No 1521 2nd Ocotber 2017
“Oh Jeremy” Labour conference gush as manipulative & treacherous as Blairism before it, avoiding and evading the unstoppable capitalist crisis collapse and dragging workers back behind the parliamentary democracy fraud, - it leaves workers disarmed and set up for an Allende style coup if any of its tame reformism should go too far (unlikely). Agenda manipulation and censorship shut down critical debate on key questions like the Brexit diversion, international warmongering and anti-imperialist resistance like the Palestinian struggle. Workers need to hear that neither staying inside or out of Europe can solve their problems which are caused by worldwide capitalist Catastrophic collapse only endable by revolution. Bombardier shock tariffs show cutthroat trade war savagery pushing everything towards world war already destroying country after country in the Middle East. Pro-Zionist crap about “left anti-Semitism” not just cowardly but sinister. Leninism must be built
Shock imposition of savage US tariffs on Belfast’s Bombardier planemaker throws a sharp light on capitalism’s economic Catastrophe as it unravels towards world war disaster.
Like a phosphorus flare on a nighttime battleground this sudden aggressive trade war escalation, – between “allies” (!) – starkly lights up everything from the fraudulent “left” reformist anti-austerity pretences at the Corbynite Labour conference (trade union “brothers”, Trots and revisionists all), to Theresa May’s laughable defence of the “free market”.
Its sudden threat to 1000 jobs especially debunks the fantasy of “new prosperity under Brexit ‘freedom to trade’” and emphasises that the demented “America First” wardrum belligerence of Donald Trump’s overtly emerging fascism will hit out in all directions, “friend” or foe; it will be countered by the equally deadly nationalism rising once more in Germany and the re-arming of Japanese imperialism.
And everywhere there is worldwide breakdown reflected in sudden “self-determination” conflict from the petty bourgeois Iraqi Kurds (who pay no attention to those in Turkey etc), the Rohingya turmoil to the Catalans and Scots.
The whole world is rapidly heading for deadly conflict as the greatest economic disaster in all history, unravels from the intractable contradictions of the monopoly capitalist order – long ago irrefutably shown by Karl Marx to lead repeatedly and unstoppably to collapse, Slump and breakdown.
As Marxism, the only economic theory repeatedly confirmed by history, makes clear, cutthroat trade war is inevitable in this system, built on antagonistic rivalry and vicious competition, which will escalate as it reaches unstoppable “over-production” saturation (see economics box).
And such trade war antagonism can only be the prelude to all-out inter-imperialist war conflict in some form, as the EPSR has consistently warned against allcomers belittling its “old-hat” Marxism and insistence on crucial revolutionary theory.
Led by topdog US imperialism, the ruling class has been preparing the world for the all-out destruction to come for at least two decades, using the excuse of a “war on terror” against the explosive ferment of confused “terrorist and jihadist” revolt as the Third World masses try to find some expression for their entirely understandable frustration and anger against the non-stop exploitation they are subject to.
Country after country has been destroyed, including whole cities like Mosul in Iraq and the latest onslaught seeing the barbaric and total razing of Raqqa in Syria, again with thousands of civilians “collaterally” butchered for “getting in the way” amidst a welter of indiscriminate bombing against ISIS jihadists. Yemen is a pulverised wreck of starvation and disease; and NATO-smashed Libya a warlordist chaos.
The barbaric “anti-jihadist” suppression is supplemented with the ever more demented threats against the little workers state of North Korea, against Iran, and other “rogue states”, and any others which presume to defend themselves against imperialist attack and bullying, and new stunts pretending “concern” for assorted victims that the gross hypocrisy of imperialism sees as useful diversions and distractions, like the current Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.
So cynical is this latest stunt, that it is even supporting Muslim “terror insurgency” when only yesterday deeming it the “source of evil in the world”, in order to stampede public opinion into war frenzy (see EPSR last issue).
Bombardier and the fanciful talk of tariff “retaliation” by a poleaxed British ruling class (really?? - against US imperialist trade on which the Brexit future will depend???), moves everything into higher gear, as does the antagonism and protectionism of Brexit itself.
The Marxist-Leninist answer, of revolutionary overturn of that whole system, taking everything into common ownership to develop peaceful and internationally cooperative socialism under the disciplined guidance of a dictatorship of the proletariat, grows more urgent by the day.
It is the only way this relentless plunge into ever more horrific war and destruction can be stopped.
But the populist posturing by the Labourites on view in Brighton is heading in the opposite direction, once more trying to drag the working class back behind the bogus and corrupt lie of “parliamentary democracy” that pretends workers can have a say, and, step-by-step, conditions can be improved until a new prosperous and fair world is achieved.
Under the guise of a new “left” ethos, the working class is being completely hoodwinked about the dangers unfolding of counter-revolution and ever increasing repression as crisis deepens.
Worse still, much of the censorship and repression is being imposed by the reformists and trade union “brothers” themselves, and the ranks of petty bourgeois Trot and revisionist fake-“left”s, bolstering the whole set up.
The manipulation of agendas, curtailing of debate and avoidance of the issues was as bad as anything seen in the Blairite years – albeit cynically smothered in a new cuddly “cult of the personality” deliberately hyped up with merchandise and public relations to pretend that “at last ordinary people are being listened to”.
