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Communists facing up to reality



Modern radical or revolutionary socialists, both those inside the British Labour Party, and those who find themselves in the beyond, are faced with grasping the vicissitudes of a tradition, which although fractured in a dozen places, continues to command their respect and loyalty.

This communist or socialist tradition, call it what you will, extends from imagined associations with anabaptists, and insurgent peasants, through the Diggers and Levellers of the seventeenth century. It revels in the boldness of embattled Luddites during the early years of machine production, the determination and organisational flair of the Chartists, the heroes of Tolpuddle, and the martyrs of the Paris Commune slaughtered at Père-Lachaise. Then, it sweeps on to the syndicalists, trade union leaders, and the first Labour politicians of the Edwardian age. It is a heroic past, rich in struggle and incident greatly enlarged in the telling and retelling.

However, this colourful narrative worthy of Bayeux, is merely offered as a preface to the defining events of the twentieth century, the 1905 Revolution in Russia, the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the German Revolution a year later, the World Wars, and the fight against fascism. This is because Bolshevism has defined, for all and sundry, what communism is all about for the best part of a century. A great many different stories and accounts have clung to the calcified body of Lenin and Leninism, and a vast literature has been deposited worthy of a lifetime of archaeological sifting through its many layers. The cultivation of revolutionary erudition, bold scholarship, and perpetual excavation, has done much to maintain the appearance of continuity, conferring a kind of ersatz vitality to something as dead as a parrot.

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“Genuinely thought provoking and provocative. A much-needed takedown of what Orwell once called the ‘smelly little orthodoxies’ of the left, and why they are so distant and alienated from the working class they claim to fight for.” - Ralph Leonard