A couple of questions for my learned comrades.

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Vlad The Inhaler's picture
Vlad The Inhaler
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Jun 25 2018 07:32
A couple of questions for my learned comrades.

(1) Can anyone explain Rocker's grounds for rejecting Historical Materialism and possibly point me in the direction of whichever of Rocker's works deal with this.

(2) Were there any Anarchist or Marxist groups that wrote critiques of the Second International and Orthodox Marxism before WWI and the great betrayal?

Cheers.

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Jun 25 2018 08:44

1. It's in Rocker's book on nationalism. Can't remember what his argument is offhand though.

akai
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Jun 25 2018 10:18

I've seen plenty of criticisms of the Second International, but I do not recall if they were written by any groups or just by individuals. As I recall, there were two types - the criticisms which stem from before the war, which mostly had to do with authoritarian socialism or with exclusion of anarchists and then from around the war time. I recall in particular some texts of Anselmo Lorenzo, Malatesta, (I believe in the USI paper, Guerra di Classe), Alexander Shapiro, Rechhioni...I think the Ravenna Congress was in part a reaction. But actually, anarchists were also divided in many places and the internationalist camp in general focused on spreading internationalist and anti-war positions, calling for strikes, etc. So this definitely included the Russian anarchosyndicalists, Polish internationalists, most of Spanish CNT and USI, many in immigrant diaspora and a minority faction of CGT in France. So I suspect that when they spoke of the betrayal of social democracy, they were referring to that, maybe not directly, but people knew the context. I think Alexander Ge and Volin directly spoke about the 2nd international but I don't remember where.

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Jun 25 2018 11:05

Don't know about Rocker but some interesting discussion here;
https://libcom.org/library/historical-materialism-anti-revolutionarytheory-revolution

Edit: As to pre-1914 criticism of the Second International from Marxists perhaps consider the 'impossibilist' tradition as in the SPGB and the SLP who were critical of the reformism if from a rather mechanical perspective.

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Jun 25 2018 10:55

I think condemnations of the SI post 1914 are not as instructive as the ones that came before. The reason being that the great betrayal was so obvious, so scandalous, such a moral and political calamity that critiques are more generalised about the utter poison that is Social Democracy. What I'm quite intrigued by is any criticism by groups prior to that betrayal that tackled the tactics and formulae of the SI whilst they were still "credible".

As to Rocker... I've always been fairly contemptuous of him in the past and dismissed reading him as a complete waste of time, in no small part due to his rejection of Historical Materialism, which to me still seems an unassailable theory of human development. As I have transitioned away from Leninism and toward Anarchism or radical Left-Communism I have begun to reconsider, not my Materialist view of history, but my dismissal of the writings of people like Rocker. I'm still full of paranoia and an instinctive distrust of anti-Materialist currents due to a deep rooted anxiety about being hoodwinked by reactionary ideology dressed up as revolutionary proletarianism. I'm very suspicious these days. Leninism will do that to you.

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Jun 25 2018 11:10

Leaving Leninism is bloody hard. It feels like a vice around my head. Holding my thoughts in one place. Its quite nauseating. Even after I have theoretically, and to a great extent emotionally, rejected it the muscle memory and neural pathways remain and they are deeply ingrained and equipped with a sophisticated self-defence mechanism. Its almost like leaving a cult.

I have no idea if anyone else even knows what I mean by this.

Mike Harman
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Jun 25 2018 11:24

I haven't read the Rocker book, will put it on the list.

Part of the problem here is there's a few different meanings for Historical Materialism:

1. Is it Marx's method of historical analysis?

2. Is it specific conclusions that Marx (and Engels) came to about capitalist development?

3. Is it Lenin, (and Trotsky and Stalin's) interpretation/deployment of the above to justify state-directed industrial development post-1917?

