[Marxism] Marxist critique of Leninism

Daniel Koechlin d.koechlin at wanadoo.fr
Wed Jan 30 13:58:44 MST 2013

OK, counter-insurgency and repression is not the same as torture. I 
undersatnd your argument  (I don't entirely agree though) : the Cheka 
eradicated counter-revolutionary threats by arresting people and often 
shooting them, but did not (this is your claim) torture suspects into 
giving names.

While I doubt this version of events, I have not presented any evidence 
that torture was used by the Cheka during their counter-insurgency 
operations. Again, I do not have enough time on my hands to delve into 
the history of the Red Terror.

As an unbiased student of history, it seemed to me obvious that when 
great social upheavals were going on, the ordinary agents (Cheka and 
CP-controlled militias in this case) had to use torture to gather 
information from counter-revolutionary priests, shopkeepers, Tsarist 
officers and former aristocrats.

Of course, it is extremely important to recognize that each historical 
period has its own internal "dynamic". This is basic Marxism. Comparing 
the Cheka to the present-day CIA is NOT AT ALL useful, nor is comparing 
past and present definitions of "torture". My argument was not therefore 
about equating Bush with Trotsky. It was a more profound attempt at 
exploring issues of revolutionary violence and the role played by the 
state. We are not non-violent Gandhians and we recognize the material 
factors of physical violence in class domination.

However, it is still my contention that the Bolshevik party model is 
less well-equiped than other forms of Socialist organisation to guard 
against the danger of a military force becoming the backbone of a 
revolution instead of the people. Before the Russian revolution, most 
Marxists (Luxemburg, Pannenkoek and even Trotsky) thought of Lenin as a 
righ-wing deviationist who was too enamoured with the absolutist power 
of the state apparatus. During the revolution, Lenin made a U-turn and 
"What is to be done?" is quite "Libertarian" in some aspects. There was 
a good deal of internal democracy within the Bolshevik party. But once 
the Tsarist regime had been abolished, Lenin and Trotsky, IMHO, clearly 
moved towards "statist" socialism. At first, this was due to the 
necessity of winning the civil war, but it rapidly took on a character 
reminiscent of Tsar Peter the Great's reforms. During his reign Peter 
the Great completely transformed Russia through a long stream of 
measures that inculded : erecting a new capital, adopting Western 
usages, mass production of firearms, military conscription, transforming 
the aristocracy into a corps of civil servants, making the Tsar the head 
of the Orthodox church, colonizing new land with millions of peasants, 
reforming the land tenure system, etc. The Bolsheviks departed from the 
original rallying cry of "All power to the soviets" to all power to the 
Bolshevik party. This was recognized and criticized with increasing 
vehemence during the early 20s which saw the final abandonment of the 
council (soviet) form of government in favour of a bureaucratic form of 
government. Internal democracy within the Bolshevik party broke down 
after Kronstadt, indicating that the government was weary of any 
criticism, however supportive of the cause of socialism.

Now if you are an admirer or statist socialism (say a Stalinist or a 
Maoist), you will consider the class make-up of a nation in which a 
backward peasantry dominates as warranting strong intervention to get 
rid of the parasitic land-owning class and create an industrial base. 
This type of forceful industrialization goes against a good deal of what 
Marx said, and ends up in pure Nationalism and Jingoism, with a small 
clique using patriotic sentiment and a loyal party to remain in power.

Trotsky however was ousted by Stalin and developed a critique of 
Bureaucracy that means Trotskyists, on some issues, are close to 
Left/Council Communists. They tend to encourage debate within the party, 
what is known as "democratic centralism".

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