The Sickness at the Heart of Marxism-Leninism?! OR Its Falsification?

Vladimir Bilenkin "achekhov at unity.ncsu.edu" at ncsu.edu
Tue Oct 8 17:31:19 MDT 1996


Louis Proyect wrote:

> Last night I was reading what Deutscher had to say about Zinoviev's
> role in the Comintern. I discovered that Lenin was deeply concerned
> about the problem of locating the Comintern center in the USSR. He
> felt that this would tend to make the Russian Party much too
> dominant. He even sought to locate the center somewhere in Western
> Europe. The only reason this did not happen was that security was too
> difficult to maintain in the capitalist world after WWI.
>
> Another interesting observation that Deutscher made had to do with
> Trotsky's behavior during this period, when the Comintern and
> Moscow were accumulating nearly the sort of importance that the
> Vatican has for Catholics.
> He referred to Trotsky's micromanagement of the affairs of the French
> Communist Party.

Let us see what Deutscher, a *scrupulous* historian and a *loyal*
communist actually says.

<<Lenin's misgivings proved all too justified...
Zinoviev ruled the International with relish, flamboyance, lack of tact
and scruple. But even Trotsky found himself, as a member of the Executive,
involved in the exercise of a tutelage which was inherent in the situation.
As chairman of the French commission of the Comintern, he supervised with
plenary power the day-to-day work of the French communists. The German,
the Italian, the Spanish, and the British parties eagerly sought his advice
on every major issue and even on the detail of their activity; and he gave
his advice freely.
	This led him to make pronoucements and to engage in a voluminous
correspondence which in themselves form a running commentary on the history
of these crucial years, a commentary rich in thought, sparkling with wit, and
often astonoshingly farsighted (Deutscher refers to Trotsky's _Five Years_).
But parts of the correspondence also reflect the tutelage. (Deutscher gives
several examples)...These, it is true, are extreme and exceptional instances.
He never hectored or cajoled his subordinates in the Commintern, as Zinoviev
and then Stalin did: and he always expected them to speak their mind.  He
still treated the Executive as a truly international body and acted on its
behalf from the general principles of communism and not from any peculiar
Russian angle. It was in this spirit that he used the wide powers which the
Twenty One Points had vested in the Executive.
<snip>
	In 1923-4 Zinoviev and Stalin indeed set out to refashion the European
movement after the new Russian image. They could not tolerate in the
International the opposition which they were bent on supressing in their own
party. Just as they had used the Russian 1921 ban on inter-party factions
to destroy Trotsky's influence at home, so they used the wide powers they
wielded under the Twenty Five Points to destroy his influence abroad.
Trotsky had endorsed both the 1921 ban and the Twenty One Points...
They struck him down with his own weapons - only that he had never used
these weapons for any comparable purpose or with comparable brutality.
He had occasionally threatened foreign communists with disciplinary
actions: they demoted, dismissed, and denounced them wholesale. He had
demanded that the Comintern should, in accordance with its programme,
tolerate no bourgeois pacifism, no Free Masonry, and no 'social-patriotism'.
They purged it of 'Trotskyism' which had hitherto been almost synonimous
with communism.>> (Vintage 1959: II, 150-1)


This is what Deutscher actually says.  Can his analysis be summarised in
good faith as:

>...Trotsky went along with this concentration of power
>and acted just as imperiously as Zinoviev?

>
> This led me to consult Trotsky's "First Five Years of the Comintern",
> something of a holy text for Trotskyists. In it there is a June 6, 1922
> letter to Comrade Ker, a member of the Central Committee of the
> French CP, in which Trotsky attempts to set the wayward French
> Communists straight. He says:
>
> "I am very much surprised by your reproaches in connection with the
> expulsion of Fabre. The ECCI intended to expel Fabre as far back as
> its plenary session. It refrained only because the French delegation
> assumed responsibility for carrying out the expulsion summarily (in
> the Commission on which I served as chairman, four weeks were
> definitely set as the maximum). Subsequently, an amendment was
> inserted into the text of the resolution which was utterly unexpected by
> us: the phrase 'Journal du Peuple is placed outside the party' was
> altered to read 'Journal du Peuple is placed outside the control of the
> party.' This amendment was obviously designed to palliate the
> expulsion with an open, demonstrative and sharp political character.
> Delays and obstructions thereupon ensued which were in direct and
> flagrant violation of the obligation which had been assumed by the
> French delegation in the name of the Central Committee."
>
> Isn't this atrocious? Trotsky is directing the French Communist Party
> to change the wording of an expulsion. The Bolsheviks expelled just
> one person--Bogdanov--during its entire history and here is Trotsky
> telling the French not only that they *had* to expel somebody but
> what language to use in the expulsion motion.

What is implied here is that Trotsky was not really a "Bolshevik."
To prove this point would take much more Hard Intellectual Work and will
hardly bring desired results. Instead, Louis *creates a historical fact*

>The Bolsheviks expelled just
>one person--Bogdanov--during its entire history..."

 Louis might have thought that a few people on this list who not
only know history but are also *interested  in defending Trotsky
and the integrity of communist discussion in general* would either
look it over or just give up answering in exasperation, so that many a
graduate student would swallow this "fact" as so many others,
concocted by bourgeois scholarship and displayed in university
textbooks. Who knows, the students may even give some serious
thought to Louis' call for a new "Bolshevik-type" party in the US.
The Bolsheviks were not that bad, it turns out. They did not expel,
they were *pluralists*, almost like we are or like the Democrats
and Republicans who also do not "expel." Whou!

