Non-dialectical contradictions from Lars T Lih – a Vlast from the past

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05/01/2021 by socialistfight

Lars T Lih performing his dissappearing Lenin trick and substituting Kamanev, Zionviev and Stalin for him at the CPGB’s Open University.

Lars T Lih’s approach is summed up in his thesis in his article (WW, The Bolsheviks in 1917, December 17), “The heart of the message can be stated in one sentence: an exclusive worker-peasant vlast based on the soviets is the only way to effectively defend the revolution and carry out its goals.” He repeats this in his Consistent Bolshevik Message (WW, January 7)

Everything is wrong with this. The word ‘vlast’ is used to confuse. Does it mean state power and if so, what class is to rule in this state? If the state is a worker-peasant state it is a bourgeois state (or a petty-bourgeois state, the same thing), which was already achieved in the February revolution? A democratic-dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry is a bourgeois state – you cannot have a two-class state. If it is the dictatorship of the proletariat in alliance with the peasantry it is a workers’ state, and a socialist revolution is needed for that. Ah, but we must complete the bourgeois revolution before we can have a socialist revolution, Lars T objects with Kamenev.

To add further confusion Lars equates the socialist revolution with socialist construction. The making of the socialist revolution was fought for by Trotsky in his 1906 Permanent Revolution on the premise that it would be the first in a series of socialist revolutions in western Europe in particular. Originally the Bolsheviks hoped that a bourgeois democratic revolution in Russia would spark socialist revolutions in Germany, France and Italy to begin with. But Lenin’s foreword to Bukharin book on imperialism and his own Imperialism, the Highest stage of Capitalism (which Mike Macnair rejects, he informed us at the Communist University) led to his understanding that working class consciousness was internationalist, a victory for the working class in Russia was a victory for the world working class, and the class, via its vangard, clearly understood it as such in every country in the world.

Lars observes in his Consistent Bolshevik Message:

“The idea that Russia itself could embark on successful socialist transformation, even before the beneficent influence of a European revolution began to be felt, was rejected by all socialists of whatever political persuasion. All Marxists observers accepted as an axiom that the peasant majority of Russia – although a mighty force for democratic revolution – was an insuperable obstacle to a socialist transformation of the Russian economy and society. This axiom, it will be remembered, was an essential part of Trotsky’s ‘permanent revolution’, as set forth in his original writings of 1905-07.”

And there it is, the confusion and equation of socialist construction with the socialist revolution. Even Stalin understood that socialism in a single country was impossible in the first edition of his Lenin and Leninism in early 1924:

“The overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of a proletarian government in one country does not yet guarantee the complete victory of socialism. The main task of socialism, the organisation of socialist production, still lies ahead. Can this task be accomplished, can the victory of socialism in one country be attained, without the joint efforts of the proletariat of several advanced countries? No, this is impossible. For the final victory of socialism, for the organisation of socialist production, the efforts of one country, particularly of such a peasant country as Russia are insufficient.” (Stalin, Lenin and Leninism, p. 40.)

“Here without doubt the general position of the Bolshevik Party is correctly expressed”, Trotsky observed. However, in the second edition, published a few months later, after Lenin had died, these lines were withdrawn, and the exact opposite put in their place:

“But the overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the power of the proletariat in one country does not yet mean that the complete victory of socialism has been assured. After consolidating its power and leading the peasantry in its wake the proletariat of the victorious country can and must build a socialist society” (Stalin, Collected Works, Vol. 6, p. 110, my emphasis.)

Lars stands clearly to the right of the early-1924 Stalin, his two long pieces have no serious orientation to internationalism, they are simply based on a socialism in a single country perspective, ids it possible of Not? No! And he remains so in his attempts to Kautskyise Lenin.

‘Vlast’ is continually confused with soviet power, whilst ignoring what class rules in this soviet power. Ah, but the ‘narod’, the people, rule Lars responds hoping his readers will not spot the cross-class popular front Stalinist use of the term from the 1935 Seventh, and last Congress of the Comintern when Georgi Dimitrov did Stalin’s dirty work in abandoning the class independence of the working class. Lenin used the term, Lars might object, but he never used it in the sense that Stalinist popular frontism used it; he used it as a rallying cry for the revolution.

