States and Revolutions

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28/03/2023 by socialistfight

Internationalism, Soviet democracy Vs democracy in abstract, workers’ democratic rights and workers’ states: Reply to Marc Mulholland

By Gerry Downing


Let us set out a few Marxist principles before we turn to the specifics of comrade Marc Mulholland’s political outlook, as set out in his two articles in Weekly Worker, March 9 and 16.

The state – all states – are instruments of class rule. Only revolutions can replace the rule of one class by another, more progressive class. Engels, in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, says:

“The state is, therefore, by no means a power forced on society from without; just as little is it ‘the reality of the ethical idea’, ‘the image and reality of reason’, as Hegel maintains. Rather, it is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has split into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel. But in order that these antagonisms, these classes with conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have a power, seemingly standing above society, that would alleviate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of ‘order’; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state… The people’s army of the Athenian democracy confronted the slaves as an aristocratic public force and kept them in check; but to keep the citizens in check as well, a police-force was needed, as described above. This public force exists in every state; it consists not merely of armed men, but also of material appendages, prisons and coercive institutions of all kinds.” [1]

This includes Bonapartist state regimes. Bonapartism refers to the French rule of Napoleon III (1852-70), and similar administrations which were/are dictatorial and seem to arise above society’s conflicting classes as an independent force seeking compromises. However, they, like all states, fundamentally prevent the rising revolutionary class, or conversely the defeated reactionary ruling class in the case of undemocratic, deformed, or degenerated workers’ states, from overthrowing its oppressors or making a comeback. The rule of Henry VIII (1509-47) falls into this category; his six marriages were alliances now with the semi-feudalists now with the rising mercantile capitalists but always essentially maintaining the class rule of the semi-feudalists in power, however much he partially suppressed their most reactionary institutions, as in the dissolution of the monasteries (1536-41).  We had to wait until the English Revolution (1640-60) to see the resolution of this contradiction.

Fascist states are those where all the organisations of the working class, right and left social democratic parties (bourgeois workers’ parties), trade unions, Marxist centrist, and revolutionary parties and currents, have been eliminated as a prelude to the elimination of all political parties bar the ruling dictator’s own one. This describes Italy after Mussolini triumphed in the March on Rome on October 31, 1922, and Franco in Spain on April 1, 1939, and Germany after Hitler came to power on January 30, 1933.  This is threatening in Italy and the US today. Israel under Netanyahu’s far right government with neo-Nazi ministers is clearly moving in that direction as is the Kiev US/Nato client state in Ukraine. This resolves the contradictions within a bourgeois state in a counter-revolutionary way as the complete triumph of the bourgeoisie.

Genuine social revolutionary situations are won or lost over a very short period of weeks or at the most a few months when the rising class wins the allegiance of the masses to its cause and consolidates that support in violent revolutionary actions which consigns the reactionary class to the dustbin of history ideologically and militarily/physically. We can see this in history’s three great revolutions, the English, the French, and the Russian, in others and negatively in failed revolutions. Without decisive action in the brief period of a revolutionary situation the masses lose hope, and the opportunity is lost.

Oliver Cromwell cut off the head of King Charles I on January 30, 1649, in Whitehall, London, outside his own Banqueting Hall. This remains the single most revolutionary act in English history. The Whig historian, Thomas Macauley, recounts that Cromwell signed his death warrant first, but he had to take the hands of the other signatories and steady them in signing, such was the fear of their immortal souls being consigned to hell for all eternity for regicide, a sin from which there was no forgiveness, the Church decreed, because the king was God’s representative on earth. Ideologically the battle was won. But once the deed was done “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not put Humpty together again”, as that revolutionary nursery rhyme noted; the semi-feudal absolutist state was consigned to the basket (dustbin) of history with the severed head and the restored Charles II made plain that, “I do not wish to go on my travels again”. Parliament, representing the mercantile capitalists, ruled from then with a more or less constitutional monarchy and with limited compromises with the Whig landed aristocracy, readjusted in the 1688 ‘Glorious Revolution’ and in the 1832 Reform Act. The revolution was militarily and politically consolidated primarily in the Battle of Naseby, June 14, 1645. Of course it was a bourgeois revolution, the replace of one ruling class by another, more progressive, one. Once the revolution was successful the new ruling class set out to colinise the planet, “with a sword in one hand and a bible in the other”, as Trotsky observed. Certainly the treatmernt meted out to the egalitarian Diggers and Levellers, the latter at the Beauford Chruch executions (May 17 1649) and the gruesom maassacres in Ireland in Drogheds (Sepytember 3-11 1649) and elsewhere showed the class nature of the new ruling class.

