No 1536 8th June 2018
Washington trade war aggression is next phase of descent into world war begun 20 years ago with blitzing of Serbia, then Iraq and Afghanistan. It can only get far worse as monopoly capitalism’s crisis relentlessly heads into the greatest Catastrophic breakdown in all history with QE failing and dollar collapse due. Backward chauvinism and hatred of foreigners now deliberately stirred up using every propaganda trick in the book from Brexit scapegoating to “bogeyman” anti-Russian panics to endless “terrorism” scares and stunts. Trumpite belligerence is no aberration or “loose cannon” but the deliberate face of fascist aggression wanted and needed by a collapsing imperialist ruling class which has only brute force “might is right” intimidation left to suppress the world and make it pay for the intractable failure of the private profit system. Laughable CIA-Zionist anti-semitism stunt fails to head off growing hostility to vicious Jewish occupation of Palestine at the forefront of imperialist war threats. Defeat for the Zionists and all imperialism needed on road to revolution and Leninism with it.
The sharpening antagonisms of the international capitalist crisis, now ratcheted up by Donald Trump’s trade war tariffs, challenge the entire fake-“left” to stop prevaricating and evading the only serious perspective there can be for saving the world from devastation and destruction.
That is the development once again of Leninist revolutionary theory for leading the overthrow of the capitalist system and the establishment of workers states, of the kind built in the Soviet Union but done better.
The constant uncomprehending and philistine sneer, rooted in petty bourgeois fearfulness, that it is just “hysterical catastrophism” or “premature” to talk of such revolutionary perspectives is going to look sicker and sicker by the minute.
It already does.
The world is in revolutionary crisis and it is not going away.
These aggressive tariff moves signal the next stage, the breakdown of imperialist dominated world “cooperation” and the “international community” of grotesquely hypocritical pretences about a well-meaning “world order” of “democracy”, “decency” and the “rule of law”.
Instead, the deliberate targeting of Europe and Canada for the steel and aluminium tariffs gives new confirmation to Marxism’s constant warnings to the working class that the monopoly capitalist system is heading for all out war – and on a grand inter-imperialist scale between the greatest powers.
The great and ever-more consolidated monopoly combines and finance houses have been slugging it out for world market share for decades, with increasing antagonisms between the big protective trade groupings and blocs, like dominant US imperialism, Europe and Japan, particularly intense.
Smaller rising powers add to the pressure and Chinese production, using capitalist methods but growing fast under the more efficient conditions of an overall, still-workers-state planned and directed economy (albeit hamstrung by revisionist illusions), has added new complications with even more production.
But the ever expanding capacities and output of all the capitalist companies simply swamp the world with products that increasingly hard-pressed mass populations cannot afford, because their ruthless exploitation by capital means the sum total of their wages will never be enough to buy the whole output (which is ludicrously overdone anyway in profit-making terms by the relentless competition of the great multinationals, all necessarily with ambitions to produce enough for the entire world market if they are to outdo their rivals and survive).
The accumulating “overproduction” and “surplus” capital (as far as making a profit is concerned – not for the needs of the desperate masses of the world) can only clog the system bringing it repeatedly to slump disaster and mass bankruptcies.
But even that is not enough – physical destruction of production and infrastructure is the only “solution” which can restore profitability and let the ruling class keep its system going (wiping out rivals at the same time).
Both the material history of two twentieth century world wars, and theoretical principles (first discovered by Karl Marx, – see EPSR box, Capital and the Communist Manifesto eg) make it clear there can be no reversing of this disastrous economic implosion.
And there can be no reduction in the antagonisms built into the whole production for private profit system (the pipe-dream of reformist “regulation, fair tax and control”).
Only war will do for the scale of destruction needed.
This is capitalist Catastrophe, the gigantic crisis which has unravelled for decades in regional bankruptcies, collapses, stagnation, currency and credit failures even as the US dominated system has sustained the greatest ever “boomtime” in history for itself and some of the “allied” richest countries, demanding a share of the spoils to keep them on side and head off communist revolt.
Decades of massive and constant issuing of Mickey Mouse dollar credit (paying out $billions in bribery for local stooge fascism and repression and tax “cuts” for the rich at home) kept the wheels spinning and a lid on the ever intensifying ferment of potential anti-imperialist revolt throughout the Third World’s brutally exploited populations.
But it has always been heading for the great disaster which emerged in full in the global banking meltdown of 2008.
Frantic “Quantitative Easing” swamping of the world with even more valueless dollar credit along with insanely low interest rates (thieving the savings and pensions of hundreds of millions of ordinary people) has kept the world economic and trading system’s head above water since.
But it is impossible to stave off Slump for long, as Marxist-Leninism’s lone voice has insisted, as each partial collapse returns on a bigger scale and eventually erupts into the American centred world bank collapses ten years ago, threatening international paralysis and Slump.
And the next economic failure when QE too falters?????
The EPSR has long suggested that total world collapse of the dollar is inevitable and increasingly such warnings are made by bourgeois financiers and economists (see recent EPSRs).
Hence the (re)turn to all out bullying aggression by the biggest power of all, declaring that the rest of the world must pay the price including all the other imperialist powers previously sharing in the exploited Third World booty (according to their size and place in the pecking order).
It means World War Three.
That is the final outcome of the devastation which has already been imposed, directly or indirectly, on one small country after another since the 1990s Iraq siege and Yugoslavian breakup, culminating in Serbia’s blitzing, then Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia.
City after city has been razed, and country after country devastated with maiming, butchering, and torturing of tens of millions (resistance and many civilians), or the driving of them out of their anyway pulverised towns and homes, many deliberately left starving and destitute as in Yemen right now.
Under the ludicrous lying pretence of a “war on terror” to stir up fearfulness and chauvinist backwardness at home, to “justify” the onslaughts against “nations who do not abide by civilised norms”, a stream of barbarities and depravities equal to or worse then anything seen in centuries of already gruesome Western colonialism (a litany of unspeakable non-stop massacres, genocide and war terror) have already been imposed in the Middle East.
Deadly destruction has also been visited on the east of Ukraine, slaughtering thousands to suppress working class revolt, and even worse throughout the Congo and other parts of Africa is non-stop.
Sabotage, “legal coups” and economic “sanction” blockades, supplemented by provoked violent “dissent”, disrupt and frustrate left-reformist efforts to improve lives in Latin America.
Imperialism alone bears responsibility for this world mayhem, driven by its desperate efforts to squirm away from and cover-up the greatest economic and political breakdown in history, which will make the 1930s Depression and subsequent world war (part two of the 1914-18 Great War) pale into insignificance.
Demented scaremongering against “evil terrorists” or Russian bogeymen, or Chinese “unfairness” etc continue to pour out from the intelligence agencies via a compliant media, to acclimatise the entire world into the necessary atmosphere for extending this war blitzing and devastation, to destroy the huge “surpluses” of production and capital clogging the system.
It goes hand in hand with the “import controls” and anti-migrant scapegoating hatred being inflamed by the deliberate fostering of the vilest chauvinism and narrow nationalism everywhere, via Brexit in the UK, through the Alternative für Deutschland, with the newly elected Lega Nord/M5S in Italy and throughout the former workers states of eastern Europe.
But the “austerity” slump and brutal war impositions have only escalated the problems and the world resistance.
In breakdown and chaos the masses everywhere and working class in even the richest countries are increasingly confronted with the impossibility of living in the old way.
Rebellion and upheaval is inevitable, just as the Third World has seen already in waves of “terrorist” revolt and jihadism, in street-filled multi-million demonstrations (toppling Tunisia’s dictator and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt), in the working class resistance to the Kiev Nazis installed in Ukraine and, most of all, in the ever more dogged revolt of the genocidally persecuted Palestinians.
What is missing in the world for all this spontaneous rebellion is the leadership to educate and guide it through to the defeat and complete overturn of all capitalist imperialism.
A giant vacuum has been left by revisionist retreat from revolution over decades, by both the Moscow leadership of the Soviet Union and by the even worse Trotskyist “opposition”, so poisoned by petty bourgeois conceit and hostility to workers state discipline, that it could not even recognise the giant achievements and victories that were made by the 70 years of the USSR, before it was stupidly liquidated by Gorbachevism’s final expression of Stalinist mistakes and theoretical errors.
