Is there a creeping Leninism on Libcom?

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Tom Henry
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Jul 17 2017 23:16

This thread has now moved from trying to discuss the influence of Leninism here to gripes about me.

I didn't want to contribute to this thread, as I implied previously, but people have made it about me, which is either telling or just odd.

So, if I am causing a distraction, I will withdraw.

Tom Henry
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Jul 17 2017 23:23

It's true that I posted on this thread at the beginning, but that was just to clarify that I, at least, did not think that the Leninism was an 'invasion'. I wasn't intending to go into the nuts and bolts of it, that's for you and others.

But you can carry on now. Although I sense the discussion is already over and decided.

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donald parkinson
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Jul 18 2017 04:14

Lenin and Kautsky had a radial democratic strain that isn't worth disregarding.

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Devrim
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Jul 18 2017 07:22
Spikymike wrote:
maybe Red Marriott has belatedly identified the 'Nihilist Communist' entryism at play here!.

Tom Henry wrote:
Was I not often labelled as a workerist by middle class revolutionaries with middle class jobs?

I don't think you can get much more 'workerist' than 'Nihlist Communist'.

Devrim

Battlescarred
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Jul 18 2017 08:46
donald parkinson wrote:
Lenin and Kautsky had a radial democratic strain that isn't worth disregarding.

What? Explain.

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Zanthorus
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Jul 18 2017 16:25
donald parkinson wrote:
Lenin and Kautsky had a radial democratic strain that isn't worth disregarding.

If anything is worth disregarding in the history of Marxism it's the vestiges of 'radical democratic' ideology.

Tom Henry wrote:
It says get a job in an essential industry.

My advice as a worker in an 'essential industry' is if you have the opportunity to avoid working in one, take it.

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Hieronymous
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Jul 18 2017 17:37
Tom Henry wrote:
So, if I am causing a distraction, I will withdraw.

You are, so please do.

Thank you.

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Pennoid
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Jul 18 2017 18:14

Lenin was a self-described Kautskyan. Kautsky's political strategy up to WWI was basic continuation of Marx and Engels politics of fighting for a proletarian party united around a program; a set of things which would, if enacted, realize the class dictatorship of the proletariat. Marx and Engels argued, and Kautsky and Lenin defended this; that the class dictatorship of the workers took the form of an undiluted workers republic with any executive function completely subordinated to the directly elected representative bodies of the class. The workers states tasks were outlined as bringing together the means of production in order to plan production and distribution for all; thereby destroying the social basis of value (social production carried out by private producers; socialised through exchange), ending war, crises, hunger, etc.

You can see Lenin argue this line, even against Kautsky's rightward drift, in State and Revolution.

petey
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Jul 18 2017 18:37
Tom Henry wrote:
So, if I am causing a distraction, I will withdraw.

you're only providing a distraction for those employing the heckler's veto.
so don't.

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sabot
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Jul 19 2017 00:25
Pennoid wrote:
The workers states tasks were outlined as bringing together the means of production in order to plan production and distribution for all; thereby destroying the social basis of value (social production carried out by private producers; socialised through exchange), ending war, crises, hunger, etc.

Hmm...

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Reddebrek
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Jul 19 2017 10:47
Serge Forward wrote:
Question as it says in the title...

Background - publishing of Chris Harman's book on here (since removed) and other comments perhaps sympathetic Lenin, Trotsky, etc. I could also add the increase in support for national liberation movements (eg Rojava) and pro "Bolivarian revolution" comments.

Has there? I've seen pro Corbyn comments but they're mainly from new registrations or people logging in to slag off articles criticising them. I haven't noticed an increase in support for Venezuela there's always been a smattering of it, was there a thread or comment section that exploded that I just missed?

Rojava commentary on the site seems largely critical with a couple of exceptions (we all know who) and they've been around since 2011. I've noticed soft comments on Lenin, but there's always been a tendency among some LeftCom influenced users to view Lenin as a genuine revolutionary up to a point (and where that point ends depends on the individual) so there's always been an undercurrent of that.

