Friday, October 25, 2013

Revolutionary tactics in the bourgeois dictatorship Part two




 By Neil Harris

APART from the “official” Comintern tactics, there were two other techniques of working: “entryism” and the “front” and although both became associated with communism’s enemies, both began life with the Comintern.
After the breach between Trotsky and Stalin, the underground Trotskyite factions found it increasingly difficult to operate inside communist parties and eventually left to create independent parties. When these failed to gain any following, “entryism” (The French Turn) into the parties of social democracy was used as a technique to try to connect with the working class. On occasions Trotskyite parties would split in two with one wing working as an open party while the other operated as a secret faction inside social democracy, as in Britain.
Entryism was always going to fail, either because the Trotskyites were forced to hide so deeply inside social democracy that their revolutionary politics were suffocated, or because over time they just turned out to be closet reformists themselves. Their problem was that wherever entryism became a long-term tactic, it exposed both Trotsky’s origins as a Menshevik as well as his followers’ inherent Menshevism. It fostered the illusion that a secret revolutionary faction could win power through bourgeois elections by using social democracy as a Trojan horse. The real attraction of entryism was always the seductive appeal of reformism: the time for establishing an independent revolutionary party never came.
In any event, if ever they got close to power, the intelligence agencies simply exposed their activities and this gave the social democratic leadership the opportunity to expel them – as with the “Workers Revolutionary Party” or “Militant” in the British Labour Party.
It may surprise New Worker readers to learn that entryism was not a tactic invented by Trotsky, it was already in use by the Comintern in the 1930s. In Britain for example, the Young Communist League (YCL) put cadres into The Labour League of Youth to win the League over to the Third International. When that failed there was a pre-planned mass defection of members to the YCL. These included the writer Ted Willis and Jack Gaster, who later became a prominent communist lawyer. This influx boosted the YCL briefly but at that time it was militant and growing rapidly anyway. It is unclear what long term benefit the tactic produced and it was never used by the CPGB again.
In countries like Germany and Italy, where Fascism had seized power, Comintern policy was for underground communists to enter fascist organisations designed to control the working class, in order to subvert them and to provide much needed cover for comrades whose lives were constantly at risk.
The final tactic was the use of independent non-party organisations as a means of mobilising non-communist political activists to a single issue cause the party supported. During the 1920s and 1930s, the “front” was very successful in mobilising people to progressive causes like famine relief in the young Soviet Union, Republican Spain, or anti-fascism. In Britain, drawing from that international experience, the CPGB set up numerous autonomous organisations, of which the National Council for Civil Liberties (which became “Liberty”), Tribune newspaper and the Left Book Club are just a few of the more famous examples. Plainly Britain was a better place for the work that these organisations did, but it is unclear what long term benefit such use of cadres’ energy brought either the party or the class. 
Ironically the “Front” was to be enthusiastically adopted by enemies of progress like the US State Department, who still funnel money into separate organisations under their control, which in turn are used to finance another layer of apparently “independent” non-governmental organisations which just happen to support US foreign policy. The difference is that while communists never hid their involvement in the organisations they supported, for the State Department it was always about subterfuge.
        While critics like to pretend that the International’s tactics failed, that is not the case. Certainly applying the same thesis throughout the world simultaneously exposed weaknesses, while the democratic structure of the organisation slowed its ability to change course in a dynamic, rapidly changing era. However, throughout the life of the Third International communism was a growing force. It was the parliamentary era of the 1950s onwards that saw the decline and eventual liquidation of European communist parties.
The parties of the International were ideologically stronger, bigger and more influential after 1924 during the united front policy than they were in 1919 in the midst of the revolutions, when they were led by Lenin.
The “third period” policy was also a positive development; when it ended in 1935 the communist parties, although numerically smaller in some cases, were ideologically and organisationally stronger than in 1924 – these were now truly Bolshevik parties.
Likewise they rapidly grew in numbers and influence in the years of the popular front; in 1939 they were larger and stronger than they had been at any time before. Even in those countries where fascism took power, communism had an underground presence and an influence that extended far beyond its membership.
