No 1523 4th November 2017
Let governments (and all parliamentary fraud) topple through sleaze and degeneracy, the more the merrier and November 5th too. But feminist hysteria and nonsense about a “crisis of masculinity” are PCist obscurantism blocking understanding of the real cause of chaos, incompetence and disintegration. That is the gigantic looming capitalist Catastrophe which far from being solved by Quantitative Easing, has been made one hundred times worse and about to implode with devastating consequences. Feminist posturing blocks this understanding with its shallow reverse sexism and scapegoating, underlain with its real character, poisonous anti-communism. It is completely counter-revolutionary whatever “celebrations” it joins for the 100th anniversary of the Great October Revolution. So too is the desperate posturing around Brexit or breakaway petty bourgeois nationalism like Catalonia, just as suddenly and febrilely erupting as a giant diversion. What the world needs now is to build revolutionary understanding to overturn the entire degenerate, unequal armsrace system. Build Leninism
The sudden wave of establishment sleaze revelations (Hollywood and parliament), the seeming eruption out of the blue of worldwide reactionary “nationalist” breakaways like Catalonia, Iraqi Kurdistan and Brexit, and topdog America’s astonishingly bitter ruling class infighting around Trump, all make no real sense - unless they are examined in the light of the capitalist system’s crisis breakdown and failure.
But even then these are only the superficial symptoms of disaster, and the feminist shark-frenzy of self-righteous man-blaming, or “left” demands for “self-determination democracy” are nothing but total diversions by opportunist middle class fakery.
Worse still, both this deluge of sanctimonious feminist single-issue PCism, and the posturing about “freedom” struggles for “national rights” or “defending the right for free movement of labour because anything else is racism” are not only missing the point but blocking the only possible way that human society can be sorted out, and be made rational, fair and free of abuse.
That is the complete revolutionary overturn and ending of this ever more degenerate capitalist order and its continuing plunge into World War and destruction.
Bullying, grotesque behaviour, coercion and the extreme of rape are clearly monstrous and certainly existing society is saturated with prejudices and arrogant assumptions of all kinds from sexist attitudes and presumptions, to racist backwardness, homophobic contempt and indifference to the difficulties of people with physical and mental constraints.
But even leaving aside the holier-than-thou piousness and the self-defeating triviality of some of the denunciations - (are all women pure as the driven snow, have never commented on a man’s looks or indeed even thought to look at all, and were so remote from sexual interest and activity that the very suggestion gives them the vapours, let alone the notion of largeing it in pubs and clubs deep into the small hours whilst giggling to each other about the talent?) – they are still not making the crucial point.
What urgently needs saying is that it is the onrushing catastrophic collapse of the entire profit-grabbing economic system which is driving this incoherent frenzy to the surface, and driving the sense of chaos, conflict and disintegration of government.
A fearful ruling class is in turmoil because its entire social and political superstructure is crumbling and falling apart.
As Marx analysed 150 years ago, the whole of human society pivots around the way it organises (and is able to organise) production – slave society, feudalism and capitalism, each in turn hitting the buffers of its own contradictions as humanity develops and advances.
The vicious exploitative “free market” wage slavery racket can no longer move forwards. Communism is needed with its worldwide planning, rationality for human existence and respect for nature.
The whole of monopoly capitalism is already the most degenerate, foul cesspit of lies, exploitation and consumerist mindlessness, mixed with porn, drug, drink and gambling degradation at home and fascist destructiveness, bludgeoning and butchering across the planet.
All that is before the great Crash of 2008 returns in full force: as soon as the completely artificial stimulus of inflationary Quantitative Easing and zero interest rates implodes again the austerity so far blighting most working class lives anyway, will turn to all-out Slump, hatreds and chauvinism will be ramped up even further and the war destruction so far will look like a tea-party.
Take a look at somewhere like cartel-gangster-ridden Mexico to see the future at home and the destruction of the Middle East everywhere.
Only taking up the fight to defeat and overturn the whole stinking warmongering armsrace system of degenerate wealth, arrogance, inequality and staggering greed, can stop this slide into an ever greater festering mess of Slump poverty collapse and war.
But none of that emerges at all from this self-righteousness posturing.
Of course the more serious of these scandalous revelations further show the endless degeneracy of society, and exposés about its abuse of power and privilege are a useful additional blow to the lying pretences of the ruling class about its “standing and authority”.
But pretending that they can be stopped and society be changed by a robust “women’s movement” and a stream of “me-too” allegations based on as much “evidence” as had the seventeenth century Witchfinder General, is itself a fraud.
It says nothing about the real degeneracy facing society, not even explaining why all this turmoil is now erupting.
Just the opposite, it helps cover things up.
If we only had sound sensible women in charge, it says, then everything would be hunky-dory.
What does that do? It completely muddies the water with extreme, almost mystical nonsenses, about a “crisis of masculinity”, blaming half the human race for the problems that should be laid at the door of capitalism itself.
And in doing so the feminists are little better than the racists or other scapegoaters pointing the finger a particular elements in society as being to “blame” for the pain, frustration and alienation of existence of capitalism itself.
On top of the philosophical contradiction of declaring that women should be in charge because “men are the problem” - and therefore presumably different - in order to achieve equality, this pretends that things can be sorted out within existing society, which is to say within capitalism.
But therein lies exactly the problem with all the single issue causes like the feminists.
They are pure reformists who head everyone away from the real problems, and the real solution.
And as one less impressed woman’s letter pointed out in the “liberal” bourgeois press:
Am I the only one sick to death of the mass coverage of the ongoing “sexual harassment” revelations? Of course it is important, but it pales into insignificance when other vital news items from across the globe are seemingly relegated or nonexistent on the news pages. Could it be a conspiracy by respective governments to bury bad news under the deluge of these allegations?
Jacqueline Angell, Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
That is a first part of the problem, seemingly confirmed by the fact that the more desperate the crisis grows the louder the diversion being made.
These are largely the empty barrel noises of a middle class “leftism” that is more and more desperately making a fuss about anything and everything that does not get to the point, because they do not want to see it.
And they certainly don’t want to confront its revolutionary implications.
Transform society of course, including challenging and ending its crudities, prejudices and the double burden of exploitation imposed on all put upon “minorities” (victims of deliberate capitalist divide-and-rule).
But for a dozen reasons the insistence on sorting out these one-off issues before anything else does not do the job.
Just the opposite, it gets in the way.
PCism is total anathema for the working class, even where it is not saturated with self-satisfied moralising humbug.
It is the very opposite of scientific Marxist reasoning and struggle to understand the world and the contradictions building up towards war and Slump.
It the same as all the other fake “left”-ism that insists on human beings perfecting themselves before they can get on with the fight, blaming them for their own problems.
The great mass of humans, men and women are formed by the degrading and exploitative philistinism, consumerism, and deliberate backwardness of a vicious dog-eat-dog competitive and elitist society and 99% of them are victims of it.
And they will be driven into revolution laden with all those crudities and flaws.
That does not mean they should not be challenged on all their backwardnesses or should not try to improve themselves - but it does mean the real changes in human themselves, will only be made as part of the total overturn of society.
If not, all these frustrations, and brutalisations of ordinary humanity, (compounded by relentless exploitation and the exhaustion of daily life) will simply be regenerated over and over again, because they are the very substance of capitalist relationships and society. As the lady says above, the single issue moralising prevents everyone seeing the really deadly serious issues and is totally anti-theory and revolutionary politics, counter-revolutionary in other words.
Much of the feminist agenda is saturated in hypocrisy anyway where it concerns political or showbusiness careers.
