Need some basic understanding of Trotskyism

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Mike Harman
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Apr 18 2008 10:19
ernie wrote:
Catch
Your rejection of the Bolsheviks because of their use of repression against the class is clear and understandable

That's no my sole reason for rejecting them, certainly the defense of the Bolsheviks despite their counter-revolutionary activities by the ICC isn't at all clear and requires some serious intellectual gymnastics.

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o would you agree with the ICC, and the Italian Communist Left i.e., Bilan, that one of the main lessons to be drawn from the experience of the Russian Revolution is that revolutionaries have to rejected the use of violence within the class

Dave C has already covered this pretty well, and no. I'm also not at all convinced that you've rejected it.

Leo
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Apr 18 2008 11:08
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Leo, are you implying that in 1917 Lenin had faith that the Russian workers could govern themselves through the council system, or that he had any qualms about the Bolshevik party seizing power?

Well yeah, it is something quite well known historically. I can quote dozens of texts written at the time and historians to prove the point.

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I would not take such notions very seriously.

As you wish.

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The Bolsheviks sought to "secure the socialist character of the revolution" by seizing power.

So you do now admit that they "seized power" after the revolution?

Fundamentally, what pushed the party to be affiliated with the state was the conditions, not the intentions. Regardless, they thought that they could "substitute" themselves for the class, which turned out to be a mistake.

Here's quotes from two articles on factory councils and workers control who I think are significant:

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After the revolution, in an unprecedented situation and with the illusion in the proletar­ian state, the Bolsheviks and the Soviets, along with the committees themselves saw the lat­ter’s role to be part of the workers’ control of the economy. For the Central Council of Petrograd Factory Committees “Control (Workers’) must be understood as a transi­tional stage towards organising the whole economic life of the country according to socialist principles” (Draft instructions on workers’ control, issued in 1917). The new Soviet government believed that: “Workers control is exercised by all the workers of the given enterprise through their elected bodies, such as the factory committees.” (Decree on Workers’ Control, 27/11/1917).

This effort to have the workers control the economy led to important forums of the pro­letariat class consciousness, like the commit­tees, losing their political content by being absorbed into the state structure for control­ling the economy.

The loss of these political organs was far more damaging than any introduction of one-man management, Taylorism (....) These eco­nomic measures were a product of economic ruin and chaos, along with the demands of the civil war. Lenin called them retreats and tried to explain them at every opportunity. But in themselves they did not call into question the ability of the proletariat to defend its own class political interests. By contrast the loss of the political nature of the committees and the mass assemblies they were based on seriously un­dermined the mass political activity of the proletariat. Without a flourishing base of mass assemblies and committees, the soviets were left as empty shells, which meant the prole­tariat had no means, apart from the Bolshevik Party, of trying to exercise its control over the state, including its economic organisations, and to push back the growing attacks on its interests.

http://en.internationalism.org/wr/187_factory_committees.htm

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The Bolsheviks made many grievous errors as they attempted to centralise the economy and defend the revolution against the bourgeoisie. In particular, they were unable to see that their increasing reliance on state repression was creating the very menace they thought they were fighting against. In addition, the centralisation of society’s economic organs does not of itself produce socialism. What made the Russian Revolution a real revolution was not the fact that workers formed committees in an effort to defend themselves in the face of the advancing capitalist crisis[2]. While an expression of the class struggle, these organs cannot be considered the final form of the proletariat’s control of society, simply because while they are essential to run the local aspects of economic activity their nature precludes them being able to manage the economy for the collective benefit of society as whole. The true revolutionary content of Red October was the fact that, through the Soviets, the working class was able to perceive itself not simply as a class capable of controlling factories for the purposes of its own immediate survival but one that could destroy the political power of the bourgeoisie as embodied in the capitalist state and then begin to manage the whole of society. The Bolsheviks began the revolution as an expression of that process but when the consciousness of the class began to retreat they made the mistake of believing they could substitute themselves for the working class.

http://en.internationalism.org/wr/300/anarchism-and-workers-control

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As Lenin said in 1919: . . .we have not reached the stage at which the working people could participate in government.

