In the 1950’s Bland witnessed the open revisionist take-over, as the Communist Party of Great Britain embraced the so-called "Peaceful Road to Socialism", and joined with Khruschev in a chorus denouncing Stalin. Bland immediately recognized these stances as corrupt, incorrect and consciously anti-Marxist-Leninist. Proclaiming this point of view he was consigned to a minority position shared by only a handful of others worldwide. From this time on, four defining aspects of Bland’s personality become markedly clear to those fighting for Marxist-Leninism:
Firstly: a lack of egoism and huge degree of modesty. To the end, he never accepted that he was an unusual man, but merely that he was someone "trying to understand" what had happened; as part of this modesty, if anyone could show analytically or factually, that he was wrong, he was the first to openly acknowledge such criticism and recant.
Secondly: an utter determination to regulate his actions according to Marxist-Leninist principles - he was never afraid of being unpopular for espousing a minority view.
Thirdly: he was a diligent and untiring searcher for the truth, fond of Marx’s aphorism that "facts are stubborn things". If after exhaustive research, debate and reflection the known facts could only be explained by a ‘heretical’ conclusion – he would hold to this view until such a time as new facts forced a modification of his hypothesis.
Fourthly: he had an absolute revulsion of individualism and personality cults, coupled with an intense desire to work with other to build unity on a principled basis.
These personality traits are evident in reading an interview with him from 1994 [published in Compass; See Alliance at http://ml-review.ca/aml/CommunistLeague/Bland-MemorialInterview.htm], and we do not dwell further on these aspects of personality. We ask here instead:
This position was one that could be shared with several other comrades, albeit still a singular minority the world over. But the general positions taken in that initial period of anti-revisionist resistance were somewhat simplistic. They consisted essentially of reversions to a bourgeois historical approach - "the bad guy Khruschev takes over". Initially no real attempts to explain the process of take-over were made, by Bland or anyone else. In retrospect, even the great anti-revisionist international "Great Debate" led by the Party of Labour of Albania and the Communist Party of China – had the same overall tendency.
Operating in this mode of thought, and recognising the crucial immediate need was to build a focus of resistance, Bland occupied himself in practical activity. He participated in attempts to unite anti-revisionists aimed at building a new revolutionary communist movement. These are briefly described in the interview referred to above and took much energy and organizational effort. Alongside this, as time went on, he completely re-read everything written by and about Stalin he could find, asking himself: "Am I wrong about Stalin?". His answer was: "No, Stalin was a great follower of Lenin’s and Marx, he was a "Marxist-Leninist"".
This was Bland’s essential training for what was to come. His method? Question everything. He questioned everything the revisionist parties had taught, and indeed everything he himself had taught generations of communist students, first in New Zealand then in Ilford Britain.
It was only by the 1960’s that he was forced to confront head on a crucial series of questions that led him to his life’s work: "How had revisionism become ascendant?"
The key issue that he now faced, which began his path to the destruction of the camouflage obscuring reality, was:
Once having dislodged Mao as the "Chief Defender" of Stalin, Bland had no choice but to go deeper. As he did so, a pattern began slowly to emerge after years of thought and study. He recognized anew, the strength of Stalin’s caution to Bukharin that the closer a society moved towards socialism, the more intense was the capitalist reaction. Coupled with Stalin’s struggle against the undercover Trotskyite penetration of the CPSU (B), Bland was edging closer to a paradigm shift in thought about ‘the Stalin years’.
Gradually, Bland concluded that Stalin had been in a minority position in the Politburo, surrounded by hidden revisionists too clever to openly attack Marxism-Leninism; further, they had straight-jacketed Stalin by means of erecting the "Cult of Personality", which was then used as a weapon against him. Bland identified that Yezhov had subverted the secret services, who had been replaced at Stalin’s behest by Beria. This ensured the release of many thousands of wrongly imprisoned Bolsheviks. From there, Bland identified that by the 18th Party Congress Stalin had been excluded from the highest echelons of the party decision making apparatus, and had counter-attacked with his pamphlet "Economic Problems of the USSR". This was a turning point in Bland’s understanding.
