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Defeat for SP in ’07, but where is the internal debate? August 12, 2007

Posted by franklittle in Irish Election 2007, Irish Labour Party, Irish Politics, Labour Party, Marxism, Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin, Socialist Party, The Left.
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It has been a bad year for Trotsky’s representatives in Ireland, the Socialist Party.

In the North hopes that water charges were going to be introduced, allowing the SP through it’s dominance of the We Won’t Pay Campaign to take a lead on the issue, were dashed when the new Assembly suspended the Charges. The issue is not dead by any means, and the introduction of water charges is still a strong possibility, but the opportunity that was there for the SP to take on a position of being a serious player in Northern politics through the non-payment campaign has disappeared, at least temporarily.

The Assembly elections were equally disappointing. The party’s two candidates each polled less than 250 votes with Thomas Black coming 13th out of 15 candidates in East Belfast and James Barbour 13th out of 18 in South Belfast. The SP’s explanation for this is that they were too busy working to build the mass non-payment campaign to take seriously such minor matters as Assembly elections. It is an explanation that lacks any real credibility.

The SP had undoubtedly done more to build the campaign of opposition to water charges than any other party yet in an election where the charges were one of the biggest issues, their two long-standing candidates failed to register anything more than a ‘friends and family’ vote. The use of non-payment campaigns like this to raise the profile of election candidates was standard SP practice for Higgins and Daly in their respective Dáil constituencies and for Mick Barry and Mick Murphy in the Locals. With the election of Brian Wilson as the first Green MLA, Anna Lo as the first from an ethnic minority background and Kieran Deeny retaining his seat in West Tyrone on a hospital services ticket there are tiny green shoots of an alternative politics to the unionist and nationalist blocs. It is one that seems to have no room for Peter Hadden.

But all of this was secondary to the disaster that was the party’s performance in the 2007 Elections. Like most observers I expected to see Higgins retain his seat with relative ease though I did suspect he might drop a few votes to a growing Sinn Féin organisation in the constituency. Though he dropped votes, it was certainly not to the pretty poor Sinn Féin performance. Again, like most, I expected to see Daly take a seat in Dublin North and so did she by all accounts. Yet even if the constituency had been a five seater, it simply wasn’t on the cards.

What is interesting to me is the reaction of the SP to this compared to Labour and Sinn Féin, both of whom had poor enough elections. Senior members of the Labour party have gone public with their criticism of the party’s strategy. There seems at events like the Tom Johnson Summer School to be an effort to try and identify what went wrong. The deal with Sinn Féin, which covers more than Seanad nominations but also a deal in the Dáil the details of which have not been made public, suggest a re-orientation of Labour, however embryonic it is in form.

Sinn Féin threw the pages of the party paper open to criticism, sometimes quite aggressive in nature, of the party’s leadership and announced a complete review of the party’s election strategy consisting of meetings around the country. According to reports that appeared in Phoenix and that I have heard myself, these meetings have been extremely critical of the party leadership and at times quite heated and the review process is not yet complete.

The Socialist Party on the other hand, seems to have decided that the reason for the party’s poor election in 2007 is simple. It was everybody else’s fault. Presumably there is no reason for an internal debate when Kevin O’Loughlin has explained the party line on what went wrong as he did in an article published on their site on the 29th of May. The failures of the ‘official opposition’ and the trade union movement are blamed for people choosing Fianna Fáil. The lack of a ‘better mood and general combativity by the working class’ prevented seats in Dublin West and Dublin North.

Equally interesting, was O’Loughlin’s forthright statement that ‘the Socialist Party stood by its principles and politically and organisationally did everything in its power to withstand the shifts in opinion’. In other words, if something went wrong, it certainly was not our fault and therefore criticism of the party leadership or strategy, should it even exist, a red herring.

There is, in fairness, justification for one of their complaints. Had Dublin West been properly represented as a four seater, Joe Higgins would have retained his seat. But concentrating on this and claiming, as O’Loughlin does, that the strength of the party in Dublin North insulated them from the damage done by the ‘Alliance for Change’ ignores a steep decline in Higgins’ vote from 21.48% to 14.91%. Daly’s vote went from 12.52% to 8.92%. Some insulation. Only in Cork North Central and Dublin South West were they votes up, albeit marginally, on 2002. Either way, the best the SP can hope for in 2009 is to tread water at a local election level.

Losing Higgins’ seat is a disaster for the organisation on a number of levels and there is more than a little truth in the pompous claim from O’Loughlin that it is a disaster for the working class. Higgins was probably the most effective and articulate left TD in the Dáil and his media profile, far in excess of what one would expect for a single TD party, was a valuable resource. He was one of the few TDs who genuinely unnerved Ahern during Leader’s Questions and seemed to have a better grasp of the use of the Dáil as a platform from which to articulate one’s views than Labour and Sinn Féin who found themselves sucked into the institution. But more even than the political or propaganda loss, which is quickly appreciated, is the financial damage done to the party.

With the loss of the seat goes the full-time salary for Higgins, the two staff he had working out of his office, the use of the office and Leinster House facilities, the money Higgins donated to the party from his wages and expense and the Leader’s Allowance, which was worth almost 70,000 Euros per annum alone. All told, the financial cost to the SP of losing the seat, including wages, must add up to over 200,000 Euros per annum. For any political party to lose a sum of that size would be damaging. For the Socialist Party, who must have become used to being able to rely on such state funding and who are a small organisation with little fundraising capacity, it has the potential to be crippling.

Members of the Socialist Party, including its incredibly aggressive ad hoc group of bloggers and internet monitors, have been putting the best face on this. Arguing, rightly, that elections are merely one aspect of their work. That they continue to campaign in the unions and communities. That Joe Higgins will return. And so on. But one of the things the SP has done well is use the resources and profile that came with Higgins’ elevation to the Dáil to support those campaigns. With other Independents and the Greens defeated or neutralised through coalition, it opens up a space for Sinn Féin to assert dominance of the radical left in Ireland, with Labour taking the more moderate space. What kind of campaign, for example, will the SP be able to mount against the EU Constitution? What kind of local or European election campaign can they run in 2009?

These are important considerations for any political party. A debate around them could be taking place within the SP but there is absolutely no sign of it and the indications from the party’s paper is that the O’Loughlin analysis of the election, putting responsibility on everyone else and failing to address the way forward for the party in the short to medium term, is the accepted truth.

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1. Wednesday - August 12, 2007

The failures of the ‘official opposition’ and the trade union movement are blamed for people choosing Fianna Fáil. The lack of a ‘better mood and general combativity by the working class’ prevented seats in Dublin West and Dublin North.

You left out “Joan Burton was going around telling people Higgins was safe so they could feel free to vote Labour”. Probably a bit of truth behind that excuse, too, although it’s hardly an unfamiliar tactic in Trot circles.

BTW, one of his former staff members is still in Leinster House. She’s not working for the SP though 🙂

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2. WorldbyStorm - August 12, 2007

For my tuppence ha’penny worth I have enormous respect, and indeed affection, for JH having known him on an acquaintance basis for some years now. And I have considerable respect for the SP. But.. this is disturbing stuff. They, quite reasonably, realise they aren’t the mass party of the working class, but in realistic terms they must realise that their struggle is put back at least five years since the project to build that party objectively has to be weakened. And that’s five years to get to starting. It would take another five years or more…etc, etc. Suddenly the future looks like it’s on hold. That is probably the reason the debate has not started, and may never start, because while the joke about SF being like a shark having to perpetually keep moving forward may or may not be apt, in the case of the SP, or indeed other parties of the further left that is actually true. No forward movement and suddenly the ideological strategy begins to look a little…well suspect. I’m not suggesting that the SP has no place, it can be a great exemplar, but… this is a serious issue. I’ve also mentioned before that the example of the SP on the left was quite influential, consider PB4P. But now?

I believe that the financial issues are particularly serious as well.

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3. Mark P - August 13, 2007

The article mixes together a number of issues, not all of which are linked.

Looking first at the Socialist Party in the North, it has been primarily focused on three things for the last few years. These are the very big role it plays in the union movement there (a role wildly disproportionate to its size), the lead it has taken in preparing for water charges, and trying to recruit amongst young people. The organisation has been slowly growing from a very low starting point and really nothing much has changed beyond that. The SP in the North is brutally realistic and doesn’t expect to get significant electoral votes at the moment. Elections remain a sectarian headcount, particularly in the working class areas where the SP is active.

Now in the South, by contrast, the Socialist Party had done better over recent years and at times had a real political impact. Losing Joe’s seat by a couple of hundred votes and failing to get Claire elected is indeed a setback. But again, I keep having to point out that the SP is extremely realistic about where it actually is. It was an extraordinary accomplishment to get a revolutionary socialist elected to a national parliament, twice, in a country which was in the middle of the biggest boom any Western country has undergone in three decades or more. The Socialist Party – pretty much alone – represents Marxist politics in this country and it has done so in a period when revolutionary socialism is far from popular, without ever compromising its ideals.