All harmless enthusiasm for “Jeremy”? Not in the slightest, this was a deliberate diversion and encouragement for the anti-theory philistinism and brainwashed anti-communist hostility which has been a deadly blight on the working class, particularly in Britain, for more than a century.
Just in case there should have been any “difficult issues” raised anyway, there were more overt moves to suppress and censor debate, focused around the general notions of PC “safe spacism” and single-issue “correctness” from feminism to LBGTxxxx “rights”, and the particular lie of “left anti-semitism” (see below).
Even in its “open” discussion and speeches there was nothing but wool pulling and illusion mongering.
What the working class needs to hear is that the crisis of capitalism is unstoppable; what they were told is that “austerity is a choice” that can be reversed. And water can run uphill too, presumably.
Corbyn’s references to the economic crisis as “something that still affects peoples lives” is of the same cloth, a mealy mouthed understatement that fails to explain the seriousness of the 2008 crisis, suggesting it was a one-off (though still with “consequences for some”) rather than an unending collapse that is not only irreversible, but due shortly to get much worse, as the debt rebuilds and Quantitative Easing fails to hold off further collapse, only ever temporarily deferred (as Bombardier workers, and more, are finding out).
This deliberately “stirred-up complacency” pretends things have been done wrongly under Thatcherite “neoliberalism” but it is all correctable with better and “fairer” capitalism.
But there has only ever been one kind of modern capitalism, (monopoly imperialist capitalism - itself an evolution of earlier basic capitalism) and its worst excesses of exploitation have only ever been “smoothed off” with reforms after devastating world war (when so much capital was destroyed that a short period of renewed profitable growth was possible for the surviving capital owners, mostly American); even then reforms were only forced out under revolutionary pressure, from the great wave of communist and anti-colonial advances after the Second World War.
“Neoliberalism” was the desperate reversion to type of ruthless and failing monopoly capitalism which could not afford to keep these concessions going, as profitability inevitably began to fall again, not “an experiment” which has “gone wrong” to be “corrected with the appropriate regulations.”
That is just a disarming lie.
All the “no to austerity” measures do not even reverse soup-kitchen savagery anyway, let alone put the working class back on a path of ever-improving conditions, the false utopian promise of reformism (and only ever partially realised in the rich countries anyway, to pretend capitalism was “as good as” rising communism, and all done by financing reform from endless tyrannical exploitation and effective slavery in the Third World to sustain its complacent “living standards”).
Slump “resistance” has already proved to be an opportunist fraud in Greece for example, relentlessly imposing penury still after five years of Syriza “left” posturing “votes against austerity” (all cheered on by the Trot and revisionist “lefts” now jammed into the Momentum meetings to bolster Corbynism).
John McDonnell’s promises to “reverse PFI sell-offs” (largely introduced by Labour anyway while “lefts” like him were continuing to prop it up in power) are typical; like the “left” Attlee government’s “nationalisation” of the mines and railways this is more to do with rescuing capitalism than taking it over, a measure needed because the profiteering of this monopolisation is now so in-your-face that it threatens to generate mass discontent.
The capitalist “owners” are to get generous payoffs, just as the inefficient and about-to-be-bankrupt railway and mine owners did in the 1940s.
And so too with the other reformist nostrums like rent control etc.
As the bourgeois press reported:
Labour sources said Corbyn’s vision was not about dismantling capitalism, but about rebalancing the economy with more state involvement.
Small wonder the likes of arch Blairite Polly Toynbee, part of the initial great anti-Corbyn sabotage, were almost purring by the end of the conference:
Labour has more chance of saving capitalism from devouring itself than anything May has done – or anything she proposed in today’s string of platitudes as she stood in a Bank of England that was, after all, nationalised by Labour*.
(*And handed back to capitalist City control for the fatcats - “independence” – by Gordon Brown, she might have added):
But here was a speech of solid sense, not airy aspiration. This united party are all Corbelievers now, and which lingering Labour doubters can pick a quarrel with ...this agenda? Believing he might really win has never been easier.
His learning curve has been meteoric, this speech authoritative and abundant with promises both necessary and popular. He needed no cheap shots to point to the economic incompetence and Brexit chaos of Theresa May’s mismanagement. As Tories abandon centrism, Corbyn’s claim to common sense convinces.
Here was all you would expect on social justice, public services, housing, rent controls, education, skills. But what resounded most – what seals the deal for Labour supporters – were his uniting words on Brexit. No more foot-dragging, but a strong pledge to the single market and customs union, and excoriating on the shocking treatment of EU citizens here. ...only Labour has a chance of healing Britain’s crippling Brexit divide.
The Tories and their press will need to scrape their barrels of inventive mendacity for headlines to scarify voters that Corbynism means a Venezuelan-style coup.
Heaven forfend that even such halfway house, but improvingly vigorous, working class defence of “left” reforms against imperialist skulduggery and sabotage, as Nicolás Maduro is at least partially leading, should be made, while Labour “saves capitalism”!
Early on the EPSR debated if this sudden popular left surge, driven by the crisis to push the opportunist Corbyn skywards on a tide of anti-capitalist sentiment, would force a “left centrist” break from Labour, or at least create a “left renovation” (as almost won Tony Benn the leadership in the 1980s - denied only by slyly manipulated voting against him) to open up debate.
