Compass, Journal of the Communist League, June 2001
p. 1. Bill Bland's political legacy: an initial assessment. Alliance Marxist-Leninist - North America.
p 12. Interview with Bill Bland, 10th July, 1994.
p 33. Notes on historical research. W Bland.
p 39. Tributes to Comrade Bland.
p 54. Bill Bland's activity in the Albanian Society. N Steinmayr.
p 68. Visit to Albania. W. Bland. (reprinted from Albanian Life, No. 29, 2/1984)
p 76. Bibliography.
p 86. Internet sites of interest.
P 87. International Struggle Marxist-Leninist, International Conference, London, September 8th/9th, 2001
p 87. Memorial meeting for Bill Bland, Conway Hall, London, September 9th, 2001
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Bill Bland's Political Legacy: an Initial Assessment
On March 13th, 2001, at 11.30 pm, a great thinker ceased to think. Comrade William (Bill) Bland, a man of immense intellectual energy and profound knowledge, will be remembered as a determined fighter for the working class, a defender of Stalin, a friend of Albania, an iconoclast, and a great Marxist-Leninist. His death leaves the Marxist-Leninist world movement diminished, while his exemplary communist example and rich legacy of writings provide weapons for the continuing struggle.
In the 1950's, comrade Bland witnessed the decay of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) as it embraced the so-called "Peaceful Road to Socialism", enthusiastically joining with Khruschev in attacking the integrity of Stalin. Bland immediately identified this corrupt and incorrect posture as reflecting a deep malaise within the party, choosing to stand firm with only a handful of others in opposing this rising tide of social democracy and 'anti-Stalinism'. Denigrated as a 'dogmatist' for not accepting the party line, four defining aspects of his personality became clear from this time:
Firstly, a huge degree of modesty and complete lack of egoism. To the end of his life, he never accepted that he was an unusual man, but regarded himself as someone simply trying to understand events on the basis of facts rather than emotional responses.
Secondly, an utter determination to regulate his actions according to principle - he was never afraid of being unpopular for espousing a minority view.
Thirdly, he was a diligent and untiring searcher for the truth, fond of Marx's aphorism that "facts are stubborn things". If after exhaustive research, debate and reflection the known facts could only be explained by a 'heretical' conclusion - he would hold to this view until such a time as new facts forced a modification of his hypothesis. In such an event, error on his part would be openly acknowledged and his former position corrected.
Fourthly: he had an absolute revulsion of individualism and 'personality cult', coupled with an intense desire to work with others in building unity of action based on a principle.
These personality traits are evident in reading the interview with him from 1994, and his thoughts on the nature of historical research, both publishd in this issue of Compass. What then were his contributions to a Marxist-Leninist understanding of the world? Recognising that it is too early to be definitive in such an analysis, there is no doubt that Bland has a right to be considered as a great Marxist-Leninist. We will now sketch the outlines of his theoretical contributions as they developed in his long struggle against the modern revisionism that systematically subverted the communist parties of the world from the early 1950s.
Defence of Stalin
Bland had been aware of revisionist currents prior to 1953, but ascribed them to either honest mistakes or to his own inadequate grasp of the complexities of theory. When modern revisionism took off its mask in the Khruschev denunciation of Stalin, and the CPGB readily supported this position, Bland recognized this as a revisionist coup. He participated in attempts to unite anti-revisionists aimed at building a new revolutionary communist movement. These are briefly described in the interview referred to above and took much energy and organisational effort. As time went by, he completely re-read everything he could find written by, and about, Stalin.
It was only in the 1960's that he was forced to confront a crucial series of questions that led him to his life's work. Foremost among these was: "How could revisionism have become ascendant?" One key issue was the character of 'Mao Tse Tung thought'. Until the Great Cultural Revolution, Bland had left the intellectual defence of Marxism-Leninism and Stalin, to those who must 'know better' than a simple, loyal follower of the path laid down by the Communist Party of China and the Party of Labour of Albania. In 1968, however, he was charged by the anti-revisionist "Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain" (MLOB), with the task of analyzing 'Mao Tse Tung thought' in depth.
Once having identified Maoism as a form of left-revisionism, Bland had no choice but to go deeper. As he did so, after years of thought and study a pattern slowly began to emerge. He recognized the significance of Stalin's caution to Bukharin that the closer a society moved towards socialism, the more intense was the capitalist reaction. Coupled with knowing that Stalin had pointed to the undercover Trotskyite penetration of the CPSU(B), Bland was edging closer to a paradigm shift in thought about 'the Stalin years'. Gradually, he concluded that Stalin had been in a minority position in the Politburo, surrounded by hidden revisionists too clever to attack openly but putting forward policies which, while appearing to be 'revolutionary', effectively discredited and undermined Marxism-Leninism. Furthermore, the "Cult of Personality" was built up around Stalin by crypto-revisonists as a weapon to use against him in the future. Bland identified that Yezhov had subverted the secret services, and been replaced at Stalin's behest by Beria who subsequently ensured the release of many thousands of wrongly imprisoned Bolsheviks. From there, Bland identified that by the 18th Party Congress Stalin had been effectively excluded from the highest echelons of the party decision making apparatus, and had counter-attacked by writing 'Economic Problems of the USSR'. This was a nodal point in Bland's development.
The identification of 'Economic problems . . .' as a seminal attack on crypto-revisionism, led Bland to identify the clique around Vosnosensky and Khruschev as those who had tried to establish capitalism in the USSR during Stalin's lifetime. Stalin fought them to a standstill. It was Bland who unveiled to the Marxist-Leninist movement for the first time, the real significance of Stalin's last work, and its close links to the history of modern revisionism in the USSR. Bland's article "The Leningrad Plot" clarified the thinking of Marxist-Leninists the world over, and it continues to exert an enormous influence - whether acknowledged or not. This was published in finished form in 1981, as an appendix to his monumental book "The Restoration of Capitalism in the Soviet Union". This book for the first time carried his name alone. All his previous works, and indeed most of his subsequent work (see Appendix: Bland bibliogrpahy), were anonymous under the umbrella of embryo parties.
The book was the logical and systematic endpoint of numerous articles combating the lies peddled by the bourgeoisie in relation to the role of Stalin. These dealt with such problems as the nature of the Second World War, the cult of Personality, the so-called "Last Testament" of Lenin, the Purges of the various factions in the Soviet Union, the Trials, The History of Trotskyism, the invasion of Finland, the Campaign against cosmopolitanism etc; - virtually all the key questions of the history of the CPSU(B) in the post-Lenin years, and all areas in which the waters have been conscientiously muddied by trotskyites. These articles were widely circulated in the British Marxist-Leninist movement and, although largely unacknowledged, heavily influenced many. Most are currently now only available on the web pages of either Alliance Marxist-Leninist (North America) or the Communist League (UK).
The Character of Mao Tse Tung and the People's Republic of China, and the Peoples' Republic of Albania
As has been remarked, the stimulus for Bland's long investigation into the origins of modern revisionism was a directive from the political bureau of the MLOB to investigate charges by a comrade recently returned from China, that the "Great Cultural Proletarian Revolution", was a sham. Bland had long been involved in party education, from his earliest days in the Communist Party of New Zealand, so that this was a natural task for him to be given. With his usual meticulousness, he began to examine Mao's writings with an open mind, indeed, with the picture of Mao as a great Marxist-Leninist as his starting point.
To his surprise, he could not reconcile Mao's teaching with the basic principles elaborated in the works of Lenin and Stalin. Within a matter of months, he put his finger on the essential incompatibility of Mao's theory of the "New Democratic State" with Marxism-Leninism. This led him to scrutinize the speeches and writings of Mao with even greater care. His submitted report to the MLOB was accepted by the majority of cadres, but others who were either unable to refute his arguments or were emotionally attached to the concept of Mao as a great Marxist-Leninist left the organisation.
One especial aspect of modern revisionism, to which Bland continued to pay close attention, was the use of 'red banners' to cloak what were essentially national democratic deviations, a novel development from the time that Stalin had elaborated the Marxist-Leninist theory of the nation. He placed not only the pseudo-socialist revolution in China, but also those of Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam and Tanzania into this category,.
Bland's logical and scientific approach to historical research was often dismissed as a product of "dogmatism", "eccentricity", "stubborness" and "lack of creativity" by those who would not engage in an honest debate based on facts. His method was contemptuously likened to "holding up to the light a piece of paper with holes in it called Marxism-Leninism". Supposedly, if matching holes in another paper relating to a particular theory under examination let the light through, it was confirmed as being "Marxist-Leninist", while a failure to match demonstrated its worthlessness. However, such fatuous charges discounted Bland's painstaking approach to investigation and his encyclopaedic knowledge of the classics of Marxisim-Leninism, at the same time begging the question: are there, or are there not immutable principles of Marxism-Leninism which provide a bench mark for those who call themselves 'Marxist-Leninists'? (In passing, we note that Bland also denied being creative, describing himself as a simple "plodder", a typically over-modest self-assessment. In addition to his many theoretical works, he was the author of a number of plays, directed two films, created a ballet, and became fluent in translating Albanian).
Of course, a Marxist-Leninist expose of 'Mao Tse Tung thought' was 'heresy' at that time. Such a standpoint complicated the British anti-revisionist movement search for unity, just as it did in every other country. The exposure of Maoism as 'left revisionism' caused Bland to examine his own long-standing support for the pro-Chinese Party of Labour of Albania. However, exploring once again the writings of Enver Hoxha led him to continue to endorse the People's Socialist Republic of Albania as genuinely socialist, while remaining convinced that one day, a devastating critique of Mao would inevitably emerge forced by the pressure or objective reality. Again, he did not flinch from taking a difficult and minority stand. After all, until then most defenders of Albania were automatically defenders of China - how could you separate them? Bland argued that Mao had held the national democratic revolution back, obstructing the movement towards the second, socialist stage. This was in contrast to the Albanian experience which had moved, as Lenin had advocated, immediately from seizure of state power by the working class and its allies, to the socialist stage. Arguments over this analysis, together with some subsidiary causes precipitated a further split in the MLOB, following which the Communist League (named in reference to the first international communist organisation of the porletariat founded by Marx and Engels) came into existence. Years later, many of those parties siding with China changed position, moving to open support Albania. It is revealing that few attempted to make, and publicise, much needed self-criticism.
It was in this period that comrade Bland showed his determined anti-sectarianism. The committee within the PSRA with responsibility for liasing with friendship societies in other countries was under the influence of a hidden revisionist tendency opposed to comrade Enver Hoxha, and "recognised" only those that were 'pro-Maoist'. Bland had developed close relations with the PRSA from the time of their critique of Soviet revisionism, and at their invitation, had refounded the Albanian Society in Britain. He was subsequently instrumental in spreading an enormous amount of information on this 'isolated' socialist country and became an acknowledged authority on all things Albanian. He published many issues of the Society's journal 'Albanian Life' in addition to an English-Albanian dictionary, and translations from the Albanian, as well as answering all manner of queries upon arcane features of Albanian life, history, music, food, geography, medicine, customs, etc. Several bourgeois agencies found they had to resort to Bland for information in these matters. As a small example, the compilers of the world's national anthems could only obtain the requisite lyrics and music from Bland. When a newspaper article mistakenly identified his home address as that of 'the Albanian Embassy', he was even faced with an increased rates bill from the local council!
Members of various political groupings attempted to "take-over" the non-sectarian Albanian Society. For example, the associates of Hardial Bains vociferously argued that under Bland's leadership, its attention to many different aspects of life in Albania made the Society "insufficiently political", and therefore "anti-Marxist-Leninist". Their sectarian approach, however, failed to convince the majority of members that Bland should go. Interestingly, at that time even the liaison committee of the PSRA supported Bland's 'United Front' perspective for the Albanian Society. The Society continued until the revisionist take-over of the PSRA by Ramiz Alia, at which point Bland resigned as secretary and openly exposed Ramiz Alia in print.
The Subversion of the Comintern and the Role of Dimitrov
Undoubtedly, Bland's legacy will be most controversial in the matter of the evaluation of Georgi Dimitrov. Here was an icon of the international communist movement. Here was the hero of Leipzig with seemingly unassailable credentials and surely beyond criticism. Yet this was just what Bland did, raising a storm in the international Marxist-Leninist movement as a result and leading to charges of "betrayal". What is the basis for this controversy?
Very early on in Bland's systematic investigations, he made a crucial link: if in the Soviet Union covert class struggle involving even the highest echelons of the Party had continued and intensified, could the Comintern have been any different? How could inconsistencies in the Comintern line be explained? Why had the Comintern performed so many about-turns on key questions such as the nature of the United Front? Why had the Peoples Front governments been supported beyond any credible point by European communist parties, especially in France, effectively assisting a fascist take-over? Why did the ultra-left rejection of a united front of the late 1920's swing suddenly into ultra-right distortion of unconditional support?
Despite a few years of intensive participation and engagement in the Comintern, from around 1924 Stalin did not occupy a leadership position. He remained absent during its last two congresses in 1928 and 1935, and his official "Works" contain no contribution to Comintern affairs after 1928. Initially of course the leadership had been provided by Zinoviev and thereafter by Bukharin; both were later exposed as revisionists. But thereafter the leadership was exercised by Dimitrov, Otto Kuusinen, and Dimitri Manuilsky. Bland argued they had perverted the correct implementation of Marxism-Leninism. Dimitrov had been sprung from prison as a result of uncharacteristic fascist "leniency", and had gone on to distort United Front tactics into a right deviation. Even earlier, Manuilsky had destroyed the Indian revolution by sabotaging Stalin's line of the Workers and Peasants parties. Bland argued that the first approach to the United Front (a 'left' deviation) facilitated the victory of fascism in Germany, while the second (a 'right' deviation) then effectively prevented the masses of Europe taking power under Communist Party direction.
It was for these reasons, argued Bland, that the Comintern was dissolved by Stalin who then created the Cominform. This organisation was under a completely different leadership, led by trusted lieutenants including Zhdanov. It was then the Cominform that exposed the western Communist parties plans for implementing right deviationist policies, and the Titoites for their alliance with the USA. During this latter historic confrontation Stalin overtly supported Albania and Hoxha against Tito. Trotskyite attacks on the Comintern led Marxist-Leninists to mount a defence that has been uncritical and 'knee-jerk' in character. Bland eschewed such superficiality, continually adding further pieces of the jigsaw, such as the known coolness between Dimitrov and Stalin, and the bitter clash over the "customs union" of Tito's Yugoslavia in the Balkans.
In general, the responses of Bland's critics have been based on emotional reactions and remain unconvincing. To date, a full counter-reply and factual refutation of his thesis has not been forthcoming. Interestingly however, there is a key similarity between 'Maoist left-revisionism' and 'Dimitrov revisionism' that deserves critical attention. Apart from the need for historical veracity and 'to make sense of things' - these questions have profound strategic and tactical importance today. For example, what is the correct role of the United Front and what limits does it impose upon the participating representatives of the working class?
The questions that preoccupied comrade Bland were immensely profound and demanded an astonishing breadth of research and thought. It was his fate to live in an era when revisionism took root and destroyed the mass working class communist parties. His response to this phenomenon was in practical terms, to try wherever possible to engage in principled united front activity, and to work together with the most politically advanced sections of the masses. This was the spirit in which he played crucial roles within the Communist League, the Albanian Society, the Stalin Society, and the National Committee for Marxist-Leninist Unity. Regrettably, the objective conditions were not ripe for the formation of a party free from revisionist trends, although this always remained his goal.
Bill Bland was a polymath who's generosity, warmth, humour, intellect and ceaseless quest for 'the truth beneath the façade' call to mind two of Marx's favourite aphorisms: 'Nihil humani a me alienum puto' (nothing human is alien to me) and, most important of all, 'De omnibus dubitandum' (everything should be doubted). These also exemplify the challenge he leaves behind. His theoretical contributions are considerable, and it is for these that he will be remembered. In our view, he should be honoured as the communist historian of modern revisionism. For the Communist League and Alliance Marxist-Leninist (North America), Bland was our intellectual leader. His influence, however, transcends our small size, and we believe that in time, his immense stature will be acknowledged by growing numbers of Marxist-Leninists world wide.
Our red salute to Bill Bland, comrade and friend!
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Interview with Bill Bland, 10th July 1994
JP: Could we start off with some basic biographical data?
WB: I was born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, 1916, 28th April. School was a local primary school, and eventually at the age of ten I think it was, I went to Manchester Grammar School which was a private school. My parents at that time were very well off, my father was director of a printing works and I went to the Grammar School which was quite good. I stayed there until I was fifteen and then the depression came. My fathers' works closed down and I had to leave school and get a job, and the only thing I could at that time, during the depression, was assistant to an optician. I was able to study part time at the Manchester College of Technology and eventually qualified and got a job in Yeovil in Somerset for a couple of years, and then I had the offer of a job in New Zealand. I was extremely excited because according to my paper, the Daily Express, New Zealand was a socialist country, and I was anxious to see what socialism was really like. So I went to New Zealand when I was 21, 1 think, it was just before the war, and found it wasn't very much different to things at home. Anyway, there I started to study economics, read my way into Marxism-Leninism, and applied to join the Communist Party of New Zealand. With some hesitation they eventually accepted me and that was my introduction to political life.