For #3, Pannekoek's Lenin as Philosopher is interesting - trying to defend Marx's method against Lenin: https://libcom.org/library/lenin-as-philosopher-pannekoek

For #2, it's clear that both Marx and Engels at various points revised their ideas, and that especially some of the caveats are massively underemphasised, and only corrected at any length in mostly private correspondence published decades after Marx's death. The example I always go to is the Zasulich correspondence (the actual letter is a couple hundred words, haven't gone through all the notes yet), where Marx said that he only meant historical inevitability for Western Europe:

In discussing the genesis of capitalist production, I said [that the secret is that there is at bottom ‘a complete separation of ... the producer from the means of production’ (p. 315, column l, French edition of Capital) and that ‘the expropriation of the agricultural producer is the basis of the whole process. Only in England has it been so far accomplished in a radical manner. ... But al/ the other countries of Western Europe are following the same course’ (loc. cit., column II).

Thus I expressly restricted the ‘historical inevitability’ of this process to the countries of Western Europe.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1881/zasulich/index.htm

Also sticking with #2, I just started reading Cedric Robinson's Black Marxism. Only so far into it, but so far Robinson makes the argument that Marx failed to examine the labour of women and children in Western Europe sufficiently (seeing them as a 'reserve' rather than integral), or of New World Slavery, and also failed to conduct a thorough analysis of nationalism (and in fact was supportive of German nationalism (against the French or the Slavs) on several occasions). This doesn't make a materialist method wrong, it just means that people work from incomplete material, and theories need to be revisited constantly.

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Jun 28 2018 06:14

I can't answer 1 very well because I don't remember if I have even seen Rocker deal with historical materialism. I can only tell you that I reject it for the reason that the forces of production don't make history through their development, other forces in fact act on the forces of production just as they act on other forces. For instance, states are formed to protect class divisions, but class divisions are reinforced by the state.

As for 2 Rocker actually criticizes the second international's parties in Anarcho-syndicalism: Theory and Practice. Alexander Berkman also criticizes them in The ABC of Anarchism. Vadim Damier echoes Rockers' criticism in his history of Anarcho-syndicalism.

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Jun 28 2018 14:08
Vlad The Inhaler wrote:
Leaving Leninism is bloody hard. It feels like a vice around my head. Holding my thoughts in one place. Its quite nauseating. Even after I have theoretically, and to a great extent emotionally, rejected it the muscle memory and neural pathways remain and they are deeply ingrained and equipped with a sophisticated self-defence mechanism. Its almost like leaving a cult.

I have no idea if anyone else even knows what I mean by this.

Yes, 'The Great Betrayal' is the language of a cult. You were in a cult. Leninism is a cult, a cult of Lenin, a cult which Lenin never challenged.

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Jun 28 2018 16:04
jondwhite wrote:
Yes, 'The Great Betrayal' is the language of a cult. You were in a cult. Leninism is a cult, a cult of Lenin, a cult which Lenin never challenged.

To be clear I think there is a lot of emotional blackmail and guilt-tripping that goes on on the left. "If you don't agree with us then you're a class traitor/reactionary/revisionist/Capitalist lackie/Reformist/Sectarian/State-Capitalist/Statist/idealist/utopian. etc etc etc." These kind of terms are loaded, dismissive, shaming, and have precious chance of convincing the person that you're talking to. They're not designed to influence the mind, but to emotionally manipulate in to either silence or capitulation.

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Jun 28 2018 16:24

A lot of this bullying rhetoric was introduced to the left by Lenin himself. Marx insulted people but didn't go as far as Lenin and Marx usually had a genuine political point.

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Jun 28 2018 16:51

I could also throw in Ultra-Left, Tankie and Stalinoid which are also thrown around far too willy-nilly.

I was a Marxist-Leninist for a good while. I had thought lots, read plenty and had what I considered a rational and justifiable position. My position was far more complex, nuanced and human than could be expressed by Tankie or Stalinoid. I'd come across plenty of people that wanted to throw insults my way, yes it was hurtful, but it didn't make me more likely to listen to them or respect their point of view. What worked wonders was the inherent contradictions within my own ideology, patient and civil opponents answering questions and explaining their actual positions, as opposed to what I had been lead to believe that they subscribed to. From there I developed doubts about my own position, which after tentative investigation lead to an erratic ideological panic, followed by crisis and eventual abandonment of my beliefs as a deeply flawed dogma.

