Back in the USSR?

First, let’s keep this in perspective.  I sent out a mailing to 65,000 people with that as the subject line yesterday.  A very large number of them responded to our Georgia and Kazakh campaigns.  Ten (10) of our subscribers wrote back with messages supporting, to one degree or another, Soviet Communism.

I share these with you (below) because I find it odd, to say the least, that there are still die-hard Stalinists (who actually deeply admire Stalin) who are prepared to defend the USSR even now, decades after its collapse.  And I don’t mean Russians — I mean people in the West who should have known better.

So here goes:

Maybe these silly bastards should have had their wits about them when they allowed Gorbachev and Yeltsin to seize power. Your picture labelled “Back in the USSR” is the opposite of what it was—free education, health, cheap clothing and food. They were building a Utopia until they were sold out.

Contrarily to what you say, “Back in the USSR”, growingly the proletariat and the Soviet People want the return to the Soviet Union with the orientation of Lenin and Stalin (1917-1953).

What did you expect from the overthrow of a socialist system (however corrupted or distorted) for raw-and corrupt-capitalism? Nicholas II is probably laughing from Hell.

astonishingly opportunist & right wing appeal re workers rights. Rethink the approach.

This report on this critical labour struggle in Georgia is useful, but what’s with the ridiculous red-baiting opening comment – “It’s been twenty years since the USSR collapsed, but you wouldn’t know it from the way workers and their unions are being treated in some of the former Soviet republics”  Clearly, brother Lee has no conception about what has unfolded in terms of vicious attacks on workers’ rights, wages and benefits in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe over the past two decades. Union rights and living conditions for the working classes have plummeted since the restoration of capitalism. All this is well documented, and spewing such dis-information does a disservice to LabourStart.

This, Eric, is, frankly, un-called for and out-dated Cold War bullshit.  I really respect what you and Labour Start do, but I feel like strong language is truly called for in this case.  The standard of living has gone down drastically since the fall of the USSR and workers’ rights have eroded.  The implication here is that you expected things to improve under a new ultra-Capitalist government?  And, seriously, I don’t know what your politics are, but I know plenty of Trotskyists, even, who were critical of the Soviet Union but who nonetheless considered its dissolution in favor of a right wing movement that was aided and abetted by US imperialism, as a bad turn.  The simple fact is that it is in Belarus where workers are enjoying a higher standard of living than in any of the other CIS countries.  What’s more, there has been a steady and intensive effort by the US National Endowment for Democracy and it’s attack dog, the International Republican Institute, to undermine Left and more nationalist movements in Eastern Europe.  This kind of language just gives fuel to the fire to the kind of guiding philosophy exercised by these foreign interventionists, so beholden to transnational corporate interests.  I am just astounded that you would participate in this kind of shameless and completely misleading red-baiting.

It is very naive to think that the fall of the USSR would bring about improved working conditions. Are you people surprised that the working class have gone backwards in the former soviet states as well as in China since trade and market liberalisation. Georgia is the most reactive of the former Soviet states and are very good friends with the US

why keep harping on the Soviet Union when USA is doing the same things? They have double standards, be it Palestine [yesterday’s Obama’s stand], or women right in afghanistan, or their own workerswho were rendered jobless in the so called ‘recession’.

This report on this critical labour struggle in Georgia is useful, but what’s with the ridiculous red-baiting opening comment – “It’s been twenty years since the USSR collapsed, but you wouldn’t know it from the way workers and their unions

I have suported LS on many issues, however this one is questionable to the extreme. I feel little research or investigation has taken place.
When the so referred to ‘Soviet Republics’ existed, to my knowledge every one was in employment; all school children were provided
with free education; there was also free access to health care for all; food and shelter for all. I am also aware of the old aged stories that were
never proved with evidence, mainly to prevent others from discovering that there is an alternative to a market ‘free for all’ economy.

Written by admin in: Campaigns |


  • My brain activated the Beatles song and I translated the mailing too mechanically. Bingo! I got a similar one from someone on the French list. Communism has certainly not disappeared, especially in our movement, and in retrospect, I think we should have been more tactful. These are just the guys who took to their keyboards so we may have given bad signals to many others. A lesson for the future!