And I honestly don't think I've seen any pro Trotsky comments on here, ever.

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Steven.
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Aug 6 2017 17:49

A user thought this thread to my attention via private message. Having read it, not really sure what to say. Don't think there is anything which people are requesting the admins to do as such. Is there a creeping Leninism? I don't think so.

I think that with the rise of Corbyn, and Rojava in the real world, those developments have shown a fair number of self-declared "anarchists" to be nothing more than social democrats. This is pretty standard, and it happens in waves dependent on developments in the world in general. As libcom has a cross-section of people using it, and is open for new users to register, this will affect discussion here as well.

In general things here seem to go in waves. At one point we had loads of primitivists, then we had a load of national-liberation-supporting platformists, then we had a bunch of ICC types…

That said, the dominant view on the site I think has remained pretty consistent throughout its history, which I think is actually pretty impressive considering that it is open up to anyone to register.

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Alf
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Aug 6 2017 20:31

Some of that bunch remain....

I think Steven poses the question more fruitfully. Which is not so much whether libcom is becoming "leninist", a term which remains to be seriously defined, but whether libcom, as a particular reflection of a wider anarchist movement, is increasingly porous to the influence of "leftism", ie politics that translate the influence of the dominant ideology but wear the garb of revolution.

Also in response to Steven: if there are "waves" of visits from different tendencies, their appearance has to be linked to longer waves outside.

zugzwang
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Aug 7 2017 00:25

I'm just puzzled why posts like these, by Pennoid from another thread defending the Bolshevik government and repeating official Bolshevik/Communist arguments, arguments also made by Lenin (though I'm not charging anyone here with "Leninism"), are so well-received. It could be that they have knowledge/insight that I don't share, which is possible...

Quote:
You, frankly, have to let go of sympathy for terrorists in the countryside mad that they had to supply the cities with food. Consider an analogy; consider that poor farmers in the U.S. south say they don't support slavery. Consider that Sherman is moving his troops through Georgia laying the objective foundations for the abolition of slavery (arming slaves, killing and destroying slaveowners) and needs food supplies from those poor whites. Consider that they refuse and call this tyranny and start carrying out terrorist attacks against Lincoln etc.

I don't think this is a fitting analogy because the Bolshevik government did everything contrary to the emancipation of the working class from the start and betrayed the genuinely socialist slogan of "all power to the soviets" in favor of centralization and party rule. I think the peasantry were justifiably upset at having their produce and other supplies requisitioned under the war communism policies, sometimes leaving hardly anything for themselves or their families, which only increased their resentment and led to their antagonistic behaviors. I'm curious, Pennoid, what else you think we should "let go of sympathy for." Should we "let go of sympathy for" the discontent toward the unequal distribution of rations, the regimentation of labor, and the countless other repressive and authoritarian actions of the Bolsheviks, because they were going to "free the workers," similar in your analogy to the freeing of the slaves?

el psy congroo
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Aug 7 2017 03:40

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Rommon
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Aug 7 2017 07:24

I've found that anarchists tend to be latched on to by all kinds of non-anarchist types.

I was, for a while, in a "christian anarchist" facebook Group, it very quickly got over run by free market libertarian types who consider Capitalism to be the upmost freedom. (My litmus test to see if they actually care about freedom is if they think a city privitizing a Public park and selling it to some Rich guys estate increases the freedom in that city, if they do you quickly realize what they actually mean by freedom).

On the other hand, I find very often there are some on the broad left for whome being "left" just means being anti-American, and pro-whoever-is-anti-american. To me that kind of "left" is just boring and silly. I actually don't mind Leninists IF they can defend Leninism without appealing to how terrible America is.

