Need some basic understanding of Trotskyism

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Virindi
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Apr 4 2008 18:49
Need some basic understanding of Trotskyism

Looking to understand Trotsky better. From what I understand reading Berkman's piece on Kronstadt he pretty much ordered the massacre of Kronstadt in 1921, but not much more.

I'm willing to read if you're willing to write, or if you don't have time, can you shoot me to stuff he wrote to explains his views as well as criticisms of it?

Thanks.

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Alf
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Apr 4 2008 19:13

Here's a short article defending the view that Trotskyism began life as a working class current but passed over to the bourgeoisie by participating in the second world war. Trotsky himself certainly participated in actions which accelerated the demise of the Russian revolution, above all the suppression of Kronstadt, and his followers were not the clearest opposition to this process of degeneration. But we don't agree with the idea that Trotsky and Stalin were just two sides of the same coin, a view held by many anarchists.

(Waits for chorus of disapproval from anarchists)

http://en.internationalism.org/wr/265_cwo_trotsky.htm

Communard
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Apr 4 2008 19:44

i'm a marxist and i think that Kronstadt was not just a "mistake", but the natural consequence of the bolsheviks counter revolutionary politics.
Lenin was agree with the kronstadt massacre and then he did the NEP....what does it mean?
But for leninists everything that went wrong is viewed, with idealism, as an unexplainable "accident"...and not with dialectics.
So did Lenin with Kautsky and the war .... so modern leninists do the same:

Quote:
[trotzkysm] passed over to the bourgeoisie by participating in the second world war

oh...what a pity...sad
"Humanity's crisis, is nothing but the crisis of leadership, said Trotsky: so a leadership must be created at any cost. This is the ultimate idealism, the history of the world is explained as a crisis of consciousness." (GIlles Dauvè)

yes, Trotszy and Stalin are 2 sides of the same coin -> the second international "marxism" and his byproduct: leninism.

ernie
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Apr 8 2008 10:42

Communard
Does that mean that Left communism is part of the same coin as Stalinism given that the much of Communist Left (including Luxemburg) did not did not repudiate the heritage of the 2nd International, though making a profound critique of this period in the history of the workers movement?

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Rob Ray
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Apr 8 2008 11:08
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But we don't agree with the idea that Trotsky and Stalin were just two sides of the same coin, a view held by many anarchists.

Boo, hiss etc.

Hang on, so you reckon fascism is the same thing as capitalism, but Trotskyism is a completely different kettle of fish from Stalinism, is that right?

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Apr 8 2008 11:51

Trotskyism today is bourgeois, like Stalinism. Trotskyism in the 1920s and 30s was something different.

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Apr 8 2008 17:47
Alf wrote:
Trotskyism today is bourgeois, like Stalinism. Trotskyism in the 1920s and 30s was something different.

At what age did it pass over?

nastyned
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Apr 8 2008 17:57

Ooooo, I know this one. It was when Trotsky died. If I remember rightly the ICC's line on Trotsky is 'despite his many grave errors he never betrayed the working class'.

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Apr 8 2008 18:15

Apart from his disgusting counter-revolutionary acts and lies regarding Kronstadt and the Makhnovists, Trotsky never supported any of the many strikes or other forms of anti-Bolshevik working class opposition occurring during his time as a member of the Russian ruling elite - he often explicitly condemned them, discouraged others from supporting them and promoted a militarisation of labour. Ante Ciliga - himself jailed by the Bolsheviks for being part of the Troskyist Opposition - later commented;

Quote:
Trotsky never spoke of organising strikes, of inciting the workers to a fight against bureaucracy in favour of the Trotskyist economic programme. His criticisms, his arguments and his advice seemed all addressed to the Central Committee, to the Party apparatus. Mentioning the fall in the standard of living of workers, Trotsky concluded in the tone of a good employer giving advice to the workshop, 'What are you doing? You waste our most precious capital, the force of labour.' The active body to Trotsky still remained 'the Party' with its Politbureau or its Central Committee: the proletariat was but the subject. (The Russian Enigma, 1938)

Or, to put it another way perhaps, the Party was the brain that necessarily controlled the working class body. Trotsky and his -ism was always fatally compromised and handicapped in any understanding of the the Soviet Union by Trotsky's own past and by his loyalty to the Bolshevik model. The article linked to makes the same error - reducing 'proletarian opposition' in Russia to a few small Party factions - as if the whole fate of the class struggle must be played out within the Party form and its factions; decided by the new ruling class. Loyalty to the Bolshevik model also fatally handicaps the ICC.

