Kronstadt

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Jun 19 2006 00:10
Kronstadt

Link to back up thread:

http://www.punkt.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=111

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Jun 19 2006 01:21

I'll c+p over the discussion when I'm at work tomorrow if I get the chance.

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Jun 20 2006 22:16

Response to Devrim's post on the back-up thread http//www.punkt.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=111

Class consciousness develops in a contradictory manner. In the debate between different proletarian currents of the past, you can see this very clearly. For example, 1905 Luxemburg made an absolutely masterful analysis of the mass strike in Russia, and yet hardly noticed the soviets – on this question, Trotsky was in the vanguard. Or again, Lenin and Luxemburg during the first world war Luxemburg was in general far clearer on the national question and imperialism than Lenin, and yet Lenin could make valid criticisms of Luxemburg’s concessions to national defence in the Junius Pamphlet.

During the revolutionary wave, there's no doubt that on a number of vital questions, the German left was quicker at grasping the class position the capitalist nature of the USSR and of the trade unions in particular. But the KAPD's premature writing off of the Russian revolution was to have very serious consequences. There's a very interesting exchange between Korsch and Bordiga in 1926 which shows the difference in approach. Bordiga was very open to discussing what was happening in Russia, and considered the possibility of a counter-revolution, but he utterly refused to go along with a large part of the German left which was already rejecting the proletarian nature of the October revolution, and the Italian Fraction resolutely maintained this stance in the years that followed. All the theories about the 'bourgeois' nature of the Bolsheviks and the Russian revolution led towards anarchism and the abandonment of the very notion of a class party. They played a major role in the organisational disintegration of the German left in the ensuing period.

On Kronstadt itself again, Gorter did see the proletarian nature of the revolt more clearly, and it would take the Italian left over a decade to come to similar conclusions. But Gorter denied supporting the rebels, reflecting a more general ambiguity within the international communist left about the significance of the rebellion. But again, what is the theoretical heritage of the German left on this particular question, once it had succumbed to the ‘councilist’ standpoint? The denial of the proletarian nature of the October revolution and the Bolsheviks meant that there were no lessons at all to be drawn from the Kronstadt events. If the Bolsheviks were always bourgeois, then in March 1921 they were simply doing what all bourgeois parties do.

I realize that this is not your position – that you are saying that the Bolsheviks were indeed proletarian in 1917 and that Kronstadt was their death knell as a proletarian party. But I think there is still a weakness in your method. As I said before, by taking state power and arguing that the revolutionary party should defend that state under all circumstances, even in the face of working class discontent and rebellion, the Bolsheviks were not doing what the Socialist parties did in 1914 – they were not betraying already established proletarian principles. Instead, through their terrible errors, they were negatively establishing new principles which others would have to elaborate through reflection and debate on the defeat of the revolution. And if the principle lesson of Kronstadt is the necessity for the working class and its party to retain their independence from the transitional state, then again it was the Italian left current which drew the clearest lessons in the end, even if this also involved assimilating the best insights of the German left.

I also think that you are not grasping the significance of the huge struggles that took place in the Bolshevik party between 1921 and 1928. The shift of Lenin and Trotsky towards an oppositional stance towards the emerging Stalinist apparatus, and above all the struggle of the left fractions like those around Miasnikov and Sapranov, were in themselves signs that there was still a proletarian life in this party.

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Jun 20 2006 22:47
Alf wrote:
The shift of Lenin and Trotsky towards an oppositional stance towards the emerging Stalinist apparatus, and above all the struggle of the left fractions like those around Miasnikov and Sapranov, were in themselves signs that there was still a proletarian life in this party.

I don't think anyone who has read "The Unknown Revolution" by Voline would take that view.

The Bolsheviks behaviour, in both the Ukraine and at Kronstadt had surely demonstrated this several years earlier.....

Battlescarred
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Jun 21 2006 08:10

It was Lenin who sanctioned the persecution of Miasnikov and his group. You can't support Lenin and Miasnikov at the same time!!

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Jun 21 2006 08:36
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It was Lenin who sanctioned the persecution of Miasnikov and his group. You can't support Lenin and Miasnikov at the same time!!

No-one disputes that Lenin and Trotsky were instrumental in the banning of fractions in the RCP (B). This was a terrible error on their part and one of the signs that the party and the revolution were in degeneration.

