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John Passant

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August 2011



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



The Berlin Wall: tearing down Stalinism’s anti-working class legacy

50 years ago the Stalinist dictatorship in East Germany began building the Berlin Wall. The aim was to prevent workers leaving the ‘socialist paradise’  for the capitalist West.

This abomination captures the barbaric essence of stalinism and its complete contempt for and rule over the working class.

The Eastern European ‘communist’ regimes came to power not through any revolutionary working class activity but on the back of the Red Army. 

The idea that these dictatorships were in any way ‘socialist’ countries undermines one of the key points of Marxism – that only the working class can win the battle for socialism.

As Marx and Engels put in in different publications ‘the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself’. Not I would stress the act of the Red Army, or guerrilla armies or intellectuals or peasants or various combinations of these social groupings on behalf of the working class or in its name, but the working class itself.

The Stalinist regimes were dictatorships over the working class, aimed at extracting surplus from that class for the tiny minority – the leadership of the various communist parties – to make decisions about its reinvestment.

In East Germany the flow of workers to the West threatened that project. The dictatorship, having among other things put down a working class rebellion in 1953, had no legitimacy among the workers in whose name it supposedly ruled.

It responded to the loss of workers with the only weapon it could muster to protect its version of capital accumulation – force.

The result was  a wall to stop the flow of workers to the West and imprison them in the state capitalist production process.

And for over three decades the model ‘worked’. The Stalinist regimes survived. Indeed between 1945 and 1970 the USSR was the second fastest growing economy in the world, after Japan.

But state capitalist production was in its mature stages inefficient compared to the West. To paraphrase Marx and Engels the cheap prices of commodities and military competition were the heavy artillery with which the Western bourgeoisie battered down the Berlin Wall.

but let’s not undermine the fact that the movements against stalinism were mass movements. The old ruling class was pushed and at the same time many jumped.

The magnificent revolutions against the Stalinist monstrosities parading as socialism were political revolutions. They did not challenge the exploitative relationship of capital over labour; they changed its form.

The legacy of stalinism hangs heavy on much of the Left.  This cancer  has destroyed the  idea of the self emancipation of the working class and human liberation as being at the centre of the socialist project.

It means many socialists see the model of socialism in state capitalist regimes like Cuba or Vietnam or the struggle of peasants and the dispossessed as the basis for socialism.

For the left the form – property relations – should not dominate the substance – who controls the state.

To date the best example we have of a working class in power is the Russian revolution. The failure of the revolution to spread t the more advanced countries of Europe – although it was a close run thing in some cases – the destruction of the Russian working class as a class during the Civil War and western intervention all contributed to the degeneration of the revolution and the rise of Stalinism.

There have been working class upsurges, revolts and revolutions in varying degrees since then. Germany from 1918 to 1923, China 1925 to 1927, the Civil War in Spain, the workers’ uprisings against Stalinism after the second world war in East Berlin, Hungary and Poland, May 68 in France,  Portugal in 1974, Iran in 1978 and 1979, Bolivia in 2005, all show the potential for working class revolution.

The uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, the demonstrations and occupations in Europe, give hope to the genuine left that the agent of social change, the working class, can move on to the stage of history and end the barbarism that is capitalism.

The processes at work are at the moment apparently slow and subterranean. But like November 1989 when the Wall fell, all that is solid can melt into air.

The old mole of class struggle is burrowing away, appearing here and there only to burrow down again, readying itself for the next grand battles.

The building of the Berlin Wall 50 years ago and its destruction just under 30 years later highlight both the false god that is stalinism and the potential to remake the world. 

If we on the left are about human liberation we must reject the Stalinist legacy and its physical and intellectual walls and turn once again to Marx and the working class. The emancipation of the working class as the act of the working class, and with it the emancipation of  humanity, must become again our watchword and guide to action and activity.



Comment from MarianK
Time August 14, 2011 at 10:08 am

Noticeably absent from this account is Venezuela. I’d be interested to read your thoughts on the aims and achievements of Chavez’ ‘Socialism for the 21st century’ within this context.

Comment from John
Time August 14, 2011 at 11:44 am

Venezuela: revoution stalled

Which way now in Latin America?

Comment from John
Time August 14, 2011 at 11:50 am

Cuba: stalinism isn’t socialism

Does socialism exist in the world today?

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