The British politician with most egg on face after the failed coup in the Soviet Union has to be Eric Trevett, general secretary of the tiny ultra-Stalinist New Communist Party. In a letter to the Morning Star on August 22, the day that the coup collapsed, he welcomed the removal of Mikhail Gorbachev as "a setback to US imperialism, whose plans for global domination have been dealt a body blow".
"In the Soviet Union the emergence of a leadership dedicated to communist values deserves our full solidarity and support," he went on. "Nor should we waver in giving this in the face of some social unrest."
The Morning Star itself surprised many readers by refusing to give the coup its backing: "It is difficult to see how democratic economic and political change can be brought about by authoritarian means," it warned on August 20, adding that "what has happened could have the opposite result to that intended". A similar line was taken by the Communist Party of Britain, the small pro-Soviet party that split from the Eurocommunist Communist Party of Great Britain in the mid-eighties. (The NCP split in the late seventies). Its general secretary, Mike Hicks, called for a peaceful resolution to the crisis "fully involving the Soviet people in resolving political and economic difficulties that have been exacerbated by a narrow form of nationalism in some republics".
Less surprisingly, the CPGB unambiguously condemned the coup, calling for the immediate release and re-instatement of Gorbachev. "The complex economic and constitutional crises that have developed in the Soviet Union will never be solved by resorting to Stalinist methods", proclaimed a group of leading figures in a letter to the Guardian published on August 21.
After the collapse of the coup, the CPGB, which is almost certain to adopt a new democratic constitution and change its name to "Democratic Left" in November, gave a warm welcome to suggestions that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union should dissolve itself into a new democratic left party. But the Morning Star and the CPB were not so sure. Monday's Star leader announced that "the Soviet people will need a reformed democratic Communist Party .. . Socialism and democracy remain the only way out for the working people in the Soviet Union". If only the working people of the Soviet Union saw it that way ...