[Marxism] The 1913 Stalin pamphlet, crap, and white supremacy in the U.S. Socialist Workers Party

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Sun Dec 31 01:04:53 MST 2006


My thanks to Fred for his fraternal, comradely and harsh critique of some of
my recent posts.

I think a lot of it can be summarized by saying that it's one thing to bend
the stick, and you have to be careful not to bend it too far, but when it
snaps and you didn't even notice and kept bending, that probably means you
don't have a stick anymore, not even one bent a little too far for the
intended pedagogical empahsis. 

You've actually got two sticks pointing in opposite directions.

WHY that happened to me in those posts is I guess and illustration of the
relationship between the personal and the political. It was an expression in
the rage I feel, and mostly at myself, when I recall how I allowed myself to
be used as a tool to enforce racism and white supremacy in the U.S.
Socialist Workers Party.

So, while still disclaiming any real expertise in these historical matters,
from what little I do know, I think Fred, David and others are correct in
saying that Stalin's 1913 pamphlet marked a step FORWARD for the Bolshevik
current's evolution on the national question, and that Lenin's 1914 piece,
"The Right of Nations to Self-Determination" was erected "on top" of that
1913 piece, most importantly by extending what was new in it in 1913, but
also thereby correcting what was one sided or wrong in it, which was also to
a large degree what was most orthodox and old in the pamphlet. 

I agree with Fred, on thinking about it more carefully, that I OVERLY
exaggerated the importance of the Bolshevik's 1913 pamphlet in the SWP AS A
WHOLE. I think the truth is for the big majority of comrades, it played
little or no role.

That's not because Fred's ideological understanding of the thing was
widespread. I honestly believe Fred's understanding of the specific
historical role and limitations of the piece back then wasn't at all
generalized in the SWP. 

I only know *for sure* the understanding I derived from all the classes,
conversations and documents I read or was exposed to in those years in the
SWP.

Ideologically, here is the bottom line: In all the time I was IN the SWP, I
never, EVER "got it" that the Bolshevik position on the national question
had EVOLVED. I DID get that there were some misformulations and one
sidedness in this or that article, that you needed to look at the corpus of
articles AS A WHOLE, things like that, but those were all the result of just
conjunctural things, putting the emphasis here or there because that's what
the discussion right then was focused on, NOT THAT THERE EVER HAD BEEN A
CHANGE IN THE BOLSHEVIK'S APPROACH.  

And the proof was that the axis and red thread running through EVERYTHING
was defense of the right to self-determination. That's what I learned. 

And I learned to MUSH TOGETHER "the right to self-determination" with the
"workers and oppressed peoples of the world unite" line of the Second
Comintern Congress and the Congress of Toilers of the East that came right
after it. My understanding was that this had been ALWAYS the Bolshevik
approach, of embracing and supporting the national movements of the
oppressed. 

But there was ANOTHER aspect that was ALSO mushed together in there, and
that was the struggle against Bundism in the revolutionary party. And in
that struggle, that 1913 pamphlet played a big role -- and perhaps it was
just in my own case, and those I directly struggled with on this issue.
Because it was the one that said ALL nationalism, everywhere, no matter
what, is bourgeois. Categorical, unambigous, open and shut.

Because the tendency towards Bundism among the Black and Latino and other
Third World cadre in those years was pronounced. The pressure was immense.
"Bundism" just happened. Spontaneously. And it had to be fought.

It was in THAT context that I remember the 1913 Bolshevik pamphlet being
recommended to me and I recommending it to others. And it was memorable,
because people would say stuff like the author says Stalin but it was really
Lenin, or that was Stalin but when he was a bolshevik before he BECAME
"Stalin." Because, of course, we all HATED Trotsky, I mean Stalin. Sorry. 

Stalin was anathema. 

So yes, I confess, Fred is right, I do believe I exaggerated the degree to
which the Stalin pamphlet was used in the SWP as a whole. But I simply do
not believe that many others in addition to Fred actually understood the
*evolution* and actually, never mind understanding the evolution, simply
understood that THERE HAD BEEN an evolution. 

