[Marxism] Quiting Marxism, embracing what?

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Tue Dec 5 15:36:20 MST 2006

DCQ deeseekyou at comcast.net > 

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.


Trying to convince the masses of Russian society about the genuine
benevolence of the Tsarist state is not the same thing as focussing in on
the specifics of Marxist theory and propaganda and countering it. There were
other anti-Czarist revolutionists and currents to which the Czarists
government was responding, so they were not focussed on the Marxists or
Bolsheviks only, as the Americans would have been in the late 1940's. Of
course, there was no Communist state anywhere that the Czarists could label
a foreign power behind the Marxists, as was the case in the U.S. in the late


> 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.

CB: I know everyone knows this. On this thread , this wellknown fact has the
implication that I give it.


> 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.

CB: You might take a bit more jaundiced eyed-view of some sections of the
"Allies".  Winston Churchill, one of the Allies, made a speech about the
Iron Curtain, right after the war. If you think all those capitalists were
sitting around cheering the Russians and not worrying about the U.S.
Communists making revolution in the U.S. , you might want to think again.


> 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.

CB; I don't know that they were focussed on the working class especially and
not other classes; The specialness of the working class is a particular
Marxist thing. Also, they would tailor their propaganda to specifically
counter Marxist propaganda.


>  Also, the Czarist system was in greater crisis than the American 
> system in 1948. That was just a contrast in objective and subjective
conditions > thatAmerican 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

CB; To what transhistorical conclusions do you refer ?


> 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 true.

CB: Make that pretend they might not be true.


> 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.

CB: The immediate section you quote does "follow" from the above, or is
true:  The best way to find a good strategy is by facing the reality of the
level of difficulty. 

I wouldn't counsel dwelling on the thought that it may very well be
impossible. "Really, really fucking difficult to achieve" is better.
Actually, it would be best if we could figure out a way to get back to
"inevitable", but that might be like getting back to believing in Santa
Claus. "Socialism or barbarism or ecological catastrophe" is probably the
best we have now.


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.

CB; Well, this is an academic point, but maybe not since if the Russians had
it harder , and they made it, it implies that revolution here is a lot more
possible than what I said above.

I do think there is an opposite argument to what you said. The Russian
situation was _so_ oppressive that they made it intolerable for a lot more
people. Part of the Lenin formula for a revolutionary situation is the
people can't no longer live in the old way ( and the rulers can no longer
rule in the old way). I think the American capitalists have been smarter
than the Russians. Again, they probably learned from the mistakes of the
Russian rulers. They have not made the situation intolerable for most people
, exactly because they haven't created all the things you describe. They
have not created a situation where the American people cannot live in the
same way. It is true bourgeois finesse. The American rulers are tougher to
overthrow because they have moderated their oppression, used sneaky methods,
rather than direct, brutal rule. Fascism could not last _because_ it was so
outrageously brutal. The U.S. has used "spot" brutality and oppression ,
which is much more effective. There's even a principle in operant psychology
: Sporatic negative reinforcement works better than consistent negative


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 concluded.

CB: Perhaps

It may be formulaic, but I think we might say an important thing is the
relative class consciousnesses and unities/division of the ruling class and
the ruled class. If somehow the U.S. working class in it overwhelming
majority sees that capitalism must go, then revolution is a go. 

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