By the end of the war many European communist parties had been through illegality, armed action and even the “dual power” that Lenin described in the Russian revolution. But all that experience was to be wasted after the war. From the “[‘British Road to Socialism]” to the Italian “Salerno Turn”, most European parties adopted the parliamentary road and soon fell from the position of ideological and organisational strength they had had in 1939.
It’s no coincidence that this decline began not long after the dissolution of the Comintern, when most communist parties had adopted forms of left social democracy. That strategy was always doomed to fail; the working class simply decided that if they were going to vote for social democracy they might as well vote for the real thing. It was the “socialist” parties of the second international that prospered, while the “parliamentary” communist parties dwindled.
The argument of the reformist communists in private, and increasingly in public, was that they were being held back by the “undemocratic” image of the Soviet Union. The Eurocommunists felt that no one would accept their democratic credentials while they retained a connection with the Soviets. Actually what they really feared was that anyone would confuse them with being a revolutionary party.  Ironically when the Soviets collapsed it wasn’t long before the euro communist parties followed them into oblivion.
The most important lesson from all this is one that should have been learnt long ago – communists can never compete with reformism, the reformists are much better qualified to make opportunistic compromises with the class enemy. Working people can see this and choose reformist parties because in normal times they want reformist solutions. They turn to revolutionary parties when there is a revolutionary situation; as Lenin said: “when they cannot go on living in the old way”. This is why the size of a communist party is not important, only the strength of its ideology and its militancy.
Revolutionaries should stick to what they are meant to be doing – fighting the class struggle, making revolution. And of course Lenin never imagined that being in a bourgeois parliament could bring about socialism – he only supported the tactic as a means of propaganda, a platform from which to address the working class. Of all the successful revolutionaries: Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho, Kim Il Sung and Fidel – none of them were ever candidates in bourgeois elections. For Lenin it was always the politics of the “deed” that mattered.
If the only strategy is revolution, what are the tactics?
The mistake made by those who cannot escape from the past is that they cannot benefit from the experiences of that past. To associate tactics only with those whose names have become attached to them is to lose the chance to use techniques that work. To adopt one tactic and stick with only that until the bitter end is to adopt the attitude of a first world war general repeatedly sending his troops to their deaths, even if it is being done in the name of Lenin, Stalin or Trotsky.
While Lenin’s revolutionary policy during the “first period” of workers’ revolutions following the First World War was a failure, there were two reasons for this: the communist parties were still too small and isolated to succeed but more importantly the revolutionary situation had passed before those parties were ready to take advantage of it. Because revolutionary situations are an objective condition the policy could never have succeeded, even with Lenin’s leadership. It is only with hindsight that we can see this now, therefore we should salute the courage of those who sought to make revolution at that time.
Crucially for communists, in 1919 Lenin set out 21 requirements for admission to the Comintern which were designed to exclude reformists and still do so very effectively whenever they are applied.
Where two conditions apply there are also times when Lenin’s “revolutionary period” policy or the later “third period” thesis are the right policies for communists to take in relation to social democracy.
Those conditions are that firstly there is an imminent revolutionary situation and secondly that the leadership of social democracy is trying to portray itself as [the] champion of socialism to maintain its leadership of the class. In the past social democracy put policies before the working class that promised “socialism” without the need for revolution, such as: subsidised social housing, nationalisation of unprofitable industries, progressive taxation to reduce inequality, free healthcare, education and social welfare.
These policies weren’t their choice; they were forced into adopting them by the strength of working class consciousness at home and by their fear of the Soviet Union abroad – the working class under arms. There was never any intention of threatening the real basis of capitalism – the private ownership of the means of production. These were empty promises forced onto them because they were competing with communists for the same radicalised working class. In such situations the communist party’s task is to ruthlessly expose the opportunism of social democracy’s leaders, their treachery and their class collaboration, in order to win the workers over to the communist party and revolution.