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Jun 28 2018 16:57

jondwhite #9

I’d be interested in your definition of ‘a cult’.

Vlad #10

I agree with you about these loaded terms, though in the case of Lenin, Trotsky (and Marx) ‘cults’ is arguably a true description.

Some months ago on libcom my description of Lenin as a ‘thug and murderer’ was described as ‘a caricature’, which was very true – he was grotesquely recognisable.

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Jun 28 2018 18:35
Vlad The Inhaler wrote:
Leaving Leninism is bloody hard. It feels like a vice around my head. Holding my thoughts in one place. Its quite nauseating. Even after I have theoretically, and to a great extent emotionally, rejected it the muscle memory and neural pathways remain and they are deeply ingrained and equipped with a sophisticated self-defence mechanism. Its almost like leaving a cult.

I have no idea if anyone else even knows what I mean by this.

Yep, for all its flaws Leninism has the great advantage of setting out a very clear model for how to intervene as a revolutionary and so on - it's easy to scoff at paper-sellers and so on, but when none of us really know how much impact we're having, having at least the image of a neat quantitative measure of influence can be really comforting. In contrast, when you have to work out your own role for yourself, and it's about something messy like encouraging other people to self-organise rather than straightforwardly Providing The Correct Leadership... well, things can be a lot more unclear, so wishing you good luck in working all that out.

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Jun 28 2018 19:31
R Totale wrote:
Yep, for all its flaws Leninism has the great advantage of setting out a very clear model for how to intervene as a revolutionary and so on - it's easy to scoff at paper-sellers and so on, but when none of us really know how much impact we're having, having at least the image of a neat quantitative measure of influence can be really comforting. In contrast, when you have to work out your own role for yourself, and it's about something messy like encouraging other people to self-organise rather than straightforwardly Providing The Correct Leadership... well, things can be a lot more unclear, so wishing you good luck in working all that out.

Great point. I actually wrote a blog post that I never posted a while back about the soothing, reassuring "busy-work" of being a Leninist. Because the party's work is never done you always feel like the revolution is being built. Party work is not so much a replacement for revolutionary work, because I'm not sure I even know what that is, but it is something that you can bury yourself in, absorb yourself in. It gives you a direction, a purpose, a sense of worth. You also get a sense of community. Clearly these things are not healthy in this context but they are seductive as all hell in this difficult time of Neoliberalism, fascist resurgence and weak labour movement.

Ultimately the sheer unresponsiveness of hierarchy & the rapid post-Communist disintegration of "Socialist consciousness" was what did it for me in the end.

The most glaring contradiction of the USSR, China, Cuba.etc is that somehow revisionist counter-revolution was possible. Somehow these "workers-states" went down without a whimper. If the workers were in power then how do we explain this? If we wriggle and explain that the workers weren't in power, well then, there's your problem. However good you think these Actually Existing Socialist States were the gradual, or rapid, capitulation to internal pro-Capitalist restoration forces tells us either the workers were unable - or unwilling - to challenge it. This is a crushing realisation.

Secondly, the rapidity with which Eastern Europe descended into a rabidly nationalistic, ultra-Conservative, religiously orthodox hotbed of reaction, oligarchy and genocidal warmongering was a damning indictment of the 74 years of supposed Socialist consciousness raising. It seems the evils of the tsarist and autarkic regimes of Eastern Europe weren't banished by Bolshevism, merely put into hibernation. If consciousnesses don't rise with the society then there is something deeply flawed in that society.

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Jun 28 2018 19:49
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I actually wrote a blog post that I never posted a while back about the soothing, reassuring "busy-work" of being a Leninist. Because the party's work is never done you always feel like the revolution is being built. Party work is not so much a replacement for revolutionary work, because I'm not sure I even know what that is, but it is something that you can bury yourself in, absorb yourself in. It gives you a direction, a purpose, a sense of worth. You also get a sense of community. Clearly these things are not healthy in this context but they are seductive as all hell in this difficult time of Neoliberalism, fascist resurgence and weak labour movement.

