No 1549 24th January 2019
World chaos and crisis deepen relentlessly, teetering on the edge of worse Catastrophe than 2008. Until a revolutionary perspective is rebuilt, the working class cannot seriously challenge relentlessly growing grotesque inequality, poverty, repression and insecurity destroying lives, livelihoods and potential. Only complete overthrow of the ruling class seizing all factory, farm and finance property into common ownership is now the answer to vicious reaction, grotesque greed, environmental destruction and waste, threatening the entire human race, and the even worse World War to come as “competition” turns more and more cutthroat. Trump’s federal shutdown and Brexit illustrate both paralysed infighting of the ruling class and failure of the fake-“left” (50 shades of “red”) to give the working class anything but opportunism, leaving them prey to jingoism and fascist reaction. Brexit diverts and distract workers from the only real task facing them, revolutionary ending of the whole system. Leninist party vitally needs building
Donald Trump’s federal shutdown bullying in the States, and the Brexit stalemate confusion, incompetence and squabbling in Britain are both symptoms of ruling class paralysis brought on by the devastating and imminently Catastrophic crisis of the capitalist system.
These bitter recriminations, splits, and internecine hatreds between sections of ruling class internally over policy (and between their reformist echoes), and the growing belligerence in all directions internationally, signal that the world capitalist order is disintegrating ever faster, soon to implode economically more disastrously than in 2008 (which was already worse than the 1930s), whatever temporary “recovery” has been managed since by endless inflationary QE dollar printing.
Such divisions are hugely important for the working class to understand.
They reveal a fearful ruling class increasingly unable to rule in the old arrogant and confident way (presenting a united face to the working class).
Meanwhile, the “up-yours” Brexit contempt from the working class; the great yellow-vest turmoil in France and elsewhere; continuous outbursts of “terrorism” “jihadism” and street revolt in the Middle East and Africa; the heroic Palestinian anti-Zionist revolt; Ukrainian anti-Nazi resistance; dogged but revisionist misled anti-Yankee movements in Latin America and growing working class dismay in the US itself, particularly among black and Hispanic “minorities”, all indicate a working class and proletarian mass generally which is being driven to explosion point by its increasingly hard pressed and desperate life, in the Third World firstly but now in the rich West too.
Most of these upheavals are a long way from any coherent revolutionary anti-capitalism, and their ideologies often confused and mixed like the yellow-vests, or even reactionary or hostile to communism, but they are all symptoms of a system riddled with contradictions.
Absolute poverty and the relative poverty of the widening gulf between mass privations and pain, and grotesque wealth of the ever tinier minority of the ultra-rich, taking everything for their own indolence and power and shutting off all the possibilities that constantly developing technology could otherwise offer everyone, are increasingly unbearable.
The masses are no longer willing to live in the old, humiliated hire-and-fire wage-slave exploited way.
As the viciousness of Slump austerity is ratcheted ever tighter on a society already facing knife-crime agony, breakdown, suicide and drug-ridden desperation, local and health service slashing, crap mindless jobs and wage stagnation, blighted cities, rapidly rising homelessness, Grenfell-style fire-safety contempt, price inflation and callous corporate fleecing incompetence (railways, water, airports etc), they will no longer be able to live the old way at all.
Even less will it be possible as the endless degenerate crisis warmongering, Western provoked “rebellions” like those currently in Venezuela,Zimbabwe, Sudan and the Congo, and non-stop massacres already imposed for two decades by imperialism on the Middle East, are all spread further; as the 2008 Slump disaster returns; and as already deadly trade war escalates to its unstoppable culmination, as twice before, in universal world war.
Paradoxically the crisis driven Trumpite retreats from the costly US “world policing” role for all imperialism, into increasingly paranoid isolationism will make that more likely particularly if Washington is forced to abandon the lucrative but now fatally QE polluted international trading dollar (facing unprecedented total collapse – see recent EPSRs).
The US monopoly capitalist economy is still dependent on its worldwide exploitation and without its capacity to bribe a world network of stooges and dictators to give its corporations free rein, will need to threaten open brute violence against all and sundry to keep its dominance in place (as became clear under George W Bush’s floundering “New American Century” plans and “those not with us are against us” belligerence).
These twin symptoms of monopoly capitalism’s societal breakdown, ruling and working class each unable to go on as before, were identified long ago by Lenin’s Bolsheviks as the key symptoms of a revolutionary crisis for the old bourgeois order.
But they remain without the crucial third ingredient that can transform this dialectally sharpening contradiction into the only possible way that things can be changed – class-war overturn of this ever more depraved and degenerate system.
That ingredient is conscious understanding and a world historical perspective built by a party dedicated to the struggle for scientific revolutionary theory and leadership.
Plenty of pretend Marxists and fake-“left” groups declare themselves to be “revolutionary” or socialist or “anti-capitalist" and even the revolutionary party, ready to “fight for a better world”.
But they never make clear that the class war to end this rotten festering and barbaric profit system and start with a completely new form of society, communism, is the only option facing everyone if the accelerating disintegration of the world into Slump and deadly war destruction (to solve capitalist “overproduction” problems) is to be stopped.
Just the opposite; the further things decline and degenerate, the more insistently they cling to their petty bourgeois anti-communism and propping up of the hoodwinking “democracy” fraud (both through Labour entryism or outside of it), condemnation of the world revolt as “unacceptable terrorism” and, mostly, hostility to the workers states (or blinkered revisionist failure to analyse what led to their “failure” so that mistakes can be overcome).
They continue to pump out the same old “left pressure”, “end austerity by more spending” and “no to war” pacifism as ever, “containing” capitalism or “regulating” it, or seeing a world advancing “step by step” but never making clear the total breakdown that is inexorably coming and insistently making revolution the only and the urgent necessity.
The Brexit turmoil illustrates their opportunism and petty bourgeois humbug reformism to a tee.
The working class rejection of the establishment in the referendum was an excellent signal of dogged rebelliousness and rising class hostility but was never going to change anything in itself.
To the contrary; its chauvinist illusions in “British sovereignty” and “the democratic voice” are major weaknesses.
As the EPSR has long explained and again in recent issues, it is not Europe as such which is imposing the Slump but the world capitalist system as a whole (which includes the EU too).
The same austerity burdens will continue to be loaded on the working class inside or out of Europe, by German and French monopoly interests or by the “world market” and especially US combines.
It needs to be explained that only taking over everything, and keeping it under the firmest proletarian control, can possibly change the world by starting to build planned socialist economies and advancing the world revolutionary struggle to end capitalism altogether.
Only then can a rational world be created which can take mankind forwards with an end to ever more sickening and grotesque inequality, war, torture, waste and global degradation, by the development of coherent communist society and production organised in harmony with nature to develop everyone to their full capacity, understanding that is only possible for all to develop if there is not one single person left behind.
Grasping that demands developing a detailed revolutionary understanding both to explain the way forwards and to battle against the deluge of anti-communist and petty bourgeois defeatist poison that fills brains in capitalist society from a thousand divers educational, entertainment, media, and political sources.
None of this emerges from the “50 shades of red” in the “left” swamp of reformists, Trotskyists, and revisionists.
Instead of showing the working class that Brexit is a diversion away from the fight to end capitalism, they virtually all take sides on the European issue declaring that one or the other offers future prospects while capitalism continues.
The few that retreat into an abstentionist position still fail to explain world capitalist collapse and the necessity for revolution as the only possible way out.
All, from both sides, therefore aid the ruling class in deceiving the working class, and splitting it instead of harnessing their discontent and unifying their struggle against the real enemy by clear class war understanding.
The Remainers want to keep things as they are essentially, reflecting the deluded complacency of the middle-class, particularly in the transiently “prosperous” south-east while arguing for pie-in-the-sky “cross Europe” reforms.
“Left” notions of internationally coordinated class action are notionally sound and occasionally some common action will emerge, but are mostly fanciful.
They are virtually useless without a perspective of the crisis sweeping all before it, and tend to be a figleaf for yet more class collaboration, rowing in behind capitalist European coordination and failing to explain that the entire “project” is itself being torn apart by the ever growing crisis antagonisms.
They are really tailending those sections of the ruling class that think being inside the European alliance can provide some protection from the growing belligerence of America First international bullying and from the overall intensification of cutthroat trade war and currency war which have long been developing and particularly sharply since the 2008 global bank collapses.
They particularly do not see the (potentially) revolutionary significance of the working class disgust which the referendum result was signalling.
Combined with a perspective of breaking free from Europe in order to overturn the ruling class, this sentiment might start to change things; a revolutionary Britain declaring for socialism would have a world shattering impact.
The “left” Leavers do not mention this crucial point however, and simply play into the hands of the backwardness and chauvinism being stirred by the most reactionary empire wing of the ruling class.
Essentially the Borises and Rees-Moggs, want Britain to line up with the US bloc in the world (under the laughable pretence of free-trade and “standing alone”, a hopeless joke for the moribund and now mostly foreign owned British economy), hating the “vassalage” to more powerful German-Franco capitalism and seeing a “traditional” US alliance as a better option than the Euro-alliance for their class wealth and power to survive the deadly trade wars now erupting – and as the best military and intelligence alliance for the outright wars that they will eventually lead to, just as they did in World War I and II.