The French revolution began with the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, but that revolutionary process reached its day of reckoning on September 5, 1793. Now revolutionary France faced an entire world alliance of counter-revolutionaries, internal and external. Five invading armies were closing in on Paris, there were monarchist revolts brewing in the Vendée and elsewhere and federalist uprising threatening in many French cities and regions. The Girondins and later some from the more radical Mountain in the National Convention sought compromise with reaction when there was none on offer. Another and a far more devastating St Bartholomew’s Day massacre (1572) [2] was facing them all.

But ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’. The great lion of the revolution, Maximillian Robespierre, wheeled out Madam Guillotine and the Reign of Terror began. Revolutionary France executed first the Girondin compromisers, then the aristocrats, and their supporters, some 17,000 of them, from September 5, 1793, to July 27, 1794. Robespierre armed the Parisian masses, the famous sans-culottes, who now fully understood that this was no bogus play-acting by opportunist politicians, Robespierre really meant revolutionary business. They rushed to the eastern front where the immediate Prussian danger lay with the newly minted Le Marshallese (April 24, 1792) as their rallying call. The reinforced retreating army turned and fought back, the invading army checked and fled, partially because their ranks were infected with the revolutionary spirit also, and the Battle/Siege of Valmy (September 20, 1793) consolidated the revolution and changed the history of the whole world for the better. The phenomenon was repeated on the other four battle fronts against the invading Austrian, British, Spanish, and Italian armies.

The Russian revolution began in February 1917 (old time, 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar in the west), the women’s uprising drew to their banner great forces which forced the Tsar to resign within a week. Vladimir Lenin, later in 1917 politically reinforced by Leon Trotsky, fought for the ideology to make the socialist revolution, “all power to the Soviets” as against those who were giving critical support to the war and the Provisional government, primarily Kamenev, Zinoviev, and Stalin. But its days of reckoning came in September and October 1917 when the battle within the central committee was won against the conservative right wingers mentioned above.

Having secured the support of the masses in the Soviets, particularly the Petrograd one led by Trotsky, the storming of the Winter Palace with the support of the army ranks won that revolution. It was then militarily secured in the civil war by the Red Army, created, and led by Trotsky in a revolutionary way, which was dedicated programmatically to the world revolution. The Red Army victory against Deniken’s Advance on Moscow in October-November 1919, the Donbas Operation, December 1919-January 1920 and in the Battle of Tsaritsyn (Stalingrad), August 1919 to January 1920, were the main decisive turning points in that war against the White armies and the 14 invading foreign armies.

Once the Russian workers’ state was won after October 1917 and the dictatorship of the proletariat established to suppress the inevitable counterrevolution, the centrally planned economy was democratically decided from the point of production. Its plan was to produce for human need and not for profit. This is a mode of production far superior and more efficient that the capitalist mode of production.

Then, following Marx’s The German Ideology, the super-abundance of wealth produced will manifest its superiority over the previous crisis-ridden system and the state will gradually begin to wither away as suppression will no longer be needed. But this does depend on the victory of the world revolution, where production is based on the global division of labour and free international trade and cultural exchanged to the benefit of all humanity. This vital constituent part of Permanent Revolution, as elaborated by Trotsky, its internationalism, is completely ignored by comrade Marc. This perspective of Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks was directly contradicted by the theory of socialism in a single country, which is even more impossible than capitalism in a single country and is the prime identifying feature of Stalinism and its apologists.

