The early Soviet system of 1917

58 posts / 0 new
Last post
ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Dec 3 2009 19:09

Anarcho

Your quotes do not show that the Bolsheviks did not see their activity as part of the workers self-activity.
We could also wage a war of quotes. During the 1905/6 revolution Lenin defend the need for the Soviets not to be seen as simply appendages to the party. Throughout 1917 he argued that the proletariat had to defend themselves in the best possible way, this is why he argued for the workers councils to be the focus of workers self-organisation when the soviets appeared to be losing their dynamic.
In the early 20's he argued and worried about how the working class could better gain control over an increasingly out of control state.
However, I think you are not going to be convinced, which is fair enough given you are an anarchist. But try and stand back a bit and look at the wider theoretical framework that the Bolsheviks worked in, how they saw themselves. They may have been wrong to identify the party, class and state, but the foundation of this was the conviction that this was a step towards the world revolution and communism.

ajjohnstone
Offline
Joined: 20-04-08
Dec 3 2009 22:09

Oh , i do so like war of quotes and perhaps one of the clearest expositions of Lenin vis a vis Party and soviet is
http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1907/5thdraft/6.htm

Ernie argued that 1905-6 , Lenin defended the need for the Soviets not to be seen as simply appendages to the party.But what do we actually read of Lenin , the Party and the soviets of the period ?

Quote:
"...if Social-Democratic activities among the proletarian masses are properly, effectively and widely organised, such institutions may actually become superfluous...that a most determined struggle must be waged against all disruptive and demagogic attempts to weaken the R.S.D.L.p. from within or to utilise it for the purpose of substituting non-party political, proletarian organisations for the Social-Democratic Party...that Social-Democratic Party organisations may, in case of necessity, participate in inter-party Soviets of Workers’ Delegates, Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, and in congresses of representatives of these organisations, and may organise such institutions, provided this is done on strict Party lines for the purpose of developing and strengthening the Social-Democratic Labour Party [my emphasis]

An advocacy for them to be mere appendages to the Party !!

Ernie goes on to argue that Lenin in the early 20's worried about how the working class could better gain control over an increasingly out of control state. I think its more a matter of re-organising the Party over the State since his writings concentrate upon the reform of State institutions by an improved Party-selected personnel . I don't see any real endeavour or evidence that Lenin was willing to go beyond the internal reform of the Party to establish any working class control over the State .

As for Ernie with his political dispensation for Lenin in his statement "the foundation of this was the conviction that this was a step towards the world revolution and communism." does he just as benevolently extend it to other participants of the Russian Revolution , Mensheviks and anarchists , who too held sincere revolutionary intentions and can be likewise excused their mistakes and flaws and failures .

Cleishbotham
Offline
Joined: 28-08-08
Aug 27 2011 09:28

Anarcho states

Quote:
Actually, they worked well enough that the Bolsheviks had to gerrymander them to remain in power -- and when that did not work, they simply disbanded them. Needless to say, the mechanics of the soviets were not helped by the Bolsheviks strengthening executive power -- and, from day one, creating an executive on a national level which, in a matter of weeks, simply gave itself legislative powers!

This again appears more like ideological raving. The origin of this thread was in how the soviets worked and I was pointing out that not even in 1917 were they fully representative. After October the Bolsheviks did some positive things (soviets extended throughout Russia to areas they had not before) and some negative things (such as the foundation of Sovnarkom as I mentioned earlier). The first gerrymandering took place in July 1918 (as far as historians like Mary McAuley tell us) as the civil war was already in play and the Left SRs had begun the campaign of assassination. Anarcho's carelessness with timescales would have it appear that the Bolsheviks gerrymandered the elections in 1917. Are you serious?

No I did not read your reference to you own text (which I read last year in its entirety) as I am not using shorthand myself to refer you to our writings. I am trying to meet the arguments as they arise.

But Anarcho's main case is that the Bolsheviks always intended to have party power. This is not surprising since every other soviet party thought the same.When Tsereteli in the Congress of Soviets in Jun asked which party was ready to run Russia Lenin is reputed to have stated from his seat "Our Party". This exchange may be apocryphal as we only have it from third hand but it illustrates the mental set of those brought up under social democracy. And not all Bolsheviks shared it (in fact there were several different takes on this issue from those who saw only parties as governing but wanting a coalition to those like the Russian Communist Left who wanted to return to Soviet power even in 1922. Our tendency has always argued that one of the great lessons of the Russian Revolution was that "the proletariat does not delegate its power to anyone - not even its class party" (Onorato Damen 1945) since as Lenin argued in that "Heroic period" (Kritsman) between August 1917 and July 1918 that "the working class will have to create socialism as no-one else can do it for them". Which I suppose also brings us to AjJohnstone's "quote mongering". You can find in Lenin different phases in his thinking , often related to the balance of the revolutionary possibilities for the working class. between class and party. His first period is orthodox Social Democrat (until 1914), then revolutionary Social Democrat (until April 1917), then a brief period as an out and out revolutionary (197-18) and then the gradual process of becoming the articulation of the counter-revolution. I know this is a gross oversimplification (since the periods overlap and some contradictory ideas are expressed in each period but it does explain why everyone can find in Lenin quotes just what they need for their case. I was once tempted to write an article on this under the facetious title of "Four Lenins and a Proletarian Funeral"! However what Lenin said does not make the history of the October Revolution and Although the Bolsheviks were often called at the time "leninists" this understates what a vibrant and varied organisation it became in 1917 - forged not by a theory but by a clear defence of working class interests - which is why thousands of anarchists joined it in 1917.

Anarcho does not see any of this because he does not want to. This was a first authentic proletarian revolution which failed and not simply because of the wrong ideas of the Bolsheviks. We look at it in that way in order to work out what the working class (of which we are a part) has to be aware of in the next great confrontation with capital.