It's particularly ironic, in a distasteful kind of way, to see the so-called 'Left Communist' ICC guru Alf, defend Trotsky and co. Real left communists like Miasnikov (a veteran working class Bolshevik) who criticised the Bolshevik rule over the working class and spoke up for workers' interests were denounced strongly within the Party - with the chorus led by Trotsky. Trotsky never spoke a word in defence of those, like Miasnikov, persecuted, kicked out of the Party and jailed in 1922 merely for openly criticising the Party's dictatorial policies and repression of working class dissent. In the 1930s he was still being evasive, if not dishonest, about the repression of Kronstadt. Yet Trotsky supposedly remained "part of the proletarian camp" until when, 1934, 1939? That's a historical fantasy.

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OliverTwister
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Apr 8 2008 22:18

I largely agree with Ret, but i think some sort of nuance on trotskyism is necessary to explain why CLR James, Natalya Sedova, Martin Glaberman, Stan Weir, Cornelius Castoriadis, Raya Dunaqyevskaya, et al. all left in the 30s and 40s.

I don't think i'd go so far as to say that Trotskyism was a pro-revolutionary current in the interbellum, much less that Trotsky himself was, but that there were pro-revolutionary tendencies within trotskyism until the support of the USSR (among other things) forced them to leave.

Black Badger
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Apr 9 2008 03:52

Even thoroughly authoritarian tendencies have their free thinkers, their fringe figures, their heterodox critics. There's nothing peculiar about the Trotskyist universe that makes such folks as you mentioned start to bloom within it -- but who are ultimately "forced...to leave." Free thinkers eventually come up against the dogmatism of their tendency and rightfully rebel. Wheter they rebel fully by rejecting all authority figures and authoritarian organizing is a separate question.

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Apr 9 2008 05:41
OliverTwister wrote:
I largely agree with Ret, but i think some sort of nuance on trotskyism is necessary to explain why CLR James, Natalya Sedova, Martin Glaberman, Stan Weir, Cornelius Castoriadis, Raya Dunaqyevskaya, et al. all left in the 30s and 40s.

I don't think i'd go so far as to say that Trotskyism was a pro-revolutionary current in the interbellum, much less that Trotsky himself was, but that there were pro-revolutionary tendencies within trotskyism until the support of the USSR (among other things) forced them to leave.

I'm surprised to hear you view James as a revolutionary. The JFT split from the WP in 1947 for two reasons. First, they felt that the revolution was possible in the US within ten years if the labor bureaucracy could be smashed. And second, they felt that Black workers should have a separate party.

From 1947 to 1950 the JFT rejoined the SWP to try to argue their program.

CLR James wrote:
We say, number one, that the Negro struggle, the independent Negro struggle, has a vitality and a validity of its own; that it has deep historic roots in the past of America and in present struggles; it has an organic political perspective, along which it is travelling, to one degree or another, and everything shows that at the present time it is travelling with great speed and vigour.

We say, number two, that this independent Negro movement is able to intervene with terrific force upon the general social and political life of the nation, despite the fact that it is waged under the banner of democratic rights, and is not led necessarily either by the organised labour movement or the Marxist party.

We say, number three, and this is the most important, that it is able to exercise a powerful influence upon the revolutionary proletariat, that it has got a great contribution to make to the development of the proletariat in the United States, and that it is in itself a constituent part of the struggle for socialism.

In this way we challenge directly any attempt to subordinate or to push to the rear the social and political significance of the independent Negro struggle for democratic rights. That is our position. It was the position of Lenin thirty years ago. It was the position of Trotsky which he fought for during many years. It has been concretised by the general class struggle in the United States, and the tremendous struggles of the Negro people. It has been sharpened and refined by political controversy in our movement, and best of all it has had the benefit of three or four years of practical application in the Negro struggle and in the class struggle by the Socialist Workers’ Party during the past few years.

