Nicaraguan Revolution, Peronism and Moreno

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Feb 8 15:04:11 MST 2002

>There are plenty of other examples.  You may disagree with Moreno, his
>politics and his strategy and tactics, but you can't raise the issue of
>him not understanding Peronism or ignoring it.

One can learn from Moreno, just as one can learn from James P. Cannon,
Pierre Lambert or any other Trotskyist who built a significant
organization. By the same token, one must also study the Communist Party
since it succeeded in building ties to the most oppressed workers and
nationalities in the USA and other countries.

But all of these groups share a common misconception, namely that a
vanguard can be built through the consolidation of cadre around some
"program" that is ideologically consistent with Marx and Engels. This has
led to sectarian error after error.

The reason that the Sandinistas compel our attention is that they reached
the masses in a way that the Trotskyists have failed to do in their entire
history. When Carlos Fonseca decided, as did Castro and Guevara before him,
to put aside the "Russian" questions and root the FSLN in the national
experience of Nicaragua, he took an important first step in constructing a
genuine vanguard. Furthermore, the FSLN's collapse cannot be attributed to
some sort of ideological failure. After all, sometimes the workers are
outnumbered and are forced to fight with inferior weapons.

I am quite sure that the Simon Bolivar activists were motivated by the
purest intentions. But this is not really what we are judging. We are
trying here to figure out how to avoid the mistakes of the past. When you
fetishize a particular organizational form, such as the Russian Bolshevik
party, you end up with sect formations. Even the Cubans were not immune
from this. Che Guevara's failures in the Congo and Bolivia can be explained
by a schematic approach to party-building as found in Regis Debray's
writings. That being said, there is no question that Trotskyism as some
kind of line of continuity with Lenin's party is nothing but an illusion.

As Bert Cochran said in 1954 in "Our Orientation":

>From the rise of Hitler to the World War, there did not exist a strong
enough current upon which a new revolutionary formation, competing and
supplanting the old workers organizations, could be based. The Trotskyist
groups found neither the open field that favored the rise of the Second
International nor a development equivalent to the October Revolution which
started the mass trend toward communism. After World War II, contrary to
our prewar prognoses, Stalinism was not eliminated, but rose to new heights
of influence. Because the situation was, and remains, revolutionary in the
world—and because therefore, the workers no longer clung to the old parties
merely for protection against reaction—there has been a clear test of the
ability of Trotskyism to create an independent movement on a program
broadly confirmed by the new revolutionary developments. The fact that no
one can realistically envisage a breakup in the old workers movements prior
to the next revolutionary developments is the clear sign that the old
Trotskyist perspective has become outmoded. As before the war, the vanguard
seeks to realize its revolutionary aspirations within the old parties,
leaving no room for a new revolutionary mass organization. Thus the
Trotskyist movement, despite the brilliance of its leader, the considerable
abilities and energies of its national cadres, and the many experiments
with entries and fusions, was doomed to remain isolated. The test was made
for a whole historic era, both in periods of reaction and revolution, and
is therefore a decisive one. 

But while Trotskyism, due to historic circumstances, remained outside the
main currents of the labor movement, it built up in a quarter-century of
its existence a truly formidable literature, doctrine and tradition. This
tradition, we have said, gives Trotskyism the status of Twentieth Century
Marxism. However true this claim maybe from an abstract theoretical point
of view, it has not entered the consciousness of broad masses as did
similar claims made by the Social Democracy prior to World War I, or by
Lenin and the Comintern afterward. The tradition of Stalinism led to the
mass revival of the Communist Party in France after the war, and the
tradition of Social Democracy to its revival in Germany, but the tradition
of Trotskyism could do no more than maintain it as an ideological tendency. 

Every important movement has its own specific tradition, and every
important leader places his indelible stamp upon an organization, not only
through the formal resolutions and theses, but by his methods of work, his
approach to big questions, his hundred and one evaluations, and in ways
even more elusive and difficult to describe. Marx projected himself upon
the First International. Lenin put his stamp on Bolshevism. And without any
per adventure of a doubt, Trotsky did the same in fulsome measure in the
case of the Fourth International. Now it is a fact that our whole
tradition—so magnificent in many ways—is of no interest to the existing
labor movements. Because the tradition has been created largely outside of
the labor movements, it is foreign to them. They do not see or believe that
any of it is pertinent to the solution of their problems. We therefore have
to face up to this aspect of the reality just as we did to other parts of
it, and have to draw the necessary lessons. 

The very formulations of the International Resolution must lead us to the
conclusion that the revolutionary parties of tomorrow will not be
Trotskyist, in the sense of necessarily accepting the tradition of our
movement, our estimation of Trotsky's place in the revolutionary hierarchy,
or all of Trotsky's specific evaluations and slogans. We in the United
States had precisely this experience where Trotskyists fused with the small
Muste organization to form the Workers Party in 1935. The fusion occurred
only after we had overcome considerable resistance in the Musteite ranks to
accepting the special characteristics of Trotskyism by assuring them that
we had no special sectarian axes to grind. How much more operative will
this be when the left wing develops through its own specific experiences
and the merging of different currents and groups inside the big centrist or
reformist mass movements. 

Our analysis and our tactical orientation would remain like a knife without
a blade if we do not follow through with the necessary conclusion. And this
conclusion is that in the present historical conditions, our cadres have to
take the whole body of Marxist theory and struggle, including Trotsky's
contributions to it and translate them into the language of our lifetime,
and into the language of the existing movements of the various countries in
which we are situated. 

The worst error is to think this mainly a job of clearer language, or for
our cadres to start masquerading as simple homespun mechanics who have none
too secure a mastery of grammar or syntax. What is involved if we are to
integrate ourselves in the mass movement and to begin functioning
effectively as its Marxist wing, is that we have to rid ourselves of all
faction spirit and too narrow understanding of the Marxist's role in the
centrist and reformist milieus of our time. 

Our purpose is to bring our ideas into the mass movement, and to gradually
raise the consciousness of the ranks to the historic tasks. But the last
thing in the world we should attempt is to inculcate the ranks with the
necessity of adopting our specific tradition, and impressing upon them the
truth of all the evaluations and proposals broached by Trotsky from 1923
on. The thought that in the coming period of our activity we have to go out
of our way to mention the name and work of Leon Trotsky, and the name and
the existence of the Fourth International, shows how far all of us have
become infused with narrow group thinking, and organizational fetishism,
how far we have traveled from the outlook of Frederick Engels, who warned
the Socialists in America not to publish the Communist Manifesto, as it was
based on old-world experiences, and that the American labor movement,
developing under different conditions, would not understand it, and would
not know what Marx and Engels were talking about. Why isn't it possible for
us to take this simple thought of Engels and apply it to ourselves and our
work? If Engels didn't think this was putting a question mark over his
revolutionary integrity, why should we? 


Louis Proyect
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