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Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution

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Anarcho
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Oct 29 2008 15:50
miles wrote:
The problem is anarcho, I have the feeling it really doesn't matter to you what anyone who claims to be a marxist says - for you it solely represents a dogma / an ideology in fact (not dissimilar from a holy book) which 'anarchists' have superceded.

Ah, apparently to be a "marxist" and rejecting what Marx wrote on "key issues" is acceptable. Hmm. In that case, I guess that means Lenin and Stalin must be Marxists -- I know, they were in favour of state capitalism and party dictatorship but, apparently, that does not matter. After all, who cares what Marx actually advocated? Not Marxists, apparently...

miles wrote:
It would mean nothing to you if I said that the ICC had written extensive texts criticising, in detail, the failures of the Bolsheviks and so on. For you the whole thing was a 'plot' from the start and its failure explicitly is the failure of 'marxism'.

ROTFL! Ah, the ICC criticise the Bolsheviks. Does that mean the Bolsheviks stopped being "Marxists" at some stage? When? When they formed a party government, as recommended by Engels? When they formed a dictatorship, and went against Marx's arguments? When Lenin advocated workers' councils? As one Menshevik argued, he had inherited Bakunin's throne....

Apparently, you can be a "Marxist" and hold positions identical to that of Bakunin (say on workers' councils, rejection of party power, and so on). It does not really matter that Marx himself rejected such positions. Interesting. I guess "Marxism" simply means "those bits of Marx when he happens to agree with me"!

So, what do I think of "Marxism"? Is it an ideology/dogma? To some degree. As one poster I saw recently proclaimed, the economic crisis shows that "Marx was right!" So Marx dead for over 120 years foresaw this particular crisis in all its details? I doubt it. He has interesting things to say which we can build upon, but the whole notion of a "Marxism" (or any person-ist) is joke -- particularly when the "Marxism" in question is far closer to Bakunin than Marx.

As I've said before, the party/group closest to Marxism as per Marx is the SPGB. And I respect their position a hell of a lot more than those "Marxists" who mock them while, at the same time, sounding like Bakunin. And I should note that libertarian Marxists (like the council communists) are worth reading and have important things to say. Which suggests I do not consider "Marxism" to be some-kind-of-plot... rather, mistaken on numerous issues.

Dave B
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Oct 29 2008 21:35

Leninism is not Marxism.

Nor is Leninism a development or evolution of Marxism into some kind of higher or more pragmatic form.

In fact ironically Leninism is a throwback and antediluvian form of early Marxism which was later rejected by Marx and Engels on pragmatic grounds from learned experience.

The Leninist theory, position and programme could easily be surmised as the following;


Quote:
And yet the movement was there, instinctive, spontaneous, irrepressible. Was not this just the situation in which a revolution had to succeed, led certainly by a minority, but this time not in the interests of the minority, but in the real interests of the majority?

If, in all the longer revolutionary periods, it was so easy to win the great masses of the people by the merely plausible and delusive views of the minorities thrusting themselves forward, how could they be less susceptible to ideas which were the truest reflex of their economic position, which were nothing but the clear, comprehensible expression of their needs, of needs not yet understood by themselves, but only vaguely felt?

To be sure, this revolutionary mood of the masses had almost always, and usually very speedily, given way to lassitude or even to a revulsion to its opposite, so soon as illusion evaporated and disappointment set in. But here it was not a question of delusive views, but of giving effect to the very special interests of the great majority itself, interests, which at that time were certainly by no means clear to this great majority, but which must soon enough become clear in the course of giving practical effect to them, by their convincing obviousness. …………………”

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/class-struggles-france/intro.htm

And for instance on the party;

Quote:
held together by the strict discipline which went with it, they started out from the viewpoint that a relatively small number of resolute, well-organized men would be able, at a given favourable moment, not only seize the helm of state, but also by energetic and relentless action, to keep power until they succeeded in drawing the mass of the people into the revolution and ranging them round the small band of leaders. this conception involved, above all, the strictest dictatorship and centralization of all power in the hands of the new revolutionary government.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/postscript.htm

A position considered tried and rejected from learned experience by Marx and Engels. Thus;

Quote:
History has proved us, and all who thought like us, wrong

The time of surprise attacks, of revolutions carried through by small conscious minorities at the head of unconscious masses, is past. Where it is a question of a complete transformation of the social organization, the masses themselves must also be in it, must themselves already have grasped what is at stake, what they are going in for [with body and soul]. The history of the last fifty years has taught us that.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/class-struggles-france/intro.htm

And on the consequences of the Leninist method being predictable as;

Quote:
that any revolution may be made by the outbreak of a small revolutionary minority, follows of itself the necessity of a dictatorship after the success of the venture. This is, of course, a dictatorship, not of the entire revolutionary class, the proletariat, but of the small minority that has made the revolution, and who are themselves previously organized under the dictatorship of one or several individuals.
We see, then, that Blanqui (and Lenin) is a revolutionary of the preceding generation.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1874/06/26.htm

However Engels did foresee the possibility of these ‘revolutionaries of a preceding generation’ ie the Bolsheviks playing a part in the overthrow of feudalism and capitalist revolution in Russia.

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

And being driven off course by historical circumstances beyond their control and making fools of themselves, besides anything else.

Marx and Engels did not believe, rightly or wrongly, that it was possible to go from feudalism, with a majority peasant population, to socialism. The historical stage of capitalism had to be passed through first in order to proletarianise the majority of the population and build up the means of production. As a kind of, albeit unpleasant, rights of passage to the historically material possibility of socialism.

Engels admitted that the position of genuinely class conscious proletarians, as perhaps a minority of a minority, in a revolution from feudalism to capitalism was an extremely difficult one. As is I think made clear in his letter to to Vera Zasulich in 1885.

And also in his letter to Filippo Turati in 1894.

http://www.marx.org/archive/marx/works/1894/letters/94_01_26.htm

Engels would not have countenanced socialists participating in a government in such a situation let alone bearing ‘the responsibility for all the infamy and treachery committed against the working class’ and the paralysing of ‘the revolutionary action of the working class they were supposed to represent’.

And being ‘disappointed by the large promises of these gentlemen to allow ourselves to be misused yet another time. Neither their proclamations nor their conspiracies will mislead us.’

Any fool can be wrong about the consequences of your action before the result. But it takes the real genius of modern day apologists of Leninism and vanguardism to be wrong about it after it.

The possibility of peasants going straight to a socialist consciousness, and Russian peasants in particular, had in fact been discussed in some depth.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894/01/russia.htm

On the government by a ‘party’ I do not think Engels had anything to say for it, he obviously preferred to put it another way;

Quote:
In reality, however, the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another, and indeed in the democratic republic no less than in the monarchy; and at best an evil inherited by the proletariat after its victorious struggle for class supremacy, whose worst sides the proletariat, just like the Commune, cannot avoid having to lop off at the earliest possible moment, until such time as a new generation, reared in new and free social conditions, will be able to throw the entire lumber of the state on the scrap-heap.

Of late, the Social-Democratic philistine has once more been filled with wholesome terror at the words: Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Well and good, gentlemen, do you want to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/postscript.htm

capricorn
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Oct 29 2008 22:52
Anarcho wrote:
capricorn wrote:
Try the Paris Commune which, according to one contemporary:
Quote:
was formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class.

I've tried quoting Marx to these "Marxists", it really is a waste of time. Water off a duck's back...

