No 1537 29th June 2018
New torture revelations and ever more callous brutality against Mexican migrants and Roma scapegoats confirm deepening fascist degeneracy of this monopoly capitalist system. Not “Nazi takeover” but fundamental nature of capitalism itself showing its dictatorship face is the issue as it slides into the greatest crisis collapse of all time. Trumpite trade war belligerence a prelude to all-out inter-imperialist war, end point of the Catastrophic failure revealed in 2008 and returning soon as QE fails and the dollar disintegrates. Brexit and other chauvinism is preparing the atmosphere, along with the Middle East war devastation acclimatising the world to non-stop destruction. As need for revolutionary class-war to end capitalism grows clearer, the fake-“left” retreats into craven entryist Labourism or hopeless social-pacifist revisionism. Socialist Fight Trots typical, flinging poisonous provocations and lies against Leninist clarity to cover their tracks, sneering at “catastrophism”.
Escalated scapegoating hatred of migrants, now including the deliberate fascist callousness of the Mexican border child-cages and Italian anti-Roma evictions; ever cruder torture, war-famine and blitzkrieg butchery destroying country after country in the Middle East, latest in Yemen and yet again Palestine; constant hysteria about “terrorist threats” to “justify” universal censorship, police intimidation, deportations and surveillance; and the in-your-face aggression of Washington’s trade war hostility in all directions, are all facets of a world plunging into unstoppable breakdown and collapse.
Along with the tightening austerity imposed everywhere this is the Catastrophic failure of the monopoly capitalist order, devastating lives and about to create far greater mayhem, nowhere better expressed than through the incompetence, indifference and cynicism of the moneygrubbing British ruling class, unwilling and unable even to run railways, deal with housing, sustain a health service (without killing its patients), offer other basic services, keep its brutalised prisons in order, or prevent horrific disasters like Grenfell, while up to its neck in international provocations and lies (Russian “bogeyman” etc), MI5 torture, military abuse atrocities and grotesque arms-dealing death-profiteering.
Stampeding popular opinion behind xenophobic hatred, and non-stop warmongering, (by Brexit, in Europe and by Trumpism) is the prelude to outright inter-imperialist war, the only path monopoly capitalism’s owners know for escaping their historic “over-production” crisis, by destroying the “surplus” capital that has inexorably built up, exactly as Marxism has always explained.
But even as the underlying Nazi reality of the whole capitalist system becomes sharply clearer (and the bogus “democracy” pretence which hides it, is increasingly dispensed with by the hard pressed bourgeoisie) the fake-“left” continues to evade the question of revolution, the only way out of the greatest ever turmoil and breakdown being imposed on the planet by the degenerate corruption and greed of the outmoded production-for-private-profit system.
Worse still, as the crisis deepens everywhere, imposing ever-more severe “austerity” cuts at best, and massacre and destruction for many in the Third World, the defeatism and complacency which has always been their main characteristic is intensified, precisely to let these posturers and pretenders wriggle and squirm away from the increasingly obvious need for such perspectives.
The multiple groups of the “left” Labourite, Trotskyist and revisionist “swamp” as Lenin called them, who all falsely declare themselves “anti-capitalist” and mostly “revolutionaries”, hide even more behind the pretence that the crisis can be stopped by “democratic” means (and therefore is not heading for the greatest disintegration in all history).
Labour/TUC class collaboration simply tells outright lies that capitalism can be “regulated and controlled”, and its rough “mistaken neoliberal form” be peacefully replaced by a “nicer” version.
The counter-revolutionary Trotskyists and near-Trotskyists who have “entered” the Labour Party, some even liquidating themselves as parties to do so, effectively go along with this utter gobshyte which has been fed to the working class for the last 150 years of promises and reforms, only to bring it all the way back to total Slump disaster and yet more of the war destruction which has already twice torn much of the planet apart in the twentieth century.
The “eurocommunist” wing of revisionist communism like the CPB, long virtually indistinguishable from Labour in the craven pursuit of “realistic reforms”, backs it up too, as do the “rank and file-ists” of those like the SWP, always ready to call for a vote for the Labourites or at least those of them deemed to pass some arbitrary “left reformist” test.
They all give a “left” prop to this bunch of class collaborating Labourite opportunists.
But the Labour “left” has never been anything but a standby for the ruling class, to head off any popular surge even vaguely towards socialism, pulling it back into the same old parliamentary racket which has fooled generations of the working class.
Of course the pretence is that this new anti-capitalist surge of young supporters and those returning after Blairite disillusionment “exile”, now means that Labour can be “won over” to revolutionary politics.
It is a gigantic lie to cover up the opportunism of these bogus “left” groups who only want to find a comfortable space for their endless sectarian manoeuvring and position seeking, built on carping criticism and disruptive factionalising, – riding parasitically on the back of this Labour boost (which has only temporarily floated up on the back of real-enough left class sentiment) as they have done time after time in past Labour entryism and again in the Scargillite Socialist Labour Party, particularly.
But they do not explain that Labourism will only ever sell out the working class and leave them exploited as always by the financial and state power of the capitalist class (which will never be challenged by such class collaboration which even now does not even want to force the pace in limited parliamentary terms by defeating the disastrously split and incompetent Tories, happy to just play-act the “loyal opposition” for years while the working class festers endlessly on zero hours working and savage austerity cuts).
Nor do they warn that in the unlikely and far distant event of some Labour pretence actually carrying out any reform measures to seriously favour the poor and disadvantaged, it would leave them open to the inevitable overturning of even such a tepid “left” government by stitched-up media dominated manipulation, and, if/when that fails, legal, financial, and eventually military coup, as seen in dozens of incidents worldwide, and most archetypally in the brutal CIA-bourgeois Chilean coup of 1973 which drowned the revisionist Salvador Allende’s “peacefully and legally voted” moves towards socialism in blood and torture.
It is notable that arch-opportunist John Lansman, head of the Momentum support movement for Jeremy Corbyn, has just been warning of possible “runs on the pound” in the event of a John McDonnell chancellorship, preparing in advance the excuses for the inevitable sellouts when “the international market” (i.e the big capital which really calls the shots in the world) makes a mockery of “ending austerity” plans and either forces Corbynism to backtrack or simply bankrupts the British economy (as witnessed currently in bankrupt Argentina or in the inflation ridden mid-1970s when reactionary Labour prime minister James Callaghan and Chancellor Dennis Healey were obliged to call in the International Monetary Fund for a £5bn bailout and to impose draconian wage restrictions and social cuts, leading on justifiably to the “Winter of Discontent” in which the working class toppled them).
As Marxist politics has constantly declared, the notion that austerity is simply a matter of ruling class “policy” out of greed to intensify the exploitation of the working class, and is therefore reversible, allowing a “return to growth if only it is relaxed” is a giant hoodwinking fraud, deliberately diverting attention from the reality of capitalist collapse which is unstoppable, intractable and relentless.
The greed is real enough but the option to do things differently within the capitalist system is not.
The only reversal possible is the ending of the entire capitalist system.
But that is the last thing the Trots and assorted entryists are warning (or are allowed to inside Labour).
In which case all they are doing is supporting all the old rubbish.
The remaining “left” equally avoids any serious talk of revolution, despite formally denouncing Labourite reformism, but still pretending in one way or another that socialism is achievable through “peaceful struggle” and parliamentary means albeit, perhaps, supplemented with extra-parliamentary “pressure”.
They might pin a few notional “overturn capitalism” phrases to the last paragraph or two of articles but putting such understanding at the very core of all analysis, using every kind of development to explain and illuminate the total breakdown of the world order as the central and overriding question, is never done.
So, for example, the Stalinist-lauding version of revisionism effectively continues to advocate, or leave unchallenged, the “Stay calm and don’t rock the boat” social-pacifism perspectives which originated in the hopeless notions of Stalin’s “Economic Problems” analysis just post-WW2, revising Lenin to suggest that capitalism was now so hamstrung by war and hemmed in by socialist states that it could no longer expand as before and therefore that containing its aggressive tendencies with “peace struggle” would be enough, while the growth of socialist economies would overtake it and eventually prove so irresistible to the world’s masses that a turn to socialism would be almost automatic.