In 1950-51 they left, on the basis of these politics. State Capitalism and World Revolution urged others to follow them, to abandon "Orthodox Trotskyism" and move the Trotskyist movement forward. Hardly a split. If you can hack through all the Hegel talk these would remain the basic planks of James' worldview. As late as 1967 he recounted that

CLR James wrote:
I went to the US from England in 1938 and found them in a rare confusion as to what a Marxist policy should he on the Negro question. What for them, as Marxists, was a difficult social situation was further complicated by the fact that the Stalinists for years had been preaching that Marxism demanded the advocacy of an independent Negro state within the confines of the US. And the Trotskyist movement from top to bottom, at home and abroad, simply did not know where it stood in regard to this fundamental question for a socialist party in the US. I had no difficulty whatever in telling them what I was quite certain was the correct policy. And this I knew not because I was a Negro, not because I have studied closely the situation in the US. No. From the very beginning I put forward what I conceived to be a very simple, straightforward Leninist policy.

I had studied Lenin in order to write The Black Jacobins, the analysis of a revolution for self-determination in a colonial territory. I had studied Lenin to be able to write my book on World Revolution. I had studied Lenin to be able to take part with George Padmore in his organization that worked for the independence of all colonial territories, but particularly the territories of Africa. I therefore was in a position from the very beginning to state my position and to state it in a discussion that some of us had with Trotsky on the Negro question 1939.

The position was this: the independent struggle of the Negro people for their democratic rights and equality with the rest of the American nation not only had to be defended and advocated by the Marxist movement. The Marxist movement had to understand that such independent struggles were a contributory factor to the socialist revolution. Let me restate that as crudely as possible: the American Negroes in fighting for their democratic rights were making and indispensable addition to the struggle for socialism in the US. I have to emphasize this because it was not only a clarification in the darkness of the Trotskyist movement on the Negro struggle in 1938-39. Today, 1967, I find in Britain here a confusion as great as I found in the US in 1938, and nowhere more than among the Marxists.

and then he argues his position by providing three separate quotes from Lenin -- you can read it all here if you want to; in this same speech he calls Castro "one of the greatest revolutionaries history has ever known" btw -- and then says,

CLR James wrote:
Now the moment Trotsky agreed that the independent Negro struggle for its democratic rights was part of the way to the social revolution, the Trotskyist movement accepted it. They accepted it but I don’t think they really understood it. At any rate, in 1951 my friends and I broke irrevocably and fundamentally with the premises of Trotskyism, and as independent Marxists, we advocated this policy, this Leninist policy, on the Negro question, and we believed that at any rate we understood this question thoroughly. We did not know what this policy contained in it. I began by telling you that early this year I listened to Stokely Carmichael and was immediately struck by the enormous revolutionary potential which was very clear to me.

Are you really a huge fan of James? I'm only a moderate one. But it seems like positions such as these, which were so central to James' politics and so central to his departure from the Trotskyist movement of his era, are the kinds of positions that usually have you absolutely frothing at the mouth with condemnation. Or are you willing to overlook his positions on nation, race, and the autonomy of Black workers' struggles in the US simply because they led him to anti-union conclusions? Talk about opportunism...

Leo
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Apr 9 2008 12:26
Quote:
Real left communists like Miasnikov (a veteran working class Bolshevik) who
Quote:
Trotsky never spoke a word in defence of those, like Miasnikov, persecuted, kicked out of the Party and jailed in 1922 merely for openly criticising the Party's dictatorial policies and repression of working class dissent ... Yet Trotsky supposedly remained "part of the proletarian camp" until when, 1934, 1939? That's a historical fantasy.

Funny then, how Myasnikov not only discussed with the counter-revolutionary traitor Trotsky in late 20s (1927) but also agreed with the vile man on some questions, and even had the exact position with him on China! I guess Myasnikov must have been a fake "left communist" guru! Of course other left communists such as the deceists, the group of fifteen, and the irreconcilables of the left opposition, people like Sapranov etc. must also be counter-revolutionary fake "left communists"! Similarly, the Italian left communists also were involved with the left opposition, which must obviously mean that they too are a bunch of fake "left communist" gurus. And of course the Belgian fraction must have been as such too, as they were previously involved with left oppositions organizations and moved towards left communism following the discussions with the Italian fraction (a double sin on their part! not only did they participate in the left opposition breifly but they also kept discuss with left opposition groups after breaking with them!) And people like Zheng Chaolin in China, Aghis Stinas in Greece, Munis, Natalia Sedove and other must have been counter-revolutionaries as they came from the morally dirty waters of the left opposition! And so must be Paul Kirchof, and ex-KAPD member, who was involved with a left communist group in Mexico after being involved with the left opposition in America. Heck, even Otto Rühle must have been a fake counter-revolutionary "left communist" because not only did he became friends with Trotsky but participated in the Dewey commission to investigate the charges against Trotsky made by the Moscow trials! Gosh, so many fake gurus posing as "left communists" out there!