All classes rule, via their states, primarily ideologically. This applies to the capitalist class today, and to all previous slave-owning, feudal and semi-feudal land-owning ruling classes. The mailed fist in the velvet glove is powerfully wielded with full force only on those very rare occasions when their rule is fundamentally threatened. The velvet glove today is bourgeois democracy via universal suffrage and parliaments, and it is now peeling off progressively as new laws against strikes and demonstrations for living standards, against women’s rights and against immigrants and human rights in general are increasingly wielded by ruling classes in Britain, the US, the EU etc. as the crisis of capitalism and imperialism grows.

 Comrade Marc Mulholland’s errors

Comrade Marc Mulholland perpetrates profoundly erroneous anti-Marxist positions on the state and on revolution and on the closely related question of what socialism and communism is and what programme we need to advance the consciousness of the masses via its vanguard to prepare for the socialist revolution.

He is wrong on the great French Revolution of 1889-94, on the Paris Commune of 1871 because he remains in the 19th century and treats ‘democracy’ as a non-class, abstract concept (or ‘extreme democracy’ as the CPGB likes to mask this confusion mongering) for most of his polemic, implicitly condemning the use of direct workers’ democracy via the Soviets in the failed revolution in Russia of 1905 and the successful one of October 1917. It is the preserve of Stalinism and its apologists to propose that Marx saw socialism in England coming via parliament as in the Stalin-imposed British Road to Socialism (February 1951), and they are forever seeking to replace the revolutionary Marx with a reformist Marx more like themselves.

Comrade Marc’s opening section on March 9 is very good and supportable. In fact, when he correctly designates the approach of Hal Draper and Lars T Lih, harking back to Karl Kautsky, to Marx’s use of the dictatorship of the proletariat as, “having an element of a liberal kind of bias – or ‘whitewashing’ if you like – of what Marx wrote” we might think he is absolutely on the right lines. But he backtracks on this in the rest of his articles and employs a type of Orwellian 1984 doublethink, the ability to hold two completely contradictory beliefs at the same time and to believe both are true. By the final paragraph before the section Models this begins. He says:

“The dictatorship of the proletariat stage, whereby a revolutionary party takes power and consolidates it against its enemies, could well be quite prolonged as part of one of the succession of stages presented here in a schematic fashion. As such, it should be quite closely linked to ‘revolution in permanence’ in the sense that Marx used it. So, what does it mean when we say that the dictatorship of the proletariat is part of this process of revolution in permanence? What Marx seems to be talking about is how the proletariat, the wage-earning class, forcibly subordinates the state and other classes to its will (so long as the state and those other classes remain in existence).” [3]

We can see from this passage that comrade Marc sees revolution as a national event only and so a long-drawn-out process and not as a single act or series of closely related acts over a very limited time, in which the armed uprising for the seizure of power takes place. He mistakes the historical raising of class consciousness of the masses by a series of victories won in struggle, which happens on a global scale, for the actual revolution itself and wrongly calls this process “the revolution in permanence”. This is essentially a reformist and not a revolutionary outlook. Of course, serious defeats for the class reverses this process and the class consciousness of the masses retreats.

On March 16 the caption to the image of the Young Communist League holding a banner saying, ‘Make the rich pay’ says, “Robert Griffith’s wayward youth wing posing with a decidedly non-Marxist slogan”. But the problem then arises that Marx made a similar demand, “Now this (expropriation of all land to allow the state to rule with rent income alone – GD) seems to be contradicted by the following demand, which was for heavy, progressive, or graduated income tax. This surely implies that the state would be relying upon a healthy income stream for the bourgeoisie. If the state is reliant upon income tax, it would therefore be subordinate to the class which pays that tax, the bourgeoisie”. [4]

Of course, if we viewed the state as a permanent, fixed, non-class, above class institution which can serve any interests it chooses then this argument would have substance. If we view the ‘democratic’ state as the instrument of capitalist class rule then the demand become a transitional one, encouraging the working class to demand the expropriation of the capitalists once we have forced them to pay up. (“but that is T-t-t-t-t-t-rotskyism,” I hear Marc objecting). I have been accused of reformism likewise for demanding more and higher windfall and wealth taxes. “No, expropriate the capitalists, do not demand these wealth taxes or a steeply progressive tax system, this is just reformism”, certain ultra-leftists demanded.

