Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution

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Joined: 22-10-06
Nov 28 2008 16:21
Angelus Novus wrote:
What the hell have you been smoking?

I suppose being accused of being on drugs is somewhat better than being called mental...

Angelus Novus wrote:
I've only stated two dozen times on this BBS that Marx's entire political orientation is of no particular interest to me whatsoever, since it is his critique of political economy that is his lasting contribution.

Oh, right, you expect people to actually bother to read what they write? Perhaps they will do, when you do the same thing back to them....

Angelus Novus wrote:
In fact, I've even told you directly in another thread that I'm not even a Marxist.

Hell, even Marx said he wasn't a Marxist! Sorry, but your arrogant and pretentious name-calling, combined with writting gibberish came across as very "Marxist" (although, of course, many Marxists are not like that).

Angelus Novus wrote:
Do you even follow any of the threads on this BBS except for the ones you pounce on with your Bakunin idolatry?

Actually, we were having a discussion on the Russian revolution before you jumped in with your insulting comments on my goodself. I mentioned Bakunin in response to the ICC proclaiming certain "lessons" from the experience. I simply pointed out that these "lessons" had been suggested by anarchists back in the 1860s and 1870s, which would be considered significant to most people. I asked what had taken the "Marxists" so long to come to the same conclusion, at which point someone dismissed Bakuin. At which point, I suggested that we had something to learn from him -- and listed some of them.

So, to be honest, the notion that I "pounced" on this theory is wrong. If anything, you pounced on this thread to display your pretentiousness and, of course, your dislike of anyone mentioning Bakunin in a positive light.

Angelus Novus wrote:
Kill the straw man in your head. I don't recall ever giving two shits about Bakunin's respective positions vs. Marx's within the First International.

Shame, as the discussions in the first international laid the framwork for the next 5 decades of the socialist and labour movements. It also sheds some light on the lessons learned after 1917 and subsequently. But perhaps there is little point in trying to learn the lessons of history, eh?

Angelus Novus wrote:
Go find yourself an actual Marxist if you want to have those sorts of irrelevant discussions.

actually, I was having a discussion with an actual Marxist before you interrupted.

Angelus Novus wrote:
I'm talking about theoretical influence upon today's extra-parliamentary milieu. Stale debates about the organizational structures of a dead International are of interest only to sectarian wingnuts like yourself.

Er, no, you are talking pretentious, jargon riddled, gibberish. I would sooner have a "stale" debate in clear language than a so-called "theoretical" one which reads like nonsense.

And I'm a sectarian wingnut? Me? Really, someone who respects Marx's contributions to the critique of political economy? Who recommends the works of council communists like Paul Mattick and Autonomists like Harry Cleaver? So, no, I just see the limitations of Marx -- and the various "Marxisms" which take what they find useful from him, ignoring the awkward bits they dislike.

And what was my "sectarian" point? To suggest that the conclusions the ICC drew from the Russian revolution are identical to those drawn by Bakunin and the anarchists a mere 5 decades previously! Asking what took them so long? Yes, really sectarian to point out that Bakunin had drawn the same conclusions and, perhaps, should be read! The horrors! Presumably a true "non-sectarian" would be the person who dismissed Bakunin out of hand!

Angelus Novus wrote:
The extra-parliamentary milieu I am familiar with have debates about whether "ideology" should probably be understood in the sense of a "false consciousness" necessarily generated by the commodity form, or whether ideology is a trans-historical phenomenon that always mediates between subjects and society.

what is that in English?

Angelus Novus wrote:
They have discussions about possible affinities between Poulantzas' conception of the state as a condensation of the balance of forces in society, and Agnoli's observation that the state is not "superstructure" but rather first constitutes the relationship between social classes.

Oh, name dropping... but that almost makes sense. From what i can see, this seems to be a discussion on the limitations on Marxist ideology. Of course, "Agnoli's observation" can be found in Bakunin. Anarchists have long pointed out that states may come before economic classes. Still, nice to see others catching up...

Angelus Novus wrote:
They discuss Foucault and Butler on the social construction of binary gender identities and sexualities and criticize the latter for what they perceive as an affirmative turn away from the thought of the former.

What is that in English?

Angelus Novus wrote:
When it's about practical issues, they talk about occupying airport runways to prevent deportations, or the appropriate way to deal with rapists within the scene. Or about how to conduct agitation among dole recipients and "1-Euro jobbers". Or how to deal with Nazis cropping up in previously "left" city neighborhoods..

Of course, no anarchists do any form of direct action... Oh, btw, do they do more than "talk about" these things?

Angelus Novus wrote:
The "anarchism versus marxism" game plays pretty much no role whatsoever, because it's completely irrelevant to both theoretical discussions and practical struggles.

Interesting. So we should not point out that certain "Marxists" have come to the same conclusions as anarchists? That there is nothing to be learned from the fact that, say, Bakunin's predictions on Marxism have been proven true while Marx's strategies have failed?

Still, I guess history must be bunk -- after all, what could we possibly learn from the Russian revolution? As we were discussing before Angelus Novus popped in....

Angelus Novus wrote:
It's just that in terms of theoretical discussion, Marx's name is extremely prominent, whereas anarchism has not left behind a single lasting theoretical contribution whatsoever.

Not that that makes Angelus a to "sectarian wingnut", of course! Ah, the irony...

I'm not sure whether to take Angelus Novus seriously. He denounces me as a sectarian while dismissing anarchism out of hand! He talks of "theretical discussion" but then spouts gibberish (I feel if he had anything positive to contribute he would make an effort to make it clear and understandable).

As for Marx's "lasting theoretical contribution", well, that is the whole point. He made significant contributions to the socialist critique of capitalism (but these need to be built on, not idolised) but in terms of political strategy and vision of revolution, his ideas were totally wrong -- and proven to be, time and time again.

