18/03/2020 by socialistfight
Chapter 12: How the Alienating Features of the Socialist/Progressive Movement Contribute to Its Failure
While many people have become increasingly cynical about this social system, their growing dissatisfaction is combined with political and emotional indifference that only exacerbates their alienation. In the last analysis, social consciousness that derives from political struggles is critical for the development of real changes, in particular when such struggles are combined with a dynamic change in awareness in regard to alienation.
The alienated marketing character and his/her impotency that incapacitates most people ability to participate in political struggles against the system is generally ignored by the left. But unless such a character is undermined, the people in power will always be able to sap the will to struggle by manipulating the weak market personality for their fundamental capitalistic greed for maximum profit.
The failure of the socialist and progressive movement to provide a genuine alternative to capitalism is perhaps the biggest tragedy of the 20th century. The failure drove many millions who were willing to fight for socialism to a state of despair and demoralization. The decay of the socialist movement resulted in the rise of reactionary movements throughout the world. The downfall of the socialist alternative also encouraged the current aggressive, unbridled expansion of global market capitalism which includes the destruction of the environment as well as the killing of many humans through wars — as manifested in NATO’s involvement in Yugoslavia and the massacre of many in Iraq.
The advanced segment of the population that recognize the need for a fundamental change in society — the left and the progressive movement — failed to overcome alienation because they focused only on the social/economic ills of society while ignoring what these ills do to the people’s psyche, including their own alienated psyche; or to put it differently, as long as a person’s character reflects the values of society, the alienated person cannot change society no matter how correct is the person’s general critique of society.
The Key Problem: The Estranged Psychological Traits of the Movement
Thus the roots of the failures are not the socialist ideas themselves. These roots should be traced to the capitalistic political and social character of socialist and communist parties with mass following. The Socialist and Communist parties distorted and betrayed the ideas socialism. It is not possible to explain seriously in a book about alienation how the political and the social evolution of the Communist and Socialist parties fouled up the socialist ideas, and how their degeneration disillusioned many millions of people. I want to say only in passing that the establishment of a monstrous bureaucracy in the Soviet Union and the rest of the “socialist” countries is a chief reason for the defeat of the socialist movements. Another reason is, of course, the degeneration of the Social Democratic parties and the integration of their leaders into the capitalist political and economic structure.
A lot was written about the material basis for the Stalinist dictatorship in the Soviet Union (that it is based on the material privilege of ruling bureaucracy). These material privileges which are similar to the privileges of the capitalist class, assisted the Stalinists in the former “socialist” countries to become capitalists at the end of the 1980’s without any difficulties.
Very little was written, however, about the bourgeois psychological make-up of the Stalinist bureaucracy, and how such psychology debilitated the healthy elements of the socialist ideology. The bureaucracy’s privileges induced within its ranks a bourgeois and capitalistic personality to the core. I believe that the effects of bourgeois psychological make-up of the Communist Parties’ leaders and members was devastating to the cause of socialism and for the persistence of rest of the anti-capitalist movement. A bourgeois psychological make-up, however, is not restricted to the mass Stalinist and Socialist parties. The bourgeois psychological make-up effects most the Trotskyist, anarchist and all of the progressive organizations who claim to fight for socialism or be against the oppressive features of capitalism. It is a chief obstacle for the inability of the left to unite and fight capitalism effectively.
What do we mean by a bourgeois psychological make-up that dominate the life of the organization? Most people who are attracted to a progressive or a socialist organization do not change their psychological alienated character after they adopt socialist ideas or become “Marxists”. In their emotional world and their way of thinking they do not really break with the functioning and general ideology of this society. This is true in particular in times when there are no signs of revolutions or social change. For many individuals emotional considerations are mixed up extensively with the ideology of the organization or the party. Underneath the exterior of “revolutionary” or “socialist” ideology lies the real social/psychological structure of the group and the people involved with the group. The social/psychological structure in these groups is not very different than the social/psychological structure in the rest of society.
Most of the top leaders in the parties, who never dealt with their own alienation and humanity, act like bourgeois politicians. They are driven by the passion for power triggered by the impotency of their ego (like Clinton, for example), and their failure to be a compassionate loving person. They enjoy the domination and manipulation of other people, and they use the theory of socialism and Marxism in a demagogic and manipulative fashion, that is, to make the members of the group dependent on them. In the hands of such leaders, socialism and Marxism have little to do with scientific objective thinking and practice. Such socialism and Marxism are rather manipulated and used in a demagogic way by the leaders to defeat their opponents and to wrest control of the movement.
