Accounts of our failures & misteps

Accounts of our failures & misteps

Joined: March 7th, 2015, 8:29 pm

October 3rd, 2016, 12:19 pm #1

Are there any good books that attempt to tackle the controversial decisions by the Comintern/CPGB but from a non-Trot/Euro position. Are there any ML authors/historians who have examined, for example, the 'Social Fascist' line in the late 30's? or the role of Communists in the Spanish Civil War? or the support for the British State during WWII? I'm not looking for pure repudiations or apologetics but considered and Marxist examinations of the whys, wherefores and could do betters.etc

Cheers!
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White manin the Hammersmith Palais
White manin the Hammersmith Palais

October 4th, 2016, 1:31 pm #2

No, lets do it here.
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Joined: March 7th, 2015, 8:29 pm

October 4th, 2016, 2:26 pm #3

Very well, but I'd still appreciate some suggestions.

The jist of the argument against the Social Fascist line is that it was sectarian and needlessly split the "Left" at the crucial moment when the Nazi's had consolidated, with the support of the Conservatives. Stalin could point to the fact that Lenin had been explicitly clear about how we should view the Social Democrats and that he, and de fact the Comintern, were merely following the Leninist line but I'm interested what Marxist-Leninists feel in retrospect, given that it could be viewed as a catastrophic miscalculation. The German Left was swept aside, it was easier because of the internal disputes, the European working class was eventually forced to work with not just the treacherous Social Democrats but ultimately the bleedin' Bourgeousie (which relates to the question of strike breaking and ceasing hostilities against the wartime government lead by Churchill and his ultra-reactionaries.)

I suppose the truth about the Spanish Civil War probably belongs here as well. The question is what is the truth. We've all heard the incredibly vitriolic accusations. Were mistakes made, what were they?
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Francis King
Francis King

October 4th, 2016, 5:56 pm #4

Are there any good books that attempt to tackle the controversial decisions by the Comintern/CPGB but from a non-Trot/Euro position. Are there any ML authors/historians who have examined, for example, the 'Social Fascist' line in the late 30's? or the role of Communists in the Spanish Civil War? or the support for the British State during WWII? I'm not looking for pure repudiations or apologetics but considered and Marxist examinations of the whys, wherefores and could do betters.etc

Cheers!
The archives are open, both in Britain and in Russia. There are runs of almost everything the CPGB ever published in libraries in London, Manchester and elsewhere. There is nothing to stop serious researchers of any persuasion from using that material and writing their analyses.
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A Worker Who Reads
A Worker Who Reads

October 5th, 2016, 2:00 pm #5

Are there any good books that attempt to tackle the controversial decisions by the Comintern/CPGB but from a non-Trot/Euro position. Are there any ML authors/historians who have examined, for example, the 'Social Fascist' line in the late 30's? or the role of Communists in the Spanish Civil War? or the support for the British State during WWII? I'm not looking for pure repudiations or apologetics but considered and Marxist examinations of the whys, wherefores and could do betters.etc

Cheers!
I don't think you should rush to reject serious examinations of Comintern/Communist history written by non-communists or by Marxists of those heretical varieties you mentioned.
As Francis King has pointed out, so much of the raw materials are there that it is really up to us to present our own estimations of these times.
As far as historians from the Trotskyist movement are concerned, I find them drearily predictable in their attempts to shoehorn facts into their own dogmas - a sin too many communists were guilty of too, to be fair. Pierre Broue is worth a read on Spain and Germany but in the end a sectarian account of the comintern is what shines through.
On China, Gregor Benton has written some very valuable studies on the CCP, but when it comes to British Trots on the CPGB or Comintern I don't really think there is much to be said. Take the awful Dave Renton book on the CPGB as an example, I think Graham Stevenson did a fairly creditable critique of that.
I did recently come across a history of the Spanish Civil War by Andy Durgan (SWP) which I found remarkably good, not without weaknesses, but essentially departed from the usual script.
I always found Monty Johnstone's writings valuable, although some would dismiss them as "euro" but so what? Reading the articles he put together in the 1970s on the Popular Front etc, he would be seen as very conservative in his conclusions in some respects.
One very recent contributor to this site, Geoff roberts has written some absolutely marvellous stuff on Soviet policy during the Stalin period - I can't recommend his Stalin's Wars and Stalingrad enough. I'm working my way through his tome on the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact right now. He was a "Euro", he now says he is on the non-communist left, but the test surely is has he written good history? Do you learn from his work, by which i mean not do you agree with his conclusions but do they provoke the reader to think for themselves, to question assumptions or even to have assumptions confirmed.
I almost never agreed with Hobsbawm's views on contemporary issues but his historical writing is magnificent. He also warned of the challenges of communist historians writing about the histories of their own party or wider movement.
I think he had a point.
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Ex Star staffer
Ex Star staffer

October 6th, 2016, 12:25 pm #6

Andrew Murray published "The Communist Party of Great Britain: a historical analysis to 1941" in 1995, dealing comprehensively with the period in question.
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Joined: November 13th, 2015, 10:40 am

October 6th, 2016, 2:00 pm #7

Are there any good books that attempt to tackle the controversial decisions by the Comintern/CPGB but from a non-Trot/Euro position. Are there any ML authors/historians who have examined, for example, the 'Social Fascist' line in the late 30's? or the role of Communists in the Spanish Civil War? or the support for the British State during WWII? I'm not looking for pure repudiations or apologetics but considered and Marxist examinations of the whys, wherefores and could do betters.etc

Cheers!
There are two articles examining the CPGB from a considered Marxist non-Trotskyist perspective here

http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/soci ... t-left-pt5

http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/soci ... t-left-pt2

Not sure about book length but the articles are certainly not apologetics.

Not sure about ML perspective either unless you want to look at Neo-Kautsky Weekly Worker perspectives. Rather you than me.
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Francis King
Francis King

October 6th, 2016, 9:44 pm #8

The SPGB's examinations of other political groups are sometimes quite perceptive. Its examinations of itself are not. Good history cannot be written by people whose primary aim is to defend a political tradition, come what may. The SPGB likes to imagine it is quite unlike all other parties and groups who call themselves socialist or communist. It isn't.
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Down with the King
Down with the King

October 7th, 2016, 4:09 pm #9

One might say the same about King’s occasional sly defence of Eurocommunist crap. Don’t think we haven’t noticed, comrade.
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Harsanyi_Janos
Harsanyi_Janos

October 7th, 2016, 10:12 pm #10

To me the term seems meaningless without a set of "actually existing socialist" countries to hope to reform. The entire Eurocommunist project was based on the hope (forlorn it seems) that a planned economy could be married to political pluralism. What would a so-called Eurocommunist believe today?
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