[Marxism] Awesome Proletarian Positions

Richard Fidler rfidler_8 at sympatico.ca
Fri Apr 5 17:15:59 MDT 2013

Except that you based your whole position on "proletarian" vs.
"petty-bourgeois" positions on that debate. So, when called on it, you
change the subject....

"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."

-----Original Message-----
From: marxism-bounces+rfidler_8=sympatico.ca at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu
[mailto:marxism-bounces+rfidler_8=sympatico.ca at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu
] On Behalf Of Louis Proyect
Sent: April-05-13 7:04 PM
To: rfidler_8 at sympatico.ca
Subject: Re: [Marxism] Awesome Proletarian Positions

Rule #1: YOU MUST clip all extraneous text when replying to a message.

On 4/5/13 6:50 PM, Richard Fidler wrote:
> Actually, iit makes perfect sense to anyone who has read the documents 
> in the debate between Trotsky and Burnham-Schachtman. Creegan tells it 
> correctly. You don't, Louis.

Except that I was not really addressing the debate.

Instead I was addressing the epithet "petty bourgeois" that gets tossed
around in the Trotskyist movement in the same way that sinner is used in the
Catholic church. It is a way to stigmatize your opponent and make it easier
to steamroll over them in a debate.

For example, in 1976 (or possibly 1977) I came to the conclusion that when
Frank Lovell told an audience at Oberlin that we were in the midst of the
deepest and broadest working class radicalization of the 20th century that
he had gone off his rocker.

If I had the courage of my convictions, I would have challenged him then and
there and followed up with a resolution to the next convention warning the
party that it was deluding itself.

But how could I? Frank was a life-long worker and I was a computer
programmer, a trade seen by people like Jack Barnes as tantamount to owning
a jewelry store or an asparagus ranch. Who would want to be labeled a new
Max Shachtman or James Burnham.

Of course, Frank Lovell himself was a philosophy major at Berkeley in the
1930s and probably the son of a shopkeeper like me but it didn't matter. He
had gone through a "transformation" just like the party was about to
undergo. All of our petty-bourgeois youth would be proletarianized.

As it turned out, after discovering that Lovell's pie-in-the-sky analysis
was bogus, just about 90 percent of them dropped out.

So what's the point? We have to stop using terms like "petty bourgeois
opposition". It is a sick way of conducting politics that has its roots in
the early Comintern. Trotsky used this weapon against Shachtman and it has
been used ever since to facilitate purges and splits that leave small
propaganda grouups smaller. There must be another way.

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