The Security of the Sect and Clique, and the Lack of Dialogue
Under these psychological features of the leaders’ genuine objective dialogue that leads to the narrowing of differences and to unity against capitalism is impossible. What happens is that the demagogic and manipulative leaders take advantage of the members’ emotional insecurities, that is, the need to be loyal to the herd and not lose touch with it. Such members are encouraged to view other socialists and progressive people who do not share the precise ideology of their group with deep hostility; thus, the emotional security of the members is shackled to the security of their specific herd. With such infantile mentality, political meetings and mobilizations against the common capitalist enemy often become bickering sessions where the egos of the parties involved is more important than a genuine dialogue to achieve clarity and unity in action. This may be the case even when the parties and groups agree on the basic ideas.
Under such conditions, the members of such parties and organizations always mix the justified anger against the system with the security of the herd, which is provided by such parties or organizations. Most members of these groups do not create a clear boundary between the political line of the group and their emotional needs that accompany a dependency on the group. Thus their emotional needs determine their adherence to the line even when it becomes irrational. The group uses such emotional dependency and channel the anger against the system toward a specific ideology and actions; they become beliefs and actions which the members have not arrived necessarily through independent and objective reasoning. Thus, the people in such organizations and parties are internally weak, insecure, and unable to relate to each other in a loving humanistic way. The bottom line is that the internal psychological life in such groups is not different than the life in other groups in bourgeois society. The social relationships within the socialist and the progressive movement is based most of the time on the establishment of cliques, friction, suspicion, bickering, subjective liking and disliking, and alienated hostility between people — all which booster the ability of the main enemy to penetrate and manipulate the movement.
By objective discussion I mean a real dialogue where people really listen, errors are admitted and assessed by objective reasoning; when this takes place common experience in action combined with dialogue leads to the narrowing of differences and to fusions of groups and parties. In general, objective discussion and common experience can lead to the enrichment of the socialist ideology, and to a higher unity of all the parties and groups who want to fight the system. But with alienated personalities dominating the progressive movement and the left, no objective discussions and practice that lead to real learning and better actions against the main enemy is possible. Dialogue becomes irrational and thoroughly subjective. I have seen situations where organizations had almost the same political lines, but discussion for unity always ended up in a bitter fight with accusations and counter accusations. When loyalty to a group and the leaders — who are always righter than the people of the other groups — plays the decisive role under the surface, no rational dialogue that leads to a change of position is possible. Neither is it possible to build solidarity and real camaraderie between such “socialists”, not to talk about deep personal connections and love.
While I have seen the above patterns over and over for many years, I am not trying to minimize the validity of different historical roots and programs of different socialist and progressive organizations. The subjective interpretation of different programs reflects the different historical roots of different groups. But unfortunately, different programs also reflect different pressures to accommodate to capitalist society. Such pressures aggravates the friction between groups from different roots and programs; the political friction is exacerbated many times by the alienated hostile relationships between different groups and parties.
The specific ways in which the alienated interaction within the parties and the groups occurs depend on the political and historical background of the organizations. For example, in the Stalinists or pro-Stalinist parties and groups, oppositions are generally expelled without any discussions; and where the Stalinists held state power oppositions were imprisoned or killed. In the so called Trotskyist movement, on the other hand, oppositionists are debated. But the leadership normally degrade and belittle them psychologically; then the leaders de-facto ostracizes them from the group by creating a psychological wall between the opposition and the rest of the members. The opposition is expelled after the hostility between the opposition and the rest of the organization reached a no returning point, that is, after the leaders managed to contain the loyal members who are driven by the fears of irrational belonging. The members, who are terrified to lose contact with the herd and for becoming isolated and ostracized, would support the expulsion of the opposition even when they have rational and objective doubts about the ouster. If you ask such members for the reasons for the expulsion — which many times is not based on justified wide principled differences — they would repeat the leaders’ rationalization for the expulsion. But if you carefully observe the emotional tone and the emotional expression on the face, you could see that such members did not arrive at an independent conclusion of their own; they rather rationalize their emotional dependence on the group.