To be fair, this is not just a feature of Leninist parties; this does happen in anarchist groups and unions like the IWW as well.

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Jun 28 2018 21:44

To be honest most of these traits are also those of anarchism and radical politics in general. "The great betrayal" might as well refer to revolutionary Spain, Krondstat or Free Territory since there is countless articles about it on here and comes up again and again in conversations. And to add on to what Khawaga said, there is also the whole direct action fetishism that a lot of anarchists have("direct action gets the goods"). Let's not forget all the hype for "smash G20" resurrecting "the movement".

I was once very briefly part of an "autonomist"/anarchist organisation and it was all based around illegalism and alike. They had pamphlets on how to shoplift, they even discussed about how a revolution could be made possible if they distributed texts on how to shoplift and a justification to workers since enough people would start shoplifting for it to have an effect, and the meeting i attended was about a campaign about "dumpstering"(i.e taking food for free from grocery store dumpsters). In their minds this was working towards revolution or a real revolutionary movement. After working in something related to food production I see that the dumpstering-campaign was more an argument for a planned production but not being able to see past their position as students.

In general I think a general theory on using politics as an escapism or life-meaning could be made and not just tied specifically to leninism, with an undeveloped understanding of politics and history.

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Jun 28 2018 20:30
Vlad The Inhaler wrote:
Great point. I actually wrote a blog post that I never posted a while back about the soothing, reassuring "busy-work" of being a Leninist. Because the party's work is never done you always feel like the revolution is being built. Party work is not so much a replacement for revolutionary work, because I'm not sure I even know what that is, but it is something that you can bury yourself in, absorb yourself in. It gives you a direction, a purpose, a sense of worth. You also get a sense of community. Clearly these things are not healthy in this context but they are seductive as all hell in this difficult time of Neoliberalism, fascist resurgence and weak labour movement.

Just to say that if you ever feel like posting that piece I'd be interested to read it, and I imagine others might be too.

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Jun 28 2018 20:39
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And to add on to what Khawaga said, there is also the whole direct action fetishism that a lot of anarchists have("direct action gets the goods"). Let's not forget all the hype for "smash G20" resurrecting "the movement"

I'd say it sometime also expresses itself as: "we have to do something" even if that something is just repeating what has been done over and over to no effect (such as direct action against the G20; it worked in Seattle and a few other places, but post Genoa it's just become a ritual).

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Jun 28 2018 20:51

It'll need a little editing but I'll certainly consider it. I'm no great rhetorician or political theorist but it is the genuine reflections of someone who has lived that life and seen it for what it is.

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Jun 28 2018 21:02

"Worked in Seattle" is a little generous.It had good optics as some like to say and inadvertently lead to occupy but I don't think it was the foundation for a genuine society wide revolutionary upsurge. it drew in the usual suspects: Students and all of the disparate activist and political groups. it wasn't part of an industrial uprising like 68 where the roots for it went deep.

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Jun 29 2018 10:16
Khawaga wrote:
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I actually wrote a blog post that I never posted a while back about the soothing, reassuring "busy-work" of being a Leninist. Because the party's work is never done you always feel like the revolution is being built. Party work is not so much a replacement for revolutionary work, because I'm not sure I even know what that is, but it is something that you can bury yourself in, absorb yourself in. It gives you a direction, a purpose, a sense of worth. You also get a sense of community. Clearly these things are not healthy in this context but they are seductive as all hell in this difficult time of Neoliberalism, fascist resurgence and weak labour movement.

To be fair, this is not just a feature of Leninist parties; this does happen in anarchist groups and unions like the IWW as well.

Couple of interesting things I read on this recently:

https://theleftwind.wordpress.com/2018/03/02/winter-palace/

Written by an ex-PSL member now moved towards the 'Marxist Center' tendency (which I don't know much about, but seems like relatively heterogenous Leninists trying to avoid 'Democratic Centralism'). It's also the clearest explainer I've seen of the very weird Marcyite groups and their members.

http://www.cwmorse.org/being-a-bookchinite/

Written by someone who used to organise with Bookchin in Vermont, about how some of these tendencies play out in anarchist (or libertarian municipalist) groups.

