Lenin acknowledging the intentional implementation of State Capitalism in the USSR

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Harrison
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Mar 23 2011 16:37
Lenin acknowledging the intentional implementation of State Capitalism in the USSR

As with most libcommers I've known about theories of State Capitalism for a long time, but I would like to share something I was introduced to through a long chat about Marx with an SPGB member, and which I have researched further as i'm doing an a-level coursework piece related to this:

Lenin himself desired, promoted and acknowledged the State Capitalist nature of the Soviet Union, although this was largely confined to intra-party debate and private letters. The destruction of council democracy and the introduction of 'War Communism' was the point at which the Bolsheviks introduced it to Russia, and it was consolidated by the 'New Economic Policy'.

This is in direct contrast to latter-day leninists and trots claims of the USSR under Lenin and Trotsky as genuinely socialist.

Lenin wrote:
State capitalism would be a step forward as compared with the present state of affairs in our Soviet Republic. If in approximately six months’ time state capitalism became established in our Republic, this would be a great success and a sure guarantee that within a year socialism will have gained a permanently firm hold and will have become invincible in this country.

Source: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/apr/21.htm - this writing also has much more on state capitalism.

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

Source: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/nov/14b.htm

It seems to be tied into Lenin and Trotsky's pasts as Social-Democrats and the widely accepted theory that Russia needed to pass through a phase of capitalist development before socialism was workable (hence why the Mensheviks etc pushed for a parliamentary democracy). When Lenin chose to go with the Soviets rather than the Parliament, and claimed that Russia was ready for Socialism, he was lying: he still intended for Russia to pass through a phase of state capitalism.

But Lenin's theories of State Capitalism as a path to socialism were proved wrong, as his theory of democratic centralism does not assure control over society by the proletariat, but by a bureaucracy....

Although this whole subject does beg the question of whether industrialisation and economic development is possible under socialism? I personally think this is possible, although it would have to be a very hardworking society for decades.

slothjabber
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Mar 23 2011 16:53

But this is missing the point, is it not? I think you've fundamentally misunderstood what was being attempted.

Is economic development possible under socialism? Depends what you mean by economic development.

Was Russia 'ready for socialism'? Of course not. No country is 'ready for socialism'. Socialism will be worldwide. No country on its own can be anything other than state capitalist. The 'soviet regime' was a holding operation until the rest of the world caught up (and overleaped) Russia.

Does this mean, as the Mensheviks believed, that the revolution would of necessity be bourgeois-democratic? Of course not. Because the aim of the revolution wasn't to take, hold, and administer the Russian state, it was to destroy capitalism, which will only be done internationally.

If you believe Russia was 'ready for socialism' then that means you believe that socialism in one country is possible, and co-incidently that Stalin was right. If you believe that the task of the revolution was to develop Russian national capitalism, as the Mensheviks did, then... Stalin, who developed Russian national capitalism, was right.

I don't think Stalin was right, personally, because I don't think either that the Russian revolution was for the development of Russian national capital, and I don't think that Russia was 'ripe' for socialism in one country.

Harrison
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Mar 23 2011 17:40

but if Lenin was merely carrying out a holding action (as he did also claim), then that does not explain why he still promoted the State Socialist/Capitalist model in the more economically developed countries of the west. This was evident in the Comintern tried to force it upon all the member communist parties.

this is what Gorter and Pannekoek were so cross about; at first they accepted Lenin's centralised model as correct for Russia, but not for the capitalist countries eg. Germany.
then they ended up rejecting Lenin as wrong altogether.

i do not believe that the task of the revolution was to develop Russian national capital!
that is what i am saying Lenin was doing in his policies, especially Brest-Litovsk which seriously damaged Germany's revolutionary chances.

EDIT:
Actually I think Lenin only tried to force the vanguardist model upon the other Communist parties. I would be interested to know if he desired that they should take up the state socialist/capitalist model

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Steven.
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Mar 23 2011 18:26

It is correct that he did acknowledge and indeed support the fact that what was created in the USSR was state capitalism.

It is gone into in detail in this excellent pamphlet:
http://libcom.org/library/the-bolsheviks-and-workers-control-solidarity-group

and the nature of the USSR as state capitalist is also analysed in this excellent series in Aufheben:
http://libcom.org/library/what-was-ussr-aufheben

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 23 2011 19:22

Lenin saw socialism as the progression of the tendency towards the centralisation of capital (certainly in 'Imperialism...'). Thus socialism was conceived as democratic state control of the centralised means of production. Thus conceived, it's easy to see why state capitalism was conceived as progressive rather than counter-revolutionary. The Brinton text is good on the Bolshevik conception of workers control, which was only ever incidental to their idea of socialism.

slothjabber
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Mar 23 2011 19:48

OK, HM, I'm not sure what the question is any more.

Yes, Lenin promoted State Capitalist measures in Russia and believed (or said he believed, if one thinks he was lying) that this would help prepare the way for socialism. He was impressed with the German postal system I believe. He was wrong, dead wrong. But as far as I recall, it was Bukharin who theorised that capitalist centralisation would increase during the revolutionary period.

What was he supposed to support? Unless you believe socialism in one country is possible, there isn't so much wiggle room. If the idea of preserving the 'gains of the revolution' means anything (OK, it might not mean anything, but Lenin believed it and he wasn't alone) that means peace and stability to mark time while Germany catches up. What other policy is there but state capitalism?

All this took place in a context of a (relatively) successful revolution in Russia which was then locked in a civil war and had failed to extend significantly - hence the 'holding operation' and, at least as I read the situation, the desperate casting about for some theoretical justification for what they were doing.

If the revolution in Germany had kicked off in January 1918, as the Bolsheviks thought, then any talk of 'state capitalist measures' would be hot air. State capitalism only became the policy of the 'Soviet Government' when it was forced to become the permanent adminisistration of a territory where the state had been overthrown but was surrounded by hostile nations. You say it became state policy with the introduction of 'War Communism'; so it wasn't Bolshevik policy going into the October Revolution. It was a reaction to unexpected circumstances. Whether they should have expected is a different matter.

Brest-Litovsk is a whole nother bucket of worms to open up. I don't intend to go there.

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Zanthorus
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Mar 23 2011 22:12

I've got to admit that I was initially quite enthralled by the argument that 'Lenin said it was State Capitalism therefore it was', but for some strange reason the more I think about it the more the logic of the argument falls apart (I wonder why such a flawless argument could eventually fall down under it's own weight roll eyes ). The initial piece was written by Lenin in response to the arguments of the 'Left-Communists' that the economic policy being pursued by the Bolsheviks at the time constituted a compromise between the proletarian state and the 'captains of industry', and that if continued it would lead to the formation of a 'petty bourgeois' 'state capitalism'. Lenin is replying in defence of the not-so-radical economic policies of early 1918. Later in the year the regime began pursuing a much more radical economic policy (Greater nationalisation of industry, formation of the Kombedy etc) and the 'Left-Communist' opposition evaporated. No substantial opposition to the regime would arise again from within the Bolsheviks until 1919.

The piece which the OP links to is Lenin's writing on the Tax in Kind in which he quotes himself from 1918. Here he is trying to defend the move away form war communism towards the much more market-orientated economic policies of the New Economic Policy and appropriately refers back to his earlier arguments in favour of reproachment with the 'captains of industry'. The second quote from 1922 even directly refers to the 'state capitalism of the New Economic Policy'.