The important point to make about the scandals is the further exposure it makes of Parliament as part of the complete hoodwinking pretence of bourgeois “democracy” built around the supposed probity and uprightness of the “Honourable Members” upstandingly “representing the interests of ordinary people”.
Or to show up the complete lies of the Hollywood industry, essentially the greatest glitzy propaganda machine in all history devoted to fooling everyone and particularly to a relentless message of anti-communism.
What a giant joke on the working class.
Parliament meanwhile has always been a cosy ruling class “club on the Thames”, a talking and drinking shop which is only a front for the ruling class which makes all the significant decisions somewhere else, in the private gentleman’s clubs, in the Stock Exchange, the banks, the international hedge fund markets, among the generals, at the secretive Privy Council and in all the freemasonries which riddle bourgeois society from the actual Freemasons to the Jewish disapora (and the bourgeois Labour party itself).
Fighting to “clean up” parliament is to try and give this racket a renewed lease of life.
And that is needed only because bourgeois democracy as a whole is falling apart because of the crisis – previously the cosy racket chugged along unperturbed.
As repeatedly mentioned in the latest accounts “everyone knew” about all this anyway, instantly rasing the question as to why they did not speak out before (particularly all the well-paid female lobby journalists - how many £100,000s does the Tory biased BBC political correspondent Laura Kuensberg get for her establishment fawning “reports”???).
Because they are all part of the wool-pulling racket is the answer.
So much was this built in that all the sleazy behaviour was part of the system itself, used by the whips to blackmail MPs and keep them under control, and reported weekly in a briefing to Theresa May (and all prime ministers before).
And far more sinister dirty dealings have been part of the whole racket too including the vile abuse of small boys by assorted MPs; Margaret Thatcher fully aware of the monstrous Liberal Cyril Smith and his Rochdale kiddy abuse for example, sanctioning a knighthood for him despite. There are other cases and enough incidents of establishment cover-up (not least in the three times re-started abuse inquiry now buried away with limited publicity, to raise a thousand questions - a whole murky story remains to come out some time that will make the odd heterosexual innuendo look tame).
The gay rights PCism has been a major part of keeping some of this suppressed in the past.
But right now the biggest problem with the PC indignation is that it completely ignores the real degeneracy of a system which has been blitzkrieging half the planet for the last twenty years as it writhes and squirms to avoid the greatest historical crisis in all history in the only way it knows - bullying the rest of the planet to suppress rebellion and whip up war fever for the conflicts to come as cutthroat trade war turns to allout inter-imperialist conflict (to destroy “surplus” capital)
The real problem with Tory defence minister Michael Fallon is not that he once (or even several times) “put his hand on someone’s knee” in an “inappropriate” way (when is a sexual advance “appropriate”??) and in fact the knee of a journalist who was not offended anyway, but that he routinely defends the horrific barbaric and deadly non-stop bombing of Yemen by Saudi Arabia as just “self-defence” and even more disgustingly routinely flies to Riyadh (with an entourage of tanked-up bourgeois press journalists) to sell the primitive feudal monarchists yet more of the deadly bombs, missiles, anti-personnel weapons and guidance systems on behalf of British imperialism which would be bankrupt if it did not grovel to every tinpot tribalist regime on the planet.
And the impact of that horrific destruction of an entire people who presumed to start asking for “democracy” after the gigantic Egyptian Arab Spring revolt of 2011? The occasional bourgeois press account leaks through:
The cholera epidemic in Yemen has become the largest and fastest-spreading outbreak of the disease in modern history, with a million cases expected by the end of the year and at least 600,000 children likely to be affected.
The World Health Organization has reported more than 815,000 suspected cases of the disease in Yemen and 2,156 deaths. About 4,000 suspected cases are being reported daily, more than half of which are among children under 18. Children under five account for a quarter of all cases.
The spread of the outbreak, which has quickly surpassed Haiti as the biggest since modern records began in 1949, has been exacerbated by hunger and malnutrition. While there were 815,000 cases of cholera in Haiti between 2010 and 2017, Yemen has exceeded that number in just six months.
Save the Children has warned that, at the current rate of infection, the number of cases will reach seven figures before the turn of the year, 60% of which will be among children. In July, the International Committee of the Red Cross predicted there would be 600,000 suspected cholera cases in the country by the end of the year.
Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s country director for Yemen, said an outbreak of this scale and speed is “what you get when a country is brought to its knees by conflict, when a healthcare system is on the brink of collapse, when its children are starving, and when its people are blocked from getting the medical treatment they need”.
Kirolos said: “There’s no doubt this is a man-made crisis. Cholera only rears its head when there’s a complete and total breakdown in sanitation. All parties to the conflict must take responsibility for the health emergency we find ourselves in.”
More than two years of fighting between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels has crippled the country, causing widespread internal displacement, the collapse of the public health system, and leaving millions on the brink of famine.
The crisis was exacerbated when sanitation workers whose salaries had gone unpaid went on strike. This meant garbage was left on the streets, which was then washed into the water supply. It is estimated that 19.3 million Yemenis – more than two-thirds of the population – do not have access to clean water and sanitation.
The government stopped funding the public health department in 2016, meaning many doctors and hospital staff have not received salaries for more than a year. Healthcare has since been provided mainly by international organisations, the efforts of whom have been hampered by the conflict.
The spread of the disease has nonetheless slowed. At the beginning of the most recent outbreak, in May this year, between 5,000 and 6,000 new cases were detected daily. That rate has since dropped to just under 4,000 a day. The mortality rate has also declined, from 1% at the beginning of the outbreak to 0.26% now.
“Whatever decline we’re seeing now is due to the heroic efforts of workers at the scene,” said Sherin Varkey, the officiating representative of Unicef Yemen.
Varkey said the situation would not be solved until there was peace in the country.
There are no signals that give us any reason for optimism. We know that both parties to the conflict are continuing with their blatant disregard of the rights of children,” he said. “We’re at a cliff and we’re staring down and it is bottomless. There seems to be no hope.”
Cholera should be easily treatable with oral rehydration salts and access to clean water. But Mariam Aldogani, Save the Children’s health adviser for the city of Hodeidah, said conditions in the country had made this very difficult.
Aldogani said: “All the NGOs are trying to increase the knowledge of how to prevent the disease, because it’s preventable, you have to boil the water. But if you don’t have money to buy gas, and you have to walk a long way to get the wood, how can you boil the water?”
Aldogani, who has been a doctor since 2006, said witnessing the suffering of her patients was deeply painful. “I saw one young man, he had cholera and severe dehydration. He was in a coma and he died in front of his mother. We tried our best, but he came too late and she was crying, and I cried. It makes me angry. When I see a mother lose her baby, especially a stillbirth, she waits for this baby for a long time and then she loses it because of cholera, it makes me so angry.
“The war is a big problem for us, it’s a wound. But with the cholera, you have the wound and you put salt in the wound. It hurts. I hope this war can be stopped. We need peace for the children of Yemen. Our situation before the war was not good, but it was not like this.”
And so bad is this now that the BBC’s R4 smug middle class Today programme has started reports, with the first statistic that 10 million people are now on the edge of famine.
Perhaps they will have a charity “appeal” to salve a few consciences.
But the Jess Phillipses (Labour MP) of this world, stridently demanding their “women’s rights” will do nothing to stop this horror from unfolding however much PC-ism they purvey, or “No to War” marches they might attend.