JP: What was the reason for their hesitation?
WB: Because they thought it was odd that someone with no previous contact with the Party should suddenly appear out of the blue having been in New Zealand for some years, for a couple of years anyway, and should apply for membership. They thought it was suspicious. Eventually they decided that I was just a bit of a crank, and so they allowed me to join, and I did. Eventually I worked my way up to the post of district secretary, then my mother was taken very seriously ill and had a stroke, so I came back to England and joined the Communist Party of Great Britain.
JP: Was this before the war?
WB: Just after the war, about 1950 1 think it would be.
JP: And you had been working as an optician?
WB: In New Zealand.
WB: Mainly in Auckland . . . . and then I came to England and found a job with the Co-op as an optician, the Co-operative Society had its own optical service at that time, and I was stationed near Dagenham. And so, with some money I had saved up, I put down a deposit on a house, I bought a house in Ilford, which was the nearest place to Dagenham that you could buy a house. Dagenham itself was almost all council estate so the nearest you could get to it for work was Ilford. So I moved to Ilford and stayed there until I retired at the age of 70.
JP: Just coming back to New Zealand, you worked there as an optician, but what about the war years?
WB: I was in the army for a couple of years, but I had two hammer toes and the army insisted they must be amputated. Now you know they didn't cause me any trouble at all, I could walk perfectly well but they insisted I couldn't march properly with these toes therefore they must come off! And so I had a big fight, I wrote to the Minister of Defense simply telling him "your government wants to amputate my toes, and I won't have it done". Anyway, they eventually got as far as sending me to the hospital with an order saying "amputate this man's toes", well when I refused to have it done, they sent me back to the camp. I was called before the Colonel, the camp commandant who said "You're a trouble maker Bland". They didn't know what to do with me, They said I couldn't march with these toes so I wasn't allowed to go on parade or anything. Eventually they decided that I should be discharged from the forces. This took a long time to come through so then I had nothing to do at all. I found that the most useful way was to go around with some papers under your arm. If you've papers under your arm no one in the army every questions you, you just say "I've got some papers for Colonel Simpson" and they just waive you through, let you go anywhere you wanted to, and I did that for about three months before my discharge came through, and then I went back to being an optician. The funniest thing about it was that the next year they called me up again, as an optician, and I went straight back to the same camp, as a second lieutenant. I was called before the Colonel who had dismissed me as being absolutely useless as a soldier, and he was completely taken aback because he now had to salute me!
JP: You said that originally you were called-up, as a private, in the infantry?
WB: Yes, the tank brigade actually. They said I was too big to go in a tank. Well they moved me then to a trooper in the cavalry, but they didn't have any horses at that time you see, so my first job in the army, it was just after the outbreak of war, we only had one anti-aircraft gun in the whole country at that time, so my job, our job, was to set up an anti-aircraft gun in various cities, fire a few shots, then dismantle it and put it up somewhere else, and convince the nation that we were well defended!
JP: What was the size of the Communist Party of New Zealand at that time, was it flourishing?
WB: Well I would say that relatively speaking, it was about the same size as the Communist Party of Great Britain, about two or three thousand.
JP: And did they take the same line in relation to the war as did the Communist Party in this country?
WB: First of all they took the line that it was an imperialist war, then they found that the British party was taking a different line, so they changed their line to say that it was a just war on the part of the Allies. Then only a month after that the Comintern line came out and everybody decided they must have been wrong and so they changed their line again, for the third time all in a matter of two months. I had difficulty accepting the change of line but eventually I was convinced and I did, and I was interested to see that Stalin took the view that this was a just war from the beginning.
JP: Did the New Zealand Communist Party have links so close with the communist party in this country (CPGB) that they tended to reflect whatever was happening here?
WB: I think so, yes. There was a feeling that New Zealand was a very small country, twenty thousand miles off the beaten track, therefore these clever people in Britain must know more than we do. There was this colonial sort of feeling to a great extent, but they certainly had great admiration for Palme Dutt in particular, and Palme Dutt's notes of the month at that time were regarded as the international line to be followed. On the other hand, on the positive side, they did attach a great deal of importance to political education which was quite different to when I came back to Britain. Every meeting was a political meeting in the sense that there was a political discussion of the events of the past week, an open discussion with a different person leading it each week, and this was extremely valuable not only if your were listening but also when you had to prepare something yourself, and this was the reason why I think the New Zealand party for so many years didn't fall victim to revisionism.
JP: You mentioned that you had a role, or position, within the local party, was this branch secretary?
WB: District secretary.
JP: Were you involved particularly with education?
WB: Yes. In Auckland the party started something they called 'the Marxist school' which was given to me to run. I ran the classes in the Marxist school for about a year, until the landlord objected and closed it down.
JP: Some of the people you knew from those days you are still in touch with?
WB: One or two people, most of them have now fallen by the wayside. There are one or two people there. I remember particularly Jack Locke and Selwyn Devereaux who were both prominent members at one time, and when the party turned Trotskyist, they broke away and they are now linked up with the people who are founding the communist party
JP: The Marxist-Leninist nucleus?
JP: Have you been back to New Zealand?
JP: You came back and became an optician in Dagenham, and did you join the Communist Party of Great Britain?
WB: I was transferred. They gave me a letter of transfer saying that I was a comrade in good standing, and they accepted me when I came back immediately.
JP: And that was around 1950?
WB: Approximately 1950, yes.
JP: And did you hold any positions in the CPGB?
WB: Branch Secretary of part of Ilford, Seven Kings branch. But by that time I had become unhappy with certain features . . . . . I didn't have any problems in New Zealand at all with the party line, but in Britain, for example, as branch secretary I recruited a soldier into the party which was really very sound, very good, I was very pleased to do it, but then a letter came down from higher up saying 'we must not accept this serving serviceman into the party, it's illegal'. Well what a ridiculous situation, we realise that the armed forces are going to be used against the working class, it is essential that the working class should have its recruits in the armed forces. To turn someone down merely on the technical grounds that they were already in the armed forces seemed to me absolutely absurd and I could not imagine any honest revolutionary taking this line.
This was soon after I came back to England, in 1953 probably, something like that, and from then onwards I began to be increasingly disillusioned. And then at this time, in 1951 I think, the British Road to Socialism came out. I'd been taking classes in Marxism-Leninism for ten years, and I just couldn't accept this, it seemed to me to be absolutely contrary to everything I had been teaching over the past ten years and so I began to be a dissident member of the party, and consequently, I wasn't dismissed as branch secretary, but I wasn't allowed to do any work without approval, of the type I had been doing, and it was quite obvious that I was regarded with misgivings by the party leaders.
Nevertheless, at that time I took the view that all these people are influential highly esteemed Marxist-Leninists, and I'm just an ordinary bloke, and I must be wrong. But at that time, you see there were only three of us in the whole country that raised any objections to the British Road in 1951, 52 when it came out. It is a very influential argument to say, well, why should you be right and all these other thousands of people wrong? And so I went back again and read all my Marx, and Lenin and Engels again, and I couldn't reconcile this line of peaceful parliamentary transition to what I had been taught, to what I had been teaching myself, and consequently I became what they called in the party a 'dogmatist'. Any time one spoke, you'd hear sarcastic remarks 'Bland coming out with all his dogmatic views again, he doesn't understand that life changes, the world changes, the world is not what it was ten, fifteen years ago, but dogmatic Bland can't see that'. I can't see that; I mean these are principles unchanged by the passing of a few years, and so, as I say, I reached for any possibility to do useful work but there was nowhere else to go.
Now when the new Soviet leadership... I wasn't aware of the position they had taken up with regard to the British Road to Socialism . . . . . all sorts of stories were being put out by the leadership to the effect that Stalin had endorsed the British Road, but whenever I asked for evidence of this it was never produced and I have never been able to find any evidence that Stalin did actually support the line of the British Road. But at that time I wasn't about to sit up and accuse Harry Pollit of being a liar, you just had to accept the fact that you were more ignorant, but there was this nagging doubt . . . but these people must know more than I do, I must be wrong, but I couldn't see it. And then of course came the 20th Congress and, at a district committee meeting the day after the 20th Congress report had been leaked out, and unanimously there everyone wanted to pass a motion of censure on Stalin, and on the party for having misled them over 20 years over the character of Stalin, and I moved an amendment that we should take no decision, no attitude on this question until the position had become clarified, it was only garbled press reports so far that had been published and nobody at the whole meeting - it must have been over a hundred people - and nobody there was prepared even to second a motion that it should be kept open awaiting further discussion. They were all quite happy and delighted to come in immediately, which surprised me I must say, and still surprises me a little bit. This is what happened. So, there was no dissidence in the party as far as this line was concerned, neither the 20th Congress nor the British Road. They welcomed it in fact because they wanted to be respectable social democrats and this gave them the opportunity of being so without being called social democrats.
JP: You mentioned that when the' British Road' came out there were three people . . ?
WB: I think it was four people.
JP: Do you know who the others were?
WB: No. The only contact was through the Morning Star. In the early days of the controversy the Morning Star did publish some letters from people who objected to the new line, and so we corresponded with these people who got together and endeavoured to form a nucleus of a new communist party, but they all fell by the wayside. One of them is a chap 'H' will know. He wrote to them from the north of England, J-- something. He lived on a farm in the north of England, he was a school teacher who decided you could do more for humanity by working on a farm, and so he bought a farm, and was one of those who objected with me and wrote to the Morning Star, or Daily Worker as it was then. We corresponded and he did actually write to the Communist League for details about joining, which I sent him. He wrote back and said "I only wrote for details about joining, I didn't say that I wanted to join"! He was a member of the Albanian Society for a long time, and eventually decided that Albania was no better than anywhere else, and so he resigned from the Albanian Society. He's still active in some way, I think he has been a contributor to North Star Compass. And there were two or three people whose names I now forget who disappeared fairly quickly. Some of them unfortunately were just people who were so awkward they would disagree with anybody, like a professional dissident who would disagree with you right or wrong!
JP. It seems surprising, because I know when talking to other people that when Stalin died there were many people in the party who felt genuinely upset and very sad at his death, so there must have been a lot of rank and file members who didn't believe what was being said.
WB: Yes. I am sure there are, and I still come across people now who say "I never accepted this line" but I was never able to make contact with them before.
JP: So really the 20th Congress statement was welcomed in the party with very little dissent. So what happened to you in the party after that?
WB: Well I stayed in the party but only as a rank and file member, there was nowhere else to go at that time. It was only when the Chinese party began to publish criticisms of the British Road, of the peaceful transition and also of the 20th Congress that there was any sort of movement within the party. Now shortly after that there was an organisation formed by Michael McCreary called the Action Centre for Marxist-Leninist Unity. Now he contacted me, and I was very pleased to be contacted and said I would like to work with him, but he insisted, or as good as insisted, that everyone had to immediately resign from the Communist Party. And I said there is no other organisation, even though I am only a rank and file member of that party now, at least one can work among people with a similar outlook. I don't think that the time has come yet when everyone should withdraw, I'm happy to join the ACMLU and become a loyal member, but I think it's incorrect at the moment to withdraw from the Communist Party.
JP: Which year was this?
WB: I think it was 1960, somewhere around there.
JP: Could the ACMLU be described as a Maoist organisation at that time?
WB: I think at that time everybody who was opposed to the CPGB line was a Maoist, you see at that time Mao appeared to be leading the campaign against Soviet Revisionism. So the CPC was taking an active leading role and therefore we welcomed this. As far as we were concerned we were supporters of the Chinese Communist Party. Up to that time people in the party hadn't a choice, but now they were faced with the task of having to choose, they either had to support the CPSU or the CPC. Before that they hadn't had to make a choice, and they did make the choice on some sort of intellectual rational grounds. These people - the CPGB - are revisionists, and we are supporting the anti-revisionist camp, - and this whole line of the ACMLU was anti-revisionist.
JP: They had asked you and any prospective supporters to resign from the communist party, but you felt that was not the right thing to do at that stage?
WB: Well they insisted that they wouldn't accept you as a member unless you resigned from the CPGB.
JP: Were you able to have anything to do with them, were you able to work with them even though you retained your membership of the CPGB?
WB: They wouldn't allow it. They were sectarian, in a way, in that it had to be all or nothing and so they only lasted for a brief period. McCreary died, he was ill, and his money was always important, his father was quite wealthy, and it was his money that had supported the organisation, its paper, and the whole thing fell to pieces after McCreary died. The next thing that came up was Mike Baker's organisation, the MLOB. Baker was the next one to approach me and my position was the same, and he made the point that he agreed with me that it shouldn't be necessary at the moment for everybody to withdraw from the CPGB. If they were able to do any work within it of any sort, fair enough, since there were still people there who were confused and honest, (therefore potential recruits), so he agreed with me and we formed the MLOB on that basis. At this time, we hadn't analysed 'Mao Tse Tung thought' at all when the MLOB was formed, and it was taken for granted by everybody that Mao Tse Tung was the leading Marxist-Leninist in the world.
JP: Where had Mike Baker come from? Had you known him before?
WB: No. He came to me out of the blue; actually I had never been aware of him before, but he contacted me and I was impressed with his political level. He was a very good speaker and a charismatic personality, really the type of personality that people would listen to even if they might not agree with him. I agreed with him on several things and we agreed to draw all these people together, all the dissidents together to form the nucleus of a new communist party. This would be anti-revisionist in the sense of being anti-CPGB, anti-CPSU revisionism, not anti-Mao in fact.
JP: Can you remember what year this was?
WB: I'd have to look it up. I've got the first edition of the paper at home; 1967.
JP: Was the paper Red Front?
JP: Were there a number of different publications?
WB: Yes there were two different publications, but the main one I think was 'Red Front'.
JP: And 'Class Against Class'?
WB: That was later. This paper was correct in all its line, in my opinion, still looking back on it almost thirty years later, it was correct in almost all its line, with the exception of support for the cultural revolution and 'Mao Tse Tung thought'. Then they gave me the job of researching 'Mao Tse Tung thought'. There were one or two doubts that had been expressed about what Mao was doing. We had a member who was working in China. He came back and described how the Red Guards . . . . he worked in a gramophone shop in Peking . . . . and described how the cultural revolution people had burst into his shop and smashed all the records such as Beethoven, and only a few acceptable records were allowed to be circulated, and he felt that this was fascist. He said quite frankly "I'm no longer a supporter of the cultural revolution, there is something that is definitely wrong". As a result of this they gave me the job of researching 'Mao Tse Tung thought' and preparing a report.
JP: He was an MLOB member working in China?
WB: Yes. As a result of that, I brought my draft report back which then defined 'Mao Tse Tung thought' as being a form of revisionism, and naturally this caused tremendous upset within the MLOB. Baker agreed almost at once to the line, but there were others there who didn't, who left saying it was slanderous and they would never accept this, but the number who left was really quite small, I would say no more than 20%, 25% at the most, and so we carried on. At that time I had been secretary of the Albanian Society, the Albanian party had come out fairly early against Soviet revisionism and as a result I was invited to go to Albania. When I was there they said: "There used to be an Albanian Society, we haven't heard from them for a number of years. If you believe what you're saying why don't you refound the Albanian Society?"
JP: The old society was one that had been set up between the wars?
WB: By the CPGB, but post-war they lost interest in Albania as soon as the Albanians started criticising the British Road and the Soviet party.
JP: Do you know when it had been set up, the original Albanian Society?
WB: 1940's. It ceased to be active once they lost interest in Albania, once the Albanians began to criticise Soviet revisionism. So I was asked to refound it. I managed to get hold of the old secretary who gave me a list of members, there were only two members left in it actually, one of whom was 'X' , the chap from Finsbury.
WB: That's right. We founded this society which gradually prospered over the years and grew to several hundred members, published a journal, 'Albanian Life' regularly, and I think did some useful work in that way. Then as soon as the MLOB changed its line, all the Maoists in the Society who had previously been active and supportive began to demand "that Bland go" on the grounds that my organisation, to which I belonged, had published a report which was anti-Mao Tse Tung and therefore anti-Albanian, and therefore I shouldn't any longer be allowed to be secretary of the Albanian Society. Instead they organised a faction within the society to get rid of Bland, and at the next AGM they organised a miniature cultural revolution in the society.