It was a disastrous misreading that grasped neither the ruthless exploitational possibilities which allowed imperialism to sweat the entire Third World for renewed growth, inevitably superficially outcompeting a Soviet system providing reasonable hours and good basic conditions like housing and health, nor the critically important point that the unprecedented capitalist expansion which actually did come about, would contain the seed of total collapse and economic implosion now being witnessed (and thereby generating revolutionary turmoil).
The validity of such a “democratic path” is being disproved all over again in Latin America, where the failure to develop Leninist understanding and particularly to emphasise the crucial need for the dictatorship of the proletariat has seen endless CIA subversion and increasingly violent attempted disruption of the temporary advances by left nationalist reformism in Brazil, Argentina, Nicaragua and Venezuela etc and even the standing down of the dogged FARC armed struggle in Colombia, tragically following the revisionist influenced advice from the Cuban workers state leadership (which would rightly never dream of giving up its own workers state authority, won and maintained by armed revolutionary war).
Not a peep of criticism emerges from the Stalinists; nor over the Chinese revisionists going along with Western sanctions against the North Korean workers state to bully it over its perfectly sound and justified policy to develop a nuclear deterrent; nor over the suppression of anti-Western “terrorism” such as in the Sinai, where its wooden one-sided support for bourgeois nationalism like Assad in Syria (instead of just calling for imperialist defeat) generalises to a universal painting of all “terrorist” upheaval as “headbanging reaction”, a position so lined up with imperialist “war on terror” condemnations the entire craven “left” has capitulated on, that it sees the Stalinists actually sympathising with the brutal military dictatorship of General Sisi in Cairo (installed by CIA-Zionist manipulation) against Sinai’s anti-Zionist pro-Palestinian militancy.
This all round retreat from the struggle to develop and carry forwards Marxist scientific understanding, to provide revolutionary leadership for the great spontaneous revolts erupting everywhere against this degenerate system, is the greatest obstacle holding back the masses everywhere on the planet at present, even as the slide into cutthroat trade conflict, ever cruder chauvinism and war destruction delivers material lesson after lesson to them about the need for a total turnover of this historically bankrupt and now destructive class rule system.
As Lenin long ago pointed out, it is not Marxism which drives (persuades, pushes, forces etc etc) the masses into revolt but the impositions of crisis itself; but conscious leadership is then vital for the understanding and clarity which can unite the masses, countering as fast and as far as possible (daily or hourly eventually) the distortions and non-stop brainwashing anti-communist lies which pour out of the capitalist media, and giving them the inspiration and courage for the gigantic class war need to finally overturn capitalist domination and establish firm workers control to develop socialism.
And the world is in a ferment of upheaval seeking such theoretical understanding.
Virtually the exact opposite is declared by the fake-“lefts” as spelt out in a recent Socialist Fight polemic challenging the EPSR and attempting to justify its own sly opportunist “entryist” bolstering of the Labourites, by dismissing talk of capitalism’s failure as “premature catastrophism” etc (thereby implying revolutionary talk is “premature” too, letting everyone off the hook).
The Trotskyist group does overcome one crucial and very basic hurdle for re-establishing Marxist-Leninist leadership in making its arguments at all in a written discussion.
Almost universal sectarian refusal by much of the swamp to engage in polemic, especially with groups deemed “insignificant”, and the associated philistine dismissal of “theory” as not being of much use for “practical struggle” anyway (“who cares what one dead Russian said to another” as it was crudely expressed by the anti-communist Trots filling Arthur Scargill’s SLP) is part of the problem for the working class, and particularly so in empiricist Britain with its long history of craft trade union orientated wages-and-conditions struggles.
But it is downhill from there on, with the jumble of argument, as far as it is coherent at all, promptly expressing just such philistinism, larded with great dollops of the defeatism and despair which is the hallmark of the Trotskyist petty bourgeois view of the world.
The SF also mobilises all kinds of outrageous distortion, misrepresentation, highly selective out-of-context quotation and outright calumnies, mingled with slanderous personal insults, to try and rubbish the EPSR over Myanmar, the Soviet Union, Zionism and “anti-semitism”, in a cynical effort to throw up a smokescreen and cover its own treachery and anti-communist ignorance.
Staggeringly, in doing this the SF manages to side with the German Nazis in Berlin 1945 against the Red Army whose heroic four year struggle to end German Nazism is written off as “morally unsound”, based on Western lies (as spelt out last issue): with the imperialist propaganda campaign (see EPSR 1520) whipping up war-hatred against Myanmar, for which Wikipedia is cited as the “impeccable” fount of truth (!!!!); and with poorer Zionists in occupied Palestine, wrongly called “working class” (they are colonists first and foremost) who are declared to have “rights” to stay on in a future one-state Palestine – presumably keeping possession of the land they stole from the inhabitants – with any objections to this reactionary betrayal declared to be
“sounding to me, and to all Jews, like a demand for a new Holocaust”.
This is such a sick and degenerately provocative slander that it alone exposes immediately the foul nature of these twisted Trot reactionaries, ready to whip up the same Goebbels hate-atmosphere as the CIA-nazi-Zionist campaign with all kinds of sinister implication.
Alongside, they repeat past allegations already dealt with (on Ireland) as if detailed EPSR responses had not been read at all, and certainly not understood. (They are set out clearly in EPSR No 1532 for the interested.)
None of this tedious repetition or unjustified assertion constitutes real polemic which is not about simply stating “democratically” another view (“we all have a right to our own opinion”) or repeating already refuted points, but about battling through different interpretations of arising phenomena to reach a conclusion on what is a correct understanding which can be tested in practice (against the constantly unfolding world class struggle).
But the general philosophical points first:
It is impossible to educate the whole class on the necessity to make the revolution. Whatever progress we might make in times of heightened class struggle is lost again as the class falls back in defeat and again accepts bourgeois ideology, to a greater or lesser extent, consequent on the relations of production – they have to sell their labour power to the capitalist to survive; consequently, the ruling ideas of any epoch are the ideas of the ruling class. This is the source of what Marx calls “the muck of ages”:
“Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men on a mass scale is, necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.” 
But Don Hoskins will have none of all this. For the EPSR, who are the most Healy-like in their catastrophism, which Healy learned from the post WWII James Cannon’s American Theses, the revolution or counter-revolution is upon us now and the world economy is going to collapse in the next five minutes, we must adopt the very non-revolutionary tactic of mass educating the masses against prejudices against immigrants, which we will deal with later:
“The only hope of a solution to this threat is a massive education-drive to explain the degenerate rottenness of the whole capitalist system and society … But this is the one thing that the ‘politically correct’ hordes, wagging a finger at racist backwardness, will make certain is not said and never explained.” 
Don does not consider who might perform this task and how we might train and assemble sufficient numbers of these teachers, properly qualified and dedicated to accomplishing this massive task of “explain(ing) the degenerate rottenness of the whole capitalist system and society”. Marx himself can now be counted amongst the ‘politically correct’ hordes of shirkers from this impossible task. Of course, following Marx, Marxists have understood since 1845, that, whilst socialism via mass education and voting its representatives into parliament to implement radical reforms amounting to socialism, as the 19th century Red Republicans aspired to, is impossible, fortunately neither is it a precondition for revolution. Trotsky explains here that it is struggle and not education that wins the masses to action and the party must then politically educate the vanguard; the old difference between theory and practice, between agitation for the masses and propaganda for the vanguard.
What a hopeless admission of failure and despair this all is, suggesting that because the task looks difficult it is therefore “impossible” and must be abandoned (conveniently for the petty bourgeois mindset).
Trotsky’s hopeless “sliding scale of wages” Transitional Programme reformism is to be followed instead and Lenin’s insistence on always putting revolution to the fore (see box quote) to be abandoned.
But as already stated it is the crisis which “educates” the masses and draws them into revolt (just as it did in Egypt in 2011 for example, or in the huge “jihadist” and “terrorist” turmoil erupting widely for decades, or in the conflicts in Latin America).
It is for the revolutionary party to fight within this spontaneous upheaval for its understanding of the need for ending capitalism and against backwardness and confusion.
But finding enough numbers to “perform that task” is impossible too it seems – ignoring all the lessons of the past’s great uprisings where the revolutionaries were tiny in numbers at the beginning – including Lenin’s mostly exiled Bolsheviks pre-1917, the barely one score-strong communist party in China in the early 1920s, among a 600M population or Fidel Castro’s tiny Granma crew landing.