They sell the notion by tapping remaining illusions in “national sovereignty” and “democracy” and a severely deluded sense of overall “British superiority” (fed by a non-stop diet of Great Escape war films and other cultural shallowness etc) which persists in the petty bourgeoisie and layers of the working class, particularly among older members, still tied to the class collaborating notions built up through 200+ years of utterly-faded and long gone British imperial dominance and the super-profits political corruption (through TUC “deal-making" and Labourite “loyal” opposition) which it allowed the ruling class to foster in the upper layers of the working population.
At its worst this is expressed in the vile jingoism and Little Englanderism encouraged by UKIP and which is vulnerable to, and colluding with, the outright racist and fascist politics whipped up by the likes of Tommy Robinson and the EDL and deliberately encouraged (and funded) by the ruling class, just as Hitlerism was, preparing for the warmongering to come.
The “Lexiters” leave workers prey to this reaction by encouraging (overtly or tacitly) all the same notions of saving “British jobs” protectionism, and even “import controls”, which simply feed trade war tensions and if “successful” (which can only be temporary in a world of increasing global “surplus” overproduction – inevitable while capitalism persists) divide workers internationally, by pushing the problems onto the workers in other countries whose factories etc are shut down instead.
They also lead inevitably to retaliation, escalating all the problems.
Fake-“left” “politically correct” efforts to counter the xenophobia and scapegoating that such backward nationalism is obviously stirring up, by denouncing workers for “being racist” and demanding an end to all immigration controls, simply makes the problem worse, failing to understand the divisiveness and undermining of class solidarity deliberately fostered by capitalism’s immigration rackets.
As the EPSR has repeatedly analysed (eg EPSR 1102 04-09-01):
In the context of ‘stable, reformist civilisation’, - of course there is an unanswerable humanitarian case for providing sanctuary to all ‘asylum seekers’, whatever the cause of their misery.
But if it really is a stable reformist civilisation, that response then is unanswerably challenged by the BNP objection that up to 500 million people in the Third World are unhappy with their lot. All have genuine cause for misery just as much as 99.99% of the existing flood of ‘asylum seekers’. Are all 500 million going to be welcomed to Britain too as a ‘solution’ to the problem?????
But if the notion of a ‘stable reformist civilisation’ is derisively rejected, as it should be, the issues change dramatically. The world is turned into one of unending revolutionary crisis caused by the very circumstances which drive individuals into asylum-seeking misery or peril. In which case there is a far better and more realistically constructive answer to the ludicrous challenge which ‘complete freedom for immigration’ otherwise presents. All who feel driven to flee their own homelands can be far more productively and satisfactorily urged to take help instead to achieve a revolutionary overthrow in their own countries, rather than eke out a miserable existence in a Glasgow reception centre.
Only the revolution will change and provide real social progress in Britain; but individualist refuge seeking Kurds, Afghanis, Iraqis, Latvians, etc, will be far closer to a revolutionary transformation of their miserable lives by making the revolution in their own countries than in remaining individually isolated in a Glasgow reception centre.
Genuine revolutionaries seeking political asylum as a respite from difficult revolutionary struggles in Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, etc, are one thing, - deserving all the help and encouragement they can be given.
Individuals who just want to opt out of their revolutionary struggle at home are a different problem entirely. They are individual ‘reformist’ cases which no more deserve to hi-jack the attention and struggle of the anti-imperialist revolutionary movement than do any number of domestic reformist cases of local people feeling miserable with their lot and demanding special treatment from the capitalist state authorities.
Opportunist economic migrants are no more an issue for the revolutionary movement than local people with housing grievances who decide to fight their own personal war against capitalism and to squat some better-off properties.
If it becomes a wholesale national revolutionary squatters movement, threatening to bring down the existing social order, so well and good; back it to the hilt. If it remains the personal crusade of isolated individualists, sympathy will be inevitable, but not any necessary need to make such protests a key part of the revolutionary cause.
The same with asylum-seekers/economic migrants. If they risk their lives to get here in order to raise the banner of proletarian revolution around the Glasgow reception centre, more power to their elbows. But if they are just breaking the ‘law’ in order to get an easier life as individuals, then let them and bourgeois ‘morality’ get on with it. Only the embarrassment to capitalism (from so much worldwide misery being in evidence from their system) is of much real use to the revolutionary struggle.
Every other intervention on behalf of such migratory economic opportunism is the purest reformism.
Publicly campaigning to encourage more and more of such reformist situations (by encouraging more and more such opportunist migration) becomes positively reactionary politics by the ‘politically correct’.
By raising such bogus ‘revolutionary’ issues around these reformist asylum-seeking rackets, the fake-’left’ is just pointlessly playing into the BNP’s hands.
Turn the problem back onto the capitalist system. Why are millions unhappy in their homelands??? Because of insoluble imperialist crisis. Solution???? Free-for-all immigration solves nothing. Only world socialist revolution offers any solution.
But none of the “left”-leave groups are saying any such thing, as the recent People’s Assembly “general election now” Brexit demonstration made clear, backed by a slew of Trotskyists such as the Socialist Workers Party, SWP breakaways Counterfire, repeated Labour entryists the Socialist Party (Militant) and left Labourites, all calling for the Tories to be toppled and a Jeremy Corbyn government to be elected.
Far from explaining the crisis, this clutch of “Lexiters”, all shamefacedly hiding behind moralising “Stand up to Racism - welcome all migrants” placards (guiltily aware of the jingoism their Leave campaigning has helped stir up), show clearly that such “leftism” will always try to drag the working class back behind the thoroughly bourgeois reformist Labourites, and the deadly parliamentary delusions it continues to foster.
“Bring down the Tories” demands are unobjectionable, along with all the other valid defensive piecemeal and local struggles the working class might get into (over working conditions, to retain hospitals, schools and libraries etc), often as a first step in political activity, and can be a useful further blow to an already besieged and desperate ruling class.
But they become the opposite if they reinforce illusions that Labourism, “democratic” referendums and reforms provide a path forwards for the working class, however much Corbynism is ludicrously presented in the bourgeois press as some monstrous “Bolshevik bogeyman” (as the Daily Mail and others have been doing recently, to tap petty bourgeois fearfulness).
“As if” would be far too tame a response to this lurid nonsense pretending to the working class that Corbyinism is anything but a hopeless cover for the old hoodwinking Labourite racket, (and thereby contradictorily giving it supposed “left credibility”).
Rather than simply denouncing Tories, the desperate refusal of the ruling class government to give way despite its astonishing and unprecedentedly humiliating parliamentary defeats, should be used as yet more proof, if any is needed after a century of election manipulation and betrayal by a dozen Labour governments, of the complete bogusness of the “democracy” racket within capitalism (on top of the non-election of Theresa May in the first place and the stitch-up manipulation of the “majority” via outright £1bn bribery of the beyond-reactionary fossil remnants of the colonist DUPers, (still sulkily pretending that they can turn the clock back to retain “Northern Ireland” as “part of Britain” despite the long-ago victory of the Good Friday Agreement for the republican Sinn Féin national liberation movement and the slow inevitable progress towards Irish reunification that it committed Westminster to).
(Incidentally, the continuing impossibility of solving the Irish border issue, of having Brexit and yet “no border”, gives the lie to all the “left” defeatism of the past 20 years declaring that the Good Friday Agreement was nothing but a capitulation by Sinn Féin and the Irish national-liberation struggle forced on them by a still powerful imperialism – if the GFA had not been a victory for the republicans and a retreat forced on British imperialism and the colonists, why would such a border, and the implications it has for ever deepening cross-border social and economic ties, now be deemed an untouchable issue?)
The thin ranks of the “lefts” in Trafalgar Square left totally unchallenged the utterly fraudulent and lying notion of “ending austerity” speechified by the mountebank “left” Labourite deputy leader John McDonnell, once more propping up the cynical pretence that there is a solution to the crisis simply by adjusting the capitalist economy and putting through a few reforms to regulate the big corporations and monopolies.
It is a total lie that capitalism can now be brought under control and a path be set for improving the condition of the working class by “taxing the big companies” or any other reforms however “draconian” and that the unspoken “stopping immigration” will restore a high-wage full-employment economy.
Even if the Googles, Apples and Amazons were not certain to avoid being “properly taxed”, by accountancy trickery and behind the scenes bullying financial pressure, it would change nothing about the advanced world crisis collapse anyway.
These groups backing the demonstration were pretending that their real interest was not solely in advocating Brexit but in a “full range of issues needing another government” but it still amounts to no more than reformism.
Treacherous “left” Labourism needs exposing for its anti-communism and deliberate disarming of the working class understanding of the crisis not bolstering by parasitical and opportunist Trot and revisionist entryism (which has been repeatedly proven a hopeless disaster, as in 1980s Liverpool for example).
Labour’s job is to fool and trick workers back behind the threadbare “democracy” racket and keep it well away from revolutionary understanding and if any rank-and-file “leftism” within it should “go too far” it is armed with every dirty trick in the book to suppress it, such as the collusion with the demented and topsy-turvy “left anti-semitism” CIA/Zionist campaign, Corbyn himself setting up po-faced “inquiries” to expel or suppress any “left” voices presuming to speak out for the Palestinian cause and its correct militancy against the murderous Jewish/Zionist land theft occupation of an entire people’s country.
Even if a “genuine” anti-capitalist parliamentary leadership were to emerge – which is a long way from the pretences of Corbyn and the other “left” Labourites, – it would still be fatal for the working class to put any trust in the notion that “this time it would all be different”.
