Re: Dreams and Nightmares

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Tue May 20 2003 - 04:54:04 EDT

Simon Mohun wrote:

> I've been reading John Saville's 'Memoirs from the Left' (just published by
> Merlin) in which he describes (pp.36-8) the atmosphere prevailing during
> the Purge trials 1936-8. The trials were open, with dozens of journalists
> and diplomats present. The defendants (mostly) had long records of
> revolutionary activity. There were no signs of physical torture. No one
> (except Krestinsky in the last trial, and he retracted the following day)
> suggested the evidence was faked. The trials were reported world-wide,
> there were books and pamphlets, there was widespread acknowledgement of the
> correctness of the judicial proceedings, and overwhelmingly the weight of
> conclusion was in favour of the genuineness of the trials (which is not to
> discount the honourable exceptions).
> Why did no defendant stand up, like Dimitrov in the Reichstag trial, and
> denounce the court and all of its proceedings?

If one is being unprejudiced on this, there is at least the possibility
that the reason they did not denounce it was that they might
actually have been guilty.

> Presumably, because of the increasingly threatening international
> situation. (After all, Bukharin was shot 3 days after the Germans marched
> into Austria.) This is what underpins the dilemmas in 'Darkness at Noon'.
> It is also explicitly the justification underpinning Merleau-Ponti's
> 'Humanism and Terror'. And it is wrong, for two (not very distinct) reasons.
> 1. It is morally wrong, because unless socialists can behave in ways which
> in some sense prefigure the society they want to create, they demobilise
> themselves.
> 2. It is politically wrong, because one thing the 20C has taught us (well,
> me at least) is that compromises in pursuit of some greater goal always end
> up compromising the compromisers.
> Supporting Cuba does not mean supporting every last feature of contemporary
> Cuban justice, and it does not entail staying silent at injustice and
> oppression. It's no different from supporting the Palestinian struggle, but
> condemning the suicide bombing of civilian targets. There are obviously
> many many such examples in today's pretty grim world. A common riposte is
> that you can't make an omlette without breaking eggs. But the end is not
> divorced from the means, for the means chosen have an unhappy knack of
> shaping the ends that are achievable - another lesson from the 20C. So,
> solidarity with Cuba: yes; unconditional support for everything the Cubans
> do: no. And silence: no. Hence I'm with Riccardo, Nicola and Chris on this.
> Centre for Business Management,
> Queen Mary, University of London,
> Mile End Road,
> London E1 4NS,
> UK
> Tel: +44-(0)20-7882-5089 (direct); +44-(0)20-7882-3167 (Dept. Office)
> Fax: +44-(0)20-7882-3615

Paul Cockshott
Dept Computing Science
University of Glasgow

0141 330 3125

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