Such “criticism” is simply a statement of the problem which far from being ignored by the EPSR forms the very heart of its work, answered just as Lenin did in What is to be Done? with the battle to formulate a correct (and constantly reviewed and updated) view of the world, developing and training a cadre party for that task, which in carrying out its polemical fights openly in front of the working class will both develop the theory and train these “teachers”, while simultaneously drawing in more and more of the advanced workers and sympathetic intellectuals, their views further dialectically informing and extending the party’s grasp inwardly while carrying its views outward into the mass in constant interchange.
That has got nothing to do with the shallow nonsense painting the EPSR as calling for mass reformist “education” – just one of the monstrous and deliberately disingenuous misrepresentations littering this alleged “reply”.
If carrying through revolutionary education nevertheless seems more daunting than ever in history, then that is because the non-stop capitalist media and education deluge of anti-communism and shallow “sleb” consumerism poured onto the masses morning noon and night for over a century – (aided by vile finkery like George Orwell), – has for the moment almost eliminated even the basic notions of socialism (as spelled out in EPSR Perspectives 2001 eg).
But firstly, that is already changing – as Corbynism and Sander-ism in the US reflect (albeit because they are trying to head off into safe “democracy” channels, the underlying workers movement emerging in even the richest countries).
And secondly it reinforces the critical need to take on and expose all the deluge and poison poured onto communist and anti-imperialist national liberation struggles, including by the pretend revolutionaries of the comfortable West and particularly the biliously anti-communist Trotskyists, more ready to crap all over the current and past workers states and their history of gigantic achievements, than capitalist propaganda itself, as well as untangling the disastrous errors of Moscow revisionism (which this Trotskyist hatred obscures with its petty bourgeois fear of workers state discipline and the world disruption already underway).
Two more basic distortions are present even in these few paragraphs, in the denunciation of “catastrophism” and the gloom over supposed “loss of working class progress”.
Neither facts, nor genuine Marxist theory, it seems can interfere with the idealist notions in Trotskyist heads!
Firstly of course the very factual 2008 global credit crunch was a devastating confirmation of Marxist “catastrophe” (unpredicted and unexplained by other philosophy and economics) and one that has not gone away, despite the temporary “recovery” (for the ultra-rich only) built on more dollar printing.
The endless Mickey Mouse dollars pumped out by Quantitative Easing for the last decade have just kept the international exploitation order going, but have not solved the breakdown of the system one jot.
Nor could they, and the ruling class knows full well that even worse total economic collapse is inevitable, (magnified even more by this additional dollar pollution on top of decades of inflationary credit creation).
Hence the Bushite turn to war in 2002, attempting to pre-empt the crisis which the ruling establishment knew was coming and was unfolding already in events like the technical stock exchange collapse and the Enron scandal, and hence now Trump’s overt trade war (which has been building up for decades).
From the theoretical side, to denounce “catastrophism” is to denounce Marxism itself, as pointed out many times by the EPSR as in issue 1143 09-07-02:
The whole basis of Marxist dialectical materialist science is that all phenomena only develop through conflicting opposites ending in a total contradiction which only a revolutionary leap can then resolve.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the evolutionary history of society, and particularly in the matter of economic and technological evolutionary progress being regularly temporarily thwarted by class-domination relationships which have outlived their usefulness, relatively speaking in general but at times threatening some absolute disasters.
Nothing could be more Marxist than waging the class-war for socialism to the background of a capitalist system envisaged as collapsing in humiliation, destruction, and defeat. It is what the Communist Manifesto is all about. It is what history proved to be the pattern of things in the great proletarian revolutions of the 20th century in Russia, China, Vietnam, Cuba, etc.
So it is the “anti-catastrophists” who have some “Marxist” explaining to do.
The EPSR can be accused of being premature in its judgement of how imminently close is disaster for the imperialist system, a charge which can be usefully argued about by constantly re-examining all the relevant historical factors, past and present.
But to accuse the EPSR of ‘catastrophism” only raises doubts about who is making the accusations, and why.
Part of the problem is clearly shallowness which can find it difficult to avoid emotional defeatism when the untimetabled concept of things plunging towards inevitable capitalist catastrophe clashes with natural speculation about how imminent such collapse and war-destruction might be.
Sceptical shallowness is also a factor in paying lip-service to the idea in general of the imperialist system crashing in contradiction, but never being seriously willing to be guided by it as an active philosophy of life, - the position of the entire fake-’left’.
The “premature imminence” accusation of 2002 is no longer tenable.
The Trots are wrong too on working class experience.
Far from sliding all the way back to the bottom of the consciousness ladder with each “setback”, the accumulated weight of struggle experience across the world, is enormous.
Just the distrust of the working class in “parliament” (and the Labourism which has repeatedly shown its bourgeois nature by running imperialism) makes the point, as widespread correct cynicism about “pocket lining politicians” and low turnouts shows – this is a maturity about hoodwinking bourgeois “democracy” which long ago overtook any need for Lenin’s 1920 tactics to temporarily support Labourism in order to teach the working class about its treachery. Citing Leftwing Communism – an infantile disorder on this, as the SF does, after a dozen Labour governments, is just rank opportunist pretence.
Meanwhile the presence of tens of millions of copies of Marxist and Leninist works throughout the world, and a general if hazily vague grasp of Marxism permeating all society down to the dustiest Third World village, also tells a story – how many other Victorian intellectuals are world renowned or even nameable, outside of Darwin (whose evolutionary theory also had its own revolutionary significance)? Again a past EPSR (1060 03-10-00):
The collective historical memory and accumulated wisdom of working-class revolutionary struggle is unquestionably potentially deeper and richer today than it has ever been. On a world scale since the first proletarian anti-capitalist struggles more than 200 years ago, the total capacity and ability to wage serious mass revolt against the imperialist bourgeoisie has risen relentlessly, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Nowhere on earth is really safe anymore for direct colonial armed domination (as the US imperialist forces, easily the mightiest blitzkrieg power ever built, are continually discovering to their great embarrassment all round the globe). This know-how and political maturity to confidently rout armed neo-colonial aggression is a factor of the coming-of-age of the international proletariat generally, still steadily developing all the time.
But grasping this point is impossible for the mind-numbing defeatist outlook of the Trots who have never seen their “perfect revolution” templates fulfilled and nor will they, since they are just idealist, sanctimonious moralising petty bourgeois fantasies to be carried out only by perfect non-racist, non-sexist etc people (all on their best behaviour whatever the desperation of the fight, to fit whatever the latest variant of “political correctness” decrees, and doubtless with good teeth to boot).
Since every struggle so far did not, nor ever could match such requirements, these dilettantes see the gigantic triumphs and developments made by the real, always imperfect, and mistake-filled (but endlessly self-correcting and self-improving) struggle only as “failures”.
But it is in such flawed and difficult fights (with conscious leadership) that the masses transform themselves, and the world, to lift up from the “muck” laden imperfections imposed on them by alienation and antagonism filled capitalist culture and society and build instead a completely new, socialist society in which ultimately, after generations of development and education, reason, rationality and cooperation will prevail without any coercion or state being needed (which is exactly what the SF Marx “muck” quote above is describing – talk about missing the point!!!).
The Trots discount all the great struggles, declared to be nothing but disaster, because they dismiss the staggering record of the workers states and their achievements and the wave of world anti-imperialist struggles that huge Soviet sacrifices and eventual successes inspired, particularly during and after World War Two.
Nor do they grasp the significance of the great jihadist/terrorist turmoil underway now which for all its often backward, self-defeating sectarian and even reactionary ideology, expresses the great transformation of the Third World and its ever growing hatred of the exploitation tyranny imposed on it for centuries by imperialist colonialism.
Of course there is a huge distance to go historically and the revisionist mistakes of the first great Soviet experiment (which saw huge achievements in its 70 years of socialist society, reaching world parity with imperialism without a capitalist boss in sight or any sweatshop exploitation) have been temporarily overwhelming, leading from the errors emerging in the 1920s to the complacent stupidity of Gorbachevite bureaucratic smugness and its tragic liquidation of the vital USSR workers state, in order to turn to the supposed “advantages” of the “free market” within the “common European family”.
But analysing those philosophical failings as the EPSR alone has struggled to do (see eg Unanswered Polemics against museum-Stalinism vol 21), is itself a crucially necessary part of the correction process for the world anti-imperialist struggle, a further advance for understanding, not “progress lost again” as this dull and deadly blinkered defeatism asserts.