The identification of Stalin’s essay as a seminal attack on crypto-revisionism, led Bland to identify the clique around Vosnosensky and Khruschev who had tried to establish capitalism in the USSR during Stalin’s lifetime. Stalin had fought them to a standstill and even retreat. It was Bland who unveiled to the world’s Marxist-Leninist movement for the first time, the real significance of Stalin’s last work, and its close links to the history of modern revisionism in the USSR. For once Stalin was dead, the capitalist "reforms" of Vosnosensky were enacted by Khruschev and his successors.
Bland’s article "The Leningrad Plot" clarified the thinking of Marxist-Leninists the world over, and it continues to exert an enormous influence – whether acknowledged as such or not. This was published in finished form in 1981, as an appendix to his monumental book "The Restoration of Capitalism in the Soviet Union". This book for the first time carried his name alone. All his previous works, and indeed most of his subsequent work, were anonymous under the umbrella of embryo parties. He took this step not for reasons of vanity, but to enable a more general and wider diffusion of the essential ideas. But that took some years, and only the machinations of the Gorbachov regime enabled most to see the relevance of Bland’s work.
The book was the logical and systematic endpoint of numerous articles over the years 1970-1980, combating the lies peddled by the bourgeoisie in relation to the role of Stalin. They covered the gamut: On the nature of the Second World War, the cult of Personality, the so-called "Last Testament" of Lenin, the Purges of the various factions in the Soviet Union, the Trials, The History of Trotskyism, the invasion of Finland, the Campaign against Cosmopolitanism etc; – virtually all the key questions of the history of the CPSU (B) in the post-Lenin years. All those questions so belovedly distorted by Trotskyism.
These articles were widely circulated in the British Marxist-Leninist movement and, although largely unacknowledged, they heavily influenced many. Most are currently now only available on the web pages of either Alliance Marxist-Leninist (North America) or the Communist League (UK). Bland lived to see the publishing of documents from the Soviet archives that vindicated his far-sighted analysis, built with only fragmentary data, but with the principles of Marxism-Leninism.
To his astonishment, he could not match Mao’s writings against those of Stalin and Lenin. Within a matter of a few months, Bland had put his finger on the essential incompatibility of Mao’s theory of the "New Democratic State" with Marxism-Leninism. This led him to scrutinize the speeches and writings of Mao with even greater care. His stunning report at that time to the MLOB was accepted, but only at the cost of a large number of comrades leaving who were unable to accept that Mao was a revisionist.
Bland’s logical and unemotional approach led to later charges of an alleged "lack of creativity", his method being likened to holding up a piece of paper with holes in it called ‘Marxism-Leninism to the light. If matching holes in another paper relating to a particular theory under examination let the light through, it was confirmed as being "Marxist-Leninist", while a failure to match up demonstrated its worthlessness. Such fatuous charges beg the question:
Of course a Marxist-Leninist expose of Mao Ze Dong was most unusual at that time. There were as far as we are aware, very few groups who publicly adopted this anti-Mao position – indeed one was led by Comrade Moni Guha in India, in this magazine, "Proletarian Path". Such an open standpoint of the MLOB, complicated the British anti-revisionist movement search for unity, just as it did in every other country.
The exposure of Maoism as ‘left revisionism’, led Bland to question his own long-standing support for the then pro-Chinese Party of Labour of Albania. After all, why had the PLA not criticised Mao? However, exploring once again the writings of Enver Hoxha, led Bland to support the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania and its path as truly socialist. He remained convinced that one day, they would produce an open critique of Mao. His explorations into the take-over of the CPSU(B), and the long history of inner-party struggle assisted him to understand and teach to us younger impatients, that there logically, had to be an inner-party struggle within the PLA.
It was in this period that Bland showed again a determined anti-sectarianism. Foreign liaison committees of the PSRA were under the influence of a hidden revisionist tendency, opposed to Comrade Enver Hoxha, and they ceded "recognition" only to pro-Maoist Friendship Societies. Yet Bland had from before the infamous 20th party Congress of the CPSU, worked for the Albanian Society of Britain, at the invitation of the PSRA. Despite now being officially ostracized by Albania, Bland continued sterling work running the Albanian Society, and organizing an enormous education on this isolated solitary socialist country. In those years, he became an acknowledged authority on all things Albanian. He published an English-Albanian dictionary and he fielded any manner of queries upon arcane features of Albanian life, history, music, foods, geography, customs and mores etc. Several bourgeois agencies found they had to resort to Bland for information in these matters. As a small example, the compilers of the world’s national anthems could only obtain the requisite Albanian lyrics and music from Bland. It was he who was asked to compile the Albania edition, of a world bibliographical series on the nations of the world. When a newspaper article mistakenly identified a pciture of his Ilford house as that of the 'Albanian Embassy', he was faced with an increased rates bill from the local council!
