2000s >> 2003 >> no-1183-march-2003

Two anti-Leninists

It is probable that few of our readers will have noticed the brief news item at the end of January regarding the assassination in Ankara of the Turkish journalist, Ugur Mumcu. Even fewer will have linked this tragic news with the contacts we had with the émigré review, Marksist published in Paris. It should not go unnoticed, however, that Mumcu was part of a remarkable political trend which we in the Movement for World Socialism can welcome whole-heartedly.

For many years the Socialist Party here and our companion parties overseas have largely been alone in maintaining that Lenin’s ideology paved the way for the establishment of state-capitalism in the Russian Empire and elsewhere. Even when the London-based magazine International Socialism diverged from its Trotskyist background by recognizing the USSR to be state-capitalist, they were still so ensnared in their Bolshevik mental straitjacket they could not see the oppressive Russian system as a direct consequence of Lenin’s seizure of power in the backward conditions of 1917. The SWP, which emerged from IS in the mid-seventies, remains frozen in its incomplete understanding of the factors giving rise to state-capitalism and, to use a Trotskyist phrase, is accordingly degenerate.

By contrast to the most advance trend within Trotskyism, those around Marksist developed their understanding much further even though many of them emerged from yet more rigid Leninist disciplines as Maoism and its Albanian variant. Mumcu, too, came to a recognition that Leninism was a distortion, a perversion of Marxian ideas. Anyone familiar with the powerful grip which Stalinism has had over the working-class movement in Anatolia will not find it hard to see that Mumcu was not only at risk from those who conspire to re-establish a theocratic state in place of Ataturk’s secular republic and who he regularly lambasted in his column in Turkey’s best daily Cumhuriyet (the quasi-official mouthpiece of Turkey’s own special mix of state and private capitalism). The fact that Mumcu was a scourge of the huge narcotics industry in his country and is said to have been near to publishing a major exposé of the whole business and its political links right the way to the top suggests he could have been in the sights of many different marksmen.

As it is, the TV news from Istanbul reports that Hesbollah, the Tehran-backed Islamic terrorist organization, has claimed responsibility for placing the fatal car-bomb. This could be true but then again MIT, the Turkish secret police who are a menace in their own right to political democracy might have their own reasons for floating this idea.

Whilst acknowledging the valuable contribution Ugur Mumcu and his associates have made to a clearer understanding of the Leninist phenomenon we would be deluding ourselves if we were to overlook the dangers inherent in their reversion to a kind of pre-Leninist Social-Democracy, with all its erroneous attitudes towards the role of leadership, reformist legislation, the nation-state etc. Nevertheless, we share the sense of outrage at this murder and we shall continue as best we can in the work of exchanging and clarifying ideas paving the way to the Socialist world community of the future.

E. S. Grant

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Anton Ciliga, whose claim to fame amongst socialists is as the author of the book The Russian Enigma, died in October in Zagreb. As this book first appeared in English in 1940 many will perhaps will be surprised to learn that he was still alive in 1992.

Born in 1898 Anton (or rather, Ante in his native Croatian) Ciliga was a founding member of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia who went to Russia in 1926 and was eventually imprisoned and then exiled to Siberia for “trotskyism”. He managed to get out of Russia in 1935 and put down his experiences in writing. These were published in book form in French in 1938 under the title Au Pays du Grand Mensonge (“In the Land of the Big Lie”, a much better title than that of the English version in fact).

The Big Lie of course was that Russia was a “socialist state”, a “workers’ paradise”. Ciliga, who had been imprisoned as a Trotskyist, eventually came to realise that Russia was state capitalist and that the Party bureaucracy was a new ruling class. This, naturally, meant that he ceased to be a Trotskyist. In fact he came to see Trotsky as no different in principle from Stalin. As he put it himself:

    “Trotsky as well as Stalin wished to pass off the State as being the proletariat, the bureaucratic dictatorship over the proletariat as the proletarian dictatorship, the victory of State capitalism over both private capitalism and socialism as a victory of the latter. The difference between Trotsky and Stalin lay in the fact that in his victory Stalin saw the triumph of pure socialism, pure dictatorship of the proletariat, whereas Trotsky perceived and stressed the gaps and bureaucratic deformations of the system.”

Besides being an interesting account of the privileged lifestyle of the Bolshevik leaders (and Comintern official from abroad) in the 1920s and of the discussion amongst the political prisoners of various sorts in the 1930s, it is this denunciation of Trotskyism as an ideology of state capitalism that makes the book still worth reading (a new edition was published by Ink Links in 1979), an antidote to the Leninist vanguardist views still being peddled on the streets by the SWP in Britain.

Ciliga, however, soon drifted away from any claim to be a Marxist and became a Croatian nationalist. In later years he was active in Croatian exile politics and when Croatia became a separate state in 1991 he returned from exile and was granted a pension by the new authorities.

Adam Buick

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