The Trots decry the workers states’ history as “not good enough” but instead of fighting to improve them (taking up the polemical battle with revisionist leadership while unconditionally supporting and celebrating the existence and progress of the states themselves), this “opposition” just poisons the water with declarations that “everything is rotten” as Lenin chided Trotsky for saying in the famous trade union debate (see next article eg).
But the Trots have a problem with their theories about the Soviet Union being taken over by some new kind of “bureaucratic” ruling class under Stalin, allegedly bent on counter-revolution, the monstrous denunciation which helped poison world working class opinion for decades.
Apart from the fact such a social formation would require a new third kind of property relations on top of private profit ownership and common ownership (– such a departure from all known Marxism that Trotsky himself had to pretend he was only talking about a “new caste” in one of history’s greatest sophistries) – it leaves the Trots floundering to explain what happened in 1989 in the “collapse” of the Soviet workers state, if there had already been a supposed counter-revolution (as again basic Marxism would require to have happened).
Far from life improving from the supposed “horrible grey reality” of the workers states once “terrible Stalinist tyranny and the dull oppression of totalitarianism” was removed, – a gross lying slander – it promptly degenerated, with the collapse of social provision, widespread poverty and a dramatic plunge in basic standards including life expectancy and birthrate mortality, along with the rise of mafia-gangster oligarchy.
With such a very obvious monopoly capitalist restoration in 1989-91 where none had been, and since the reality of the previous Soviet Union, for all its flaws, was one of culture, science and social order, which made huge contributions to the world fight against imperialism, most obviously in the staggering sacrifices of the Second World War to destroy German Nazi aggression, but also in massive material support to the post-war communist and anti-colonial struggles, the Trots have some explaining to do.
So too over their “political revolution” poison which saw them all backing the fascist counter-revolutions instigated by imperialism against new workers states in East German and Hungary in the 1950s, Czechoslovakia in 1968 and then the long drawn out 1980s pretence in Poland of a “workers struggle” behind the bogus, Vatican-CIA funded Solidarnosc “trade union” – (no such thing in fact but a Pilsudski-loving pro-capitalist political subversion – like many obviously false “colour revolutions” since) all now utterly reactionary as for example in Poland’s vicious Nazi immigrant-scapegoating Law and Justice government (as analysed and predicted at the time only by Leninist theory).
As the reality of capitalist crisis undermines all this fake-“left”-ism, the SF squirms to justify its continuing venom aimed at poisoning minds against the historic record of the USSR and the dictatorship of the proletariat which was at the heart of it, by finding a substitute for the discredited “bureaucratic caste” nonsense.
In SF’s case that is an extension of Trotskyist hostility to national-liberation struggles, long demeaned and sneered at for not being socialist revolutions, and specifically not fitting the Trots’ PC formulae, the in-their-heads-only alleged perfection against which all real revolutions and their huge sacrifices are deemed to fall short, such as heroic Cuba, never achieving more than grudging recognition as “deformed” or “degenerated” (and that only because the Trots dare not go against popular working class opinion which supports those triumphs).
But the great wave of nationalist anti-colonialism post-war has been an enormous problem for easy imperialist control (especially for first British and then other European powers), even where they have not managed to defeat it (and many did).
All such struggles against imperialism were welcomed and celebrated by Lenin, not least the petty bourgeois nationalist Easter uprising of the Irish in 1916, written off by the sneering fake-“left” of the day as “just a putsch”, an opinion excoriated by Lenin (see July 1916 The discussion on self-determination summed up quoted in eg EPSR 1106 02-10-01).
The SF (and all the Trots) still writes off the great defeats inflicted on British imperialism by the Irish struggle and its titanic Sinn Féin-IRA six counties national-liberation war in the post-war period as a “sellout”, ignoring the total transformation of the Nazi-Orange bigotry dominated artificial state of “Northern Ireland” from a fascist hellhole for the minority republicans to the current open and relatively peaceful conditions (despite continuing nastiness by the sour colonist losers) and the ever deepening links and connections with Dublin which will lead eventually to re-unification, (exactly as tacitly understood by all sides in the Good Friday Agreement but played down as part of the settlement, to avoid London’s embarrassment (and all other imperialism’s) at capitulating to an armed struggle).
As the EPSR argued against SF in the earlier but completely ignored polemic in issue 1532 (see above) the current near breakdown of chauvinism-riddled Brexit over the Irish border question, simply underlines the imperialist defeat suffered since why would the throwback unionists and the most reactionary British chauvinist empire-nostalgists like Rees-Mogg or Michael Gove, who support them and hate the whole GFA for the British imperialist retreat it was, not simply re-impose the border, to separate Britain from Europe as they wish??? Because they dare not clearly.
Even with the dishonest footdragging bad-faith of the Neanderthal DUPers trying to arm-twist the split and riven Tory party to prevent any further advance for republicanism or even scupper everything and reverse the whole GFA, Sinn Féin continues to make political headway with the peaceful mechanisms it has won the right to (contrasted to the second-class status and then total censorship, concentration camp and torture repression of the past).
Only via such a victory for anti-imperialist or class struggle is “democracy” anything other than a hoodwinking fraud manipulated and controlled by big money and media domination, here the means for further unification, or in a workers state becoming a mechanism for drawing ever wider masses into understanding and participation (– as in Cuba for example where the dictatorship of the proletariat holds at bay all CIA subversion and skulduggery, so unhindered debate and discussion can proceed).
But all this goes over the heads of the Socialist Fight and the narrowness of the petty bourgeois outlook, capable and in fact willing only to see defeat and gloom.
The same applies to their list of other struggles all declared “sellouts”, on the basis that they do not match up to the idealist notions of immediate socialist triumph (Trot PC version) even though mostly they never were socialist struggles.
So the brilliant and heroic liberation war by the ANC and its armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe to end apartheid in South Africa is deemed “a sellout” instead of the great step forwards it was against imperialist colonialism.
Declaring, as with Ireland, that it “serves the interests of imperialism” because this was just a national-liberation struggle which went no further than a defeat for reactionary semi-feudalist colonialist repression, leaving capitalism intact, is smug drivel.
Certainly imperialism ended up supporting the black nationalist takeover, but that was out of fear that it could go all the way to communism otherwise. Removal of the favoured and previously backed apartheid regime remains a defeat for imperialism (see EPSR 876 22-10-96 eg).
Now the job is to take things all the way to socialist revolution and exposing the failings of revisionism still hampering things is vitally important.
But it will not be done by Trotskyite “defeat” sourness.
The same with the revisionist led struggles in India.
Nor will declaring the “left” reformist, left nationalist progress made in Latin America to be nothing but “deliberate sellout” help things.
The “Bolivarian revolution” is not Marxism and revisionist boosted fake-“left” demagoguery is as potentially disastrous as Allendism (and already well down that road). It needs vigorously challenging over its refusal to educate the working class in Leninist perspectives of the dictatorship of the proletariat and of the world crisis.
But that will not be done by Socialist Fight’s denial of capitalist catastrophe and nor by its sly extension of this anti-nationalism to “explain” its continuing anti-Sovietism.
(Continued next issue.)
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Discussion ( Part 5b/5 - Continued from No 1536)
[Return to main article if linked here]
Trotskyist hostility...uses 1917 October Revolution centenary to pour poison on the legacy of the Soviet Union. Not “democracy” but dictatorship of the proletariat the key issue.
Faulkner continues with the same mood of hopeless, defeatist despondency:
Now it got worse – and the revolution began to die slowly. (Chapter 10)
At the heart of this despair is an attempt to avoid explaining the necessity of building a firm proletarian dictatorship. The subjective desire for an immediate world socialist revolution hopelessly attempts to sidestep this question because, if revolution spread rapidly around the world, the necessity to defend an isolated socialist state in one or a few countries through firm dictatorship would disappear very quickly. In such idealised circumstances, there would be little point in dwelling on the need for dictatorship – the petty bourgeois fake-“lefts” hope.
Any revolution that is forced to defend itself in isolation for a long period of time would inevitably be written off as a failure by such petty bourgeois thinking because of the strict dictatorship it would need to impose to survive. Even if Trotskyism’s fantasy “world socialist revolution” had materialised, dictatorship would still have been necessary to fight the remnant of the old society – although it perhaps could have been necessary for a shorter period without so much outside skulduggery by continuing imperialism.