Vlad the Inhaler wrote:
Great point. I actually wrote a blog post that I never posted a while back about the soothing, reassuring "busy-work" of being a Leninist.

I think more accounts from people moving away from these groups and politics would really help people (either people thinking about leaving, or those on the periphery thinking about joining). So it would be great if you wanted to dust that off.

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Jun 29 2018 15:06
Mike Harman wrote:
http://www.cwmorse.org/being-a-bookchinite/

Written by someone who used to organise with Bookchin in Vermont, about how some of these tendencies play out in anarchist (or libertarian municipalist) groups.

I've just finished re reading that piece.

And I have to say that I agree with the beat poet who was quoted as saying that Bookchin writes like a 'stalinist'. There are some admirers of his who claim he took a dogmatic turn in around the late 1990s, but I think most of his writings from early on as an anarchist encouraged rigid doctrinairism rather than critical self reflection and heterodoxy. The obsession with constructing ideological systems - and the illusion that these would provide a definitive path forward - is pretty much antithetical to anarchism. His intellectual project was a closed one - establishing a new orthodoxy - and which, oddly enough, has some striking parallels to a 'marxism-leninism'.

Some obvious features:
Dialectical naturalism versus dialectical materialism
Libertarian municipalism (replacing socialism) as the praxis, or transitional phase, towards Communalism (replacing communism)

Then, of course, you have his 'social ecology' pitted against deep ecology (which obviously is not shared by marxist-leninists). And when he was an anarchist, 'social anarchism' against 'lifestyle anarchism'.

Bookchin may be long gone, but the characteristics pointed out in that article still ring true in the small but persistent online presence of 'communalists', and closely related 'democratic confederalists'. They often come across as totally lacking self awareness and without a sense of irony of the positions they hold.

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Jun 29 2018 18:28
Vlad the Inhaler wrote:
"Worked in Seattle" is a little generous.It had good optics as some like to say and inadvertently lead to occupy but I don't think it was the foundation for a genuine society wide revolutionary upsurge. it drew in the usual suspects: Students and all of the disparate activist and political groups. it wasn't part of an industrial uprising like 68 where the roots for it went deep.

You're missing the point I was trying to make and the point of Seattle. Seattle was never supposed to start a revolutionary upsurge; the planning and organizing for that protest was to shut the WTO down or rather to block the WTO from forming out of GATT. Given that the protests did actually shut the meeting down and postponed the formation of the TWO, then it cannot be seen as anything but successful. That similar things happened in Prague, Nice, Gothenburg (with varying degrees of success in shutting these meetings down) led the WTO and the WB and other groups to start holding summits in countries that would be harder to protest in; Qatar, China etc. Those anti-glob protests quite literally chased representatives of capital across the globe. Again, that is a measure of success if blocking meeting was the primary point, but obviously not very successful in the long run given that the WTO did form etc. But again, stating that they were not successful due to your yardstick is just a plain wrong analysis because Seattle was never supposed to kick start a global revolution. Anarchists and commies were not the main force behind the anti/alter globalization movement; it was NGOs, loose social movements etc. The anti-glob movement grew out of things like Jubilee 2000/Drop the Debt and the successful campaign against MAI (multilateral agreement on investment), again campaigns that were spearheaded by NGOs, community and church groups.

Then again, my point also had nothing to do with where the protests came from, but more as having become an example of "doing something for the sake of doing something". After the battle of Seattle and few other were won, the state and police knew what to do, but even now, 17 fucking years later, we are still doing the same type of protests over and over because "we have to do something" when these summits are held. Of course, the effect is that energy and resources that could be used to organize something locally and something that would be more permanent is spent on a fleeting spectacle that may be hundreds if not thousands of miles away.

