Criticism of Trotsky

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Sidney Huffman
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Aug 24 2010 10:51
Criticism of Trotsky

Hello, I'm trying to find some good criticism of Trotsky but I'm not the greatest at searching on-line. Could anyone point me towards something either historical or contemporary but preferably from an anti-authoritarian/anarchist perspective? Most grateful for any help.

Thanks.

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oisleep
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Aug 24 2010 11:07

Not being funny, but if you can't actually find anything criticising trotsky how do you know you want to criticise him?

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Ed
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Aug 24 2010 15:08

Maybe they chatted to someone about him and thought he sounded rubbish? Read a leaflet, pamphlet or book which they no longer have possession of?

Anyway, here are some places to start, you might want to do a search on Kronstadt or Russian Revolution as well:

http://libcom.org/tags/trotsky
http://libcom.org/tags/trotskyism

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Aug 24 2010 15:46
oisleep wrote:
Not being funny, but if you can't actually find anything criticising trotsky how do you know you want to criticise him?

To be fair, they may have had loads of personal conversation, meetings, or read forum posts critical so have a basic jist, and just want something more substantial and researched.
Happens to me with a lot of subjects, I've a basic grasp of the main arguments, and often look for a condensed form of them.

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Aug 24 2010 16:00

yeah perhaps i'm being unfair, however in cases like that you could/should at least offer up some basic themes of why you think you need to criticise someone and then ask for something more substantive to back up/flesh out your hunches/half remembered notions/main grasps of the arguments

just asking for a criticism of something seems like you've made your mind up (or more correctly someone else has made your mind up for you) about something needing to be criticised without having actually looked into it in the first place

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Aug 24 2010 16:40

A criticism of Trotsky by the ICC:

Trotsky Against Lenin-

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/117_1903.html

Here is a criticism of Trotskyism from a left communist perspective (going back to a 1947 article by the French Communist Left):

What Distinguishes Revolutionaries From Trotskyism?

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/139/trotsykism

And this article covers the origins of Bolshevism, which contains a lot of criticism of Trotsky in the earlier days of the RSDLP (his childish 'big tent' idea for the party):

The Birth Of Bolshevism 1903-1904:

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/116_1903.html

And finally a wrap up on Trotsky's life and positive and negative contributions to the working class:

1940: Assasination of Trotsky

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/103_trotsky.htm

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 24 2010 16:41

A classic text is The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control by Maurice Brinton. It's not specifically a criticism of Trotskyism so much as the actual actions of Lenin and Trotsky during the Russian Revolution juxtaposed to their stated claims.

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Aug 24 2010 17:19

http://libcom.org/library/bolshevism-and-stalinism-paul-mattick

http://libcom.org/library/trotsky-left-opposition-rise-stalinism-theory-practice-john-eric-marot

Quote:
Through a critical examination of the limits of SWP guru Tony Cliff's analysis, Marot demolishes the popular myth that Trotsky and his Left Opposition within the Bolshevik Party in Russia were, during the 1920s, a heroic attempt to defend working class interests against a Stalinist 'socialist construction' and repression that they disagreed with. An effective factual antidote to leftist and ICC-type left-communist apologetics for Trotsky and Trotskyism's anti-working class character in Soviet Russia.
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Aug 24 2010 17:22

ICC apologetics for Trotskyism? I never thought that accusation could be made. Left communism has been demolishing Trotskyism for 80 years.

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Aug 24 2010 17:25
Quote:
Trotsky and Trotskyism's anti-working class character in Soviet Russia.
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Aug 24 2010 19:16

I know, and I mean during the pre-exile years as well. I've seen him criticized for numerous reasons in the ICC during his Left Opposition in the USSR phase- from his theoretical analysis, his leadership of the Left Opposition in the USSR and abroad, his policy of attempted reconciliation with the 'centrists' (Stalinists), his lack of coherent direction and guidance for the workers of the Soviet Russia, etc.