Today the situation is very different. By the 1950s, social democracy had given up pretending to be either revolutionary or Marxist, it no longer needed to do so to win workers votes. By the 1980s it had stopped pretending to stand for socialism. Today, social democratic leaders are even trying to distance themselves from any association with the working class at all.
In these changed circumstances there is no danger of working people being misled into believing that there is anything revolutionary about social democracy and it would be a strange and very ignorant worker who ever imagined that Labour had any connection with socialism. There is more danger from those who seek to create a new workers’ party – to the left of labour. This project would just be a more left-wing version of the same reformist social democracy, in the form of an illusion that has yet to be discredited.
But times can quickly change and a working class that is defeated and demoralised will one day be radicalised again. It is the nature of unprincipled opportunism that social democratic ideologues would then start courting those radicalised workers with revolutionary sounding phrases. Whether those ideologues come from right or left social democracy, it is at such a time that communist policy towards social democracy must become one of merciless opposition, to destroy it as a rival and a diversion. In such a “third period” it is to third period policies we need to turn.
However today, when defeated and demoralised workers divide their votes between social democracy and liberalism it is because their aspirations are limited to winning small benefits – mere crumbs from the capitalists’ table. At these times the leadership of social democracy is an irrelevance and our tactic can only be that of the united front from below, by-passing the leadership altogether to create an alliance between revolutionary and social democratic workers. These social democratic workers are not our enemies; no revolution could succeed without the working class making it happen. Right now when the majority of workers are reformists, we need to find ways of working with them without either losing our revolutionary principles or hiding them. The real enemy within the labour movement is always the leadership of social democracy.
If there is a policy that is full of danger for European communists then it is the “popular front”, the belief that there can be some progressive alliance with social democracy in a bourgeois parliament.
 After the Second World War the entry of communist parties into coalition governments allowed European bourgeois states to survive the immediate post-war crisis. When that threat had passed the national bourgeoisie quickly made an alliance with American imperialism and the social democrats fell over themselves to join in. Their communist allies became an overnight embarrassment.
The result was that under the popular front all the concessions were made by the revolutionaries while all the advantages went to social democracy. And yet in the 1930s, the “Devils Decade”, a united working class was needed to defeat fascism. The sacrifices made were undoubtedly correct, Franco in Spain and Salazar in Portugal showed how long-lived a ruthless dictatorship can be. The problems with the popular front did not lie in the principle of forging alliances to defeat fascism; it lay in a series of errors:
Firstly, the popular front in parliament became a permanent fixture rather than a short-term emergency measure. Once agreed, it could never be ended without creating the split in the working class that the bourgeoisie were working for. The communist party’s desire to keep the class united meant the party was trapped – only the social democrats were free to break the alliance.
Secondly, the only reason to have such an alliance should be to defeat fascism, no other reason could justify the compromise. But after the war communist parties entered into alliances simply because they were on offer. The effect was to prop up a weakened capitalist state and a defeated bourgeoisie until the crisis was over and outside help arrived.
Thirdly, once there was a parliamentary alliance with social democracy, it demonstrated to the workers that there was little real difference between the right wing of social democracy and the left wing, which now just happened to be in the form of an external communist party rather than a left wing inside social democracy as it had been before 1919.
Fourth, the popular front transferred the battleground from the streets and workplaces (the battlegrounds of choice for workers) to parliament – the form which the bourgeois dictatorship takes in the modern era.
Fifth, while the popular front was apparently at its most successful (when it was in government) it made the communist party reliant on the bourgeois state to take action against fascism on its behalf. This would only happen if it suited the bourgeoisie to do so. If the workers got too strong, the army and police, unaffected by the popular front, would simply take control themselves or allow the fascists to take power instead. The popular front may have been in government but it didn’t hold state power.
Sixth, this was the opposite of “dual power”, as Lenin understood it. That was the defining moment in a revolutionary situation when the formal state held by the bourgeoisie no longer had the ability to rule alone; the workers, armed and organised were gaining authority and control separate to the bourgeois state. That situation, for example, began to appear in our General Strike, when road hauliers had to apply to the workers Councils of Action for permission to move fuel and foodstuffs. It was clearly the situation in Northern Italy in 1944 before Togliatti returned and disarmed the partisans.