The Socialist Party, coming into the election, was very clear that neither seat was “in the bag” and that things would be very close. The election campaign saw some significant national swings, a polarisation between two would-be governments, small parties being squeezed and huge resources spent by our main rivals. We were also considerably disadvantaged by boundary changes in Dublin West and by the government’s decision to leave Dublin West and Dublin North underrepresented. By far the biggest problem we faced however was the lack of real struggle in society at the moment. The Socialist Party cannot move the working class into struggle by force of will – and that’s not for want of trying, as anyone familiar with the bin tax, water tax or GAMA campaigns could tell you.

Barely losing Joe’s seat costs us media credibility, a useful platform and of course money. But it doesn’t fundamentally change our outlook or our understanding of the political situation. We’ve been saying for a long time that objective conditions are tough for the left. It’s not enjoyable to be proved right on that by the election results (and I speak here of excellent candidates like Seamas Healy and Joan Collins as well as our own ones), but having your point of view confirmed rarely acts to change it.

That doesn’t mean that there has been no debate within the party. Branch meetings and aggregates have been full of discussion, with a wide range of views expressed. Taking stock is important. But an electoral setback isn’t a defeat for our long term perspectives in the way that, say, the Labour Party’s long mach to the right was some years ago. If anything it rather reconfirms our view that there isn’t some huge opportunity for the left and that class consciousness is at a low point. Our tasks remain to assist working class combativity in the communities, to build the left in the unions and fight against partnership and to recruit and organise those who can be convinced of socialist ideas. Having a TD was useful in that, but it wasn’t central and the absence of a TD doesn’t change it.

As far as money is concerned, remember that the amount Joe contributed to the party was limited by law (most of his salary went to various campaigns, community groups etc) so while the total loss from things like party leader’s allowance is substantial it is not on the scale the article suggests. It was never the Socialist Party’s main source of income and we will adapt to the loss by encouraging members to increase subscriptions, recruiting more people and undertaking more fundraising initiatives. We could never compete with the donations from the uber-wealthy which fill the coffers of the mainstream parties, but we have always received significant financial support from working class people in the areas where we are active.

Frank also asks: “With other Independents and the Greens defeated or neutralised through coalition, it opens up a space for Sinn Féin to assert dominance of the radical left in Ireland, with Labour taking the more moderate space. What kind of campaign, for example, will the SP be able to mount against the EU Constitution? What kind of local or European election campaign can they run in 2009?”

In order:

1) Sinn Fein are not a part of the radical left and make that clearer with every passing month. They have suffered their own setbacks, particularly in urban areas, and in my view will move further to the right in response.

2) The Socialist Party will mount the same kind of campaign against the EU Constitution as we have on various other issues. We will find it harder to get media coverage, but otherwise little will change. We will oppose the constitution from a working class perspective and will do everything we can to get socialist arguments against it across.

3) Our local election campaigns will no doubt, as usual, be dependent on hard graft on the ground. I don’t know what our European election campaign will be like – last time out we did little for it beyond put out a single leaflet and stick up a few posters, so doing anything beyond that would actually be an advance.

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4. WorldbyStorm - August 13, 2007

While MarkP, you make some good points, one could ask though, in respect of one of your last three points a) why do you consider that SF not part of a radical left – most would consider them radical (if not in terms of the leadership, at least in terms of their involvment in campaigns etc, and the lack of their being say a Marxist party doesn’t necessitate that they’re not. What good would it do SF to move further to the right? Most would suggest that it was the confused and confusing approach they had which was part and parcel of their setback.

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5. Mark P - August 13, 2007

I don’t consider Sinn Fein to be part of the radical left, because I don’t consider populism to be inherently leftist.

From my perspective SF are a populist party, which like Fianna Fail before it, tries to be all things to all men. It doesn’t base itself on class politics. It does however lust after the opportunity to get down the business of administering capitalism as junior partner to more right wing parties. Its formal programme is vaguely social democratic, but as Gerry Adams explained to the assembled capitalist class of Dublin such policies are not intended to get in the way of “pragmatic politics”.

Is Sinn Fein to the left of Fianna Fail or the Progressive Democrats? Certainly. Is that enough to make an organisation part of the radical left? I’d suggest not, at least if your politics are grounded primarily in a class analysis. Fianna Fail, in their heroic period were considerably more radical than SF are now. That didn’t make them a part of the radical left, even if CnaG ran red scare campaigns against them.

That does not mean that SF activists on the ground are all a bunch of right wingers, particularly in the urban parts of the South. There are some very genuine activists in the organisation, who socialists should seek to win over. Countess Marciewicz, for instance, was in Fianna Fail.

I can understand why some independent leftists might think of Sinn Fein, Labour or the Greens as being in some sense on the radical left. It makes the world seem a less lonely place. But these are all parties which are to the right of, say, the much reviled British SDP of the 1980s. They don’t base their analyses on class politics. They don’t fight consistently for working class people. Nothing of use can be constructed from them.

Rebuilding working class representation in this country is going to be a long, hard process.

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6. Wednesday - August 13, 2007

Mark:

The Socialist Party, coming into the election, was very clear that neither seat was “in the bag” and that things would be very close.

Just after the election, a very senior person in your party told me otherwise, at least WRT Joe’s seat.

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7. Mark P - August 13, 2007

Wednesday – Different members of the party had a range of different views on how the two constituencies would go. Some were more confident, others more pessimistic. Nobody that I’m aware of thought that either seat was a sure thing – the one thing everyone was sure of when we were canvassing Dublin West was that it was going to be close. I was very disappointed but not surprised that we lost that seat. I was more surprised that Claire wasn’t closer in fact.

I was much more surprised by the Crowe result and the Healy result to mention two other noteable constituencies. It had never occurred to me that either were anything other than safe.

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8. Wednesday - August 13, 2007

Well, the SP person I spoke to told me flat-out that they didn’t see the loss of Joe’s seat coming.

But it works the same way with us, of course. Adams thought Mary Lou was a shoo-in (he told the Times as much after the election); we in her constituency organisation never did.

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9. Mark P - August 13, 2007

Wednesday, it’s entirely possible that someone told you that. As I said people had a range of views on the subject. But I repeat, when we were out canvassing in Dublin West I never got the impression that anyone thought that the seat was a sure thing or that it would be anything other than close.

On the McDonald issue, I can’t really criticise Adams on this at least because I also thought it was a certainty.

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10. franklittle - August 13, 2007

Some interesting points from MarkP and the responses to it. I’d like to follow up on a couple.

I can understand why from an SP point of view Sinn Féin is not part of the ‘radical left’, even the left at all according to some. It is a position I disagree with and I actually see the party shifting more to the left than to the right in the aftermath of the election. Certainly that seems to be the feeling about what should take place within the membership as far as I can tell. But accepting your perception of where Sinn Féin is would you accept that in general it is seen as a radical left party by the media and political establishment? By positioning itself as the only opposition to the EU Constitution, it will serve to buttress this position. I’m not asking you to accept that Sinn Féin is a radical left party because that’s not your point of view, merely that the media sees it as such.

Secondly, and I hope this doesn’t come across as patronising, but I’m glad to hear there is substantial debate going on within the SP about what happened. I do continue to pick up an attitude though that this was all about objective conditions for struggle/boundary changes and little the SP could have done. My personal experience of SP activists in the run up to the election mirrors Wednesday’s. Utter confidence that Joe would keep his seat and Claire would get elected and suggestions that Mick Barry shouldn’t be ruled out, which struck me as a bit mad even then.

I think there are questions for the SP when their share of the vote goes up in the constituencies where they are weaker and where People Before Profit, and I would be more critical of them than any other formation on the left, had a comparitively good election.

On the finances I do think you underplay the financial damage by not accepting that the full-time wages for three activists were central to the money coming in. If you simply restrict the financial value to the Leaders Allowance and Joe’s donation, you ignore the state funding that allowed Joe to have a salary, SP activists to work directly for him, the money the SP used to support campaigns that they can’t use anymore and the value of the office and facilities. Add the whole thing up and if it’s not a substantial chunk of the SP’s finances, youse are bringing in a lot more money than I would have imagined.

I take the point about the North, especially the SP’s role in the unions, but I find it interesting that as the ‘sectarian headcount’ continues other ‘alternatives’ are polling increased votes and electing MLAs and the SP is not. Nor has the party’s high profile role on Water Charges changed into even increased votes, let alone seats.

Finally, it’s with a bit of regret that I see the political conclusions of the election for the SP are merely to reconfirm the party’s perception of itself as the one, true, defenders of the faith. I’ve always thought the SP had substantial potential in a left alliance in Ireland, despite personal experiences that were….less than thrilling. But the arrogant dismissal of anything and everything else in the broad Irish left makes me wonder where the party will go as it tries to rebuild.

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11. Mickhall - August 13, 2007

If class consciousness is at a low ebb, then surly we on the left all share a responsibility for that, in any case I am not sure if this is completely true. If by it the writer means that WC people are not crying out for a socialist revolution, true, but when ever where they? but it seems to me the working classes and a section of the middle classes are returning to the left reformist fold. They want good state run schools, health care, pensions and infrastructure etc.