The chairman at that time was a Maoist called B--, she wrote articles on wine, her husband was a leading member of the friendship society with China. They organised this sort of cultural revolution at the AGM whereby a lot of people who had never been members of the society before appeared and demanded the right to vote, and B-- as chairman ruled that they had the right to vote because we were a democratic society and therefore anyone who walked in off the street to vote should be allowed to vote. This was "the masses speaking" you see. Unfortunately they hadn't got quite enough people to outvote the other members, and our members didn't agree with this particular line that it was reasonable grounds for sacking me, and so they lost the vote and I got re-elected as secretary and the Maoists walked out. They then formed another 'New Albania Society' which rapidly split into four or five other groups all of which rapidly disappeared, except the one that was financed by the Chinese, namely the one around Reg Birch. They called themselves the New Albanian Society and functioned for several years with full support from China.
JP: Did they have any official standing as far as the Albanians were concerned?
WB: The Albanians recognised them immediately. There were two organisations - there was the Communist Party of Britain run by Reg Birch, and there was the broader New Albania Society, - both of these were officially supported by the Albanian Party of Labour. At that time they broke off relations completely with us. We had a meeting and decided what we should do: Albania is a socialist country, we accept that, we don't agree with their line on this particular point, but none the less we stand for solidarity and support for the Albanian Party of Labour and the Albanian regime, therefore we would continue to support Albania, whatever their attitude to us might be. We carried on exactly as we had done, sending our literature to them regularly over the next six or seven years, until 1978, the Albanian Party changed its line and came out attacking Mao Tse Tung as being revisionist - his line as being revisionist. Immediately Birch broke off relations with Albania, dissolved the New Albania Society without even consulting its membership. They were just sent notices in the post saying "as from today the society is dissolved" - full stop.
At that time the one person who still had contacts with the Albanians was the expert on folk music, the president of our society Bert Lloyd. Bert Lloyd made regular trips to Albania to record folk music, not as president of the Albanian Society but in a personal capacity. We asked him if he would point out to the Albanians on his next visit that it was rather ridiculous to have no Albania friendship society - because there was no one except for ourselves, with whom they would not speak. And so we said diplomatically that he might raise this with them and point out that it didn't seem sensible to us that the situation should continue in the new circumstances. So he did raise it with them, and I was invited to Paris first of all to speak to the ambassador there, who seemed very suspicious of the whole situation. I couldn't see any reason why, the whole thing seemed perfectly straight forwards, nevertheless he was suspicious, and he said he would make our points to Tirana and write to me in due course. Eventually the reply came back 'yes, we would like a delegation from the Society to go to Albania'. There was no mention of what had happened over the previous ten years, no self criticism at all, but nevertheless they resumed good friendly relations with the society which was the main thing. The question of self-criticism was a matter for the Albanians and not for us really. We agreed in principle all the way through.
And so that was the situation through to the counter-revolution. Mind you, I am convinced now that there was a very strong revisionist faction in the leading positions of the party long before Hoxha's death, and the whole thing came to a head only after that period, but it was a continuation of policies followed previously. For example, when we sent a delegation just after Hoxha's death I think it was, I went with 'Y', we were the two delegates elected to go, and they asked us what we would like to see and do, and so we gave them a short list of things we would like to do. One of them was to take a film of the area around the Corfu Channel to make a film about the Corfu channel incident, and also some research that I wanted to do from the Albanian library.
Now we were a little taken aback by the fact that first of all they were unable to find an interpreter for us, they had no one there who could speak English, we were not allowed to take any photographs of the Corfu channel, and everything we asked to do including my visit to the Albanian National Library was for some reason not possible. They sent us round the country, it was enjoyable but it was purely a holiday, there was nothing we were able to do of any political value whatsoever. The whole 10 out of the 13 days we were there we were just driving around the country in a private car. I pointed this out to 'Y' and said 'these people are bloody revisionists!' - you know, I'd met the same people before in the CPGB and they behaved in exactly the same way as people in the CPGB had behaved. I'm convinced now that these were symptoms of degeneration that had already set in, that revisionism had already won many of the leading positions within the party, but it was not coming out openly.
JP: There was one trip where you were given an interpreter but he spoke French.
WB: That's the trip I am speaking of. They had given us an interpreter, but my French was not all that good. I happened to know that there were lots of people there at the university who were experts in English who would have been happy to have a free holiday at the expense of the state, but they couldn't provide us with an interpreter in English!
JP: You had done some work for the Party of Labour in the past, some research work about Skenderbeg? How did they know about you in the first place?
WB: When they changed their line in criticising Soviet revisionism, I wrote to them congratulating the Party on the correction of its line on Soviet revisionism, and its from there the Central Committee invited me to visit Albania for the first time, in 1960.
JP: And was that when you did the filming for the film you made, 'The Land of Eagles'?
WB: That's right.
JP: That you showed at the Edinburgh film festival?
JP: Who has got that film now?
WB: I have got a video of it, the BBC 'lost' the original film, but I have a video of it.
JP: What about learning Albanian, when did you start to do that?
WB: When I first became the secretary of the Albanian Society back in the early sixties. My knowledge of languages is basically a visual one. I can translate the written stuff but if someone speaks to me I can't understand what they are saying. The Albanians were always flabbergasted by the fact that I couldn't speak to them but I could understand stuff which they could only understand with great difficulty. So they asked me to translate various stuff, the stuff on Skenderbeg was related to a chap, an Englishman, who went to Albania and fought with Skenderbeg, and nothing has ever been written about him. I did a paper which I never got round to actually publishing.
JP: Was there some Southampton connection there?
WB: Yes that's right. This chap was actually the commander of the Isle of Wight, and he was so corrupt that there was a small revolution and he was expelled, and he was then compelled to go as a soldier of fortune, as a mercenary and the Albanians took him on. The Albanians were not very happy with my research because they thought it didn't reflect very well on this chap who they regarded as being a hero! Never the less it was perfectly true, they really hadn't been aware of his history, and so as far as I know it was never published anywhere.
JP: Do you know if they have that in the Skenderbeg museum now?
WB: Not that I know of.
JP: You made one of your comments about the New Zealand party that they were good at education, and I think that you have commented that in Albania you suspected that continuing political education was not very good and that this may have been one of the contributory factors to the counter-revolution?
WB: I'm convinced that education is a key factor in maintaining a correct Marxist-Leninist position in any organisation, in any party. There is no other way that I can see, that you can prevent revisionist influences from affecting a party.
JP: So the New Zealand model you think is a good one, that you have a weekly political meeting and take it in turns to prepare something?
WB: Yes. Gradually over the years the British Party took the view "we haven't got time for these political discussions comrades, we have to prepare for the next 'Daily Worker bazaar". And gradually, over the years, any one political became non-politicised and that's what opened the door to revisionism.
JP: When did the CPGB change from having workplace organisation?
WB: It was about the same time, just after the war, 1950 1 think it was, round about that time. The whole thing fell into a pattern.
JP: This is backtracking a bit, but I think that you visited the Soviet Union before the war?
WB: I went on holiday, in 1937.
JP: I think that when you were there they were trying the experiment of making bread free in the shops?
WB: They took the view at that time that communism was something to be introduced by installments, not over night, not all at once in every field but gradually so that once production in a particular commodity became sufficient so this particular article could be communised, and at that time in Moscow I was informed that bread was now free. You could go into a shop and help yourself. Nothing else as far as I know - bread, yes.
JP: And they didn't have people cleaning out the bakeries and taking all the bread?
WB: It worked. After all, you don't, in most parts of the country, pay for your water by the gallon, it doesn't mean you turn your tap on deliberately just to get something for nothing. People don't, and I think its only a small step to changing peoples attitudes to realise that there is no point in taking more than you want.
JP: Did you just stay in Moscow?
WB: Yes, it was just four or five days that I was there. But I was very impressed mainly by the political attitudes of the people. It was before I joined the communist party, before I was a communist; I merely went there out of curiosity.
JP: Were there any other organisations apart from the ACMLU which predated the MLOB?
WB: They were the first; I can't think of any more.
JP: Your book which was published ten years ago now, when did you start writing 'The restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union'?
WB: I think it must have been about 1978, two years before it came out.
JP: And you are working on an updated edition at the moment?
JP: You have presented a talk to the Communist League on how to set about research, and in the context of the Stalin Society have pointed out that you have to examine facts objectively and then people should be forced to look at them and then decide what their position is in relation to them. You were asked by someone from the New Communist Party how it was that you were able to come out against revisionism in the Soviet party all those years ago?
WB: You see, first of all there is a great reluctance . . . . many people tend to be conformists, you like to be able to agree with your contemporaries, your associates, therefore I think that is a barrier to objective research, to objective findings, because then if your individual view is unpopular you become unpopular and therefore you tend to say what other people want you to say. I do think that this is something that has to be avoided. For example, the Communist League's line on Dimitrov is unpopular because it is something new. It is not something that is anti-Marxist-Leninist, it is something which is either true or untrue depending on the facts. Now if your facts draw you to a particular conclusion I think it is essential for an organisation or party to come out with a correct point of view, under no circumstances should they say "well we can't say that, its unpopular, therefore we will say nothing about it"; I think it is absolutely unpardonable for an M-L organisation. If one is correct, then sooner or later the passage of time will confirm the correctness, but if you are incorrect then it wont, and of course you must immediately rectify your incorrect line. But not to put a line forward that you think is correct merely to be popular, I think is contrary to all the principles of Marxism. I think we've never done that. I remember when we put forward our first research report on China, at that time most people who regarded themselves as M-Ls were running around waving the little red book, and they felt that this was something like running into a Catholic church and overturning the altar, they felt exactly the same way, and they responded in exactly the same way, yet gradually, over the years, more and more M-Ls have come out accepting the views we put forward in 1960. 1 think that under no circumstances should we ever . . . . of course we have to be sure that we are right, we go over and over the facts again, but once we are convinced that there is no other explanation, for example accepting that Dimitrov was a leading revisionist, then we should say so. I think not to say so merely to be popular is unpardonable. All new views are unpopular at first, it is merely a reflection of their newness. People tend to be conservative, they don't like changing their point of view if they can avoid it, they have to be forced to do so by the weight of evidence, by the weight of incontrovertible facts, and this is the way I think the Communist League ought to work, small as it is. It is the only way that any organisation large or small should work.
JP: What about the Marxist-Leninist Research Bureau, that has a similar role in investigating important topics?
WB: The weakness there is that so far we have not felt able to investigate controversial topics. The New Communist Party was holding a meeting on Yugoslavia, and they had got together all the people who are supportive of the view of the Yugoslav government to present their case. Now our case is not popular among people . . . among people who regard themselves as M-L. Never the less I feel we should put it forward, not in a destructive way, to call people traitors and fools but merely to present the facts as we see them, and invite them to seek another explanation for these facts. People are very reluctant to discuss things on the basis of facts. People like 'Z', a very high political level, a loyal supporter of Stalin, there is no doubt he is very sincere in his support of Stalin and Marxism-Leninism, nevertheless, if you say "right, lets discuss Mao", he will not discuss Mao, he will merely say "I don't want to discuss it, I don't agree with you, that's all there is to say".
If you don't agree, why not? Maybe you are right, tell me why you don't want to agree? Somehow, he doesn't want to do that. So what it is here, in my opinion is this: rather than basing one's views on fact, he's basing his view on preconceived prejudices which he is unwilling to change or challenge. It's like the attitude of the Catholic church in the Middle Ages - you didn't discuss whether God existed or not, you just had to accept it because even discussing it was equivalent to treason, to heresy, - and it seems to me that these people do have that view. They are unwilling to discuss it. Take a member of the NCP again, they cancelled a meeting but forgot to tell me so there was only one other chap there, who was editor of the paper. He wanted to discuss 'Mao Tse Tung thought', and I said read this stuff I'll leave it with you, it may be wrong and if so, if you point out where we are wrong, we'll correct it. "Yes I'll do that", - you see, and that was a year ago. I left the stuff with him and asked him to fix a date for a further discussion, but no, he won't do that. This means that he is only prepared to blindly follow the line of his party, and this isn't going to do his party any good. If the line is wrong, then his party is not being served by his support for it. If the line is incorrect then his job as a party member is to bring his objections forward and have them discussed at the highest level, and this they are unwilling to do, whether its 'Z' or the NCP.
JP: One of the tenets of the Communist League is to build a party free of revisionist trends. Do you think you could expand on what that means?
WB: Well today we are in a situation where everyone who calls themselves an M-L is in favour of building a new Marxist Leninist party. The 'A's say that; 'X' says that - they all say it - but when you come down to it, it is necessary to draw a dividing line between the most blatant revisionist trend, which is Maoism, and Marxism-Leninism. You cannot build a party which contains both revisionists and Marxist-Leninists, it will fall to pieces at the first blow. Therefore our line in the Stalin society to try and utilise this for the purpose of support of Stalin, as we are all agreed, but also for discussing in a friendly way, the points on which we differ, so that on the basis of fact the members can be aware of the two opposed points of view and make their own decisions, and this seems to me to be to be an absolutely inevitable consequence of building a party which is taken seriously.
And the same thing applies to a society that has a Marxist-Leninist paper, that we find out what we can agree on and that is the integral policy of the paper. Other questions on which we disagree we leave open for the time being and publish articles on both points of view, not in a hostile way but in a friendly way based on facts, and in that way, all those who call themselves M-Ls we say here, presented objectively, are the particular points of view why one policy is wrong, and the other answer is right, is Marxist-Leninist. I think that this is an essential way forward in building a party in the present circumstances.
JP: The international journal which is being suggested I think we have already discussed and we felt that this could play a useful role and should be open to Maoists to contribute to, and put down their views, and essentially, should be forced to express themselves in writing so that everyone could see where they do stand.
WB: The fact that they have expelled all the M-Ls, with the exception of yourself, from the Stalin Society is a sign not of their strength but of their weakness. If A-- is really sincere in saying that it is a good thing that we be allowed to put forward this "rubbish" so that it can be exposed, then he would be in favour of us continuing to put our view forward, but in fact he voted for our expulsion. And this to my mind exposes his hypocrisy. We are anxious to put forward our point of view, we don't pretend that we're infallible, we may be wrong, if so we regret it and we will criticise ourselves. But in order that we should be shown to be wrong we have to hear the other point of view, and this is what they are unwilling to do, to participate in any sort of objective discussion of facts.
JP: As far as the history of the Soviet Union is concerned and the triumph of revisionism there, do you think that Stalin shares any of the responsibility for what has happened?
WB: All share responsibility. You could always say that Stalin could have done more, could have done this, could have shot this person beforehand. But I would be unwilling to criticise Stalin at all, because I feel that Stalin stands head and shoulders above all of us, all existing communists as far as his line was concerned - I think it is becoming more and more clear, if our analysis is correct, that Stalin was not the all seeing all powerful dictator that he is presented as being, but was in fact one member of a collective, in whose membership was included concealed revisionist conspirators, and people were able to be misled by these conspirators, by their wrong line, even though they weren't conspirators themselves, then I think we must - our admiration for Stalin must increase tremendously because he was able to prevent this revisionist group from taking any steps which really critically damaged socialist society, and it was not until three years after his death that the first moves were made to change, to start disrupting socialist society. It took another thirty years or so before they were able to actually come out and disrupt the whole structure of socialism as handed down by Stalin. I don't think we have anything to criticise Stalin for, of course one could point out mistakes that Stalin made, but Stalin being a living person and not a divinely inspired person, must have made some mistakes, but I can't find any. I have read the whole of his works and I can find nothing today even after all this hindsight that is available to us now, there is nothing he said, definitely said, that is inaccurate now. Therefore I think Stalin was a model, as Lenin was, for a correct Marxist-Leninist way of life.
JP: What are the lessons then, that Marxist-Leninists in this country should learn from what happened in the Soviet Union?
WB: To my mind, one of the most fundamental things is education, for all members without exception, compulsory political education for all members is essential if the party is to be saved from revisionist degeneration. In an imperialist world it is the imperialists who control all the media, the imperialists who persuade the people what to think and, unless we have a firmly disciplined party which is correctly educated in Marxist Leninist principles, then this pressure from the imperialist world is bound to destroy us.
JP: I know that 'H' wanted to discuss certain. . . . . .but some of that ground we have covered already . . . .
WB: As far as 'C' is concerned, I just can't see that there is any option but to criticise him on a number of positions. A correct line must be based on fact. I don't think in his last letter for example, that it was a Marxist-Leninist letter, it is really an attack on rationalism. Now we believe in rationalism, we believe in reason, we believe in logic, therefore once you say "'I don't believe in logic therefore anything goes", then we have no firm basis for an argument. And this is clearly what he says in his last letter. He makes the point that we excuse our line on the grounds of reason, something being reasonable and something not. I think we must do that. We must accept the fact that there are rational ways of argument, or not. Now if we can show that Dimitrov pursued, put forward a definitely revisionist line on such questions as the war, on such questions as the peaceful transition to socialism, then this cannot be reconciled with the view that Dimitrov was a great Marxist-Leninist. If Mike Baker, as he agreed, dissolved the MLOB, then this cannot be reconciled with the fact of him being a great Marxist-Leninist. M-Ls don't behave in that way, and this attitude of saying "oh you are only arguing on the basis of reason" seems to me not to be the way that an M-L should argue, because it is not arguing according to the principals of logic which M-Ls must accept.