The problem is that there are two senses in which 'state-capitalism' has historically been understood. One is the definition used by Bukharin in his writing on the imperialist state where it refers to a market economy in which the state nonetheless plays an extremely prominent role in the economy. The other is that used by anti-stalinist currents after the 30's where it refers to an economy in which absolutely everything is owned by the state. Lenin refers to the first type of state capitalism which in context actually meant a move away from the kind of 'state capitalism' you are taking him to be talking about.

Sorry, but if there's one thing that really pisses me off, it's the tendency by some anarchists and 'ultra-leftists' to argue about the Russian revolution solely by referring to the writings of Lenin and Trotsky. Neither of the pair, nor even the Bolsheviks as a whole, were gods whose will was truth. Endlessly quoting some of their more dangerous formulations really says nothing about the nature of the Russian revolution and why it degenerated. If we're going to talk about the Russian question, I'd really like it if we discussed the work of actual historians on what happened rather than endless irrelevant quoting from the leaders. This is the same kind of 'great man' history which Marx opposed.

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Mar 23 2011 23:49
Steven. wrote:

and the nature of the USSR as state capitalist is also analysed in this excellent series in Aufheben:
http://libcom.org/library/what-was-ussr-aufheben

(re: Spassmachine's question there) The reference for the section on Bordiga is probably Why Russia isn't socialist (it's not 100% certain it was by Bordiga, but most likely).

Harrison
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Mar 24 2011 00:14
slothjabber wrote:
OK, HM, I'm not sure what the question is any more.

If the revolution in Germany had kicked off in January 1918, as the Bolsheviks thought, then any talk of 'state capitalist measures' would be hot air. State capitalism only became the policy of the 'Soviet Government' when it was forced to become the permanent adminisistration of a territory where the state had been overthrown but was surrounded by hostile nations. You say it became state policy with the introduction of 'War Communism'; so it wasn't Bolshevik policy going into the October Revolution. It was a reaction to unexpected circumstances. Whether they should have expected is a different matter.

i generally have very a scattered thought pattern wall , but yes i do agree with you there.
i don't think there was a secret inevitable conspiracy that Lenin was behind which from the very outset aimed to subvert soviet democracy. (which i used to think in my pre-marx days).

Zanthorus wrote:
The problem is that there are two senses in which 'state-capitalism' has historically been understood. One is the definition used by Bukharin in his writing on the imperialist state where it refers to a market economy in which the state nonetheless plays an extremely prominent role in the economy. The other is that used by anti-stalinist currents after the 30's where it refers to an economy in which absolutely everything is owned by the state. Lenin refers to the first type of state capitalism which in context actually meant a move away from the kind of 'state capitalism' you are taking him to be talking about.

i understand the phrase is bandied about to mean different things, (even Tony Cliff used it), but i had not known about the former definition you mention. So the former is (to put it crudely) far more social-democratic in nature? If so then i think i understand what you mean about the Bolshevik Left-communist faction criticising it as potentially promoting a peti-bourgeois mentality.

Zanthorus wrote:
Sorry, but if there's one thing that really pisses me off, it's the tendency by some anarchists and 'ultra-leftists' to argue about the Russian revolution solely by referring to the writings of Lenin and Trotsky. Neither of the pair, nor even the Bolsheviks as a whole, were gods whose will was truth. Endlessly quoting some of their more dangerous formulations really says nothing about the nature of the Russian revolution and why it degenerated. If we're going to talk about the Russian question, I'd really like it if we discussed the work of actual historians on what happened rather than endless irrelevant quoting from the leaders. This is the same kind of 'great man' history which Marx opposed.

I'm trying to understand Lenin / get a better handle on it all than:

Quote:
Lenin's role in the Russian revolution = Equivalent to that of Darth Vader's coming to power in Starwars III

equation that has occupied my head for a long time, hence why this thread talks mostly about him.
This does not mean i consider him the be-all and end-all of the Russian Revolution.
I understand that it is also crucial to refer to the time and context in which he operated, and the specific conditions that forced him to make certain choices.

but I do think it is necessary to remember that Lenin and Trotsky were exercising state power, and i kind of think their will was in some respects the truth -- certainly when it came to their presses' ridiculous accusations against the Kronstadt rebels and separately the Makhnovists

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Mar 24 2011 14:32
Harrison Myers wrote:
i understand the phrase is bandied about to mean different things, (even Tony Cliff used it), but i had not known about the former definition you mention. So the former is (to put it crudely) far more social-democratic in nature?

I suppose that would be one way of putting it. The archetypal model of that form of 'state capitalism' was Germany prior to the 1918-19 revolution, which Lenin even mentions his original text "'Left-Wing' Childishness and the Petty Bourgeois Mentality'. Certainly pre-Weimar Germany was not comparable to either 'war communism' or the post-1928 Stalinist economy.

The Bukharin text I was referring to earlier is 'Toward a Theory of the Imperialist State' in which the trend of Imperialism is said to be towards a "state capitalism or the inclusion of absolutely everything within the sphere of state regulation." Marcel Van Der Linden's 'Western marxism and the Soviet Union' I believe discusses the difference between 'state capitalism' as extensive state intervention and as total state ownership.

Quote:
I'm trying to understand Lenin / get a better handle on it all than:
Quote:
Lenin's role in the Russian revolution = Equivalent to that of Darth Vader's coming to power in Starwars III

equation that has occupied my head for a long time, hence why this thread talks mostly about him.

If you want to get a handle on Lenin, why not just read through the key parts of his collected works rather than selected quotes like the ones you've just posted? You could ask on here for a list of reccomended ones, or alternatively the Lenin Internet Archive has a page of Lenin's most important works. Or you could maybe try picking up a decent biography of Lenin?

Quote:
This does not mean i consider him the be-all and end-all of the Russian Revolution.
I understand that it is also crucial to refer to the time and context in which he operated, and the specific conditions that forced him to make certain choices.

I think my point was more against a focus on Lenin at all rather than what was happening in Russian society at large and the situation of workers. The focus on Lenin and Trotsky seems to me to just be regurgitating the mythos of the two created by Trotskyists. I'd be much more interested in an analysis of the Russian revolution that focused on the experience of the working-class rather than what Lenin was eating for breakfast the day they signed the Brest-Litovsk treaty.

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Mar 24 2011 16:03

It might be noted as well that Stalin and Mao also had described the states they ruled as state-capitalist at other times. In the ABC of Communism, by Bukharin and Preobrazhensky, they trace the development of state-capitalism to its source in the drive towards WWI. The argument made by Lenin was that state-capitalism was good in that it was better than what came before under the Czars. The Bolsheviks also made the argument that this state-capitalism was a part of the necessary transitional period.

In the Stalinist and Trotskyist political orbits the measures of the transitional period became either "real existing socialism" or the "gains of October". Now from my perspective the real gains of the revolution were in the conscious action of the workers to liberate themselves and form their own party and their own organizations of power.

For anyone who has had to discuss the "gains" of October with someone of the Trotskyist tradition, or the nature of the USSR in the period post-civil war, seeing Lenin and Stalin quoted openly saying that the USSR was state-capitalist can be an eye opener. It is also interesting to see the leftists try to explain it away. Bukharin and most of the other Bolsheviks held the same perspective regarding nationalization and state-capitalism.