Here's some examples:

'A Contribution From Russia As Seen By Leon Trotsky'

http://en.internationalism.org/node/3800

-A criticism of a pamphlet by the CWO concerning the anti-Stalin oppositions in Soviet Russia, including Trotskyism:

http://en.internationalism.org/wr/265_cwo_trotsky.htm

-Correspondance Between Bordiga And Trotsky (with analysis):

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/101_bordiga.htm

-The Russian Communist Left Part 2: 1918-1930

http://en.internationalism.org/node/2581

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Aug 24 2010 20:22

"ICC-type left-communist apologetics for Trotsky and Trotskyism's anti-working class character in Soviet Russia";

Quote:
To be absolutely clear: the movement around Trotsky passed irrevocably into the enemy camp through its support for Stalinism and democracy in the second imperialist world war, but for all his opportunist slidings, Trotsky himself died a proletarian revolutionary. The ICC has explicitly recognised this in the article in IR 104 entitled 'Trotsky died as a symbol for the working class'...

the Left Opposition of 1923 and the United Opposition of 1927, ... we argue that they can only be understood as a basic proletarian reaction to the degeneration of the Russian revolution. http://en.internationalism.org/wr/265_cwo_trotsky.htm

.

Quote:
The Trotsky/Stalin conflict was a factional battle within the ruling elite, played out above the heads of the exploited subjected proletarian class. http://libcom.org/forums/history/kronstadt-19062006?page=1
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Aug 24 2010 20:29

Redt: You have so far merely asserted that our stance on Trotskyism is apologetic. For you, I would surmise, merely accepting that the Trotskyist current emerged from the workers' movement is to apologise for its later betrayals. The same seems to apply to Bolshevism. Would you say the same thing about the Second International and all the groups inside it?

nastyned
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Aug 24 2010 21:12
devoration1 wrote:
ICC apologetics for Trotskyism? I never thought that accusation could be made. Left communism has been demolishing Trotskyism for 80 years.

Well seeing as the ICC say that Trotsky never betrayed the working class I think it's a reasonable point to make. In fact isn't the ICC's line that it was after Trotsky's death that Trotskyism went wrong?

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Aug 24 2010 21:31

In fact isn't the ICC's line that it was after Trotsky's death that Trotskyism went wrong?

No.

I agree with Revol: the issue is: what forces made up the workers' movement in the latter part of the 19th century (or possibly earlier....)

Sidney Huffman
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Aug 24 2010 21:42

I just wanted to learn more about criticisms of Trotsky and since I am against authoritarians I thought people here would know where to look. I'm crap at using the internet to find things as my searches are too vague and I end up with loads of stuff I've no interest in!

I'm old fashioned, I know how to use libraries not the internet!

But thanks very much for all the suggestions. I'm slowing working my way through. I seem to remember a great short book/booklet about Kronstadt if anyone knows what it might have been called?

Anyway, thanks for all your help.

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Aug 24 2010 21:53
revol68 wrote:
Anyway the fundamental problem isn't Trotsky, it is the Bolsheviks and ultimately the Social Democratic swamp they came out of.

Indeed.

^said while smoking briar pipe and scratching chin.....*takes sip of aged malt scotch...*

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Aug 24 2010 21:54

Bolsheviks took power from the soviets (workers councils) and handed it to a centralized communist party. Whoever supports that is silly.

nastyned
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Aug 24 2010 22:04
Alf wrote:
In fact isn't the ICC's line that it was after Trotsky's death that Trotskyism went wrong?

No.

Sorry, I should have put that in ICC speak. I meant left the proletarian camp.

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Aug 25 2010 01:15
nastyned wrote:
Alf wrote:
In fact isn't the ICC's line that it was after Trotsky's death that Trotskyism went wrong?

No.

Sorry, I should have put that in ICC speak. I meant left the proletarian camp.