Significantly, these failings were predicted by Bakunin and other anarchists. Moreover, many "Marxists" have (belatedly) came to the same conclusions as Bakunin did on a whole range of subjects (anti-parliamentarism, workers councils, general strike, etc.)

I would say that is fact, in itself, suggests that anarchism has made many a "lasting theoretical contribution" -- and has done so in clear and understandable language!

But, apparently, to point this out is to be a "sectarian wingnut"! If only I were as non-sectarian as Angelus, dismissing anarchist out of hand....

Dave B
Joined: 3-08-08
Nov 28 2008 19:16

Hi Anarcho

I will take the first and third quote that you gave as in that, the bit that you no doubt accidentally left out, is particularly relevant.

I think it is fairly obvious, certainly now, that universal suffrage does not constitute political power for the working class. And that perhaps under our system the object is to;

reduce the political power of the masses of the people to a semblance of power

cited from the same source as your first quote.

The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850, Part II, From June 1848 to June 13, 1849

Karl and Fred always affected optimism as to the growing and inevitable class consciousness of the working class. However from the source of your third quote Karl recognised that real political power, as opposed to a semblance of it ,depended for the working class on a ‘clear consciousness of its position as a class’ as well being in a majority and having obtained universal suffrage.

, But Universal Suffrage a is the equivalent for political power for the working class of England, where the proletariat forms the large majority of the population, where, in a long, though underground civil war, it has gained a clear consciousness of its position as a class, and where even the rural districts know no longer any peasants, but only landlords, industrial capitalists (farmers) and hired laborers.

I think later they did come to see more clearly how universal suffrage could be used as an instrument by the capitalist class to decieve the workers into keeping the capitalist class in ‘political power’.

Frederick Engels, Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State, Chapter IX: Barbarism and Civilization

In addition to America, the latest French republic illustrates this strikingly, and honest little Switzerland has also given a creditable performance in this field. But that a democratic republic is not essential to this brotherly bond between government and stock exchange is proved not only by England, but also by the new German Empire, where it is difficult to say who scored most by the introduction of universal suffrage, Bismarck or the Bleichroder bank. And lastly the possessing class rules directly by means of universal suffrage. As long as the oppressed class - in our case, therefore, the proletariat - is not yet ripe for its self-liberation, so long will it, in its majority, recognize the existing order of society as the only possible one and remain politically the tall of the capitalist class, its extreme left wing.

But in the measure in which it matures towards its self-emancipation, in the same measure it constitutes itself as its own party and votes for its own representatives, not those of the capitalists. Universal suffrage is thus the gauge of the maturity of the working class. It cannot and never will be anything more in the modern state; but that is enough. On the day when the thermometer of universal suffrage shows boiling-point among the workers, they as well as the capitalists will know where they stand.

The state, therefore, has not existed from all eternity. There have been societies which have managed without it, which had no notion of the state or state power. At a definite stage of economic development, which necessarily involved the cleavage of society into classes, the state became a necessity because of this cleavage. We are now rapidly approaching a stage in the development of production at which the existence of these classes has not only ceased to be a necessity, but becomes a positive hindrance to production.

They will fall as inevitably as they once arose. The state inevitably falls with them. The society which organizes production anew on the basis of free and equal association of the producers will put the whole state machinery where it will then belong - into the museum of antiquities, next to the spinning wheel and the bronze ax.

And bouncing back in another direction;

The Class Struggles In France, Introduction by Frederick Engels

The franchise has been, in the words of the French Marxist program, "transformé, de moyen de deperie gu'il a été jusqu'ici, en instrument d' émancipation"—they have transformed it from a means of deception, which it was heretofore, into an instrument of emancipation

Joined: 19-06-07
Nov 29 2008 02:31

Will nobody from the ICC answer my question?

Joined: 19-06-07
Nov 29 2008 02:31

Will nobody from the ICC answer my question?

Dave B
Joined: 3-08-08
Nov 29 2008 14:32

Hi yoshomon

Perhaps the answer on the meaning of Bolshevik ‘intransigence’ can be found from Lenin himself.

So from the work that Berkman the Anarchist refused to translate and thus endorse as a compromise too far for an ‘intransigent’ anarchist.

Vladimir Lenin’s, Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder, No Compromises?

"...All compromise with other parties ... any policy of manoeuvring and compromise must be emphatically rejected,"

the German Lefts write in the Frankfurt pamphlet.

It is surprising that, with such views, these Lefts do not emphatically condemn Bolshevism! After all, the German Lefts cannot but know that the entire history of Bolshevism, both before and after the October Revolution, is full of instances of changes of tack, conciliatory tactics and compromises with other parties, including bourgeois parties!

To carry on a war for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie, a war which is a hundred times more difficult, protracted and complex than the most stubborn of ordinary wars between states, and to renounce in advance any change of tack, or any utilisation of a conflict of interests (even if temporary) among one’s enemies, or any conciliation or compromise with possible allies (even if they are temporary, unstable, vacillating or conditional allies)—is that not ridiculous in the extreme?

Is it not like making a difficult ascent of an unexplored and hitherto inaccessible mountain and refusing in advance ever to move in zigzags, ever to retrace one’s steps, or ever to abandon a course once selected, and to try others? And yet people so immature and inexperienced (if youth were the explanation, it would not be so bad; young people are preordained to talk such nonsense for a certain period) have met with support—whether direct or indirect, open or covert, whole or partial, it does not matter—from some members of the Communist Party of Holland.

Angelus Novus
Joined: 27-07-06
Dec 1 2008 01:42
Anarcho wrote:
Hell, even Marx said he wasn't a Marxist!