For all these reasons we would not chose the parliamentary popular front as the means to fight fascism and fascism is the only emergency that could ever justify such an alliance. This is one reason why our position has always been that communists have no place in bourgeois parliaments and we oppose standing candidates in bourgeois elections.
When fascism is a threat again, and it is always available to the bourgeoisie as an option, there certainly needs to be a working class alliance – ideally between reformist social democrats inside parliament and fighting militant communists on the outside. That is the only form of “popular front” that would work and leave the party unaffected by the reformism and opportunism fostered by Parliament and government. The reality is that the possibility of any such alliance between militant, revolutionary communists and the leadership of social democracy is zero and always will be.  
The united front from below, in the form of an alliance between revolutionary and reformist rank and file workers, remains the only viable policy until a revolutionary situation develops. The failure of this policy has always been in the way it was misused.
For Trotskyites it was only ever a cynical means to try to expose the leadership of social democracy.  They would propose an alliance as an ultimatum – follow our lead or be discredited in the eyes of the workers. Unfortunately for them, the social democratic workers always chose to follow their social democratic leaders.
On the other hand, the “parliamentary” communists only ever proposed the united front as a way of achieving a popular front in disguise – they actually always worked for an alliance with the leadership of social democracy because they were social democrats themselves.
For us what is important is finding an honest and open way of working with social democratic workers while remaining revolutionaries clearly separating our party from reformism. What we can offer is a fighting unity in the class struggle where it matters: in the workplaces, unions, on the streets and in the estates.
The simplest example would be our work in the unions, normally used by left groups as a battleground not for ideas and action but as a platform for election to the lucrative full-time posts that so often are the extent of their ambition. At one swoop the frontline of the class struggle is converted to a mere electoral struggle (administered by the liberals of the Electoral Reform Society) for the well-paid jobs, pensions and plush offices of a reformist trades union movement. 
A fighting militant democratic union of active members is far more valuable than any inactive, undemocratic union even if it is led by well paid “left-wing” full-time officers.
Social democrat workers need to see that the party is always to be found where the battle is at its hardest, committed to a fighting working class unity in the class struggle while at the same time being a beacon pointing to the revolutionary seizure of state power rather than election to bourgeois parliaments.



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Revolutionary tactics in the bourgeois dictatorship




                                       By Neil Harris

THE CHANGING tactics of the Communist International (1919 to 1943) have become so associated with Lenin, Trotsky or Stalin and their respective followers, that it has become almost impossible to have a useful discussion about tactics at all. No one now can see beyond the positions the Bolshevik party’s factions held, even though Lenin died 89 years ago, Trotsky 73 years and Stalin 60 years ago.
Those who cling tightly to one Comintern thesis, like a lifebelt, are actually drowning in their own dogmatism – times change. Yet those tactics were tested out during the most dangerous of times and it’s a shameful waste to ignore the lives, sacrifices and experiences of those communists who came before us. An inability to freely debate tactics effectively accepts the reformist assumptions that dominate the left in Britain today and it’s also unscientific. For a moment let’s wipe away the dust of the past and take a fresh look at tactics through the eyes of a child of the 21st century.
 It must be emphasised that this article deals only with the western European experience. The question of working class alliances with the peasantry in revolutionary struggles, or with other social groups as part of struggles for national liberation, are a matter for comrades in countries with those experiences to analyse for themselves.
Of course, tactics are not the same thing as strategy - the Communist International only ever had one strategy – revolution. Following the 1917 Russian revolution the shockwaves flew around the world like a tsunami, That was why the International was created: to build revolutionary communist parties in every country of the world. In Europe the aim was to ride the revolutionary wave that followed the First World War. In the developing world it was to help the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements that were springing up wherever there was an empire or a feudal ruler.