It wasn't for nothing that the New Economic Policy was popularly known as "New Exploitation of the Proletariat". The subsequent fetishization of forms, nationalized state-capital as in the USSR, or nationally subsidized pentagon/wall street style state-capitalism in the west, intentionally ignored the basic content of the system itself. State-capitalism is real existing capitalism in the imperialist epoch. Wage labor presupposes capital as Marx said.

The proof is in the exploitation pudding.

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Mar 24 2011 16:46

Just on background reading on this topic - this is very good.

Western Marxism and the Soviet Union, Marcel van der Linden

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Mar 24 2011 17:17
Blackhawk wrote:
It might be noted as well that Stalin and Mao also had described the states they ruled as state-capitalist at other times.

Yes, I've seen the quotes rolled out by many advocates of the theory of state-capitalism. I've always found it amusing how a group which under normal circumstances would dismiss anyone trying to argue a point on the basis of assorted quotes by Lenin, Stalin and Mao, will suddenly turn around and endorse exactly the same tactic when it comes to defending their own theories.

Quote:
It wasn't for nothing that the New Economic Policy was popularly known as "New Exploitation of the Proletariat".

Again, the NEP was not the Stalinist economy. The whole sordid affair that was the Russian experience would have been very different if they'd stuck with the NEP.

Dave B
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Mar 26 2011 17:52

I think it is valid to say that just because Lenin and Trotsky and Mao said that the respective regimes they presided over were state capitalist doesn’t necessarily mean that they were.

The primary issue is that that the followers of these intellectual leaders have always denied it and to that extent that they ever said it. Which is an issue that has only comparatively recently been resolved.

[ am not aware of Stalin having ever said or admitted that Bolshevik Russia was state capitalism, other than falsely stating that when Lenin said it was he was only referring to the concession system. Where the Bolsheviks ‘rented’ out land mineral rights and sometimes even machinery, factories etc to foreign capitalist to exploit in their own familiar way.]

Actually for what it matters, Lenin referred to this ie the ‘concession’ rent obtained from the foreign capitalists as the more “clear cut” type of state capitalism as opposed to the less clear cut form of ‘state enterprises’.

Also in contradiction to what has been said; the object of introducing state capitalism was suggested by Lenin in September 1917 before they seized power.

The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It

Quote:
Now try to substitute for the Junker-capitalist state, for the landowner-capitalist state, a revolutionary-democratic state, i.e., a state which in a revolutionary way abolishes all privileges and does not fear to introduce the fullest democracy in a revolutionary way. You will find that, given a really revolutionary-democratic state, state- monopoly capitalism inevitably and unavoidably implies a step, and more than one step, towards socialism!

For if a huge capitalist undertaking becomes a monopoly, it means that it serves the whole nation. If it has become a state monopoly, it means that the state (i.e., the armed organisation of the population, the workers and peasants above all, provided there is revolutionary democracy) directs the whole undertaking. In whose interest?

Either in the interest of the landowners and capitalists, in which case we have not a revolutionary-democratic, but a reactionary-bureaucratic state, an imperialist republic.

Or in the interest of revolutionary democracy—and then it is a step towards socialism.

For socialism is merely the next step forward from state-capitalist monopoly. Or, in other words, socialism is merely state-capitalist monopoly which is made to serve the interests of the whole people and has to that extent ceased to be capitalist monopoly.

There is no middle course here.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/ichtci/11.htm

Going back to the history of Marxist and Bolshevik theory, the idea was that Russia would, and would have to, pass through capitalist development before it could arrive at the material conditions where socialism was possible.

And, following on from that, trying to do anything else would fail and disrupt and delay the process.

Anarchists and the socialistic Narodniks, SR’s etc did disagree.

That was Lenin’s position clearly put in 1905 eg

Quote:
Marxism has irrevocably broken with the ravings of the Narodniks and the anarchists to the effect that Russia, for instance, can avoid capitalist development, jump out of capitalism, or skip over it and proceed along some path other than the path of the class struggle on the basis and within the framework of this same capitalism.

page 44
All these principles of Marxism have been proved and explained over and over again in minute detail in general and with regard to Russia in particular. And from these principles it follows that the idea of seeking salvation for the working class in anything save the further development of capitalism is reactionary. In countries like Russia, the working class suffers not so much from capitalism as from the insufficient development of capitalism.

http://www.marx2mao.com/Lenin/TT05.html#c6

An idea repeated and maintained in 1914 eg

Left-Wing Narodism and Marxism Published: Trudovaya Pravda No. 19, June 19, 1914

Quote:
The economic development of Russia, as of the whole world, proceeds from feudalism to capitalism, and through large-scale, machine, capitalist production to socialism.

Pipe-dreaming about a “different” way to socialism other than that which leads, through the further development of capitalism, through large-scale, machine, capitalist production, is, in Russia, characteristic either of the liberal gentlemen, or of the backward, petty proprietors (the petty bourgeoisie). These dreams, which still clog the brains of the Left Narodniks, merely reflect the backwardness (reactionary nature) and feebleness of the petty bourgeoisie.

Can it be that Mr. Rakitnikov has not read Capital, or The Poverty of Philosophy, or The Communist Manifesto? If he has not, then it is pointless to talk about socialism. That will be a ridiculous waste of time.

If he has read them, then he ought to know that the fundamental idea running through all Marx’s works, an idea which since Marx has been confirmed in all countries, is that capitalism is progressive as compared with feudalism.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1914/jun/19.htm

In fact there is a seamless line of continuity “running through” Lenin’s economic theory from the ‘progressive capitalism’ of 1905 and 1914 and the progressive state capitalism of September 1917.

As there is a ‘progressive’ development of his political theory; in that in 1905 the Bolsheviks were suggesting controlling capitalism by going into the Marble Halls of Power. But even the Mensheviks never dared suggest that that would lead to the farthest extreme and ambition of the Bolsheviks running, or claiming to run, state capitalism.

And the point suggested earlier that the ‘state capitalism’ idea was some kind of internal narrow party theoretical construct is nonsense.

Lenin’s pamphlet ‘The Chief Tasks of Our Times’ was produced and distributed to the British Workers in 1918 by Pankhurst’s lot making clear that state capitalism was the objective in Russia. In that translation some of the ‘state capitalism’ quotes were substituted for ‘state socialism’ with the two terms being effectively used interchangeably.

The ‘meaning’ was also made clear by Trotsky in 1922; repeating the original idea of September of 1917.

Tasks of Young Workers (Report to the 5th All-Russian Congress of the Russian Communist League of Youth 1922)

Quote:
He regards this task as unconditional; this is explicable in part by an incomprehension of an expression frequently used by us, that we now have state capitalism. I shall not enter into an evaluation of this term; for in any case we need only to qualify what we understand by it. By state capitalism we all understood property belonging to the state which itself was in the hands of the bourgeoisie, which exploited the working class. Our state undertakings operate along commercial lines based on the market. But who stands in power here? The working class. Herein lies the principled distinction of our state ‘capitalism’ in inverted commas from state capitalism without inverted commas.

What does this mean in perspective? Just this. The more state capitalism say, in Hohenzollern Germany, as it was, developed, the more powerfully the class of junkers and capitalists of Germany could hold down the working class. The more our ‘state capitalism’ develops the richer the work ing class will become, that is the firmer will become the foundation of socialism.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1922/youth/youth.htm

You could of course argue that the later state planned production without a market (in as much as there wasn’t a market) isn’t state capitalism; or something else, perhaps worse.

