Macnair, Faulkner and Third Campist liberal reaction By Gerry Downing

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02/12/2020 by socialistfight

Lenin: The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky: How Kautsky Turned Marx Into A Common Liberal: “It is natural for a liberal to speak of “democracy”  in general; but a Marxist will never forget to ask: “for what class?”  Everyone knows, for instance (and Kautsky the “historian”  knows it too), that rebellions, or even strong ferment, among the slaves in ancient times at once revealed the fact that the ancient state was essentially a dictatorship of the slave owners. Did this dictatorship abolish democracy among, and for, the slaveowners? Everybody knows that it did not.”

Mike Macnair has written over 30,000 words to refute the musing of Neil Faulkner, formerly of the SWP, Counterfire and now Mutiny, in current fusion talks with the Mandelite Socialist Resistance. Also in the mix in the original debate which spurred Neil on to his three part series on the party and democratic centralism were the AWL and Red Flag, formerly Workers Power.

The debates touched on various aspects of revolutionary socialism, i.e. Trotskyism from all the Third Campist participants, all of whom defended aspects of it but with no attempt at consistency.

For instance, Mike defends Trotsky’s decision to launch the Fourth International (FI) in 1938 as “a plausible policy-though as it turned out a wrong one”  (Part 2, Heroes and sinners). And later in the same article he refutes Neil’s nonsense on the Transitional Programme (TP) by a Trotsky quote which equally refutes his own position on the launch of the FI.

“Every historical prognosis is always conditional and, the more concrete the prognosis, the more conditional it is. A prognosis is not a promissory note, which can be cashed on a given date. Prognosis outlines only the definite trends of the development. But, along with these trends, a different order of forces and tendencies operate, which at a certain moment begin to predominate. All those who seek exact predictions of concrete events should consult the astrologists. Marxist prognosis aids only in orientation.”  (Balance sheet of the Finnish events, April 1940).

The FI did not lead revolutions, “as it turned out”  because the Nazis, the Stalinists and western imperialism collaborated to massacre the Trotskyist revolutionaries and defeat the revolutionary situations that arose in the latter half and at the end of WWII. In particular in Warsaw, Czechoslovakia, Northern Italy, Greece and Vietnam. And Stalinism supplied political cover to post war capitalism by entering no less than eight governments to head off these potential revolutionary situations.

The TP was dedicated to analysing the revolutionary potential in the situations which Trotsky correctly saw were about to develop during and after WWII and to directing revolutionary leaders and fighters to recognising these potentials and seeking to lead them to victory.

A more serious objection

But we have a more serious objection to Mike’s series. And that is that in Part 4, (Historical muddle, theoretical overkill, Oct 22) he rejects revolutionary violence as a liberal commentator. By the Spring of 1918 the revolution was threatened from the west by the German army and so

“The original idea that the class has to be ‘represented’ by its advanced part, the party, flowed from the Bolsheviks’ loss of majority support in spring 1918 as a result of the peace of Brest-Litovsk – and as a result, their rigging of soviet elections at the same period, and then the turn of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries to terrorism against the Bolshevik regime, and the Bolshevik response of Red Terror. They now had to justify what had become a dictatorship over the proletariat.

“The drive for ‘military’ discipline in the party flowed from the problem of military insubordination by local leaderships, notably in the Tsaritsyn affair in autumn 1918, and the political struggle round the ‘military opposition’ at the Eighth Congress of the party in March 1919.”

The ‘rigging of soviet elections’ he refers to twice is alleged at the Fifth All-Russian Congress of Soviets in June 1918. In the provincial Soviet elections in spring 1918 19 out of 30 Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary were elected and the Bolshevik were in a majority of 11. But the Bolsheviks held the majority in the cities as the elections to the Constituency Assembly showed.

And the counterrevolutionary White armies were massing and, whilst the majority of the membership of the Mensheviks, the SRs and many anarchists were won to the Bolsheviks, many of the top leadership openly joined the counter-revolution.

The Left SRs assassinated Bolshevik leaders and almost succeeded in assassinating Lenin. According to liberal reactionaries like Richard Pipes the Bolsheviks should have then yielded to ‘democracy’ and abandoned the revolution. This is the clear message from Mike MacNair and Neil Faulkner.

The Bolsheviks did not yield; had they done so the revolution would have collapsed in the middle of 1918. Revolutionary leaders and fighters do not yield in adverse circumstances.

In 1920 in Ireland almost one-third of the British army and the Black and Tans were in West Cork. Tom Barry, the leader of the famous Flying Column, became a legend in his lifetime:

“They said I was ruthless, daring, savage, bloodthirsty, even heartless, the clergy called me and my comrades ‘murderers’. They had gone down in the mire to destroy us and our nation, and down after them we had to go.”

If the revolution lost because of forces beyond their control we could not blame them. But if they had yielded in the name of ‘democracy’ they would deserve nothing but contempt.

Liberal democracy vs Marxism

And what are we to make of the following passage just after the above quote where Mike contradicts himself and spreads so much confusion, surely because he cannot come straight out and say what he means:

“Meanwhile, in the west, the social democratic parties, and the ‘centrists’ like the German Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD) had failed to create workers’ power; and had failed at least in part because they baulked at the necessity of civil war (that necessary was to come back to them all the same, in the form of one-sided capitalist-initiated civil war, in Italy in 1920-22, in Germany and Austria in 1933-34, in Spain in 1936, in most of the rest of Europe in 1939). It was then natural for the Russians and their co-thinkers to imagine that the solution was to remake the western communist parties along the lines of the Bolshevism adapted in 1919 to civil war.

“With the benefit of hindsight, all of these decisions were mistakes. They were mistakes made under conditions of war, counterrevolutionary foreign intervention and civil war – and in an overwhelmingly peasant-majority country.

“But the Bolsheviks would not have had these problems if they had adopted these organisational methods, and thereby adapted their party to the needs of civil war in a peasant-majority country, before they obtained political power. In that case they could not have built a serious workers’ party in the first place, or obtained political power in October 1917.”

In Italy, Germany and Spain the ‘centrists’ (in Marxist terms) had failed to launch civil wars and “with the benefit of hindsight, all of these decisions were mistakes”  because they lost but in Russia the Bolsheviks had launched a civil war and won, but they should not have done that because building “a serious workers’ party”  and obtaining “political power in October 1917”was wrong because it all led to Stalinism and should not have been attempted in the first place.

Better to have gone with ‘democracy’ as advocated by the renegade Kautsky and the likes of Max Shachtman and Hal Draper, it seems. Is that what it means? Or does it mean anything at all? ▲

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