Thursday, July 02, 2009

Socialist Organization

One of the most critical issues for the left is the question of organization. For the purposes of this duscussion I would like to focus upon two general tendencies, the decentralized, democratic libertarian left and the centralized, authoritarian vanguard that stems from Bolshevism (a contrast between the libertarian and authoritarian left, if the latter can be considered left at all), although various alternatives presented by others are welcomed.

By way of introduction I would like to present a quote by one Otto Ruhle about social revolution in general, that social revolution, by definition, “is not a party affair; politically and economically it is the affair of the whole working class.” Social revolution is either carried out by society, by the people, the workers and so on, or it is not a social revolution (this is simply a matter of elementary definition).

In the footnotes to Noam Chomsky’s famous “Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship” he emphasizes that it must be noted “…the ways in which exercise of control over steps of the [early] revolutionary process [in China] was a factor in developing the consciousness and insight of those who took part in the revolution, not only from a political and social point of view, but also with respect to the human relationships that were created.”

Importantly, as Chomsky here emphasizes, integral and direct participation in the revolutionary process is central to the raising of revolutionary consciousness and the further unfolding and expansion of the revolution, leading to its likelier success. Rather than forcing processes upon the people – although, actually, the Bolshevik program constituted the destruction of revolutionary processes, such as the immediate dissolution of workers’ soviets and councils and so on – the people must be in control of the processes themselves. Instead of leading a vanguard party of mostly bourgeois intellectuals, the masses must be the central agent in revolutionary change.

The left-Marxist Anton Pannekoek explained that “belief in the party constitutes the most powerful check on the working class' capacity for action. That is why we are not trying to create a new party. This is so, not because our numbers are small -- a party of any kind begins with a few people -- but because, in our day, a party cannot be other than an organization aimed at directing and dominating the proletariat. To this type of organization we oppose the principle that the working class can effectively come into its own and prevail only by taking its destiny into its own hands.”

Rudolf Rocker, one of the leading proponents of anarcho-syndicalism, concurs writing that “[p]articipation in the politics of the bourgeois states has not brought the labour movement a hairs' breadth closer to Socialism, but, thanks to this method, Socialism has almost been completely crushed and condemned to insignificance. The ancient proverb: 'Who eats of the pope, dies of him,' has held true in this content also; who eats of the state is ruined by it. Participation in parliamentary politics has affected the Socialist labour movement like an insidious poison. It destroyed the belief in the necessity of constructive Socialist activity and, worst of all, the impulse to self-help, by inoculating people with the ruinous delusion that salvation always comes from above.”

It is critical that people realize progress must be made by the whole of the people involved, from the bottom up, democratically, and do not wish for and rely upon a Christ-like savior, someone like Lenin, who is allegedly going to initiate, progress and defend socialist revolution alone with their vanguard party of intellectual and revolutionary betters, for history has clearly shown to us the consequences of such an elitist, authoritarian program: it’s known as the counterrevolution.

11 comments:

Renegade Eye said...

Most of what is called Leninist, by anarchists and actually many who are in Leninist parties, is actually Zinoviev type organization. He was a pragmatist, who dealt with differences bureaucratically.

All the years Lenin was alive and active, only one person was expelled from the Bolshevik Party.

Lenin didn't expel Zinoviev, Kamenov or Stalin, who actively opposed the 1917 insurrection or were ambivalent (Stalin). Kamenov and Zinoviev published opposition papers.

JDHURF said...