And a last word on bourgeois historians. Yes we have to use them for evidence and we do but it beggars belief that you read history illiterately. We know for example that the right wing US state deaprtment sponsored Harvard Professor Richard Pipes is not only an anticommunist (including and perhaps especially lib communism) but as an exiled Polish nationalist is also extremely anti-Russian. His writings are almost rabid in the attempt to stretch evidence. If Anarcho and Dave are happy with this then just say so. We have to be aware that during the Cold War people like Harding and Rabinowitch (and to a lesser extent Robert Service) resisted Cold War propaganda and uncovered much deeper objective truths about the October Rev. They were writing in the 70s at a time when working class resistance to the crisis of the end of the post-war boom made a proletarian alternative credible and they wrote about it. Twenty years later and the crushing of the working class in the 1980s brought its own "end of history" for these guys. Harding even recanted in his intro to his book "Leninism" as if he were up before a court. Rabinowitch has simply gone along with the line to show that the USSR was the brainchild of Lenin as it was his refusal to forge a coalition with "other socialists" which was at the root of the dictatorship (even though he recognises that the SR and the Mensheviks did not want a coalition with him!). Yes, my view (like anyone elses) involves selection because that is the stuff of history, as is this discussion...

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Dec 4 2009 16:42

Ajohnstone

If you are going to quote please reference them, then at least we can see the whole context and period it was written in.

On the reforms of the state that Lenin tried to introduce in the 20's yes they were doomed from the beginning, but he did try to find ways of getting workers to have more control over the state.

If you mean the internationalist mensheviks and anarchists yes clearly. However if you are referring to the Mensheviks who wanted to continue the war: no. Do you think the nationalist mensheviks should be seen as part of the working class then? To talk about the Mensheviks as a collective whole would appear to be wrong given there were different fractions. Just as there were different currents within the Anarchist movement.

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Dec 4 2009 16:44

Fully agree with Cleishbotham's reply to Anarcho

Dave B
Offline
Joined: 3-08-08
Dec 4 2009 20:12
Quote:
Ajohnstone

If you are going to quote please reference them, then at least we can see the whole context and period it was written in.

Is it this one ?

V. I. Lenin Draft Resolutions for the Fifth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.

Quote:
2. that a most determined struggle must be waged against all disruptive and demagogic attempts to weaken the R.S.D.L.p. from within or to utilise it for the purpose of substituting non-party political, proletarian organisations for the Social-Democratic Party

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1907/5thdraft/6.htm

ajjohnstone
Offline
Joined: 20-04-08
Dec 4 2009 22:58

I believe that i did reference the quote providing the link to it , ernie , if you re-read my post and the context was a Menshevik call for an industrial congress ( which no doubt they would have had a majority over the Bolsheviks but i speculate) .

Of course the Mensheviks and anarchists were never a collective whole , and likewise , we do have Bolsheviks who wished to continue to wage a "revolutionary" defensive war and there was Trotsky's "no peace , no war " position during the Brest -Litovsk time .

Unlike some who view the Bolsheviks as some united entity , i recognise there were factions within it and often Lenin's view was opposed and at one stage he felt it necessary to threaten resignation to impose his will .

And yes , Cleishbotham , i agree we do have Lenin , the opportunist , switching his arguments and policies throughout his life ( the big one being the re-interpretation of socialism and communism as separate and then a lesser one and the more tactical " State and Revolution" Lenin ) and also within the Russian Revolution , as the reality of the impossibility of socialism became clearer ( for example the NEP) , which was the emphasis of the SPGB's critique of Lenin and the Bolsheviks . From an earlier quote-mongering of mine "Despite his claims at the beginning, he was the first to see the trend of conditions and adapt himself to these conditions. So far was he from “changing the course of history”...it was the course of history which changed him"

Conditions in Russia in 1917 weren't ripe for a socialist revolution there. The SPGB know people don't like being told "we told you so". But , we did . (And Victor Serge get -out clause that the Revolution had the seeds of Stalinism within it but that it held also many other different seeds flies in the face of Marxism but of course his pedigree was one of the ex -anarchists that Ceishbotham mentions who joined the Bolsheviks )

Socialism can only be achieved by a politically conscious working class. It is the experience of workers under capitalism which drives them to understand the need for Socialism and this process is enhanced by the degree of democracy which they have won for themselves. Dictatorial power wielded by a vanguard minority, no matter how sincere its intentions, can never act as a substitute. That way the workers remain a subject class and the dictators, having acquired a taste for power, consolidate their own rule.

The SPGB meet frequently the put down that their analysis was that of armchair revolutionaries yet there is an advantage of distance , you can see the wood from the trees, but their view was also augmented by eyewitness accounts

Quote:
" [ Bill ] Casey was expounding the S.P.G.B. position and as the Bolsheviks had just gained control in Russia, he lost no time in analysing the position. Probably aided by articles in the "S.S.", he became a caustic critic of the "Neo-Communists." He was delegate to represent the Seamen at an International T. U. Conference in Moscow. This, being one of the earliest "Missions to Moscow" was beset with difficulties all the way. Passports were forged; passages were "stowing away," Dutch, German, Polish and Russian frontiers had to be "hopped." Guides were often un-reliable; "go-betweens" were often in the pay of both sides; sometimes both had to be discarded until bona-fides were definitely established, a delicate job under the conditions then prevailing on the continent. The ultimate arrival in Moscow, after much suffering, danger and perseverance, was hailed as a masterpiece of undercover work. Once at the gates of the Kremlin, most delegates became insufferable Bolshevik "Yes-men" whereas Casey and his co-delegate, Barney Kelly (another adherent of the S.P.G.B.) soberly tried to obtain a truthful estimate of the position. A few days sojourn in Moscow drew the following observations from Casey:
"Production was in a straight-jacket, lethargy and indifference permeated the whole economy; the people were entirely lacking in a sense of time. Without the normal industrial development of production and some measure of buying and selling (war-communism was the order of the day) drift and indifference would gradually strangle the economy of the Soviet".
These observations were greeted with disgust and dismay by the other delegates. However, before they left Moscow, Lenin introduced his "New Economic Policy" which, in essence, provided for the very things which Casey opined was needed to stabilize the Russian economy. In contrast to their hostile reception of Casey’s prognostications, the "yes-men" cheered and echoed Lenin’s belated pronouncements. Back in Australia, he submitted his report to Tom Walsh (then a leading Communist and foundation member of the Australian Communist Party), General President of the Australian Seamen’s Union. Walsh rejected the report and refused to publish it on the ground that it criticized the Bolsheviks and the Russian system. - from his 1949 obituary in Western Socialist "

Yes hindsight is a wonderful thing , even more so the closer you are to the event .

