CELEBRATING THE OCTOBER REVOLUTION
On Nov. 11th, organised by the Committee to Celebrate the October Revolution, a grand rally, attended by more than 250 people was held in the City Club, Wakefield. Prof. Vic Allen chaired the meeting and, apart from Comrade Arthur Scargill, Harpal Brar and Sukant Chandan (SLP Youth) addressed the Rally. There was a cultural programme, with a performance by Dick Gaughan.
Yorkshire SLP comrades are to be congratulated for their dedicated and hard work in making this occasion the success that it was. We reproduce below a slightly shortened version of Comrade Scargill’s speech. Space will not allow us to reproduce any other speakers’ contributions.
“Eighty-three years ago, the Soviet October Revolution shook the world — it was a revolution different from all others that had gone before, including the war against Britain which established the United States of America and the French Revolution of 1789.
“The essential difference was that for the first time – unlike the North American War of Independence or the French Revolution – the birth of the Soviet Union saw workers take political and economic control of the entire system.
“Tonight’s event must be a celebration and not merely a commemoration of that earth-shattering event, and it should be an evening when we pay tribute to those who created the Soviet Union — a Socialist society which not only defeated poverty, ignorance, injustice and inequality but also defeated the mightiest fascist war machine ever seen on the face of the earth.
“Nearly 60 years ago, country after country whose governments prayed at the altar of capitalism, and surrounded themselves with the trappings of the ‘free market’, fell like a pack of cards before the brutality of the Nazis, intent on world domination.
“I am sick and tired of listening to the so-called ‘experts’ who today still criticise the Soviet Union and its leadership – and in particular, Stalin – at that time for not being ready, not having enough resources nor having the military strength necessary to withstand or stop the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
“It ill becomes capitalist countries like France, which was over-run effectively during the lunch break, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Greece, Poland and Czechoslovakia, all of which collapsed within days, to criticise what was still a fledgling Soviet Union, only established since 1917 – at a time when it was a peasant society with virtually no industry – for not being ‘ready’ for the Nazis in 1941.
“Such criticism is even more hypocritical when we remember that Britain’s imperial might had to evacuate from France, leaving a massive army stranded on the beaches of Normandy, whilst at home, conscript soldiers trained with wooden sticks – I know this because my father was one of them.
“It was always the intention of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany to smash the Soviet Union, and Stalin and Zhukov should be praised and not condemned, for without their leadership, Britain as other countries would today have been under the yoke of a fascist Europe, rather than a Germany-dominated European Union.
“The Second World War produced a clash of Titanic proportions – a clash between the highest form of capitalism – fascism – and a Socialist system led by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
“It was in every sense a war of ideologies, with the military might of Nazi Germany – in the highest form of capitalism – aided and abetted by many social democrats, inflicting the most horrendous casualties: some 27 million Soviet men, women and children.
“Only now, and then reluctantly, are military historians being forced to recognise that the Soviet Red Army led by Stalin and Zhukov outfought, outgunned in every department, a fascist force thought by most to be invincible.
“We should all remember with pride that is was the Red Army that defeated the German forces at the gates of Moscow and in the historic city of Leningrad, where nearly 1 million Soviet citizens died, saving their city and their country.
“But above all we should remember Stalingrad. Hitler had declared that it was at this city – that bore the name of Joseph Stalin – that the Nazi Army would triumph and the Red Army would be vanquished.
“The battle both militarily and ideologically was won for Socialism and lost for fascism at Stalingrad The city which bore Stalin’s name had become, and remains, a symbol for both sides.
“The battle for Stalingrad was one of the greatest battles of all time, and when victory came under Stalin and Zhukov’s brilliant leadership, people throughout the Soviet Union were inspired.
“A Soviet officer wounded there said later: ‘After Stalingrad not one single soldier had a single doubt about the outcome of the war.’
“It was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany — it was the swastika which was trampled in the mud from Moscow to Berlin and it was the hammer and sickle which flew over the Reichstag.
“Socialism – without market forces – had defeated capitalism in its highest form!
“However, to commemorate and celebrate the Revolution’s victory in 1917 and the Red Army’s defeat of fascism in the Second World War is not in itself sufficient.
“As Marxists and Socialists we have to learn not only about the successes, but about the mistakes of the past, in order that they should never, ever occur again.
“The Soviet Union emerged from the Second World War battered and devastated, but with its Socialist economy devoid of the market system.
“It was this still-infant Socialist system that was able to feed its people, educate them to a standard unequalled and to provide a health care system which actually provided care for all.
“Despite the devastation it had endured, this Socialist system was not only able to match but outstrip countries like the United States in technological advance – it was the Soviets who first put a man into space. They did so without the obscenities of the market economy, including Coca Cola plants and McDonalds fast-food chains, or what some misguided souls believe is ‘freedom and democracy’.
