Socialist & bourgeois revolution.

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Khawaga
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Jun 3 2010 03:24

Inside the brackets write quote=name

Dave B
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Jun 3 2010 17:43

The railway scenario comes from Hyndman, I don’t like Hyndman,.

The SPGB were hounded out of the SDF because of his communist revisionism.

In include the follow on paragraph for interest;

Quote:
On another occasion we argued the matter of railways. “Do you seriously contend,” I urged, “that if it were of the greatest importance to construct a railway between two large and populous centres of industry, and the direct route lay through the land of a commune peopled by, say, a hundred persons, and that any other line would necessitate a detour of a couple of hundred miles, thus entailing enormous additional expense at the outset and the permanent daily cost of 200 miles of extra transport, you would consider that the two great cities ought to be held up and prevented from building this railroad because this handful of peasants objected?” “Oh, but they wouldn’t object.” “Yes, but if they did, how then?” And so we went on, Kropotkin admitting in the end that he would religiously respect the rights of this inconspicuous minority to obstruct progress. At a public meeting where one of our Social-Democratic comrades raised the same question about the railroad, and persisted in having a plain answer, it has always been stated that Krppotkin, nettled at the heckling he experienced, closed the discussion amid shouts of laughter by saying, “Damn the railroad!”

A much more serious objection to Kropotkin and other Anarchists is their wholly unscrupulous habit of reiterating statements that have been repeatedly proved to be incorrect, and even outrageous, by the men and women to whom they are attributed. Time after time I have told Kropotkin, time after time has he read it in print, that Social-Democrats work for the complete overthrow of the wages system. He has admitted this to be so. But a month or so afterwards the same old oft-refuted misrepresentation appears in the same old authoritative fashion, as if no refutation of the calumny, that we wish to maintain wage-slavery, had ever been made. There is evidently, as we might expect from their doctrines, close community of sentiment and method between Anarchists and Liberals.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/hyndman/1911/adventure/chap15.html

I feel that there can be irritating tendency amongst the left intelligentsia in handing out white feathers when it comes to agitating the workers to ‘activity’ etc.

Berkman refused to translate and did not write the preface to the infantile disorder pamphlet, at least I think it was that one referred to, it is seminal, needs to be read as it pissed off the council communists leading to a ‘split’ from Lenin, cue the ICC and the council communist Herman Goering,

Reading the Bolshevik Myth is essential as well it is a great and entertaining read, meant in the best possible way, I read it in a afternoon, a few years ago and couldn’t put it down.
I assume I have got the right pamphlet don’t really want to discuss a literaturely interpretation.

CHAPTER XIX THE SPIRIT OF FANATICISM

Quote:
I was in a room in the Hotel National translating for the British Labor Mission various resolutions, articles, and Losovsky's brochure on the history of Russian unionism, when I received a message from Radek asking me to call on a matter of great urgency. Wondering, I entered the automobile he had sent for me and was driven at a fast clip through the city till we reached the former quarters of the German Legation, now occupied by the Third International. The elegant reception hall was filled with callers and foreign delegates, some of whom were curiously examining the bullet marks in the mosaic floor and walls --- reminders of the violent death Mirbach had met in this room at the hands of Left Social Revolutionists opposed to the Brest peace.

I was conscious of the disapproving looks directed at me when, out of my turn, I was requested to follow the attendant to the private office of the Secretary of the Communist International. Radek received me very cordially, inquired about my health, and thanked me for so promptly responding to his call. Then, handing me a thick manuscript, he said:

"Ilyitch (Lenin) has just finished this work and he is anxious to have you render it into English for the British Mission. You will do us a great service."

It was the manuscript of "The Infantile Sickness of Leftism." I had already heard about the forthcoming work and knew it to be an attack on the Left revolutionary tendencies critical of Leninism. I turned over some pages, with their profusely underscored lines corrected in Lenin's small but legible handwriting. "Petty bourgeois ideology of Anarchism," I read; "the infantile stupidity of Leftism," "the ultrarevolutionists suffocating in the fervor of their childish enthuslasm." The pale faces of the Butirki hunger strikers rose before me. I saw their burning eyes peering accusingly at me through the iron bars. "Have you forsaken us?" I heard them whisper.
"We are in a great hurry about this translation." Radek was saying, and I felt impatience in his voice. "We want it done within three days."
"It will require at least a week," I replied. "Besides, I have other work on hand, already promised."
"I know, Losovsky's," he remarked with a disparaging tilt of the head; "that's all right. Lenin's takes precedence. You can drop everything else, on my responsibility."
"I will undertake it if I may add a preface."
"This is no joking matter, Berkman." Radek was frankly displeased.
"I speak seriously. This pamphlet misrepresents and besmirches all my ideals. I cannot agree to translate it without adding a few words in defense."
"Otherwise you decline?"
"I do."
Radek's manner lacked warmth as I took my departure.

http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/bright/berkman/bmyth/bmch19.html

You said the Mensheviks had fled rather than resist the bolsheviks. Actually it was the opposite way round the Mensheviks suffered the problem of not having many people outside Russia to explain the persecution they were suffering at the hands of the Bolsheviks.

I don’t think it is useful to engage in mudslinging on individual rogue anarchist and mensheviks ,like Serge etc.

Many Mensheviks after being banned did later attempt to join the Bolshevik Communist Party as an early example of entryism before the Trots had thought of it. It caused the bolsheviks problems and was one cause of the Bolshevik party purges.

I am sure there were some ‘genuine’ converts however, I seem to remember that the rogue menshevik who went into the provisional government in 1917 became a bolshevik and almost survived the stalinist purges and outlasted Bukharin. Who I think was prosecuted by another ex menshevik, not sure about that.

I am in a rush and I am winging this a bit and don’t have time to check facts.

It is not that hard to find out everything written about the Mensheviks as there is so little, there is an extract of Brovkin’s book on libcom;

http://libcom.org/files/MenshevikComeback1918.brovkin.pdf

Getzler’s auto of Martov is worth a read even if too much of it or most is spent on the less interesting stuff pre 1917 and what he liked to eat and his favourite tv programmes etc.

Addendum, commentary on Skobelev, Matvei Ivanovich (1885-1937) menshevik minister, by lenin in 1917, not exactly the bourgeois capitalist lackey he was portrayed as perhaps?

Quote:
We must improve the condition of the working masses, and to do that we must take the profits from the tills of the businessmen and bankers’. (Voice in the audience: ‘How?’) ’By ruthless taxation of property,’ replied the Minister of Labour, Skobelev. ’

http://marxists.anu.edu.au/archive/lenin/works/1917/may/16b.htm

Joey OD
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Jun 4 2010 15:45

[quote = Kwanga]Inside the brackets write quote=name [/quote = Kwanga]
or
[quote = Kwanga]Inside the brackets write quote=name

or
[Kwanga]Inside the brackets write quote=name [/Kwanga]
or
[Kwanga]Inside the brackets write quote=name [Kwanga]
or
[Kwanga]Inside the brackets write quote=name

? Let's see, anyway thanks Kwanga

Joey OD
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Jun 4 2010 15:46

[Kwanga wrote]Inside the brackets write quote=name

surely that's it now

Joey OD
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Jun 4 2010 15:47

no, I give up, must be thick

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Alf
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Jun 4 2010 16:06

Can Joey and Dave B (and Slothjabber, although I understand his posts more easily, what with agreeing with them and all)) please summarise their views on this thread in one paragraph or two? I think this is a very important discussion, but I am sure I am not alone in not having the time to read all these gargantuan posts!

Joey OD
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Jun 4 2010 18:29

Anyway,
Dave B quoting Hyndman wrote:

Quote:
There is evidently, as we might expect from their doctrines, close community of sentiment and method between Anarchists and Liberals.

So, just after Hyndman complains of anarchists misrepresenting the Marxist position on wage slavery he proceeds to misrepresent the anarchist position. Quelle suprise. Sectarianism on the left is as old as the left.