Spikymike
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Aug 7 2017 11:08

Well Social Democrats from Kautsky to Lenin clearly do have their defenders amongst some regular posters on this site although that is often expressed more critically as 'errors from the past' not to be repeated, rather than any suggestion that we should or could simply replicate their politics today. Such 'defenders' are generally as critical of what passes for modern day Left social democracy as any others here.
For me the strength of this site is it's understanding of 'Communism'' and the scope it provides as a library resource and discussion for the spectrum of political organisations and individuals that relate to that understanding whether influenced by anarchist and/or Marxist traditions.
Most posters (presumably other than TH) on this site consider that political organisation in the form of a party, union, group, federation, network, etc is important in contributing in the right circumstances to both the practical development of class struggle and the evolution of a communist consciousness. If you consider that to be some form of 'Leninism' then indeed we cannot escape it.

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Aug 7 2017 15:07

I don't think they are easy questions; I think that is the question that history posed, and that *any party* or coalition of parties would have been faced with the same concrete problems I outlined.

It's sort of like Veneuela right now; if the PSUV stepped out of the way and some Trotskyist party jumped in; would anything change? No they'd still be confronted with the international veto power of money over states dependent on the export of key commodities for state funding.

It's from this vantage point that we can judge what the Bolsheviks did and what they failed to do. But I find it hard to condemn them for not doing what they could not have done. I concede that Kronstadt was a grave mistake; indeed it is widely (I think correctly) recognized as a barometer of just how far the Civil War drove the party and the government into being an isolated bureaucracy. But I think it's also clear that this kind of isolated bureaucracy is not what Lenin argued for or envisioned.

I further think this situation doesn't derive from Bolshevik mistakes alone; of course you could say it does in a sense. They were mistaken in their assessment that a Revolution in Russia would set of a chain of successful revolutions in Europe and abroad; while it energized those movements, they almost all failed.

I definitely do *not* buy the standard liberal line (unfortunately repeated by Chomsky) that the Bolsheviks were these masters of realpolitik that hoodwinked everyone into power. That just doesn't stand up to historical scrutiny. But then again, Chomsky desires to focus on contemporary Foreign Policy history, so that's his choice.

That leaves in a position to *study the question* like many other questions; to go outside of anarchist primary and secondary sources, and to generally go outside our comfort zone, albeit with our fundamental principles in mind (in addition to principles of good scholarship).

That means we have to treat the historiography (for better or for worse) and consider what historians have to say on the subject. Follow those debates and evaluate the various arguments.

I think the U.S. Civil War metaphor is also apt because were we present we would have been far to the left of Lincoln, we would have been disappointed with his recalcitrance to abolish slavery, but how would we evaluate the revolutionary violence of the freed african americans and the union army toward the losing Slaveocracy? The answer isn't a simple "rah rah rah" but I like to think we'd have a measured response that seeks to evaluate the conditions under which this violence unfolded, it's consequences in terms of granting power to a formerly oppressed and exploited class etc.

zugzwang
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Aug 7 2017 18:40
Pennoid wrote:
I don't think they are easy questions; I think that is the question that history posed, and that *any party* or coalition of parties would have been faced with the same concrete problems I outlined.

It's sort of like Veneuela right now; if the PSUV stepped out of the way and some Trotskyist party jumped in; would anything change? No they'd still be confronted with the international veto power of money over states dependent on the export of key commodities for state funding.

It's from this vantage point that we can judge what the Bolsheviks did and what they failed to do. But I find it hard to condemn them for not doing what they could not have done. I concede that Kronstadt was a grave mistake; indeed it is widely (I think correctly) recognized as a barometer of just how far the Civil War drove the party and the government into being an isolated bureaucracy. But I think it's also clear that this kind of isolated bureaucracy is not what Lenin argued for or envisioned.

I never denied passing through a revolution or two followed by a civil war would disturb the regular functioning of an economy, especially if other countries lag behind revolution-wise and cannot be depended on for support. I fully recognize those conditions and that measures like rationing and so on would become necessary where things like scarcity are concerned. I think the people in power responded poorly and unnecessarily in some cases to the conditions that virtually any revolutionary period would face, both in their treatment of the workers and the peasants. That said, I don't think pinning all of it on the conditions, rather than on the people in power, is something you can really get away with. I'm not convinced that anyone in power would have responded the same to the conditions the Bolsheviks were confronted with, particularly when concerning the brutal suppression of various uprisings, one of which you yourself admit was a mistake.