Again, he did not flinch from taking a difficult and minority stand. After all, till then most defenders of Albania were automatically defenders of China. How could you separate defense of one from the other? Bland argued that Mao had held the national democratic revolution back and obstructed the movement towards the second, socialist stage. But Albania had not done that, but had moved as Lenin had advocated - immediately from the seizure of state power by the working class and its allies, to the socialist stage.
Years later many of those parties that had sided with China moved to openly support Albania, but without even attempting to make any much needed self-criticism. Each had run an explicit party front Albania Society, resisting Bland’s call for one single, united front Albania Society, one that was irrespective of party affiliation. Following Comrade Hoxha’s open attack on Mao, some of these Societies split and some died. Their remaining members were correctly advised by the foreign Liaison committee of the PSRA, to join with Bland’s organisation to form one United Front of support for the PSRA.
However, the members of these remaining parties could not easily break old habits. They tried to "take-over" the older non-sectarian Albanian Society of Bland. The majority grouping led by associates of Hardial Bains, vociferously argued that Bland’s leadership, with emphasis on all aspects of political life such as music etc - was "anti-Marxist-Leninist", and "insufficiently political", and he should be removed.
Their sectarian manner however was markedly unsuccessful in dislodging Bland. The membership was a wide United Front covering all walks of life – with people whose common link was simply an interest, passion, and admiration for Albania. They rejected the narrow-minded sectarian attempt to remove Bland. Interestingly at that time, even the liaison committee of the PSRA supported Bland’s stance of a United Front perspective for the Albania Society, which beat back the sectarian attack. The Society continued till the revisionist take-over of the PSRA by Ramiz Alia, at which point Bland resigned from the Albania Society. Bland openly exposed Ramiz Alia immediately in print. The sectarians, who had tried to grab the Albania Society before, now proceeded to defend Alia for a long period indeed, beyond any credible claim that the PSRA was still under socialist governance.
It was primarily differences over Bland’s analysis of Albania as Socialist (It is true there were also some secondary causes) that later precipitated the split in the MLOB in 1975, following which, the Communist League came into existence. The Communist League from its inception always supported the PSRA as the solitary socialist state. Those that stayed with the MLOB, including Mike Baker and his supporters, rejected that position. Thankfully, the best of the MLOB supporters world wide, later came to a correct analysis of the PSRA, thereby rejecting Baker’s analysis.
One especial aspect of modern revisionism, to which Bland paid close attention, was the subversion of socialism into national democratic deviations. This represented a new development from the time that Stalin had elaborated the Marxist-Leninist theory of the nation. Into these categories, Bland placed the pseudo-‘socialist’ revolutions of China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam and Tanzania. His close study of the National Question enabled Bland to detect national deviations away from socialist revolution, such as the "Black Nation" in the USA, "Black Racism" and "Scottish, Welsh and Cornish Nationalism", in Britain.
Very early on in Bland’s systematic
investigations, he made a crucial link:
If the Soviet Union had been permeated by a class war involving the highest echelons of the Party, was the Comintern any different? Again a whole host of questions arose. Why had the Comintern performed so many about-turns on key questions such as the nature of the United Front? Was Stalin really in control of the Comintern as painted by the Trotskyites? Why had the Peoples Front governments been supported beyond any credible point by European communist parties, especially in France, in assisting a fascist take-over? And why did the ultra-left rejections of a united front of the late 1920’s swing suddenly into ultra-right distortions of a correct United Front policy? Etc.
Bland argued that the first ultra-left deviations in the Comintern, in the period from about 1924 to 1928 had allowed fascism to take power in Germany. In the same period, under the cover of this ultra-leftism, Manuilsky and Kussinen had destroyed the Indian revolution by sabotaging Stalin’s line of the Workers and Peasants parties. Bland argued that the second right deviations, from about 1930 onwards had prevented the masses of Europe taking power under Communist Party direction.
