Thursday, February 07, 2008

Stalin and the British Road to Socialism



By Ray Jones

RevolutionaryDemocracy Vol XIII No 2 September 2007. £3 plus 50p P&P from NCP Lit PO Box 73, London SW11 2PQ.

IN THE OLD Communist Party (CPGB) it was sometimes said that Stalin had approved of the British Road to Socialism (BRS) programme — not often and not loudly because the revisionists obviously did not wish to be seen appealing to Stalin and the anti-revisionists did not like to think that Stalin could have approved of the BRS.
Some argued that the apparent paradox could be resolved because the first version of the BRS (the one seen by Stalin) was essentially sound but the 1957 version slipped into reformism and this seems to be the basic position Vijay Singh takes in his article on the BRS in this issue of Revolutionary Democracy.
He compares the CPGB programme before the Second World War, For a Soviet Britain, with the first and later versions of the BRS and puts them into historical context.
Vijay admits that the first version of the BRS proposes the use of our bourgeois Parliament but implies that this was acceptable because that BRS was a road to socialism via a People’s Democracy, not to socialism directly — similar to the processes taking place in other countries at the time.
The classic example is possibly Czechoslovakia where the Communists built up a strong base inside and outside Parliament until a certain point was reached and then called out the worker’s militia and took state power.
But this People’s Democracy version of the BRS, argues Vijay, was not a “peaceful road” and the essence of the dictatorship of the proletariat was kept. These things were added and cut respectively in the later revisionist version.
Vijay’s arguments are buttressed by his discovery in the Russian archives, and reproduced here, of minutes of meetings and letters between Stalin and CPGB general secretary Harry Pollitt.
I think that it was assumed by many of us that if Stalin had seen a draft of the first BRS it had just been looked at and returned with a diplomatic acceptance. It is clear that this was not the case and that Stalin and the Soviet Party had a serious input into the programme and that on the whole their amendments were accepted.
These articles are important for our understanding of our communist history and Vijay Singh should be congratulated for them — whatever we make of his opinion on the BRS.
Besides this indispensable reading there is in this volume the usual mix of interesting articles; from thoughts on Che Guevara’s economics to the Nandigram scandal in India to the Tukhachevsky Conspiracy in the Soviet Union.