Let us remember that today in Britain wealth tax hovers around 40-45 percent whereas after WWII it was 90 percent, reduced to 75 percent in 1971, raised again to 83 percent in 1974. Thatcher reduced it to 60 percent in 1979, to 40 percent in 1985, progressively replacing it by indirect taxation like VAT and the failed Poll Tax, which hit the poor hardest, in pursuit of her and Ronald Regan’s neo-liberal agenda. Of course, the state needed to have laws preventing the export of capital to avoid these taxes, which Thatcher repealed. John McDonnell used regularly to propose adding a clause “it is illegal to export capital to avoid taxes” to finance bills when he was a leftist oppositionist but abandoned this practice when he became Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2015 to 2020 after Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour party in September 2015. “What illusions these reformist policies displayed, away with this nonsense; 40 percent for the British billionaires like the Hinduja family, James Dyson and family, David and Simon Reuben and family is far too much” is the hidden side of this ultra-leftism. Let them pay no tax al all so we can really hate them!

The political views of ‘red republicanism’

From here on comrade Marc adapts to the political views of ‘red republicanism’ which sees the possibility of achieving socialism gradually through parliament with the extension of the suffrage without property qualifications and to all women and reducing the voting age to 16. It is true that Marx made concessions to this viewpoint and did not clarify his views on the seizure of power by the working class via the dictatorship of the proletariat in his writings, including in the Communist Manifesto of 1848. But he did clarify this point in his reaction to the lessons of the Paris Commune of 1871, which caused him and Engels to introduce their only amendment to the 1848 Communist Manifesto.

There were major differences between the Russian Revolution of 2 October 1917, and the Paris Commune of March 18, 1871. This was the world’s first workers’ state, short lived as it was. The prime difference was the existence of the Bolshevik party in Russia, with a long history of class struggle, by October 1917 led by Lenin and Trotsky, in which the revolutionary masses had put their confidence. Unfortunately, the Communards had no such leadership and that brief though very inspiring workers’ state was drowned in the ‘bloody week’ – some 25,000 were massacred in May 21-28, 1871. Eugène Pottier, whilst under sentence of death, composed the stirring anthem, L’Internationale in June 1871, still sung today by all gatherings of serious revolutionaries, calling on the working class and oppressed of the whole world to rally to defend their revolution.

Lenin explains what revolutionaries needed to learn from the Commune in 1908:

“Nonetheless, the fundamental lessons of the Commune remain today as relevant and true as ever. In the preface to the 1872 German edition of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, Marx and Engels would make only one correction to that historical document explicit – they said, “One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that ‘the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes.’” [5]

And in his State and Revolution (August-September 1917) Lenin again sets the record straight for Kautskyites back then and today in 2023:

“Thus, Marx and Engels regarded one principal and fundamental lesson of the Paris Commune as being of such enormous importance that they introduced it as an important correction into the Communist Manifesto. Most characteristically, it is this important correction that has been distorted by the opportunists, and its meaning probably is not known to nine-tenths, if not ninety-nine-hundredths of readers of the Communist Manifesto… Here it will be sufficient to note that the current, vulgar “interpretation” of Marx’s famous statement just quoted is that Marx here allegedly emphasizes the idea of slow development in contradistinction to the seizure of power, and so on.”

On April 12, 1871, i.e., just at the time of the Commune, Lenin tells us Marx wrote to Kugelmann, “If you look up the last chapter of my Eighteenth Brumaire, you will find that I declare that the next attempt of the French Revolution will be no longer, as before, to transfer the bureaucratic-military machine from one hand to another, but to smash it (Marx’s italics), and this is the precondition for every real people’s revolution on the Continent. And this is what our heroic Party comrades in Paris are attempting.” Lenin goes on, “The words, ‘to smash the bureaucratic-military machine’, briefly express the principal lesson of Marxism regarding the tasks of the proletariat during a revolution in relation to the state. And this is the lesson that has been not only completely ignored, but positively distorted by the prevailing, Kautskyite, “interpretation” of Marxism!” [6]

These words of Marx and Lenin directly contradict the political line of comrade Marc’s articles.