As the living material reality of Russia’s isolation became apparent, and the necessity for taking ruthless dictatorship measures needed to be argued for more strongly, both to defend the revolution and to meet the enormous challenge of building a completely new socialist society in isolation, despairing petty-bourgeois idealism began to throw its hands up in horror, turn against the revolution, and declare it to be a disaster.
For Faulkner, isolation leads inevitably to disintegration and defeat. The rest of his book, from 1918 onwards, turns into a dystopian fantasy. This started with yet more selective quoting of Lenin on the need to combat bureaucracy, but in such a way as to give the appearance that Lenin shared Faulkner’s doomed fatalism.
First Faulkner is forced to recognise the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the early 1920s, and that it had successfully defended the revolution throughout that time, albeit in vague esoteric terms about “socialist traditions”, “historical forces” and “state apparatuses”:
The Bolsheviks were left holding onto power in the hope that they would eventually be rescued by world revolution. For a while, the socialist tradition itself could act as an historical force, even if embodied in a state apparatus rather than a revolutionary class. (Chapter 10 )
Under the influence of Cliff’s SWP poison, he then tries to smuggle in a mysterious third force by suggesting that the state had been separated from “a revolutionary class”. There is no material basis for such Trotskyist nonsense. As Marxism has always understood, the state can either be run either in the interests of the working class or the ruling class. There is no third “class” (or “caste” as other Trotskyists, and Trotsky himself, trickily phrase it).
He then twists Lenin’s arguments against Trotsky to give the impression that they were in agreement over the nature of the proletarian dictatorship:
But the Bolsheviks could not defy gravity. Sooner or later they would eventually succumb to the hostile forces all around them. Lenin could see it. ‘Ours is not an actual workers’ state,’ he said as early as 1920, ‘but a workers’ and peasants’ state … But that is not all. Our party programme shows that ours is a workers’ state with bureaucratic distortions.’ (Chapter 10)
Faulkner’s sloppiness with regards to referencing makes it difficult to pin-point when in 1920 Lenin said the quoted words. Seemingly, he conflates a statement Lenin made in December 1920 at the Eighth Party Congress with a correction made in January 1921 in which he states that Russia is a workers’ state with a peasant majority:
While dealing with the December 30 discussion, I must correct another mistake of mine. I said: “Ours is not actually a workers’ state but a workers’ and peasants’ state.” Comrade Bukharin immediately exclaimed: ‘What kind of a state?” In reply I referred him to the Eighth Congress of Soviets, which had just closed. I went back to the report of that discussion and found that I was wrong and Comrade Bukharin was right. What I should have said is: “A workers’ state is an abstraction. What we actually have is a workers’ state, with this peculiarity, firstly, that it is not the working class but the peasant population that predominates in the country, and, secondly, that it is a workers’ state with bureaucratic distortions.” Anyone who reads the whole of my speech will see that this correction makes no difference to my reasoning or conclusions.
Faulkner’s quote, wherever it came from, is misleading because it implies that, because Russia was said to be workers’ and peasants’ state, and not solely a workers’ state, bureaucratic distortions were bound set in. However, this is not what Lenin said in his correction.
Lenin’s first point was to explain that it was a workers’ state which has a peasant majority, and he was elsewhere more specific in calling it a dictatorship of the proletariat and poor peasantry. This was entirely separate from his second point about bureaucratic distortions. He was merely describing the nature of the state. There was no direct cause and effect.
Faulkner failed to mention that Lenin made these points as part of a major polemic against Trotsky’s factionalising pamphlet, The Role and Tasks of the Trade Unions, which called for a major ‘shake up’ of the trade unions that, as Lenin explained, threatened to cause a major split and bring down the workers’ state.
Faulkner’s argument is that ‘disintegration’ of the working class and economic collapse as a result of the imperialist war meant that peasant interests predominated over those of the working class. Their petty bourgeois aspirations to have their own plot of land, and the need to introduce capitalist mechanisms in the countryside though the New Economic Policy, contradicted the working-class interest in large scale collectively run enterprises and an integrated economy. The shrinking of the working class because of the war had supposedly “dissolved the democratic mass movement” and peasant control of the land meant that “the only force operating at a national level was the new bureaucratic apparatus of party and state”.
Lenin’s battle against Trotsky on the trade unions was over this very question of “re-establishing workers’ democracy” after the civil war. In his speech at the Eighth Congress of Soviets against Trotsky’s factionalising on this issue, Lenin contradicts Faulkner’s statement that
… for a while, the socialist tradition itself could act as an historical force, even if embodied in a state apparatus rather than a revolutionary class” ... (Chapter 10)
The governing class in Russia was the proletariat, who used the state apparatus to exercise its class rule by means of its dictatorship. However, it is the leadership of that class that exercises the proletarian dictatorship not an abstract “democratic mass movement”:
…The trade unions, which take in all industrial workers, are an organisation of the ruling, dominant, governing class, which has now set up a dictatorship and is exercising coercion through the state. …
… Within the system of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the trade unions stand, if I may say so, between the Party and the government. In the transition to socialism the dictatorship of the proletariat is inevitable, but it is not exercised by an organisation which takes in all industrial workers…
…But the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised through an organisation embracing the whole of that class, because in all capitalist countries (and not only over here, in one of the most backward) the proletariat is still so divided, so degraded, and so corrupted in parts (by imperialism in some countries) that an organisation taking in the whole proletariat cannot directly exercise proletarian dictatorship. It can be exercised only by a vanguard that has absorbed the revolutionary energy of the class. The whole is like an arrangement of cogwheels. Such is the basic mechanism of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and of the essentials of transition from capitalism to communism.
[Lenin, The Trade Unions, the Present Situation and Trotsky’s Mistakes, pamphlet, December 1920
In the process of combatting Trotsky’s ‘shake up’ call, Lenin reaffirmed the primacy of the proletarian dictatorship, including “one-man management”, and pointed out that the battle against bureaucratic excesses would take decades to win. There was no short cut.
Lenin demonstrates the primacy of the revolutionary party – the very organ Faulkner falsely accuses of being “a bureaucratic apparatus”. It was Trotsky’s approach to the problem of excessive bureaucracy that was bureaucratic.
See this excerpt from the mid-1980’s EPSR (then ILWP) Books Vol 5 Lenin’s arguments for a strong socialist state against Trotsky’s ‘permanent’ counter-revolution, for Lenin’s explanation on this, taken from a speech to the Second All-Russian Congress of Miners in January 1921, and the points that highlight the bureaucratic nature of Trotsky’s attack on the workers’ state. (Whilst reading the book, it needs to be borne in mind that, at the time of writing, the ILWP had the mistaken understanding that the historical and material force of the proletarian dictatorship would ensure the survival of the Soviet Union despite the revisionist illusions its leadership held):
In the midst of writing the pamphlet, Lenin elaborated on his denunciation of Trotsky in a speech to the communist group at the miners’ congress, in Moscow:
“.. .Is it becoming for such an influential person, such a prominent leader, to attack his Party comrades in this way?. . .
“I could well understand such a statement if Comrades Tomsky and Lozovsky were guilty...of, say, having flatly refused to sign the Brest Peace Treaty –
(as Trotsky had been guilty),
– or of having flatly opposed the war. The revolutionary interest is higher than formal democracy. But it is fundamentally wrong to approach the subject in such haste at the present moment. It won’t do at all. This point says that many trade unionists tend to cultivate in their midst a spirit of hostility and exclusiveness. What does that mean? What sort of talk is this? Is it the right kind of language? Is it the right approach? I had earlier said that I might succeed in acting as a ‘buffer’ and staying out of the discussion, because it is harmful to fight with Trotsky, — it does the Republic, the Party, and all of us a lot of harm, but when this pamphlet came out, I felt I had to speak up.
“Trotsky writes that ‘many trade unionists tend to cultivate a spirit of hostility for the new men’. How so? If that is true, those who are doing so should be named. Since this is not done, it is merely a shake-up, a bureaucratic approach to the business [ea] .... Trotsky accuses Lozovsky and Tomsky of bureaucratic practices. I would say the reverse is true. It is no use reading any further because the approach has spoiled everything [ea]; he has poured a spoonful of tar into the honey, and no matter how much honey he may add now, the whole is already spoiled ....