Nonetheless, for all their past errors, Lenin and Trotsky's dim realisation of the growth of the Stalinist machine still constituted a genuine proletarian reaction against such degeneration.

Individual comrades can sometimes extract themselves from their previous errors and go on to play a positive role fighting against a degeneration they initially played a role in.

For example, Karl Liebknecht initially voted for War Credits in the Reichstag but went on to be one of main animators of the Spartacus League.

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Jun 21 2006 10:32

In the August 1914 vote, the Reichstag voted unaminously for War Credits with a single abstention - one Fritz Kunert.

In December 1914, Liebknecht was the only person to vote against the credits. I think it was in Spring 1915, that Ruhle joined Liebknecht.

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Jun 21 2006 10:54

Not sure Jack. Most of the SPD deputies voted for credits on the basis of "party discipline" despite being fundamentally opposed to the war.

I think this episode - as well as the degeneration of the Bolsheviks - shows how difficult it is for militants loyal to proletarian principles to recognise quickly when an organisation has crossed a class line.

In WW1 it was somewhat easier. The SPD violated its own stated policy, agreed by the whole of the 3rd* International. But until 1917, the proletariat had no real experience of how to manage society and was faced with the most appalling circumstances with little idea how to deal with them.

No-one was clear on all these questions.

*I meant to say 2nd, honest. Oh, the shame!

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Jun 21 2006 11:19

Oh I'm really not doing well today am I?

Jack, yes, it was the 2nd International, I've corrected that post. Thanks for pointing that out.

I didn't mean to imply that most of the SPD deputies were against the War. In fact, if I recall correctly, it was the parliamentary deputies for the most part that were at the heart of the reformist and class collaboration dynamic. I meant that "party discipline" was what induced Liebknecht and Ruhle to initially support the vote. The ideological justification used by the SPD as a whole was that the War was a defensive war. (All imperialist wars appear to be defensive, don't they? Bush's pre-emptive defence policy isn't that new really)

Kautsky, together with Bernstein, began to turn against the War in 1915 and by 1917 they had both left the SPD. He had previously been dismissed from his editorship of the SPD organ for his lack of "patriotism".

Despite his opposition to the War, he denounced the Russian Revolution on the same basis as the Mensheviks i.e. that Russia was undeveloped and the revolution was "anti-democratic".

Kautsky was fundamentally a centrist, vacillating between the proletariat and the ruling class, in a period when such a position was still possible. His opposition to the War seemed based more a moralistic pacifism than any clear proletarian conviction.

Battlescarred
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Jun 21 2006 11:34

"Nonetheless, for all their past errors, Lenin and Trotsky's dim realisation of the growth of the Stalinist machine still constituted a genuine proletarian reaction against such degeneration. "

Not a dim realisation, but merely worries about different factions in the bureaucracy gaining the upper hand.

Left communists were pretty dim about the establishment of state capitalism in Russia. Finally the penny dropped. Doesn't look at is it did at all with analysis of the Bolshevik leadership.

The Bolshevik leadership was itself made up of predominantly elements OUTSIDE the proletariat. In a questionnaire put out for the social origin and cultural level of the leadership at a congress in 1917 (29 altogether)- only 4 were definitely from the working class and one was from the poor peasantry , the rest were from the nobility (2) lesser nobility (1) from the merchant class (3) from the state functionaries/ bureaucrats (3) officer class (1) from industrialist background (1)from intelligentsia (2 ), from landowners (3) Others came from families whose fathers were priests. Hardly a predominantly proletarian leadership. Also remember that it was the policy of the Bolshevik Party to remove workers who showed promise from the factory floor into the Party bureaucracy as full timers

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Jun 21 2006 12:00

Sorry Paul, but the sociological origin of militants is no guarantee of the soundness or otherwise of their political positions.

It was the "petit-bourgeois" Lenin who was practically alone in calling for the Soviets to take power in April 1917. Even the Soviets themselves didn't see themselves as organs of power.

Incidentally, it was also Lenin who called for workers to outnumber "intellectuals" on key committees hoping it would prevent the degeneration of the "workers' state".

Well, I don't agree with either you or Lenin on this point I'm afraid. The Italian Left noted in the 30s that being a worker was no guarantee of resistance against Stalinism. In fact, Stalinised workers were a key element in the acceleration of the party's degeneration. It was also this kind of "workerism" that ensured the clearest elements of the German Left such as Luxemburg, were forced out of the Soviets during the German Revolution allowing the SPD to dismember the councils.