Who was a pragmatist? Lenin? Lenin was only an opportunist and a terrorist, as the left opposition demonstrated – Luxemburg, Gorter, et al. – and had nothing to do with a socialist revolution as his own words and actions proved beyond any reasonable doubt.
Among Lenin and Trotsky’s first actions upon assuming power through their coup was to dismantle the soviets and workers’ councils, the very lifeblood of socialist society, and this was because they didn’t believe that socialism was possible in Russia, they were only carrying out a holding action, instituting a state-capitalist, single-party dictatorship that quickly degenerated into an even worse nightmare of Stalinism (precisely what the left-Marxists and anarchists had predicted even before Leninism came into being).
Aafter the Bolsheviks took power Lenin made profit theft, ordering all the peasants to sell grain to the state at fixed, low prices. Naturally, the peasants were not interested and their lack of interest deepened as inflation grew due to the government printed unbacked currency to cover the disappearance of revenue caused by the upheavals and property seizures. Growers began to sell their produce on the black market, these individual were mostly peasants who rode by train to the cities and sold grain out of sacks on their backs. Lenin ordered these “bagmen” shot when caught. As far as political opposition, Lenin ordered “merciless mass terror against kulak, priests, and White Guards; persons of doubtful standing should be locked up in concentration camps….shoot and ferret out hundreds of prostitutes who get the soldiers drunk, former officers, etc.” The Cheka – the Bolshevik secret police – killed thousands.
The Constituent Assembly of January 1918. After the first day, seeing that the crowds that had been summoned by the opposition in support of the assembly were not large enough to overcome the Bolsheviks’ armed guard, Lenin ordered the hall locked and the delegates dispersed when they tried to return the next day. He said: “The breaking up of the Constituent Assembly by the Soviet power is the complete and public liquidation of formal democracy in the name of the revolutionary dictatorship. It will be a good lesson.”

JDHURF said...

The old machinery of government had been smashed. Lenin built a new government apparatus where all authority flowed from him – or, more specifically, from the committees that he dominated – which amounted to the same thing. The entire time Lenin received decisive backing from Trotsky, your bizarre claims that Lenin and Trotsky were at odds with each other is simply false. Lenin constantly called for the suppression of opposition parties and he saw that if his own party remained an open forum, enemies would find a voice inside. What brought this danger home to him was the emergence in 1920-21 of a group of Bolsheviks calling themselves the “Workers’ Opposition.” Led by Alexander Schliapnikov, the highest ranking Bolshevik of proletarian background, and based mainly in the trade unions, they advocated that control of the factories be entrusted to the workers themselves instead of the party. Lenin considered this as a threat to the party’s monopoly of power. To allow workers to control the workplaces would undermine the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” The logic was clearly bizarre, but it was the logic of the system. Therefore Lenin had a resolution on “party unity” put through, banning any activity that appeared to be sectarian. It was this ban on factions that the post of general secretary was created, a position for which Lenin chose Joseph Stalin.

For Lenin's pronouncements on the need for "state capitalism," see for example, Vladimir Lenin, "'Left Wing' Childishness and Petty-Bourgeois Mentality" (originally published May 5, 1918), in Vladimir Lenin, Selected Works, Moscow: Cooperative Publishing Society of Foreign Workers in the U.S.S.R., 1935, Vol. VII, pp. 351-378. An excerpt (pp. 365-366; emphasis in original):

“While the revolution in Germany is slow in "coming forth," our task is to study the state capitalism of the Germans, to spare NO EFFORT in copying it and not shrink from adopting DICTATORIAL methods to hasten the copying of it. Our task is to do this even more thoroughly than Peter [the Great] hastened the copying of Western culture by barbarian Russia, and he did not hesitate to use barbarous methods in fighting against barbarism.”
Leszek Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism: Its Rise, Growth, and Dissolution, Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon, 1978, p. 484 (Lenin remarked in October 1921):
“…aided by the enthusiasm engendered by the great revolution, and on the basis of personal interest, personal incentive and business principles, we must first set to work in this small-peasant country to build solid gangways to socialism by way of state capitalism.”

After the thousands of nonBolshevik leftist revolutionaries, anarchists, workers and peasants Lenin had murdered outright during the Red Terror, I’m not too impressed that he didn’t expel members of his own party – I also fail see how the fact that he didn’t expel Stalin is a point in his favor - who already agreed with the his general framework. Although he certainly had them repressed, as his repression of the Workers Opposition within the Bolshevik party illustrates.

Dominating and destroying workers councils and soviets has nothing to do with a socialist revolution, neither does imprisoning in concentration/labor camps and killing outright thousands of nonBolshevik revolutionaries, anarchists, workers and peasants and neither does the institution of a state-capitalist, single-party dictatorship.

The View from Steeltown said...

Perhaps now is the perfect time to re-establish a modern version of the soviets and worker's council...

JDHURF said...

Steeltown:

I couldn't agree more. The council system is the only version worth advocating and defending and it is beyond time that this tradition be more well recognized.

Renegade Eye said...

That's not a materialist analysis. It's based on your not wanting to acknowledge Lenin's role in the revolution. You present a good guys and bad guys analysis.

