[Marxism] Fwd: What can we learn from the Russian Revolution? A reply to Jacobin | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Dec 20 11:57:43 MST 2017

In this the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, you can now 
read about how the Bolsheviks prepared the way for Stalin in Dissent and 
Jacobin, the flagship publications of rightwing and leftwing social 
democracy respectively. Eerily enough, they sound like they could have 
been written by Karl Kautsky if he were alive today.

In Dissent, you can read Mitchell Cohen’s “What Lenin’s Critics Got 
Right” that is mostly a defense of Julius Martov, the Menshevik leader. 
Its curdled prose is steeped in historical minutiae that could be of 
less interest to young radicals trying to figure out a strategy for 
overthrowing the capitalist system. Besides trying to bury the October 
Revolution for the millionth time since 1917, Cohen makes a laughable 
attempt at debunking Marx whose critique of “social democracy” in the 
18th Brumaire supposedly gave far too much authority to the working 
class as a universalizing revolutionary agency.

Reading this, I scratched my head and wondered what the hell he was 
talking about since the Second International was formed a full 37 years 
later after the 18th Brumaire was written. What “social democracy” was 
Marx referring to? That was news to me.

It turns out he was referring to a party best known as the Mountain 
(Montagne) that had both small proprietors and working class members 
just like the Democratic Party in the USA but hardly resembling the 
party led by Karl Kautsky. It was instead led by one Alexandre 
Ledru-Rollin, who backed Louis Bonaparte’s 1851 coup. So much for 
“democracy”. As for the “socialism” part, the Mountain opposed the June 
Days uprising in 1848 that was triggered by the Second Republic’s 
decision to shut down the National Workshops, a measure enacted to 
create jobs for the unemployed. The National Guard was called out to 
suppress the uprising, leaving 10,000 dead workers in its wake and 
another 4,000 deported to Algeria. Why am I not surprised that Mitchell 
Cohen defends the Mountain against Karl Marx who had these pithy words 
for the counter-revolutionary party: “a nightmare on the brains of the 

In 2003, Cohen wrote that “Unless there is a coup, force will eventually 
be needed to defang Saddam’s regime. The only real questions are when, 
how much force, and what aftermath.” So that’s Dissent Magazine’s 
co-editor for you.


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