JP: And what about 'D'?. Do you think he is going to remain unwilling to discuss the question of Mao?
WB: As in the case of 'C', I think 'D' is an opportunist. He has a very good mind, a very good level of M-L understanding, but he's caught up with . . . , I think it shows therefore that he wants to keep his doors open for the future, and he is well aware that just as M-Ls have changed their minds about Stalin, so they might change their minds about Mao Tse Tung. I think he wants to be careful not to close the door to possible collaboration with us in the future. If our successors carry forward the task of building a party, if we are shown to have been correct by inescapable facts.
I think even now it is extremely difficult for him to hold the view that China is still a socialist country, he can only do that by slushing around the facts, but he can still make a case for Mao Tse Tung which can stand up to at least elementary analysis, but to say that China today with foreign capital flowing in is still a socialist country, that the party is still a Marxist-Leninist party is impossible for any reasonable person to sustain. Therefore, sooner or later, they are bound to change their point of view . . . .
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Notes on Historical Research
The following is the text of a talk delivered by comrade Bland to a Communist League summer school in 1977, detailing his method of historical research.
I have been asked by the Political Bureau to set down the method which I use in conducting historical research. In doing so, I must make it clear that this is a method I have evolved without specialised training, by common sense and trial and error over some years. I make no claim that it is the best possible method, and I am sure that the Political Bureau would wish to publish any comments which other comrades may have.
I feel it would be easier to illustrate this method by taking a concrete piece of research which I am at present working on for the autumn school on trotskyism -- the assassination of Trotsky in Mexico City in 1940.
I had, of course, certain preconceived ideas on the subject: the belief that all trotskyite groups agree that the assassination was carried out by the Soviet security police on Stalin's orders, while the Communist Parties at the time portrayed the act as that of a disillusioned trotskyite.
In my view the first and most important step in any research project is to do one's best to suppress the prejudices which all of us have - my own hostility to trotskyism and admiration for Stalin as a Marxist-Leninist tending to make me reject from the outset the trotskyite theory. This is fatal. The purpose of historical research is not to uncover facts which support one's own prejudcies, one's preconceived theory, but to establish the objective truth, so far as this is possible. A theory which is not based on the objective truth is useless to the cause of changing the world.
Where, then, to make a start?
I began with Deutscher's biography of Trotsky - with that section covering the assassination. I first read it through and then went through it again underlining the sentences which appeared to have significance. I then typed out these sentences on separate sheets of paper, headed by the date (e.g., August 17th., 1940) to which the material below related.
Here one must note that Deutscher favours the trotskyite theory - that the assassination was carried out by agents of the GPU. But this is irrelevant. What one is concerned with is the "factual details" which Deutscher gives.
But, of course, the "factual details" given by Deutscher may be untrue.
The next step, therefore, is to note below each "factual detail" the source cited by Deutscher for it. For example, the confession note which the assassin "Jacson" had with him at the time of the assassination in which he states his premeditated intention to kill Trotsky because he came to the conclusion that he was a "phoney revolutionary"; this source is given as the police records published by the Mexican Chief of Police in a book which he published on the investigation later.
It is, of course, impossible to buy all the books referred to in the course of a research project - and in any case this book is long out of print. If it is a book from which only one or two points are required, I consult it at a university library - where it is generally much quicker to obtain than at the last resort, the British Museum reading room. If, however, it is a book likely to contain much valuable material, as in this case, I prefer to obtain it on loan from or through my local library, so that I can browse over it at home. I find that if I have to make voluminous notes from a particular book in a reference library, there are invariably some words in my notes which I am unable to decipher when I type them up on my return home. This necessitates a second visit to check the typewritten notes from the source, and to fill in any indecipherable words!
Having consulted the account of the Chief of Police, I find that Deutscher's account of the confession note is accurate. (It need not have been, of course; one can take nothing for granted in research!).
This appears to establish the fact that the assassin wished the world to believe that he was a disillusioned trotskyist, and that his disillusionment was the motive for his act. It does not, of course, establish that this was, in fact, the real motive; if as the trotskyites claim "Jacson" was a GPU agent he could have had reason to present a false motive.
The process of research goes on in this way. Each new book referred to contains details of other books or articles which need to be consulted. At first, the list grows and grows, but as the work proceeds one finds that the number of unconsulted works decreases until finally one can say that one has consulted, so far as one can tell, all the relevant works.
This is inevitably a time consuming process. It may take a whole day to track down a reference where the citer has failed to give a page reference. I think, therefore, that there is some truth in my old joke that only an obstinate, anti-social element like myself is capable of sustained research!
In checking facts, one may be able to ascertain that so-and-so said something. But the question remains: was he speaking the truth? This may be difficult to ascertain with certainty, and I think it is fair to assess the truth of a statement on the basis that an admission which is contrary to the case of the admitter is very likely to be true.
In the case of the present research project, for example, one finds that some days after the assassination, Joseph Hansen - the guard on duty who admitted the assassin to Trotsky's "fortress" in Mexico City, now leader of the trotskyite Socialist Workers' Party in the USA - had a secret interview with an FBI agent at the US Embassy in Mexico City. This fact is revealed in documents of the US State Department recently published for the first time, and is confirmed by Hansen's own belated admission in the pages of the SWP journal.
One finds further the admission of the head of the counter-espionage section of the FBI at the time that his agents were working in cooperation with oppositionist agents of the GPU in the United States, who were functioning as double agents.
These two facts alone throw doubt on the orthodox trotskyite theory that Trotsky's assassination was simply that of a "Stalinist execution squad".
I believe that a valuable guide to assessment of facts is the principle "Cui bono?" (Who benefits?). The official GPU in 1940 was controlled by Beria, whom countless other facts establish as a Marxist-Leninist collaborator of Stalin. Now Marxist-Leninists condemn political assassination, and it must be remembered that at this time Trotsky's supporters in the Fourth International were a negligible force, and already in process of splitting into rival factions. From the point of view of Marxist-Leninists in the Soviet Union, the assassination of Trotsky would have been counter-productive. Indeed, Marxist-Leninists are on record as having warned of an attempt to assassinate Trotsky by right-wing forces as a provocation to stir up hatred against the Soviet Union.
On the other hand, the facts show that the assassination was not a purely individual act, but was part of a planned conspiracy. What political forces stood to gain in 1940 by Trotsky's murder?
In the study of the role of Stalin already published, the Communist League has accepted that the plan of the opposition conspiracy in the Soviet Union was to open the front to German forces in the anticipated future war with Nazi Germany and to overthrow the Soviet government in a military coup.
What was the position of Trotsky, the founding father of the opposition in this plan?
Trotsky persisted right up to his death in insisting that the Soviert Union represented a workers' state, and that it was the duty of opposition elements in the Soviet Union to fight alongside the "Stalinists" in the defence of the Soviet Union in the event of an imperialist attack upon it.
Clearly, by 1940 - when the German attack upon the Soviet Union was only months away - Trotsky had become an obstacle to the full realisation of those plans. It can, therefore, hardly be regarded as accidental that it was precisely at this time (1939-40) that a section of the leaders of the trotskyite SWP in the USA broke with Trotsky precisely upon this point - maintaining the the Soviet Union was no longer a workers' state, but one of state capitalism, in which it would be "criminal" for "Marxists" to cooperate with the "Stalinist bureaucracy" in defence against imperialist attack.
The research is not, at the time of writing, completed. But already it has reached the point where, I believe, it has refuted both the trotskyite theory that the assassination of Trotsky was carried out by "Stalin's agents" and the contemporary CP theory that it was the work of an individual disillusioned trotskyite. Already it has reached the stage of pointing to the probability of the truth of a new theory: that the assassination was the work of opposition conspirators working in conjnction with the US intelligence service, carried out under the slogan put forwards by Max Shachtman (the leader of the "state capitalist" theoreticians within the SWP) of "saving Trotskyism from Trotsky".
It is also understandable, on the basis of the new theory, why the demand of the trotskyite Workers' Revolutionary Party for a new investigation into the assassination of Trotsky has met with the violent hostility of a "united front" of virtually all other trotskyite groups - from the "Militant" group to the International Marxist Group and the Socialist Workers' Party (formerly International Socialists), who complain that the RWP's campaign is equivalent to "slandering" Hansen as an agent not only of the "GPU" but also of US Intelligence.
Out of the facts accumulated on a particular event, a picture inevitably begins to emerge. The essence of dialectical materialism, to my simple mind, is that "everything makes sense" - so that the picture which emerges from the accumulated facts must be the one that makes sense. If it contains inherent contradictions, then either one or more of the facts on which it is based must be incorrect or the interpretation placed upon them must be incorrect.
Once a coherent picture has been drawn with regard to a particular event, it is necessary to go through the entire material again. It is my experience that, once the correct picture has been drawn, other facts which one has dismissed as of negligible importance on the first lap acquire significance and need to be incorporated in the work.
In summing up what I feel is the basis of historical research, I would put forward what I feel is a fundamental principle: Take nothing for granted; check everything!
Of course, in emphasising the importance of research, I do not want to counterpose it to practical work. But practical work is useless unless it is based on a correct theory. And a correct theory is impossible without research. For example, the correct practical work which Comrade PT is pursuing in building an anti-fascist movement is based on a theory of fascism and the anti-fascist united front which it was possible for the Communist League to elaborate only out of research into the experience of the working class movement in Italy and Germany. There is no conflict between theory and practice; the two are inseparable and essential.
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Tributes to Comrade Bill Bland
Bill Bland will be remembered for his life's work in opposing revisionism and exposing its history to the communist movement. But for Bill, the other side of the coin in opposing revisionism was the struggle for communist unity.
These two related struggles, against revisionism and for Marxist-Leninist unity, were the twin forces that brought our organisation, the National Committee for Marxist-Leninist Unity, into being. Bill Bland, for the Communist League, became a founding member of the NCMLU and Bill never missed a single meeting.
As Bill reported in Compass in June 1999, the aim of the NCMLU is to work for the unification of the Marxist-Leninist anti-revisionist forces in Britain and towards the eventual formation of a single communist party.
All too often, communists loyal to Marxism-Leninism, especially those new to the movement, defend the separate principles of our science without knowing how to apply them or understanding how these principles relate to each other. But this kind of defence of principles was impossible for Bill. The communist principles Bill defended were not for him abstract tenets in textbooks, they had been upheld by him in practice during a lifetime of struggle, they were part of his personal history.
Bill Bland was a scholar, but also a man of action. He was not content with forming a correct view and then defending it in argument: he took decisive, practical steps in the light of his conclusions. It is therefore no accident that he was instrumental in the foundation as you know both of the anti-revisionist organisation we are attending today (the Stalin Society), but also of the National Committee for Marxist-Leninist Unity. For Bill, a clear understanding of theory led decisively to a course of action.
As has been stated, Bill was to have presented a talk today on the anti-revisionist movement in Britain. In his draft notes for this work, Bill shows how revisionism disguises itself as Marxism, how the revisionists are nominally Marxists. Bill shows how revisionism works either to liquidate the Communist Party altogether or to turn it into a party that in practice renders service to the bourgeoisie.
But before he related all this history, Bill first defined the principles the revisionists attack, that is, the Marxist concept of the State, the transition to Socialism and Revolution, and the inevitability of war under imperialism (based on Lenin's law of uneven development).
It is this clarity and structure of thought, this ability to define the essential, that enabled Bill to work with other communists whose views might differ substantially in various ways but who defended these same principles.
And Bill did not stop short at opposing revisionism. Bill's views on unity, and his opposition to revisionism, were carved from a single block. He was concerned not only with opposing revisionism, but also with finding practical ways for Marxist-Leninists to rebuild the communist movement, and to build a single party of the working class, free of all revisionist trends, and prevent the conscious and unconscious representatives of the bourgeoisie from destroying it.
As has been stated, in the draft conclusion to his talk, Bill writes that it is possible for the communist organisation to co-operate, not only with anti-revisionists with whom we may disagree, but even with the revisionists themselves, through the united front tactic. He recommends the formation of united fronts as a fundamental facet of Marxist-Leninist strategy and tactics. Bill defines a united front (amongst other definitions) as "common action to achieve common objectives", involving "no sacrifice of principle".
Bill's contribution to the National Committee for Marxist-Leninist Unity was substantial. He was not only the engine behind the Marxist-Leninist Research Bureau, but also an example in person of how it is possible to work together with other communists, including those we do not always agree with, in the pursuit of common communist goals. While some few others walked or ran away from differences, Bill patiently stood his ground and explained his views to anyone principled enough to listen.
Bill was the author of numerous works for the NCMLU, including the Course of Marxism, which is also on our Internet site. His work will go on through the NCMLU as we continue to campaign for an alliance of the Marxist-Leninist forces and the creation of a single, revolutionary party, not only because of his scholarship, but also because he left us the gift of his example, which he handed down to us through the months and years of constant collaboration with our organisation, of a principled approach in the struggle for Marxist-Leninist revolutionary unity.
John Green, Campaign for Marxist-Leninist Unity
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To: the family of William Bland;
the Communist League of Britain.
Dear Family members and relatives of our beloved comrade and friend Bill Bland. With profound sorrow we have learned this evening about the unexpected death of our beloved comrade and friend Bill Bland. With this man, having a clear spirit like amber, a sincerity like no one else, faithful like few men in this world, farsighted, clear in thought; we were fortunate to have had connections for several years and we were able to exchange opinions about many matters that pre-occupy true communists today. Through this continued Cupertino, we learned a great deal about how not to stray from the path we were taking.
The analysis that beloved Bland has made with regards to the developments in the former Soviet Union, in China, in Korea, in Vietnam and in Cuba, are of a special importance and have thus entered into the golden fund of Marxist-Leninist literature. The articles 'On Stalin' and 'In defence of Enver Hoxha', which we have translated and published in our press, have been read, with great interest, by thousands of people, receiving the highest praise. COMPASS, where the bright mind of Bland has continuously been present, has been a most valuable publication for Albanian communists because it has, in addition to information, also given precise opinions based upon Marxist-Leninist methodology.
For Albanians, Bland remains a true friend due to the fact that he has brought to light, like no one else, the intrigues and the traps organised by the imperialist powers, against the interests of our nation during the past one hundred years. The original documents in the book 'A Tangled Web' reflect his international communist character and morals. Our dear comrade and friend Bill Bland will be greatly missed, not only by his country and family, but by the whole world communist movement, as a man full of virtue and rare political analysis.
On this occasion, on behalf of the communists of Albania, we express our sorrow by being spiritually close to you. Long live his memory!
Muharrem Xhafa, Secretary KQPKBSH
Laver Stroka, First secretary of the PKSH committee for the region of Gjirokaster
Fitim Caushi, Member of the Central Committee of the PKBSH
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We got to know the mournful news that comrade Bill Bland died. We, as German Marxist-Leninists together with all Marxist-Leniists all over the world, grieve about this pitiable loss of one or our best and most honest comrades we know. He upheld Marxism-Leninism, defended it bravely against revisionism and by having done this, he developed Marxism-Leninism and carried if forward, so that it will be forever an honorable part of the worldwide treasure for all Marxist-Leninists.
Comrade Bill was a very modest fighter who struggled his whole life for communism. He will always be a great revolutionary and an excellent example for us and the next generation as well. I loved Bill although I saw him only a single weekend when he invited me to his home in London. We both published a communique in which we as British and German comrades laid down our political line in complete accordance
We swear to commemorate his work and life and we shall always remember him in our heart and apply to his lessons. We exalt our red fist and our voice to sing together the song of the "International" to farewell our best British friend and comrade.
On behalf of the Communist Party of Germany/Marxist-Leninist, Wolfgang Eggers, Chairman
J'ai appris aujord'hui la perte de notre cher camarade Bill Bland et je suis vraiment très touché. Camarade Bland à donné sa précieuse contributions pour faire connaître la question de mon pays. Il a été et il restera pour toujours un ami fidèle de l'Albanie. Veuillez prier de transmetter à part de moi et de ma femme nos sincère condoléances . . .
It is with a heavy heart that I came to know of the news of the death of Comrade Bill Bland when I opened my e-mail this morning. It was Comrade Bland, together with other comrades of the then 'Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain', some 30 years ago, who were responsible for introducing me to Marxism-Leninism. That I am the communist I am was due to the discussions, study circles and practical activities that I undertook during those days in which Comrade Bill Bland played a major role. It was due to the foundations then laid that, on my return home, I started on the long unending road towards trying to build a Marxist-Leninist communist party here. That task still remains incomplete. That there were subsequent differences of opinion between the Communist League that Comrade Bland represented and myself and other comrades here does in no way detract from the basic understanding of Marxism-Leninism that I learnt from him during those formative years. For that, words are difficult to express the debt I owe to him.