So while I agree with you that protests like Seattle doesn't really do much to promote an actual social revolution, from the point of view of most of the organizers of that protests it was extremely successful. But because it was successful, this type of protests have turned more into ritualistic action, something to do for radical groups who feel the need that they have to do something (when trying to figure out how they can spend their time differently and then doing that would almost always be a better choice).

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Jun 30 2018 20:21
Auld-bod wrote:
jondwhite #9

I’d be interested in your definition of ‘a cult’.

Vlad #10

I agree with you about these loaded terms, though in the case of Lenin, Trotsky (and Marx) ‘cults’ is arguably a true description.

Some months ago on libcom my description of Lenin as a ‘thug and murderer’ was described as ‘a caricature’, which was very true – he was grotesquely recognisable.

I would say a cult is the most extreme version of a sect. Neither should be the organisation in revolutionary politics.
A cult is where no validation can exist outside of the group (e.g. truth, science, history, consistency etc.) and the only validation can be found in the group. It doesn't have to have a leader or hierarchy, but it helps.
A sect is where a group always put their interests before any other thing (even if they claim otherwise e.g. "they are for the working class") although truth can exist outside of the group.
These might seem a bit dry definitions but I think they hold up for analysis. I do think this is one of the worst things to happen to socialism and it happened predominantly in the twentieth century.

Some red flags would be a lot of talk of loyalty, betrayal etc. Hyperactivism rather than critical thinking. Frowning on friendships with non-members etc.

Here's a bit about Lenin's modus operandi which had the transformation of socialist parties into cults/sects as his objective.

Quote:
Sebestyen comments that Lenin’s style of argument ‘was nearly always domineering, abusive, combative and often downright vicious’. He battered opponents into submission with the deliberate use of violent language which he acknowledged was ‘calculated to evoke hatred, aversion, contempt … not to convince, not to correct the mistakes of the opponent, but to destroy him, to wipe him and his organisation off the face of the earth.’ ‘Those who disagreed with [Lenin] were ‘scoundrels’, ‘philistines’, ‘cretins’, ‘filthy scum’, ‘whores’, ‘class traitors’, ‘silly old maids’, ‘windbags’ (one of his favourite epithets found frequently in his writings) and ‘blockheads’.

https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2010s/2017/no-1359-november-2017/book-reviews-lenin-dictator-intimate-portrait-oc
Marx engaged in some of this garbage mud-slinging, I think it was covered in Gareth Stedman-Jones biography but would have to check.

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Jul 3 2018 11:59
jondwhite wrote:
...Here's a bit about Lenin's modus operandi which had the transformation of socialist parties into cults/sects as his objective.
Quote:
Sebestyen comments that Lenin’s style of argument ‘was nearly always domineering, abusive, combative and often downright vicious’. He battered opponents into submission with the deliberate use of violent language which he acknowledged was ‘calculated to evoke hatred, aversion, contempt … not to convince, not to correct the mistakes of the opponent, but to destroy him, to wipe him and his organisation off the face of the earth.’ ‘Those who disagreed with [Lenin] were ‘scoundrels’, ‘philistines’, ‘cretins’, ‘filthy scum’, ‘whores’, ‘class traitors’, ‘silly old maids’, ‘windbags’ (one of his favourite epithets found frequently in his writings) and ‘blockheads’.

https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2010s/2017/no-1359-november-2017/book-reviews-lenin-dictator-intimate-portrait-oc
Marx engaged in some of this garbage mud-slinging, I think it was covered in Gareth Stedman-Jones biography but would have to check.

lol, I still bristle when I hear people criticising Lenin or the Bolsheviks seizing power. Words like Bourgeois, garbage and filth flow through my brain. I find myself questioning the motives of the author. Its an extremely odd experience being able to actually watch all this happen in my own head.

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Jul 3 2018 16:35
Vlad The Inhaler wrote:
lol, I still bristle when I hear people criticising Lenin or the Bolsheviks seizing power. Words like Bourgeois, garbage and filth flow through my brain. I find myself questioning the motives of the author. Its an extremely odd experience being able to actually watch all this happen in my own head.