We are also seeing an ever widening gap between rich and the economically poor, which in itself should be opening up opportunities for leftists. One of the main problems for the left is that voters see little real point in voting for a host of differing and bickering left candidates. Ireland is crying out for a left wing electoral coalition or United Front. If SF, the Greens, LP left, SP, WP etc came together in a United Electoral Front they could become a power in the land and not just an appendage to FF/FG when the numbers fail to add up.

Finally in my view as far as the Trots are concerned, one should not underestimate the fact that workers find democratic centralism both counterproductive and to a degree worrying, having historically seen piles of broken egg shells, yet no omelets worth eating. That the SP still believes the working classes will sacrifice bourgeois democracy, with all its faults, for a centralized authoritarian Leninist State is infantile and until they recognize this fact the Trotskyists will remain on the margins, and rightly so.

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12. Mark P - August 13, 2007

There are quite a few different issues in your comment Frank, so you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t deal with them all.

On Sinn Fein:

I agree that the media sees Sinn Fein as left wing and even as radically left wing. They also see the Labour Party as leftist and, in a vaguer kind of way, the Greens. That tells me more about the narrow political range of Irish mainstream politics than it does about any of those parties. It is, for most journalists and all major media outlets, unthinkable that any party could question capitalist assumptions, even to the degree which an old school reformist party might have. Within the extremely tight confines of business as usual, the Labour Party are indeed on the left and Sinn Fein are arguably at the left most extreme. But I do not think that a useful left can be built on the basis of business as usual.

You argue that Sinn Fein is likely to move to the left in the wake of its electoral setbacks. Anything is possible, given that Sinn Fein is not firmly anchored to any political principle. Populist organisations can swing to the left, just as they do to the right. However, I think that the political evolution of Sinn Fein in recent years has been rightward. This has involved on a symbolic level ditching the old guff about socialism for the incoherent Ireland of Equals and the development of an ever more “realistic” economic policy. On a practical level it also reflects pressure from their first little nibbles of power in the Assembly and on various councils. What Adams delightfully called “pragmatic politics” is the music of the future for a party which seeks power with no consistently oppositional framework.

I think that this evolution will continue. Members in the South could, left to their own devices, come to the conclusion that the weakness and confusion of their supposed radicalism cost them votes or that their last bits of radical rhetoric did so. But the needs of the organisation in the North will heavily favour the second interpretation. Time will tell.

I have no disagreement with your implication that the absence of a principled socialist voice from the Dáil will benefit SF. Its all things to all people approach will be assisted by the chief force on its left suffering a setback. They were always acutely aware of and sensitive about criticism from their left. Now that criticism will be that bit quieter.

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13. Mark P - August 13, 2007

On sectarian headcounts:

It is important to note that the “new” forces making some kind of advance outside of the two communal camps are at the wooliest, most liberal end of the political spectrum. Neither the Greens nor Lo were pulling significant votes out of the working class communities which the Socialist Party is primarily working in. Nobody is, outside of the sectarian blocs. Electoral work, partly as a consequence, is a much lower priority for the Socialist Party at the moment compared to its work in arenas like the trade unions or the water tax campaign.

The water tax issue was never going to result in a major swing to anybody before the bills arrive, when every party can claim to be against the tax and when nobody has had to do the dirty work of bringing it in. That’s one of the reasons why the Socialist Party was opposed to running an offical slate of anti-water tax campaign candidates. Our candidates as part of such a slate would probably have received higher votes. But not vastly higher. And a campaign venture into elections which polled what would still in the greater scheme of things be low votes would only serve to damage the potential for a struggle. If (when) the water tax is introduced, and the mainstream parties have dropped their opposition for reasons of “pragmatic politics”, then in the course a a real struggle things may also begin to change electorally.

On finances:

I’ve been quite clear that the loss of Joe’s seat and the attendant money is a setback. It is not however insurmountable. Our organisation existed long before we had that income after all. Our core income has always been from members subs and fundraising in working class communities. It will be a stretch, but we are already coping. Joe, you will no doubt be pleased to hear, still has an income in the form of his Dáil pension by the way.

On the election:

I think it is important to emphasise the real role which objective circumstances play in every part of a party’s development and in particular in election results. The gerrymandering of Dublin West and North played a role. The huge population growth and turnover in those areas played a role as did a whole range of other things which I mentioned above. The single most important element is also the most basic – the low level of struggle in Irish society.

That’s not to say that we make no mistakes or that everything we do is perfect. But mistakes (or brilliant moves) happen in a context, which sets the parameters of the possible. This was a bad election for the left, for those interested in independent working class representation and for smaller parties generally.

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14. Mark P - August 13, 2007

On the trials of being the only true defenders of the faith:

The Socialist Party takes a long view of political trends. We situate ourselves in the Marxist tradition and more broadly within the workers movement. That movement, for us, is the foundation of the left. There have been all kinds of trends within the workers movement, from the ultra-leftist, to the reformist. And while we disagreed with those trends and argued against them they were recognisably part of a common movement.

In Ireland, not very long ago, we saw ourselves as a relatively small component of a movement which included a much more left wing Labour Party, with a huge anti-coalition faction, and the Workers Party amongst other bits and bobs. Those reformist and Stalinist organisations are now, for all intents and purposes, gone. Once we were part of a wider political milieu. Now, in a very real sense, that isn’t true any more.

When people casually speak of “the left” now, some of them mean a range of organisations which do not see themselves in class politics terms and which advocate markedly less in the way of radical reforms than Fianna Fail or the British SDP once did. We don’t feel any kinship with such organisations. They may be to the “left” of Fine Gael or Fianna Fail, although they’d be perfectly happy propping them up in government, but they are much closer to those parties than they are to us.

That doesn’t mean that we are under any illusions that the Socialist Party will be able to just go it alone. We are not going to be able to just recruit our way to a mass party. We are a very marginal organisation advocating views which are well outside the political mainstream. Just as we understand that socialists were not always this politically isolated, we don’t think that this current period of isolation will last indefinitely. As partnership comes to an end, as real social struggles take place, many more people will draw politically radical conclusions. They will not by any means all be drawn to the Socialist Party. Instead we will probably see new organisations thrown up and perhaps old ones splitting (I could see a left splinter from Sinn Fein for instance, but I think that time has long since passed for Labour).

The workers movement had political expression well beyond our tiny forces in the past and it will again in the future. There just isn’t much to speak of at the moment. Ourselves and some even smaller groups and some scattered individuals basically. I’m confident that will change.

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15. Mark P - August 13, 2007

Mick:

I refer you to my earlier points about defining the left. As for centralised, authoritarian Leninist states, I’m not at all sure that you are even familiar with the Socialist Party’s view of a socialist society. Even in its earliest stages we advocate an enormous extension of democracy and not its limitation and, by the way, we do not advocate ending any “bourgeois democratic” freedoms, beyond the freedom to exploit others.

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16. Mickhall - August 13, 2007

Mark P

Does the SP operate an internal system of democratic centralism?

Is the Dictatorship of the Proletariat a long term aim of the SP.

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17. Mark P - August 13, 2007

Mick. That depends on what you mean by each term.

We organise ourselves along the basic principle of freedom of discussion but unity in action. We do not ban minority strands of opinion from organising, nor have we ever expelled anyone for holding a different political opinion on any issue. We don’t use the term democratic centralism in our party constitution. If you are asking if we organise ourselves in the same way as the old Stalinist parties then the answer is no. If you are asking if we see our methods of organisation as being broadly consistent with Lenin’s views, then yes we do.

As far as the dictatorship of the proletariat is concerned, that’s a piece of jargon which we never use. It carries with it all the weight of Stalinist history and as a result its meaning has changed dramatically over time. Marx used it to mean simply “the rule of the working class”, as opposed to our current set up, the dictatorship of the capitalists. We are in favour of the working class taking power, but we conceptualise that as a radical extension of democracy and not as its curtailment.

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18. Mickhall - August 13, 2007

Mark

I am not being mischievous but to me it looks like you are saying yes to both questions. If not you could have replied no, we believe in taking power by parliamentary means. I am not sure if you were being light hearted when you wrote we live under a dictatorship of capitalists, if not I would suggest you either lack imagination or have little experience of dictatorships.

This is why I wrote that, at this time, the majority of working class people would not be willing to reject the current system of bourgeois democracy for what you term as workers power, not least because they understand perfectly that in reality, no matter how well intentioned it would become a Party dictatorship.

Unlike you I feel Stalinism was a logical outcome of Leninism, not inevitable but the germ was within the organizational methods of Lenin. For all his talk about revolution and the will of the masses, Lenin was quite happy to take power in what amounted to a military coup; and when things got tough he willingly reached for authoritarian administrative measures and not only to crush the enemies of socialism and the working classes. For he unleashed violence onto his political opponents, whether they be the workers opposition within his own party or the garrison at Krondstat.

Most people whether workers or not do not want power, over their own lives yes, but over other people no; and I some times think we on the left often forget this. I genuinely admire many Trotskyists and the struggle would be a shadow of itself without their involvement, but organizationally I feel you are still stuck in a time warp pre WW2 if not circa 1917. It is not an accident that despite the considerable abilities and energy many Trotskyists have brought to the labour movement world wide, you have failed to win any sizable section of WC people to your cause. Im sure the reason for this is your top down some what authoritarian and vanguardist politics.

