Bolshevism in Context

Marcus Strom MSTROM at
Mon Sep 4 17:45:37 MDT 1995

> From:          Louis N Proyect <lnp3 at>

> Subject:       Bolshevism in Context

> One is Lenin, leader of the Bolsheviks, the other is Martov, the Menshevik leader.
> 1. A party member is one "who recognizes the Party's programme and
> supports it by material means and by personal participation in one of
> the Party's organizations."
> 2. A party member is one "who recognizes the Party's programme and
> supports it by material means and by regular personal assistance under
> the direction of one of the party's organizations."

Did scott marshall get his response wrong Louis? I believe that Lenin
would have made statement two (2). The key being 'under the direction
of one of the party's organisations'.

Any way, to say that:
 > the split between Bolshevik and
> Menshevik did not involve the kind of deeply principled questions that
> caused the Zimmerwald Movement to erupt when socialist
> parliamentarians voted for W.W.I.

is not correct. The key is party discipline. This was a very
important idea - and the two wings of the party could not re unite
until the Menshiviks agreed to the democratic centralist platform. To
paraphrase, the key idea of dem-cen is that the advance workers must
be united in one highly disciplined organisation, that is centralised
so that it strikes as one fist and is democratic so that this fist
strikes in the correct direction.

> Lenin did not envision the newspaper as a means of propagating a
> "party line" .It had just the opposite relationship. The newspaper would
> be the vehicle for allowing opposing views to be compared and weighed
> against each other in order to arrive at a unified political orientation.
> The purpose of this newspaper was somewhat similar to our Marxism list.
> Also, the degree of consensus among Russia socialists at that time was
> about the same that exists on our list.

To some extent you are correct. The party press was to be available
to all currents in the party. This was in the spirit of open
ideological struggle of communists. The paper also contained
decisions of the central committee - it did deliver the 'line' as
well. The paper was likened to the scaffolding around a building,
essential for construction and communication, but with a central aim
of building a party, of building the revolution - it was subordinated
to these tasks. This is a million miles away from this list. You
should be embarassed for making the comparison. In what way is this
list subordinated to anything? It is a playground mainly, certainly
not available to advanced workers as the party's media should be. (In
this day, I think that people should speak of the party's media, not
paper. We should build radio stations, tv, vidoe production,
multimedia, yes, even the internet - not limit ourselves to a black
and red rag!)

> Lenin argued that unity must be "worked for". He said:
> "Before we can unite, and in order that we may unite, we must first of
> all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation. Otherwise our unity
> will be purely fictitious...We do not intend to make our publication a
> mere store-house of various views. On the contrary, we shall conduct it
> in the spirit of a strictly defined tendency. This tendency can be
> expressed by the word Marxism. ... Only in this way will it be possible
> to establish a genuinely all-Russian, Social-Democratic organ. Only
> such a publication will be capable of leading the movement on the high
> road of political struggle."

You've missed the point Louis! "we do not intend to make our
publication a mere store-house of views"!!!! That is certainly what
this list is. Lenin referred to Marxism in a scientific sense, not in
the sense that anyone who calls themselves a marxist is in the club.
"we must draw firm and definite lines of demarcations". This is how
unity is built. It seems contradictory. All the popular frontist
rumps of collapsed stalinism/official communism (CPUSA, CPB, NCP..)
look to build unity along "purely ficticious lines".  'Peoples'
Unity" - what the fuck is that. It is the most putrid popular front.
It is what the ANC is becoming. The Sandanistas were a brilliant
national liberation movement - they were not a workers party, they
were not a party of the new type. The demarcation is NOT extremely
large. That's why the split occurred with the Menshiviks. Under your
rubric, the Menshiviks and the Bolsheviks had more similar politics
than many (most) on this list. Scott Marshall ... Menshivism is a
COMPLIMENT to him and his post-stalinoid ilk. Most trots can't agree
with themselves! Luois you are quite wrong. Especially now when
building parties is the question. In the flow of revolution, it
doesn't matter if a few menshiviks come over, the tide of history is
strong then. But now, in a period of extreme reaction, we must defend
our rocks of communism against a tide of reaction, opportunism (i'm a
socialist, not a communist - russia, it was crap, i'm not like that -
i nver agreed with (put in the name of someone we once agreed with)

> Notice that the line of demarcation for Lenin is extremely large:
> Marxism

See above!

> Another common source of confusion is Lenin's use of the term
> "professional revolutionary". In his view, "professional revolutionaries"
> are the key to the success of Russian social democracy.