So much for strategy, tactics are the everyday ways communists work for revolution. The really difficult question has always been what tactic to use while waiting for that once in a lifetime revolutionary situation to arrive. Those opportunities pass quickly.
The point of having an international was to pool worldwide communist experience, analyse the balance of power in the class struggle and hammer out a line of march. Its strength was to be in its unity, the strong parties would bring on the weak. The method was to be scientific – to propose a course of action and then test it. To work properly that needed discipline (a worldwide form of democratic centralism) because if the tactic succeeded it would be developed further, if it failed – it would be dropped and a new thesis adopted.
The International had an Executive Committee that made day-to-day decisions and periodic congresses that dealt with major policy. There were commissions that considered questions concerning individual parties or regions and these made recommendations to the executive. Comintern agents, chosen from quite different regions or countries, would be sent to observe and advise national parties on Comintern policy and, if necessary, to ensure those decisions were carried out locally.
 Contrary to what the enemies of communism always claimed, Comintern policy was never the work of one man or one country but many. From 1919 to 1922 it was easy; revolutions were breaking out all over Europe. The urgent task was to split the working class movement, to win class conscious workers away from reformism and into the new, revolutionary communist parties. All that mattered to Lenin was how to build those new parties quickly enough, while keeping out the opportunism and reformism that had destroyed social democracy as a revolutionary force for socialism.
In Britain that involved merging different, rival groups of activists whose revolutionary heritage was sometimes questionable, and then welding them together into one party, the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). Lenin understood that the British Labour Party’s unique federal constitution allowed for affiliation; individuals could do so through their trade unions and parties as autonomous “socialist societies”, allowing both to keep their revolutionary politics intact. Affiliation allowed communists to be both separate to and part of the Labour Party at the same time and while it was possible, the CPGB was allowed to follow that policy by the International. However Lenin was equally clear that Labour leaders would always follow the bourgeoisie and as a result Labour would always be a reformist party.
That proved to be the case; for a while communists were able to stand for Parliament as “Labour-communist candidates” and in a number of constituencies won seats. As soon as the Labour leadership realised what was happening; communists were excluded and banned. The CPGB was then returned to the general line of the Comintern.
That line was to split revolutionaries away from social democracy, a policy which was strongly influenced by experiences in Germany where social democratic regional governments and social democrat police chiefs had been enthusiastic in ordering the murder of communists and left social democrats fighting for the German “soviets”.
Unfortunately the revolutionary tide in Europe ebbed quickly and by 1922 the 3rd and 4th  congresses of the Comintern adopted a new tactic to meet that situation: “The united front tactic is simply an initiative whereby the Communists propose to join with all workers belonging to other parties and groups and all unaligned workers in a common struggle to defend the immediate, basic interests of the working class against the bourgeoisie.”
Imperialism had quickly changed its tactics, learning from the experience gained during revolutions in Russia, Germany and Hungary. The united front policy recognised both this and the economic recovery that capitalism had made after the war. Now that the revolutionary tide was gone, the struggle was going to take time. In particular, the majority of workers were still supporting social democratic rather than revolutionary movements.
The tactic was intended to unite all rank and file workers in class struggles that would lead them towards revolutionary activity, irrespective of whether they were in communist or social democratic parties. At the same time this would expose the opportunism and reformism of their social democratic leaders by simply sidestepping them. This was “the united front from below”. It also had the added advantage of uniting all the main players in the Soviet Union; Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky, behind the same policy.
By 1928 the Comintern had moved to the left again and a new thesis: the “third period” or “class against class” policy was adopted at the 6th congress. It was a dramatic shift and to this day is attacked by the right as “ultra-leftist” and by the Trotskyites as “Stalinist”. It was neither. 
The actual title comes from the analysis that the 1920s were divided into three parts; the "First Period" characterised by the economic collapse and workers revolutions that followed the end of the First World War.  The "Second Period" was the post war period of capitalist recovery and counter revolution. In 1928 the Comintern predicted there would be a “‘third period” of major economic collapse and revolutionary situations lasting through the 1930s.
