[PEN-L:13561] Re: The Marxian legacy

Jose G. Perez jgperez at SPAMfreepcmail.com
Wed Nov 17 21:25:16 MST 1999

Given the confusing and anarchic way Charles Brown quotes, I'm not sure if
it's him or Jim Devine or someone else who is responsible for the following.
This answer is to the original author of these lines:

>>Don't you think that we should fear that a revolution might simply replace
the old boss with a new one, as the Who put it? Isn't it possible that
party-building ambitions might lead to the party having ambitions of
becoming the new ruling class? whether that was the Bolshevik's ambition or
not in 1917, in the end it worked out that way. Do we not need to worry
about what Trotsky called "substitutionism," where a party substitutes
itself for the class, the central committee subsitutes itself for the
party, and the party leader subsitutes himself for the central committee? <<

These are questions worthy of red-baiting state-department "socialists" not
of Marxists.

No, we should NOT fear that "the revolution" will simply replace the "old
boss" with a "new one." Who is this "revolution" anyways that floats in the
space-time continuum, devoid of any connection to social classes or real
human beings, that goes about taking one boss out and putting another one
in? The masses are not easily roused to action, but once roused, they're not
so easily fooled.

Equally brain-dead is your supposition that party-building ambitions might
lead to having ambitions of becoming a new ruling class. Here we get the
disembodied category of "ambition" completely emptied of all social,
political and class content. Ambition=ambition. How the hell do you get FROM
the "ambition" of the communists that their class constitute itself as a
conscious political force and take political power to exercise the
dictatorship of the majority against their exploiters in order to
expropriate these exploiters, how do you get from THAT "ambition," TO the
individual ambition of presumably these self-same communists to become,
through their individual ownership of the expropriated property, a new
ruling class? It's a bunch of idealist nonsense, the same Jesuit crap about
human nature and original sin in "Marxian" drag.

You say in Russia "in the end it worked out that way," showing you are
either hopelessly ignorant of what really happened or constitutionally
incapable of understanding it. If it seems like "in the end" in Russia it
"worked out that way" it was because the working class was exhausted and the
communists were DEFEATED. What came between "the beginning" and "the end"
that you allude to in Russia was a counter-revolution.

You want guarantees? I've got one for you: go back to working for bourgeois
parties and the small-change reforms that go with them. And if you succeed
in convincing everyone to do the same as you, then there will never be
another defeat like that suffered by the Russian proletariat, because there
will never be another revolution that can possibly be set back by a wave of

In Russia, the people who composed the leadership of the revolution and the
people who composed the general staff of the bureaucracy were, almost to a
person, DIFFERENT PEOPLE. How many members of the Central Committee of
Lenin's times were still members, or better yet, were even alive twenty
years later? For all their weaknesses and mistakes, people like Zinoviev,
Kamenev, Bukharin, Trotsky and their comrades were communists. The big
majority, and tens of thousands of other communists, were murdered by Stalin
precisely because they were communists, and every breath they took was a
denunciation of his monstrous usurpation and betrayal.

It is a despicable slander to suggest that the "ambitions" of this heroic,
martyred generation led them to constitute themselves as a new ruling class
when in fact what their "ambitions" led them to was to face the torturers
and executioners of the Thermidorean reaction.

On "substitutionism": Trotsky was being a demagogic windbag when he wrote
the silly drivel you allude to which, like so many social democratic and
bourgeois apologists before you, you quote with such alacrity. A party can
no more "substitute" itself for a class than silicon chips can substitute
themselves for a frying pan. Indeed, a class cannot become fully a "class"
in the sense Marx writes about in the Manifesto and in the sense Trotsky
would have had to mean in this passage if he had thought about it UNLESS it
is acting as a conscious and organized political force. It is only in and
through political organizations, parties, that the class can become a
"class" in this sense.

The problem in Russia (as it was decades later in Nicaragua) is that the
revolutionary classes were exhausted and bled dry in the struggle to retain
power. The problem was NOT that the Bolsheviks or the Sandinistas were
"substituting themselves" for the revolutionary masses, shouldering them
aside; the problem was that the blows of the enemy had done such damage that
the population was atomized, overwhelmed by the daily struggle for survival,
disoriented, disorganized, demobilized.