What matters, is not the sociological origin of this or that militant or even a whole party, but the political positions they defend.

Battlescarred
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Jun 21 2006 12:09

My name's not Paul

Battlescarred
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Jun 21 2006 12:12

"the sociological origin of militants is no guarantee of the soundness or otherwise of their political positions. "

No, of corse not, and I never said that it was-but when the leadership of a party that boasts that it defends and organises the working class is predominantly not proletarian then questions should be asked.

Sorry the accusation of workerism doesn't wash.

Battlescarred
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Jun 21 2006 12:14

Lenin came,by the way, not from the petty bourgeoisie but from the nobility/ high State functionary class.

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Jun 21 2006 12:18
Battlescarred wrote:
Left communists were pretty dim about the establishment of state capitalism in Russia. Finally the penny dropped. Doesn't look at is it did at all with analysis of the Bolshevik leadership.
Kommunist#1 20th April 1918 wrote:
We stand for the construction of the proletarian society by the class creativity of the workers themselves, not by the ukases of the captains of industry. . . if the proletariat itself does not know how to create the necessary prerequisites for the socialist organisation of labour no one can do this for it and no one can compel it to do this. The stick, if raised against the workers, will find itself in the hands of a social force which is either under the influence of another social class or is in the hands of the soviet power; but the soviet power will then be forced to seek support against the proletariat from another class (e.g. the peasantry) and by this it will destroy itself as the dictatorship of the proletariat. Socialism and socialist organisation will be set up by the proletariat itself, or they will not be set up at all - something else will be set up - state capitalism.

The penny had dropped by April 1918, six months after the revolution.

Devrim

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Jun 21 2006 12:22

The left communists outside of the Soviet Union as has been referred to by Alf, who admitted that the conclusion that the USSR had become state capitalist was behind that of the SPGB, anarchists, etc.

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Jun 21 2006 12:29

Sorry Battlescarred, looked at too many threads and got you confused with Paul Marsh. I think premature senility is creeping on! My humble apologies.

Lenin's father was a civil servant but he himself was a lawyer. If my definition of "petit-bourgeois" is not refined enough for you, that's okay. But none of that actually responds to the thrust of my argument that Lenin's sociological origins were irrelevent to the political positions he held.

The accusation of workerism stands because you're using sociological origin as a club to beat the Bolsheviks without considering their politics. The main reason that administrative positions in the party and the state were taken up by non-proletarians was because the shocking state of Russia meant that hardly any actual workers or peasants could read. Hence the reason why Lenin made increasingly desperate pleas throughout the 20s for the education of the proletariat and for suitably educated workers to form the majority on key committee in both party and state.

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Jun 21 2006 12:35
Battlescarred wrote:
The left communists outside of the Soviet Union as has been referred to by Alf, who admitted that the conclusion that the USSR had become state capitalist was behind that of the SPGB, anarchists, etc.

Yes, but remember that it was a period of immense confusion. The German left started to recognize it about the time of Kronstadt, and the NEP.

Why don't the Russian left count? After all they were on the scene, and possibly in the best position to judge.

Also a lot of anarchist criticisms (though not all) were based on the fact that it was authoritarian, not that it was capitalist.

As for the SPGB I believe that they condemned it the day after the revolution.

Devrim

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Jun 21 2006 13:53

I hold no brief for the SPGB but it was a bit later than after the day after the revolution at least as far as their own entry on wikipedia says:

Contrary to popular misconception, the SPGB did not "Denounce the Russian revolution as state capitalist within hours of hearing of it".[1] They initially praised the Bolsheviks, for pulling Russia out of the Great War, but warned that, given the development of political consciousness in the largely ill-educated peasant based society, it could not be a socialist revolution.

Their first reference to state capitalism was in fact a quote from Lenin himself describing the state of affairs in Russia (1920).

The theory developed over time, emphasising the continued existence of wages and money in the Soviet union to indicate that capitalism had not been abolished.

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Jun 21 2006 14:00
Battlescarred wrote:

Their first reference to state capitalism was in fact a quote from Lenin himself describing the state of affairs in Russia (1920).