As a result it aimed to shift the international to the offensive again, further bolshevising the national parties, emphasising illegal activity and confronting reformism head on. In addition to the working class, the unemployed and servicemen (serving or demobilised) were to be organised on revolutionary lines and the trades union movement was to be split to create revolutionary, militant unions free from the Socialist International’s reformism. The new line assumed that the revolutionary tide would return and that when it did, the communists would be ready to lead the working class.
The third period made little differentiation between different forms of bourgeois state – treating dictatorial autocracy, bourgeois democracy and fascism as simply different shades of the same dictatorship.
In particular it was a policy that highlighted the traitorous nature of social democracy – which for years had supported Marxist revolution and opposed imperialist wars in grandiose resolutions. Yet on the outbreak of the First World War the parties of the Second International had voted with their own national imperialisms for war on their fellow workers.
Faced with the rising tide of working class militancy after that war, the social democratic leadership in every country sided with reaction and sometimes even supported the prototype forms of fascism, to put down workers revolutions. Now that new revolutions were predicted, social democracy would not be given a chance to do the same again.
Nowadays it is easy to forget how bitter the memories of that social democratic treachery were: in Berlin, Budapest or Vienna. Here in Britain, the same treachery was behind the defeat in the General Strike. In a quote which sums up the policy, it was said: “the social democrats are merely the left wing of the bourgeoisie”.
None of these views or the third period policy itself would have offended Lenin, Stalin or Trotsky in 1917 but by 1928 Lenin was dead and ideological trenches had been dug, the positions were set.
The Comintern had other concerns too; in 1927 the Chinese Goumintang treacherously turned on their communist party allies in the United Front, murdering as many communists as they could find. The year before, despite Soviet assistance, the General Strike in Britain was defeated and the Comintern rightly saw this as a catastrophic defeat for the international movement as well as for the British working class.
The policy was developed at a time of relative prosperity but it correctly anticipated the coming economic collapse and the growing risk of war. A year later in 1929 the capitalist world was to plunge into the greatest crisis it had ever known – the Wall Street crash and then the Great Depression. From 1931 onwards, there was a stampede amongst the imperialist powers to gain new colonies that could only ever lead to an inter-imperialist war – the first outbreak of which was the attack on China that year and the last was the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941.
The young Soviet Union itself was under attack from every side – externally it faced a renewed threat of war and an arms race it could not afford while internally there was sabotage and disruption. The year 1927 was particularly bad, a year of war scares, assassinations, attacks on Soviet embassies and revolutionary defeats.  It was not difficult for communists to see these as signals of the coming final conflict between capital and labour, the beginning of the “death throws” of capitalism. It heralded dangerous times and most communists looking at social democracy could only see treachery.
But while economic collapse came quickly, reaction prevented the predicted workers’ risings. In Italy fascism was in power, throughout the rest of Europe either fascism or more traditional forms of dictatorship were coming. Instead of revolution, it was to be a further period of brutal counter revolution.
For its opponents, the “third period” policy was projected as a disaster; it was said to have divided the working class, isolated communists from that class and hindered united working class opposition to fascism. This is unfair, even if there is some element of truth to it; social democracy was only too desperate to isolate communists and was happy to do deals with fascism in order to do so.
In fact communist parties, although small, were leading the struggles against unemployment, poverty and fascism. The party was to be found wherever the fight was at its toughest, and the inspiration was the Soviet Union and the International. The prestige that communists won during this period of intense class struggle was so great that it lasted amongst the wider working class for decades, like the glow left behind long after a super-nova dies down. The word “communist” brought courage to workers and fear to their enemies long after the policy and the parties had changed; that deep class memory was still being exploited by the revisionist euro communists up until the 1980s.
Either way, experience of reality brought about a debate in the Comintern which became more urgent after the Nazis took power in Germany in 1933. Opposition to the third period policy grew within the Comintern until in 1935 it was replaced with the “Popular Front” as championed by the Bulgarian anti-fascist Georgi Dimitrov. This was to be an alliance between communists and other parties (in other words with other classes) to unite in the fight against fascism.