To understand all this we must examine the history of the 1905 failed and the 1917 successful revolutions. We have made this analysis in 2007, but here is a summary of the controversial points. Kevin Corr in International Socialism 254, April 2017 also makes this case very well, expanding and developing my points, advertently or inadvertently. The 1905 revolution saw the emergence of Soviets, workers’ committees, and the Bolsheviks immediately identified them with the type of state that emerged in embryo in France in 1871; the Paris Commune; the state power, the police and the army had transferred their allegiance from that state to the revolution. This did not happen in 1905 but it clearly did in February 1917.

The perspective of the Bolsheviks then was to overthrow the Tsarist state and institute a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry’ and enter a government led by the working class to consolidate a bourgeois revolution. The bourgeoisie in Russia was too weak and compromised with the Tsar and the landlords to lead their own revolution. The Tsarist regime survived, there was no Provisional Government, there was no ‘democratic revolution’ to complete so the slogan of ‘the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry’ survived as the perspective of the Bolsheviks until Lenin’s April Theses of 1917. The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries agreed with the Cadets, the representatives of the bourgeoisie, that the revolution would not only be bourgeois but that it had to be led by the liberal bourgeoisie, i.e., the Cadets, those not fully compromised with Tsarism.

But even in 1905 Lenin understood that the “formula” of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry was time-limited and conjunctional, even if still the degree of separation between the bourgeois revolution and the socialist revolution was left up in the air and not seen as two stages in the same revolution:

“Like everything else in the world, the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry has a past and a future. Its past is autocracy, serfdom, monarchy, and privilege … Its future is the struggle against private property, the struggle of the wage-worker against the employer, the struggle for socialism….”

Trotsky had proposed his Permanent Revolution in 1906, because, agreeing with the Bolsheviks that the working class would come to power to make the bourgeois revolution, he further argued that the working class would be unwilling and unable to endure capitalist exploitation when in power, it would be forced to overthrow the capitalist to tackle the elementary tasks of the bourgeois revolution, free and fair universal suffrage, land to the peasantry and a democratic constituent assembly, etc. A socialist revolution was necessary even to progress the tasks of the bourgeois revolution.

But the February 23 revolution, whilst repeating some of the experience of the 1905 Soviets quickly overthrew the Tsar (March 1) and a Provisional Government was formed from the landlords and capitalists in the Duma. The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries joined and Kerensky, a leader of the latter, following the disastrous failure of his military offensive in May and June as Minister of War became Prime Minister on July 8. All Bolsheviks sough to overthrow the Provisional Government. But the sharp disagreement between Kamenev and Lenin were on what was to replace it?

Lars T, a sweetish Louis Blanc, or a sugary Kautskyite, but certainly not a revolutionary Marxist

And here we get Lars T Lih’s ‘vlast from the past’. Volume 24 of Lenin’s Collected Works contain the details of this very sharp conflict. We would strongly suggest that instead of just reading the ‘One-liners’ from Kamenev in WW December 17 serious Marxists should not only study the April Theses themselves but Lenin’s Letters on Tactics (p. 42), April 8 and 13, old style, The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution (p. 55, April 10) and the Report of the Present Situation and the attitude towards the Provisional Government, (p. 141, April 14). I defy any serious theoretical Marxist to read these documents and reach the conclusion that Lars T, the Weekly Worker and the Third Campists do that between Kamenev and Lenin there were, “misunderstandings, but essential unity.”

Members of the first Bolshevik Party Politburo (Политбюро, Politicheskoye Byuro) in 1917: Lenin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Trotsky, Stalin, Sokolnikov, Bubnov. Apart from Lenin, who died in 1924, all were executed or assassinated by Stalin in 1936–1940.

Take the following from Lenin’s Letters on Tactics :

“A new and different task now faces us: to effect a split within this dictatorship between the proletarian elements (the anti-defencist, internationalist, “Communist” elements, who stand for a transition to the commune) and the small-proprietor or petty-bourgeois elements (Chkheidze, Tsereteli, Steklov, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the other revolutionary defencists, who are opposed to moving towards the commune and are in favour of “supporting” the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois government).

“The person now speaks only of a “revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry” is behind the times, consequently, he has in effect gone over to the petty bourgeoisie against the proletarian class struggle; that person should be consigned to the archive of “Bolshevik” pre-revolutionary antiquities (it may be called the archive of ‘old Bolsheviks’)” [4]

Kamenev and his followers are the target here also:

“The revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry has already been realised, but in a highly original manner …”

This passage is aimed not only at the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries as Lenin makes clear in his almost 1,700-word attack on Kamenev from page 51 of Volume 24, which is along the same lines. Kamenev advocated a version of what became the Stalinist two stage revolution, make the bourgeois/democratic/anti-fascist revolution now and look for the socialist revolution at some point in the indefinite future, although for Kamenev it was the more immediate future and not never as it became for Stalinism after 1934.