Quote:
I definitely do *not* buy the standard liberal line (unfortunately repeated by Chomsky) that the Bolsheviks were these masters of realpolitik that hoodwinked everyone into power. That just doesn't stand up to historical scrutiny. But then again, Chomsky desires to focus on contemporary Foreign Policy history, so that's his choice.

That leaves in a position to *study the question* like many other questions; to go outside of anarchist primary and secondary sources, and to generally go outside our comfort zone, albeit with our fundamental principles in mind (in addition to principles of good scholarship).

That means we have to treat the historiography (for better or for worse) and consider what historians have to say on the subject. Follow those debates and evaluate the various arguments.

The invocation and slandering of Chomsky is strange here as I haven't even mentioned him nor am I that informed by his thoughts on the matter. The Kronstadters themselves, if you don't trust the "scholarship" that they were part of a counterrevolutionary White conspiracy, were the ones who proclaimed the Bolsheviks had betrayed the revolution and that they were only "state capitalists/socialists" and "savage madmen drunk on power." Hence the reason they called for a "third revolution" to fulfill the soviet idea as well as to relieve the suffering of the Russian people. Is that the "standard liberal line," which is coincidentally repeated by the Kronstadters and mostly every anarchist?

Quote:
I think the U.S. Civil War metaphor is also apt because were we present we would have been far to the left of Lincoln, we would have been disappointed with his recalcitrance to abolish slavery, but how would we evaluate the revolutionary violence of the freed african americans and the union army toward the losing Slaveocracy? The answer isn't a simple "rah rah rah" but I like to think we'd have a measured response that seeks to evaluate the conditions under which this violence unfolded, it's consequences in terms of granting power to a formerly oppressed and exploited class etc.

There are some further problems with that analogy, namely that the "slaves" in this case were the peasants and workers who the Bolsheviks were trying to liberate (and so they "began by enslaving them," in the prophetic words of Bakunin). As the saviors of the working class in your analogy, they did a terrible job as evidenced by the various uprisings, strikes, and the general discontent and disillusionment felt by many, much of which I think the policies of the Bolsheviks bear responsibility and not just the conditions of revolution and civil war.

teh
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Aug 7 2017 21:52
el psy congroo wrote:

Platonov was a Soviet communist and a bolshevik. Theres a growing trend of western liberalism taking hardcore Stalinist or bolshevik historical artistic figures like Pablo Picasso, F. Kahlo, D. Shostakovich, etc and "rehabilitating" them as free-spirit individualists fighting "the state" (in the Hayek sense) and it is bizarre and even unhealthy/psychotic.

Tom Henry
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Aug 8 2017 09:42
teh wrote:

[referring to the book cover image above]

Platonov was a Soviet communist and a bolshevik. Theres a growing trend of western liberalism taking hardcore Stalinist or bolshevik historical artistic figures like Pablo Picasso, F. Kahlo, D. Shostakovich, etc and "rehabilitating" them as free-spirit individualists fighting "the state" (in the Hayek sense) and it is bizarre and even unhealthy/psychotic.

This is a very uninformed and/or silly comment. Platonov cannot be compared to Picasso, Kahlo or Shostakovich.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/feb/18/andrei-platonov-robert-chandler

Tom Henry
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Aug 8 2017 10:24
Spikymike wrote:
Most posters (presumably other than TH) on this site consider that political organisation in the form of a party, union, group, federation, network, etc is important in contributing in the right circumstances to both the practical development of class struggle and the evolution of a communist consciousness. If you consider that to be some form of 'Leninism' then indeed we cannot escape it.

This is a good restatement of the question I have been asking.

No doubt these things (i.e., your list - but I would include grass roots organisations, and rank and file groups, and actions at work, things I am more interested in rather than joining a club of the like-minded who are actively involved in little genuine struggle) do indeed contribute to our perspectives on class struggle, and do indeed, if my additions are included, contribute to an escalation or diminishing of genuine class struggle, even though it is rarely the pro-revolutionaries like us who are involved in the forefront of these developments (except, too often, as brakes or diversions). As ever, the class leaves us all behind - even itself, if you see what I mean, from my materialist perspective.

