[Marxism] Awesome Proletarian Positions

Mark Lause markalause at gmail.com
Fri Apr 5 15:47:00 MDT 2013

Trotskyists fetishized the prolier than thou approach, but it was an
already tried and true practice in the movement by then.  Professor Deleon
maintained the revolutionary proletarian purity of the Socialist Labor
Party by pushing out all of those worker sell-outs to what became the
Socialist Party.  And, in the First International, violinmaster Sorge had
done the same.

There were already precedents for it then . . . usually done for nefarious

In our day, we've also seen this approach racialized and gendered.  All the
palefaced tub-thumpers denouncing critics of Obama for being racially
insensitive.  Screeching about the Republican war on women is a variation
on the old theme.'



On Fri, Apr 5, 2013 at 2:13 PM, <turbulo at aol.com> wrote:

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> I agree that accusing anyone with a different opinion of representing
> "alien class influences" is a favorite technique of Trotskyist sect
> leaders for
> maintaining organizational control. But I don't think the 1940 fight was
> exactly
> a prototype for this. In fact, Lous's account (below) isn't quite accurate.
> There was in fact some basis for thinking that Burnham/Shachtman headed a
> petty bourgeois
> opposition.
> The American Trotskyist movement differed from others in that it was the
> only one headed by
> a a workers' leader, as opposed to petty bourgeois intellectuals. James
> Cannon went back to the IWW,
> and was a seasoned party politician as well.
> In the late 30s, American Trotskyists executed a maneuver called the
> "French turn".
> They entered the Socialist Party to recruit among its leftward-moving
> youth, and succeeded
> fairly well. Most of these new recruits were "City College boys"--
> students at City College of NY. They were overwhelmingly
> Jewish, and many were not exactly working class, but the children of small
> business people in New York.
> They formed a distinct--and somewhat insular--milieu, with all the usual
> conceits of bright young intellectuals.
> Shachtman and Abern may have been of working class background, but they
> became the spokesmenof this
> milieu within the SWP. Cannon, on the other hand, was not nearly as
> impressed by the new recruits, or as
> sensitive to their needs.
> Beginning in late 1939, Burnham and Shachtman began to attack the party's
> position of unconditional defense of the Soviet Union. They did not, as
> Louis
> seems to think, say that it was no longer a workers' state. (They didn't
> say that until after
> the split.) They only said that the future position of the party should be
> determined by the
> "course of the war". Throughout the fight, the minority could not
> articulate a coherent reason for
> wanting to abandon Soviet defensism, but that made them no less adamant.
> Finally, Trotsky,
> in an attempt to give the debate some coherence, suggested that a possible
> basis for their position
> might be a recently published book,"The Bureaucratization of the World" by
> Bruno Rizzi. Rizzi was one of the first to argue
> that capitalist classes the world over were being replaced by a new
> managerial class--a position that
> Burnham ultimately adopted, but not in 1940.
> It was the failure of the minority to state the basis for their views that
> led Trotsky to probe for the
> underlying social-psychological basis of their position. His ultimate
> conclusion that Burnham-Shachtman spoke for
> a petty bourgeois opposition was not that workers opposed war and petty
> bourgeois favored it. It was rather based on what Trorsky
>  saw as their nervousness and tendency to play with ideas--things
> he thought to be petty bourgeois characteristics. He thought workers were
> steadier and a good deal more
> reluctant to jettison long-held positions without firm reasons. As anyone
> who reads "In Defense of Marxism" will discover, this sociological
> characterization was not mainly directed
> at James Burnham, but at Shachtman and "City college kids", whom Trosky
> saw as comprising an inward-looking student-intellectual
> Jewish cohort, which was isolated from the working class. This
> characterization, IMO, was not  wide of the mark.
> Nor were the real reasons for the minority's dissent difficult to fathom.
> What probably freaked them out more than anything else
> was the Stalin-Hitler pact that had been signed shortly before the fight
