a clip of bourgeois news on Colombia

Owen Jones owen_jones at SPAMcwcom.net
Fri Aug 18 15:24:58 MDT 2000


 I very much admire your caricaturing my politics. Cute but rather lame. I'm
sorry for my quaint views of seeing the proletariat as the only consistently
revolutionary class capable of liberating humanity, instead of being a good
Narodnik and throwing my bags in with the peasantry. I have to say, it must
be pretty damn tough being a Maoist in a country with no peasants
(shopkeepers any substitute?), but I'll let that one drop. But what you are
mocking here, a "proletarian revolution led by workers councils", is in fact
Bolshevism; a crude and inaccurate definition clearly, but any opponent of
the Bolsheviks back in 1917 could have just as easily mocked the Bolsheviks
with such ridicule, as well as "so where is your socialist Eden now?" or
whatever added on the end.

 So what is your politics with regard to workers' state? One where the
proletariat enjoy no political power, and are indeed politically atomised by
a totalitarian bureaucracy with all its vast privileges, where Communists
of all different colours are exterminated in camps by the million, where
production is run by the bureaucracy instead of under the democratic control
of workers with the accompanying corruption and inefficiency which puts a
break eventually on economic and cultural development - and where your
beloved peasants die by the million? Hardly what communists who stood under
the banner of Marx and Lenin had in mind. Back in 1923, Mr. Stalin and his
followers indeed accused Trotsky and co. of underestimating the peasantry -
which was a cruel irony considering this was later to be the biggest killer
of peasants in history, but alas. I won't discuss Mao in case I offend you.
But it is all very good for us comfortable Western middle-class leftists -
and yes, I am one like you - to say how marvellous these states were, but if
you speak to Marxists who lived under these regimes, you realise how much it
was not a bundle of laughs at all. Yet the fact you put "Stalinism" in
quotes indicated you doubted its existence or whether this is an appropriate
label - a bureaucratically deformed state, as it were; the reasons for this,
I would love to know.

 There has always been this debate about whether a workers' state can be
called such if the working class itself is deprived of all forms of
political power. This is actually an important question. I personally think
this is a ridiculous argument; if we look at Fascism, the fascist
bureaucracy did indeed deprive the bourgeoisie of political power and, from
time to time, smashed it in the face, but that did not alter the property
relations that existed, or the fact the bourgeoisie was the ruling class.
However, the basic consciousness of East European workers was not of being
the ruling class; 't would be a tasteless joke to say they did. Even now
they look back at Stalinism merely as a better evil rather than an
aspiration. (Oleg Shein himself is a state-capitalist, and I suppose it is
easy to come to a conclusion like that if you actually had to experience it
on a day-to-day basis).

 Apart from the fact Stalinism is counter-revolution, having usurped
political power from the proletariat and subjecting the masses to
totalitarian rule, it also eventually serves as a barrier to the development
of a nation, economically and culturally. It retards and stagnates. With a
simple, rural economy, the bureaucratic nature of the planned economy did
not prevent it from achieving phenomenal gains, granted; yet by the 1960s,
with a thoroughly advanced, industrialised economy, the bureaucracy was
stagnating development.

 Another problem with Stalinism is that its inevitable course, unless the
bureaucracy is overthrown, is the restoration of capitalism. The
bureaucracy, having politically expropriated the proletariat, moves to
economically expropriate it; to supersede its own privileges in favour of
direct property ownership and to directly exploit the proletariat. The
restoration of capitalism in all Stalinist states - either completed already
or well on course - shows its general non-viability and the fact its
inevitable conclusion is capitalism. The only way to assure that the
restoration of capitalism does not occur in such states in the overthrow of
the bureaucracy. This is not utopian, since it did actually happen - in
Hungary, 1956, until the tanks of the "de-Stalinised" Soviet bureaucracy
crushed it whilst in its womb. In that sense, the call for a workers'
revolution to gain political power is in DEFENCE of the revolution, since
the role of the bureaucracy is only to defend state property to the extent
that is where their power and privileges are linked - it is a centrist role.

 There is also the point that "socialism in one country" is a
petty-bourgeois utopia and every workers' state, particularly in a backward
country, even if healthy from the beginning, will degenerate and collapse
without revolution in the advanced capitalist countries. It was not for
nothing that Lenin suggested that the Russian revolution was doomed unless
it came in Germany, and that he would even gladly sacrifice the Soviet Union
for a Soviet Germany.

 A revolution which overthrows capitalism but puts in its place Stalinism is
progress, yes. But only slightly. It is not socialism or anything even
approaching it, and will never go anywhere near to communism, for the
bureaucracy has no interest in liquidating itself. The bureaucracy's course
is inevitably towards the restoration of capitalism.

 Will working class political power will be exercised through workers'
councils? I suppose so, I cannot really think of a better way, although the
character of such organs will vary according to the peculiar cultural
conditions of a particular nation. You can't be a Leninist if you disbelieve
in the role of the proletariat, or in the exercise of political power by the
working class, or other democratic aspects of the dictatorship of the
proletariat like the drawing into the administration of the workers' state
of all the masses or the right of democratic recall, etc.,  or if you
believe in the political dictatorship of the bureaucracy with a supreme
leader strongman at the top, the deprivation of the political power of
working class people, etc.

 Don't get me wrong, if you were not a Leninist, I would not consider that
as grounds to bare a grudge against you or refuse to work with you. In real
life, I try to politically work with people ranging from social democrats to
Stalinists. I am no sectarian. But of course I try to argue against such
positions, and you yourself caricatured my positions and for a good reason.
I am a trotskyist (small 't'), yes, although I don't like the term with all
its sectarian connotations - the Fourth International and the Trotskyist
movement in general were big mistakes - and thereby I refuse in any way to
give any ground to the viciously anti-working class, privileged, corrupt
bureaucrats whom proletarians have as a little common with, even though they
are a strata, as an ordinary bourgeoisie; after all the bureaucracy adopted
the culture of the bourgeoisie even though it was incapable till 1989 of
actually forming it.

 Anyway, that's quite enough rambling, I'm going out to drink my sins away.



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