Lenin goes on:

“According to the old way of thinking, the rule of the bourgeoisie could and should be followed by the rule of the proletariat and the peasantry, by their dictatorship. In real life, however, things have already turned out differently … We have side by side, existing together, simultaneously, both the rule of the bourgeoisie (the government of Lvov and Guchkov) and a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, which is voluntarily ceding power to the bourgeoisie, voluntarily making itself an appendage of the bourgeoisie.

For it must not be forgotten that actually, in Petrograd, the power is in the hands of the workers and soldiers; the new government is not using and cannot use violence against them, because there is no police, no army standing apart from the people, no officialdom standing all-powerful above the people. … One must know how to adapt schemes to facts, instead of reiterating the now meaningless words about a “dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” in general.

… Because of the “possibility” of so pleasing and sweet a future, in which the peasantry would not be the tail of the bourgeoisie, …in which the peasantry still forms the tail of the bourgeoisie, and in which the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Social-Democrats have not yet given up their role as an appendage of the bourgeois government, as “His Majesty” Lvov’s Opposition.

This hypothetical person would resemble a sweetish Louis Blanc, or a sugary Kautskyite, but certainly not a revolutionary Marxist.

Mr. Plekhanov, the ex-Marxist, has absolutely failed to understand the Marxist doctrine of the state. Incidentally, the germs of this lack of understanding are also to he found in his German pamphlet on anarchism.

The formula is obsolete. It is no good at all. It is dead. And it is no use trying to revive it

Now let us see how Comrade Y. Kamenev, in Pravda No. 27, formulates his “disagreements” with my theses and with the views expressed above. This will help us to grasp them more clearly.

“As for Comrade Lenin’s general scheme,” writes Comrade Kamenev, “it appears to us unacceptable, inasmuch as it proceeds from the assumption that the bourgeois-democratic revolution is completed and builds on the immediate transformation of this revolution into a socialist revolution.’

“There are two big mistakes

Non-dialectical contradictions from Lars T Lih – a Vlast from the past

Lars T Lih’s approach is summed up in his thesis in his article (WW, The Bolsheviks in 1917, December 17), “The heart of the message can be stated in one sentence: an exclusive worker-peasant vlast based on the soviets is the only way to effectively defend the revolution and carry out its goals.” He repeats this in his Consistent Bolshevik Message (WW, January 7)

Everything is wrong with this. The word ‘vlast’ is used to confuse. Does it mean state power and if so, what class is to rule in this state? If the state is a worker-peasant state it is a bourgeois state (or a petty-bourgeois state, the same thing), which was already achieved in the February revolution? A democratic-dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry is a bourgeois state – you cannot have a two-class state. If it is the dictatorship of the proletariat in alliance with the peasantry it is a workers’ state, and a socialist revolution is needed for that. Ah, but we must complete the bourgeois revolution before we can have a socialist revolution, Lars T objects with Kamenev.

To add further confusion Lars equates the socialist revolution with socialist construction. The making of the socialist revolution was fought for by Trotsky in his 1906 Permanent Revolution on the premise that it would be the first in a series of socialist revolutions in western Europe in particular. Originally the Bolsheviks hoped that a bourgeois democratic revolution in Russia would spark socialist revolutions in Germany, France and Italy to begin with. But Lenin’s foreword to Bukharin book on imperialism and his own Imperialism, the Highest stage of Capitalism (which Mike Macnair rejects, he informed us at the Communist University) led to his understanding that working class consciousness was internationalist, a victory for the working class in Russia was a victory for the world working class, and the class, via its vangard, clearly understood it as such in every country in the world.

Lars observes in his Consistent Bolshevik Message:

“The idea that Russia itself could embark on successful socialist transformation, even before the beneficent influence of a European revolution began to be felt, was rejected by all socialists of whatever political persuasion. All Marxists observers accepted as an axiom that the peasant majority of Russia – although a mighty force for democratic revolution – was an insuperable obstacle to a socialist transformation of the Russian economy and society. This axiom, it will be remembered, was an essential part of Trotsky’s ‘permanent revolution’, as set forth in his original writings of 1905-07.”