Except that in Marx's case, he was distancing himself from a specific group of epigones. When I say I'm not a Marxist, I don't mean it in the sense that some Marxists do in order to prove how non-dogmatic they are. I mean I am not even a Marxist in the broadest, most charitable sense, and reject central tenets of what most Marxists across a broad spectrum would consider to be the "common" features of Marxism.

I simply pointed out that these "lessons" had been suggested by anarchists back in the 1860s and 1870s, which would be considered significant to most people.

"Most people"?

Shame, as the discussions in the first international laid the framwork for the next 5 decades of the socialist and labour movements. It also sheds some light on the lessons learned after 1917 and subsequently. But perhaps there is little point in trying to learn the lessons of history, eh?

The classical labor and socialist movements are long dead, and the various wings contained within them -- anarchist, Marxist, Lassallean, etc. -- share far more preconceptions and proceed from similar assumptions than they exhibit any fundamental differences. Partisanship in the service of Marx or Bakunin is like picking a side concerning various Christian heresies of the Middle Ages.

what is that in English?

Last I checked, "ideology", "commodity", and "society" were all fairly common words in the English-language. If you have trouble understanding what I wrote, it's because you have problems parsing a sentence, not because I'm using rarefied language.

Of course, "Agnoli's observation" can be found in Bakunin. Anarchists have long pointed out that states may come before economic classes.

No it can't, because Agnoli's observation has nothing to do with some notion of the state having a historical existence prior to classes. Rather, the point is that the forms of social mediation inherent to the commodity do not constitute some "economic base" upon which the state rests as an "ideological superstructure", as is commonly argued by classical Marxists. Rather, the state as a form of mediation creates the necessary legal forms and abstract juridical subjects that is the logical precondition for the mediation of productive relations by the commodity-form.

What is that in English?

Again, as far as I know, "gender" and "sexuality" are perfectly common English words, so if you have problems understanding what I wrote, it's probably because you're far more concerned with scholastic debates concerning the 19th century labor movement.

Which returns to my original point: If I visit three leftist "scene" bars in my neighborhood on a given weeknight, I'm far more likely to hear the name "Judith Butler" than the name "Mikhail Bakunin" in casual conversation. And I'm not talking about a university seminar, either. I mean just regular "scene" activists.

Of course, no anarchists do any form of direct action...

Who claimed anarchists didn't? Are you now inventing claims to refute?

So we should not point out that certain "Marxists" have come to the same conclusions as anarchists?

Do whatever you want, but it's utterly trivial, like pointing out that some anarchists and Marxists both shop at H&M.

That there is nothing to be learned from the fact that, say, Bakunin's predictions on Marxism have been proven true while Marx's strategies have failed?

I don't know what you think can be learned about struggles between tendencies in the 19th century workers movement. What I've learned from Marx is contained in _Capital_ and the _Grundrisse_, and still offers very fruitful material for critical social theory today.

Can't say the same for Bakunin, whose writings are of purely historical interest. I suppose if you were writing a dissertation on the 19th century labor movement, they would be really essential, but other than that...

I'm not sure whether to take Angelus Novus seriously. He denounces me as a sectarian while dismissing anarchism out of hand!

I'm not "dismissing" anything. I made a factual, objective statement about the influence of classical anarchist "thinkers" on the extra-parliamentary milieu where I live, which is pretty much zero. The point was to refute your claim about Bakunin's supposed relevance.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Joined: 14-03-06
Dec 1 2008 07:05
Angelus Novus wrote:
Rather, the point is that the forms of social mediation inherent to the commodity do not constitute some "economic base" upon which the state rests as an "ideological superstructure", as is commonly argued by classical Marxists. Rather, the state as a form of mediation creates the necessary legal forms and abstract juridical subjects that is the logical precondition for the mediation of productive relations by the commodity-form.

as an aside, isn't the base/superstructure thing more althusser than marxism per se, and didn't hobbes make this observation 400 years ago arguing for the necessity of a leviathan state to guarantee the rights of free and equal bourgeois subjects in the marketplace?

Alf's picture
Joined: 6-07-05
Dec 1 2008 09:00 you mean the one about what intransigence means?
If we're talking about Brest Litovsk, I would argue that all three positions within the Bolshevik party (Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin) were 'intransigent', firm, solid, uncompromising etc on the basic principles of internationalism - concessions on land when someone holds a knife to your throat is not the same as selling out a basic principle, such as the rejection of secret diplomacy, alliance with bourgeois powers, putting the interests of Russia before those of the world revolution. There was a clear difference, for example, between the approach to Brest Litovsk and the approach to the Rappallo Treaty in 1922, conducted in secret and involving an alliance with German imperialism against other powers.

Joined: 19-06-07
Dec 2 2008 19:54

I do not understand how this document can be held up as an example of internationalist intransigence.

Demogorgon303's picture
Joined: 5-07-05
Dec 5 2008 09:59

I'm not sure what you mean Yoshomon. It was a peace treaty and that's what peace treaties look like. I fail to see how negotiating a peace with a knife at your throat, when you have no means to defend yourself (the Russian army had collapsed), when the enemy force has routed you on the battlefield and was in sight of the major cities, etc. is any more a betrayal of internationalism than shooting down German workers in uniform in a hopeless resistance.

Note also that the Bolsheviks completely ignored Article II and were instrumental in providing support for the German revolution through their embassy in Berlin.

Dave B
Joined: 3-08-08
Dec 20 2008 17:03

Dave C mentioned the Mensheviks on the;

‘Radical perspectives on the crisis’ thread Dec 9 2008 no 218.

I am respondingto this by transferring it over to this more relevant thread.

I think I would like to start off by making my personal position clear that I am not a Menshevik nor could I be one , even if I wanted to. However I do have some sympathy with their approach and position from a historical perspective.

Having said that, obtaining a clear historical perspective on the Mensheviks is not a particularly easy task unless perhaps you are a professional historian etc as there is little that is readily available about them for the likes of myself.