The the first question is: do we believe in this idea of 'the evolution of a communist consciousness'? Just how is it evolving?

And the second question involves Marx. When we use Marx, as we are drawn to again and again (for good reason), do we think think that he ultimately concludes his materialist conception of history with the formulation that history makes us, or that we make history?

If one decides that 'we' make history then we are just liberal idealists. If one decides that there is a bit of both, as Marx seemed to imply, then, ultimately, I would contend (so therefore, this is for thinking about), the materialist conception of history must be thrown out and we become liberal idealists again.

Two texts that might be useful here:

https://libcom.org/library/death-rank-filism

https://libcom.org/library/impotence-of-revolutionary-group-internationa...

Tom Henry
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Aug 8 2017 10:51

zugzwang wrote, in response to Pennoid:

Quote:
That said, I don't think pinning all of it on the conditions, rather than on the people in power, is something you can really get away with. I'm not convinced that anyone in power would have responded the same to the conditions the Bolsheviks were confronted with, particularly when concerning the brutal suppression of various uprisings, one of which you yourself admit was a mistake.

Yes, you have exposed the problem in Pennoid's argument here. Which is that, on the one hand she/he is arguing that the actors in the Russian Revolution were forced by circumstance into certain positions, but on the other hand they 'made mistakes'. You are right to point this out as ludicrous.

Pennoid does not know her/his historical materialism enough to avoid these contradictions (does anyone?), but the reason she/he pirouettes around here is because she/he has a political ideology and a group (life?) to defend and justify.

If the debate continues with 'trainspotters' (meaning boring ineffectual nerds of the left), as it is on Red Marriot's excellent topic and comments on Bakunin (https://libcom.org/library/a-critique-of-the-german-social-democratic-program-bakunin) then we end up stuck in mud. But perhaps the only proper theoretical debate to be had here is with the Left and the pro-Bolsheviks, since all these threads seem to devolve down to an exceptionally slim number of the usual participants?

Spikymike
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Aug 8 2017 11:35

Glad to be of help TH. Don't forget the 'dialectic' in Marx. Of course ''grass roots'', ''rank and file'' groups etc are also 'political' and at least some of those in your political 'clubs' may well also be involved in genuine class struggle (not just confined to the workplace). The political groups (or 'clubs' if you prefer) come and go and certainly over time may become inward looking, dogmatic, and generally divorced from class struggle which only rarely escalates to collectively significant levels, but such groups seem always to arise amongst at least a minority of workers, dissolve, form and reform in an effort to understand what is happening and better inform their activity. Human beings are not automatons determined by the 'laws' of capitalism in some chemical fashion, even if our behaviour is within material conditions not of our collective choosing. It is true that the results of our collective actions are not always what we consciously planned - good or bad - but they still do effect the material evolution of capitalism and change both the circumstances in which class struggle continues and perceptions of a potential communist future. I don't perceive of any long term historical evolution of communist consciousness (such as the ICC's 'subterranean maturation of consciousness') but there can be changes in the level of conscious organised activity over shorter periods of class struggle and the rediscovery of lessons from the past - both positive and negative.
Starting to ramble a bit so maybe others might add to this resurrected discussion? Sure there must be some previous discussion about the 'moss' text.

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Pennoid
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Aug 8 2017 15:03

It's not a contradiction to say some problems we're exogenous to the will of either individuals or the collective bolsheviks party; or that some problems we're exogenous to the will of the entire USSR (for example, the decision of the U.S. to invade Vietnam).

That's a straight forward fact of human existence. I suspect what you intend to dispute is particular instances where some problem is written off as 'a result of material conditions'. I share that skepticism. But I repeat, denying that the destruction of Russia in a civil war and the development of stalinism was a plot by bolsheviks masters of realpolitik is not the same as calling them blameless angels.

