Democratic Green Stalinist?

I don’t tend to use this site for real time political polemics (see here for a rare example), However, I followed the recommendation from Socialist Unity for the new issue of Democratic Green Socialist‘s new special 1989 issue. And I found most of the issue taken up with caveated apologies for Stalinism, with nostalgia for Uncle Joe. The issue shows that, even in 2009, Stalinophilia remains a persistent problem on the left. For example, Anne Edmonds says the DDR and the Stasi weren’t all that bad, Luke Ivory says “defend October” (a Stalinophiliac trope), John Wight laments the passing of the USSR, Andy Newman says there was good as well as bad in the DDR. Kevin Williamson‘s excellent article, “Freedom is a Noble Thing”, is a shining exception, and Graham Jepps’ brief review of Victor Serge’s The Case of Comrade Tuleyev is good too. Here’s Williamson:

[…] The collapse of the Berlin Wall was another such occasion best swept under the leftist carpet.  All over the world million rightly celebrated whilst many on the Marxist left grumbled privately among themselves.  Instead of raising a glass of cheer to the overthrow of the totalitarian regimes of Easter Europe they rued what might have been and predicted gloom and doom “under capitalism” for those who lived in the former Communist Bloc countries.

Many on the left still harken back nostalgically to a time when supposedly progressive leftist regimes created repressive obscenities like the Cheka (December 1917) and the Stasi (1950).  How could such a state of confusion exist?  What do secret police and surveillance and repression of political opponents have to do with progressive politics? Are universal suffrage and free elections not the foundations stones of democratic progress?

How could the left have become so blasé about democracy?  Lest we forget Chartists and Suffragettes had given their liberty, and even their lives, to prise universal suffrage from the grasp of a privileged elite.  It is on their traditions and gains the modern progressive leftist stands.  Only an obsolete antideluvian left would be as politically disorientated as to utilise the methods and ideology of revolutionary movements which took place in pre-democratic eras.
[…]

For the progressive left the concepts of freedom and democracy need to be positioned at the centre of everything.  The real challenge is to find new innovative ways to extend and deepen democracy into every area of life – economic and social – rather than undermine it through a contemptuous attitude towards its current failings.  It’s a challenge that will sort out the liberationist wheat from the authoritarian chaff.

P.S. To further avoid sectarianism, here are a couple of recommendations from the back issue: John Wight on James Connolly, Willie Duncan on Barca FC, and Stewart Hunter on the Spanish Civil War.

UPDATE: For the antidote, read this wonderful short post about 1989 at Facing The War.

UPDATE 2: From the new Socialist Review: Mark L Thomas, Mike Haynes and Colin Barker look at the tumultuous events of 1989 that brought down the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe and Russia, and the impact of market capitalism which replaced them. Chris Harman looks back at the fall of the Berlin Wall and the continued relevence of the theory of state capitalism.

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Published in: on November 16, 2009 at 2:33 pm  Comments (13)  
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Poumed

At the head of everything is God, the Lord of Heaven.
Everyone knows that.
Then comes Prince Torlonia, lord of the earth.
Then come Prince Torlonia’s guards.
Then come Prince Torlonia’s guards’ dogs.
Then, nothing at all.
Then, nothing at all.
Then, nothing at all.
Then come the peasants. And that’s all.

~ Ignazio Silone, Fontamara (1931). (via @ndy)

Debates and arguments: David Cesarani, Marek Edelman and Michal Kaminski – click the link from Engage, then return to read the comment thread.

From the magazine rack: 1989 Timothy Garton Ash (NYRB); What Is to Be Learned? Thinking about 1989 Mitchell Cohen (Dissent); The Memory That Will Not Die: Exhuming the Spanish Civil War Julius Purcell (Boston Review); 100 Years of Servitude: Gabriel García Márquez’s Infatuation With Castro and Other Dictators Enrique Krauze (New Republic); Terry Teachout on the Congress for Cultural Freedom (Commentary).

Book reviews: John Gray on Robert Service’s Trotsky; Jonathan Yardley on Kati Marton’s Enemies of the People; DG Myers on two Lionel Trilling biographies; Colm Toibin on Sheila Rowbotham’s Edward Carpenter.

Some Irving Kristol obits I missed: Christopher Hitchens, David Brooks, Myron MagnetEric Alterman , Michael Lind, Justin Vaïsse, Kevin Mattson, Seth Lipsky, John Guardiano, Christopher DeMuth, Mary Eberstadt, Joseph Epstein, Danny Finkelstein.

Archival: Walter Lacquer on Why the Shah fell (1979).

Democratiya

I don’t know if it’s been there for a while, but I just noticed that Dissent has an archive of really nicely pdfed back issues of Democratiya. Here are some gems:

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