Tony Clark’s reply to my obituary letter for Cliff Slaughter

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16/06/2021 by socialistfight

1960 pamphlet by Brian Pearse and Cliff Slaughter

This is a belated reply to Tony Clark’s reply to my obituary letter for Cliff Slaughter on May 13.

But first I really must comment on Hannu Reime’s letter in the same issue. So he concedes that the intervention of Iran and Russia in 2015 saved Assad, the USA was so “interested” that it “gave arms and material support to the rebels, some of it through Saudi Arabia. Turkey and Qatar also aided anti-Assadists”. And then goes on to assure us that good old Uncle Sam is not such a bad guy after all because the US had not “actively sought to overthrow Assad” and “Syria has been torn apart by geopolitical gangster wars”. Well done for that gangster theory of the global class struggle, never mind analysing US imperialism as the global hegemonic power, its transnational corporations, and Wall Street financiers – there are other gangsters just as bad if not worse in actively fighting in Syria. This is simply Judaeo-Christian moralism and certainly not a Marxist approach at all.

Which is the same method as Tony Clark’s reply to me. Marx raised “dictatorship into a principle of socialism” (mustn’t mention the dictatorship of the proletariat lest we distinguish between the Russian Revolution and Hitler’s coup of January 1933).  Trotsky advocated “socialist revolution in backward countries, which were not ready for it” he explains and so he is responsible “for most of the things which went wrong in the Russian Revolution and the Chinese revolutions” and also for the crimes of Pol Pot and all because of that rotten and ridiculous theory of permanent revolution.  He must really hope that his readers do not take the trouble to look up the theory or read how Trotsky defended it until he was assassinated by Stalin’s agent in August 1940. Oh, why would he assassinate his own inspirator if comrade Clark’s analysis is correct.

Of course, central to Permanent Revolution are two inextricably linked ideas, combined and uneven development and the international nature of all revolutions; socialism is impossible in a single country, just as today we understand the battle against womens’ oppression, against racism, against climate change and against the Covid-19 virus cannot succeed within single countries or even continents. And the class consciousness of workers internationally is global also as a consequence.

Trotsky explained in his Theory of Permanent Revolution (1931)

“With regard to countries with a belated bourgeois development, especially the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the theory of the permanent revolution signifies that the complete and genuine solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation, above all of its peasant masses … The democratic revolution grows over directly into the socialist revolution and thereby becomes a permanent revolution …The theoretical mistake of the ruling party remains inexplicable, however, only if you leave out of account the fact that all calculations at that time were based on the hope of an early victory of the revolution in the West … The completion of the socialist revolution within national limits is unthinkable.”

Comrade Clark is a convinced popular frontist despite the appalling record of that ‘tactic’ or rather outright abandonment in both the semicolonial world and in the imperialist heartlands.

“Class alliances are based on the political goals for the revolution” he correctly informs us, so if you want al alliance with the ‘democratic imperialists’ you must murder all the militant anarchists, Trotskyists and other centrists Marxists in Spain because the goal is the save democratic capitalism and prevent socialist revolution as in Spain in 1936-39. And do not forget that such was the fear the Stalin’s counter-revolutionary bureaucracy had of revolution in Spain that it was in 1936 and the Great Purges began in earnest on the USSR itself, where every remaining member of Lenin’s 1917 Central Committee, with the exception of Alexandra Kollontai, who were executed as counter revolutionaries along with ever direct participant in the revolution itself apart from Stalin and Molotov. The latter did vote to send his own wife to the Siberian Gulag in order to survive himself. Bur this is “an ultra-left approach to revolution” opines Comrade Clark, we must defend the good name of Dimitrov who explained so well in that 1935 Seventh and last Congress of the Comintern why we must abandon class struggle in order to keep the ‘democratic imperialist’ happy. And if you could not do that then why not have a go at keeping the fascist imperialism as in thew Stalin-Hitler pact of 23 August 1939?

And that, together with Mao’s Great Leap forward of 1958 and his cultural revolution from 1966 is all Trotsky’s fault. Really?

Gerry Downing Socialist Fight

Mixed economy: Tony Clark’s reply

I was sorry to hear about the passing of Cliff Slaughter on May 3 and would like to defend him against the arguments put forward by Gerry Downing (Letters, May 13).

Firstly, it is necessary to point out that Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Mao are all individuals who, although they had a positive side, nevertheless, to one degree or another, damaged the image of socialism to a certain extent, which gave the enemies of communism ammunition to fight us with. This begins with Marx raising dictatorship into a principle of socialism, and ends with Trotsky advocating socialist revolution in backward countries, which were not ready for it, based on his ‘permanent revolution’ theory. In this sense, Trotsky is responsible for most of the things which went wrong in the Russian Revolution and the Chinese revolutions. Also, without Trotsky there would have been no Pol Pot – Trotskyism is the intellectual basis for all attempts to go immediately for socialism in backward countries.

Cliff Slaughter was right to arrive at the position that socialism was not on the agenda in 1917, and history bears him out. Both Lenin and Trotsky were forced to recognise this later, and the failed attempt to introduce communism was relabelled ‘war communism’, and abandoned for the New Economic Policy in 1921 – which Stalin prematurely put an end to in 1928, after adopting Trotsky-type ultra-leftism in the economic sphere.

Although Russia was not ready for socialism in 1917, which means a higher standard of living for people than under the most advanced capitalist society, this does not mean that communists should have avoided power in 1917 Russia, or China in 1949. Communists can take power in backward countries, providing they realise that the transition to full-blown socialism cannot be an immediate goal. Indeed, as pointed out above, this is the conclusion Lenin and Trotsky came to by 1921. Thus the course of the Russian Revolution was actually a repudiation of Trotsky’s permanent revolution theory. And the repudiation came in the palpable form of NEP.

What is being taught here is that, when communists take power in backward countries, in a world where capitalism still predominates, their economic strategy should be one of a mixed economy: that is to say, a strong state sector plus small-business private enterprise. This combination of the state sector, or the commanding heights of the economy, as Lenin put it, with a petty bourgeois small-business sector is the first stage in the transition to communism in backward countries. Trotsky himself made allowances for this in his semi-ultra-left transitional programme in 1938. This strategy may even apply to advanced capitalist countries, where a state sector can be combined with a small-business sector in the transition to communism.

Downing is also wrong about Mao’s bloc of four classes. Class alliances are based on the political goals for the revolution. As an ultra-left approach to revolution, Trotskyism opposes alliances between classes, regardless of what such alliances are supposed to achieve, and so we have the condemnation of Dimitrov. Those who share Trotsky’s ultra-left position that socialist revolutions in backward countries should be attempted as the immediate goal – an idea which even seduced Lenin and later Mao – will no doubt oppose Mao’s bloc. But the bloc of four classes was correct. The problem is that Mao did not stick to its economic underpinnings – ie, the strategy of mixed economy in the transition to communism – and later went instead for the Great Leap Forward, which was really a leap backwards, if the truth be told.

Failure forced him on to the back benches, until his comeback via the Cultural Revolution from 1966.

Tony Clark
Campaign for Democratic Socialism

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