It was Bland who ‘heretically’ pointed out that Stalin had not been in a leadership position in the Comintern since around 1924. Initially of course Zinoviev had exercised the leadership, and thereafter Bukharin. When both were exposed as revisionists they were removed from further influencing the Comintern. Thereafter Dimitrov, Otto Kuusinen, and Dimitri Manuilskii exercised the Comintern leadership. Bland argued they had perverted a correct implementation of Marxism-Leninism. Dimitrov had been sprung from the German Fascist prisons thanks to a rather dubious, and surprising "leniency" of the German fascists. "Why?", asked Bland, replying that a pact had been struck. Indeed Dimitrov went on to subvert United Front tactics into the right deviation of supporting "Popular Front" governments beyond Marxist-Leninist principles of the correct United Front tactics.
It was for these reasons, argued Bland, that the Comintern was dissolved by Stalin. Stalin then created the Cominform under a completely different leadership, led by his most trusted lieutenants such as Zhdanov. It must be remembered said Bland, that it was the Cominform that had exposed the Western Communist parties plans for implementing right deviationist policies, and the Titoites for allying with the USA. During this latter historic confrontation Stalin overtly supported Albania and Hoxha against Tito.
That the Trotskyites attacked the Comintern, has led to an "automatic" knee-jerk response in its defense by many Marxist-Leninists. This was/is the philosophy of: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend". Bland eschewed such simplicity, pointing out further details such as the known coolness between Dimitrov and Stalin, and the bitter clash over the "customs union of Tito’s Yugoslavia" over the Balkans.
To logical analysis, Bland’s critics retorted unconvincingly with such weighty comments as "But Stalin ordered flowers for Dimitrov’s coffin", or simply with vituperation, or more commonly silence. To date, a full analytical counter-reply has not been forthcoming. Moreover, a key similarity between Maoist left-revisionism and Dimitrov revisionism has not received enough critical attention - Both halted the revolution at the national democratic stage.
Apart from the historical truth of all this, these questions have a profound strategic and tactical importance today. What is the correct role of the United Front and what limits does it impose upon the working class representatives participating?
We await a definitive answer to the historical question on Dimitrov. But whichever way future analyses go, Bland’s un-flinching ability to raise and answer difficult questions, will have assisted the Marxist-Leninist movement – even in this still controversial area. To the very end of his life, Bland would eagerly devour the latest data released from the archives to continually challenge himself:
This was the spirit of his initiation of the Stalin Society in Britain after the clear exposure of Right Soviet neo-revisionism provided a renewed opportunity to win ex-members of the CPGB to Marxism-Leninism. He was also one of the essential founding forces of "International Struggle Marxism-Leninism" (ISML). Believing in principled unity, he repeatedly urged collaboration, communication, and possible ultimate merging with the rival Quito international grouping. Bland detested all sectarianism, deriding the myriad "parties" of "One man and a dog who prefer to stay that way so long as the man is the leader!" He had a rather considerable humour, usually aimed at deflating any pomposity and arrogance. He had an absolute ‘irreverence’ for the making of icons devoid of analysis.
In Britain the logic of his non-sectarianism, position led the Communist League to urge the principled unity of all Marxist-Leninist forces, hence Bland’s role in the National Committee for A Marxist-Leninist Unity (NCMLU). He was always unconcerned about whether there was any "primacy" for one party trend, so long as Marxist-Leninist principles were adhered to. Regrettably, the objective conditions for the formation of a party free from revisionist trends were not ripe, although this always remained his goal. He never did see that party re-birth.
But he believed utterly in Lenin’s dictum that without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary practice. In following that dictum he laid foundation stones for later generations, and for that party re-birth. His theoretical contributions were enormous and it is for these that he will be remembered. In our view, he should be honored as the communist historian of modern revisionism.
For the Communist League and Alliance Marxist-Leninist (North America), Bland was our intellectual and practical leader. His influence, far transcends our current small size. We believe that in time, all Marxist-Leninists will come to acknowledge his enormous contributions.
Red Salute to Bill Bland!
An article from Communist League & Alliance - Originally submited to Proeltarian path India April 6th 2001; slighltly modified June 14th & placed on the world web then.
SEE SOME ARTICLES BY BLAND VIA:
The Home page Communist League at: COMMUNIST LEAGUE
The Home page Alliance at: HOME PAGE ALLIANCE
His book: The Restoration of capitalism at:
This book was originally placed on web by Alliance, in 1998.
See also: BLAND, William B. (ed.) Albania. World Bibliographical
Series, vol. 94. (Clio Press, Oxford 1988).