Against Martovism

Not being a Communist, my first impulse was to regard this letter to the Communist Party of Britain’s Morning Star as some kind of sly satire:

I agree with George Hickman (M Star May 13) that articles on gardening, cooking etc are a needless distraction from the serious business of industrial and community activism.

Lenin himself would have agreed.

In his famous speech in the Ruzheinaya Square in July 1920, Lenin denounced the trivia and distractions employed by the bourgeoisie in their attempts to divert the proletariat from their historic mission.

He described these distractions – in a term that has become famous – as "momentary interests."

The Star should concentrate on industrial disputes and community activism. Including articles on cooking and gardening might "broaden the appeal" of the paper but this would have the effect of diluting its message. This would be blatant Martovism.

Martov tried to change the party from an organisation of professional revolutionaries to a "broad, flexible" party that any Tom, Dick or Harry could join.

And had he succeeded, there would never have been a revolution or a USSR – and would reduce the paper to just one more lifestyle magazine.

Peter Cole

But the more I study the letter, the more I suspect, with a shudder, that the writer is entirely serious.

(Julius Martov was leader of the democratic socialist Menshevik party during the Russian Revolution. The Bolsheviks banned the Mensheviks and other opposition parties during the Russian civil war, and Martov died in exile.)

Anyway it’s an excuse to link to George Orwell’s essay “A Good Word for the Vicar of Bray“:

The planting of a tree, especially one of the long-living hardwood trees, is a gift which you can make to posterity at almost no cost and with almost no trouble, and if the tree takes root it will far outlive the visible effect of any of your other actions, good or evil. A year or two ago I wrote a few paragraphs in TRIBUNE about some sixpenny rambler roses from Woolworth’s which I had planted before the war. This brought me an indignant letter from a reader who said that roses are bourgeois, but I still think that my sixpence was better spent than if it had gone on cigarettes or even on one of the excellent Fabian Research Pamphlets.

Recently, I spent a day at the cottage where I used to live, and noted with a pleased surprise–to be exact, it was a feeling of having done good unconsciously–the progress of the things I had planted nearly ten years ago.

…The fruit trees, which were mere saplings when I put them in, are now just about getting in their stride. Last week one them, a plum, was a mass of blossom, and the apples looked as if they were going to do fairly well. What had originally been the weakling of the family, a Cox’s Orange Pippin–it would hardly have been included in the job lot if it had been a good plant–had grown into a sturdy tree with plenty of fruit spurs on it. I maintain that it was a public-spirited action to plant that Cox, for these trees do not fruit quickly and I did not expect to stay there long. I never had an apple off it myself, but it looks as if someone else will have quite a lot. By their fruits ye shall know them, and the Cox’s Orange Pippin is a good fruit to be known by. Yet I did not plant it with the conscious intention of doing anybody a good turn. I just saw the job lot going cheap and stuck the things into the ground without much preparation.

(Hat tip: Brian)