The first great task therefore is to win over more advanced workers (and intellectuals) to build parties of trained revolutionary cadres capable of developing the scientific Leninist understanding needed by the working class to unite it and carry through the great class war turnover of existing society, to defeat and topple the ruling class and seize the means of production into its own hands.
Only that way can there be the planned and rational use of the world’s factories, farms, mines and resources, in a worldwide cooperative system for the benefit of all in which for the first time full flourishing of all will be achieved in the only way it can be, through the establishing the best possible conditions for every individual.
Such a huge challenge demands not just the rebuilding of scientific Marxist-Leninist understanding and perspectives in the teeth of revisionist complacency, rampant cynicism and anti-communist hostility from the great swamp of the fake-“left”, but a massive extension and expansion of Leninism, taking forwards even the huge theoretical achievements of the great figures Marx, Engels and Lenin (and some of the additional if flawed grasp of Mao Tse Tung, Fidel Castro and others, mostly unfortunately influenced by revisionism themselves) as well as the understanding the EPSR has struggled for, over almost four decades in over 1500 papers and books.
That in turn requires examining all the great questions of the past century and most of all that of the huge and titanic achievements the Soviet Union (mostly without a single capitalist in sight), over 70 years of massively inspirational workers state construction and its huge aid and support for worldwide socialist movements (Vietnam, Cuba eg), and for anti-imperialist national liberation struggles pushing back colonialism.
As well as battling to explain the great triumphs of the USSR and the other subsequent workers states like Cuba, China, Vietnam and North Korea, there has to be a deep analysis of the failings in leadership and theoretical mistakes from the 1920s onwards which led to steadily increasing retreat from revolutionary perspectives and the revisionist bureaucratic complacency in Moscow which gave up completely in 1989 to turn to the supposed “advantages” of the “free market” (which led to the carpet-bagging capitalist gangster-oligarch restoration of the 1990s, only marginally tempered since by Putin’s current Bonapartist balancing act with the legacy of Sovietism, to restrain the worst of the gangsterism).
And that requires the return to the great open polemical struggles to tackle all such questions in order to establish a coherent and correct understanding of the world where it is possible, and to make the best assessments possible on that foundation, of the continuing emerging elements of the world class struggle driven by the crisis.
Constantly taking understanding forwards of the shifting balance of class forces is vital to educate and guide the working class which will otherwise be constantly hoodwinked and befuddled by the deluges of bourgeois propaganda and brainwashing lies against communism that pour out of every “cultural” orifice morning noon and night in every possible variation (including much of the alleged “left” revolutionary fakery).
During the “boom” period capitalism has succeeded in the main by filling heads with consumerism and shallow “celebrity” instead, encouraging already present anti-theory attitudes, but the crisis will increasingly force a turn to more serious thinking.
Theoretical debate is exactly what the ruling class wants to suppress, with Tory Home Secretary Savid Javid now making yet new extensions to brainwashing and censorship programmes like Prevent, and to universal surveillance, and encouragement for police state finking informers, all ostensibly aimed at “stopping terrorism” and “radicalisation” of individuals and with the additional humbug pretence of “also suppressing rightwing extremism”, but with the real and deliberately unstated purpose of finding and blocking revolutionary Marxism.
It goes together with campaigns like the ridiculous “left anti-semitism” stunt devised by the CIA and Zionism to face down rapidly growing popular hostility to the barbarities of the “Israeli”-Jewish occupation of Palestine, tapping into PC single-issue moralising confusions about “racism” to head off understanding of the need to overthrow this colonialist imposition completely, as part of overthrowing all imperialism (of which more below).
But this intensified capitalist state bureaucratic repression, raising all kinds of “free speech” and Big Brother alarm among some of the more thoughtful bourgeois commentators (such as Simon Jenkins recently), will not stop the great debate from unfolding.
Just the opposite; like every prohibition law in history, it reflects the presence of what is being banned.
Some stirrings have been seen in a sideways direction in website discussions recently between the out and out Trotskyist group Socialist Fight and a former EPSR supporter (and current sympathiser) arguing for revolutionary Marxism.
For the moment this serves mainly to illustrate further the narrowness and incomprehension of the fake-“left” about the significance of theory at all as in this recent contribution to a discussion on Corbynite kowtowing to the alleged “left anti-semitism” smokescreen, and its significance in confirming yet again the class collaborating reactionariness of Labourism.
And as always with the Trots it comes laden with parroted fragments of the latest lying bourgeois anti-communist propaganda, doing the capitalists’ brainwashing for them, and missing the point completely of the enormous history-shattering triumph of the Soviet defeat of Western fascism in 1945.
But a few contradictions being driven out by the relentlessly deepening crisis show through the cracks:
If Stalin had built socialism in the USSR, then capitalist restoration could never have happened in Russia and the wider USSR. The fact that it has completely refutes the theory that a socialist society can be built in one country, particularly in a backward country, or even several backward countries on a piecemeal, nationalist basis.
This is because to preclude the possibility of capitalist restoration, socialism MUST be more productive than the most advanced capitalism. Which means that the proletariat of the advanced countries must take power.
World revolution is not an optional extra, but a material necessity for socialism. Those who repudiated the necessity for world revolution to preserve the USSR, undermined the social gains of the first workers state, which could only be defended by the extension of the revolution to advanced countries.
The EPSR attack on ‘revisionism’ is virtually meaningless, as this revisionist attack on proletarian internationalism IS the core of Stalinism’s betrayal of Marxism.
The USSR’s struggle against Nazi Germany was a progressive war, in defence of the social foundations of the revolution. But it was waged by a reactionary nationalist leadership that preferred the ‘patriotic’ Russian Orthodox Church to the banner of Bolshevism to fight the invaders. It even formally dissolved the Comintern to emphasise its nationalism.
How is it surprising that in this context, even during a progressive war, nationalist crimes were committed? Rape of women in a conquered country is a classic nationalist crime. Revenge – nation against nation, instead of an appeal for class unity along national lines.
The French Communist leader Thorez, on Germany’s defeat, exclaimed “everybody get a Hun” advocating retaliation against German workers for the crimes of the Nazis. The British CP supported the bombing of Hamburg and Dresden, terrible crimes of British imperialism. The CPUSA supported the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagaski.
Chris does not deny that the mass rape of German women took place. It is well documented. He just implies that is in some way reprehensible to mention it. But we are opponents of nationalist crimes, and defenders of the rights of women not to be raped.
This approach is a bit similar to Zionists who say that it is wrong and invidious to mention the ethnic cleansing of Palestine (which was carried out with Soviet-bloc weaponry) because of the terrible things that were done to Jews by anti-Semites in WW2. But ALL nationalist crimes need to be criticised if we are genuine internationalists.
There is a difference between catastrophism, and dealing with concrete catastrophes. Catastrophism is a blight on the post war left because it provides the illusion that economic and political dynamics alone will lead to revolution. Hence an independent Marxist current is liquidated; the ‘Marxist’ group becomes a pressure group on other forces to do the job instead. Like the Soviet ‘revisionists’ who the EPSR half-condemns, but whose central revisionism they endorse. Without an independent Marxist leadership and party, hostile to all labour bureaucracies, even the ruinous nationalism of Trump will not lead to revolution.
The EPSR's commentary on the ‘anti-Semitism’ purge in Labour is abstract propaganda, as it has nothing to say in defence of the targets of the witchhunt: Livingstone, Greenstein, Walker, Wadsworth etc. On the grounds that they are all rotten Labourites and no different to the neocon Blairites who are purging them. But if this were true, there would be no need for this purge in the first place.
In reality, this is abstraction for fear that to say anything concrete would lead to opportunism. But this is inverted opportunism, opportunism in fear of itself. The comrades should break from this method.
With such a tangle of poisonous falsehoods and outright gibberish here, like the last paragraph, it is hard to know where to start.
But loading up the first section with the tired, poisonous and long discredited Trotskyist defeatism about it being “impossible” to build “socialism in one country” is simply a diversionary smokescreen against the EPSR, trying to cover-up the SF’s embarrassment for being caught out still supporting the Corbynite wing of the Labour Party even as it confirms its class collaboration treachery in the particularly invidious pro-Zionist form of “left anti-semitism” purges. To deal with the feint first: As explained above, from 1917 onwards the USSR carried through gigantic work building a workers state in Russia and the allied republics in the teeth of constant skulduggery and counter-revolutionary imperialist military interventions – and in one country, exactly as Lenin had argued was possible and necessary in the years after the October revolution (see eg quotes in EPSR 870 and 890 and article following) and as Fidel Castro equally argued for Cuba.