I wonder what your marxist-leninist comrades (if you had any) would feel if they read your comments on this thread. Would they feel personally embarrassed? Would they denounce you as a "bourgeois reactionary"? I'm not too familiar with anyone who have had experience organising with marxist-leninists, so I have no idea of how they would typically react to someone within their own ranks departing and renouncing their beliefs.

jondwhite wrote:
Marx engaged in some of this garbage mud-slinging, I think it was covered in Gareth Stedman-Jones biography but would have to check.

You don't need to rely on just his biographies; look at the history of the First International and his role in it. Beyond the petty insults, all of his perceived rivals within the libertarian wing were dehumanised and subsumed under 'proudhonist' or 'bakuninist' smear labels. The latter in particular was employed in such a hysterical manner - to even those who had very little or no connection to Bakunin. He and his closest allies demonstrated a complete unwillingness to engage with the ideas influencing the other side. It also reflected a misunderstanding of how people relate to ideas in the first place.

It was this 'modus operandi' in words and deeds which influenced the development of 'marxism'. Contrary to what some would have you believe, the early 'marxists' were not those who simply picked up and continued the 'contribution to the critique of political economy' where Marx left off uncompleted. This is not to say we should pin the blame solely on individuals such as Marx or Lenin, but lest not pretend that there was no connection between marxism before Lenin and marxism after Lenin.

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Jul 3 2018 17:02
Agent of the International wrote:
I wonder what your marxist-leninist comrades (if you had any) would feel if they read your comments on this thread. Would they feel personally embarrassed? Would they denounce you as a "bourgeois reactionary"? I'm not too familiar with anyone who have had experience organising with marxist-leninists, so I have no idea of how they would typically react to someone within their own ranks departing and renouncing their beliefs.

I wouldn't call anyone a friend as such.

I think there is an inbuilt response to apostasy which basically follows the lines of questioning whether the person was ever a sincere comrade, followed by the usual character assassination and rewriting of the person's works within the party and movement. To cast them as peripheral, inconsistent, shallow, unsuited, lacking in moral fibre. At its worst you might be accused of having degenerated into reactionary politics. This responses has two purposes. The first is to "other" and isolate the offending rogue, this helps to make the in-group reassured that they're better off without this obvious cancer. Obvious because, well you don't leave if you're good and healthy (from an ideological perspective), so you must have been rotten. This can often take the form of an almost quite literal recasting of events into this person jumping before they were pushed, or to continue the surgical metaphor that the tumour has been removed. The second purpose is, having exposed the heretical and degenerate nature of the miscreant they, i.e - the party, feel lighter, cleaner, leaner, meaner and above all of an even greater moral fibre than before. The miserableness of the exposed sinner creates a sense among the faithful that they truly are the righteous ones.

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LeninistGirl
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Jul 3 2018 17:17
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Beyond the petty insults, all of his perceived rivals within the libertarian wing were dehumanised and subsumed under 'proudhonist' or 'bakuninist' smear labels.

Were the anarchists any better though? There is that known anti-semitic rant about Marx from Bakunin...

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Jul 3 2018 17:32
LeninistGirl wrote:
Were the anarchists any better though? There is that known anti-semitic rant about Marx from Bakunin...

I don't have the time right now to issue a lengthier response other than to say that this seems emblematic of a tendency, often from marxists or those influenced by marxist narratives of the First International, to portray the 'libertarians' as equivalent to the 'authoritarians' in their role and conduct. There's also the tendency to reduce that history to a simple polemical debate between leading thinkers.

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Jul 3 2018 18:25

I've actually been reading some of the old threads on here discussing Marxist Dialectics and it reminds me how little I miss the blatant mysticism of so much Marxism. If Marxists are guilty of anything I think it is overreaching. Trying to explain everything, every tiny nuance of our social reality. It leads to some truly nebulous and ephemeral concepts and it also plays into the misguided belief that the working class is homogeneous enough to be educated in a certain way, organised in a certain way, mobilised in a certain way, directed in a certain way and that the revolution will be socially and politically specific enough that it will be equally malleable and governable. I am increasingly aware of the delusion in that way of thinking.