in the garden


Sep 2001 Journal

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Trotsky Recycled

Though the ‘great’ revolutionary has been dead these sixty years, his ghost refuses to lie down. This is shown by various current developments which range from the sublime to the ridiculous. To start with the latter, cinema-goers will soon see Trotsky, the sexagenarian lover, on screen. A Hollywood film, currently in production, features him and the painter couple Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera in an ‘eternal triangle’ situation. Trotsky is Geoffrey Rush, whose role as the pianist in Shine established him as a first-rate interpreter of brilliant Jewish monomaniacs.

Of Trotsky’s brilliance there can be little doubt. In the early days of the Communist International he would address gatherings consecutively in Russian, German, French and English. By the late Twenties, however, this internationalism, as well as personal rivalry, had pitched him into a fight to the death with the Russia-centred Stalin. Dying in Mexican exile, he bequeathed to the world the less than benign legacy of Trotskyism. This still has adherents in Western countries. In France Prime Minister Jospin only transmuted into a Social Democrat after a spell as a Trotskyite militant, and their presidential candidate Krivine polled two million votes some years ago.

In Britain Trotskyism is only a residual force that intermittently attracts the spotlight by mobilising opposition either to neo-Nazis or to Israel. These two targets may be mutually contradictory, but the twisted logic of the true Trot believers can accommodate both. The recent riots in Oldham, Burnley and Bradford have breathed new life into the Trotskyite anti-Nazi League, an organisation which superficially appears to be fighting the good fight. However, odd as it may seem, in a peculiar way the ANL feeds on racism to provide itself with a raison d’être. We have the Birmingham Labour MP Siôn Simon’s account of how the anti-Nazis deliberately exacerbate race relations in his constituency for their own political advantage.

Last month’s mayhem in the Northern textile towns was orchestrated by a bizarre coalition of BNP skinheads, Taliban-inspired young Muslims and Trots. The Trotskyite would-be fomenters of revolution see the disadvantaged Asian inhabitants of the mill towns as a proletarian mass potentially capable of being mobilised for class war. The mayhem that occurred - especially in Bradford, where rioters badly damaged the economic infrastructure of their own locality - dovetails neatly with Leon Trotsky’s notorious Elendstheorie. The theory of immiseration stated, in a nutshell, that in order to goad workers into manning the barricades, Socialists should not ameliorate their conditions, for instance by trade union action but, on the contrary, expose them to the full force of capitalist exploitation. A variation on this perverse high risk prescription  - didn’t the KPD argue that the Nazi take-over would finally open the German workers’ eyes to the reality of capitalism? - was played out in last November’s US presidential elections. There the Democrat would undoubtedly have won - irrespective of the Florida shenanigans - if the Green ‘consumers’ advocate’ Ralph Nader had not split the anti-Bush vote. Having helped to put the man who tore up the Kyoto protocol into the White House, the Greens attempted to justify their wrecking tactics by arguing that under Bush, America’s consumers will embark on a steep learning curve about corporate greed - and, anyway, Gore was hardly an anti-capitalist friend of the earth.

Yet again ‘the best is the enemy of the good’. In their bizarre way the advocates of recycling the earth’s finite resources are currently recycling Trotsky.


Among the comments on Michael Portillo’s demise, one described him as a “self-loathing Tory.” Echoes here of ‘Jewish self-hatred’ - yet the difference is vast. Portillo could, conceivably, abjure Toryism, whereas Jewishness is genetically (as well as in many cases, culturally) transmitted.

In the nineteenth century self-loathing Jews would convert to Christianity and embrace reaction. In the last century they often abjured religion and veered leftwards. Hirsch Apfelbaum became Gregory Zinoviev, not merely to evade Tsarist police scrutiny, but also to slough off his Jewish identity. Jevsektia (Jewish section of the Soviet Communist Party) militants enthusiastically closed down synagogues and hounded Zionists.

Anglo-Jewish Communists did not want to lag behind their comrades. Imbued with the ‘faith’, they transmitted their own anti-Zionism to the next generation. Signatories to the latest ‘Boycott Israel’ appeal include such CPGB progeny as children’s books author Michael Rosen, and the comic Alexei Sayle.

These boycott-mongers blithely ignore the fact that Yasser Arafat trod Ehud Barak’s olive branch - the most courageously far-reaching peace offer for half a century - in the dust. Nor do they seem perturbed by the existence of Hamas’ Gaza training school for pre-teenage suicide bombers, where virtual toddlers are being educated for death, and promised instant translation to a virgin-thronged paradise.

Such an enterprise ought to revolt any humanely-inclined person on several counts: the rape of the mind of minors, the glorification of death, stupefying religious mysticism, and the depiction of women as chattels.

When, one wonders, will the boycott lobby use its leverage among the Palestinians to arrest the slide into the mind-boggling backwardness and Dark Age savagery which Hamas personifies?

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