Marxism in rich countries (Charles)

Julio Huato juliohuato at
Fri Jun 8 07:56:42 MDT 2001

Charles Brown <CharlesB at>:

>  Industrial concentration by Communist Parties does not mean ignoring
>non-industrial workers as part of the working class. That  is my "subtle"
>point for the larger thread issue.

If, as statistics indicate, industrial workers have become and are still
becoming a smaller portion of the working class in the rich capitalist
countries, the concentration of the political effort on industrial workers
seems inadequate.  In the rich countries, the weight of what is commonly
called 'industry' (usually in opposition to 'agriculture and 'services') in
social production has shrunk and continues to shrink.  Marxists need to
shift the focus or, at least, rethink where to invest their limited
political resources best.  In inducing effective social change, political
activity is like leverage in physics.  Or, if one prefers Lenin's terms, we
need to know which is the link that will drag the whole chain.

>CB: I think core and periphery workers have commonality of interest.
>Workers of all countries , unite ( based on commonality of interest).


>CB: The task of the 3rd International was not to lead the revolutions in
>individual countries. That role fell to the working class organizations of
>each country. The 3rd International was a solidarity organization among
>these national parties.  So in leading the 3rd International, the SU was
>not claiming leadership of struggles in other, individual countries.

IMO, this does not reflect the actual, historical attitude of the leadership
of the 3rd International and Stalin towards communism abroad.  There's
plenty of historical evidence indicating that international communism was
used blatantly to advance the conjunctural foreign policy of the Soviet

>this ignores that the great enthusiasm all socialists around the world had
>for the Russian Revolution and its Bolshevik leaders. Ho Che Minh was part
>of the Third International , and he was a leader in successful revolution.
>It would have been a sign of opposition to the Russian Rev to not join the
>3rd International. The first Communist Party was The Internationale. Being
>part of the 3rd International was almost a necessary consequence of
>subscribing to proletarian internationalism.

I don't believe that, under Stalin, the 3rd International practiced
'proletarian internationalism'.  To be sure, the legitimacy of the CP rule
in the Soviet Union required some measure of support for struggles abroad.
So, they did help.  But this was a very volatile, manipulative type of
support.  Isaac Deutscher, in Stalin and Trotsky's biographies, addresses
this.  In the rich capitalist countries, under Moscow's international
communist leadership, the communist struggle was effectively downgraded.
Under those conditions, it was very hard for self-respecting, dignified, and
independently-minded communists in rich countries to follow the lead of the
Soviet CP.  It must have been very hard for them to blindly abide by the
tactical whims of the Soviet foreign policy-makers, to be ruled and
disciplined by bureaucrats.  And Moscow did exercise forceful discipline in
the ranks.  That's how they dilapidated the until-then enormous
international political capital of communist Marxism.  It seems to me that
this must have had a terrible demoralizing effect on the communist movement
in the rich countries.

>For the CPUSA not to join it would have been an aggravation of the
>(soluable) contradiction between workers in the core and periphery in that
>Russia was a semi-peripheral country.
>I do not buy the idea that the main cause of the failure of the U.S.
>revolution has been CPUSA membership in the 3rd International or pernicious
>influence of the CPSU on the CPUSA.

Right.  We cannot say that the main cause of the failure was the influence
of the CPSU.  Even if they were numerically limited and the prestige of the
Soviet Union was huge, the local communists allowed this to happen.  In any
case, it's safe to say that the influence of the CPSU had some weight on the
fate of communist struggles in the US.

>CB: The theoretical distinction between exploitation of forced labor and
>exploitation of free labor is key TO WHAT ?

It's key to understanding a social formation, to understanding what drives
the economy and in what direction, to identify opportunities for the
struggle in specific sectors of the collective producer, to design the
strategy and tactics.  It has huge practical importance.

>How does focussing on their theoretical differences advance the goal of
>UNITING workers in the periphery and core ? How does it help to resolve
>their reconcilable contradictions ?

Uniting anything implies that there is division or separation.  What is to
be united is disunited.   Otherwise why would anyone be into uniting it?
Why are different sectors of the collective producer disunited?  Because
they may live and work in different settings, they may be exploited
differently, they may have different views of the world, habits,
backgrounds, etc.  Shouldn't we try to learn how and why these settings and
forms of exploitation are different?  Isn't recognizing reality a necessary
step to unite what is disunited?

>CB: This is misleading.  Engels did not initiate the theories and policies
>which became infamous in the polemics between Kautsky and Lenin. The way
>you pose it you imply that Engels' positions were the root of Kautsky's
>opportunism and chauvinism.,etc. That is not true.

