ALLIANCE June 2002
Comrades will be perhaps be aware that there is a lot of as-yet unpublished materials, by the late W.B. Bland - that both the Communist League & Alliance - are committed to making available.
We have selected primarily those letters that contain some insights into critical theoretical issues.

            LETTER ONE

Ilford, June 1995
Dear Vijay,

    Thank you for your letter of 3 June. I reply (in a personal capacity) herewith.

    When I was told to expect a letter from you which would "expose the error of our characterisation of Dimitrov as a revisionist’, I looked forward to receiving it. I accept unreservedly that we are not infallible, so that, however hard we strive to publish the truth, we are indeed capable of making errors. Consequently, we welcome correction of our errors.

    Indeed, the principle of dialectics, in its original meaning, was that one party puts forward a proposition (the thesis), while another puts forward a counter-proposition (the antithesis), and out of this process of contradiction emerges a new proposition (the synthesis) which differs from both the thesis and antithesis but contains some elements of both and is closer to truth than either.

    I was hoping that your antithesis might assist us in correcting errors in our thesis and so attaining a synthesis closer to truth than either. But in order that this could be so, two things were necessary:

Firstly, the antithesis must be based on principle, and not on mere personal insults. You state, for example,

    But the text concerned does not appear in the English edition of Stalin's 'Works' so that the adjective 'well-known' is merely another jibe from your academic heights at those like myself who do not read Russian.

    And the dictionary defines the verb 'to ignore' as:

    You are, therefore, accusing us, quite falsely, of 'intentionally disregarding' a text of which we were ignorant.

    The second requirement for our polemical discussion to contribute to the search for truth is that it should be based on a rational philosophical attitude towards the universe, and in particular towards logic.

    Marxist-Leninists hold that the universe forms a coherent, interconnected whole:

    They also hold that the truth of a hypothesis can be determined only by practice; if a hypothesis conflicts with a known fact, it cannot be true or, in the words of a proverb often quoted by Engels: "The proof of the pudding is in the eating":     These Marxist-Leninist propositions may be expressed in everyday language by the sentences 'Everything makes sense' and 'History must make sense", for in this context 'sense' means:     and 'logic' as:     Stalin takes his stand on rationality, for he criticises the concealed
revisionist Maksim Litvinov:     You, however, clearly reject the principles that 'Everything makes sense’ and 'History must make sense', for you say:     This latter statement is quite false. We reject nothing 'in advance'. We merely take our stand on Sherlock Holmes's famous dictum:     But if you reject the principles that 'Everything makes sense' and 'history must make sense', you clearly take your stand on the principle that 'hypotheses, including historical hypotheses, may be true even if they don't make sense'!

    In other words, you take your stand on the irrationality of the universe and of history.

    What Maurice Cornforth says about 'logical positivism' is equally applicable to your obscurantist position:

    No doubt you will soon be moving to a more lucrative post as Professor of Illogical Positivism at Berkeley, with the famous slogan 'ALL IS UNCERTAINTY AND CHAOS' carved over its marble portal!     Permit me first to correct some misapprehensions as to our position under which you appear to be labouring.
    Firstly, you say:     This is not so. Almost the whole issue of 'COMpass' No. 111 (February 1994) is devoted to an analysis of 'United Front Tactics', which we fully support. In this article, in full agreement with Dimitrov, we criticise the Comintern policy in 1931-34 for deviating from these tactics in a pseudo-left manner which:   Secondly, you say:     This is inexact. We fully support the Popular Front policy in relation to colonial-type countries such as Spain and China, where class collaboration with the national bourgeoisie can play a progressive role. We oppose it only in developed capitalist countries, where class collaboration with the bourgeoisie means the sacrifice of the interests of the working class. Our position on this question is made clear in 'COMpass' No. 112 (April 1994), which is devoted to an analysis of 'The "Popular Front" in France, and concludes:.     Thirdly, you characterise our view as:     This is not our view. We hold that circumstantial evidence establishes beyond reasonable doubt that there was a substantial number of concealed revisionists in the leading bodies of both the CI and the CPSU, and that on certain questions, i. e., at certain times, these were able to win a majority. I will deal with this question later in my letter.

