A reply to Karl

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Tue Jun 11 08:30:02 MDT 1996

Karl Carlile:
Categories such as "Menshevik" and "opportunist" are taxonomically
valid if used correctly rather than casually bandied about. I never
suggested Louis that alliances are impossible between principled marxists
and left opportunists.

Very good. Define "opportunist".

Stalinism is far from "defunct as an international power since the
USSR broke up." It is a mistake to exclusively identify Stalinism with the
Soviet Union. Stalinism is a political category that defines a political
phenomenon. It entails the view that socialism is possible
in one country, nationalism, and that socialism can be achieved
mechanically in stages. It also entails, which ties in with its latter

We probably have a different understanding of the word power. I
understand it in terms of hegemony, the ability to shape political events
through sheer muscle. There will always be Stalinist ideas, just as there
will always be Trotskyist ideas. However, with the decline of the Soviet
Union, the ability of the Communist Parties to project power
internationally has been sharply reduced.

Social democratic parties are differentiated from other
bourgeois parties only by continuing organic links with the working class.
Such links are evidenced by, for example, mass individual working class
membership, readership of newspapers, youth organizations and open
identification with, or fractions within, the trade unions.

This has always been true. What has been less and less true since the
post-WWII boom years is Social Democracy's ability to present itself as an
alternative to welfare-state liberalism. This means that openings for
genuine socialist formations will have fewer ideological obstacles to
contend with. There should, for example, be very little confusion about
what Tony Blair stands for as opposed to Arthur Scargill. Of course, there
will always be super-revolutionaries who see no difference, but I can't
help that.

Trotskyism cannot be identified with the specific forms it was
purported to  have assumed in the 1960s. The failure of Trotskyism to grip
the masses in the post-war period does not justify the conclusion that it
"is a spent force". Marxism (Trotskyism) has failed to grip the masses in
the post-war period too yet it cannot be regarded as superfluous. Again,
Trotskyism as a political category is an expression of the character of
the class struggle. While that struggle remains, while capitalism exists,
this category is taxonomically legitimate.

I see this whole question in a much more mundane way than Karl. What I
mean is that the 4th International, a dubious prospect to begin with, is a
rusted hulk on the side of the road. The largest affiliated party, the
American SWP, has abandoned Trotskyism and gone its own way. Another large
party, the British SLL, degenerated from sectarianism to a status that no
word in the dictionary can adequately describe, except a
neologism like "subsectarianism". The remaining groups have no
intellectual or political prestige. If this isn't a "spent force", then
choose your own words to describe this morass.

I have already adequately responded to you comments on the
Bolshevik party.

This is a bald-faced lie.

You are essentially calling for the forgetting of differences  in
order to concentrate instead on what is doctrinally and politically shared
in common. Obviously, if it were possible to do this, the politics shared
in common would be  "the least common denominator". Consequently this
"least common denominator" would constitute a lower level of consciousness
and corresponding politics. This would mean that marxism has trimmed its
programme to suit the present backwardness of the working class movement
instead of providing leadership by promoting the need to change the
programmtic basis of the struggle. In doing this marxism would have
negated its very existence.

No, I am not "forgetting differences." I am for debating them out within
the framework of a socialist party like the one that Lenin created in
turn-of-the-century Russia. Differences are forgotten in the groups today
that operate in his name, since they are excluded at the outset. I don't
regard your understanding of Marxism to be in any way superior to Adam
Rose's or Hugh Rodwell's etc. We all have our differences *within* a
Marxist perspective. We all belong in a common organization nationally and
internationally in which we can put aside tertiary differences over
historical interpretation and focus on the issues of the class-struggle of
today. Just as R. Hickman pointed out, the differences in this arena are
far smaller than imagined and have much less connection to the historical
legacy of each ideological current. The working-class needs a united
socialist party. The biggest obstacle to this today stems from our
unwillingness to subordinate the historical questions to the ones that are
more immediate and pressing, such as how to stop fascist attacks
on immigrants, win strikes such as the kind that occurred recently in
France among the public sector, and provide solidarity to revolutionary
struggles in places like Peru and Chiapas

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