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19. Mark P - August 13, 2007

Mick, perhaps I wasn’t clear enough.

I was trying to explain that the two terms you asked about are contested. They do not have a simple, straightforward meaning which everyone agrees on. I was trying to get past the label and look at the actual content of the ideas the words describe. They are phrases which the Socialist Party very rarely (democratic centralism) or never (dictatorship of the proletariat) uses precisely because they have a range of meanings and therefore serve more to mystify than to clarify if they are used loosely. So instead of simply accepting or rejecting the labels, I tried to describe how the Socialist Party organises and what kind of society it advocates.

Now you throw in a third related, but by no means identical question about parliament as if all these things were the same. They are not.

The Socialist Party does not think that a socialist society can be simply voted into place by parliament. We do think that a socialist society requires the support of a significant majority of people and, as is the way of things, such a majority might well result in a parliamentary majority for socialists too. But if that happens, the capitalists will not simply smile benevolently, mutter the equivalent of its a fair cop guv and sit back as their wealth, power and privileges are taken from them. We think that ultimately working class people will have to take power into their own hands and establish their own, democratic, state. That’s not a position which is synonymous with Leninism, by any means – it’s something which has been common ground for Marxists of all stripes since the days of Karl and Fred.

I am baffled by your comments about dictatorship, given that I went to some pains to point out that what Marx meant by the phrase was not at all what most people think when they hear the term dictatorship. He meant by it simply the rule of the working class, just as for him capitalist society involves the rule of the capitalist class. His use of the word dictatorship – long before the experience of Stalinism, fascism and various other dictatorships – was not intended to and could not carry the meaning it now does.

To make this as clear as possible: The Socialist Party does not want a dictatorship of any kind. It does want to see the working class take power and establish a more democratic society. Hopefully that leaves no room for confusion.

I have little interest in getting into an extended discussion with you about your less then startlingly insightful “original sin” theory of Stalinism. I can only suggest that if you were to look a little closer you might perhaps find that major historical processes aren’t as easily reduced to morality tales about Lenin being a bad man as you seem to imagine.

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20. Mickhall - August 13, 2007

I have little interest in getting into an extended discussion with you about your less then startlingly insightful “original sin” theory of Stalinism. I can only suggest that if you were to look a little closer you might perhaps find that major historical processes aren’t as easily reduced to morality tales about Lenin being a bad man as you seem to imagine.

Mark
What a disappointing chap you are, as soon as I ask the two most basic and fundamental of questions as far as 21st century Trotskyism is concerned, you with draw from the field hurt and attempt to belittle me with a silly aside about my lack of knowledge.

If you could put aside your horror at being challenged politically, you would have read that I had been attacking Lenin’s ‘organizational methodology’ and never once mentioned anything about his personality good or bad, nor did I profess any theory about Stalinism, beyond that is it did not come out of no where and the pressures of international capital, as important as they were, cannot alone explain this bastardization of socialism.

Lenin along with your own leadership insisted upon democratic centralism for one good reason, it perpetuates a leadership in continuos power, whether in Party or State or provokes a split and a trip to the gulag.[Or south London;) Your own international movement is the perfect example of this.

Then again I should not be to disappointed, for sadly you appear to believe being told what to think and do by a leadership is the most democratic political forum imaginable. Fortunately a majority of working class people think otherwise, although im sure you, like Lenin would say we lacked class consciousness and need some nice middle class people to come along and lecture us on Marxist theory.

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21. WorldbyStorm - August 13, 2007

The problem with Lenin – and by extension Leninism – is once one starts to try find some ‘democratic’ aspect to it it evaporates. That’s not in any way to suggest that the SP is undemocratic or has intentions that are less than democratic, but just that Lenins writings on democracy provide no clear evidence of how internal party democracy could function and are vague to the point of uselessness. So then the historical record, which is what is left, does not entirely inspire confidence as to how supposed alternatives to parliamentary democracy might actually work in practice (actually i’ve always felt it very telling that Marxist parties in power have felt the necessity to clothe themselves in the trappings of that democracy while hollowing out the core). And while it is absolutely true that Marx used the term dictatorship of the proletariat in a different way to that used by Lenin etc, there is sufficient implicit in the term to make one cautious about its use in any context whatsoever. To be honest I was very disappointed to discover that the SP used the model that was familiar to me from the old WP, that being democratic centralism in all but name. On one level all parties are like that, but on another its codification is troubling. That said the SP or by extension affiliated parties say through the Scottish SP demonstrated an ability to work within broader platforms that was fairly admirable and I presume that that is what franklittle is pointing towards… But it’s fair to say no one ‘owns’ the term ‘socialism’ and while it is also true that the left spectrum in this society (in particular the South) is limited that does not mean that even the mild leftism of Labour is not objectively leftwing. Incidentally, I don’t know if I entirely agree that the contemporary situation is further right than the SDP. Political contexts change radically within societies so that while the old right wing saw about left and right being superceded is rubbish it is true that left and right are less clearly defined than some imagine.

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22. Mark P - August 14, 2007

Mick, I’m entertained that your gloriously trivial version of history has been immediately followed by a burst of the kind of patronising rubbish about political organisation we might expect from a newly anarchist teenager posting to indymedia. Let me make this as clear as possible to you: I was not “horrified at being attacked politically”, I simply didn’t want to go to the effort of discussing Russian history in detail with someone recycling the dullest tropes of anti-socialist political thought and presenting them as some kind of insight. Life is short and the internet has an endless supply of foolishness after all.

You say that you were asking “the two most basic and fundamental questions” about Trotskyism. I took the time to unpick your two questions, to point out that the terminology is contested and to explain what the Socialist Party stands for. You, on the other hand, seem insistent that only a yes or no answer is good enough, as if there was no argument about what was meant by “democratic centralism” or the “dictatorship of the proletariat”.

In retrospect, I really should have stopped myself from responding again at that point, but it was worth explaining our point of view to anyone else who was reading. The Socialist Party does not go in for century old Russian jargon. As far as the content of those terms is concerned, we believe in democracy rather than dictatorship, but we do believe that the working class will have to take power and establish its own democratic state in order to create a socialist society. We do not believe in the banning of minority factions, expelling people for disagreeing with current policy or any of the things you evidently mean by “democratic centralism”, but we do believe that an organisation should combine freedom of discussion with united action. There is nothing extraordinarily complex about much of this.

If you want to discuss the rise of Stalinism, it is vital to put it into a historical context. What precisely was possible in the circumstances. The single, basic, factor, the element without which the history of the period becomes indecipherable, is the backwardness and isolation of Russia at the time of the revolution. It was a vast, impoverished, mostly illiterate society with a small (if heavily concentrated) working class. This was not where Marxists would traditionally have expected a socialist revolution to break out and it is to Trotsky’s eternal credit that he, almost alone, saw that Russia’s could in fact be what he described as the weak link in the imperialist chain. But neither he, nor any of the other Bolsheviks, thought that Russia could go it alone and become a socialist society.

The Russian revolution was only ever conceived as a starting point, a signal and beacon for a socialist transformation of society across Europe. And it did spark a wave of revolutionary movements across Europe, movements which were, with the exception of Hungary, crushed leaving Russia isolated. So you had a revolutionary state, in a crushingly poor country, without any of the techniques of modern production, with mass illiteracy, fighting a civil war against the old ruling elite and the invading armies of more than 20 states. Yet your version of history as morality tale insists that we abstract from this situation some badly digested version of Leninist organisational theory and use that to explain the problems of the revolution.

The gradual bureaucratisation of the Russian state was not the goal of the revolutionaries, nor was it some natural result of their organisational ideas. It was firstly a necessary evil brought on by desperation and then something to be fought against. The basic problem was that Russia could not construct a socialist society alone, no matter what policy it followed – it wouldn’t have mattered in that sense if the major force had been the left Social Revolutionaries, or the small bands of anarchists, or any one else. There is no such thing as socialism in one country, still less is there such a thing as socialism in one wartorn shell of a country. The only way in which the revolution could progress in Russia was for it to spread abroad and that, combined with efforts to break the power of the rising bureaucracy at home, was the programme of the Left Opposition.

The problem with arguments about Russian history however is that while we can certainly draw lessons from that period, we have to be wary of making the experience into some kind of overarching and eternal path. Never again will socialists face the problem of transforming society in a mostly illiterate, mostly peasant based country with such primitive levels of technology. Anyone who thinks that a socialist revolution in 2017 or 2036 would look much like Moscow in 1917 or Barcelona in 1936 needs their head examined, to be frank. We draw inspiration from the examples of revolutionaries before us, but we do not think that a socialist future will be created by simply replaying the tape of the past – which is why, although I’m very interested in socialist history, I prefer to discuss what the Socialist Party stands for today rather than the degree to which we identify with bits of century old jargon, ripped from their original context.

By the way, I liked your little “us workers don’t need your stinking middle class theory” riff at the end. That sort of thing always goes down well in debates on the left. It’s just a pity that the views you attribute to me and to the Socialist Party in that regard have absolutely no connection to the views we actually hold.