I did not. I viewed the *exclusion* of Jewish workers in the Bund from the
RSDLP as the SAME LINE as uniting with the Muslims in a Jihad against the
British infidel imperialists. In fact, I think Fred is pretty convincing in
saying that it was NOT the same approach, and that the evolution was fairly
complicated, not nearly as black-and-white, yes and no simplistic as that
miscreant Joaquin Bustelo said on this list a few days ago, because
"Joaquin" was still trying to avoid discussing what his alter-ego did
decades ago. Which was to be a revolutionary "Ricky Ricardo," a clown with
big sleeve Babalu shirts, a "House Negro" enforcer for white supremacy.

So inside the party, my section of the party, the non-white section of the
party, the understanding was that it was all one thing. On the one hand,
support for national self-determination, self-organization, and anything
else that can fuck up the bourgeoisie. One the other, OPPOSITION to
organization along national lines INSIDE the party, because that was
Bundism.

Saying the Leninist position on the National Question had evolved would have
opened up a Pandora's box. If Lenin's earlier positions has been weak, or
unfinished, or, worse, wrong -- that would immediately call into question
the prohibition on Bundism. And Bundism --the self-organization of Blacks
and other people of color-- would have happened. The societal pressure was
immense. And it wasn't just us. Women, lesbians, gays, workers, hippies
(remember Sudie and Geb?)

What was Bundism? It wasn't a specifically Jewish thing, but the hidden
reactionary bourgeois core essence of nationalism, and ordinarily you didn't
come across it or had to worry about it because in just about any other
context, the nationalism of the oppressed was progressive, given what it was
directed against, the capitalists or capitalist influence in the class, etc.


BUT NOT WITHIN THE REVOLUTIONARY PARTY. THERE IT WAS REACTIONARY, because it
would have undermined the indivisible unity and iron discipline and all the
rest of the pseudo-Leninist cult-of-organization crap used to defend
patriarchy and white supremacy as well as age and class privilege in
"revolutionary" organizations. 

Ooops. Did I say that? I probably meant to say, "to defend the continuity of
the revolutionary marxist program." 

*  *  *

And speaking of me and my sins, I don't want to go back and read exactly
every word I said, but EVEN THOUGH I recognize and agree that, relatively
speaking, the Stalin pamphlet represented REAL PROGRESS from, for example,
the way the stuff with the Bund worked out 10 years before, I do believe the
1913 pamphlet gives concessions to great nation chauvinism and they cluster
around this idea of rendering the national question as harmless as possible,
pushing it aside, making it irrelevant. THAT is the POLITICAL LINE of 1913.
I think the precise Marxist category that corresponds to it is "crap." 

I agree, completely, that it is a step forward from the "who do these yids
think they are" approach at the time of the Bund controversy at the 2nd
Congress,  because now the (Great) Russian Social Democratic Labor Party
began to actually single out, highlight, underscore and emphasize the need
to oppose pogroms, rather than replicate them politically.

But if perhaps they'd been more TOLERANT and SENSITIVE in 1903, the in
reality BACKWARD position of 1913 would not have to be seen as such an
ADVANCE.

Because, if truth be told, Engels and Marx actually GOT IT.

They said that Irish workers IN ENGLAND had a RIGHT to their OWN
organization and not just that, but a DUTY as "Irishmen" to say their number
one priority was liberation --not of the working class, but of Ireland. That
it was their INTERNATIONALIST CLASS DUTY to be NATIONALIST. 

And when ENGLISH "workers leaders" started complaining in the First
International about these uppity IRISH wanting their OWN council, Engels
reamed them a new asshole. He told them, fine, GO PUT YOUR ENGLISH ASSES
under an IRISH leadership in Dublin for a while, and THEN we can talk about
what wreckers and splitters the IRISH are for refusing to accept the ENGLISH
as their representatives in London.

But when the Bundists said, in effect, we don't trust you Russian bastards
--even if you ARE workers-- to treat us Yids right, did Lenin say, quite
right, and that's why you guys get to be on the party council, central
commitee and editorial board? That must have been the part of the secret
Leninist Party sauce in "What is to be Done" that I've been so blind to. He
forced a split. He told the Yids, subordinate yourself to the RUSSIAN
majority. And I think the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks were united on that one.
They weren't sure who could be a member, but if you were Jewish, they were
sure that to be a member you had to kiss Great Russian ass. 