From Bukharin;

Quote:
State capitalism ………. increasing the power of capitalism, has, of course, greatly weakened the working class. Under State capitalism the workers became the white slaves of the capitalist State. They were deprived of the right to strike; they were mobilized and militarized; everyone who raised his voice against the war was hauled before the courts and sentenced as a traitor. In many countries the workers were deprived of all freedom of movement, being forbidden to transfer from one enterprise to another. ' Free' wage workers were reduced to serfdom; they were doomed to perish on the battlefields, not on behalf of their own cause but on behalf of that of their enemies. They were doomed to work themselves to death, not for their own sake or for that of their comrades or their children, but for the sake of their oppressors.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukharin/works/1920/abc/04.htm

Quote:
Here I must raise another question. If the working class does not regard industry as its own, but as State capitalism, if it regards the factory management as a hostile force, and the building up of industry as a matter outside its concerns, and feels itself to be exploited, what is to happen? Shall we then be in a position, let us say, to carry on a campaign for higher production? “What the devil!” the workers would say, “are we to drudge for the capitalists? Only fools would do that.” How could we draw workers into the process of building up industry “What!” they would say, “shall we help the capitalist and build up the system? Only opportunists would do that.”

If we say our industry is State capitalism, we shall completely disarm the working class. We dare not then speak of raising productive capacity, because that is the affair of the exploiters and not of the workers. To what end then shall we get larger and larger numbers to take part in our production conferences, if the workers are exploited, and when all that has nothing to do with them? Let the exploiter look after that! If we put the matter in this light, not only shall we be threatened with the danger of estrangement from the masses, but we shall not be in a position to build up our industries. That is as clear as daylight.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukharin/works/1926/01/x01.htm

Quite, let the bourgeoisie intelligentsia thrash about the subtle differences of interpretation as regards ‘our industries’ and ‘our capital’ as that is all that is likely to directly concern them.

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Noa Rodman
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Mar 26 2011 19:28

Bukharin never fully appreciated dialectics.

S. Artesian
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Mar 26 2011 22:02
Noa Rodman wrote:
Bukharin never fully appreciated dialectics.

Gee, that sounds so familiar. I know I've heard that before but I just can't place where.

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Mar 26 2011 22:25
S. Artesian wrote:
Noa Rodman wrote:
Bukharin never fully appreciated dialectics.

Gee, that sounds so familiar. I know I've heard that before but I just can't place where.

Lenin's Will and Testament:

"They are, in my opinion, the most outstanding figures (among the younger ones), and the following must be borne in mind about them: Bukharin is not only a most valuable and major theorist of the Party; he is also rightly considered the favorite of the whole Party, but his theoretical views can be classified as fully Marxist only with the great reserve, for there is something scholastic about him (he has never made a study of dialectics, and, I think, never fully appreciated it)."

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Mar 26 2011 23:04

This all gets to the question of Red Thermidor- the idea that the communists had to sacrifice the working class gains made in the former Russian Empire at the alter of the failure of the world revolution. That it would be better for the revolutionaries to stop the progress of the revolution towards socialism rather than let it be wholly recuperated by world capital. In the grand scheme of things, the RSFSR/USSR was recuperated by world capital- but by becoming a willing participant as a 'Communist State' rather than a monarchist, bourgeois, white-guardist etc counter-revolution from outside.

In this regard Bukharin was a proponent of the Red Thermidor idea. He went from being a leader among the left communists pushing for workers control of the means of production, collectivization, anti-militarism, etc during the climax of the world revolutionary wave to a proponent of the RCP(B) Right-Wing after the revolutionary wave began to recede, under the impression it is better for the counter-revolution to come from within rather than without (to save some gains of October).

I don't think the 'holding mechanism' idea makes sense unless you consider the red thermidor idea.

Harrison
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Mar 27 2011 11:00

thanks Dave b for that post, it explained a lot of things.
Sort of backs up what i was saying earlier about Lenin intending for Russia to go through a phase of capitalism (state or otherwise) because the conditions for socialism were apparently not ripe.

About the whole 'Red Thermidor'. Bukharin's switch of positions was remarkeable. Although i do think the failure of the international revolution was partially self-inflicted by the Bolsheviks. As i've said earlier, Brest-Litovsk allowed German capitalism to recover. (this was also justified by Lenin as safeguarding the Russian revolution.)

I personally think that playing with state capitalism is playing with fire, because it inevitably generates a beaucratic class that develop their own class interests. For this reason it is impossible for revolutionaries to 'control'. And i think the flaw in Lenin's reasoning was that democratic centralism actually assured worker control, as it allowed him to justify any system into which the Leninist party is embedded.

If i remember correctly, Rosa Luxemburg said somthing about it better to fight to the end to maintain genuine worker control (the soviets) than destroy it in order to win the civil war.

slothjabber
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Mar 27 2011 12:25
Harrison Myers wrote:
thanks Dave b for that post, it explained a lot of things.
Sort of backs up what i was saying earlier about Lenin intending for Russia to go through a phase of capitalism (state or otherwise) because the conditions for socialism were apparently not ripe...

No no no no no. It was the Mensheviks (you know that bunch that your SPGB mates idolise) that thought that 'Russia was not ripe for socialism'. Lenin (leaving aside any arguments about whether we should be seeing the process refracted through the actions of a single individual) didn't even frame the question as 'was Russia ripe for socialism', if you believe that Russia was or was not 'ripe for socialism' that means 'socialism in one country' is possible. Lenin did not believe it was, the Mensheviks and later Stalin did, and I find it disgusting and hypocritical that the SPGB should parrot this analysis. It's a fraud. Lenin did not set out to impliment a state-capitalist dictatorship in Russia, he set about to begin the world revolution.

Harrison Myers wrote:
About the whole 'Red Thermidor'. Bukharin's switch of positions was remarkeable. Although i do think the failure of the international revolution was partially self-inflicted by the Bolsheviks. As i've said earlier, Brest-Litovsk allowed German capitalism to recover. (this was also justified by Lenin as safeguarding the Russian revolution.)...

Brest-Litovsk was primarily a way of stopping the war. The Bolsheviks consistently opposed the war, unlike the Mensheviks (that your SPGB friends etc etc) and took Russia out of it when they could. The Bolsheviks and the Spartakists between them stopped WWI, that was the most important thing.

Harrison Myers wrote:
...I personally think that playing with state capitalism is playing with fire, because it inevitably generates a beaucratic class that develop their own class interests. For this reason it is impossible for revolutionaries to 'control'. And i think the flaw in Lenin's reasoning was that democratic centralism actually assured worker control, as it allowed him to justify any system into which the Leninist party is embedded.

If i remember correctly, Rosa Luxemburg said somthing about it better to fight to the end to maintain genuine worker control (the soviets) than destroy it in order to win the civil war.

I don't see it as being inevitable that state capitalism will lead to a bureaucratic class. If communisation can't be instant (and it can't be because the capitalists won't just roll over and give in and hand power to the workers' councils) then in some places for a period it will be necessary for the 'new proletarian (non-)state' to impliment state capitalist measures. It seems to me you're failing to see the international dimension. Isolated, yes it's inevitable that the post-revolutionary period will produce an horrific bureaucratic dictatorship. If the revolution had extended to Germany the Brest-Litovsk treaty would have been binned before the ink was dry. This is why Rosa Luxemburg said that though the questions had been posed in Russia, they could not be solved there; and, that the future belonged to Bolshevism.

