Need some basic understanding of Trotskyism

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Alf
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Apr 14 2008 10:41

My problem is that you are always defending Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks after all they did to the workers.

Fine, but you somehow implied that we shouldn't be here at all. As for defending, yes, we will start from a position of defence because the attack comes not just from the libertarians, but from the bourgeoisie as a whole. This has never meant that we don't criticise their errors.

Still no time to respond to the posts from Communard and Dave C but will try later or tomorrow.

Communard
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Apr 14 2008 11:28
Alf wrote:
My problem is that you are always defending Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks after all they did to the workers.

Fine, but you somehow implied that we shouldn't be here at all. As for defending, yes, we will start from a position of defence because the attack comes not just from the libertarians, but from the bourgeoisie as a whole.

It's good you're here...
but... Is there any bourgeoisie fellows in this forum attacking Lenin because he was too "communist"?
The charge is the opposite one... and comes from a materialist point of view.

Leo
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Apr 14 2008 14:06
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Read Lenin, my dear leninist friend!

I think you calling me a "Leninist" is completely baseless but I guess when someone says that Lenin wasn't bourgeois, "Leninist" is automatically the label councilists / anarchists stick to you.

Anyway, I have read Lenin, have you read the April Thesis or State and Revolution?

Do you think Lenin was arguing for a bourgeois revolution there?

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but, first of all, read Marx's "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte"

I have read that too.

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it's very useful to overcome idealism.

You keep saying and saying that we are idealists and still I can't see a cause for this other than we thinking that Lenin and the Bolsheviks were not bourgeois. Obviously, as I said, the council communists of the time did not think that Lenin was bourgeois either at the time (rightly so), and discussed with him fraternally (although of course harshly, and again rightly so for the most part). Were they idealists too? Were they idealists for initially participating in the Communist International and later on participating in CI congresses as KAPD? Was Luxemburg and idealist when she said "the future everywhere belongs to Bolshevism"?

Have they not read "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte"? smile

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omg, I don't think that Lenin was a liar

I didn't say that you do, I said that it could be a logical conclusion when you say Lenin intended to lead a bourgeois revolution.

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Leo, you didn't really read what i wrote about counter revolution causes.

I did, you basically say it was not just the Bolsheviks but the material conditions too. Still, however, the "subject" and those who are "responsible" remains the Bolsheviks, ultimately not a class but a party, a "clique". In other words, I don't see how you fit the the "material conditions" in your analysis.

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Lenin recognized, as did Gorter, that the Russian revolution had a dual character.

Oh sure, that of course is the whole arguements on the "peasant question". However, that is completely irrelevant, what does the fact that peasantry existed in Russia have to do with the discussion regarding whether workers councils taking power in industrial centers of Russia being a proletarian or a bourgeois revolution?

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But he saw the Bolshevik's state-capitalist measures as building a road to socialism. Gorter was more skeptical.

And rightly so, in my opinion, all the arguements about state-capitalist measures and "primitive socialist accumulation" etc. proved to be gravely mistaken arguements that expressed how desperate the situation was. Left communists of the time were spot on on their warnings on that issue.

Leo
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Apr 14 2008 14:16

DJ-TC;

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The problem lies in the fact that revolution was massive, and that it started almost out of nothing. That's why it took time to develop, so it was rather "slow" (of course, slow in the sense that we're talking about 160 million people). Practice had to develop according to the needs of the workers and peasants, so organizational forms started to change and to be invented, and the consciousness had to follow, so the new goals were formulated, over time. It was a huge and a slow process, but we can see it develop it the dirrection of communism.

Now, vis a vis the mass movement, the Bolshevik Party was the only political organization that was able to catch up with the movement, and eventually use it to capture state power -- this was no hidden agenda, the capture of state power was the cornerstone of the Leninist programme. Basically, the Party ran faster than the movement, so it imposed its own goals and principles upon it. After that, it tolerated nothing else apart from its own command.

What I disagree with here is the last bit. I know, of course, that capturing state power indeed did became one of the cornerstones of "Leninism", I do not however think that this was even what happened with the Bolsheviks. Although confused in regards to the question of consciousness, the Bolshevik slogan was after all "all power to the soviets", not "all power to the party" and their initial plan was not, I think to take power themselves but for the soviets to take power and for them to participate in the soviets. They found themselves identified and merged with the state, and thus I think this in the end killed the party, destroyed even the tiniest bit of proletarian life within it, as the revolution degenerated. In that sense I think it was not really the Bolsheviks who took state power, but it was state power who ended up taking the Bolsheviks. They were not driving the car, rather the car was driving them.

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Yeah, definately, but I don't have the YM installed any more. I'm using PSI (it's safer).

I don't use YM anymore either, what is PSI? Do you use MSN or can I talk with PSI while using an MSN account?

Communard
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Apr 14 2008 16:22
Leo Uilleann wrote:
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Read Lenin, my dear leninist friend!