It might then be possible to argue some or all of the revolutionary case, just as at first possible in the mid-1990s Scargillite Socialist Labour Party breakaway, before it reverted to bureaucratic, trade union, class-collaborating type, (see eg EPSR No 1236 08-06-04, No 1245 24-08-04), censoring revolutionary politics by kangaroo court expulsion, and embracing more and more the reactionary Little Englanderism it has now degenerated too, particularly on Brexit.
But the early Corbyn momentum, to coin a phrase, has not gone even that far; instead it has quickly been channelled and carefully corralled, with a membership ever more clearly drawn from the middle-class and municipal and health working class sections most directly dependent on, and with illusions in, the reformist status quo of the post-war welfare state.
Provisions won in the wake of WW2 were great achievements but also helped keep layers of an already deeply empire-corrupted working class away from revolutionary ideas (where they were going post-war), and saturated with anti-communism, under an opportunist “reform” government that ran the empire, suppressed communism in multiple bloody, torture-filled wars (Malaysia, Myanmar, Kenya, Greece) and helped found anti-communist NATO and nuclear encirclement of the Soviet Union.
While there is every reason to support local and national battles to save gains like hospitals, schools, libraries, housing provision and much more, what these fights need above all is precisely a revolutionary perspective, allowing the working class to make vital developments in understanding, so that whether or not an immediate campaign is “won or lost” it moves minds forwards to the only possible real solution, of building a movement to end capitalism.
The conference confirmed that far from Corbynism opening debate, it will suppress it.
So, eg, the big current question, Brexit, tearing open the Tory ruling class and Labour, was cut from the agenda!
Small wonder; it is a festering sore that remains unsolvable for as long as the discussion is kept to “for” or “against”. Both sides muddy the water, heading workers in the wrong direction.
Only climbing to a higher level of understanding, with the context of the developing crisis, Britain’s steadily weakening competitive position within it, and rapidly intensifying international cutthroat ”free market” conflict, can solve workers problems.
The issue is not solvable as an argument about Brexit at all, because the capitalist system is going to push its slump down onto workers whether the bosses are German car giants and Brussels bureaucrats, or American technology monopolies and the “international markets”. All are just as desperate and just as vicious.
The need is to fight and topple all the bosses, inside and outside Europe.
Of course workers are being hammered by the explosion in migrant labour being used by capitalism to drive down wages costs, and fragment workers’ capacities to organise and resist (particularly as migrant workers are not usually the most revolutionary minded and show little sense of solidarity); and of course industries are threatened by cheap imports, and critical and scarce services, already overloaded, are made more difficult to obtain.
It is petty bourgeois light mindedness to write off understandable working class fears as being driven by “backwardness and racism” (though plenty of such crude attitudes are mixed in very often), and to moralise about “welcoming all immigrants, because they are just workers too.”
Only the more comfortably off, and still smug middle-class, deluded by their “lifestyle” built on Third World exploitation, could pour out such sanctimonious platitudes.
But the rival “answer” of “taking back control” and “regaining sovereignty” proffered by assorted “left” Brexiteers and the likes of Arthur Scargill in the rump SLP, is if anything even worse, feeding the worst chauvinist delusions.
What “sovereignty” has the working class ever had in a system which is nothing but the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (big capital) hidden behind a pretence of “democracy” in parliament, which actually decides nothing of any significance, and the even more ridiculous notion of controlled “referendums”.
These are so easily manipulated by the wording of questions and so virtually meaningless anyway in their limited one-off agenda, excluding all context or complication, that they were a favourite tool of the 1930s fascists to pretend legitimacy from the “will of the people”.
Such Little Englander narrowness is born of a trade union bureaucratic mindset that reflects the very worst class-collaborating side of a “Labour movement” deeply corrupted by class participation in Empire (or now modern internationally “invested” capital) and seeking only a “better share”.
It is leading the working class entirely in wrong direction of scapegoating and “blaming foreigners”, instead of capitalism’s collapse, which leaves them wide open to being fooled by rising fascist notions, and of feeding the international antagonisms that imperialism itself is creating.
And the “solution” of import controls and “independent” trade deals is fanciful sky-pie, which simply pushes the burden onto workers elsewhere and leads rapidly to tit-for-tat trade war escalation, as Bombardier shows.
It tails along behind the nostalgic fantasy of the most reactionary wing of the ruling class that still has not accepted the loss of Empire, believing it only has to assert cricket-and-a-pint “British greatness” for the world to kow-tow to it.
But the whole of this moribund bourgeoisie has long been out-competed across the board by now much bigger and more dynamic powers (US, Germany, Japan) and their huge monopoly corporations relentlessly expanding, – the very essence of capitalism.
The agonising Tory split lies between those wanting to shelter inside the European capitalist bloc, which was formed initially to allow European combines and especially those in its overwhelmingly dominant economy in Germany to grow sufficiently to compete with the US and other rivals, and those who declare that Britain can “go it alone”.
But neither option is palatable; on the one side subservience to Germany whose dominance grows relentlessly, and will be asserted ever more aggressively as Berlin too struggles to stay afloat in the great Catastrophe (as just brutally underscored by a shock electoral return of outright German nationalism, - essentially renewed Nazism minus the Swastika – now concentrating the economic realities in political form); on the other trying to survive in a hurricane of international trade war as a “freelance” making trade deals with all comers.
Beyond Brexit even more contentious questions are simply suppressed; and crucially that of effective support for the Palestinian cause.