The psychological features of the herd mentality, that is, the fear to feel and think differently than the rest of the herd, is a key psychological features of class society by which the people in power maintain control over the rest of society. The significance of the extension of such features into life of socialist parties and progressive organizations can hardly be exaggerated. It is impossible to overemphasize how harmful it is for the cause the so called Marxists and socialists, and that they must start dealing with this seriously. Most socialists and Marxists keep their critique of capitalism confined to the economy and politics. Yet to be a true socialist one must understand the significance of the alienating psychological traits, and how such traits interact with the fundamental political and economic features.
The Influence of Bourgeois Psychology in the Bolshevik Party
The features of the herd mentality that dominates the life of the contemporary left and the socialist groups can be traced to the mass socialist parties at the early part of the century and to the Bolshevik party itself. While such mentality is deeply seated in “peaceful” times when the hope for a revolution and social change is waned, it also exists in turbulent social times — with the difference that in such times the positive energy of change and revolution can help overcome the old crap that is seated in our head. But history shows without a doubt, that a revolutionary upheaval in itself does not change the alienating psychological features of the old society. A change in the human nature needs more than a hope for a political and economical change; it needs more than the beginning of such a change by revolutionary means. A change in the human essence can occur only if the political/economic change also fosters a profound upheaval in the way humans relate to each other and themselves, that is, in a humanistic approach to life that overturns the old alienating capitalistic values in our heads and hearts. Such a change cannot take place overnight, it normally occurs few generations after a revolution.
The alienating mentality played a role even during the Bolshevik revolution. It played a considerably greater role when the revolution started to fade, after the rise of Stalin and the monstrous Stalinist bureaucracy to power in the Soviet Union. I do not minimize the validity and importance of the classic explanation for the rise of the Stalinist bureaucracy as outlined by Leon Trotsky in the book The Revolution Betrayed. Trotsky explains how years of war against the Western powers, the white army, and the Mensheviks caused the destruction of industry, infrastructure, and agriculture — thus enabling a bureaucracy to rise to power. He also explains how the rise of the bureaucracy stemmed from the exhaustion of the workers’ movement in the Soviet Union and the defeats of the revolutionary movement in Europe. The defeats of the European revolutions and the German revolution in particular caused the isolation of the Soviet Union, they encouraged the rise of a chauvinistic bureaucracy who proclaimed that socialism was centered around its neck.
Under these conditions of exhaustion and defeats of the European revolutions the conformist psychology became a dominant feature for most revolutionists. That was expressed by the tendency to abandon independent critical thinking, and to adhere to the herd by the blind support to the Communist Party in power. This remained the case even though the Stalinist bureaucracy was establishing a brutal dictatorship to protect its material privileges; and even when Stalin was carrying widespread executions of all the Bolshevik cadres to make sure that the process of bureaucratization would not be disrupted by the slightest memory of the past.
How do we explain that the majority of the leaders and members of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union and throughout the world — including very theoretically developed and experienced Communist cadres — ignored the degeneration of the revolution? Why did they defend all the disastrous political and programmatic twists initiated by Stalin and his inner circle? These twists and changes stood in stark contradiction to the earlier program and democratic structure of the Bolshevik Party.
It is outside the scope of this book to explain the different programs and internal functioning of the Communist International under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky versus their program and functioning under the dictatorship of Stalin. A lot was written about it, however. I believe that the best explanation is done by Trotsky. His best books that explain the rise of Stalin to power are The Revolution Betrayed and The Third International After Lenin. But in my opinion these books do not do a complete job, since they do not examine in depth the human factor. Trotsky may not have time because he was overoccupied with the day to day tasks of the turbulent upheavals during the first decades of the 20th century. The Marxist movement after his death, however, ignored completely as irrelevant the social/psychological factors that drove thousands Communist Party leaders from the Bolshevik Party in the Soviet Union and internationally into the arms of Stalin and the bureaucracy that he represented. To understand the degeneration of the Communist parties and the socialist movement in general, these social/psychological factors cannot be ignored — they must be explained.