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Noa Rodman
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Mar 27 2011 13:37
Quote:
if you believe that Russia was or was not 'ripe for socialism' that means 'socialism in one country' is possible. Lenin did not believe it was, the Mensheviks and later Stalin did,

You use the bogeyman of Stalinism. If someone is a Stalinist it will not convince.
As far as I know the Mensheviks didn't believe Russia was ripe.

Harrison
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Mar 27 2011 15:42
slothjabber wrote:
No no no no no. It was the Mensheviks (you know that bunch that your SPGB mates idolise) that thought that 'Russia was not ripe for socialism'. Lenin (leaving aside any arguments about whether we should be seeing the process refracted through the actions of a single individual) didn't even frame the question as 'was Russia ripe for socialism', if you believe that Russia was or was not 'ripe for socialism' that means 'socialism in one country' is possible. Lenin did not believe it was, the Mensheviks and later Stalin did, and I find it disgusting and hypocritical that the SPGB should parrot this analysis. It's a fraud. Lenin did not set out to impliment a state-capitalist dictatorship in Russia, he set about to begin the world revolution.

it seems to me that you and zanthorus use this argument about 'great man' history to avoid analysing the man who excercised central state power. it is highly necessary to examine Lenin because his choices really did reflect upon the historical direction of the Russian revolution. the fact he could ignore and repress the various naturally arising left bolshevik factions is testament to this.

it is not relevant whether Lenin had good intentions, it is his actions and their theoretical basis that counted.

Lenin did hold the position that Russia needed a bourgeois parliament and capitalist (preferably social-democratic) development before socialism, up until he wrote the April Theses in support of soviet power. In my view he never fully abandoned the belief that Russia needed a period of capitalist development, which formed part of the decision to establish of state-capitalism (which entailed the destruction of the worker democracy of the soviets). However, if international revolution had broken out, it is highly likely he would not have pushed for the establishment of state capitalism.

plus the reasoning behind Lenin's vanguardist model, is that if the masses are not class-conscious enough to initiate the change necessary for the establishment of socialism, the party can initiate that change by taking power and spreading the necessary socialist consciousness.

your logic over the idea of 'ripe for socialism' and 'socialism in one country' is bizarre. Socialism in one country is possible for a short time only, but it will struggle to provide the material abundance necessary for non-coercive labour and likely fall apart. I'm pretty sure you know this, otherwise what would even be the point in struggling for socialism/communism unless the world revolution broke out everywhere during the same month.

slothjabber wrote:
Brest-Litovsk was primarily a way of stopping the war. The Bolsheviks consistently opposed the war, unlike the Mensheviks (that your SPGB friends etc etc) and took Russia out of it when they could. The Bolsheviks and the Spartakists between them stopped WWI, that was the most important thing.

i don't sympathise with the Mensheviks.
As well as giving the German economy breathing space, Brest-Litovsk ceded a massive amount of land and raw materials to Germany that enabled Germany to recover. This was one of the main factors in the ebb of the revolutionary wave.
And whatever you think of Nestor Makhno, it completely squashed his partisans resistance that had developed in Ukraine against the whites and bourgeois Ukrainian nationalists.

slothjabber wrote:
I don't see it as being inevitable that state capitalism will lead to a bureaucratic class. If communisation can't be instant (and it can't be because the capitalists won't just roll over and give in and hand power to the workers' councils) then in some places for a period it will be necessary for the 'new proletarian (non-)state' to impliment state capitalist measures.

yes, but state-capitalism is to reintroduce a non-socialistic production process that is fundamentally incompatible with proletarian power, for if the workers were really in control they would surely proceed to abolish wage labour.
hence why an external bureaucratic class is needed to regulate production.
not to mention that this class must then establish a dictatorship over the workers in order to destroy their desires for control of the means of production, and becomes opposed to genuine proletarian power and a counter-revolutionary force.

And do you really think that capitalists would be prepared to hand power to a 'new proletarian (non-)state' that surely must proclaim itself revolutionary and anti-capitalist to attract worker support, any more than they would worker's councils? that seems to me a ridiculous assertion.

slothjabber wrote:
It seems to me you're failing to see the international dimension. Isolated, yes it's inevitable that the post-revolutionary period will produce an horrific bureaucratic dictatorship. If the revolution had extended to Germany the Brest-Litovsk treaty would have been binned before the ink was dry. This is why Rosa Luxemburg said that though the questions had been posed in Russia, they could not be solved there; and, that the future belonged to Bolshevism.

i am hardly failing to see the international dimension.
Germany was still seething with revolutionary potential at that time. the signing of Brest-Litovsk was the signing of the German revolution's death warrant. A far more internationalist policy that the Bolsheviks could have adopted would have been to maintain the war against the German army, for the German revolution would have far eclipsed the Russian revolution due to the greater concentration and development of industry in Germany. The Kaiser's regime really couldn't have held out for much longer due to military and economic problems.

in my view (Rosa Luxemburg's later view), it is better to hold on to genuine proletarian power (which is fundamentally incompatible with state-capitalism) and set an example to the rest of the world, whether it fails or the international revolution breaks out.
The working class cannot exercise power through a system of state-capitalism! This is the sort of thing the Labour party left used to believe.

Socialism must be established wherever proletarian power can be established. It can only fight for the geographical extension of the revolution or fail.

You criticise me for suggesting that a place is not ripe for socialism, and then suggest that state-capitalism should possibly be used a holding action. Do you not see the contradictions?

A country may not be ripe, but it must be attempted. However, state-capitalism simply does not work as a stop gap.

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Zanthorus
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Mar 27 2011 16:31

Agree with slothjabber's last post.

Harrison Myers wrote:
it seems to me that you and zanthorus use this argument about 'great man' history to avoid analysing the man who excercised central state power. it is highly necessary to examine Lenin because his choices really did reflect upon the historical direction of the Russian revolution. the fact he could ignore and repress the various naturally arising left bolshevik factions is testament to this.

No, this basically reduces itself to an ultra-left version of the Trotskyist thesis that the crisis of the working-class movement is a crisis of leadership. Rather than attempting to understand why certain events played out the way they did, we have everything reduced to the issue of the subjective will of a few leaders riding roughshod over the crystal pure intentions of the formless mass.

Quote:
plus the reasoning behind Lenin's vanguardist model, is that if the masses are not class-conscious enough to initiate the change necessary for the establishment of socialism, the party can initiate that change by taking power and spreading the necessary socialist consciousness.

You're contradicting yourself - on the one hand you recognise that Lenin did not believe that Russia was ready for socialism and on the other hand you claim that the goal of 'vanguardism' is that the party takes power and begins to institute regardless of the current situation of the workers' movement. Would you care to square the circle and inform us why Lenin was agitating for your interpretation of his vanguardist strategy in a country which he recognised was not ready for socialism at the time?

Quote:
As well as giving the German economy breathing space, Brest-Litovsk ceded a massive amount of land and raw materials to Germany that enabled Germany to recover. This was one of the main factors in the ebb of the revolutionary wave.

The alternative was to let the German Imperial Army continue the march they'd begun during the eleven days war and allow them to run roughshod over the bands of armed workers' and soldiers' that were being used for defence against counter-revolution in a straight line to Moscow. What would you have done in that situation?

Quote:
Germany was still seething with revolutionary potential at that time. the signing of Brest-Litovsk was the signing of the German revolution's death warrant.