The “popular front” grew out lessons learnt from Germany and the new analysis that there was something exceptional about the fascist state as opposed to the ordinary bourgeois dictatorship. As a result it was necessary to unite with any democratic force that was prepared to ally itself with the communists in the fight against fascism. This was to create alliances to preserve basic individual liberties – something as precious to the working class as it was to bourgeois individuals themselves.
It would set the wider political agenda for the rest of the 1930s and would be Comintern policy until the organisation was dissolved in 1943. Arguably it was also the basis of the international alliance against the Axis powers agreed in 1941 as well as the origin of the “people’s democracies” of Eastern Europe after the war – where communist and social democratic parties merged to form socialist parties. After all, the communists and social democrats who had fought each other in the 1920s and 1930s found themselves together in the concentration camps and prisons of fascism.
As a policy it had some successes; the popular front government in France stopped French fascism from winning power and won the working class real gains like the eight-hour day and paid holidays. In Spain the Popular Front built a viable opposition to the military coup d’├ętat, even though the Spanish Civil War was to end in defeat.
Emergencies happen and occasionally bizarre alliances are necessary. Sometimes that might even require an alliance with those who compromise with the class enemy and oppose revolution. At various times in the revolutionary struggle, Lenin made alliances with right social democrats and anarchists. Unfortunately, what should have been a short term emergency tactic was to be seized on by those in communist parties who saw the parliamentary road as the preferred strategy rather than merely a tactic. The result was the postponement of revolution until some distant point in the future – a point that was never going to happen if the “parliamentarians” had anything to do with it.
In any case the successes of the popular front were to be only temporary. With the dissolution of the Comintern it became possible for national parties to adopt national roads to socialism – and in Europe that usually meant that they chose reformism over revolution. Certainly that was the case in Britain, where British communists had been unhappy and unwilling in the 1930s when the International forced them to prepare for illegality.
Often, as in the case of the [British Road to Socialism], there were discussions about tactics going up to the very highest levels but because Soviet policy after 1943 was to avoid any interference in the internal affairs of fraternal parties, these discussions were limited to giving advice only.
The decision to dissolve the Comintern had been on the basis that national parties were mature enough to determine their own political positions. Not only was that not the case, it turned out to be a terrible mistake. The example of the Soviet party and the discipline of the international movement had held back revisionism. Once the international had gone the tactics became opportunistic.  In Britain this process actually began in 1941 when the party embraced the war effort with an enthusiasm which went far beyond the needs of the anti-fascist struggle; if it had not been for Palme Dutt and the international that process would have already begun in 1939. Soon those opportunist tactics developed into strategy and the only strategy offered was the parliamentary road.
In the event, the “socialist” parties of the second international proved to be willing allies of American and British imperialism when the war was over. Wherever communists had entered coalition governments, as in France and Italy, the advantage was to be short-lived, ending with expulsion and permanent opposition. Throughout the Cold War, European social democratic parties chose to preserve capitalism and support the Nato alliance against the Soviet Union. Once again they supported the use of state power against both communists and left social democrats as soon as they could get away with it. 
There was to be one last doomed example; the French “socialist unity” government of the 1980s, otherwise the popular front, was over. There, for one last time communists entered a bourgeois government, this time with Mitterrand’s “socialists”. As usual the process started with the simple surrender of any remaining revolutionary positions but the outcome was inevitable: it could only end in suicide.


Friday, October 18, 2013

TOR: Whose Next?




                        By Neil Harris

TOR (‘The Onion Router’) the US Government sponsored internet ‘anonymiser’ has been in the news again over the last couple of weeks. Since we exposed it as a ‘honey trap’ last year, TOR has continued to provide the evidence used to entrap those foolish enough to think that it provided them with some kind of anonymity.
Developed by the Office of Naval Intelligence and still 60 per cent funded by US Government agencies, TOR provides anonymity for US spies and US backed ‘dissidents’ around the world. In fact it also gives the American government a two way mirror into the worlds of ‘dissident’ activism, the criminal underworld and the kinds of terrorism the US doesn’t control or sponsor.