Quote:
"The idea that the "Soviet system" is equal to a definitive break with all the former, bourgeois, forms of revolution, therefore, serves as a screen behind which - imposed by exterior factors and the inner conformation of the proletariat - there are again set in motion methods that have featured the bourgeois revolutions. And those revolutions have always been accomplished by transferring the power of a "conscious minority, supporting itself on an unconscious majority," to another minority finding itself in an identical situation." - Julius Martov

I think the case being made by myself and some here is that the Bolsheviks supported soviets in order to help seize power as a minority and not as being inferred by others as a defence of working class interests .
Trotsky said “Could the Communist Party succeed, during the preparatory epoch, in pushing all other parties out of the ranks of the workers by uniting under its banner the overwhelming majority of workers, then there would be no need whatever for soviets..."

Overall , the SPGB argument is , that the material conditions in Russia meant the development of capitialism , which the Bolsheviks were unable to avoid. In fact, they became its agents .

Cleishbotham
Offline
Joined: 28-08-08
Aug 27 2011 09:29

The problem with the SPGB position is that it premises "revolution" on bourgeois legality thus any seizure of power in any form will always be against the interests of the working class. The premise of the Bolsheviks was world revolution which was not a fantasy as social democrats maintain. The revolutionary wave that passed through Europe and elsewhere demonstrated that and it did bring an end to the First World War. The Bolsheviks (apart from the right) understood this and it is to their credit. When I said Lenin had different positions as different times I was demonstrating that the situation was different. As Harding said Lenin was a dogmatist rather than an opportunist (I suppoe he was like Keynes in that respect - "If the situation changes I change my mind. What do you do Sir?" as he once famously stated). What the Lenin lovers and Lenin haters all agree on was that he made history but I would argue that it was more the other way round. But we seemeed to have wanderd off the soviets issue again and there is no escaping the fact that the most consistent supporters of "All Power to the Soviets" were Bolsheviks.

ajjohnstone
Offline
Joined: 20-04-08
Dec 7 2009 21:50

"there is no escaping the fact that the most consistent supporters of "All Power to the Soviets" were Bolsheviks - as long as the Bolsheviks held the majority and were in control.Once Bolshevik power was established the soviets became a rubber stamp.Can this be denied?

Quote:
The heart of the matter was that the Mensheviks and SRs were winning in the elections to the soviets in addition to regaining control of local trade unions and dumas. The process of the Menshevik-SR electoral victories threatened Bolshevik power . That is why in the course of Spring and Summer of 1918 , the soviet assemblies were disbanded in most cities and villages.To stay in power , the Bolsheviks had to destroy the soviets.Local power was handed over to ExComs , the Cheka , the military ,and special emissaries with "unlimited dictatorial power". These steps generated a far-reaching transformation in the soviet system , which remained "soviet" in name only " - Brovkin

As this article puts it

Quote:
"In dealing with workers' organisations, the Bolsheviks had but one major concern: to strengthen their own organisation. Since the Party was the sole guardian of the proletariat and the revolution, any attempt by the workers to make a revolution without the Party must clearly be wrong or indeed impossible, as Trotsky argues in his History of the Russian Revolution. When the workers disavow the Party in practice, the Party simply disavows the practice of the workers"

Trotsky says in History of the Russian Revolution that "The party set the soviets in motion, the soviets set in motion the workers, soldiers, and to some extent the peasantry ."
In other words , the soviets existed to allow the party to influence the workers. But what if the workers reject the decisions of the party? What happens when the workers refuse to be set in motion by the party but instead set themselves in motion and reject the Bolsheviks? What then for the soviets? We saw the results . The soviets were marginalised and undermined by the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution and emasculated of any power simply because they did reflect the wishes of the working class and not that of the Bolshevik Party. From the logic of Trotsky's perspective, ( and Lenin's) we could predict that the soviets would have to be tamed (by whatever means possible) in favour of party power (the real goal). And this is what did happen .

"We were forced to block new elections to the soviet and even not to recognize them where they had taken place not in our favor" N. V. Kopulov to the Bolshevik Central Committee

The working class was a minority in Russia. Those in soviets represented a minority of that minority. The soviets upon expulsion of all non-Bolshevik parties was a minority of a minority of a minority. And the Bolshevik Party was a minority of a minority of a minority of a minority.
While the Bolsheviks did, in some cities, enjoyed temporary majority support of the working class, the fact remains that such support was always temporary and they never held sustained support.

A Left S R once said "The Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth from nothing . the Bolsheviks are capable of no lesser miracles: out of nothing, they create legitimate credentials." - Something similar is being attempting on this topic thread !

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Dec 8 2009 23:53

Ajohnstone

You have avoid answering Cleishbotham absolutely central point

Quote:
The problem with the SPGB position is that it premises "revolution" on bourgeois legality thus any seizure of power in any form will always be against the interests of the working class. The premise of the Bolsheviks was world revolution which was not a fantasy as social democrats maintain. The revolutionary wave that passed through Europe and elsewhere demonstrated that and it did bring an end to the First World War.

One we fully agree with and support. An answer would be very helpful.

