An open letter to the Communist Party of Australia
ozleft at optushome.com.au
Thu Jul 31 21:47:23 MDT 2003
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF AUSTRALIA AND THE "GUARDIAN".
In a 16th July 2003 "Guardian" column, with the unintentionally revealing
sub heading, "More rewriting of history" Rob Gowland has this to say:
"Stalin is a towering figure of the 20th Century. It is precisely because of
Stalin's achievements and stature, valid criticisms notwithstanding, that he
is still held in such high standing and that there are so many -- and such
unrelenting - attacks on him in the bourgeois media fifty years after his
The whole of this "Culture & Life" Gowland column was a general diatribe
against "Trotskyist agents of the bourgeoisie". Coincidentally, the same
issue of the "Guardian" contains a favourable article about the widely
publicised fact that one wing of the Iraqi Communist Party has joined the
narrowly based non elected US puppet provisional government in Iraq.
Since July 16th, the CPA has associated itself with a determined attempt to
split the Sydney Walk Against the War Coalition, one of the political issues
being that the more radical members of the Coalition support the demand for
the withdrawal of US and other foreign troops from Iraq. This demand is
increasing in volume all over the world and has been taken up by many of the
families of the American servicemen.
It is in this framework that it is necessary to view the catch-all article
by Hannah Middleton in the latest "Guardian", in which she cobbles together
a general sweeping diatribe against splitting, wrecking Trotskyites all over
the world who, she alleges, are damaging the peace movement by emphasising
narrow demands calling for the withdrawal of all US imperialist troops from
Both Hannah Middleton's article and Gowland's occasional columns about
"Trotskyism" are right out of the discredited historic arsenal of high
Stalinism, in the sense that they are crude amalgams in which many different
groups and currents are arbitrarily lumped together, and then demonised, to
justify a current Stalinist political line. This is fortified by the
approach that Gowland makes explicit by his paen to Stalin, as the font of
all socialist political wisdom, the great genius of the 20th century.
This appeal to high Stalinist prejudice is bizarre, almost beyond belief in
the year 2003. The widening exposure of Stalin's crimes against the
socialist movement and the human race, has been continuously unfolding,
particularly since Kruschev's initial exposure of some of Stalin's crimes at
the 20th Congress of the CPSU, in February 1956.
Since that time also, the credibility of the Moscow Witch Trials of the
1930s has been completely destroyed, by material out of the archives and by
testimony of survivors and participants. As a by product of this, the
political honour of the murdered old Bolsheviks, including such figures as
Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin, has been completely established,
for anyone who can read history.
In particular, since the final internal collapse of the senile Stalinist
regime in the Soviet Union in 1991, the amount of material about the crimes
of Stalin, the greatest mass murderer of communists and socialists in the
20th century, that has poured out of the still only partially opened
archives in the ex Soviet Union, has provided irrefutable documentary
evidence of Stalin's crimes.
As a socialist all my life, I have been preoccupied, amongst many other
matters, with the question of Stalinism, since Kruschev's initial exposure
of Stalin in 1956. I have accumulated an archive of over 200 individual
memoirs by communists and socialists who spent time in Stalin's camps, and I
have also accumulated a substantial collection of documents about Stalin's
The books that have come out since 1991 contain a massive amount of
additional material, some of which is so painful that it is difficult to
read it all at once. I have just finished reading the sombre but definitive
book by Anne Applebaum, "Gulag, a History" (Doubleday 2003). The raw
figures quoted by Applebaum from the archives from 1930 to 1956, have a
devastating impact. The additional figures for people in administrative
exile from October 1945 to January 1953, are also staggering. For most of
the years between 1945 and 1953, the composite figure of people in the camps
and people in administrative exile, was well in excess of 5 million, in a
country with a population of around 200 million. The death rate in the camps
was very high.
In addition to this, nearly a million innocent people were administratively
executed, the overwhelming majority without trial. A very high proportion of
those administratively executed were members of the Communist Party of the
Soviet Union. The overwhelming majority of Delegates to every Congress of
the CPSU up until the Congress of 1951, were executed in the Stalin period,
as were the overwhelming majority of every Central Committee and Political
Committee from the Lenin period until the end of the 1930s.
There is a vast collection of undeniable documentation of all these
historical events. There are two recent books that I've found extremely
moving. One is the book about the trial of Solomon Lozovsky, the former
leader of the Red International of Labour Unions, who had some connections
with Australia. I quote from a polemical document I wrote last year:
"Garden and the Labor Council's connection with the RILU and Lozovsky became
important later, during the Stalinisation of the Comintern, and eventually
of the Australian CP. Lozovsky generally adapted to the Stalin regime in the
Soviet Union, but as Secretary of the RILU, he retained a certain limited
independence, and discretely resisted the worst excesses of the imposition
of the "Third Period" line in the labor movement. He sent his son-in-law to
Australia, as a RILU emissary to the CP, to discretely try to soften the
blows from Moscow against the Labor Council, and particularly against Jack
Ryan, the Labor Council's Research Officer, a CP leader who resisted the
'Third Period" line. Eventually, however, Ryan was expelled from the CP, on
the eve of a vital ACTU Conference, where his absence, as the most
experienced CP speaker and leader, made the critical difference to the
debate, on a motion from right wing unions, to disaffiliate from the Pan
Pacific Trade Union Secretariat, that was carried by the narrowest of
margins. Had Ryan spoken, as the main CP leader at the congress, the result
would probably have been different. "The blood-thirsty monster, Stalin,
never forgave, and never forgot, even the slightest deviation from his will.