Emphasis mine.

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The Bolsheviks had not in fact secured the socialist character of the revolution, for only the proletariat can possibly do such a thing. This is the fundamental point which the left communists do not understand because of their idealist focus on party positions instead of social conditions.

Can you elaborate this?

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The idea that opposing "violence within the class" is some kind of great historical lesson is bizarre. It assumes the proletarian nature of the Bolshevik state, instead of evaluating the nature of that state on the basis of, say, its violence against the working class.

I think you simplify the point made in order to caricaturize it. There are other very significant lessons drawn from Kronstadt. "[T]o say that the Bolshevik Party was 'nothing but' capitalist in 1921 is to say, in effect, that we have nothing to learn about the Kronstadt events, except the date of the revolution's demise (...) The real problem revolutionaries must face today is how did a proletarian party come to act as the Bolsheviks did at Kronstadt in 1921, and how can we ensure that such an event never occurs again." Otherwise we learn nothing from Kronstadt about the degeneration of the revolution, and of course we learn nothing from the workers and revolutionaries who died in Kronstadt who did not see the Bolshevik Party as a bourgeois or a counter-revolutionary one, so much that some of them shouted "long live the Communist International" when the Red Army was shooting them.

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whereas there can be no antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois state, one does arise between the proletariat and the transitional state. (1936)
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In this realm, "the party," "the class" (and its organs), and "the state" are all separate entities whose ideal interrelations are revealed by the Bolshevik experience. The state figures as an unmanageable beast that attacks the class. The party must defend the class, lest it merge with the state and employ "violence within the class."

Again, I think you are marginalizing in order to caricaturizate, again. I see nothing in the original text about the state as an "unmanageable beast" for example. However your main point seems to me as if in a class rule, organs can't class with each other, there can't be a separation / conflicting interests between the class and the state (or semi-state, communal state, unofficial state depending on how you characterize it). This argument I think is too schematic, abstract and "vulgar materialistic" (as it is of tradition for me to label you as such anyway as you have labeled us idealists tongue). I don't think class relations, or state relations in such periods are that simple.

asn
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Apr 18 2008 11:19

just in regard to the phenomena of the "Bolsheviks" in the early days before the 1917 Revolution the overwhelming majority appear to have had a syndicalist orientation favouring forms of direct action and the general strike (a common feature of the Leftwing of social democratic parties in those days ) -their most prominent leader was a certain "Bogdanov" - only a small minority were supporters of Lenin and his vanguardist and Blanquest orientation - See a Book called "The Other Bolsheviks" I can't recall the author's name -

mark

baboon
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Apr 18 2008 14:48

I'm lagging behind a bit here, but on the "right to self-determination":
The support for the latter was a serious error for the CI including Lenin's position. There no such thing as infallible revolutionaries particularly indidivuals, but in this case it was the weakness of the CI. Lenin denonced nationality and national independence used by social chauvism to support imperialist war. There were no clearer anti- war positions (imperialist war) than Lenin's and the Bolsheviks. That is a good starting point. One part of capitalism can be no more positive than another.

What's the point of this discussion today? I think that it's to show that since 1914 no fraction of the bourgeoisie is progressive against another: no "lesser evil", no "anti-fascists", no fraction of the bourgeoisie, however it dresses itself up has anything to offer the working class except imperialist war.

The CI's policy for support for national liberation movement helped to strengthen the isolation of the movement, but they were, at first, framed in the context of the affirmation of workers' unity. The CI thought that this would promote the revolutionary perspective - the same for the mistaken concept of "revolutionary war", which had the opposite effect.

Support for national liberation movements contradicted the CI's own position on the decadence of capitalism ("a new epoch is born...") and brought, through the back door, the possibility of a progressive bourgeoisie and a positive capitalism. The clarity of the CI's Platform on the nation state and internationalism was strangled by the developing opportunism of the CI.