If capitalism is eventually desperate enough to allow in a semi-centrist type of government from either a “left” Labour breakaway or a new party such as the Scargillite SLP initially appeared to be (see several dozen EPSRs at the time), such leaders however “sincere”, would simply be new Salvador Allendes.
He remains the archetypal “democratic path” socialist who failed to warn the working class of the real dictatorship nature of capitalist rule, and its willingness to go to any extreme of torture and barbarous butchery if necessary to prevent any real changes being made which would tamper with the interests of the wealthy.
The CIA monitoring, infiltration and skulduggery that coordinated the vicious 1973 coup in Chile (and which has been working overtime to disrupt and topple the last two decades’ great wave of left-nationalist reformism in Latin America by dirty “legal coups” such as this week in Venezuela, in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, or provoked violence and economic siege to paralyse worker advances, again as in Venezuela and Nicaragua) is one hundred times more intensive in a critical country such as Britain and well embedded in an establishment that has already had its gold-braided generals on the reactionary BBC state broadcaster warning of possible coups (over Trident for example).
Other “left” leaver groups are just as craven, such as the Morning Star remnants of Eurocommunism backing the Brexit Labourites as in this recent Guardian letter:
To Labour pragmatists who worry about losing working-class votes and Bennites who have remained true to Labour and the TUC’s original opposition to membership of the Common Market, Zoe Williams adds “slash-and-burn communists who relish the coming upheaval as the crucible of true radicalism” (For the sake of its supporters, Labour must choose remain, 24 December).
On the contrary, communists share Clement Attlee’s visceral opposition to Euro-federalism and the surrender of our country’s sovereignty. To this we add a long history of opposition to the actually existing slash-and-burn capitalist economics that has stripped our country of productive industry and deprived generations of young people of productive skills.
It is precisely because we want an alternative to Britain’s crazily unbalanced and financialised economy that we campaigned for Britain to leave the neoliberal EU and in doing so free ourselves from the anti-union judgments of the ECJ, the restrictions on state aid to industry, the obstacles to public ownership and the drive to militarise the EU.
But beyond this we are fearful that in breaking the bipartisan pledge that the Brexit vote be respected, Labour will lose for generations more the trust that the Blair government betrayed and which the Corbyn team has so painstakingly rebuilt. A betrayal of the Brexit vote will supercharge Ukip or worse.
The EU is an irreformable instrument for impoverishing the continental periphery and the working people of each country to the benefit of a predatory class whose wealth increases with every one of capitalism’s succeeding crises.
Communists want a People’s Brexit. Unconstrained by EU treaties, single market rules and directives, a left-led Labour government could develop a worker-led industrial strategy; aid industry, invest in training, youth and jobs, social welfare, housing, education and health services; and take the transport, energy and postal service profiteers back into public ownership.
Nick Wright Head of communications, Communist Party of Britain
This delusional and nationalistic flying-pigs “alternative capitalism” nonsense pays no attention whatsoever to realities such as the predatory hedge funds and international banks and monopoly combines of America and other non-European zones, which are at least as rapacious and plundering as any in the EU and which any Brexit government run by capitalism will be obliged to give way to in trade “deals”, opening up the NHS, agriculture and whatever remaining “national” assets there are to deregulation and ruthless plundering.
And if it is argued that the working class could “stop that” then how?
Particularly how, when the reality of capitalist dictatorship (and its background coup threat) is taken into account?
Only by out-and-out class war to impose its will would suffice, in which case why not take over completely? (Which would be easier than reversing capitalist slump, in fact).
But that raises all the very questions that are being avoided and covered up by the entire fake-”left”, namely of building a revolutionary leadership.
The same emerges from the Lalkar/Proletarian revisionists who make much of their supposed “hard nut” Stalin worshipping support for the past Soviet Union and wave plenty of red hammer-and-sickle flags but have even less to say about revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat on Brexit and make even more crudely nationalist appeals to “the British people”(!):
What is so amazing is that for all the splits and divisions in the big two parties, they are arguing over very little. As McDonnell’s latter comment reveals, the intent is to remain as closely aligned with EU rules as possible. This is the driving force amongst the mainstream political spectrum whether Brexit or Remain. This will firstly keep us tied to EU rules without having any influence on these rules, at which point, what is the purpose of leaving? More importantly it reveals the political will is in direct contradiction with the public will. The public voted to leave the European Union and that is what must be delivered, not some kind of Brexit light.
What we are observing across the political spectrum is merely the appearance of disagreement, all disagreement being merely part of a show, a part of an illusion. All wish to maintain close ties to the EU, maintaining some form of customs regulations, basically sticking to EU guidelines: the single market at all costs – the same single market which the people voted to leave. Politicians are playing a dangerous game with the people’s righteous discontent. Whilst most are attempting to camouflage their deeds, others are much more shamefaced, so we have the likes of Tony Blair continually calling for a second referendum.
Of course there is previous for this. Every time a people has rejected the EU, they have had their voices ignored or been bullied into retreat. So it was with Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon treaty. As were French and Dutch voters ignored on this issue. When imperialism does not like a result, it seeks to circumvent it. This is what we are observing in the process playing out before our eyes. The British people should not allow themselves to be duped by such anti-democratic machinations. The EU is, was, and will remain a bosses club and imperialist project. It does not protect workers’ rights, it tramples upon them. It must be abandoned at all costs.
Such a childish picture of a ruling class “secretly” intent on scuppering Brexit is total garbage; it is because there is total and very real division right down through the ruling class, with half of it advocating Brexit, that it is so paralysed.
And talking of “anti-democratic machinations” obviously implies that some “real democracy” can be attained.
Such a pretence is necessary for the Brarites to justify their opportunist slotting in behind the very most backward Little Englanderism, pandering to the petty bourgeois influenced public mood, just as they did when they played the main theoretical prop over an eight-year period, to the narrow trade union class collaboration and anti-theory posturing of Arthur Scargill and his Socialist Labour Party (see multiple EPSRs and EPSR book 21 Unanswered Polemics).
The “rationale” - that leaving Europe is an advance towards socialism, because it is “bad for imperialism”, – falls flat on its face if a whole wing of the ruling class is in favour.
It can be argued perhaps that the disruption and chaos that the ruling class is getting into through Brexit could compound the problems of the economic collapse unfolding everywhere, and therefore generally represent or add to weakness in the ruling class position, but even that is uncertain since setback for the European bosses, is a corresponding advantage to the capitalist sharks circling outside the EU.
Again it would only be of use to the working class if a wideranging and clear revolutionary perspective was already in place which first of all explained that the relentless monopolisation processes underway are unstoppable while the system lasts and the need to take over.
That is the last thing emerging from an analysis that implies that a “British” economy, presumably still totally capitalist owned, would be better for “workers rights” once out from under the “bosses club” of Europe but still under the British or, more likely, foreign bosses that would be in charge (and in many cases already are, via such giant monopoly combines as Amazon, Uber, etc, never noted for “upholding better conditions” for warehouse workers or drivers etc).
Who are the “British people” anyway (and the other national “peoples” referred to)? Such a chauvinist flavoured generalisation is a million miles away from the class analysis of Marxism.
Small wonder that the Brarites advocate talking to the UKIPers and declare that there is even agreement with them on many of their aims, berating the rest of the “left” for their crude anti-Nazi hostility in demonstrations against the Tommy Robinson supporters and their marches.
By all means make the arguments against capitalism with all workers including those who have been drawn behind EDL and UKIP backwardness, which is bound to happen when the general culture has given them nothing but anti-communism and philistine narrowness and consumerism for their entire lives – but that is not what is going on if this kind of nationalism is placed at the forefront.
The “aims” being argued for are nothing but reformist demands.
With the need to bring down the entire capitalist system, and particularly to establish proletarian dictatorship left unsaid, it starts to sound a little like “national socialism“.
This appalling Brexit shallowness from the Brarites reflects the complete loss of revolutionary perspective which began decades ago rooted in the mistakes and retreats of the Soviet Union’s Stalinist revisionist leadership which they still laud uncritically.
Their endless cover-up of revisionism’s errors (and of their own multiple subsequent mistakes) makes it more difficult to go through the great re-assessment of the huge achievements of the workers states which is needed if the working class is to overcome the greatest obstacle to forwards progress, the anti-communism deluged onto it morning, noon and night, and the great imperialist lie that “the Soviet Union failed”.
Only revisionist leadership failed, finally under Gorbachev, fatally and stupidly liquidating the still viable Soviet Union and its huge socialist advances under the dictatorship of the proletariat, because of its abandoning of revolutionary perspectives in favour of trite comparisons with capitalism’s postwar boom time expansion glitz, and consequent embrace of the “free-market”.
That was traceable to the misanalysis of Stalin declaring in 1952 that imperialism could no longer expand (Economic Problems of Socialism), creating unfulfillable expectations in the revisionist bureaucracy of steadily outpacing the West.
But this lost all sight of capitalism’s ruthless world exploitation and the unrestrained growth it led to (for the rich centre), causing ever more philistine revisionism to conclude eventually that its planned economy was “failing” instead of recognising the titanic achievements it had made over 73 years.