It is not for me to list the role Comrade Bland has played in the struggle against modern revisionism, particularly since the death of Comrade Joseph Stalin. There are other comrades who knew him and his work at closer quarters and for longer periods than I did. Suffice for me to say that when the history of the struggle against modern revisionism is written Comrade Bland's name will occupy a leading role.
Lal salaam (the English translation of this would be 'Red Salute')
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With the death of Bill Bland, a staunch veteran defender of Marxism-Leninism has pased away.
A British communist since his early years, Comrade Bill Bland was among the first Marxist-Leninists to take up the fight against modern revisionism that developed and spread in the international communist movement, especially since the death of J.V. Stalin. He made original contributions to the analysis of the capitalist degeneration of the former Soviet Union and China.
Bill Bland also defended socialist Albania and the Party of Labour of Albania at the time of the great Marxist-Leninist Enver Hoxha.
Comrade Bland fought with great determination for the recreation of a genuine Marxist-Leninist communist party in Britain, and for the revivial of the international communist movement on the sound and solid foundations of scientific socialism and proletarian internationalism.We shall cherish his memory!
Klaus Riis, Editor, Kommunistisk Politik, Workers' Communist Party of Denmark (APK)
The first time I saw Bill Bland was on television. His quiet, civilised, and educated manner made a profound impression on me.
At the first meeting of The Albanian Society I attended, I was impressed by the interest in everything to do with Albania: culture, language, customs, music and art. It was a friendly society between two peoples. The society was entirely non-political, For this reason it attracted a wide variety of people.
Only the finest of writers would do justice in describing the single-minded devoted, tireless work Bill carried out on behalf of the Albanain people. He worked to overcome prejudice, ignorance and bias from some of the best newspapers and broadcasters in this country. He constantly telephoned and wrote to editors, to correct many inaccuracies, on behalf of the Albanian people and for this alone he deserves recognition and thanks.
Bill was a prolific writer about all aspects of life in Albania. His love for Albania was such that before he learned to speak the language, he translated texts, looking up every single word in the dictionary! Later his proficiency was such that he wrote and translated books, pamphlets, newspaper articles, hundreds of poems, to promote the culture and customs of the Albanians.
In a letter he wrote to me on 14th August 1989, he spoke of his most daring challenge when he was asked by an Albanian Publishing house in Tirana to translate a 1000 page book on Ancient Albanian songs. Following the counter-revolution, the book was published in Tirana, Bill received no thanks or acknowledgement for his contribution.
Bill was unique. It would be difficult to find anyone who did as much for the Albanian nation. However, because of his personal Marxist commitment he was ignored by the present regime.
In the name of the Albanian working class people I stand here to say: we are grateful for what Bill did, and in the time to come, his efforts and writing will be acknowledged and appreciated.
Bill's achievement, and that of a whole generation of Albanian people lead by Enver Hoxha cannot be dismissed no matter how hard they try, enemies and Albanian traitors. Bill was a sincere friend of Albania and he will be greatly missed.
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Dear Eve, Ellen, Friends and Comrades,
Bill was a big man in so many ways - apart from the obvious! - that it is very difficult to know where to start.
At a time like this, we are here (I wish that I was there!) to celebrate the man. History has a way of dealing with its' great ones itself. Whatever the words humans offer, the mass of humans and their history speak their own volumes and will render Bill's judgement. Besides, we will have opportunity enough, to render his political legacy to words. Here I think it is apt to remember the man.
And when I do that, the major words that come to mind are 'humility', modesty', 'hard-working', and a roaring great humour that ranged from the huge belly laugh (he loved 'The Two Ronnies' on the telly), to the very quietly spoken satire delivered with the sweetest baby-face in the world - never play poker with this man I should think!
I just have a couple of anecdotes - for we all have several hours worth I imagine. When as a callow youth in the late '60s, I first met Bill, he was not quite my idea of the revolutionary. Where was the flowing hair, where were the loud declamations? None of that. Instead, a very quiet spoken man in his fifties, dressed rather 'conservatively' if ill-kempt. His ill-kemptness made me suspect that he was not interested in appearances and that was a little reassuring. But it was only when Comrade Bland negotiated myself and similarly callow youths through Marxism-Leninism, in a circle I had gathered in Southampton, that his real qualities began to make themselves clear. I had already read - though probably not appreciated much of his major stellar works on Mao, on Art - but somehow the man and his writing seemed separate to me. Until, through the progress of the course, his ability to explain complex matters clearly, to strip away verbiage and make you feel you could understand it impressed us all. More - he could hear the young, and draw them out to express their own views in a group, where they might be exposed as idiots, but he never ever treated them as such - every view had its place and was weighed and considered.
We had noticed that he would knock on the door at EXACTLY the appointed minute and hour - never more never less. We wondered how was this possible. Until by the third class or so, we looked out the window and a little way off was his little car that he had driven down from the Smoke to see us. He would sit there until the appointed hour, and present himself. He was rather flustered when I went up once before the appointed hour, and invited him in! He really hated to "intrude".
As some of us drifted away from Trotskyism under his guiding hand, I saw more clearly that his meticulousness went beyond watching the clock. On a pleasure trip we went to Wales near the Christmas period. Do you remember Eve? It was a little embarrassing for me as I had no money, and he was paying for my hotel room and food and trip entirely. However he and Eve did their best to make me feel comfortable. He planned the trip with an itinerary that included local sightseeing down to the hour - he had lived up to his famed meticulous researching behaviour. All went well, till the day of Christmas Eve. Walking around Aberdare, there was a sign for the Miners Museum advertising a trip down the mineshaft in the collier wagons. We were rather surprised that it was still on. The canny miners selling tickets did not say much, they must have thought Eve and I were the right age group. We did notice that the collier wagon was full of kids. But that is the case in most museums isn't it? Anyway, we go down expecting some "educational" lectures about the life of the coal miner. And lo and behold there was a Santa and his elves at the bottom! We were rather sheepish, and looked intently at the coal seams while the kids got their pressies! Even Bland's research can be faulty - take heart ye who disagree with his analyses!
Another trip that I was honoured to take with him was to the Orkneys and Stromness. I was living in Newcastle and he felt I was on the way there, and could give a lecture. He had been engaged in correspondence with a rather energetic and priestly type who loved Albania but detested its' atheism. (One of Bill's letters to this gentleman has the immortal line "In your last letter - written in an inimitable style reminiscent of a cross between Hitler and the Messiah, you write..." etc). He was holding a meeting of the Albanian Society in 1978 in Stromness. There he showed me how careful all his preparations were, in order to deliver the full and maximum effect. He rehearsed me, and himself; he insisted we were at the hall some hours before anyone else; he insisted on wearing a dark suit with a tie - the buttons of his shirt were popped open, and his suit was spotted with food - but nonetheless he looked the part of a 'respectable' advocate of the atheist Peoples' Socialist Republic of Albania. He said to me: "You must remember Lenin's words to Trotsky about looking the part when you meet with potential opponents - make them take you seriously". By then I could afford a bed-and-breakfast, but he adamantly refused saying he would pay for a hotel instead - so unhappy was he with superficial intimacies.
But then when I stayed at his house I thought there might be other reasons as well. Several times we had work over various things. I sometimes would stay at his house. The first time I was somewhat abashed to be staying with this giant of an intellect. The night came, and about midnight after we had gone to sleep, I heard a very loud voice droning on. I had no idea what it was, and it went on - rather loudly - for some hours, and I simply could not sleep. I said nothing the next day. Come the next night and the same happened. This time I crept downstairs, and Bill was asleep with the radio full on, where he had obviously started listening to the BBC. So much for his scrupulous attention to every detail of the news that had so impressed me!
He taught me so much - from the beauty of Van Gogh's paintings to the importance of fusty books like "Keesings Contemporary Archives of News Events" to the wonder of film. He took me to the 'Tree of the Wooden Clogs' where he did not try to tell me it was "SOCIALIST", it so obviously was HUMAN.
He was - in a real sense - my father - certainly my political father. He was a friend to me in a very special and irreplaceable way. I wish his family the very most sincere condolences.
Hari Kumar, Alliance Marxist-Leninist - North America
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It is with great sadness that I have learned of Bill's death, and my sympathetic thoughts are with Eve, his daughter. I got to know Bill through my involvement with the Albanian Society, and it is about his contribution to this body that I should like to say a few words. The Society, a non-political organisation whose aim was to disseminate factual information about Albania and to promote friendship and understanding between the British and Albanian peoples, was established in 1957. In 1960 Bill became its Secretary, and he was to hold this post almost without interruption, for thirty years, until his resignation in July 1990.
His service to the Society was quite extraordinary. Few people in the English speaking world knew as much about Albania as he did, and he unstintingly and unselfishly put his knowledge at the disposal not only of members of the Society, but also of hundreds of other inquirers, both individuals and institutions, at home and abroad. Every inquiry, whether it came from someone interested in Albania's socio-political system or from a philatelist wanting to obtain Albanian stamps, received the same careful and prompt attention. Nothing was too much trouble for him. He worked tirelessly for the Society and for the cause of British-Albanian understanding. He wrote thousands of letters and made thousands of telephone calls on behalf of the Society. He also translated countless Albanian articles, reviews, poems, and even books. He wrote numerous pieces of his own, and in 1988 contributed the Albania volume to the World Bibliographical Series published by Clio Press. He edited the Society's journal, 'Albanian Life' and not only edit it, but also typed it, collated it, and distributed it. He gave lectures and participated in meetings up and down the country from the south of England to Orkney. He gave interviews on radio and television and to the press. He represented the Society on delegations to Albania.
Although he never mentioned it, I know that he was often generous to the Society with his purse as well as with his time and effort: when for example he addressed a meeting which I organised in North Wales, the whole trip was at his own expense. It was indicative of Bill's prominent work for the Society and for the cause of better relations between Britain and Albania that sometime in the 1980s a local newspaper in Ilford, where he was living, published a photograph of his house, which it described - not seriously of course - as the Albanian Embassy in Britain. A day or two later Bill had a visit from an irate official from the local Council who in complete seriousness warned him that, by allowing his home to be used for diplomatic purposes, he was in breach of planning regulations and liable to prosecution!. Although Bill of course never represented the Albanian government, his house was, in the absence of an Albanian Embassy in Britain, the nearest thing we had to an Albanian Information Centre. The establishment of diplomatic relations between Britain and Albania was something for which he fought long and hard, and it was he who did more that anyone else to get the Campaign for Diplomatic Relations with Albania successfully launched in1980.
The abandonment of socialism in Albania must have come as a bitter disappointment to him, but I hope that until the end of his life he remained proud of the remarkable contribution which, over several decades, he made to British-Albanian understanding and friendship. All who knew him and benefited from his help and advice will remember him with gratitude and affection.
Martin F Smith, President of the Albanian Society 1982 - 1991
We were very sad when we heard of Comrade Bill's passing away. We had worked together with him over the years, most notably when he was Secretary of the Albanian Society. Recently, we had met him in connection with his research in writing a history of the anti-revisionist movement in Britain, and on other maters.
We have many affectionate memories of Comrade Bill and his indefatigable character in all the work he took up. His presence, in his characteristic open necked shirt and his sandals, wherever circumstances demanded that a communist should be present to do their duty, seemed never changing.
Comrade Bill and our Party shared many preoccupations. There was defence of socialist Albania before its collapse, the defence of the purity of Marxism-Leninism, the necessity for the unity of Marxist-Leninists - these were some of the areas in which our interest converged.
Our association with Comrade Bill goes back to the time when the 1970s were turning into the 1980s, at a time when the international communist movement was indebted to Enver Hoxha and the Party of Labour of Albania for their contribution to the struggle against Khrushchevite revisionism and the exposure of Mao Tsetung Thought. Many cadres of our Party were active in the Albanian Society throughout the 1980s, working with Comrade Bill, in building friendship and understanding in Britain with socialist Albania. I myself had the honour of being London Regional Secretary of the Albanian Society in the early '80s and working on its magazine, Albanian Life, with Bill Bland.
More recently, when the retreat of the revolution and the historic turning point in the world's affairs have put on the agenda the necessity for the unity of Marxist-Leninists on a new historical basis, Comrade Bill Bland has been part of the forces who had appreciated that such a unity is necessary and has to be worked for. Our Party had exchanged views with Comrade Bill on a number of occasions on this important work.
It seems to us that Comrade Bill was one of those rare human beings of whom it can be said that they have devoted their whole life to high ideals, and have not been swayed from their task. Comrade Bill was optimistic to the last that socialism remains the future of humankind, and we are only too happy to declare that we join with him in this optimism.
A salute to you, Comrade Bill! May the causes to which you dedicated your life come to fruition in the not too distant future!
Steve Calder, RCPB(ML)
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The news of your sorrow has reached me through a common friend, mine and Bill's. I shall always regard knowing Comrade Bill an honour and privilege. As a member of the Turkish progressive movement I have to say that I have learned a lot from his personality and writings and consider myself one of his pupils. I will always cherish the memory of my visits to his home and my conversations with him on several subjects of common interest.
During these days of sad bereavement I believe your sorrow will be tempered by the knowledge that Bill's exemplary life has been abundantly rich and instructive. He enjoyed the affection of dozens of friends in different countries. And I'm sure next generations will grant his contribution and be even more thankful to him for his great work..
It is with heavy heart that 'Proletarian Path' and its editor, Moni Guha send condolences on the death of Cde Bill Bland - Commander-in-Chief in the fight against modern revisionism and Mao Tse-tung thought. It is his work, 'Origins of Modern Revisionism' which inspired us in India to thoroughly investigate the roots of modern revisionism. The loss, though an irreparable one, has inspired 'Proletarian Path' to unceasingly continue to work for the successful completion of Cde Bland's unfinished work.
Red salute to Cde Bland.
Deep condolences on the death of Bill Bland.
For over 30 years we have followed his writings and have profited much from them. His contribution to the defence of the cause of Stalin - at a time when he was assailed by almost all quarters - is considerable. His research into the restoration of capitalism in the USSR was of great value. The defence of socialist Albania was monumental. Where we have differed with his interpretations we have been compelled to delve deeper into the concerned questions. Many of our own explorations into ML theory and history would have been inconceivable without the corpus of work which he had created. The communist cadre he helped to build up works on, his influence stretches across the continents.
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I was very affected to hear about the death of Bill Bland. I . . . would be grateful if you can transmit our condolences to his family and comrades . . With my warm regards,
Saddened by the new of Bill Bland's death, I send the Communist League my condolences and those of the former members of the Lenin Committee (M-L).
International Struggle Marxist-Leninist mourns the death of Comrade Bill Bland, a founder member and staunch supporter. Bill represented the Communist League at the meeting in Ischia (1995) held to commemorate the 100th anniversay of the death of Friedrich Engels. He presented a characteristically well researched paper on Engels' life and work, emphasising the important contribution made by Marx's life long friend and collaborator to the development of scientific socialism. Bill remained a guiding influence within ISML, an international forum for Marxist-Leninists set up as a concrete outcome of the Ischia meeting. He played a key role in organising the second ISML conference held in London in 1997, and only a vicious and criminal assault on his person prevented him from actively participating in the third conference, held in Paris in 1999. Bill made important theoretical contributions to the journal 'International Struggle Marxist-Leninist', including an article on the proletariat in Britain in which he re-examined Marxist definitions of class, and debunked the eclectic idealism of 'Neo-Marxism'. Bill was a true internationalist, and as such attached an overriding importance to objective analysis of the historical experience in different countries. He pointed out, for example, that the defence of such countries as Cuba, Korea and Vietnam against the threat of imperialist aggression was strengthened rather than weakened for being based on fact - the recognition that these countries are non-imperialist and anti-imperialist, although not socialist.
He will be greatly missed.
John Puntis, on behalf of the Editorial Board, ISML
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I first met Bill Bland late 1943 at Bennydale where I was manpowered from the Army to work in coal mining. Bill was a visiting Optician and made my wife's glasses. Out of our discussions we set up a Marxist study group with Bill as the tutor. He was then located at Hamilton and was a member of the National Excutive Committee (of the CPNZ - ed.).
At the time there had been an influx of new members into the Party many of whom had no, or very little, Marxist understanding. Also there were others who wanted the Party just to be a left wing of the Labour Party, which lead to a split in the CPNZ. Bill Bland took the Stalinist line and emphasised the study of dialectics. After the war we held area meetings centred on Hamilton about 70 miles away from us, where Bill was located. Gradually the right wing line prevailed because basically New Zealand was not a proletarian country and the true role of social democracy had not been exposed. That was to come later.
