A reply to Louis and other centrists

Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at mailbox.swipnet.se
Sun Aug 25 06:58:30 MDT 1996

>Now that my participation in M1 is winding down,

We should be so lucky.

>I want to step out of character and try to explain in a straightforward manner


>why my polemics ... has been so sharp.

Sharp? Hardly. Rabid, impressionistic, crude, obsessed ...

>Like them, I believe that Trotsky was
>correct when he said something to the effect that the crisis of humanity
>boils down to the leadership of the proletariat.

How come you puked all over us when we said it?

>If humanity and other
>forms of life are to prevail, capitalism must be destroyed. To destroy it,
>we need battle-tested, disciplined revolutionary parties consisting of
>the most advanced sectors of the working-class.

So what's new?

>The contradiction, however, lies in the fact that efforts advanced by
>such Trotskyist comrades to build such parties can not succeed.

We're doing better than you. (Unless you count the Stalinist regimes of the
deformed workers' states as your party, in which case you win on numbers,
but lose historically -- 'such parties'!!!)

>The Trotskyist movement has a terrible problem with sectarianism.

Two big problems of every revolutionary Marxist party are sectarianism and
opportunism. But these are political not organizational problems, and have
their roots in the party's attitude to the working class and developing a
revolutionary response to the tasks facing it.

>They can not understand how mistaken it is to assume that 50
>cadre--or 500, or 5000--in a country the size of England is not and can
>not be the "nucleus of a vanguard"

'Walk before you run' is one of your favourite catch-phrases. How the hell
can a Bolshevik-Leninist party go from 0 to 500,000 overnight in a country
where one doesn't exist? A nucleus is a small, central core. An embryo
starts out very small and grows as large as its potential permits. Your
analogies are all wrong. Ours are relevant and realistic.

>The Bolshevik party was not based on such a highly specific program
>as such that characterizes the typical Trotskyist party today. The
>Trotskyist party demands fealty not only to the national program of a
>section, but that of the international movement as well. Furthermore,
>membership involves taking positions on all sorts of historical
>questions that are not even relevant to the current class struggle. One
>Trotskyist group will revile another for having had been too soft on
>Mao or Tito, for example. This is not helpful.

This is one of your favourite myths. It's wrong regarding the Bolsheviks,
and wrong regarding Trotskyist parties.

Every party demands loyalty. A Trotskyist party demands loyalty to the
Transitional Programme and its own current strategic line based on the TP,
internationally first and foremost, nationally second. The less this is the
case, the less 'Trotskyist' the party is.

Historical positions are not irrelevant to the current class struggle.
Pabloism is a historical current that accommodated (and still accommodates)
to the deformed Stalinist regimes of workers' states or petty-bourgeois
nationalist regimes, and declared that independent revolutionary parties
were no longer needed under such regimes. Condemnation of this position
follows naturally from principles of revolutionary internationalism, class
independence and workers' democracy.

>If Lenin had made the same sort of demands on adherents to the
>Bolshevik current, there never would have been a revolution in Russia.
>If we are to move ahead politically, we must break with this basically
>idealistic approach to politics.

There was a huge revolution in Russia in 1905 in whose outbreak the demands
made by the Bolsheviks on their members played no part at all. Trotsky was
the leader of the most important body of the 1905 revolution, the
Petersburg Soviet, appointed and supported by revolutionary proletarian
democracy. The February Revolution also exploded regardless of Bolshevik
organizational methods. The success of October depended very much on the
workings of democratic centralism within the Bolshevik party, allowing
Lenin to propose and push through a new strategic line in harmony with the
paramount tasks facing the Russian working class, and allowing the
incorporation of Trotsky and his group consistent with this new line. This
was a question of revolutionary discipline and political understanding, not
organizational paragraphs. Louis just sees organizational issues
everywhere, not the political contradictions various organizational
solutions give shape to.

>Another problem with Trotskyism is the extreme dogmatism of those
>who identify with it. In my two or so years on the list in debates with
>Trotskyists, I have never seen the slightest bit of scholarly initiative. It
>was only after a month of brutal polemics with Jim Miller, that he felt
>the need to consult George Black's book on Nicaragua, an important
>source of information.

Impressionism based on your own lack of principle. You equate principle
with dogmatism. You equate your own agenda in a discussion with 'scholarly
initiative' and your other shibboleth 'Intellectual Hard Work'.