While they are filling the airwaves with this distraction the fascist barbarity of British imperialism is abandoning all pretence of the “rule of law” and “democracy” as the Tory “Defence” Minister Rory Stewart recently made clear with the “kill them all” assertion over ISIS “terrorists”. This outright fascist declaration went virtually unremarked by all the Labourites and most of the fake-“left” who have piled in to “enter” the Labour Party, dragging the working class back behind the parliamentary racket. But it did not quite go unnoticed by some dismayed Guardian readers:
The problem with Rory Stewart’s suggestion that all British Islamic State fighters should be killed rather than being allowed to return to the UK (Report, 23 October) is that it ignores the following.
First, that killing British Isis fighters is something Britain has done without regard to the rule of law since the targeted killing of Reyaad Khan in 2015. Parliament voted on 30 August 2013 against military intervention in Syria. In July 2015 the British state had to admit that UK personnel embedded with western coalition forces had conducted airstrikes in Syria and that at least two SAS squadrons were operating in Syria. Then came the targeted killings of Reyaad Khan and Junaid Hussain. Parliament’s vote against intervention made it is impossible to justify their deaths under a war paradigm. They were simply arbitrary executions.
Second, since the authorisation by parliament of bombing raids against Isis in Syria in December 2015, at least 4,000 non-combatants have been killed by coalition bombings (according to the Airwars monitoring group).
All of this suggests that Stewart has let the cat out of the bag. The moral equivalence between the parties is closer than he might like to think. Arbitrary killings, disregard for civilian lives, all in the name of democracy.
Nick Moss London
So I am appalled by his advocacy of killing British Islamic State fighters in Syria “in almost every case” (Report, 23 October), “as the only way of dealing with them”. What happened to the rule of law, to the right to a fair trial, to the absence of the death penalty in the UK and in most democratic countries? Indeed, to the human values that we are supposed to be defending? Hateful though their mindset, and horrific their crimes, may be, these are still human beings, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights still applies to them. Arbitrarily killing them can only leave a further legacy of hatred in those left behind, and enhance their status as “martyrs”.
The most urgent need is to stop the killing on all sides. Then the long-term work to remove the root causes of conflict, to change hearts and minds away from violence and killing, and to rebuild Syrian society can start.
Frank Jackson Former co-chair, World Disarmament Campaign
Rory Stewart’s comments on summary justice for Isis fighters are abhorrent. The highest ranking Nazis and Japanese politicians responsible for the worst atrocities of the second world war were accorded a fair trial before sentence was passed. In these troubled times, let us not lose sight of what separates those of us who cherish human rights from those who advocate tyranny.
Ridzuan Farouk Singapore
All these continue to miss the main point that it is not “those advocating tyranny” who are driving the world into war and destruction but the imperialist system itself, now showing its true character, using the “war on terror” as a major tool for whipping up murderous chauvinism and scapegoating hatreds.
But their understanding will not be helped by the Labourites and fake-“left” and their universal “condemnation of terror”, which makes all they protestations about standing against war to be so much useless posturing, capitulating completely to the Stewart (and Trump) hate fostering.
The letters finally led to a commentary this week by a worried “former MI6 director of counter-terrorism” - worried that all this is giving away too much of the truth about the reality of “our values” – knowing that the bogus pretence of “democracy” and “freedom” has always been the ruling class’s best trick for keeping the lid on dissent and rebellion and that it is not quite played out yet as the best way to fool and hoodwink public opinion.
But the pretence is completely hollow as the horrific destruction has been rained down on not just Yemen but Iraq and Syria too - the just completed destruction of the Raqqa ISIS stronghold at least as barbaric as the previous obliteration of the entire Sunni held city of Mosul in Iraq, as casually indifferent to 1000s of butchered civilian lives and hundreds of thousands driven into refugeehood.
Imperialism is sitting back temporarily now it has almost pulverised the ISIS jihadists but it solves nothing about its crisis, and nor will it restore any kind of “peace and prosperity”.
Offering the notion that “terrorism is the cause of the world’s problems” and that the answer is to slaughter them all is a recipe for yet more waves of hatred and hostility – and the next time or the time after that the rebellion will climb to a more coherent and less nihilist level than bizarre ideology of the Caliphate, eventually, however many iterations it takes finding a way to a clearer grasp of the need to bring down capitalism.
But that will not helped by the cowardly and treacherous lining up of all the “lefts” alongside imperialism effectively against “jihadism” with their moralising condemnations.
Marxism does not say that these outbursts of terrorist hostility are the solution for the working class as such, though the impact of their struggles can inflict significant defeats and moral-sapping blows which the entire Third World cheers on.
The ideology, particularly in its religious forms is not supported in any way.
But all the moralising denunciations of the “left” (including tragically from the revisionist leadership of the otherwise heroic workers state in Cuba) line them up entirely on the wrong side.
So too do the ever more elaborate conspiracy theories from the barmy museum Stalinists declaring that these great waves of anti-imperialist upheaval are all run by the CIA on behalf of some enormously elaborate grand strategy whereby imperialism is so competent and omniscient that it sets up these great upheavals itself in order to put them down again at great cost in lives, matériel and potential loss of international influence.
How for example does the huge truck bombing destruction just carried by Al-Shabaab in Mogadishu fit into plans to keep the Western stooge government on board?
And how do they explain why they will turn out to support the Palestinian march in London this weekend in their dogged struggle against the vile nazi-Zionist landtheft colonialist occupation of their country when the leadership of the Gazans is one of the same Sunni jihadist movements that they decry everywhere else (such as in next door Sinai, denounced by the Lalkar/Proletarian Stalinists?
The feminists also demonstrate their reactionary nature on this question, ready to denounce all such movements for their “backwardness”, just as the “gay” lobby has done, sanctimoniously elevating their own personal concerns to a par with the horrific and endless suffering of the eight millions dispossessed and genocidally harried population.
But how are the “women’s rights” of these people to be fought for, if it is not in calling for the total defeat and disbandment of the monstrous lie of an “Israeli State” and being ready to stand alongside them against this deliberate imperialist knife in the heart of the Arab world.
The feminist PCism is doubly damned on this issue since its PC harrying of Labour Party members and even MPs like Sheffield MP Jared O'Mara sustains and reinforces the outrageous censorship and suppression atmosphere that is part and parcel of Labourite reformism.
Disgusting acceptance by the Labourites recently of the nonsensical CIA/Zionist notion of “left anti-semitism” has been bolstered using the same PC atmosphere to shut down debate and expel members for supporting Palestine.
But none of this will stop the collapse of imperialism and the eventual return of humanity towards communist understanding. Even the dire revisionism in Beijing is showing some signs of reinforcing its pro-communist side. We shall see. Build Leninism
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Errors in the anti-Trot polemic in EPSR 1521 issue of 1 Oct 2017
In an otherwise valuable article to battle with the Trots, I think there are some unfortunate misunderstandings.
Particularly, the passages by the writer at the start of p5, column 1:
“Tsarist Russia was still a peasant-dominant autocratic semi-feudal backwater. The development of industrial and agricultural capitalism was still at an 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.”
This is a complete misunderstanding of Lenin and his perspectives in 1905. The heart of Lenin’s Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Coming Revolution is the notion of creating an alliance of the industrial proletariat with the rural poor peasantry to batter down the autocracy and establish a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry and then stay in power with that force as long as possible or until, in an uninterrupted revolution, a further socialist revolution could be accomplished. And precisely because the bourgeoisie would be all too likely to hand any power it wrested from the Revolution back to the autocracy and big landowners.
“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 the 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”
Surely the writer must realise that if Lenin wanted to say in Two Tactics that the proletariat’s FIRST objective was to establish a bourgeois capitalist state he would have said that? He didn’t.