I think they prefer mass meetings where votes are taken by a show of hands to the election of delegates by secret ballot because a mass meeting can be more easily manipulated by a vanguard party. This said, mass meetings have their place but they are not more democratic than elections with proper procedures and safeguards

berrot
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Oct 29 2008 23:51

Capricorn & Anarcho - Sorry I’m a little late responding.
Surely accepting Paris Commune principles means accepting the right of workers to vote Bolsheviks on to their Soviets, mandating them (ie the Soviets, through the Bolsheviks) to push for insurrection (something which Bolsheviks made crystal clear was their eventual goal)? You do not seem prepared to accept that the Soviets swung decisively behind the Bolshevik agenda: even as early as the July days, Petrograd workers were demanding insurrection from the Bolsheviks. Certainly, the Bolsheviks opposed this in July, but not because they did not think they would be the principal beneficiaries (as you seem to imply in your quote from Trotsky); rather, they realised it was too early for such a move, because only Petrograd would support it at that stage – workers in the capital should wait until the rest of the country caught up with them in their class consciousness, otherwise any attempt to seize power (on the part of the Soviets) was bound to fail.
I can hardly deny the evidence that the Bolsheviks undermined the Soviets. The All-Russian Congress of Soviets was meant to meet every 3 months; after 1918,it only convened once a year. By 1921, VTsIK met 3 times per year, instead of being in permanent session. Although supposedly accountable to the Congress and to VTsIK, Sovnarkom was thereby largely able to go its own way. Much the same may be seen in the development of Vesenkha, which also moved away from the elective principle at the level of the enterprise . However, to interpret this as a cunning plan to seize the reins of power and institute the one-party dictatorship is to see malignancy where there was, in fact, merely the blinkers of historical development. It is quite clear that, from February onwards, the Bolshevik leaders learned rapidly from the workers’ movement and its demands for Soviet power – an educational process that led to Lenin’s “State and Revolution”. They were able to slough off the bourgeois traditions of party politics and move to demand “All power to the Soviets”. It is important to understand that such a change, in the direction of workers’ councils, meant abandoning the traditional routines of party politics. Previously normal party discipline became impossible to enforce when elected delegates had to adhere to their mandate, or risk being recalled – instantly - by their electors. Any party organisation had to march in step with their electors or suffer the consequence. The fact that the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries chose to join the counter-revolution by rejecting Soviet power(and rejecting any opportunity for joining a ”coalition government”) , up to the point of taking up arms, led to their total loss of influence over the working class, who saw the Soviets as possessing legitimate power and the Bolsheviks (and, initially, the Left SRs) as the legitimate wielders of that power.
Of course, by March of 1918, the Soviets had a Civil War and foreign intervention to cope with, and this – quite understandably – led to matters of Soviet democracy taking a lesser priority, and Bolshevik party organisation really began to take over the reins, sidelining Soviet institutions. This is where the isolation of Russia and the absence of any successful revolutionary attempts elsewhere underlined the impossibility of “socialism in one country”: too busy with defending the revolution and the immense sacrifice of lives this involved, the surviving revolutionaries found that the fundamental institution of the revolution had in the meantime been neutered, replaced by the cult of the Party.
Nonetheless, it has to be said that the principal reason for the downfall of Soviet democracy lay in the hands and minds of the working class, who did not defend the Paris Commune principles with sufficient vigour. In many ways, it was the inadequacies in their class consciousness which led them to overlook the measures taken to remove democratic controls from them. In this context, Capricorn needs to appreciate that the IBRP, along with the ICC and all other left communist groups worthy of the name, have learned the crucial lesson from October, 1917: that it is vital that a revolutionary party shrinks away from any idea of taking power in the name of the working class, and that it is vital for success that it is the working class through its Workers’ Councils which seizes power. The role of the party, however, is not to stand alongside and spectate. Its involvement in the process is essential – but only as advisers, persuaders, cajolers even – and not just from the sidelines, but as active participants at the core of the movement. Where else can credibility be built up? To see all parties as bourgeois institutions, ready in waiting to leap out and rob poor, innocent workers of their rightful revolutionary inheritance in order to pursue their own nefarious ends is to fundamentally misunderstand the relationship between party and class. A revolutionary party must be an integral part of a class conscious movement, not something floating above it.

Dave B
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Oct 30 2008 00:27

On Russian 'Anarchist Marxists' (Mensheviks) in 1905, Leninism of 1905, Jacobinism and revolution from above, floating or otherwise, complete with shameless quotations out of context.

V. I. Lenin, The Third Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., April 12 (25)-April 27 (May 10), 1905

http://www.marxistsfr.org/archive/lenin/works//1905/3rdcong/13.htm#bkV08E121

The Bakuninists at Work, An account of the Spanish revolt in the summer of 1873 is available at;

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1873/bakunin/index.htm

capricorn
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Oct 30 2008 07:55
Quote:
Capricorn needs to appreciate that the IBRP, along with the ICC and all other left communist groups worthy of the name, have learned the crucial lesson from October, 1917: that it is vital that a revolutionary party shrinks away from any idea of taking power in the name of the working class, and that it is vital for success that it is the working class through its Workers’ Councils which seizes power.

Well, Berrot, I'd appreciate this more if you applied this lesson to what happened in November 1917, ie condemned the Bolshevik party for then taking power in the name of the working class. But you don't. You say they were right to do so and make all sorts of excuses for their action. Not that Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and the others would have been grateful. They would have insisted that for their party not to have seized power (which was its purpose, was why it had been formed and built up) would have been madness, a betrayal of the working class, leftist blockheadery, etc, etc.

Why can't you admit that the overthrow of the Provisional Government was not a socialist or working class revolution but a seizure of power by the Bolshevik party which then found itself in charge of governing Russia and had no alternative but to develop capitalism there. The theory of the vanguard party led to the Bolshevik party,to the seizure of power in November 1917, then to the suppression of all other parties, then to the development of state capitalism.

piter
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Oct 30 2008 13:30
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The theory of the vanguard party led to the Bolshevik party,to the seizure of power in November 1917, then to the suppression of all other parties, then to the development of state capitalism.

that's an idealist conception of history.
and i'm not sure such a thing as a theory of vanguard party existed until the IIIrd international.
dictature came from the antagonistic nature of the relations of production needed to enforce a capitalist development. and state capitalisme went not in the continuity of a theory, although it played a role in it, but mainly in the continuity of capitalist development, but it is true that the bolcheviks, its majority, choose to take the lead of such a development with their state institutions.

capricorn
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Oct 30 2008 16:20
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that's an idealist conception of history.
and i'm not sure such a thing as a theory of vanguard party existed until the IIIrd international.

Not necessarily, Piter. There is a group of Marxist thinkers who have regarded Bolshevism as, from the start, a “bourgeois” ideology. These include Anton Pannekoek, in his Lenin As Philosopher and Helmut Wagner in The Bourgeois Role of Bolshevism and (under the name of Rudolf Sprenger) Bolshevism.

Their argument, based on Marx’s materialist conception of history, is along these lines.

Capitalism in Russia, which began to develop in the last quarter of the 19th century, had its own special features. The capitalists there were weak and dependent on both the Tsarist government and on foreign investors. As a result they were politically isolated and incapable of leading the revolution against Tsarism which was necessary for the full development of capitalism in Russia. The task of overthrowing the Tsar — Russia's bourgeois or capitalist revolution — thus fell into other hands, those of the intelligentsia, a social group peculiar to the Russia of that time made up of university-trained people employed in various professional capacities by the government.

The anti-Tsarist struggle, and its theory, was started by sections of this intelligentsia. In view of the weakness and cowardice of Russia's capitalists (and, in the early stages, of the virtual absence of capitalism) it was not really surprising that these revolutionaries should be attracted by anti-capitalist ideas. The great bulk of them, even though they never claimed to be Marxists, always regarded themselves as socialists. Later some, including Lenin, did pick up a few of Marx's ideas but this still did not mean that their theories served the interest of the working class.

Lenin's theory of the vanguard party — which says that the revolution can only be achieved by a party of professional revolutionaries leading the discontented masses — was taken straight from the Russian revolutionary tradition. Its pedigree can be traced back through Tkachev and Ogarev to West European thinkers like Babeuf and Buonarroti whose idea of revolution was coloured by the French Bourgeois Revolution. If you think the idea of a vanguard party wasn't invented till the IIId (Bolshevik) International you should read Franco Venturi's The Roots of Revolution where its ancestry is clearly traced.

Lenin never really advanced much beyond the idea of self-appointed liberators leading the mass of ignorant people to freedom. He remained, in his theory as well as his practice, essentially a bourgeois or capitalist revolutionary. In fact it was because Russia in the opening decades of this century was ripe for such a revolution that his ideas had any social or political significance.