In the period of capitalism's decadence we see the result of the weakness on the imperialist question: there's still ambiguites in the proletarian camp and within the left wing of capital, the trotskyists in particular, there's always support for one fraction of the bourgeoisie or another in inter-imperialist rivalries, eg, the SWP's support for Iraq, generally for the e. bloc during the Cold War and for the left's support for anti-fascism during WW11.
The CI's and the Bolsheviks support for national liberation during the revolutonary wave of 1917-23 was disasterous for the revolution and greatly contributed to its isolation.

jaycee
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Apr 18 2008 19:45

im intersted in seeing what peoples answer to this question would be: If the Russian Revolution had spread to the West and not remained isolated, do you think that the Bolsheviks would have needed to be overthrown or, with all the faults that have been readily accepted here, could they have been incoperated into a truly revolutionary 'state'?

not sure if that is the best wording but still

dave c
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Apr 19 2008 20:40
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The Bolsheviks had not in fact secured the socialist character of the revolution, for only the proletariat can possibly do such a thing. This is the fundamental point which the left communists do not understand because of their idealist focus on party positions instead of social conditions.

Can you elaborate this?

If the proletariat is not able to wield power, there are no groups or individuals who can wield power on its behalf. The faction that does take power in such a situation will not represent socialism, whether or not they have socialist positions, but instead will represent the interests of "the class for whose rule the movement is ripe." (see the Engels passage quoted by Capricorn). To function as a substitute bourgeoisie is to inevitably come into conflict with the working class. To quote Bordiga:

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While the historical situation in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries caused the capitalist revolution to take liberal forms, in the twentieth century it must have totalitarian and bureaucratic ones. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/bordiga/works/1951/doctrine.htm)

Thus, Leninist groupings, which in developed countries have no special role to play outside of reformism or sectarianism, may have a major role to play in countries where the bourgeoisie is too weak to make its revolution. The Leninist party comes to have the same voluntarist conceptions found in bourgeois ideology, and the focus on the "positions" of the party as guiding the social movement as a whole is a feature of this. And this ideology has a basis in the sense that in capitalistic forms of organization

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the influence of the leaders becomes decisive, while that of the masses declines. Success or failure appears to depend on the personal qualities of the leaders, on their strategic skill, on their ability to read a situation correctly (Pannekoek in 1909; Bricianer, Pannekoek and the Workers' Councils, 105).

As Trotsky once wrote,

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Had I not been present in 1917 in Petersburg, the October Revolution would still have taken place -- on the condition that Lenin was present and in command. If neither Lenin nor I had been present in Petersburg, there would have been no October Revolution. (http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/frank/works/diary.htm)

Within the Leninist-voluntarist framework of the tightly disciplined political party, "class-consciousness" comes to principally denote the positions possessed by the party. The Dutch-German left theorized a different approach to class-consciousness, seeing it principally as an act-consciousness, or a consciousness of proletarian self-organization gained through struggle. With the former sectarian conception, “positions” are the ultimate measure of revolutionary integrity, whereas with the latter conception, the socialist ethic is one of enhancing the power of the workers.

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Alf
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Apr 22 2008 12:02

Violence within the class: Catch wrote: "Dave C has already covered this pretty well, and no. I'm also not at all convinced that you've rejected it".

This is quite disturbing. Can you elaborate?

Dave C wrote: Within the Leninist-voluntarist framework of the tightly disciplined political party, "class-consciousness" comes to principally denote the positions possessed by the party. The Dutch-German left theorized a different approach to class-consciousness, seeing it principally as an act-consciousness, or a consciousness of proletarian self-organization gained through struggle. With the former sectarian conception, “positions” are the ultimate measure of revolutionary integrity, whereas with the latter conception, the socialist ethic is one of enhancing the power of the workers.

I think this distinction between defending clear positions and defending the self-activity of the class is entirely false. The KAPD, in its 1920 programme, saw the need to synthesise the two, so that part of the Dutch-German left doesn't fit into your equation.

Mike Harman
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Apr 22 2008 12:15

Demogorgon303 seems to be at best ambivalent on the position of the party and strikes between 1917-1921.
Not to mention the famour typewriter incident. Either you don't consider that violence (although it's my impression that force was used or at least threatened), or you don't consider it "within the class" - in which case it suggests an externalisation of factions as not 'within the class' - which would be consistent with the approach of Lenin and Trotsky to somewhat more catastrophic incidents.