And the November 1918 - January 1919 revolution was...?

Quote:
A far more internationalist policy that the Bolsheviks could have adopted would have been to maintain the war against the German army, for the German revolution would have far eclipsed the Russian revolution due to the greater concentration and development of industry in Germany.

That might have been feasible if the Bolsheviks had begun to organise the Red Army starting with the triumph of Soviet Power in October/November 1917. Otherwise what you're arguing is that you'd rather have seen the Russian workers' and peasants' slaughtered as long as you could claim to have remained pure to your fascile version of 'internationalism'. What does that remind me of? Ah yes...

"Workers must not struggle to establish a legal limit to the working day, because this is to compromise with the masters, who can then only exploit them for ten or twelve hours, instead of fourteen or sixteen. They must not even exert themselves in order legally to prohibit the employment in factories of children under the age of ten, because by such means they do not bring to an end the exploitation of children over ten: they thus commit a new compromise, which stains the purity of the eternal principles." (Marx caricaturing a Proudhonist in Political Indifferentism)

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Noa Rodman
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Mar 27 2011 16:35
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i don't sympathise with the Mensheviks.

But weren't there Mensheviks as well who opposed the war 'consistently'? And about Menshevik-baiting, it is a Stalinist tactic. I quite like what Ryazonov said:

Quote:
When the Socialist Academy, with his approval, took the name of Communist in 1924, Riazonov said: "I am not a Bolshevik, I am not a Menshevik, I am not a Leninist. I am only a marxist, and, as a marxist, I am a communist".

Now see what the 'marxist internet archive' says about him:

Quote:
Riazanov’s Menshevik sympathies finally caught up with him in 1930, when he was relieved of duties and spent more time in prison. Kirov granted him permission to return to Leningrad, but after Kirov’s assassination, Riazanov had to return to Saratov, where he died in 1938.

Where he died, yes...

Such views are still dominant. This is why libcom is a refuge for marxists.

Quote:
The working class cannot exercise power through a system of state-capitalism! This is the sort of thing the Labour party left used to believe.

Maybe, but if you take a figure such as Hilferding, the representative of social-democracy, he opposed even the concept (and ofcourse didn't support the RCP).

Hilferding wrote:
The concept of "state capitalism" can scarcely pass the test of serious economic analysis.

... the controversy as to whether the economic system of the Soviet Union is "capitalist" or "socialist" seems to me rather pointless. It is neither.

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Mar 27 2011 16:48

Yes there were Mensheviks who opposed the war consistently - Julius Martov's Menshevik-Internationalists. The problem was that they tailed the rest of the Menshevik party and as such ended up not really meaning much.

Dave B
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Mar 27 2011 17:19

Before I start on all the other bits of slothjabber’s stuff, I have to say I am not a Menshevik and have no need to defend them. At the time the SPGB would have in fact been hostile to them as they held to the orthodox position of the minimum programme.

That is not to say that I don’t share similar criticisms of the Bolsheviks as the Mensheviks had.

The Mensheviks did not support the war and were, amongst the left, exceptional in being against it and part of the internationalist Zimmerwald fraction.

I have never even heard of the Mensheviks, as a party, being accused of believing in Socialism in one country before, so presumably slothjabber will support that with something or retract it.

[There was the peculiar issue of the ‘Georgian Mensheviks’, and I would like to know more about that from an objective non-Bolshevik source.]

The issue over Russia needing to pass through capitalism before being able to become socialist was the general view, not Lenin’s as an individual. As it was Kautsky’s; as the generally accepted theoretical heir of Marxism.

In fact Lenin took his position from Kautsky.

Karl Kautsky Differences Among the Russian Socialists (1905)

Quote:
………….and therewith it was decided that the special peculiarity of Russia upon which the terrorism and the socialism of the Narodnaya Volya was founded should disappear, and that Russia must pass through capitalism in order to attain socialism and that also Russia must in this respect pass along the same road as had Western Europe. Here as there socialism must grow out of the great industry…

http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1905/xx/rsdlp.htm

The issue had been whether it would have been possible for Russia to have been absorbed into a socialist Europe of say; Germany, France and Britain.

The idea had been that Russia with a large part of the population being allegedly “primitive communists” ie the Mir, then they and Russia might have been able to have been absorbed into a socialist Europe on its doorstep as ‘they’ already had a ‘communist’ consciousness or way of life.

The point then, almost totally redundant now, seemed be whether or not backward primitive communist parts of the world could or should be absorbed into the multinational socialism of the formerly capitalist advanced industrial countries.

[There were in fact two issues ie the actual amount of industrial infrastructure and the level of socialist consciousness that was supposed to develop in tandem with it. ]

Lenin did set out to implement state capitalism in one country, which is on the record, denying it is useless.

Whether he intended it to be a dictatorship of one party one could argue over, but he achieved it fairly quickly.

V. I. Lenin, SPEECH AT THE FIRST ALL-RUSSIA CONGRESS OF WORKERS IN EDUCATION AND SOCIALIST CULTURE JULY 31, 1919

Quote:
When we are reproached with having established a dictatorship of one party and, as you have heard, a united socialist front is proposed, we say, "Yes, it is a dictatorship of one party! This is what we stand for and we shall not shift from that position because it is the party that has won, in the course of decades, the position of vanguard of the entire factory and industrial proletariat.

http://www.marxistsfr.org/archive/lenin/works//1919/aug/05.htm

The justification for a one party state capitalist dictatorship as being a prelude to a world revolution probably sits more comfortably with the Stalinists, you would have thought.

But that is the kind of mess you can get yourself in when you abandon theory for opportunism.

The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. Karl Marx 1852,I

Quote:
Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/ch01.htm

Otto Rühle described it as rashness

Otto Rühle From the Bourgeois to the Proletarian Revolution 1924

Quote:
Between feudalism and socialism yawned a gap of a full hundred years, through which the system of the bourgeois epoch fell unborn and unused.

The Bolsheviks undertook no more and no less than to jump a whole phase of development in Russia in one bold leap.

Even if one admits that in doing so they reckoned on the world revolution which was to come to their aid and compensate for the vacuum in development within by support from the great fund of culture from outside, this calculation was still rashness because it based itself solely on a vague hope. Rash too was the experiment arising from this calculation.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/ruhle/1924/revolution.htm

Far from Lenin being opposed to the war he must have been one of the few on the left who looked forward to it before it even started.

Quote:
A war between Austria and Russia would be a very useful thing for the revolution (throughout Eastern Europe), but it’s not very probable that Franz-Josef and Nicky will give us this pleasure.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1913/jan/00mg12.htm

Dave B
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Mar 27 2011 18:06

There was some stuff from Kautsky on Georgia

Eg;

http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1921/georgia/ch01e.htm

and

http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1921/georgia/ch02.htm

slothjabber
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Mar 27 2011 19:23
Noa Rodman wrote:
Quote:
if you believe that Russia was or was not 'ripe for socialism' that means 'socialism in one country' is possible. Lenin did not believe it was, the Mensheviks and later Stalin did,

You use the bogeyman of Stalinism. If someone is a Stalinist it will not convince.
As far as I know the Mensheviks didn't believe Russia was ripe.

