[Marxism] Ian Birchall and the March Action

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 11 22:45:42 MDT 2013

I am going to take out from the Columbia library Werner Angress's 792 
page study of the problems of German Communism between 1921 and 1923 
that provided the basis for my commentary in the last post. Since the 
publication of his collecting writings, Paul Levi and the problems of 
the Comintern are becoming a hot issue. I don't remember reading the 
entire book the last time I utilized it about 15 years ago but it is 
worth a second look, if not a cover to cover reading. I have read large 
parts of it as well as Pierre Broue's book on the German revolution and 
find Angress much more detailed and much less susceptible to the myth of 
the "heroic Comintern" even though Broue does give Levi his due.

But this from Birchall's article really boggled my mind:

"If John and Sebastian think there should have been a confrontation with 
Zinoviev and his allies, this raises the question of who should have 
replaced him. There were scarcely any able but underemployed comrades 
hanging around looking for a job."

This is a reference to an article in the ISJ that defended Levi:


The business about a "confrontation with Zinoviev and his allies" should 
be familiar to anybody who has read my rants on "Zinovievism". Put 
briefly, Zinoviev was largely responsible for the disasters in Germany 
as head of the Comintern. In reaction to the dismay over the German 
fiascoes, he put a clamp on dissent in the name of "Bolshevization". In 
other words, what the rape did for the SWP, the German disasters did for 
the Comintern: a deepening of bureaucratic tendencies.

Birchall's take on this is obviously meant to be jocular:

"There were scarcely any able but underemployed comrades hanging around 
looking for a job."

Although I am no Freudian, I wonder if Birchall was unconsciously 
revealing the mindset of the SWP leadership. "Underemployed comrades 
hanging around looking for a job?" What a way to describe a crisis of 
leadership in a movement that was the working class's best hope in the 

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