Duncan Hallas

Fighting anti-communism

(March 1985)

From Reviews, Socialist Worker Review, No.74, March 1985, p.30.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Socialist Register 1984
Merlin Press. £5.50

THE CURRENT Socialist Register (dated 1984, but this annual always appears at the end of the year) is devoted to a single theme: The Uses of Anti-Communism.

It is a good idea and the editors have pulled together a great deal of valuable material.

Especially interesting and informative are the pieces on Fighting the Cold War on the Home front: America, Britain, Australia and Canada (by Reg Whitaker) and Ernest Bevin and the Cold War: 1945-50 by John Saville, a devastatingly effective demonstration of the central role of the British Labour Party in promoting cold war politics in Europe and Asia.

The other essays, (there are 14 in all) are uneven but almost always instructive.

The theme of the book is clearly stated in the opening paragraph of the first article: Reflections on Anti-Communism by Ralph Miliband and Marcel Liebman.

‘Ever since the Bolshevik Revolution of October, anti-communism has been a dominant theme in the political warfare waged by conservative forces against the left, communist and non-communist; and, since 1945 and the onset of the Cold War in particular, anti-communism has been ceaselessly disseminated by a multitude of different sources and means – newspapers, radio, television, films, articles, pamphlets, books, speeches, sermons, official documents – in a massive enterprise of propaganda and indoctrination. No subject other than “communism” has received anything like the same volume of criticism and denunciation.’

Absolutely right, and the reactionary intentions and effects of this brain-washing operation are well demonstrated in the book.

There is a problem though, and a very serious weakness in this book. The real nature of the ‘communism’ denounced by the conservative, fascist and social-democratic propagandists has changed fundamentally since the triumph of Stalinism in the USSR.

Of course it is true that nearly every rebel movement, working class or otherwise, that appears to threaten the rule of big business anywhere is denounced as ‘communist’. But so are the rulers of the USSR and the other Stalinist states.

Of course they are not. Miliband and Liebman recognise this.

‘The socialist project means, and certainly meant for Marx, the subordination of the state to society. Precisely the reverse characterises the Soviet system ... The domination of the state in that system is assured by an extremely hierarchical, tightly controlled and fiercely monopolistic party aided by a formidable police apparatus ... To call this ‘socialism’ is to degrade the concept to the level assigned to it by its enemies.’

It could have been better put. To describe as ‘Soviet’ a regime which murderously represses every attempt at independent working class organisation, let alone workers’ councils, is to accept the lying hypocrisy of American and Russian propagandists. Still, we are agreed, the Stalinist regimes have nothing to do with socialism or communism. They are hostile to both, as hostile as Reagan or Thatcher.

Unfortunately, most of the contributors to this volume, in so far as they address the question, assume the opposite. In particular, Jon Halliday’s Anti-Communism and the Korean War 1950-53 is an unblushing apologia for the vicious, anti-working class dictatorship of Kim II Sung.

This said, the book is worthy of study. A good deal can be learned from it. And since it is likely to be ignored in ‘respectable’ quarters, local libraries should be pestered to get it.


Last updated on 31.12.2004