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Alf
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Apr 22 2008 14:13

Demogorgon made it clear that he was against the proletarian dictatorship using repression against strikes. That doesn't mean that all strikes would automatically be a positive development once the working class had taken power. It depends on the situation. In most cases it would express the fact that the dictatorship was weakening and the workers had to take action to defend their basic interests. In some cases it could express a backward and narrow attitude on the part of groups of workers. But in neither case would the problem be solved by repression, but only through collective debate.

I don't want to open a whole thread about the 'typewriter incident', but it seems evident that if a working class organisation is directly attacked by gangster methods it has to defend itself. In those cases those who resort to gangsterism are certainly leaving the class terrain. They cannot be compared to workers striking in defence of immediate demands. In the case of a proletarian power, it could be faced with acts of terrorism by elements who are sociologically proletarian. Defending itself against such acts is not 'violence within the class'.

baboon
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Apr 22 2008 14:13

Good question Jaycee.
Man, the working class in this case, was making history entirely in conditions not of his own choosing. Though showing the greatest display of strenght, courage and consciousness ever, the working class wasn't quite strong or conscious enough to overcome great weaknesses and problems. Revolution coming out of war, years of unprecedented and brutalising imperialist slaughter in fact, is not an easy prospect. Nor the wholesale betrayal of social democracy and the 'socialists'. And this is reflected in the weaknesses in the class and the degeneration ot its proletarian organs.
The generalisation of the revolution to Germany, and thus further, was a distinct possibility though. If the revolution had flourished we would expect to see a clarification and advance in the positions of the working class, a greater ability to overcome the still great problems.
But we have what we have.

dave c
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Apr 23 2008 03:41
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I think this distinction between defending clear positions and defending the self-activity of the class is entirely false. The KAPD, in its 1920 programme, saw the need to synthesise the two, so that part of the Dutch-German left doesn't fit into your equation.

Except I am not criticizing the idea of defending clear positions at all. roll eyes

. . . but on to the KAPD!

I am claiming that there is an intimate connection between a materialist conception of class-consciousness and the critique of “leader-politics” in the Dutch-German left. In any case, a fetish of party-consciousness was rejected. I am most definitely including the KAPD in my "equation." It saw itself as a "party of the masses" and not a "party of leaders."

Here is a passage from the "Guidelines of the AAUD" that summarizes some of the central ideas of the Dutch-German left:

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The trade unions’ fight for wage increases and the parliamentary struggle were political necessities in an epoch when a slogan like the unhindered right to vote could awaken and provoke revolutionary energies. But in the course of this fight, the next goal, which was “the development of proletarian class consciousness”, was lost sight of completely. The point of view according to which “the emancipation of the working class will be the task of the workers themselves”, and which made the development of the workers class consciousness the principal task which should not be forgotten for even one moment, was increasingly disregarded. The more time passed, the more the socialist organizations assumed the character and the methods of capitalist organizations. They became “organizations of leaders”, private property in the hands of those who pulled the strings and who were still under the spell of bourgeois capitalist conceptions. They became ends in themselves. (http://www.kurasje.org/arksys/archset.htm)

The KAPD did not see itself as such an organization that becomes an "end in itself." But we can't take this out of historical context: it emerged in a period of intense class conflict and encouraged an alternative to "capitalist organizations" in the "factory organizations."

As Gorter put it:

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The union needs the party. The party needs the union. The members of one are members of the other. Both are therefore connected in the most intimate manner. (D.A. Smart, ed. Pannekoek and Gorter's Marxism 168-169)

Here is the KAPD programme:

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The relationship of the party to the factory organisation comes from the nature of the factory organisation. The work of the KAPD inside these organisations will be that of an unflagging propaganda, as well as putting forward the slogans of the struggle. The revolutionary cadres in the factory become the mobile arm of the party. Further, it is naturally necessary that the party always takes on for itself a more proletarian character, that it complies with the dictatorship from below. Through this the circle of its tasks grows wider, but at the same time it acquires the most powerful support. What has to be achieved is that the victory (the taking of power by the proletariat) ends up in the dictatorship of the class and not the dictatorship of a few party leaders and their clique. The factory organisation is the guarantee of this. (http://www.kurasje.org/arksys/archset.htm)

