re Lenin and labour aristocracy

Shane Hopkinson s.hopkinson at
Tue Nov 12 03:16:17 MST 2002

Jeff wrote:

>I think this has always been confused. IMO, most versions of the labour aristocracy
>theory have been essentially moral rather than Marxist.

I haven't thought of it this way but as someone trained as a sociologist it looks too
conspiratorial as if classes and class fractions consciously plot to betray ot seel out
rather than accomodate to the system.

>I've always wondered bout this, too [At what point the German SPD] ceased to be >Marxist.] Once you know they're reformists, you can't really claim they've betrayed you.

Indeed I was thinking of this in relation to Australia the Labour party is seen
traditionally at least as 'socialist' (though never Marxist or revolutionary) but hardly
deserved that label even historically they did not form as "socialist" and the socialist
objective came later. I wonder whether we don't need to re-assess the role of mass based
labour and Communist parties altogether based on their deeds.

>Not only recalibrating. They were wrong. We should say they were wrong. After all, one >of the worst tendencies on the left is to make predictions and then not assess how they >turn out.

Indeed I think the catastrophism discussed in other responses is an important part of
small group psychology. There are 2 assessments though which we can separate to some
extent we can ask were they right with the benefit of hindsight and still appreciate that
Trotsky, Lenin et al had to make the call as they saw it. Of course this involves giving
up on the idea of the infallibility of revolutionary heroes which is difficult.

>Anyway, there's quite a good article by Tony Cliff which goes thru the economic base of
>labour reformism and what it means for Trotsky's propositions.

Many thanks I've printed it out and will read it ASAP.

I wanted to raise some issues from Jose Perez earlier post. I think Jose deserves a rap
over the knuckles for the sectarian tone and the personal insults but I have read some of
his posts and thought that they had some merit. Of course we can't return to Marx (or to
Lenin) as a straightforward guide to what to do but given that we all agree on Marx's
importance it might serve as better to start there as we re- assess things since people
are like to have a pre-set position on Lenin. I think Marx's general approach can be
reconciled with Lenins as well and I have read some of Mick Armstrong's stuff on
democratic centralism which has re-inforced my assessment.

Jose wrote:
>>"In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole?
>>The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other
>>working-class parties.

Jeff replied:
>As for the substance of the post, suffice to say that it’s quite perverse
>to think that a quotation from the 27 year old Marx, written in an era
>before modern political parties even existed can settle a dispute about how
>communists should organise’s daft to simply that one can ignore them by >‘returning to Marx’, particular in the form of the most misused quotation in the entire >canon.

Can you explain in what sense the quote is misused? Of course one can simple adopt it but
the same applies to Lenin (what use is Lenin's idea it was successful ONCE in a newly
industrialising country ruled by a Tsar before mass media etc)

>Oh, please!
>Marx spent his life polemicising against the ‘let’s all just be friends’
>school of socialism. Hence the debates in the First International, hence
>the Critique of the Gotha Program, hence just about everything he wrote.

He may have critiqued them but the First International included them. The
question of organisation is the issue. Marx seemed to prefer broad alliances
if they were not possible he didn't organise as a sect but returned to his
books and circle of correspondents.

>Of course, there’s a whole shabby
>tradition that tries to use the quote above to make a contrary case, but I
>didn’t think it had much currency any more. Perhaps I’m wrong.

Perhaps I'm wrong but I have been in the game 10 years and haven't
heard about this 'shabby tradition' Is there a pre-existing tradition of
using the Manifesto this way?

>Jeff writes:
>Underneath all the hoopla of these ‘we all should simply get together’
>arguments lies a terrible pessimism. The tiny numbers of people already on
>the revolutionary left are all we’re ever going to get, therefore we should
>just make the best of each other, cos it aint never getting better than this.
>Well, I don’t buy it.

Fair enough but I think the point is that are different groups are separated
by historical and ideological differences. I think that there is no objective
reason why we need to be in separate organisations, of course we have political
differences but we need a framework to settle them and build the socialist movement.
The recent Socialist Alliance debates have meant I am more exposed to the views of the ISO
and I have sought out the views of Socialist Alternative and I think I have learned quite
a lot. I am personally predisposed to the "we should all get together" kind of idea but
politically I think it is necessary (even of at the present junction it is not objectively



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