And the comrades of the Bund told them to go fuck themselves. And I say
RIGHT ON to the brothers and sisters of the Bund. 

It was the revolutionary internationalist duty of the Russian Majority and
most of all of the Majorityites to grant each and every single concession
wanted by the Bund, plus a couple of more. Because the Great Russians were
lynching the Jews. Yes they were. Just like white folks were lynching Black
folks here in the South at the same time. 

And the struggle against "Bundism" and "Bundist cliquism" WAS, VERY MUCH, a
part of my life in the SWP. 

The WHITE leadership --and in this case it WAS a "white" leadership, it was
WHITE FOLKS exercising WHITE PRIVILEGE against people of color-- in my
experience acted directly and repeatedly to PREVENT and BREAK UP anything
that could conceivably be even the tiniest motion towards the
self-organization of Latinos or Blacks or people of color WITHIN the SWP.

Whereas their revolutionary duty as comrades who happened to be Anglos
instead was to promote and facilitate in every possible way such
self-organization.

I'm going to say what I really think that I've bit my tongue about a
thousand times on this list and not said, and which is the actual subtext of
the extreme formulations about "Stalin" and "1913" and all that: the SWP was
--and remains-- a RACIST and WHITE SUPREMACIST organization. 

Just two examples. 

In the fall of 1971, a whole bunch of us kids (I had just turned 20) were
sent to Berekeley to basically swamp the Proletarian Orientation Tendency
opposition with a bunch of "right wing majorityite Barnesite handraisers" as
the winged phrase of the minority comrades had it.

And one of the things that happened is that a number of the young Blacks,
Latinos and Asians in the Berkeley YSA wound up getting a house together, in
Oakland. It was Ken M (who was Black) and his white anglo companion Nancy
M., Raúl G. who was Chicano and Kathy P., who was Asian, and myself, Jose P.
(a.k.a. "Hassan the Assassin" in the Barnesite majority underground
factional steering committee not only because I look "Moorish," but because
I was notoriously ungentle in debates) and Kimi N., who I was living with,
who was also Asian. And when we realized, we called it the "Third World"
House. 

Well, it was a HUGE problem. 

We just thought we were getting a place to live, and without even thinking
about it, unconsciously, because at first we hadn't set out to do this,
every single non-white member of the Berkeley YSA, I believe, was living at
that house (as was traitor-to-the-white-race Nancy M who was shacked up with
Ken even though she was white. And don't object that no one in the YSA or
SWP would have called Nancy a traitor to the white race, because it was
completely unnecessary. That WAS the society we lived in).

So "the leadership" -- the real one, the WHITE comrades -- must have had an
informal consultation or something. Because Ken and Raul were on the YSA
exec, I believe, and if it had come up there I think I would have heard and
I would've remembered. 

So some self-appointed section of the WHITE leadership of the Berkeley YSA
discussed it and then the top leading comrades explained to us what was
wrong with our living arrangements. It was Bundism. 

A terrible, terrible sin against Leninism. Resulting, roughly, from being
confused that although the nationalism of the oppressed was PROGRESSIVE
against the ruling class, and even in the broader working class to combat
ruling class influences, and of course in the antiwar and every other
movement, here in the proletarian movement it was reactionary because
nationalism --teach, brother Stalin!-- was always and essentially,
inevitably bourgeois. 

OUR "third worldism" --completely instinctive and unconscious-- was dividing
the working class vanguard.

And the comrades urged us to read Lenin on Bundism, and Stalin on Marxism
and the National Question, with all the requisite explanations that Stalin
wasn't "Stalin," this was before, and that Lenin practically wrote the thing
himself.

And that is quite right, because the origins of a lot of the CHAUVINIST CRAP
in the 1913 pamphlet, and MOST ESPECIALLY the definition of nation comes
from what I will charitably describe as Lenin's mistaken campaign against
the Bund so I don't call it an antisemitic political pogrom and get in a
shitload of trouble. 