I think you calling me a "Leninist" is completely baseless but I guess when someone says that Lenin wasn't bourgeois, "Leninist" is automatically the label councilists / anarchists stick to you.

Anyway, I have read Lenin, have you read the April Thesis or State and Revolution?

Do you think Lenin was arguing for a bourgeois revolution there?

of course Lenin didn't say "i'm a counter-revolutionary bourgeois"... i believe he was acting in "good faith" (how do you say this in english....i mean "with good intentions")
But, if you've read "18 Brumaire" you should know that what men thinks of theirselves and about what they *believe* is unimportant.
it's important if you're an idealist, but marxists should not think that ideas and words are more important then facts.
And, obviously, Bolsheviks were not bourgeoise because they were evil...it's a matter of theory linked to a very moment in the development of capital and proletarian movement.

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You keep saying and saying that we are idealists and still I can't see a cause for this other than we thinking that Lenin and the Bolsheviks were not bourgeois.

you are idealists because you're thinking that Lenin and Bolsheviks were not bourgeois JUST BECAUSE they labelled themselves as "communists".
why Lenin and Trotzky where in the "proletarian camp"? because, if not, they were liars? because they had red flags? because they were not evil?
nobody of you ICC guys answered that point.

as opposed to you, me and another people in this forum have told you WHY bolsheviks were bourgeois.... and it's not a matter of labels, books and ideas, but real events that ALSO YOU judge as "counter-revolutionary"....but it's ok for you, just "mistakes" smile
how can't you see idealism in your way of arguing?

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Obviously, as I said, the council communists of the time did not think that Lenin was bourgeois either at the time (rightly so), and discussed with him fraternally (although of course harshly, and again rightly so for the most part). Were they idealists too? Were they idealists for initially participating in the Communist International and later on participating in CI congresses as KAPD? Was Luxemburg and idealist when she said "the future everywhere belongs to Bolshevism"?

it's 2008 now....it's a lot easier talking now about that historical events, don't you think?
should the hopes of that generation of revolutionaries be an evidence of something?
anyway, there were marxists knowing that Bolsheviks were doing a bourgeois revolution (Lenin himself, for example).

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omg, I don't think that Lenin was a liar

I didn't say that you do, I said that it could be a logical conclusion when you say Lenin intended to lead a bourgeois revolution.

...so what?
is this your argument against the evidence that Bolsheviks lead a bourgeoise revolution?

anyway, i said that Lenin decided to lead the bourgeoise revolution because it was the only possible revolution in Russia at that time.... this is not just my opinion, but also Lenin's one. He did hope in a revolution in europe.

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Leo, you didn't really read what i wrote about counter revolution causes.

I did, you basically say it was not just the Bolsheviks but the material conditions too. Still, however, the "subject" and those who are "responsible" remains the Bolsheviks, ultimately not a class but a party, a "clique". In other words, I don't see how you fit the the "material conditions" in your analysis.

read again, please:

Communard wrote:
Russia was an undeveloped country, with few proletarians.
In these conditions, without a revolution in europe, the russian revolution couldn't be anything but a bourgeois one.
[...]
The russian revolution couldn't be a communist one.... it's not a Lenin fault, in few words it's a matter of means of production...and of isolation, of course.
But the bolsheviks fault is another....and it's huge. Stalinism was not a necessary material consequence....normally, other countries did their fucking bourgeois revolution without a "communist" ideology that destroy every movement toward communism worldwide, throwing tons of shit over Marx's thought.
[...]
do you think that the "internal" red counter revolution (started years before stalin) was inevitable?
[...]
Is bolsheviks counter revolutionary politics and stalinism the only possible mechanically determinated product of the dialectical interaction between relation of production and material forces of production at that stage of development?
[...]
in my opinion the revolution was stopped first of all by the lack of material conditions....russia had big factories, but the big majority of the people was peasants.
The bolshevik party surely has "stopped the wheel" jailing and killing revolutionaries....it's what every bourgeois government would have done...the difference is that they called themselves the "vanguard" of world proletarian revolution.....with the disastrous consequences that we know still today.
Anyway, without a revolution in europe, the wheel would have been stopped, sooner or later.... the matter is HOW.
As the history shows, the bolshevik way was the worst possible for the world communist movement.
[...]
The counter revolution would have been lead by whoever was the dominant class....in that case, bolsheviks.
[...]
I don't think Stalin=Lenin....I think stalinism is not a "mistake" or a "fatality" like idealists use to say, it's the natural consequence of the bolshevik theory and praxis in that historical moment.
It's not JUST because the Bolshevik Party (like some councilists/anarchists use to think), It's not JUST because that historical-material moment (like left-communist-leninists use to think). In very few words, it's because both. Be dialectical and think at the "totality".
otherwise....how do you explain Stalinism? A very bad guy took power?

ok, my english sucks...but have you got the point now?