Quote:
I feel that there can be irritating tendency amongst the left intelligentsia in handing out white feathers when it comes to agitating the workers to ‘activity’ etc.

Not sure what this means. I am a worker. That the 'left intelligentsia' (who are these, academics?) can be patronising to workers is no surprise. But "white feathers", are you saying the left intelligentsia claim we the working class are cowards? Well, let's see them do shift work, then come home to raise a family and have to chase peter to pay paul, to pay the bills and handle a mortgage and hp and credt on x, y and z all on the minimum wage. Who are these 'left intelligentsia" anyway? I don't blame my class at all. We are all socialised. We just need to help each other out and learn from each other. Taking some sort of left ghetto elitist view of (the rest of) our class would be laughable were it not so tragic. I'm certainly not part of some left intelligentsia handing out white feathers. As for Hyndman or Kropotkin, well, noones perfect and they too are the victims of socialisation, of their time and class.

Quote:
Berkman refused to translate and did not write the preface to the infantile disorder pamphlet, at least I think it was that one referred to, it is seminal, needs to be read as it pissed off the council communists leading to a ‘split’ from Lenin, cue the ICC and the council communist Herman Goering,

you mean Herman Gorter (Goering being the Nazi). Yes, Ive heard of Left Communism, An Infantile Disorder many times and of its relationship to the council communists. The ICC I think are strictly speaking Bordigists rather than council communists are they not? The difference being over how to define the October/November revolution. I agree the Disorder book should be read as well as Gorter's response Open Letter to Lenin, other responses, and even better responses written. It (Disorder) still has influence among the Bolshies as one SP (Militant) member quoted it to me in an attempt to put me off libertarian Marxism and anarchism. On Berkman, yes, that's what I thought.
What I remember worse about Berkman's account was that poor people tryin to sell their pathetic wares in the street in order to stay alive were arrested for "speculation" while the BP bigwigs did deals with foreign businessmen. "Speculater" was as awful an accusation as "counter revolutionary" or "reactionary" - better to dehumanise the victim.

Quote:
You said the Mensheviks had fled rather than resist the bolsheviks. Actually it was the opposite way round the Mensheviks suffered the problem of not having many people outside Russia to explain the persecution they were suffering at the hands of the Bolsheviks.

ok, I already apologised for this above, again, I'm here to learn.

Quote:
I don’t think it is useful to engage in mudslinging on individual rogue anarchist and mensheviks ,like Serge etc.

Agreed. Again, I am not mudlinging or attacking or taking swipes. I just want to understand the positions of both parties and individuals. Victor Serge eventually came round to the ideas of the POUM, and suffered for daring to stand up to Stalin (imprisoned for a while and his family certainly suffered due to their association with him). I don't think Serge is a 'rogue anarchist' rather he ceased being anarchist and became bolshevist, just as Martinov was not a 'rogue Menshevist' just a Menshevist who ceased being Menshevist and became Bolshevist.

Quote:
I am sure there were some ‘genuine’ converts however, I seem to remember that the rogue menshevik who went into the provisional government in 1917 became a bolshevik and almost survived the stalinist purges and outlasted Bukharin. Who I think was prosecuted by another ex menshevik, not sure about that.

Trotsky was of course a former Menshevik who became Bolshevik in 1917. I'm sure there were lots of Mensheviks and anarchists who became Bolsheviks because of the latter's 'success' just as many Bolsheviks later became anarchists or left communists or social democrats out of dissillusionment. Swings and roundabouts.
cheers for the references.

Joey OD
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Jun 6 2010 01:25

[quote = Alf]Can Joey and Dave B (and Slothjabber, although I understand his posts more easily, what with agreeing with them and all)) please summarise their views on this thread in one paragraph or two? I think this is a very important discussion, but I am sure I am not alone in not having the time to read all these gargantuan posts!

oops, sorry Alf, missed that, and then I go and respond with another gargantuan post.
Um, I'll have a go.
1. There is no difference between a bourgeois and a capitalist revolution (the original question.)
2. There is a difference between a liberal and a bourgeois revolution. The former is political, the latter economic. Accoding to Marx the former is shaped by the latter. He's right. The two are certainly linked.
3. I could be wrong here (please feel free to correct me if I am) but both Lenin and Trotsky seem to define 'socialism' as state capitalism (state ownership, one man management, hierarchy).
4. In this sense of 'socialism' then Lenin, according to Entdinglichung, came round to Trotsky's view in 1917 that the 'revolutionary government' representing workers and peasants should not just manage (private, market) capitalism but go ahead with 'full socialism' (in the sense above).
5. For me, whatever support the BP gained among the working class, the leadership of the BP could not represent the working class who can only represent themselves in direct democracy, as expressed directly and through (at very short notice) recallable unpaid delegates (whether elected or rotated) who continue to be ranknfile workers, as in the soviets. The more the BP banned other parties, unions, groups, free expressions of the working class, the less they could be said to represent the workers. The more the BP leadership also suppressed inner party dissent the less again, even less, could they represent the working class.
6. The new class that Trotsky and Djilas noted under Stalin existed under Lenin.
7. This isnt to blame anyone for being 'bad' but just my understanding of how things happen.
8. The Constituent Assembly also could not represent workers and peasants because of much the same reasons. I suspect that a Right SR govt., possibly with Menshevik support, possibly not (not to Dave B), would have eventually suppressed the Bolsheviks (and the anarchists), and would also have made strikes illegal.
9. I accept slothjabber's point that whatever happened in the Soviet Republic was largely made irrelevant by the failure of world revolution, a necessity for successful workers revolution. I also accept that so long as a ruling class remained intact in the Russian Empire a form of state capitalism would probably have been the outcome under whatever regime as the Russian ruling class needed to compete, and so catch up with the west.
10. I accept Dave B's point that the Mensheviks were among the first victims of the Bolsheviks and among the first to resist, and (though I strongly disagree with their ideology of gradualism, stagism, accomodation with liberalism) they were not the 'bourgeois democrats' others have made them out to be. As noted by Lenin in May 1917 the rhetoric of 100% taxation of the bourgeois and nationalisation was just rhetoric without practical proposals of how to bring this about and whilst the Mensheviki were in power with the Cadets. Yet still the Mensheviki were social democrats and labour people.
11. Again, I'm not moralising about the Mensheviks or the Bolsheviks, just trying to understand history.
12. My final point was that power corrupts us mere humans and so long as unrepresentative, misrepresentative so-called democracy exists, then like all forms of government, hierarchy, power over others, it will not deliver for we the subject class. That all parties that seek such power represent only themselves (or their pay masters) and not the workers. We workers can only represent ourselves.
13. Also, on the need for workers world revolution (mass organising and taking over) and the need for genuine workers democracy I fail to see much difference between anarchist communists (whether syndicalist or platformist) and libertarian Marxists (whether revolutionary syndicalists or council communists). All these seem to agree on direct democracy and delegate democracy, on workers assemblies and unpaid recallable rotated or elected delegates on workers councils relaying the decisions made by the workers assemblies. The same going for residents as workers. I appreciate there might be more nuanced differences with Bordigists and World Socialists. But even here there's more to agree on than differ. I also appreciate that while we can throw up ideas its not up to me to dictate to the world working class now or in the future how we conduct ourselves/they conduct themselves.
Ok, I couldn't do it in one or two paragraphs, sorry, I'm an awful slabber.

Joey OD
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Jun 6 2010 01:37
Quote:
(not to Dave B)

at point 8 above should have said "(nod to Dave B)".
Of course I have no way of proving point 8. Just my assumption based on an observation of history.
On all these points, while I have the courage of my convictions, I never assume I'm right about anything, and so if I'm wrong I stand to be corrected, and educated. I am here to learn.

