[Marxism] A lesson from old history

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Wed Jan 11 11:14:07 MST 2006

rr wrote in reply to CB:

> Ah, but they, Lenin and the "redirected" Bolsheviks did  have such a
> slogan for expropriating the expropriators, if not immediately, at least
> ultimately, and right after April.  That slogan was "All Power to the
> Soviets"
> rr


>> But I can see somebody from the debate here putting Lenin and the
> Bolsheviks
>> in the same category as Morales for not having a slogan about
> expropriating
>> the expropriators and gas immediately.
>> CB
Is this what lies at the heart of the discussion around Bolivia? Let me ask
you (rr) directly:

Is it your position that the Morales government should immediately and
publicly declare its intent to replace the National Congress with a new
parliament of workers' and peasants' deputies, from which the
disenfranchised Bolivian bourgeoisie would be excluded?

It's not clear to me, although that's what I'm inferring from your comment
above. It also seems to underlie the long discussion about Bolivia which has
now reached into the more ethereal realm of the meaning of the theory of
permanent revolution.

On the other hand, if your comment simply expresses the hope that some
Bolivian variant of soviet democracy will "ultimately" emerge to replace the
bourgeois-democratic system - but you agree that it would be "adventurist"
for the new Morales government to declare this as its objective now - than
what CONCRETELY are the differences separating you from NG, JB, and others,
apart from how suspicious to be of the new government and of self-described
"national" movements? What slogans do you think Morales and the MAS should
be raising that others on the list would disapprove of? What should he
declare on taking office this month?

There's no question that calling for the replacement of the Bolivian
National Congress by a government based on workers' assemblies - which is
embodied in the slogan "All Power to the Soviets" - would be a revolutionary
act, far transcending the issues of resource nationalization and indigenous
rights which are now at the forefront of Bolivian politics. You question
whether anything short of a workers government can undertake these latter
tasks. But while bourgeois-democratic parliaments, to be sure, will normally
fight economic expropriations, they have for generations and when necessary
presided over the nationalization of resources and other key sectors and
made other compromises in order to preserve class rule. The call for all
power to a popular assembly - "immediately or "ultimately" - is an
unambiguous call for a workers state and an end to bourgeois class rule,
which they will fight to the end.

Has the struggle in Bolivia reached this stage? Demands, slogans, and
programs have to correspond to circumstances. The Bolsheviks issued the call
for a workers and peasants republic in specific circumstances - a
disintegrating and mutinous army, an inter-imperialist war tying down the
great powers, spontaneous and widespread land seizures and formation of
urban soviets, and a not unreasonable expectation that it would trigger
social revolutions elsewhere in the advanced capitalist countries.

But while there is wide and deep discontent, there is nowhere near the same
level of social upheaval in Latin America. How, for example, would the
demand to abolish the National Congress play in Santa Cruz and within the
Bolivian armed forces? In Washington and Brussels? Brasilia and Buenos
Aires? Or, for that matter in Caracas and Havana and within the MAS itself,
among the majority of voters who supported Morales? To ask the question is
effectively to answer it.

In fact, I asked substantially the same thing recently about the weight to
give to the relationship of forces
without receiving much of an answer, except from NG, who I already knew from
his posts paid careful attention to these matters. But the question was
really addressed to yourself and others sympathetic to your views who see
the hesitations of Morales and other mass leaders as rooted primarily in
defective political understanding or political will rather than a rational
calculation of the objective possibilities.

You and others are right to warn about the Chilean experience and illusions
in an electoral road to socialism. But the issue of how far and how fast
movements can advance is a complex one, which is determined by material
factors other than theory, where the outcome of misreading and bad timing
can be equally catastrophic for a Bela Kun as well as an Allende. It's not
only "reformists" wanting to stop the forward motion of mass movements who
point out the obstacles, for which the doctrinal differences between Lenin
and Trotsky in Russia c.1905-1917  are unfortunately not a sufficient guide
as to what these obstacles are in Bolivia at the present time, or how they
can be overcome.

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