ADDRESS DELIVERED BY N. STEINMAYR
AT THE STALIN SOCIETY MEMORIAL MEETING FOR WILLIAM (BILL) BLAND
(CONWAY HALL, LONDON, 22-4-01)
Comrades and friends,
we have gathered to commemorate one of the founder members of the Stalin Society and a prominent figure in the Marxist-Leninist movement, comrade William (Bill) Bland, who recently passed away at the age of 84. So many a time had Bill Bland participated at revolutionary meetings, lectures, assemblies and gatherings at Conway Hall in London that we can still feel his presence within these premises today. As early as 1937, the 21-year-old Bland paid a visit to the Soviet Union, the then beacon of socialism led by Joseph Stalin, and from that time onwards - during a period lasting for more than six decades, firstly in New Zealand for about 15 years and then in Britain - Bland dedicated his entire life and activity to the advancement of socialism and communism, to the emancipation of the working class, to the great common cause of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin.
Bland's immense intellectual energies and abilities, together with his profound, wide-ranging knowledge, were never channelled towards personal profit, career, fame or privileges, just as they were never placed at the service of the capitalist establishment, against which he fought - as a great Marxist-Leninist of the 20th century - with truly communist spirit and determination. During his life-long revolutionary struggle for Marxism-Leninism, Bland's lack of egoism and his huge degree of modesty were first of all reflected in a simple way of life and in the very modest circumstances in which he lived. He worked as an optician and settled down - during his last 50 years - in the working class areas of the east part of London. In his final act of generosity, he donated his body for scientific, medical research.
Never did Bland accept that he was an unusual man, but merely that he was someone "trying to understand" what had happened. As part of this modesty, if anyone could show analytically or factually that he was wrong, he was the first to openly acknowledge such criticism and recant. He was a diligent and untiring searcher for "the truth beneath the façade". 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. Detailing his method of historical research in a talk delivered in 1977, Bland had the following to say:
"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." (Bland, Notes on Historical Research, 1977)
Proceeding through a Marxist, dialectical approach, he was never afraid of becoming "unpopular" for espousing a minority view. Even his foes recognised that his analyses were a force to be reckoned with. Moreover, he had an absolute revulsion of individualism and personality cults, coupled with an intense desire to reach communication, collaboration and to build unity on a principled basis. Bland detested all types of sectarianism, deriding the "parties" of "one man and a dog who prefer to stay that way so long as the man is the leader!" We have no time to mention further his rather considerable humour, usually aimed at deflating any pomposity.
It is probably too early to draw definite and comprehensive conclusions with regard to his political contributions and analyses, to his rich legacy of writings, as well as to his organisational activities. The questions he explored were immensely profound for they also required an astonishing breadth of research and thought. As for his many political activities, we must start mentioning that Bland firstly joined the Communist Party of New Zealand, thus becoming district secretary in the Auckland district where he also run the so-called "Marxist School" for some time. During the fifties, he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain as branch secretary in Seven Kings (Ilford) and, subsequently to the 20th congress of the CPSU(B) in 1956, he led minority dissent within the CPGB both 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) and against Krushchevite revisionism.
During the early sixties, Bland became instrumental in forming the Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain, 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. Bland played a leading role in the Communist League of Britain which, at an international level, became a founder member of the organisation "International Struggle Marxist-Leninist", created in 1995. In January 1998 the CL joined with a number of Marxist-Leninist groups in the UK to form "The Committee for the Marxist-Leninist Party", now named "The National Committee for Marxist-Leninist Unity", the aim of which is to work towards the unification of the Marxist-Leninist anti-revisionist forces in Britain with the eventual formation of a single communist party.
Up to 1990, in his capacity as secretary of the Albanian Society in Britain, Bland also untiringly and consistently supported socialist Albania, the Marxist-Leninist line of the Party of Labour of Albania led by Enver Hoxha, just as he always defended the democratic rights of the Albanians living in Kosova, Macedonia and Montenegro. In 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. 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!
A Bill Bland memorial will be organised in London towards the end of this year. It seems now more appropriate to highlight Bland's contributions in continuously defending Stalin at a crucial time when revisionism finally succeeded in liquidating socialism - both in the USSR and in the international arena - during the course of the last century. First of all, it must be indicated that Bland never regarded the defence of Stalin as a dogma or just an issue of bygone history. Dedicating much energy and organisational effort, as time went on, he completely re-read everything written by and about Stalin he could find, asking himself "Am I wrong about Stalin?" His answer was no: Stalin was a great follower of Marx and Lenin, Stalin was a "Marxist-Leninist". The attitude towards Stalin and his work thus became an important question of principle and still represents a clear line of demarcation between Marxist-Leninists and modern revisionists.