If fact it had seen off the gigantic and savage military onslaughts of imperialism after the initial revolution and brutal White civil war attempts to drown the new Bolshevism in blood, and then fought an even greater, essentially renewed revolutionary war against the terrifying and brutal Nazi invasion of the Second World War just two decades later; it went on to re-build an economy capable of countering the enormous firepower of post-1945 imperialist nuclear encirclement while reconstructing its shattered cities to provide housing for all at low-cost, universal services and health care, education and full employment, and developing arts, culture and science to astonishing levels including some of the best ballet, music, theatre and cinema in the world. Achievements in science, technology and space exploration often outpaced Western imperialism, all without a capitalist boss in sight and the massive resource base imperialism plundered from the Third World.
Red Army victories facilitated local socialist struggle to displace mostly outright fascism in Eastern Europe and its example was not only a gigantic inspiration for the post-war anti-imperialist struggle which saw a wave of national-liberation struggles bring to an end the direct colonialism of the past (albeit displaced by the bribery and CIA skulduggery of US-dominated neo-colonialism) but also huge fights for outright communism in China, Korea and later Vietnam and Cuba (much armed and aided by Soviet supplied weapons, technological help and training for hundreds of thousands of engineers, teachers etc).
If economic progress was steady, even sometimes plodding under the uninspiring leadership of revisionism, it still continued and it looked excellent to the Third World masses tyrannically sweated under Western imperialism (see EPSR Perspectives 2001 eg).
It was sufficient to prepare for the inevitable disastrous collapses and associated warmongering to come in capitalism.
But that inevitable catastrophe, and its revolutionary implications, was precisely what was forgotten by the Gorbachevite complacency, the treacherous liquidationist endpoint of Stalin’s retreats and theoretical errors and the “permanent peaceful coexistence” strategy they led to, which simply gave up in favour of fanciful cooperation with “our common European home” and the supposed advantages of the “free market”, leaving the economy open to the subsequent devastating carpet-bagging by oligarch gangsterism and foreign capital, (still in place despite some restraint by the idiot bonapartist Putin, to head off a return to communist sentiment).
Failure to explore these philosophical issues, and rejection of the polemical debate with anyone like the EPSR which virtually alone has begun to analyse them - (and the rejection of polemic to clarify scientific Leninist understanding on all questions) - is a major part of the vacuum in leadership which leaves the working class in confusion.
By denying or ignoring the theoretical errors made by Moscow (and by subsequent revisionism, even from otherwise brilliant workers states, such as Cuba), it gives greater scope for endless imperialist demonisation and rubbishing of the workers states themselves.
It especially leaves continuing Trotskyist and similar petty bourgeois defeatism to continue pouring bilious poison into the working class, with their reactionary theories that it is “impossible to build socialism in one country” for which the “proof” lies in the supposed “horrors and crimes” of the Soviet Union and its “terrible tyranny” under Josef Stalin who had transformed the revolution from a workers state into some “new” kind of reactionary tyranny and “totalitarian nightmare” etc etc.
This demented and vile nonsense pivots around Trotsky’s sour defeatist notion that the early Soviet Union was “taken over” by a new “caste” evolved from the inevitable bureaucracy of the workers state (a bureaucracy which Lenin had declared in a major dispute with Trotsky himself on the role of trade unions (in 1920), was an unavoidable part of regulating and controlling a new proletarian dictatorship society and planned economy. Bureaucracy needed to be checked and monitored for abuses but was as necessary to the new workers state workings as any other tool or instrument, and for generations to come).
Apart from the totally unMarxist notion in theory of a third kind of property relations implied by the sly use of caste, (used by Trotsky to avoid the obvious fact that capitalism had not been restored), the Trots and crypto-Trots have never been able to agree on when the alleged counter-revolution took place (because it never did).
The 1989-91 liquidation of the Soviet workers state and the subsequent collapse in living conditions inside the USSR, finally put paid to all these reactionary Trot theories because it was such a very obvious capitalist restoration and reversal of huge socialist achievements.
They have all retreated subsequently to endless distorted re-hashing of the early history of the Soviet Union to “prove” their case, allowing them to totally ignore the gigantic transformations of the 20th century and the enormous historical impact of the Soviet Union, and developing endless ever more convoluted sophistries such as Stalin leading a “counter-revolution within the revolution” to explain away why the USSR continued to look and behave like a workers state.
It is as bizarre a construct, as dishonest and evasive, as Trotsky’s original “caste” notion.
As mentioned above there is plenty to understand about the revisionist failings and difficulties that led to the ending of the Soviet Union, and which still hamper revolutionary understanding everywhere (not least currently in the Havana-led failure to educate the Latin American masses in the vital significance of struggling for the complete overturn of the capitalist ruling class and the need for proletarian dictatorship, rather than the confusion of bourgeois nationalist reformism such as that in Venezuela).
But it will not come about through the academic games and long-winded convolutions of the Trots and petty bourgeois groups of the same anti-workers state mindset, such as the Weekly Worker-ites of the CPGB, currently embroiled in a ludicrous effort to overcome the obvious flaws in conventional Trotskyism and its lying boasts to have been the “real leadership of the revolution” by revealing supposed “new archive discoveries” on the specifics of the 1917 events.
The purpose of these “discoveries”, detailed in long-winded and mind-numbing screeds (the latest a “special 6 page supplement” allowed the conceited WW guru figure Jack Conrad,) is to allow them to diminish the significance of Lenin’s titanic revolutionary understanding in 1917 while avoiding the now obvious fact that Trotsky got everything wrong - requiring some major distortions to be slipped into the historical account as the EPSR has been explaining - see continuing article below).
All that is needed to try and keep afloat notion that Stalin’s workers state was a disaster and thereby the notion that there is no point in trying to fight for socialism in one country only, because it will “always go wrong”.
And that can then be used to take a “sophisticated” abstentionist stand on Brexit for example, to pour cold water all over any revolutionary implications or lessons in the European breakup, and beyond that to “justify” the Weekly Worker’s own entryist support for the bourgeois Labour Party.
All radical reformism (not even revolution!) is put off into the “mid-term” as set out in a special (and also long-winded) resolution recently. Here is part 4:
4. Socialist construction in a single country, and even a left-nationalist or national-reformist break in a single country from the iron cage of the diktats of US imperialist capital and its international institutions (International Monetary Fund and so on), is illusory. The crisis in Venezuela and the liberalising turn in Cuba are examples of this. Production is now too much internationally integrated to be carried on at any level beyond the marginal without access to trade.
Through the control of finance, and the elaboration of sanctions against the supply of ‘strategic’ capital goods, the US can effectively choke the economy of any single nation-state.
In Europe, the Greek tragedy shows the ability of the EU and its controllers to do the same to any single country. The inability of the Tory Brexiteers to offer a realistic alternative to May’s agreement is yet another symptom of the same thing - eg, Dominic Raab’s failure before he became Brexit minister to appreciate the dependence of UK production on the port of Dover.
It thus remains true that, whether the UK is in or out of the EU, we need working class political action on a continental scale - meaning, for this country, on a European scale - to pose the possibility of an alternative to the choice between neoliberalism and rightwing populism.
On a continental scale, it is possible to pose the possibility of an alternative - because Europe as a whole, unlike Venezuela, Greece, or even the UK, could face down the financial markets, the sanctions and the threats of US military action which would meet such an alternative. But the condition of doing so is to be willing to pose the alternative of radical democracy (and hence the overthrow of the treaties) and socialist reconstruction (and hence extensive socialisation and planning in natura of production). It requires a break with the people’s front policy and constitutional loyalism.
Being out of the EU will act as a disadvantage to pushing such a policy (shared with the Swiss and Norwegian movements) - but a rather marginal one, given the paralysis of the European left by its people’s frontism. Given the condition of the European left, this real disadvantage is not worth the cost of lining up behind the liberals to attempt in the last ditch to reverse the referendum result.
Rather, we need to promote the idea of workers’ action on a European scale both within and beyond the EU institutions.
5. The Labour Party is also faced with this problem. As ‘Labour remainers’ have argued, Labour’s 2017 manifesto did not involve any violation of European Union law. It did not do so because it was, in fact, extremely timid - at most slightly to the left of the 2015 manifesto.
Labour’s current expressed policy combines elements of nostalgia for a purely national economic solution, reflected in proposals to improve national ‘competitiveness’, with unwillingness to face up to the extent of neoliberal commitments in the current European (and British) legal regimes or to confront the constitutional issues. Labour thus stands Janus-faced in relation to liberalism and nationalism, unwilling to break with either. It does so because the Labour leadership hopes to win ‘power’ (meaning governmental office) without actually persuading a majority to change their minds. This position is reflected in its extreme difficulty in expressing any clear position in the face of the Tory attempts to manoeuvre Labour into a false position.
A Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn is a relatively unlikely option unless the present parliament runs its full term until 2022 and in the interim a good deal more reselection takes place, without there being a large enough split to hand victory to the Tories. A snap election in the near future, which produced a Labour majority, would result in a rightwing parliamentary party, and would therefore be more likely to lead to a ‘national unity’ government of the labour right with some part of the Tories. An actual Corbyn government would, however, be a worse outcome for the workers’ movement. Contrary to its claims to bring austerity to an end, its constitutional, national and economic commitments would mean that it would be as much imprisoned by the demands of the bankers as was the Syriza government in Greece. Britain is larger than Greece - but as much dependent on trade. The result would be nothing but demoralisation and a further boost for the nationalist right.