The hopelessly defeatist alternative would have been that the working class give up its ambitions for socialism until the entire world could be coordinated to make revolution at the same time, including obviously into the heart of its greatest power the USA.
It is an idealist nonsense.
Of course success for the class war in one country can only be an interim phase of world revolution, needing to push onwards for the complete overturn of imperialism which is vital for both preventing counter-revolution and for the full development of a planned and cooperative world economy that alone can tackle the ever more disgusting inequality of its system, its aggressive warmongering and the giant disasters (ecological chaos, species extinction, global warming, plastics pollution etc etc etc) being left by capitalism’s wasteful, trampling exploitation.
And in many ways the Soviet Union did exactly that with much to inspire and aid anti-imperialist struggle worldwide, including arming the Spanish anti-Franco struggle (at great risk in an imperialist world looking for an excuse to attack the newly established USSR still recovering from the three year civil war until 1921) and in huge contributions to training millions of Third World technicians, engineers and teachers post-WWII, as well as technical and military aid (eg to China’s revolution, building the Aswan dam for Egyptian nationalism, helping arm Vietnam, supporting Cuba, training newly socialist Afghanistan teachers etc in the 1980s).
Certainly this was hampered by the weaknesses and errors of Stalinist leadership, and there was a retreat by Moscow from revolutionary perspectives identifiable in embryo even in the 1920s.
These philosophical failings (that eventually led to the 1989-91 liquidation of the Soviet workers state) need analysing in depth.
And it is the EPSR alone which has started to tackle that question (see Unanswered Polemics book 21 eg) against current Stalin-worshipping revisionism which ignores and covers up Stalin’s and its own mistakes; against Cuban, Chinese and other continuing workers state revisionism’s failure to get to the bottom of and explain Soviet mistakes; and against the Trotskyist shallowness wanting to throw the baby of Soviet achievement out with the revisionist mistakes bathwater, which long ago turned Trot “criticism” from an “opposition” into the outright counter-revolutionary bile it has been (also see EPSR books 3,4,5,6 and 7 and the current discussion in this paper) equating the Soviet Union with Hitler (!!!).
The Trot poison has long been an obstacle to understanding Moscow’s mistakes which were a lot more complex than this Socialist Fight junior-school “logic” formula, supposedly “proving” the impossibility of any socialism in the USSR by using the purest idealism to declare what a socialist state “must be”, supposedly coming into the world fully formed as the “perfect revolution” of completely “moral” advanced human beings (“moral” that is anyway according to the middle class PC notions of decaying capitalism, where even the vicious Nazi-Zionist Benjamin Netanyahu will invoke the defence of “gay rights” as justification for slaughtering Palestinians).
Such notions exist only in the heads of petty bourgeois armchair dilettantes and anti-communists.
Building real socialism was (and is) a dialectical process, over decades of bitter struggle and class war, and fraught with all kinds of difficulties including, obviously, buckets full of mistakes and the long painful struggle to develop, educate and transform populations to socialist understanding.
It is a new level of mankind’s civilisation, never achieved before in history.
For all its difficulties this first great 70 year long Soviet experiment altered world understanding forever of what is possible.
It included the gigantic triumph of 1917 and then the equally significant defeat of imperialist warmongering and its German-Nazi onslaught, at the cost of over 25 million lives, driving back Hitlerism (which was encouraged by all imperialism throughout the 1930s), virtually a second revolution that inspired the world, and was the great inspiration of postwar movement to socialism in East Europe, “left” elections in West Europe (and the winning of major reforms like the NHS) and waves of communist revolution in the world including the huge Chinese struggle, Korea, Vietnam and Cuba, and the anti-imperialist national struggles which ended physical colonial domination forever (albeit continuing by financial and economic neo-colonialism and the current attempted world control by US blitzkrieging and military base garrisoning). And all this is supposed to have happened through a “reactionary nationalist leadership” ??? The SF is having a (sick) laugh.
This raises too all the hoary old issues of when the counter-revolution was supposed to have taken over (since reactionary nationalism would be capitalist) which even Trotsky himself could not quite suggest (even in 1936’s Revolution Betrayed being forced to admit the huge socialist advances by the population) and which would then leave the great upheaval of 1989-91 to explain, the only point at which world shattering significant change can be seen and which was a counter-revolution (albeit the oddest in history via the self-liquidation of the workers state by the revisionist bureaucracy – the only “ruling class” to voluntarily give up ever, proving precisely that it was not a ruling class).
Pulling the support of a partially still backward peasant population behind the war effort by using Russian nationalism and getting the Orthodox Church onside proves nothing either; it was a sensible move whatever Stalinist confusion or opportunism might also have influenced the decision.
And it was support for a workers state – it was not the Russian national flag raised on the Berlin ruins but the socialist hammer and sickle.
Just how reactionary this shallow Trotskyism can be is then confirmed by its desperate repetition of bourgeois distortions about Red Army “rape” (presumably like those presented by the bourgeois anti-communist historian Anthony Beevor and others), supposedly “proving” the argument because of the extraordinary principle that “rape” is a “nationalist” crime.
On principle most such capitalist allegation should be disbelieved anyway, until it is possible for an objective Marxist examination of the evidence – and particularly so given that it is now one of the favoured routine CIA propaganda lies against anti-imperialist struggles, from the total garbage about non-existent “rape camps” that opposition “witnesses” were carefully coached on during the 1990s Balkanisation of Yugoslavia, to the even more fantastical Goebbels-style Big Lies of “trained rape squads” complete with Viagra rations, during the nazi-NATO invasion of Libya.
What is not drawn out in such accusations is the context, firstly of the long, casualty-filled and exhausting sweep of the Red Army across Germany after one third of the USSR's country had been razed and had suffered four years of utter Nazi horrors and imperialist depravity (including the discovery of the “Final Solution” anti-Jewish death camps as it reached Poland and the east) in which even if all this were true, such rape revenge would pale into insignificance compared to what the fury and anger could have unleashed – as one commentator said, it is lucky that every single German was not slaughtered.
That they were not is because discipline and political education of the Red Army ran throughout, even though many of its soldiers were extremely young men drawn from the steppes.
British Times journalist Alexander Werth’s Russia at War, written contemporaneously, makes just these points and specifically about rape allegations, declaring that strenuous efforts were made by officers and political commissars to keep the army under control.
It is, of course, out of print.
But what is this moralising anyway except more of the “perfect humans only can participate in revolution” petty bourgeois idealism of PC “leftism” - the same sanctimonious and one-track self-centred subjectivism which led gay rights campaigners to march against the Palestinians, disregarding their unbelievable oppression.
As the EPSR said at the time (see EPSR books vol 20 on Occupied Palestine, Nazi-Zionism and the imperialist crisis - p78):
The homosexual disruption of a Palestinian political demo against Zionist tyranny in London last week demonstrates the EPSR’s point that single-issue reformism (feminism, black nationalism, etc) will be the last refuge of anti-communism, and will provide history with the most reactionary last-ditch defenders of the monopoly-imperialist “free world” system in its final counter-revolutionary debacles....
This greatest longstanding colonial-genocide tyranny in modern records can remain without public attention or sympathy as far as these homosexuals are concerned who are only interested in their own message.
Such extreme anti-communist individualism could not care less that by undermining this key anti-imperialist struggle in the world, the rebirth of international socialist revolutionary perspectives is further delayed.
Some personal homosexual agendas believe that reformism has served their interests, and just want more reforms, not revolution.
Their counter-demonstration was 100% politically reactionary.
And the same applies, even more so, to the feminist PC agenda when it is substituted for and set against the fight to overturn capitalism, the only way that women will achieve the right for the fullest possible development and equality.
All this is in fact a giant smokescreen to cover up the Socialist Fight’s opportunism in still advocating that the working class goes back to the deadly trap of Labourite reformism.
Like much of the fake-“left” SF adopted “entryist” tactics in the wake of Corbyn’s election, hoping to ride on the back of the “left surge”.
But this goes entirely against their own alleged “principles”, adduced above, of “maintaining an independent Marxist current” and not becoming simply a “pressure group on other forces to do the job”.