For two years the Corbynites have capitulated to the CIA/Zionists’ ridiculous accusation of a so-called “left-anti-semitism” -, an absurdity extending the already general lying smear campaign over two decades trying to suppress and censor all exposures of the nazi-Zionist landtheft occupation as “just anti-semitism”; it has been a major disinformation campaign to head off the growing world hostility to this vile colonial implant.
Far from vigorously stating that such accusations are intimidatory nonsense, the Corbynites cravenly set up a “special commission” under the sinister opportunist lawyer Shami Chakrabarti, which in itself gave the concept undeserved credence and subsequently “discovered traces” of this fanciful rubbish, another sick example of Labourite treachery, helping imperialism’s dirty propaganda games.
Moves were even in train for the Zionist-connected Jewish Labour Movement to have anti-Zionist speech banned altogether, (the kind of censorship which prevails informally anyway throughout the capitalist media).
But while the supposed “pro-Palestinian” left at the conference may have headed off the more extreme “thought crimes” aspects, it was in itself a cover for the Zionists.
This will need further explanation, when space is available, but the “left” Labourites around new groups like the Jewish Voice for Labour, protesting that they are not “anti-Jewish” still leave the basic question of the existence of the land grab artificial “state” of “Israel” unchallenged, their “liberalism” calling only for return to supposedly “legal 1967 borders”.
To avoid the anti-semitism charges an elaborate defence is put up protesting that ‘“anti-Zionism” is different to “anti-Jewish”. But in modern conditions (different to pre-war, before the foundation of “Israel”) that is nonsense.
In practice, supporting the continuing existence of this vicious 1947 colonialist intrusion, puts the Jewish diaspora freemasonry in the same camp as the Zionists, however liberal they pretend to be (see eg EPSR No1207 04-11-03):
But there is no difference. The infinitesimal number of Jews who don’t believe “Israel” (i.e. colonially occupied Palestine) has a right to exist don’t come into it.
Jews are either shamefaced “liberals” who demand “peace” and offer a derisory “two-state sharing” to the conquered Arabs on just over 20% of THEIR land of Palestine; or else they are rampant Zionist NAZIS who want to blitzkrieg their way to TOTAL annexation of the land of the Palestinian nation, and genocidally cleanse the Arabs off the remaining 22% of their homeland which ALL Jews have supported as far as the first 78% of Palestine is concerned.
And the Jewishness has EVERYTHING to do with this, and is inseparable from it.
Corbyn reverted to the contemptuous 2-state “offer” too.
He is a fraud or a dupe, either way setting up an Allende overthrow coup future.
Leninist theory is ever more needed.
Back to the top
Foul Trotskyist hostility opportunistically capitalises on the centenary of the heroic 1917 October Revolution to pour out yet more poison on the historic legacy of the Soviet Union and the huge advancements it made in all fields of human and scientific development, whilst pretending to celebrate the achievements of the revolution. Deep down, they all want to blame Lenin for “finishing off Soviet democracy” by advocating the firm proletarian dictatorship rightly imposed by the Soviet state throughout its inspirational history to fend off capitalist subversion and build their new society on a socialist basis. Doubts about their disgusting sectarianism and monstrous suppression of debate needs to lead to a complete reassessment of their entire rotten legacy as part of the process of rebuilding the Leninist revolutionary perspectives urgently needed today. Part 1 of 5
The 2017 centenary of the earth-shattering Russian Revolution, the starting point for humanity’s greatest achievement and inspiration to date, has predictably seen a deluge of poisonous anti-communist articles, books, documentaries, exhibitions, etc. designed to keep the working class divided and fragmented and head it away from the revolutionary perspective necessary to finally end capitalism for good and establish communism world-wide.
Imperialism’s proliferation of hate-filled lies and distortions against the Soviet Union and the workers’ states the revolution inspired, pumped out non-stop for 100 years via its universities and media outlets, aims to keep the working class confused and demoralised and ensure that capitalist class rule is never challenged by revolution rule again.
Its endless propagation of unproven (because untrue) notions of Soviet communism’s ‘inevitable economic failure’, hysterical accusations of ‘Soviet tyranny’ and ‘evil totalitarianism’, and the feigned pretentious pathos of ‘Russia’s tragedy’ has nothing to do with any notions of “objective” historical enquiry and everything to do with maintaining its exploitative and destructive profit-driven system, by instilling in the working class the belief that there is nothing thing that can be done about it because the alternative is “far worse”.
Imperialism would have found it far harder to get away with its smearing and belittling of the titanic achievements of the Russian Revolution and the workers’ states if it wasn’t for the eagerness of petty-bourgeois Trot academics and sects to pick up each and every fabricated and distorted CIA story, give it a supposed “red socialist” gloss, and distribute it as fact amongst the working class.
One example of this biliously anti-communist Trotskyist hostility to the workers’ states comes from the SWP, and its reactionary political influence has been so addictive for some that even former members, rightly turned off by their monstrous sectarianism, are unable to shake them off ideologically.
Neil Faulkner’s A People’s History of the Russian Revolution is a prime example of this addiction. A member of the Corbynite Momentum and Left Unity, Faulkner left the SWP, in despair of its foul sectarianism a few years ago to became a frequent contributor to Counterfire (one of the many refuges for ex-SWP, recovering addicts). He has since set up debating organisations that claim to be dedicated to encouraging the sort of open discussions SWP, rejects. Notionally at least, this is better than Trotskyism’s usual avoidance and suppression of arguments for revolution, although how true this is in practice when serious revolutionary positions are argued for is another question entirely.