It is very typical that when a “leader” is psychologically immature, his/her dependent personality plays a decisive rule in his/her adaptation of irrational political positions and ideology which contradict his/her principles of yesterday. As long as the crippled immature personality persists, the adaptation of political positions and ideologies always subordinate to the insecurities of the weak personality. And a weak personality always subordinate to the “stronger” personality, that is, to the personality that represents the social limitation of the dominating society and its pressure. Stalin represented a “stronger” personality to capitulate to; he also represented the worst limitation and pressure of the dominating world capitalist society; he was the best expression of the bureaucratic leaders’ provincial “socialism”; these bureaucrats were mainly interested in their material comfort and security at the expense of the world socialist revolution .
Stalin adopted the theory of socialism in one country, with which the Soviet Union became the only center of socialism. Throughout the world, the Communist Parties had to put all their energy in defending and preserving the Soviet Union at the expense of expanding the socialist revolution. This proved to be disastrous, since the Communist Parties were willing to make deals with the capitalists in their countries; that is, they were willing to betray the revolution in their own countries, in France and Spain for example, hoping that the world capitalist politicians will leave the Soviet Union alone. In reality Stalin and his cronies in the Soviet Union did not care neither about world socialism or socialism in the Soviet Union; they mainly cared about their material privileges from the expropriation and usurpation of the 1917’s revolution. The politics of the Communist Parties’ leaders, however, did not give a breathing space to the Soviet Union. The politics of “socialism” in one country at the expense of the world socialism led to the world wide-defeats of the revolutionary movement in the 1920’s and 1930’s; in the long run these politics brought the destruction of the Soviet Union and the restoration of capitalism. The thousands of Communist Party (CP) leaders possessed many of the weaknesses of the alienated persons in capitalist society. Like most people they could not stand on their own feet. They needed a crutch since they were too weak to withstand the pressure to conform to the “revolutionary” communist herd. They could not think independently and face the isolation for being a minority and consequently face squarely the ostracism from the mainstream “revolutionary” movement. Hence their subordination to Stalin
The Immature Bolshevik Leaders Capitulated to Stalin and the Aura of Power
The CP leaders identify with the Soviet Union and “father” Stalin to foster their power inside the mass communist parties. Their emotional security depended on their position inside the party which was dependent on their loyalty to Stalinism. But this security was achieved at the expense of feeling and thinking independently. As long as the personality remained alienated and weak, the socialist and communist parties provide the person with the security of the herd in a similar fashion to any other party and cult in capitalist society.
This emotional immaturity can be traced to the conduct of key Bolshevik leaders in the period before Stain rose to power. In his books the History of the Russian Revolution and My Life, Trotsky examined the psychological weakness of the most important Bolshevik leaders — weakness that led to opportunistic positions before the Russian revolution and to capitulation to Stalin later. While Trotsky does not give a full analysis on the interaction between the psychology of such leaders and the objective development of the revolution, his insights are nevertheless quite revealing. Two of the key Bolshevik leaders were Kamenev and Zinoviev. 
This is what Trotsky wrote about Kamenev:
“Although a Bolshevik almost from the very birth of Bolshevism, Kamenev had always stood on the right flank of the party. Not without theoretical foundation or political instinct, and with a large experience of factional struggle in Russia and a store of political observations made in Western Europe, Kamenev grasped better than most Bolsheviks the general ideas of Lenin, but he grasped them only in order to give them the mildest possible interpretation in practice. You could not expect from him either independence of judgment or initiative in action. A distinguished propagandist, orator, journalist, not brilliant but thoughtful, Kamenev was especially valuable for negotiations with other parties and reconnoitres in other social circles — although from such excursions he always brought back with him a bit of some mood alien to the party. These characteristics of Kamenev were so obvious that almost nobody ever misjudged him as a political figure. Sukhanov remarks in him an absence of ‘sharp corners.’ ‘It is always necessary to lead him on a tow line,’ he says. ‘He may resist a little, but not strongly.’ ”
In other words, an opportunistic political character that impels one to dilute political principles, can always be traced to a weakness in the fundamental personality — to the inability to withstand social pressure and maintain independent thinking and initiative; to the fear of being ostracized, and of being a alone. It is always the case that when a person has a weak core, that person does not have a real nourishing connection to him/herself and to his/her closest friends and comrades. In such a case, political leaders including the best Marxists and socialists, cannot withstand the adverse pressure that involves the defense of big political principles. Such leaders will be driven to embrace the prevailing views of their social milieu. In the case of Kamenev and many others Bolshevik and Communist Party leaders, this meant an abandonment of independent thinking and principles, which are exchanged for the security of the herd.