What else is “left pressure” inside Labour?
And in a second contradiction, this goes against the accusation they throw at the EPSR of “doing nothing” except “abstract theorising”.
What exactly are the Labourites actually doing? Nothing at all to challenge and bring down this bankrupt and paralysed Tory government for example despite opportunity after opportunity even in purely parliamentary terms, particularly around the Brexit splits (where toppling the government overrides all opportunist “taking of sides”).
And certainly it does nothing to warn the working class of the gigantic unfolding catastrophe and the need to understand that nothing can be done to secure the working class’ future long-term except by taking up the revolutionary challenge to end paralysed capitalist rule.
That needs to be the perspective even in still important struggles which might hold back this cut or that closure for the moment.
The alleged commitment of “rejecting austerity” is a complete falsehood in its pretence that the capitalist world collapse is merely a matter of policy by a greedy ruling class which can be reversed.
And the jam-tomorrow promises are anyway completely pathetic, merely aiming to ameliorate some of the worst aspects of the squeeze on the working class, not reverse them or advance conditions.
It offers nothing but an impossible “end to cutbacks” through “better regulation of corporations” and “making them pay their taxes”.
Just like in the last 150 years of tax evasion, trickery and corruption?
The fake-“left” pretends that despite Corbyn, “this time” it will win over and shift this new wave of Labourite support towards a “real fight for socialism” or even transform the Labour Party completely into the “revolutionary party” (though only in the petty bourgeois sense of “winning socialism” through “real democracy” etc and not by the all out class-war to overturn capital and establish the firmest dictatorship of the proletariat, the only possible way to end brutal capitalist rule and its vicious exploitation, maintained by the overwhelming financial power of capital and its cultural domination, backed up with as much overt repression and violence as required).
It is a complete fraud, a moreover a dangerous one, leaving the working class prey to counter-revolutionary toppling.
But in current world conditions of the almost total absence of revolutionary socialist understanding, it could be argued, that at least the popular left surge which suddenly elevated Corbynism would be starting point for a potential audience for real revolutionary politics.
This was the basis on which the EPSR joined Arthur Scargill’s new Socialist Labour Party in the mid-1990s, invited along with all “left” groups to build this centrist party. Despite the requirement to abandon any past party loyalty there was a major opportunity to argue for the revolutionary perspective inside this new group and so it proved initially until the philistine and anti-theory anti-communism of the century old trade union bureaucratic tradition was re-asserted to suppress the EPSR because its correct and continuously developed political perspective made so much headway that the former EPSR editor Roy Bull was able to win the vice-chairman vote.
It was a result which Scargill found an intolerable “challenge”, dealt with by a laughable and false “disciplining” by kangaroo court using all the bureaucratic heavy handedness of the reactionary trade union tradition (- see EPSR No1245 for an account).
The EPSR’s assessment from the beginning was that such entryism in this Corbynism would simply boost even more the game of “left” prop for the ever more despised “parliamentary democracy” racket which is all that “left” talkers like Corbyn and his ilk have ever been.
Without some indication that this new “left” Labour was at least ostensibly fighting to abolish capitalism, and at least some hint of openness for a debate in which independent Marxist and Leninist perspectives could be argued, then to suggest Corbynism was itself a new centrism (declaring for revolution even if in practice being nothing but reformism) along the early stage SLP lines (before its philistine anti-theory censorship demonstrated that conditions were not ripe enough anyway), was a complete misrepresentation.
And without that rationale the “entryist” “lefts” simply become a prop for the “left” Labourite prop, all part of the elaborate onion layers of hoodwinking pretences making up the bourgeoisie’s “democracy” racket.
It is not ruled out that some breakaway from Labour might yet emerge which becomes a long expected centrist development in which it would be vital to participate but Corbynism is not it, keeping Labour as much of a bourgeois party as it ever was.
It does not even need putting into power in order to expose it (as the ostensibly anti-Labour Proletarian Stalinists currently suggest) since the working class has had over a dozen opportunities to experience Labourism in power and to see in all its class collaborating treachery as doing nothing but running capitalism.
Workers have seen nothing but a stream of compromises and capitulations since Corbyn’s ascendancy, backing away from past support for the Irish republican cause, the Palestinians, and others, kowtowing to the secretive Establishment structures like the sinister Privy Council, and failing to challenge the Blairite reactionaries still sabotaging any coherent socialist line.
It quite deliberately evades and avoids every opportunity, even within the Parliamentary racket, to bring down this ruling class despite the ever deepening splits and chaos in the government, and the glaring greed-ridden incompetence and callousness of this money grubbing system and its grotesque profiteering insistence on “private enterprise” which now barely makes any effort at all to run things competently while it gets on with plundering pension funds and wages, running up debts, and shortchanging customers, to pay out obscenely inflated salaries and share dividends.
On issue after issue the ruling class is now utterly paralysed, presiding over near collapse of the railways, the breakdown of “service companies” (Carillion etc), the near collapse and bankruptcy of the overloaded National Health Service and of every kind of municipal and social service provision, the carpet-bagging of the utilities (with obscene management payouts), the disastrous failures in education (magnified by the ludicrous backwardness of a return to grammar school elitism) and the brutal and callous injustice of its “migration” control, exemplified by the savageries imposed on the Windrush generation.
Homelessness is massively increasing, and housing priced out of range (with either disconnected investment speculation driving unattainable luxury new build or with a few new “affordable units” gerry-built and to rabbit hutch standards abandoning past minimum space requirements etc).
Most disgusting of all is the Grenfell fire, the result of an entire complex accumulation of privatisation, property profiteering, “austerity” collapsed regulations, slashed supervision, fire service cuts, client incompetence and ruling class arrogance and racist indifference, all now compounded by the contempt for the survivors and the broken promises to “look after them”.
This disaster alone, embodies the corruption, failure and collapse of an entire social order, just as the sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic did a century ago.
As the initial technical report tried to say, it exposes the failure and disintegration of the complete framework of government standards and regulation through cutbacks and laissez-faire.
On top of all this, is growing worldwide hunger and poverty (including into the heart of the US), the increasingly deadly ecological and environmental damage of the out of control plastic, oil, chemical and other industrial combines worldwide, wiping out half the planet’s living species, saturating the oceans and air with poisons and particles, and threatening global warming devastation, if deadly nuclear meltdowns and war savagery do not do the damage long before.
Every one of these issues, local and international, demonstrates the complete breakdown caused by the crisis and the urgent need to completely end this system and establish a new socialist order building a rational and humane world.
But the Labourite/trade union “opposition” remains supine, save for the most tepid of “criticism”.
The biggest Labourite (and entryist) treachery is the failure to warn the working class that this is only the beginning of the crisis impositions and that there is no stopping them.
Much greater cuts and slump conditions will inevitably drive them into the street, or revolt, or strikes, where they will be confronted by the real face of capitalist rule, the brutal force of the bourgeois dictatorship which lies behind all the pretences of “parliamentary democracy” and “having a say”.
And any Labourite government however “left”, will either be part of such suppression, on the grounds of “sticking to legality” and “constitutional mechanisms” maintaining all the class-collaborating pro-imperialist strike breaking treachery of past Labourism, or, if attempts to put through measures favouring the working class should be made at all, will also become a victim, toppled by military coup, or similar, just as the Salvador Allende “socialist alliance” government was in 1973 in Chile.
Preparing the working class to be aware of such counter-revolutionary attempts is a crucial part of the understanding it needs.
But there is no space for such warnings inside Labour not in the Momentum movement built up around “support for Jeremy”.
And if all that was not clear before it has certainly become so around the question of “left anti-semitism”, the poisonous campaign of lying vilification used by the Jewish freemasonry and Zionists everywhere to head off and paint as “racism” all criticism of “Israel” and its increasingly depraved smiting savagery, genocidally oppressing the Palestinians by terror, ethnic cleansing land-theft, and concentration camp siege in the Gaza strip (where 2 million people must now “live” in appalling conditions of deprivation and restriction with only 4 hours of power a day, untreated sewage running onto the beach, bombed hospitals with no medicines, and repeated military massacres every two or three years to intimidate and terrorise).
The pretence that “Jeremy supports the Palestinians” continues to be promulgated but Labour has given way to this deliberate CIA/Zionist counter-revolutionary campaign, set up to counter growing world hatred of Zionist occupied Palestine (ZOP) as “Israel” should properly be known.
