What is happening in the USSR now was symbolised in one scene in a Moscow street last weekend.
A group of monarchists stood by, singing the Tsarist national anthem, as the statue of Jacob Sverdlov, the Bolshevik who signed the death warrant for the murdering ex-Tsar Nicholas II, was pulled down.
Socialists who respect Lenin and Sverdlov, who believe that the Russian Revolution of 1917 was one of the great liberating moments in humanity's history, and that men like Sverdlov were heroes of human liberation, will nevertheless cheer the pulling down of their statues in cities all across the USSR.
And it will be a good day for Lenin's cause when they burn or bury the great iconoclast's poor patched-up mummy, and shut his mausoleum forever.
Those statues, like Lenin's mummy, were the icons of the bureaucratic ruling class. The images of socialists were used as the semi-religious monuments of the anti-socialist bureaucracy, by those who had overthrown the working class rule that they had established.
The socialists honoured in those statues died before the Stalinist counter revolution, and could safely be used to help sustain the Stalinist regime's Iying socialist pretences.
Jacob Sverdlov, who was the organiser of the revolutionary Bolshevik party, its general secretary before that title existed, died of typhoid in 1919. Lenin died in January 1924, having made a heroic attempt from his deathbed to get rid of Stalin. Even Felix Dzerzhinsky - the tabloids' "Iron Felix" - the founder of the police who organised the Red Terror during the civil war, was not a Stalinist.
He died in 1926. He was an ally of Stalin in the faction struggles of that time, and Trotsky wrote that had he lived he would not have hesitated to "shed the Opposition's blood". Nevertheless he was not one of those who set up the Stalinist totalitarian regime in the last half of the 1920s.
It is not Lenin and Sverdlov and Dzerzhinsky who are coming down, but the fillthy iconography of the Stalinist regime. A socialist system would not have had such images in the first place. Lenin was dead before they renamed Leningrad for him; his widow Krupskaya was against the worship of the mummy in the mausoleum.
It is understandable that the Soviet peoples should hate those statues and images; understandable, now, that they do not want to bother with the question of whether or not the system they hate was really the continuity of what Sverdlov and Lenin and Dzerzhinsky stood for.
For the neo-bourgeois intellectuals, as for the gloating press in the West, it is a game of cynical propagandist pretence that the Stalinist system they are pulling down is identical with the 1917 Revolution , which Stalinism pulled down. There is one aspect of the Stalinist edifice they have every intention of preserving: its Iying self-identification with socialism and the October Revolution now serves their interests as it once served Stalin's.
Yet it is a transparent lie, this identification of Bolshevism and Stalinism.
The Russian Revolution prodaimed an end to exploitation: the Stalinist system that has existed for over 60 years was one of the most brutally exploitative systems anywhere in the world.
The October Revoution proclaimed and fostered national liberation. The Bolsheviks wrote the right of nations to leave the state at will into the constitution. Stalinism as a system was justly described a prison house of nations. Those nations from Armenia to the Ukraine to Lithuani, are now taking the chance to organise a mass prison-break.
The October Revolution organised the rule of the working class: Stalinism has been a savage decades-long rule by a privileged new exploiting class over the workers.
The October Revolution was a revolution of socialist internationalists, seeing themselves as the first wave of an international movement. For over 50 years the Stalinist system has been a system of savage Russian chauvinism.
And it is a matter of historical fact that almost all those who led the revolution and survived more than a few years after it, were massacred by the Stalinists. Only a smattering of people who had been in the Bolshevik Party at the time of the Revolution survived the Stalinist purges of the 1930s.
Yet they tell us that the Stalinist system, and the Bolsshevik revolution on whose grave Stalin built it, are one and the same thing.
The victim is also the murderer; Abel is Cain; the fascistic regime of Stalin, which kept the workers down in the interests of the new bureaucratic exploiters, is the same as the workers' regime which suppressed the exploiters and took the power to exploit away from them!
The truth is encapsulated in that scene of the Tsarists singing their song as they hauled Sverdlov's statue down. Where were the political offspring of Sverdlov and Lenin? Extinguished by the bureaucratic dictators, from Stalin to Brezhnev and afterwards - purged, repressed, and bound hand and foot far more than the neo-monarchists have been.
In any other field of history or science, someone who asserted the identity of such opposites would be classified as either clinically schizoid or dominated by ideology. The idea that Stalinism and Bolshevism are identical is the ideology of the anti-socialist bourgeoisie (including the Labour Party's Kinnockite "socialists" who pant for a chance to run the capitalist system: they find it useful to be able to assert that if you try to overthrow the bourgeoisie then you will wind up with the horrors of Stalinism).
This is their day. Let them have it. Let them enjoy it. The removal of Lenin and Sverdlov from the position of icons for those who overthrew the workers' state they set up in 1917 is the beginning of the process of allowing the real Lenin and Sverdlov to return where they belong - to those who have been the victims of Stalinism for so long and who are, by the political confusion it engenders in them, still its victims.
AND WHERE WERE JACOB SVERDLOV'S SONS?
Sverdlov killed the bloody Tsar,
He signed the warrant for it;
So when they struck his statue down
The Tsarists cheered who saw it:
They hauled the hollow statue down,
And the Tsarists sang when they saw it.
And where were Jacob Sverdlov's sons?
And Lenin's proud granddaughters?
And where were Trotsky's Bolsheviks?
All of them lost, slaugtered;
All of the leaders, fighters, Reds,
All of them, all, slaughtered!
They made no statues out of bronze,
The heroes Stalin killed;
In Lubianka and Vorkuta
They died, their voices stilled:
The Tsar's song fills the air this dawn
Because that voice was stilled
They died defending working folk,
And who now cares to tell
Their tale, recall the fight of those
Old Communists who fell?
With lies they've sealed the graves of those
Old Communists too well.
When tsarists sing the Tsar's old song
And Socialism calls forth a sneer,
Who cares for the Reds whom Stalin killed?
Dim pictures from afar
Of the tribe wiped out to clear the way
For those who hail the Tsar?
And where were Jacob Sverdlov's sons,
And Trotsky's armed granddaughters?
And where are Lenin's Bplsheviks?
All of them, all, slaughtered;
All of the leaders, fighters, Reds,
All of them, all, slaughtered!
Socialist Organiser: 5-9-'91