The description of the anti-Tsarist revolution presented above is precisely what haunted Menshevism (and at times non-Leninist currents of thought in the Bolsheviks), all the way from 1900 to 1917 and beyond.
The argument even continued into Lenin’s “Can the Bolsheviks retain state power?” in 1917.
The spoken and sometimes unspoken counter-revolutionary defeatism was that conditions in backward Russia required the bourgeoisie to actually be in charge in their own capitalist state during the development of capitalism in post-Tsarist Russia. This was not Lenin’s view, from well before 1905.
Re-read the lengthy quote from Lenin’s Two Tactics presented on p5 (see below also - ed).
I think the writer has somehow misunderstood that Lenin saw a bourgeois-democratic revolution carried out by the proletariat and peasantry - but not to put the bourgeoisie in power, but to do the historic tasks that the capitalist bourgeoisie shirked from doing out of fearing (correctly!) that they were not up to the task of defeating Tsarism and at the same time not being overwhelmed by the very forces that the smashing of Tsarism would conjure out of Russia.
This confusion in the article writer’s mind is shown by p5, middle of column 3:
The workers had no choice but to hand power over to the bourgeoisie.
This is a misrepresentation of Lenin’s view entirely. Or at the very least a very clumsy way of putting over the notion that workers and poor peasants would hold state power but would have to encourage an NEP-style development of capitalism in Russia (a possibility that Lenin would have been thinking of, given his barely ruffled introduction of that policy once the civil war’s War Communism economic methods were becoming counter-productive).
The article continues with several other confused presentations of the process in Tsarist Russia that go against Lenin’s conception of the Marxist uninterrupted revolution.
This passage from p5, column 3-4:
“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.”
The passage suggests the loss of state power by the class alliance of the workers and poor peasants and even suggests large lapses of time between the democratic revolution and the socialist revolution. But Lenin explains in the March 1905 quote which continues below (on p5) that the class alliance of the proletariat and poor peasantry - the great mass of the people - will make the great revolution “durable”.
He also clearly sees not the capitalist class seizing back power and the lengthy consolidation of their desired conditions, but instead declaims that workers and poor peasants will learn to rule and be able to transition to the socialist revolution in some way:
“Revolution, we repeat, enlightens with marvellous speed.”
In the event, in 1917, after February, the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry (the soldiers largely being peasants in uniform) exists in the Soviets in a state of dual power with the Provisional government, and then is reshaped in October into the socialist revolution, which takes as its emblem the hammer and sickle, representing the continued crucial class alliance.
Back in 1905, outcomes were still to be decided so I think it was also an error to state, at the end of p4, column 4, this:
“The question of democratically organising working people (in a centralised state) was one for the proletarian dictatorship under socialism. It was not possible to achieve this in 1905 (see below).”
[Here I am only quibbling with the date, not the notion of the difference between a socialist revolution and a democratic revolution].
For Lenin, whether the 1905 events would see that process accomplished all the way to a workers state after a democratic revolution was to be decided in battle, and it was not a fait accompli that the bourgeoisie would emerge in capitalist state power (nor that Tsarism would survive the battering).
Chris Barrett (see below*)
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*Taking and holding power the critical question in the great Russian revolutions of 1905 (1) and 1917 (2): But Lenin, not the dilettante poseur Trotsky, got it right. Learning from mistakes and untangling the proletarian and peasant dictatorship question
The last issues of the EPSR have carried a two parts of a long discussion exposing the latest attempts by petty bourgeois Trotskyism to rubbish the titanic achievements of the Soviet Union on the 100th anniversary of the great 1917 Russian Revolution.
The pieces tackle the ever revived “trope” (to use a fashionable word), that Leon Trotsky was virtually its leading figure, at least on a par with Lenin, thereby trying to breath new life into more than a century of poisonous bile poured out by him, or in his name, against 70 years of subsequent brilliant Soviet achievement.
The laughable notion is that it was Trotsky’s genius (rather than the long years of dogged Lenin-led Bolshevik polemical struggle, bitter experience and development of theory) which supposedly informed Lenin’s April Theses, in which he declared that the working masses should press on all the way to a proletarian revolution after the popular February 1917 bourgeois democratic revolution had overturned feudal Tsarism.
That led to the October revolution itself, the most important and pivotal event in human history so far.
Along with other absurd claims, exaggerations and outright lies about Trotsky’s influence and revolutionary contributions in, for example, “running” the Red Army (he did, but only in part) this is all then used to bolster total hostility to the workers states and the vital disciplines of the dictatorship of the proletariat which alone can take mankind forwards into a world free of class exploitation, waste, degradation and philistinism.
Under cover of much trumpeted and self-proclaimed “revolutionary left” credentials the whole spectrum of Trotskyism is actually as poisonously hostile to the giant achievements and historic world impact of the USSR’s 70 years’s building of a workers state, – and the socialist revolutionary and anti-imperialist victories it helped inspire, – as any outright bourgeois anti-communism (the biggest industry of the whole capitalist world).
Despite total failure of its endless defeatist predictions and daydreaming “perfect revolution” formulas the authority of Trotsky’s supposed “leading” position in the revolution continues to be used by 57 varieties of middle class pretend “lefts” to reinforce non-stop bilious propaganda rubbishing of the Soviet Union, and rubbishing of every other workers state from Cuba to North Korea, Vietnam and China.
In particular Trotsky’s much hyped theory of the “permanent revolution” is counterposed to the supposed dunderheadedness of most of the Bolsheviks who all “failed to grasp” the revolutionary developments at the time and became vulnerable to “bureaucratism” and the “rise of Stalin”.
Their “stupidity” allegedly led on to nothing but “tyranny and totalitarianism” which Trotsky repeatedly declared was unsustainable and about to collapse, but which in fact built a staggeringly advanced non-capitalist society and economy from a Tsarist serf-slavery ignorant backwater.
Starting from the complete wreckage of the First World War and three years of civil war, within just 25 years it was able to destroy the Nazi invasion from Europe’s most advanced and powerful capitalist economy, and later counter even more deadly US nuclear encirclement, forging ahead in science, technology and culture (brilliant aerospace, first man in space, astonishing music, a deluge of patents filed), while providing health care, housing, jobs and the end of famine, hunger, and sweatshop labour throughout a vast union of republics, as well as giving massive aid, training and development to millions in the Third World.
Its later implosion came as the result of philosophical flaws and retreats in revisionism, which are also examined elsewhere (eg EPSR Book 21 Unanswered Polemics...against museum-Stalinist revisionism) but which are simply obscured by the demented anti-communism of the Trotskyists.
The EPSR discussion pieces so far have aimed to expose some of the usual sly Trotksyist tricks in a recent book on the Russian revolution, particularly by looking at the short or abridged Lenin quotes cited and giving the fuller quotes to show the real explanations and their full meaning, rather than the distortions and false implications they convey.
Unfortunately in the first part, the complexities of the early stages of the revolution have led to an error.
As pointed out in a letter by an EPSR reader (above) the first part of the discussion managed to incorporate a formulation suggesting that should the f irst outbreak of revolution in 1905 have been successful it would have needed to “hand back power” to the bourgeoisie at some point.
But to hand back power would have led to a counter-revolutionary offensive against the masses, even in the event that the 1905 revolution had succeeded in the aim of toppling the Tsar.
The EPSR is very clear in insisting that only the revolutionary overturn of capitalism and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat can transform the world as it slides ever closer back to inevitable and intractable economic failure (the 2008 credit Catastrophe held off only by relentless inflationary money printing).
Trade war, chauvinist scapegoating, slump poverty impositions and war destruction intensify even as the grotesque privilege and inequality of capitalist society reaches unprecedented levels, beyond even the late Victorian (pre-socialism) “Golden” period.