To his credit, Faulkner openly admits in the introduction to his book that “all [he] knows about the revolution – both as a historian and activist – [he] owes to the SWP,of the 1980s” (“a powerhouse of Marxist theory”!!) and that “Trotsky has been [his] guide throughout”. And so, forewarned, the reader can come forearmed with enormous dollops of scepticism about any claims Faulkner makes about the course of the Russian revolution.
Tragically, Faulkner’s skills and expertise as a professional archaeologist and historian appeared to have been set aside when writing this book, which reads like something that has been quickly cobbled together in a slipshod, slapdash manner to opportunistically capitalise on the interest in the centenary year by getting it out in January, before everybody else. This impression is given by his use of distorted misquotes of Lenin which he blindly borrowed from Cliff without any attempt to check them for accuracy against Lenin’s writings.
At the heart of the petty-bourgeois intellectual’s hatred of the workers’ states, and the root of the accompanying allure of Trotskyism, is the fear of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Great efforts are made to supposedly “prove” the preposterous claim that it was Trotsky who was right on this question and that Lenin took his lead after realising he was “wrong”. And so it is with Faulkner.
From the tiniest of quotes taken out of context from Lenin, Faulkner attempts to develop an entire argument to show that Lenin “got it wrong” during the 1905 Revolution. He starts with this:
‘The only force capable of gaining a decisive victory over Tsarism’, declared Lenin in Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution (1905), ‘is the people, i.e. the proletariat and the peasantry … The revolution’s decisive victory over Tsarism means the establishment of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the peasantry and proletariat.’
The phraseology was unfortunate. It had been the common practice of revolutionaries since the time of Marx, however, to describe any form of people’s power as a ‘dictatorship’. The implication was neither autocracy nor even minority rule; on the contrary, all revolutionaries were democrats. The term was used to express the idea that the majority – the working people organised democratically –would have to impose their will on the ruling class by force. (Chapter 2)
Faulkner does not explain why he thinks the phraseology was “unfortunate”. He also does not say who these so-called “revolutionaries” who claim that it is somehow possible to gain and hold power without imposing a dictatorship were, but such idealistic utopian theories have nothing to do with Marx, Engels and Lenin.
He appears to want to say that dictatorship is incompatible with revolution, but he cannot make this explicit because he would be in danger of losing any “left” credibility he has, so the idea that there is something objectionable about it is left hanging in the air.
He completely misunderstands Lenin’s “revolutionary-democratic dictatorship” slogan of 1905. Lenin was referring to the use of military force by the workers and peasantry to wrest practical democratic reforms from the bourgeoisie during the bourgeois revolution and defend their gains from counter-revolutionary resistance. Such reforms may include the following, the achievement of which would constitute a “decisive victory over Tsarism”:
… At best, it may bring about a radical redistribution of landed property in favour of the peasantry, establish consistent and full democracy, including the formation of a republic, eradicate all the oppressive features of Asiatic bondage, not only in rural but also in factory life, lay the foundation for a thorough improvement in the conditions of the workers and for a rise in their standard of living… [Lenin, Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, Pamphlet July 1905].
The question of democratically organising working people (in a centralised state) was one for the proletarian dictatorship under socialism. This was not possible to achieve this in 1905 (see below).
But there was a far greater problem with Lenin’s formulation: the logic was tortuous. He seemed to be saying that only the workers and peasants could be relied upon, but having made the revolution, it would be the bourgeoisie – the capitalist class – that would end up in charge and reap most of the benefit. (Chapter 2)
What is tortuous here is trying to work out what Faulkner is trying to say. Yes, Lenin was saying that “only workers and peasants could be relied on, etc…”. Tsarist Russia was still a peasant-dominant autocratic semi-feudal backwater. The development of industrial and agricultural capitalism was at a very early stage. The working-class population was tiny. It would have been impossible in these conditions for the proletariat and peasantry to hold on to power and so Lenin’s position was an entirely logical one to take.
Only the revolutionary destruction of Tsarism and the establishment of a bourgeois capitalist state could create the best conditions possible for the rapid development of capitalism in the city and countryside and, as a result of this, the expansion of the working class and proletarianisation of the peasantry. Only then would it be possible to create a state in which those who make the revolution (the proletariat) “end up in charge and reap the benefits”.
Faulkner could have helped his readers make up their own minds by providing the full quote from Lenin on the need for a revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants to take power in 1905, which includes his rationale:
What is meant by “the revolution’s decisive victory over tsarism”? We have already seen that in using this expression the new Iskra group fail to grasp even its immediate political significance. Still less do they seem to understand the class essence of this concept. Surely, we Marxists must not under any circumstances allow ourselves to be deluded by words, such as “revolution” or “the great Russian revolution”, as do many revolutionary democrats (of the Gapon type). We must be perfectly certain in our minds as to what real social forces are opposed to “tsarism” (which is a real force perfectly intelligible to all) and are capable of gaining a “decisive victory” over it. The big bourgeoisie, the landlords, the factory owners, and “society”, which follows the Osvobozhdeniye lead, cannot be such a force. We see that they do not even want a decisive victory. We know that owing to their class position they are incapable of waging a decisive struggle against tsarism; they are too heavily fettered by private property, by capital and land to enter into a decisive struggle. They stand in too great need of tsarism, with its bureaucratic, police, and military forces for use against the proletariat and the peasantry, to want it to be destroyed. No, the only force capable of gaining “a decisive victory over tsarism”, is the people , i.e., the proletariat and the peasantry, if we take the main, big forces, and distribute the rural and urban petty bourgeoisie (also part of “the people”) between the two. “The revolution’s decisive victory over tsarism” means the establishment of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. Our new Iskra group cannot escape from this conclusion, which Vperyod indicated long ago. No other force is capable of gaining a decisive victory over tsarism.