During his stay in New Zealand Bill had followed a sound role; he emphasised the need of study. I lost track of Bill in the post-war years, but met him again in London in 1985. His research work has been of great value to the world working class. Bill had been in Dunedin South Island before coming north. Ron Taylor was there and Fred Hollows as well. Hollows did a lot of work treating native people with cataracts and pioneered in that field. I do not know much about Bill at that time. In short, Bill had done a lot of basic work in the Party and learned by experience the true role of social democracy as the secret agents of capitalism.
Bill Lawrence, New Zealand
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Bland's Activity in the 'Albanian Society' in Britain and his Consistent Support of Socialist Albania
In 1957 Bill Bland (1916-2001) became instrumental in establishing the Albanian Society, a non-political organisation, the aim of which was to spread factual information concerning the People's Republic of Albania (PRA), then the People's Socialist Republic of Albania (PSRA) from 1976 to 1991, its history, culture, language, social system, etc., and to foster friendship and understanding between the British and Albanian peoples. The Albanian Society was administered by a Committee elected democratically by its members. Membership included both the receipt of the Society's quarterly journal Albanian Life, which included the news summary Albanian News, and attendance at its various functions. In 1960 Bill Bland became the Albanian Society's secretary, a post that he held, almost without interruption, for thirty years until his resignation in 1990. The founding of this friendship and cultural association in 1957 represented a milestone in the development of relations between the British and Albanian peoples. Albania had been, in the meantime, finally liberated from fascism in November 1944 after a prolonged, heroic struggle under the leadership of the Communist Party of Albania, later re-named Party of Labour of Albania (PLA). The country thus entered the way to socialism, as a revolutionary programme of far-reaching economic and social transformations soon began to be implemented.
At the time of the founding of the Albanian Society, there had been in existence only one similar body in Britain: the Anglo-Albanian Association. On account of its reactionary and anti-communist character, this small association (with a total membership of 85 in 1990) remained in contact with some few, anti-communist Albanian émigré groups, was represented on the European Liaison Group Council and the British Refugee Council, but never played a significant, constructive role in strengthening British-Albanian relations.
It was in 1962 that, after being invited by the PLA Central Committee, Bland visited Albania for the first time in 1962. One almost immediate outcome of his first visit was the presentation at the Edinburgh Film Festival of a film he made on Albania: "The Land of the Eagles". His unselfish dedication to, and indefatigable involvement in, the cause of British-Albanian relations then continued to last during the sixties, the seventies and the eighties, thus increasing the Society's membership to several hundred members. He put his immense knowledge about Albanian affairs at the disposal of members and non-members of the Society, by writing thousands of letters, comments and analysis, by making thousands of telephone calls, and by replying to innumerable inquiries, both from individuals and institutions, at home and abroad. Every enquiry received careful, prompt attention and nothing was too much trouble for Bland, who, from the outset of his involvement in the Albanian Society, also embarked in the arduous task of learning the Albanian language. He could thus communicate to Albanians in their own language, both verbally and in writing, and translate countless Albanian articles, reviews, poems, and even books. He wrote a text-book of Albanian grammar for Anglo-Saxon students, besides teaching the Albanian language in London during the eighties, in the absence of Albanian language courses at universities in Britain. With his typical modesty, Bland recalled:
"My knowledge of languages is basically a visual one. I can translate the written stuff but if someone speaks to me I can't understand what they are saying. The Albanians were always flabbergasted by the fact that I couldn't speak to them but I could understand stuff which they could only understand with great difficulty. So they asked me to translate various stuff, the stuff on Skenderbeg was a chap, an Englishman who went to Albania and fought with Skenderbeg, and nothing has ever been written about him. . . . This chap was actually the commander of the Isle of Wight, and he was so corrupt that there was a small revolution and he was expelled, and he was then compelled to go as a soldier of fortune, as a mercenary and the Albanians took him on. The Albanians were not very happy with my research because they thought it didn't reflect very well on this chap who they regarded as being a hero! Never the less it was perfectly true, they really hadn't been aware of his history, and so as far as I know it was never published anywhere." (Interview with Bill Bland, London, 10-7-94)
Bland also wrote numerous pieces of his own on Albanian affairs, as well as plays on Albanian history and culture. He was co-author of A Tangled Web: A History of Anglo-American Relations with Albania (1912-1955), published in 1986 and based almost entirely on official British, American and United Nations documents dealing with Albania. In 1988 he contributed the Albania volume to the World Bibliographical Series published by Clio Press. Not only did Bland edit the Society's journal, Albanian Life, but he also typed it, collated and distributed it. He gave lectures and participated in meetings up and down Britain, from the south of England to Orkney, and abroad as well. He gave interviews on radio and television and to the press. On several occasions, he represented the Society on delegations to Albania.
By virtue of the huge amount of research, translations and organisational activities, articles, pamphlets and books he wrote on the subject, Bland became an internationally recognised authority on Albanian affairs. Several bourgeois agencies found they had to resort to Bland for information in these matters. As a small example, the compilers of the world's national anthems could only obtain the requisite lyrics and music from Bland. On another occasion, when a newspaper article mistakenly gave his home address in Ilford as that of the "Albanian embassy" in Britain, he was even faced with an increased rates bill from the local council! Indeed, in the absence of an Albanian embassy in London for about half a century since the end of the war, Bland's home represented the only reliable reference point in Britain for everything Albanian. The establishment of diplomatic relations between Britain and Albania during the nineties constituted the realisation of a goal for which he fought long and hard: it was, in fact, he who did more than anyone else to get the Campaign for Diplomatic Relations with Albania successfully launched in 1980. Later, the abandonment of socialism in Albania became incompatible with Bland's continuous involvement in the Albanian Society and he therefore resigned from his post as secretary in July 1990. Until he died in 2001, Bland nonetheless carried on his active support to the reconstruction of a truly Marxist-Leninist party in Albania during the nineties, just as he continued to uphold the democratic rights of the Albanians who lived in Kosova, Macedonia and Montenegro, and were going through increasingly tragic experiences.
Bland's activity in the Albanian Society was first and foremost a political commitment. Proceeding from the recognition that - from the sixties until the late eighties - Albania had been, alone of all the states of the world which had called themselves "socialist", a genuine socialist state in which the working class had constituted the ruling class under the leadership of its PLA, Bland defended and consistently supported both Marxism-Leninism and socialist Albania from the varieties of attacks and distortions emanating from imperialism and its bourgeois media. Likewise, he refuted the criticism and the lies that revisionists in Moscow, Beijing and elsewhere kept on spreading about this isolated socialist country in Europe. More specifically, in fact, Bland's determination to support socialist Albania must be seen in the context of his anti-revisionist struggle - a struggle which exacerbated from the sixties onwards within the international Marxist-Leninist movement. The rejection of revisionism in the name of the purity of Marxist-Leninist principles indeed represented a constant tenet of Bland's life and activities. Only a few weeks before his death, he reiterated his unshakeable conviction that: "there can be no significant progress towards socialism until a majority of the working class have learned from their own experience that the 'revisionist road' does not lead to socialism. THERE CAN BE NO PROGRESS TOWARDS A SOCIALIST SOCIETY ALONG THE PATH CHARTED BY REVISIONISTS." (draft notes by Bill Bland, early 2001, capital letters in the original)
It was this profound belief in having to smash revisionism in order to build a genuine socialist society that led Bland to support socialist Albania at political/ideological level, but also penetrating, at the same time, all various aspects and complexities of its society.
Following Stalin's death in 1953, revisionist degeneration became publicly apparent at the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956 so that a tense situation was created in the international communist movement, given, in particular, the pressure exerted on all other communist parties by the Khrushchevite leadership in order to impose its revisionist course. The PLA Central Committee had indeed expressed to the new Soviet leadership its reservations over a number of their revisionist theses and actions, but nonetheless the third PLA Congress, held in May/June 1956, did not openly condemn the anti-Marxist theses of the 20th Congress of the CPSU. Such an early denunciation, at that time - the PLA later maintained - would have benefited the enemies of communism, which had soon began to unleash a frenzied campaign against the Soviet Union and the unity of the socialist camp.
But the Soviet revisionists' betrayal of Marxism-Leninism became increasingly evident during the late fifties so that the PLA began to oppose it publicly. At the Meeting of the 81 Communist and Workers' parties in Moscow in November 1960, the PLA delegation headed by Enver Hoxha openly attacked the revisionist theses of the 20th Congress and its anti-Marxist-Leninist and anti-Stalinist propositions and activities propagated by the Khrushchevite leadership. This anti-revisionist stand was also supported, at that time, by the Communist Party of China (CPC) led by Mao-Tse-tung. In Britain, in the meantime, Bland as well had began to lead minority dissent within the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) both against Khrushchevite revisionism and against "The British Road to Socialism" (the programme adopted by the CPGB Executive Committee since 1951 in a clear departure from the fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism). During the early sixties, in fact, Bland became instrumental in forming the Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain (MLOB), which was later re-named in 1975 the Communist League, the aim of which was and remains that of building a Marxist-Leninist party in Britain free of all revisionist trends. Following Hoxha's open criticism of Soviet revisionism in November 1960, Bland duly wrote to the PLA and congratulated them on their revolutionary, courageous stands: this appreciation paved the way to his 1962 visit to the PRA.
Both in the international communist movement and within Albania itself, the anti-revisionist struggle was inevitably going to be punctuated by significant developments, and set-backs as well, affecting in one way or another all those parties, forces and comrades which upheld - or claimed to uphold - Marxist-Leninist principles in the forefront of the struggle against Khrushchevite revisionism. Its complexity was also reflected in the relations established between the Albanian Society, led by Bland, and socialist Albania. This relationship developed along three different stages:
1. up to 1968, the activities carried out by the Albanian Society in Britain were officially recognised and supported by the Albanian party and state;
2. official recognition of the Albanian Society in Britain was then temporarily withheld for ten years (1968-78), because of the pro-Chinese stands adopted by the PLA leadership during that time; and
3. from 1978 to 1990, the activity carried out by the Albanian Society and its secretary, Bland, again became officially recognised and highly appreciated by the Albanian authorities as a great, major contribution towards strengthening friendship and understanding between the British and Albanian peoples.
It is a well-known fact that between the sixties and the seventies Albania and China forged a close political alliance. China was indeed regarded by the PLA as: "a bastion of socialism and a powerful base of the world revolution." (The Institute of Marxist-Leninist Studies at the Central Committee of the Party of Labor of Albania, History of the Party of Labor of Albania, Tirana, 1971, p. 675)
Hoxha himself characterised China, at that time, as "a great socialist country" (Enver Hoxha, "The Foreign Policy of China - a Policy of Self-Isolation", 14 July 1967, in Hoxha, E., Reflections on China, vol. 1, Tirana, 1979, p. 379. Emphasis in the original) and declared at the 6th PLA Congress in 1971 that: "The role of the People's Republic of China, this powerful bastion of the revolution and socialism, is especially great in the growth and strengthening of the revolutionary movement everywhere in the world. The triumph of the great proletarian cultural revolution initiated and guided by the great Marxist-Leninist Comrade Mao Tse-tung, is a victory and a source of inspiration for the whole world revolutionary movement." (Enver Hoxha, Report on the Activity of the Central Committee of the Party of Labor of Albania: Submitted to the 6th Congress of the Party of Labor of Albania, 1 November 1971, Tirana, 1971, p. 14)
The myth of Mao Tse-tung as a great Marxist-Leninist and that of China as a socialist country were likewise initially accepted by those comrades in Britain who had began to uphold the principles of Marxism-Leninism in opposition to Khrushchevite revisionism. Referring to the situation existing in Britain during the early sixties, for instance, Bland said: "I think at that time everybody who was opposed to the CPGB line was a Maoist, you see at that time Mao appeared to be leading the campaign against Soviet Revisionism. So the CPC was taking an active leading role and therefore we welcomed this. As far as we were concerned we were supporters of the Chinese Communist Party. Up to that time people in the party hadn't a choice, but now they were faced with the task of having to choose, they either had to support the CPSUB or the CPC. Before that they hadn't had to make a choice, and they did make the choice on some sort of intellectual rational grounds. . . . At this time, we hadn't analysed Mao Tse-tung thought at all when the MLOB was formed, and it was taken for granted by everybody that Mao Tse-tung was the leading Marxist-Leninist in the world." (Interview with Bill Bland, London, 10-7-94)
In order to avoid any misunderstandings on this important question, Bland was therefore charged by the anti-revisionist organisation to which he belonged, the MLOB, with the task of analysing "Mao Tse-tung Thought" and political developments in China in depth. Bland's scientific and unemotional approach to historical research in his constant search for the truth soon led him to denounce the "Great Cultural Proletarian Revolution" in China as a sham, incompatible with the basic, proletarian principles elaborated by Lenin and Stalin. Nor could he reconcile these principles with Mao Tse-tung's theory of the "New Democratic State". After having further investigated and scrutinised all Mao Tse-tung's speeches and writings with even greater care, as early as 1968 he reached the conclusion that Maoism represented a variant of modern revisionism and characterised Mao Tse-tung as a revisionist. His assessment was accepted by the majority of cadres in the MLOB.
It was in the above circumstances that during the Spring of 1968 a group of "left" revisionists, supporters of the "Mao Tse-tung Thought" and unable to refute Bland's "heretical" conclusions, began to "take over" the Albanian Society from its members and transform it from a broad friendship organisation into a narrow "leftist" political sect dedicated to support for the faction in China headed by Mao Tse-tung. This campaign began to be directed against the Society's secretary, Bland. But unable to convince members to support their plans for "reforming" the Albanian Society, this group of maoists then attempted their own "cultural revolution" against the Annual General Meeting of the Society. As Bland recalled: "as soon as the MLOB changed its line, all the Maoists in the Society who had previously been active and supportive began to demand that Bland go on the grounds that my organisation, to which I belonged, had published a report which was anti-Mao Tse Tung and therefore anti-Albanian, and therefore I shouldn't any longer be allowed to be secretary of the Albanian Society. Instead they organised a faction within the society to get rid of Bland, and at the next AGM they organised a miniature cultural revolution in the Society. The chairman at that time was a Maoist called Berger, she wrote articles on wine, her husband was a leading member of the friendship society with China. They organised this sort of cultural revolution at the AGM whereby a lot of people who had never been members of the Society before appeared and demanded the right to vote, and Berger as chairman ruled that they had the right to vote because we were a democratic society and therefore anyone who walked in off the street to vote should be allowed to vote. This was "the masses speaking" you see. Unfortunately they hadn't got quite enough people to outvote the other members, and our members didn't agree with this particular line that it was reasonable grounds for sacking me, and so they lost the vote and I got re-elected as secretary and the Maoists walked out." (Interview with Bill Bland, London, 10-7-94)
The expelled maoists re-grouped in order to form their "New Albanian Society", which functioned with full and official support from both China and Albania until its dissolution in 1978. As a consequence, because of the strong revisionist, pro-Chinese policies prevailing at that time within the PLA leadership, Albania broke off all relations with the Albanian Society and Bill Bland from 1968 to 1978. It was precisely during this period of time that Bland displayed - in deeds - his consistent anti-sectarian and internationalist principles, by means of transcending political and ideological differences on the issue of China and Mao Tse-tung and continuing to pursue the Albanian Society's aims in Britain. As Bland recalled: "We had a meeting and decided what we should do: Albania is a socialist country, we accept that, we don't agree with their line on this particular point, but none the less we stand for solidarity and support for the Albanian Party of Labour and the Albanian regime, therefore we would continue to support Albania, whatever their attitude to us might be. We carried on exactly as we had done, sending our literature to them regularly over the next six or seven years, until 1978, the Albanian Party changed its line and came out attacking Mao Tse Tung as being revisionist, his line as being revisionist. . . . They resumed good friendly relations with the Society." (Interview with Bill Bland, London, 10-7-94)
Albania's official exposure of Chinese revisionism during the late seventies, in fact, finally vindicated the conclusions that Bland had reached on the subject ten years earlier, in 1968! It was only towards the end of the seventies, in fact, that Enver Hoxha and the PLA publicly condemned the Chinese brand of revisionism by characterising "Mao Tse-tung Thought" as an anti-Marxist-Leninist theory, by presenting China as a non-socialist country where the dictatorship of the proletariat did not exist, and by finally rejecting its "cultural revolution" proceeding during the late sixties as "a hoax." Enver Hoxha re-assessed China's policies by drawing the following conclusions: "'Mao Tsetung thought' is a 'theory' devoid of the features of Marxism-Leninism. . . . Seeing the dubious activity, wavering and contradictory stands, the lack of principles and the pragmatism of Chinese internal and external policy, its deviation from Marxism-Leninism and the use of left phrases to disguise it, we Albanian communists have gradually formed our opinions and conviction about the danger presented by 'Mao Tsetung thought'. . . . What attracted our Party's attention most was the Cultural Revolution, which raised a number of major questions in our minds. During the Cultural Revolution, initiated by Mao Tsetung, astonishing political, ideological and organisational ideas and actions came to light in the activity of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese state, which were not based on the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. . . . Neither the party nor the proletariat were in the leadership of this 'great proletarian revolution'. . . . The course of events showed that the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was neither a revolution, nor great, nor cultural, and in particular, not in the least proletarian. . . .Of course, this Cultural Revolution was a hoax. . . . 'Mao Tsetung thought' is opposed to the Marxist-Leninist theory of revolution. . . . . . . has substituted great state chauvinism for proletarian internationalism." (Enver Hoxha, Imperialism and the Revolution, Tirana, 1979, pp. 384-435. Emphases in the original. The book had been first published in Albanian in April 1978 for distribution within the PLA)
Further official Albanian documents relating to the late seventies - such as the article The Theory and the Practice of the Revolution (Zëri i Popullit, 7-7-77) and the letter addressed by the Albanian party and government to the CPC and the Chinese government on 29-7-78 - made clear that the Albanian party and government had resisted over a long period the pressure of successive Chinese leaderships that it should follow the anti-Marxist-Leninist and counter-revolutionary path laid down in in Beijing. They also revealed that the PLA had been criticising the CPC leadership since at least 1960.
