[Marxism] Learning from history appropriately

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Feb 9 08:30:07 MST 2004

While we're not supposed to debate the Trotsky-Stalin 
split, or the Russian Revolution on 1917 and its various
implications incessantly, the groups which claim they're
descended from them continue to play a role in the world.
How large a role is debatable, but a role nevertheless.

A few comments in response to a brief remark by Louis:

First of all, we know that at least one of these Trotskyist
sect groupings DID have something to do with the Nicaraguan
Revolution. They called themselves the Simon Bolivar
Brigade and tried to hijack the Nicaraguan Revolution.
Lucky for them the Sandinistas only deported them.

Second, while I know little about the Argentine left, it
seems highly unlikely to imagine that TENS OF THOUSANDS
have passed through their ranks. How many people can
we say have passed through the ranks of such groupings
in the United States? Hardly TENS OF THOUSANDS... 
At it's highest point in membership, the Socialist Workers
Party of the USA had 1700 members, in 1978. Today, none 
of the Trotskyist or formerly Trotskyist groups can lay
claim more than a few HUNDRED members.

Third, it IS true, however, that at the heart of what is
wrong with all of these groupings is their claim that the
history of the world began with the Russian Revolution
of 1917, and the claim which these groupings then make,
that they, each in their specific permutation, are the only
ones who are continuing along the Road of Lenin...

Ultimately it will be necessary for Marxists of each and
every country to learn what they can from experiences
elsewhere, but to devise an appropriate strategy from
their own national experiences to build a movement 
which can win. Some people have successfully done that.

History shows Fidel Castro and his associates building
Cuba's July 26th movement understood that because of
the anti-Communism which had become more or less a
religion in public political life, as well as some of
the other negative features of the Soviet experience,
to make a revolution in Cuba, a strategy would have to
be devised which was rooted fundamentally in the local,
national reality of the island itself. Further, it had
to take into account the fact that the island was also
faced with the presence of a large, powerful and very
unfriendly neighbor in its backyard, not ninety miles
from the shores of the island. This large unfriendly
neighbor was not only firm supporters of the Batista
dictatorship which had abolished electoral democracy,
but even militarily occupied a small part of the 
island's national territory. That final factor still
persists 45 years after the triumph of the Revolution.

For these reasons, the Cuban experience has much which
Marxists everywhere can learn from, if only we're open
to the lessons of its experience. Cuba's history isn't
hidden. It shows, in microcosm, what can be done under
specific conditions, if the appropriate lessons are at
once learned, and appropriately applied in real life. 

It can't be mechanically reproduced, and its lessons
are available to those who want to learn from them.
But you have to want to learn from them, to do so,
and even THAT is no ultimate guarantee that you will.

When I was a pup just getting my education in the 
SWP, USA, we were instilled with the notion that we,
and ONLY WE, were the historical descendants of the
Bolshevik Party of Lenin. In such a spirit, the SWP
counterposed itself to every other group on the left
and used the term "opponents" to describe them. 

With such an attitude, it wasn't such a stretch to
reach the conclusion that "the main danger to the
Cuban Revolution is in its own leadership." They'd
dropped this idea a couple of years later, by the
time I came around. Alas, the SWP has never drawn
any lessons from that. Just a few weeks ago the
SWP published what it called "excerpts" from an
interview done in 1978 with Joseph Hansen, who is
the person probably most responsible for having
written that "main danger" editorial.

Walter Lippmann

From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com>
Sent: Feb 7, 2004 11:35 PM
To: Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition
<marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
Subject: Re: [Marxism] Kirchner

As if these Trotskyist sects in Argentina had anything to
do with the Sandinista revolution. It is a real tragedy
that some tens of thousands of young radicals in Argentina
have dissipated their efforts in trying to establish their
Trotskyist pedigrees. The Workers Party website is utterly
full: http://www.po.org.ar/english/827art.htm 

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