The party is not an "end in itself" because it complies with the "dictatorship from below," helping to build the type of proletarian organizations that will guarantee a dictatorship of the class. With the coming of the revolution, the importance of the factory organizations was predicted to increase relative to the party. This is because the party claimed to have no organizational aspirations deriving from its "consciousness" distinct from the enhancing of working class power as a whole. This explains Schroder's otherwise strange description of the party as a "necessary evil." As Dauve and Authier observe:

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The KAPD would also have a vanguardist perspective. But in its case the vanguard was not the group of people who were thought to have the most advanced consciousness, of those who possessed the clearest “perspective” on the issues, but all of those people who dedicated themselves to initiating, before anyone else did, the fight against society: they would thus set an example for the rest of the working class. (http://us.share.geocities.com/collectiveact/dauve11.htm)

To quote the “Guidelines of the AAUD” again:

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. . . the proletariat creates—and does so all the more effectively the more conscious it is of its forming a class—forms of expression, organs, which incarnate class consciousness, social consciousness, the consciousness of mutual solidarity. When this form of organization becomes a revolutionary process, it is called council organization. (http://www.kurasje.org/arksys/archset.htm)

Seeing class-consciousness as incarnated in class organs is different from seeing class-consciousness as incarnated in an elite party. Class-consciousness is not the alienable property of political specialists, it is gained through class struggle. When we use this method to look at specific groups, we have to look at their theory on the basis of their historical context. In reality, neither the KAPD nor the AAUD or AAUD-E was to go very far at all in the direction of their goals. The above focus on the factory organizations, however, situates the KAPD in the historical context that gives its claim of the necessity of the party for the victory of socialism some sort of meaning.

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Alf
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Apr 23 2008 07:57

I agree with all of this

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OliverTwister
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Apr 23 2008 10:17
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The revolutionary cadres in the factory become the mobile arm of the party. Further, it is naturally necessary that the party always takes on for itself a more proletarian character

Do you agree with this? Because to me this seems very related to what david was saying.

baboon
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Apr 23 2008 11:55

Catch, your desperate attempt on the 22nd to link the errors of the Bolsheviks and the response to the theft of the ICC's materials grossly underestimates the errors of Lenin and Trotsky.

Self-defence is a basic requisite of a revolutionary organisation.
The first point to be made about the ICC incident is that its materials were stolen by individuals under subtefuge
The ICC is not a building society where you make "withdrawals" as you (or as you and a couple of your mates) think fit. The ICC has its own statutes and included in these is the question of finances and equipment. The whole organisation has discussed in depth and voted on these statutes and the central organ applies them. How else is an organisation of the working class, working in not the easiest of circumstances, to function?
Everybody do what you like, might be OK for the hippydom of the 1960s but it's totally out of place in a revolutionary organisation.
There was no violence over the recuperation of the ICC's materials. Just the outraged shrieks of the petty-bourgeoisie. I think in one case some of them called the police ("there's some revolutionaries here trying to get their equipment back - get here as quick as you can"?). There was no violence and no fight, but rather a show of solidarity. And if that intimidated an outcome then so much the better. But self-defence was the perspective if necessary. The main thing was that the ICC has shown the will to defend and recuperate its equipment from the petty-bourgeois actions and attitude of its blatent theft. These individuals were leaving and taking their "cut" with them - this is gangsterism within the working class and any working class organisation worth its salt has to fight it.
The theft of the ICC's monies and materiale was just one more expression, in a long and developing line of them, of individualist and petty-bourgeosie attitudes, deliberately encouraged in some cases.

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Apr 23 2008 12:14

Surely when the italian communists left the socialist party, or when the left communists left the CP, the parts of the apparatus that were under their influence/control left with them? I'm sure they had a proper marxist justification for this.