It can be added Stalin did later twist Marxism into the conservative ideology of a state capitalist ruling class, but he was merely building on Lenin's previous distortion of Marxism into the ideology of that same class while it was struggling for power.

ajjohnstone
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Oct 30 2008 23:26

Let me add my tuppence worth to this debate .

I think we can classify the Russian Revolution as a bourgeoise revolution without the bourgeoisie .

As Engels write in the Peasant Wars in Germany in a quote that i am sure you are all aware of

Quote:
The worst thing that can befall a leader of an extreme party is to be compelled to take over a government in an epoch when the movement is not yet ripe for the domination of the class which he represents and for the realisation of the measures which that domination would imply. What he can do depends not upon his will but upon the sharpness of the clash of interests between the various classes, and upon the degree of development of the material means of existence, the relations of production and means of communication upon which the clash of interests of the classes is based every time. What he ought to do, what his party demands of him, again depends not upon him, or upon the degree of development of the class struggle and its conditions. He is bound to his doctrines and the demands hitherto propounded which do not emanate from the interrelations of the social classes at a given moment, or from the more or less accidental level of relations of production and means of communication, but from his more or less penetrating insight into the general result of the social and political movement. Thus he necessarily finds himself in a dilemma. What he can do is in contrast to all his actions as hitherto practised, to all his principles and to the present interests of his party; what he ought to do cannot be achieved. In a word, he is compelled to represent not his party or his class, but the class for whom conditions are ripe for domination. In the interests of the movement itself, he is compelled to defend the interests of an alien class, and to feed his own class with phrases and promises, with the assertion that the interests of that alien class are their own interests. Whoever puts himself in this awkward position is irrevocably lost.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/peasant-war-germany/ch06.htm

I have some sympathy for the view of one Harry Ratner

Quote:
All one can say is that the "workers’ state" that was born in October 1917 was premature and infected from infancy. Unfortunately, as it degenerated, it infected the working-class movement internationally, and proved an obstacle on the road to socialism.My old comrade, the late Alex Acheson, who joined the movement in the 1930s and remained a committed Trotskyist till his death last year, once said to me: "It might have been better if the October Revolution had never occurred."
http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Index/Menu.html
piter
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Oct 31 2008 09:39
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Lenin's theory of the vanguard party — which says that the revolution can only be achieved by a party of professional revolutionaries leading the discontented masses

this is a strawman Lenin and not what he really advocated.

I know and like Pannekoek but his "Lenin as a philosopher", even if it is the best critique of "Materialism and empiriocriticism", is too one sided about the genral sense of Lenin's political thought.
I think the problem with Lenin is his failure to understand that destoying capital implies setting a new mode of production based on worker's association, but this as more to do with his coneption of socialisation of production under capitalist development, impérialism and state capitalism than with witbd or Materialism and empiriocriticism.

capricorn
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Oct 31 2008 10:52
piter wrote:
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Lenin's theory of the vanguard party — which says that the revolution can only be achieved by a party of professional revolutionaries leading the discontented masses

this is a strawman Lenin and not what he really advocated.

Sorry, but this is precisely what he advocated, based on his notorious theory that left to themselves workers are only capable of acquiring a "trade unionist" consciousness. This means that the minority of people, largely from outside the working clas, who somehow are able to go beyond this and acquire a "socialist" consciousness should organise themselves into a vanguard party to lead the workers. To get the workers to follow them they have to adapt themselves to the level workers are supposedly only capable of achieving, ie a trade unionist/reformist consciousness. So what the vanguard has to do to get a following is to identify some discontented group and offer it slogans calculated to appeal to them (Trotsky called these "transitional demands"). This is certainly the practice of all contemporary Leninist groups (in England, the SWP, SPEW, the Trots in Respect, etc). While maintaining themselves as a vanguard, an intelligent minority, who supposedly understand they seek to infiltrate and take over any spontaneous protest movement and seek to organise a reformist front party (a New Workers Party, a Left Party, Respect) to appeal to the workers who they consider capable only of reaching this level of consciousness. Then they dream of leading these merely discontented workers in an armed insurrection, just like the Bolsheviks did in Russia in 1917.
It's nonsense but it's the essence of Leninism.

piter
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Oct 31 2008 12:20
Quote:
based on his notorious theory that left to themselves workers are only capable of acquiring a "trade unionist" consciousness.

sorry but that's not Lenin's theory but a notorious prejudice, a wrong interpretation of what is to be done based on one sentence taken out of context (you should read Lars Lih on What is to be done?).

first ,for Lenin the party is not only composed of professional revolutionnaries, and their role is to permit the activity of a broad workers movement. he is clear about that.

what Lenin said about consciousnes is that it takes political struggles to get political consciousness and that if workers take part only in economic struggles it will be a fight between some workers and their boss, not really a class struggle that is a struggle between classes, and that it is when you are at the level of class relationship that you can get a political cosnciousnees because politics is about class struggle. that is the main point about consciousness in what is to be done?
he said in witbd, that cosnciousness don't comme from outside the class but from outside only economic struggle. he is very clear about that.

and he didn't said that revolutionnaries must adapt to the level of workers, quite the contrary, he wrote witbd against people who were advocating that.

but I agree with you that the leninism you described is (or not very far from it) the theory and practice of all or most of the leninist groups, and also on the fact that it is wrong.

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Demogorgon303
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Oct 31 2008 15:17
Quote:
based on his notorious theory that left to themselves workers are only capable of acquiring a "trade unionist" consciousness.

This originates more with Kautsky than Lenin: "The vehicle of science is not the proletariat, but the bourgeois intelligentsia [K. K.’s italics]: it was in the minds of individual members of this stratum that modern socialism originated, and it was they who communicated it to the more intellectually developed proletarians who, in their turn, introduce it into the proletarian class struggle where conditions allow that to be done. Thus, socialist consciousness is something introduced into the proletarian class struggle from without [von Aussen Hineingetragenes] and not something that arose within it spontaneously [urwüchsig]."

This famous passage is actually Lenin quoting Kautsky.

Lenin goes onto say in a footnote: "This does not mean, of course, that the workers have no part in creating such an ideology. They take part, however, not as workers, but as socialist theoreticians, as Proudhons and Weitlings; in other words, they take part only when they are able, and to the extent that they are able, more or less, to acquire the knowledge of their age and develop that knowledge. But in order that working men may succeed in this more often, every effort must be made to raise the level of the consciousness of the workers in general; it is necessary that the workers do not confine themselves to the artificially restricted limits of “literature for workers” but that they learn to an increasing degree to master general literature. It would be even truer to say “are not confined”, instead of “do not confine themselves”, because the workers themselves wish to read and do read all that is written for the intelligentsia, and only a few (bad) intellectuals believe that it is enough “for workers” to be told a few things about factory conditions and to have repeated to them over and over again what has long been known."

It's quite clear that Lenin believes workers are more than capable of mastering the intellectual production of the bourgeoisie and, indeed, of going beyond it as socialist theoreticians. The real distinction that he is making here is between workers-in-general and communists.

The quote that piter alludes to is probably this one: "Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without, that is, only from outside the economic struggle, from outside the sphere of relations between workers and employers. The sphere from which alone it is possible to obtain this knowledge is the sphere of relationships of all classes and strata to the state and the government, the sphere of the interrelations between all classes."

Here, he is saying that the development of class consciousness is part of a wider political process that takes place in the whole of society, not simply from the immediate economic struggle of the workers. Most politicised workers are, by definition, interested in politics not simply building a union.

Given that Lenin spent his entire life berating "intellectuals" and encouraging workers to take on responsible roles in the party, it's quite clear that Lenin did not believe in the idealist notion that the inert mass of workers are made conscious by the action of intellectuals. The great split between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks took place because the Bolsheviks rejected the informalism of the intellectuals that dominated Russian Social Democracy until that point. I can't remember where the point comes from, but I seem to recall a quote from Lenin saying that workers were better at revolutionary work because they had learned discipline in the factories. Towards the end of his life, he was calling for the number of workers in the top organs of the party to be increased in an effort to revitalise the revolution.