And there it is, the confusion and equation of socialist construction with the socialist revolution. Even Stalin understood that socialism in a single country was impossible in the first edition of his Lenin and Leninism in early 1924:

“The overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of a proletarian government in one country does not yet guarantee the complete victory of socialism. The main task of socialism, the organisation of socialist production, still lies ahead. Can this task be accomplished, can the victory of socialism in one country be attained, without the joint efforts of the proletariat of several advanced countries? No, this is impossible. For the final victory of socialism, for the organisation of socialist production, the efforts of one country, particularly of such a peasant country as Russia are insufficient.” (Stalin, Lenin and Leninism, p. 40.)

“Here without doubt the general position of the Bolshevik Party is correctly expressed”, Trotsky observed. However, in the second edition, published a few months later, after Lenin had died, these lines were withdrawn, and the exact opposite put in their place:

“But the overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the power of the proletariat in one country does not yet mean that the complete victory of socialism has been assured. After consolidating its power and leading the peasantry in its wake the proletariat of the victorious country can and must build a socialist society” (Stalin, Collected Works, Vol. 6, p. 110, my emphasis.)

Lars stands clearly to the right of the early-1924 Stalin, his two long pieces have no serious orientation to internationalism, they are simply based on a socialism in a single country perspective, ids it possible of Not? No! And he remains so in his attempts to Kautskyise Lenin.

‘Vlast’ is continually confused with soviet power, whilst ignoring what class rules in this soviet power. Ah, but the ‘narod’, the people, rule Lars responds hoping his readers will not spot the cross-class popular front Stalinist use of the term from the 1935 Seventh, and last Congress of the Comintern when Georgi Dimitrov did Stalin’s dirty work in abandoning the class independence of the working class. Lenin used the term, Lars might object, but he never used it in the sense that Stalinist popular frontism used it; he used it as a rallying cry for the revolution.

To understand all this we must examine the history of the 1905 failed and the 1917 successful revolutions. We have made this analysis in 2007, but here is a summary of the controversial points. Kevin Corr in International Socialism 254, April 2017 also makes this case very well, expanding and developing my points, advertently or inadvertently. The 1905 revolution saw the emergence of Soviets, workers’ committees, and the Bolsheviks immediately identified them with the type of state that emerged in embryo in France in 1871; the Paris Commune; the state power, the police and the army had transferred their allegiance from that state to the revolution. This did not happen in 1905 but it clearly did in February 1917.

The perspective of the Bolsheviks then was to overthrow the Tsarist state and institute a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry’ and enter a government led by the working class to consolidate a bourgeois revolution. The bourgeoisie in Russia was too weak and compromised with the Tsar and the landlords to lead their own revolution. The Tsarist regime survived, there was no Provisional Government, there was no ‘democratic revolution’ to complete so the slogan of ‘the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry’ survived as the perspective of the Bolsheviks until Lenin’s April Theses of 1917. The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries agreed with the Cadets, the representatives of the bourgeoisie, that the revolution would not only be bourgeois but that it had to be led by the liberal bourgeoisie, i.e., the Cadets, those not fully compromised with Tsarism.

But even in 1905 Lenin understood that the “formula” of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry was time-limited and conjunctional, even if still the degree of separation between the bourgeois revolution and the socialist revolution was left up in the air and not seen as two stages in the same revolution:

“Like everything else in the world, the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry has a past and a future. Its past is autocracy, serfdom, monarchy, and privilege … Its future is the struggle against private property, the struggle of the wage-worker against the employer, the struggle for socialism….”

Trotsky had proposed his Permanent Revolution in 1906, because, agreeing with the Bolsheviks that the working class would come to power to make the bourgeois revolution, he further argued that the working class would be unwilling and unable to endure capitalist exploitation when in power, it would be forced to overthrow the capitalist to tackle the elementary tasks of the bourgeois revolution, free and fair universal suffrage, land to the peasantry and a democratic constituent assembly, etc. A socialist revolution was necessary even to progress the tasks of the bourgeois revolution.

But the February 23 revolution, whilst repeating some of the experience of the 1905 Soviets quickly overthrew the Tsar (March 1) and a Provisional Government was formed from the landlords and capitalists in the Duma. The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries joined and Kerensky, a leader of the latter, following the disastrous failure of his military offensive in May and June as Minister of War became Prime Minister on July 8. All Bolsheviks sough to overthrow the Provisional Government. But the sharp disagreement between Kamenev and Lenin were on what was to replace it?