Spassmaschine
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Jun 6 2010 02:26

Joey - to get the quotes working type (quote=postername) blahblah (/quote) with square brackets instead of curved ones. You don't need to put the poster's name in the /quote tag. Also make sure there are no spaces within a pair of brackets - [ quote] won't work, but if you remove the space after [ it will.

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Alf
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Jun 6 2010 09:05

Thanks Joey - got to dash right now but will try to respond to your points later or tomorrow.

Dave B
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Jun 6 2010 15:00

Befrore 1917 all Marxists agreed with Marx’s so called stagei-st economic theory, were feudalism would inevitably lead to capitalism.

That theory, as it was specifically applied to Russia, was unequivocally laid out by Lenin himself in his Two Tactics of 1905 (1) and by Kautsky of the same year (2) in his ‘Differences Among the Russian Socialists’.

In fact the whole idea of a ‘Marxist economic Stage-ist theory’ is a tautology as Marxist theory is stage-ist.

As late as March-April 1917 Lenin in his Farewell Letter to the Swiss Workers (3) still adhered to the Stage-ist theory as it pertained to Russia.

The Bolsheviks and Mensheviks

The Mensheviks from 1905 were opposed in theory to participating in the administration of capitalism ‘during’ the so called bourgeois or capitalist revolution, And were against going into the ‘marble halls of power’ as they thought that would lead to ‘infamy and treachery….. committed against the working class’, as had happened in the past.

The Bolsheviks were for it, in order to at least consummate the bourgeois or capitalist revolution, or ‘before the victory’, to prevent it sliding back into some kind of regressive non democratic compromise government between the old feudal ruling class and the emergent capitalist one.(4)

The Bolshevik 1905 intention of involving themselves in the government of capitalism ‘during’ the bourgeois revolution was repeated in 1917 when Lenin said that they would ‘control the production and distribution of goods’.

In a revolution which ‘would not, in itself, be socialism’.(3)

In ‘political’ theory; the most the workers and a workers party could possibly hope to obtain from a bourgeois or capitalist revolution would be the ‘liberal’ bourgeois political liberties and freedoms etc commonly associated with the more mature modern capitalist states.

Eg places like Switzerland, Holland and Britain etc where Marxists had to escape to in order to operate freely.

If such bourgeois political liberties and freedoms could be obtained in the Russian bourgeois or capitalist revolution then the Russian Marxists would be free to agitate and organise the workers in preparation for the next stage, the socialist revolution.

However believing that bourgeois political liberties and freedoms would immediately follow on from the Russian bourgeois or capitalist revolution was probably a hope rather than a certainty.

By at least the beginning of 1918 the Bolsheviks, or the Lenin fraction, decided that they would take total control of the next economic stage, capitalism, or as it was to be, state capitalism, with the Bolsheviks in control of the state.

At this point there was no deliberate or unintentional or practical deviation from Marx’s economic stage-ist theory.

The ‘political’ objective of ‘state capitalism under communism’ had absolutely nothing to do with Marxism, as Lenin admitted in 1922.

Quote:
Not a single book has been written about state capitalism under communism. It did not occur even to Marx to write a word on this subject; and he died without leaving a single precise statement or definite instruction on it. That is why we must overcome the difficulty entirely by ourselves. (5)

What had in fact occurred was that the Bolsheviks had ultimately substituted themselves for or played out the traditional or historic role of the bourgeoisie or capitalist class.

This was gradually understood probably starting with Otto Rühle, Bruno Rizzi (6) and followed on by Burnham’s Managerial Revolution and Djilas' New Class.

This was also followed and understood by Trotskyist theoreticians and intellectuals.

Timescales, and who was playing out what historical role and when etc ; can be a subject for debate.

[Skobelev was a rogue Right Menshevik and the participation of Mensheviks in the provisional government or in any other government of capitalism or the capitalist stage was opposed by at the very least a very large section of the Mensheviks.]

One of the few people who were seeing the Russian revolution in terms of the Jacobin inspired French revolution at the time and werer talking about the ‘law of history’ etc was of all people Peter Kropotkin (7).

As well as a healthy and accurate criticism of the Bolsheviks.

Kropotkin’s analysis, perhaps subject to different interpretations, has similarities to Engels’ prediction concerning the nature of the forthcoming Russia revolution (8).

1) http://www.marx2mao.net/Lenin/TT05.html#c6

2) http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1905/xx/rsdlp.htm

3) http://www.marx2mao.net/Lenin/FLSW17.html

4) http://www.marx2mao.com/Stalin/PRG05.html

5) http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/mar/27.htm

6) http://www.marxists.org/archive/rizzi/bureaucratisation/index.htm

7) http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/kropotkin-peter/1910s/19_04_28.htm

8) http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1885/letters/85_04_23.htm

slothjabber
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Jun 6 2010 18:22
Joey OD wrote:
...Anyhow, I'm not a Stalinist, really.

I'm sorry if you don't think I'm taking your long, thoughtful, well argued and very calm reply seriously; in fact, it would be very difficult for me to do it justice so I'm going to concentrate on one point that I consider absolutely essential.

Claiming as I do that state capitalism was inevitable in Russia doesn't let Stalin or even Lenin and Trotsky off the hook. Stalin we'd all agree I think was one of the most brutal and murderous dictators in human history. Fair enough, no-one here is defending the heritage of Stalin. His assumption of power was I believe the crowning of the counter-Revolution.

But the counter-Revolution began long before Stalin. Lenin and Trotsky were the instigators of terrible crimes against the working class in Russia and also in Poland. They didn't have to take the decisions that they took. The revolution after October 1917 could have taken a different course. However, I believe for the reasons I've outlined, that even if it had, if Lenin and Trotsky had persued different policies or if the Bolsheviks had never participated in the October revolution, state capitalism would still have resulted.

The October revolution was against a warmongering government of Social Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and Kadets; if it had not occured, I believe the Mensheviks (who according to DaveB did not want to administer capitalism and that those who participated were 'rogues', like the 'rogue' Anarchists in Spain you mention in an earlier post; funny how the Bolsheviks didn't produce any rogues though), Socialist Revolutionaries and Kadets would either have succumbed to another Kornilov-style military coup leading to - you guessed - brutal state capitalist dictatorship, or themselves become a stable ruling group ushering in - all together now - brutal state capitalist dictatorship.

The Bolsheviks did not have to participate in any rising against this government of warmongers though. They could have joined the government, like the Mensheviks. Or they could have stood aside. Or they could have taken part in the revolution but refused to seize state power. I think the last would have been the best course of action; but even if the Bolsheviks had done this, what would be the result?

I contend that even with absolutely the best policy, even with the clearest view of the relationship between the working class as a whole and its militant minorities, even with the most profound understanding as to the relationship between political organisations (and I include the Anarchist groups here) and the state, the revolution was still doomed to fail. Even if everything in Russia had been absolutely perfect the revolution would still have failed.

This is so important that it needs stressing time and time again. No policy by any group inside Russia, Anarchist, Communist, Menshevik, SR or anyone else, could save the revolution. No action by the working class in Russia, with or without its political minorities (I don't count the Mensheviks as a proletarian organisation, by the way, because their involvement in the Provisional Government puts them beyond the Pale for me, as are the Right SRs for the same reason), either inside or outside the soviets, could have saved the revolution.

The simple reason for that is no matter what policy; no matter what organisational form; no matter the level of involvment of the working class and indeed other non-exploiting classes; no matter what the conditions in Russia, the revolution was doomed.

It was doomed for one simple and inescapable reason. And whatever criticisms one has of the Bolsheviks (and I think there are many criticisms to be made) in the end it is so very simple. I agree that the organisations of the working class cannot substitute themnselves for the class as a whole. I agree that the Bolsheviks emptied the soviets of their power. I agree that the Bolshevik Party-state ushered in the counter revolution. I agree that Trotsky was responsible for the massacre of workers, that Lenin established a bureaucratic government over the working class in Russia, that the invasion of Poland was the act of an emergent imperialism.