And such a victory will be precisely a dictatorship, i.e., it must inevitably rely on military force, on the arming of the masses, on an insurrection, and not on institutions of one kind or another established in a “lawful” or “peaceful” way. It can be only a dictatorship, for realisation of the changes urgently and absolutely indispensable to the proletariat and the peasantry will evoke desperate resistance from the landlords, the big bourgeoisie, and tsarism. Without a dictatorship it is impossible to break down that resistance and repel counter-revolutionary attempts. But of course, it will be a democratic, not a socialist dictatorship. It will be unable (without a series of intermediary stages of revolutionary development) to affect the foundations of capitalism. At best, it may bring about a radical redistribution of landed property in favour of the peasantry, establish consistent and full democracy, including the formation of a republic, eradicate all the oppressive features of Asiatic bondage, not only in rural but also in factory life, lay the foundation for a thorough improvement in the conditions of the workers and for a rise in their standard of living, and—last but not least—carry the revolutionary conflagration into Europe. Such a victory will not yet by any means transform our bourgeois revolution into a socialist revolution; the democratic revolution will not immediately overstep the bounds of bourgeois social and economic relationships; nevertheless, the significance of such a victory for the future development of Russia and of the whole world will be immense. Nothing will raise the revolutionary energy of the world proletariat so much, nothing will shorten the path leading to its complete victory to such an extent, as this decisive victory of the revolution that has now started in Russia.
Lenin, Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, Pamphlet, 1905
Lenin’s logic is impeccable. In this profound material analysis of the balance of class forces in 1905 Russia, he clearly states that the only revolution possible was a bourgeois revolution because the Russian proletariat was in the minority. There would need to be huge leaps in capitalist development before conditions were ripe for a socialist revolution.
Leaving the bourgeois revolution to the bourgeoisie would create the worst possible conditions for the working class and peasantry as it would be heavily compromised by the dependence of the bourgeoisie on Tsarism and its repressive state forces. A class alliance with the peasantry, the great majority of Russian society, was therefore necessary to ensure that the bourgeois revolution was also a democratic revolution.
Faulkner cannot see this because of his subjective-idealistic world view:
… But there is no question that Lenin’s formulation, however accurate in its assessment of the bourgeoisie’s timidity, harboured a contradiction. Why would the workers, if they were to lead the revolution, and their peasant allies, impose on themselves a self-denying ordinance handing over the power they had won to their class enemies, restricting themselves to the democratic reforms permitted by ‘bourgeois revolution’, postponing socialism to some distant and uncertain future? (Chapter 2)
Here he is influenced by Trotsky’s ‘permanent revolution’ argument that the working class had the choice of either submitting to the bourgeoisie or passing directly to the socialist revolution. This idealistic position nothing to do with Marxism, which starts from a materialist study of the concrete economic and social conditions that determine historic developments.
The workers had no choice but to hand power over to the bourgeoisie. As explained above, a socialist revolution was impossible in 1905. It was an overwhelmingly petty-bourgeois peasant society. A bourgeois revolution was necessary first, to break up feudal property relations and provide the space necessary for the full development of capitalism in the cities and the countryside and the consequent growth of the proletariat. The best the working class could do was to fight for the maximum democratic gains possible, alongside the peasantry.
Writing against Parvus and Trotsky after they had first made their call for an immediate purely working-class dictatorship, Lenin demonstrated that a revolutionary government, if it is to be supported by the majority, would inevitably be composed of the proletariat alongside the poor strata of the petty bourgeoisie, who because of their class position were not capable of developing a revolutionary socialist consciousness at this stage. There would need to be further revolutionary developments before a workers’ state was possible:
Equally incorrect, for the same reason, are Parvus’ statements that “the revolutionary provisional government in Russia will be a government of working-class democracy” … This is impossible, unless we speak of fortuitous, transient episodes, and not of a revolutionary dictatorship that will be at all durable and capable of leaving its mark in history. This is impossible, because only a revolutionary dictatorship supported by the vast majority of the people can be at all durable (ea) (not absolutely, of course, but relatively). The Russian proletariat, however, is at present a minority of the population in Russia. It can become the great, overwhelming majority only if it combines with the mass of semi-proletarians, semi-proprietors, i.e., with the mass of the petty-bourgeois urban and rural poor [ea]. Such a composition of the social basis of the possible and desirable revolutionary-democratic dictatorship will, of course, affect the composition of the revolutionary government and inevitably lead to the participation, or even predominance, within it of the most heterogeneous representatives of revolutionary democracy. It would be extremely harmful to entertain any illusions on this score. If that windbag Trotsky now writes (unfortunately, side by side with Parvus) that “a Father Gapon could appear only once”, that “there is no room for a second Gapon”, he does so simply because he is a windbag. If there were no room in Russia for a second Gapon, there would be no room for a truly “great”, consummated democratic revolution. To become great, to evoke 1789-93, not 1848-50, and to surpass those years, it must rouse the vast masses to active life, to heroic efforts, to “fundamental historic creativeness”; it must raise them out of frightful ignorance, unparalleled oppression, incredible backwardness, and abysmal dullness. The revolution is already raising them and will raise them completely; the government itself is facilitating the process by its desperate resistance. But, of course, there can be no question of a mature political consciousness, of a Social-Democratic consciousness of these masses or their numerous “native” popular leaders or even “muzhik” leaders. They cannot become Social-Democrats at once without first passing a number, of revolutionary tests [ea], not only because of their ignorance (revolution, we repeat, enlightens with marvellous speed), but because their class position is not proletarian, because the objective logic of historical development confronts them at the present time with the tasks, not of a socialist, but of a democratic revolution [ea].