“...a spirit of hostility has been aroused among the masses by a number of tactless actions. My opponent asserts that certain people have been cultivating a spirit of hostility. This shows that the question is seen in the wrong light...where the ‘shake up’ catchword was launched. Trotsky was wrong in uttering it. Politically it is clear that such an approach will cause a split and bring down the dictatorship of the proletariat. We must understand that trade unions are not government departments, like Peoples Commissariats, but comprise the whole organised proletariat; that they are a special type of institution and cannot be approached in this way. And when there arose this question of a wrong approach, latent with the danger of a split, I said: ‘Don’t talk about any broad discussion for the time being; go to the commission and examine the matter carefully over there.’ But the comrades said: ‘No we can’t do that; it is a violation of democracy’. Comrade Bukharin went so far as to talk about the ‘sacred slogan of workers democracy’. Those are his very words. When I read that I nearly crossed myself.
“I insist that a mistake always has a modest beginning and then grows up. Disagreements always start from small things. A slight cut is commonplace, but if it festers, it may result in a fatal illness. And this thing here is a festering wound. In November there was talk about a shake-up; by December, it had become a big mistake.
“The December Plenary Meeting of the Central Committee was against us. The majority sided with Trotsky and carried Trotsky and Bukharin’s resolution, which you must have read. But even the CC members who did not sympathise with us had to admit that the water transport workers had more right on their side than Tsektran. That is a fact. When I ask what Tsektran’s fault was, the answer is not that they had brought pressure to bear, — that goes to their credit, — but that they had allowed bureaucratic excesses.
“But once you have realised that you had allowed excesses you ought to rectify them, instead of arguing against rectification. That is all there is to it. It will take decades to overcome the evils of bureaucracy. It is a very difficult struggle, and anyone who says we can rid ourselves of bureaucratic practices overnight by adopting anti-bureaucratic platforms is nothing but a quack with a bent for fine words [ea]. Bureaucratic excesses must be rectified right away. We must detect and rectify them without calling bad good, or black white.
“The workers and peasants realise that they have still to learn the art of government, but they are also very well aware that there are bureaucratic excesses, and it is a double fault to refuse to correct them... Even the best workers make mistakes. There are excellent workers in Tsektran, and we shall appoint them, and correct their bureaucratic excesses.
“Comrade Trotsky says that Comrades Tomsky and Lozovsky, — — trade unionists both, — are guilty of cultivating in their midst a spirit of hostility for the new men. But this is monstrous. Only someone in the lunatic fringe [ea] can say a thing like that. This haste leads to arguments, platforms and accusations, and eventually creates the impression that everything is rotten ....[ea]
“. . . To start a factional struggle and accuse Tomsky of cultivating among the masses a spirit of hostility for the Tsektranites is utterly to distort the facts, absolutely to spoil all the work, and entirely to damage all relations with the trade unions. But the trade unions embrace the whole proletariat. If this thing is persisted in and voted on by platforms, it will lead to the downfall of the Soviet power....
“. . . Trotsky’s whole approach is wrong. I could have analysed any one of his theses but it would take me hours and you would all be bored to death. Every thesis reveals the same thoroughly wrong approach: ‘Many trade unionists tend to cultivate a spirit of hostility’. There is a spirit of hostility for us among the trade union rank and file because of our mistakes, and the bureaucratic practices up on top, including myself, because it was I who appointed Glavpolit put... We must correct Tsektran’s excesses, once we realise that we are a solid workers party with a firm footing and a head on its shoulders.
“But we are not renouncing either the method of appointment, or the dictatorship. This will not be tolerated by workers with a twenty years schooling in Russia. If we condone this mistake, we shall surely be brought down. It is a mistake, and that is the root of the matter....
“. . . We are not renouncing the dictatorship, or one-man management; these remain, I will support them. But I refuse to defend excesses and stupidity,...
“. . . Tsektran has allowed excesses. We propose calling a spade a spade. It is no use covering up excesses with ‘new tasks’; they must be corrected.
“But we have no intention of renouncing coercion. No sober-minded worker would go so far as to say that we could now dispense with coercion, or that we could dissolve the trade unions, or let them have the whole of industry....
“...Let us talk about vesting the rights in the trade unions when electricity has spread over the whole country. If we manage to achieve this in twenty years it will be incredibly quick work [ea], for it cannot be done quickly. To talk about it before then will be deceiving the workers. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the most stable thing in the world because it has won confidence by its deeds [ea], and because the Party took great care to prevent diffusion. What does that mean?
“Does every worker know how to run the state? People working in the practical sphere know that this is not true, that millions of our organised workers are going through what we always said the trade unions were, namely a school of communism and administration. When they have attended this school for a number of years they will have learned to administer, but the going is slow [ea]. We have not even abolished illiteracy. We know that workers in touch with peasants are liable to fall for non-proletarian slogans. How many of the workers have been engaged in government? a few thousand throughout Russia and no more. If we say that it is not the Party but the trade unions that put up the candidates and administrate [ea], it may sound very democratic, and might help us to catch a few votes, but not for long. It will be fatal for the dictatorship of the proletariat....[ea]
“...You cannot lead the proletariat without a Party. You all know that this is a fact. And it is quite improper for the proletariat to rush into the arms of syndicalism and talk about mandatory nominations to ‘all-Russia producers congresses’. This is dangerous and jeopardizes the Party’s guiding role. Only a very small percentage of the workers in the country are now organised. The majority of the peasants will follow the Party because its policy is correct, and because, during the Brest peace ordeal, it was capable of making temporary sacrifices and retreats, which was the right thing to do. Are we to throw all this away? Was it all a windfall? No, it was all won by the Party in decades of hard work. Everybody believes the word of the Bolsheviks, who have had twenty years of Party training.
“To govern you need an army of steeled revolutionary Communists. We have it, and it is called the Party [ea]. All this syndicalist nonsense about mandatory nominations of producers must go into the waste-paper basket. To proceed on those lines would mean thrusting the Party aside and making the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia impossible. This is the view I believe it to be my Party duty to put to you. It is, in my opinion, enunciated in the form of practical propositions in the platform called ‘Draft Decision of the 10th Congress of the RCP’ and signed by Lenin, Zinoviev, Tomsky, Rudzutak, Kalinin, Kamenev, Lozovosky, Petrovsky, Sergeyev and Stalin.”
This remarkably blunt affirmation of the Bolshevik dictatorship and the Party’s long 20-year preparation for the deadly serious business of wiping out bourgeois state power for the first time in human history — is aimed directly at Trotskyism and Trotsky, who only jumped on board the Bolshevik bandwagon just 12 weeks before the Great October Revolution, and was only allowed on board because of his usefulness as a leading socialist figure in Russia and his considerable abilities. But in frankly stressing the Marxist-Bolshevik grasp of how the masses are slowly BROUGHT INTO the business of running the state, — and ‘eventually’ running the whole of social and economic administration without a state, — Lenin is underlining that the Bolshevik dictatorship intends keeping firm control over the whole process, — including control over any revivals of factionalising confusion-mongering by leading public figures, whoever they are.
In his reply to the discussion at the miners communist group, Lenin was forced to return to the attack on Trotsky and Shlyapnikov’s continued obstinate subjectivism, re-asserting the Bolshevik Party’s total, long prepared determination to impose the dictatorship of the proletariat and to let nothing stand in its way. Against the crass petty bourgeois illusions of formal ‘workers democracy’, Lenin reconfirmed the unshakable Bolshevik Programme intention to steadily lead the masses to themselves administering the whole of social and economic activity, a way of life a million times more advanced, enlightened, and ‘democratic’ than the most progressive parliamentary democracy the rest of the world has ever known.
Faulkner goes on to write:
Later, alarmed at the influence of former Tsarist officials and newly recruited careerists in the government apparatus, he posed the question: ‘This mass of bureaucrats – who is leading whom?’ (Chapter 10)
This was not evidence that the Bolsheviks “had succumbed to the hostile forces all around them”, as Faulkner claimed in the previously quoted passage. Quite the opposite, Lenin was advocating practical measures to solve a temporary problem of having inexperienced communists in responsible positions.