But even if these things had not happened, the revolution was still doomed without worl revolution. They aren't unimportant, but on the other hand they're not as important in understanding what happened in Russia as the single overarching fact; a revolution in a single country - even one as vast as Russia - will always fail.

The actions, misconceptions, errors and just plain bad decisions, whatever their reasons, give us the shape of the counter-Revolution. They didn't cause it. Counter-Revolution would have happened with or without the Bolsheviks. To believe otherwise, to believe that it is possible to acheive or even move towards socialism in one country, to believe that there is a correct policy or way of working or organising, to believe that an isolated revolution can survive and move forward overcoming its own contradictions, is to accept that Stalin was right.

A revolution is by its nature a transitional process. It must reach some sort of stability either by being defeated, when society returns to the staus quo ante bellum or by moving forward. The only way the Russian revolution could have moved forward would be through extension throughout the world. This didn't happen; Russia was therefore doomed to state capitalist dictatorship whatever anyone tried to do about it.

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Alf
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Jun 6 2010 20:47

Very well put slothjabber. I think that Joey actually agrees with the central point - the impossibility of any kind of socialism, communism, or anarchism in Russia as an isolated unit, therefore the inevitability of state capitalism in the absence of the extension of the revolution. History has shown that even anarchists can become the managers of state capitalism, as with the experience of the CNT in Spain during the war.
I think that Joey sees the ICC as Bordigists. We don't accept this - not least because of the actual Bordigists' confusions about the role of the party. They still consider that the dictatorship of the proletariat is also the dictatorship of the party, at least in its initial phases, and we reject this precisely on the basis of the experience of the Bolsheviks in Russia, where the parliamentarist confusion about the party 'representing' the working class by taking over the reins of the new state was shown to be a factor leading to the destruction not only of soviet power but also to the destruction of the Bolshevik party itself.
But there is a difference between the false notion of a party 'representing' the class, and a party's nature as a historical expression of that class. Bolshevism was for us without question an expression of the revolutionary nature of the working class, and this is not altered by the fact that it (or at least, the dominant currents within it) were eventually led towards the betrayal of the interests of the working class This is probably the main sticking point in our discussion.
On the Mensheviks: it is important to make a distinction - as Lenin and others did - between those Mensheviks who did become social democrats in the bad sense, supporting the war and opposing the workers' revolution - and those, like Martov, who remained internationalists, despite a number of 'democratist' ideas.

ajjohnstone
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Jun 6 2010 22:07

I would be interested in knowing just what can be said to have been a unique product from the Bolshevik Party in Russia that we would claim as a positive contribution and wish to evoke for the working class , or for revolutionary organisations, in 2010?

Certainly, the Paris Commune left a legacy of democracy that was built upon and can still be generally proclaimed . Certainly, the 1905 and to a much lesser degree 1917 gave birth to the workers soviets that along with the German experience produced the concept of council communism, but more so, an re-analysis of the political party form that is still of relevance for to-day.

But Lenin , Trotsky , et al , the Bolsheviks ? What is to be recommended from their ideas and practice for us to continue to advocate in 2010?

I suppose my question is a very simple one - what lessons have we learned from the Bolsheviks and should be applying that help us to go forward to establish socialism?

For anarchists and the SPGB we will say and have said that there are many negative lessons of what NOT to do, but for those who have consistently defended the Bolsheviks and Lenin as products of their historic situation and material conditions , which i think we can all agree determined much of their actions and decided much of the outcome , what particular ideas did they hold that we should still be holding today in 2010 and that only they possessed politically to pass on to us?

Joey OD
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Jun 6 2010 22:45
Spaßmaschine wrote:
Joey - to get the quotes working type (quote=postername) blahblah (/quote) with square brackets instead of curved ones. You don't need to put the poster's name in the /quote tag. Also make sure there are no spaces within a pair of brackets - [ quote] won't work, but if you remove the space after [ it will.

thanks Spaßmaschine, perhaps I'm thick after all smile

Joey OD
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Jun 6 2010 22:47
JoeyOD wrote:
perhaps I'm thick after all smile

that's "perhaps I'm not thick after all" roll eyes

Joey OD
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Jun 6 2010 23:00

On my point 8, in other words, the ruling class will only tolerate civil liberties (free speech, free association, freedom of expression, of assembly, of a platform, of organisation) so long as it suits them, so long as the Left is small and disorganised, is harmless, not a threat.
As soon as the Left is larger and better organised it is a threat, and so civil liberties no longer suit the ruling class so liberalism becomes fascism, liberalism becomes authoritarianism, the mask slips, whatever the name or supposed ideology of the party/ies in power.
This is not to have a go at Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries (Right or Left) or Bolsheviks or anyone else. Just to try and understand the dynamics of class and power politics.
(Witness Leninism become Stalinism, liberalism become fascism in the 1920s and 1930s, witness in the US, the UK and Ireland conservative politicians and businessmen fund fascist groups and support fascism abroad, witness the antics of MI5, of SPG, of Freemasons and Aims of Industry in Britain in the1970s and early 1980s when the labour movement was strong.)

Joey OD
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Jun 7 2010 00:07

oh dear, there's more...Completely forgot the whole conversation on Marx's determinism.
14. Marx was mostly determinist but he made exceptions (letter to Vera, revol).
15. There is a tension in Marx between agency and determinism (revol).
16. If one was "stage-aware" without being stage-rigid, one would have to look at at a given revolt as possibly leading to communism and possibly leading to the furtherance of capitalism. One would thus only wish to participate in the revolt in so-far-as it leads towards communism (RedHughs).
In other words, Marx accepted (Bakunin's) will as well as determinism. In other words (as point 15) while the development of industry and capitalism makes workers revolution more possible, it's not 'inevitable', it still requires the conscious desire and determination of we workers ourselves. As Marx said "Philosophers have only tried to understand the world. The point is to change it."
(BTW, the best destruction of the idea that Marx was a crude determinist I ever saw was by Peter Thompson in his The Crisis of the German Left, PDS, Stalinism and the Global Economy, Berghahn Books, 2005, pp. 17-18, 45.)
17. Marx basically goes slavery then feudalism then capitalism then socialism/communism.
Now, in much of the world, capitalism is triumphant, feudalism is vanquished, there no longer needs to be a conversation about accomodating the peasants - they don't exist (in much of the world), urban industrial workers are the majority (blue and white collar, producers, distributers (retail), services and admin., both wage earners and the salariat).
There now 'only' needs to be we workers organising and taking over. There is nothing else left to wait upon.
(True, there's still artisans, traders, small businesses, small farmers. But these find it increasingly hard to compete with global corporations, monopoly market capitalism increaingly ridicules the very notion of 'free market' capitalism.)
18. While there may be philosophical differences between (social) anarchism and libertarian Marxism there need be no practical differences.
Yes, we need to organise and take over, world workers revolution. If, after the revolution, the Marxists or crude determinists wish to say "that was inevitable", fine, "that was inevitable because of underlying economic forces", fine.
But let's have the revolution first so you can say that.
19. On the philosophical point, not that it matters, but hey, just for fun... determinism/some kinds of Marxism does become a self fulfilling prophecy, which explains everything after the fact, no matter what, "that was inveitable because a,b and c, because of underlying forces, material conditions.
Everyday is a "crisis" in capitalism and it's collapse and the victory of the proletariat is inevitable. If only...

Joey OD
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Jun 7 2010 01:06
DaveB wrote:
In fact the whole idea of a ‘Marxist economic Stage-ist theory’ is a tautology as Marxist theory is stage-ist.

Yep, got that, Marx and Marxism is (more or less) stagist. Fine.