Your reference is, of course, to Lenin’s What is to be Done?, and in particular to the part on so-called “trade union consciousness” where, or so the legend goes, Lenin argued that the working class needed to have socialist ideas explained to them by outsiders. In fact it isn’t at all clear that this was Lenin’s view – the section in question is a quote from Kautsky, Lenin adds a footnote which undermines it and in every other part of his voluminous writings where the issue arises he is at pains to emphasise working class initiative over the role of intellectuals. Hal Draper’s “What they did to What is to be done” is a useful article on the subject.

But while Lenin’s evolution on the subject is interesting in its own way, it isn’t relevant to the Socialist Party. The Socialist Party and our predecessors rejected the idea that socialist consciousness had to be brought to the working class in the very early days of our organisation and have never at any stage argued for such a thing.

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23. Mark P - August 14, 2007

Worldbystorm:
And while it is absolutely true that Marx used the term dictatorship of the proletariat in a different way to that used by Lenin etc, there is sufficient implicit in the term to make one cautious about its use in any context whatsoever.

As I have tried to explain to Mick above, the Socialist Party does not use the term “dictatorship of the proletariat” in any context whatsoever. The term carries with it, regardless of Marx’s original intent, all the weight of Stalinism and of various other dictatorial regimes.

To be honest I was very disappointed to discover that the SP used the model that was familiar to me from the old WP, that being democratic centralism in all but name

The Socialist Party does not use the same organisational model as the Workers Party. One of the reasons we don’t use the term democratic centralism much, if at all, is that the term has been used to describe an incredibly broad range of formal structures, including in particular ones which we would completely reject.

To list just a few of the differences with the WP organisation: Minority strands of opinion are entitled to organise themselves in the Socialist Party. My understanding is that this would be regarded as a breach of the WP rules against “factionalism”. The Socialist Party has no secret branches. It has no overlapping private army holding its own caucuses. It has never expelled or taken disciplinary action against anyone for holding a different point of view (in fact the Irish organisation basically never expels anyone at all).

There are I would guess many other differences between the two organisations, but I’m not familiar enough with the internal life of the WP to compare the two in much more detail. The point is however, that because both organisations could, quite legitimately be called “democratic centralist” along with an even wider range of organisations, it is far from clear that the term actually has any real content.

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24. Mark P - August 14, 2007

Mick:

Sorry about the overly caustic tone in my reply to you. Insomnia was not doing wonders for my levels of civility. Please ignore the first paragraph and any other instances of unnecessary sharpness.

I stand by the political points however.

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25. franklittle - August 14, 2007

“It has never expelled or taken disciplinary action against anyone for holding a different point of view (in fact the Irish organisation basically never expels anyone at all).”

One can force people out of an organisation without expelling them or taking disciplinary action.

On another note, a friend of mine who was a member of Militant in the late 80s was brought in ‘for a chat’ because he sang rebel songs at a Militant function. Is this an example of political screening or simply an aversion to badly sung songs? 🙂

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26. chekov - August 14, 2007

“a burst of the kind of patronising rubbish about political organisation we might expect from a newly anarchist teenager posting to indymedia”

The idea that the organizational methodology of Leninism is overly centralised and lacks democratic content is hardly one that can be dismissed out of hand in such a patronising manner. And if you style yourselves as a party in the trotskyist tradition, which you do, you can hardly entirely dissociate yourselves from some of the important aspects of his thought. And just because interpretations are contested doesn’t mean that people can’t make up their minds and come down on one side of that contest. For example, while you may contest the meaning of a phrase like “dictatorship of the proletariat”, I, knowing exactly what context the phrase was used in, consider your position to be obviously wrong (as you probably know).

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27. Mark P - August 14, 2007

franklittle:
One can force people out of an organisation without expelling them or taking disciplinary action.

You can indeed.

On another note, a friend of mine who was a member of Militant in the late 80s was brought in ‘for a chat’ because he sang rebel songs at a Militant function. Is this an example of political screening or simply an aversion to badly sung songs?

Given the number of Socialist Party members who inexplicably love Bob Dylan, I very much doubt if it indicated an aversion to badly sung songs. I’m a bit surprised by your story because I’ve heard SP people drunkenly sing rebel songs at parties before.

Personally I don’t think that singing republican songs (barring perhaps ones about James Connolly) at an actual party function is appropriate. They are songs glorifying a political tradition which we are not part of, and given the rich sea of signifiers which Northerners get used to swimming in they might make the atmosphere seem less than welcoming to some new young member there.

chekov:
The idea that the organizational methodology of Leninism is overly centralised and lacks democratic content is hardly one that can be dismissed out of hand in such a patronising manner.

I know. That’s why I withdrew that paragraph. I explained my views in the rest of my post.

And if you style yourselves as a party in the trotskyist tradition, which you do, you can hardly entirely dissociate yourselves from some of the important aspects of his thought.

That’s quite a baffling statement, given that the self-described trotskyist tradition ranges from people who aren’t far off being social democrats(1) to Spartoids(2), to people whose primary analytical lense is that of anti-imperialism(3) or feminism (4). The SWP, for instance, reject most of Trotsky’s major distinctive political theories, but that doesn’t stop anybody from calling them Trotskyists, including both you and the SWP itself.

As I’ve no doubt said to you before, the Socialist Party describes itself first and foremost as a socialist organisation. We are also quite happy to say that we are Marxists or Trotskyists, or that we stand in the tradition of Lenin or for that matter Engels or Connolly or Luxemburg. This does not mean, and has never meant that we agree with everything that all or any of these people said or argued. That would be impossible, given that they disagreed with each other and that all of them changed their ideas over their lifetimes.

I know it would make life easier if all of your political opponents would do you the favour of espousing obviously stupid views – like for instance religiously following the every word of a bunch of people all of whom have been dead for at least seventy years and none of whom were entirely consistent – but that is rarely how the world works.

I, knowing exactly what context the phrase was used in, consider your position to be obviously wrong

You will have to clarify this for me. Are you saying that I am misrepresenting Marx’s view, that I am misrepresenting Lenin’s view or that I am misrepresenting the Socialist Party’s view?

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28. Mickhall - August 14, 2007

“the gradual bureaucratisation of the Russian state was not the goal of the revolutionaries, nor was it some natural result of their organisational ideas.”

Mark P
Whilst a agree with much you have written about the Russian Revolution I disagree profoundly with the part of your post that I have posted above. Better the revolution had failed than gone down the road chosen by Lenin. No one foresaw where this would lead and wrote so eloquently about it than Rosa Luxemburg,

“Freedom only for supporters of the government, only for members of one party, however numerous they may be, is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical conception of justice but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom, depends on this essential characteristic; and its effectiveness vanishes when freedom becomes a special privilege.”

“With the repression of political life in the land as a whole, life in the soviets must become crippled, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep. The few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working classes is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously, at bottom then a clique affair. A dictatorship to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat, however, but only a dictatorship of a handful of politicians in the
bourgeois sense, yes, we can go even further: such conditions must inevitably cause a brutalization of public life.”

Finally Mark I would like to thank you for what you wrote in post 24, the tone of the language we use when differing with comrades is to my mind of vital importance, and I say this as a comrade who has in the past been as guilty as most in this matter. In my experience it is almost impossibly to hector or insult someone then expect them to agree with one in comradeship.

Although you may disagree with me I believe the tone Lenin and Trotsky set when engaged in polemics helped poison the personal relationships between socialists and made it all the easier for the Stalinists to conduct their bloody purges.

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29. chekov - August 14, 2007

“That’s quite a baffling statement, given that the self-described trotskyist tradition ranges from people who aren’t far off being social democrats(1) to Spartoids(2), to people whose primary analytical lense is that of anti-imperialism(3) or feminism (4). The SWP, for instance, reject most of Trotsky’s major distinctive political theories, but that doesn’t stop anybody from calling them Trotskyists, including both you and the SWP itself.”

Okay, I’ll clarify (I agree that what I wrote was unclear). Very, very few Leninist inspired groups declare an intention of seizing control of the state apparatus and suppressing opposition. Like you do above, they almost always refer to a future situation where the working class creates it’s own democracy. However, they very rarely spell out exactly how this future workers democracy can develop out of a situation where the party, which normally conceives of itself as the vanguard of the working class, controls the state apparatus. Personally I think that this particular progression, from party control of the state, to any meaningful form of workers democracy, simply can’t happen. Human institutions never voluntarily surrender power.

Therefore, unless you can posit some plausible mechanism by which such a transformation will take place, a mechanism which is likely to avoid the outcome of previous Leninist seizures of power, then I think the declarations of honest intent are pretty much worthless. Even Lenin regularly expressed all sorts of aspirations about workers democracy – the state and revolution is pretty much a lengthy version of the genre.

Due to the fact that the expression of honest good intentions, and the rejection of some of the more bald statements by Lenin and Trotsky et al are so common and have a history of turning out to be inaccurate every time they are put to the test, I don’t consider them to be anything meaningful by themselves. At the very least I’d want to see clearly stated party policy explicitly distancing themselves from the ideas of their percursors in very concrete terms, with concrete mechanisms designed to avoid the danger of falling into such a situation through force of circumstances, despite their best intentions. I see none of that. Indeed everything that I see suggests to me very strongly indeed that the SP do not represent any huge ideological divergence from the Bolshevik tradition and that they would perpetuate the very same disastrous errors if presented with the opportunity again.