And here we get Lars T Lih’s ‘vlast from the past’, is it a government, is it a state, has it got a class character? Volume 24 of Lenin’s Collected Works contain the details of this very sharp conflict. Significantly Lars, in his Lenin in his own words in WW January completely ignores these words which directly contradict his entire theses, including a passage not by Lenin but which he supposed he must have agreed with. We would strongly suggest that instead of just reading the ‘One-liners’ from Kamenev in WW December 17 serious Marxists should not only study the April Theses themselves but Lenin’s Letters on Tactics (p. 42), April 8 and 13, old style, The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution (p. 55, April 10) and the Report of the Present Situation and the attitude towards the Provisional Government, (p. 141, April 14). I defy any serious theoretical Marxist to read these documents and reach the conclusion that Lars T, the Weekly Worker and the Third Campists do that between Kamenev and Lenin there were, “misunderstandings, but essential unity.”

Take the following:

“A new and different task now faces us: to effect a split within this dictatorship between the proletarian elements (the anti-defencist, internationalist, “Communist” elements, who stand for a transition to the commune) and the small-proprietor or petty-bourgeois elements (Chkheidze, Tsereteli, Steklov, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the other revolutionary defencists, who are opposed to moving towards the commune and are in favour of “supporting” the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois government).

“The person now speaks only of a “revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry” is behind the times, consequently, he has in effect gone over to the petty bourgeoisie against the proletarian class struggle; that person should be consigned to the archive of “Bolshevik” pre-revolutionary antiquities (it may be called the archive of ‘old Bolsheviks’)”

This passage from Lenin’s Letters on Tactics is aimed not only at the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries but, as Lenin makes clear in his almost 1,700-word attack on Kamenev, on him too. Kamenev advocated a version of what became the Stalinist two stage revolution, make the bourgeois/democratic/anti-fascist revolution now and look for the socialist revolution at some point in the indefinite future, although for Kamenev it was the more immediate future and not never as bad as it became in Stalin’s ‘theory’ after 1934. Lenin goes on:

“… Because of the “possibility” of so pleasing and sweet a future, in which the peasantry would not be the tail of the bourgeoisie, …in which the peasantry still forms the tail of the bourgeoisie, and in which the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Social-Democrats have not yet given up their role as an appendage of the bourgeois government, as “His Majesty” Lvov’s Opposition. This hypothetical person would resemble a sweetish Louis Blanc, or a sugary Kautskyite, but certainly not a revolutionary Marxist.

“Now let us see how Comrade Y. Kamenev, in Pravda No. 27, formulates his “disagreements” with my theses and with the views expressed above. This will help us to grasp them more clearly.

“As for Comrade Lenin’s general scheme,” writes Comrade Kamenev, “it appears to us unacceptable, inasmuch as it proceeds from the assumption that the bourgeois-democratic revolution is completed and builds on the immediate transformation of this revolution into a socialist revolution.’

“… The question of “completion” of the bourgeois-democratic revolution is stated wrongly. Is this reality covered by Comrade Kamenev’s old-Bolshevik formula, which says that “the bourgeois-democratic revolution is not completed”? It is not. The formula is obsolete. It is no good at all. It is dead. And it is no use trying to revive it.

“Comrade Kamenev’s mistake is that even in 1917 he sees only the past of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. As a matter of fact, its future has already begun, for the interests and policies of the wage-worker and the petty proprietor have actually diverged already, even in such an important question as that of “defencism”, that of the attitude towards the imperialist war.

And Cliff Slaughter, the old WRP’s theoretician has now also joined the Third Campists. His Not without a Storm, Index books, 2006, quotes from Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution (1905):

 “’the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry’ would”, now comes the Trotsky quote, “Have to carry through to the end the agrarian revolution and democratic reconstruction of the State. In other words, the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry would become the instrument for solving the historically belated task of the historically-belated bourgeois revolution. But having reached power the proletariat would be compelled to encroach ever more deeply on the relationship of private property in general, that is to take the road of socialist measures.”

But Slaughter has here falsified the Trotsky quote. To the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ he has added in “and peasantry” which cannot be an accident. One always cut and pastes quotes so Slaughter deliberately added in the phrase to make it mean the opposite to what Trotsky originally wrote.

And in the final insult to the name of Trotskyism Slaughter explains that bourgeois-democratic revolutions after 1917 were all led by Stalinists (he still cannot handle Cuba) and “it was only via this path – and not via the bourgeoisie – that nationalist capitalist states could be achieved; and that is the historic role the various Stalinist regimes, ‘workers states’ played. They prepared and effected the transition of the nation to capitalism” (p 284).