It has real implications for the way you view the revolution. The Bolsheviks were not bourgeoisie democrats and did not see the revolution as being a question of the winning of the majority of the population. For them the central question was the need for the proletariat to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie.
As for the quote from Trotsky proving that the Bolsheviks saw the soviets as purely some form to allow them to influence the workers, well yes. They saw that the soviets regrouped the working class and other classes as well, and as a political organisation of the proletariat it sort to work within the Soviets to get its programe adopted by the working class.
For a SPGB member to criticize the Bolsheviks for this is pretty rich seeing they say that socialism can only be brought about by the SPGB gaining a majority in the bourgeois parliament.
The Bolsheviks made no bones about the soviets only representing the proletariat and that this was a minority of the population in Russia. After all the Bolsheviks held to the nasty anti-democratic idea that the proletariat is the revolutionary class and that in the situation of the crisis of the world bourgeoisie, the world war, and generalised chaos the proletariat in russia had the historical responsibility to over throw the Russian bourgeoisie, put an end to the war and to help inspire the developing revolutionary situation around the world The Bolsheviks did not hid the danger contained in this action, but the most militant sections of the proletariat agreed with them and backed their proposal for overthrowing the bourgeoisie. You appear to forget that the Bolsheviks put forwards the need for the insurrection to the Soviets in Petrograde and Moscow before they and some of the anarchists and left SR's carried out the insurrection

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Dec 9 2009 00:15

Dave B is correct to say that the quote that Ajohnston used was from the Resolution to the 5th party congress. The full context of this quote is seen if one reads the whole section where it is made clear that the resolution is aimed against those in the party trying to weaken it.

Quote:
Whereas:

1. in connection with Comrade Axelrod’s agitation for a non-Party labour congress, a trend (represented by Larin, Shcheglo, El, Ivanovsky, Mirov, and the Odessa publication Osvobozhdeniye Truda) has appeared in the ranks of the R.S.D.L.P., the aim of which is to destroy the Social-Democratic Labour Party and to set up in its place a non-party political organisation of the proletariat;

2. besides this, outside of and actually against the Party, anarcho-syndicalist agitation is being carried on among the proletariat, using this same slogan of a non-party labour congress and non-party organisations (Soyuznoye Dyelo and its group in Moscow, the anarchist press in Odessa, etc.);

3. notwithstanding the resolution passed by the November All-Russian Conference of the R.S.D.L.P., a series of disruptive actions has been observed in our Party, with the object of setting up non-party organisations;

4. on the other hand, the R.S.D.L.P. has never renounced its intention of utilising certain non-party organisations, such as the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, in periods of wore or less intense revolutionary upheaval, to extend Social-Democratic influence among the working class and to strengthen the Social-Democratic labour movement (see the September resolutions of the St. Petersburg Committee and the Moscow Committee on the labour congress, in Proletary, Nos. 3 and 4[1]);

5. the incipient revival creates the opportunity to organise or utilise non-party representative working-class institutions, such as Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, Soviets of Workers’ Delegates, etc., for the purpose of developing the Social-Democratic movement; at the same time the Social-Democratic Party organisations must bear in mind that if Social-Democratic activities among the proletarian masses are properly, effectively and widely organised, such institutions may actually become superfluous;

This conference declares:

1. that a most determined ideological struggle must be waged against the anarcho-syndicalist movement among the proletariat and against Axelrod’s and Larin’s ideas in the Social-Democratic Party;

2. that a most determined struggle must be waged against all disruptive and demagogic attempts to weaken the R.S.D.L.p. from within or to utilise it for the purpose of substituting non-party political, proletarian organisations for the Social-Democratic Party;

3. that Social-Democratic Party organisations may, in case of necessity, participate in inter-party Soviets of Workers’ Delegates, Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, and in congresses of representatives of these organisations, and may organise such institutions, provided this is done on strict Party lines for the purpose of developing and strengthening the Social-Democratic Labour Party;

4. that for the purpose of extending and strengthening the influence of the Social-Democratic party among the broad masses of the proletariat, it is essential, on the one hand, to increase efforts to organise trade unions and con duct Social-Democratic propaganda and agitation within them, and, on the other hand, to draw still larger sections of the working class into the activities of all types of Party organisations.

As has been said before the Bolsheviks saw the party as the expression of the working class, not something separate or above.

RedHughs
Offline
Joined: 25-11-06
Dec 9 2009 02:24

I certainly appreciate Cleishbotham's comments.

It reinforces the point that once one enters into revolutionary struggle, one experiences a complex and multidimensional process of change. It seems very plausible that the many details of Soviet Democracy and it's suppression are simply irrevocably lost.

It seems plausible that some large portion of Bolsheviks reinforced the power of the Soviets on one or another level while another large portion of Bolshevik act worked to suppress their power. But discovering the exact details clearly isn't a priority for those with the resources to write a systematic history.

ajjohnstone
Offline
Joined: 20-04-08
Dec 9 2009 16:40

"You have avoid answering Cleishbotham absolutely central point" - ernie said
"But we seemed to have wandered off the soviets issue again" - cleishbotham said

Apologies but instead of making this a debate about the SPGB , i tried to keep to the topic as requested .

But i accept your apology that i never sourced my quote !!

You did say , Ernie , that " During the 1905/6 revolution Lenin defend the need for the Soviets not to be seen as simply appendages to the party." - it was a statement of fact by yourself , which i challenged , and regardless of how you read the quote the only interpretation is that Lenin did indeed view workers self organisation and soviets as appendages to the Party . No amount of semantic juggling can evade this point . You agree , in fact , "Bolsheviks saw the party as THE expression of the working class" [my emphasis], denying the revolutionary and working class credentials and the legitimacy of all other working class organisations and parties . Left SRS , Left Mensheviks , anarchists , all indeed relegated to the dusbin of history by such an analysis. As are the soviets , factory committees and trade unions .

