[Marxism] The two souls of socialism

Ian Pace ian at ianpace.com
Sat Aug 20 05:05:22 MDT 2005

JScotLive, quoting Lenin on the NEP:
> 'That is why we must, in connection with the New Economic Policy, 
> ceaselessly
> propagate the idea that political education calls for raising the level of
> culture at all costs. The ability to read and write must be made to serve 
> the
> purpose of raising the cultural level; the peasants must be able to use 
> the
> ability to read and write for the improvement of their farms and their
> state.'
> Lenin realised that the proletariat, in the state it was in after the
> revolution and civil war, was unequipped to take control of the Soviet 
> economy  and
> state power. He brought in foreign specialists and brought back some of 
> the
> old bureacrats from the Tsarist regime to help develop industry and the
> country's productive forces.

Is there any particular reason why these things can't be achieved, or 
wouldn't be desired, whilst maintaining democratic control via the Soviets?

Again, I'm not looking to provoke sectarian fights here, but have some 
serious questions that I'm not sure about myself. I'm sure you know the 
dangers that can be entailed in the notion of the 'political education' of 
the workers being imposed from above (such things as simple moves to 
increase literacy don't fall into this category, though).

But at the same time, I can also see how a certain type of 'socialism in one 
country' with no concrete efforts to raise the political and cultural 
consciousness of the workers and peasants could actually degenerate into 
fascism. This is one of my most profound fears. It's easy to dismiss such 
things as racism amongst working people as a by-product of 'divide and rule' 
strategies instilled by capitalism - I wouldn't disagree with such a 
diagnosis, but wonder if such a process can and has become reified. So that 
it would be possible, in a British workers' state, for the majority white 
workers to instutionalise systematic racial discrimination against non-white 

Here I should add the caveat that I'm NOT in any sense talking the hideous 
middle class liberal position which uses the existence of racism as a 
justification for despising the workers, unlike supposedly enlightened souls 
like themselves. Racism is an ideology that served the propagandistic 
purposes of imperialism, and as such originated from above. But the process 
is very highly advanced. I suppose I have a particular British perspective 
on this - I believe Britain is quite unique in Western Europe in the sense 
that support for the far right comes primarily from the working rather than 
lower middle classes.

This is what leads me to complicated questions of culture and consciousness, 
wondering how I, as a middle class socialist (or anyone else of that ilk) is 
really able to start preaching to working class people on questions such as 
racism and nationalism. Is it possible to address such questions without 
admitting fatal divisions within the international proletariat, so far 
developed that the notion of their being able to achieve some solidarity of 
consciousness seems little more than a pipe dream? As such, isn't our 
primary struggle first on the level of consciousness. I'd be interested to 
know what others who have more expert knowledge on the class break-down in 
America of support for US imperial wars like that in Iraq would have to say 
on this.

> He changed the role of the trade unions from  that of
> representing the interests of the proletariat and  representing those 
> interests
> vis-a-vis the government to vice  versa.

Which was perhaps one of his most fatal errors, turning the trade unions 
against the proletariat in a way that would ultimately serve the state 
capitalist oligarchy.

> In terms of revolution, by definition if it isn't supported by the masses
> then it can never succeed. We're not talking about coups, but about 
> popular
> revolutions which, as a process in themselves, require the participation 
> of the
> masses. Every experience to date, excepting the Paris Commune, has fit 
> into
> the category of socialism from above.

This depends how one defines the term, I suppose. The presence of leadership 
(even bourgeois leadership) doesn't have to imply socialism from above, if a 
revolution is genuinely popular. The Russian Revolution seems something of a 
half-way house between a popular revolution and a coup.

> The Paris Commune failed because it was
> unable to defend its gains against the counter revolution. The first 
> priority
> of  any revolution is to defend against counter revolution, which is the 
> stage
> that  Cuba for example has never been able to develop beyond due to the
> pressure  exerted upon it by US Imperialism.
> No socialist economy or system up to now has.

Which is precisely why I believe socialism originating outside of the 
developed world is unlikely to succeed.


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