They were however a ‘left wing’ or revolutionary party that paid at least lip service to Marxism that split from the Bolsheviks around 1903. This split was basically due to Lenin’s authoritarian proposals for the organisation of the party and what that might lead to.

I think the Leninist historian E.H. Carr summed up the situation or causes of the split reasonably well as follows in chapter 2 volume one, ’The Bolshevik Revolution’, in terms that became prescient considering, events, debates and terminology of what followed ;

Lenin was now declared guilty of fostering a ’sectarian spirit of exclusiveness’. In an article entitled ‘Centralism or Bonapartism?’ he was accused of ‘confusing the dictatorship of the proletariat with the dictatorship over the proletariat’, and practising ‘Bonapartism, if not absolute absolute monarchy in the old pre revolutionary style’. His view of the relation of the professional revolutionary to the masses was not that of Marx, but of Bakunin.

Martov, reverting to the idea which he had propunded at the congress, wrote a pamphlet on ‘The Struggle Against Martial Law In The Russian Social Democratic Workers Party’. Vera Zasulich wrote that Louis XIV idea of the state was Lenins idea of the party. The party printing press, now under Menshevik auspices, published a brilliantly vituperative pamphlet by Trotsky entitled ‘Our Political Tasks’; the present Menshevik affiliations of the author were proclaimed by the dedication..…….Lenins methods were attacked as a ‘dull characture of the tragic intransigence of jacobinism’ and a situation predicted in which , ‘the party is replaced by the organisation of the party, the organisation by the central committee and finally the central committee the dictator’.

The final chapter bore the title ‘The Dictatorship Over The Proleteriat’.

(There is a bit of a mystery here as the ‘last chapter’ was not called that at all, according to the available Trot translation. It is possible that the last chapter was so ‘good’ that they decided to leave it out!)

Trotsky was in fact just pamphleteering the general Menshevik position, the history of what eventually happened is I think a testimony to the Mensheviks understanding of Bolshevism and what it could lead to.
A lot of the debate was over the Marxist Menshevik position of ‘revolution from below’ versus the Leninist position of ‘revolution from above’. The revolution from above idea of Bolshevism ran through Lenin’s ideology all the way through the to Russian revolution and after.

Although Lenin sweetened it with his ‘both from above and below’ kind of thing.

This approach of vanguardism or Blanquism had been completely rejected by Marx and Engels as in; The Program of the Blanquist Fugitives from the Paris Commune.

And in;

The Class Struggles In France, Introduction by Frederick Engels;

There was a secondary and related issue and that was what the class conscious workers and their party should do in the event of a capitalist revolution or in other words the overthrow of feudalism in their case in Russia.

The orthodox Marxist position, whether you agree with it or not, was that they could assist or work with the capitalist class to overthrow feudalism for the sake of historical progress, for the want of a better expression. Following on from the idea that socialism could only come after the full development of capitalism.

So much so that even Lenin didn’t challenge that idea in 1905 and wouldn’t have dared suggest, in 1905 anyway, that socialism could be introduced after 6 months of ‘bourgeois’ capitalism.

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

It is this mistake of the Socialists-Revolutionaries that we Social-Democrats have always ridiculed—their claim that the revolution will be “democratic and not bourgeois”. We have constantly said that the revolution would strengthen the bourgeoisie, not weaken it, but that it would create for the proletariat the necessary conditions for waging a successful struggle for socialism.

Elsewhere in this tract Lenin, in this albeit one sided debate from the Bolsheviks, we can also get some idea of the position of the Mensheviks.

It is clear from it, concerning the impending capitalist revolution, that the Mensheviks are using a letter by Engels to Turati against a policy of the Bolsheviks of participating in government after the capitalist revolution.

The letter is Engels to Filippo Turati, London, January 26, 1894;

We have to guess that what was being referred to is the following passage concerning the part that could be played by class conscious workers party in a bourgeois revolution and on this issue of not partaking in government later.

But if it comes to this, we must be conscious of the fact, and openly proclaim it, that we are only taking part as an "independent Party," which is allied for the moment with Radicals and Republicans but is inwardly essentially different from them: that we indulge in absolutely no illusions as to the result of the struggle in case of victory; that this result not only cannot satisfy us but will only be a newly attained stage to us, a new basis of operations for further conquests; that from the very moment of victory our paths will separate; that from that same day onwards we shall form a new opposition to the new government, not a reactionary but a progressive opposition, an opposition of the most extreme Left, which will press on to new conquests beyond the ground already won.

After the common victory we might perhaps be offered some seats in the new Government--but always in a minority. Here lies the greatest danger. After the February Revolution in 1848 the French socialistic Democrats (the Reforme people, Ledru Rollin, Louis Blanc, Flocon, etc.) were incautious enough to accept such positions. As a minority in the Government they involuntarily bore the responsibility for all the infamy and treachery which the majority, composed of pure Republicans, committed against the working class, while at the same time their participation in the government completely paralysed the revolutionary action of the working class they were supposed to represent.

Again elsewhere in Lenin’s article we can also see the Marxist Menshevik ‘bottom up’ debate versus the Leninist ‘top down approach’, which as well as Lenin’s project to participate in government was what defined the Menshevik-Bolshevik split.

In 1917 the Mensheviks themselves, or a section, went against their own principles and participated in the provisional government. Some of them also supported the war as well for that matter, but I suppose those that did were in ‘good company’

(The Mensheviks were I suppose a broad based political party and there did seem to be some tolerance of political opinions even on what you might think of as critical issues of theory and principle.)