All pretences of “ending austerity”, exerting “left” pressure, or “winning the left movement in Labour”, of winning the “democratic” struggle, or of “stopping war” – of reformism or “step by step” peaceful changes as revisionism argues for - are hopeless petty bourgeois posturing, evasion and opportunism.
They want to avoid the vital revolutionary class war questions that increasingly confront the world.
Thereby they play into the hands of the potential bourgeois counter-revolution which has repeatedly and violently overturned multiple “democratic” attempts to achieve socialism (or even anti-imperialist national liberation which is heading in that direction), most famously in the CIA/Augusto Pinochet coup against Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973 but in many other places before and since, such as the ongoing orchestrated and bloody violence against the Venezuelan “left” bourgeois national liberation.
The mistake in the piece is to loose sight of the class dictatorship need; that mistake arises from the difficulties of grasping the complexities of the class struggle in Russia at the turn of the century and in particular the contradictory nature of a revolution waged by the working class, initially not (directly) for socialism at all but for bourgeois democracy, and a struggle that required an alliance with class forces, the peasantry, some of which would eventually be part of the class enemy.
Not only modern attempts to grasp these issues find it possible to go astray; untangling the multi-layered developments required grasping revolutionary tactics and strategy that Lenin himself described as seemingly “paradoxical”.
But the error is worth exploring not only to correct ourselves but also to throw a light on the deep understanding developed by the Bolsheviks, and particularly Lenin himself, taking up at least three volumes of the non-stop polemical battles as the revolutionary experiences were made in 1905-7.
It was an understanding that proved crucial for the later events in the world shattering October 1917 revolution, – a “dress rehearsal” Lenin said so that later on the spontaneous events of the February revolution unfolded in an almost choreographed way and helped guide the October revolution subsequently (and in fact continuing revolutionary developments in the USSR such as later collectivisation).
In particular it throws into sharp relief the shallowness of Trotsky’s conceited and self-aggrandising “theories” and the empty noise of his “permanent revolution” theory, which in 1905 incorrectly called for an immediate push for the working class alone to take power, against the much deeper grasp of the Bolsheviks which said only an alliance with the peasantry was workable.
To this day this mistaken “theory” is claimed by the Trotskyists to be some deeper insight than that of the Bolsheviks, supposedly adopted by Lenin himself in 1917 when he finally “got it” as the cruder Trotskyists (and the arrogant Trotsky himself) assert.
More circumspect fake-“left”s, aware that declaring Lenin to be ploddingly slow on the uptake hardly squares with his titanic output of political and philosophical understanding, put it like this (in the latest CPGB Weekly Worker 25 October eg):
By 1917, Lenin’s conceptualisations and formulations were converging with those of Trotsky (which would soon draw the author of the theory of permanent revolution into the ranks of the Bolsheviks). Of course, Lenin came to this independently of Trotsky, but a radical shift in his thinking can certainly be traced in the documents available to us.
Just what total garbage this patronising assertion is, emerged almost immediately in the early stages of the Soviet state.
Far from being a major influence on the Bolsheviks, Trotsky was comprehensively and scathingly put down by Lenin soon afterwards (adding to two decades of theoretical fights by Lenin against his flightiness, lack of Bolshevik party discipline, siding with the Mensheviks, or of trying to head off important polemical exposés by “conciliating” with liquidators and anti-Bolshevik intellectuals. He was allowed to join the Bolsheviks in 1917, because of his undoubtedly useful talents, but only 12 weeks before the revolution (another opportunist move, when he could see which way the wind was blowing)).
But his arrogance and subjectivism quickly became a problem, particularly in the great dispute over the nature and scope of Soviet trade unions at the Tenth Congress of the Bolshevik Party in 1920. Trotsky’s bureaucratic demands for a party “shake-up”, were considered such mistaken, ill-timed and disruptive mischief-mongering, likely to lead to a dangerous if not fatal split in the hard-pressed newborn Soviet regime that, far from “converging” with Trotsky, it became necessary for Lenin to put a ban on his permanent factionalising (not, Lenin emphasised, a ban on debate or discussion, a later Stalinist error).
As explained fully in one of the EPSR’s earlier books (ILWP books Vol 5 Lenin’s arguments for a strong socialist state against Trotsky’s permanent counter revolution), as Lenin was dying this became an outright counter-revolutionary onslaught in Trotsky’s The New Course, setting the tone for non-stop anti-communism ever since, including telling the working class that the Stalin-led Soviet Union was just as bad as Nazism (Stalin- Hitler Twin Stars) on the eve of the great fascist onslaught of 1941 (which the Soviet Union almost alone fought into the ground) and subsequent Trotskyist support for repeated CIA provocations like the fake “trade union” Solidarnosc in Poland, which turned out to be a complete Pilsudski-loving clerical-fascist counter-revolution, as explained from the beginning by the EPSR (then ILWP).
The Trots of all shades from the SWP to the Spartacists have still not explained why they were supporting a movement that was funded by the CIA and the Vatican’s Banco Ambrosiana, helping topple the Polish workers state and concurrently the Soviet Union (both a relative pushover because of the disastrous liquidation of workers state control by the deluded “free market” and “democracy” idiocies of Gorbachevite revisionism).
“Permanent revolution” in as much as it means anything at all, has been used a key explanation ever since to “prove” that the Soviet Union was “nothing to do with socialism” because “you cannot build socialism in one country”, a defeatist refrain used by the middle class in the West to avoid having to confront the deluge of anti-communist propaganda, particularly at difficult moments when the workers states have to take firm and vigorous defensive action against subversion –in the shooting down of Korean flight 007 for example, or currently in the nuclear weapon development defiance by North Korea.
It was not said by Lenin himself, who argued the exact opposite, particularly in his last articles, saying that the new Soviet state alone had “all the ingredients for building socialism” (see eg ESPR 898 08-04-97 and 1075 06-02-01 ).
Trotsky’s shallow adventurism first emerged in the 1905 revolution when this “theory” proposed a struggle by the working class alone, going past the peasantry, under the slogan “No Tsar but a workers government”.
Lenin’s much deeper analysis argued differently; without an alliance with the peasantry there would no holding of power because the working class was not big enough and conditions not advanced enough to jump ahead.
The peasantry was capitalist in its outlook and therefore would only be willing to support bourgeois democratic measures - including the removal of Tsarist autocracy, under a demand for a republic.
Contradictorily the working class would have to fight to establish capitalism and strengthen the bourgeoisie.
It is from this “paradoxical” point that our error emerges.
The sequence of upheavals in Russia, three great upsurges culminating in the great October Revolution, were not straightforward revolutions for socialism as many simplistically understand it now.
They were revolutions against a backward and festering feudal empire that had lingered on far beyond the great capitalist transformations of western Europe, a reactionary bulwark sprawled across eastern Europe and Asia.
Particularly at the start they could not be socialist at all but bourgeois, serving the class interests of the bourgeoisie.
This point perhaps needs clarifying even in our critic’s useful letter, particularly where it suggests that Lenin did not see the establishment of a bourgeois capitalist state as the proletariat’s first aim.
In the 1905 revolution, the “failed” precursor to the two revolutions of 1917 he emphatically did see that as the proletarians’ immediate aim.
Precisely by realising this aim, it would be able to press on for the realisation of its ultimate aim, which is socialism, using the much freed up conditions of bourgeoisie democracy, and particularly the most extensive version of democracy that could be achieved, to argue for and educate the great masses of the population in the need for socialism, and particularly by educating the poor peasantry (partly labourers and partly very small plot holders) rather than richer employing farmers.
