Lenin Enrolment

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Mon Aug 9 06:53:37 MDT 1999

>You make some points about the purges.

Mark, I am not a Trotskyist but I am pro-Trotsky. I view Trotsky as the
most powerful exponent of Marxism in the period following Lenin's death.
When Trotsky and his co-thinkers were exiled from the Soviet Union,
imprisoned and murdered, this weakened the USSR. It made it easier for
fascism to prevail. The reason for this is simple. Trotsky's analysis of
fascism was correct and the CP internationally had a false analysis. It was
false to claim that there was such a thing as "social fascism". When the
German left failed to unite against Hitler, the result was a disaster for
the working-class.

We must promote debate in the Marxist movement not because we are trying to
enhance our reputation in liberal, middle-class circles, but because it is
a necessity. When the German CP shut off Trotsky's viewpoint, it weakened
the cause of the working-class. It is only through debate--like the kind we
are having here--that ideas can be weighed against each other and accepted
or rejected. The outstanding characteristic of Stalin was that he hated
debate. He built a party that consisted of hand raisers and ass kissers.

The reason I mentioned the tiny American SWP and the massive Soviet CP in
the same breath is that they were and are both filled with sycophants. The
party model you are proffering to us is one that bans debate.

Stalinism means anti-debate. Stalin is the most powerful symbol of
resistance to open debate in the history of Marxism. On the other hand,
Marx, Engels and Lenin looked forward to debate. Their collected works for
the most part are a record of debate with anarchists, Mensheviks, etc.
After Stalin exiled or killed his oppostion in the USSR, debate came to an
end which was his intention.

It is Stalinism we are discussing, not an individual. Stalin built an
international movement that put him on a pedestal. It followed his every
twist and turn without flinching. When you build a movement like this, it
is impossible to make a revolution. In almost every case where a revolution
eventually did succeed, it was led by mavericks like Ho, Mao or Tito whose
relations with Stalin were strained to say the least. If they had been
consistent Stalinists, they would have failed.

I have been studying Latin American Marxism for 33 years and have never
failed to be distressed each time I learn of the disasters that befell CP's
who followed the Comintern line faithfully. I detailed the problems of the
Colombian CP, which was a bastion of support for the Liberal Government in
the 1930s. Supporting one of the two main bourgeois parties in Colombia is
class-collaboration. If Leninism is about anything, it is about class

While Stalin is regarded in polite bourgeois society as the antithesis of
capitalism, the plain fact is that the Popular Front turn was all about
class-collaboration. When CP's in the 30s and 40s functioned as the
left-wing of New Deal type parties, they were breaking with class politics.
This policy was not introduced by Khrushchev. It was Stalin's innovation
and enunciated by Dmitrov at a Comintern in the mid-1930s.

Class collaborationism helped to wreck the working class movement all over
the world. In the US, it was put forward as a way of defeating Hitler. But
politically it had the effect of convincing vast sections of the working
class that the Democrats were some kind of workers party. In 1942, Earl
Browder announced that "This is a fight between a slave world and a free
world. Just as the United States could not remain half slave and half free
in 1862, so in 1942 the world must make its decision for a complete victory
one way or the other."

A free world? Tell that to all the countries fighting for their
independence from Great Britain. In point of fact, the CP's often charged
them with abetting fascism. In the USA, a March on Washington led by A.
Philip Randolph was attacked in the pages of the Daily Worker because it
objectively supported Hitler. This march by an internal colony of US
imperialism was in favor of desegregating the army and the CP attack on it
helped to drive a wedge between it and the black community. One of the
reasons there was an explosion of black nationalism in the US in the 1950s
was because the CP had so discredited itself. Harold Cruse, an ex-CPer,
poured abuse on the CP in the pages of "Crisis of the Black Intellectual"
for exactly these kinds of betrayals. Cruse's book was immensely influential.

Supporting Stalin means supporting the kind of party that he personally
helped to shape. All of the pro-Albania, pro-China and pro-Stalin sects
that flock to Jim Hillier's list are trying to recreate the CP of the
1930s, but all are doomed to fail. The reason for this is simple. CP's were
massive in the 1930s because the Soviet Union was a powerful beacon. Today,
there is nothing left. It is a disaster area. So all that you are left with
is Stalin worship, a form of nostalgia, just as you are left with Trotsky
worship in the small groups which claim to be carrying out the mandate of
the Fourth International.

What I have been setting forth is a break with both of these models.
Nostalgia is harmful to Marxism. These models both have led nowhere. In the
case of the Stalinist parties, an artificial consensus was maintained
through intimidation and repression. For example, if Trotskyist newspaper
vendors tried to sell at a CP rally in the 1930s, they risked getting beat
up. In the Trotskyist movement, consensus was maintained through the myth
of "revolutionary continuity". In every case, the leader of the party was
seen as the avatar of Lenin or Trotsky, so a sharp challenge to the party
leader was interpreted with suspicion. Peer pressure in the Trotskyist
movement is enormous.

I advocate an end to all this phoney consensus-building around the wise and
courageous leader. I advocate smashing all icons and iconology and then
pissing on them. Unless we have the audacity to construct our own Marxist
parties based on the assumption that we are at least the equal of these
demigods of past generations, we are useless. Clinging to the memory of
Stalin or Trotsky is a sign that we lack the confidence to realize our own
visions. I don't think it is wrong to learn from these parties. Studying
the Popular Front's success in reaching the working class is valuable, just
as it is useful to study Trotsky's writings on fascism. But in the final
analysis, we have to rely on ourselves and not build parties modeled on
other peoples' revolution.

Louis Proyect

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