*Rolls eyes*

Obviously, Trotsky and the left opposition were opportunistic, obviously they were sectarian, obviously they were very confused on many questions, obviously they were completely wrong on many questions, obviously Trotsky played a part in the degeneration of the Russian revolution (which was not, in turn, a result of evil counter-revolutionary politics of individuals but of the actions of a class rising again because the revolution had been isolated), obviously he supported the suppression of Kronstadt, obviously he held very wrong positions on many questions and argued against those who had the correct positions. Yet again, neither the left opposition, nor Trotsky were not, counter-revolutionaries, and they had not supported an imperialist war like the Second World War until they did support it. As a current, left opposition, or "Trotskyism" was capable of including and directly giving birth to genuinely revolutionary and internationalist groups, who in turn broke with Trotskyism when it supported the war.

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Apr 9 2008 19:13

Excellent post Leo. Another fake left communist guru was of course Marc Chirik, who had come out of Trotskyism in the 30s to join up with the Italian left. Miasnikov should certainly be denounced for associating with him in France in the 30s and 40s.

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Apr 9 2008 21:25
Leo wrote:
Funny then, how Myasnikov not only discussed with the counter-revolutionary traitor Trotsky in late 20s (1927) but also agreed with the vile man on some questions, and even had the exact position with him on China! I guess Myasnikov must have been a fake "left communist" guru!

My point was that, in the context of the Russian revolution, the real left communists were Miasnikov and co - while Trotsky and his defenders played a counter-revolutionary role in direct opposition to them and all working class dissent. If you can't see the irony in a 'left communist' defending a member of the Bolshevik ruling class who supported throwing Russian left communists in jail, then more fool you. Many marxists had contact with Trotsky in exile and went in various political directions - so what? (Nobody is denying that radical ideas emerged partly from the process of breaking with Trotskyism.) It doesn't refute Trotsky's and Trotskyism's counter-revolutionary role in the USSR - therefore not a "working class current" as claimed by Alf, but an anti-working class one.

Yes, it's well known Miasnikov corresponded with Trotsky in Turkey when both were in exile and they agreed on some things - though not importantant fundamentals;

Quote:
Both cleaved to a left-wing anti-Stalinist policy, in foreign and in domestic affairs. With regard to China, for example, their positions were virtually identical.

On some matters, however, agreement proved impossible, above all on Miasnikov's contention that Russia was no longer a "workers' state." This idea Miasnikov advanced in a manuscript that he sent to Trotsky in August 1929, asking him to contribute a preface.(94) Trotsky refused, clinging to the belief that, for all its bureaucratic deformities, Russia remained a proletarian dictatorship. http://libcom.org/library/bolshevik-opposition-lenin-paul-avrich

But none of what happened in 1929 contradicts anything I said about Trotsky's counter-revolutionary anti-working class practice in Russia and his ideological justification of it throughout his life. Nor his silence on the fate of left communists like Miasnikov he helped send to the Gulags.

You mention Trotsky's later contact in exile with the Democratic Centralists - but the Trots had no sympathy for them in the USSR;

Quote:
...the Democratic Centralists had already concluded that the Communist Party was not reformable because it represented the interests of a new ruling class, and called on workers to engage in independent political action against it. These ideas found favour among quite a few lower-level Trotskyists. Indeed, one Trotskyist rued the outbreak of a "'Decist epidemic"' in their midst. The Trotskyist leadership denounced the Decists as ultra-left, sectarian and adventurist. It urged the Left Opposition to explicitly reject working class political strikes against the putatively workers' government: "`The duty of the opposition is to channel the demands of the working class into trade union and party legality"', Rakovsky and other Trotskyist leaders implored, and "'to oppose methods of struggle, such as strikes, that are harmful to industry and the state and to the workers themselves"'....
Despite sharp ideological differences with the Stalinists, the Trotskyist leadership allied itself in practice with the Stalinist leadership by jointly opposing the formation of a separate party to defend the interests of working people. This 'popular front' with Stalinism meant the working masses could not readily see how the leadership of the Trotskyist opposition was siding politically with the working class. As far as many workers were concerned, the difference between the Trotskyist and Stalinist leaderships was vanishingly small. (Trotsky, the Left Opposition and the Rise of Stalinism; Marot, Historical Materialism no. 14.3.)