DaveB wrote:
The Mensheviks from 1905 were opposed in theory to participating in the administration of capitalism ‘during’ the so called bourgeois or capitalist revolution, And were against going into the ‘marble halls of power’ as they thought that would lead to ‘infamy and treachery….. committed against the working class’, as had happened in the past.

Yes, but, again, they did participate, go into the marble halls of power, in 1917, did they not? They did take part in the coalition govt. of Kerensky, with the SRs, the Cadets, did they not? (A genuine question. I'm not sure). Or at least they entered the Duma and the Constituent Assembly (as well as the soviets) and supported the govt., didnt they? Or at the very least they entered these as the opposition, along with the Bolsheviks, no?

DaveB wrote:
In ‘political’ theory; the most the workers and a workers party could possibly hope to obtain from a bourgeois or capitalist revolution would be the ‘liberal’ bourgeois political liberties and freedoms etc commonly associated with the more mature modern capitalist states.

Eg places like Switzerland, Holland and Britain etc where Marxists had to escape to in order to operate freely.

If such bourgeois political liberties and freedoms could be obtained in the Russian bourgeois or capitalist revolution then the Russian Marxists would be free to agitate and organise the workers in preparation for the next stage, the socialist revolution.

However believing that bourgeois political liberties and freedoms would immediately follow on from the Russian bourgeois or capitalist revolution was probably a hope rather than a certainty.

OK, but a liberal regime can easily slide back to authoritarianism when it suits the ruling class to do so, as we saw in the 20th century. My point was that though the Mensheviks and SRs might have genuinely thought this, when they (the leadership) actually achieved positions of comfort and power (those marble halls) they, like the Bolsheviks, inevitably (my own determinism or cynicism) would have become corrupted by power and turned on the workers (and on the Bolsheviks and anarchists) just like later social democrats in office did (Noske in Germany turned the Frei Korps on the workers with Ebert's consent, Labour govts. in Britain, Socialist Party in France, PSOE in Spain etc.). In this view the SPGB has remained genuine precisely because, unlike Labour, it has remained unsuccessful at elections and so unable to form a government. Thus, a successsful Menshevik SDWP would have become more like Labour than the SPGB and not unlike the Bolshevik Party. I could be wrong. But this is the anarchist view.

DaveBquotingLenin wrote:
Quote:

Not a single book has been written about state capitalism under communism.

Wow, I didnt know Lenin ever used this term. There was me in my ignorance thinking Tony Cliff invented it! or rather the 'Johnson-Forest Tendency' (CLR James and Raya Dunayevskaya, Marxist humanists). According to Wiki Engels used the term in 1880, Liebnechkt in 1896...

DaveB wrote:
[Skobelev was a rogue Right Menshevik and the participation of Mensheviks in the provisional government or in any other government of capitalism or the capitalist stage was opposed by at the very least a very large section of the Mensheviks.]

oh, ok.

DaveB wrote:
Jacobin inspired French revolution

In fact the French revolution was inspired by the people and was then hijacked by the Girondins, Jacobins, Directory, Napoleon, much like...oh that's Kropotkin's point. In fact it was a crowd which included some Jacobins, some Enrages and other non aligned who stormed the Bastille.

Quote:
Kropotkin’s analysis, perhaps subject to different interpretations, has similarities to Engels’ prediction concerning the nature of the forthcoming Russia revolution (8).

Interesting, anyway Dave, I'm reading Brovkin's piece on the Mensheviki, I'll get back to you on it...

Joey OD
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Jun 7 2010 01:28

slothjabber, it seems you dont read my gargantuan posts, but I read yours.
If you did you would know that I agreed with you. You've made all these points before already and I agreed with you.
The "letting off the hook" point was more about accepting the role of agency as well as determinism as a warning to future behaviour, ie the authorities did this, let's find a way of making sure they can't do so again. I'm sure you agree. It wasnt directed at you but at crude determinists (such as Sartre) who seem blaze about suffering as "process".
I see Alf has made my point for me.

Joey OD
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Jun 7 2010 02:30
Alf wrote:
History has shown that even anarchists can become the managers of state capitalism, as with the experience of the CNT in Spain during the war.

Well, some anarchists would say that when those ministers took their posts they ceased to be 'anarchists' but anyway. There was, of course, a genuine social revolution, alongside this state capitalism, which was also crushed because of it's isolation, crushed by Stalinists and then fascists. Clearly the CNT's collaboration with statist forces was an act of desperation in the face of certain death, stuck between fascists and Stalinists, both urged on by liberals, without word revolution they were beleagured.

Alf wrote:
I think that Joey sees the ICC as Bordigists. We don't accept this - not least because of the actual Bordigists' confusions about the role of the party.

oh, ok, sorry. I think I got this idea from wiki (not necessarily the best source i know) concerning historical origins. Anyhow I was, at one point, trying to distinguish council communists from Bordigists and used the point on the Russian Revolution. I was probably thinking actually of the difference between the ICC/World Revolution and ICT/CWO or ICP etc. (which you have here made clear) and not council communists at all. Would it be fair to see the ICC in the tradition of the council communists then or not?

Alf wrote:
But there is a difference between the false notion of a party 'representing' the class, and a party's nature as a historical expression of that class. Bolshevism was for us without question an expression of the revolutionary nature of the working class, and this is not altered by the fact that it (or at least, the dominant currents within it) were eventually led towards the betrayal of the interests of the working class This is probably the main sticking point in our discussion.

Now this is interesting. I don't know if I agree or disagree because I'm not sure if I know what this means. Hang on.
Of course the working class is to an extent heterogenous, varied, but you mean generally speaking, expressing the majority view of the working class. Well, that depends. Who is driving who? Are the party leaders telling us what to think or are we telling them?...that's not what you mean is it?...mmm... certainly the state of parties, what they think they can get away with, what they claim to stand for, is a barometer of what the working class is demanding or not, where the working class is at in terms of struggle is matched by party rhetoric. No doubt if we were more militant all the parties, even the Conservatives, would try to appease us with welfare capitalism, keynesian capitalism, and talk of social partnership, a place at the table for our 'representatives', no doubt sections of the Labour left would demand full state capitalism and th leadership would hope no one reads the manifesto (50s, 60s, 70s all over again). And in a revolutionary situation many workers would join what appear to be revolutionary parties, groups, unions, as their ranknfile.
Yes, ok, I agree (I think). We (anarchos) would just prefer that the expression of our class was expressed in ourselves, in what is genuinely not only our organisations, but is us, the working class itself organised without a leadership of 'representatives'. Whether this be through assembliess, or councils/soviets or other associations is up to our creativity but the essential point is the egalitarian/democratic nature of such bodies. Within these there may be different philosophical positions (anarchist, Marxist, etc) but the forms are what is important and the strategy.

slothjabber wrote:
(I don't count the Mensheviks as a proletarian organisation, by the way, because their involvement in the Provisional Government puts them beyond the Pale for me, as are the Right SRs for the same reason)

Their involvement would make them not in the interests of the proletariat but they were still proletarian in terms of make up of their ranknfile. Before July 1917 the Mensheviks had since 1905 been a mass movement of workers including trade unions. After July, at least by September, they began to be replaced by the Bolsheviks in the Moscow and Petrograd soviets. Even then they remained entrenched in the trade unions. The results of the elections to the constituent assembly show the BP was by far the more popular. According to Brovkin the Mensheviks made a come back between March and June. As Dave B has pointed out their were different factions within the MP which took different positions.

Alf wrote:
On the Mensheviks: it is important to make a distinction - as Lenin and others did - between those Mensheviks who did become social democrats in the bad sense, supporting the war and opposing the workers' revolution - and those, like Martov, who remained internationalists, despite a number of 'democratist' ideas.

Agreed, assuming by 'democratist' you mean in terms of 'representative democracy' as opposed to delegate democracy/direct democracy as espoused by Marx via the Paris Commune.

