'I am concerned at the break-up of the Soviet Union and the leadership it gave!' - Jeremy Corbyn's words of wisdom on Stalinism

Corbyn Cuba

The following is the text of a speech that Jeremy Corbyn gave in 1991 at a meeting to discuss the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the speech, Corbyn does criticise the Soviet Communist Party for its elitism but he clearly has no understanding of the way the Soviet regime did all it could to sabotage any genuine revolutions. Corbyn also makes no clear references to the mass killings, secret police, militarism and economic failures that were fundamental to the Soviet system.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? (Morning Star, 24/9/91)

In this very hall, where we are meeting tonight, there were, many years ago, meetings denouncing the activities of the British government in trying to destroy the newly-born Soviet state. People marched and organised in this area of London in support of the Soviet Revolution of 1917. I certainly haven't come here to bury those ideas. I have come here to understand what has happened recently and where we go from here.

The first point to make is that we should not go around saying, or allowing others to say, that democracy equals liberal economics and market forces. It doesn't. Nor should we say that Socialism or the ideas of Socialism are dead. They are not.

We live in an increasingly divided world. The very poor in the very poorest countries last year paid 50 billion dollars to the very richest countries. People living in shanty towns in Rio, in Calcutta or in any other major city in the Third World are not saying that Socialist ideas are dead. They look upon the very rich and they look at the inequalities in their own country and they recognise that only Socialism and Socialist ideas can bring about peace, democracy and a reasonable life expectancy.

When John Major welcomes the changes that are going on in the Soviet Union I become worried. What he and his kind want from the changes is not genuine democracy, not world peace, not decent living standards for all. What they want is a market economy that will keep many in abject poverty. They want the Soviet economy to provide raw materials at very low prices to Western Europe and the US.

They are now saying let's carve up the world again as we did in the 1800s when we drew the map of Africa. Western Europe and the US can be at the imperial centre. Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, because they have skilled economies, can have the status of dominion colonies. The Third World can be the countries that produce the materials that go to feed those economies. We have to fight that with serious internationalism and serious argument.

I have been one who has never accepted the need for nuclear weapons in the world, and I find the whole idea of nuclear weapons abhorrent. I have never accepted the idea that Soviet Union was about to march across Western Europe, get the ferry from Dover and come up the Holloway Road and then nuke the job centre.

Nuclear weapons were not used in the Gulf war because that war was over in a short time. What I see coming out of the break-up of the Soviet Union is a world order where the US government and military set the key. Future wars will be fought in and for Third World countries and their resources, and if necessary they will be prepared to use weapons of mass destruction in order to cow Third World countries into submission.

We are dealing with a whole new scenario in which the IMF and the World Bank are in effect running the world economy. There is not much democracy in either of those organisations.

Had the Soviet Union at the time of the Gulf war played a somewhat stronger role at the United Nations, then perhaps that piece of carnage would not have been able to take place in the name of the United Nations.

There have been people in this room condemning what has been happening in Cuba in the past thirty years. Have some caution.

Cuba was in all but name a colony of the US until 1959. It was a place whose culture and identity was denied by the worst form of market economy. It was a place where the very rich lived along the multitudes of very poor. The revolution of 1959 was an entirely popular affair. Castro didn't do it on his own and he didn't do it with twelve of his mates. He did it with thousands, hundreds of thousands of people who were prepared to take part in that campaign.

What they have had to live with for the past thirty years is the fact that the only country in the world that was prepared to help them break the blockade of the US was the Soviet Union. Remember that and remember that the choice that now faces Cuba is to capitulate to the gangsters in Miami who want to take over and destroy the gains of the revolution, or to soldier on to build the best form of socialism that can be achieved in Cuba. Sections of the left attacking Cuba at the present time with all the problems it has got are, frankly, not very helpful at all.

We should also recognise that changes that have happened in other parts of the world since it came into being. The Soviet Union supported the revolution in Nicaragua and it supported large numbers of anti-colonial struggles in Africa and other places. I am not defending everything that has happened in the Soviet Union in the last seventy years. What I am defending is the principle of anti-imperialism, internationalism and solidarity.

Like others I am alarmed at he consequences of what has happened in the past two years in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe - the growth of racism with Nazi bands marching around East Germany beating up migrant workers, the racism growing in Russia and the way in which Yeltsin and others are behaving. But you won't find too much criticism of that kind of behaviour from Western countries because they are quite happy with that kind of scenario; just as Mrs Thatcher, in her quest for funds for her world institute for democracy, is happy to take contributions from the Sultan of Brunei who is not exactly in favour of democratic renewal in his own country. The changes taking place in the Soviet Union are going to bring with them the old class struggles. That of course is where the Bolsheviks came in in the first place.

What we should be asking ourselves is what are we doing about socialism here in this country? Why are so many people now becoming so defensive about Socialism? I am fed up with the leadership of the labour movement continually denying the birthright of this movement; continually running away from the ideas that brought this movement about. The retreat of the labour movement leadership won't lead to a victory, it won't remove the fact that there are people begging on the streets of London, homeless on the streets of London and three million unemployed!

We have to look at what we mean by Socialism. Is it the anarchy of the free market with a few ameliorating features such as Medicare in the US, or is Socialism really production for need rather than profit and the universal provision of housing education and jobs? For those Socialist ideas to be achieved we must work in a democratic, participatory way. We must also recognise the right of national self-determination and the right of people to express their own cultural interests.

If there are two areas where I think grave mistakes were made by the Soviet Union, it was the inability of the system to recognise the importance of the national question and the way in which the Communist Party of the Soviet Union became an extremely elitist body.
We have to organise together in this country but also internationally.

I am concerned at the break-up of the Soviet Union and the leadership it gave and the break-up of the Socialist International, which was always very weak. It means that there is no international forum for putting forward socialist ideas and seeking to organise those.[sic]

This is an important meeting and an important start. We have had an important discussion. Not everyone has agreed with everyone else. They never will and they never should. What have we to agree on is the importance of campaigning for basic Socialist ideas and the working-class unity needed to achieve them.


* Despite his love for Cuba, Corbyn does not want to impose a Stalinist dictatorship in the UK. Contemporary Stalinism is more about making vacuous speeches about 'Socialism', attaining office through elections and then never seriously confronting big capital - Chavez in Venezuela and Syriza in Greece are recent examples of this strategy with its inevitable demoralising outcome.

Posted By

Anti War
Jun 18 2017 14:07

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  • There have been people in this room condemning what has been happening in Cuba in the past thirty years. Have some caution.''

    Jeremy Corbyn

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Comments

Anti War
Jun 18 2017 14:09

For more on the Stalinist tendencies of the Labour Party see comments at:

Arguments AGAINST Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party

Juan Conatz
Jun 18 2017 23:15

Seems like there could be better critiques of Corbyn on this site rather than those where, removing the introduction paragraph and last paragraph, could easily be reproduced on some redbaiting, right-wing site.