“You will have to clarify this for me. Are you saying that I am misrepresenting Marx’s view, that I am misrepresenting Lenin’s view or that I am misrepresenting the Socialist Party’s view?”

Okay, I’m refering to your argument about Marx’s meaning of “dictatorship of the proletariat”. You claimed that this phrase does not mean what it is commonly assumed to mean and berated mick for adopting a particular interpretation of this contested term. I think that the common interpretation assumed by Mick is basically correct and while the term may be contested, it’s not exactly an even contest. On the one side we have modern day Marxists, on the other side we have the obvious meaning of the words in the context that they were used.

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30. WorldbyStorm - August 14, 2007

Apologies MarkP, I misread the piece about dictatorship of the proletariat.

Re democratic centralism. Well…I don’t for a second deny that the SP is willing to allow minority strands or indeed that the other attributes you ascribe to it exist in part or whole. However, it still cleaves to a Leninist model of organisation, and Leninist understandings of democracy. Those are highly problematic for many on the left. And as you say yourself, although the term democratic centralist is not in the party constitution it does have a life within the party even on a minor level. Last year or so I had an interesting discussion with someone styling themselves a member of the SP about democracy and democratic centralism within the SP who seemed to see DC as being a fairly clearcut part of party organisation and had recourse in “The State and Revolution” by Lenin as justification for same…

http://www.politics.ie/viewtopic.php?p=338337

Now that might just be Engels opinion and again, I’m not suggesting that the SP is in any sense Stalinist but there are and remain problems with the approach suggested and indeed with the legacy of the heritage.

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31. Mark P - August 15, 2007

chekov:
Okay, I’ll clarify (I agree that what I wrote was unclear). Very, very few Leninist inspired groups declare an intention of seizing control of the state apparatus and suppressing opposition.
Like you do above, they almost always refer to a future situation where the working class creates it’s own democracy. However, they very rarely spell out exactly how this future workers democracy can develop out of a situation where the party, which normally conceives of itself as the vanguard of the working class, controls the state apparatus. Personally I think that this particular progression, from party control of the state, to any meaningful form of workers democracy, simply can’t happen.

This argument is based on some rather significant assumptions, which I don’t share.

Firstly, you are claiming some sort of pattern arising from working class revolutions led by Leninist Parties. But for there to be a pattern there would need to be more than one such event. I realise that trying to merge Trotskyism (and Leninism) with Stalinism is something of a hobby amongst anarchists. However it seems a bit cheeky for you to base a critique of the Socialist Party’s view of revolution on the actions of Stalinist parties, given that the Socialist Party claims no kinship to those parties and has been vociferously critical of their approaches.

Secondly, as I’ve explained at some length earlier in this thread we do not share similar analyses of the reasons for the rise of Stalinism in the Soviet Union. I do not accept that the bureaucratic dictatorship arose from some “original sin” of Leninism. Instead I think that the key factors at work were isolation, economic underdevelopment and civil war, desperate circumstances which led to desperate decisions.

In other words, I think that Leninist views only predominated in one revolution and that the eventual destruction of that revolution flowed from factors other than the adoption of Leninist views. Given that I see no pattern of Trotskyist politics inevitably leading to bureaucratic dictatorship, and that my view of what Trotskyist politics actually are is very different from yours, I don’t see much need to distance myself from them.

Your argument also incorporates other misunderstandings of our views. The Socialist Party does not advocate the seizure of the apparatus of the existing state by “the party” or even by the working class. Instead it argues that the working class (and again, not “the party”) will have to get rid of the capitalist state and create their own democratic organs of power. This is an important distinction.

The revolution will consist, in the first instance, of the creation by the working class of its own state. This state will consist of delegate councils (and their attendant functionaries, subcommittees etc). It will be controlled by “the party” to precisely the degree to which the working class elects party members as its delegates. The mechanism by which the working class can end the power of the party is quite simple: elect other people as their delegates.

As you really should be aware the Socialist Party advocates that all parties and political organisations should have the right to organise and to contest elections in any post revolutionary society. You may or may not regard that as a dramatic breach from Trotskyism, (I do not) but it is nonetheless our position.
chekov:

Okay, I’m refering to your argument about Marx’s meaning of “dictatorship of the proletariat”. You claimed that this phrase does not mean what it is commonly assumed to mean

Marx and Engels both used the term quite frequently, but they rarely gave any particularly detailed explanation of it. They did however use it interchangeably with “rule of the working class” and “workers state”, as a term to describe a state form which would exist in the transition from capitalism to a truly socialist society. And they went into great detail at various stages explaining that their transitional state was to be democratic.

They particularly contrasted their view of a democratic working class state with the ideas of Blanquist elements who argued for a dictatorship in a more modern sense. Engels expresses their view clearly when he contrasted the Marxist idea of the “dictatorship of the entire revolutionary class” with the Blanquist idea of a dictatorship which is closer to the modern understanding of the term: “From the fact that Blanqui conceives of every revolution as the coup de main of a small revolutionary minority, what follows of itself is the necessity of dictatorship after its success – the dictatorship, please note, not of the entire revolutionary class, the proletariat, but of the small number of those who made the coup de main and who themselves are organized beforehand under the dictatorship of one person or a few. One can see that Blanqui is a revolutionary of the previous generation.”(1)

On another occasionan he was even clearer: “”Well and good, gentlemen, do you want to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.”(2) I don’t think that leaves much room for the idea that Marx and Engels advocated a dictatorship as that word is now understand.

(1) Program of the Blanquist Refugees of the Commune
(2) postscript to Civil War in France.

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32. Andy Newman - August 15, 2007

Mark P writes: “The only way in which the revolution could progress in Russia was for it to spread abroad and that, combined with efforts to break the power of the rising bureaucracy at home, was the programme of the Left Opposition.”

You see the interesting thing for me about these debates is that the instinctive appeal of Trotsky is that he seems to provide a way of both standing in the tradtition of the Bolsheviks, while at the same time providing a get out clause by dissociating from Stalin.

But in reality the problem in the USSR was much more acute than this, in that following the crisis of the diplomatic and trade break with britain in 1927, the economy was in danger of a catastrophic collapse precipitating famine.

The policy advocated by Chicherin, Rykov and Tomsky was to strengthen international trade, seperate out soviet foreign policy from the Comintern, and stop playing r-r-r-revolutionary politics and upsetting their international trade partners at a time when there was no possibility of a revolution. These moderates acheived a major defeat of Stalin and Bukharin in 1927 in the Politburo on these issues.

Trotsky’s authority on all sort of issues that his followers spout on about, Spain, China, Germany, were based upon what he would have done had he had a party. But let us judge Trotsky by the actual policy of the United Left opposition in 1927 and 1928. When they controlled the party organisation in Leningrad, the Ukraine, the Urals, and had the alliegence of most officers in the red army and navy.

The platform of the United Opposition specifically attacked the moderates, and forced them into alliance with Stalin. Thus allowing Stalin to bring in a policy of allowing the GPU to police the party itself.

The economic policy of the left opposition was to increase international trade by specialising in the international division of labour, but this was inconsistent with their insistence that the USSR would also be activley seeking to overthrow the governments of its trade partners, at a time when there was no possible revolutionary sitiation. This lunacy led to the expulsion of leading left oppositionist Christian Rakovsky from his position as embassador to paris by the French.

Had the United opposition’s platform actually been implemented in 1928, there would have been a catastrophic collapse of Soviet foreign trade, then without the manufactured goods that were reliant upon that foreign trade, there would have been hyperinflation and withholding of grain by the peasants, and this coould only have been resolved by a return to the madness of war communism.

In terms of the immediate grain crisis of 1927, the left oppostion had no alternative but to support Stalin’s policy of forced grain expropriation. There literally was no alternative – but it was the left opposition who grossly overestimated the agricultural wealth of the country, and therefore advocated an intensifciation of appropriation.

On the issue of democracy, the united oppostion specifically opposed the move towards allowing rival political parties within the USSR (although this was favoured by part of the united oppsoiutioon, the small Democratic Centralist group), and therefore they supported the continued privilidged position that the GPU could terrorise all political parties except the CPSU(b) – until their tactic incompetence allowed Stalin to win over the moderates to let the GPU loose on them to.

So not only were the left opposition no alternatve, they would probably have been worse in terms of the internal life of the USSR. But, given the amazing lack of tactical nous by the Trots and Zinovievists, in allowing Stalin to consolidate his power at a time when Stalin had no more base in the party, the army and the navy then they did, then why should we take Trots seriously about how they would handle any political situation?

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33. Andy Newman - August 15, 2007

Mark P: “I see no pattern of Trotskyist politics inevitably leading to bureaucratic dictatorship”

But doesn’t the fact that most trotskyst organisations have in fact tended towards bureaucratic internal regimes, and work trough bureaucratically controlled front organisations, indicate a clear pattern in practice.

It is also hard to find any more forthright defence of the idea of a single party police state than Trotsky’s “Terrorism and Communism” (original English title “in defence of Terrorism” – meaning state terror).

It is worth here remphasising the point that the United Left opposition did not support multi-party democracy in the USSR,, even in the relatively stable period of NEP. Indeed in July 2007 when Trotsky and Zinoviev were expelled from the CC (but not the party)by a joint plenary meeting of the CC and the Central Control Commission, the Trotskyists explictly issued a statement that they considered factionalism impermissible and opposed the idea of allowing a second party to be built in the USSR, (although for tactical expediency they fell short of breaking with Sapronov who was close to the second party position.)

The important context here is that only members of the CPSU(b) were exempt from police action by the GPU, and given the execution of 100 political prisoners in Moscow in 1927 in reprisal for the assassination of the ambassador to Warsaw, Voikov, and the following widespread rounding up dissidents then failure to support a legal second party was the same as endorsing state terror of oppositionists. Note that this return to terror by the CPSU was opposed by Chicherin who inflicted a defeat on Stalin in the Politburo, but was not opposed by Trotsky.

I will donate a hundred Euros to the SP if mark P can point to an article by Trotsky opposing the reprisal execution of the 100 political prisoners in June 2007. (Remember that Trotsky was actually on the CC at this time). Yet these shootings were an international disaster for the USSR, and led to a sharp decrease in trade and an intensification of the economic catastrophe.

If we look at the record of the left oppostion in the period when they were actually influential in the USSR then we see a record where they were indistinuishable from Stalin on the issues under debate here.

Of course unlike the moderates (Chicherin, Rykov and Tomsky) they were prepared to risk precipitating the USSR into famine by an adventurist foreign policy and collapse of trade. But then they had the model of war communism to fall back on so eloquently advocted by Trotsky in “terrorism and Communism”

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34. franklittle - August 15, 2007

“Indeed in July 2007 when Trotsky and Zinoviev were expelled from the CC (but not the party)by a joint plenary meeting of the CC and the Central Control Commission”

I always tend to get lost pretty quickly when the debate turns to in-depth discussion of what dead Russians did or did not do 80 years ago and its relevance today but I suspect ‘2007’ might not be right.

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35. chekov - August 15, 2007

“Firstly, you are claiming some sort of pattern arising from working class revolutions led by Leninist Parties. But for there to be a pattern there would need to be more than one such event. I realise that trying to merge Trotskyism (and Leninism) with Stalinism is something of a hobby amongst anarchists. However it seems a bit cheeky for you to base a critique of the Socialist Party’s view of revolution on the actions of Stalinist parties, given that the Socialist Party claims no kinship to those parties and has been vociferously critical of their approaches.”

To the vast majority of humanity, Stalinism is a subset of Leninism – in fact to everybody bar the Trotskyists (I’m not sure if there are any other anti-Stalinist Leninists still). There’s nothing at all cheeky about me siding with the vast majority of humanity on this matter. In general, it is the responsibility of those defending minority and unusual opinions to put a case for them – simply claiming that there is no connection is no better than claiming that the earth is flat and then getting annoyed when everybody else ignores that claim.

As I understand it, the claimed differences between the Trot and Stalinist tradition does not impact upon any of the essential political positions relating to centralisation of power, the form of the party and the relationship to the state. You might think that ‘permanent revolution’ is a fundamental dividing difference, I think it’s just total pie in the sky rubbish – exactly the sort of wishful thinking that opposition politicians normally come out with. I have every faith that had Trotsky gained ascendancy in Russia, he would have followed almost exactly the same political line as Stalin did – it’s circumstances and institutional reality that mostly define such decisions, not a leader’s ideas.

“Your argument also incorporates other misunderstandings of our views. The Socialist Party does not advocate the seizure of the apparatus of the existing state by “the party” or even by the working class. Instead it argues that the working class (and again, not “the party”) will have to get rid of the capitalist state and create their own democratic organs of power. This is an important distinction.”

Umm, where does the socialist party say this? It would certainly place them completely outside the Marxist tradition and would actually make them anarchists in all but name.

I fully believe that certain members of the organisation might make such statements every so often, but I’m also aware that all Leninist groups ever have made such statements every so often and that they have thus got virtually zero information content. The point is that I am not questioning your honesty or sincerity in saying such things (not you personally anyway) I think that’s totally irrelevant since I think your organisational structure and your strategy with respect to the state is such that forces of circumstances are always going to lead you in a particular direction. You may claim that objective circumstances were responsible for the degeneration of the Russian revolution, I can’t conceive of any possible revolution ever which would not have similarly harsh objective circumstances all pushing in a similar direction.

“On another occasion he was even clearer: “”Well and good, gentlemen, do you want to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.”(2) I don’t think that leaves much room for the idea that Marx and Engels advocated a dictatorship as that word is now understand.”

Erm, that was actually Engels, in 1891, in the context of attempting to respond to criticism of the repressive potential of Marxism. If you go back to when Marx first used the phrase it was after the crushing of the Paris commune, when he bemoaned the status quo as the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie – do you really think he didn’t mean to imply that this sort of dictatorship didn’t carry all the repressive baggage that is normally associated with the word dictatorship? He actually thought the rule of the bourgeoisie was benign and non-repressive?

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36. Idris of Dungiven - August 15, 2007

Given my posting history around these here parts, I should say first of all that this post is in deadly earnest.

Do debates over what went wrong in Russia etc neglect the autonomy of violence?

Allen Feldman in his Formations of Violence (at least this is how I interpret what heanalysing political violence (attacks on catholic neighbourhoods, political murders etc) as a case of violence reproducing itself via the degrading and brutalising effects it has on those who both perpetrate and suffer it. The experience of violence is an experience that restructures the entire world-view of those who go through it, and makes them more amenable to certain types of action in the aftermath. So what went wrong in Russia, perhaps, and what would be likely to go wrong anywhere violence is used for particular ends, would be that those who thought it would be possible to use violence in a limited way against limited targets soon found that violence would be using them. . .

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37. WorldbyStorm - August 15, 2007

Andy, that’s fascinating stuff. So would you tend towards a ‘right oppositionist’ viewpoint on such matters?

Idris, there is something in what you say, although I think it tends to also fold into what Chekov says, that the instrumentality of violence is itself problematic in pretty much every context. Whether that means one moves to a pacifist position is a different discussion… but in the context of political structures which derive from Leninism, which let’s be honest was clandestine and semi-military (for quite good reasons it has to be said) and incidentally lent character to the clandestine and semi-militarised nature of ‘Marxist’ regimes whereever they took root, this intrinsically led to militaristic and ultimately totalitarian outcomes. In other words Stalinism was the logical and near-inevitable outcome of Leninism because the concepts of democracy that Leninism permitted were so limited and negligible as to be meaningless and in such a context the inevitable trajectory was towards centralisation of political power. And incidentally the pattern kept reasserting itself long after Stalin, albeit in varients, as when Kruschev was ousted, as when Brezhnev shifted back towards a sort of sub-Stalinism and even when Gorbachev wrestled state control to reformers.

At what point was there any real democracy in any of this. At what point were the people consulted beyond the party? And how could the party, any party, permit the people any real say in such matters, since it would be near impossible for them to allow any diminuition of their authority (particularly in view of the violence of their accession to power in the first place, violence that would leave a permanent mistrust on both sides).

Incidentally one of the most dire things I ever heard about such matters was a former CPI member tell me entirely seriously that Andropov would have been able to maintain discipline and still allow ‘some’ freedoms. Okay.

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38. Mark P - August 15, 2007

I’m finding it fairly hard going trying to respond to long pieces from a range of people simultaneously, because many of the points raised each require more than a brief answer. That can be hard enough in a one on one discussion on the internet, it is nearly impossible in an open discussion like this. I will try to get back to Chekov in the near future, and more briefly Andy (my interest in a lengthy debate with someone trying to resurrect the rotting corpse of Bukharinism is close to zero).

Worldbystorm said:
but in the context of political structures which derive from Leninism, which let’s be honest was clandestine and semi-military (for quite good reasons it has to be said) and incidentally lent character to the clandestine and semi-militarised nature of ‘Marxist’ regimes whereever they took root, this intrinsically led to militaristic and ultimately totalitarian outcomes.

Once more, this completely ignores the existence of Trotskyism or amalgamates Trotskyism (and Leninism) with Stalinism. In every case (bar the early Soviet Union and Bela Kun’s Hungary) where a regime claiming to be Marxist or Leninist was established, we are talking about a regime established by an already Stalinist party. There was no degeneration, they started off as Stalinist and were created according to Stalinist precepts.

Trotskyism not only opposed these parties, their ideas and the lack of democracy in the regimes they established, it produced detailed arguments and theories concerning those states. Given that the only self-professed Leninist involved in this discussion is a Trotskyist, it seems disengenuous at best to seek to tar Trotskyism with the results of Stalinist parties taking power. Calling a regime “proletarian bonapartist”, “state capitalist”, “bureaucratic collectivist” or whatever is not an endorsement!