Martov was obviously a key and founding member of the Mensheviks and certainly represented the Left Mensheviks. On Martov’s attitude to the Mensheviks going into government circa May 1917, Getzler said this in his Autobiography of Matov, chapter 7

On the question of power Martov made it clear from the beginning that he strongly disapproved of the Mensheviks joining in a coalition government. He had done so already in a strongly worded telegram dated 27 april 1917; ‘Cable Chkheidze our opinion; any participation in a coalition ministry is inadmissable. Martov.”

He reiterated his disapproval at the All-Russian Confedrance of Mensheviks on the very day of his arrival. He thought this decision had caused a party crisis; it had turned the Mensheviks into a governmental party bearing the full responsibility, which must inevitably restrict their revolutionary role.

Almost paraphrasing the Engels letter.

He apparently wanted to continue that dual power, with the Mensheviks working not in the official government but through the soviets and other organs of revolutionary self government……………Another solution put forward by Sukhanov, of a leftist coalition government in which socialists were to be the majority with a minority of bourgeois liberals and radicals, Martov at that time rejected out of hand.

In this debate Martov was not arguing tactically. He was sticking to a consistent, theoretical, long view, however little tactical sense it made at the moment…………..When late in April and early in May other Menshevik leaders arrived at their decision to enter a coalition government, they did so very reluctantly.’

I suppose after the Bolsheviks siezed power and proclaimed themselves as substitute and proxy capitalists and the state capitalist class the dividing lines were drawn, the political position and action of the Mensheviks became more clear in orthodox Marxist terms.

And the repression of the independent workers party, that was attempting to set up defensive trade unions against the ruling state capitalist class. began.

The resurgence and support for the Mensheviks post 1918 despite state repression appears to be quite remarkable. I would be surprised myself if, on the ground, that this didn’t include ‘anarchist’ and that the Mensheviks weren’t to some extent just a rallying point for all anti-Bolshevik working class opposition.

As Skobelev was mentioned, the Menshevik who went into the provisional government, and is portrayed as an anti working class bourgeois lackey. Personally I don’t know or care that much whether he was or was not, but a reference to him by Lenin would seem to contradict that;

V. I. Lenin Inevitable Catastrophe and Extravagant Promises, Pravda No. 58 and 59, May 29 and 30 (16 and 17),

Today we must point out that the programme of the Menshevik Minister Skobelev goes even further than Bolshevism. Here is the programme, as reported in the ministerial paper, Rech:

“The Minister [Skobelev] declared that ’... the country’s economy is on the brink of disaster. We must intervene in all fields of economic life, as there is no money in the Treasury. We must improve the condition of the working masses, and to do that we must take the profits from the tills of the businessmen and bankers’. (Voice in the audience: ‘How?’) ’By ruthless taxation of property,’ replied the Minister of Labour, Skobelev. ’It is a method known to the science of finance. The rate of taxation on the propertied classes must be increased to one hundred per cent of their profits.’ (Voice in the audience: ’That means everything.’) ‘Unfortunately,’ declared Skobelev, ’many corporations have already distributed their dividends among the share holders, and we must therefore levy a progressive personal tax on the propertied classes. We will go even further, and, if the capitalists wish to preserve the bourgeois method of business, let them work without interest, so as not to lose their clients.... We must introduce compulsory labour service for the shareholders, bankers and factory owners, who are in a rather slack mood because the incentive that formerly stimulated them to work is now lacking.... We must force the shareholders to submit to the state; they, too, must be subject to labour service.’”

We advise the workers to read and reread this programme, to discuss it and go into the matter of its practicability.

The important thing is the conditions necessary for its fulfilment, and the taking of immediate steps towards its fulfilment.

This programme in itself is an excellent one and coincides with the Bolshevik programme, except that in one particular it goes even further than our programme, namely, it promises to take the profits from the tills of the bankers “to the extent of one hundred per cent”.

Our Party is much more moderate. Its resolution demands much less than this, namely, the mere establishment of control over the banks and the “gradual [just listen, the Bolsheviks are for gradualness!] introduction of a more just progressive tax on incomes and properties”.

Our Party is more moderate than Skobelev.

Dave B
Joined: 3-08-08
Jan 5 2009 19:40

A quote that may be of interest for the anti-Bolshevik and Leninist left, that speaks for itself and therefore requires no comment I think.

A rare one I think where Lenin calls Bolshevik Russia ‘capitalist’, a Freudian slip of the pen I suppose, there aren’t too many of them.

I have put it up on revleft recently along with some other stuff, no comment as yet, they don’t appear to want to talk to me!

V. I. Lenin
The Trade Unions, The Present Situation
And Trotsky’s Mistakes
Speech Delivered At A Joint Meeting Of Communist Delegates To The Eighth Congress Of Soviets, Communist Members Of The All-Russia Central Council Of Trade Unions And Communist Members Of The Moscow City Council Of Trade Unions December 30, 1920

In the transition to socialism the dictatorship of the proletariat is inevitable, but it is not exercised by an organisation which takes in all industrial workers. Why not? The answer is given in the theses of the Second Congress of the Communist International on the role of political parties in general. I will not go into this here. What happens is that the Party, shall we say, absorbs the vanguard of the proletariat, and this vanguard exercises the dictatorship of the proletariat. The dictatorship cannot be exercised or the functions of government performed without a foundation such as the trade unions. These functions, however, have to be performed through the medium of special institutions which are also of a new type, namely, the Soviets.

What are the practical conclusions to be drawn from this peculiar situation? They are, on the one hand, that the trade unions are a link between the vanguard and the masses, and by their daily work bring conviction to the masses, the masses of the class which alone is capable of taking us from capitalism to communism. On the other hand, the trade unions are a “reservoir” of the state power. This is what the trade unions are in the period of transition from capitalism to communism. In general, this transition cannot be achieved without the leadership of that class which is the only class capitalism has trained for large-scale production and which alone is divorced from the interests of the petty proprietor.

