Communism and the English monarchy

You have to give it to Stalin for some creative thoughts regarding communism. In the afterglow of the stunning victory over Hitler’s Germany in the Second World War, he explored the many possible paths to communism. On one occasion (March 1945) , he said to Tito, ‘today socialism is possible even under the English monarchy. Revolution is no longer necessary everywhere … Yes, socialism is possible even under an English king’ (Roberts, Stalin’s Wars, p. 247).

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3 thoughts on “Communism and the English monarchy

  1. Stalin’s contribution to the great post-WWII spread of democracy (the liberal bourgeois kind included) has not been fully appreciated and I am glad Roberts corrects that. There are some Russian authors I believe also high-lighting Stalin’s commitment to democracy within the USSR as well, especially with the development of the 1936 constitution.

    As much as some (generally Western) Maoists would like to deny it, the Roberts book shows indisputably that Stalin’s ideas are an indispensable part of the thought of Mao Zedong. Is it merely a coincidence that Mao fleshed out his theory of new democracy, after Stalin began experimenting with a new type of bourgeois democracy in Eastern Europe, which he (vainly) hoped would please his allies? Are Mao’s ideas that it is necessary for a revolutionary society in the developing world to pass through a new type of democracy, fundamentally different on that point? In both cases, there were reasons why the countries in question couldn’t pass to socialism right away, nor could they pass into traditional bourgeois democracy which is a model based on societies that had hundreds of years to develop and were massively enriched by colonialism. Neither options were open to China or Eastern Europe at the time.

    There is the issue of whether Stalin’s endorsement of the possibility of attaining socialism under the English monarchy is opportunism, a kind face to please his Western allies, or sincerely felt. I don’t think any of the founders of the Marxist-Leninist tradition were under the impression that violent socialist seizure of power would need to happen everywhere, at once. Historically, bourgeois revolutions didn’t need to kill all aristocrats or overthrow all monarchies to bring about a new world. In fact, for a time the bourgeoisie were “the bedrock of the great monarchies” as Marx pointed out in the manifesto. Did Stalin think that a transformation was possible along similar lines?

    I would say there are moments where Stalin is definitely skeptical about the results of parliamentarian paths to socialism and even takes up a Maoist positions. For instance, he ridiculed Czech comrades who believed there were no enemies in the party and had advocates of economic liberalization shot despite the lax atmosphere of the post-WWII USSR.

    Lastly, are Stalin (and Mao’s) conception of a new type of bourgeois democracy (the transition to the transition to communism!) compatible with their vigorous approach to class struggle even within their own socialist societies?

  2. Good point about the ‘new democracy’ material in Mao. I suspect that Stalin was pushing ideas on the English monarchy, but it’s a good quote. Even with a violent revolution, one can possibly see a constitutional monarchy – as an empty figurehead – actually playing a role (as indeed happened with bourgeois revolutions). It would be a unique approach, since usually they are put on the chopping block. As for socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics, I do have some thoughts on that over here: http://materializmidialektik.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Boer_Socialism.pdf

  3. Thank you for the reply, I wish I had seen it earlier. Roberts mentioned that the war crisis forced Allied democracies to become more and more state-capitalist, so that for a time it seemed like the old bourgeois democracies of the West and the Peoples Democracies were converging, becoming more alike.Massive progressive taxation, nationalization, state-management and regulation of industries, even land reform in defeated countries, it seemed like the West was aping the East more and more. Stalin implicitly recognized this when he told representatives of the Peoples Democracies that they had a new kind of democracy, so they shouldn’t be in a hurry to ape the Western democracies but rather to “let them imitate you”.

    For a while he seemed to be born out on that prediction. Old world democracies like France and Britain became models of state-capitalism. The US tax on top earners was 91% until 1964 and occupation officials in Japan passed sweeping land reforms. However, the converge quickly began to unravel 1. because of the West’s imperialist nature 2. because of the communist parties of the Peoples Republics. Stalin had sold the idea to the West on the premise that they would be friendly to the West and the USSR. That pro-Western parties and factions could participate in them and that even Western capital could be part of the rebuild process. Who knows if Stalin was sincere in this belief, Roberts suggests he was. We do know that the communists in the Eastern countries fell out with the monumentally corrupt and idiotic bourgeois-landlord resistance movements. In effect, not only did it become a bourgeois revolution but a bourgeois revolution led by a communist party, excercising dictatorship over reactionaries.

    For a time though Stalin entertained interesting ideas like retaining the Bulgarian monarchy, which had actually done its best to resist Hitler, and personally signing onto CPB “Britain’s Road to Socialism” (which is still controversial in some circles).

    As for China, I have some experience with the Chinese people, but I’ve never visited and am planning a near-future trip. Ordinary Chinese abroad do not seem afraid or even much repressed by their government, I suspect this has more to do with the legacy of the revolution then the good will of those in charge today. However, the line of their government seems a great deal like Kruschev’s line and Mao never minced words about the post-stalin USSR he referred to it as a “German fascist-style dictatorship” of the big bourgeoisie. Mao even believed that if the same thing were to happen in China that the CPC would become a fascist party and China an imperialist country.

    Though even bourgeois sources have found the Chinese government to be more responsive to democratic pressure than “democratic” Russia
    (https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ivan-krastev/is-china-more-democratic-than-russia). But I personally consider the social-democratic origins of Marxism (and Leninism) to be a fatal flaw of our movement. It leads back to capitalism as Stalin realized before he died (most likely murdered) that’s why he intended to repress advocates of liberalization and put communism on the agenda.

    This book helped put into context the mix of capitalist and socialist elements in China that you mentioned in your article. You might find it interesting: http://monthlyreview.org/books/pb9681/

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