It makes any pretence of arguing for a “left” perspective let alone revolutionary politics a complete nonsense.
Shutting down hostility to “Israel” is to shut down anti-imperialist politics.
Zionism ha always played a role as major tool for imperialist domination and control of the strategically vital and resource rich Middle East – its religious fanaticism and smiting helping suppress regional rebelliousness over decades, most obviously in its endless genocidal suppression of the displaced Palestinian people.
But now it is even more at the forefront of the turn to warmongering belligerence by US imperialism (see previous paper), with its increasingly wild F16 raiding into Syria and the even more bloodcurdling threats against Iran, both deemed “rogue states” insufficiently compliant with Washington diktat and prime targets for the escalation of imperialist fascist bullying.
Censoring the growing world hatred of this artificial land theft colonial implant is part and parcel of censoring anti-imperialism.
That is exactly the purpose of the “left anti-semitism” fraud.
Capitulation to this outrageous Zionist conspiracy (partly run from the London “Israeli” embassy) makes it definitively clear that Labour is so firmly embedded in the capitalist imperialist camp that it will carry out the policing and suppression of “left” politics itself on behalf of the bourgeoisie.
Setting up an “inquiry” into such supposed “left racism” (headed by the unelected arch opportunist Shami Chakrabarti) and the aggressive reactionary demands to “root it out” are beyond grovelling and into out and out “trustee” status for reaction.
The lesson that needs to be drawn for the working class is whatever illusions there have been in Corbynism, this acceptance of the very notion of “left anti-semitism” and giving it credence with “inquiries” is a definitive indicator that entryism is not only unworkable but part of the problem.
There is no path towards revolutionary politics inside Labour in other words and the continuing efforts to “fight for the rights” of various expelled figures are hopeless and opportunist.
Revolutionary politics are the crucial need for the working class right now and a major part of that is precisely the exposure of the parliamentary lie, and the treachery of reformism once more trying to lead the working class up the garden path and disarm it.
Class war against increasingly overt fascist and chauvinist reaction is the only way out of this crisis, and tying workers back to parliament and bourgeois “democracy” is total treachery.
There is only one revolutionary use for the bourgeois “voting” platform while it is still there and that is to use it for the exposure of the entire racket of Parliament (and fascist plebiscite “referendums” too), all part of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
That includes the exposure of the Zionist colonialist occupation.
But instead of drawing this lesson, Socialist Fight like much of the remaining “left” swamp is posturing around with “support” campaigns for the expelled opportunists like Ken Livingstone.
Support for what?
To get them back into the Labour Party.
So the aim is to rescue Corbynite Labour from its own reactionariness just when the crisis is exposing more and more sharply the hollow opportunism of this “left surge”.
What a nonsense!
This is trying to buy reformism more time when what is needed is to hasten its much deserved historic collapse and demise after 150 years of treachery, colluding with and running imperialism (as even its most “left” variants did, like the post-war Attlee government).
But worse still who is being supported and what politics anyway?
Most of the “witchhunt” victims being elevated as martyrs are posturing frauds anyway.
Ken Livingstone, for all his occasionally “maverick left” provocations and “independent” stand, is an out and out opportunist Labourite creep, supporting the nazi-NATO imperialist war on Serbia, which set the tone for the non-stop blitzing ever since and operating hand in hand with the capitalist City of London during his tenure as London mayor.
And however correct his comments on Zionism’s dirty imperialist history - pointing to its willingness to deal even with Hitlerism for its own advantage at the cost of many Jewish lives at the time – his overall perspective and politics are as much part of the Labourite blindsiding of the working class as Corbyn or even the Blairites before.
His compliant resignation from Labour, in the teeth of the ultra-reactionary campaign by the Jewish freemasonry, in order to “spare too much embarrassment” for Corbynism actually having to expel him, is part of the whole racket of keeping Labour going.
And even on the Zionist issue itself Livingstone’s seemingly bold position falls short.
For all his “anti-Zionism” what Livingstone does not address, is the fundamental lie of “Israel”s right to exist as a nation”, covering-up its colonialist landtheft occupation of the Palestinian’s homeland where they have been the indigenous people for the last 1500 years (far longer than the British have been in place for example).
And this glaring omission characterises the “anti-Zionist” posturing of most of “lefts” who have been pushed out of Labour and are “fighting for reinstatement” with “anti-witchhunt” campaigns.
They make much of the difference between anti-semitism and anti-Zionism for example, declaring that hostility to the Zionist government is different to anti-Jewish sentiment.
But this is mostly a reformist and anti-revolutionary posture in itself. In the post-war period of the existence of “Israel” the great majority of the Jewish freemasonry in the world are supporters of the “right to exist” of "Israel” having differences only with the provocative belligerence of the out and out reactionary Nazi-expansionist wing; and that is based more on a fear of “pushing things too far” (and thus jeopardising everything already “won”).
Just how reactionary that is as a position was made clear this week when even arch-Tory and former party leader, the Jewish Michael Howard, now a Lord, protested to Zionist prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his European tour, against the slaughter of Gazans in the last weeks.
But like the overwhelming majority of the Jewish religious freemasonry (which politically speaking includes also “atheist” Jews who identify as part of that community) Howard is not about to challenge the very existence of the occupation.
Just the opposite. He almost certainly, and certainly the overwhelming majority of the Jewish religious freemasonry, retain the “right” to an “Israeli” passport and to citizenship and “right” to settle if they wish, all of which can only be done on the back of the dispossession of the Palestinians – carried through by brutal ethnic cleansing from the beginning and maintained with all the non-stop and repeated terrorising violence, blitzing, siege savagery and intimidation which not only continues now but escalates in its fascist brutality and inhumanity year by year.
Only making clear the artificial colonialist nature of “Israel” as a monstrous landtheft imposition (sanctioned by world imperialism’s “gift” of another people’s territory in 1948) can give a clear understanding of the Palestinian struggle and the only possible solution there can be, which is the return of all the stolen property, land and houses to the Palestinians, and the return of this people to their country.
But without that, there is there is effectively no difference between an overtly aggressive Zionist and anyone Jewish - there are just “soft” Zionists and “hard” ones.
The exception is the tiny minority of Jews who stand for an active fight for the revolutionary overthrow of this colony - with the Jewish occupiers either returning to their origins in other countries or perhaps asking if they can remain under Palestinian rule and contributing to building Palestine.
This makes a mockery of much “left” posturing about “anti-Semitism” and is even used by some of the fake-“left” to defend this reactionary freemasonry, going as far as itself fingering those trying to expose the baleful influence of the freemasonry as “anti-semites” (a charge which ironically, has been levelled against the Socialist Fight with the CPGB revisionist Weekly Worker itself expelling SF from one of its entryist campaigns).
Leading the charge was the “victim” Tony Greenstein, an arch posturer from the CPGB revisionist/crypto-Trotksyist crew, with frequent articles in its Weekly Worker though notionally “not a member”.
But the WW, for all its “left” posing takes an out and out Zionist stand on what it still insists on calling “Israel” to such an extent that while it is notionally anti-Zionist it declares that there is a “right” for a Hebrew speaking section of the settler population to continue living there in its own enclave once a new Palestine is established because a “right of self-determination”.
This echoes their astonishing demand at one point for there to be a “three or four county” enclave reserved by British force for the fascist Orange colonist reactionaries as a “revolutionary” means to settle the struggle against the occupation of Britain’s “Northern Ireland”, continuing to condemn a part of the nationalist population to the oppression imposed in 1921 by the original outrageous ripping out of six counties at bayonet point to establish this reactionary pretend “statelet”.
Greenstein argues with this mainstream WW line on “Israel” but only to put another variant in which there is a “right” for the Jewish population to remain on in Palestine after the Zionist state is overthrown.
It sounds very revolutionary as he wrote in WW 1197 April 5:
Yes, I advocate the overthrow or the destruction of the Israeli state. However only a fascist conflates a state with the people living within it. I certainly want an end to the apartheid state of Israel, but, of course, those Jews who are living there should be able to continue doing so.
But that would not entitle them to any land or property first of all, which must all be returned to the Palestinians, who would also be returning in their millions.
So where would they “continue to live”?
And how and on what?