The idea is that Trotsky himself, as an individual, was an important figure in the history of the working class and was indeed a revolutionary for most of his life- he just had a lot of terribly opportunistic ideas, which when turned into a body of thought were poisonous for the working class.

They write about the opportunism and terrible mistakes of Trotskyism many years before he died, when he himself was leading the Left Opposition/international Trotskyism (everything from his attempted rapproachment with the Stalinists, the idea that the USSR was the workers state and had to be defended even though it was massacring them and taking away their hard won advances one by one, that it was the duty of revolutionaries and militants to enter their socialist/social-democratic parties and try to 'win back' influence among workers, etc).

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Aug 25 2010 11:29

on Kronstadt, the best pamphlety stuff is probably:

http://libcom.org/library/the-kronstadt-uprising-ida-mett or
http://libcom.org/library/1921-kronstadt-proletarian-spin-russian-revolution-cajo-brendel

for something quick, though much less detailed, try:
http://libcom.org/history/1921-the-kronstadt-rebellion

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Aug 25 2010 22:20

Sorry, I should have put that in ICC speak. I meant left the proletarian camp.

The point however is that working class organisations can (and in fact always do) go quite seriously wrong before leaving the (ha ha, silly idea) proletarian camp.

Sidney Huffman
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Aug 26 2010 11:01

Thanks Ed, those links are great.

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Aug 26 2010 17:36
Alf wrote:
Redt: You have so far merely asserted that our stance on Trotskyism is apologetic.

I showed, with quotes, why I asserted that.

Quote:
For you, I would surmise, merely accepting that the Trotskyist current emerged from the workers' movement is to apologise for its later betrayals. The same seems to apply to Bolshevism. Would you say the same thing about the Second International and all the groups inside it?

confused The Trotskyist current emerged from a division within the party bureaucracy - I don't equate that with "emerged from the workers' movement" - ie;

Quote:
The Trotsky/Stalin conflict was a factional battle within the ruling elite, played out above the heads of the exploited subjected proletarian class. http://libcom.org/forums/history/kronstadt-19062006?page=1

I think the Marot article linked to above illustrates that. But your question is odd - even if I believed that Trotskyism emerged from the workers movement it wouldn't inhibit me from criticising its behaviour at any time. Social democracy was a part of the workers movement - a reformist counter-revolutionary force within it, from which a few elements, in the process of becoming radical, had to break from. But I think you are projecting your own logic; because proof of ancestry is so heavily invested in by your group, which then leads you to apologetics for your claimed ancestors, you think others are motivated similarly.

Quote:
For all the left-communists' critique of nationalism I think - in their need to claim, maintain and protect their political ancestry - some of them can fall into the same absurd traps as occur when constructing a national identity. http://libcom.org/library/notes-nationalism-george-orwell

http://libcom.org/forums/theory/question-parasitism-18112009?page=5

The ICC pro-Bolshevism seems based on the premise that the Bolsheviks were 'in the proletarian camp', judged on their formal policy - internationalism during WWI etc. (Even though 'Left-Wing communism' - that handbook of counter-revolution for CPs worldwide - quickly appeared by 1920, advocating collaboration with national social democratic parties and reformist unions; even though the Party state traded away nations on the diplomatic chessboard and also granted national self-determination, began selling arms to Germany etc.) So they judge history more according to abstract formal expressions of organisations rather than their actual role in historical events; class consciousness is seen, not as residing in the lived experience of the class, but in bureaucratic Party resolutions and 'positions' - ie, in bureaucratic ideology. They minimise the general activities of the working class outside of formal organisations and so see all essential historical questions of class struggle as located and expressed within The Party and its internal ideological disputes - disputes which, on all sides, take as their central premise the dominant role of the party, and so fail to grasp the class relations of the wider society by acknowledging the relation of Party to class as itself a class relation;

Quote:
... Implying that workers are fed class consciousness by the Party elite and consciousness is determined by whose side they take in intra-Party faction fights; yet in fact his article illustrates that the Russian working class was far in advance of the Trotskyists in its understanding of the nature of Stalinism - and the class expressed its consciousness in its practical opposition to the exploitation, repression and brutality of 'socialist construction.' http://libcom.org/library/trotsky-left-opposition-rise-stalinism-theory-practice-john-eric-marot

As Piriani points out; the Party, even in the early years of ruling, needed Cheka spy reports to know what the workers were talking about - so hardly a Party unified with the class or a society where workers felt free to openly discuss and criticise - as the left communist Miasnikov pointed out to Lenin before they threw him in jail.