The theory developed over time, emphasising the continued existence of wages and money in the Soviet union to indicate that capitalism had not been abolished.

Kommunist#1 20th April 1918 wrote:
We stand for the construction of the proletarian society by the class creativity of the workers themselves, not by the ukases of the captains of industry. . . if the proletariat itself does not know how to create the necessary prerequisites for the socialist organisation of labour no one can do this for it and no one can compel it to do this. The stick, if raised against the workers, will find itself in the hands of a social force which is either under the influence of another social class or is in the hands of the soviet power; but the soviet power will then be forced to seek support against the proletariat from another class (e.g. the peasantry) and by this it will destroy itself as the dictatorship of the proletariat. Socialism and socialist organisation will be set up by the proletariat itself, or they will not be set up at all - something else will be set up - state capitalism.

My emphasis.

This is from 1918.

Dev

Battlescarred
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Jun 21 2006 14:15

Kommunist only ran for 11 issues and then primarily because of its line on the Brest Litovsk treaty, was closed down by the Bolshevik leadership, which of course included Lenin. To argue that somehow Lenin, Kommunist and Miasnikov all represented the same proletarian instincts within the Party is ridiculous

ernie
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Jun 21 2006 17:28

Hi

Battlescared, this is precisely what they thought. May be they were ridiculous!

Lenin, Kommunist and Miasnikov all saw themselves a belong to the same party. Miasnikov's group worked within the party until it was expelled and then tried to carry on struggling to defend the party against the rise of the Stalinists.

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Jun 21 2006 19:39
Devrim wrote:

Also a lot of anarchist criticisms (though not all) were based on the fact that it was authoritarian, not that it was capitalist.

Well it was authoritarian, and they were right to criticise it because of this. A lot of ultra-left analysis is far too focussed on the economics - other factors are also important.

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Jun 21 2006 22:16
Battlescarred wrote:
Kommunist only ran for 11 issues and then primarily because of its line on the Brest Litovsk treaty, was closed down by the Bolshevik leadership, which of course included Lenin. To argue that somehow Lenin, Kommunist and Miasnikov all represented the same proletarian instincts within the Party is ridiculous

I didn’t argue this. I used the quote twice to counter two assertions that you made.

1)to counter this point:

Battlescarred wrote:
Left communists were pretty dim about the establishment of state capitalism in Russia. Finally the penny dropped. Doesn't look at is it did at all with analysis of the Bolshevik leadership.

2)to counter this point:

Battlescarred wrote:
Their first reference to state capitalism was in fact a quote from Lenin himself describing the state of affairs in Russia (1920).

The theory developed over time, emphasising the continued existence of wages and money in the Soviet union to indicate that capitalism had not been abolished.

I think the quote, which I am now putting up for the third time counters both of these arguments:

Kommunist#1 20th April 1918 wrote:
We stand for the construction of the proletarian society by the class creativity of the workers themselves, not by the ukases of the captains of industry. . . if the proletariat itself does not know how to create the necessary prerequisites for the socialist organisation of labour no one can do this for it and no one can compel it to do this. The stick, if raised against the workers, will find itself in the hands of a social force which is either under the influence of another social class or is in the hands of the soviet power; but the soviet power will then be forced to seek support against the proletariat from another class (e.g. the peasantry) and by this it will destroy itself as the dictatorship of the proletariat. Socialism and socialist organisation will be set up by the proletariat itself, or they will not be set up at all - something else will be set up - state capitalism.

Believe it or not, not all left communist organizations have the same political opinion on everything, and the Turkish group, Enternasyonalist Komünist Sol, which I belong to, does not actually agree with the ICC on everything.

If you had read the Kronstadt thread on the back up boards, you might have realised that it was us who defended the Kronstadt revolt against all of the accusations that the SWP member threw at it, and in my opinion we did it far better than the anarchists did.

And second that we argued:

Devrim wrote:
I am arguing that the Bolshevik party's actions put them on the side of capital against the working class.

I appreciate that it is probably an honest mistake, but when you say that:

Battlescarred wrote:
To argue that somehow Lenin, Kommunist and Miasnikov all represented the same proletarian instincts within the Party is ridiculous

You are not arguing against something that I said.