Why is it so unreasonable that a group of 3 or 4 who had pooled money to buy a typewriter for political activity should take it with them if they find themselves doing political activity under a different banner? Its not quite the same thing as if they had somehow taken an amount from the ICC's central fund equal to the amount of dues they had paid over the years, is it?

I don't know why I'm asking this, everything i've seen from ICCers about this is defensive jargon, even from those who can otherwise be fairly reasonable. Is there a collective line in the ICC that the 'typewriter incident' was perfectly correct and cannot be at all criticized?

Mike Harman
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Apr 23 2008 12:48
baboon wrote:
petty-bourgeois actions

I think you've made my point for me.

mikus
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Apr 23 2008 15:02
dave c wrote:
Seeing class-consciousness as incarnated in class organs is different from seeing class-consciousness as incarnated in an elite party. Class-consciousness is not the alienable property of political specialists, it is gained through class struggle
Alf wrote:
I agree with all of this

So I take it you're leaving the ICC? What will baboon do without you? Please tell me you're not leaving that dude in charge...

jaycee
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Apr 23 2008 15:25

no one gonna answer my question, i thought it was quite a good one

Anarcho
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Apr 23 2008 15:50
jaycee wrote:
im intersted in seeing what peoples answer to this question would be: If the Russian Revolution had spread to the West and not remained isolated, do you think that the Bolsheviks would have needed to be overthrown or, with all the faults that have been readily accepted here, could they have been incoperated into a truly revolutionary 'state'?

The Bolsheviks needed to be overthrown the moment they seized power, as can be seen from their destruction of soviet and workplace democracy within six months of so doing...

If the revolution had spread, so would have the party dictatorship and state capitalism.

Mike Harman
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Apr 23 2008 17:44

jaycee: I'm not into these 'what if' questions much. What actually happened is a lot more interesting.

Either:
The Bolsheviks are exposed as counter-revolutionaries without the mystification of socialism/communism that persisted for the rest of the century, and hence need to be overthrown.

Or they collapse into various factions aAlong similar political lines to the divisions that actually existed) which would've had the effect of removing them from power.

jaycee
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Apr 23 2008 18:16

well i think my question expresses an important point because if something similar to your (catch) second option could happen i think it shows that the Bolsheviks can not be seen as completely counter revolutionary. I think personaly that if the revolution had spread the mistakes made by the Bolsheviks and the errornous formulations made by them could have been overcome without the need for a second revolution (obviously this is only true up to a certain moment in time).

It seems to me to be a real simplification of the events to view Lenin and Trotsky in particular and the Bolsheviks generally as bourgoies from day one, it just doesn't seem to be the case from what i have read. the icc analysis seems to be much more nuanced and realistic, that they were basically revolutionaries who at times were more clear than others and at times were less clear but who in the end were swept along by the general failure of the revolution. I think the complete writing off of the Bolsheviks (or of Lenin and Trotsky) ignores the conditions in which they found themselves, where as the same people who ignore this often give similar 'excuses' to the CNT, for example .

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Apr 23 2008 18:34
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the icc analysis seems to be much more nuanced and realistic, that they were basically revolutionaries who at times were more clear than others and at times were less clear but who in the end were swept along by the general failure of the revolution. I think the complete writing off of the Bolsheviks (or of Lenin and Trotsky) ignores the conditions in which they found themselves, where as the same people who ignore this often give similar 'excuses' to the CNT, for example .

So you prefer the method of the ICC, to find 'excuses' for Lenin and Trotsky but to completely write off the CNT while ignoring the conditions in which it found itself?

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Apr 23 2008 18:55

Unlike many who deny the Bolsheviks any proletarian nature from the beginning, we have always argued that the CNT began life as an expression of the working class, as you know from our articles in the International Review.

Dave C wrote:
Seeing class-consciousness as incarnated in class organs is different from seeing class-consciousness as incarnated in an elite party. Class-consciousness is not the alienable property of political specialists, it is gained through class struggle

Mikus thinks I have to leave the ICC because I agree that class consciousness is not the unique property of the revolutionary organisation. Alternatively, he could read what we say about class consciousness not being the unique property of the revolutionary organisation, for example in our platform

The relationship between the class and the organisation of revolutionaries

If the general organisation of the class and the organisation of revolutionaries are part of the same movement, they are nonetheless two distinct things.