Engels could not have dictated Kautsky's vote against the military budget
under Wilhelm's Germany WHILE refusing to call for transforming the
international war into a civil war, as Lenin wanted.  (It was the second
part of his position that made Lenin turn against him.  He became a
'social-pacifist' in Lenin's eyes.  Kautsky was not, as far as I know, a
'social-chauvinist' in Lenin's view, but a 'social-pacifist'.)  But if you
take a look at Engels' Introduction to the Class Struggles in France
(written by Engels the year of his death), the party line was clear.
Kautsky thought his position was the best way to implement the general line
drawn by Engels.  Note that Kautsky's works, including the Road to Power
written in 1909, were praised and profusely quoted by Lenin.  Kautsky,
coached by Engels, emerged in 1895 as the leading theoretician of the 2nd
International.  After Engels' death, his was the party line.  In fact, Lenin
considered Kautsky a revolutionary up to 1914 when, according to him,
Kautsky suddenly became a renegade.

Unfortunately, except for the Agrarian Question, I haven't read Kautsky's
works.  Now that I can read English, I may be able to find Die Neue Zeit's
articles in English and the Dictatorship.  They are not easily available (if
at all) in Spanish, as far as I know.  Louis insists that my positions are
Kautskist -- I guess I should learn more about the guy now.  Labels may
comfort, but they do not clarify.  I must confess: Most I know of Kautsky is
through Lenin's, Trotsky's, and Deutscher's works.  Lenin was a fierce
polemicist, and once someone was in his way, he was willing to do whatever
necessary to discredit her.  Now, as far as I know, Kautsky attacked the
Bolsheviks when they took power.  If we read between lines, the book Lenin
wrote to respond to Kautsky's attacks against the Bolsheviks (and to
discredit him apparently beyond repair) shows that Lenin had to make an
effort to prove that Kautsky's betrayal had been long in gestation.

If I remember correctly, Lenin quotes passages where Kautsky criticizes the
Bolsheviks for suppressing democracy.  Lenin rejected this as the pathetic
cry of a fearful petty bourgeois.  And even there, the implication is that
it was the sudden change of scenarios induced by the war which precipitated
Kautsky's treason.  Again, notice that Kautsky was not fearful enough to
reject the military budget and object the war.  Moreover, as far as I know,
Kautsky always stood by his publicly-held belief that the Brits were waging
a defensive war against the reaction represented by the Hohenzollerns and
the Habsburgs?  In the middle of so much German 'patriotism' and
demonization of the Brits, that must have been awkward, to say the least.  I
don't claim historical expertise, but I do think we should not take what
Lenin (or anyone else) wrote as gospel.

There's something else I can say from my trench of ignorance.  I consider it
a huge error for Kautsky to attack the Bolsheviks when they were trying to
establish their power.  He must have given them the benefit of the doubt.
But that is history now.  We have to use hindsight, historical perspective,
the relative detachment time affords us to re-analyze things.  Deutscher
says that the turning point in the political decay of Soviet Russia and the
CP was not the suppression of the Constitutional Assembly in January 1918
(which, I guess, prompted Kautsky's attack), but the party congress in 1921,
when the Bolsheviks established their political monopoly and effectively
eviscerated the Soviets.  How does what Kautsky wrote in 1918 on the
suppression of democracy in Soviet Russia stand in the light of Trotsky's
indictment in Revolution Betrayed?  How does it look in the light of
Deutscher's assertions?  How does it look in today's light?  In the current
conditions, to remain uncritically attached to the demonization of Kautsky
by Lenin is, IMO, tantamount to giving up our critical attitude.

>CB: You seem to be saying the more homogenious the national working class ,
>the less problems with spontaneity. I don't know about that. Where was a
>more homogeneous working class that had less spontaneity ?

Well, obviously.  Let me reduce it to absurd.  If all workers were
'professional revolutionaries', then they could plan their actions and
minimize 'spontaneity' (in the pejorative sense of the term, since
spontaneity may also mean flexibility, ability to improvise, which is not a
bad addition to sound planning given how complicated life is).  It is, so to
speak, the gap between the 'mental' and 'manual' political work which
requires to restrict 'spontaneity' and emphasize 'planning'.  The larger the
gap, the more so.

>I don't really understand your last statement here, although I agree with
>you that the form of the party on these questions must be dealt with
>One thing that occurs to me is that U.S. workers, influenced by the
>bourgeois cult of individualism , may be more prone to "spontaneity" than
>workers in the "periphery"

Maybe I'm talking about something else, but I don't see it as a negative
that workers are independently minded, assertive of their individualities.
A richer collectivity results from stronger individuals, not from weaker
individuals.  Weaker individuals in a collectivity make it easier for little
tyrants to become big.  This seems to work fine when the little tyrants do
the 'right' thing and have an internal moral compass restraining them.  But
the payoff is too small to bet so much on enlightened leaders.
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