JP: Did they have any official standing as far as the Albanians were concerned?
WB: The Albanians recognised them immediately as the Marxist-Leninist
Party in Britain. There were two organisations - there was the Communist
Party of Britain run by Reg Birch, and there was the broader New Albania
Society, both of these were officially supported by the Albanian Party
of Labour. At that time they broke of relations completely with us. We
had a meeting and decided what we should do: Albania is a socialist country,
we accept that, we don't agree with their line on this particular point,
but none the less we stand for solidarity and support for the Albanian
Party of Labour and the Albanian regime, therefore we would continue to
support Albania, whatever their attitude to us might be. We carried on
exactly as we had done, sending our literature to them regularly over the
next six or seven years, until 1978, the Albanian Party changed its line
and came out attacking Mao Tse Tung as being revisionist, his line as being
revisionist. Immediately Birch broke off relations with Albania, dissolved
the New Albania Society without even consulting its membership. There were
just notices in the post saying 'as from today the society is dissolved',
full stop. At that time the one person who still had contacts with the
Albanians was the expert on folk music, the president of our society Bert
Lloyd. Bert Loyd made regular trips to Albania to record folk music, not
as president of the Albania Society but in a personal capacity. We asked
him if he would point out to the Albanians on his next visit that it was
rather ridiculous to have no Albania friendship society because there was
no one except for ourselves, with whom they would not speak. And so we
said diplomatically that he might raise this with them and point out that
it didn't seem sensible to us that the situation should continue in the
new circumstances. So he did raise it with them, and I was invited to Paris
first of all to speak to the ambassador there, who seemed very suspicious
of the whole situation. I couldn't see any reason why, the whole
thing seemed perfectly straight forwards, never the less he was suspicious,
and he said he would make our points to Tirana and write to me in due course.
Eventually the reply came back 'yes, we would like a delegation from
the Society to go to Albania'. There was no mention of what had happened
over the previous ten years, no self criticism at all, but never the less
they resumed good friendly relations with the society which was the main
thing. The question of self-criticism was a matter for the Albanians and
not for us really. We agreed in principle all the way through. And so that
was the situation through to the counter-revolution. Mind you, I am convinced
now that there was a very strong revisionist faction in the leading positions
of the party long before Hoxha's death, and the whole thing came to a head
only after that period, but it was a continuation of policies followed
previously. For example, when we sent a delegation just after Hoxha's death
I think it was, I went with Steve Day, we were the two delegates elected
to go, and they asked us what we would like to see and do, and so we gave
them a short list of things we would like to do. One of them was to take
a film of the area around the Corfu Channel to make a film about the Corfu
channel incident, and also some research that I wanted to do from the Albanian
library. Now we were a little taken aback by the fact that first of all
they were unable to find an interpreter for us, they had no one there who
could speak English, we were not allowed to take any photographs of the
Corfu channel, and everything we asked to do including my visit to the
Albanian National Library was for some reason not possible. They sent us
round the country, it was enjoyable but it was purely a holiday, there
was nothing we were able to do of any political value whatsoever. The whole
10 out of the 13 days we were there we were just driving around the country
in a private car. I pointed this out to Steve and said 'these people are
bloody revisionists!' you know, I'd met the same people before in the CPGB
and they behaved in exactly the same way as people in the CPGB had behaved.
I'm convinced now that these were symptoms of degeneration that had already
set in, that revisionism had already won many of the leading positions
within the party, but it was not coming out openly."
IN MEMORIAM: William B. Bland 1916-2001 Interview Performed by JP with Bill Bland, 10th July 1994, Great Northern Hotel, Euston
JP: What about the Marxist-Leninist Research Bureau, that has a similar role in investigating important topics?
WB: The weakness there is that so far we have not felt able to investigate controversial topics. The New Communist Party was holding a meeting on Yugoslavia, and they had got together all the people who are supportive of the view of the Yugoslav government to present their case. Now our case is not popular among people among people who regard themselves as M-L. Never the less I feel we should put it forward, not in a destructive way, to call people traitors and fools but merely to present the facts as we see them, and invite them to seek another explanation for these facts. People are very reluctant to discuss things on the basis of facts. People like Harpal Brar, a very high political level, a loyal supporter of Stalin, there is no doubt he is very sincere in his support of Stalin and Marxism-Leninism, never the less, if you say 'right, lets discuss Mao' he will not discuss Mao, he will merely say 'I don't want to discuss it, I don't agree with you, that's all there is to say'. If you don't agree, why not? Maybe you are right, tell me why you don't want to agree? Somehow, he doesn't want to do that. So what it is here, in my opinion is this: rather than basing one's views on fact, he's basing his view on preconceived prejudices which Brar is unwilling to change or challenge. It's like the attitude of the Catholic church in the middle ages, you didn't discuss whether God existed or not, you just had to accept it because even discussing it was equivalent to treason, to heresy, and it seems to me that these people do have that view. They are unwilling to discuss it. Take a member of the NCP again, they cancelled a meeting which they forgot to tell me about and there was only a chap there who was editor of the paper. He wanted to discuss Mao Tse Tung thought, and I said read this stuff I'll leave it with you, it may be wrong and if so, if you point out where we are wrong, we'll correct it. 'Yes I'll do that', you see, and that was a year ago. I left the stuff with him and asked him to fix a date for a further discussion, but no, he won’t do that. This means that he is only prepared to blindly follow the line of his party, and this isn't going to do his party any good. If the line is wrong, then his party is not being served by his support for it. If the fine is incorrect then his job as a party member is to bring his objections forward and have them discussed at the highest level, and this they are unwilling to do, whether its Brar or the NCP. "
"WB: Well today we are in a situation where everyone who calls themself an M-L is in favour of building a new Marxist Leninist party. The Majids say that; Ivor Kenna says that, they all say it, but when you come down to it, it is necessary to draw a dividing line between the most blatant revisionist trend, which is Maoism, and Marxism-Leninism. You cannot build a party which contains both revisionists and Marxist-Leninists, it will fall to pieces at the first blow. Therefore our line in the Stalin society to try and utilise this for the purpose of support of Stalin, as we are all agreed, but also for discussing in a friendly way, the points on which we differ, so that on the basis of fact the members can be aware of the two opposed points of view and make their own decisions, and this seems to me to be to be an absolutely inevitable consequence of building a party which is taken seriously. And the same thing applies to a society that has a Marxist-Leninist paper, that we find out what we can agree on and that is the integral policy of the paper. Other questions on which we disagree we leave open for the time being and publish articles on both points of view, not in a hostile way but in a friendly way based on facts, and in that way, all those who call themselves M-Ls we say here, presented objectively, are the particular points of view why one policy is wrong, and the other answer is right, is Marxist-Leninist. I think that this is an essential way forward in building a party in the present circumstances.