The first, the councils, regroup the whole class. The only criterion for belonging to them is to be a worker. The second, on the other hand, regroups only the revolutionary elements of the class. The criterion for membership is no longer sociological, but political: agreement on the programme and commitment to defend it. Because of this the vanguard of the class can include individuals who are not sociologically part of the working class but who, by breaking with the class they came out of, identify themselves with the historic class interests of the proletariat.

However, though the class and the organisation of its vanguard are two distinct things, they are not separate, external or opposed to one another as is claimed by the ‘Leninist’ tendencies on the one hand and by the workerist-councilist tendencies on the other. What both these conceptions deny is the fact that, far from clashing with each other, these two elements – the class and revolutionaries – actually complement each other as a whole and a part of the whole. Between the two of them there can never exist relations of force because communists "have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole" (Communist Manifesto).

As a part of the class, revolutionaries can at no time substitute themselves for the class, either in its struggles within capitalism or, still less, in the overthrow of capitalism and the wielding of political power. Unlike other historical classes, the consciousness of a minority, no matter how enlightened, is not sufficient to accomplish the tasks of the proletariat. These are tasks which demand the constant participation and creative activity of the entire class at all times.

Generalised consciousness is the only guarantee of the victory of the proletarian revolution and, since it is essentially the fruit of practical experience, the activity of the whole class is irreplaceable. In particular, the necessary use of violence by the class cannot be separated from the general movement of the class. For this reason terrorism by individuals or isolated groups is absolutely foreign to the methods of the class and at best represents a manifestation of petty-bourgeois despair when it is not simply a cynical method of struggle between bourgeois factions. When it appears within the proletarian struggle, it is a sign of influences external to the struggle, and can only weaken the very basis for the development of consciousness.

The self-organisation of workers’ struggles and the exercise of power by the class itself is not just one of the roads to communism which can be weighed against others: it is the only road.

The organisation of revolutionaries (whose most advanced form is the party) is the necessary organ with which the class equips itself to become conscious of its historic future and to politically orient the struggle for this future. For this reason the existence and activity of the party are an indispensable condition for the final victory of the proletariat.

Mike Harman
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Apr 23 2008 19:46
jaycee wrote:
well i think my question expresses an important point because if something similar to your (catch) second option could happen i think it shows that the Bolsheviks can not be seen as completely counter revolutionary. I think personaly that if the revolution had spread the mistakes made by the Bolsheviks and the errornous formulations made by them could have been overcome without the need for a second revolution (obviously this is only true up to a certain moment in time).

Well I don't consider Miasnikov's group to be counter-revolutionary, but of course they paid the price for that. If there was a split from the SWP which went in a direction that either one of us would like, would we then say that the SWP was redeemable because of it?

Do I think every rank and file member of the Bolshevik party was 'bourgeios' - no, but neither do I think every rank and file member of the Labour party is.

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Alf
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Apr 23 2008 22:37

Come on Catch. The Bolsheviks also gave rise to the Left Communists in 1918, the Decists in 1919, the Workers' Opposition in 1920, the Workers Truth in 1922, the Workers Group in 1923, while the Platform of the 46, which launched the Left opposition in 1923, was also signed by a number of these left communist elements. As we've said already, many of the elements of the Left Opposition moved towards the positions of the left communists in the late 20s and 30s. The SWP doesn't continually give rise to proletarian fractions (in fact I can't think of any at the moment). I would say that is because it is not and never was a living expression of the proletariat, whereas the Bolsheviks were.

Mike Harman
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Apr 24 2008 07:41
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Left Communists in 1918, the Decists in 1919, the Workers' Opposition in 1920, the Workers Truth in 1922, the Workers Group in 1923

And what happened to them?