Lenin. Social Democracy and the Provisional Revolutionary Government, Vperyod Nos 13 and 14, March 1905
In 1905, Trotsky’s slogan was “no Tsar but a workers’ government”. This amounted to a call for a working class dictatorship over all elements of the petty-bourgeoisie. It was nothing more than meaningless ultra-left sloganeering because it ignored the material reality of Russian society at that time. If adopted, it would have put the working class minority in conflict with the peasantry majority and so made the democratic revolution impossible to achieve.
This would have been a major setback because it would have given the revolutionary momentum to the bourgeoisie, who would then have immediately begun to stifle and supress that momentum because of their fears of the working class winning too much freedom to organise and fight for their own interests, and because of its dependence on Tsarism.
Faulkner does not deny the necessity of the bourgeois revolution in general; he just denies this in the context of Russia. In a previous work of his, A Marxist History of the World (published by the Counterfire group of ex-SWP Trots), he identifies three historical waves of bourgeois revolutions. However, he fails to explain in that book or the current one why he thinks Lenin should have made an exception of Russia.
He now attempts to use Marx and Engels to back him in his claim that “the bourgeois revolution was over by 1848” and give the impression that Trotsky’s vacuous ‘permanent revolution’ slogan originated with them. This misleading nonsense turns their material analysis of the prospects for socialist revolution in Germany, which Marx and Engels initially thought was close, into a generalised abstraction:
But the German bourgeoisie of 1848 seemed to have plumbed new depths of ‘stupidity and cowardice’, and the searing experience of its spinelessness, culminating in a comprehensive defeat for democracy, had compelled Marx and Engels to reconfigure the conception of what they – like Trotsky much later – called ‘permanent revolution’… Marx was in effect announcing that the bourgeois revolution was over, that the struggle for democratic reform was now inextricably linked with that for social reform, and that henceforth the sole agent of revolution was the (at that time embryonic) industrial proletariat. He, and to a greater extent Engels, later retreated from this conception (of 1848) and there seems to be little trace of it in late nineteenth-century Marxism. The Russian Social Democrats were therefore confused about the nature their own imminent revolution – to the point of bitter controversy. (Chapter 3)
Although Faulkner concedes the necessity of the bourgeois revolution here, he fails to explain why it should have been possible to leap over this stage in Russia in 1905. And in fact, what he describes as coming next, “a struggle for democratic reform inextricably linked to social reform”, does not go beyond the bounds of the bourgeois revolution anyway.
As Lenin explained in Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, a victory in the struggle for social reform (land redistribution, improving the conditions of the workers, a rise in their standards of living, etc.) alongside democratic reform (establishing a republic, etc.) were the best that could be achieved if the bourgeois revolution was led by the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants. It was not socialism.
Faulkner unhelpfully confuses the issue by providing no references or quotes of Marx’s works and so it is unclear what 1848 text he is referring to. Marx did talk of “making the revolution permanent” in his address to the Communist League’s Central Committee in March 1850 when speculating on the possibility of the German workers taking power simultaneously with a workers’ victory in France as the first act of a lengthy revolutionary process. When he said this, he thought the bourgeois revolution was near to completion and that conditions were ripening for socialism.