A recent book, published by Yale University Press, containing newly released
material from the Comintern archives, containing letters and documents
between Dimitrov and Stalin, reveals the shabby, casual way in which Stalin
purged Lozovsky from the RILU, and closed that body down in the late 1930s,
because it had become a bit of an obstacle to the total Stalinisation of the
Communist Party forces in the labor movement.
"The sad fate of one old Bolshevik. Stalin murders Solomon Lozovsky, and the
other leaders of the Soviet "Jewish Anti Fascist Committee" in the last
"Moscow Trial", conducted in secret in 1952. "During the Second World War,
however, Lozovsky again proved useful to Stalin, because of his Jewish
background, and his wide connections in Jewish circles in Europe and the
United States. He was made the main organiser of the "Jewish Anti Fascist
Committee" in the Soviet Union, which was extraordinarily successful in
mobilising Jewish community support for the Soviet Union in its war effort,
particularly from the United States. After the crisis of the War, however,
Stalin's underlying anti Semitism began to resurface, and in the late 1940s
and the early 1950s, organisations like the Jewish Anti Fascist Committee,
and Meyerhold's very successful Yiddish Theatre, were closed down, and all
their main personnel, including Solomon Lozovsky, were arrested by the NKVD.
The greatest of all theatre producers in the Soviet period, Meyerhold, was
murdered on Stalin's instructions. The last fully fledged Moscow purge trial
was held, in secret, in 1952, involving the leaders of the Jewish Anti
Fascist Committee, with the main figure in the trial being Solomon Lozovsky,
by now an old man, up until then one of the very few survivors amongst the
old Bolsheviks. The transcript of that trial recently surfaced in the GPU
archives, and it has now been published by Yale University Press. The book
is "Stalin's Secret Pogrom. The Postwar Inquisition of the Jewish
Anti-Fascist Committee" edited by Joshua Rubenstein and Vladimir Naumov
(Yale 2001). The transcript of this final Moscow Trial makes the most
extraordinary reading. "In the transcript Lozovsky, the stubborn old
Bolshevik, who has, no doubt, capitulated to Stalin several times,
nevertheless, finds the extraordinary inner resources to repudiate, in the
courtroom, the confession that has been extorted from him under torture. He
makes a lengthy and detailed speech defending his life's activities, and
indicting the Stalinist Court and Stalinist justice. Nevertheless, he and
most of his fellow accused, are found guilty, sentenced to death and shot on
18th July 1952. Lozovsky was 75."
I would also commend the harrowing book "1937" by Vladimir Rugovin. The list
of unrefutable evidence of Stalin's crimes goes on and on and on.
It is rather weird but politically comprehensible that Stalinist prejudices
are invoked by yourselves to justify a sweeping witchunt against the more
leftist forces, world wide, and in Australia, in the anti war movement.
This reflects a certain political reality. A very large part of the younger
section of the left movement know the truth about Stalinism and Stalin's
crimes, and owe something to the heroic legacy of the Left Opposition and
other opposition communists and socialists who swam against the stream in
exposing Stalin's crimes in the 1930s. To that end, we have been putting up
on OzLeft a number of historical documents that relate to these questions.
It's politically fantastic of the "Guardian" to belt out, from time to time,
its defence of Stalin's thoroughly documented crimes, for the narrowest
factional purposes, combined with ancient prejudices.
It seems appropriate to me that we should have a big public discussion on
the matter of Stalin's crimes and the political honour of the murdered old
Bolsheviks. To this end, I throw down this challenge. Why not have a public
debate on the question of Stalin, Trotsky, Bukharin and the old Bolsheviks,
and the truthfulness or otherwise of the Moscow Trials and the Purges in the
1930s, with the protagonists on one side, say, Peter Symon, Rob Gowland,
Hannah Middleton and Bruce Cornwall, and on the other side, Bob Gould, the
historian Di Fields, Phil Shannon who occasionally writes for "Green Left
Weekly" and R.D. Walshe. The whole event might be chaired by Cameron Murphy
from Civil Liberties, and/or Kep Enderby, the former Attorney General in the
Whitlam Government. Rather than bizarre sniping, let's have a real public
debate in the labor movement on these important historical questions.
I'm certain that in Sydney we could achieve a very large attendance for a
serious public debate about these historical matters, which are of such
enormous interest to any serious socialist.
I look forward to your early response to this proposal for such a public
debate, so that we can set in train mechanisms to organise it in such a way
that it is conducted completely fairly, in a civilized manner and spirit,
and with proper guarantees that all participants will be able to express
their views in an appropriate way, without interference.
Bob Gould, Bookseller, 32 King St, Newtown. Ph: 9519-8947 9516-5498 Fax:
9550-5924 Email: ggouldsb at bigpond.net.au.
Gould's Book Arcade 32 King St, Newtown, NSW Ph: 9519-8947 Fax: 9550-5924
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