On the 8th October, the BBC technology website reported the arrest in Manchester and Exeter of four Britons for supplying drugs, with a promise of more to follow. This was part of the publicity campaign marking launch day of The National Crime Agency (NCA), the new British version of the FBI. Those arrests resulted from information supplied by the American FBI itself and came from the unravelling of ‘The Silk Road’. This was a criminal version of E-bay, matching suppliers and purchasers of illegal items like drugs, guns and false identity documents.
Meanwhile Ross William Ulbricht, aka ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ or ‘DPR’, the founder and operator of The Silk Road discovered to his cost that TOR wasn’t anonymous when he appeared in the District Court of Maryland on the 1st October. The indictment is for conspiracy to supply illegal drugs and inadvertently employing an undercover FBI agent to torture and murder one of his employees. The indictment helpfully sets out the messages sent over the ‘TOR chat line’ as evidence of Ulbricht’s illegal activities.
Just like ‘The Farmer’s Market’ before it (another busted drugs marketplace) and ‘Freedom Hosting’ which provided a portal for paedophiles and others, the TOR network not only failed to hide what they were doing but gave the FBI a free view of exactly what they were up to. Until, that is, they had collected enough information to make the arrests and take the networks down.
Coincidently, on the 12th  October, 12 American members of the hacktivist group ‘Anonymous’ were indicted in the Eastern district of Virginia for organising ‘Distributed Denial of Service Attacks’ in 2010 and 2011. These were organised attacks against the entertainment industry, banks, credit card companies and government sites in retaliation for the closure of ‘The Pirate Bay’ file sharing site. The prosecution evidence will be eagerly awaited in some quarters but TOR is likely to be the key that unlocked the door.
So who is next? A recent study by academics from the University of Luxembourg showed that ‘Freedom Hosting’ was only the 27th most popular TOR site, while The Silk Road’s two sites were 18th and 34th. The bulk of TOR’s most popular sites turn out to be a variety of ‘Botnet’ sites – the origin of robot devices used by internet criminals to hijack innocent people’s computers and then use them as proxies to launch spam or viruses for their illegal activities.
Ninth most popular is the ‘Bitcoin’ mining site which creates an electronic currency long overdue for exposure as a ‘Ponzi’ or illegal pyramid confidence trick.
Eight out of the top thirty most popular ‘hidden’ sites are ‘adult’ suppliers of pornography. Given how freely available internet pornography is, those that require anonymity are likely to be very extreme indeed.
The TOR sites themselves are so far down the list at 47th, 250th and 547th, that Congress should be investigating whether the American taxpayers are getting good value for their money.
Meanwhile, on the 9th September, ‘The Electronic Privacy Information Center’ (EPIC) sued ‘The Broadcasting Board of Governors’ (BBG) over its failure to release documents under Freedom of Information legislation. BBG is the propaganda arm of the US government abroad and a major financier of TOR. According to the EPIC lawsuit, in June 2012 BBG signed an agreement with TOR to finance 125 ‘exit node’ computers which increased the capacity of the network that provides anonymity to users.
Finally, the New Worker is grateful to the Washington Post of 4/10/13, for releasing details of a November 2007 briefing given to the National Security Agency (NSA - America’s GCHQ) by Roger Dingledene, director and one of the original developers of Torproject.org.
In those days Dingledine was a regular at NSA, he had given another revealing talk on the 11th of January that year, setting out issues and problems NSA and GCHQ needed to address in order to exploit TOR to their advantage. Both the NSA and GCHQ have been investigating whether TOR could be exploited as a way of tracking users away from the network. These secret briefings, in the form of PowerPoint frames, are freely available on the internet.
Meanwhile the 62nd most popular TOR site identified by The University of Luxembourg is ‘Black Market reloaded’, which has operated quietly as a more publicity shy version of The Silk Road. It’s probably hoping to quietly inherit its customers. What’s the betting that this site is going to be next in line for a visit from the FBI?