If, however, Labour were to break with its constitutionalism and nationalism, and its aspiration to hold office without winning the political support for real change, it could fight for a policy of common action on a European scale for socialism. To set out on the road of building a real and effective opposition, rather than aspiring to immediate governmental office, could be a road to building in the medium term a movement which could challenge for real power Europe-wide. [WW1229 29-11-18]
So back to the relentless defeatist “hot-spots” theory then (demolished by past EPSRs such as 873, 928, 945 and many more), with imperialism totally in command and “nothing but demoralisation” unless some fanciful and utterly unrealistic “Europe-wide” common action – for “reformist opposition” only within existing institutions – is pursued.
“Small” details aside such as why the supposedly long-settled Irish national-liberation “hotspot” is proving such an intractable difficulty for Brexit - why not simply tread across it and have a new border??) – this doom laden perspective simply ignores history and particularly the huge difficulties of the Middle East and Afghanistan for imperialism and the retreat into defensiveness that Trumpism demonstrates in pulling back.
Such supposed imperialist “victories” as Greece and Venezuela, demonstrate only the treachery and/or failure and inadequacy of the fake-“left” and its lack of clear revolutionary perspective.
Even more it utterly ignores the crisis which has rocked imperialism to the core and which is about to lurch into far worse turmoil even than that caused by the 2008 global breakdown as even the upbeat tone of the first piece here cannot disguise, and certainly as the pampered elite at Davos were warning:
The new year message from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a string of similarly gloomy commentators struck a chord, apparently within weeks of sounding the alarm that a global recession and possibly a credit crunch to rival 2008’s was on the way.
First to recognise the danger was the US Federal Reserve, which slammed the brakes on ever-tighter monetary policy. No more interest rate rises this year and possibly a review of the Fed’s sale of $3.7tn of assets, the unloading of which has done so much in the last 18 months to push up long-term interest rates charged by US banks and other lenders to commercial borrowers.
The People’s Bank of China brought similar cheer to investors after it loosened credit rules to allow small- and medium-sized businesses to borrow more freely. Almost overnight, an economy that was slowing dramatically and taking Germany, the US and much of Asia down with it, was back on the path to solid growth.
Politicians played their part. Donald Trump’s advisers spotted that his tariff war with China was as a serious drag on US trade.
Suddenly the aggressive bickering that governed trade talks last year between Trump and the Chinese premier, Xi Jinping, began to calm noticeably. In the past week, China’s chief trade negotiator, the vice-premier, Liu He, has said he would travel to the US to “work together to further implement the important consensus reached by the two state leaders”.
Beijing also pledged to cut taxes “on a larger scale” to boost business activity. Against a backdrop of disappointing industrial production figures and the first drop in car sales for almost three decades, the state council was following an almost Trumpian route to boosting growth. City analysts lapped up the news.
Since the Christmas break, the S&P 500, the broadest stock market index tracking major US corporations, has climbed back to 2610 from a 2018 low of 2416. Even the FTSE 100, battered by Brexit uncertainty, regained its composure and rose 300 points.
Other disputes featured on the IMF’s risk register. The row between Rome and Brussels over the Italian budget deficit and the danger it posed for the eurozone’s stuttering recovery was one. Likewise, there was the potential for a no-deal Brexit to spread chaos in financial markets.
After the Italian government found a way to compromise and the British parliament made clear it wasn’t prepared to countenance a no-deal Brexit, both these risks faded, or at least in the minds of investors.
However, the Cassandras are not giving up just yet. One reason is that the cost of the US/China trade war – in lost economic activity and falling levels of business confidence – has almost wiped out the benefits of Trump’s $1.2tn tax cuts. Going forward, the president’s recalibration of his rhetoric on trade with China has come too late and not gone far enough.
The US must also contend with a colossal policy mistake courtesy of the Fed, which raised interest rates four times in 2018 and has already offloaded hundreds of billions of dollars of assets. Its recent pause notwithstanding, the extra borrowing costs already imposed by the Fed will continue to hurt businesses and consumers. A third policy mistake is the shutdown currently gripping the federal government.
Meanwhile, in China, the ameliorating effects of Xi’s tax cuts and credit easing are likely to be short-lived, with knock-on effects in the US and Europe.
Diana Choyleva, a China expert at Enodo Economics, said last week that 2019 was shaping up to be a more challenging year than the last “as the trade war with the US morphs into a tech war and Beijing struggles to keep China’s rebalancing on track amid much weaker growth and mounting debt”.
The doomsayers at Fathom Consulting are sticking by their prediction of a global recession in 2020. At the consultancy TS Lombard, they see a move by JP Morgan as a canary signalling trouble ahead.
Could it be that America’s biggest bank has stopped dancing in the financial disco even while the music continues to play? That’s a big call when there is still money to be made from shovelling out cheap loans. Surely it means there is trouble ahead.
Pity the poor billionaire, for today he feels a new and unsettling emotion: fear. The world order he once clung to is crumbling faster than the value of the pound. In its place, he frets, will come chaos. Remember this, as the plutocrats gather this week high above us in the ski resort of Davos: they are terrified.
Whatever dog-eared platitudes they may recycle for the TV cameras, what grips them is the havoc far below. Just look at the new report from the summit organisers that begins by asking plaintively, “Is the world sleepwalking into a crisis?” In the accompanying survey of a thousand bosses, money men (because finance, like wealth, is still mainly a male thing) and other “Davos decision-makers”, nine out of 10 say they fear a trade war or other “economic confrontation between major powers”. Most confess to mounting anxieties about “populist and nativist agendas” and “public anger against elites”. As the cause of this political earthquake, they identify two shifting tectonic plates: climate change and “increasing polarisation of societies”.
In its pretend innocence, its barefaced blame-shifting, its sheer ruddy sauce, this is akin to arsonists wailing about the flames from their own bonfire. Populism of all stripes may be anathema to the billionaire class, but they helped create it. For decades, they inflicted insecurity on the rest of us and told us it was for our own good. They have rigged an economic system so that it paid them bonanzas and stiffed others. They have lobbied and funded politicians to give them the easiest of rides. Topped with red Maga caps and yellow vests, this backlash is uglier and more uncouth than anything you’ll see in the snow-capped Alps, but the high rollers meeting there can claim exec producer credits for the whole rotten lot. Shame it’s such a downer for dividends.
This week’s report from Oxfam is just the latest to put numbers to this hoarding of wealth and power. One single minibus-load of fatcats – just 26 people – now own as much as half the planet’s population, and the collective wealth of the billionaire class swells by $2.5bn every day. This economic polarisation is far more obscene than anything detested by Davos man, and it is the root cause of the social and political divide that now makes his world so unstable.
No natural force created this intense unfairness. The gulf between the super-rich and the rest of us did not gape wide open overnight. Rather, it has been decades in the widening and it was done deliberately. The UK was the frontline of the war to create greater inequality: in her first two terms as prime minister, Margaret Thatcher more than halved the top rate of income tax paid by high earners. She broke the back of the trade unions. Over their 16 years in office, Thatcher and John Major flogged off more public assets than France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Australia and Canada put together.
Oh, shrug the Davos set, that’s ancient history. It is no such thing. Thatcher may be gone but her ideology keeps on taking cash out of your pay packets. If workers today got the same share of national income as in the 70s, we would be far better off. According to calculations from the Foundational Economy collective of researchers, a full-time employee now on the median salary of £29,574 would get a pay rise of £5,471.
Meanwhile, FTSE bosses enjoy skyrocketing pay, precisely because bonus schemes give them part-ownership of the big companies they run. So Jeff Fairburn of the housebuilder Persimmon took £47m in 2018 before getting the boot, which works out at £882 for each £1 earned by an average worker at the firm.
Where Thatcher’s shock troops led, the rest of the west more or less followed. Political leaders across the spectrum gave the rich what they wanted. It didn’t matter whether you voted for Tony Blair or David Cameron, Bill Clinton or George W Bush, either way you got Davos man. They cut taxes for top earners and for businesses, they uprooted the public sector to create opportunities for private firms, and they struck trade deals negotiated in secret that gave big corporations as much as they could ever dream of.
At last, more than a decade after the banking crash, the regime has run out of road. Hence the popular anger, so ferocious that the political and financial elites can neither comprehend nor control it. I can think of no better metaphor for the current disarray of the Davos set than the fact that Emmanuel Macron – surely the elite’s platonic ideal of a politician, with his eyes of leporid brightness, his stint as an investment banker and his start-up party – cannot attend this week’s jamboree because he has to stay at home and deal with the gilets jaunes. It’s a bummer when the working poor spoil your holiday plans.
They care about other people’s problems – so long as they get to define them, and it’s never acknowledged that they are a large part of the problem. Which they are. If they want capitalism to carry on, the rich will need to give up their winnings and cede some ground. That point evades them.
Welcoming Donald Trump last year, Klaus Schwab, Davos’s majordomo, praised the bigot-in-chief’s tax cuts for the rich and said, “I’m aware that your strong leadership is open to misconceptions and biased interpretations.” The super-rich don’t hate all populists – just those who refuse to make them richer.
The last three decades have seen the political and economic elites hack away at our social scaffolding – rights, taxes and institutions. It proved profitable, for a while, but now it threatens their own world.