But the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised through an organisation embracing the whole of that class, because in all capitalist countries (and not only over here, in one of the most backward) the proletariat is still so divided, so degraded, and so corrupted in parts (by imperialism in some countries) that an organisation taking in the whole proletariat cannot directly exercise proletarian dictatorship. It can be exercised only by a vanguard that has absorbed the revolutionary energy of the class. The whole is like an arrangement of cogwheels.

Such is the basic mechanism of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and of the essentials of transition from capitalism to communism. From this alone it is evident that there is something fundamentally wrong in principle when Comrade Trotsky points, in his first thesis, to “ideological confusion”, and speaks of a crisis as existing specifically and particularly in the trade unions. If we are to speak of a crisis, we can do so only after analysing the political situation.

It is Trotsky who is in “ideological confusion”, because in this key question of the trade unions’ role, from the standpoint of transition from capitalism to communism, he has lost sight of the fact that we have here a complex arrangement of cogwheels which cannot be a simple one; for the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised by a mass proletarian organisation. It cannot work without a number of “transmission belts” running from the vanguard to the mass of the advanced class, and from the latter to the mass of the working people. In Russia, this mass is a peasant one. There is no such mass anywhere else, but even in the most advanced countries there is a non-proletarian, or a not entirely proletarian, mass. That is in itself enough to produce ideological confusion. But it’s no use Trotsky’s pinning it on others

Dave B
Joined: 3-08-08
Jan 28 2009 22:57

I hope the following may be of some interest to the anti Leninist anarchists, and even for our Leninists ICC who can appreciate the words of ‘ Comrade Lenin’ for their own merit.

I think we should however appreciate the wishes of the author and not blab it about or release it to the press;

V. I. Lenin


Published: First published in part in 1924 in the book: Pyaly
Vserossiisky syezd deyatelei sovetskoi yustitsii. Stenografichesky
otchot (Fifth All-Russia Congress of Soviet Judiciary. Stenographic
Report), Juridical Publishing House of the People's Commissariat for
Justice of the R.S.F.S.R., Moscow. First published in full in V. I.
Lenin, Sobraniye Sochineny (Collected Works), Fifth Edition. Printed
from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1971, Moscow,
Volume 36, pages 560-565.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive. You may freely copy,
distribute, display and perform this work, as well as make
derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet
Archive" as your source.
Other Formats: Text • README


Letter to D. I. Kursky
Copies to: 1)Molotov for members of the Political Bureau
2) A. D. Tsyurupa
3) Rykov (when he returns)
4) Comrade Yenukidze for members of the
Presidium of the All-Russia Central
Executive Committee

| _ | _ Special request: Please, do not duplicate; let read and
sign; prevent divulging; prevent blabbing out to enemies.

February 20, 1922

Comrade Kursky,

The activity of the People's Commissariat for Justice is apparently
not yet at all adapted to the New Economic Policy.

Previously, the militant organs of the Soviet power were chiefly the
People's Commissariat for the Army and the All-Russia Extraordinary
Commission. An especially militant role now falls to the People's
Commissariat for Justice (P.C.J.); unfortunately, there is no
evidence of any understanding of this on the part of the leadership
and the senior members of the P.C.J.

Intensification of reprisals against the political enemies of the
Soviet power and the agents of the bourgeoisie ( specifically the
Mensheviks and S.R.s); mounting of these reprisals by revolutionary
tribunals and people's courts in the swiftest, most revolutionary
and expedient manner; compulsory staging of a number of model (as
regards speed and force of repression, and explanation of their
significance to the masses of people through the courts and the
press) trials in Moscow, Petrograd, Kharkov and several other key
centres; influence on the people's judges and members of
revolutionary tribunals through the Party in the sense of improving
the activity of the courts and intensifying the reprisals—all of
this must be conducted systematically, persistently, with doggedness
and mandatory reports (in the most concise, telegraphic style but
business-like and exact, with obligatory statistics of how the
P.C.J. chastises and learns to chastise the "communist" scoundrels
who predominate among us and who know how to chatter and put on
airs, but not how to work).

The fighting role of the P.C.J. is equally important in the sphere
of NEP, and here the P.C.J.'s weakness and apathy is even more
outrageous. There is no evidence of any understanding of the fact
that we recognise and will continue to recognise only state
capitalism, and it is we— we conscious workers, we Communists—who
are the state. That is why we should brand as good-for-nothing
Communists those who have failed to understand their task of
restricting, curbing, checking and catching red-handed and
inflicting exemplary chastisement on any kind of capitalism that
goes beyond the framework of state capitalism in our meaning of the
concept and tasks of the state.

It is the P.C.J., it is the people's courts that are here faced with
an especially militant and especially responsible task. There is no
sign that it has been grasped. The papers make noises about the
abuse of NEP. These abuses are innumerable.

But where is the noise about model trials of the scoundrels abusing
the New Economic Policy? There is no such noise, because there are
no such trials. The P.C.J. has "forgotten" that that is its
business, that it is its duty to pull up, shake up and rouse the
people's courts and teach them to be ruthless and swift in
chastising—with every means, including the firing squad—for abuse of
the New Economic Policy. It is responsible for this. There is no
evidence of any vibrant activity in this sphere on the part of the
P.C.J., because there is no such activity.

The educational role of the courts is tremendous. How do we show
concern for this? How do we take account of the real results? There
is nothing of the sort, but that happens to be the ABC of juridical

It is just as elementary that triple penalties should be inflicted
on Communists, as compared with non-Party people. There again the
P.C.J. has shown little concern.

