[Marxism] Welcomed Back

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Sun Oct 23 08:02:50 MDT 2005

rrubinelli replied:


> I  think you are asking a similar question-- but your solution or answer
> I think is to discount the prospects for socialist revolution in their
> entirety-- that the tasks of the 20th century were radical-democratic
> rather than socialist.  That's taking it way, way back comrade, to the
> tasks thought of as belonging to the 19th and even 18th centuries, and
> arguing, in essence, that "material conditions" for proletarian
> revolution were not "ripe," that in fact the conflict between means and
> relations of production had not been reached for capital, and that
> indeed, the "stage" "theory" of revolution is historically correct.
Actually, the democratic demands you seem to regard as antiquated relics of
the 18th and 19th centuries were the starting points of revolutionary
agitation by the mass organizations in the 20th, and the centrepiece of
their programs. A short list: land reform, , freedom of expression and the
right to organize trade unions and political parties, old age pensions and
universal healthcare, public education, the emancipation of women and
national minorities, national independence, safe and healthy workplaces,
shorter hours, etc.

These demands were held in common by all tendencies in the workers'
movement - social democratic, revolutionary Marxist, and even to a large
extent, anarchists. The Marxists - both the revolutionary and parliamentary
kind - believed their accomplishment would create the preconditions for
advancing to socialism, ie. the political and economic expropriation of the
bourgeoisie and the replacement of capitalism by the collective ownership of
the means of P, D, and E.

Where they disagreed was not on the matter of democratic tasks but on a) who
would lead the process of carrying them out, and b) how long the transition
("stage") from democracy to socialism would take. The Mensheviks thought the
progressive bourgeoisie would lead these struggles, and the process would be
a lengthy one. The Bolsheviks thought the bourgeoisie had exhausted its
historical mission and had abandoned the struggle for democratic reform
because it feared the rising working class organizations. They thought these
democratic tasks would fall instead to the DEMOCRATIC dictatorship of the
peasantry and proletariat. Lenin also anticipated a prolonged period of
capitalist development, until he was persuaded in April, 1917, that
Trotsky's thesis of an uninterrupted transition - "permanent revolution" -
was unfolding in Russia and Westen Europe and elsewhere around the globe.
Even the Trotskyist "transitional program" started with democratic demands.
You know all this, so I don't understand what leads you to conclude that the
struggle for democratic demands reflected the view "that 'material
conditions' for proletarian revolution were not 'ripe,' that in fact the
conflict between means and relations of production had not been reached for
capital, and that indeed, the 'stage' 'theory' of revolution is historically
correct." That wasn't how the first and second generation Marxists saw it.

If they had the power of hindsight, as we do, they might have. You still
believe with absolute certainty, as they did, that capitalism has exhausted
the limits of its potential and that the conditions for socialism are ripe
for socialism, and maybe they still are. But we won't know until after it
happens. In the meantime, with the additional information we have been able
to acquire, a little more humility might be justified. Preceding generations
of Marxists could at least point to the almost unbroken period of economic
and political crisis in the capitalist global economy, the increasing
incidence of class struggle, and the Russian and Chinese revolutions in
support of their political choices. We can't. We have instead to account for
why the bourgeoisie did not pass from the historical stage during the last
century, as expected, and why the promising anticapitalist revolutions which
took root in the USSR and China had reversed course by its end, also

I think these issues still have some contemporary relevance. Those coming
from the Trotskyist tradition, as we have frequently seen on this list in
relation to Cuba and Venezuela, have been forced to come to grips with why
the politics you express so forcefully and well continued to leave the
movement isolated when it seemed their time had come in societies undergoing
great social upheaval. I think it has a lot to do with reducing all of the
problems on the left to a "crisis of leadership", and deriving sectarian
political conclusions and practices from that. That's still worth noting.

Anyway, be happy to continue this further offlist.

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