The Bolsheviks, especially during their revolutionary zenith in 1917/18 had many more workers in their ranks than any other political group. The Mensheviks and the SRs were dominated by intellectuals busily importing the "socialist consciousness" into the working class: usually the "socialism" of supporting the Provisional Government, calling for parliamentary democracy or telling workers to cease their revolutionary struggle which was, in fact, exactly what Kautsky ended up doing.

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Alf
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Oct 31 2008 14:43

Capricorn just throws out the usual libertarian cliche about the infamous' trade union consciousness' passage: look Lenin thought workers were dumb and needed the party to boss them about.
Piter and Demo are right to point out that what Lenin was saying is that class consciousness is not a mechanical product of relations between worker and boss in the factory but a product of a wider political and historical conflict. It also needs to be said that Lenin was arguing this against the Economists, a particular Russian form of opportunism who wanted to confine the class struggle to the immediate level and did not think that the Russian working class was ready to take on the bourgeoisie at the political level. Later Lenin admitted that he had 'bent the stick too far' in this polemic. Kautsky is certainly lapsing into idealism when he says that socialism is the product of the intellectuals, and Lenin was in error to follow him down this path. But in particular after the experience of 1905 Lenin was able to further clarify his position about the revolutionary capacities of the working class - for example when he ridiculed those 'super-leninists' who, when faced with the soviets, demanded that they adopt the Bolshevik programme or dissolve. Of course this doesn't mean that there could be serious regressions later on, especially as the Bolsheviks were left high and dry by the isolation of the 1917 revolution. But the idea that What is to be Done is a manual of proto-Stalinism is a real caricature of what was happening in the workers' movement throughout that whole period.

Anarcho
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Oct 31 2008 15:18
piter wrote:
Quote:
The theory of the vanguard party led to the Bolshevik party,to the seizure of power in November 1917, then to the suppression of all other parties, then to the development of state capitalism.

that's an idealist conception of history.

Ideas matter, particularly the ideas of the ruling party. The notion that the ideology of the ruling elite is irrelevant to their decisions seems to be rooted in Lenin's bourgeois materialism. As Pannekoek argued in Lenin as philosopher, genuine materialism recognises that ideas are part of the material world.

Or are you suggesting that the Leninist prejudices in favour of party power, centralisation, state ownership, lack of concern for workers' self-management, and so on had absolutely no impact on the decisions they made? That seems unlikely, particularly as Lenin was at pains to note how his "state capitalist" policies of 1918 had been expressed, by him, in 1917! In other words, the Bolsheviks had certain ideas on what socialism was and, unsurprisingly, when in power implemented them. And, needless to say, this implementation had a significant impact on the material circumstances facing the revolution.

piter wrote:
and i'm not sure such a thing as a theory of vanguard party existed until the IIIrd international.
dictature came from the antagonistic nature of the relations of production needed to enforce a capitalist development. and state capitalisme went not in the continuity of a theory, although it played a role in it, but mainly in the continuity of capitalist development, but it is true that the bolcheviks, its majority, choose to take the lead of such a development with their state institutions.

Party dictatorship came about in the spring of 1918 and was required, in part, because the Bolshevik vision of socialism (as state capitalism) was not remotely popular and worked poorly. Rather than submit to democratic recall, they simply gerrymandered and disbanded soviets. The party dictatorship was then rationalised in terms of the advanced nature of the party -- which flowed straight from Lenin's What is to be Done?

Lenin in 1902:

Quote:
"Since there can be no talk of an independent ideology being developed by the masses of the workers in the process of their movement, the only choice is: either bourgeois or socialist ideology. There is no middle course . . . Hence, to belittle socialist ideology in any way, to deviate from it in the slightest degree means strengthening bourgeois ideology. There is a lot of talk about spontaneity, but the spontaneous development of the labour movement leads to its becoming subordinated to bourgeois ideology . . . Hence our task, the task of Social-Democracy, is to combat spontaneity, to divert the labour movement from its spontaneous, trade unionist striving to go under the wing of the bourgeoisie, and to bring it under the wing of revolutionary Social-Democracy."

The implications of this argument became clear once the Bolsheviks seized power. As a justification for party dictatorship, you would be hard pressed to find any better. If the working class revolts against the ruling party, then we have a "spontaneous" development which, inevitably, is an expression of bourgeois ideology. As the party represents socialist consciousness, any deviation in working class support for it simply meant that the working class was being "subordinated" to the bourgeoisie. This meant, obviously, that to "belittle" the "role" of the party by questioning its rule meant to "strengthen bourgeois ideology" and when workers spontaneously went on strike or protested against the party's rule, the party had to "combat" these strivings in order to maintain working class rule! As the "masses of the workers" cannot develop an "independent ideology," the workers are rejecting socialist ideology in favour of bourgeois ideology. The party, in order to defend the "the revolution" (even the "rule of the workers"!) has to impose its will onto the class, to "combat spontaneity."

Hence Lenin in 1920:

Quote:
"Without revolutionary coercion directed against the avowed enemies of the workers and peasants, it is impossible to break down the resistance of these exploiters. On the other hand, revolutionary coercion is bound to be employed towards the wavering and unstable elements among the masses themselves."

Strangely, that was not mention in State and Revolution! That year also saw him argue that while "the dictatorship of the proletariat" was "inevitable" in the "transition of socialism," it is "not exercised by an organisation which takes in all industrial workers." The reason "is given in the theses of the Second Congress of the Communist International on the role of political parties" This means that "the Party, shall we say, absorbs the vanguard of the proletariat, and this vanguard exercises the dictatorship of the proletariat." This was required because "in all capitalist countries . . . the proletariat is still so divided, so degraded, and so corrupted in parts" that it "can be exercised only by a vanguard . . . the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised by a mass proletarian organisation."

In 1939 Trotsky summarised it as follows:

Quote:
"The very same masses are at different times inspired by different moods and objectives. It is just for this reason that a centralised organisation of the vanguard is indispensable. Only a party, wielding the authority it has won, is capable of overcoming the vacillation of the masses themselves . . . if the dictatorship of the proletariat means anything at all, then it means that the vanguard of the proletariat is armed with the resources of the state in order to repel dangers, including those emanating from the backward layers of the proletariat itself."

Needless to say, by definition everyone is "backward" when compared to the "vanguard of the proletariat." Moreover, as it is this "vanguard" which is "armed with the resources of the state" and not the proletariat as a whole we are left with one obvious conclusion, namely party dictatorship rather than working class democracy. How Trotsky's position is compatible with the idea of the working class as the "ruling class" is not explained.

But, of course, the obvious links between what was argued in 1902 and what happened later can be ignored as "idealism" -- after all, apparently the ideas and ideology of the ruling party has no impact on its decisions and proposed solutions to problems. And if in 1902 Lenin gave a privileged role to the party, denouncing those who weaken its influence, that had no bearing on the party exercising its dictatorship over the masses and their "vacillations" (or to "combat spontaneity", weapons in hand if need be...)

Anarcho
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Oct 31 2008 15:27
piter wrote:
sorry but that's not Lenin's theory but a notorious prejudice, a wrong interpretation of what is to be done based on one sentence taken out of context (you should read Lars Lih on What is to be done?).

And Hal Draper had tried it before, without much success: H.5.4 Did Lenin abandon vanguardism?

piter wrote:
first ,for Lenin the party is not only composed of professional revolutionnaries, and their role is to permit the activity of a broad workers movement. he is clear about that.

Oh, they permit the activity of the workers. That is so nice of them. Like when the Bolsheviks in 1917 refused to permit the workers to protest? The workers ignored them -- and Tsarism was finished....

piter wrote:
what Lenin said about consciousnes is that it takes political struggles to get political consciousness and that if workers take part only in economic struggles . . .