Alf wrote:

Alf wrote:
I also think that you are not grasping the significance of the huge struggles that took place in the Bolshevik party between 1921 and 1928. The shift of Lenin and Trotsky towards an oppositional stance towards the emerging Stalinist apparatus, and above all the struggle of the left fractions like those around Miasnikov and Sapranov, were in themselves signs that there was still a proletarian life in this party.

This isn't our position. We say that although the 'October revolution' was a working class revolution, the events in 1921 were the point where in could be said indisputably that the RCP(B) was no longer on the side of the working class.

I don't equate anarchism with everything that some stoned hippy says, and in the same way you should realize that different left communist groups, have differing analysis. On the other hand we are in complete agreement with the ICC on the basic positions of revolutionaries today.

Devrim

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Jun 22 2006 04:27

Devrim I think Rudolf Rocker put it very well, in 1937, when he said both that there was a clear difference between the Russia of Stalin and the Russia of Lenin and Trotsky, but that the authoritarian legacy of the latter led directly to the former. This was also why so many Communist Parties Stalinized so quickly.

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Jun 22 2006 07:58

Devrim, if you'd bothered to understand what I was saying, I was arguing against Demigorgon and Alf on some issues , not you.

As to whether you think the left communists defended Kronstadt better than the anarchists that's a matter of opinion. To defend the Bolsheviks in the period 1918 up to Kronstadt and to THEN defend the Kronstadters seems to me to be deeply flawed. But then that's just my opinion neutral

Battlescarred
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Jun 22 2006 08:02
ernie wrote:
Hi

Battlescared, this is precisely what they thought. May be they were ridiculous!

Lenin, Kommunist and Miasnikov all saw themselves a belong to the same party. Miasnikov's group worked within the party until it was expelled and then tried to carry on struggling to defend the party against the rise of the Stalinists.

Yes, they probably were, in the same way as Luxembourg and Liebknecht hung on with German Social Democracy till the bitter end, the same Social Democracy that dug their graves just as the Russian Communist Party eventually did with Miasnikov

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Jun 22 2006 08:13

As both Ned and revol have pointed out, the critique of the State, hierarchy and authority is something sorely lacking in maany left communist analyses.As the anarchist Maximov wrote in 1918 " But isn't the organisation of future socialism to be founded on the liberation of humanity from class distinctions? Within the framework of this dictatorship, however, we can see that the centralisation of power has begun to crystallise and grow firm, that the apparatus of the state is being consolidated by the ownership of property and even by an anti-socialist morality. Instead of hundreds of thousands of property-owners there is now a single owner served by a whole bureaucratic system and a new 'statised' morality...Will state capitalism lead us to the gates of socialism? Of this we see not the slightest evidence. Will the new government not contrive 'artificially' to concentrate property in its hands, as is deemed necessary from the Marxist point of view? Will it not complete the class stratification of the country, which capitalism could not accomplish 'naturally'?...The single owner and state capitalism form a new dam before the waves of our social revolution".

Battlescarred
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Jun 22 2006 09:02

Oh, by the way, thanks for repeating that quote from Kommunist 3 times. Guess I'm so thick I need it drumming into me

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Jun 22 2006 09:04
Battlescarred wrote:
Devrim, if you'd bothered to understand what I was saying, I was arguing against Demigorgon and Alf on some issues , not you.

I tried to understand what you were saying. It seemed that you were arguing against me.

Quote:
As to whether you think the left communists defended Kronstadt better than the anarchists that's a matter of opinion.

As to who defended Kronstadt better, I was refering to that thread only. That's just my opinion.

Quote:
To defend the Bolsheviks in the period 1918 up to Kronstadt and to THEN defend the Kronstadters seems to me to be deeply flawed. But then that's just my opinion neutral

I will presume that this is addressed to me, and not the ICC. It has my name on the top wink.

I don't think that you know what my opinions on the period 1918-1921 are as you don't know me, and I have never explainded them on these boards. what I wrote was:

Devrim wrote:
This isn't our position. We say that although the 'October revolution' was a working class revolution, the events in 1921 were the point where in could be said indisputably that the RCP(B) was no longer on the side of the working class.

I think that it implies that the RCP(B) was anti working class before, and that Krondstadt was the point where it was proved beyond any doubt.

In your opinion was the 1917 revolution a workers' revolution, or not?

Devrim

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Jun 22 2006 09:19

In reply, yes of course. A workers revolution AND a workers and peasants (anathema) revolution to boot