Well, there we have it! This implies the Bolsheviks were wrong against the Mensheviks and Trotsky was wrong against Stalin and present-day Trotskyists are wrong against Stalinists everywhere. Stalinism has played a historically progressive role and their opponents on the left deserved what they got for attempting to obstruct this ‘progressivism’.

Lenin won the argument against the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry in April and May 1917, but Kamenev, Zinoviev and others were not convinced. Lenin and Trotsky won the Central Committee to the perspective of the socialist revolution in those September Central Committee meetings, at which point Kamenev and Zinoviev went to the Menshevik press, in effect to the Provisional Government, to reveal the date of the proposed insurrection. This was a gross act of class treachery, which showed not only had they failed to understand the internationalist perspective that enabled the October revolution to succeed but they totally misjudged the mood of the masses and their readiness for revolution. Lenin proposed his expulsion for this. Had Lenin and Trotsky been mistaken, as Kamenev and Zinoviev believed, then the Okhranka, the tsarist secret police, would have come and murdered them all. We can assume Stalin had not sufficiently arranged for their escape, as was his only task during the revolution. But events proved they were right; Kamenev and Zinoviev admitted their mistakes then and implicitly in back in April. And the rest is history

Gerry Downing

Trotsky on the disastrous consequences of the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry in China

“Lastly, having referred to the fact that Stalin reintroduced the formulation the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry into China for the lost revolution of 1925-27 with such disastrous results in Shanghai (capitulation to the Chinese bourgeoisie, Chiang Kai-shek who massacred the Soviet in April 1927) and later in Wuhan (to the petty-bourgeoisie, the so-called left Kuomintang, led by Wang Jingwei, who carried out another massacre in Wuhan in July 1927) let us see what Trotsky had to say:

“The first paragraph of the February resolution, from which the above-quoted passage was taken, gives the following motives for its negative attitude toward the so-called “permanent revolution”:

“The current period of the Chinese revolution is a period of a bourgeois-democratic revolution which has not been completed either from the economic standpoint (the agrarian revolution and the abolition of feudal relations), or from the standpoint of the national struggle against imperialism (the unification of China and the establishment of national independence), or from the standpoint of the class nature of the state (the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry) …”

“This presentation of motives is an unbroken chain of mistakes and contradictions. The ECCI taught that the Chinese revolution must secure for China the opportunity to develop along the road to socialism. This goal could be achieved only if the revolution did not halt merely at the solution of the bourgeois-democratic tasks but continued to unfold, passing from one stage to the next, i.e., continued to develop uninterruptedly (or permanently) and thus lead China toward a socialist development. This is precisely what Marx understood by the term “permanent revolution.” How then can we, on the one hand, speak of a non-capitalist path of development for China and, on the other, deny the permanent character of the revolution in general?

“But – insists the resolution of the ECCI – the revolution has not been completed, either from the standpoint of the agrarian revolution or from the standpoint of the national struggle against imperialism. Hence it draws the conclusion about the bourgeois-democratic character of the “present period of the Chinese revolution.” As a matter of fact the “present period” is a period of counter-revolution. The ECCI doubtlessly intends to say that the new resurgence of the Chinese revolution, or the third Chinese revolution, will bear a bourgeois-democratic character because the second Chinese revolution of 1925-1927 solved neither the agrarian question nor the national question. However, even thus amended, this reasoning is based upon a total failure to understand the experiences and lessons of both the Chinese and the Russian revolutions.

“The February 1917 revolution in Russia left unsolved all the internal and international problems which had led to the revolution – serfdom in the villages, the old bureaucracy, the war, and economic debacle. Taking this as a starting point, not only the SRs and the Mensheviks, but also a considerable section of the leadership of our own party tried to prove to Lenin that the “present period of the revolution is a period of the bourgeois-democratic revolution.” In this, its basic consideration, the resolution of the ECCI merely copies the objections which the opportunists raised against the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat waged by Lenin in 1917.

“Furthermore, it appears that the bourgeois-democratic revolution remains unaccomplished not only from the economic and national standpoint, but also >from the “standpoint of the class nature of the state (the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry).” This can mean only one thing: that the Chinese proletariat is forbidden to struggle for the conquest of power so long as no “genuine” democratic government stands at the helm in China. Unfortunately, no instructions are forthcoming as to where we can get it.

“The confusion is further increased by the fact that the slogan of Soviets was rejected for China in the course of these two years on the ground that the creation of Soviets is permissible presumably only during the transition to the proletarian revolution (Stalin’s “theory”). But when the Soviet revolution broke out in Canton and when its participants drew the conclusion that this was precisely the transition to the proletarian revolution, they were accused of “Trotskyism.” Is the party to be educated by such methods? Is this the way to assist it in the solution of supreme tasks?