Trotsky on Party supremacy;

Quote:
"Comrades, none of us wants to be or can be right against the party. In the last analysis, the party is always right, because the party is the sole historical instrument that the working class possesses for the solution of its fundamental tasks. .... I know that no one can be right against the party. It is only possible to be right with the party and through it since history has not created any other way to determine the correct position.
The English have a proverb: My country right or wrong. We can say with much greater historical justification: whether it is right or wrong in any particular, specific question at any particular moment, this is my party. (Trotsky, 13th Congress, 1923)"

(Compare with previous comment above re. Orwell about communists and nationalist mentality.)
This is the kind of mentality that many who stayed with the Party as they repressed all opposition would have deluded themselves with - 'the Party eternally incarnates correct proletarian policy', even as they jailed and massacred workers, repressed all criticism etc. And Bolsheviks today, with certain apologetic variations, perpetuate this mythology. There is no analysis of the historical roots in the hierarchical internal social democratic Party structures, in its relation to the working class and its impoverished conception of 'socialism/communism'. There is no class analysis of the role of the state Party and its relation to the rest of the society it ruled. So 'the most advanced elements of the working class' were banning strikes and dissent, jailing and murdering the working class - and those who defended this for the next 25 years or so, like Trotsky, are ordained by the ICC as dying as saintly 'proletarian revolutionaries'. (Btw; it's 70 years - Thursday 22 August 1940 - almost to the day since Trotsky, butcher of proletarians and patron saint of Bolshevik apologists, died.)

devoration wrote:
...Trotsky himself, as an individual, was an important figure in the history of the working class and was indeed a revolutionary for most of his life- he just had a lot of terribly opportunistic ideas, which when turned into a body of thought were poisonous for the working class.

Bordiga served 2 jail terms but survived under fascist Mussolini - his chances as a left communist critic under the Bolsheviks would've likely been less favourable: but that's life under the so-called "proletarian camp" for you.

mciver
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Aug 27 2010 11:00

Completey agree with the above by Red Marriott.

In the 70s there were some telling critiques of Trotskyism in France, by ex-Trotskyists, like the 'Bérard tendency'. The CWO also produced a critique of Trotskyism. These critiques tended to reject Trotskyism fundamentally, seeing it in continuity with Stalinism and as an expression of its counter-revolution. However, these critiques seem to have faded into obscurity, in France as well. Now they are seen as 'sectarian', or 'immature', by the orthodoxy of the ICC, which considers Trotskyism part of the 'worker's movement'. At least until the start of WW2 in 1939.

Those critiques grappled with historical experience as assimilated in the 70s, and in my opinion retain a validity. They couldn't have considered the 'left communist tradition' of the various sects from the 'Italian Left' as similarly regressive. In fact, the 'Bérard tendency' ended up in Révolution Internationale only to leave just before RI formed the ICC in 1975. Bérard and his tendency had illusions in 'left communism', as if these sects represented a break with the counter-revolution of Stalinism. Of course the experience of the last 40 years was missing.

Devoration1's evaluation of the ICC's position on Trotsky is revealing:

Quote:
The idea is that Trotsky himself, as an individual, was an important figure in the history of the working class and was indeed a revolutionary for most of his life- he just had a lot of terribly opportunistic ideas, which when turned into a body of thought were poisonous for the working class.