I never said they were blameless angels. So I can't really see where you're coming from. It seems to me like you're more interested in idiotic 'camp' posturing than a sober assessment of the facts at hand. Have fun with that and all the irrelevance it holds in store for you.

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Aug 8 2017 16:47

As others have said, I don’t think there is creeping Leninism on libcom. Sometimes folk cannot see that history can be viewed from more than one perspective. My point of view is that Lenin seized the opportunity to grasp control of power, in the belief that the Bolsheviks were the vanguard of the working class, and in the equally mistaken belief, that the Russian revolution was the first crack in the capitalist world. In the ‘scientific socialist’ frame of reference, Germany was to be the real proletarian breakthrough to world revolution.

Having burst onto the stage of history Lenin and his party had to meet the error of their actions. As Harold McMillan once said, “Events dear boy events”. Some may find this inappropriate, though I feel it is rather like Jeremy Corbyn would find himself, if he ever became prime minister of the UK. Trapped within the state machine and capitalist economics.

I heard the other day that many, if not all, of the important decisions people make in their lives are irrational. That is to say they are based on emotion. I tried to remember how my politics emerged. Partly it was a rejection of my father’s Stalinism, though mostly I think it was the intoxicating atmosphere at the meetings dominated by the anarchists in my teens. It made me seek out and discover the ideas and history. I imagined walking with Orwell through the streets of Barcelona. Some communist friends read John Reed’s, ‘Ten Days That Shook The World’. I did, but by then I’d also read about the rebellion in Kronstadt 1921.

It makes me wonder how many apologists for Leninism are still emotionally attached to the storming of the Winter Palace, just as many anarchists are still wed to the idea that if only this or that had been different the Spanish anarchists could have somehow stopped and smashed the fascist panzers. I believe the past contains lessons though to see them, implies taking off the rose tinted glasses.

zugzwang
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Aug 8 2017 21:38
Pennoid wrote:
It's not a contradiction to say some problems we're exogenous to the will of either individuals or the collective bolsheviks party; or that some problems we're exogenous to the will of the entire USSR (for example, the decision of the U.S. to invade Vietnam).

That's a straight forward fact of human existence. I suspect what you intend to dispute is particular instances where some problem is written off as 'a result of material conditions'. I share that skepticism. But I repeat, denying that the destruction of Russia in a civil war and the development of stalinism was a plot by bolsheviks masters of realpolitik is not the same as calling them blameless angels.

I never said they were blameless angels. So I can't really see where you're coming from. It seems to me like you're more interested in idiotic 'camp' posturing than a sober assessment of the facts at hand. Have fun with that and all the irrelevance it holds in store for you.

As I said I'm not denying the very real conditions of revolution and civil war and the hardships that that entails. I'm instead arguing we should not "let go of sympathy" for the suffering experienced at the hands of Bolshevik policy/ideology. What is the justification of saving the best supplies/rations for those in government? Were they forced by circumstances to prevent people from going into the villages or countryside in search of food, etc.? I find it unlikely that workers would take to the streets if they did not think the government itself was partly responsible for their problems. The grave mistake that was the suppression of Kronstadt was only a part in the series of errors committed by the Bolsheviks.

The Petropavlovsk Resolution is worth examining as it contains the popular demands of the people in the cities and countryside. The Bolsheviks dismissed most forms of discontent or popular demands as leading to counterrevolution. Lenin cited the lynx of counterrevolution that would devour the proletariat and peasants if the status quo wasn't maintained. If it is not a problem of Bolshevik policy/ideology, then they are not to blame and we should, as you say, "let go of sympathy for" any discontent.

It's strange how you spring to the defense of the Bolshevik regime yet are so quick to condemn Stalinism. I never said it was a conscious plot of the Bolsheviks to deteriorate into Stalinism. However, much of the repressive activities of the Stalinist era were first featured with Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Lenin and co. laid the groundwork and created the institutions for Stalin to come to power and carry through his deeds.

nization
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Aug 9 2017 19:55

Couldn't it be that, broadly speaking, "libertarian communism/anarchism" IS the new Leninism?