There never was state capitalism in Russia. If that was true, why didn't the capitalists knock off Stalin? Where was their right to inheritance?

When Marx talked about "the social ownership of the means of production," he wasn't talking about a country like Russia, that was backward. Lenin and Trotsky knew that without victories of the revolution in Germany, only a deformed workers state is possible.

How could you make such remarks, without acknowledging the pressures the revolution was under? I'll answer it myself. Total idealism.

The pragmatist was Zinoviev. Much of the dogmatism of Marxist sects, come from Zinoviev's method.

Read Lenin's last will and testament, to see his opinion of Stalin.

capecodkwassa said...

JDHURF,

I am a bit out of my element, here, but I definitely enjoyed this entry.

I LOVE what you said about change coming from us instead of from a messiah, and I also like the way you ended by calling the opposing forcers the counter-revolution.

Very good, interesting writing.

JDHURF said...

Renegade said:
”That's not a materialist analysis. It's based on your not wanting to acknowledge Lenin's role in the revolution. You present a good guys and bad guys analysis.”


Nonsense. It’s an objective analysis of the ACTUAL practices and policies of Bolshevism and of Lenin. It has nothing to do with “good guys and bad guys” it has to do with what actually happened rather than accepting Bolshevik historical revisionism and party propaganda that doesn’t correspond to the facts, which is why you don’t want to respond to the actual substantive facts: Lenin’s terrorism against nonBolshevik leftist revolutionaries, anarchists, workers and peasants and so on.


Renegade said:
There never was state capitalism in Russia. If that was true, why didn't the capitalists knock off Stalin? Where was their right to inheritance?”

More nonsense:

State Capitalism and Dictatorship, Anton Pannekoek:

http://www.marxists.org/archive/pannekoe/1936/dictatorship.htm

The Nature of the Russian Economy, Raya Dunayevskaya:

http://marxists.org/archive/dunayevskaya/works/1946/statecap.htm

State Capitalism in Russia, Tony Cliff:

http://www.marxists.org/archive/cliff/works/1955/statecap/

When Marx talked about "the social ownership of the means of production," he wasn't talking about a country like Russia, that was backward. Lenin and Trotsky knew that without victories of the revolution in Germany, only a deformed workers state is possible.

Only state capitalism was possible, that’s what they argued and that’s what they implemented. I will cite the relevant material again because you seem to have passed over it:

For Lenin's pronouncements on the need for "state capitalism," see for example, Vladimir Lenin, "'Left Wing' Childishness and Petty-Bourgeois Mentality" (originally published May 5, 1918), in Vladimir Lenin, Selected Works, Moscow: Cooperative Publishing Society of Foreign Workers in the U.S.S.R., 1935, Vol. VII, pp. 351-378. An excerpt (pp. 365-366; emphasis in original):

“While the revolution in Germany is slow in "coming forth," our task is to study the state capitalism of the Germans, to spare NO EFFORT in copying it and not shrink from adopting DICTATORIAL methods to hasten the copying of it. Our task is to do this even more thoroughly than Peter [the Great] hastened the copying of Western culture by barbarian Russia, and he did not hesitate to use barbarous methods in fighting against barbarism.”

Leszek Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism: Its Rise, Growth, and Dissolution, Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon, 1978, p. 484 (Lenin remarked in October 1921):

“…aided by the enthusiasm engendered by the great revolution, and on the basis of personal interest, personal incentive and business principles, we must first set to work in this small-peasant country to build solid gangways to socialism by way of state capitalism.”


Renegade said:
How could you make such remarks, without acknowledging the pressures the revolution was under? I'll answer it myself. Total idealism.”

Even more nonsense. The Mahknovists were under the very same pressures and yet did not resort to counterrevolutionary measures and terrorism; they didn’t find it necessary to destroy the only vestiges of socialist society – i.e., the soviets and workers councils, which the Bolsheviks destroyed among their first actions, obviously destroying socialism – they didn’t find it necessary to murder and imprison thousands of nonanarchist revolutionaries, workers and peasants and they didn’t find it necessary to institute a state-capitalist, single-party dictatorship buttressed with Tsarist forms of oppression (the Cheka, the KGB, etcetera). You are falsifying history.

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Clint said...

Very interesting post.

JDHURF said...

Thanks for stopping by guys and thanks for the link, I've added a link to your blog on mine.