Marx was analysing the material conditions of the leading powers of Europe, and specifically Germany, at that time; and as best as was possible given the fast-changing nature of events during this revolutionary period and their (then) incomplete understanding of the development of capitalism. Neither he nor Engels said that it was possible to leap over the bourgeois stage in countries where the bourgeois revolution had not yet been achieved, such as Russia, and so were not advocating anything like Trotsky’s ‘permanent revolution’ nonsense:
While the democratic petty bourgeois want to bring the revolution to an end as quickly as possible, achieving at most the aims already mentioned, it is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions, until the proletariat has conquered state power and until the association of the proletarians has progressed sufficiently far – not only in one country but in all the leading countries of the world – that competition between the proletarians of these countries ceases and at least the decisive forces of production are concentrated in the hands of the workers …. If the German workers cannot come to power and achieve the realization of their own class interests without completely going through a lengthy revolutionary development, they at least know for a certainty this time that the first act of this approaching revolutionary drama will coincide with the direct victory of their own class in France and will be very much accelerated by it. But they themselves must do the utmost for their final victory by clarifying their minds as to what their class interests are, by taking up their position as an independent party as soon as possible and by not allowing themselves to be misled for a single moment by the hypocritical phrases of the democratic petty bourgeois into refraining from the independent organization of the party of the proletariat. Their battle cry must be: The Revolution in Permanence. [Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League, manuscript, March 1850]
As Lenin explained in 1905 in a polemic against Plekhanov on participation of the workers in a provisional revolutionary government in Russia, by September 1850 Marx had corrected the position set out in March in the above quoted Address of the Central Committee. This was not Faulkner’s vaguely expressed “retreat from the conception of permanent revolution”, but a reassessment of conditions following the defeats of the 1848 revolutions:
He [Plekhanov] rightly points out that in March 1850, when the Address was written, Marx believed that capitalism was in a state of senile decay and the socialist revolution seemed to him “quite near”. Shortly afterwards Marx corrected this mistake; as early as September 15, 1850, he broke with Schapper … who had succumbed to bourgeois-democratic revolutionism or utopianism to the extent of saying, “We must achieve power at once, otherwise we may as well go to sleep.” Marx answered that it was incorrect to regard solely one’s own will, instead of the actual conditions, as the motive force of the revolution. The proletariat might still have to face fifteen, twenty, or fifty years of civil wars and international conflicts “not only to change the conditions, but to change yourselves [the proletarians] and to render yourselves fit for political rule”. Lenin, On The Provisional Revolutionary Government, Article 1: Plekhanov’s Reference to History, Proletary No.3, June 1905
This is the September 1850 quote Lenin was referring to:
In the last debate on “the position of the German proletariat in the next revolution” views were expressed … which directly clash with the last circular but one and even the Manifesto … The materialist standpoint of the Manifesto has given way to idealism. The revolution is seen not as the product of realities of the situation but was the result of the effort of will. Whereas we say to workers: You have 15, 20, 50 years of civil war to go through in order to alter the situation and to train yourselves for the exercise of power, it is said: “We must take power at once, or else we may as well take to our beds.” Just as the democrats have been abusing the word “people” so now the word “proletariat has been used as a mere phrase. To make this phrase effective it would be necessary to describe all the petty bourgeoisie as proletarians. The actual revolutionary process would have to be replaced by revolutionary catchwords
[He could be describing Trotsky’s “permanent revolution” catch phrase here]:
…I have always defied the momentary opinions of the proletariat. We are devoted to a party which, most fortunately for it, cannot come to power yet. If the proletariat were to come to power the measures it would introduce would be petty bourgeois and not directly proletarian. Our party can come to power only when the conditions allow it to put its own views in practice. Louis Blanc is the best instance of what happens when you come to power prematurely. On France, moreover, it isn’t the proletariat alone that gains power but the peasants and the petty bourgeoisie as well, and it will have to carry out not its, but their measures. [Minutes of the Meeting of the Central Authority of the Communists, manuscript, September 1850]
Marx’s denunciation of Schapper’s subjective ultra-left demands to “achieve power at once” could equally apply to Trotsky’s 1905 “no Tsar but a workers’ government” permanent revolution shallowness. Contrary to Faulkner’s interpretation, on reassessing the situation Marx had concluded that the 1848 revolutions had failed to complete the bourgeois revolution. Because of this, the process would have to be completed by the “spineless” bourgeoisie in alliance with the forces of autocracy.
In this quote, Marx cautions against the working class taking power in alliance with the petty bourgeoisie. As Lenin pointed out, Marx and Engels had under-estimated the length of time the completion of the bourgeois revolution would take and so did not use the slogan of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship:
Marx and Engels in 1850 did not differentiate between democratic dictatorship and socialist dictatorship, or, rather, they did not mention the former at all, since they considered capitalism to be in a state of senile decay and socialism near. Nor did they, for the same reason, differentiate at the time between a minimum and a maximum programme... Marx and Engels considered socialism near in 1850; hence, they underestimated the democratic gains, which seemed to them to be well established in view of the unquestionable victory of the petty-bourgeois democratic party. Twenty five years later, in 1875, Marx drew attention to the undemocratic system in Germany—“military despotism, embellished with parliamentary forms”. Thirty-five years later, in 1885, Engels predicted that in the coming European upheaval the power in Germany would pass to the petty-bourgeois democrats. … If Marx and Engels had realised that the democratic system was bound to last for a fairly long time, they would have attached all the more importance to the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry with the object of consolidating the republic, of completely eradicating all survivals of absolutism, and of clearing the arena for the battle for socialism. They would all the more strongly have condemned the tail-enders, who, on the eve of the democratic revolution, were capable of frightening the proletariat with the possibility of a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship. [Lenin, On The Provisional Revolutionary Government, Article 1: Plekhanov’s Reference to History, Proletary No.3,Volume 8, June1905]
By applying a theoretical schema to practice, and reassessing that theory in the light of new developments as they emerged, Marx and Engels were able to readjust their prognoses on the likelihood or otherwise of new revolutionary developments (and Lenin was able reassess their positions and adapt them to the specific conditions Russia). Revolutionary theory is a guide to action, not a blueprint for action.
This scientific approach is a million miles away from Trotsky’s empty and idealistic revolutionary sounding sloganeering which attempts to bend the world to this idea, rather than adapt it to the living reality.
[Phil Waincliffe - To be continued]