What rubbish. As Kropotkin put it there "is almost no serious strike which occurs together wwith the appearance of troops, the exchange of blows and some acts of revolt. Here they fight with the troops; there they march on the factories . . . Thanks to government intervention the rebel against the factory becomes the rebel against the State." Economic struggles become political struggles, workers learn from said struggles and how the state reacts.

piter wrote:
he said in witbd, that cosnciousness don't comme from outside the class but from outside only economic struggle. he is very clear about that.

Oh, right. That explains why Lenin quotes the "profoundly true and important" comments of Karl Kautsky on the subject, namely that it was "absolutely untrue" that "socialist consciousness" was a "necessary and direct result of the proletarian class struggle." Rather, "socialism and the class struggle arise side by side and not one out of the other . . . Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge . . . The vehicles of science are not the proletariat, but the bourgeois intellegentsia: it was on the minds of some members of this stratum that modern socialism originated, and it was they who communicated it to the more intellectually developed proletarians who, in their turn, introduced it into the proletarian class struggle." Kautsky stressed that "socialist consciousness is something introduced into the proletarian class struggle from without."

Anarcho
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Oct 31 2008 15:36
Alf wrote:
Later Lenin admitted that he had 'bent the stick too far' in this polemic.

That Lenin did not reject his early formulations can also be seen from in his introduction to the pamphlet "Twelve Years" which contained What is to be Done?. Rather than explaining the false nature of that work's more infamous arguments, Lenin in fact defended them. For example, as regards the question of professional revolutionaries, he argued that the statements of his opponents now "look ridiculous" as "today the idea of an organisation of professional revolutionaries has already scored a complete victory," a victory which "would have been impossible if this idea had not been pushed to the forefront at the time." He noted that his work had "vanquished Economism . . . and finally created this organisation." On the question of socialist consciousness, he simply reiterated the Marxist orthodoxy of his position, noting that its "formulation of the relationship between spontaneity and political consciousness was agreed upon by all the Iskra editors . . . Consequently, there could be no question of any difference in principle between the draft Party programme and What is to be Done? on this issue." So while Lenin argued that his book "straightens out what had been twisted by the Economists," (who had "gone to one extreme") he did not correct his earlier arguments.

Alf wrote:
But in particular after the experience of 1905 Lenin was able to further clarify his position about the revolutionary capacities of the working class - for example when he ridiculed those 'super-leninists' who, when faced with the soviets, demanded that they adopt the Bolshevik programme or dissolve

Oh, right. That explains his praise for Stalin's article repeating his ideas from What is to Be Done?. Lenin put pen to paper to praise Stalin's work, noting "the splendid way in which the problem of the celebrated 'introduction of a consciousness from without' had been posed." Lenin explicitly agreed with Stalin's summary of his argument, writing that "social being determines consciousness . . . Socialist consciousness corresponds to the position of the proletariat" before quoting Stalin: "'Who can and does evolve this consciousness (scientific socialism)?'" He answers by again approvingly quoting Stalin: "its 'evolution' is a matter for a few Social-Democratic intellectuals who posses the necessary means and time.'"

As for the soviets in 1905, well, every Frankenstein has his moment of realising that the monster he has created has a tendency not to act as he would like.

Nor should we forget that, writing in 1907, Lenin argued that "Social-Democratic Party organisations may, in case of necessity, participate in inter-party Soviets of Workers' Delegates . . . and in congresses . . . 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." The party would "utilise" such organs "for the purpose of developing the Social-Democratic movement." Significantly, given the fate of the soviets post-1917, Lenin notes that the party "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."

And in 1918, the soviets became precisely that, superfluous and became, as desired in 1905, mere fig-leafs for the party...

Anarcho
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Oct 31 2008 16:13
berrot wrote:
Surely accepting Paris Commune principles means accepting the right of workers to vote Bolsheviks on to their Soviets, mandating them (ie the Soviets, through the Bolsheviks) to push for insurrection (something which Bolsheviks made crystal clear was their eventual goal)? You do not seem prepared to accept that the Soviets swung decisively behind the Bolshevik agenda: even as early as the July days, Petrograd workers were demanding insurrection from the Bolsheviks.

As the questionaries of the delegates to the second all Russian congress of soviets make clear, the mandates were NOT for a Bolshevik government but rather "soviet power" -- the pro=-Bolsheviks may seek to confuse the two, but they are different. Without the votes of the Left-SRs the Second congress would have rejected the insurrection.

And I should note that you are confusing the issue of soviet democracy with the actions of the Bolsheviks once they were in power -- and who justified all manner of authoritarian acts because on their dubious majorities at soviet congress in 1918.

berrot wrote:
Certainly, the Bolsheviks opposed this in July, but not because they did not think they would be the principal beneficiaries (as you seem to imply in your quote from Trotsky);

Sorry, Trotsky is perfectly clear: "the state of popular consciousness . . . made impossible the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in July." Trotsky is clearly stating that the Bolsheviks opposed the July days because the party could not seize power. Or does "the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks" mean something other than what it clearly does?

berrot wrote:
I can hardly deny the evidence that the Bolsheviks undermined the Soviets . . . However, to interpret this as a cunning plan to seize the reins of power and institute the one-party dictatorship is to see malignancy where there was, in fact, merely the blinkers of historical development.

The Bolsheviks were clear on the need for the party to seize power (Lenin: "The Bolsheviks must assume power." They "can and must take state power into their own hands."). That is well known, as for creating a one-party dictatorship that is what they did -- which flows, surely, from their vanguardism. As I've sketched above.

berrot wrote:
Any party organisation had to march in step with their electors or suffer the consequence.

Which is precisely why the Bolsheviks gerrymandered and disbanded soviets to remain in power!

berrot wrote:
The fact that the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries chose to join the counter-revolution by rejecting Soviet power (and rejecting any opportunity for joining a ”coalition government”) , up to the point of taking up arms, led to their total loss of influence over the working class, who saw the Soviets as possessing legitimate power and the Bolsheviks (and, initially, the Left SRs) as the legitimate wielders of that power.

In the spring of 1918, the Mensheviks took up a policy of standing for soviet elections to implement their programme. With some success:

Quote:
"Menshevik newspapers and activists in the trade unions, the Soviets, and the factories had made a considerable impact on a working class which was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the Bolshevik regime, so much so that in many places the Bolsheviks felt constrained to dissolve Soviets or prevent re-elections where Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries had gained majorities." [Israel Getzler, Martov, p. 179]

Other sources make the same point. I can provide them if I really need to. As for the Mensheviks "taking up arms", that is a myth. Schapiro notes this "judgment ignores" the Mensheviks who policy was to remain within legal limits: "The charge that the Mensheviks were not prepared to remain within legal limits is part of the Bolsheviks’ case; it does not survive an examination of the facts." A few individuals did reject the Menshevik "official policy of confining opposition to strictly constitutional means" and they were "expelled from the party, for they had acted without its knowledge." (Leonard Schapiro, The Origin of the Communist Autocracy, p. 355fn and p. 193). Again, other historians make the same point.

As for the Left-SRs, the Bolsheviks gerrymandered the Fifth All-Russian Congress to deny them their rightful majority: Review: The Bolsheviks in Power

berrot wrote:
Of course, by March of 1918, the Soviets had a Civil War and foreign intervention to cope with, and this – quite understandably – led to matters of Soviet democracy taking a lesser priority, and Bolshevik party organisation really began to take over the reins, sidelining Soviet institutions.

You do realise that the Civil War started in May, 1918? As Lenin noted In March, 1918, civil war "became a fact" on October, 25, 1917 and "in this civil war . . . victory was achieved with . . . extraordinary ease . . . The Russia revolution was a continuous triumphal march in the first months." On the 28th of April (apparently after civil war had started, according to some) Lenin argued that his new policies were not driven by the civil war for "[i]n the main . . . the task of suppressing the resistance of the exploiters was fulfilled" (since "(approximately) February 1918.").

But what did Lenin know about it? And they did more than "sideline" soviet institutions,they deliberately changed them and destroyed them to remain in power. Oh, and are you arguing that soviet democracy is impossible during a revolution?

berrot wrote:
Nonetheless, it has to be said that the principal reason for the downfall of Soviet democracy lay in the hands and minds of the working class, who did not defend the Paris Commune principles with sufficient vigour.

