The marxist civil war

Marcus Strom MSTROM at
Tue Aug 15 16:33:02 MDT 1995

> Date:          Sat, 12 Aug 95 07:59:25 BST
> From:          Chris Burford <cburford at>

> The war between Stalinists and Trotskyists has been our marxist
> civil war, emotionally every bit as vicious at times as the
> real civil war at present going on in Yugoslavia.
> If we can handle this conflict without concealing or forgetting anything,
> but putting things in context, there could be some healing, and some
> possibility of moving on. In this year which is the fiftieth anniversary
> of the end of World War II the bourgeoisie in stumblingly trying to
> organise memorial meetings and reconciliation.
> It occurs to me that perhaps Lou and I are of an age where we are saying
> that the great marxist civil war also needs to be put to rest.
> Chris B, London.

I find this posting very interesting. Many of the replies to my
suggestion on splitting the group between academic 'marxists' and
revolutionary marxists has implied that I am anti-theoretical. On the
contrary, I just hate academic 'wanks' and hairsplitting that is
not geared to moving the revolutionary movement forward.

I have been working on some theory regarding the 'marxist civil war',
trying to get a firm theoretical grip on the Stalinist/Trotskyist
split and how communists can move forward from here.

My thesis is that both stalinism and trotskyism are twin degenerations
of orthodox marxism. My definition of orthodox marxism is roughly
comprable to Georg Lukacs' in his 1922? essay "What is orthodox
marxism?" to be found in "History and class consciousness". For the
past eighteen months I have undertaken a study of trotskyism and
dialectics. Having originally come from a stalinist perspective, I
had little understanding of either. (I prefer to call stalinism
"official communism" counterposed to genuine communism).

I have read much Trotsky lately, something that was basically banned
in the organisation I spent my teens in. From there I have found a
great need to study dialectics. For anyone who has been in an
"official" communist organisation (eg CPUSA, SPA (Australia), CPB
(britain), they well know that dialectics is
taught in a very 'catergorical' way. There are no interrelationships.
Negation of the negation is a strict category; quantity into quality
is a strict category, etc. The stalinists, the 'official' communists take
the life blood out of marxism. As Lenin said "What is decisive in
Marxism is... its revolutionary dialectics." I found the work of Bertell
Ollman particularly useful as a dialectical introduction to
dialectics (if you will allow me). His work "Alienation" (1976) And
his more accessible "Dialectical Investigations" (1992) are great. He
says that Marx's words are like bats - they can look like mice or
like birds. He develops the notion of 'the philosophy of internal
relations' which points to the problems of individuation - what are
Relations rather than categories. He looks at the work of Dietzgen

>From here I found that CLR James' "Notes On Dialectics: Hegel, Marx,
Lenin" to be of great value. Although I do not agree with some of
what he concludes, the work is very enjoyable and teaches you to
think dialectically. His attack on trotskyism (rather than trotsky)
is invaluable.

My notion is that stalinism (and all its children - including
anti-soviet stalinism ie eurocommunism) was based on the objective
nature of the bureaucratised soviet state. Trotskyism, however is
based on the subjective element of this state, on its idealistic

I claim that stalinism is essentially economistic and nationalistic -
much of which Trotsky also argued. However, I hold that trotskyism is
idealistic. The Spartacists are the 'purest' proponent of trotskyism
in my opinion.

Returning to Lukacs ( and James), the trotskyists throw out the
marxist *method*. For them, their practice and hence their method
comes from their program, not the other way around. In its essence,
the struggle for communist organisation is the real struggle for a
communist program. Any one of us could retire with some comrades,
draw up the 'perfect' program and then launch this *truth* and graft
it on to the working class. This is the trotskyist method.

It is method, marxist method which must produce our program. Our
method is communist organisation, building and struggling for a
party, a program and a reforged communist international (number it as
you will - I choose not to) and struggling for program by correct
method, by interaction in the day to day struggles of the class.
There is no absolute truth that a few clever marxists can draw up.
This is how the 4th international was formed - and why it failed and
split. The demise of stalinism is far more profound.

Stalinism has collapsed with the collapse of its objective basis -
the bureaucratic soviet state - trotskyism cannot survive without
stalinism. Stalinism is defined objectively by the bureaucracy - what
Ollman calls the regency of the proletariat. Trotskyism is
defined negatively by stalinism.

What we have left now is social-democracy or genuine communism.
Soc-Dem is defined by the labour bureaucracy of the capitalist state.
Many trotskyist organisations are falling this way (the British
SWP/ISO and Militant for example) - left to tail the social democrats. Trotskyism
fights on in the Spartacist League - an honest(ish), yet idealist sect,
both under and over estimating the proletariat. The workers,
atomised, will 'naturally' follow social democracy and vote for the
representation of themselves as they see themselves through bourgeois
ideology. They will not naturally leap to a revolutionary program. It
must be built, forged in the heat of the class struggle.

My ideas here are still rough, yet I think I am on to something
important. We must work towards reforging the world communist
movement - this means that the party question is to the fore.
Atomised we are nothing - without its communist party, the working
class is nothing.

I would appreciate comments on this thesis on the 'marxist civil war'

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