Rosa Luxemburg

Philip Ferguson PLF13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Tue Jul 1 23:19:00 MDT 2003


Louis wrote:
> I have no idea how Rosa Luxemburg achieves such iconic status with
> "socialist democracy" ideologues. Her main beef with the Bolsheviks was
> that they believed in Soviet power rather than in the Duma.


Well, these kinds of people try to steal and render harmless all kinds
of revolutionaries.

Look what Mouffe and co did with Gramsci whose profound insights about
hegemony were degraded by the 'radical democracy' ideologues into an
excuse for the most banal reformist politics under slogans like fighting
'the battle for position' within the institutions of the capitalist
state and for even more blatant crap like the 'New Labour' project in Britain.

In the case of Luxemburg her criticisms of the bolsheviks were within
the framework of not only fully supporting the October revolution but
also of giving her own life to try to make a German revolution.

The social democrats don't really have any heroic figures - I mean, who
can excited about Bernstein or Kautsky? - so they have to try to pinch
revolutionary figures, preferably ones who died valiantly but never led
revolutions.  After all, dying valiantly is good and leading revolutions
is bad.

I guess poor Rosa and Antonio have the misfortune to fit this bill nicely.

Of course, what the social democrats don't say about Rosa is that *their
leaders* had her murdered.

The other day a comrade here pointed out to me a long-winded article in
the 'NZ Political Review' denouncing the Russian revolution and Lenin &
Trotsky, and saying they set the norm for what was carried to its
logical conclusion by Stalin.  'Political Review' is a left
social-democratic journal, who's editor is a political commentator and
long-standing left journalist.  He's a genuine left social democrat
himself, and even subscribes to 'revolution' (the mag I'm involved in).

Anyway, one of NZ's leading playwrights and screen writers, Dean Parker,
had written a highly critical review of Martin Amis' 'Koba the Dread'.
Dean, who is basically a partisan of the British SWP but also an old
acquaintance of mine and subscriber to 'revolution' (and a longstanding
Irish solidarity activist), had pointed out the basic dishonesty of the
Amis book.

This really got the goat of some philosophy of ethics guy at Otago
University (Dunedin) who then wrote a lengthy (four or five page I
think) attack.  This guy, Charles Pigden, went to some length to assure
readers that he is on the left, that he comes form a working class
background and is a member of the Alliance party (a left social democrat
formation here).  The article, however, is basically a tirade against
Lenin and Trotsky, with quotes from them justifying executions and so
on, completely devoid of any mention that the revolution was fighting
for its life against an internal counter-revolution and 14 invading
imperialist armies.  Pigden goes on to claim that Stalin merely finished
off what Lenin and Trotsky began.  Needless to say, throughout he adopts
a high moral tone.

Thrown in for good measure are insults at people who have critiqued the
Amis book, such as Dean and also James Heartfield.  Since James H is
unlikely to even know of the existence of 'Political Review' or Charles
Pigden, his comments about Heartfield are bizarre, not to say extremely
bitchy, in that way that only middle class 'intellectuals' who present
themselves as highfalutin' and even-handed can be.  For instance, when
he drags in James H he makes a snooty comment that some web page said
James was starting lecturing at the University of East London but that
he (Pigden) has never heard of this university, implying that it doesn't
exist and Heartfield is some kind of phoney.

Of course, Pigden could easily check the web and find that the
university does exist and also that Heartfield is the author of several
significant books and his critique of Amis' book can't be merely
dismissed by snooty comments about the  suggested non-existence of the
University of East London.

I also had to laugh when I read the bio note at the end which mainly
informs readers that Pigden lives at Byrnes on the road from Dunedin to
Port Chalmers.  Who do these people think they are?  As if anyone could
give a shit where he lives.

What really gets me, however, is the hypocrisy and pomposity of such
social democrats taking the high ground against Lenin and Trotsky or,
for that matter, against Stalin.

The social democrats had just backed WW1 and helped send millions of
workers to horrendous deaths on the battlefronts, supported the
invasions of Russia after the revolution, and spent the rest of the
twentieth century putting whatever talents they possessed to work
defending the global capitalist order.

I view Stalin as the grave-digger of the Russian revolution but his
regime was still  responsible for *a lot, lot, lot* fewer deaths than
social democracy.  How many hundreds of millions of people, mainly in
the Third World, have died because social democrats have helped manage
the world capitalist order?

I also find it bizarre that for a lot of Trotskyists social democrats
are a far lesser evil than Stalin and Stalinists.  There's a marked
Stalinophobia and Socialdemocratophilia in a lot of post-Trotsky Trotskyism.

Philip Ferguson



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