When in doubt, blame the proles! In reality, of course, workers did protest against Bolshevik authoritarianism -- and were meet by state repression. For example, the shooting at Kolpino "triggered a massive wave of indignation . . . Work temporarily stopped at a number of plants." In Moscow, Tula, Kolomna, Nizhnii-Novoprod, Rybinsk, Orel, Tver' and elsewhere "workers gathered to issue new protests." In Petrograd, "textile workers went on strike for increased food rations and a wave of demonstrations spread in response to still more Bolshevik arrests." This movement was the "first major wave of labour protest" against the regime, with "protests against some form of Bolshevik repression" being common. [William Rosenberg, Russian Labor and Bolshevik Power, pp. 123-4]

This cycle of workers protest and Bolshevik repression continued right through the civil war, peaking in early 1921.

berrot wrote:
In many ways, it was the inadequacies in their class consciousness which led them to overlook the measures taken to remove democratic controls from them.

Bloody proles! Of course, the use of the Cheka and army had no influence in what happened during protests -- it was due to "inadequacies" in the workers!

berrot wrote:
In this context, Capricorn needs to appreciate that the IBRP, along with the ICC and all other left communist groups worthy of the name, have learned the crucial lesson from October, 1917:

Of course, it would help if you did not defend the Bolsheviks and rationalise their actions once in power. Particularly when what they did in power has clear parallels to their actions in 1905 and their arguments and ideology from 1902 onwards!

capricorn
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Oct 31 2008 16:43

I must confess to being genuinely surprised with the zeal with which the ICC has leapt to the defence of Lenin (especially as he would have regarded them as "infantile" and as "leftist blockheads"). I really hadn't realised to the extent of their Leninism. You live and learn.
But let me leap to the defence of Marx. Anarcho says that the view that on their own workers are only capable of evolving a trade-union consciousness is "Marxist orthodoxy". Certainly, it was Kautsky's view and I know he's supposed to be the Pope of pre-WWI Marxism, but he was in fact criticising a passage in the draft programme of the Austrian Social Democratic Party which stated:

Quote:
The more capitalist development increases the numbers of the proletariat, the more the proletariat is compelled and becomes fit to fight against capitalism. The proletariat becomes conscious of the possibility and of the necessity for Socialism

Kautsky exclaims:

Quote:
In this connection socialist consciousness appears to be a necessary and direct result of the proletarian class struggle. But this is absolutely untrue.

He's entitled to his opinion but it strikes me that the Austrian statement is nearer to Marx's view. In fact, if you read Marx's propaganda writings of the 1840s (Poverty of Philosophy and the Communist Manifesto) and take into account his activities in the IWMA it could be concluded that he thought that socialist consciousness would emerge out of the day-to-day class struggle of the workers. The workers first engage in an individual struggle, then in a collective struggle through trade unions, then in a political struggle in a non-socialist political party, finally in a political struggle in a socialist party. This expectation turned out to be wrong, but it seems to have been his view. He certainly wasn't a Leninist.

berrot
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Oct 31 2008 17:14

Capricorn -
"Why can't you admit that the overthrow of the Provisional Government was not a socialist or working class revolution but a seizure of power by the Bolshevik party which then found itself in charge of governing Russia and had no alternative but to develop capitalism there. The theory of the vanguard party led to the Bolshevik party,to the seizure of power in November 1917, then to the suppression of all other parties, then to the development of state capitalism".

Why can't YOU admit that it was NOT the Bolshevilks who seized power? You know that the seizure of power was undertaken by the Military Revolutionary Committee. You feel able to admit that the Military Revolutionary Committee was the revolutionary instrument of the Soviet system. You must surely admit that the Soviets were the legitimate expression of the working class.
The only logical blockage you now have is your conspiracy theory, gone to outlandish proportions, that the Bolsheviks were cheating on their supporters, hoodwinking them into believing that the Bolsheviks were truly, truly working for the best interestsof the workers, when, of course, really their goal was to steal political power for the Bolsheviks themselves through a coup d'etat. This represents a particularly jaundiced view of workers themselves, that they could be so easily gulled by such manoeuvres: it hardly bodes well for the future of socialism if the salt of the earth can't even recognise such strategems.

1ngram
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Oct 31 2008 19:10

What's essentially at issue here is the relationship between the class and a revolutionary organisation and the unwillingness on the part of some of you to accept that this was not a fixed and static thing but, as they moved through an unprecedented set of events, decadence, WW1, revolution and civil war, a constantly changing situation that real people had to come to terms with, adapt to and come up with responses to. Have a look at this text which appeared in Bulletin 10: http://cbg.110mb.com/Unity.pdf_10.pdf. Like every other political organisation the Bolsheviks came into the revolutionary period trailing all sorts of social democratic afterbirth behind them and the extent of their clarity or confusion exactly mirrored the dynamic of the proletariat's own coming to consciousness itself.

berrot
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Oct 31 2008 21:35

Anarcho –
“the mandates were NOT for a Bolshevik government but rather "soviet power"”.
I agree – and so would the Bolsheviks, which was exactly what all concerned were after. Neither the Bolsheviks nor the Soviet wanted Bolshevik rule: they aimed for Soviet power. The best elements of the Bolsheviks had moved away from notions of the party seizing power – in response to the development of the revolution after February and the demands of workers. This dialectical interaction between party and class had its own dynamics as events took place. The fact that Bolsheviks returned at a later stage to their bourgeois conceptions of party politics (and Trotsky was quite obviously one of these) can principally be ascribed to the loss of huge swathes of the working class (abandonment of the big cities, Civil War...). It is also very much the case that many of the best elements of the workers turned away from active involvement in the revolution because the Soviet system and its Paris Commune principles were undermined by the selfsame Bolsheviks – and this is precisely where lessons must be learned by current revolutionaries.
Anarcho –
“Bloody proles! Of course, the use of the Cheka and army had no influence in what happened during protests -- it was due to "inadequacies" in the workers!”

The inadequacies to which I refer were perfectly understandable. Workers were as susceptible as any Bolshevik to the mystifications of bourgeois party politics. This made them more likely to accept party politicking as part of the natural order, until it was too late to undo the damage done to soviet democracy.
Anarcho –
“Of course, it would help if you did not defend the Bolsheviks”.
I am not in the game of “defending” – and certainly not promoting of the views of – the Bolsheviks. Their actions had a profound effect on the degeneration of the revolution – as I have already elaborated – but mere condemnation only makes us self-satisfied. We need to examine what they did, understand just a little about the context and their motives, for the sake of learning some lessons of history. And part of that learning has to include analysing the changing relationship between the Bolsheviks and the working class.

capricorn
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Nov 1 2008 07:10
Quote:
conspiracy

Of course the Bolshevik seizure of power was a conspiracy, Berrot. Just re-read Trotsky's book where he more or less admits this, revealing that the Military Revolutionary Committee took its orders directly from the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party and not from the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet. Have you reached this part yet, 安藤鈴?
This wouldn't be the first (nor was it the last) time that the workers were hoodwinked by a group of would-be Leaders. The lesson, surely, is that workers should rely on their own democratic self-organisation and tell all those who want to lead them, whether parliamentarians or vanguard partyists, where to go.

Dave B
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Nov 1 2008 11:18
berrot wrote:
This represents a particularly jaundiced view of workers themselves, that they could be so easily gulled by such manoeuvres: it hardly bodes well for the future of socialism if the salt of the earth can't even recognise such strategems.

Yes, who could have such a jaundiced view that the working class which;

Quote:
exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness, i.e., the conviction that it is necessary to combine in unions, fight the employers, and strive to compel the government to pass necessary labour legislation, etc.

could be easily gulled into supporting a party that was;

Quote:
straining towards the workers.

And putting forward;

Quote:
philosophic, historical, and economic theories elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1901/witbd/ii.htm

I couldn’t agree more that ‘it hardly bodes well for the future of socialism if the salt of the earth can't even recognise such stratagems’.