Correct, I don't know if you think I thought they did think 'Russia was ripe'. My point was that if you (or Harrison Myers, the Mensheviks, Stalin or the SPGB) think 'Russia was ripe' or that 'Russia was not ripe, but could have been following more development of Russian capitalism' then logically you must believe that socialism is possible in one country. Else, the state of capitalism in Russia is not the issue.

Harrison Myers wrote:
slothjabber wrote:
...Lenin (leaving aside any arguments about whether we should be seeing the process refracted through the actions of a single individual) ....

it seems to me that you and zanthorus use this argument about 'great man' history to avoid analysing the man who excercised central state power. it is highly necessary to examine Lenin because his choices really did reflect upon the historical direction of the Russian revolution...

So, maybe I shouldn't have left aside the question of whether we should see the process of the Russian revolution refracted through the actions of Lenin, because even though I continued to argue as if Lenin's actions were the be-all and end-all of the process, you accused me of it any way. Nice.

Harrison Myers wrote:
...

your logic over the idea of 'ripe for socialism' and 'socialism in one country' is bizarre. Socialism in one country is possible for a short time only, but it will struggle to provide the material abundance necessary for non-coercive labour and likely fall apart. I'm pretty sure you know this, otherwise what would even be the point in struggling for socialism/communism unless the world revolution broke out everywhere during the same month.
...

That isn't 'socialism in one country', it's state capitalism. And the world revolution, if it lasts years with liberated 'red bastions' engaged in conventional wars with 'capitalist powers' will surely fail due being a massive f***-up and failure of the revolutionary wave. The revolution will for a period (short I hope) produce revolutionary administrations in liberated areas that must implement state capitalist policies. We shopuld not fool ourselves into thinking this is socialism. It isn't. It even a step towards socialism. Lenin was wrong. But it is necessary while the civil war is happening.

Harrison Myers wrote:
...
i don't sympathise with the Mensheviks.
As well as giving the German economy breathing space, Brest-Litovsk ceded a massive amount of land and raw materials to Germany that enabled Germany to recover. This was one of the main factors in the ebb of the revolutionary wave.
And whatever you think of Nestor Makhno, it completely squashed his partisans resistance that had developed in Ukraine against the whites and bourgeois Ukrainian nationalists....

I didn't say you did. I said the SPGB that you are relying on for your analysis sympathise with the Mensheviks.

I'm not sure I agree that Brest-Litovsk was a major factor in the ebb of the revolutionary wave. But it's perhaps a debate worth having, maybe in another thread. My view is that was of primary importance, and Lenin was right, whereas Bukharin, the Left SRs, and Trotsky were wrong.

I also disagree that Brest-Litovsk was the most important factor in the defeat of Makhno. The most important factor as far as I can see was the on-off military campaign waged by the Bolsheviks.

Harrison Myers wrote:
...
state-capitalism is to reintroduce a non-socialistic production process that is fundamentally incompatible with proletarian power, for if the workers were really in control they would surely proceed to abolish wage labour.
hence why an external bureaucratic class is needed to regulate production.
not to mention that this class must then establish a dictatorship over the workers in order to destroy their desires for control of the means of production, and becomes opposed to genuine proletarian power and a counter-revolutionary force...

And how do the workers 'abolish wage labour' when the revolution isn't finished? I don't believe in 'socialism in one country' or if you like 'socialism in one liberated territory'. Until the revolution is over and capitalism is defeated the workers aren't in control, they're still fighting to establish this control. The state still exists. And the working class must be on constant guard that this state doesn't become a dictatorship over the proletariat.

Harrison Myers wrote:
...
i am hardly failing to see the international dimension.
Germany was still seething with revolutionary potential at that time. the signing of Brest-Litovsk was the signing of the German revolution's death warrant. A far more internationalist policy that the Bolsheviks could have adopted would have been to maintain the war against the German army, for the German revolution would have far eclipsed the Russian revolution due to the greater concentration and development of industry in Germany...

The most internationalist thing to do would be to ciontinue to throw the Russian working class against the German working class? Get real. If you think that this is intyernationalism then I say your internationalism is shit and I want nothing to do with it.

Harrison Myers wrote:
...
in my view (Rosa Luxemburg's later view), it is better to hold on to genuine proletarian power (which is fundamentally incompatible with state-capitalism) and set an example to the rest of the world, whether it fails or the international revolution breaks out...

As far as I know, I'm the only person who describes themself as a Luxemburgist who frequents LibCom. I completely reject this notion of Rosa's thought. She welcomed the Russian revolution, and urged the workers in Germany to follow its example.

Harrison Myers wrote:
...
Socialism must be established wherever proletarian power can be established. It can only fight for the geographical extension of the revolution or fail.

You criticise me for suggesting that a place is not ripe for socialism, and then suggest that state-capitalism should possibly be used a holding action. Do you not see the contradictions?

A country may not be ripe, but it must be attempted. However, state-capitalism simply does not work as a stop gap.

No; the best that can be established until the overthrow of capitalism is state capitalism. Socialism in one country is still impossible. Where is the contradiction? There is no short-cut. Until capitalism is overthrown there can be no socilaism, only state capitalism.

Noa Rodman wrote:
...
But weren't there Mensheviks as well who opposed the war 'consistently'? And about Menshevik-baiting, it is a Stalinist tactic...

You're claiming I'm a Stalinist for identifying Stalinism with Menshevism? Great logic there.

And for what it's worth, I don't have a problem with the Menshevik Internationalists, apart from them being wrong of course. Honest, but wrong, in my estimation.

Dave B wrote:
Before I start on all the other bits of slothjabber’s stuff, I have to say I am not a Menshevik and have no need to defend them. At the time the SPGB would have in fact been hostile to them as they held to the orthodox position of the minimum programme...

As you say; at the time the SPGB believed the Mensheviks (and all parties of the IInd International) were reformist and opposed them. They also supported the exit of Russia from the war. Sadly, in my estimation, that was the high-point of the SPGB's political career. It doesn't mean that in later years the SPGB hasn't defended the Mensheviks.

Dave B wrote:
The Mensheviks did not support the war and were, amongst the left, exceptional in being against it and part of the internationalist Zimmerwald fraction...

They weren't 'exceptional'. There were other fractions represented at Zimmerwald.

Dave B wrote:
I have never even heard of the Mensheviks, as a party, being accused of believing in Socialism in one country before, so presumably slothjabber will support that with something or retract it...

Happily. If the Mensheviks believed that socialism in Russia could be established if the economic conditions were right, ie given a particular development of economic conditions in Russia, then they believed that socialism in one country was possible.

There is so much else in your post Dave that consists of de-contextualized gobbets that I fear I must come back to demolishing the rest of it later.

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Noa Rodman
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Mar 27 2011 20:04

It is important to know what Lenin thought. Where did he differ from the (Menshevik or other) 'reformists'? Was Lenin's insight only that he knew that socialism=international, hence, socialism in one country is impossible, whereas Mensheviks believed socialism can be within one nation? Is it so simple?

And about Stalinism, what did they mean that socialism was possible within one country? How did they differ from Lenin/Trotsky?

(I agree the Brest-Litovsk question is better for another thread)

Dave B
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Mar 28 2011 00:56

I think the issue was then that a country could not be part of multinational socialism until it had sufficiently advanced industrially and economically.

That is not the same as saying that one country could be socialist on its own once it had had sufficiently advanced industrially and economically.

Just how many advanced industrial countries you need in the world before international socialism becomes viable is another question and argument that will change over time.