Joey OD
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Jun 7 2010 02:51
ajjohnstone wrote:
But Lenin , Trotsky , et al , the Bolsheviks ? What is to be recommended from their ideas and practice for us to continue to advocate in 2010?

well nothing, except, the rhetoric of All Power to the Soviets (workers councils), an end to imperialist war, and the need for world revolution.
Granted, you can get this and more (advocation of the practice of All Power to the Soviets) from other currents.
Plus, I like the red flag and hammer and sickles, but that's just me.
But I understand yer point. This is why I said on another thread I was uneasy about working too closely with Bolsheviks and so helping to spread the same misinformation and so repeat the same mistakes (this was to do with Organise!'s relationship with the IWU (who I had wrongly? assumed were at least libertarian Marxist) and with 'The Socialist' (Militant) being available in Just Books).
But on the other hand I guess we should have the courage of our convictions, believe in the strength of our arguments, and in the battle of hearts and minds win some people over to our way of thinking, and if they are right they can win us over.

RedHughs
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Jun 7 2010 07:37

I agree with the substance of Slothjabber's latest post... but I think it also leaves some questions unanswered. And I would agree that in the main, slothjabber don't seem to be saying things that Joey disagrees with. But if the worst that's happening that people who agree are talking past each, then we should be happy at the level of agreement - and I generally like this thread BTW.

However, I think there more than a few loose ends to be tied up in this discussion.

Joey OD wrote:
Well, some anarchists would say that when those ministers took their posts they ceased to be 'anarchists' but anyway. There was, of course, a genuine social revolution, alongside this state capitalism, which was also crushed because of it's isolation, crushed by Stalinists and then fascists. Clearly the CNT's collaboration with statist forces was an act of desperation in the face of certain death, stuck between fascists and Stalinists, both urged on by liberals, without word revolution they were beleagured.

The Spanish republic had many remarkable qualities. At the same time, one could argue that it failed to establish a full counter-power to capital anywhere. Characteristically, I would recommend chapter 4 of Society Of The Spectacle on this entire question as well as Giles Dauve's When Insurrections Die and the writings of Bilan. I think the argument is that both the Bolsheviks and the governmental anarchists acted consistently in imposing the rule of representatives of the working class on the working class. Certainly, the anarchists who joined the government were accepted by CNT and so they definitely didn't cease to be what the CNT considered anarchist.

Anyway, both the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks followed the general outline of contemporary (nineteen teens) Social Democracy. Each saw their task as advancing a bourgeois rather than a proletarian revolution. They just saw that task differently.

One might see the Bolsheviks' tendencies as part of the wider tendency of capitalism to rule in the name of the name of its' own negation, with pure ideology rather than explicitly and/or in the name of the working class. Or you could see it as a terrible mistake who's implications rippled through the entirety of working class history. Perhaps if a brutal state capitalist regime had not arisen in Russia without the trappings of "communism", the working class would have had the opportunity to more honestly debate it's conditions in the following seventy years. Or Perhaps Statlinism in the broad sense, the dictatorship of the representatives of the working class over the working class, was inevitable. Perhaps the working class "had" to go through the stage of facing its own representatives in order to arrive at a point of anti-political lucidity.

As an old ad for Tootsie Pops once said "the world may never know..."

The point isn't pushing democracy as such but pushing that which-allows-communism to expand. We absolutely shouldn't feel satisfied that we know exactly what that is, but I would claim a few things. Communists should encourage and take part in things like the October Revolution - collective action by a sector of the working to destroy the bourgeois state at a time when the whole of the working class and population has a revolutionary inclination. The October Revolution was not a coup d'etat despite more anarchist rhetoric on this subject since it certainly did not leave the previously existing army in charge. Destroying the state is a crucial state in a revolution and it's not a step that can or should be done "only when everyone agrees". In this sense, you can contrast the 1917 with 1936 - the anarchists failed to destroy the republican state because they felt "things weren't ready". They were certainly wrong. The step of not opposing the Republic was primary. Actually joining the Republic icing on the sad cake. Communist should also actively oppose more or less everything the Bolsheviks did after the October Revolution - we should oppose the tendency of the representatives of the proletariat to impose a dictatorship over the proletariat.

ernie
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Jun 7 2010 10:46

RedHughs

Oppose every thing the Bolsheviks did after October 1917 is a rather sweeping statement. For example, what about the formation of the Communist International, the pushing forwards of the need for the soviets to take control throughout the country following October. You also tend to present the Bolsheviks as a homogenous whole whereas there were many fractions. For example in the Urals the Left whing of the party was very strong in the Soviets. How can the Bolsheviks have been a revolutionary organisation one minute and then against the revolution the next? The program put forwards by the Bolsheviks even in 1919, see the ABS of Communism, is a high point of revolutonary theory at the time. We may now see its errors etc, but at the time it represented something very important. Also you point would mean that all of those revolutionary organisations that supported the Bolshevik party and the first years of the revolution were wrong. The programme of the KAPD is not that different to the RCP of 1919.
There was Communist opposition to the mistakes of the Bolsheviks/RCP by the left fractions in the party itself. The theoretical and practical developments made by these comrades are of the greatest importance.
Fully agree with you that we have to oppose any revolutionary organisation's attempts (conscious or not) to impose a dictatorship over the proletariat: some of the first to do that were the Left fractions of the Bolsheviks party.
This rich and profound experience along with that of the whole proletariat in the early years of the revolutionary as they struggled to maintain control over their own destinies faced with isolation etc is one of the most important historical contributions to the future revolutionary struggles. We should feel no shame in claiming this experience as our own, because it was the highest moment of our class so far. Just as the crushing of the revolution in Russia and internationally was our darkest moment. Make all the worse by the fact it was the RCP that ended up being the main vector of the counter-revolution.

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Alf
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Jun 7 2010 14:12

Joey: the question about the class nature of the Bolsheviks is related to a more general question: whether political organisations and parties express the interests of particular classes in society. It's not simply a matter of sociology, ie the class origins of the membership, but of the political programme and practice of the group or party. From the sound of it, you seem to assume that all parties are by definition bourgeois, aiming to 'represent' (and no doubt, represent and repress) the exploited class. But while this was a conclusion reached by at least part of the council communist current, it is not our view, nor was it Marx's.
However, if we leave aside the problem of what is meant by a proletarian party, you do seem to accept that groups or associations of revolutionaries are produced by the class struggle. But you seem to think that they are produced in very much the same way as assemblies or soviets, ie as more or less immediate products of mass struggles. In our view the process leading to the formation of proletarian political groups is not identical, even if the ultimate source is the same.
Council communism is part of the tradition we come from, as is the Italian left. But our aim is to make a synthesis of the best these currents had to offer. Council communism underestimated the role of the revolutionary organisation, the Italian left tended to overestimate it, so we have to develop a critical understanding of both 'wings' of the movement.

Dave B
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Jun 7 2010 18:12

Responding to post 90

Yes the Mensheviks were ‘always’ opposed to going into a provisional government and the Bolsheviks were for it.

As it turned out the Mensheviks did and the Bolsheviks didn’t.

The Mensheviks were split almost down the middle over it.

Trotsky noted the irony of it in 1917;

Quote:
Since, in a bourgeois revolution, they (the mensheviks) were wont to say, the governing power can have no other function that to safeguard the domination of the bourgeoisie, it is clear that Socialism can have nothing to do with it, its place is not in the government, but in the opposition. Plekhanov considered that Socialists could not under any conditions take part in a bourgeois government, and he savagely attacked Kautsky, whose resolution admitted certain exceptions in this connection. “Tempora legesque mutantur” the gentlemen of the old regime so expressed it. And that appears to be the case also with the “laws” of Plekhanov’s Sociology.

No matter how contradictory may be the opinions of the Mensheviks and their leader, Plekhanov, when you compare their statements before the Revolution with their statements of today,

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1917/next/ch05.htm

The justification that the right Mensheviks used for entering into the provisional governments was to ensure the convocation of the constituent assembly.