JP: The international journal which is being suggested I think we have already discussed and we felt that this could play a useful role and should be open to Maoists to contribute to, and put down their views, and essentially, should be forced to express themselves in writing so that everyone could see where they do stand.
WB: The fact that they have expelled all the M-Ls, with the exception
of yourself, from the Stalin Society is a sign not of their strength but
of their weakness. If Adolpho is really sincere in saying that it is a
good thing that we be allowed to put forward this rubbish so that it can
be exposed, then he would be in favour of us continuing to put our view
forward, but in fact he voted for our expulsion. And this to my mind exposes
his hypocrisy. We are anxious to put forward our point of view, we don't
pretend that we're infallible, we may be wrong, if so we regret it and
we will criticise ourselves. But in order that we should be shown
to be wrong we have to hear the other point of view, and this is what they
are unwilling to do, to participate in any sort of objective discussion
and based on:
". . . personal animosities".
(Ted Talbot & Harry Powell: 'The Stalin Society Dispute'; p. 1).
They accuse our member Bill Bland of:
" . . . an amazingly opportunist statement".
(Ted Talbot & Harry Powell: 'The Stalin Society Dispute'; p. 2).'
when he says:
"The point is not whether these statements (the attacks on the New Communist
Party -- Ed.) are true or false".
(Bill Bland: 'The Situation in the Stalin Society' (January 1994);l p. 3).
Tony Clark, in an undated Open Letter to members of the Stalin Society
declares that this policy seeks:
" . . . to place certain organisations and their leaders above criticism".
(Tony Clark: Open Letter to Members of the Stalin Society; p. 1).
and that the policy:
"is rooted in opportunism".
(Tony Clark: Open Letter to Members of the Stalin Society; p. 2).
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth than that we wish to place any organisation or individual 'above criticism'.
We merely maintain that it is wrong and disruptive to permit attacks on members, or potential members, at meetings of the Stalin Society on questions unrelated to the aims of the Society.
It needs no advanced level of Marxism-Leninism to understand that the same statement may be tactically correct in one set of circumstances, but wrong and counter-productive in another set of circumstances.
For example, no one was a more consistent opponent of the treachery of social-democracy than Lenin. At the beginning of 1922, the Communist International, led by Lenin, was striving to organise a conference of the three Internationals:
". . . for the sake of achieving possible practical unity of direct action on the part of the masses". (Vladimir I. Lenin: Letter to N. I. Bukharin and G. Y. Zinoviev (February 1922),in: 'Collected Works', Volume 42; Moscow; 1969; p. 394).
The fifth columnist Grigory Zinoviev, who later confessed to treason
against the Soviet state and was executed, wrote a draft resolution on
the proposed conference which called social-democratic leaders of the Second
and Two-and-a-Half Internationals 'accomplices of the world bourgeoisie'.
While this characterisation was undoubtedly true, Lenin objected to it
in the resolution concerned on tactical grounds:
"My chief amendment is aimed at deleting the passage which calls the leaders of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals 'accomplices of the world bourgeoisie'. You might as well call a man a jackass. It is absolutely unreasonable to risk wrecking an affair of tremendous practical importance for the sake of giving oneself the extra pleasure of scolding scoundrels". (Vladimir I. Lenin: Letter to Members of the Politbureau of the CC, RCB (b) (23 February 1922), in: 'Collected Works', Volume 42; Moscow; 1969;p. 400-01).
Again, Marxist-Leninists accept that, as a general principle, it is
correct to expose the reactionary role of religion. But an aspiring Marxist-Leninist
who intrudes into a Catholic Church during mass shouting: 'Down with the
Pope!' is not acting in accordance with correct Marxist-Leninist tactics.
In Lenin's words, during a strike:
" . . . atheist propaganda in such circumstances may be both unnecessary and harmful -- not from the philistine fear of scaring away the backward sections. . . . but out of consideration for the real progress of the class struggle, which in the conditions of modern capitalist society will convert Christian workers to Social-Democracy (i.e., Communism -- Ed.) and to atheism a hundred times better than bald atheist propaganda. To preach atheism at such a moment and in such circumstances would only be playing into the hands of the priest and the priests, who desire nothing better than that the division of the workers according to their participation in the strike movement should be replaced by their division according to their belief in God". (Vladimir I. Lenin: 'The Attitude of the Workers' Party to Religion' (May 1909), in: 'Collected Works', Volume 15; Moscow; 1963; p. 40). "
See also: "MORE ON THE FIFTH COLUMN IN THE STALIN SOCIETY" Compass 116 (Communist League)