3rd International ( 1 of 4 )
adam at pmel.com
Thu Jun 27 02:17:37 MDT 1996
> On Wed, 26 Jun 1996, Adam Rose wrote:
> "If you choose to advocate organising with centrists or reformists
> today, you should explain why you have rejected the Leninist tradition."
> Louis: Oh, was this what you were talking about? Hmmm.
Well, your argument about party organisation is essentially that we should
organise "on the basis of Marxism". I interpreted this as meaning that we
should build parties which consisted of anyone who was prepared to call
themselves Marxist - something along the lines of Zeynep's proposal.
The argument I am trying to develop is that the three way debate between
the Leninist / Bolshevik tradition, the centrists, and the ultra lefts in
the period between 1917 and 1923, was an argument AMONGST people who called
themselves Marxist, not between people who called themselves Marxists and
people who didn't. At certain times, the LACK of a split AMONGST those
who called themselves Marxists prevented the growth of Marxist politics,
and therefore lead quickly to the triumph of counter revolution. ( Most
obviously, Italy - coming soon ). Conversly, at other times, splits AMONGST
those who called themselves Marxists led to the growth of revolutionary
politics ( first the split between the Spartacists and the SPD, then
the not quite democratic split between the KPD and the ultraleft KAPD, then
the merger between the non ultra left KPD and the centrist USPD, which was in
effect a takeover ).
In general, I am trying to argue that the Leninist tradition is much much
more than organisational - more importantly, there is a whole POLITICAL tradition
and any organisational consequences flow from the political tradition. This political
tradition is distinct from the TWO trends of 2nd International Marxism - the dominant
reformism ( or centrism ) , and the minority ultra leftism ( or abstract propagandism
The Bulgarian tragedy shows the disasters ultra leftism can lead to.
Italy the disaster of centrism.
Germany in this period shows both, as well as the positive lessons of how to
deal with centrists + ultra lefts.
There is also a subsidiary argument about the role of the Commintern executive,
ie the International centre. I was trying to show that by + large, the centre
was nearly always right, and the national parties nearly always wrong. The centre
was trying to compress the learning process undergone by the Bolsheviks over a 14
year period into a VERY short time. They were VERY NEARLY successful.
Unfortunately, by the time the national parties had learnt their lessons in practise,
Stalin's influence was becoming stronger and stronger in Russia and therefore on the
The reason that the national parties did not learn their lessons sooner was that
there was no Leninist style cadre in these countries. This made their mistakes
worse and their trust in the Commintern greater. It also meant they were less
able to resist the Stalinisation of the Commintern when it did occur.
If there is a lesson to be drawn from the period, it is that the splits AMONGST
those who called themselves Marxists had not be bitter enough, sharp enough, and
they had not occurred early enough. Where there had been political splits ( Germany :
Rosa Luxembourg etc ) the revolutionaries had not drawn the organisational consequences
soon enough. [ Or, if they did, as in Poland, they were still working within the
propagandist / ultra left model of a party, as was common on the Left of the 2nd
This is why the revolution did not spread, this is why counter revolution triumphed in
Italy, Germany AND Russia - because the argument AMONGST those who called themselves
Marxists HAD NOT BEEN SHARP ENOUOGH.
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