What the Mensheviks may or may not have done afterwards is a valid question.

I would have expected a proportion of them to sell out, go into administering capitalism leading to a permanent split.

What I am attempting to do is provide a historical analysis and understanding of what the various fractions were ‘thinking’ or how they understood things at the time.

Which forms part of an analysis of what happened.

The issue of the continuation of the war is a case in point. Yes it is easy to put those people all in one basket and hand wave them off into chauvinist hell, were many deserved to be.

However if you are going to damn people it is important to damn them for the right reasons.

The genuine "patriots" defending mother Russia etc are beyond discussion here I think.

Some of the defencists however, which cut across both the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, were arguing against surrendering the revolution to the ‘bourgeois German imperialist capitalist running dogs’ etc.

Not that Lenin was ever a complete ‘neutral’ when it came to the war;

To: A. G. SHLYAPNIKOV October 17, 1914

Quote:
That watchword is: for us Russians, from the point of view of the interests of the working masses and the working class of Russia, there cannot be the smallest doubt, absolutely any doubt, that the lesser evil would be now, at once the defeat of tsarism in this war. For tsarism is a hundred times worse than Kaiserism.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1914/oct/17ags.htm

Perhaps forming part of Lenin's ;

Quote:
Imperialism is a continuation of the development of capitalism, its highest stage—in a sense, a transition stage to socialism.

theory.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/reviprog/ch03.htm

Hurrah for imperialism!

Quote:
Wow, I didnt know Lenin ever used this term.

What term, surely you don’t mean ‘State capitalism’ ?

Joey OD
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Jun 7 2010 20:12
RedHughs wrote:
I think the argument is that both the Bolsheviks and the governmental anarchists acted consistently in imposing the rule of representatives of the working class on the working class. Certainly, the anarchists who joined the government were accepted by CNT and so they definitely didn't cease to be what the CNT considered anarchist.

But what screams out at present day anarchists, and many anarchists at the time, is expressions like

Quote:
governmental anarchists

together with

Quote:
consistent

.
True, the CNT and the FAI accepted this situation out of desperation, but the IWA took issue, and then later, after we lost, the CNT and the FAI changed their minds, admitting it was a bad idea (taking govt. posts). Certainly today the CNT and the world anarchist movement seem to be in consensus on this point. (So much so that the CNT and IWA is accused of being sectarian when it takes issue with anything that even smacks of state involvement.) So, while the CNT at the time didnt think the FAI ministers ceased to be anarchist when they became ministers, I suspect that is the current position of all anarchists including the CNT and the FAI. That is, that Federica and Juan Garcia and Abel de Santillon ceased to be (technically, for the pedantic) "anarchist" for the duration of their terms in office. Not, necessarily, that they were not anarchist bfore this or after it.
It is not at all consistent for anyone to claim to be anarchist and to claim at the same time to be "representatives" of the workers, or to impose this on we workers. It just isn't. 'Anarchy' = leaderless, masterless.
The CNT was and is a thoroughly democratic organisation as is and was the FAI but the government they participated in was not. Again, this isnt to judge people in the past (as if Id behave any different in the circumstances). Just to try to understand and learn from the past.

RedHughs wrote:
Or Perhaps Statlinism in the broad sense, the dictatorship of the representatives of the working class over the working class, was inevitable.

Just to be pedantic (sorry) but I'd prefer "representatives" to be in inverted comma's or proceeded by "so-called" here, or "misrepesentatives" etc. but no, I get that that is what you are saying. The mystification was necessary to go through to learn from the mistake. The horror of the rule of our so-called representatives helped to open our eyes to this mystification, to the lies.
BTW, and again to be pedantic (sorry) but nothing is or was "inevitable", just more likely. After the fact we can say "was the result of"...

RedHughs wrote:
Perhaps the working class "had" to go through the stage of facing its own representatives in order to arrive at a point of anti-political lucidity.

I'm uncomfortable saying we "had" to go through suffering to learn from our suffering. But yes, hopefully we learn from our mistakes and our successes, from history. As its says on Public Enemy record "If you don't know yer past, you don't know yer future" and "The race that controls the past controls the living present and therefore the future" (course it should be "the class"/"he who"..), "History shoudn't be a mystery, our story's real history, not His story." Yet the Manics wrote "I accuse history, I don't need yer history". True, historians can be conservative (as Marx noted) like sociologists can supposedly be radical (!?), whatever about campus politics in the 19th, 20th or 21st, point is history teaches us, experience teaches us (empiricism).

RedHughs wrote:
The point isn't pushing democracy as such but pushing that which-allows-communism to expand.

Agreed. In feudalism it was the subject class (workers and peasants) who pushed for liberties and democracy. The bourgeoisie used us as cannon fodder, the ranknfile masses to gain them power at the expense of the feudal order. They rode in on our coat tails as it were. In their hands democracy is reduced to parliamentary government ("beggars change horseback but the lash goes on", Joe Christle, Irish republican), unrepresentative misgovernment. But the liberties and limited 'democracy' was only gained with the blood of our class, organised workers demanding such - the right to organise, free speech. These are not 'liberal' bourgeois demands but workers demands which the state only ever gave into with the threat of, to avoid, greater workers militancy, class war, revolution. And even more so when they had to compete for their subjects affections with the Soviet bloc in the cold war.
The same is true of welfare, state subsidies, investment, full employment.
Likewise, in Russia, the Social Democrats saw bourgeois liberalism as of course preferable to Czarism. But pushing for democracy, not only mere bourgeois representative 'democracy', but even better soviet democracy, workers direct democracy, was even more pushing that which-allows-communism-to-expand, or at least, or rather, that which is in the interests of our class, allowing for greater security, greater control over ourselves and what we produce.
Now we do live in bourgeois misrepresentative 'liberal democracy' we need to not only defend our few gains but expand on this to fuller democracy, workers democracy, direct democracy, and yes, onwards to communism, whatever we decide is in our best interests. That said, there is the ever present danger of slipping back into fascist reaction (witness changes in the law in the US in the name of war on terror, and in Britain in line with the 6 counties, 42 days detention, diplock courts, least theyvee scrapped id cards, in Ireland people are convicted solely on the word of a policeman).

RedHughs wrote:
We absolutely shouldn't feel satisfied that we know exactly what that is, but I would claim a few things.

Not exactly, but we should feel free to throw up some ideas like soviet democracy...

RedHughs wrote:
Communists should encourage and take part in things like the October Revolution - collective action by a sector of the working to destroy the bourgeois state at a time when the whole of the working class and population has a revolutionary inclination.

I agree but with the note that we shouldn't fall for the subtle (and later not so subtle) assumption of power by the leadership of one political party. Lenin declared who his government was to be and the best the soviet could do was acclaimation. The soviet needs to take charge democratically, not a cult of personality, not a fan club. As AJP Taylor put it power was not seized from Kerensky, but (after the soviet seized it from Kerensky) from the soviet (with the soviet's consent).

RedHughs wrote:
The October Revolution was not a coup d'etat despite more anarchist rhetoric on this subject since it certainly did not leave the previously existing army in charge.

