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who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are
Socialism Versus Revolutionary Socialism
Over the past few days I have had a number of interesting discussions on the nature of Nazism and also on socialist revolution. I have encountered a number of misunderstandings and regularly articulated myths on these topics so I have submitted for the Blanket an article I wrote in the Irish News dated 24th March 2001; as well as an additional contribution.
It is ironic to say the least, that on the eve of the United Nations international day against racism I feel the need to write this in relation to Eugene Canavan's letter (March 17th) which raised a number of issues in response to my letter on the BNP (March 8th). Firstly, the writer stated 'Hitler made all his future policies public knowledge in his book MEIN KAMPF, yet he was legally elected by an electorate fully aware of his intentions. He was at least honest'.
I have read revisionist historians, holocaust denial advocates, and Nazi propagandists attempting to articulate such a statement but maybe Mr Canavan is just aware of the reality. Hitler was not in fact elected: he was 'appointed' chancellor of Germany in 1933 by President Hindenburg and took on Hinesburg's role jointly with his own in 1934. The impression that he was elected by the people when in the election weeks before that 'appointment' the overall votes of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Communist party (KPD) were higher than the Nazis points to either revisionism or lack of clarity.
Secondly, the fact that the writer states that at least Hitler was an honest man, I dare say says more about the writer than of the statement itself. History has shown such organisations have only been successful in periods of economic instability or crisis but another important factor in the rise of the Nazis can be found a decade past with the German revolution. This revolt was only half won leaving the ruling class intact but fragile. The French Jacobins knew the repercussions of this when they stated 'Those who half make a revolution dig their own graves'.
The second point raised in the letter stated: 'BNP members are self-confessed Nazis'. While true in a sense they also very often deny their Nazism. For example, lets take John Tyndall (BNP) who stated: 'Many who feel that Hitler was right do not believe it is safe yet to state such views. . . but times will change'. When Derek Beakon BNP was canvassing in Millwall he wasn't telling the electorate that he wanted to end free speech, trade unions, women's rights, all forms of democracy and was for the assembly line slaughter of Jews and less 'able-bodied' persons. He tended to be a little more subtle as we have seen with the BNP NI chairman who did a loop-a-loop on their politics calling for an end to racism and bigotry.
Such organisations - may it be the National Front in France, Republikaner party in Germany, Finis Alleanza Nationale in Italy, Vlaams Blok in Belgium or the BNP sect here - could approach our doors wearing a suit, a smile and a listening ear but their underlying politic is the same. That is why they should not be giving a platform. There is a right to free speech in a democracy but that right should not be afforded to those whose sole aim is to destroy all forms of democracy. This brings me on to the writers third point, that socialism replaces one set of tyrants with another.
Let's take a look at the most recent democratic revolution, the overthrowing of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia. The miners in Serbia's huge Kolubara complex were central to this revolution as their strike and mass action elsewhere paralysed the economy. Then the army stayed neutral as they would not fire on their friends and family who supported the revolution. Thus a large part of the state machinery refused to defend Milosevic. Because of the sheer size and strength of the revolution so little violence was needed and casualties were counted on your hands.
The final point-that socialism leads to tyranny, is to be understood by looking to the development of history. There have been many occasions when countries have been called socialist but in reality only twice in history has the working class taken state power, the Paris Commune of 1871 and the Russian revolution of 1917. It has been stated that Stalin was an inevitable outcome of the 1917 revolution. But to understand how he came to power we need to firstly understand the circumstances of the time.
The Russian working class faced immense problems: Russia in 1917 was one of the least developed countries in Europe. This left it after the civil war in economic collapse 'unparalleled in the history of mankind' as one economic historian put it. Secondly counter-revolutionary measures by the Russian bourgeoisie was aided by at least 14 expeditionary forces of world capitalism. So between 1918 and 1920 the economic crisis had killed nine million Russians and many of the most revolutionary workers who had joined the Red Army in defence of the revolution had also been killed. So with this decimation and without the spread of international revolution, the Soviet institutions started to operate independently of the class they had arisen from thus leaving the door open for Stalin. With this said it is important that lessons are learnt.
Finally it might be said the BOP and their likes do not have a foothold here. But such footholds have been got today by 'respectable Nazis' such as Jorge Hider in Austria who has been confronted by hundreds of thousands of people there who realise what type of politics lies under his suit. Nazis can be stopped by such a united challenge. Hitler himself knew this when he stated, 'only on thing could have stopped our movement, if our adversaries had understood its principle and from the first day had smashed with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our new movement'. Have no doubt many have now learnt that lesson.
So to those who shrug their shoulders or say 'sure they don't affect me', I leave you then with the words of Pastor Niemoellor, a victim of the Nazis in Germany:
First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out for I was not a Jew: then they came for the communists and I did not speak out for I was not a communist: then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out for I was not a trade unionist, then they came for me and there was no-one left to speak for me.
So the lessons of the past has acknowledged the political disunity and mistrust between the SPD and KPD, which was a far cry of the unity shown in France '34, Spain '36 Britain '36 (Battle of Cable street). The extent of this disunity was summed up by Trotsky when he stated 'that this was undoubtedly the greatest defeat of the working class'.
The possibility of revolution on behalf of and independent of the people without their participation will not only not bring socialist revolution but as past history has shown will deliver more repression. The recent revelation in the Italian courts where the police chief stated that the CIA told them to shoot, murder, massacre hundreds of third world debt and anti globalisation activists in Genoa who came too close and to put them in the hundreds of body bags they brought with them is just one of many examples both in Ireland and internationally as to how far the state will go against its civilians whether they are innocent and unarmed, man, woman or child. All this matters not as it is only the protection of its interest that dictates.
The failure of the SDP and the KPD can be equated politically in the lessons of revolution, as it was the failure of unity that help give continued rise to the Nazis and so it will bring similar failure in the nature of revolution. Revolutionaries need to learn and memorise the lessons of the past while in tandem relating to the working class, because when that revolutionary situation arises, despite the forces against us, we collectively and in unison need to move to internationalise the revolution so moving it then to permanence.
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