LouPaulsen LouPaulsen at attbi.com
Thu Nov 21 06:58:46 MST 2002

----- Original Message -----
From: "Martin Spellman" <mspellman at cix.co.uk>

> He's, unfortunately, right on the money IMV. 'Zinovievism' is usually
> called 'Marxism-Leninism' and according to Roy Medvedev, it was he who
> actually coined the term.
> > Well, is it our common experience that, over the last century, parties
> > the left have remained fixed and faithful to their political progenitors
> > even when those tenets are copiously written down and carefully
> > re-read and
> > discussed?  Have all the "Trotskyists" rigorously adhered to the tenets
> > Trotsky, and are they all alike?  Are all the "Maoists" alike in their
> > practice today, and all the "Stalinists"?  Quite the contrary.
> > There is so
> > much diversity among "Trotskyists" and "Stalinists" and "Maoists", and
> > been for decades, that the terms literally have no meaning now other
> > telling me what books are likely to be on people's bookshelves;
> But there is likewise diversity among Christians. There are now about 1500
> different variants, all based on the same book, which I bet most of them
> have not read, let alone appreciated.

And so?  Doesn't this illustrate my point?  I considered bringing up this
point myself in my original post.  Martin, are you trying to argue that
there is some "essence of Christianity" in which all of these groups
partake?  I would argue, on the contrary, that these groups represent a
broad variety of class and national forces, each of which has taken the 'raw
material' of the New Testament and used it for its own purposes.

In general I would characterize your argument, and that of Silber whom you
quote, to be a Weberian idealist argument, which will only convince someone
who does not adhere to the Marxian historical-materialist paradigm.  That is
to say, it looks at the intellectual history of various groups, at their
organizational biographies, and then at their various failures, and
attributes the failures really to the Marxists' bad intellectual genes
(memes).  (Note: 'meme' is a term coined by the evolutionary biologist
Dawkins in order to make an analogy between biological evolution, with the
'gene' as the fundamental unit of replication, to cultural evolution, with
the 'meme' (an idea, datum, etc.) as the unit of replication.)

> "Orthodoxy inevitably breeds schisms, and Marxism-Leninism was no
> exception.

I wish I had an hour to write about this very vapid sentence by Silber,
which treats arguments and differences among the left as some kind of
disease, very much different from the unity of purpose and collegiality that
you find in philosophy, art, social science, history, etc. [SARCASM ALERT]

>  ... only two variants on the Stalinist
> orthodoxy merit our attention: Trotskyism and Maoism;  [...]
> In terms of political power, mass following, ideological concert or
> action, neither variant is compatible to the creed which originated with
> was shaped by Stalin. And each, in turn, has given rise to variants
> claiming to be the true faith."

I disputed this whole approach in the other post and I do so here as well:
the argument that there is a "Trotskyist essence" which is incompatible with
the "Stalinist creed".  I note that this whole argument by Silber is replete
with religious language ("creed", "faith", etc.).  Basically this is the old
bourgeois idea that Marxism is just another religion.

> Of course, that is not to say that the differences between these
> groups/schools are uninteresting or immaterial.

How nice that Silber in his guise as the academic naturalist does not find
the differences between us Marxists to be 'uninteresting'.  In his youth
Silber did his own share of "party-building" and fought it out with us on
the issue of the "Three Worlds Theory" etc.  Now, having grown to a detached
maturity, he pins us in display cases like butterflies in a museum

> "Long before the political center of the international communist movement
> disintegrated, the revolutionary function of Lenin's 'party of a new
> type' -- at least so far as all the main capitalist countries were
> concerned -- had receded into the realms of ideological fancy. Not only
> the prospects of the proletarian revolution in those countries remote; the
> idea that Communist Parties would be the 'vanguard' of such revolution was
> even more far-fetched. But the form remained, testament to the ideological
> hold of Marxist-Leninist mythology and the advantages to be gained from
> Soviet Union's world position and largesse. It was this disjuncture which
> haunted and undermined those parties even before their world was
> shattered in 1991."

Once again this is a completely idealistic account.  Furthermore, and more
basically, does Silber believe any more that capitalism can or should or
ever will be done away with?  I can't tell from reading this passage whether
he things that we have all just pissed away the prospects for revolution
because of our bad Marxist-Leninist ideas, or whether there never were and
never will be any prospects for revolution and we have all just been silly
dreamers.  Although the continuing analogy with religion makes me think that
Silber intends the latter.

> Reactions efforts have been constant but it was more the end of the
> post-war boom that exposed Marxism-Leninist parties as inadequate. Growing
> crisis and open class warfare by Reagan/Thatcher etc. should have provided
> the draught for the revolutionary ship to float.

Should it?  After a century of imperialist prosperity, after class
consciousness had been brought to unprecedented lows (in the US
particularly) socialism 'should have' immediately sprouted up in the U.S.
and the U.K. because of the takeback policies of Reagan and Thatcher?  By
what theory?  By what yardstick?  And if it didn't, what does that prove?
Be careful that your theory doesn't prove too much.  If it supposedly proves
something that the workers didn't all flock to our 'bad' Marxist-Leninist
banners in 1988, then doesn't it also prove something that 'good' socialist
formations did not come into existence?  Aren't you basically proving, on
the basis of the Reagan and Thatcher administrations (a decade of experience
in the center of the imperialist world), that revolution is impossible?
That capitalism is eternal?

Or is that not the conclusion that you are trying to draw?  Might you grant
that the global tide of reaction takes some time to turn?   That the global
working class doesn't spin on a dime?  In that case, you might find that, in
a period which is more hospitable to revolutionary ideas of any type, you
might have to draw different conclusions about parties and so on.  [Oops,
have to leave for work.]

Lou Paulsen

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