Marx and Marc on Revolution and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

Comrade Marc endorses Marx’s comments in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in 1849; “Marx was pretty clear about what he meant”:

“Did we not speak plainly and clearly enough for those dullards who failed to see the ‘red’ thread running through all our comments and reports on the European movement? … There is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that is the way of revolutionary terror. Is that clear, gentlemen? We have no compassion, and we ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror.” [7]

Having endorsed this no-nonsense approach, we would have thought, at last we are getting on to the right track. But no, immediately comes the backtracking, “‘Terror’ is not a nice word. We should be aware of its French Revolutionary connotations. It brought to mind the guillotine, the suppression of the Vendée and the crushing of the Federalist revolt; but it also meant revolutionary insurrections and dictation by the sans-culottes”. What is the function of the “but” here? Of course, he was talking about the failure of the ‘springtime of peoples’ in 1848, where he made that famous reference to the revolution in permanence and rejected the revolutionary role of the petit bourgeoisie and liberal bourgeoisies, an observation he clarified in his political estimation of the lessons of the Paris Commune above. Here we are seeing comrade Marc equating the revolutionary Reign of Terror with the Thermidor Reaction which began with the execution of Robespierre and other leading revolutionaries on July 28, 1794, the ‘White Terror’ which led to the overthrow of the French Republic and the Emperor reign of Napoleon I from May 18, 1804, to April 6, 1814. Trotsky compared this counterrevolution in France to Stalin’s counterrevolution against the Russian Revolution, which abolished the internal democracy of the Soviets and the Communist party but preserved the central plan based on nationalised property relations as the source of the privileges of his corrupt ruling bureaucratic clique.

Was not the “revolutionary insurrections and dictation by the sans-culottes” the essence of the French revolution? Ah but this surely did not mean a revolutionary state, “but nor do I think he was talking about the dictatorship of the proletariat as just another term for a majority, elected working class government” he only meant that to the revolutionaries, “Don’t you quail, because our enemies won’t” was the only way to proceed. And “The dictatorship of the proletariat – or ‘dictatorship of the popular classes’ in Marx’s view of the conjuncture – was explicitly a matter of dictating via intimidation of the other classes in society and of the revolutionary government”. If you get the impression that comrade Marc is attempting to equate two opposite conceptions of revolution here, the violent uprising to overthrow the state and the gradual, legislative transformation of it peacefully, in order not to contradict Marx then you are correct.

It is in his treatment of the Paris Commune that he puts his equivocations on the state and revolution beyond doubt. “We have seen that the Communist Manifesto considered how the state could be made more independent of the aristocracy and bourgeoisie, the better to open it to popular dictation, by giving it a stable and independent fiscal base”, he asserts, without any references. Now he acknowledges a problem, “But is state independence an unproblematic thing?” You can hum it!

The he goes on, “when Marx writes the Civil War in France about the 1871 Paris Commune, he was advocating very strongly indeed the self-government of areas such as Paris, where the proletariat was dominant”. I really cannot find such a suggestion in that pamphlet, perhaps a reference to the section where it is would help. As you can see from the Marx and Lenin quotes above, they seem to be advocating the direct opposite. Comrade Marc has failed to notice Marx’s and Engels’ most important conclusion from the Commune that compelled him to introduce the only amendment they ever made to the Communist Manifesto, that it was necessary to smash the bourgeois state and not just seize hold of it, as we have shown above. And implicitly to replace it with a workers’ state. But comrade Marc does not address these controversies around the Russian revolution at all. His analysis is stuck in the 19th century without and against the lessons of the Russian Revolutions.