Under the tsar, the procurators were sacked or promoted on the
strength of the percentage of cases they won. We managed to adopt
the worst of tsarist Russia—red tape and sluggishness—and this is
virtually stifling us, but we failed to adopt its good practices.
Every member of the P.C.J. Collegium, every worker of this
Commissariat should be assessed according to his record, on the
strength of the following figures: how many Communists have you
jailed with triple sentences, as compared with non-Party people, for
the same offences? How many bureaucrats have you jailed for red tape
and procrastination? How many merchants caught abusing NEP have you
sentenced to be shot or to some other no-joke penalty (for
ridiculous penalties are frequently imposed in Moscow, under the
very nose of the P.C.J.)? You can't answer the question? This means
that you are an idler who should be expelled from the Party
for "communist chatter" and for "communist conceit".

The new civil legislation is being drafted. I find that the P.C.J.
is "swimming with the tide". But its task is to swim against the
tide. Its task is to create a new civil law, and not to adopt
(rather, not to allow itself to be duped by the old and stupid
bourgeois lawyers who adopt) the old, bourgeois concept of civil
law. It should not give in to the People's Commissariat for Foreign
Affairs, which "ex officio" conducts the line of "adaptation to
Europe", but combat this line and work out a new civil law, a new
attitude to "private" contracts, etc. We do not recognise
anything "private", and regard everything in the economic sphere as
falling under public and not private law. We allow only state
capitalism, and as has been said, it is we who are the slate. Hence,
the task is to extend the application of state intervention
in "private legal" relations; to extend the right of the state to
annul "private" contracts; to apply to "civil legal relations" not
the corpus juris romani but our revolutionary concept of law; to
show systematically, persistently, with determination, through a
series of model trials, how this should be done wisely and
vigorously; to brand through the Party and expel those members of
revolutionary tribunals and people's judges who fail to learn this
or refuse to understand it.

Unless the P.C.J. rouses itself at once and vigorously starts
working in a new, militant way, along new lines, it will be
disgraced before Genoa (and the whole world).

I propose to you that

1) you read my letter to all members of the P.C.J. Collegium;

2) ditto—at a meeting of 100–200 Communists exclusively, who
practise in the sphere of civil, criminal and constitutional law;

3) prohibit, on pain of Party responsibility, to chatter about it
(about this letter), for it is stupid to disclose our strategy to
the enemy;

4) get a number of Communists, working in the courts and in the
P.C.J., who are quite agreed with the spirit of this letter, to
publish some articles in the press and give a number of public
lectures on these topics;

5) allocate responsibility between all members of the Collegium (and
if possible between other prominent Communists working in the

a) for the sections in charge of the new civil legislation
(specifically and highly important);

b) ditto criminal legislation;

c) ditto constitutional
and political legislation
}} less urgent

d) for staging and conducting model, widely publicised and
educational trials in the said centres;

e) for the business-like—and not just for the record— control over
people's courts and revolutionary tribunals, to see that they manage
in fact to intensify reprisals also against the political enemies of
the Soviet power (the P.C.J. will be the first to blame if these
reprisals are not also intensified) and against NEP abuses.

|| We allow you to trade and make money, but insist that you be
thrice as honest, that you submit truthful and exact accounts, that
you abide not only by the letter but also by the spirit of our,
communist legislation, that you do not allow the slightest departure
from our laws—that is what the P.C.J. should adopt as its main
commandment in respect of NEP. If the P.C.J. fails to make our
capitalism "disciplined" and "decent"; if the P.C.J. fails to prove
by a series of model trials that it knows how to trap offenders
against this rule and chastise, not with the disgracefully stupid
fine of 100 or 200 millions—which is shortsighted from the communist
standpoint—but with shooting, then the P.C.J. is good for nothing
and I shall deem it my duty to get the Central Committee to agree to
a total replacement of all senior workers of the P.C.J.

Please inform me as soon as possible of the allocation of the said
work between all members of the P.C.J. Collegium to show me, with
the utmost precision, who specifically (with the exception of the
People's Commissar, who is responsible for everything) is
responsible for which departments of civil law, (and then also of
criminal law, etc.), and for the staging of model trials (each
member of the Collegium must show his mettle in staging and
conducting several model trials) and for the business-like control
over revolutionary tribunals and people's courts, judicial
investigators, etc., in such-and-such a gubernia or such-and-such a
district of Moscow.

What we need is not a division of "departments" and bureaucratic
slumber on that, but personal responsibility on the part of every
Communist on the Collegium for a specific area of live revolutionary
work. That is what the People's Commissar must achieve and prove
that he is capable of achieving it.

V. Ulyanov (Lenin)
Chairman, Council of People's Commissars

P.S. There must not be the slightest mention of my letter in the
press. Let anyone, who so wishes, write in his own name, without any
mention of mine, and provide as many concrete data as possible.

At the time of posting it was still available at;

Alf's picture
Joined: 6-07-05
Jan 29 2009 09:43

Interesting Dave, but what are we supposed to take from this exactly? That the regime in Russia began degenerateing EVEN BEFORE LENIN DIED? This would be a real shock for us "Leninists ICC".

Joined: 16-07-06
Jan 29 2009 10:24
and even for our Leninists ICC who can appreciate the words of ‘ Comrade Lenin’ for their own merit.

Dude it's really unfair to call the ICC 'leninists'.

Joined: 22-10-06
Feb 20 2009 14:53
Dave B wrote:
And the repression of the independent workers party, that was attempting to set up defensive trade unions against the ruling state capitalist class. began.

The Bolshevik repression on working class struggle was quite extensive, starting before the start of the civil war, continued during it and continued after it. Which exposes the nonsense of the standard Leninist defence of the Bolsheviks, namely that the working class had "disappeared" -- a atomised, isolated working class does not need martial law to break its strikes!

For details: H.6.3 Were the Russian workers "declassed" and "atomised"?

Dave B wrote:
The resurgence and support for the Mensheviks post 1918 despite state repression appears to be quite remarkable. I would be surprised myself if, on the ground, that this didn’t include ‘anarchist’ and that the Mensheviks weren’t to some extent just a rallying point for all anti-Bolshevik working class opposition.