And still they block the quite reasonable alternatives of more taxes on wealth, of more power for workers, of companies not run solely to enrich their owners. The solutions to this crisis will not be handed down from a mountain top to the grateful hordes: they will rely on us taking power for ourselves.
This does not get beyond “if they want capitalism to carry on” they need to “give ground”.
But that is the point - they cannot restore any “social scaffolding” because the whole system has hit a brick wall.
They cannot go back to granting reforms.
More than this not-bad-for-a-bourgeois-press piece knows, the answer really is “taking power for ourselves”.
It is only possible by revolution – and the dictatorship of the proletariat led by a revolutionary party which can cut through all the fake-“left” garbage.
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Lionisation of Trotsky, at Lenin’s expense - a new industry!
Nothing shows the value of Phil Waincliffe’s articles against the lionisation of Trotsky at Lenin’s expense than the new Netflix series, “Trotsky”.
While it portrays all revolutionaries in the Russian revolution as crazed cynics out for personal power, this Putin’s-Russia-made series has a definite spin of making Trotsky the real die-hard leader of the October revolution, with Lenin just an arch-operator who cold-bloodedly manipulates people to get his way without principle or genuine purpose.
Hilariously, the episodes shift from made-up scene to made-up scene, all undocumented and in no serious history of the Russian revolution that’s ever been written, with one set in 1902-3 showing Lenin threatening to shove Trotsky off a high building to his death unless he agrees to support the Bolshevik line. Of course, this Leninist viewer did enjoy the pleasure of watching the much smaller but stockier Lenin beat up and shove Trotsky to the parapet.
Scene after scene has Trotsky declared the real motive force of the revolution and its guiding spirit - “he’s loved by the Petrograd workers” - while never revealing that this “hero of the working class” had no party at all of any size in May 1917 and his small following was made up mainly of students.
Having watched half the series so far, which flits between Trotsky’s exile in Mexico in 1940, the 1905 revolution, 1917, the Civil War and earlier periods, it’s noticeable that the programme eschews showing scenes of Tsarist massacres or viciousness, in favour of scenes of the Bolsheviks shooting workers and peasants out of hand for no particular reason.
Stalin is portrayed as an evil man motivated by anti-Semitism (a man who, in reality, as a Bolshevik leader, bravely went out of his way to stop a bloody pogrom in Baku, where Muslims and Christians had been provoked into fighting by Tsarist agents). He is shown by the series as going from loving Trotsky as a “great revolutionary” when he hears him speak for revolution in a far more passionate way than Lenin at a meeting in London but hates him the next second when Trotsky fails to shake his hand in the congratulatory crowd.
Of course, all the revolutionaries are shown as being bought and paid for by German money (as the German high command looks to spread revolution like a cancer through its enemy Russia) supplied by the opportunist businessman Parvus.
But the series may still make for uncomfortable viewing for Russia’s oligarchs and Putin as it shows the great masses of 1917 poverty stricken and oppressed and needing to make a socialist revolution, and it is interesting that the series garnered very good viewing figures in Russia.
One hundred years on, a new socialist revolution is needed in Russia to bring down the rule of the mega-rich and Bonapartist Putin, and rebuild socialism under a new dictatorship of the proletariat.
The task just needs a large Bolshevik party, founded on Leninism. It doesn’t need German money - it just needs the right theory - which doesn’t include believing Trotsky was anything but a charlatan. As opposed to Trotsky vaingloriously saying in the series “When are you going to understand that I am the revolution?!” This viewer, and hopefully many viewers in Russia, was rolling around on the floor laughing at that point.
The EPSR has already noted that several “left-wing” parties in Russia have been falling for Trotskyism as the “antidote” to Stalinist revisionism, when even an elementary education in the Soviet school system or even modern-day Russia should have disabused them of the notion that Lenin “needed Trotsky’s theoretical guidance” or that the Russian Revolution was led by Trotsky, rather than Lenin’s Bolshevik party.
The CPGB-Weekly Worker with its endless anti-Lenin articles and its lionisation of Trotsky is trying to do a reverse Herculean cleaning of the Augean stables, where instead of being covered in muck, the Leninist stables, of speeches, writings and work, are pristine and need to be covered in crap with a teaspoon. But those Leninist stables are very, very large with all Lenin’s Collected Works and the entire history of the Russian Revolution, Civil War and building of the USSR to be besmirched. Foul CPGB-Weekly Worker anti-communism has an impossible job on its hands!
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Distorting Lenin’s April Theses
Combatting attempts to undermine Leninism by the fake-“lefts” (arising out of their hatred of the dictatorship of proletariat) by distorting the historical record of the Soviet Union’s revolutionary history up to 1989 –– Part Three
An attempt to smuggle in Kautsky can be found in Lih’s discussion of what he calls “the hegemony scenario”. First, for much needed clarity (because Lih does not provide it), an explanation from Lenin of what the Bolsheviks meant by “hegemony”:
The hegemony of the working class is the political influence which that class (and its representatives) exercises upon other sections of the population by helping them to purge their democracy (where there is democracy) of undemocratic admixtures, by criticising the narrowness and short-sightedness of all bourgeois democracy, by carrying on the struggle against “Cadetism” (meaning the corrupting ideological content of the speeches and policy of the liberals), etc., etc.
[Lenin, Those Who Would Liquidate Us, January and February 1911]
(8) The eighth thesis, an important one following from the whole of the foregoing and closely linked with it, is the hegemony of the proletariat, its guiding role, its role as leader. It leads the whole people, the entire democratic movement. It demands freedom and leads into the battle for freedom. It sets an example, provides a model. It raises morale. It arouses a new mood.
[Lenin, Concerning certain speeches by workers deputies, November 1912]
This is how Lih concludes his second article:
To conclude. The hegemony scenario, as set out in 1906 by the spokesman of revolutionary social democracy, Karl Kautsky
(!!!!! – “a former spokesman of revolutionary social democracy who later reneged on Marxism and went over to the side of the bourgeoisie”, surely???),
and enthusiastically endorsed by Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, tells us why a worker-peasant vlast was created in 1917, as well as why it survived in the civil war that followed. (Article 2)
To demonstrate Kautsky’s supposed leadership position above Lenin, Lih implies far more significance to Kautsky’s The Proletariat and Its Ally (the final section of a 1906 pamphlet, The Driving Forces and the Prospects of the Russian Revolution) than it actually had. True, Lenin had praised the piece highly in his preface to the work:
a remarkably logical analysis of the underlying principles of the whole tactics of the Social-Democrats in the Russian bourgeois revolution
[Lenin, The proletariat and its ally in the Russian revolution, December 1906]
But Lih is suggesting that the “hegemony scenario” originated from Kautsky, which is simply not true. He had also made the same sly implication earlier in the article (throwing in a piece of pompous self-aggrandisement for good measure - by placing himself on the same level as Lenin, and the earlier, Marxist, Kautsky!):
Kautsky entitled this final section ‘The proletariat and its ally’. Lenin borrowed these words for the title of one of his two commentaries, and I in turn have borrowed them from Lenin. (Article 2)
Lih muddies the waters here and in other places by, in places, suggesting that Kautsky “affirms” Lenin’s position (although he really affirming the Bolsheviks' (including Lenin’s) position in 1905-6, which does not prove anything about 1917 because conditions had changed dramatically):
Kautsky’s answers were immediately seized on by the left wing of the Russian party as a crushing vindication of their own strategy.
And in other places that Lenin “endorsed” Kautsky’s position (which he did in 1906, but not in April 1917):
We are now in a position to summarise the hegemony scenario, as set forth by Kautsky and enthusiastically endorsed by Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin.
And then there’s this:
Both Lenin and Stalin made a direct connection between Kautsky’s article and Lenin’s earlier book Two tactics of social democracy; they argued that Lenin’s polemical formula, “the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants”, followed the logic of Kautsky’s argument.
How Lenin’s book, Two Tactics of Social Democracy, “followed the logic of Kautsky’s argument” when it was written a year earlier is left unexplained. Surely Kautsky’s argument would have followed the logic of Lenin’s book since that was written first??!!
There is nothing in Lenin’s preface about “following anyone’s logic”, but there is a glowing endorsement of Kautsky’s vindication of the Bolsheviks’ scientific understanding. This is an example of what Lenin actually wrote:
This first answer of Kautsky’s is a brilliant vindication of the fundamental principles of Bolshevik tactics. Beginning with the Geneva newspapers Vperyod and Proletary, and continuing with the pamphlet Two Tactics, the Russian Bolsheviks have always regarded as the main issue in their struggle against the Mensheviks the Right-wing Social-Democrats’ distortion of the concept: “bourgeois revolution”. We have said hundreds of times, and have backed our statements with innumerable declarations by the Mensheviks, that to interpret the category “bourgeois revolution” in the sense of recognising the leadership and guiding role of the bourgeoisie in the Russian revolution is to vulgarise Marxism. A bourgeois revolution in spite of the instability of the bourgeoisie, by paralysing the instability of the bourgeoisie—that is how the Bolsheviks formulated the fundamental task of the Social-Democrats in the revolution.
[Lenin, The proletariat and its ally in the Russian revolution, Dec 1906]
The question of whether or not the Bolsheviks should take the leading role in the revolutionary struggle for bourgeois democracy (“the hegemony of the working class”) had been argued about in Marxist circles since at least 1902.