Throughout this debate i have frequently included the SPGB position on the Russian Revolution and have never wholehearted endorsed soviets but seen them as necessary for the conditions at the time . "The "soviets" were imperfect instruments of democracy .The Constituent Assembly to which all parties of the Russian revolutionary left worked toward even the Bolsheviks, and elected on the basis of the first free vote in that country , was abolished after only one day in session because the Bolsheviks were in the minority.

What i have endeavoured to do , though , is to expose the Bolshevik tactic of employing the soviets to control them and to achieve political power for the Bolshevik Party . The fact is that neither you nor Cleishbotham have denied that they did indeed emasculate the soviets of their independence , part of the counter - argument presented is simply about time-lines ( and actually rather similar to Cliff and his need to date 1928 for State Capitalism) . But what do we see in actual actions .
3 Nov 1917—Draft Decree on Workers' Control subordinates Factory Committees to trade unions, congresses, and the state.
9 Nov 1917—Decree dissolving the soviet in the People's Commissariat of Posts and Telegraphs,
28 Nov 1917—Decree dissolving the soviet in the Admiralty.

They said "all power to the Soviets." Within a month of taking power they had dissolved one of those soviets, and dissolved another 17 days later. The Bolsheviks had no problem at all with their "worker's state" suppressing workers' expressions of power.When it was beneficial to the Bolsheviks, they said "all power to the Factory Committees," but 9 days after taking power, they subordinated the factory committees to the trades unions and congresses which were more under the control of the Bolsheviks, and to the state itself under the direct control of the Bolsheviks.When the Mensheviks and SRs won majorities in soviets the offending soviets were disbanded, that their papers were closed down, their members harrassed, exiled and shot . Lenin helped not only impose such conditions but deliberately smeared left critics to tie them in with those who were in arms against the Bolshevik government.

This resulted in myself being in agreement with Anarcho , an avowed anarchist , and if in a debate on the validity of sovietism over the Constituent Assembly, i would no doubt find myself disagreeing with Anarcho but against yourselves we are unlikely bed fellows .


"Bolsheviks saw the party as the expression of the working class, not something separate or above."
you said , and again i have to take issue with you there .

From "What Is To Be Done?" Lenin viewed the Party as apart and above the working class . In "Economic Construction" Lenin states, "that Soviet Socialist Democracy is in no way inconsistent with the rule and dictatorship of one person."
He states in "The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government":
"The irrefutable experience of history has shown that the dictatorship of individual persons was very often the vehicle, the channel of the dictatorship of the revolutionary classes".

The Bolsheviks had the subtle approach of disguising the seizure of power as an assumption of power by the Congress of Soviets but ,of course , it was through the organ of the Military Revolutionary Council, NOT the Soviets. .The storming of the Winter Palace , was not done by a mass of politically aware workers, but by a few hundred Bolshevik soldiers . While they claim that this was a spontaneous seizure of power by the workers, what can be seen is that it was timed to occur before the Soviet Congress could convene, and so guaranteeing Bolshevik supremacy in the soviets and little chance for a free democratic vote on the form any new government should take. We can very plausible speculate that if the Soviet Congress had had a free vote, the Bolsheviks would have had to share power with their arch-rivals the Mensheviks.( Martov called forward a resolution demanding that the Bolsheviks form a coalition government with other left-wing parties . The resolution was about to receive almost complete endorsement from the soviet representatives thus showing that the representatives in the soviet did NOT believe in all power to the Bolsheviks but then the majority of SR and Menshevik delegates stupidly left the congress in protest over the Bolshevik coup.) It was also likely that Lenin himself would have been kept out of office due to the mistrust that many of the Mensheviks and other anti-Tsarist revolutionaries justly held him in. Lenin could not allow this. From 1917 all vestiges of democratic self reliance by the working class was removed piece by piece, "Soviet power" became a sham, and Bolshevik party functionaries took total control.

Ernie asserts " socialism can only be brought about by the SPGB gaining a majority in the bourgeois parliament." -
How many times does this misrepresentation of the SPGB have to be refuted . There is no ONLY BE BROUGHT ABOUT and NOR will it be necessarily by an SPGB majority . The SPGB has said repeatedly we need more than a ballot box. We need a politically conscious majority who are conscious of their actions. Revolutions are not created through the ballot box. The SPGB holds that workers will inevitably organise economically as well as politically for socialism without accepting that economic power is superior to political power (in fact any economic power the capitalist class has derives exclusively from its control of political power)

Socialist society will reflect how things are struggled for, which methods were used, and a democratic society of common ownership cannot be built other than through democratic movement, through education, knowledge and commitment to peaceful methods because doing otherwise only replicates bourgeois methods, replicates all that is wrong in the old society. That those forces aligned against the Bolsheviks maintained a brutality against workers and peasants does not excuse the same brutality against workers and peasants meted out by the Bolsheviks.Lenin condemned supposed "bourgeois moralism" and concepts as "democracy". His was a new moralism that meant ANYTHING could be done to preserve Bolshevik power and finding its final expression in Stalin.

Ernie you quote Cleishbotham saying "The premise of the Bolsheviks was world revolution which was not a fantasy as social democrats maintain."
If you read my earlier post and the SPGB obituary of Lenin in it , then you will read that indeed you and i must agree to disagree -
"Lenin made his greatest miscalculation. He believed that the working masses of the western world were so war weary that upon the call from one of the combatants they would rise and force their various Governments to negotiate peace. Unfortunately these masses had neither the knowledge nor the organisation necessary for such a movement" .
Of course , Lenin went on to make other errors concerning western European political conditions , particularly in his later Left Wing Infantile pamphlet , demonstrating little knowledge of existing real situations in the industrially developed countries.

i cannot escape the conclusion that when confronted by actual historic events and the words they spoke , you are in a state of denial .

