How to marginalise Stalin

Submitted by martin on 13 May, 2013 - 8:52

I share Eric Lee's revulsion at the portraits of Stalin on banners at the London May Day march (Solidarity 285), but disagree with his proposed solution: a "no-platform" for the Stalinists.

London's May Day march is different from other cities' because the organising committee insists on holding it on 1 May, usually a working day, rather than on a nearby weekend or holiday.

In these times there is no possibility of large numbers of workers striking to join the march. No-one even tries to organise that. Consequently the march is small. Union banners are often carried by full-time officials or retired people. Turkish and other Stalinist groups which focus their effort on this annual event can dominate, even though they are no visible factor in any other labour movement mobilisation in London.

Because of the Turkish and other Stalinist domination, few even of the trade unionists and leftists who could get to the march because they work odd hours, or can take the day as annual holiday, bother to do so. The march becomes even smaller, the prominence of the Stalin banners even greater...

The first remedy is to move the march to a weekend or holiday. After many years of small May Days, to get reasonable labour movement mobilisation will take effort; but it is not impossible.

With a sizeable labour movement mobilisation, the Stalin banners will automatically become marginal.

Although Stalin's repression of the working class was fascistic, the people carrying the Stalin banners are not fascists. They reckon themselves left-wingers, and on the direct struggle of workers against capitalists in Britain or in Turkey they are in fact left-wingers, of a sort.

To ban them would get us into murky waters. Exactly what is banned? Stalin's portrait? The name of Stalin? Any organisation known to be Stalinist? Reference to other rulers of despotic nationalised economies? Mao? Castro? Che Guevara?

What of the risk that the union officials would respond to pressure for a ban in a typical bureaucratic way, by simply outlawing all political banners or slogans on the march?

Much better to go with an open policy. An attempt by fascists to join the march should be repulsed: but that attitude can be limited to fascists.

In that framework, and with a bigger march, there would be scope for us to do with the Stalinists what some AWL comrades did in 2009 with a contingent of the Sinhalese-chauvinist JVP on the London May Day march: challenge them, heckle them, demand answers. (The JVP quit the march).

It might also be workable for the march organisers to exclude the biggest Stalin banners - some are huge - by a simple rule that no banner on the march should be bigger than the lead banner.

Much better to deal with the Stalinists politically, by mobilisation and argument, than by an administrative ban.

* May Day 2009

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