>The Trotskyist comrades have an incredible amount of overconfidence
>in their ability to critique other currents, such as the FSLN or the
>Cuban CP. The main reason for this is that they compare their own
>spotless record to all of the dirty compromises of others in power. Of
>course, they have never had to face the sorts of questions that Castro
>has had to face. What if he had made the correct "criticism" of Soviet
>intervention into Czechoslovakia as they had, what material
>consequences might have this had on the Cuban people who relied on
>Russian aid?

This is the key to it all. Tail-ending 'dirty compromises', and failing to
see just how dirty these compromises are. Impressionistic worship of the
established fact. Not seeing the historical movement of the working class
beneath the surface but only seeing the leaderships thrown up by the
turmoil underneath. Never intervening in the policy yourself, but always
accepting the leadership that's there as the only possible alternative.
Objectivism and impressionism, and as always accompanied by the most
violent and repressive attacks on those who disagree.

This is the same tired fellow-traveller trash peddled by Chris B:
'permanently oppositional', 'unwilling to accept the burdens of power',
'unwilling to dirty your hands with reality'. We rest our case on the
actions of the Bolsheviks particulary Lenin and Trotsky in the first five
or six years of the October Revolution. I answered Chris quite vehemently
on this question over on m2 recently. (This Spoons boxing off of Marxist
discussion has some very irritating consequences.)

Louis's whole argument about the Castro regime and the invasion of
Czechoslovakia shows his total lack of revolutionary principle, and his
total misunderstanding of just how central is the significance of the
degeneration of the October Revolution for the expansion of the
dictatorship of the proletariat throughout the world. The Cuban people
overthrew Batista's dictatorship and withstood the US backed invasion of
the Bay of Pigs by their own efforts. Their revolutionary clout gave them a
good deal of autonomy with respect to Moscow. Once the Castro regime
retreated within national bounds and tied itself to the Stalinist money
trough, the game was up. The miracle, and the amazing strength of the
revolutionary proletariat in the face of imperialist hegemony, is that the
revolutionary workers' state has proved so durable despite the
non-revolutionary nationalist regime and its  even worse  sponsor in

>When it comes to discussing Marxist economic theory, which both
>Hugh and Jim have some facility with, they can present very powerful
>arguments. But in both their cases, there is a disturbing unfamiliarity
>with Marxist scholarship on Central America or Latin America
>that is out of sync with their eagerness to hold forth on the
>region. Anybody who wants to issue broad sweeping statements about
>the region has to walk before they fly. I have been studying the region
>in depth for 29 years, have read over a hundred books on the area, spent
>time traveling there, so I tend to speak more forcefully on these
>questions than I would on subjects such as the business cycle or the
>character of transnational capital.

Yakkety yak.

>The simple fact is that revolutionary parties must include the most
>advanced workers and intellectuals.

So what's new?

>Intellectuals have a responsibility
>to think for themselves and not allow others to speak for them whether
>the subject is the business cycle or Cuba. You can not simply assume
>that Moreno had the last word on the Sandinistas. You must study for
>yourself and think for yourself.

Ho hum. Is it allowed to agree with anyone in your world, Louis? Isaac
Deutscher, perhaps? Fidel? The latest Sandinista press release? Agreement
with *your* party line is fine, but disagreement qualifies you for the most
disagreeable abuse...

>Nobody could ever convince
>Preobrezhensky to agree with Lenin just because Lenin supported
>some position or another.

But it was regime policy to 'convince' people (including Preobrazhensky) to
agree with Stalin just because Stalin supported some position or another.
And I think the Cuban regime is also pretty good at this kind of

>We, on the other hand, are faced with the continual phenomenon of
>Trotskyists like Adam Rose, Hugh Rodwell and Jim Miller defending
>every last detail of their party line. Do they do this because they fear
>expulsion for breach of discipline?

Louis, of course, never defends the last detail of anything...

>For example, when Jim Miller changed his position that Buchanan
>was a fascist, one that he had been defending passionately for a month,
>to agree with the new SWP position that he wasn't, we had no idea
>whether this was his true conviction or simply his following "Leninist

Ah, yes, the individual and his sincere sincerity as the mainspring of history.