The bourgeois democratic revolution served the interests of the bourgeoisie, he said, but it also served the proletarians by clearing the decks.
A further complication lay in the fact there is more than one layer of the bourgeoisie said Lenin; this was at least a three way fight and it would require a sequence of revolutionary phases.
At the top were the big bourgeoise. These were reluctant to make significant change, despite the fact that shaking themselves free of what Lenin described as the “putrefying” remnants of the old Tsarist autocracy and its semi-serfdom backwardness would be in their economic and political interest as a class.
More than a century before, the 1640s English Revolution under Cromwell and even more definitely, the great 1789 French Revolution, had seen a vigorous new bourgeois class rise up against feudalism.
But as shown by later waves of the European bourgeois revolution, to take things further, in 1830 and especially 1848, the bourgeoisie had lost its historical momentum and simultaneously become much more fearful of the “lower orders”, willing instead to do deals with the old monarchy.
In a world where industry had advanced and the working class was much more widespread, it was afraid that a revolutionary upsurge would stir up so much upheaval that things would “go too far”.
Just how brutal the bourgeoisie could be in the protection of its own interests had already been seen in the suppression of the Paris Commune in 1871 for example when thousands of the working class of Paris were butchered in a bloodbath of unprecedented depravity - thrown from buildings, raped, beheaded, burned and buried alive as well as shot outright.
But the peasants, though also wanting capitalist private ownership, were directly confronting giant feudal land holding and therefore were much more rebellious.
So - in 1905 Lenin says:
Marxists are absolutely convinced of the bourgeois character of the Russian revolution. What does this mean? It means that the democratic reforms in the political system and the social and economic reforms, which have become a necessity for Russia, do not in themselves imply the undermining of capitalism, the undermining of bourgeois rule; on the contrary, they will, for the first time, really clear the ground for a wide and rapid, European, and not Asiatic, development of capitalism; they will, for the first time, make it possible for the bourgeoisie to rule as a class. (ea)The Socialist-Revolutionaries cannot grasp this idea, for they are ignorant of the rudiments of the laws of development of commodity and capitalist production; they fail to see that even the complete success of a peasant insurrection, even the redistribution of the whole of the land for the benefit of the peasants and in accordance with their desires (“Black Redistribution” or something of that kind), will not destroy capitalism at all, but will, on the contrary, give an impetus to its development and hasten the class disintegration of the peasantry itself. The failure to grasp this truth makes the Socialist-Revolutionaries unconscious ideologists of the petty bourgeoisie. Insistence on this truth is of enormous importance for Social-Democracy, not only from the theoretical standpoint but also from the standpoint of practical politics, for from it follows that the complete class independence of the party of the proletariat in the present “general democratic” movement is obligatory.
But it does not at all follow from this that a democratic revolution (bourgeois in its social and economic substance) is not of enormous interest for the proletariat. It does not at all follow from this that the democratic revolution cannot take place in a form advantageous mainly to the big capitalist, the financial magnate and the “enlightened” landlord, as well as in a form advantageous to the peasant and to the worker.
The new-Iskraists thoroughly misunderstand the meaning and significance of the category: bourgeois revolution. Through their arguments there constantly runs the idea that a bourgeois revolution is a revolution which can be advantageous only to the bourgeoisie. And yet nothing is more erroneous than such an idea. A bourgeois revolution is a revolution which does not go beyond the limits of the bourgeois, i.e., capitalist, social and economic system. A bourgeois revolution expresses the need for the development of capitalism, and far from destroying the foundations of capitalism, it does the opposite, it broadens and deepens them. This revolution therefore expresses the interests not only of the working class, but of the entire bourgeoisie as well. Since the rule of the bourgeoisie over the working class is inevitable under capitalism, it is quite correct to say that a bourgeois revolution expresses the interests not so much of the proletariat as of the bourgeoisie. But it is entirely absurd to think that a bourgeois revolution does not express the interests of the proletariat at all. This absurd idea boils down either to the hoary Narodnik theory that a bourgeois revolution runs counter to the interests of the proletariat, and that therefore we do not need bourgeois political liberty; or to anarchism, which rejects all participation of the proletariat in bourgeois politics, in a bourgeois revolution and in bourgeois parliamentarism. From the standpoint of theory, this idea disregards the elementary propositions of Marxism concerning the inevitability of capitalist development where commodity production exists. Marxism teaches that a society which is based on commodity production, and which has commercial intercourse with civilised capitalist nations, at a certain stage of its development, itself, inevitably takes the road of capitalism. Marxism has irrevocably broken with the ravings of the Narodniks and the anarchists to the effect that Russia, for instance, can avoid capitalist development, jump out of capitalism, or skip over it and proceed along some path other than the path of the class struggle on the basis and within the framework of this same capitalism.
All these principles of Marxism have been proved and explained over and over again in minute detail in general and with regard to Russia in particular. And from these principles it follows that the idea of seeking salvation for the working class in anything save the further development of capitalism is reactionary. In countries like Russia, the working class suffers not so much from capitalism as from the insufficient development of capitalism. The working class suffers not so much from capitalism as from the insufficient development of capitalism. The working class is therefore decidedly interested in the broadest, freest and most rapid development of capitalism. The removal of all the remnants of the old order which are hampering the broad, free and rapid development of capitalism is of decided advantage to the working class. The bourgeois revolution is precisely a revolution that most resolutely sweeps away the survivals of the past, the remnants of serfdom (which include not only autocracy but monarchy as well) and most fully guarantees the broadest, freest and most rapid development of capitalism.
That is why a bourgeois revolution is in the highest degree advantageous to the proletariat. A bourgeois revolution is absolutely necessary in the interests of the proletariat. The more complete and determined, the more consistent the bourgeois revolution, the more assured will be the proletarian struggle against the bourgeoisie for Socialism. Only those who are ignorant of the rudiments of scientific Socialism can regard this conclusion as new or strange, paradoxical. And from this conclusion, among other things, follows the thesis that, in a certain sense, a bourgeois revolution is more advantageous to the proletariat than to the bourgeoisie. This thesis is unquestionably correct in the following sense: it is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie to rely on certain remnants of the past as against the proletariat, for instance, on the monarchy, the standing army, etc. It is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie if the bourgeois revolution does not too resolutely sweep away all the remnants of the past, but leaves some of them, i.e., if this revolution is not fully consistent, if it is not complete and if it is not determined and relentless. Social-Democrats often express this idea somewhat differently by stating that the bourgeoisie betrays its own self, that the bourgeoisie betrays the cause of liberty, that the bourgeoisie is incapable of being consistently democratic. It is of greater advantage to the bourgeoisie if the necessary changes in the direction of bourgeois democracy take place more slowly, more gradually, more cautiously, less resolutely, by means of reforms and not by means of revolution; if these changes spare the “venerable” institutions of serfdom (such as the monarchy) as much as possible; if these changes develop as little as possible the independent revolutionary activity, initiative and energy of the common people, i.e., the peasantry and especially the workers, for otherwise it will be easier for the workers, as the French say, “to hitch the rifle from one shoulder to the other,” i.e., to turn against the bourgeoisie the guns which the bourgeois revolution will place in their hands, the liberty which the revolution will bring, the democratic institutions which will spring up on the ground that is cleared of serfdom.
On the other hand, it is more advantageous for the working class if the necessary changes in the direction of bourgeois democracy take place by way of revolution and not by way of reform; for the way of reform is the way of delay, of procrastination, of the painfully slow decomposition of the putrid parts of the national organism. It is the proletariat and the peasantry that suffer first of all and most of all from their putrefaction. The revolutionary way is the way of quick amputation, which is the least painful to the proletariat, the way of the direct removal of the decomposing parts, the way of fewest concessions to and least consideration for the monarchy and the disgusting, vile, rotten and contaminating institutions which go with it.