On the few original kibbutzes that were founded on spare land in the desert early on?
What - all five million or so of the Jewish occupying population?
And seemingly this assumption of a “right” is to be made without asking for permission from a new revolutionary Palestinian state.
This is all an outrageous, arrogant and slippery pretence.
As the EPSR wrote in a letter to WW in 2004 (see Occupied Palestine EPSR book vol 20 ibid p81):
Millions on the ‘left’ – Jews and others – claim to be “anti-Zionist” or even for a “unitary secular state covering the entire 1945 land of Palestine” without being at all prepared to denounce the “founding of a home for Jews in the Middle East” as one of the foulest acts of imperialist hypocrisy ever, and certainly as the most endlessly poisonous colonisation of all time.
But this Greenstein bravado, for all its “overthrowing” the “Israeli” state, is not actually making clear this fundamental issue on which alone an understanding of the real struggle can be made.
It is “left” posturing and confusion mongering.
And as with other “victims”, all this campaigning is done solely to achieve reinstatement in Labour – serving as a only to prop it up for longer and continue fooling the working class.
There is nothing “principled” about any such demands and nor is there any “duty” on revolutionaries to do anything in support of such fake-“left” mountebanks.
Just the opposite, they should be exposed as yet another “left” layer in the onion of fakery and middle class dilettantism; their expulsion does not validate their analyses and perspectives one iota.
Let the gross hypocrisy and class collaborating kow-towing of the Corbynites be exposed by all means – and perhaps let there be a campaign to reinstate the employment of anyone who has lost their job solely as a result of this Labourite reactionary “purge” (as has happened with Weekly Worker-ite Stan Keable, fired from Hammersmith Council).
But support for this politics and for these middle class anti-communist intellectuals is out of the question, as it is for the poison Socialist Fight pours out in their “defence”.
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Discussion (Part 5a/5 - Continued from No 1533)
Trotskyist hostility...uses 1917 October Revolution centenary to pour poison on the legacy of the Soviet Union. Not “democracy” but dictatorship of the proletariat the key issue.
Faulkner’s inability to comprehend the complexities of the revolutionary developments in Russia in 1917 leads him to completely misrepresent Lenin’s State and Revolution analysis of the revolutionary lessons Marx and Engels drew from the experience of the 1871 Paris Commune.
For Faulkner, the “key lesson” of the Paris Commune was the smashing of the bourgeois state and its replacement with “fuller democracy”, and he attempts to co-opt Lenin in this piece of distorted understanding:
[Lenin] had spent some time … writing a pamphlet, State and Revolution, in which he revived the Marxist theory of the state in the context of revolution. The existing state, he argued, was a top-down repressive apparatus run by members of the ruling class in the interests of the ruling class. It was bourgeois through and through, and could not be taken over and used to implement socialism: it had to be smashed and replaced with a new kind of bottom up state. This had been the key lesson of the Paris Commune:
“The Commune, therefore, appears to have replaced the smashed state machine “only” by fuller democracy: abolition of the standing army; all officials to be elected and subject to recall. But as a matter of fact this “only” signifies a gigantic replacement of certain institutions by other institutions of a fundamentally different type … the abolition of all representation allowances, and of all monetary privileges to officials, the reduction of the remuneration of all servants of the state to the level of workmen’s wages.”
The Soviets and other democratic assemblies like factory committees, regimental committees and village communes were, in combination, the embryo of such a bottom-up state. (Chapter 8)
Lenin had described the Paris Commune as a proletarian dictatorship. However, Faulkner’s blinkered Trotskyist “permanent revolution” perspective fails to appreciate that, as the proletariat in France (and the rest of continental Europe) was in the minority in 1871, its actual characterisation was of a move towards an alliance between the proletariat and poorer peasantry.
In The Civil War in France (1871), Marx described the transformation of the French peasantry into a degraded rural proletariat as a consequence of the expansion of capitalist relations into the countryside, and that their interests were becoming identical to the urban wage-labourers. The “smashing of the state machine” Faulkner refers to was in the interests of both the proletariat and most of the peasantry, and an alliance between the revolutionary classes was necessary to prepare the way for a socialist transformation. Faulkner does not even mention the role of the peasantry, let alone its revolutionary nature at this historical stage.
In Europe, in 1871, there was not a single country on the Continent in which the proletariat constituted the majority of the people. A “people’s” revolution, one that actually swept the majority into its stream, could be such only if it embraced both the proletariat and the peasantry. These two classes then constituted the “people.” These two classes are united by the fact that the “bureaucratic-military state machine” oppresses, crushes, exploits them. To smash this machine, to break it up -- this is truly in the interest of the “people,” of the majority, of the workers and most of the peasants, this is “the preliminary condition” for a free alliance between the poorest peasants and the proletarians, whereas without such an alliance democracy is unstable and socialist transformation is impossible.
As is well known, the Paris Commune was indeed working its way toward such an alliance, although it did not reach its goal owing to a number of circumstances, internal and external.
Consequently, in speaking of a “real people’s revolution,” Marx, without in the least forgetting the peculiar characteristics of the petty bourgeoisie (he spoke a great deal about them and often), took strict account of the actual balance of class forces in the majority of continental countries in Europe in 1871. On the other hand, he stated that the “smashing” of the state machine was required by the interests of both the workers and the peasants, that it unites them, that it places before them the common task of removing the “parasite” and replacing it by something new.
[Lenin, State and Revolution, pamphlet, September 1917]
This failure to recognise the concrete material conditions that set the context for the Paris Commune leads Faulkner to incorrectly imply that the democratic measures implemented by the Communards amounted to an embryonic socialist state whereas, in fact, they were no more than necessary “steps towards socialism” in a period of transition taken by an armed proletarian-led revolutionary-democratic dictatorship; “a bridge leading from capitalism to Socialism”, as Lenin described it in State and Revolution.
He also fails to explain that the expansion of democracy for the majority he describes would only be possible if the resistance of the bourgeoisie were forcefully suppressed by this armed dictatorship of the majority (i.e. the workers and most of the peasants).
In his above partial quote from Lenin’s State and Revolution, Faulkner misses out in its entirety Lenin’s arguments for a proletarian-led dictatorship. It was this that Lenin highlighted as “perhaps the most important point as far as the problem of the state is concerned”, and he pointed out that this key lesson “has been almost completely ignored” (now by Faulkner).
To demonstrate how Faulkner’s quote gives a false impression of Lenin’s position by ignoring this most important lesson, his quoted sections from State and Revolution have been underlined (in bold) within the full quote given here:
The Commune, therefore, appears to have replaced the smashed state machine “only” by fuller democracy: abolition of the standing army; all officials to be elected and subject to recall. But as a matter of fact this “only” signifies a gigantic replacement of certain institutions by other institutions of a fundamentally different type [ea]. This is exactly a case of “quantity being transformed into quality”: democracy, introduced as fully and consistently as is at all conceivable, is transformed from bourgeois into proletarian democracy; from the state (= a special force for the suppression of a particular class) into something which is no longer the state proper.
It is still necessary to suppress the bourgeoisie and crush their resistance. This was particularly necessary for the Commune; and one of the reasons for its defeat was that it did not do this with sufficient determination. The organ of suppression, however, is here the majority of the population, and not a minority, as was always the case under slavery, serfdom, and wage slavery. And since the majority of people itself suppresses its oppressors, a ‘special force” for suppression is no longer necessary! In this sense, the state begins to wither away. Instead of the special institutions of a privileged minority (privileged officialdom, the chiefs of the standing army), the majority itself can directly fulfil all these functions, and the more the functions of state power are performed by the people as a whole, the less need there is for the existence of this power.
In this connection, the following measures of the Commune, emphasized by Marx, are particularly noteworthy: the abolition of all representation allowances, and of all monetary privileges to officials, the reduction of the remuneration of all servants of the state to the level of “workmen’s wages” [ea]. This shows more clearly than anything else the turn from bourgeois to proletarian democracy, from the democracy of the oppressors to that of the oppressed classes, from the state as a “special force” for the suppression of a particular class to the suppression of the oppressors by the general force of the majority of the people--the workers and the peasants. And it is on this particularly striking point, perhaps the most important as far as the problem of the state is concerned, that the ideas of Marx have been most completely ignored!