Such a re-assessment of Chinese policies on the part of the PLA and the PSRA was greeted by Bland with particular satisfaction as a major step forward in the process of political/ideological clarification striving for the revolutionary, internationalist unity of the working class. Bland was prompt in pointing out: "This principled stand, by the Marxist-Leninist Party which plays the leading role in the People's Socialist Republic of Albania, is of vital importance not only in the safeguarding of the independence and socialist achievements of the heroic Albanian people, but for the development of the Marxist-Leninist parties which have rid themselves of revisionism of every hue, and for the unification of Marxist-Leninists in each country into a single such Party." ("Albania Exposes Chinese Revisionism", in COMpass, July 1977, Introduction)
"THE SINCERE CONGRATULATIONS OF ALL GENUINE MARXIST-LENINISTS WILL GO TO THE PARTY OF LABOUR OF ALBANIA, WHICH ONCE AGAIN HAS TAKEN ITS STAND FIRMLY ON THE BASIS OF MARXIST-LENINIST PRINCIPLES, ON THE PRINCIPLES OF THE WORLD SOCIALIST REVOLUTION. THE PARTY'S EXPOSURE OF CHINESE REVISIONISM MUST PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN CLARIFYING THE IDEAS OF MARXIST-LENINISTS AND SO IN THE BUILDING OF THE MARXIST-LENINIST PARTIES WHICH ARE OF SUCH PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE TO THE WORKING CLASS OF EVERY LAND." ("Albania Exposes Chinese Revisionism - Part Two", in COMpass, September 1978, Introduction. Capital letters in the original)
The correction of the PLA's line with regard to Mao Tse-tung and China prompted the abrupt dissolution of the pro-maoist "New Albanian Society". It therefore followed, once again, a period of fruitful and intensive co-operation between the Albanian Society led by Bland, on the one side, and various bodies and institutions in the PSRA, in particular the Albanian Committee for Cultural and Friendly Relations with Foreign Countries, on the other. For the purpose of highlighting some aspects of life in socialist Albania during the eighties and recording some of Bland's favourable impressions, we have included in the appendix his report of a visit he paid to the PSRA in 1984, entitled "Albania - 1984" and published as an article in Albanian Life, n. 29, 2/1984.
Bland's consistent support of socialist Albania was neither blind nor dogmatic: indeed, his dialectical investigation and research covered all the varieties and complexities of building and defending the new, socialist system in this small European country. Never, in fact, did he hide his discomfort and criticism with regard to some incorrect policies and negative phenomena emerging from time to time in Albania - such as the pro-Chinese, revisionist stands adopted by the PLA leadership during the sixties and seventies, the closure of its religious institutions in the late sixties or the "cult of the personality" around Enver Hoxha. To all these flaws and problems - once they had been thoroughly scrutinised according to Marxist-Leninist methodological principles - Bland always tried to find rational explanations in order to draw the necessary lessons and incorporate them in the struggle for genuine socialism.
Bland, for example, never accepted as correct the total closure of Albania's religious institutions and the virtual abolition of religion in the country in 1966-67. He stigmatised these measures as inappropriate, counter-productive, sectarian and, most importantly, incompatible with the Marxist-Leninist assumption that, in a socialist society, religious institutions disappear - and must be allowed to disappear - with the elimination of religious influence itself from people's consciousness. In a personal and confidential analysis made in 1983, Bland was then correct in reaching the conclusion that the closure of Albania's religious institutions had not, in fact, been initiated by the leading group in the party and state around the PLA First Secretary, Enver Hoxha, but by an organised and influential group of hidden revisionists who - by taking advantage of the "cult of personality" built up around Hoxha - sought to utilise this sectarian action to discredit the country's Marxist-Leninist leadership around Hoxha as part of a broader aim of reversing the construction of socialism in Albania. Since the events of 1966-67, the PLA itself had indeed denounced the existence of precisely such an organised, influential group which included such prominent figures as F. Paçrami, T. Lubonja, B. Balluku, P. Dume, H. Çaki, A. Këllezi, K. Theodhosi, and K. Ngjela - a group led and co-ordinated by the then Prime Minister, Mehmet Shehu, together with Fiqret Shehu, Feçor Shehu and K. Hazbiu. In retrospect, we now know - as Bland intimated years ago - that, at the end of the sixties, at least half of the sixteen members in the PLA Political Bureau (i.e., A. Çarçani, B. Balluku, M. Shehu, R. Alia, A. Këllezi, K. Hazbiu, K. Theodhosi, P. Dume) were, in fact, all concealed revisionist elements. During the course of the seventies and eighties, these revisionists proved to be outright opponents and liquidators of the socialist cause in Albania, often co-ordinating their conspirational activities with foreign intelligence agencies.
Bland was fully aware that in Albania - just like in the USSR at the time of Stalin - it had been concealed revisionists in top influential positions that developed the "cult of the personality" around Hoxha, always in the face of his opposition. As he wrote in 1983: "In recent years . . . the "cult of personality" around Hoxha has once again being raised to heights greater than in the fifties, despite the fact that since then its role in paving the way for the discrediting of socialism in the Soviet Union has become much clearer. This strongly indicates that the leading group around Hoxha have in recent years been in a minority in the leading organs of the Party and state, and for this reason have not been in a position to resist it." (Bill Bland, "The Struggle against Religion in Albania", document only - not for publication, 1983)
Up to the early months of 1990, Bland persisted in untiringly supporting Albania's socialist achievements. It was on 10 March 1990 - at a time when bourgeois media had continuously and impatiently speculated on the forthcoming collapse of this last remaining "bastion of communism" in Europe - that Bland delivered his lecture on "Albania's Unique Road" to a well-attended Albanian Society meeting in London. But it was also under extreme imperialist pressure that revisionist degeneration was proceeding at a very fast pace in Albania during the first half of 1990, as a number of significant changes were introduced in the fields of politics (by reducing the number of PLA members in directing posts), economy (by reducing the role of centralised economic planning and partly introducing price determination on the basis of supply and demand, by permitting a limited amount of private production and trade, by accepting foreign investments, and by allowing enterprises to self-finance themselves from profits and bank credits), and foreign policy (by applying to join the European Security system and by moving to establish diplomatic relations with the European Community, the USA and the Soviet Union). According to Bland, these initial changes - which were departing from the policies pursued under the leadership of Enver Hoxha - were "not random", but: "THEY FORM[ED] A CLEAR PATTERN OF REVISIONISM, of movement towards the restoration of a capitalist society such as the revisionists in other countries of Eastern Europe have already brought about." (Bill Bland, "Revisionism Raises its Head in Albania", in COMpass, Journal of the Communist League, n. 79B, August 1990, p. 7. Capital letters in the original)
Bland closely followed the above changes and assessed them, in details, in conjunction with the movement towards liberalism, led by Ismail Kadare, and the inner-party struggle which was proceeding within the higher echelons of the PLA and which led - together with the involvement of the Western powers - to the invasion of foreign embassies in Tirana in July 1990. Quite correctly, Bland singled out Ramiz Alia, the then PLA first secretary, as the behind-the-scenes organiser of this invasion and, more generally, as the chief architect of revisionism in Albania, i.e., "Albania's Khrushchev". As capitalism and foreign imperialist domination quickly replaced almost half a century of socialism and independence in Albania, the PLA later convened its 10th Congress in June 1991 in order to fully transform itself into a social-democratic party (re-named Socialist Party), thus rejecting all its former Marxist-Leninist policies and principles. The Albanian revisionists had indeed learnt their lesson since Khrushchev threw off his false "Marxist-Leninist" mask at the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956. As Bland pointed out: "THE LESSON WHICH HISTORY HAS TAUGHT THE ENEMIES OF SOCIALISM IS THAT A SOCIALIST SOCIETY, A SOCIETY WHERE THE WORKING CLASS HOLDS POLITICAL POWER, CAN BE DESTROYED ONLY BY ORGANISED TREACHERY WITHIN THE RULING PARTY. THIS IS THE ROLE OF REVISIONISM. . . IT THEN BECOMES THE DUTY OF MARXIST-LENINISTS TO EXPOSE [THE REVISIONISTS] TO THE WORKING PEOPLE OF THE WORLD." (Bill Bland, "Revisionism Raises its Head in Albania", in COMpass, Journal of the Communist League, n. 79B, August 1990, pp. 1-2. Capital letters in the original)
The liquidation of socialism in Albania became incompatible with Bland's continued activity in the Albanian Society and he therefore resigned as its secretary in July 1990. But nonetheless - in line with his political principles stated above - he continued to expose the treacherous role played by the Albanian revisionists, led by Ramiz Alia, in bringing about the destruction of socialism in their country, just as he continued to defend the successes achieved by the Albanian people during their relatively long period of socialist construction under Enver Hoxha's leadership. Indeed, Bland never stopped supporting Enver Hoxha, whom he valued as a loyal follower of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. After 1990, he spared no efforts in actively assisting Albanian communist organisations and comrades fighting to restore, once again, socialism in their own country. Similarly, during the nineties, Bland defended the heroic national liberation struggle of the Albanian people in Kosova against the genocidal atrocities committed by the Serb social-fascists, while condemning alike imperialist military intervention in the Balkans.
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Visit to Albania
Some weeks ago I received, through the Albanian Embassy in Paris, an invitation to visit the People's Socialist Republic of Albania as the guest of the Committee for Cultural and Friendly Relations with Foreign Countries, and I set out from London on June 18th. (1984 - ed.)
Perhaps as punishment for going to Albania, the weekly plane from Belgrade has a check-in time of 5.40 a.m. The night porter at the hotel where I passed the night in Belgrade told me that he was really a priest, but worked during the week to augment his meagre income. When he handed me my passport at four o'clock in the morning, he asked me where I was bound so early. When I told him, he shook his head sadly and said: "An ungodly hour for an ungodly country!" "Maybe", I said, "but the only country I know where you can leave your wallet lying around and know that it will be there when you go back!"
I was greeted warmly at Rinas by Theofan Nishku, in charge of relations with friendship societies abroad. Later in the day I met the Committee's new President, Jorgo Melica, who spoke highly of the Society's work and arranged a programme for my visit which met my every request. I visited Korça, Shkodra, Gjirokastra and Saranda, while Mr. Nishku himself was good enough to spend the whole of my last weekend with me at Durrës. My interpreter was a pleasant young school teacher named Viktor Ristani, while my driver, Hodo Meçe steered carefully past every child and chicken. He was extremely proud of his new Volvo, which he polished at every opportunity and was outraged when, visiting the construction site of the new power-station at Koman on the River Drin, it became spattered with mud.
Albania is changing rapidly, and I noticed many new constructions since my last visit two years ago - from the new ornamental pond with its fountains opposite the Hotel Dajti in Tirana to the impressive Skanderbeg Museum in Kruja, which tells the story of Albania's national hero in a vivid and artistic way.
In the Greek Minority Area
One of the most interesting experiences of my tour was a visit to the Greek minority in the south. Our first stop here was the village of Goranxi, which lies in the shadow of Mali i Gjere (Wide Mountain). It forms part of the higher-type cooperative farms of Lower Dropull, which embraces 17 villages with a total population of 10,500. I was entertained with raki and llokume (the latter being Albanian "Turkish Delight") in the comfortable, beautifully-furnished home of Pano Tashi, a retired cooperative farmer, and his family. I recorded a long interview with Mr. Tashi. He asserted that the numbers of the Greek minority in Albania were nothing like the figure of 400,000 put forward by the Greek government, although - at 50,000 - it was in fact somewhat larger than the figure given to me on an earlier visit to the country. He ridiculed the stories being put forward by the Greek government to the effect that the Greek minority was "oppressed". He showed me copies of the Greek-language daily newspaper, "Llajko Vima" (The People's Voice); this is a specially prepared edition of the country's leading newspaper of the same name "Zëri i Popullit," it has a weekly literary supplement devoted entirely to poems and short stories by Greek-speaking writers. He also presented me with several books for adults and children published in the Greek language, and told me with evident pride of the Greek amateur dramatic societies and folk ensembles which flourished in the district, and described some of the films from Greece which he had seen in the past few months.
I asked him about the educational system in the minority area, and he told me of the Greek teachers' training college in Gjirokastra from which his daughter-in-law had graduated before becoming a teacher in the village eight-year school. Here for the first three years education was conducted entirely in the Greek language; in the fourth year the child was taught the elements of Albanian grammar, and from the fifth year onwards education was carried out principally in Albanian, but with periods devoted to Greek language and literature. In this way the child became bilingual and was able to proceed to secondary or higher education (which is conducted in Albanian) and could undertake any occupation. In fact, I had already discovered in Tirana that members of the minority occupied some of the highest positions in the land - as, for example, the woman Vice-President of the People's Assembly, Vitori Çurri.
As for the alleged "poverty" of the Greek community, he pointed out that Dropull was one of the richest areas of Albania, and said that out of the 190 families in the village, 122 had TV sets and 110 had washing-machines.
Thus, he said, there was not the slightest discrimination against the minority, whose culture was encouraged in every way, and members of the Greek community had equal rights in every way with the majority. Asked to say a few final words, he declared that he would never forget that the British people were allies of the Albanian people in the war and he hoped that the two peoples would always remain friends.
I was told that I was welcome to visit any other house in the village where someone was at home (all but pensioners and recent mothers being at work) to confirm what Mr. Nashi had told me, but I was completely satisfied with his sincerity and did not take advantage of the offer.
In the next village - Dervician - I was shown over the new Palace of Culture with an art gallery, library, restaurant - not to mention a theatre, equipped with a revolving stage, seating 470. And this was in a village with a population of just under 2,000!
The Penal System
I had asked particularly for detailed information concerning the operation of the penal system in the PSR of Albania, which is the subject of much misinformation in the British press. In this connection Paskal Haxhi, a judge of the Supreme Court, was good enough to accord me two long interviews in which he answered all my questions fully and presented me with several books on the subject. When translated, these and all that Mr. Haxhi (himself, incidentally, a member of the Greek minority) told me will be the subject of an article on the subject in ALBANIAN LIFE.
Among the most interesting facts which emerged was that the police in Albania have the duty of preventing or checking the commission of a crime, but have no power of arrest or of investigation. In the case of a suspected crime, they have power only to establish the identity of any persons they believe to be involved (including possible witnesses) and to report to an investigating magistrate, who alone may investigate and order an arrest.
The amount of crime in Albania, particularly serious crime, is very small as a result, said Mr. Haxhi, of the elimination of many of the social causes of criminality and most cases of petty crime are dealt with outside the courts by public criticism, etc. During the whole of 1982, for example, only 111 people in the whole of Albania (7% of them women) were sentenced to some penalty for criminal offences, and the great majority of these penalties did not involve deprivation of liberty. Of sentences of detention, the majority were of re-education (which is the kernel of the penal system) in labour camps, and only very serious or repeated crimes were the subject of a prison sentence, for which Albania has two small prisons. He was adamant that there was no truth whatsoever in stories, largely circulated by politically hostile émigrés, that detainees were subject to inadequate diet or ill-treatment, which would obviously defeat the fundamental aim of re-education. Prisoners had the right of complaint to the Attorney-General's Office, and all complaints had to be investigated. Further, he - like other judges - visited labour camps and prisons regularly to investigate the progress of his "patients" and could order the cancellation of a remaining sentence where he was satisfied that re-education had been accomplished. It was interesting to discover that detainees in labour camps (but not in prisons) had the right to sexual relations with their wives or husbands during the two-monthly family visits, special accommodation being provided for this.