And now his confusion leads his to advocate federalism to avoid the dictatorship of the central state located in Paris and he wrongly asserts that this was Marx’s position, “Now, however, Marx actually alluded back to those 18th century traditions – the aristocratic liberalism of Montesquieu and the temporising of the Girondins – and said that now, in the new context, their arguments for federalism, once reactionary, had become entirely appropriate. Federalism becomes a way of mobilising centres of proletarian and popular weight in order to act as a countervailing power to the centralised state”. This is certainly news to me and surely to all serious Marxists. The current class struggle in France is beginning to retrace the steps of the 1871 Paris Commune; it is becoming a national and unified struggle which can lead to a centralised workers’ state as we saw emerging after the October 1917 Russian revolution.

The growing emphasis on the federalism of US states from the central government is certainly not leading to enhanced civil liberties. With the push from Trump’s MAGA Republicans we see the complete opposite, attacks on women’s abortion rights (the overturn Roe v Wade), the attacks on the LGBTQ+ communities, and voting rights, to name but a few. Perhaps he is thinking of the opening lines of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte where he was referring to the illusions of the masses:

“The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionizing themselves and things, in creating something that has never yet existed, precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle cries and costumes in order to present the new scene of world history in this time-honoured disguise and this borrowed language.” [8]

“So, when Engels used the phrase, “the dictatorship of the proletariat in action”, in relation to the Paris Commune, what he meant was not so much a national French government of the proletariat, but rather local government which is sufficiently self-possessed that it cannot be overridden by the national government”, comrade Marc asserts. No, Marx and Engels clearly meant what they said about the Paris Commune; they wanted a dictatorship of the proletariat via a centralised state. This was clarified after the failed Russian 1905 revolution. They saw 1871 as the emergence of a proto soviet, which re-emerged in 1905 and won in October 1917 as the fullest expression of workers’ democracy possible via a workers’ state. Workers must defend their democratic rights under bourgeois states but not the state itself, not the ‘dictatorship of the bourgeoisie’ via the fraud of five-year capitalist parliaments. This is the best form of state for the capitalist to exploit the workers with their semi-acquiesce, as Lenin observed over even the most democratic one of his age, Switzerland.

The initial Soviet norms of directly elected and instantly recallable delegates is the correct mantra for the workers’ state, from the local to the regional to the central supreme soviet. The very democratic Chartist demand for yearly elections to parliament is insufficient, but it does approach the notion of instant recallability. “The Commune structure, generalised across France, would facilitate the popular classes – the urban proletariat primarily – in dictating to a certain degree to the national government” comrade Marc assures us in rejection of the need for central economic planning based on local democracy at the point of production.

Sidney and Beatrice Webb

Falsification of the history of the Webbs

But now we come to the falsification of the history of the Webbs, of Fabianism and reformism. Comrade Marc tells us that, “The new ‘Social Democratic International’ put out a request (1919 – GD) to its national components for each party to state what its programme would be if it formed a government immediately.”

Why would you seek to hide the political importance of the founding of the Third, Communist International, the Comintern, by giving it a name it never had, “the new ‘Social Democratic International” which name it explicitly rejected on Lenin’s urgings? And then go on to assert that the Right Honourable Sydney Webb, 1st Baron Passfield, OM, PC, (1929) “was a Fabian, but at that time the Fabians were actually socialists”. No, they certainly were not any type or form of socialists at all. In April 2018 Weekly Worker afforded Paul Flewers the space to put this question beyond doubt,

“Beatrice Webb’s diaries contained many snide comments about the working class and socialists who sided with them. She sneered at the idea of workers’ control, writing it off as “the fumbling of the workers in their own limited affairs”, and she hoped that the General Strike of 1926 would represent “the death gasp of that pernicious doctrine of ‘workers’ control’ of public affairs through the trade unions, and by the method of direct action”. It comes as little surprise to learn that the Webbs were amongst those leftwingers who were in favour of eugenics.” [9]

Just after Sydney Webb made his reply to the Comintern call his partner in crime, Beatrice Webb, made the following response to the Russian call for assistance in the famine sweeping the country. Comrade Paul tells us, “Nevertheless, a clue to her future allegiance to Stalinism can be seen in her (Beatrice’s) shockingly contemptuous attitude in 1922 towards the victims of the famine that raged in the USSR:

“Russia to me is not much better than China – and whoever suggested … subscribing to save a Chinaman from death by famine? The always present doubt whether by saving a Chinese or Russian child from dying this year you will prevent it from dying the next year, together with the larger question of whether those races are desirable inhabitants, compared to other races, paralyses the charitable impulse. Have we not English children dying from lack of milk?” (Our emphasis, Adolph Hitler would have been (was?) proud of her) [10]

This is comrade Marc’s estimation  of the programme of the Fabians and the Webbs, they were, “opposed to was basing the movement upon proletarian class struggle” but were still “calling for the abolition of capitalism” via a “constitution for the socialist commonwealth” and this was “a fairly interesting attempt to grapple with the problem of how, in fairly short order, the complete replacement of capitalism by a socialist society could be brought about”. No, it isn’t, it is more absolute nonsense and doublethink; the armed forces of every bourgeois democracy would not tolerate such a thing. Remember the other 9/11, Chile in 1973 and the treasonous threats of the unnamed serving general (he clearly broke the law, why no prosecution?) who threatened Corbyn’s government should he be elected and the similar threats from the US? And Corbyn was not proposing introducing socialism, simply introducing a few radical reforms, which nevertheless would embolden the working class by rising their expectations, ‘if getting little, they would ask for more’.

The Webbs were anti-Bolshevik but pro-Stalinism, supporting the Moscow trials of 1936-39 and every repression thereafter. Comrade Paul notes, “It is entirely logical that the Webbs only championed the Soviet Union after the democratic core of Bolshevism had been extinguished”. Died in the wool, racist, elitist bigots who simply loved Mussolini’s and Stalin’s repression of the working class now qualify as socialists, do they?

Trotsky’s 1936 Revolution Betrayed contains an appendix on Socialism in a single country [11] where he cites Lenin’s contempt for the Webbs and Fabianism and he goes on to rubbish the Webbs in detail as bogus socialists who, together with the likes of George Bernard Shaw, rejected the internationalist perspective of the world revolution in favour of the corrupt, bureaucratic conservate grovelling to imperialism of the Stalinists. Comrade Marc’s entire work likewise rejects internationalism. In fact, despite his dozens of references to permanent revolution and the revolution in permanence he fails to reference Leon Trotsky once in his 8,000 odd words documents or examine the controversary surrounding Trotsky’s elaboration of that political concept from 1903, particularly in 1928 after the defeat and massacre of the Shanghai Soviet by Chiang Kai-shek in April 1927. [12] This crushing defeat for the working class in China was entirely the responsibility of Stalin’s and Bukharin’s Comintern who had re-imposed the stages theory of revolution and had directed the fledging Chinese Communist party to dissolve themselves organisationally and politically into their executioners’ nationalist party, the Kuomingtang.

Marc’s Conclusions

Comrade Marc’s conclusion in his second article is a tribute to one Rudolf Goldscheid, who “argued that there was a problem in Marx, he completely neglected the state. That is rather hard on Marx, of course, but it is not entirely wrong”. As we have seen from the above quotes from Marx and Lenin this observation is entirely wrong, especially so after 1871. Comrade Marc goes on to say that, “There is a basic problem, on the one hand, so long as it exists, it (the state) must be subordinated to the interests of the proletariat (and the citizenry at large) and, on the other hand, it must not become a Leviathan monstrosity which suffocates society”; Of course, the capitalist state can never be “subordinated to the interests of the proletariat” and as for subordinate to the “the citizenry at large” presumably this applies to all the capitalists including the finance capitalist of the City of London, whose state it always is even in its most democratic periods. And equally so today when it is beginning to act as “a Leviathan monstrosity which suffocates society”. This does not deal with the role of the petit bourgeoisie, self-employed and the peasantry, the latter in lands other than England, which has not had a peasantry for the best part of two hundred years.