And, yes, in certain places of russia there were workers councils.... BEFORE bolsheviks got rid of them.

someone would also answer to this, please?
A political organization detaining power (suppressing workers councils) who slaughter prolets revolutionaries, can be called "proletarian"? How?
(try to forget the fact that they labelled themselves as "communists", please!)

Leo
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Apr 14 2008 22:42
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you are idealists because you're thinking that Lenin and Bolsheviks were not bourgeois JUST BECAUSE they labelled themselves as "communists".

No, it's got nothing to do with what they label themselves as and everything to do with all the positive things they did, such as their principled internationalist position during the war, them pushing for revolution and propagating "all power to the soviets", them forming the Communist International with European left communists etc.

I will get back on this one.

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Alf
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Apr 14 2008 23:17

Communard - how do you explain the Bolsheviks' internationalist position on world war one? And the internationalist logic behind pushing for the overthrow of the Kerensky government as the first step in the w orld revolution?

Beltov
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Apr 14 2008 23:34

Communard, don't worry. Your English is fine. I can follow your arguments but I'm very tired after just finishing a long shift.

All I can say is that I can feel your pain, of having been a 'left Leninist' and then reacting against that to move towards councilism. Maybe you are 'twisting the bar' too far, as did Lenin on several occasions? wink Your reaction seems to be regressive, of returning to Marx and away from Lenin, away from the 3rd International and back to the 2nd (with the idea that only the bourgeois revolution was on the agenda of history in Russia). But where do you stop? Very soon you will find that Engels was against Marx and then go back to 1848 and the Holy Grail of the Manifesto, as the Bordigitsts do. And then after that you'll find that Marx was against Proudhon and the utopians etc. etc. It is a well trodden path...

Yes, there have been many defeats, but as Rosa Luxemburg said, the working class is the only class that can advance on the basis of defeats, because it has the capacity to learn from its mistakes and because it has a world to win. That is where our hope lies. Yes, Lenin and the Bolsheviks made many mistakes, but Marxism is not a dead dogma. It is alive today, on this very thread, being turned over, challenged and clarified.

OK, my mention of the 'evil' Lenin has put words in your mouth and distracted from my argument about state capitalism. It was a 'cheap shot'. But I think at one level that we are in agreement: that the material conditions determine consciousness. As Leo aptly put it, the state seized the Bolsheviks, not the other way round. But on the other hand - and this is the part of the dialectic that Marx shows as early as 1844 - that, "The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism by weapons, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses." In your rejection of idealism you seem to be going to the other extreme of crude empiricism, of neglecting the role of the subjective factor in the development of history. This is the chronic weakness of councilism, which gradually came to reject any role for the regroupment and intervention of the clearest revolutionary minorities, rather putting blind faith in spontaneism.

And this is what the workers' movement owes to Lenin: first, that he was able to see most clearly the need for the organisation of the revolutionary minorities, and second that the historic situation at was ripe to turn the imperialist war into a civil war, that the revolution in Russia was but the prelude to the world revolution. Looking back today it is hard to appreciate the impact of the Russian revolution on the workers' movement in the early 1900s. After decades of work and struggles the socialist movement was looking strong, but it's heart was rotting. The opportunism of social democracy - culminating in the betrayals of 1914 - knocked the stuffing out of the workers' movement. So 1917 stood out like a beacon to the working class, a real bolt from the blue. As Luxemburg said, the Bolsheviks embodied the "salvation of the honour of international socialism". We agree with her method:

Rosa Luxemburg wrote:
What is in order is to distinguish the essential from the non-essential, the kernel from the accidental excrescencies in the politics of the Bolsheviks. In the present period, when we face decisive final struggles in all the world, the most important problem of socialism was and is the burning question of our time. It is not a matter of this or that secondary question of tactics, but of the capacity for action of the proletariat, the strength to act, the will to power of socialism as such. In this, Lenin and Trotsky and their friends were the first, those who went ahead as an example to the proletariat of the world; they are still the only ones up to now who can cry with Hutten: "I have dared!"
http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1918/russian-revolution/ch08.htm

BTW, which group of 'ultra-left Leninists' did you break from, if you don't mind me asking?

smile

B.

yoshomon
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Apr 15 2008 07:05
Leo Uilleann wrote:
[Anyway, I have read Lenin, have you read the April Thesis or State and Revolution?

Do you think Lenin was arguing for a bourgeois revolution there?

This is what draws the cry of "idealism!". Clearly the 'good stuff' he wrote in books is pretty meaningless and hollow next to his actual actions.

I am sure we can find a number of groups and people besides the Bolsheviks who opposed World War One but went on to be counter-revolutionaries. Opposing the WW1 was not a historical 'get out of jail free card'.

Leo
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Apr 15 2008 07:30
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This is what draws the cry of "idealism!". Clearly the 'good stuff' he wrote in books is pretty meaningless and hollow next to his actual actions.