Well, I have to spoil this enticing picture.  During the purge
before the XI Congress in 1921, the party expelled 24%
or almost 160,000 of its members.

Now, Trotsky's insistence that the CC of the French CP observed its
obligation assumed before the Executive is called "atrocious!"
Why?  Because Trotsky, as the chairman of the French
commission of the Comintern, had it his direct duty to make
sure that decisions taken by this body be carried out?!

I wonder what Louis thinks, for instance, about Lenin's insistence
that the Italian SP expelled ALL participants of the Congress in
Regio-Emilia, including even "superb communists" among them
 ("On the Struggle In the Italian Socialist Party" 1920)?

>
> 1922 was the beginning of what is called the "Bolshevization" of the
> Comintern. This came to a climax in the 5th World Congress in 1925.
> The "Bolshevization" Congress inspired Communist Parties all around
> the world to move even further away from the genuine Bolshevik
> model and more toward the grotesque, authoritarian model that
> Zinoviev had been crafting.

This is true.  But the "genuine Bolshevik model" had nothing to do
with vagueness in organizational and ideological questions, let
alone any liberalism toward opportunists and centrists.

Lenin speaks:

<<What is our condition for recognizing "freedom and equality"...
of the Comintern members? It is that no opportunists and "centrists"
...could be among them.>>

And you know, Louis, why Vladimir Ilyich did not want those
gentlemen and "superb communists" in the International? Because

<<no matter how much they pledge their allegiance to the
dictatorship of the proletariat, they remain, in their deeds,
preachers and defenders of the prejudices, the weaknesses,
and the waverings of the petty-bourgeois democracy>>
(On the Struggle, 427. CW, 5th, v. 41. Trans mine)


>
> To see the impact on American Communists, we can turn to the
> proceedings of the 4th National Convention in August 21-30, 1925
> where they went through their own Bolshevization cleansing ritual.
> Not only did they pass a dreadful resolution on the "Bolshevization of
> the Party", they expelled the "Loreites". This act is legitimized in the
> "Resolution of the Liquidation of Loreism" which includes the
> following dainty phrase: "The Communist International has given a
> correct definition of Loreism. Loreism is opportunism. It is a right
> wing deviation from the revolutionary Leninist line of the Comintern
> and must therefore be relentlessly combated."

Poor Loreists! The question is, however, were they indeed opportunists
or not?


>
> In attendance at this convention were James P. Cannon and Vincent
> Dunne, two of the patron saints of American Trotskyism who, after the
> founding of their own church, included exactly the same attitude
> toward heretics.

Amen. If the heretics were opportunists and "centrists" then Cannon
and Dunne were good Leninists.

>
> The reason we keep ending up with people like the types who are
> satirized by Tariq Ali has nothing to do with bad genes. It is rooted in
> a methodology. The Comintern introduced a method of functioning
> that had nothing to with revolutionary socialism. This methodology
> was imported into each and every Communist Party, where each
> General Secretary--be he William Z. Foster or James P. Cannon--took
> it upon himself to act as imperiously as Trotsky as Comintern leader.

Interesting. Which Comintern? Of 1921 or 1925? Which methodology?
The one that does not recognize any "equality and freedom" for
opportunists and centrists in the Comintern? Or the one that
creates opportunists by getting rid of the communists *loyal*
to international proletariat?

> We need a world-wide socialist organization, but we have to repudiate
> this type of functioning either on an international level or a national
> level. I believe that the source of the problem lies in a combination of
> factors. Partly it has to do with Zinoviev's schematic understanding of
> what the Bolshevik Party was about and partly it is a function of a
> disastrous split in the world's socialist ranks between "socialism" and
> "communism". If we are to achieve victory as socialists in the 21st century,
> we have to root out this type of authoritarian and hierarchical mode of
> functioning everywhere. We have to return to the genuine model--the Bolshevik
> Party--which was nothing but left-wing socialism.

Hm. Lenin, of course, considered his party and his International
COMMUNIST. And he wrote a few words about WHY the Bolsheviks needed
to drop SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC from the name of their party. Whatever this
abracadabra about "socialist ranks" means I protest against this
latest falsification of Russian revolutionary history which cynically
uses the name of the Bolshevik party to smuggle a most parochial
opportunism and menshevism. "So what's new about it?", as our
"original" Doug asked recently.

And here is for desert.

<<Screams about the "dictatorship" of Moscow, etc. is simply a ruse.
In reality, out of 20 members of ECCI only five are from Russian
Communist Party. All these words about the "dictatorship", etc. is
self-deception or the deception of the workers. These words indend
to hide the bankrupcy of certain opportunist leaders...who have
abandoned the road of revolutionary proletariat....
  In reality, there is a struggle going on between the revolutionary,
*proletarian* and the opportunist, *petty-bourgeois* elements...
The struggle between these two *political currents* has been going on
in all countries of the world without exception...
  Without separation from this *current* , which by its waverings,
its *Menshevism*... brings in the bourgeois influence on the
proletariat *from within* the labor movement, *from within*
socialist parties, without separation from this current, without
a schism with it, without the EXPULSION of all its leading
representatives - the solidarity of revolutionary proletariat is
impossible.>> (Lenin, "A Letter to German and French Workers" 1920.
CW, 5th, vol.41, 295-7. Trans mine).

This is how we shall build a COMMUNIST International.

Vladimir Bilenkin


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