Friday, 1 September 2017

Wilfully Blind

Apples, Trees, and the UK Communist Party

We have commented before on the fixation of mind which reigned over the Left in the UK during the forties and fifties.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the UK Communist Party.  It spent most of twenty years singing paeans of praise to Koba the Dread (otherwise known as Joseph Stalin) and the glorious success of Communism in the USSR.

In 1956, Nikita Khrushchev began to tear the lid off Stalin's coffin and expose the malodorous rot within.  Stalin's successor began to speak out against the horrors of Joe's totalitarian rule.  Within Britain, this was not the first expose of the dictator.  People such as Malcolm Muggeridge, Arthur Koestler, and Kingsley Amis had tolled the bell, revealing the horrors of Uncle Joe.  By and large, however, the self-styled intelligentsia of the Left refused to believe that the world's first communist utopia could remotely resemble the depredations catalogued by Muggeridge and others.

But then Khrushchev--from within the bowels of the regime--began to speak out.
"The whole press (all over the world) is full of the accounts of Khrushchev's speech (or speeches) attacking Stalin and his memory," noted Macmillan on 19 March . . . "He seems to have accused him of almost every known crime.  This amounts to the biggest 'volte-face' since the Stalin-Ribbentrop pact in 1939."  It was indeed a momentous development, with reports being leaked of Nikita Khrushchev's "secret" speech on 25 February (1956) at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, acknowledging and exposing something of the reality of Stalinism.  [David Kynaston, Family Britain 1951-1957 (New York: Walker and Co., 2009), p. 619.]
This proved a bridge too far for the British Communist Party.  No iconoclast--even from within the regime--was going to besmirch the glory of Uncle Joe.
 One former Communist MP, Willie Gallacher solemnly declared: "Comrade Stalin was the steel sprung mattress around which the best comrades gathered".  The General Secretary, Harry Pollitt, made the following pronouncement: "the Soviet Union is and remains the greatest Socialist power in the world", where "exploitation of man by man has been abolished." [Ibid., p. 619. Emphasis, ours.]

The Communist historian, Edward (E.P.) Thompson saw through it all.  He wrote to a fellow Communist historian about the blinded ideological prejudice of the UK Communist Party leaders:
Not one bloody concession as yet to our feelings and integrity; no apology to the rank-and-file, no self-criticism, no apology to the British people, no indication of the points of Marxist theory which now demand revaluation, no admission that our Party has undervalued intellectual and ideological work, no promise of a loosening of inner party democracy . . . " [Ibid.]
For many within the UK Communist Party it proved to be the last straw: gradually they exited, rethought their positions and ideology, and "migrated" to the New Left--of which the present leader of the UK Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn is the genuine intellectual heir and descendant.  But things have changed a bit.  Now Jeremy seeks the cleansing of armed revolution via Islamic militants in Syria and Palestine.  Ironically, he appears just as myopic as the faithful comrades within the UK Communist Party in 1956 were.  The apple has not fallen far from the tree.

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