British CP and Morning Star go Third Period

November 10, 2016 at 9:32 pm (apologists and collaborators, CPB, Europe, fantasy, fascism, history, Jim D, left, misogyny, populism, Putin, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", stalinism, Trump, United States, workers)

Image result for marine le pen Trump caricature

2017 Nightmare: Presidents Le Pen, Trump and Putin (Financial Times): big chance for the left?

In 1928 the Stalinised Communist International (Comintern) adopted the  “Third Period” line which led the German Communist Party to denounce the Social Democrats as “social fascists” and dismiss the threat of Hitler taking power: it said “fascism” was already in power, and another form of “fascism” could thus be no new threat; and anyway, “after Hitler, our turn next!”.

The reality of Nazi rule led the Comintern to drop the Third period approach in 1934 and seek alliances with bourgeois forces via the so-called “Popular Front.”

Historical analogies are never 100% accurate, but the similarities with the Third Period were apparent as the Communist Party of Britain and their follow ‘Left Exit’ fantasists tried to give the Tory/UKIP dominated Leave cause a left-wing figleaf during the referendum campaign. This has led to some extraordinary Daily Mail-style editorials in the Morning Star (the CPB’s de facto mouthpiece) culminating in a shameful attack on parliamentary democracy and the campaigners who brought the High Court case forcing the Tories to acknowledge parliamentary control over Brexit.

The CPB  and Morning Star have continued their lurch towards Third Periodism in their coverage of the US Presidential election. An article in August accused Clinton of “demonis[ing]” Trump and praised his “sensible comments about the anti-Russia, anti-Putin hysteria rampant among policy-makers of both parties.”

The suspicion that the Morning Star‘s formal neutrality between Clinton and Trump (in itself a respectable enough stance, taken for instance by most Trotskyists) wasn’t in reality quite so “neutral” as all that, has been confirmed by todays editorial, which (after a few words about Trump’s racism and misogyny) includes the following:

Some commentators highlight Trump’s different tone taken in his acceptance speech, with platitudes about being president for all Americans, as though willing Trump to come into line.

This desire regards political normalcy as the target for all politicians, although it lies in tatters today.

Trump’s election isn’t alone in pulverising this discredited thesis. Britain’s referendum decision to leave the EU has similar aspects.

Both campaigns were derided by Establishment politicians and liberal media outlets from the outset.

Those whose votes secured the election of a self-styled outsider as US president and said No to membership of an unaccountable, institutionally neoliberal, bureaucratic EU superstate were demeaned as racists, xenophobes and idiots by liberal elites unable to believe that their conventional wisdom had been spurned.

Polling organisations’ failure to foresee the result of either phenomenon illustrates an inability to identify or empathise with those who have had enough and want something better.

There will certainly have been racists, xenophobes and idiots involved in both campaigns just as there were backing Clinton and Remain.

Insulting voters for their temerity in disagreeing with a business-as-usual agenda in these terms breeds resentment and makes political revolt more likely.

When defamatory name-calling is conjoined with efforts to dress up the Establishment choice — whether Hillary Clinton or the EU — as the “progressive” alternative, self-delusion takes over and assumes Emperor’s New Clothes dimensions.


Millions of working-class US voters have seen closed factories, lost jobs and plummeting living standards as their material basis for voting Trump because of his pledge to overturn free trade deals championed by Clinton.

Will Trump honour this pledge or be able to carry it through Congress?

Time will tell, but the possibility exists that those who backed him on this issue will mobilise seriously to insist that there is no backtracking.

The genie of working-class revolt, albeit scarred with unattractive features, is out the bottle and may not be so easily restrained again.

Cross-party neoliberal consensus is crumbling in the US, in Britain and across Europe too, which demands a socialist intervention.

Or, to put it another way: “After Trump, our turn next!”

(NB: I should add that I don’t disagree with the need to understand why workers are attracted by ultra-right wing racist populism as exemplified by Brexit and Trump, and to then argue for a socialist alternative – but I do object to the stupid and dangerous delusion that these movements are somehow progressive and good for the left).


  1. Robert said,

    Long ago I had a Summer job beside a man called John Crawford, whose hundredth birthday would have fallen about ten years ago. He was well through his twenties when he took the advice of a CP colleague and went to see Bill Cowe to discuss questions of conscience concerning whether to fight Hitler, and was told that it was a sort of free vote, as between whether the clock would strike and the great day of Revolution have dawned, or whether it was simply a matter of waiting for a Third Reich,comparatively overstretched in comparison with the British Empire, to collapse and allow the triumph of…. John I believe didn’t contest conscription.
    In recent literary history there was the discussion between Sorley MacLean, who couldn’t resist conscience and joined up, and Hugh MacDiarmid, who was against participation (a fact taken up latterly by anti-Nationalists as if he were somehow representative (!)).
    There is quite a long history of believing in eventual revolution with a branch as heartless as the social darwinists and misreaders of Adam Smith (or as Hitler!) insisting that human compassion was unnatural.
    Some years back the late James D. Young made some very ill-informed attacks on Scottish philosophers of the early 1920s for supposedly attacking John MacLean’s Socialism. In fact from A.D. Lindsay and John Waugh Scott there was a strong opposition to the idea that helping the unemployed and people in poverty was against nature and a delayer of the great Day.
    It may or may not have been “bliss” to have been alive, but also English and a home and family in Wordsworth’s Westmoreland in 1789, but as well be a Polish Jew in 1940 as somebody starved a dozen years earlier because of the same delusion of Destiny which attended the Drang nach Osten and notion of Lebensraum which went back to Bismarck Germany and did not begin with Hitler, or attended the social darwinism (actually against Darwin’s theories) against which in the later nineteenth century one of the better books was written by the Eighth Duke of Argyll, a philosopher and liberal parliamentarian, and against the sheerly theoretical and anti-Marx marxism of Althusser argued against by Scott Meikle and Tony Judt et al. Eugene Kamenka in Australia, part of the diaspora escaping Hitler, was certainly encouraged by his Scottish teacher John Anderson, a friend of John Waugh Scott, in his investigations of the Ethical Foundations of Marxism.
    The problem with hailing Trump’s election as a late step in “late Capitalism” is a neurotic antihumanity. See also the literature on Heidegger’s Nazi enthusiasms, not least by his sometime associates H.G. Gadamer, who is tolerant, and Karl Jaspers, whose account of Heidegger in 1933 was suppressed during Heidegger’s lifetime.
    Jaspers says that Heidegger said to him (I paraphrase) “Hitler has such beautiful hands”. What it is to conceive of corpses and human beings living in starvation and misery as parts of a work of art.
    One can at least applaud some of MacDiarmid’s outbursts as provocateur, not least his acknowledgement that Stalinism was a work of redistribution, whether or not of food (cf. USSR shortages and poisoned fish) certainly of human misery. But why redistribute ills when they might be lessened?

  2. Trump, Clinton, Brexit and ‘Social Fascism’: a Historical Note. | Tendance Coatesy said,

    […] comrades at Shiraz are extremely critical of the position taken by the Communist Party of Britain, and its organ, the Morning Star on Brexit, and, now, the […]

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