I agree. A professional revolutionary is someone who puts themselves
under the discipline of the party. It doesn't mean you are a paid
'official' of the party. You could be a steelworker, an electrician,
a postal worker, an aca-fucken-demic and be a professional
revolutionary. It means that your political work is subordinated to
your party cell/organisation and this cell's work is subordinated to
the party's organisational fraction and all to the central committee.

> In groups like the SWP, we interpreted this in the following manner.
> The "professional revolutionaries" were those who were on movement
> payroll. People like myself who were computer programmers and
> contributing $40 per week for years on end were considered as
> something less. Our purpose was similar to drone bees that kept the hive
> functioning.

I agree, this is a bureaucratic division between party 'functionary'
and party member. An example. Let's say that the party has organised
some activity in telecommunications in a city. The party forms a
fraction of telecommunication workers in that city and has around
fifteen cells around the city. An elected party organiser may be
appointed / elected to work on an important campaign in this
fraction. Hopefully, the full-time party worker is a former worker in
this industry, but if not possible, they act as an equal member of
their cell and fraction. They are professional revolutionaries, not
because the party is paying them a pittance to live on, but because
they, like the other workers in the telecommunication fraction,  are
subordinated to the party, to the collective.

> This of course has nothing to do with Lenin's understanding of the
> term. For Lenin, the need for "professional revolutionaries" arose
> within the context of the difficult and semi-clandestine nature of
> socialist activity under Czarism. Professional revolutionaries were
> needed at the core of the party to keep the apparatus functioning in case
> of police crack-downs.

Even under the most legal and democratic regimes of the bourgeoisie,
the party must combine legal and illegal activity. To fetishise one
or the other in any period is fatal.

> Later Lenin clarified how liberal an understanding of democratic
> centralism he sought. He wrote "The principle of democratic centralism
> and autonomy for local Party organizations implies universal and full
> freedom to criticize so long as this does not disturb the unity of a
> definite action; it rules out all criticisms which disrupts or makes
> difficult the unity of a definite action; it rules out all criticisms which
> disrupts or makes difficult the unity of an action decided on by the
> Party." Nowhere does Lenin suggest that democratic centralism applies
> to doctrine. Every member would of course have his or her
> interpretation of political questions, but once a decision had been made
> to build a strike or a demonstration, etc., it was incumbent upon each
> member to concentrate on building the action.

THIS IS NOT LIBERAL!!!! "universal and full freedom to critisise" was
not a 'democratic' luxury. It was not a liberal interpretation of
democratic centralism; it is part of its living core. If there is not
open struggle, debate  and criticism, the action is a bureaucratic
one.  All most all 'parties' that I know of are bureaucratic
centralist. The attack stalinism (SWP -UK & US) using the very
bureaucratic methods the apparatchiks used in the stalinist parties.
The same witrh the eurocommunists.

> It would mean that CPUSA members would not be under discipline to
> defend Soviet intervention in Afghanistan publicly.

I disagree. There may be crucial times when members of a communist
party MUST publically defend an action like this. Do you propose
that say, a demonstration was called in critical unconditional
support of the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia or the USSR's invasion
of Afghanistan that some party organisations would be 'free' to
demonstrate in condemnation? If you do you are a liberal. In the lead
up to the demonstration, you have the right for your position to be
argued in the party's media, hold meetings, distribute pamphlets made
at  the party's print shop at cost price, but when the activity is on
and your party organisation has been instructed by a higher
organisation to attend, you must. If, after, you believe that the
decision was still wrong, you may continue to organise within the
party on this matter *if it has impact on future activity* (IE not
just sour grapes)

 We also need a newspaper that will allow us to
> discuss and debate with various points of view in order to arrive at a
> strategy for an American revolution. No such strategy exists today.

Louis, what is an "american" revolution? Haven't you already had one?
Isn't the world revolution now on the agenda?

> Now that there is no longer an official Kremlin-based communist
> international, our possibilities and responsibilities are greater than ever
> to create socialist parties. It is important also to understand that
> Communist Parties have been going through major evolutions under the
> impact of events in the former Soviet Union and all sorts of surprises
> are possible. The CP's of the world, including the CPUSA, are not sects
> and cults. The South African Communist Party has gone through a
> dramatic evolution in recent years, so has the former East German
> Communist Party. Both of these organizations should be attractive to
> any member of this list.

I agree to an extent. These parties, where they still exist, are not
sects, they are dying rumps of parties of the working class. Any
reforged communist movement must be forged against these
organisations - from within where possible. But to call the
organisations attractive is stretching it.

In struggle

Marcus, Sydney

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