In both cases it led to the revolution's defeat. And although the forms of
that defeat were different in the two cases, there was a COMMON element in
both, which is that the bureaucratic-military apparatus of the state tended
to fill the void left by the masses. NOT THE PARTY, the state apparatus.

The lesson the working class will absorb from these defeats is not the one
the bourgeoisie and their social democratic propagandists have been
promoting for decades and which you echo with your "questions", beware of
the Lenins, beware of the communists, for after Lenin comes Stalin.

The lesson is to fight like hell and when we've finally got the
blood-sucking capitalist system down for a ten count, be sure to put a stake
through its heart. There is no other lesson but that one: fight harder.

What happened in Russia wasn't the result of impure thoughts on the part of
the leaders, poor theory, a mistaken organizational resolution during the
faction fight with the Mensheviks, defects in Lenin's (or Stalin's)
personality, really bad party statutes nor anything else like that. What
happened was that the working class, and especially the INTERNATIONAL
working class, was not yet strong enough, it did not fight hard enough and
effectively enough, it failed to stay the hand of the imperialists and it
failed to provide timely re-enforcements. As a result the Russian workers
were thrown back from many (but not all) of the positions they had

What happened in Nicaragua, in my view, was to a large degree part of the
price the working class paid and is still paying for that defeat in Russia.
A revolutionary worker's government in Moscow would NEVER have allowed
Reagan to bleed and starve the Nicaraguan revolution to death as he did. The
revolutionary workers of Russia would have taken the bread from their own
dinner table, if it came down to that, to make sure the front-line fighters,
the Nicaraguans, would not have to do without. If the USSR had followed a
revolutionary policy, imperialism would have lost in Nicaragua and Central

But given the nature of the Soviet bureaucracy and its leadership of the
socialist camp, what we saw was a repetition of essentially the same sort of
phenomenon as we had seen in Russia, of a revolution exhausted by the
military struggle and economic crisis provoked by an imperialist


-----Original Message-----
From: Charles Brown <CharlesB at CNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us>
To: pen-l at galaxy.csuchico.edu <pen-l at galaxy.csuchico.edu>
Date: Wednesday, November 17, 1999 6:01 PM
Subject: [PEN-L:13561] Re: The Marxian legacy

>>>> Jim Devine <jdevine at popmail.lmu.edu> 11/17/99 05:06PM >>>
>Louis writes:
>>The postmodernist legacy has had an unfortunate legacy on many young
>>who, while being appalled by capitalism, consider themselves too smart to
>>make the "dumb mistakes" of "conservative Marxists" like ourselves. That's
>>the spirit that permeates the articles; you "won't get fooled again"--as
>>the Who put it. When you mix together postmodernism and irony, you are
>>almost by necessity compelled to reject party building ambitions as both
>>oppressive and oppressing.
>Don't you think that we should fear that a revolution might simply replace
>the old boss with a new one, as the Who put it? Isn't it possible that
>party-building ambitions might lead to the party having ambitions of
>becoming the new ruling class? whether that was the Bolshevik's ambition or
>not in 1917, in the end it worked out that way. Do we not need to worry
>about what Trotsky called "substitutionism," where a party substitutes
>itself for the class, the central committee subsitutes itself for the
>party, and the party leader subsitutes himself for the central committee?
>The folks at Bad Subjects may have the wrong answers to these questions,
>but we cannot reject the questions out of hand.
>Charles: Yes, we would not be very sensible if we didn't learn from the
errors of history, but it doesn't seem a viable approach to throwout the
entire concept of the party because of the errors.  If you are throwing out
the concept of a party all together , what are you substituting for it and
what in that substitute replaces the aspects of a party that are critical
for really effectuating overthrow of capitalist regimes ?  Loosely knit
groups of thinkers have achieved even less than parties in history. People
seem to think this failure to achieve any power whatsoever leaves these
groupings blameless relative to the crimes of parties that you sketch above.
But really the loosely knit ineffective groups are responsible for the
crimes of capitalism that they were ineffective in stopping. So the crimes
of actually existing socialism were not greater than the crimes of never
existing socialism. Postmodernist are blameworthy for the crimes of
capitalism because of their  ineffectu!
>al methods for changing the world.


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