“To save a hopeless position, the resolution of the ECCI (without any connection whatever with the entire trend of its thought) rushes in post-haste to its last argument taken from imperialism. It appears that “the tendency to skip over the bourgeois-democratic stage is all the more [!] harmful because such a formulation of the question eliminates [?] the most important national peculiarity of the Chinese revolution, which is a semi-colonial revolution.”

“The only meaning that these senseless words can have is that the imperialist yoke will be overthrown by some sort of non-proletarian dictatorship. But this means that the “most important national peculiarity” has been dragged in at the last moment in order to paint the Chinese national bourgeoisie or the Chinese petty-bourgeois “democracy” in bright colours. This argument can have no other meaning. But this only “meaning” has been adequately examined by us in our chapter “On the nature of the Colonial Bourgeoisie.” There is no need to return to this subject.” [5]

Lenin won the argument against the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry in April and May 1917, but Kamenev, Zinoviev and others were not convinced. Lenin and Trotsky won the Central Committee to the perspective of the socialist revolution in those September Central Committee meetings, at which point they went to the Menshevik press to reveal the date of the proposed insurrection. This was a gross act of class treachery, which showed not only had they failed to understand the internationalist perspective that enabled the October revolution to succeed but they totally misjudged the mood of the masses and their readiness for revolution. Had Lenin and Trotsky been mistaken, as Kamenev and Zinoviev believed, then the Okhranka, the tsarist secret police, would have come and murdered them all. We can assume Stalin had not sufficiently arranged for their escape, as was his only task during the revolution. But events proved they were right; Kamenev and Zinoviev admitted their mistakes then and in back in April. And the rest is history

Indeed, the basic problem with the Lih/Blanc methodology is that it operates in a historical tunnel. At least Blanc refers his readers to the 1924 conference that pitted Trotsky against his ideological opponents but that discussion operated within the parameters of the tunnel. If Kamenev was correct that the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry was “fully and completely realized in the Russian revolution”, wouldn’t it make sense that it would also apply to China, another country that had a Communist Party under the complete control of Stalin, Kamenev and Zinoviev in the very year that the 1924 conference took place and whose fate in the next three years would be sealed by the Triumvirate’s politics? Was there any reason to think that the “old Bolsheviks” had lost the old magic when it came to China? What were the implications of applying what worked in 1917 to China where the Kuomintang (KMT) was hailed by Kamenev and company as a revolutionary party, so much so that it was accepted as a sister party of the Comintern and its Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek as an honorary member? Or that the Communist Party of China was directed to work within the KMT and forbidden to leave even after Chiang Kai-Shek began to slaughter its members?

Louis Proyect, May 15, 2017, Will someone please escort Lars Lih out of the history tunnel? https://louisproyect.org/2017/05/15/will-someone-please-escort-lars-lih-out-of-the-history-tunnel/

Notes


[1] The April theses and permanent revolution, The CPGB’s ‘extreme democracy’ presupposes economic inequality, argues Gerry Downing, https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/655/the-april-theses-and-permanent-revolution/  and https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1235/letters/ and Alan Gibson’s summation of the CPGB Communist University 2017, https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1168/letters/

[2] Lenin’s April Theses and the Russian Revolution, Issue: 154, Posted on 5th April 2017, Kevin Corr, http://isj.org.uk/lenins-april-theses-and-the-russian-revolution/#footnote-10080-7

[3] Lenin, 1905, Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, “Revolutionary Communes” and the Revolutionary-Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the Peasantry, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1905/tactics/ch10.htm

[4] V. I.   Lenin, Letters on Tactics Written between April 8 and 13 (21 and 26), 1917. Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 24, page 45 https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/apr/x01.htm

[5] Leon Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin, III. Summary and Perspectives of the Chinese Revolution: Its Lessons for the Countries of the Orient and for the Whole of the Comintern, 1928, https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1928/3rd/ti09.htm#f6