The death sentence, Mr. Haxhi stated, was a temporary and extraordinary measure applied only in the case of extremely serious crimes such as treason and where it was considered that re-education was unlikely to be successful. No death sentences had been passed in Albania so far during 1984.
Shortly after my arrival in the country, I was privileged to meet Ali Xhiku, the Dean of the Faculty of History and Linguistics at the University of Tirana, and Professor Shaban Demiraj, who holds the Chair in Albanian Language and Literature. They were delighted to hear from me that the University of London had been granted funds to open an Albanian Department and asked me to convey to Dr. Deletant the offer to help with the provision of books or in any other way. I had been working for some time on a biographical sketch of an Englishman, John Newport, who fought with Skanderbeg, and they arranged a further interview with specialists in this field to help me track down the source of a quotation from him which is cited in the "History of Albania". As a result it is now clear that the original source is not to be found in Albania and I have to search elsewhere.
I met Vaso Pano, the Director of ALBTURIST, and discussed ways and means of finding a less expensive route for British tourists to reach Albania than by air via Yugoslavia, and one less exhausting than the long journey by coach. Of course, when the Yugoslavs have completed their section of the railway which will link the Albanian rail network with the rest of Europe, this will provide one possibility. The main stumbling block to a quick and relatively inexpensive tourist route from Britain to Albania (via Corfu, for example) is that the Greek government (which regards itself as still in a state of war with Albania) will not, as yet, permit travel to that country other than by air. Nevertheless, Mr. Pano welcomed the first tour to his country organised by the Albanian Society and assured me that he would do everything possible to make this visit an interesting one.
I met two leaders of the Trade Unions of Albania - Qirjako Mino and Islam Bashari - and obtained from them much information on the trade union movement which is the subject of a separate article in this issue of ALBANIAN LIFE. They were also good enough to give me material, including badges, requested by the Museum of Labour History in London. They were extremely well-informed about the miners' strike in Britain, which has been fully reported in the Albanian media.
Another interesting meeting was with Fuad Dushku, the Director of the Gallery of Arts in Tirana, with whom I had a long discussion on the principles of socialist realist art. He is arranging to send to the Society a set of specially-taken colour slides of representative paintings and sculptures exhibited in the gallery.
My final meetings were with Hiqmet Arapi, Vice-Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, and with Estref Bega, Director of the Book Enterprise. With them I discussed ways and means of improving trade between our two countries. I had brought with me several suggestions from Ramsey Margolis of the Albania-General Trading Co. Ltd., (who, I discovered, is remembered throughout Albania as "the vegetarian") on ways of making Albanian products (especially books) more acceptable to the British market. They expressed pleasure at receiving these constructive suggestions and promised to pass them on to the appropriate quarters. I came away loaded with catalogues, and samples of most products - from chrome ore and postage stamps to jam and wine - will shortly be on their way to Mr. Margolis.
My trip was by no means all work, however. I visited numerous art exhibitions, saw the visiting Greek folk song and dance ensemble on television and, on one free evening in Tirana, went to the cinema. I found all seats booked for the latest Albanian film "The Judgement", even though it was being screened simultaneously at several cinemas. I took myself off, therefore, to the little Agimi (Dawn) Cinema nearby, and saw an Italian film of Donizetti's opera "Lucia di Lammermoor". It was screened without subtitles, but with a synopsis in Albanian before each act. My ticket (there was only one price) cost 1 lek 50 qindarke - the equivalent of 15 English pence, and I could not but compare this with the £2.50 it would have cost me to see the same film in London.
My ever-solicitous guide and mentor Viktor Ristani insisted that in view of my great age I should rest for four hours each afternoon. I pleaded that this was a waste of time. I reminded him that, because of our atrocious climate, the siesta was not an English custom. I quoted the old Lancashire proverb: "There's time enough to rest when you're under the sod". I told him that I was really only twenty-six and that my decrepit appearance was simply the result of a dissolute life. But all in vain! All this, he replied, made a siesta even more necessary! In consequence, I was free in the afternoons to wander around wherever we happened to be, searching for books, music, etc. to add to the Society's collection. On one of these trips I discovered a manual of names of Albanian and Illyrian origin and, finding that the name of "Viktor" was not among them, I informed him gravely that he was required to change this by December 1st to "Jaseminë". He seemed to find this shaka angleze (English joke) amusing.
One of the great personal pleasures of my trip was to meet in person the sports commentator and novelist Skifter Këlliçi, whose novel "The Last Days of a Prime Minister" I had just finished translating into English. Another was to meet again Faik Zeneli, who had been my interpreter on my first visit to Albania in 1962, since when he has been Counsellor in Rome and later Ambassador to Tanzania; he is now a Party functionary in his beloved home town of Shkodra, from where he was good enough to escort me to the Perlat Rexhepi State Farm, the Koman dam and several museums.
Reading back over what I have written, I realise that I shall be chided by my old Orkney friend John Broom for not having mentioned any negative features of life in Albania. The fact that I have to think hard to recall any such features of which I became aware is no doubt evidence that my overall impression was extremely favourable. But yes! Although food is plentiful and its distribution seems wholly adequate (there are food shops in almost every block open, on a shift system, from early morning till late at night) I found it difficult in the towns to buy soap powder. This may have been due to my not knowing precisely which type of shop sold it (a kinkaleri, which sells much more than trinkets, a "household goods" shop, a "various goods" shop, etc.). There seems to be no actual shortage of soap powder (at least, Albanian clothes appear spotlessly clean) and I eventually obtained a packet at one of those village stores which sell everything.
On my last evening in Albania I was the guest at a huge seven-course banquet kindly given in my honour by Mr. Melica, which even my capacious stomach could not accommodate.
My final act before catching the plane back to "Christian civilisation" was to be interviewed by radio and television on my impressions of Albania. I replied: "My impressions are so many and varied that it is hard to summarise them in a few words. But long after I have left your shores some things will remain vividly in my mind: the huge dam under construction at Koman; the breathtaking beauty of the Albanian landscape; the gaily-painted playgrounds and the beautiful, healthy children playing in them; the warm friendliness and hospitality of the Albanian people to those who come to their country as friends and not as enemies; the blend of the aromas of linden trees and roasting coffee which for me will always symbolise Shkodra at six o' clock in the morning. But long after all these memories have begun to fade with the passage of time, I shall recall the party I had the privilege of attending in the south. It was given by young people and their teachers to celebrate the former's graduation. They were from Ksamil, where they and their parents have made the wilderness blossom with oranges and lemons. I noted that the girls would invite the boys to dance on equal terms with them - a little thing, but one which for me symbolises the liberation of women which has made such giant strides in Albania. I observed that their toasts to the Party of Labour and its leadership were spontaneous and sincere, and this should not surprise people who are aware of the doors now open to these young people which in the past stood firmly closed. For several hours after I was supposed to leave I stayed on to listen to the throb of Albania's over-powering folk music and to watch with the greatest pleasure as these young people laughed, sang and danced together. It seemed to me that here was embodied in real life the slogan which stands off the beach at Durrës:
'Beautiful is the life we have created, but brighter still will be the future'
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William Bland Bibliography
The following is an incomplete list of writings by comrade Bland; in time, the work of making these available via the Internet as a historical archive will be completed.
Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain Publications
1971 An open letter to the rank-and-file of Maoist parties, organisations and groups.
1971 Manifesto on Art. League of Socialist Artists.
July/Aug 1971 Towards the Marxist-Leninist International; the Bill and the Bomb; the Strange World of 1971; International News; the Growth of Official Racism; the Census Case; On Literature (Andrei Zhdanov); the Landlords Charter; the Red Front Movement
November 1971 The European Common Market.
May/June 1972 The Miner's Victory; International News; the Red Front Movement; letters
1972 The Pakistani Revolution.
1972 The origins of modern revisionism.
Class Against Class
October 1973 The War in the Middle East.
1974 The Carve-up of Cyprus.
1974 Changing the guard; news from the "left"; the ugly face of capitalism; the struggle against racism; the "world energy crisis" and the new situation of British imperialism; salute to Clay Cross; letters; the Appeal Group; "Stage Three" gives way to "Economic Democracy"; thesis on the emancipation of women; the national struggle in Baluchistan; the Labour Party - TUC "compact"; the face of Her Majesty's state; the affluent society; city notes; the struggle against trade union repression; cultural section
1974 International News.
1974 A socialist election policy.
Combat - the theoretical journal of the Communist League
1975 The October election; Terrorism or revolution?; national-democratic revolution in Portugal; the great American "come-back"; the referendum; theses on the anti-fascist united front; socialism and marriage; poems; the original Communist League (F. Engels); statement by the Marxist Leninist Organisation of Britain on the expulsion of Mike Baker.
September 1975 The £6 Confidence Trick.
September 1975 Socialism and fascism; racism and the working class.
December 1975 The 'Cultural' counter revolution in China.
1975 Revisionism in Hungary. The Hungarian "Soviet Republic" of 1919.
February 1976 Portugal: struggle within the national bourgeoisie; the US tentacles spread further; the class basis of Sakharov's "liberalism".
November 1976 Fascism in Italy - it could happen here.
February 1977 Stalin: the myth and the reality; Kautsky rides again (a review of Michael Hudson's "Super Imperialism: the Economic Strategy of the American Empire"); a Negro nation in the United States?; the foreign policy of Maoist China; China after Mao; Where we stand: the manifesto of the Communist League.
June 1977 The development of society. Part 1: to feudalism.
INTERCOM - international news bulletin of the Communist League
No 1, March 1975 Summary of world news Jan/July 1974.
No 2, April 1975 Summary of world news Aug/Dec. 1974.
No 3, August 1976 Summary of world news Jan/July 1975.
Compass - theoretical journal of the Communist League
February/March 1975 Classes in modern Britain; the national question in Britain; a new surface on "the British Road"; on the cultural front: the CPGB surrenders; the October revolution betrayed.
April 1975 Revisionism in Russia. Trotsky against the Bolsheviks, part 1: to 1914.
May 1975 Revisionism in Russia. Trotsky against the Bolsheviks part 2: 1914 - 1917.
January 1977 Revisionism in Germany. Part one: to 1922.
April 1977 MN Roy and the Colonial Question, pt. 1.
July 1977 Albania exposes Chinese revisionism, pt. 1.
December 1977 MN Roy and the Colonial Question, pt. 2.
June 1978 The Hungarian "Soviet Republic" of 1919.
September 1978 Albania exposes Chinese revisionism, pt. 2.
May 1979 Nyerere's "African Socialism" - a cloak for neo-colonialism.
October 1984 The miners' struggle; Albania: the 40th anniversary; the 'Belgrano': Thatcher's Watergate.
February 1986 Behind Westland (the separation of finance and industry).
June 1986 Nuclear Power: the question of safety; the example of Albania; "Riot"; are the Jews a nation?
October 1986 The revolutionary process in South Africa.
August 1990 The civil war in Liberia; the class struggle; the 'unacceptable face' . . ; in the former socialist world.
August 1990 The invasion of Kuwait.
August 1990 Revisionism raises its head in Albania.
October 1990 The 'setting up' of Iraq; the meaning of ERM; the coup in Pakistan; the civil war in Liberia; in the former socialist world; Justice!' the 'unacceptable face' . . .; the Tories lose Eastbourne.
November 1990 The coup in Downing Street (Thatcher resigns).
December 1990 Thatcher Mark 2! (the election of John Major); the Gulf: the drive to war; Albania succumbs to revisionism; crisis in the Soviet Union; in Eastern Europe; Justice; death throes of the CPGB; Class struggle; the 'unacceptable face' . . .
February 1991 Imperialism launches its war against Iraq; the 'unacceptable face' . . .
September 1991 The coup in the Soviet Union; the resurgence of nationalism; Inkathagate; the 'Bank of crime and cocaine international'; the 'unacceptable face' . . .
November 1991 An open letter sent on behalf of the Communist League to the 'New Communist Party' (on the origins of revisionism in the Soviet Union).
February 1992 The liquidation of the Soviet Union; Lockerbie; partition in South Africa?; Bloody Sunday commemorated; one law for the rich; the 'discovery' of America; Police Gazette; health news; the 'unacceptable face' . . ; the election cometh; correction - dictatorship of the proletariat.
March 1992 A socialist election policy: 1992; 'Democracy' in Albania; the 'unacceptable face' . .
May 1992 Book review: "Perestroika: the complete collapse of revisionism".
July 1992 The resurrection of revisionism - steps towards international revisionist unity.
November 1992 Cuban revisionism.
December 1992 Maastricht; Lies, damned lies, and statistics; more dirty tricks in Pretoria; Iraqgate (Matrix Churchill trial); Justice?; In Latin America; in the former socialist countries; the miners; the 'unacceptable face' . .; "The cause of socialism is invincible" - speech by Nina Andreyeva, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks.
January 1993 Hardial Bains - on the existentialist roundabout.
April 1993 Literature and the arts at the crossroads of history (an interview with Dr Razi Brahami, from the Albanian newspaper 'Jehona')
June 1993 'Humanitarian' imperialist intervention.
July 1993 Towards a British republic? The English revolution of the 17th century.
September 1993 The New Communist Party and former Yugoslavia.
October 1993 Book review: Molotov's memoirs.
October 1993 The great October socialist revolution.
December 1993 Nina Andreyeva on Stalin and 'Stalinism'
January 1994 Fundamentalism and political reaction.
February 1994 The assassination of Trotsky.
February 1994 United Front tactics.
March 1994 Georgi Dimitrov: tool of imperialism.
April 1994 The Popular Front in France
July 1994 Marxism-Leninism and Maoism.
September 1994 The situation in the Stalin Society.
January 1995 More on the fifth column in the Stalin Society.
June 1995 Dimitrov: reply to a reader.
July 1995 Heresy in the Stalin Society.
January 1996 Book review: 'Stalin's letter to Molotov: 1925 - 1936'.
March 1996 From Pyongyang to Brussels: the opportunists and revisionists attempt to reorganise.
April 1996 The Soviet Union and the Spanish Civil War.
October 1996 On the Russian Presidential elections (Marxist-Leninist electoral tactics).
February 1997 The struggle against revisionism in the field of linguistics.
April 1997 The British General Election
May 1997 Class analysis in the modern communist movement. (Presented to the international conference organised by the International Centre for the Development of Contemporary Communist Doctrine, Moscow, November 8 - 10th, 1996)
November 1998 The Soviet Campaign against cosmopolitanism
February 1999 Some notes on the national question (by Patrick Kessel, translated from the French and abridged by Bill Bland); The differences in the international communist movement over Kosova (from the 'International Bulletin' of CEMOPI); joint press statement of the Communist Party of Albania (Reconstructed) and the New Party of Labour of Albania; editorial correction - re Mikhail Riumin.
June 1999 Verbatim transcription of British television's 'TRIAL OF NATO' - televised 23 May, 1999, Channel 4.
June 1999 The National Committee for the Marxist-Leninist Party (NCMLP); Genocide in Kosova! Meeting of German and British Marxist Leninists; Thomas Malthus and population growth; Sarat; Albania (translations from 'Feniksi' and 'Shkendija').
April 2000 The myth of Stalin's demoralisation on 1941.
July 2000 Documents from Albania.
November 2000 The upising in Belgrade
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Marxist-Leninist Research Bureau Reports
1. Rwanda; (July 1994).
2. The revisionist attack on Marxist-Leninist economics.
3. The case of Sultan-Galiyev.
4. Haiti (unpublished).
5. The Shakhty case.
6. The Lockerbie disaster.
8. The Syrtsov/Lominadze affair.
9. The Industrial Party affair.
10. The Ryutin case (1930-7).
11. The Aleksandr Smirnov case (1928-38).
12. The Yenukidze case (1935-7).
13. The Kirov murder.
Presentations to the Stalin Society
The National Committee for Marxist-Leninist Unity
Translations from the Albanian
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Relevant Internet sites
The Home page Communist League at:
Campaign for Marxist-Leninist Unity website:
The Home page Alliance at:
The Bland Page at:
His book: The Restoration of capitalism at:
Interview with Bland: at
For "Class Struggles in China" See:
Many topics noted in this article can be found via the Index page of Alliance at:
Bland, William B. (ed.) Albania. World Bibliographical Series, vol. 94. (Clio Press, Oxford 1988); Cited in:http://www.geocities.com/athens/3386/
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ISML Internet Discussion Group
If you would like to participate in the ISML discussion group on the Internet, please contact the following address:
ISML International Conference
The next ISML International Conference will be held in Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, on September 8th/9th 2001.
The theme of the conference will be 'Globalisation'.
Organisations wishing for further information should write to the following address: CL, PO Box 24, Leeds LS8 1UU, UK, or visit the Alliance of Communist League websites as given above.
Bill Bland Memorial Meeting
A memorial meeting open to all those wishing to celebrate the life and work of Bill Bland will take place in Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, on Sunday, September 9th at 7.30 pm.
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PO Box 24
Leeds LS8 1UU