    Comment | September 23, 2011
  • Kirill Buketov

    I was born and grew up in the Soviet Union in a “high” working class family. Have no nostalgy for those days. Workers had no rights, besides the right to demonstrate how much they like the Politburo on Mayday and enjoy CPSU propaganda. Today the elites of all those former USSR countries want to deprive our rights again. In this sense “back to the USSR” is a correct description of what’s going on in Kazakhstan and Georgia. As well as in Russia, Ukraine, etc, (and, I would agree, that this process is global and USA is not an excemption from this global attack). We need to fight back in each country. But for the workers in Kazakhstan and Georgia this fight for the rights and freedom is the fight against “back to the USSR” trend.

    Comment | September 23, 2011
  • admin

    Three thoughts in response to Andy’s comment:

    1 I also had the Beatles tune in mind.

    2 I agree that there are probably more than 9 hard-core Stalinists on our list.

    3 Nevertheless, the comparison is a valid one. Under totalitarianism, there were no free, independent, democratic trade unions. (Just as there are none today in, say, North Korea.) In other words, the most basic workers’ rights – to form and join trade unions – did not exist. Workers in the former USSR had every reason to hope that once the totalitarian regime was overthrown, there would be some improvement here. And there has been – the very fact that we have had strikes and unions in places like Georgia and Kazakhstan would have been unthinkable in Stalin’s time. What we’re talking about is the unfulfilled promise of revolution and change.

    I think it’s legitimate to use this kind of argument in other situations – we could use it just as well with, say, South Africa, arguing in support of a COSATU general strike by saying that workers had not achieved all they wanted following the fall of the apartheid regime.

    If there are people on our mailing list who think that totalitarianism (or apartheid) was a good thing, and long for a return to those days, that’s their problem. I don’t believe we have any lessons to learn.

    P.S. I’m not making up the notion of people on our mailing list longing for a return to apartheid – we really do have such people on our list. Mostly, they would be supporters of the Solidarity trade union in South Africa, who joined our list when their union campaigned – successfully – to win the Labour Website of the Year several years ago. But I do not take their moronic views into account when writing my messages to the list.

    Comment | September 23, 2011
  • Kirill Buketov

    and it’s funny to see some people believe that workers had any rights in the USSR. what rights? right to strike? right to have an opinion of your own? right to negotiate collectively? Oh…yes – the right for education and for medical care… Well, this is only if you are loyal to the rulling party and only if there is no temporarily permanent food shortage.

    Comment | September 23, 2011
  • This is not about whether or not there were workers rights in the ex-URSS but how we communicate. And we certainly have lessons to learn in that domain. Is it not obvious that when a text is translated from English to another language, the words don’t necessarily mean the same thing, convey the same message or touch the same political, religious or cultural sensibilities?
    I was writing about my translation and I was looking at things from a pragmatic angle: I don’t think it’s a good idea when we are seeking to expand campaigns, to stigmatize certain unionist’s beliefs especially when they could be amongst the more active in developing our lists. The fact the French list is 20 times smaller than the English is also relative.
    In France, we still have a communist party which shares many activists with the CGT union – yes, the biggest in France. Their members are not all “hard core Stalinists” even if some do believe that workers had rights in the USSR. They are though, amongst the most active unionists around and I respect them for what they do.
    So I have made a mental note to myself to be more careful when translating these messages in the future.

    Comment | September 23, 2011
  • Arieh

    It’s always a bit of a challenge deciding on a headline for an article or a campaign the subject of an email. Clearly, when Eric was writing “Back in the USSR?” what he meant was “Back in the Totalitarian Days when the USSR Existed and These Countries were part of it,” as well as the allusion to the Beatles’ tune if not the content of the tune.
    But at the same time there are clearly at least some people who harbor different associations with the letters U S S R.
    It seems clear to me that we do not really know the politics of the majority of the 65,000 people – people who are pro-labor / workers rights – except that they’ve signed on to be on the LabourStart list. This includes all manner of people, and as we can see includes “die-hard Stalinists (who actually deeply admire Stalin) who are prepared to defend the USSR even now, decades after its collapse.” Surprising or not, people who feel this way are on the list. Simple as that. I would not be surprised at all if a number of the LabourStart correspondents are of a similar nature.
    My only suggestion is – especially in light of the feedback to the “Back in the USSR?” – that we be more careful with headlines, and be mindful that some may distract from rather than focus attention on any future campaign, for either political or cultural reasons.

    Comment | September 23, 2011

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