Yes it was remarkable, their successes in the soviets were such that the Bolsheviks systematically disbanded any with non-Bolshevik majorities. With the outlawing of the Mensheviks, people seemed to turn to the Left-SRs -- so the Bolsheviks simply packed the Fifth All-Russian Congress of soviets, just as they had packed the Petrograd soviet to ensure their majority.

For more details: H.6.1 Can objective factors explain the failure of the Russian Revolution?

Why? The realities of state power (and the resulting isolation and corruption that implies) plus the distorted assumptions of vanguardism, namely the notion that the working class could not become socialists by themselves and so required a party to inject socialism into them. If workers reject the party, then clearly from this perspective, they have rejected socialism and so they need to be forced to be free...

Eddie Orsini's picture
Eddie Orsini
Joined: 12-02-09
Feb 21 2009 18:14

Hi, Comrad.
I belive that the Military Revolutionary Committe take the initiative isn't the central question. Is a great man and book. And the greatness is in the fact that he admit: a few mouth before the February Revolution the Bolsheviks Party - the direction - was tow the mencehvism. Not only Stalin, but all direction, had the politic of unio with the direction of the soviets, in the moment (mencehvism n' social-revolutionerys), it's means the conciliation of the soviets and the czarism. But like Capricorn n' Trotsky said February Revolution was made by base militant of the works; foreign of the bolshevik direction. Lenin was in exile, there said to students, in a meeting, that the revolution in Rusia was impossible. But the works only do the revolution, spontaneously. Coming in Rusia Lenin understand better what mistake of avaliation of conjuncture. Almost the same thing about Trotsky. Is not a question about majority, or minority, is a question about break the czarism n', after, the provisory government.
The Military Revolutionary Committe did, because the soviets was in the hands of menchevism; the Congress of pan-Rusia Soviets was the first reunion only in the night of the insurection. They did? Good. But wrong thing is the fact of the distance between the Bolsheviks and the masses.
That conciliation trace, that I said, is the big mistake. This trace was powerfull determinant to the bolsheviks don't accept the Factorys Commite's, and empty the soviets after. I like the rights things in Trotsky n' Lenin. But the tragedy is the fact of bows thinked that against the normals mistakes and the burocration the centralization was the answer. the burocracy scholl transform that mistake - centralization - in a religion of State; that we all know today, this we can call substitutionism. the fact is the bolchevkis aren't the devil or the salvation. And the real positivy critics is know the burocracy-Stalin is the counter-revolution; but, essencially, understand who that Party (bolchevkis) became that "termidorian" regime.
I live in Brasil, and that question - majority or not - is interesting. I know the weight peasants, economic delaya, a limitation. But in Brasil, the works movement, discussed somethig similary in the XX century. But even in the case of Rusia that time, we dont talk about feudalism. The elements of the feudalism, in that time, wasn't only feudalism. That's forms of relationships of prodution was combined with the modern capitalism prodution. And - we can read fantastics narrate in the Trotsky book - how the peasants don't revolts against the feudalism forms, but also against the capital forms. The Napoleon form of libertation of the peasants - in the bounds of capital - could can be do, and if was did, will not represent the same dimension of the libertation did by the France revolution. The libertation of the land of the feudalism form to the capital form will means only another form of alienation. The libertation of the peasant only can did with a transformation of the land - from the form of the feudal fetishism directly to the form where the land is only the suport of the self-develop­ment of all works of the citys and the fields - other way only would be other form defeat of proletarian and peasants.
Love, Comrads.

Joined: 25-06-06
Apr 14 2009 20:37

I would take issue with the idea that the peasantry is a dominant class in the world today. I'm pretty sure wage-slaves passed the peasantry up numerically speaking back in the early nineties. I don't have any immediate statistics to support this save that it came out in a UN sponsored study in the early 1990s some time. It could be that the view of the peasantry as being the dominant form of labor today might be a few years outdated. Much of the disasters faced by poorest countries of the world over the last thirty years were the very things that wiped the peasantry out as a class. In China this meant that yesterday's peasants are today either struggling to make a living in cities or risking being expelled from the cities and forcibly returned to the countryside where there is no way to earn a living and your agricultural commodities are next to worthless.

Joined: 24-09-05
Jan 23 2010 08:34
berrot wrote:
there are quite a few other texts which deserve/demand attention, notably Alexander Rabinowitch's "The Bolsheviks Come to Power" (written in the 70s, before HE switched allegiance in his recent opus)

I have just finished his first two books and found them very useful. Can anyone say how his allegiances or perspective changes in his final book, the Bolsheviks in Power? I was going to read it next.

Joined: 3-12-09
Feb 13 2011 20:30

alf, post 134

Interesting Dave, but what are we supposed to take from this exactly? That the regime in Russia began degenerateing EVEN BEFORE LENIN DIED? This would be a real shock for us "Leninists ICC".

A bit, but not too late in the day.

NOTHING will shock a admin: flaming removed, this is a non-flaming forum

Joined: 3-12-09
Feb 14 2011 01:25

No, there was no flaming on the post you censured. Of course all forums should be 'non-flaming', but it seems that it's up to the 'administrator' on duty to decide what is flaming or not.

The point that was being made was that Dave B's post 133 was overwhelming evidence of Bolshevism's MALIGNANT (flaming again?) procedures. Here we have Lenin in his own words, from Dave B's excellent post:

P.S. There must not be the slightest mention of my letter in the press. Let anyone, who so wishes, write in his own name, without any mention of mine, and provide as many concrete data as possible.

To Alf, the ICC member, what are 'we' supposed to take from this exactly, apart from 'interesting', is nothing. As it seems to be from our obliging administrator. To each his own.