Not that the Workers' Opposition were much use anyway - note I already criticised Schlyapniakov for his pre-October activities as head of the metalworkers union (and didn't they volunteer to leave a conference so they could go fight against Kronstadt?). I think you'd be hard pushed to call them a 'proletarian current', more of a bureaucratic faction. Same for some of the others on your list.

The SWP may not have had any interesting splits recently, but I'd say that's more down to a very low level of class struggle than anything else, which means an constant attrition of individuals (some of whom post on this site) rather than organised groups.

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Apr 24 2008 08:39
Mike Harman wrote:
Well I don't consider Miasnikov's group to be counter-revolutionary, but of course they paid the price for that.

Significantly, the Bolshevik leadership considered them as counter-revolutionary. Precisely because, unlike the Workers' Opposition and Left Opposition, they argued for genuine soviet democracy! So they were repressed along with others who opposed the Party's rule... Which says a lot about mainstream Bolshevism.

Mike Harman wrote:
If there was a split from the SWP which went in a direction that either one of us would like, would we then say that the SWP was redeemable because of it?

Well asked.

Anarcho
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Apr 24 2008 08:46
Alf wrote:
Come on Catch. The Bolsheviks also gave rise to the Left Communists in 1918, the Decists in 1919, the Workers' Opposition in 1920, the Workers Truth in 1922, the Workers Group in 1923, while the Platform of the 46, which launched the Left opposition in 1923, was also signed by a number of these left communist elements.

As discussed here, none of these oppositions bar the Workers' Group (and perhaps the Workers Truth) were genuine oppositions. The Left Communists, like the Workers' Opposition, did not question party power. The Workers' Group argued for genuine soviet democracy, like the anarchists, left-SRs, left-Mensheviks, etc. -- and ended up in prison because of it.

Alf wrote:
As we've said already, many of the elements of the Left Opposition moved towards the positions of the left communists in the late 20s and 30s. The SWP doesn't continually give rise to proletarian fractions (in fact I can't think of any at the moment). I would say that is because it is not and never was a living expression of the proletariat, whereas the Bolsheviks were.

A "living expression of the proletariat"? Which, within a few months of seizing power, were repressing said proletariat and imposing party dictatorship and state capitalism on it? Yes, the Bolsheviks had mass support in the working class as well as many working class members during 1917 and until the early months of 1918. The same can be said of the Labour Party...

In terms of politics, Lenin argued for party power and state capitalism throughout 1917 -- which was precisely what was introduced.... That they had, and then lost, mass support does not mean their politics were correct or even socialist.

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Apr 24 2008 08:48

But iis it not significant that the SWP doesn't give rise to organised proletarian currents out of the thousands who leave it and out of all the leftist splits within its ranks? That's not to say it is impossible- and you're right to say it's connected to the level of class struggle - but unlike the splits within the Bolshevik party any such current would not be able to claim continuity with the original positions or perspectives of the organisation.

The Workers' Opposition was certainly the weakest of the groups I mentioned but surely you can see the pattern?

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Apr 24 2008 08:53
jaycee wrote:
It seems to me to be a real simplification of the events to view Lenin and Trotsky in particular and the Bolsheviks generally as bourgoies from day one, it just doesn't seem to be the case from what i have read.

They were radical social democrats whose vision of "socialism" was basically state capitalism made to serve the whole people. Politically, they aimed for party power -- the soviets would turn over their power to a government (an executive!) made up of party leaders. Which was what happened, with the predicted results.

jaycee wrote:
the icc analysis seems to be much more nuanced and realistic, that they were basically revolutionaries who at times were more clear than others and at times were less clear but who in the end were swept along by the general failure of the revolution.

A failure their own politics and actions significantly contributed to...

jaycee wrote:
I think the complete writing off of the Bolsheviks (or of Lenin and Trotsky) ignores the conditions in which they found themselves, where as the same people who ignore this often give similar 'excuses' to the CNT, for example .

The key difference is that the Bolsheviks introduced their political ideas while the leadership of the CNT refused to apply them (a decision driven by the conditions they found themselves in, I would argue). The conditions faced by the Bolsheviks may have impacted in terms of making certain policies worse, but they only forced them further down the path they were already taking...