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Dec 11 2009 18:59

The question that Cleishbotham is not about the SPGB in particular but about whether ones thought that the russian revolution was part of a wider proletarian revolutionary movement, and your answer is very clear

Quote:
"The premise of the Bolsheviks was world revolution which was not a fantasy as social democrats maintain."
If you read my earlier post and the SPGB obituary of Lenin in it , then you will read that indeed you and i must agree to disagree -
"Lenin made his greatest miscalculation. He believed that the working masses of the western world were so war weary that upon the call from one of the combatants they would rise and force their various Governments to negotiate peace. Unfortunately these masses had neither the knowledge nor the organisation necessary for such a movement" .
Of course , Lenin went on to make other errors concerning western European political conditions , particularly in his later Left Wing Infantile pamphlet , demonstrating little knowledge of existing real situations in the industrially developed countries.

One can only thank you for reminding us of the SPGB's rejection of the revolutionary wave that shock the bourgeoisie for several years. Those poor unfortunate ill educated and poorly organised workers in Germany who organised themselves in workers and soldiers councils by their hundreds of thousands in workers councils, who stupidly armed themselves and worst of all demonstrated and acted in a generally undemocratic manner in order to end the war and to struggle for a socialist society must have been hallucinating when the German Ruling class ended the war, got rid of the Kisear and used the SDP as a radical smoke screen, and unbleached bloody counter-revolution. But then may be in the SPGB's and your
understanding of history the German Revolution never took place, or was simply some minor historically irrelevant event as the bourgeois try to portray it when they given deem to talk about it.
It is certainly easier for the SPGB to rubbish the idea of the working class seeking to overthrow the ruling class through revolution by concentrating on the Russian Revolution and the actions of those nasty old Bolsheviks, than to deal with the revolutionary struggle of the most advanced well educated and organisationally seasoned part of the working class: the proletariat in Germany. It is easier to pour bile upon Lenin, including making most crude link between Lenin and Stalin (much used by the bourgeoisie), than to attack Rosa Luxemburg for her intransigent defense of the revolution in Russia and the need for one in Germany and the rest of the world.
It is no surprise that the SPGb rubbishes the great revolutionary upsurge by the proletariat, involving struggles throughout Europe, the USA, and elsewhere, because it is complete contradiction with their vision of how we will get to a socialist soceity:

Quote:
Socialist society will reflect how things are struggled for, which methods were used, and a democratic society of common ownership cannot be built other than through democratic movement, through education, knowledge and commitment to peaceful methods because doing otherwise only replicates bourgeois methods, replicates all that is wrong in the old society

This is not off subject because what is the point about discussing what early soviet society if you reject the need for the revolution. The SPGB may want to brush under the carpet the real revolutionary potential and struggle of the proletariat, or flatly deny reality, but history has shown that the working class does not have to frightened of the ruling class and its power or worship at the alter of democracy or pacifism. When the proletariat began to break from these illusion the ruling class was shook to its foundations, the slaughter of WW1 was stopped and the ruling class had to turn its attention of defeating the proletariat.
The proletariat lost in the end, mainly due to illusions in democracy, peaceful organization and the trade unions. But their struggle gave us many lessons. Lessons not only from the Russian experience but from Germany and else where. The working class can only free itself by drawing those lessons and identifying with these struggle, and gaining the self-confidence once again to rise up.

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Dec 11 2009 19:03

For someone who has clearly read a lot about the Bolsheviks and Lenin your idea that lenin's conception of the relationship between the party was based on What is to be done is quite surprising. A study of the development of Lenin's understanding of the question of class conscious demonstrates that with the experience of the revolution of 1905 he rejected Kautsky's idea of socialist consciousness being introduced into the class from outside. Instead he developed a vision of class consciousness as being a class wide processes whose development is a dialectical relationship between the historical experience of the class, its experience of revolutioinary and mass struggle and the role of the party.
What is your opinion of Kautsky's concept of socialist consciousness being introduced into the class?

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Dec 11 2009 19:14

I have to thank Ajjohnston for getting me to go back and begin to read Trotsky's history of the russian revolution: it is such an inspiring read, with its unfolding of the revolutionary creativity of the proletariat and the Bolsheviks. It is a book all communist should reread every so often, to remind ourselves of the capacities of proletariat. Even if you hate Trotsky his account of the revolution is still inspiring.
Having re-read the chapter on the Revolutionary Military Committee the claim that it was simply a Bolshevik front is clearly nonsense. The Bolsheviks dominated yes, because they were the party support by the majority of workers and soldiers in the Capital. But the RMC was the creation of the Soviet, in fact a Menshevik idea. However, the mensheviks meant it to be a useless talking shop whilst the Bolsheviks workers and soldiers where determined it should have teeth in order to stop the High COmmand taking away the revolutionary soldiers from the heart of the revolution. And also they saw it as the tool for overthrowing the bourgeoisie. Seen during the Soviet Sunday on the 20th October when the population mobilised to take part in meetings in support of the Soviet and to discuss the future. The RMC made not pretense not to be preparing to take power on behalf of the Soviets.
Unless you think the proletariat were a bunch of brainless idiots can cannot deny that the class by this time was backing the Bolsheviks because they saw the need to get rid of the Provisional government
in order to stop the war at the least.
Have to go and do the shopping, sorry

cantdocartwheels's picture
cantdocartwheels
Offline
Joined: 15-03-04
Dec 11 2009 23:37

i see the original poster hasn't come back, i wonder why roll eyes

ajjohnstone
Offline
Joined: 20-04-08
Dec 12 2009 04:08

"What is your opinion of Kautsky's concept of socialist consciousness being introduced into the class?" Ernie asks , and would he be surprised that it is much the same opinion i have of Lenin's since they are basically share the same position.