They write about the opportunism and terrible mistakes of Trotskyism many years before he died, when he himself was leading the Left Opposition/international Trotskyism (everything from his attempted rapproachment with the Stalinists, the idea that the USSR was the workers state and had to be defended even though it was massacring them and taking away their hard won advances one by one, that it was the duty of revolutionaries and militants to enter their socialist/social-democratic parties and try to 'win back' influence among workers, etc).

Here we have the conquering hero, very important in ICC iconography -- an important 'individual revolutionary', his only problem was that he suffered from a "... a lot of terribly opportunistic ideas, which when turned into a body of thought were poisonous for the working class." Is this the 'marxist method', so superior to individualistic petty-bourgeois anarchist meanderings? Strange, because it appears to excrete a similar manure.

Where is the 'materialist analysis' of 'terribly opportunistic ideas', and of endless 'mistakes'? Why was Trotsky such an 'important individual revolutionary' then, if most of his key ideas (his 'terrible mistakes'!) defended a poisonous counter-revolution?

When criticism of Trotskysm is, like in Marot's critique mentioned by Red, detailed and specific, not only of doctrinal expositions, all the hot air about 'method' and 'traditions' disappears, blown away by historical fact and evaluation of real social implications.

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Aug 27 2010 11:05
Red Marriott wrote:
The Trotskyist current emerged from a division within the party bureaucracy - I don't equate that with "emerged from the workers' movement" - ie;

I think that it is fair to say that within the USSR the 'Trotskyist current' did emerge from a division within the party/state bureaucracy. Of course what latter became the 'Trotskist current' was not the only opposition within the party, and there were other currents that were more proletarian and put their faith in the struggles of the working class rather than seizing control of the ruling positions in the state.

As for Trotskyism as an international current, I think that much of it, though less and less as the years past, was initial made up of those trying to understand why the revolution had decayed and who were struggling for class politics. Not all of the Trotskyists ended up backing the allies and the 'degenerated workers' state' in WWII.

Red Marriott wrote:
The ICC pro-Bolshevism seems based on the premise that the Bolsheviks were 'in the proletarian camp', judged on their formal policy - internationalism during WWI etc. (Even though 'Left-Wing communism' - that handbook of counter-revolution for CPs worldwide - quickly appeared by 1920, advocating collaboration with national social democratic parties and reformist unions; even though the Party state traded away nations on the diplomatic chessboard and also granted national self-determination, began selling arms to Germany etc.) So they judge history more according to abstract formal expressions of organisations rather than their actual role in historical events; class consciousness is seen, not as residing in the lived experience of the class, but in bureaucratic Party resolutions and 'positions' - ie, in bureaucratic ideology.

I don't think that it was just a 'formal policy'. Bolshevik militants agitated against the war, were involved in strikes, mutinies, and ultimately revolution. Of course this does not change the later betrayals.

Certainly there was a point where the Bolsheviks were with the working class, 1914 if you will, and a point where the party/state machine was clearly acting on behalf of capital and the state, certainly by February 1921.

If we take that to be the case, it means that in between, at some point, something must have gone pretty wrong really.

It is difficult to put an exact date upon this even with the benefit of hindsight. How much more difficult it must have been to those actually involved in the process at the time, let alone those viewing it from abroad.

Red Marriott wrote:
And Bolsheviks today, with certain apologetic variations, perpetuate this mythology

There are no Bolsheviks today.

Devrim

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Aug 27 2010 16:39
Devrim wrote:
I don't think that it was just a 'formal policy'. Bolshevik militants agitated against the war, were involved in strikes, mutinies, and ultimately revolution. Of course this does not change the later betrayals.

This is true. But their "internationalism" is used in defence or apology of their later development (to preserve their permanent membership of "proletarian camp"), so in that sense it is used as an abstract formal policy - when it is about the only revolutionary Bolshevik policy of worth as a legacy (though not unique to them), and one that was anyway quickly ditched by them when put to the test in government.

Devrim wrote:
There are no Bolsheviks today.