If one advanced and industrialised country is politically ready for socialism before the rest I would not advocate state capitalism.

It is an old chestnut of an argument about alternatives and we have it regularly.

But it is spurious time wasting to introduce that argument in reference to Russia in 1917 as it was disqualified and excluded from it.

The parties and individuals of the European left that opposed the war throughout, like the SPGB, were exceptional as in the use of the word not ordinary or uncommon.

I would have thought that was obvious from what I said otherwise the Zimmerwald would have been the Mensheviks, which would have been palpably absurd even as an inference

Harrison
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Mar 28 2011 12:53
slothjabber wrote:
if you (or Harrison Myers, the Mensheviks, Stalin or the SPGB) think 'Russia was ripe' or that 'Russia was not ripe

nice, i love to be referenced to be in the same tradition as Stalin.

The point is, and Marx himself recognised this, that a region or country needs a certain material abundance and level of industrial development before socialism (even the lower phase) is possible. So by your logic, old Karl is a Stalinist too.
What i am saying is that socialism has to be established somewhere first, but if it does not spread exponentionally it will fail.
I do not believe the stalinist ideology that preaches 'Socialism in one country' to be possible indefinitely.

slothjabber wrote:
So, maybe I shouldn't have left aside the question of whether we should see the process of the Russian revolution refracted through the actions of Lenin, because even though I continued to argue as if Lenin's actions were the be-all and end-all of the process, you accused me of it any way. Nice.

When you say 'i'll leave aside the argument about focusing too much on Lenin' (not your exact words), you are still subscribing to that particular strain of thought whilst simultaneously withdrawing it from what we are allowed to discuss. I am not accusing you of anything, i am just pointing out the poverty of considering Lenin to be a little boat on the waves of history, when he in fact commanded an entire state apparatus. (please note i am not equating him to Stalin, as Lenin was still opposable from within the party - for a while at least).

Harrison Myers wrote:
...
your logic over the idea of 'ripe for socialism' and 'socialism in one country' is bizarre. Socialism in one country is possible for a short time only, but it will struggle to provide the material abundance necessary for non-coercive labour and likely fall apart. I'm pretty sure you know this, otherwise what would even be the point in struggling for socialism/communism unless the world revolution broke out everywhere during the same month.
...
slothjabber wrote:
That isn't 'socialism in one country', it's state capitalism.

Right.... and does the economic base of society even mean a thing to you? Socialism is (crudely) defined by the workers owning the means of production. if the state owns the means of production, it is not socialism as a real state cannot be an instrument of proletarian power. The only instruments of proletarian power are assemblies and delegate councils (what they are named is inconsequential). These can exist in one country for a short period, but will fall apart if there is not enough material abundance - Lenin actually chose to destroy them in order to establish his state capitalism, which he argued was needed to win the civil war.

slothjabber wrote:
And the world revolution, if it lasts years with liberated 'red bastions' engaged in conventional wars with 'capitalist powers' will surely fail due being a massive f***-up and failure of the revolutionary wave.

if you noticed, i was not suggesting that conventional wars are a path to socialism. i am not a stalinist. i was only referring specifically to situation of Brest-Litovsk and the German economy.

slothjabber wrote:
The most internationalist thing to do would be to ciontinue to throw the Russian working class against the German working class? Get real. If you think that this is intyernationalism then I say your internationalism is shit and I want nothing to do with it.

I know this ought really to go into a separate thread, but my argument is short:
the most international thing that could have been done is to have supported the outbreak of the revolution in the heartland of european industry.
I know Germany revolted anyway, but it would have totally collapsed and the soviets formed would have shot accross the entire country (instead of just being confined to areas like munich and bavaria) and due to the far more virulent cirumstances the SPD would not have been able to subvert the soviets to establish weimar.

slothjabber wrote:
The revolution will for a period (short I hope) produce revolutionary administrations in liberated areas that must implement state capitalist policies. We shopuld not fool ourselves into thinking this is socialism. It isn't. It even a step towards socialism. Lenin was wrong. But it is necessary while the civil war is happening.

Ok, but how can the working class regain political power once that state has been established? That would take a whole other revolution and civil war, similiar to the 'third revolution' hoped for by the supporters of Kronstadt. I am perhaps inclined to a vaguely Lenin-sympathetic view that if he hadn't died he could have overseen Russia's economic development and then handed power back to worker's councils. But I think this totally highlights the dangerous reliance upon the good-will of the bureaucracy, and i'm pretty sure in any such system there would be plenty of Stalins waiting for their chance.

Much better just to retain worker's councils and let them regulate production, fight the civil war and organise technical development / the strengthening of industry. Plus the morale increase from the worker's actually controlling society is massive, unlike 'hooray we've overthrown the capitalists over here, but we've only got a shitty state-capitalist system'

slothjabber wrote:
And how do the workers 'abolish wage labour' when the revolution isn't finished? I don't believe in 'socialism in one country' or if you like 'socialism in one liberated territory'. Until the revolution is over and capitalism is defeated the workers aren't in control, they're still fighting to establish this control. The state still exists. And the working class must be on constant guard that this state doesn't become a dictatorship over the proletariat.

Any state (apart from a council/soviet system, which is debatable over whether it is a state) is of necessity a dictatorship over the proletariat, because it has a monopoly on the use of force. And if it does, there is no way to 'keep on guard' that it doesn't err from its purpose, as the workers have no way to exercise power over it (military or democratic).

The only way i can see is if the workers maintained a militia system external from the state (as per Rosa Luxemburg's critique of Schippel's right social-democracy), BUT that would completely defeat the purpose of the state organising the civil war. I also have not studied military matters enough to know whether a militia system is as workable as a conventional army..... Although i do have an admiration for the militias of the POUM and CNT in Spain '36, the Red Guards before the formation of the Red Army and Makhno's Black Army.

slothjabber wrote:
Harrison Myers wrote:
...
in my view (Rosa Luxemburg's later view), it is better to hold on to genuine proletarian power (which is fundamentally incompatible with state-capitalism) and set an example to the rest of the world, whether it fails or the international revolution breaks out...

As far as I know, I'm the only person who describes themself as a Luxemburgist who frequents LibCom. I completely reject this notion of Rosa's thought. She welcomed the Russian revolution, and urged the workers in Germany to follow its example.

I don't describe myself as a Luxemburgist, but well done you for doing so. I stressed that it was Rosa's later view when she strengthened her (already existing - see "Organizational Questions of the Russian Democracy") conflicts with Lenin.

slothjabber wrote:
Harrison Myers wrote:
...
Socialism must be established wherever proletarian power can be established. It can only fight for the geographical extension of the revolution or fail.

You criticise me for suggesting that a place is not ripe for socialism, and then suggest that state-capitalism should possibly be used a holding action. Do you not see the contradictions?

A country may not be ripe, but it must be attempted. However, state-capitalism simply does not work as a stop gap.

No; the best that can be established until the overthrow of capitalism is state capitalism. Socialism in one country is still impossible. Where is the contradiction? There is no short-cut. Until capitalism is overthrown there can be no socilaism, only state capitalism.

Your view totally lacks any connection between theory and reality .... What to you do the worker's councils and other natural forms of proletarian self-governance represent? .... Some embarrassing 'childishness' on the part of the workers that needs to be destroyed and replaced ASAP with a central state until the revolution magically breaks out internationally? This is a pretty poor view of the worker's fight, and one that is more suitable for a rising bourgeoisie.