[Lenin, State and Revolution, pamphlet, September 1917]
It is possible that this misrepresentation of Lenin’s position is down to laziness rather than cynicism on Faulkner’s part as he uncritically references the quote to his SWP guru figure Cliff, rather than Lenin’s own work. The real cynicism here seemingly emanates from Cliff, who spent his entire life building a poisonous Trotskyist anti-communist movement dedicated to denigrating and undermining the titanic achievements of the Soviet Union.
Faulkner would also have done better to refer to Lenin when he simplistically argues that capitalism would be replaced by “a bottom up state”. Elsewhere, he incorrectly claims that a socialist revolution would “abolish top-down management”.
Lenin was very clear on this. As with the Paris Commune, the period immediately after the October socialist revolution remained one of transition. The old obsolete way of organising society had been destroyed and the new workers’ and peasants’ state needed to work out how it was to set itself on the best path towards the construction of a new socialist society. Free rein for discussions in meetings and committees around business matters in the workplace was a necessary part of this. However, the immediate needs of society demanded practical results. Whilst maintaining the democratic participation of workers, managerial leadership in the form of a single person (“one-man dictatorial management”) emerged as the best means of ensuring effective large-scale planning and organisation once stable Soviet institutions and a strong proletarian dictatorship had been established:
…Anyone who is capable of looking at things at all historically will not doubt for a moment that the present state of disorganisation is a state of transition—of transition from the old to the new—a state of growth of what is new. The transition from the old to the new, if it proceeds as sharply as it has in Russia since February 1917, presupposes of course a gigantic destruction of what has become obsolete and moribund in social life. And it is clear that the search for the new cannot at once provide those definite, established, almost fixed and final forms which previously took shape in the course of centuries and lasted for centuries. The present Soviet institutions and the economic organisations which are characterised by the concept of workers’ control in industry—those organisations are still in a period of ferment and instability. In these organisations, naturally, the aspect characterised by discussion and the airing of questions at meetings prevails over the business aspect. It could not be otherwise, for without drawing new sections of the people into socialist construction, without awakening to activity the broad masses hitherto asleep, there could be no question of any revolutionary change. The endless discussions and endless holding of meetings … is a necessary transition of the masses still completely unprepared for social construction, a transition from historical somnolence to new historical creativeness ... While Soviet institutions had not spread throughout Russia, while socialisation of the land and nationalisation of factories remained an exception to the general rule, it was natural that social management of the national economy (considered on a nationwide scale) could not emerge from the stage of preliminary discussional preparation either, from the stage of discussion and interpretation. Just now a fundamental change is taking place, Soviet institutions have spread all over Russia. From Great Russia they have spread to the vast majority of the other nationalities of Russia. Socialisation of the land in the countryside and workers’ control in the towns have ceased to be exceptions; instead, they have become the rule.
On the other hand, the extremely critical and even desperate situation the country is in as regards ensuring at least the mere possibility of existence for the majority of the population, as regards safeguarding it from famine—these economic conditions urgently demand the achievement of definite practical results … Now has come the turning-point when—without in any way ceasing to prepare the masses for participation in state and economic administration of all the affairs of society, and without in any way hindering their most detailed discussion of the new tasks (on the contrary, helping them in every way to carry out this discussion so that they independently think out and arrive at correct decisions)—we must at the very same time begin strictly to separate two categories of democratic functions: on the one hand, discussions and the airing of questions at public meetings, and, on the other hand, the establishment of strictest responsibility for executive functions and absolutely business-like, disciplined, voluntary fulfilment of the assignments and decrees necessary for the economic mechanism to function really like clockwork … Not long ago, in discussing the question of the reorganisation and correct planning of railway transport, the question arose of how far one-man managerial authority (which could be called dictatorial) is compatible with democratic organisations in general, with the collective principle in management especially, and with the Soviet socialist principle of organisation in particular. Undoubtedly, the opinion is very widely held that there can be no question of such compatibility, that one-man dictatorial authority is incompatible with democracy, the Soviet type of state and collective management.
Nothing could be more mistaken than this opinion [ea]… The masses must have the right to choose responsible leaders for themselves. They must have the right to replace them, the right to know and check each smallest step of their activity. They must have the right to put forward any worker without exception for administrative functions. But this does not at all mean that the process of collective labour can remain without definite leadership, without precisely establishing the responsibility of the person in charge, without the strictest order created by the single will of that person. Neither railways nor transport, nor large-scale machinery and enterprises in general can function correctly without a single will linking the entire working personnel into an economic organ operating with the precision of clockwork. Socialism owes its origin to large-scale machine industry. If the masses of the working people in introducing socialism prove incapable of adapting their institutions in the way that large-scale machine industry should work, then there can be no question of introducing socialism. That is why in the period we are now passing through, when the Soviet government and the dictatorship of the proletariat have grown sufficiently strong, when the main lines of the enemy opposing us, i.e., of the exploiters opposing us, have been sufficiently destroyed or rendered harmless, when the functioning of Soviet institutions has adequately prepared the mass of the population for independent participation in all spheres of social life—at the present moment we are immediately confronted by the tasks of strictly separating discussion and airing questions at meetings from unfailing execution of all instructions of the person in charge.
Lenin, Original Version of the Article “The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government”: Verbatim Report, Pravda No.86, April 1918,].
Similar sloppiness combines with hopeless defeatism when Faulkner turns to the new Soviet state’s immediate prospects for success:
… Despite the resilience of the Soviet regime, and the democracy and creativity that fizzled within it, backward, peasant-dominated, war-shattered, economically prostrate Russia was on borrowed time. Lenin was under no illusions. ‘The final victory of socialism in a single country is … impossible’ he told the Third Soviet Congress in January 1918. ‘Our contingent of workers and peasants which is upholding Soviet power is one of the contingents of the great world army.’ Two months later he put the matter yet more starkly: ‘It is the absolute truth that without a German revolution, we are doomed.’ (Chapter 9)
Far from the gloomy tone set by Faulkner, Lenin was highly positive about the prospects for the Russian revolution at the Third Soviet Congress. He said, “… we are on the road that guarantees complete victory” in the paragraph that precedes the one containing Faulkner’s first quote. In the next paragraph he describes the huge inspirational impact the revolution was already having on the international proletariat.
Responsibility for this piece of selective quoting cannot be laid directly at Cliff’s door this time as Faulkner references his own previous work, where no references are to be found (although the pernicious influence of Cliff’s SWP seems to have indirectly made its mark). Why not refer readers to Lenin directly or, better still, provide the full quote and let readers make up their own mind?:
Russia has started to achieve socialism in the right way— by the nationalisation of the banks and the transfer of all the land entirely to the working people. We are well aware of the difficulties that lie ahead, but we are convinced, by comparing our revolution with previous revolutions, that we shall achieve enormous successes and that we are on the road that guarantees complete victory [ea].
And with us will go the masses of the more advanced countries, countries which have been divided by a predatory war, whose workers have passed through a longer period of training in democracy. When people depict the difficulties of our task, when we are told that the victory of socialism is possible only on a world scale, we regard this merely as an attempt, a particularly hopeless attempt, on the part of the bourgeoisie and of its voluntary and involuntary supporters to distort the irrefutable truth. The final victory of socialism in a single country is of course impossible. Our contingent of workers and peasants which is upholding Soviet power is one of the contingents of the great world army [ea], which at present has been split by the world war, but which is striving for unity, and every piece of information, every fragment of a report about our revolution, every name, the proletariat greets with loud and sympathetic cheers, because it knows that in Russia the common cause is being pursued, the cause of the proletariat’s uprising, the international socialist revolution. A living example, tackling the job somewhere in one country is more effective than any proclamations and conferences; this is what inspires the working people in all countries [ea].
[Lenin, Third All-Russia Congress of Soviets, of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, Report on the Activities of the People’s Commissars, Izvestia, January 1918]
Lenin was arguing against the defeatist Trotskyist position of Faulkner that the Russian revolution was bound to fail unless there was an immediate world socialist revolution, which he describes here as “a distortion of the irrefutable truth”. Faulkner’s quote refers to “the final victory” of socialism. Lenin’s understanding was that intermediate revolutionary victories in one or more countries were possible before this victory of socialism worldwide, and that Russia’s revolution was a living example of this.
