Forwarded from Jurriaan

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Jan 5 13:01:19 MST 2001


I think it's better not to be on your list for now, because of personal
reasons, but I wanted to mention on the subject of "historical
inevitability" that recently I tracked down again an article by Roman
Rosdolsky on the subject:

Roman Rosdolsky, "Die Rolle des Zufalls und der 'Grossen Manner' in der
Geschichte" [The role of the accidental and of great men in history]. In:
Kritik, Vol. 5 no. 14, 1977, pp. 67-96.

This article (posthumously published on the basis of a draft manuscript)
gives a good overview of the views of Marx/Engels, Trotsky, Deutscher, Carr
and so on. The manuscript is in the Rosdolsky archive in the International
Institute for Social History. I plan to translate it at some stage but
there's a bit of work in it since there are around 60 odd quotations from
books in it, so it could be a while. But for those interested in the
subject of necessity and chance in history, and who read German, it is a must.

Rosdolsky among other things quotes Trotsky's dairies in exile, where
Trotsky says that if neither Lenin nor himself had been in St Petersburg
then there would not have been any successful Russian revolution... because
the leadership of the bolshevik party would have PREVENTED it ("about this
I do not have a shred of doubt"). Now this is a most fascinating statement
don't you think, contrasting rather shrilly with the rhetoric of selfstyled
Leninists about the necessity of the revolutionary party and so forth.

It would be wonderful if somebody wrote an objective history of the real
politics of the bolshevik party within the specific context of the time,
including the bungles and misperceptions, but unfortunately there isn't a
lot in that genre (e.g. David Mandel's books).

In a way, the Russian revolution paralleled the Cuban revolution. Because
at the time of the Cuban revolution, where was the Communist Party ?
Exactly. The Cuban CP really was brought into existence only in the 1960s.
My hunch is that the Cuban process tells us something important here: the
party is really more important AFTER the overturn of power than BEFORE.

Ernest Mandel has been much maligned for his failure to build a mass
revolutionary international and so on. However, I think at least he had a
halfway intelligent answer to the question of what lessons to learn from
the Lenin about the party. Mandel explains rationally why you need a party,
and what the real function of that party is. He is not prejudiced about the
type of people that can build such a party. He doesn't say we should copy
Lenin's style or tactics to the letter, and he doesn't write explicitly
about the modalities of party life (independently of a specific political
issue). And I think that that is just as well, because many features of
Lenin's bunch aren't worthy of emulation. Some features are, but to be
honest it isn't fully clear to me what they are, I just have my hunches.

Mandel incidentally wasn't a Zinovievist. If anything he was a
Luxemburgist. He complained to me personally about the Zinovievism of the
American SWP in 1984 (which was followed by the New Zealand section), and
said the SWP sometimes reminded him of the mormons. At the time he said he
didn't believe in expelling them from the FI because he said "then their
politics might be even worse" and "we only expel an organisation if they in
practice go over to the other side of the class line, and they haven't done
that". Of course the SWP left of its own accord. Mandel held people like
Cannon and Breitman in high regard politically, and indeed Mandel's
personal interventions were very important in the reunification of the FI
in 1963. As far as I am concerned, I am much more critical of the politics
of Cannon & co. Further Mandel thought basically Maoism was preferable to
Stalinism if you had to choose between them. The basic reason was simple:
Mao really led the overturn of political power, while Stalin didn't, so by
nature Maoism was ideologically more "left" than Stalinism. But he didn't
write a lot on China, mainly because he didn't really know that much about
it, and also because of political caution. Apart from that, there are some
subtleties in the story which are only really fished up by the connoisseurs
of Trotskyana, such as the official policy of the FI towards actually
existing Trotskyists in China (and Cuba etc.).



Louis Proyect
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