Don't accept it from me but read Hal Draper on that ;-

Quote:
"The fact is that Lenin had just read this theory in the most prestigious theoretical organ of Marxism of the whole international socialist movement, the Neue Zeit. It had been put forward in an important article by the leading Marxist authority of the International, Karl Kautsky. And this was why and how it got into WITBD. In WITBD Lenin first paraphrased Kautsky. Then he quoted a long passage from Kautsky’s article, almost a page long. Here is Kautsky, whom Lenin then looked up to as the master (some said the “pope”) of socialist theory....There it is – the whole theory laid out, the devilish crux of “Leninism”; and it turns out to be the product of Kautsky’s pen! When Lenin paraphrased it a few pages before, he began, “We have said that ...” – that is, he tied it up immediately as the accepted view of the movement (or so he seemed to think)....The reader of Lenin’s WITBD must understand that if it embodied some specially Leninist “concept of the party” Lenin himself was entirely unaware of it at the time. He thought he was putting forward a view of party and movement that was the same as that of the best parties of the International, particularly the German party under the leadership of August Bebel – only allowing for the big difference that the Russian movement faced the special problems of illegality under an autocracy."

The purpose of quoting from Draper is to show that Lenin’s concept of the party was essentially the same as Kautsky’s and the Second International generally - ideas rejected by the SPGB at its foundation .

The working class were not capable, said Lenin, of reaching socialist understanding by themselves (as the Economists claimed), so this would have to be brought to them by the intelligentsia. Lenin’s organisation theory provided for extreme centralism and submission by subordinate organs to the will of a central committee, composed of course of professional revolutionaries.Whatever the merit it may or not have had as a means of overthrowing Tsarism it caused a split in the Iskra group.

A summary from Tony Cliff just so i don't present a partisan SPGB description of Lenin's idea :-

“Lenin’s What is to be done? was a merciless attack on‘economism’ or pure trade unionism. He argued that the spontaneity of the masses’ struggle – everywhere so obvious in Russia at the time – must be supplemented by the consciousness and organisation of a party. a national party with a central newspaper of its own must be created in order to unify the local groupings and infuse the Labour Movement with political consciousness. Socialist theory must be brought to the proletariat from outside; this was the only way the Labour Movement could move directly to the struggle for socialism. The projected party would be made up largely of professional revolutionaries, working under an extremely centralised leadership. The political leadership of the Party should be the editorial board of the central newspaper. This should have the power to organise or reorganise party branches inside the country, admit or expel members and appoint local committees.” (Cliff, Rosa Luxemburg,)

It was answered by Rosa Luxemburg who wrote of Lenin’s organisational plan:-

Quote:
“Nothing will more surely enslave a young labor movement to an intellectual elite hungry for power than this bureaucratic straitjacket, which will immobilise the movement and turn it into an automaton manipulated by a Central Committee” (“Organisational Questions of Russian Social Democracy”,

Ernie , you can wax lyrically all he want about " the real revolutionary potential and struggle of the proletariat" but the real reality was very few of the German working class were revolutionary socialists. The vast majority of workers supported the SPD as a matter of course, including its general programme of the reform of capitalism. The revolutionary workers were tiny in number. The Spartacists recognised that the mass support needed to establish socialism was lacking and that socialism was not on the agenda at that time, and so they resolved to oppose the calling of a constituent assembly which they felt would help consolidate the German state and instead to try and make socialists within the workers' councils.Rosa Luxemburg actually opposed an uprising, realising that mass support for socialism just wasn't there.Their problem was that not enough proletarians wanted socialism. The November uprisings had been a reaction to hardship and tyranny, not a coherent wish to establish socialism.

A 1919 Socialist Standard article on the first post war election in Germany .

Ernie states "The RMC made not pretense not to be preparing to take power on behalf of the Soviets".
To quote Trotsky about that claim

Quote:
"even when the compromisers were in power, in the Petrograd Soviet, that the Soviet examined or amended decisions of the government. This was, as it were, part of the constitution under the regime named after Kerensky. When we Bolshevists got the upper hand in the Petrograd Soviet we only went on with the system of double power and widened its application. We took it on ourselves to revise the order sending the troops to the front, and so we disguised the actual fact of the insurrection of the Petrograd garrison under the tradition and precedents and technique of the constitutional duplication of authority” - Lessons of October [my emphasis]

However , i have previously made the point that regardless of the fact that the working class in St Peterburg sympathised with the overthrow of Kerenky's increasingly impotent and unpopular government ( which i don't dispute) , they wished a coalition of all, ALL, the pro-working class parties to assume political power , something denied to them by the Bolsheviks .

I have no wish or desire to diminish the courage and fortitude of the working class in all the various revolutions and upheavals that they have engaged and been involved in , the sacrifice and the suffering , and their creativity and self organisation , yet to accuse the SPGB of dismissing those, is one more attempt at a disingenuous smear, when rather it is to the working class the SPGB has always turned to and not to their supposed vanguards .(The active participation of our companion party members in the Winnipeg General strike puts that to rest )

The SPGB approach in post WW1 was thus:-

Quote:
As the working class begin to understand the position they occupy in modern society; as they begin to take a hand in settling affairs of social importance, they will make many blunders and mistakes. In the main, however, these will be easily recognised and corrected. But the biggest danger that confronts them – the biggest mistake they can make – is to place power in the hands of “leaders” under any pretext whatever. It is at once putting those “leaders” in a position to bargain with the master class for the purpose of selling out the workers. It allows the master class to retain control of the political machinery which is the essential instrument for governing Society. All the other blunders and mistakes the workers may make will be as dust in the balance compared with this one, and not until they realise this fact will they be on the road to Socialism.
(February 1918)

Cantdocartwheels:- "i see the original poster hasn't come back, i wonder why"
i never made this about the SPGB , and it seems , IMHO ,its inclusion was purposefully aimed to distract and divert from the original debate where myself and Anarcho presented a critique of how the structures and organisation of the soviets were perverted due to the machinations of the Bolshevik party to assume political power and all revolutionary possibilities and potentials of the soviets were lost .