He then adds to his false, non-class, above-class, understanding of the state, “Goldscheid predicted that the decisive revolutionary battle would be fought in the field of the theory and practice of public finance. That is putting it a bit strongly, but it is interesting”. If the state had its own secure finances, it would become a “a just state, and therefore socialists must resolve the question of the public economy”. And local government, the much hyped later ‘municipal socialism’ of the 1980s, would enable a “class concentrations of strength”. What Goldscheid advocated, comrade Marc informs us was, “the state taking over public enterprises, even as they operated as individual enterprises in a still basically capitalist economy and drawing upon their profits as an alternative to taxation. In that way it would no longer be reliant upon the taxation of either the masses or the bourgeois classes”. Again, a programme for the non-class, above class government, a Labour administration led, presumably by a Jeremy Corbyn-like figure who, together with John McDonnell,  had assured the City of London of his hoped-for administration’s unbreakable allegiance and assured all capitalist enterprises that Local Government must set legal austerity budgets and not mobilise the organised working class to fight Tory austerity or swingeing cuts to the budgets of local authorities. It was that assurance that demobilised the masses by the 2019 election after the 2017 excellent result which still contained the hope of real change.

Comrade Marc goes on to speculate on how the state could become a capitalist enterprise itself (state capitalism like China today anyone? – GD) and could then “simply cream off their profits” and would “no longer be reliant on income tax” which unfortunately “ultimately encourages the preservation of the wealthy”. Oh dear, maybe not such a good idea, after all! despite this being, “an interesting approach” it would make, “the state interested in a profitable capitalist economy, even as that economy shrinks in weight”. If only those accursed laws of capitalism like the falling rate of profit, as Marx had explained in his three volume Capital, could be abolished then comrade Marc’s understanding of the ‘revolution in permanence’ and the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ could operate fine. Now having piled confusion on top of confusion perhaps a way out can be found by employing the ultimate non-class, above-class CPGB term ‘extreme democracy’ which thankfully no one understands anyway.

Comrade Marc concludes, “There are, of course, problems in this which I do not think Marx resolved and which have not been resolved since. Work to be done!” Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, the Bolsheviks, and many Trotskyists since have tackled these problems and resolved them in far better detail than Marc in his articles. Study their classis works, comrade Marc, this is your ‘work to be done’, and try to forget Third Campists confusion mongerers like Karl Kautsky, Max Schachman, Hal Draper, the Webbs, Rudolf Goldscheid et al.


[1]  Frederick Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 3, Moscow, 1973, pp. 326-27).

[2] Encyclopaedia Britannica, Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day, French history [1572], The massacre of French Huguenots (Protestants) in Paris on August 24/25, 1572, was plotted by Catherine de Medici and carried out by Roman Catholic nobles and other citizens. Up to 70,000 were slaughtered,

[3] Weekly Worker 1433, Marc Mulholland, March 9, 2023,

[4] Ibid.

[5] V. I.   Lenin, Lessons of the Commune, published, Zagranichnaya Gazeta, No. 2 March 23, 1908. Published according to the text in Zagranichnaya Gazeta, Source, Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 13, pages 475-4,

[6] Lenin, The State and Revolution (August-September 1917),

[7] Marx, Final Issue Neue Rheinische Zeitung, May 1849, Suppression of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung,

[8] Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1852,

[9] Weekly Worker, Paul Flewers, April 26, 2018, Stalin’s fellow travellers, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, worshippers of the state and bureaucrats, Paul Flewers looks at the strange case of the Fabians Sidney and Beatrice Webb,

[10] Ibid.

[11] Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed, Appendix, “Socialism in One Country”, The “Friends” of the Soviet Union, 1936,

[12] Wikipedia, Shanghai massacre, April 12, 1927, Some sources say that over 1000 Communists were arrested, some 300 were executed and more than 5,000 went missing; some state that 5,000 Communists were killed while others claim up to 10,000 were killed. Western news reports later nicknamed Gen. Bai “The Hewer of Communist Heads” (many were publicly decapitated, with upwards of 300,000 slaughtered in the following three years),

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