Scant regard to context also helps to create a pessimistic atmosphere around the second quote in the above passage from Faulkner, and because of this distorts the meaning. In the two months that passed since the Third Soviet Congress, the Russian Revolution had suffered a major setback because of the disastrous failure to sign a treaty for an immediate peace with German imperialism at the Brest Litovsk negotiations.
Lenin had fought hard within the Bolshevik Central Committee for an immediate peace to buy some breathing space for the proletariat and peasantry and to give them time to consolidate their revolutionary gains. He lost to the ‘Left Communist’ faction, led by Bukharin, who wanted to continue the war until revolution broke out in Germany.
After taking over as the head of the negotiating delegation, Trotsky made the reckless and hugely damaging decision to unilaterally declare an end to the war and pull out of the peace talks, believing that the workers of Europe would rise up in defence of Russia. Consequently, Germany seized most of the Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic States and threatened to invade Russia’s capital, Petrograd.
In the course of exposing the idealism of Trotsky’s “neither war nor the signing of peace” position and the ‘Left Communists’ at the Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the RCP(B), Lenin said “without a German revolution, we are doomed.” However, on reading the full sentence partially quoted by Faulkner, it is clear that Lenin was not talking about a final defeat of the revolution, but a possible immediate need to retreat to the outlying areas of Russia:
It is a lesson, because it is the absolute truth that without a German revolution we are doomed—perhaps not in Petrograd, not in Moscow, but in Vladivostok, in more remote places to which perhaps we shall have to retreat [ea], and the distance to which is perhaps greater than the distance from Petrograd to Moscow.
[Lenin, Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B): Political Report of the Central Committee, March 1918]
Huge swathes of territory were effectively conceded to Germany following Trotsky’s declaration, thus giving the German ruling class a base from which to launch future invasions. It became necessary to move the capital from Petrograd to Moscow. The civil war that had erupted within Russia following the October Revolution had intensified, and a “left” opposition had emerged within the party leadership. And so, yes, the revolution was in an existential crisis and it appeared that only revolution in Germany could end it, but Lenin argued that the Russian proletariat must not depend on this. The Brest Litovsk Treaty was eventually signed on 3rd March 1918.
Lenin explained that the decisions of the ‘Left Communists’ and Trotsky were based on the subjective desire to see a German revolution rather than the living reality of an exhausted Russia facing threats of imminent invasion. They had under-estimated the difficulties Russia was in and greatly endangered the world revolution:
The quicker we demobilise the army, the sooner it will become absorbed by those parts that are not so sick and the sooner will the country be prepared for new severe trials. That is what we felt when we unanimously, without the slightest protest, adopted the decision—which was absurd from the point of view of foreign events—to demobilise the army. It was the proper step to take. We said that it was a frivolous illusion to believe that we could hold the army. The sooner we demobilised the army, the sooner would the social organism as a whole recover. That is why the revolutionary phrase, “The Germans cannot attack”, from which the other phrase (“We can declare the state of war terminated. Neither war nor the signing of peace.”) derived, was such a profound mistake, such a bitter over-estimation of events [ea]. But suppose the Germans do attack? “No, they cannot attack.” But have you the right to risk the world revolution? What about the concrete question of whether you may not prove to be accomplices of German imperialism when that moment comes? But we, who since October 1917 have all become defencists, who have recognised the principle of defence of the fatherland, we all know that we have broken with imperialism, not merely in word but in deed; we have destroyed the secret treaties,” vanquished the bourgeoisie in our own country and proposed an open and honest peace so that all the nations may see what our intentions really are. How could people who seriously uphold the position of defending the Soviet Republic agree to this gamble, which has already produced results? And this is a fact, because the severe crisis which our Party is now experiencing, owing to the formation of a “Left” opposition within it, is one of the gravest crises the Russian revolution has experienced. This crisis will be overcome. Under no circumstances will it break the neck of our Party, or of our revolution, although at the present moment it has come very near to doing so, there was a possibility of it. The guarantee that we shall not break our neck on this question is this: instead of applying the old method of settling factional differences, the old method of issuing an enormous quantity of literature, of having many discussions and plenty of splits, instead of this old method, events have provided our people with a new method of learning things. This method is to put everything to the test of facts, events, the lessons of world history. You said that the Germans could not attack. The logic of your tactics was that we could declare the state of war to be terminated. History has taught you a lesson, it has shattered this illusion [ea]. Yes, the German revolution is growing, but not in the way we should like it, not as fast as Russian intellectuals would have it, not at the rate our history developed in October—when we entered any town we liked, proclaimed Soviet power, and within a few days nine-tenths of the workers came over to our side. The German revolution has the misfortune of not moving so fast. What do you think? Must we reckon with the revolution, or must the revolution reckon with us? You wanted the revolution to reckon with you. At all events, under all conceivable circumstances, if the German revolution does not come, we are doomed. Nevertheless, this does not in the least shake our conviction that we must be able to bear the most difficult position without blustering.
[Lenin, Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B): Political Report of the Central Committee, March 1918]
Lenin was not contemplating the defeat of the revolution when he wrote this. He was exhorting the proletariat to ignore the complacency of those (like Trotsky) who were hoping a German revolution would provide an easy way out, and use the short period of respite the peace had given it to strengthen its resources prepare itself for a desperate fight for survival:
One may dream about the field revolution on a world-wide scale, for it will come. Everything will come in due time; but for the time being, set to work to establish self-discipline, subordination before all else [ea], so that we can have exemplary order, so that workers in at least one hour in twenty-four may train to fight. This is a little more difficult than relating beautiful fairy-tales [ea]. This is what we can do today. In this way, you will be helping the German revolution, the world revolution. We do not know how many days the respite will last, but we have got it. We must demobilise the army as quickly as possible, because it is a sick organ …
We should have but one slogan—to learn the art of war properly and put the railways in order [ea]. To wage a socialist revolutionary war without railways would be rank treachery. We must produce order and we must produce all the energy and all the strength that will produce the best that is in the revolution. Grasp even an hour’s respite if it is given you, in order to maintain contact with the remote rear and there create new armies. Abandon illusions for which real events have punished you and will punish you more severely in the future [ea]. An epoch of most grievous defeats is ahead of us, it is with us now, we must be able to reckon with it, we must be prepared for persistent work in conditions of illegality, in conditions of downright slavery to the Germans [ea]; it is no use painting it in bright colours, it is a real Peace of Tilsit. If we are able to act in this way, then, in spite of defeats, we shall be able to say with absolute certainty—victory will be ours [ea].
[Lenin, Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B): Political Report of the Central Committee, March 1918]
Faulkner provides none of this context. He does not mention that the imperialist war was finally brought to an end by a revolutionary uprising that broke out in Germany in November 1918 following military defeats. Fears that this revolutionary turmoil would spread and intensify across Europe provided the impetus for the signing of the armistice between the imperialist powers, thereby ending the immediate threat to the Russia revolution.
Faulkner slides over Trotsky’s gross errors, blithely suggesting that Trotsky’s “neither war nor peace” position was simply a “compromise”. As Lenin pointed out, it was nothing of the sort. Trotsky was making the same idealistic mistake in putting faith in the prospects of an immediate German socialist revolution as the ‘Left Communists’.
In fact, the German revolution took place 8 months later but although it forced an end to the war, it was defeated. Lenin was correct in arguing that the Russian proletariat should not rely on this, but should work on the basis that Russia may be isolated for a very long time.
He stated many times from 1920 onwards that the conditions for building socialism were all present within a Russia which had won its right to exist and a standing within the world.
That there was no alternative [to signing the Brest Litovsk peace treaty] did not alter the bitterness of the recriminations or the dire economic conditions. (Chapter 10)
Lenin had correctly argued in December 1917 that there was no alternative to agreeing to a punishing peace treaty, and had a treaty been signed then the economic conditions may have been slightly less dire, and the working class may have had slightly more time to consolidate their revolution. Faulkner does not mention this.
Furthermore, writing off the huge argument that took place following the signing of the treaty as “bitter recriminations” suggests that the dispute that followed was just about finding someone to blame.
Trotsky and the ‘Left Communists’ were at fault, as Lenin said, but an all-out debate was necessary so that their positions could be analysed and an understanding reached on why they were wrong. To avoid making such damaging mistakes again, it was crucial to demonstrate to the working class that the revolutionary process is driven by material reality, and not by the subjective desires people may hold in their heads.
Phil Waincliffe (To be concluded)
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