Zinoviev and Cannon

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Thu Nov 21 15:26:53 MST 2002

Richard writes:
> It has always been a mystery to me why some comrades persist in propagating
> stories the falsity of which can be easily verified by anyone with access to
> the original (and usually quite accessible) documents. In doing so, they
> undermine their own credibility, and they cheapen the quality of debate on
> this list.

Since yesterday I had to twice post to the list after Richard had
attributed to me comments I had not made, I think perhaps he should be a
bit more circumspect with this kind of advice to people like Lou Proyect
and myself.

However, I'll take up the issue I raised where Trotsky was giving his
view.  Instead of merely accepting what Swabeck - and Richard is right,
it was just Swabeck; James wasn't present - said that blacks all spoke
English and didn't have a separate language, Trotsky still suggests that
this may not be so.  Indeed, anyone who reads this book can see that
Trotsky is full of pronouncements.  He blithely tells the US SWP leaders
things like, "The American Negro will develop leaders for Africa, that
one can say with certainty. . ." (p24).  When James tells him that
self-determination doesn't have much currency among the black masses,
whereas the struggle for equality does, Trotsky blithely declares (and
you can almost see him waving away James and the others' actual
on-the-ground knowledge), "I believe that it is among the intellectuals
that you find this opposition to self-determination" (p55).

Now, regardless of what anyone's position is on the issue of whether the
struggle for equality or for self-determination is the driving factor in
black struggles, what is clear is that Trotsky, while knowing next to
nothing about the actual conditions pertaining in the US - he even has
to ask whether blacks are independent producers or share-croppers etc -
is full of grand statements and pronouncements and opinions about
tactical minutiae.  On a number of occasions this takes on a surreal air
as some ill-informed opinion is predicated by the words, "I believe" or
followed by the "that one can say with certainty" nonsense.

If you read and compare what Trotsky and Lenin wrote about the Easter
Rising in Dublin in 1916, you get a good feel for the two different
approaches.  Trotsky, who knew bugger all about Ireland, blithely
declared that Irish nationalism was already passe, while Lenin's whole
emphasis is *learning from* the Rising and trying to tease out some
*general lessons* for revolutions in continental Europe.

Unfortunately many, indeed I would say most, Trotskyist groups today
learnt the Trotsky model rather than the Lenin one.  So they are experts
on every revolution except the one needed in the place where they
actually live.

Philip Ferguson

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