Consider:

"But the Bund’s third argument, which invokes the idea of a Jewish nation,
is undoubtedly of the nature of a principle. Unfortunately, however, this
Zionist idea is absolutely false and essentially reactionary. “The Jews have
ceased to be a nation, for a nation without a territory is unthinkable,"
says one of the most prominent of Marxist theoreticians, Karl Kautsky (see
No. 42 of Iskra and the separate reprint from it The Kishinev Massacre and
the Jewish Question, p. 3). And quite recently, examining the problem of
nationalities in Austria, the same writer endeavoured to give a scientific
definition of the concept nationality and established two principal criteria
of a nationality: language and territory (Neue Zeit,[7] 1903, No. 2)."

Get it? Self determination for everyone, except the Yids. You ain't a
nation, no self-determination for JEW, I mean YOU! And then Lenin has the
unmitigated gall to complain that the aspiration of the Jewish people for
THEIR OWN state, to be rid of pogroms and the pale of settlement and all the
rest of it, is ... Zionism! ZIONISM!!!

Of COURSE it was. It was just like Garvey's back-to-Africa movement.

Because, what were all the other good choices that COMRADE Lenin and that
GOOD GERMAN Kautsky left them? If even Lenin, who was redder than a
firetruck, wasn't about to let those disgusting Yids have a nation, you
think they could turn to Luxemburg? She didn't even want a nation for HER
OWN people. Bernstein? He wanted everyone to have a nation -- the GERMAN
nation. Bismarck? Her Britannic Majesty's Government? The Tsar?

If truth be told, this was a monster, CATASTROPHIC world-historic mistake by
perhaps the greatest revolutionary politician of all times. 

And THIS was the CONCRETE position on the "national question" that the
Bolsheviks were evolving "from" in 1913: NO SELF DETERMINATION FOR JEW.

So, yes, I agree completely with Fred, and self-criticize both myself and my
alter ego for failing to recognize what a big step forward it was that this
time, they left the political pogrom out of the party program.

But we were talking about the SWP, USA weren't we? So another example of the
struggle against Bundism. When I joined the YSA in 1970, there were very few
Latinos in the party or YSA, a dozen or less, my guess. But actually, a few
years later, there were several dozen and it is an interesting thing,
because in the early to mid-70's, the "movement" didn't grow nearly as
rapidly as it did in 1968-1971, but my impression is that the proportion of
Blacks and especially Latinos was steadily increasing. 

So I don't know who --but I want to say it was Pedro V. from Houston-- came
up with the idea at one "Oberlin" (the yearly national gathering that
brought together 1,000-1,500 SWP and YSA members for a week of politics
during the day, sex drugs and rock and roll at night, provided your drug of
choice was alcohol because the SWP countenanced no others) to have a Latino
party.

Now, this wasn't a Latino-only party. Anyone and everyone could come. But,
yes, there would be Latino music and it was actually meant to promote Latino
comrades getting together and bonding and all that. 

HUGE PROBLEM. UNMITIGATED CATASTROPHE. CAPITALIST RESTORATION.

BONDING my ass, it was -- BUNDISM!!! 

Why you woulda thought the next thing that could happen is we'd get into
tanks and start gunning down Palestinian children, or something. It was that
bad.

Olga Rod. and me got talked to --the truth is we were the "house negroes"
among the Latinos in the party, I mean the revolutionary party, of course,
not the Latino one-- and we explained to the other comrades WHY IT WAS
WRONG. And *I* told the comrades, look, you gotta read Lenin on the Bund and
... you guessed it. Yeah there were some extreme formulations but that
wasn't Stalin the Stalinist that was Stalin the Bolshevik and like the man
said, all nationalism is bourgeois. OUTSIDE it is progressive, because
imperialism is MORE reactionary but not INSIDE the revolutionary party. 

And we squashed the party, meaning, or so we thought, the Latino one.

So let me thank Fred again, because when I said that the Stalin pamphlet
lived on because it expressed great nation privilege and so on, really, THIS
is what I had in mind, the role it played in enforcing national oppression
and white supremacy within the YSA and SWP, and not really anything in
Russia, where I agree the 1913 position was better, even though I still
think it was crap.

Joaquín





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