[Marxism] Quiting Marxism, embracing what?

DCQ deeseekyou at comcast.net
Mon Dec 4 21:29:19 MST 2006

On Dec 4, 2006, at 7:03 PM, Charles Brown wrote:

> ^^^^^
> CB; [snip]
> What I'm saying is that the Bolsheviks had an advantage of surprise, 
> since
> the Russian rulers were probably not taking Marxism very seriously, not
> focussing so heavily on countering Marxist propagandizing of workers 
> and
> peasants.

There doesn't have to be any "probably" about this. It's simply wrong 
to state that Russian police were not taking Marxists seriously. 
Government bureaucrats, the aristocracy and their hangers-on, the 
academy, the (legal) papers, and particularly the church...all of these 
were constantly geared towards convincing the masses of Russian society 
about the genuine benevolence of the Tsarist state.

> The American Marxists had less of an advantage of surprise over
> the American rulers exactly because the Russian Revolution showed the 
> ruling
> classes of other countries that Marxism wasn't some totally unrealistic
> pipedream, that it was a real threat, and so the different ruling 
> classes
> were more on their guards after the Russian Revolution.

Sure. Hence the "Red Scare" and the Palmer Raids of the 1920s. Everyone 
knows this.

> Particularly after
> the Soviet Union showed its prowess in unexpectedly defeating the 
> formidable
> German army, capitalists of the world stood up and took notice of 
> Marxism
> even more.

The Allies largely cheered the Russian defeat of the German 
army...since Russia was one of the Allies.

> They could read the most elementary Marxist-Leninist texts and
> know that they had to battle for the minds of workers. And they took 
> steps
> to do that.

The ruling class has always battled for the minds of workers. So they 
continued to do this after WWII.

>  Also, the Czarist system was in greater crisis than the American 
> system in
> 1948. That was just a contrast in objective and subjective conditions 
> that
> American Marxists really could not change.
> Yes, what I say is very pessimistic; but it doesn't mean it's not true,
> unfortunately. The fact that the ruling class will always have all the
> advantages you list can't be overcome in the real world by denouncing 
> it as
> wrongheaded to state that fact.

I was not "denouncing" your statement of a "fact." I was calling into 
question your interpretation of events during a specific time period, 
and the transhistorical conclusions you seem to have drawn from that 

> Socialism may very well be impossible
> because the capitalists have been so alerted to it. Sorry. I don't like
> that, but I'm not going to pretend it's not true by covering it up 
> with a
> burst of revolutionary enthusiasm or wishful thinking.

This is not a logically valid statement. You assert that something 
"may" be true, then draw concrete conclusions as if it actually were 

> It is only by facing
> the reality and specifics of enormous ruling class advantage then, and 
> now,
> that we might be able to find a strategy to overcome what is a really
> formidable obstacle, more formidable than the Czarist regime.

Likewise, this does not follow from the above. If socialism is 
impossible, the no amount of strategizing will make it possible. If 
however, by "impossible," you actually meant "really really fucking 
difficult to achieve," then...well...yeah, I'm right there with you.

I'm not averse to asking the tough questions. But I'm also not into the 
whole "inevitability" thing. The revolutionary overthrow of the 
existing order is not inevitable. Neither is our permanent defeat (and 
still less is it in the past). If either is true, then we should just 
sit back and relax. The only reason to fight and struggle is if the 
outcome is in doubt.

I'm not saying that socialist revolution was necessarily in the cards 
in the particular environment of the 1950s. Of course there are a few 
certain, rare, precious times when it is possible and other long, 
tedious, soul-crushing times when it is not. Only an anarchist or a 
newbie would pretend that revolution is possible at any given moment. 
However, revolution in the US was really on the table in the 1930s (and 
the general strike waves at the end of WWII). Of course, by the 1950s 
the ruling class had regained the initiative and their retribution 
against the Communists and other radicals was severe. This regaining of 
the momentum was largely based on America's post-war prosperity (being 
largely untouched by the war, while Europe and Japan lay in ruins). But 
the role of the Communist Party in squandering these revolutionary 
moments and allowing this to happen really has to be addressed if we 
are really going to "find a strategy" to win. (But my guess is that 
some people are far too interested in defending some ideological or 
organizational turf, than in really being open to all these 

And honestly, Charles, we have quite a ways to go before we have to 
come up against any obstacles more formidable than Tsarist Russia. When 
America is a country without freedom of speech or assembly, when unions 
are illegal, when most people are illiterate, when the church is part 
of the government, when the government has open fascists (a la the 
Black Hundreds) persecuting revolutionaries and minorities, and when 
the working class is a small minority of the American population 
(manufacturing corporations are doing their best, but the damn service 
industries keep hiring...so much for ruling class solidarity), and the 
economic basis for socialism does not exist...then you can claim that 
we face an obstacle more formidable than Tsarist Russia was for the 
Bolsheviks and the Russian working class. Sorry. We've got it pretty 
easy by historical standards.

And here we get to the heart of the problem. Our victory doesn't really 
depend on how "formidable" our ruling class is. That's the wrong issue 
to be looking at.

Of course the Russian state was "surprised" by the events of 1917. So 
were the Bolsheviks. So was everybody. The bosses in the US were 
surprised by the strikes in 1934 and 36, their knowledge of the Russian 
Revolution notwithstanding. The Bolsheviks did not "tip our hand" to 
the bosses because when a new revolution happens it will be as out of 
the blue and as unexpected as any revolution ever has been. We will be 
playing catch-up. We will have to be humble enough to recognize that we 
will have had very little influence on its beginning, but confident 
enough to understand that we have a lot to say about how it may be 

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