In power Trotsky made opportunist alliances with former enemies within the Party to try and outmaneouvre Stalin - such as his alliance with Zinoviev (who he'd previously described as an 'unprincipled intriguer') & Kamenev;

Quote:
The birth of the United Opposition appeared to the initiated - party members - to be just another power play on everybody's part, including Trotsky's - despite Trotsky's laboured efforts to give his rapprochement with his erstwhile opponents the veneer of high-minded political principle. As for the non-party masses, they were kept in the dark, as usual.
In the interests of preserving unity with Zinoviev and Kamenev; Trotsky went out of his way to conciliate them on international issues, Cliff reports. Trotsky declared the theory of permanent revolution irrelevant to the issues at stake, and no longer pressed for the united-front policy abroad. These now became mere bargaining chips, to be traded in when politically expedient. Trotsky did not call for the break-up of the Anglo-Russian Committee and the withdrawal of the Chinese Communist Party from the Kuomintang. As a result, the potential of the British Communists to gain a significant influence over their working class was undermined while, in China, it led to the outright destruction of the Revolution. Both defeats contributed mightily to the isolation of the Russian Revolution, whose ultimate salvation lay precisely abroad, as Cliff rightly recognises. But Trotsky, by acquiescing to policies he knew would help defeat the workers' movement abroad, undoubtedly helped to undermine his fight against Stalinist reaction at home.(op. cit.)

He was equally willing to change opinion in exile; Trotsky could be the great celebrity martyr and easily enough extend the hand of friendship to those (such as the Decists & Miasnikov) he'd shat on when in power - as in exile he and they were vulnerable and relatively isolated. But his actual practice when it mattered in the USSR was simply counter-revolutionary.

The views of both the Trotsky and Stalin Party factions turned out to be identical on 'socialist construction' and what constituted a socialist society - and on the submissive role of the working class in this process. Trotsky's main complaints were; that Stalin was not consistent on socialist planning and industrialisation. Then, when Stalin adopted most of Trotsky's programme and Trotsky was cast out into the political margins - that there was a lack of intra-Party democracy. So not revolutionary at all, quite the opposite.

So Trotsky can call for permanent repression of working class dissent in Russia, jail working class revolutionaries and massacre them, never renounce any of it but defend it, promote an ism ("deformed workers state" - and communism=Party dictatorship+industrialisation) that has to be rejected before a radical analysis can be made of the USSR - but he and his ism are still revolutionary for the next 20 years? Not very convincing. If Stalin had lost out in the ruling class faction fight with Trotsky you might well be saying the same now about Uncle Joe!

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Apr 9 2008 22:40

Miasnikov's method in approaching the degenerating Bolshevik party were very different from those put forward by those anarchists who in any case reject Bolsehvism as bourgeois from the beginning, such as Ret.
In 1923 Miasnikov had no hesitation at all in participating in workers' strikes against economic attacks by the Soviet state and trying to develop their political content. At the same time, if you look at the Manifesto of the Workers Group formed in that year, you cannot but be struck by its profound sense of continuity with the Bolsehvik tradition. As we wrote in our book on the Russian left (which also contains the Manifesto):
"In contrast to the critical notes appended by the KAPD when it published the manifesto in Germany (Berlin 1924), and which expressed the German left's premature pronunciation of the death of the Russian revolution and the Communist International, the Workers' Group is very cautious about proclaiming the definitve triumph of the counter-revolution in Russia or the final death of the International. During the 'Curzon crisis' of 1923, when it seemed that Britain might declare war on Russia, the members of the Workers' Group commited themslves to defending the Soviet republic in event of war; and above all there is not the least hint of any repudiation of the October revolution and the Bolshevik experience. In fact, the group's stated attitude to its own role corresponds very closely to the notion of the left fraction as later elaborated by the Italian left in exile. It recognised the necessity to organise itself independently and even clandestinely, but both the group's title (Workers Group of the Russian Communist Party - Bolshevik), and the content of its manifesto, demonstrate that it saw itself being in full continuity with the programme and statutes of the Bolshevik party. It therefore appealed to all healthy elements within the party, both in the leadership and in the different oppositional groupings like the Workers Truth, the Workers Opposition, and the Democratic Centralists, to regroup and wage a a determined struggle for the regeneration of the party and the revolution"