By the time of the 1905 Revolution, the Bolsheviks had already concluded that the proletariat should take the lead in order to ensure that the revolution goes as far as it can whilst it has, of necessity, to rely on an alliance with the peasantry. Kautsky’s piece helped to deepen their understanding of the fundamental questions raised by this tactic. This does not prove that the tactic originated with Kautsky.
Lenin was arguing for the hegemony of the proletariat as far back as 1902 (four years before Kautsky’s pamphlet) against the ‘Economists’ and others who were arguing against the proletariat taking a lead in a future bourgeois-democratic revolution:
It is our direct duty to concern ourselves with every liberal question, to determine our Social-Democratic attitude towards it, to help the proletariat to take an active part in its solution and to accomplish the solution in its own, proletarian way. Those who refrain from concerning themselves in this way (whatever their intentions) in actuality leave the liberals in command, place in their hands the political education of the workers, and concede the hegemony in the political struggle to elements which, in the final analysis, are leaders of bourgeois democracy.
The class character of the Social-Democratic movement must not be expressed in the restriction of our tasks to the direct and immediate needs of the “labour movement pure and simple”. It must be expressed in our leadership of every aspect and every manifestation of the great struggle for liberation that is being waged by the proletariat, the only truly revolutionary class in modern society. Social-Democracy must constantly and unswervingly spread the influence of the labour movement to all spheres of the social and political life of contemporary society. It must lead, not only the economic, but also the political, struggle of the proletariat. It must never for a moment lose sight of our ultimate goal, but always carry on propaganda for the proletarian ideology—the theory of scientific socialism, viz., Marxism—guard it against distortion, and develop it further. We must untiringly combat any and every bourgeois ideology, regardless of the fashionable and striking garb in which it may drape itself.
It is particularly in regard to the political struggle that the “class point of view” demands that the proletariat give an impetus to every democratic movement. The political demands of working-class democracy do not differ in principle from those of bourgeois democracy, they differ only in degree. In the struggle for economic emancipation, for the socialist revolution, the proletariat stands on a basis different in principle and it stands alone (the small producer will come to its aid only to the extent that he enters, or is preparing to enter, its ranks). In the struggle for political liberation, however, we have many allies, towards whom we must not remain indifferent. But while our allies in the bourgeois-democratic camp, in struggling for liberal reforms, will always glance back and seek to adjust matters so that they will be able, as before, “to eat well, sleep peacefully, and live merrily” at other people’s expense, the proletariat will march forward to the end, without looking back. While the confreres of R. N. S. (author of the preface to Witte’s Memorandum) haggle with the government over the rights of the authoritative Zemstvo, or over a constitution, we will struggle for the democratic republic. We will not forget, however, that if we want to push someone forward, we must continuously keep our hands on that someone’s shoulders. The party of the proletariat must learn to catch every liberal just at the moment when he is prepared to move forward an inch, and make him move forward a yard. If he is obdurate, we will go forward without him and over him.
[Lenin, Political agitation and “the class point of view”, February 1902]
In the final part of this quote, Lenin makes the point that the proletariat must not stop at the bourgeois-democratic republic, but press beyond its limits and towards the socialist revolution; a crucial piece of understanding that underpinned Lenin’s argument in April 1917.
And in 1905 (a year before Kautsky’s pamphlet) Lenin writes against petty bourgeois fears of a proletarian lead in the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry:
At the outset of his pamphlet Martynov tries to frighten us with the following grim prospect: If a strong, revolutionary Social-Democratic organisation could “time and carry out the general armed uprising of the people” against the autocracy, as Lenin dreamed, “is it not obvious that the general will of the people would on the morrow after the revolution designate precisely this party as the provisional government? Is it not obvious that the people would entrust the immediate fate of the revolution precisely to this party, and to no other?”
This is incredible, but true. The future historian of Russian Social-Democracy will have to record with surprise that at the very outset of the Russian revolution the Girondists of Social-Democracy tried to frighten the revolutionary proletariat with such a prospect!
Engels points to the danger of failure on the part of the leaders of the proletariat to understand the non-proletarian character of the revolution, but our sage Martynov infers from this the danger that the leaders of the proletariat, who, by their programme, their tactics (i.e., their entire propaganda and agitation), and their organisation, have separated themselves from the revolutionary democrats, will play a leading part in establishing the democratic republic. Engels sees the danger in the leader’s confounding of the pseudo-socialist with the really democratic character of the revolution, while our sage Martynov infers from this the danger that the proletariat, together with the peasantry, may consciously assume the dictatorship in the establishment of the democratic republic, the last form of bourgeois domination and the best form for the class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. Engels sees the danger in the false, deceptive position of saying one thing and doing another, of promising the domination of one class and actually ensuring that of another. Engels sees the irrevocable political doom consequent upon such a false position, while our sage Martynov deduces the danger that the bourgeois adherents of democracy will not permit the proletariat and the peasantry to secure a really democratic republic. Our sage Martynov cannot for the life of him understand that such a doom, the doom of the leader of the proletariat, the doom of thousands of proletarians in the struggle for a truly democratic republic, would well be a physical doom, but not, however, a political doom; on the contrary, it would be a momentous political victory of the proletariat, a momentous achievement of its hegemony in the struggle for liberty. Engels speaks of the political doom of one who unconsciously strays from the path of his own class to that of an alien class, while our sage Martynov, reverently quoting Engels, speaks of the doom of one who goes further and further along the sure road of his own class.
[Lenin. Soc.-Dem. and provisional revolutionary Government April 1905]
Lih is too clever, or tricky, to say explicitly that Kautsky was the originator of these Bolshevik tactics in this article. However, the entire tone and thrust of his second article, replete with sly innuendoes, sophistry and word-play, creates this false impression. He does manage to sneak in this comment in a further instalment published three months later, making his position crystal clear:
The Kautsky article to which Stal refers, ‘The driving forces and prospects of the Russian Revolution’ (1906), was regarded by all Bolsheviks as almost a manifesto of Bolshevik political strategy, as discussed at length in an earlier article.
This is total lying hogwash. In his preface to the Kautsky article, Lenin made the point that a German writing in Germany was not in a position to advise the Russian proletariat on tactical questions (let alone write near-manifestos), and the Bolsheviks did not expect or need such advice anyway. The value in the work lay elsewhere (as explained above):
This is an article that all Social-Democrats should certainly read, not because a German theoretician of Marxism can be expected to supply answers to the current problems of our tactics (the Russian Social-Democrats would not be worth much if they waited for such answers from afar)...
[Lenin, The proletariat and its ally in the Russian revolution, December 1906]
Lih’s later discussion on the Bolsheviks' “minimum programme” is equally obfuscating. This is achieved by avoiding any talk of class dictatorship or revolution, the only way of describing world history scientifically. As in this:
Concretely, the main democratic changes sought by the worker-peasant vlast are (politically) a radically democratic republic with full political freedom and (economically) land to the peasants along with the liquidation of the pomeshchiki (gentry landowners) as a class.
This proves nothing about a “continuity” between Lenin’s April Theses and the Bolsheviks' position in 1905-6.
Even in 1905, the aim was not simply for a “radically democratic republic” anyway, but for the proletariat and its peasant allies to assume the dictatorship in that republic. And that was not an end in itself for the proletariat because it would still be a bourgeois, albeit bourgeois-democratic, republic. It was only necessary for the proletariat to pursue that aim because the “full political freedoms” it would provide would create the best conditions in which to further its own interests in the fight against bourgeois domination to establish its own proletarian socialist dictatorship.
February 1917 changed everything. The bourgeois-democratic republic was now in existence in embryonic form, in the form of the Soviets. However, power was in the hands of the new provisional government of the big bourgeoisie, whose survival depended on the co-operation of the petty-bourgeoisie who dominated the Soviets.
The aim now was the establishment of a Commune state; a new type of state in which the bourgeois/monarchist state machinery of oppression is smashed and replaced by the direct arming of the people who would impose their power by force; and a transitional state in which land, banks and capitalist syndicates are nationalised, or at least, put under the control of the Soviets. Such measures would constitute “steps towards socialism”, as Lenin explained in his Letters on Tactics in April 1917, and would create the best conditions for the eventual establishment of the proletarian dictatorship.
Lih doesn’t mention any of this. Instead, virtually his entire second article is devoted to describing what people were supposed to have said in 1905-6 without making any real attempt to explain what this had to do with the real life conditions post-February 1917. And so, projecting his idealist world-view onto Lenin, he claims:
…Lenin had ambitious hopes for the soviets as a higher type of democracy that superseded “bourgeois parliamentarianism” - hopes that he expressed in State and revolution - written in 1917, but published in 1918.
Lenin wrote State and Revolution to demonstrate the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the transitional stage to communism (when the state eventually withers away and the need for any kind of dictatorship disappears); he did not write it to extoll the virtues of “the soviets as a higher type of democracy”, although Lenin did see the Soviets in this way as well.
Under the proletarian dictatorship, the Soviets became the vehicle for drawing the masses into the polemical struggle for understanding the material world. They were the arenas in which to air the questions that need resolving through open debate so that the truth could be established and form the basis on which the proletariat can advance further. This was democracy for the majority. The minority, the bourgeoisie and monarchist remnants were suppressed dictatorially.