He proposed giving talented and experienced officials from the old Tsarist order administrative positions, for the meantime, keeping firm political control over them via the proletarian dictatorship, alongside raising the educational levels of the working class so that they could take over these functions when they were ready. By these means, the transition towards socialism in isolated Soviet Russia would be ensured until the final victory of the socialist revolution world-wide:
The economic power in the hands of the proletarian state of Russia is quite adequate to ensure the transition to communism. What then is lacking? Obviously, what is lacking is culture among the stratum of the Communists who perform administrative functions [ea]. If we take Moscow with its 4,700 Communists in responsible positions, and if we take that huge bureaucratic machine, that gigantic heap, we must ask: who is directing whom?[ea] I doubt very much whether it can truthfully be said that the Communists are directing that heap. To tell the truth they are not directing, they are being directed …Communists who are put at the head of departments—and sometimes artful saboteurs deliberately put them in these positions in order to use them as a shield—are often fooled [ea]. This is a very unpleasant admission to make, or, at any rate, not a very pleasant one; but I think we must admit it, for at present this is the salient problem. I think that this is the political lesson of the past year; and it is around this that the struggle will rage in 1922.
… The key feature is that we have not got the right men in the right places [ea]; that responsible Communists who acquitted themselves magnificently during the revolution have been given commercial and industrial functions about which they know nothing; and they prevent us from seeing the truth, for rogues and rascals hide magnificently behind their backs. The trouble is that we have no such thing as practical control of how things have been done [ea]. This is a prosaic job, a small job; these are petty affairs. But after the greatest political change in history, bearing in mind that for a time we shall have to live in the midst of the capitalist system, the key feature now is not politics in the narrow sense of the word …, the key feature is not resolutions, not departments and not reorganisation. As long as these things are necessary we shall do them, but don’t go to the people with them. Choose the proper men and introduce practical control [ea].
[Lenin, Political Report of the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.), Collected Works, Volume 33, March 1922]
Trotsky intensified his sabotaging assault on the proletarian dictatorship with his pamphlet ‘The New Course’, which led ultimately to his expulsion in 1927, as the previously cited ILWP book Vol 5 analysed in depth. Here’s an excerpt:
Trotsky’s subjectivism, which had caused Lenin to spend a lifetime destroying among revolutionary workers the credibility of Trotsky and all the other compromisers and purveyors of petty bourgeois illusions who had split from the Bolsheviks, (see the 1972 Progress Publishers volume of Lenin’s writings “Against Trotskyism”) was again rampant even before Lenin was in his grave.
Trotsky’s pamphlet ‘The New Course’ was not merely renewing the factionalising which Lenin had ferociously denounced two years earlier in the row over the role of the trade unions.
'The New Course’ was a thinly-veiled full-scale counter-revolutionary attempt to topple the entire Party and State leadership. It was the launching of this utterly hostile and uncompromising vilification of the Bolshevik Party leadership, and inner-party struggle from top to bottom of the entire Soviet regime, which made Trotsky’s eventual expulsion from the Party inevitable.
Such factionalising by Trotsky, alongside his bureaucratic obsession with administrative functions and personal conceit, led Lenin to warn against appointing Trotsky as Secretary-General in his Testament written just before death.
Faulkner misleadingly claims that Lenin was driven by a
“preoccupation with the problem of bureaucratic degeneration”
when he wrote this, and states that
“sensing his life’s work slipping away, [Lenin] waged his ‘last struggle’ – against Stalin and the emerging party-state bureaucracy.”
However, Lenin’s “preoccupation” here was to avoid a damaging split within the party, as had just narrowly been avoided with Trotsky’s trade union “shake up” call. The problem with Stalin was not that the position of Secretary-General gave him “unlimited authority”, as Faulkner suggests, but that he may not be able to exercise this authority with sufficient caution:
Comrade Stalin, having become Secretary-General, has unlimited authority concentrated in his hands, and I am not sure whether he will always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution. Comrade Trotsky*, on the other hand, as his struggles against the C.C. on the question of the People’s Commissariat for Communications has already proved, is distinguished not only by outstanding ability. He is personally perhaps the most capable man in the present C.C., but he has displayed excessive self-assurance and shown excessive preoccupation with the purely administrative side of the work.
These two qualities of the two outstanding leaders of the present C.C. can inadvertently lead to a split, and if our Party does not take steps to avert this, the split may come unexpectedly.
[Lenin, Letter to the Congress, December 1922]
When suggesting that Stalin should be removed from his post, it was only because his own personal characteristics made it difficult for him to work with Trotsky without contributing to a split, not because he was “too bureaucratic”:
Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealing among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General. That is why I suggest the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post and appointing another man in his stead who in all other respects differs from Comrade Stalin in having only one advantage, namely, that of being more tolerant, more loyal, more polite, and more considerate to the comrades, less capricious, etc. This circumstance may appear to be a negligible detail. But I think that from the standpoint of safeguards against a split, and from the standpoint of what I wrote above about the relationship between Stalin and Trotsky, it is not a detail, or it is a detail which can assume decisive importance.
[Lenin, Letter to the Congress, December 1922]
As it turned out, there was no-one the Bolshevik Party eventually considered to be better than Stalin to take the lead.
Faulkner pin-points 1928 as the year in which the Russian revolution, having (in his mind only) succumbed to “isolation, and therefore to disintegration and defeat”, was supposedly brought down by “a new bureaucratic ruling class” led by Stalin.
If this was the case, how does he explain why Trotsky was compelled to admit that by 1936, the Stalin-led Soviet Union had made gigantic strides in industry, agricultural development, culture, administration etc., etc.(again from ILWP Book Vol5):
Even as early as 1936 Trotsky was already being forced to acknowledge the ‘temporary’ truth of enormous ‘apparent’ success in the USSR. This was in order not to lose completely all credibility in a world which already knew better than to believe Trotsky’s basic sermon from the 1923 ‘New Course’ onwards that only ‘disaster crisis’ awaited the ‘doomed’ Party and State ‘bureaucratic’ leadership of the Soviet Union. So in ‘Revolution Betrayed’ of that year, the latest in his periodic updates of catastrophe predictions, Trotsky felt obliged to admit:
“Gigantic achievements in industry, enormously promising beginnings in agriculture, an extraordinary growth of the old industrial cities and a building of new ones, a rapid increase of the number of workers, a rise in cultural level and cultural demands, — such are the indubitable results of the October Revolution ....
“Socialism has demonstrated its right to victory, not on the pages of ‘Das Kapital’ but in an industrial arena comprising a sixth part of the earth’s surface, — not in the language of dialectics, but in the language of steel, cement, and electricity .... a backward country has achieved in less than ten years successes unexampled in history.
“This also ends the quarrel with the reformists in the workers movement. Can we compare for one moment their mouselike fussing with the titanic work accomplished by this people AROUSED TO A NEW LIFE by revolution? .... . (Ch 1)
(And then in Ch 7)
“To be sure, the youth are very active in the sphere of economics. In the Soviet Union there are now 1.2m Communist Youth in the collective farms. Hundreds of thousands of members of the Communist Youth have been mobilised during recent years for construction work, timber work, coal mining, gold production, for work in the Arctic, Sakhalin, or in Amur where the new town of Komsomolsk is in process of construction. The new generation is putting out shock brigades, champion workers, Stakhanovites, foremen, under-administrators. The youth are studying, and a considerable part of them are studying assiduously. They are as active, if not more so, in the sphere of athletics in its most daring or warlike forms, such as parachute jumping and marksmanship. The enterprising and audacious are going on all kinds of dangerous expeditions.
“ ‘The better part of our youth,’ said recently the well-known polar explorer, Schmidt, ‘are eager to work where difficulties await them.’ This is undoubtedly true.”...
“...it would be a crude slander against the youth to portray them as controlled exclusively, or even predominantly, by personal interests. No, in the general mass they are magnanimous, responsive, enterprising .... In their depths are various unformulated tendencies grounded in heroism and still only awaiting application. It is upon these moods in particular that the newest kind of Soviet patriotism is nourishing itself. It is undoubtedly very deep, sincere, and dynamic...”
Naturally, Trotskyism would not be Trotskyism without these gestures towards reality being accompanied in the rest of ‘Revolution Betrayed’ by some of the most treacherous bureaucratic demagogy (Lenin’s description of Trotsky, see above) and bourgeois-idealist subjectivism ever concocted against Marxism-Leninism and the Soviet workers state.
