Forwarded from Jurriaan

Mario Jose de Lima mjlima at
Fri Jan 5 13:17:52 MST 2001

Dear Professor Proyect

By chance, will exist a digital version of the text " The rolls of the
accidental and of great men in history "?

Mário José de Lima

----- Original Message -----
From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at>
To: <marxism at>
Sent: Friday, January 05, 2001 5:50 PM
Subject: Forwarded from Jurriaan

> Louis,
> 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,
> 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
> 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...
> 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
> 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
> and what the real function of that party is. He is not prejudiced about
> 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
> practice go over to the other side of the class line, and they haven't
> 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
> of Trotskyana, such as the official policy of the FI towards actually
> existing Trotskyists in China (and Cuba etc.).
> Sincerely
> Jurriaan
> Louis Proyect
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