Kamenev and Zinoviev did not capitulate to Stalin overnight. They went back and forth between Trotsky’s left opposition and Stalinism; they finally capitulated to Stalinism in 1926 when it was clear that Trotsky was losing. Thus they could not withstand the pressure of being in a small minority against the impact of banishment from the party’s social milieu. In their case resistance against the Stalinists was also tantamount to risking their life.
Zinoviev’s opportunism was not as straight forward as Kamenev’s. Trotsky explains that on a superficial level his character seems to contain the opposite attributes to Kamenev’s political identity:
“Where Kamenev was a propagandist populariser, Zinoviev was an agitator, and indeed, to quote an expression of Lenin, ‘nothing but an agitator.’ . . . Lacking inner discipline, his mind is completely incapable of theoretical work, and his thoughts dissolve into the formless intuitions of the agitator. Thanks to an exceptionally quick scent, he can catch out of the air whatever formulas are necessary for him — those which will exercise the most effective influence on the masses. . . . Although far more bold and unbridled in agitation than any other Bolshevik, Zinoviev is even less capable than Kamenev of revolutionary initiative. He is, like all demagogues, indecisive.”
Zinoviev’s capitulation to the social pressure of Stalinism and the Communist Party can be trailed to his demagogic character. It can be traced to the demagogue’s symbiotic relationship to others in general. The demagogue needs the cheering and the approval of the people in the street to achieve unity with others, to overcome the painful separateness. But underneath rules the anxiety of the insecure person who cannot think clearly and independently. The thoughts of the subjective demagogue do not come from the ability to assess the objective situation, but from the gut feelings of the ego that knows how to say to right things to get the caressing of the crowd. Underneath lies a damaged core that depends on the crowd’s approval to feel the self worth. Thus, Zinoviev who, depended on the approval of the crowd, also, like Kamenev, depended on the prevailing social mood of the Bolshevik party and ultimately on Stalin approval — such approval like in the case of many others Communists was more decisive than the principles of a humanistic socialist society that failed so miserably in the Soviet Union.
The question that comes to the mind is how does the material basis for the degeneration of socialists and progressive people relate to their social psychology? Or to put it differently, how does their character that clings to the psychology of the old society coincide with the material corruption and privileges that the old society always utilize to stop the threat of a genuine socialist revolution? The pressures that corrupts ordinary people also applies to socialists who gain bureaucratic privileges but who started as genuine revolutionaries that wanted to get rid of all the evilness of capitalism. The material privileges that comes from a secured bureaucratic position, is always the fundamental magnet that attract psychologically crippled people to positions of power. The drive for extra material comfort and privileges usually coincides with their psychological crippled features that drive them to power. Being the shepherd of the herd always brings the aura of success and a distorted feeling of eminence that covers up the real impotence. Both drives: the drive for material privileges and the aura of power compensate for the poverty of the soul.
The Pressure to Conform in the Left and Progressive Movements
The pressure of the old crap is so intense that we must conclude that as long as crippled humans — that is, majority of the people — are the product of alienated capitalist society, and as long as socialism does not change the fundamental capitalist type psychology, most people always ends up swimming with the prevailing current; this is so in particular when the conformist current provides the illusion that one can get closer to the privileges of the elite. If the water of this prevailing conformist current is treated with “left” and “socialist” colors, most socialists and leftists capitulate to such 11 prevailing “socialist” current. The pressure to swim with the prevailing stream is so intense, that most leftists stay with the current, even if a dictator who leads the conformist ships in the name of socialism (Stalin for example) kills thousands of revolutionaries to protect the new elite’s privileges. As long as their character is dominated by alienating capitalistic features, many socialists and leftists can exchange their revolutionary positions of yesterday for new ones to stay with the mainstream currents of the left. Thus, if socialist principles are not deeply connected to the struggle to develop a non-alienating humanistic personality, these principles can become only dust in the brain, or a shirt with “revolutionary” slogans that can be exchanged for another shirt with new slogans.