This approach, devoid of any sectarianism, was also adopted towards the Trotskyist Left Opposition. Ciliga describes how in the intense political debates that took place in Stalin's prisons the positions of the Workers Group were becoming more and more influential among the most radical elements in the Left Opposition. Meanwhile, writing from exile in l'ouvrier communiste in January 1930, Miasnikov again did not simply write off the Trotskyists as counter-revolutionary but posed the stark alternative they faced:
"There are only two possibilities. Either the Trotskyists regroup under the slogan 'war on the palaces, peace to the cottages', under the banner of workers' revolution, the first step of which must be the proletariat becoming the ruling class, or they will languish slowly and pass individually or collectively into the camp of the bourgeoisie. These are the only two alternatives. There is no thuird way."
The ICC's approach to understanding what the Trotskyist movement was in the 20s and 30s, far from being in contrast to that of Miasnikov, is in direct continuity with it.

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Apr 9 2008 23:15

1. To correct you, I'm not an anarchist, but appreciate when anarchists were/are right, as they often were in their criticisms of the Bolshevik counter-revolution.
2. You haven't been able to refute (or even deal with) the damning facts I previously cited about Trotsky and Trotskyism's counter-revolutionary role in the USSR, which show it wasn't a "working class current", as you claimed, but an anti-working class one. Those "intense political debates that took place" you refer to began, not in Stalin's prisons, but in Lenin and Trotsky's.

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Apr 10 2008 10:22
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Are you really a huge fan of James? I'm only a moderate one. But it seems like positions such as these, which were so central to James' politics and so central to his departure from the Trotskyist movement of his era, are the kinds of positions that usually have you absolutely frothing at the mouth with condemnation. Or are you willing to overlook his positions on nation, race, and the autonomy of Black workers' struggles in the US simply because they led him to anti-union conclusions? Talk about opportunism...

Fuck, we could have actually had a decent conversation without that last line.

Tbh I've never read anything by James. I was aware of his third worldism, and think its a huge problem, but my understanding of the ideas that he promoted about autonomous working class resistance, including in the socialist bloc, is that they are very important. I'd say I'm not much of a fan of him at all but I think he was heads and tails above the trotskyist movement. I think Facing Reality also did some great stuff in Detroit.

Also fwiw I've evolved a lot in my understanding of the historic 'Negro Struggle' in the US, and I'm a lot less knee-jerk about certain things - still pretty critical of the would-have-been leaders though, including Carmichael.

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Apr 10 2008 12:45

Ret, perhaps on some other thread you can explain why you're not an anarchist, because I certainly can't see it. .

With regard to Trotsky, I don't disagree that most if not all of the actions or policies you cite were objectively counter-revolutionary - repression against workers at Kronstadt, putting left communists in jail, supporting the expansion of the Soviet economy against the interests of the workers, etc. Nor would I dispute that Trotsky's inability to break from the patriotism of the party was to a large extent the reason why he was unable to make the same advances as the left communists on the question of Russia etc. We argue the same point in our book.

The question for us, however, is one of judging at what point a proletarian current ceases to have any proletarian life in it, what errors are terminally fatal and what errors, however grave, can be overcome, and so on. With regard to Trotsky and the Bolsheviks, the question is meaningless as far as you are concerned because unless I am mistaken you don't consider that they were ever proletarian in the first place.

yoshomon
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Apr 10 2008 15:40
Alf wrote:
With regard to Trotsky, I don't disagree that most if not all of the actions or policies you cite were objectively counter-revolutionary - repression against workers at Kronstadt, putting left communists in jail, supporting the expansion of the Soviet economy against the interests of the workers, etc. ... The question for us, however, is one of judging at what point a proletarian current ceases to have any proletarian life in it, what errors are terminally fatal and what errors, however grave, can be overcome, and so on.