“Following the death of Stalin in 1953, new forces seized control in the Soviet Union, and a so-called ‘new realism’ began to take the place of Socialist planning. Khruschev, Breznev, later Andropov, Chernenko, but, above all, Gorbachev did what the might of the Nazi army had failed to do – they ripped the heart out of the Soviet Union and destroyed its Socialist system. They opened the door to the ‘free market’ which has produced mass unemployment, poverty, a life expectancy of 46 (compared with 76 under Soviet Socialism), and which provides education for some and no education for others; provides health care for some and no health care for others.
“Who were among the very first to rush to the Soviet Union to applaud Gorbachev’s market economy? Gerry Healy and Vanessa Redgrave of the WRP – a Trotskyite duo whose thinking was as muddled as that of their mentor.
“In learning the lessons of what has taken place in the Soviet Union, we must – as Marxists – apply those lessons both here and internationally.
“Here in Britain, the Socialist Labour Party was born as a result of the social democratic party ‘New Labour’ betraying any purported commitment to Socialism and the fundamental principles of common ownership and control. The SLP of James Connolly was reborn to bring together all genuine Left parties and Socialists and Communists who want a change here in Britain.
“We in Socialist Labour are anti-European Union, but pro-European working class.
“In Britain, which is facing a series of terrible crises, the SLP has a national programme for the economic and political future of this country, but we are internationalists who condemn the unlawful bombing of Yugoslavia and Iraq, and the economic sanctions and blockades against Iraq, Libya, Korea and above all, Cuba. The SLP is a political party recognised by Cuba, Vietnam, Korea and the South African Communist Party.
“In facing up to the crises that confront us, we must not be seduced by social democrats such as Livingstone, the man elected Mayor of London with the support of the Establishment , and a man who only a few months after his election has appointed a former CIA agent to run the London Underground.
Comrade Scargill then went on to speak about a whole number of issues ranging from unemployment, the health service, education etc. In education, he said, standards are being eroded with the result that we have got a two-tiered system with schools being closed or privatised, the pensioners, he said, as a result of the break in the link between pensions and current earnings, are being deprived of £30 per week in the case of a single person and £40 per week for couples. Denouncing the previous Tory administrations and the current Labour Government’s insane policies on privatisation he said: “I would call for all industries and services to be kept in or returned to public ownership. The annual profits are £30 billion – more than22 enough to pay for the £13 billion we need for health and £4 billion needed for education”. He condemned the continuation by Labour of the Tories’ “butchery of the deep-mining coal industry” and “the insane dash to gas”. Referring to important recent struggles to protect jobs and conditions, he vehemently denounced “the leadership of labour and trade-union movement, who have refused to fight against anti-trade union legislation”. As to the Labour Party itself, he said “the past 18 years … have seen a systematic … cleansing” of socialists both in the trade union movement and in the Labour Party, which, he said, has become “a party with a capitalist agenda”. On the question of Ireland he demanded the establishment of “a united Ireland, with every citizen having the right to determine their own destiny, irrespective of their background or religion, – … a united socialist Ireland”.
He went on to say that “there is an alternative to collaboration – and that is to resist.” In this context, referring to the defeat of the Poll Tax by people taking to the streets, and the heroic miners’ strike of 1984-85, backed by the determination of the coal workers, he said: “Today, with all the set backs and mass destruction of the mining industry, it is Arthur Scargill that is still leading the NUM, whilst those who were in the vanguard of the forces that sought to destroy us, have all either left the stage or jumped ship – and all have been totally discredited.”
On the question of racism he said: “The rise of racism and fascism is not being halted by mealy-mouthed politicians, or a judiciary and institutionalised racist police force that operates on behalf of the State.
“We should never forget fascism was responsible for over 40 million deaths in the Second World War, and institutionalised racism is as bad or even worse than the racism caused primarily by ignorance.”
He concluded to loud applause and a standing ovation, lasting several minutes with the following inspiring words:
“New Labour represents a corrupt and vicious capitalist system – a system that thrives on division, whether it be in Cyprus, the former Soviet Union, Ireland or Yugoslavia.
“The years of struggle in our movement have resulted in many people becoming hard and cynical, so much so that at the start of this new century many are ashamed of proclaiming their faith in Socialism.
“Why not heed the words of the poet Wordsworth, and paint ‘the vision splendid’? Why not describe more fully what a Socialist society could and should be like?
“In recent times, that vision has been missing from our politics —from our speeches, our press and our pamphlets.
“If one talks about the ‘gleam’ of Socialism one is accused of sentimentality.
“Yet I am today more than ever convinced that it was this kind of inspiration that gave birth to an indestructible urge which helped the pioneers of the Movement to keep fighting, in conditions that were much harder than those we face today.
“If we believe in building a better, caring society and a world freed from poverty, bigotry and war then as both Wordsworth and Harry Pollitt said, let’s “paint the vision splendid” of a Socialist Britain and a Socialist world!”