    Fourthly, you say that we present:

    This is untrue. We say:     and we cite his 1935 formulation that after the formation of a united front or Popular Front government:     The only point in Dimitrov’s 1935 formulation which we regard as incorrect is the following:     and we believe that our comment on this formula was legitimate:     We pointed out that the Khrushchevite revisionists themselves claim that the line of the 7th Congress of the CI represented     You refer to the:     and allege that there are a     Yet you give no references and I can find nothing in the English edition of the 'Works' to this effect. You refer (para. 1) to the 'known written views of Stalin' in support of the Popular Front in France. Yet you give no references and there is nothing in Volume 14 of the English edition of the 'Works' to this effect.

    You cite in support of this statement only an allegation to this effect by the revisionist Maurice Thorez - an allegation you cite in coloured terms as a "record' -- whom in 1976 you correctly placed in the camp of:

    I recall that, in the days when Stalin was still favourably presented by the CPGB, the British revisionists used to claim that Stalin had endorsed the 'programme of peaceful, parliamentary transition to socialism' of 'The British Road to Socialism'. But although on several occasions I requested sight of the document concerned, it was never produced or published.

    According to the researches of Dobrin Mitchev, of the Institute of History of the Communist Party of Bulgaria:

    It is clearly incorrect, therefore, to suggest that Dimitrov's 1935 line was equally 'the line of Stalin'. It is clear that Stalin objected to some aspects of Dimitrov's line. Presumably Stalin's opposition was taken into account to some extent in the line adopted a year later at the 7th Congress of the CI.

    In the recently published volume of Stalin's letters to Molotov, the only mention of Dimitrov is in connection with the 7th CI Congress, on which Stalin comments:

    What does Stalin mean by this unenthusiastic assessment of the Congress? Presumably, that it wasn't as bad as might have been expected!

    We see no reason to disagree with this assessment.

    You say that we:     Yes, it is true that we reject the assessment of Stalin in the CPSU's obituary, signed by Stalin and others, to the effect that Dimitrov:     This in no way means that we do not regard Stalin as the greatest Marxist-Leninist of his era, and certainly not that we regard ourselves as superior Marxist-Leninists to Stalin. But we should not assume that he had supernatural intuitive powers which could unfailingly detect any concealed revisionist despite his concealment. It is now more than forty years since Stalin died, and a great deal has happened since. In the light of hindsight many things become clear and it would be the height of foolishness to maintain that because Stalin accepted Dimitrov as an honest Marxist-Leninist in 1949, this assessment is in 1995 sacred dogma which it is heretical to question.

    Stalin was the first to reject any conception that his views represented some kind of dogma:

    and he was always prepared to amend a view which later events showed to be untenable. Take the case of the revisionist Aleksey Rykov. about whom Stalin said in 1926:     Yet four years later Stalin was writing:     If we ref use to change a view in the light of experience because this view was expressed by Stalin fifty years ago, we fall into precisely that dogmatism which Stalin so strongly condemned.     You assert that on the character of the Second World War from 1939 to 1941:     Yet you yourself agree that     and cite Stalin as holding that the Second World War was a just war on the part of Britain and France, that:     While to us ordinary mortals these two views are diametrically opposed, in your idealist perversion of dialectical contradiction -- 'black = white' - you conclude that     We have drawn attention in various places to a number of other divergences on the part of Dimitrov from accepted Marxist-Leninist principles.     1) Lenin in 1919 dismissed as 'a reactionary petty bourgeois dream' the concept that there could be a form of state intermediate between the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and the dictatorship of the proletariat:     At the 7th World Congress of the CI in August 1935, Dimitrov had endorsed this view, dismissing as 'Right opportunism’ the concept that there could be some kind of intermediate state between the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and the dictatorship of the proletariat:     After the decentralisation of the Comintern, however, in September 1936 Dimitrov repudiated this position and presented a state with a Popular Front government as precisely such an intermediate state:     2) In March 1946, Dimitrov publicly supported the concept of peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism, maintaining that:     Some Dimitrovists here have claimed that we are taking this passage out of context and that Dimitrov was referring only to countries like Bulgaria where a socialist revolution had already taken place. This is untrue. The editor of Dimitrov's 'Selected Works', Spass Roussinov, makes it clear that this is a change of line resulting from 'changed conditions':     Dimitrov's 1946 formulation of this question is clearly no different in substance from that put forward by Khrushchev at the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956:     3) In 1939, Dimitrov accepted the Marxist-Leninist thesis that war was inevitable under imperialism:     In 1948, however, Dimitrov put forward the conception that, as a result of new international conditions:     In 1952 Stalin refuted this revisionist concept of Dimitrov's; emphasising that war remained inevitable under imperialism:     You quote from my letter to you to the effect you have made cracks about my effrontery in writing on Russian history without knowing the language. You say:     But you then proceed to say effectively the same thing:     You assess Beria and Malenkov as 'revisionists':     But of the 'mounting evidence' to which you refer, you present -- nothing at all!

