The false red flag: pseudo-resistance

I have always had a rather uneasy relationship with the “socialist” and “communist” left.

On the one hand I have been deeply inspired by many thinkers and rebels loosely associated with this tradition, from John Ball of the peasants’ revolt [1] and the legendary Robin Hood (robbing the rich to feed the poor), to Gerrard Winstanley [2] or William Morris. [3]

I have campaigned alongside grassroots socialists and communists, in both Britain and France, on numerous occasions when our causes have coincided and would, of course, do so again.

However, at the same time I have the gut feeling that there is something wrong about this movement.

My ambivalent attitude embraces all the terms it uses to describe itself.

Two writers who have greatly influenced me, Gustav Landauer [4] and George Orwell, [5] described their thinking as “socialist”, while going out of their way to warn us against communism.

But at the same time, the most insidious “left-wing” organisation I have personally come across is the UK’s Socialist Workers Party – a Trotskyist outfit notorious in anarchist circles a quarter of a century ago for “parachuting” into struggles and diverting them away from genuine resistance to the system.

Its “Globalise Resistance” front group, or “Monopolise Resistance” as it was dubbed, was deliberately set up to hijack the anarchic energy of the anti-globalisation movement. [6]

In 2001 it effectively sabotaged the May Day resistance planned for Oxford Street in London by forming a march that led protesters into a police trap hours ahead of the scheduled protests. [7]

I can well remember helpful police officers gesturing to us to follow the SWP up Regent Street into the awaiting kettle at Oxford Circus – an offer my friends and I chose not to accept!

The SWP called on people [8] to vote for Tony Blair’s neoliberal New Labour in 1997, just as the French Communist Party called in 2022 for people to vote for “former” Rothschild employee Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the presidential elections (to “keep out the far right”). [9]

This is typical of a certain hypocritical falsity about the left that strikes me as one of its primary characteristics, along with a naively blind acceptance of the social and technological “Progress” sold to us by the system and a propensity for authoritarianism – a barely-concealed impulse to censor, silence and intimidate all those who fail to conform to its view of the world.

This showed itself once again in 2020, when the vast bulk of socialists and communists (as well as “anarchists”!) eagerly jumped on board the Covid bandwagon and started attacking dissidents with the “far right” and “reactionary” smears that their movement has often used to attack opponents who are actually more anti-establishment than they are.

My aim here is to put a bit more meat on the bare bones of my personal hunches and experiences and to sketch out what seems to be fundamentally wrong with the thing we call communism.

Obviously in one single article it would be absurd to even pretend to address the whole historical movement, with all its subtleties, varieties and complications, let alone the vast and immensely dull world of Marxist theory.

Instead, I will be focusing on a few select accounts of communism’s basic character as manifested in the former Soviet Union, before coming back to the ideology itself.

Many communists would no doubt insist that this is unfair and that the 70 years of communist rule there were not representative of their ideology or movement as a whole.

But I concur with the Russian anarchist Voline (pictured), an important source for this essay, when he declares: “The history of repression in the USSR is not only, in itself, suggestive and revealing: it is also an excellent means for making clear the very substance, the hidden aspects, the real nature of authoritarian communism”. [10]

[Audio version]

[10] Voline, La Révolution Inconnue: du pouvoir bolchéviste à Cronstadt (Paris: Pierre Belfond, 1972), p. 79. I worked from the original French version of Voline’s work and the translations are my own, so will not always correspond exactly to English versions such as that featured on the Anarchist Library website at

The essay will be appearing here in four further parts:

Lies and repression
Industrial slavery
A repugnant racket
Flawed and despotic

Alternatively, the whole thing can be downloaded as a free pdf booklet here.

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Article courtesy of Paul Cudenac.

Author: Paul Cudenac

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