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Dec 13 2009 12:35

Very brief reply, so you do not think that Lenin broke with Kautsky's position? Do you agree with Kautsky's position, is what I was aksing? I think it is a fair enough point or question to ask.
From what you say you do not think there was a revolutionary process in Germany between 1917 and 23?
May be the question of the German Revolution should be another thread, it is a question that has not been discussed on here much, and in many way contains more lessons than Russia.
May be the question of class consciousness and its origins should be another thread as well.
I agree with cantdocartwheels I have lead this thread off track a bit, well a lot. But the question of whether one supports the idea of revolutionary struggle does have some import for any discussion of the soviets. As Lenin underlined the Soviets were not talking shops but organs for revolutionary struggle.

Dave B
Offline
Joined: 3-08-08
Dec 13 2009 14:53

Well if he did he appeared to go back to it later.

V. I. Lenin Theses on Fundamental Tasks of
The Second Congress Of The Communist International

Quote:
On the other hand, the idea, common among the old parties and the old leaders of the Second International, that the majority of the exploited toilers can achieve complete clarity of socialist consciousness and firm socialist convictions and character under capitalist slavery, under the yoke of the bourgeoisie (which assumes an infinite variety of forms that become more subtle and at the same time more brutal and ruthless the higher the cultural level in a given capitalist country) is also idealisation of capitalism and of bourgeois democracy, as well as deception of the workers.

In fact, it is only after the vanguard of the proletariat, supported by the whole or the majority of this, the only revolutionary class, overthrows the exploiters, suppresses them, emancipates the exploited from their state of slavery and-immediately improves their conditions of life at the expense of the expropriated capitalists—it is only after this, and only in the actual process of an acute class struggle, that the masses of the toilers and exploited can be educated, trained and organised around the proletariat under whose influence and guidance, they can get rid of the selfishness, disunity, vices and weaknesses engendered by private property; only then will they be converted into a free union of free workers.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/jul/04.htm

You have to be careful of the words “proletariat” and “workers” and not get yourself into a muddle by thinking it has got something to do with factory workers etc.

Quote:
Very often the word “workers” is taken to mean the factory proletariat. But it does not mean that at all. During the war people who were by no means proletarians went into the factories; they went into the factories to dodge the war. Are the social and economic conditions in our country today such as to induce real proletarians to go into the factories? No. It would be true according to Marx; but Marx did not write about Russia; he wrote about capitalism as a whole, beginning with the fifteenth century. It held true over a period of six hundred years, but it is not true for present-day Russia. Very often those who go into the factories are not proletarians; they are casual elements of every description.

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

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Dec 17 2009 10:29

Dave B

What point are you referring to here, is it the point about Lenin changing his opinion on the development of class consciousness?

Dave B
Offline
Joined: 3-08-08
Dec 17 2009 19:41

Well I was attempting to draw a line of continuity from the quote I gave in which Lenin states that the workers can only obtain socialist consciousness when it is given to them from above as compared to the similar position he adopted in ‘What Is To Be Done’.

Although no doubt the 1920 version is a more egregious modification of the earlier position, as in 1920, this is to be done from the commanding heights of the ‘marble halls of power’ or the state occupied by the now state capitalist bourgeois intelligentsia, re-branded as the ‘proletarian vanguard’.

And the Bolshevik ‘bourgeois intelligentsia’ would be no more induced to ‘work in factories’ anymore than Bolshevik ‘real proletarians’ would.

No change there then.

appledoze
Offline
Joined: 9-08-09
Dec 19 2009 01:03
cantdocartwheels wrote:
i see the original poster hasn't come back, i wonder why roll eyes

I'm still trying to read through all this. It's good that I brought some discussion here, but frankly I got more than I asked for lol

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Dec 19 2009 17:51

I think you probably did, but hopefully you will be able to pick out some stuff that will help. Best to get stuck in a read some of the main texts suggested and draw your own conclusions.
I have found the thread very useful and it has made me read the Barrot text, and to go back to many texts and books I have not looked at for some time: which has been a real inspiration. I hope you will feel the same.

Stevein7
Offline
Joined: 26-08-11
Aug 26 2011 21:39

I have just skimmed through this thread and I think both sides bring some valid points to the table.
Ther is evidence that

Lenin and the Bolshevlks were not in principle tied to Soviet Power.

They were not in principle opposed to party rule.

**********
However this does not mean that successive communists have been unable to evaluate the contradictory process and reject the thesis that the Party exists to administer power, and that the theoretical shortcomings of Lenin et al mean that the Party is an unrequired evil.

The Internationalist Communist Tendency, the ICC, the anarchists and others accept the need for a revolution and reject the position that the Party becomes a ruling organ.

If we can get past the misrepresentations and accept that the recognition that the dictatorship of the proletariat can only be the rule of the Workers' Councils we may be able to move beyond the fragmented state of the proletarian vanguard and build something far more effective.

piter
Offline
Joined: 30-06-08
Aug 29 2011 09:46
Quote:
If we can get past the misrepresentations and accept that the recognition that the dictatorship of the proletariat can only be the rule of the Workers' Councils we may be able to move beyond the fragmented state of the proletarian vanguard and build something far more effective.

about he dictatorship of the proletriat what's more important than the form (although there is no strict separation bwn the two of course) is the content. more than the power of the worker's council which is only one form it can have, a proletrian dictatorship can only be workers acting against capital, state, commodity and their being as a class (if exists a proletariat must also exists a bourgeoisie...acting as a class implies the reproducing of class relations), withour the replacement of all that by a radically new kind of relationship between individuals, breaking all these mediations/separations, talking of workers power is only a bad joke.

that must be realised in order to be able to move beyond the shortcomings of vanguardism and other forms of the old worker's movement...

Boris Badenov
Offline
Joined: 25-08-08
Aug 29 2011 22:39
appledoze wrote:
cantdocartwheels wrote:
i see the original poster hasn't come back, i wonder why roll eyes

I'm still trying to read through all this. It's good that I brought some discussion here, but frankly I got more than I asked for lol

"then you are a Menshevik or worse."