Not only did Bland's thoroughly penetrate and dialectically investigate the Stalin era and the subsequent revisionist degeneration, leading to the publication of his monumental work "The Restoration of Capitalism in the Soviet Union" (1980, 1995), but he also wrote and circulated many other innumerable articles and analyses covering almost all aspects of Soviet life so that they could influence comrades all over the world. Bland lived to see the publishing of documents from the Soviet archives that vindicated his far-sighted analysis, which had been built with only fragmentary data, but by abiding by Marxist-Leninist methodological principles.
Bland will certainly go down in history as the communist historian of modern revisionism. Indeed, it was always on the basis of his factual and scientific research that he reached new, "unpopular" conclusions, often giving rise to a degree of controversial debate. Bland could prove, for example, how Stalin had been in a minority position both in the leadership of the CPSU(B) since at least 1932 and in the Comintern since the late twenties: concealed revisionists in leading positions had been able, from time to time, to divert the policies of these bodies - against Stalin's opposition - from correct Marxist-Leninist principles, while they had been developing the "cult of the personality" around Stalin, always in the face of his opposition. Bland pointed out in 1993:
"Socialism was not destroyed by the Soviet working people. Nor did it 'collapse'. It was destroyed from above by treacherous leaders who posed as 'purifiers' of socialism. . . .
The fact that the destruction of socialism had to be done under false red flags, and took more than forty years to bring about, testifies to the strength of genuine socialism." ("The Great October Socialist Revolution: A Statement Made by Bill Bland on Behalf of the Communist League at a Joint Meeting to Celebrate the Russian Revolution", in "Compass", Journal of the Communist League, Britain, n. 109, October 1993)
Just like Albania's great Marxist-Leninist Enver Hoxha, Bland characterised Maoism (thoroughly dealt with in his book "Class Struggles in China"), Kimilsungism (Juche) and Castroism as variants of modern revisionism. His scientific and unemotional approach to historical research with particular regard to the origins of modern revisionism led Bland to denounce the "Great Cultural Proletarian Revolution" in China as a sham, incompatible with the basic, proletarian principles elaborated by Lenin and Stalin. Moreover, in his assessment, Georgi Dimitrov as well played a major, leading revisionist role in the international communist movement. But in fact, what did Bland himself have to say about his own apparently "unconventional", "eccentric" positions? In an interview given in 1994 he indicated:
". . . 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 a 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 won't, and of course you must immediately rectify your incorrect line. . . . 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 . . . that any organisation large or small should work." (Interview with Bill Bland, London, 10-7-94)
In the same interview, Bland answered the following question:
"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?"
"All share responsibility. You could always say that Stalin could have done more . . . 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 were 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 . . . 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." (Interview, ibid.)
Likewise, it was Bland's exemplary Marxist-Leninist way of life which also inspired his latest research on the "anti-revisionist movement in Britain", the topic he was meant to present to the Stalin Society on this very day. In its conclusions, he reiterated, for the last time, the most essential principle:
"THERE CAN BE NO PROGRESS TOWARDS A SOCIALIST SOCIETY ALONG THE PATH CHARTED BY REVISIONISTS."
And in a bolshevik, non-sectarian spirit, he added that:
"THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT MARXIST-LENINISTS SHOULD REGARD REVISIONISTS -- AND EVEN ANTI-REVISIONISTS WITH WHOM WE MIGHT HAVE MINOR POLITICAL DIFFERENCES -- AS ENEMIES WITH WHOM THERE CAN BE NO COOPERATION WHATSOEVER." (draft notes by Bill Bland, early 2001, capital letters in the original)
Hence, the necessity of the united fronts as a unified striking force against capitalism and imperialism. Hence, our obligation to implement the immortal Marxist-Leninist principles which were so consistently upheld by Bland throughout his life. Bill Bland's revolutionary struggle is our struggle, which carries on unabated on the basis of his unshakable loyalty and contribution to socialism and communism.
Long Live the Memory and Work of Bill Bland!
Glory to Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin!