Ted Grant

Jan Sling arrest—“Communist” Party apologies

Source: Militant, no. 90 (February 4, 1972)
Transcription: Francesco 2010
Proofread: Fred 2010
Markup: Niklas 2010

The following editorial appeared in the Morning Star of January 21st 1972. We are quoting it in full for our readers to savour the full flavour of the cringing and whimpering attitude of the Morning Star and lest any naive member of the Communist Party might accuse us of misquotation:

“Many readers of the Morning Star will feel a special concern about the arrest of Jan Sling and his friend Jan Vik in Prague, the latest in a series of arrests reported from Czechoslovakia.

“His mother, for many years an honoured member of the British party, married Otto Sling when he was in Britain as a refugee from Hitler’s fascism.

“He was unjustly executed during a period when many communists in Czechoslovakia and elsewhere were the victims of a policy which tragically departed from communist principles.

“She was herself imprisoned and now sees one of her sons arrested, apparently because of protests he has made against the arrest of others and disagreements he has expressed with the policies of the Czechoslovak authorities to foreign journalists and a foreign radio station.

“The policy of trying to handle problems of dissent under socialism by arrests and trials is not only regrettable and wrong, but self-defeating.

“Further information on the arrests will therefore be anxiously awaited.”


There have been many trials, some reported in the Morning Star, which have provoked no comment from it. One example was the shameful trial recently of Bukovsky in the Soviet Union. He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for “illegal anti-Soviet activity”. One point in the indictment was the alleged “illegal” and “criminal” attempt to import a “printing press”—in fact a duplicator!

The Morning Star reported this trial without comment as a news item. They reported also without comment that foreign reporters, even their own, had not been allowed to attend!

Bukovsky’s great crime was the exposing of the infamous practice of the Stalinist government in Russia of sending opponents and critics of the regime to mental hospitals and “labour camps”, in real language concentration camps or harsher internment camps than in Northern Ireland.

Trials “regrettable”

The CP’s and the Morning Star’s belated protests against the Czech regime’s arrest of Jan Sling, nearly a quarter of a century after the Czech communists seized power, is empty of content.

More than 50 years after the revolution firmly abolished landlordism and capitalism in Russia, such abominations are proof of the fact that “socialism” does not yet exist in these countries.

The very existence of the state, of “national states”, of antagonisms and inequality between the people, the existence of poverty and even still of hunger; the antagonisms and state barriers between Russia and China, leading to armed clashes, the arrests and repression, are proof that as under Stalin, socialism has not been achieved.

It is no use the CP leaders in Britain wringing their hands and complaining that trials are “regrettable and wrong and self-defeating.” They are not self-defeating, but measures intended to intimidate and threaten any opposition to the policies of the ruling cliques. They are deliberate and calculated, if panicky, measures, intended to frighten the intellectuals, workers and peasants into passive submission to the economic and political policies of these regimes.

As with repression in capitalist countries, there must be a social reason and a social need. If, after the denunciation of Stalin (in the past, the CP leaders justified every crime committed by Stalin and other Stalinist leaders in Eastern Europe as a “defence of socialism”) the Russian and Eastern European CPs have turned, even if in a milder fashion, to the methods of terror and repression, this indicates that there is something fundamentally wrong. Something which has not been corrected and cannot be corrected by the present regimes.


It is useless for the Morning Star, like a maiden aunt tut-tutting about the permissive society, genteelly “protesting” against this repression, unless they explain the reasons for their recurrence again and again.

They are justly indignant at repression in capitalist countries which they explain is the consequence of the defence of the interests of big business. True, there are no landlords and capitalists in Eastern Europe. But there are millions of bureaucrats, parasitically battoning on the workers and peasants. It is their interests which dictate a one party totalitarian state, without control and management of state-owned industry by the working class. This has nothing to do with socialism. State ownership of the economy is the first step towards socialism, but it is not socialism.

In order to move towards socialism, it will require the overthrow of these bureaucratic regimes, and the introduction of workers’ democracy. Then all parties and individuals, accepting the basis of the regime, will be allowed freely to put forward their Ideas on how society should be run.

Evasion of duty

In Russia, and the industrially advanced countries, even propagandists for capitalism would be allowed. Industry is sufficiently advanced, the power of the working class (now potentially) is so great that a suggestion to return to landlordism and capitalism would be greeted with laughter by the workers and peasants as absolutely ridiculous. The repression now is against the workers and peasants, not against privileged layers. It is the defence of the privileged against the repressed.

To talk about “socialism” under these conditions is to confuse the working class, and to prevent them from understanding the causes and solution of the problem of this repression, is the overthrow of the bureaucratic regimes, and the introduction of workers’ democracy, as in the days of Lenin and Trotsky.

The Morning Star has made the “record”. With hand to heart, CP leaders can say “We have protested”. Though one note of criticism in the symphony of praise, does not amount to much. It is intended as an insurance for the future, when movements of protest develop in Eastern Europe. But it is cowardly, and in fact, an evasion of the duty of any revolutionary Marxist to tell the truth to the working class and picture things as they are. The leadership of the CP cannot wriggle out of their responsibility for crimes committed in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe by this faint whimper of ineffectual and unexplained “protest.”