Trotskyism as anti-communist propaganda
jorn.andersen at vip.cybercity.dk
Tue Sep 17 18:20:12 MDT 1996
At 01:02 15-09-96 -0400, Louis R Godena wrote:
>Jorn, clearly, is not pleased with my initial effort to lay the stale
>Stalin--Trotsky debate to rest:
Well, at least not with Louis's epitaph.
>By the "usual stalinist slander"[sic], Jorn, I imagine, is referring to
>my claim that the Trotskyist parties have never enjoyed more than parochial
>influence--and that for only a short time.
No, I was referring to your claims that Trotsky was paid by the Western
bourgeoisie. Of course Trotsky, like other exiled revolutionaries from Marx
onwards earned some of his money by writing articles to the (bourgeois)
I don't take it as Stalinist slander that Trotskyism has not yet gained the
influence it IMO deserves. As Louis says:
>This, of course, is a matter of ascertainable historical fact.
>Jorn and other trots go to great lengths to avoid defining "Stalinism" with
>any degree of precision. To them, ALL communist and workers parties that
>have held state power, that have waged armed struggle against imperialism
>and fascism, that had the remotest connection to Moscow or Peking are
We are not talking of parties having a "remote connection" to Moscow. We
are talking about parties, which for decades received direct instructions
>from Kremlin on how to act.
But trying to define, I would do it 3-ways:
1. Stalinism describes the ideology of the ruling class which took power in
the USSR in the late 1920's. Like all minority ruling class ideology this
is inconsistent except for one thing: That it served the vested interests
of this same ruling class at any time - with the necessary zig-zags and
As this ruling class is now smashed by popular resistance and inner
contradictions this part of stalinism is dead and gone. Most of it has now
accepted the market as the new truth, some maintaining reverance for the
past, others not.
2. Stalinism, secondly, found a wanting audience in petty bourgeois
national liberation movements in the anti-colonial struggles for two reasons:
a) it's "stages theory" allowed for getting support in the working class of
these countries while at the same time keeping working class struggles
within safe limits.
b) the USSR model of state capitalism showed a way forward for emerging
ruling classes in economically weak countries
This part of stalinism had some success in the boom years after WW2 - but
is now even more a dead end than its russian ideal.
3. Stalinism of the Communist Parties (not least in the advanced capitalist
countries) has two main charcateristics:
a) From the early 1930's it meant that they defended the foreign politics
of the USSR and saw the USSR as the model for the future development of
their own countries. After WW2 - and especially after the USSR had crushed
the Hugarian revolution in 1956 - this more and more gave way to the other
b) The CP's became more and more (left) reformist parties in their own
right. Some of them eventually broke with Moscow from the mid-60's onwards,
but they all developed their own social base, especially among the lower
parts of the trade union bureaucracy.
It is IMO very important to understand this dual nature of the CP's,
especially in Western Europe. Without this it is not possible to explain
why stalinism could have such a huge ideological influence. Neither is it
possible to understand why stalinism in most of the advanced capitalist
countries outside the USSR bloc had reached an advanced state of
disintegration already several years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It
didn't collapse overnight.
It is this last element of stalinism which, sadly, has not yet departed
>from us: The ideological influence on huge parts of the left - also (not
least) on this list.
>But can one legitimately
>call the Polish ex-Communist Party (Democratic Left Alliance [SLD])
>"Stalinist"? The German PDS?
Yes, of course, and in Eastern Europe definitely. The only thing which
distinguish these parties from other pro-market parties is their relation
to a supposedly happier past. They have nothing else to offer. Besides that
it is not very interesting if they are stalinist or not - and of course
they will have to be evaluated in their own right. I think we can probably
agree on that :-)
>Your abuse of the term has rendered it all but meaningless to everyone save
>a handful of fellow pedants.
What I was trying to say in my first letter was that, on the one hand,
Stalinism has had a huge effect on the history of this century and
especially on the left. That's why I object, violently, against just
burying these ideological struggles under the banner of "let's move on". On
the other hand, it is important to acknowledge that stalinism "as we knew
it" is no more, and will not come again. So it is not *the* main issue it
was. That's why I am for a dialogue with those who seek an alternative.
Louis G. IMHO seeks an alternative, but I think the alternative he proposes
of left-unity and "let's forget the past" is a blind alley. Especially when
he takes the past with him as a blind passenger.
>>1. I agree that Trotskyism would not exist had it not beeen for Stalinism.
>Re-read my post, Jorn. Nowhere did I say that Trotskyism would never have
>existed but for Stalin. What I did say was that "anti-Stalinism" was the
>one "solid plank" of the Trotskyist program. And that, my friend,
>should be as clear as glass.
I don't understand the difference, so let's not split hairs on this one.
>>Louis sees "socialism in one country" as "an attempt to defend the October
>Most reputable historians of the Soviet Union in the 1920s (E.H. Carr,
>R.W. Davies, Robert C. Tucker, Adam Ulam, etc.) generally
>concede--regardless of their views of Stalin or his regime--that his foreign
>policy was shaped largely by a desire to preclude foreign intervention on
>any mass scale.
Maybe we can argue about how acute this danger was, but that's not the
point. The point is that while this policy *could* save Russia as a nation
state, it could not defend the gains of October. On the contrary it was a
recipe for smashing exactly these gains. Like it or not only international
workers revolution would be able to do that. We have been over this several
times, so I won't elaborate.
However, it was with the slogan of "socialism in one country" that Stalin
decisively chose sides in the dilemma which history unluckily had placed
the bolsheviks in: On the one hand they knew that only by using all their
efforts on spreading the revolution to other, primarily the advanced, parts
of the world could they save the revolution in Russia itself. On the other
hand, the damned concrete reality forced them into using most of their
efforts in the day-to-day problem of defending the territory they
controlled - even though this tore the revolution in pieces from within.
But while this was acknowledged by the bolsheviks as an - unhappy and
unwanted - dilemma, Stalin threw the dilemma over board and made the
defence for the territory the primary object. By this - to quote Luxemburg
out of context - he chose not just another road to the same goal, but
another goal altogether. He placed himself not only *outside* the workers'
movement, but as an enemy of it.
Without this common ground we will have the "Trotsky-Stalin debates" coming
up again and again. It is not a debate about personalities, it is a debate
Well it's getting late here, so I will stop here for now. I hope to be able
to come back to a few of Louis' last points later.
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