Where he does make these begrudging concessions to the Soviet workers state, Trotsky deceitfully makes no reference at all to his 1923 ‘New Course’ slanders that NOTHING now lay ahead but ‘ossification’, ‘estrangement’, ‘morbid uneasiness’, ‘degeneration’, and ‘initiative-killing bureaucratism’. But without turning a hair, what Trotsky now admits the Soviet state has organised is “ten years successes UNEXAMPLED IN HISTORY”.
From being a “smug, negative, disdainful, neglectful, cliquish, bureaucratic apparatus” capable only of “inertia” on the one hand or “antagonistic violence towards criticism” on the other, full of only “functionaries, careerists, and political hangers-on” who are so out-of-touch that they are in danger of losing majority support and dominant state influence to the counter-revolutionary tendencies among “retailers, middlemen, concessionaries, and kulaks”, the Bolshevik Party and State leadership has suddenly (and unacknowledged as far as Trotsky is concerned) become capable of organising in economic, political, and social development in an illiterate, devastated, semi-feudal, historical backwater “10 years successes UNEXAMPLED IN HISTORY”.
But Trotsky’s belated concessions to reality and to the REAL HISTORY of the Soviet Workers State (as opposed to the West’s shallow anti-communist myths) is not in order to set the record straight. His SOLE purpose in ‘Revolution Betrayed’ (as in numerous other rehashes of his basic reactionary sermon) is for the umpteenth time to re-launch on a ‘new’ basis his ‘theory’ of insoluble and fatal ‘contradiction’ and inevitable ‘collapse’ of the Bolshevik Party dictatorship.
Despite his ‘New Course’ predictions of ‘unresolvable contradictions’ having proved to be complete nonsense, Trotsky arrogantly, maliciously, treacherously and irresponsibly now pontificates: (Ch 11)
“The bureaucracy’s autocratic rule is coming into greater and greater contradiction with the development of the productive forces of the country, just as absolute monarchy became in its time IRRECONCILABLE with the development of the bourgeois market .... the growth of power and independence in a bureaucracy is not unlimited.”...
“...the farther you go, the more the economy runs into the problem of quality which slips out of the hands of a bureaucracy like a shadow.... Quality demands a democracy of producers and consumers, freedom of criticism and initiative, — conditions incompatible with a TOTALITARIAN REGIME of fear, lies, and flattery ....
(See Lenin’s derision above for Trotsky’s 1921 reactionary demagogy about summoning a ‘democratic congress of producers’).
“Behind the question of quality stands a more complicated and grandiose problem which may be comprised in the concept of independent, technical, and cultural creation . . . . No new values can be created where a free conflict of ideas is impossible... The dictatorship of the proletariat opens a wider scope to human genius the more it CEASES to be a dictatorship. The socialist culture will flourish only in proportion to the dying away of the state. In that simple and unshakable historic law is contained the DEATH SENTENCE of the present political regime in the Soviet Union. “
Compare this viciously disruptive bourgeois academic nonsense to Marxism-Leninism’s understanding (see Lenin quotes above) that only THROUGH the massive STRENGTHENING of the Soviet state and proletarian dictatorship to involve ever-wider sections of the population in its administration and control would the advanced, efficient, self-regulatory, disciplined society of advanced socialism and then communism be reached. This REPRESENTS the withering away of the state. It supersedes in a non-antagonistic way the very advanced level of human civilisation which an efficient, invincible socialist state is. Communist culture does not develop AGAINST the dictatorship of the proletariat but BECAUSE OF it.
Faulkner does not mention any of this, let alone try to explain why Trotsky was wrong, if that is what he thinks. He avoids it because he does not want to face the truth of the Soviet Union’s storming success, made possible solely by the proletarian dictatorship. Nor does he later mention Trotsky’s later demoralising and defeatist predictions of the collapse of the Soviet Union at the hands of the Nazis during World War Two, again proved totally false by reality.
The wave of socialist revolutions and anti-colonialist national liberation victories (starting with Eastern Europe, Korea, Viet Nam and China), that erupted when the second inter-imperialist world war was brought to an end by the Red Army’s heroic defeat of Nazism, demonstrated the truth of Lenin’s argument that the Soviet Union’s isolation was temporary.
It also proved in practice that Russian workers’ state could hold out against imperialism as long as it maintained and strengthened its dictatorship whilst developing the state’s infrastructure, and raising the educational and cultural levels of the working class and peasantry.
Steady economic, technological cultural and educational progress was made by the Soviet Union throughout the post-war period without any capitalist bosses, the direct opposite of Faulkner’s “collapse and disintegration”.
Collapse and disintegration does not even explain the Soviet Union’s fall in 1989. The Soviet economy was viable and growing until Gorbachev’s idiot ‘market forces’ reforms set in motion its eventual liquidation (as analysed in depth the EPSR’s 2001 Perspectives).
The roots of its demise lie in Stalin’s revisionist retreat from revolutionary perspectives, (which asserted that such steady progress, and support for international peace movements, was all that needed to be done to bring about socialism worldwide), and the damaging impact this had on the world revolutionary movement.
This philosophical failing was the problem, not “excessive bureaucratism”, or because the Soviet Union was “state capitalist” (the SWP’s bogus excuse – which Faulkner is fooled by - for its permanent hostility to the Soviet Union’s and dismissal of its huge achievements and legacy). As the EPSR wrote in its 2001 Perspectives (ibid):
Current world events are either ignored completely, or dealt with by some wooden formula which then not only ignores all polemical critique but even keeps its mind closed when history itself proves things differently. For example, the SWP became the fattest of the fake ‘lefts’ via decades of the most reactionary anti-Soviet opportunism. Crucial for these anti-communist ‘revolutionaries’ was the fiction that ‘socialist’ solidarity with the USSR against imperialist provocation, subversion, and sabotage was not an issue because the Soviet Union was only ‘state capitalist’ itself anyway. When the Gorbachev ‘market forces’ counter-revolutionary debacle did finally re-introduce state capitalism (quickly inevitably joined and shafted by robber-baron capitalism), and when the overthrow of proletarian dictatorship centre planning and discipline via state-capitalist ‘market forces’ soon devastated the former mighty USSR, thus proving that what went before for 60 years could not have been state capitalism, the SWP simply carried on insisting that its ‘theory’ which ‘justified’ its anti-Soviet hatred was ‘still correct’.
In a polemic against the SWP over “Left” support for Brexit written as a discussion piece for the Left Unity website (Lexit: Digging the Hole Deeper), Faulkner makes some good points when correctly castigating the SWP for its inability to admit mistakes due to its sectarian hostility to debate:
Why is the SWP pretending to have predicted all of this (the results of the last general election)? Because it is trapped in a false perspective by its inability to admit mistakes.
Why can’t it admit mistakes? Because it is a top-down sect intolerant of dissent and debate. It is held together in a cocoon of infallibility. So, when the perspective is confounded by reality – the surge in racism around Brexit that so many of us predicted – the argument has to shift to accommodate the facts. So now the whole Lexit position turns out to be a grand plan to destabilise the Tories and augment the Labour vote.
The deliberate cover up of past mistakes and suppression of debate to avoid exposure Faulkner describes is a characteristic not just of the SWP but of all the fake-“lefts”, including Left Unity and the anti-Trotskyist revisionist “lefts” too.
Stalin’s philosophical retreat from revolutionary perspectives proved to have a disastrous influence on world communism, and tragically led to the unnecessary dissolution of the Soviet Union. Stalinist revisionism has never returned to its past mistakes to understand where it all went wrong in and has avoided all polemic aimed at correcting its errors.
Even worse is the endless bending of reality of Trotskyism to make it fit with its pie-in-the-sky “perfect revolution” idealism. Its petty bourgeois “throw the baby out with the bathwater” hostility towards the proletarian dictatorship dismisses outright the enormous strides that were made by the Soviet Union towards advancing human development in all fields. They point to the errors and sometimes criminal mistakes that were made, to declare that it had all “gone rotten” and write it all off as a disaster.
Admitting mistakes and learning from them is a crucial aspect of building the party of revolutionary theory that is urgently needed today.
Faulkner could play a valuable role by recognising the gross error he has made by pitching in with this Trotskyist hostility. Unless he does so, any good and useful points he makes against fake-“left” sectarianism will amount to petty squabbling.
He could start by reassessing everything he has written in his book about the course of the Russian Revolution in light of the criticisms made here.
Only such a serious scientific approach to theory can bring about the revolution he rightly claims in his introduction to be necessary now.
Phil Waincliffe [Concluded]
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