Friday, February 01, 2019

An evergreen Marxist digest from India

Arkady Shaiket
Construction of the Moscow Telegraphic Centre, 1928,

by Robin McGregor

Revolutionary Democracy Vol XXIV, No 1, October 2018. £5.00 + £1.00p&p from NCP Lit: PO Box 73, London SW11 2PQ

Revolutionary Democracy, the twice-yearly Indian Marxist journal is catching up on its schedule and its latest issue is now on sale from the above address. Like Gaul, the journal is in three parts. First there are collections of articles on contemporary India, then statements and articles from various parties belonging to the International Conference of Marxist Leninist Parties and Organisations. Finally there is the always interesting material from the Soviet archives, which editor Vijay Singh assiduously ferrets out.
The Indian section begins with an article entitled Culpable Genocide Not Amounting to Murder – The Tuticorin Massacre, which deals with long-running attempts by local people to close a dangerously polluting coper smelting plant in Tamil Nadu. In one protest, 13 people were killed when police opened fire. Opponents of the closure included workers employed at the plant, who were to become targets of the protestors. As the author points out, this is not a unique case and the working class needs to become involved in environmental questions.
Other articles take a harsh look at the BJP government’s financial management and its most recent budget that promises far more than it delivers. There is also a piece on women in agriculture, which both describes the dire effect of neoliberalism on the sector and offers some pointers to a better future. Short articles deal with frequently brutal trade union struggles. The 1931 case of Bhagat Singh who was hanged for anti-imperialism is considered from the perspective of Jawaharlal Nehru’s inaction at the time.
The articles on contemporary international problems include two on the recent presidential election in Brazil. The first offers a plausible analysis of errors and omissions by the Workers Party of Brazil that caused it to lose support. These factors include adopting the very neoliberal policies it criticised in 2015. The second article warns that the new president is clearly a full-bloodied fascist.
The Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan) offers A Communist Approach to the Question of the Right of Nations to Self-Determination in the Era of Imperialism, which is critical of Kurdish claims to a separate state that will be a base for imperialism in the region. A writer from the Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist) offers a more theoretical discussion on the merits of the Popular Fronts.
The archival material begins with a brief but telling letter from Stalin written in 1925, distancing himself (but not too sternly) from proposals to rename the city of Tsaritsyn to Stalingrad. There is also a report from a Soviet delegate on the Youth Conference of South-East Asian Countries, held in 1948. This is followed by a 1950 account of disputes within the Communist Party of India, these were pronounced in Bengal and focussed on the merits or otherwise of armed struggle.
On the Question of Lavrentiy Beria}is the first part of a report given by Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov on the 2nd July 1953 to the Central Committee of the CPSU [Communist Party of the Soviet Union] shortly after Beria had been deposed as Minister for Internal Affairs.
Of particular interest to British readers will be the report Serious Mistakes and Shortcomings in the Activities of the CPGB [Communist Party of Great Britain], written in January 1954 by the leading Soviet philosopher Mark Borisovich Mitin. This report to the CPSU Central Committee addresses the decline in the party’s support since its high watermark in 1945.
Mitin is critical of General Secretary Harry Pollitt for side-lining the party’s recently adopted programme, the British Road to Socialism. He is also critical of the party’s view of the Labour Party, then in right-wing hands, and for downplaying the role of factory branches and inactive members.
This reviewer suspects that Mitin underplays the hostile Cold War environment of the early 1950s, but this piece offers useful reflections for historians of the CPGB and for present day struggles.
Unfortunately, thanks to the miracles of information technology, readers receive an unintended bonus. This issue comes complete with an additional incomplete title page and a version of the first article before the main body of the journal. This malfunction does not detract from the overall content however, and we hope that it won’t happen again.

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