You could personally make a start on it yourself though.

Unless an attempt is being made again by the Leninist intellectuals to gull us, this time into believing we cannot be gulled by Leninist intellectuals.

Fore warned is fore armed.

On the ‘class’ interests of the state bureaucracy or a kind of Bakuninist ‘political aristocracy’ we have from early very Karl

Quote:
The bureaucracy has the being of the state, the spiritual being of society, in its possession; it is its private property. The general spirit of the bureaucracy is the secret, the mystery, preserved inwardly by means of the hierarchy and externally as a closed corporation. To make public -the mind and the disposition of the state appears therefore to the bureaucracy as a betrayal of its mystery.

Accordingly authority is the principle of its knowledge and being, and the deification of authority is its mentality. But at the very heart of the bureaucracy this spiritualism turns into a crass materialism, the materialism of passive obedience, of trust in authority, the mechanism of an ossified and formalistic behaviour, of fixed principles, conceptions, and traditions. As far as the individual bureaucrat is concerned, the end of the state becomes his private end: a pursuit of higher posts, the building of a career.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/ch03.htm

What perhaps we could do with at this point is a bit of honest and clear-headed thinking from the man himself Leon Trotsky on the administration of Bolshevik state capitalism ;

Quote:
"This, however, does not rule out the element of compulsion in all its forms, from the most gentle to the extremely severe. The element of obligatoriness, of state compulsion, not only does not disappear from the historical scene, but, on the contrary, will still play, for a considerable period, an extremely big role."

"As a general rule, man (the working class) strives to avoid work. Love of work is not at all an inborn characteristic: it is created by economic pressure and social education. One may even say that man (the working class) is a rather lazy animal."

Quote:
"the socialist state which is being built needs trade unions not for a struggle for better conditions of labour – that is a task for the social and state organisation as a whole

(state capitalist vanguard class-just trust us)

Quote:
– but in order to organise the working class for production purposes, to educate, discipline, distribute, group and attach certain categories of workers and individual workers to their posts for certain periods of time: in short, to exercise their authority, hand in hand with the state (capitalists), "

And a couple of paragraphs later, in capitalism proper everything is or was completely different because;

Quote:
" the bourgeoisie ( and their capitalist state) learned how to take control even of trade unionism, that is, of the organisations of the working class itself, and made extensive use of them, especially in Britain, to discipline the workers. It domesticated the leaders and by means of them inculcated in the workers a conviction that peaceful, organic labour was a necessity, with a faultless attitude to their duties and strict obedience to the laws of the bourgeois state. The crown of all this work was Taylorism, in which elements of scientific organisation of the production process are combined with the most concentrated methods of the sweating system"

Under state capitalism Taylorism would mean an entirely different thing, thus;

Quote:
"Under capitalism, piece-work and lumpwork, the application of the Taylor system, and so on, had as their object to increase the exploitation of the workers by squeezing out surplus value. Under socialised production, piece-wages, bonuses, and so on, serve the purpose of increasing the volume of the social product, and, consequently, raising the general level of prosperity.

(for the vanguard class).

Quote:
Those workers who do more for the common interest receive the right to a larger share of the social product than the lazy, the careless and the disorganisers

(free trade unionists) "

Quote:
"Repression for the attainment of economic ends is a necessary weapon of the socialist dictatorship"

Also known as state capitalism, what self respecting state capitalist could disagree with that?

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1920/military/ch17.htm

ajjohnstone
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Nov 1 2008 11:56

Another tuppence worth

Quote:
The state capitalism, which is one of the principal aspects of the New Economic Policy, is, under Soviet power, a form of capitalism that is deliberately permitted and restricted by the working class. Our state capitalism differs essentially from the state capitalism in countries that have bourgeois governments in that the state with us is represented not by the bourgeoisie, but by the proletariat, who has succeeded in winning the full confidence of the peasantry.
Unfortunately, the introduction of state capitalism with us is not proceeding as quickly as we would like it. For example, so far we have not had a single important concession, and without foreign capital to help develop our economy, the latter’s quick rehabilitation is inconceivable.
http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/nov/14b.htm

Confirming as Paresh Chattopadhyay says elsewhere on this website

Quote:
Lenin conceives socialism basically in terms of ownership form of the means of production rather than in terms of the (social) relations of production. And he posits 'social ownership' of the means of production (in socialism) against capitalism's private ownership uniquely in the sense of "private ownership of separate individuals". Here again Lenin is several steps backward compared to Marx. For Marx juridical relations (forms) have no independent existence, they simply arise from the economic, that is, production relations......social ownership in Lenin (for socialism) does not mean society's ownership that is, direct appropriation by society itself. It is rather state ownership where the state is by supposition a working class state. This identification of state ownership with ownership by the whole society is, again, absent from Marx's texts. Indeed, far from social ownership being identical with (working class) state ownership, socialism - even in its Leninist identification with Marx's lower phase of communism - excludes not only individual private ownership of the means of production but also (working class) state ownership, inasmuch as the first phase of the Association arrives on the historical scene only at the end of the transformation period coinciding with the end of the proletariat and its political rule ("state" if you like). The mode of appropriation becomes for the first time directly social. This is the real social ownership that Marx envisages...
http://libcom.org/library/socialism-marx-early-bolshevism-chattopadhyay

And Paresh on Trotsky

Quote:
Trotsky's approach to socialism is predominantly juridical. In order to establish socialism the principal task is to win the fight against private capital, which means abolishing "individual ownership" of the means of production. With the most important industries in the hands of the workers' state, class exploitation ceases to exist taking capitalism along with it. However Trotsky at the same time affirms that the struggle between "state capital and private capital" continues, the abolition of capitalism through the elimination of individual ownership of a means of production notwithstanding.
For Trotsky capitalism is a system of private (individual) ownership in the means of production and market regulation of the economy. Consequently socialist economy appears as a centralised, directed economy in which a general plan would establish the allocation of society's material means of production and (living) labour among different branches of the economy. In other words, a socialist economy is a planned "state economy" where planning would mean abolition of the market
piter
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Nov 1 2008 11:58
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Oh, they permit the activity of the workers. That is so nice of them.

sorry for my poor english...
what I should have said is render possible or facilitate under the conditions of illegality, the activity of a broad worker movement, with a press, without getting thrown into jail every two months etc...

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As Kropotkin put it there "is almost no serious strike which occurs together wwith the appearance of troops, the exchange of blows and some acts of revolt. Here they fight with the troops; there they march on the factories . . . Thanks to government intervention the rebel against the factory becomes the rebel against the State." Economic struggles become political struggles, workers learn from said struggles and how the state reacts.

Lenin was okay with that, he was indeed arguing against those who wanted to restrict workers to strictly economic struggle, while workers tended to struggle more and more against tsarism. he said that on that the socialists were lagging behind the more advanced workers, and that it was a shame.
also the main point in what is to be done is that struggle against autocracy was the priority, and he mocks those in favor of strictly trade unionist activity because they think it is possible under tsarism when each and every strikes are facing repression, so...

just in passing, I'll try to go back to the discussuion, when I have the time...

berrot
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Nov 1 2008 23:21

Capricorn -
"Just re-read Trotsky's book where he more or less admits this, revealing that the Military Revolutionary Committee took its orders directly from the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party and not from the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet".
I'd be genuinely interested to see the sentence where he "more or less" admits the MRC took its orders from the Bolshevik Party - I'm afraid I don't have my copy at the moment.

"The lesson, surely, is that workers should rely on their own democratic self-organisation and tell all those who want to lead them, whether parliamentarians or vanguard partyists, where to go".
I absolutely agree, Capricorn, that workers should follow your advice in this way. How do you feel about fellow-workers who offer advice and the benefit of their experience and learning in the course of debate within these autonomous institutions? Or are the workers' councils supposed to operate in a vacuum?