The Soviets were a higher form of democracy over the bourgeois parliamentary system (in which decisions were made by the parliamentary "majority" in the interest of maintaining the dominance of the bourgeoisie). However, they were not the vehicle for decision making. Once the workers’ state had been established, the Bolsheviks used the Soviets to win over the masses to the correct understanding of domestic and world issues; adjusting and developing that understanding as the discussions develop; and exposing and correcting any possible short-comings in their own understanding. The final decisions were made by the leadership of the proletarian dictatorship, whose scientific understanding was at the highest level.
Lih avoids all use of the term ‘dictatorship’ when he writes about the state. This prevents him from describe the nature of the state correctly because all states are class dictatorships. By not describing the state in this way, he is not preparing the working class for the establishment of its own dictatorship, and so he is effectively lining up the up behind reformism. As Lenin, in 1920, wrote in a polemic against the bourgeois liberals, Kautskyites and others of that time who began to “recognise the revolution” once it had become a material reality but not the dictatorship:
But by “recognising” the revolution, and at the same time refusing to recognise the dictatorship of a definite class (or of definite classes), the Russian liberals and the Mensheviks of that time, and the present-day German and Italian liberals, Turatists and Kautskyites, have revealed their reformism, their absolute unfitness to be revolutionaries.
Indeed, when the revolution has already become an unquestioned force, when even the liberals “recognise” it, and when the ruling classes not only see but also feel the invincible might of the oppressed masses, then the entire question—both to the theoreticians and the leaders of practical policy—reduces itself to an exact class definition of the revolution. However, without the concept of “dictatorship”, this precise class definition cannot be given. One cannot be a revolutionary in fact unless one prepares for dictatorship. This truth was not understood in 1905 by the Mensheviks, and it is not understood in 1920 by the Italian, German, French and other socialists, who are afraid of the severe “conditions” of the Communist International; this truth is feared by people who are capable of recognising the dictatorship in word, but are incapable of preparing for it in deed.
[Lenin, A contribution to the history of the question of the dictatorship, Oct. 1920]
Because Lih does not describe the democratic republic in class dictatorship terms, the impression given is that only he is describing a higher form of bourgeois democracy. At one point, he even counterposes Menshevik acceptance of a constitutional monarchy to a democratic republic, which is merely comparing a British system with France. This was the essence of the debate within the bourgeois Provisional Government from February until 1st September, when Kerensky finally declared a bourgeois republic following the public exposure of the Provisional Government’s acceptance of the Tsar’s secret treaties with the imperialist powers to continue the inter-imperialist war.
Lih is a hopeless failure when he attempts trying to imply some sort of continuity between the old Bolsheviks (and the early, Marxist, Kautsky’s) pre-April minimum demand for a democratic republic and Lenin’s April Theses. The Bolshevik party programme had been made out-of-date by the dual power situation.
The Bolsheviks' obsolete (in the most crucial parts) party programme had called for a democratic republic to replace the Tsarist monarchy. That had been already been realised. Lenin’s amendments to the party programme called for a fight to smash the embryonic bourgeois parliamentary republic that existed alongside the Soviets and establish a Commune-type state, once the majority had been won over to the side of the Bolsheviks. After declaring that:
Only a proletarian socialist revolution can lead humanity out of the impasse which imperialism and imperialist wars have created.
In Russia at the present moment, when the Provisional Government, which is part and parcel of the capitalist class and enjoys the confidence—necessarily unstable—of the broad mass of the petty-bourgeois population, has undertaken to convene a Constituent Assembly, the immediate duty of the party of the proletariat is to fight for a political system which will best guarantee economic progress and the rights of the people in general, and make possible the least painful transition to socialism in particular.
The party of the proletariat cannot rest content with a bourgeois parliamentary democratic republic, which throughout the world preserves and strives to perpetuate the monarchist instruments for the oppression of the masses, namely, the police, the standing army, and the privileged bureaucracy. The party fights for a more democratic workers’ and peasants’ republic, in which the police and the standing army will be abolished and replaced by the universally armed people, by a people’s militia; all officials will be not only elective, but also subject to recall at any time upon the demand of a majority of the electors; all officials, without exception, will be paid at a rate not exceeding the average wage of a competent worker; parliamentary representative institutions will be gradually replaced by Soviets of people’s representatives (from various classes and professions, or from various localities), functioning as both legislative and executive bodies.
[Lenin, Materials Related to the Revision of the Party Programme, 24, April-May 1917]
These measures were not socialism as such, as the Trots claim, but “steps towards socialism”, as Lenin explained in his Letters on Tactics [April 1917].
Lih gives the impression that he is referring to the ‘Commune state’ Lenin was advocating in his April Theses when he refers to the “dissolution of the standing army” and a demand for a “universal militia”, but he is obfuscating because, firstly, he does not mention the need to abolish the police as well as the standing army and, secondly, he does not make it clear that they need to be replaced by a universal “arming of the whole people” as Lenin does in his Theses.
Lih continues to demonstrate his non-revolutionary world-view in his discussion on the Bolsheviks' “minimum programme”:
There is perhaps a tendency among some Marxists today to look down on a ‘merely’ democratic revolution as one restricted to paltry reforms and a measly ‘minimum programme’.
And quite right too – the non-stop US imperialist sabotage of Venezuela’s (and much of South America’s) ‘Bolivarian democratic revolution’, and the constant support and encouragement it provides to the indigenous [local- ed] counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie’s endless provocations and Chile 1973-stye coup preparations demonstrates the limitations of a “democratic revolution” and the necessity for the proletariat to take full state power from the bourgeoisie and establish its own dictatorship:
The Bolsheviks had a very different attitude. They saw the democratic transformation of Russia - creation of a radical democracy, land to the peasants, liquidation of the landowning gentry as a class, the eight-hour day for workers, and modernisation of all spheres of life - as a highly ambitious and rewarding mission.
No they didn’t. This implies that the minimum programme was an end in itself – the trap Venezuela has found itself in. The achievement of such demands would be as far as the proletariat could go for as long as it remains in an alliance with the peasantry, and even then it would require the establishment of a dictatorship. Once the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship was established (as it was in February 1917 in the form of the Soviets) the task of the Bolsheviks was to press ahead towards the establishment of its own socialist state, using its programme as a means of drawing attention to itself as the leadership of the revolutionary proletariat:
Some readers will perhaps be surprised by some of the other far-reaching measures mentioned by Kautsky: cancellation of state debts, nationalisation of railways, oil wells, mines, dissolution of the standing army, mass education.
This is yet more boosting of Kautsky, implying that the Bolsheviks' minimum programme originated in him, and a dismissal of Lenin’s April Theses which went much further by calling for the Soviets to abolish the army, police and state bureaucracy, confiscate all landed estates, nationalise the land and amalgamate all banks into a national bank under the their control. These were measures the Soviets needed to take as steps towards socialism, not as a “rewarding” end-point:
These and other similar measures are examples of the ‘minimum programme’ - an incongruous name, since it means the maximum that could be achieved without abolishing capitalism. A revolution that carried out the ‘minimum programme’ would utterly transform Russia.
Lih does not explain how this “minimum programme”, which does not abolish capitalism, would “utterly transform Russia”, what this transformed Russia would look like, what form of state it took, or what it was heading towards. Lih presents the Bolsheviks' minimum programme as static and fixed in time. His wooden pseudo-academic mind cannot conceive of it as a constantly shifting target aimed at drawing the masses towards the Bolsheviks, and based on the best that can be achieved at the time whilst the proletariat depended on an alliance with the poor peasantry.
Lih continues with his mission to drag Lenin down by giving a boost to Trotsky:
Discussions of these issues also usually assume a gulf between old Bolshevism and Trotsky’s “permanent revolution”, yet Lenin and Trotsky both completely endorsed Kautsky’s position without any caveat at all.
This is also nonsense. Firstly, Lih fails to give a reference to Trotsky’s “endorsement” and so it is not possible to read it in its context (Was it an endorsement made in hindsight - typical of Trotsky - or was it made contemporaneously, for example?). Secondly, and most crucially, Trotsky and Lenin were arguing from opposing positions and so any “endorsement” Trotsky gave would have to be considered with a great degree of caution.
Lenin’s argument, based on a profound understanding of the material conditions in Russia in 1906, was that the bourgeois democratic revolution could only be achieved if the proletariat took power in alliance with the petty-bourgeois majority, the peasantry, whose developing stratification would bring the poorer elements over to the side of the proletariat (a stratification process Lenin had identified from the very beginning of his political life – see New Economic Developments on Peasant Life spring 1893, for example). Trotsky idealistically argued for a proletarian government that would leap past this petty bourgeoisie and begin to establish socialism. This is how Lenin summarised Trotsky’s position in 1917:
Trotskyism: “No tsar but a workers’ government.” This is wrong. A petty bourgeoisie exists, and it cannot be dismissed. But it is in two parts. The poorer of the two is with the working class.
[Lenin, Petrograd City Conference of the RSDLP (Bolsheviks): Concluding remarks in the debate concerning the report on the present situation, April 1917]
The fatal flaw running throughout Lih’s series of articles, as he strives to drag Lenin down, is that he shows no understanding whatsoever that Lenin, in his April Theses and corresponding texts, had demonstrated that the “revolutionary-democratic dictatorship” had been made obsolete by the circumstances of the February revolution, because that dictatorship had already taken power, was already in existence as a “semi-government” in the form of the Soviets, and had immediately begun to hand its power over to the bourgeois provisional government.
[to be continued]
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