    Of Beria's alleged revisionism you say only:

    Although your letter to me does not quote from this document, I am familiar with Amy Knight's biography of Beria, the blurb of which describes him as symbolising     What does Knight, whose assessment of Beria is clearly closer to yours than to mine -- say about this letter?     This is hardly a ringing endorsement of the authenticity of the letter which was 'discovered' -- so conveniently for the plotters - in Beria's briefcase.

    This is rather different from your allegation, which accepts the genuineness of the document concerned without question.

    But Knight endorses our view that Beria was the victim of a plot organised by Khrushchev:

                    On your presentation of the matter:
    Beria is 'a pioneer of revisionism', so that we have Khrushchev -- whom you accept as a revisionist -- organising a ‘risky' plot against his 'fellow-revisionist' Beria at precisely the moment when maximum unity of the revisionist conspirators was essential for them!     You say that you:     But this 'brilliant Marxist-Leninist' refused to accept a decision of the MLOB that he should be replaced as Secretary, and stole the name, funds and the printing press of the MLOB.

    You imply that these are:

    but an:     However, I can recall no differences within the MLOB on what you call ‘political issues'. However, democratic centralism is not a mere organisational question but a vital principle of Marxism-Leninism:     You not merely deny my statement:     but allege that this statement is a conscious lie:     I was aware of no such thing. I know of nothing published by the MLOB after what you call the 'split'. I called in to Collett's once a week for several months and was informed that they had no material from the MLOB.

    However, you go on to say that:

    So what was the end-result of Baker's 'brilliant Marxism-Leninism'? The dissolution of the organisation in which he played the leading role in initiating. While the second-rate people from whom Baker broke away carried on (as the Communist League) plodding away at the task of building a Marxist-Leninist Party, the brilliant Marxist-Leninist Baker renounced MarxismLeninism!     You say:     Of course, I accept unreservedly your assurance above. But I recall vividly your scathing denunciation of my book 'The Restoration of Capitalism in the Soviet Union' and had certainly thought that you were referring to the content of the book. Perhaps you were merely making a criticism of its literary imperfections.

    One reason for this misunderstanding may be that I cannot recall having received any material from the Stalinist Nucleus of India for many years -the excellent document you kindly sent me is dated 1976! What happened to the SNI? Was it dissolved in order to demonstrate that you are as 'brilliant' a Marxist-Leninist as the renegade Baker?

    You describe our view that at times a majority in the leadership of the CI and the CPSU adopted policies that deviated from Marxist-Leninist principles, as:     You may reject rationality, but genuine Marxist-Leninists do not. They have to find rational explanations for such facts as the following:     Now, on our hypothesis that when these decisions were taken:     these facts complete sense.

    But if this hypothesis is, as you maintain, 'fiction', then these actions must have been taken with Stalin's approval and it follows inescapably that towards the end of his life Stalin had come to the conclusion that his work was not worth publication and that he himself was not fit to be leader of the Soviet Union!

    I suggest that it is to avoid drawing this conclusion that you have felt compelled to repudiate rationality altogether and embrace the irrationality of capitalism in decay.

    I know that the pressures on a Marxist-Leninist in a bourgeois university are very strong. These pressures are rarely so crude as openly to be expressed in terms of promotion prospects, but they are none the less very real. I recall a friend of mine -- economist Ron Meek. In New Zealand he was a solid member of the CPNZ, and then moved to a higher post at a British university. We continued in contact and met regularly, but within a few months he was saying: 'Yes, of course Marx's work was 'of historic importance', but he gave an ‘over-simplified' and 'one-sided' analysis of capitalist society. Within a few months Meek had left the Party altogether, But even he never went so far as to reject rationality in favour of obscurantism and sophistry.

    I have no delusions of grandeur, and if any points in your letter raised the slightest doubt in my mind, I should have been happy to raise them with the CL and propose corrections of our line and a self-criticism. I find, however, nothing in your letter, which I feel would justify taking this step.

    I am sorry that this letter is so long. The reason is merely my very great respect for your past record and my sincere concern that you should appear to be succumbing in an opportunist manner to pressure.

    Finally, I thank you for your medical advice. Actually, I have no intention of dying in the near future and so missing the sumptuous repast at Hari's funeral! Hardial Bains assures me that his bunions were completely cured by Sikh mysticism. So, if I can obtain your prescription on the NHS, I will certainly give it a go -- especially since I hear that Michael Jackson uses Sabal Serrulata when he runs out of Ecstasy!