So it is not only because of the censorship, not only “for fear of the Jews,” that our bourgeois-liberal press deplores the possibility of a revolutionary way, is afraid of revolution, tries to frighten the tsar with the bogey of revolution, is anxious to avoid revolution, grovels and toadies for the sake of miserable reforms as a basis for a reformist way. This standpoint is shared not only by the Russkiye Vedomosti, Syn Otechestva, Nasha Zhizn and Nashi Dni, but also by the illegal, uncensored Osvobozhdeniye. The very position the bourgeoisie occupies as a class in capitalist society inevitably causes it to be inconsistent in a democratic revolution. The very position the proletariat occupies as a class compels it to be consistently democratic. The bourgeoisie looks backward, fearing democratic progress, which threatens to strengthen the proletariat. The proletariat has nothing to lose but its chains, but with the aid of democracy it has the whole world to gain. That is why the more consistent the bourgeois revolution is in achieving its democratic changes, the less will it limit itself to what is of advantage exclusively to the bourgeoisie. The more consistent the bourgeois revolution, the more does it guarantee the proletariat and the peasantry the benefits accruing from the democratic revolution.
Marxism teaches the proletarian not to keep aloof from the bourgeois revolution, not to be indifferent to it, not to allow the leadership of the revolution to be assumed by the bourgeoisie but, on the contrary, to take a most energetic part in it, to fight most resolutely for consistent proletarian democracy, for carrying the revolution to its conclusion. We cannot jump out of the bourgeois-democratic boundaries of the Russian revolution, but we can vastly extend these boundaries, and within these boundaries we can and must fight for the interests of the proletariat, for its immediate needs and for the conditions that will make it possible to prepare its forces for the future complete victory. There is bourgeois democracy and bourgeois democracy. The Zemstvo monarchist who favours an upper chamber, and who “asks” for universal suffrage while secretly, on the sly, striking a bargain with tsarism for a curtailed constitution, is also a bourgeois-democrat. And the peasant who is fighting, arms in hand, against the landlords and the government officials and with a “naïve republicanism” proposes “to send the tsar packing”, is also a bourgeois-democrat. There are bourgeois-democratic regimes like the one in Germany and also in England, like the one in Austria and also like those in America or Switzerland. He would be a fine Marxist indeed, who in a period of democratic revolution failed to see the difference between the degrees of democracy, the difference of its various forms and confined himself to “clever” remarks to the effect that, after all, this is “a bourgeois revolution,” the fruits of a “bourgeois revolution.”
Our new-Iskraists are just such clever fellows flaunting their shortsightedness. They confine themselves to disquisitions on the bourgeois character of the revolution just when and where it is necessary to be able to draw a distinction between republican-revolutionary and monarchist-liberal bourgeois democracy, to say nothing of the distinction between inconsistent bourgeois democratism and consistent proletarian democratism.
Two tactics of Social-Demcocracy in the Democratic Revolution Pamphlet1905
It is not the case that the working class will be able to press on to socialism immediately either, says Lenin earlier in his Two Tactics article. A huge amount of work is needed:
Only the most ignorant people can ignore the bourgeois nature of the democratic revolution which is now taking place; only the most naive optimists can forget how little as yet the masses of the workers are informed about the aims of Socialism and about the methods of achieving it. And we are all convinced that the emancipation of the workers can be effected only by the workers themselves; a socialist revolution is out of the question unless the masses become class conscious and organised, trained and educated in open class struggle against the entire bourgeoisie. In answer to the anarchist objections that we are putting off the socialist revolution, we say: we are not putting it off, but we are taking the first step towards it in the only possible way, along the only correct road, namely, the road of a democratic republic. Whoever wants to reach Socialism by a different road, other than that of political democracy, will inevitably arrive at conclusions that are absurd and reactionary both in the economic and the political sense. If any workers ask us at the given moment why we should not go ahead and carry out our maximum program, we shall answer by pointing out how far the masses of the democratically-minded people still are from Socialism, how undeveloped class antagonisms still are, how unorganised the proletarians still are. Organise hundreds of thousands of workers all over Russia; enlist the sympathy of millions for our program! Try to do this without confining yourselves to high-sounding but hollow anarchist phrases—and you will see at once that in order to achieve this organisation, in order to spread this socialist enlightenment, we must achieve the fullest possible measure of democratic reforms.
The “anarchist phrases” Lenin was attacking included Trotsky’s notions of going for a workers’ government and confronting the peasantry. Such a fight would have to come Lenin said but only after much more development of the economy and political enlightenment.
He was more direct later on when events died down. At the risk of using “scraps of quotations” ourselves he said:
As for Trotsky, whom Comrade Martov has involved in the controversy of third parties which he has organised— a controversy involving everybody except the dissentient— we positively cannot go into a full examination of his views here. A separate article of considerable length would be needed for this. By just touching upon Trotsky’s mistaken views, and quoting scraps of them, Comrade Martov only sows confusion in the mind of the reader, for scraps of quotations do not explain but confuse matters. Trotsky’s major mistake is that he ignores the bourgeois character of the revolution and has no clear conception of the transition from this revolution to the socialist revolution.
Trotsky bolstered his view with the possibility that the revolution would trigger revolt throughout Europe, in the advanced economies where most Marxists had expected revolution to come first, because that was where the major, experienced working class forces existed. That such events could then help them, was not ruled out by the Bolsheviks, but Lenin was cautious and certainly not counting on any such thing.
Better to rely on the combined revolutionary force of the peasantry and proletariat, he says:
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.
How far such a victory is probable is another question. We are not in the least inclined to be unreasonably optimistic on that score; we do not for a moment forget the immense difficulties of this task, but, since we are out to fight, we must desire victory and be able to point out the right road to it. Trends capable of leading to such a victory undoubtedly exist. True, our influence on the masses of the proletariat—the Social-Democratic influence—is as yet very, very inadequate; the revolutionary influence on the mass of the peasantry is quite insignificant; the proletarians, and especially the peasants, are still frightfully disunited, backward, and ignorant. However, revolution unites rapidly and enlightens rapidly.
Two tactics of Social-Demcocracy in the Democratic Revolution Pamphlet1905
Socialist revolution sparked in Europe could in turn aid the Russians agrees Lenin, but to count on it would be a mistake.
Conversely, to declare that without such a conflagration it was not possible to advance would be pure defeatist subjectivism – the hallmark of Trotsky’s “impossible to build socialism in one country” sophistry and the main basis for “proving” that the huge advances of the Soviet Union over 70 years were all a “disaster” and deserving only to be overthrown.
That has been the real vile counter-revolutionary import of the “political revolution” so long advocated by the sour armchair “revolutionaries” of this tradition, which proved to be nothing but the overturn of the workers states and restoration of capitalism across the USSR and East Europe, a disaster of blighted lives, staggering poverty and horrific social breakdown throughout the 1990s and a continuing mess of reactionary nationalism, gangster oligarchism and the restoration of primitive religious superstition to numb brains and dull minds.
It is only tempered now by desperate unrestrained oil and mineral sales (highly vulnerable to market collapses) and some reformist concessions by Putin and others’ Bonapartism, (like the latest Czech election elevation of a demagogic billionaire) trying to keep the lid on a revival of communist feeling as the “free market” is increasingly seen through.
