make use of these interview transcripts.
    As far as the CP in Britain is concerned, the widespread debate about Hungary at every level of the party in 1956 and 1957 is also a matter of record. The online CPGB archive contains abundant examples. The anti-communist picture of a CPGB leadership desperate to suppress debate doesn’t survive a moment’s scrutiny of what actually happened.
    In a new biography of Phil Piratin, authors Marsh and Griffiths use this CPGB archive to summarise some of the contributions to the debates at several Executive Committee meetings, showing the frank and open clashes of view that were freely expressed at the time.

  168. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    I read George Mikes’ The Hungarian Revolution, published in 1957. Mikes was a Hungarian Jew, who had emigrated to the West and worked for Radio Free Europe etc. He was bitterly anti-Communist and also totally supportive of the uprising. He conceded that there might be some fascists of the Horthy period involved but claimed that nobody in Hungary was more fascist than the Communist authorities in Hungary, which strikes me as an attempt to avoid the issue. He reported a case of an AVO member with a Jewish appearance being detained and then released because the detainers did not want to get a reputation for anti-Semitism, but this begs the question as to whether every insurgent was so scrupulous in 1956, or made a clear distinction between Jews and Communists.

    The “Jewish Bolshevik” idea was very much alive in Central and Eastern Europe among anti-Semites during much of the 20th century, and is probably not entirely dead even now. In Hungary and elsewhere, people of Jewish origin were well-represented in the government and security apparatus after World War II, giving the idea a good deal of credibility.

  169. prianikoff on said:

    MSR@188:
    “The lynchings of Hungarian security police, soldiers and Communists were well documented by the Western media at the time (and whose reporters saw many of these acts for themselves). Even fascist historian David Irving in his book Uprising! (which portrays the protesters in the most favourable light possible) points out that the lynchings became so numerous, blatant and brutal that Western politicians and media were worried about the impact on Western public opinion.”

    The widely publicized attacks and lynchings on ÁVH were mainly the work of the József Dudás militia.
    During the second week of the Uprising, they attacked the headquarters of the secret police in Budapest, massacring the ÁVH inside.
    Dudas was a member of the Independent Smallholders Party, not a fascist.
    As a youth he had been a member of the illegal Communist Party and he was a member of the anti-fascist resistance movement during the War.

    Smallholders in Hungary had been hit hard by Rakosi and Gero’s agricultural policies, which aped Soviet forced Collectivisation under Stalin.
    Their ecomomic policies were a disaster and their was deep resentment at the repressive methods of the ÁVH.
    If you read Kopasci’s “In the Name of the Working Class”, you’ll understand all this.

    Kopasci was a CP member and the Police Chief of Budapest.
    Yet under Rakosi, the ÁVH operated as a law under themselves in his HQ.
    When he visited an internment camp he found dozens of peasants imprisoned for petty crimes like pilfering 5 kg of grain.
    There were numerous political prisoners whose only crime was to have been Social Democrats, or Communists who weren’t in Moscow during the War.
    Kopácsi released 80% of the prisoners on his own initiative.

    The Soviet leadership under Krushchev could see what was happening in Hungary and themselves precipitated the crisis by demanding Rakosi’s resignation.
    This emboldened the Nagy faction in the Hungarian CP and led to liberalisation.
    But the level of resentment at the ÁVH was so great that it was hard to contain.
    In fact Nagy protected ÁVH men and Dudas had no support amongst the Nagy Faction.
    He was betrayed by his own men and turned in.

    There was no organised fascist movement in Hungary during 1956.
    This was a myth perpetuated by pro-Moscow elements to justify Soviet intervention.
    Nor was there much Western involvement as the West was preoccupied with Suez and caught off guard by events.
    Left to its own devices, the Hungarian Uprising would probably have gravitated towards a coalition of Reform Communists and Social Democrats.
    With the added factor of Workers Councils in the mix.

  170. prianikoff on said:

    If free-elections had given the Small Holders Party greater influence, there’s no guarantee that such a government would have been able to prevent a further movement to the right.
    Avoiding such a rightward development required having a socialist programme.
    A particular concern was role played by the recently freed Cardinal Mindszenty.

    A warning about this possibility was contained in a document written by a dissident member of the US SWP, Vince Copeland*.
    He criticized Nagy’s policies, which he saw as leading in the direction of capitalist restoration.

    Copeland submitted a resolution to the SWP’s Political Committee on November 5th 1956, the day after Soviet forces re-entered Budapest.

    Its main demands were:-

    1) Retention and extension of nationalised property
    2) Legalisation of all parties supporting this demand
    3) Outlawing of all parties opposing it.
    4) A direct appeal for support for workers of the world
    5) Maintain an anti-imperialist military alliance with the USSR, while retaining full independence to pursue a socialist domestic and foreign policy
    6) Withdrawal of Soviet Troops from Hungary upon the request of an independent workers government/

    Full document:-
    ‘The Class Character of the Hungarian Uprising’
    by V Grey
    http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/copeland/V-Grey-Class-Character-Hungarian-Uprising.pdf

    *Vince Copeland (V.Grey) along with Sam Marcy was a supporter of the “Global Class War” faction of the US SWP
    In 1959, they left to form the Workers World Party.

  171. #188-190

    All very interesting contributions.

    But as for #191, surely a resolution put by a minority tendency of a small American far left party to its CC hundreds of miles away is of limited significance in terms of what was going on in Hungary? And was at the time?

    If the SWP had passed that motion do you think it would have had any practical impact on the events in Hungary? If so what?

    I’m honestly not having a pop

  172. prianikoff on said:

    @192 “If the SWP had passed that motion do you think it would have had any practical impact on the events in Hungary?”

    It would have had hardly any practical impact in Hungary
    at the time. But I think it does have significance in terms of theoretical clarification of the issues involved.
    Copeland’s idea of a United Front with Kadar seems totally unrealistic in retrospect. (rather like the attempt by the German Spartacists to win over the East German army to its programme)

    But I think his analysis of the class forces involved was quite accurate and points to the need for an alternative programme by the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party, especially on the question of gradual, controlled de-collectivisation of small landholdings.

    There are definitely some ambiguities in Kopasci’s book re. the UN and getting support from the West, although given the bullying of the Stalinists, it wasn’t all that surprising. Apparently, the original manuscript ran to 1,000 pages and was drastically edited for popular publication. So I wonder what else was in there?

    Kopasci wasn’t treated as a high level celebrity defector.
    He returned to his working class roots and worked as a janitor for Ontario Hydro. His daugther Judit is still alive in Canada and has written against the antisemitism and anti-Roma sentiments of some of the modern Hungarian parties.

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