>We need a movement where every idea can be examined on its own
>merit. We are in a peculiar position on this list when we realize that
>there are separate discussion rules for some members. Trotskyist
>comrades wait until their pre-convention period in order to put
>forward whatever ideas they have that differ from their party's. In
>between conventions, they defend these ideas in public such as they do
>on this list. This naturally prevents us from having a genuine

The internal discussion is free and open, Louis. The public discussion is
disciplined. This makes for a thorough discussion where points aren't just
traded in for some fake consensus. If a congress takes a mistaken position,
there are ways and means of changing it even before the next congress. The
whole point of the continuous internal discussion and the organized debate
around various platforms in a pre-congress and at a congress is to ensure
that the decisions are as valid and durable as possible.

>This is not how the Bolshevik party functioned.

Oh yes it is.

[I'll skip Louis's experiences with the SWP]

>Independent thought is
>not just necessary because we believe that a mind is a precious
>commodity, it is necessary in order for political groups to be able to
>correct themselves and adapt to changing conditions. What we get instead
>from the Trotskyist movement is extreme rigidity.
>This rigidity makes it virtually impossible for people to stay in the
>organization for long periods of time unless they decide to just go
>along with the party line. Stiff-necked people like myself don't last
>very long. The problem is that the revolutionary movement needs stiff-
>necked people.

Rigidity? Stiff-necked? Try reading what you write for once, Louis. You're
describing a bureaucratic setup. Much worse than any Trotskyist parties are
the regimes in the deformed workers' states. Everyone in the Cuban regime
was chewing over the old boneheaded line in the late 60s on pain of
expulsion, and then suddenly Fidel goes on telly and says it was all wrong.
All change.

>These groups are revolving doors. Every country has thousands and
>thousands of ex-Trotskyists that dwarf the membership figures of any
>current group. This is a waste of precious cadre.

You don't believe this or you'd be in there trying to do something about it.

>The basis for building a revolutionary party has to be much broader
>than the Trotskyist comrades realize. It can not be based on "state
>capitalist" theory. It can not be based on an almost religious belief that
>the tiny Simon Bolivar brigade in Nicaragua was more important and
>more revolutionary than the FSLN. These types of beliefs are not the
>sorts of things one picks up by oneself, but ones tend to be
>indoctrinated into. Indoctrination must come to an end.

'State capitalist' theory is not Trotskyist.

The founding principle of the LIT is not support for the Simon Bolivar
brigade -- this intervention grew out of decades of theoretical and
practical experience of the Morenist current in Latin America. The brigade
was definitely more revolutionary than the Sandinistas. More important
involves not just principles -- these were sounder -- but also size and
clout. Here the Sandinistas, unfortunately, had the edge.

>important thing right now is to agree on a vision of what kind of
>movement is needed. This is what I concentrate on.

No agreement needed. It's utopian in the present state of things. What's
needed is a clear presentation and differentiation between the

>I also concentrate on the importance of rigorous Marxist analysis. I
>have tried to do my own independent analysis but more often I have
>been satisfied to present the work of others much smarter than me. I
>have presented such thinkers as Isaac Deutscher, E.H. Carr, Loren
>Graham, James O' Connor, Ellen Meiksins Wood, Perry Anderson,
>Lenin and Trotsky of course, with as much integrity and in as clear a
>manner as possible. If you want to master the Marxist method, you
>should apprentice with these sorts of people even in the case when
>strictly speaking they are not Marxists, such as E.H. Carr.

Where's Marx in that list? And all of a sudden *bourgeois* sources are
kosher? Bourgeois historical sources? Oh, of course, now I see, *your*
bourgeois sources are kosher, while mine are unclean...

>The ruling-class does not build cults and sects to defend its interests.


>The intellectuals of the CIA, the State Department, etc. are absolutely
>required to speak for themselves. There is of course a tendency for
>careerism to exist in such institutions, but nothing as bad as what I
>used to see in the SWP.

It's worse. What about all the protective silence about last year's spy?

And you really believe there's no self-censorship in these organizations?

>The Internet can serve as a platform for Marxists of all persuasions to
>exchange ideas.

You've seen the light.

>For this to work, we have to view this as a permanent
>pre-convention discussion.

Why? A pre-congress is leading up to a new set of political documents on
which will be based the line of the coming period. The list is no political
organization. It has no political documents. It has no line. Treating it
like a political party is fundamentally false. In your case it's based on
substituting a discussion forum for a political party, because you think
you're better placed to get your own way in it. The real political
intervention and policy-making takes place, as many have said, off-list.

There were two refreshing things about Louis's post this time: the lack of
vituperation and the lack of blue-in-the-face but factless screaming about
the need for facts.



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