I'm assuming your answer is that butchering workers at Krondstadt, jailing revolutionaries, supporting economic expansion against workers, etc are all errors that could be "overcome", but Trotsky's support for WW2 is when he 'crossed the line'. What separates crushing worker revolts and strikes ("grave... but can be overcome") with supporting a war ("terminally fatal")?

And what does "proletarian life" mean? In this case it seems like a mystical category to apologize for those who carried out 'objectively counter-revolutionary' actions and policies.

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Apr 11 2008 00:30

So, Alf agrees that all I desribed of Trotskyism's role was counter-revolutionary - i.e., repressing any revolutionary expression of the proletariat in the name of Party supremacy - then how could it at the same time be a 'proletarian current'? You're falling for the same error/deceit as Trotsky and co. (and Stalinists too) - that the intra-Party factions in their rivalries actually represented different class interests.

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Apr 11 2008 20:15
OliverTwister wrote:
Fuck, we could have actually had a decent conversation without that last line.

Tbh I've never read anything by James. I was aware of his third worldism, and think its a huge problem, but my understanding of the ideas that he promoted about autonomous working class resistance, including in the socialist bloc, is that they are very important. I'd say I'm not much of a fan of him at all but I think he was heads and tails above the trotskyist movement. I think Facing Reality also did some great stuff in Detroit.

Also fwiw I've evolved a lot in my understanding of the historic 'Negro Struggle' in the US, and I'm a lot less knee-jerk about certain things - still pretty critical of the would-have-been leaders though, including Carmichael.

I'm sorry. I crossed a line there. I've been reading a fair amount of James and other JFT/post-JFT stuff in the past couple years, and I'm a little dismayed at how many anarchists kind of want to have their (our) cake and eat it too. I took this out on you unfairly. I am sometimes frustrated with your opinions but I don't think you're an opportunist.

Actually reading James, it's hard to "come for the autonomous working class resistance" and not "stay for the third-worldism," so to speak, because he was such a brilliant thinker and writer, and these two positions were both products of the same logic, experience and worldview. That's all I really meant there. I'd recommend reading more of his writing (including the Black Jacobins even though he really doesn't explain his politics much in it, but to get a better sense of his original motivations) so you can draw your own conclusions. I had been introduced to James mostly through a kind of convoluted pan-"autonomist" historiography, so I had a hard time taking him at face value until I abandoned the misconceptions that gave me. Get acquainted with the actual WP/JFT/SWP breaks, and then reread that essay toward the beginning of Stan Weir's book, take Facing Reality as a propaganda pamphlet on the scale of the Communist Manifesto and then read some stuff from after the post-FR splits... and a somewhat different history begins to present itself.

Northern California must be awesome in the spring, I'm jealous.

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Red Marriott
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Apr 11 2008 21:12

http://libcom.org/library/trotsky-left-opposition-rise-stalinism-theory-practice-john-eric-marot

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Apr 11 2008 21:42

"So, Alf agrees that all I desribed of Trotskyism's role was counter-revolutionary - i.e., repressing any revolutionary expression of the proletariat in the name of Party supremacy - then how could it at the same time be a 'proletarian current'? You're falling for the same error/deceit as Trotsky and co. (and Stalinists too) - that the intra-Party factions in their rivalries actually represented different class interests"

In 1917-18, hostility to the October revolution and the Bolsheviks was also widely considered, in the international workers' movement, to be counter-revolutionary; and so it was, playing directly into the hands of the ruling class. And it does so to this day. But I don't write off everyone who makes this mistake as being outside the workers' movement.

Yoshomon: why is the Bolshevik repression of Kronstadt 1921 different from the betrayal of internationalism in 1939-45? Because in 1939-45 the principle of internationalism had already been long established as the foundation stone of the workers' movement. The fundamental lessons that derive from Kronstadt - that the proletarian dictatorship cannot be defended by repressing discontented or even rebellious workers, that differences within the working class cannot be settled by violence -were established above all through the experience of Kronstadt itself.

In saying this, I am still conscious that this problematic is meaningless to those who don't think that the Bolsheviks had indeed been a proletarian party, and that the October revolution had indeed established a form of proletarian dictatorship. For them, Bolshevism was simply obeying its true nature by repressing the Kronstadt proletariat.