Non-dialectical contradictions from Mike Macnair and Lars T Lih

Letter to Weekly Worker 3-1-21 Gerry Downing

Mike Macnair at the CPGB Communist University, 2016

Comrade Mike Macnair assures us that he has long argued that “the split in the Second International cannot and should not be undone” (WW, Principle, not Dogma, December 17). I will deal elsewhere with Lars T Lih’s piece, The Bolsheviks in 1917, in that same WW issue. Much more obviously Lars T does not hold this position. The chief point I wish to establish is there is far more to unite both Third Campists, Macnair and Lih, and their co-thinkers, Jack Conrad, Ben Lewis, John Riddell, Eric Blanc   and the other Third Campists on support for the methodology of the Second International, and opposition to the first four congresses of the Third and its political heir, the Fourth International and the Russian Revolution itself than divides them. With the support of Max Shachtman and Hal Draper Third Campism still seeks the Kautskyisation of Lenin and Bolshevism, that is to rob them of their revolutionary essence and portray them as petty bourgeois democrats, as Kautsky essentially was and became openly after August 1914.

Comrade Mike’s arguments against me on the knotty question nature vs nurture, the relationship between subject and object in revolutionary theory, come down to this paragraph:

“I decline to enter into the July 1917 counter-factual, except to say that I take comrade Downing to mean by “dialectical materialism” the willingness to enter into the leap-of-will, revolutionary initiative; and, if Lenin had indeed successfully “educated” the Bolsheviks in revolutionary initiative, assassinating Lenin would not have altered the result in October; so that comrade Downing’s argument is here a non-dialectical contradiction.”

Trotsky considered that if Lenin had been assassinated after the July Days the revolution would have been lost because, although he had by September 1917 exactly the same political positions on the need a second, socialist revolution and for an insurrection in the very short-term to take power, overthrow the bourgeois state and establish a workers state nevertheless his previous anti-Bolshevism would have meant he would not have carried the argument in those crucial September meetings of the Central Committee. And Lenin carried it against Kamenev and Zinoviev, who were silently supported by Stalin precisely because he had “successfully “educated” the Bolsheviks in revolutionary initiative” over the previous decades. And for that same reason he won the argument over the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry and established his April Theses in April and May 2017 as the political guide to October. Lars T Lih and all Third Campism deny this vehemently.

For the socialist revolution, the role of leadership is crucial; unlike the bourgeois revolutions assassinations and mass repressions can save the system for more readily. Plekhanov’s Role of the Individual in history overemphasises this for the bourgeois revolutions thus yielding ground to objectivism, as Comrade Macnair does; the revolution will triumph or would have triumphed anyway if the conditions for it were ripe, regardless of leadership. So, the Trotskyist made mistakes and were divided during and immediately after WWII when the revolutionary situations arise, but mass executions by Stalinists, often in collusions with both Nazis and ‘democratic’ imperialists (Poland, Czechoslovakia, northern Italy, Greece, Vietnam) were the main means capitalism was saved in that period.

Perhaps October 1923 was not a full revolutionary situation but a correct orientation to the working class in that crucial month would have kept the revolutionary perspectives alive. Instead of that we got Stalin’s idiotic “the revolution is not a bear, it will not run off into the woods” to deny the defeat, foreshadowing the lunatic Third Period of ultra-leftism from 1928-34 when the main enemy was the Social Democrats and the Nazis were just other fascists with whom it was politic to ally with against that main enemy, another working class organisation!

Comrade Levi Rafael can speak for himself but Comrade Macnair accepting “that there is a need for democratisation of workers’ organisations” and then going on to propose demands that clearly are not transitional in any way by completely accepting the continued existence of capitalism is clearly wrong. When he says,

“banning the funding of newspapers and other media by commercial advertising; by treating payments to lobbying firms as bribes; by imposing a strict system of scale fees on the legal profession and treating payment of more than a scale fee for the type of dispute as a bribe; and by penalising these offences with property forfeiture in both the giver and the taker”

implies we can ask the capitalists to cut their own feet off without sowing illusions in capitalism. This same point comes up again in Lars T Lih’s article.

The Kautskyisation of Lenin:
“This article re-examines the perspectives on the state and revolution advocated by the early Karl Kautsky and revolutionary social democrats across the Tsarist Empire. Contrary to a common misconception, these “orthodox” Marxists rejected the possibility of a peaceful and gradualist utilization of the capitalist state for socialist transformation. I show that Second International “orthodoxy” proved to be a sufficiently radical political foundation for the Bolsheviks and Finnish socialists to lead the Twentieth century’s first anti-capitalist seizures of power.”
 
Eric Blanc, October 13, 2016, The roots of 1917: Kautsky, the state, and revolution in Imperial Russia,  https://johnriddell.com/2016/10/13/the-roots-of-1917-kautsky-the-state-and-revolution-in-imperial-russia/

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