Forwarded from Anthony (reply to E. George)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Apr 10 09:51:02 MDT 2002

>I think Ed has taken the ideas of a group of European academics influenced
>by reformist Marxism, and tried to sort out the least common denominator of
>their academic theories about history. A polemic against those academics
>should be labeled that - not as a polemic against "The Marxist theory' -
>this gives too much credence to Hobsbawm, Anderson, Lefebvre, et. al. and
>sweeps under the rug the theoretical ideas of people like Marx, Engels,
>Kautsky, Lenin, Trotsky et. al. who definitely had a different "Marxist'
>theory of bourgeois revolution. (Probably this is not Ed's intention, but
>it is the result.)

There are two problems.

One, these so-called European academics, grouped around Socialist Register
and New Left Review, have enormous influence in the academy where they are
perceived as having the last word on Marxism. Some of them have activist
credentials as well. For example, Robert Brenner has been involved with
Solidarity for over a decade. Mind you, this does not mean that he helps to
organize teach-ins at UCLA but he does speak with some authority.

Also, I don't think you can group Kautsky, Lenin and Trotsky so easily. In
fact, Kautsky's ideas on bourgeois revolution were about the same as the
French CP historians. So was Lenin's. They were "stagists". They believed
that it would be a mistake to organize a proletarian revolution in Russia
until feudalism had been overthrown in a manner similar to France, 1789. In
reality, we would learn that France 1789 was not quite France 1789 so it
would be a mistake to make a revolution on a false model. As Guerin points
out, the only revolutionary class in France was the "nu bras" (urban
plebes) and peasantry.

This stuff still has a considerable hold on the left. If you go to the
Democratic Socialist Party of Australia's website (,
you'll find an article titled "In Defence of Lenin's Marxist Policy of a
Two-Stage, Uninterrupted Revolution" by Doug Lorimer. It is an abysmal
document with formulations such as:

"In Two Tactics Lenin did not discuss in any great detail what would be the
content of this "series of intermediary stages of revolutionary
development". This is because, at that time (July 1905), the transformation
of the democratic revolution into a socialist revolution was not posed by
either the subjective or objective conditions of the class struggle in
Russia. Nor was it the most pressing theoretical question that needed
clarification within the ranks of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party."

It was not a "pressing theoretical question" because KAUTSKYIST ORTHODOXY
prevailed. Except for Trotsky, the Russian social democracy assumed that
after the Czar was overthrown, there would be an extended period of very
radical bourgeois democracy which would allow the working class to prepare
itself for taking power. Nobody would have dreamed that socialist tasks
would have been on the IMMEDIATE AGENDA in April 1917.

Louis Proyect
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