Lenin’s legacy: why the Labour party is more extreme than it seems

Max Young

November 25, 2018

The Bolshevik revolution occurred 100 years ago. The political entity that emerged from it collapsed due to its contradictory aims and practices 70 years later. The vicious totalitarian political ideology that the Bolsheviks imposed on Russia and its surrounding states has been comprehensively discredited. While there are still debates over how many people were killed in the Soviet Union (estimates range between 20 and 65 million), Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and other Bolshevik leaders are all widely regarded as evil men.

The revolution is important for an understanding of the hard-left group that controls the Labour party. Why? The answer, of course, is because they think it’s important. For these fanatics, the revolution is the event that most inspires them and the origin of the ideology that motivates them.

Some admit it openly. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, when asked to name the “most significant” influences on his thought replied: “The fundamental Marxist writers of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, basically.” For people like McDonnell, Marxist tracts are an ongoing source of inspiration. During a House of Commons debate in 2011, McDonnell said: “As someone who still sees the relevance of Trotsky’s transitional programme, I am attempting not to salvage capitalism, but to expose its weaknesses.”

Many of those now controlling the Labour party seem to exhibit a preference for the Trotskyist variety of Marxism, separating themselves from Stalinism in its advocacy of “permanent revolution”. McDonnell even attended an event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Trotsky’s assassination. He was one of the six speakers and, according to the Trotskyist group that organised the event, he “spoke about the importance of Trotskyism for the struggle against the bosses and the Tories, arguing that it should mean a combination of political radicalism and non-sectarian orientation to work in mass labour movement organisations”.

Jeremy Corbyn, too, seems to share this obsession with Trotsky. In 1988, as a backbench parliamentarian, Corbyn co-sponsored a House of Commons resolution calling on the Soviet Union to provide “complete rehabilitation” of Trotsky himself, saying: “This House, in the light of the special conference of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in one week’s time, and of the judicial rehabilitation of [other prominent early Bolsheviks including] Bukharin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Radek and Pyatakov, demands that the Russian Government goes further and gives complete rehabilitation to Leon Trotsky.”

While there is no verifiable evidence that Corbyn was ever a member of one of the Trotskyist groups which tried to infiltrate the Labour party, it is clear that he defended them to try to prevent their expulsion. In the July 1982 edition of London Labour Briefing, Corbyn opposed expulsions of the Trotskyist group “Militant”, claiming that “if expulsions are in order for Militant, they should apply to us too”. In the same year, he was the “provisional convener” of the “Defeat the Witch-Hunt Campaign”, based at his erstwhile address.

Throughout his political life, Corbyn has drawn on the support and ideas of overtly Leninist groups, as Paul Anderson and Kevin Daley outline in their seminal study “Moscow Gold: The Soviet Union and the British Left”. Corbyn “basked in the political milieu they dominated, and was heavily involved in campaigns in which Stalinists and Trotskyists played major if not defining roles – the Chile Solidarity Campaign, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Liberation, Labour CND, Stop the War, the Labour Representation Committee and many more”.

Corbyn’s commitment to communism is also evident in his appointments. They have veered towards the Stalinist variant of communism – accepting the presence of the ideology in one country, rather than the Trotskyist pursuit of worldwide revolution. His key adviser, Seumas Milne – now the Labour party’s executive director of strategy and communications – has argued that the number of Stalin’s victims has been greatly exaggerated. Speaking of the Berlin Wall and East Germany, Seumas said: “it wasn’t just some kind of arbitrary division to hold people in, most people today have a positive view of… the GDR, and regret its passing”.

Milne takes the side of any extremist or dictator who opposes western interests. His response to the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby on the streets of London was to say that the incident was the “predicted consequence of an avalanche of violence unleashed by the US, Britain and others”. Worse still, the @JeremyCorbyn4PM account – which was responsible for the #JezWeCan social media campaign – tweeted that “Seumas shares Jeremy’s worldview almost to the letter.”

Indeed, Corbyn has never seen a communist regime that he wasn’t prepared to defend, even deciding to speak up for North Korea: “The declaration of North Korea as some kind of a threat is a pretext for stepping up economic and military pressure on the country. Then we may see the spread of free market capitalism into North Korea.”

And then there is the other Stalinist who joined Labour from the Communist Party a few months before Corbyn brought him in as his election chief: Andrew Murray. This delightful individual has praised the “successes” of the Soviet Union, including its “nationalities policy” for promoting “the cultural, linguistic and educational development of each ethnic group, no matter how small or how historically marginalised”. Tell that to the nine ethnic-linguistic groups who were persecuted and deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan.

When Murray was introduced by Corbyn on a panel, he downplayed the terrorist attacks in Paris, saying “the barbarism we condemn in Paris is minute compared to the barbarism wrought by imperialism across the planet in the last 13 years, and we must condemn that.”

He has also stressed the Leninist approach, stating: “We need urgently to raise the level of our Leninist education. Everything we are talking about – imperialist crisis, inter-imperialist conflict, war, the relationship of political strategy and tactics – are Leninist issues.”

Communist ideas and Leninist tactics clearly inspire the hard-left group at the upper echelons of the Labour party. It is, therefore, worth remembering what kind of a man Lenin was and what he stood for: the type of man who favoured killing his opponents: “no mercy for these enemies of the people, the enemies of socialism, the enemies of the working people! War to the death against the rich and their hangers-on, the bourgeois intellectuals”.

Former London mayor of London and hard-left leader Ken Livingstone explained the reason why he believes that the communist dictator Chavez was not more successful in Venezuela: “One of the things that Chávez did when he came to power, he didn’t kill all the oligarchs. There were about 200 families who controlled about 80 per cent of the wealth in Venezuela. He allowed them to live, to carry on.”

Make no mistake: Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition is headed by far-left extremists who would bring ruin to this country. We cannot allow them to fool us.


Written by Max Young

Max Young is Deputy Editor at 1828.


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