If there can't be Bolsheviks today, why can there be left communists or anarchists etc? Or are there no real Bolsheviks worthy of the name? Only pro-Bolsheviks?

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Aug 27 2010 17:36
Red Marriott wrote:
This is true. But their "internationalism" is used in defence or apology of their later development (to preserve their permanent membership of "proletarian camp"), so in that sense it is used as an abstract formal policy - when it is about the only revolutionary Bolshevik policy of worth as a legacy (though not unique to them), and one that was anyway quickly ditched by them when put to the test in government.

I am pretty sure that nobody in the ICC thinks the the Bolshevik party was a "permanent member of the proletarian camp". What the ICC's platform says on it is:

ICC wrote:
In the same way, the Communist Parties in their turn passed into the capitalist camp after a similar process of opportunist degeneration. This process, which had already begun during the early 1920s, continued after the death of the Communist International (marked by the adoption in 1928 of the theory of ‘Socialism in one country’), to conclude, despite bitter struggles by the left fractions and after the latter’s exclusion, in these parties’ complete integration into the capitalist state at the beginning of the 1930s with their participation in their respective bourgeoisie’s armament drives and their entry into the ‘popular fronts’. Their active participation in the ‘Resistance’ in World War II, and in the ‘national reconstruction’ that followed it, has confirmed them as faithful agents of national capital and the purest incarnation of the counter-revolution.

Which says that they did integrate into the capitalist state. The date that it puts upon it is very late, 'the beginning of the 1930s', but that is not only talking about the Russian party, but internationally, and it does say their 'complete integration into the capitalist state'.

Red Marriott wrote:
If there can't be Bolsheviks today, why can there be left communists or anarchists etc? Or are there no real Bolsheviks worthy of the name? Only pro-Bolsheviks?

'Bolsheviks refers to members of a specific party, which no longer exists. 'Left communists' and 'anarchists' refers to members of political currents which do exist today.

Devrim

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Aug 27 2010 17:38

"The Trotskyist current emerged from a division within the party bureaucracy - I don't equate that with "emerged from the workers' movement" .....
[i]
I think the Marot article linked to above illustrates that. But your question is odd - even if I believed that Trotskyism emerged from the workers movement it wouldn't inhibit me from criticising its behaviour at any time. Social democracy was a part of the workers movement - a reformist counter-revolutionary force within it, from which a few elements, in the process of becoming radical, had to break from"

[/i]
Perhaps I didn't put the question very well. It seemed to me that you were saying that if we think Trotskyism was originally a product of the workers' movement, that means we have to excuse all its opportunist errors and outright betrayals. But in your latest post you say that "even if I believed that Trotskyism emerged from the workers movement it wouldn't inhibit me from criticising its behaviour at any time". . I agree with that. However, there is evidently a real difference in method, shown by the next line when you say that social democracy was part of the workers' movement - and a counter-revolutionary force. I don't agree that the workers' movement gives rise to counter-revolutionary organisations. To me that would mean the working class engendering bourgeois organisations

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Aug 27 2010 18:01
Alf wrote:
I don't agree that the workers' movement gives rise to counter-revolutionary organisations. To me that would mean the working class engendering bourgeois organisations

Yet you say the unions were worthy of support up to 1914 or thereabouts. Yet you say the unions are now part of the bourgeois state - surely the workers' movement/working class engendered the unions, if anyone did? As they did the Labour Party? And if Trotskyism's origin in the Bolshevik party means "accepting that the Trotskyist current" (which you acknowledge became counter-revolutionary) "emerged from the workers' movement" then presumably Stalinism did too.

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Aug 27 2010 18:07

The working class engenders working class organisations, which, given that they operate in capitalist society and are subject to all its pressures, frequently degenerate and betray, ending up as part of the bourgeoisie. This certainly applies to the unions. With the Labour party it's a moot point. At best an extremely weak product of the workers' movement, more or less a still birth. Stalinism took shape as a direct product of the bourgeois counter-revolution