This “No Tsar” slogan was an early symptom of Trotsky’s inability to examine and assess the concrete detail of the class forces developing and the possibilities for leading the working class by the quickest path towards the necessary historical overturn of capitalism forever.
Lenin’s argument in 1905 was that paradoxically, that path to proletarian socialism and the classless communist society beyond it, lay through an alliance with the peasantry which would go no further than capitalism.
It should retain its arms while going all the way to forming a provisional government in which, if possible, it should participate to push through the broadest democratic changes from above (if possible).
How things might develop beyond that is - as our letter correctly expresses - an open question.
The question did not arise.
A period of vicious reaction was seen in Russia eventually after the mass proletarian and peasant upheavals ran out of steam in 1907 and Tsarism was able to mount a constitutional “coup” shutting down the newly established parliament (Duma) and replacing it with a highly selective version of a “democratic” assembly, the Third Duma with a suffrage heavily skewed towards reaction and with limited powers.
While that did not turn the clock back entirely, the subsequent period of transition towards a “constitutional monarchy”, was carried through with the minimum of concessions to “freedom” and maximum repression under the vicious “hangman” Pyotr Stolypin, continuing the class rule of feudalism and largescale land ownership in collusion with the biggest bourgeoisie only.
It was the extreme repressiveness and degeneration of this counter-revolutionary period which was one element in triggering the February and October 1917 revolutions eventually.
And it was the experiences made in the 1905 period which helped inform the Bolshevik strategy and understanding as that happened.
But that was not as obvious as it seemed; as with all Marxist science, analysis has to begin with concrete events and these were to shake up understanding profoundly – with Lenin at the forefront.
Straight after the February events Lenin was able to return to Russia in the famous “sealed train” across Germany, after negotiations with the German ruling authorities and immediately embarked on a battle with the majority of the Bolsheviks already there.
The “Old Bolsheviks” as Lenin characterised them in a sharp polemical struggle, were analysing events along the lines of the 1905 understanding; they reasoned that while the bourgeoisie had toppled the Tsar, that was only the big bourgeoisie - the next “stage” in which the peasantry would rise up to take over the great landed estates (as it did shortly afterwards) was still needed, to “complete” the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry.
Lenin argued that events had moved on and the possibility had opened up to push for the proletariat to take the lead and to begin laying the groundwork for socialism, even if it would not yet be possible to develop much of the still backward Tsarist economy in an outright socialist fashion.
It was a giant and complex shift in political understanding and strategy which the Trotskyists still claim to be Lenin finally coming round to the views held by Trotsky, the infamous “convergence” cited above.
But they are missing the point even more completely than the Old Bolsheviks did, whose formulas were as dead as Monty Python’s parrot.
It was not Lenin’s views that had changed at all; it was the real world.
And he was the only one to see it (initially).
What the Bolsheviks were confronted with was an extraordinary double revolution, where the big bourgeoisie had taken power, forcing the Tsar to abdicate (possibly in cahoots with imperialist allies like Britain and France) in order to continue the world war, a war of imperialist plunder and colonialist thievery.
At the same time, “interleaved” with that revolution was the dictatorship of the peasantry and the proletariat, “already completed” to a large extent at least, in form of the various Soviets of workers, of soldiers (mainly peasants) and of peasants.
Conditions were already ripe to move on, Lenin argued, and in fact not to do so risked everything, as the petty bourgeois dominated Soviet “dual power” was voluntarily handing its power back to the big bourgeoisie and the continued pursuit of warmongering.
The urgent task was to split the middling and poor peasants ( - already being proletarianised -) away from the richer capitalist peasants, the kulaks:
First. The question of “completion” of the bourgeois-democratic revolution is stated wrongly. The question is put in an abstract, simple, so to speak one-colour, way, which does not correspond to the objective reality. To put the question this way, to ask now “whether the bourgeois-democratic revolution is completed” and say no more, is to prevent oneself from seeing the exceedingly complex reality, which is at least two-coloured. This is in theory. In practice, it means surrendering helplessly to petty-bourgeois revolutionism.
Indeed, reality shows us both the passing of power into the hands of the bourgeoisie (a “completed” bourgeois-democratic revolution of the usual type) and, side by side with the real government, the existence of a parallel government which represents the “revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry”. This “second government” has itself ceded the power to the bourgeoisie, has chained itself to the bourgeois government.
Is this reality covered by Comrade Kamenev’s old Bolshevik formula, which says that “the bourgeois-democratic revolution is not completed”?
It is not. The formula is obsolete. It is no good at all. It is dead. And it is no use trying to revive it.
I am deeply convinced that the Soviets will make the independent activity of the masses a reality more quickly and effectively than will a parliamentary republic (I shall compare the two types of state in greater detail in another letter). They will more effectively, more practically and more correctly decide what steps can be taken towards socialism and how these steps should be taken. Control over a bank, the merging of all banks into one, is not yet socialism, but it is a step towards socialism. Today such steps are being taken in Germany by the Junkers and the bourgeoisie against the people. Tomorrow the Soviet will be able to take these steps more effectively for the benefit of the people if the whole state power is in its hands.
What compels such steps?
Famine. Economic disorganisation. Imminent collapse. The horrors of war. The horrors of the wounds inflicted on mankind by the war.
Letters on Tactics 1917
This was an argument far beyond Trotsky’s simplistic proletarians-only line. Lenin specifically says that he is still not arguing for conflict with the peasantry, as quoted more fully in the discussion last week:
But are we not in danger of falling into subjectivism, of wanting to arrive at the socialist revolution by “skipping” the bourgeois-democratic revolution—which is not yet completed and has not yet exhausted the peasant movement?
I might be incurring this danger if I said: “No Tsar, but a workers’ government.” But I did not say that, I said something else. I said that there can be no government (barring a bourgeois government) in Russia other than that of the Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Labourers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies. I said that power in Russia now can pass from Guchkov and Lvov only to these Soviets. And in these Soviets, as it happens, it is the peasants, the soldiers, i.e., petty bourgeoisie, who preponderate, to use a scientific, Marxist term, a class characterisation, and not a common, man-in-the-street, professional characterisation.
In my theses, I absolutely ensured myself against skipping over the peasant movement, which has not outlived itself, or the petty-bourgeois movement in general, against any playing at “seizure of power” by a workers’ government, against any kind of Blanquist adventurism;
Letters on Tactics, First Letter, Priboi Publishers, April 1917
But this certainly was setting a path to win proletarian dominance in the Soviets, breaking them from the bourgeois government’s continued warring, and leading to the virtually bloodless October overthrow (it was only the counter revolution and imperialist intervention which imposed later civil war horrors) establishing the full and sole authority of the Soviets, which under proletarian (Bolshevik) guidance began to lay the groundwork for socialism.
The fight would go on, and despite all later flaws in revisionism, was successfully carried through in the next decades by the new workers state. As understood as far back as 1905, the development of capitalist farming in the countryside eventually sharpened class antagonisms intolerably, necessitating a new phase of the struggle to establish proletarian large-scale farming, collectivisation.
That was virtually a new class war, civil war, and was successfully pursued by the Stalin-led workers state, as it strengthened itself for the great WW2 onslaughts to come.
Criticism of how that was done, crudely and with what excesses is an issue still to be explored as objective, (not imperialist demonisation) historical details are revealed: the EPSR is no Stalin worshipper, taking a lead in analysing his revisionist failings that led to eventual liquidation of the titanically successful USSR in 1989-91 (see Unanswered Polemics already cited).
But clarifying all that is not illuminated by Trotsky’s endless carping and hostility.
Clarifying our error is important too - only through such polemics can a scientific perspective of revolution be established. Build Leninism
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