> broke out. But was this a sufficient basis for questioning
> the party's theoretical appraisal of the USSR?. And were they not reacting
> more as Jews and petty bourgeois Democarats
> than as Marxists?  They were, at any rate, encouraged by Cannon and
> Trotsky to stay in the party as long as possible. The decision to
> split was theirs.
> Jim Creegan
> Another key element of Trotskyist sectarianism is its tendency to turn
> every serious political fight into a conflict between worker and
> petty-bourgeoisie. Every challenge to party orthodoxy, unless the party
> leader himself mounts it, represents the influence of alien class
> influences into the proletarian vanguard. Every Trotskyist party in
> history has suffered from this crude sociological reductionism, but the
> American Trotskyists were the unchallenged masters of it.
> Soon after the split from the SP and the formation of the Socialist
> Workers Party, a fight broke out in the party over the character of the
> Soviet Union. Max Shachtman, Martin Abern and James Burnham led one
> faction based primarily in New York. It stated that the Soviet Union was
> no longer a worker's state and it saw the economic system there as being
> in no way superior to capitalism. This opposition also seemed to be less
> willing to oppose US entry into WWII than the Cannon group, which stood
> on Zimmerwald "defeatist" orthodoxy.
> Shachtman and Abern were full-time party workers with backgrounds
> similar to Cannon's. Burnham was a horse of a different color. He was an
> NYU philosophy professor who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
> He reputedly would show up at party meetings in top hat and tails, since
> he was often on the way to the opera.
> Burnham became the paradigm of the whole opposition, despite the fact
> that Shachtman and Abern's family backgrounds were identical to
> Cannon's. Cannon and Trotsky tarred the whole opposition with the petty-
> bourgeois brush. They stated that the workers would resist war while the
> petty-bourgeois would welcome it. It was the immense pressure of the
> petty-bourgeois intelligentsia outside the SWP that served as a source
> for these alien class influences. Burnham was the "Typhoid Mary" of
> these petty-bourgeois germs.
> However, it is simply wrong to set up a dichotomy between some kind of
> intrinsically proletarian opposition to imperialist war and
> petty-bourgeois acceptance of it. The workers have shown themselves just
> as capable of bending to imperialist war propaganda as events
> surrounding the Gulf War show. The primarily petty-bourgeois based
> antiwar movement helped the Vietnamese achieve victory. It was not coal
> miners or steel workers who provided the shock-troops for the Central
> America solidarity movement of the 1980's. It was lawyers, doctors,
> computer programmers, Maryknoll nuns, and aspiring circus clowns like
> the martyred Ben Linder who did. Furthermore, it would be interesting to
> do a rigorous class analysis of the Shachtman-Burnham-Abern opposition.
> Most of its rank- and-file members were probably Jewish working-class
> people who more than anybody would be susceptible to pro-war sentiment
> during this period. When the Nazis were repressing Jews throughout
> Europe, it's no surprise that American Jews would end up supporting US
> participation in WWII.
> With Trotsky's help, Cannon defeated the opposition. Burnham shifted to
> the right almost immediately and eventually became a columnist with
> William F. Buckley's "National Review". Shachtman remained a socialist
> until his final years, but like Lovestone who preceded him, eventually
> embraced a right-wing version of socialism that was largely
> indistinguishable from cold-war liberalism. Unreconstructed Trotskyists
> might point to the trajectory of Shachtman and Burnham and crow
> triumphantly, "See it was destined to happen! The middle-class will
> always betray socialism."
> full:
> http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/organization/lenin_in_context.htm
> ------------------------------
> Message: 5
> Date: Wed, 3 Apr 2013 14:57:27 -0500
> From: Tristan Sloughter <tristan.sloughter at gmail.com>
> To: Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition
>         <marxism at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu>
> Subject: Re: [Marxism] Thoughts on Harper?s Magazine and intellectual
>         property
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