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Apr 11 2008 23:42

MJ thanks for the take on James. As I said, i've never read any of his stuff, primarily because i was aware of his heavy third-worldism and didn't think i'd find much worth reading. (I think the essay in Singlejack Solidarity is the closest i got to ever reading James). Same for Raya Dunayesvakaya, I'm just not very interested in the Hegel.

To be dialectical, I think that to the extent that they focused on workers resistance to the process of work, and their ability to act autonomously from any representative organizations, James and Dunayesvkaya had something worthwhile to say. To the extent that that talked about pretty much anything else, it was from the same perspective as standard leninists. Maybe one day I'll get around to reading their works and revising this opinion.

Honestly I think his support for black nationalism and third worldism fit right in with a lot of US anarchist thought these days - equality of oppressions and all that. Particularly those who don't recognize a class line - than the only fault of Kwame Nkrumah (or Stokely Carmichael) is that he was vaguely 'authoritarian'.

PS: Yes it's fucking beautiful right now. There are certain advantages to working at night.

si
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Apr 12 2008 13:37
Quote:
The fundamental lessons that derive from Kronstadt - that the proletarian dictatorship cannot be defended by repressing discontented or even rebellious workers, that differences within the working class cannot be settled by violence -were established above all through the experience of Kronstadt itself.

that old hassle about party agency/class agency, innit? Proletarian party as legitimate expression of the class's historical mission - or - only a midwife for class agency? Lukacs over Lenin, I think.

Quote:
"In Lukács' endless self-repudiations, just what he had identified with became visible and clear as a caricature: he had identified with the opposite of himself and of what he had supported in History and Class Consciousness.[...] The real party whose imaginary portrait Lukács had inopportunely drawn was coherent for only one precise and partial task: to seize State power." (Debord, Society of the Spectacle, thesis 112)

H&CC is a beautiful book - it's a little sad, though, when he speaks so fondly of Luxembourg, and attributes to her only one failing - of having failed to identify the Leninist party as the Historical party she desired. Ironic too that the things was released 1921.

Bad times.

yoshomon
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Apr 12 2008 13:39
Quote:
why is the Bolshevik repression of Kronstadt 1921 different from the betrayal of internationalism in 1939-45? Because in 1939-45 the principle of internationalism had already been long established as the foundation stone of the workers' movement. The fundamental lessons that derive from Kronstadt - that the proletarian dictatorship cannot be defended by repressing discontented or even rebellious workers, that differences within the working class cannot be settled by violence -were established above all through the experience of Kronstadt itself.

So prior to Krondstadt there wasn't anything 'established' against having revolutionary workers 'shot down like partridges’?

I think the fact that there were strikes and worker uprisings going on speaks to the fact that no 'proletarian dictatorship' existed in 1921, and that what existed was a dictatorship of the party. The Bolshevik state required the repression of the working class.

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Apr 12 2008 13:55

Yoshomon: do you think that there was any kind of proletarian dictatorship in Russia between 1917 and 1921?

Communard
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Apr 12 2008 17:11
Alf wrote:
Yoshomon: do you think that there was any kind of proletarian dictatorship in Russia between 1917 and 1921?

There is proletarian dictatorship as long as the power is in workers' hands (councils, soviets).
If workers have power, can they go on strike against themselves? And how can they repress themselves? schizophrenia? it seems that class need a shrink more than a party...

But...wait a moment...the Holy Party represents workers interests better than workers! if workers can't understand it....just kill them....we are still proletarian revolutionaries, aren't we?!
Linear....
Poor Marx.....

Alf, answer to your question and explain why..... please be materialist and not like "it was proletarian because they had red flags!"

Communard
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Apr 12 2008 17:20
Leo Uilleann wrote:
[...]the degeneration of the Russian revolution (which was not, in turn, a result of evil counter-revolutionary politics of individuals but of the actions of a class rising again because the revolution had been isolated)

The Paris Commune was defeated too....isolation, yes.
But it didn't mechanically became the ultimate counterrevolutionary central.... guess why.

Hint: the Commune was not defeated by the "proletarian vanguard".

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Apr 12 2008 20:04

You didn't exactly answer the question, communard. Were the councils ever in power in Russia?