Ilford, 18 November, (Between 1989-1991-Editor Alliance)
Dear Vijay,

    Thank you for your last letter and for the book you kindly sent me.
I reply here to the points you raise in this and in your last letter.

    We have discussed this question in principle, not in the precise form of 'other backward classes' in which it has arisen in India, but in relation to racism in general.

    We are opposed to positive racial discrimination. Positive racial discrimination for some - necessarily means negative racial discrimination for others. We are opposed to all racial discrimination, and in favour of the principle of appointment, promotion, etc. solely on merit.  Those who support positive discrimination argue that appointment, promotion, etc., solely on merit is unfair because black people have long suffered discrimination and therefore cannot compete in general on equal terms with white people. This is true. But in our view the solution which must be demanded is the speediest possible equality of opportunity (in education, etc.) for all. Those who favour positive discrimination argue that this is a long-term process and that positive discrimination can redress the unfairness by a stroke of the legislative pen. But in fact it means that individual white persons who happen to have higher merits are passed over for appointments, promotion, etc. in favour of black persons with lower merits as a deliberate process of institutional racism. Clearly this provides an objective basis for white racist prejudices and stimulates these prejudices. Many honest people who would be prepared actively to support policies of combating racial prejudice and inequality of opportunity are driven into opposition to positive discrimination (whether or not this discrimination prejudices themselves as individual) because they see that it is manifestly based upon, and stimulates racial discrimination. That positive racial discrimination operates precisely in this way appears to be confirmed by the content of your leaflet, which complains that many progressive people are resisting it. You say in your leaflet:

    Positive racial discrimination, in our view, does not speed up this process, but retards it. Our view is not modified but confirmed by the example you cite of a country where positive racial discrimination has been adopted -- the United States!     You would, I believe, agree that the right revisionism which came to dominate the communist movement in West postulates the possibility of a peaceful transition to socialism through the mechanism of parliament.

    Our point is that, under Dimitrov's leadership, the 7th Congress of the CI in 1935 adopted some mistaken, non-Marxist-Leninist formulations which paved the way for the later triumph of open right revisionism.

    You say that Dimitrov does not speak of a People's Front government through the electoral process. This is true. But he says:

    Clearly, a progressive People's Front government does not come into being as the result of a coup, for a coup comes from forces within and connected to the existing capitalist state, that is, from the right. And since Dimitrov excludes it coming into being through socialist revolution, it follows that it is envisaged as coming into being through the electoral process.

    Indeed, in 1936 Dimitrov described the formation of People's Front governments -- by election! -- in France and Spain in this year as "the practical realisation" of the People's Front policy:

    You make the point that Dimitrov stresses that the formation of such People's Front government could only come about at a time of crisis. But Marxist-Leninist principles do not cease to operate in time of crisis.

    What kind of programme should such a Peop1e’s Front government carry out?

    So, our People's Front government, which has been formed without socialist revolution, will take     But such a programme would destroy the basis of capitalist society.

    It follows that Dimitrov is, in fact, maintaining -- with the right revisionists -- that the basis of capitalist society can be destroyed without the need for a socialist revolution, and his talk about the necessity of a political crisis and for a subsequent socialist revolution are mere demagogy aimed at concealing the revisionist character of his programme.

    You ask for the evidence that Dimitrov supported Browderism. I would refer you the article by Philip Jaffe entitled 'The Rise and Fall of Earl Browder' in 'Survey', Volume 18, No., 2 (Spring 1972). Jaffe, a long-standing friend of Browder's who had access to his papers, describes how William Foster (who opposed Browder's 'class peace' formulation but supported the liquidation of the CPUSA) wrote to Dimitrov seek his support against Browder:

    I note that you do not accept that the Albanian Party of Labour is following a revisionist course.

Naturally, I find this consistent with the fact that you have not got round to analysing the class basis of the Indian social system, with your support of Dimitrov's revisionism, with your support of racial discrimination, and so on.

    I have passed on your order for the Ramiz Alia pamphlets to the Albanian Shop. I cannot help with Albanian videos, but suggest you write to the Secretary of the Albanian Society if and when one is elected. Norberto Steinmayr visited Albania after taking over as Secretary and was ao appalled at the revisionist degeneration that he resigned at once.

 SEE ALSO:            Bland Memorial Interview with Communist League
                      Debate Within the MLOB

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