So did Lenin, and at least left-bolsheviks not defend internationalism during the imperialist war, called and actively worked in the soviets and for the soviets to take power?

They quite clearly did what they were talking about in the books in that period, regardless of how the situation developed afterwards.

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I am sure we can find a number of groups and people besides the Bolsheviks who opposed World War One but went on to be counter-revolutionaries.

Oh sure, but it doesn't happen overnight.

chimx
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Apr 15 2008 07:38
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Clearly the 'good stuff' he wrote in books is pretty meaningless and hollow next to his actual actions.

What actions specifically? His work with Russian anarchists to close the Constituent Assembly, or working with them earlier in October to overthrow the provisional government? If you are talking more in regards to the Soviet government after 1919, how would have anarchists handled the Soviet system better than the Bolsheviks following the failure of the worker revolutions throughout Europe that had been predicted by Marx and Lenin? It is easy to cast blame, but hindsight is 20/20 and I'm not convinced we are being historically fair.

I also don't understand how Lenin's contribution to Marxist doctrine is meaningless because of these actions, particularly his work on imperialism.

In regards to the original topic of Trotskyism, one thing I've grown more appreciative of is Trotskyist's taken on entryism in trade unions. It strikes me as being a more realistic model than anything I've seen Left Communists offer up.

Leo
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Apr 15 2008 08:03
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why Lenin and Trotzky where in the "proletarian camp"? because, if not, they were liars? because they had red flags? because they were not evil?

No because their genuinely revolutionary and internationalist practice, which I believe while judging them as individuals, weights heavier than their occasional objectively counter-revolutionary actions.

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ok, my english sucks...but have you got the point now?

English is not my first language either, so don't worry smile

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it's 2008 now....it's a lot easier talking now about that historical events, don't you think?

I would firstly rely more on a revolutionaries who experienced the situation in first hand rather than those who made conclusions about things that happened hundred years ago.

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anyway, there were marxists knowing that Bolsheviks were doing a bourgeois revolution (Lenin himself, for example).

You are confusing the ideological gymnastics Bolsheviks made during the arguements about how to communicate and work with the peasantry with what actually happened in the industrial Russia and what Bolsheviks regarded as happening, which was quite massive numerically, considering the vastness of Russia, although not massive proportionally of course. The Bolsheviks thought, basically, that the proletarian revolution in the cities needed to bring the "bourgeois-democratic revolution" in the countryside to it's end, in other words the only thing this meant was land-reform.

This basically reduces the point about Lenin "deciding to lead a bourgeois revolution" to Lenin "wanting to make a land-reform".

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Russia was an undeveloped country, with few proletarians.
In these conditions, without a revolution in europe, the russian revolution couldn't be anything but a bourgeois one.
[...]
The russian revolution couldn't be a communist one...

This is of course the Kautskyist and Menshevik position, which they were arguing before the revolution, and which was really disproved after the revolution.

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But the bolsheviks fault is another....and it's huge. Stalinism was not a necessary material consequence....normally, other countries did their fucking bourgeois revolution without a "communist" ideology that destroy every movement toward communism worldwide, throwing tons of shit over Marx's thought.

Again, the "every countries need to have their bourgeois revolution, nothing else is possible" is exactly the Second International idea.

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in my opinion the revolution was stopped first of all by the lack of material conditions....russia had big factories, but the big majority of the people was peasants.

Proportionally, of course, however workers in Russia were numerically massive, considering the Russian population and all.

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The bolshevik party surely has "stopped the wheel" jailing and killing revolutionaries...

This is moralism, this is what I meant with the "dirty" argument. The Bolshevik Party surely was involved with "jailing and killing" revolutionaries (most of whom of course were also bolsheviks), however this argument entirely misses the reasons behind those events, the material conditions forcing those things and puts the blame on Bolsheviks subjective actions.

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The counter revolution would have been lead by whoever was the dominant class....in that case, bolsheviks.

Bolsheviks were not a class. I don't think you can even argue that they were representatives of a faction of the bourgeoisie but instead were infiltrated by that class.

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I think stalinism is not a "mistake" or a "fatality" like idealists use to say, it's the natural consequence of the bolshevik theory and praxis in that historical moment.

I don't think stalinism is a "mistake" or a "fatality" either, nor do I think that it's a continuation or consequence of the bolshevik theory. Stalinism has got nothing to do with Bolshevik theories, as it is above all a very chameleon-like, a very Machiavellian ideology, if anything it is a negation of the principled (and even occasionally stubborn, especially when it is wrong) Bolshevik theories. As for practically, Stalinism was the manifestation of the rule of the bourgeoisie, of the counter-revolution, of the imperialist interests of Russia, of national capital and so forth.

capricorn
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Apr 15 2008 09:52

What is this? The Dead Russians Society? In the 19th century revolutionaries saw the French Revolution as a sort of model. In the 20th for it was the Russian Revolution. Now we're in the 21st century let's move on. It ought to be clear that conditions today in the developed capitalist parts of the world have very little in common with conditions in Russia in 1917. Let's work out a revolutionary strategy for the world we live in (well-established political democracy, more white-collar than industrial workers, no peasantry, no cavalry, etc). Maybe the collapse of state capitalism in Eastern Europe could be a model to build on?.

chimx
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Apr 15 2008 14:12
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(well-established political democracy, more white-collar than industrial workers, no peasantry, no cavalry, etc)

I'm not sure if downtown NYC is the best cross section of the world proletariat.

Communard
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Apr 15 2008 17:06

omg...
ok... words, propaganda, books and cryes like "all power to the soviets" weigh more than real actions, like dismantle/kill soviets....
a bourgeoise revolution is not bourgeoise, if Lenin did it.
Lenin was internationalist, so whatever bolsheviks did AFTER the revolution, is ok

i've wasted too much of my time.... good luck, my dears bolsheviks priests....try to don't use your own brain too much...it's dangerous for your Faith.

Mike Harman
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Apr 15 2008 18:02

Not to mention that internationalism faded pretty damn fast when they signed the treaty of Brest Litovsk, probably the first practical test of it in any real sense.

Leo
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Apr 15 2008 18:13
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words, propaganda, books and cryes like "all power to the soviets" weigh more than real actions

Actually, it weren't just words, the soviets did take all power.

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like dismantle/kill soviets....

Was it the oh-so-bourgeois party who did all it could for the soviets to take power previously that was truly responsible for dismantling/killing the soviets or was it the old ruling class itself that destroyed the soviets by taking over the party?

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a bourgeoise revolution is not bourgeoise, if Lenin did it. Lenin was internationalist, so whatever bolsheviks did AFTER the revolution, is ok i've wasted too much of my time.... good luck, my dears bolsheviks priests....try to don't use your own brain too much...it's dangerous for your Faith.

I am speechless confronted with such intense demagogy.

All you have done here is to put words in my mouth and call me and other comrades names. There is no base whatsoever in any name-calling you have been doing.

Whatever, spend your time as you wish, I'm not dying to be called a "bolshevik priest" or any other "sophisticated" insult on my part.

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Not to mention that internationalism faded pretty damn fast when they signed the treaty of Brest Litovsk, probably the first practical test of it in any real sense.

Now that, compared the to the arguements on how the October Revolution was "bourgeois", or how Lenin was a counter-revolutionary Kautskyist because he quoted Kautsky in What is to be Done?, is an argument that really has some real, material base and point in it, although I disagree with it. I am closer to saying that they had to make peace, although the way they did it was completely embarrassing and badly handled, and all the points on the "national liberation of Poland" were as such as well.

capricorn
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Apr 15 2008 18:17

If I can join the Dead Russians Society for a moment, surely the Treaty of Brest Litovsk was honouring the pledge to try to stop the slaughter by taking Russia out of the war, the one good thing that the Bolshevik-dominated government that seized power in November 1917 did? What was the alternative: to continue the war sending more workers and peasants to their death? At least, to their credit, they didn't do that

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OliverTwister
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Apr 15 2008 18:26


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Actually, it weren't just words, the soviets did take all power.

Thanks to the bolsheviks?

Leo
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Apr 15 2008 19:50
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...Dead Russians Society...

Is this phrase supposed to be funny or something?

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surely the Treaty of Brest Litovsk was honouring the pledge to try to stop the slaughter by taking Russia out of the war ... What was the alternative: to continue the war sending more workers and peasants to their death? At least, to their credit, they didn't do that

I generally agree with those bits.

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Actually, it weren't just words, the soviets did take all power.
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Thanks to the bolsheviks?

Thanks to the workers in the soviets, of course, but the Bolsheviks did everything they were capable of to push for that to happen and were among the workers in the soviets.

Mike Harman
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Apr 15 2008 21:05
Leo Uilleann wrote:
Quote:
words, propaganda, books and cryes like "all power to the soviets" weigh more than real actions

Actually, it weren't just words, the soviets did take all power.
.

But they were neither granted all power by the Bolsheviks, nor does Bolsheviks == soviets. Some Labour Party MPs talk about higher wages, when workers get higher wages that doesn't mean there was a connection, or there was any firm basis behind what they said.

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Now that, compared the to the arguements on how the October Revolution was "bourgeois", or how Lenin was a counter-revolutionary Kautskyist because he quoted Kautsky in What is to be Done?, is an argument that really has some real, material base and point in it, although I disagree with it. I am closer to saying that they had to make peace, although the way they did it was completely embarrassing and badly handled, and all the points on the "national liberation of Poland" were as such as well.
Trotsky wrote:
“If the Central Committee decides to sign the German terms only under the pressure of a verbal ultimatum,” I said, “we risk a split in the party. Our party needs a disclosure of the actual state of affairs no less than the workmen of Europe. If we break with the Left, the party will make a decided curve to the Right. It is an undeniable fact that all the comrades who were against the October revolution or were for a bloc with the socialist parties would be unconditionally for the Brest-Litovsk peace. And our tasks are not finished with the conclusion of peace. Among the Left Communists are many who played an active rôle in the October period,” etc.

“That is all indisputable,” Vladimir Ilyich answered. “But for the moment the question is the fate of the revolution. We can restore balance in the party. But before everything else we must save the revolution, and we can only save it by signing the peace terms. Better a split than the danger of a military overthrow of the revolution.

The Lefts will cease raging and then – even if it comes to a split, which is not inevitable – return to the party. On the other hand, if the Germans conquer us, not one of us returns. Very well. Let us admit your plan is accepted. We refuse to sign the peace treaty. And the Germans at once attack. What will you do then?”

“We will sign the peace terms under bayonets. Then the picture will be clear to the workmen of the whole world.”

“But you will not support the solution of a revolutionary war?”

“Under no circumstances.”

“With this understanding the experiment is probably not so dangerous. We risk the loss of Esthonia and Letvia. Some Esthonian comrades came to see me recently and told me how splendidly the peasants had begun the socialist structure. It is a great pity if we must sacrifice socialist Esthonia,” Lenin said jokingly, “but for the sake of a good peace it is worth while agreeing to a compromise.”

Leo
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Apr 15 2008 22:09
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But they were neither granted all power by the Bolsheviks, nor does Bolsheviks == soviets.

I never claimed anything contrary.

Here's what I said:

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Actually, it weren't just words, the soviets did take all power.

Thanks to the bolsheviks?

Thanks to the workers in the soviets, of course, but the Bolsheviks did everything they were capable of to push for that to happen and were among the workers in the soviets.

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Alf
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Apr 15 2008 22:44

If I can join the Dead Russians Society for a moment, surely the Treaty of Brest Litovsk was honouring the pledge to try to stop the slaughter by taking Russia out of the war, the one good thing that the Bolshevik-dominated government that seized power in November 1917 did? What was the alternative: to continue the war sending more workers and peasants to their death? At least, to their credit, they didn't do that

Capricorn, this is excellent! You seem to me to be saying that at Brest Litovsk the Bolsheviks were still, as Rosa Luxemburg wrote that same year, fighting to save the honour of international socialism. In other words, they were not a band of state capitlalist counter-revolutionaries or, at best, bourgeois revolutionaries, but a party of international socialism. The debate within the Bolshevik party over the Treaty was a debate between proletarian currents, all of whom started from the angle of how best to defend the Russian commune and advance the growth of the world revolution (two aims that were not in conflict with each other).

The 'Left Communists' in Russia in 1918 are identified with the position of revolutionary war, one which in appearance seems more radical than the position adopted by Lenin (recognition of the inevitability of signing the Treaty but no compromise on questions of principle). But as Bilan pointed out,the concept of revolutionary war, as a means not only of defence but of extending the revolution, is based on a serious confusion between the methods of the bourgeoise revolution and those of the proletarian revolution, which is spread above all by factors of consciousness and politics and not through purely military victories. And as Capricorn points out, in reality it would have meant a slaughter of Russian workers and peasants by the far better equipped German army. Indeed, it would also in all probability end up getting submerged in the world imperialist war. Pulling out of the war while publishing all the secret treaties sent a much clearer message to the world proletariat than trying to continue the imperialist conflict with Germany under a revolutionary flag. And the outbreak of the German revolution in November 1918 demonstrated that signing the Treaty had not at all put a barrier in the way of the international revolution, as the Left Communists had feared.

Many have argued that signing the treaty was already the definitive betrayal of the revolution. The left SRs or at least part of them came to this conclusion and immediately began terrorist activity against the Soviet government. More recently, Guy Sabatier, who left Revolution Internationale in 1973 or 4 to form Pour Une Intervention Communiste, wrote a book a few years later called Brest-Litovsk, coup d'arret de la revolution where he argues that it was Brest-Litovsk, not Kronstadt, which marked the end of the Bolsheviks as a proletarian party, even the point at which the whole revolution stopped.

But if this pseudo-radical point of view is shown to be false, surely other aspects of the anti-Bolshevik crusade also need to be subjected to doubt?

dave c
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Joined: 4-09-07
Apr 15 2008 22:54

I think that Leo simplifies Lenin’s views and does not capture the sense that even for Lenin, the necessary alliance with the peasantry determined the character of the revolution. The Bolsheviks could not have succeeded, as Lenin saw it, without abandoning their own agrarian program.

Lenin’s views are correctly summarized by Lucio Colletti as

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the conviction that a revolutionary bourgeoisie could no longer exist in the 20th century: hence the inevitability of the proletariat itself leading the bourgeois-democratic revolution, where this had still to take place. ("The Question of Stalin." New Left Review May-June 1970, 65)

Now, the question arises: can the proletariat itself perform this task? Lenin knew that it could not, but that did not matter for him. A mystical merger was consummated long ago:

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The dictatorship of the working class is being implemented by the Bolshevik Party, the party which as far back as 1905 and even earlier merged with the entire revolutionary proletariat.
http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/aug/24.htm

Only a strong state power standing above the working class could consummate the bourgeois-democratic revolution, a state power which will necessarily come into conflict with the working class itself.

Lenin was honest, not duplicitous, when he said,

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The best of the bourgeois republics, no matter how democratic they may be, have thousands of legal hindrances which prevent the working people from participating in the work of government. What we have done, was to remove these hindrances, but so far we have not reached the stage at which the working people could participate in government. Apart from the law, there is still the level of culture, which you cannot subject to any law. The result of this low cultural level is that the Soviets, which by virtue of their programme are organs of government by the working people, are in fact organs of government for the working people by the advanced section of the proletariat, but not by the working people as a whole.
http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/rcp8th/03.htm (italics in original)

Lenin is abundantly clear: the “proletarian revolution” of the Bolsheviks does not necessarily involve the working class participating in government. The contradiction is clear for anyone paying attention. And so again I refer to Gorter:

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The party dictatorship of the Bolshevists was in the highest degree bourgeois. Party dictatorship will always become so. In leader-dictatorship lies the kernel of the bourgeois capitalist revolution, and in it is the greatest proof that the Russian revolution was chiefly, and in its origin, a bourgeois capitalist one.
http://www.marxists.org/archive/gorter/1923/world-revolution.htm

Mike Harman
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Apr 16 2008 10:17
Leo Uilleann wrote:
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But they were neither granted all power by the Bolsheviks, nor does Bolsheviks == soviets.

I never claimed anything contrary.

Here's what I said:

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Actually, it weren't just words, the soviets did take all power.

Thanks to the bolsheviks?

Thanks to the workers in the soviets, of course, but the Bolsheviks did everything they were capable of to push for that to happen and were among the workers in the soviets.

I don't think that makes Lenin's slogans any more meaningful. Yes there were working class members of the Bolsheviks - but they also had to fight against their own organisation when engaged in militant activity, or at the least went far beyond it - as did rank and file Mensheviks, Left SRs etc. (c.f. the Bolshevik led metalworkers union trying to put down strikes during 1917).

Mike Harman
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Apr 16 2008 10:28

Alf,

What you miss, is that Lenin and Trotsky, by virtue of being in a position to negotiate treaties with Germany were already representing the new Russian imperialism. How do internationalist revolutionaries sign military treaties on behalf of nation states? In what sense were they in a position to decide the fate of revolutionary workers in Estonia and Latvia? Estonia and Latvia of course later reclaimed by another treaty between Russia and Germany which I'm sure you don't approve of...

Leo
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Apr 16 2008 11:07
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I don't think that makes Lenin's slogans any more meaningful.

Then what exactly would make it meaningful?

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Yes there were working class members of the Bolsheviks - but they also had to fight against their own organisation when engaged in militant activity

Before 1917 in regards to the soviets taking power? What is this based on?

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Bolshevik led metalworkers union trying to put down strikes during 1917

Can you post more details on this?

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I think that Leo simplifies Lenin’s views and does not capture the sense that even for Lenin, the necessary alliance with the peasantry determined the character of the revolution. The Bolsheviks could not have succeeded, as Lenin saw it, without abandoning their own agrarian program.

Regardless, though, I fail to see the relation of this with workers soviets taking power in main industrial cities of Russia, or how Lenin or other Bolsheviks regarded this issue. Obviously the agrarian question was a heavily debated and important topic in the Bolshevik Party, but does Lenin's opinions on this make him or the revolution bourgeois?

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Lenin’s views are correctly summarized by Lucio Colletti as
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the conviction that a revolutionary bourgeoisie could no longer exist in the 20th century: hence the inevitability of the proletariat itself leading the bourgeois-democratic revolution, where this had still to take place. ("The Question of Stalin." New Left Review May-June 1970, 65)

Now, the question arises: can the proletariat itself perform this task?

Again, I believe you are misunderstanding / misinterpreting here, and again obviously the Bolsheviks were not really very clear on this question and had misunderstandings on things like what "bourgeois-democratic" revolution, but what they meant was not a new class system in which a bourgeoisie ruled over the proletariat, what they meant was things like education, health care, electrification, and land reform. Now, all these, although clearly are nothing near building socialism, will be necessary to be provided to the whole society by the working class if they were non existent in a certain place where workers took power. I don't think this has got anything to do with the nature of the revolution, nor do I think the workers dealing with those problems makes a possible revolution more bourgeois and less proletarian, surely you would agree?

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Only a strong state power standing above the working class could consummate the bourgeois-democratic revolution, a state power which will necessarily come into conflict with the working class itself.

Of course the positions here were a completely withdrawal of the same Lenin, who said the following:

Theses on Bourgeois Democracy and Proletarian Dictatorship wrote:
The essence of Soviet power lies in this, that the permanent and sole foundation of the entire State power, of the entire State apparatus, is the mass organisation of those very classes which were oppressed by the capitalists, that is, the workers and semi-proletarians (peasants who do not exploit labour and who are always forced to sell at least part of their labour) ... The Soviet organisation of the State is designed to give the proletariat, as the class which was most concentrated and educated by capitalism, the leading role in the State ... the chief task of the Communist Parties in countries where Soviet power is not established are:

1.To explain to the broad masses of the working class the historical meaning of the political and practical necessity of a new proletarian democracy which must replace bourgeois democracy and parliamentarianism.

2. To extend and build up workers� councils in all branches of industry, in the army and navy, and amongst agricultural workers and small peasants

3. To win an assured, conscious communist majority in the councils

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/100_theses.htm

I think, the withdrawal from this position to what you are quoting is due to the fact that isolation and civil war which was pushing the Bolsheviks to becoming more and more merged with the state.

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And so again I refer to Gorter:

Who is writing, of course, in 1923. Initially, of course, he was one of the strongest supporters of the Bolsheviks, and even at the height of the discussion with him, he was referring to Lenin as a comrade.

Mike Harman
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Apr 16 2008 11:23
Leo Uilleann wrote:
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I don't think that makes Lenin's slogans any more meaningful.

Then what exactly would make it meaningful?

Backing it up with anything at all after October.

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Before 1917 in regards to the soviets taking power? What is this based on?
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Bolshevik led metalworkers union trying to put down strikes during 1917

Can you post more details on this?

Most of this is from S.A. Smith's book "Red Petrograd" (note that he's very sympathetic to Lenin and Trotsky and appears to be some kind of Trotskyist). It was discussed on here during this thread: http://libcom.org/forums/history/russian-revolution-october-1917-19092007 where I quoted some excerpts. He shows pretty clearly that the process of incorporation of the factory committees into the unions (and in turn into the state) was happening during 1917 before even the Vesenka was announced, and the restraining effect which the parties and unions had on grass roots militancy (wildcats, carting out, etc.). It's an excellent, excellent book which I highly recommend.

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but what they meant was not a new class system in which a bourgeoisie ruled over the proletariat, what they meant was things like education, health care, electrification, and land reform.

Work speedups, taylorism, one-man management - these are just technological changes then and have nothing to do with class relationships?

Leo
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Joined: 16-07-06
Apr 16 2008 11:28
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What you miss, is that Lenin and Trotsky, by virtue of being in a position to negotiate treaties with Germany were already representing the new Russian imperialism. How do internationalist revolutionaries sign military treaties on behalf of nation states? In what sense were they in a position to decide the fate of revolutionary workers in Estonia and Latvia?

I don't think the Bolsheviks were representing "the new Russian imperialism" in Brest-Litovsk. It was not, above all, a secret treaty done by privileged representatives of a nation-state, but was done openly and debated publicly. Lenin, above all, was not in a position to negotiate, and Trotsky was doing it only because he was delegated to do so. Also, in this instance, the Bolsheviks were not representing a nation-state, but a "supra-national workers state", which they constantly emphasized and had lots of foreign communist delegates, one of which was the Karl Radek, at the time the editor of a communist German language paper, who, when the delegation arrived, started giving leaflets and pamphlets to the German soldiers within the eyes of German diplomats and officers. Another similar thing was how Trotsky, for example, asked for a phrase in relation to the "friendship of contracting powers" to be taken out of the treaty, because he considered it to be unrealistic.

Leo
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Apr 16 2008 11:39
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Backing it up with anything at all after October.

Do you think that the Bolsheviks suddenly revealed their "true nature" of being a band aspiring to become the bourgeoisie themselves after October?

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Work speedups, taylorism, one-man management - these are just technological changes then and have nothing to do with class relationships?

Those obviously were, above all, an expression of the miserable isolation and degeneration of the revolution, and there was an opposition to all that. Those sort of things had to do with the class relations as they fed the rising bureaucratic class, but this did not immediately finish off the revolution.

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Most of this is from S.A. Smith's book "Red Petrograd" (note that he's very sympathetic to Lenin and Trotsky and appears to be some kind of Trotskyist). It was discussed on here during this thread: http://libcom.org/forums/history/russian-revolution-october-1917-19092007 where I quoted some excerpts. He shows pretty clearly that the process of incorporation of the factory committees into the unions (and in turn into the state) was happening during 1917 before even the Vesenka was announced, and the restraining effect which the parties and unions had on grass roots militancy (wildcats, carting out, etc.). It's an excellent, excellent book which I highly recommend.

Thanks, I'll try to find that book.