On the one hand, if anyone's bothered to read my gargantuan posts they would have noticed that I at one point admitted "coup d'etat was perhaps not the best choice of words" for this subtle transfer of power (from the soviet to the leadership of the BP).
On the othe hand, it is a perfectly apt metaphor, as is changing of the guard, cabinet reshuffle etc., given that actual soviet power was very short and the rule of the Right SRs et al was replaced by the rule of the Bolsheviki leadership, just as before the rule of the Czar's ministers was replaced by the Right SRs et al. From the anarchist perspective these elites are all much the same, as noted by the previously Bolshevik Kronstandt rebels in 1921. Likewise, the Labour govt is no different than a Tory govt., the Cuban govt, the Venezuelan govts are all still governments, still states.
Now the dismantling of the bourgeois state was a good thing (which is where the anarchists agreed with the Bolsheviks and disagreed with at least some of the Mensheviks). But still soviet power was what the anarchists and others on the left (including left Bolsheviks, left Mensheviks, left SRs, syndicalists, other Marxists, non-aligned workers) wanted next, not BP leadership power. Unfortunately many could not see the difference and no wonder amidst the chaos of civil war and intervention and isolation, and the socialisation of the time. As slothjabber said, given the failure of world revolution it would have made little difference in the end what happened in Russia (except workers victories, losses and experiments remain as inspiration to future generations, as with February and october revolutions in Russia, the Kronstandt rebellion, the Makhnovichna/RIA in east Ukraine, the Spanish revolution, the collectives etc.).
I didn't know the correct definition of "coup d'etat" was a (violent) change of government where the same army remains. I was going for metaphor rather than precision. But if state forces requisition your grain, arrest you for going on strike (treasonous sabotage or counter revolutionary sabotage), or kill your family for daring to criticise the government, then you are not going to notice much difference between "the men with guns" (US film based in S. America, check it out) whatever flag they fly or badge they wear.

RedHughs wrote:
Destroying the state is a crucial state in a revolution and it's not a step that can or should be done "only when everyone agrees".

Again, I agree. When consensus fails majorty rules. Also, when it's a life or death scenario, a struggle, we don't stop to count heads. But for a revolution to be successful, longterm, there needs to be majority support (the support of the majority of the subject class who are themselves the immense majority). Plus for any action (apart from those which can be carreid on by free association) to be successful, and for any policy to be carried out, it needs majority support, whether the majority of one house, one workplace, one industry, one street, area, city, town, village, district, county, province, region, continental region, continent, the world, depending on who is effected, who is concerned.

RedHughs wrote:
In this sense, you can contrast the 1917 with 1936 - the anarchists failed to destroy the republican state because they felt "things weren't ready". They were certainly wrong. The step of not opposing the Republic was primary. Actually joining the Republic icing on the sad cake.

And you'll find, i think, that (almost all if not all) anarchists today would agree with you, including the CNT and the FAI. Though to be sure its easy to judge the actions of yesteryear with the benefit of hindsight and we should also recognise the awful predicament our people were in in Spain.

RedHughs wrote:
Communist should also actively oppose more or less everything the Bolsheviks did after the October Revolution - we should oppose the tendency of the representatives of the proletariat to impose a dictatorship over the proletariat.

Agreed, we should oppose the tendency of our so-called 'representatives' to impose their dictatorship over us in our name (whether labour, workers, socialist, communist etc.)

Joey OD
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Jun 7 2010 20:54

of course the CNT at the time (1936) would have said if we oppose the republic at the same time as the fash we will be crushed in between, which they were anyway but all the sooner. How long could they have held out against both the republic and the fash? If they had done so they would today be accused of all kinds of treachery to antifascism (which they were accused of anyway along with the POUM by the Tankies). Maybe, the republic govt wouldve agreed to back off, accomodate them, in the interests of the antifascist war, or maybe they wouldve drowned in blood from both sides all the sooner. Who knows but they were trapped in an awful situation and tried to survive. Let's not be too quick to judge. If it wasnt for the CNT/FAI fascism would have won sooner.

Joey OD
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Jun 7 2010 22:21
ernie wrote:
RedHughs

Oppose every thing the Bolsheviks did after October 1917 is a rather sweeping statement.

RedHughs actually said

Quote:
oppose more or less everything the Bolsheviks did after the October Revolution

the important part being "more or less".

ernie wrote:
what about the formation of the Communist International

On the one hand the Comintern managed to inspire many of the best people of our class to organise and fight back in the 1920s.
On the other hand it also helped to add to the mystification of the CPs as our 'representatives', to excuse and justify any act by the govt of the Soviet motherland (much like Israel's supporters today) because at least they were our 'representatives', at least they were a socialist state, the only socialist state in the world, later the only one sticking up to the US (as China, Cuba, Venuzuela, N. Korea etc.), and to peddle slanders against anarchists, syndicalists, left communists, later against Trotskyists, Titoists etc.
The IWA and the IWW existed at the time of the Comintern. There were plenty of very real, very organised alternatives among the combative working class. Though you wouldnt know this reading standard histories of the period from the perspective of either side of the cold war. Hopefully libcom will help to sort that out. There is a pamphlet called Syndicalism, In Myth and Reality by L. Gambone which tells of the true strength of syndicalist unions. Then there was pretty soon also the Communist Workers International (from 1922) though this also suffered at the hands of fascism and later historical distortion (sweeping under the carpet). There was also the World Socialist Movement from 1904.

ernie wrote:
the pushing forwards of the need for the soviets to take control throughout the country following October

This is a good point which was why I said about the 'rhetoric of All Power to the Soviets'.

ernie wrote:
You also tend to present the Bolsheviks as a homogenous whole whereas there were many fractions. For example in the Urals the Left whing of the party was very strong in the Soviets.

This is why I wrote of the Left Bolsheviks supporting the soviets, and distinguished between the leadership and the ranknfile. I am sure RedHughs (who can speak for himself) knows all this, is just talking about the general picture, the outcome.

ernie wrote:
How can the Bolsheviks have been a revolutionary organisation one minute and then against the revolution the next?

Quite easily. First, they can be both for and against the revolution at the same time. How? Every individual (including me) is full of contradictions, inconsistencies, hypocrisies. Its ok, it makes us human. Likewise parties, organisations are made up of different people, different factions, tendencies and tensions. Second, what is meant by 'revolution'. There was a state capitalist revolutionary tendency (for a semi feudal semi market economy to go to state run economy is still a revolution, a revolution is not necessarily a good or progressive thing, it just means extreme change, no?) and a workers soviet communist revolutionary tendency. Third, at one stage the latter tendency was strong so even the leadership matched their rhetoric with this view (but even the leadership was expecting world revolution) but at an other stage the former tendency reigned supreme in practice as well as rhetoric. So there appeared an abrupt change when dissenting voices were silenced, when one man management replaced workers control etc. Was it a moment, a minute, a month, 4 years. Hard to say. I've already mentioned the moment of Lenin's assumption of power with the acclaimation of the soviet. The soviet neutered of power with the consent of the soviet is still the soviet neutored.

ernie wrote:
The program put forwards by the Bolsheviks even in 1919, see the ABS of Communism, is a high point of revolutonary theory at the time. We may now see its errors etc, but at the time it represented something very important. Also you point would mean that all of those revolutionary organisations that supported the Bolshevik party and the first years of the revolution were wrong. The programme of the KAPD is not that different to the RCP of 1919.

I could be mistaken here, but I don't think anyone's claiming this. Clearly the picture is complicated. There were progessive elements: universal healthcare, education, women's rights etc., as well as progressive and inspiring rhetoric on proletarian class consciousness. But there was also labour camps for dissenters, and state capitalism writ large that we can see now. Let's not go from one extreme of saying everything was rosy with the Soviet Union to everything was bad (like going from Soviet to US propaganda). But I don't think anyone was doing that. I get what RedHughs meant and it was not that. Correct me if I'm wrong.
Let us not paint every anarchist as a deranged nihilist, every menshevist as a bourgeois democrat, every bolshevist as a fascist, clearly there are subtle shades and varieties. Libcom's library makes this clear. It is very easy to slander whole traditions. But we have to draw the line somewhere and learn from the past on where we, the working class, go in the future, and the best way to do that is to comment on specific actions of specific actors including governments, parties, unions and all their various factions.

ernie wrote:
because it was the highest moment of our class so far.

It was certainly one of the highest, along with the Paris Commune, the Ukrainian revolution (which can be seen as part of the Russian revolution), the Spanish revolution and no doubt others I am unaware of.