The real person behind the facade of socialist ideology is always driven by deep psychological insecurities that involves giving up the struggle to become emotionally and intellectually independent. Until the roots of this alienated character in capitalist society is dealt with seriously and a transformation of such character occurs, no genuine socialist society with a humanistic quality can be successfully built. There always be people out there who will go for the security of the selected elite and the material privileges that comes from the position of power.
Trotsky explains that the pressure to conform applies to the best working class revolutionaries who cannot swim against the current. Such workers capitulate to alien capitalist pressure when the class struggle and the hope for a real socialist future ebb, and in fact, this is one of the reasons why Stalin was so successful:
“But there are many revolutionaries in the party and the state who come from the masses but have long since broken away from them, and who, because of their position, are placed in a separate and distinct class. Their class instinct has evaporated. On the other hand, they lack the theoretical stability and outlook to envisage the process in its entirety. Their psychology retains many unprotected surfaces, which, with the change of circumstances, expose them to the easy penetration of foreign and hostile influences. In the days of the underground struggle, of the uprisings, and the civil war, people of this type were merely soldiers of the party. Their minds had only one string, and that sounded in harmony with the party tuning-fork. But when the tension relaxed and the nomads of the revolutions passed on to settled living, the traits of the man in the street, the sympathies and tastes of self-satisfied officials, revived in them.” 
In times of regressive social activities the criteria for selecting bureaucrats is the lack of self-identity and integrity to feel and think independently. Thus, when the revolution in Russia started to ebb people who surfaced to the front were weak characters who could tailor themselves well for the society of yesterday where material privileges played the decisive role. Stalin always picked people with no personality to his inner circle. Trotsky describes one of them, Menzhinsky:
“The impression he made on me could best be described by saying that he made none at all. He seems more like the shadow of some other unrealized man, or rather like a poor sketch for an unfinished portrait. . . Stalin generally gave his support to people who existed politically only through the grace of the government apparatus. And so Menzhinsky became the true shadow of Stalin in the G.P.U.” 
Such characters were not restricted to bureaucrats in the Soviet Union. These type of personalities with different variations occupied top positions in the Communist Parties on the international scale. Many of the leaders of the Communist Party internationally who capitulated to Stalin became the shadow of Stalin and his politics. The pressure to conform which is associated with the crippled personality drove them to the securities of the predominant Communist Parties dominated by Stalinist bureaucrats. The consequences of this were tragic for the cause of socialism.
We Need to Start Transcending Alienation Now
As long as the left and the people in the progressive movement absorbed the feebleness of the average person, personal considerations and dependency between “leaders” and members always plays a prominent role behind the scenes. This helps the people in power to manipulate the movement and control it.
It is impossible to change the fundamental economic and social system without a fundamental change that uproot and transform the entire system from top to bottom. But without a humanistic maturity of those who want to bring about this social change, it is difficult to fight the system effectively and bring about this fundamental change. Thus, those who want to fight the system cannot restrict themselves to economic and political questions. They must be aware of alien pressure that is effecting their character. They must struggle for the transformation of their own alienated character that is driven by the same anxiety, stress and fears that drive the majority of people in our society. Only by transforming their own alien personality can they achieve the emotional well-being that permits them to be free from manipulation and demagogy. Only with such emotional well-being can they achieve true independence that enable them to think objectively and master strength and clarity for the necessary strategy and dialog to unite a growing number of people who are dissatisfied with the capitalist system. Without making the efforts to change nobody can withstand the constant pressure and disruption of the ruling class.
I do not pretend to have a cook book that guarantees the building of an anti-capitalist movement with a genuine humanistic character. A starting point can be a large scale dialog on alienation between people who want to build an anti-capitalist movement with a humanistic face. Such dialog can examine the effect of alienation on the movement and how to overcome it. For this to happen we need to develop deep awareness about the problem. Such awareness involves the willingness to take the time and the risk for even taking the baby steps for such a transformation. I say baby steps because I am acutely aware how difficult it is to struggle against alien pressure, in particular when this involves a change of our own alienated enfeebled character. But history does not leave us alone about it. The 20th century illustrated that the embryo of liberated humans — that is, humans who can use their real and full potentials — cannot remain an abstract sketch until the establishment of a humanistic socialist society. Such an embryo must evolve at the present society to the point that it is strong enough to play an important role in providing the alternative to capitalism.