How I Became a Socialist
We have received the following from a reader of Varldssocialism in Sweden and publish it for the similarity between experiences of pseudo-revolutionary organisations there and in Britain.
In the early sixties a “radical” consciousness arose among some of the students in the industrialized countries. The Cuban revolution had taken place and the struggles in South Vietnam escalated. The Berlin wall was built. From the late fifties, I had more or less been attracted by the idea of “the dictatorship of the proletariat” and sympathized with Russia and the other “socialist” countries. I accepted all catchwords uncritically and started subscribing to propaganda magazines from these countries. I sympathized with the Communist Party of Sweden and subscribed to Ny Dag (New Day), the party’s newspaper.
Encouraged by a workmate, I became a party member at the beginning of 1962. Since no theoretical studies were pursued in the party at that time, the majority of the membership were profoundly ignorant theoretically. Perhaps one would have remained ignorant even if studies had been pursued. Everything told by the party leadership was accepted, and naturally one thought it was awfully “revolutionary” to distribute reformist election propaganda before every election. The party encouraged the membership to participate in the pacifist Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons, and many of us took part in the Campaign’s Whitsun marches.
For a time I was also a member of the party’s youth league, Democratic Youth, who mostly pottered with hobbies and boycotts against South African goods. I belonged to the more inactive members in the party, at least at the beginning. Gradually I undertook the task to collect the members’ subscriptions in a dwelling-house area. On May Day we always would march in the demonstrations of the Social-Democrats and the Trade Union Federation.
I travelled as a tourist to all European “socialist countries” except Albania. To the so-called Baltic- Sea Week in Eastern Germany I travelled several times, and I thought it was awfully remarkable. And what did I learn? Not a jot!
In the mid-sixties, the antagonism between the two “communist” giants Russia and China had been sharpened. Throughout the world new “communist parties” were founded, which supported China and her European ally, Albania. In 1966 the so-called cultural revolution was introduced in China. I began to think it was good that the people over there fiercely attacked the domestic bureaucrats and also the bureaucracy and “revisionism” in Russia and other “Communist” countries. But since I was still ignorant, I swallowed the Chinese party’s lies about Lenin’s and Stalin’s Russia as a real socialist example.
Shortly after the party’s change of name to Left Party Communists at their congress in 1967, I resigned my membership. Instead I joined the Communist League Marxist-Leninist (KFML), a Maoist organization that was founded at their midsummer conference the same year. Now I regarded myself as a real revolutionary. I participated in so-called Marxist studies, which among other things consisted in learning to rattle off a lot of Mao Tse tung quotations by heart. I went about selling Ghiston (The Spark) and Marxistiskt Forum (Marxist Forum), periodical of the KFML. I undertook the task as cashier and secretary of a local branch. Later I also joined the Swedish Clarte League, a Maoist students’ league, and the United NLF Groups, supporters of Viet Cong.
In May 1968, students and workers revolted in France. This even influenced young people in other countries. Here in Sweden the so-called occupation of the Students’ Association building in Stockholm took place. Within KFML, Clarté League and the NLF movement an opposition had emerged during the spring, partly the “rebel movement” and partly the so-called appelianism. The “rebel movement” was strongly influenced by the Chinese cultural revolution, and was a spontaneous reaction to the Stalinist bureaucracy within KFML, Clarté League and the NLF movement. They developed into a kind of fanatical, religious sect, where they tortured each other and read aloud from the red book of Mao Tsetung quotations. After a couple of months their movement was dissolved.
Appelianism derived from the Communist Working Circle, a Maoist group in Denmark. Its chairman is Gotfred Appel. Their “theory” is that the capitalists in Europe and North America take super profits from the countries of the third world and use these profits to bribe “their” workers. Therefore they thought that posturing with reform struggle was to waste time. Instead one should try to induce the workers in North America and Europe to support national “liberation movements” in the third world thereby they would become class-conscious and be secured on the side of Leninism, they hoped.
Since I was still equally ignorant, I thought this sounded reasonable and left KFML, Clarté League and the nfl movement at the beginning of 1969. Now I had at last learned something, namely that reform struggle could not be something for a socialist organization to potter with.
In late summer 1971 a number of persons broke away from one of the appelianist organizations and formed the Manifesto Group. They started publishing a journal called Hammaren och Skaran (Hammer and Sickle), which also appeared in English. The group I belonged to, mostly consisted of older ex-members of the Communist Workers’ League of Sweden, which had been founded in 1956 by a group that broke away from the Communist Party. It ceased to exist in the mid-sixties.
As a result of personal antagonism, our group broke with the other two appelianist groups and started a close co-operation with the newly formed Manifesto Group. We studied some material from the Progressive Labor Party, an American organization which had broken with Maoism but still clung firmly to Stalinism. They now claimed that capitalism had been “re-established” in China. Further they rightly claimed that the NLF of South Vietnam did not fight for anything but capitalism. Otherwise, they were incorrigible reformists. We also read Gorter, Pannekoek, Ruehle, Mattick, Kollontay and others. Of course also some of Karl Marx’s writings.
At the beginning of 1973 we got in touch with Varldssocialism (World Socialism) and read some SPGB material. We agreed with much of what SPGB said, but opposed parliamentarism. We had been influenced by the Dutch and German left communists, who in the twenties fiercely criticised Lenin’s policy. We had now approached some sort of council-communist outlook, the foremost characteristic of which is anti-parliamentarianism and advocacy of workers’ councils. However, we soon relinquished the council idea, and began to question organizations and programs on the whole. At this point the majority of our group broke with the Manifesto Group which was now charged with “syndicalism” and “anarchism”. However I myself left the “appelianist” group and joined the Manifesto Group, which was soon dissolved and stopped publishing Hammer and Sickle. Instead we began to publish a series of pamphlets, which formostly carried situationnist, but also council-communist stuff. Some titles we also publish in English.
We now almost understood what socialism (communism) really meant. We understood that the Russian, Chinese and all other revolutions in reality had been capitalist. We also understood that a socialist revolution could only be worldwide.
However, later the “organization” even began to question Marxism and claimed that conceptions like socialism and revolution were meaningless. They also claim that the class conception is meaningless and that- the working class will never carry socialism through. They mean that every individual should instead concentrate upon trying to get out as much enjoyment as possible from life. I agree with this, but capitalism sets up very limited bounds to how much “enjoyment” people can reach.
I think their view is a manifestation of defeatism, therefore I have now stopped working for this group. I have changed my mind concerning parliamentarism, and now sympathize entirely with the World Socialist Movement, the only movement that stands for SOCIALISM, the abolition of the wages system! I now understand that neither social-democracy, Leninism-Maoism-Stalinism, Trotskyism, Appelianism, Anarchism, Syndicalism or Situationism can be an alternative to capitalism. After fifteen years of ideological confusion, I now understand what socialism really means and hope to be make a contribution for it.