Dave B
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Nov 2 2008 14:25

The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-23, E.H.Carr, Chapter Four, From February to October

Quote:
The critical moment was now at hand, being fixed by the decision to strike the blow before the second All-Russian Congress of Soviets on the evening of 25 October. On the eve of the appointed day the central committee met to put the final touch to some practical arrangements; Kamenev- the decision of four days earlier having been reversed or forgotten- resumed his seat.

Trotsky asked that members of the committee should be attached to the military-revolutionary committee of the Petrograd Soviet to look after postal and telegraphic and railway communication and to keep watch on the Provisional Government.

Dzerzhinsky was detailed for railways Bubnov for posts and telegraphs, Sverdnov for the provisional government; and Milyutin was put in charge of food supplies. An embryonic administration was taking shape within the party committee. In the early morning of 25 October 1917 the Bolshevik forces went into action…………in the afternoon Lenin announced to the Petrograd Soviet the triumph……..

If that doesn’t look like a Blanquist style coup d’état I don’t know what does.

As I remember it the Military Revolutionary Committee was packed with Bolsheviks with a handful of SR’s and Anarchists.

I think you would have to be gullible beyond belief not to think Military Revolutionary Committee was not taking orders from directly from the Bolshevik central committee.

From another source;

The Lessons of October
Chapter 7
The October Insurrection and Soviet 'Legality'

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But we were also interested in making use of soviet legality. At the conclusion of the Democratic Conference we extracted from the conciliationists a promise to convene the Second Soviet Congress. This congress placed them in an extremely embarrassing position. On the one hand, they could not oppose convening it without breaking with soviet legality; on the other hand, they could not help seeing that the congress – because of its composition – boded them little good. In consequence, all the more insistently did we appeal to the Second Congress as the real master of the country; and all the more did we adapt our entire preparatory work to the support and defense of the Congress of Soviets against the inevitable attacks of the counter-revolution. If the conciliationists attempted to hook us with soviet legality through the Pre-Parliament emanating from the soviets, then we, on our part, lured them with the same soviet legality – through the Second Congress.

It is one thing to prepare an armed insurrection under the naked slogan of the seizure of power by the party, and quite another thing to prepare and then carry out an insurrection under the slogan of defending the rights of the Congress of Soviets. Thus, the adaptation of the question of the seizure of power to the Second Soviet Congress did not involve any naive hopes that the congress itself could settle the question of power. Such fetishism of the soviet form was entirely alien to us. All the necessary work for the conquest of power, not only the political but also the organizational and military-technical work for the seizure of power, went on at full speed. But the legal cover for all this work was always provided by an invariable reference to the coming congress, which would settle the question of power. Waging an offensive all along the line, we kept up the appearance of being on the defensive.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1924/lessons/ch7.htm

capricorn
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Nov 2 2008 22:40

Thanks Dave for your help. I'm not a fully paid-up member of the Dead Russians Society. I just took out temporary membership to take part in this discussion. But I have looked again at Trotsky's book on the Russian Revolution and, Berrot, re-read the chapter headed the "Military Revolutionary Committee" where Trotsky says that the insurrection was decided by the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party and that the Soviet's Military Revolutionary Committe, over which he presided, obliged.
Incidentally, in this chapter Trotsky says that the meeting of the Central Committee that took this decision met in the apartment of Sukhanov without him knowing. Nikolai Sukhanov was anti-Tsarist Russian revolutionary close at the time to the Menshevik-Internationalists who kept a diary of the events which Joel Carmichael used as a basis for his A Short History of the Russian Revolution, first published in 1964. To understand the Russian Revolution and Bolshevik coup both these should be read as well as Trotsky's own account.

berrot
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Nov 4 2008 00:29

Capricorn –
“I have looked again at Trotsky's book on the Russian Revolution and, Berrot, re-read the chapter headed the "Military Revolutionary Committee" where Trotsky says that the insurrection was decided by the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party and that the Soviet's Military Revolutionary Committee, over which he presided, obliged.”

Well, Capricorn, you do surprise me here, because (having found and downloaded a copy of that selfsame chapter) I don’t think he actually does say the “insurrection was decided by the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party”. The MRC was, in fact, proposed on 9 October by the Compromisers (adopting Trotsky’s terminology) – not the Bolsheviks - for the defence of the revolution. It was not until 19 October that the Bolshevik CC met and decided, by 10 votes to 2, to prepare for the seizure of power. And before you exclaim that here I am admitting to Bolshevik scheming, it is necessary to clarify that insurrection would only be placed on the agenda once the Petrograd Soviet agreed to it – as, of course, it did. But then, naturally, you would argue that such a recourse to workers’ democracy only reveals the devious, low cunning of Vlad the Usurper!

(I reproduce below the relevant section of the chapter – putting into bold print the crucial phrases)

“Attempting to kindle the patriotism of the masses by threatening the loss of Petrograd, the Compromisers introduced into the Soviet on October 9 a motion to create a “Committee of Revolutionary Defence.” whose task should be to take part in the defence of the capital with the active co-operation of the workers. While refusing to assume responsibility for “the so-called strategy of the Provisional Government and in particular the removal of troops from Petrograd,” the Soviet nevertheless had made no haste to express itself upon the substance of the order removing the soldiers, but had decided to test its motives and the facts upon which it was based. The Mensheviks had raised a protest: It is not permissible to interfere in the operative orders of the commanding staff. But it was only a month and a half since they had talked the same way about the conspiratorial orders of Kornilov, and they were reminder of this. In order to test the question whether the removal of the troops was dictated by military or political considerations, competent body was needed. To the extreme surprise of the Compromisers the Bolsheviks accepted the idea of a “Committee of Defence.” This committee should be the one to gather all data relating to the defence of the capital. That was an important step. Having snatched this dangerous weapon from the hands of the enemy, the Soviet remained in a position to turn the decision about removing the troops this way or that according to circumstances – but in any case against the government and the Compromisers.

The Bolsheviks quite naturally seized upon this Menshevik project of a military committee, for there had been conversations often enough in their own ranks about the necessity of creating in good season an authoritative Soviet committee to lead the coming insurrection. In the Military Organisation of the party they had even drawn up plans for such a body. The one difficulty they had not yet got over was that of reconciling an instrument of insurrection with an elective and openly functioning Soviet, upon whose benches, moreover, sat representatives of the hostile parties. The patriotic proposal of the Mensheviks, therefore, came up most appropriately, and came up just in time to assist in the creation of a revolutionary headquarters – a body soon to be renamed “Military Revolutionary Committee” and to become the chief lever of the revolution.”

Not that Trotsky always held to such views. It should be remembered that his History of the revolution was written well after the events analysed, well after all semblance of Soviet democracy had been swept away (not least of all, with Trotsky’s own broom) and after the period of the cult of the Party. This merely illustrates what I suggested earlier – that participants in historic events are affected by those events as well as influencing them. It is interesting to note that Trotsky was one of the few notable participants in the 1905 revolution to recognise the significance of the Soviets as the instrument of the dictatorship of the proletariat: in glaring contrast to both Lenin and Luxemburg.

And weren’t those Bolshies the last word in princely machiavellianism. Huddling furtively in their conspiracy corners, they were just soooo secretive, what with announcing to all around them what they intended to do, including those nice Mensheviks in the Provisional Government, who were fully aware (alongside the working class) that the power was about to be seized, because the MRC and the Bolsheviks were so unprepared to conceal the fact. (Indeed, the Pre-Parliament was informed on 19 October by Kerensky that he was aware an uprising was planned by the MRC). The reaction of the Provisional Government was, on the 16th, to order the departure from Petrograd of the garrison. This led the garrison to formally withdraw its allegiance to the Provisional government, pledging to only obey the orders of the Petrograd Soviet through the MRC. As a “coup”, it was the best-advertised conspiracy of all time!

And how about the slogan “All power to the Soviets”? This was Vlad the Usurper’s slogan from his arrival in the capital: this was during the period when the Mensheviks were in the majority on the executive positions in the workers’ and soldiers’ soviets. So Vlad the arch-conspirator was demanding the likes of Chkeidze, Skobeliev and Kerensky should seize control! Now that was really a cunning ploy! Wow!