1970s >> 1974 >> no-842-october-1974

The Pilgrims to Peking

One of the nastiest aspects of the fake-socialist revolution perpetrated against the Russian workers and peasants was the slimy stream of western intellectuals who, in the ’20s and ’30s, made their pilgrimages to Russia (almost always paid for, on VIP level of course, by the Bolshevik government out of the surplus-value wrung from the Russian masses who were literally starving in those days.) The pilgrims returned to the west to tell (and sell) their stories of Russian “socialism” from the comfort of their western-capitalist armchairs. Such execrable names as the Webbs (who wrote a great monstrous book in praise of Stalinism), Shaw and Kingsley Martin spring to mind, but there were innumerable others. They could have known all about the anti-Socialist tyranny of Lenin and Stalin (and Trotsky, of course, despite the latter-day idiots who call themselves Trotskyists) without leaving these shores. It was all in the Socialist Standard of those days (and quite often in the newspapers too).

The miracle did happen at least once, oddly enough, The French writer André Gide went to Moscow as a propagandist for their cause (he would not have been invited otherwise) and the eyes which he had kept closed in France refused to stay closed when he saw Stalinism at close quarters so he spilled the beans when he got back. The CP’s answer was to revile him as a homosexual. (Oddly enough, Hitler did the same trick when he murdered his henchmen Roehm, Heines and company. He said they were homosexuals — as though unaware of this when they were his faithful lieutenants. Just another instance of the close relationship between red-fascism and the other kind.)

In recent years, specially since the Khrushchev “secret speech” in ’56, the new generation of intellectuals have been busy writing books like Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror which have exposed the turpitude of the western fellow-travellers of those days. But does that mean that the present lot of academics and other politicians and scribblers have learnt the lesson of history? You must be joking Having learnt only that Moscow is no longer the Mecca for leftist hypocrites to visit, they have looked around to find “a substitute for a prostitute” as an old joke has it. There is the pudgy face of Mao Tse-tung beckoning benignly to them just as Uncle Joe did in days of yore. The East is Red, so is the carpet; the grub is better than the Chinese Take-away and you can come back from your free holiday and make your fame and fortune scribbling and gibbering about your first-hand knowledge of the Utopia which has replaced Russia. (Up to a decade ago, the word was “supplemented,” not “replaced”. But now the two “socialist” giants are calling each other fascists as loud as they can. And how right both are!)

If it were not that so many students and workers in the west fall for the lies about Socialism in China (as their fathers did about Russia), “hilarious” would really be the word for it. An article in the June Socialist Standard referred to the leftist intellectuals like Professor John Galbraith and Baroness Barbara Wootton, both of whom returned from VIP trips to China to sell confusion to the western press. The former said “it works for the Chinese”, thus using practically the same words as a previous generation Yankee intellectual, Lincoln Steffens, who came back from Moscow to pronounce:    “I have seen the future and it works”. Presumably even Galbraith wouldn’t dare to say that it would work for the west where    only    a handful    of half-baked students seem to respond to the call.

It is also worth noting that neither Galbraith nor Steffens before him ever    dreamt of    living in the paradises they described, but put 10,000 miles between themselves and Utopia. (Which recalls the case of that other modern scribbler Graham Greene who said he would rather live in Russia than America. And merrily carried on living in his fabulous villa. On the French Riviera!)

It was more than interesting to learn from that same Standard (our 70th Anniversary number) that this same Baroness Wootton, who says she agrees with Mao for not allowing trade unionism among his 700 million blue ants, debated against the SPGB. She was then a youngish economist and Labourite. Now she is an old Baroness and clearly more pseudo than ever. How sad that the comparatively free workers of the west should then and now permit this monstrous nonsense to be talked at them.

As the latest prime example of the genre a Labour MP, Joel Barnett (a year or so ago when he was in opposition; now he is in Wilson’s government) had the luck to get on one of the jaunts (which must be worth a few thousand quid in any language — quite apart from the fact that you can’t get into China without being approved by the red-fascists who rule the roost, the fact that there are about 700 million who can’t get out). Joel made sure that he copped for a spot of extra publicity which would be read by his friends and relations and constituents, not to speak of us. When the time came for him to be red-carpeted around the Great Wall of China, which is one of the highlights of all these picnics, Joel told them he insisted on seeing some genuine Chinese workers instead. This may not have been reported in the Peking Daily Liar but imagine what a sensational scoop it would make for the local rag in Rochdale or whenever. Our Labourite friend not only wanted to see real workers — he actually insisted on talking to them. What did he want to say? Nothing less than the 64-dollar question:    “What do you really think about Mao Tse-tung?” Well, that’s what I read in the Guardian. But, I fancy, not quite. Because our Joel doesn’t speak much Chinese (seeing that most MP’s don’t speak English very well, this must not be regarded as surprising).

So what happened was that Joel popped it to the interpreter, who, as in Russia, is just another minion. Whether the minion really asked Joel’s question I can’t really say. Neither, of course, can Barnett. For all either of us knows, he may have merely mouthed the ancient Confucian proverb (before Confucius was arrested as an ally of Lin Piao): Ooh flung dung? Equally, we don’t know what the wage-slave replied. All we know is that the minion told our visitor that the reply was in the affirmative. Of course, Barnett was quite aware of the charade he was acting — at the expense of the Chinese working class and of the British working class too. What did he expect the worker to say under the noses of Mao’s very own thugs? And what could this poor devil have thought Barnett was? To a Chinese slave, a bespectacled accountant from Manchester would appear to be a different species. He might have been a Dalek from Outer Space. No matter, the purpose was served.

The Chinese workers are there for the purpose of producing all the wealth of the state-capitalist system so that the rulers can live high off the hog, as they do in Russia. And to provide good propaganda for the privileged trippers who are allowed to make the pilgrimage. The odd thing is that (as the writer happens to know), Barnett is by no means the most obnoxious type of politician. He may even think himself to be honest. But it comes to the same thing in the end. As long as the workers in England, China, Russia and the rest of the capitalist world, fail to grasp the true meaning of their class subjection and to realise that only a revolutionary change to Socialism (as distinct from the monstrosity that exists in China and Russia) will free them for a life worth living, then they will continue to be battened on by the jackals of capitalism.

L. E. Weidberg