While I am on the subject, Chekov said:
To the vast majority of humanity, Stalinism is a subset of Leninism – in fact to everybody bar the Trotskyists (I’m not sure if there are any other anti-Stalinist Leninists still). There’s nothing at all cheeky about me siding with the vast majority of humanity on this matter.

So you presumably won’t mind me treating anarchism as a synonym for chaos? That’s a far more widely held view than one which says Trotskyism is the same as Stalinism. I quite accept that most people are confused about the history of the left if they have any view at all, which I suspect many don’t.

But this is a discussion between an Anarchist, a Trotskyist, an ex-Stalinist, an ex-Trotskyist and various other long time leftists. I am entitled to expect *you* to know that Trotskyists are vigorous opponents of Stalinism and that they have produced very detailed theoretical works dealing with the spread of Stalinist regimes. I should not have to explain that to you, or respond to arguments from you which assume (as opposed to make a detailed theoretical argument for) their identity. Just as you are entitled to expect me not to make arguments based on the popular misconception that anarchism means chaos, or for that matter make the assumption that you share a worldview with glue-sniffing europunks or primitivists.

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39. WorldbyStorm - August 15, 2007

MarkP, I’d like to say that I really respect your good humour in all this – who though is the ex-Stalinist? Indeed I knew and respected a number of people in the party who actually took a Trotskyist line.

BTW, I actually have enormous respect for Trotsky. To my mind he was one of the most innovative and in some respects humane Marxist thinkers. But, my only worry would be once we trip down the Leninist path and while I agree with you that Trotsky per se can’t be blamed for Stalinism I think that the seeds of totalitarianism like within the Leninist model, which Trotskyist parties still cleave in part to.

Anyhow, more tomorrow…

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40. chekov - August 16, 2007

“So you presumably won’t mind me treating anarchism as a synonym for chaos? That’s a far more widely held view than one which says Trotskyism is the same as Stalinism. I quite accept that most people are confused about the history of the left if they have any view at all, which I suspect many don’t.”

I’m not arguing that Trotskyism = Stalinism. I’m arguing that both are varieties of Leninism. It’s not at all the same as arguing that anarchism is a synonym for chaos. Not only the vast majority of humanity, but the vast majority of people who have considered themselves to be Leninists in human history, would agree with my view – as would pretty much every single person ever who did not consider themselves anything. As I said, it’s only trotskyists who do not accept my categorisation. Your objection would be like me complaining when people put forward arguments that assumed that anarcho-syndicalism was a variety of anarchism.

To not consider Stalinism as a variety of Leninism requires us to categorise 95%+ of all self-proclaimed Leninists in human history as “not real Leninists”, dupes of some sort or other. Using a label in such a way that it incorporates the vast majority of those who self-described themselsves with that label is not something that anybody can really complain about.

Now, beyond the terminology, I think it would be possible to make a case that Stalinism was a major deviation from the central ideas of Leninism, and that these crucial ideas were maintained in Trotskyism. However, I’ve never come across anything remotely resembling a convincing case for this. As far as I’m concerned, the key differentiating features of Leninism – the lack of democratic content, the relationship to the state and its general machiavellian nature, are equally present in both Trotskyism and Stalinism, the differences, as I’ve seen them expressed, do not to my mind impinge upon these key features. Hell, I don’t even think they are tactical differences – I consider them to be no more deep than the differences between FF and FG – one is in power and one wants to be in power and the differences flow from that.

So, not only is my categorisation terminologically correct, I am very much of the opinion that it’s also quite conceptually correct. It’s a useful political schema too in that it groups together political currents which are, according to my understanding of politics, closely related theoretically.

Finally, all of my experiences have also tended to confirm my opinion on this. I have found the amount of downright shameful behaviour – rank dishonesty, manipulative sliminess and brazen two-facedness that I’ve personally experienced when dealing with Trotskyist organisations genuinelly stunning. It’s stunning, despite, not because of, what I know about the membership. Apart from the top leadership, who I generally consider cynical and Machiavellian, the vast majority of Trotskyists who I know are unusually decent folk and many of them are unusually intelligent too. When I see such people acting in ways which are unusually underhand, it gives me greater confidence in the usefulness of my political categorisation schema.

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41. Slawomir - August 16, 2007

Yes, I agree with Chekov and Andy Newman.

I have always found the so-called Stalinists less evasive than the Trotskyists. When the horrors of Stalin are mentioned the Trotskyists say that Trotsky wouldn’t have done that.

I found Manus O’ Riordain’s article in the 1973 Irish Communist in the other posting quite convincing. Trotsky was on the authoritarian wing of the Soviet Communist Party. The Trotkyists would like to pretend everything wrong with the revolution was down to one man: Stalin. But Stalin was following Marxist Leninist principles. The evidence would suggest that Trotsky would have been more authoritarian.

I think to implement communism the dictatorship of the proletariat is necessary. The weaker the proletariat, the more ruthless the dictatorship must be.

I would defend the Russian revolution. It was a wonderful experiment and I regret it failed given the alternative that emerged. I don’t think the world is a better place following the collapse of the Soviet Union. I think the CP comrade mentioned by WBS may not have been far wrong. Andropov might have implemented reforms which would have avoided the chaos of the Gorbachev and Yeltsin years. We shall never know. But once the Soviet had modernised and become an industrial power, Marxism Leninism did not have the flexibility to give greater freedom to the people.

Marx had some startling insights which are still relevant today. However, the problem is that he had a pre-determined view of the future, which he claimed was scientific. It did not allow for other views. If there is one correct view of the world anyone who disagrees can be dismissed as just a reactionary against progress. Democracy is superfluous.

I think Marxism Leninism has been a useful tool for third world countries trying to modernise but for advanced capitalist countries its application tends to be undemocratic and democracy, for all its flaws is something that the proletariat have grown attached to.

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42. John Green - August 16, 2007

Mark P. said:

“The revolution will consist, in the first instance, of the creation by the working class of its own state. This state will consist of delegate councils (and their attendant functionaries, subcommittees etc). It will be controlled by “the party” to precisely the degree to which the working class elects party members as its delegates. The mechanism by which the working class can end the power of the party is quite simple: elect other people as their delegates.”

Fair enough. But we know how vanguard parties respond when “the party” that the working classes decide to elect is someone else: They declare the revolution betrayed and engage in clandestine attempts to seize power. The working class always seems to let vanguard parties down.

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43. John Green - August 16, 2007

I should add that it’s a perfectly understandable temptation for vanguard parties to engage in such subversion, because vanguardism, by definition, regards party members as the most class-conscious and advanced section of the working class and therefore better able to perceive the objective demands of the situation than everybody else.

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44. Andy Newman - August 16, 2007

Firsrly I agree that mark P has coped pretty well with the onslaught, and in good humour! BUt with regard to his point that trotskists have written loads of books explaining how Trotskism is different from Stalinism, I have never read anything convincing from the Trots about the specific details of the period 1926 to 1928 in the USSR, and the USSR’s place in the world economy.

It has to be said that Trotsky’s own account in “Revolution Betrayed”, considering that it was written by one of the main protaganists less than ten years after the event, can only be descibed as a pack of lies when compared with the factual historical record.

WorldbyStorm

In answer to your question, I wouldn’t describe myself as sympathetic to the right opposition as I would understand that as alignment to Bukharin, who was i) a close ally of Stalin in the key period; ii) I am far from convinced that Bukharin’s economic policies were possible.

However, I think that the “moderates”, Chicherin, Rykov and Tomsky, who were much less ideological and were simply concentrating on the practical issues of running the USSR as best as possible, and who also had a base in the party, may well have been a viable option, had they not been spooked into alliance with Stalin by the grandstanding and irresponsibility of the United Left Opposition.

I also think that Idris of Dungiven’s point about the autonomy of violence does explain quite a lot of the attitudes and behaviour of all the protaganists in this crucial period, and all sides of the CPSU(b) seemed happy to to turn to police state violence to solve what were political questions that could have been dealt with consenually.

Personally I think Trotskism is a cop out absenting from responsibility, when the historical record shows that the left opposition were cut from the same cloth as the Stalinists. fail to equally there are left social democrats who recognise the degree to which European social democracy has been complicit in colonisalism and imperialism.

The tragedy for the left is the process of coming to terms with Stalinism is a very hard one, and the process that started at the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956 of the official communist parties is probably the best approach. catharsis through truth and reconciliation, but we can also see that there is no guarantee of success, and the fact that the Communist Party of Great Britain was crushed under its inability to escape history has left us much weaker over here in britain. Those in the official communist parties who refuse to condemn the crimes and methods of Stalin, and the bureaucratic thuggery which was part of their own culture have resisted every step of the way, and I would see them as more twins of the Trotskists in terms of method and culture than the polar opposite.

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45. Andy Newman - August 16, 2007

opps that confusing sentence should have read:

” equally there are left social democrats who fail to recognise the degree to which European social democracy has been complicit in colonisalism and imperialism.”

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46. Andy Newman - August 16, 2007

And mark p, when you say: “I will try to get back [briefly]to …Andy (my interest in a lengthy debate with someone trying to resurrect the rotting corpse of Bukharinism is close to zero).”

I am very surprised that you characterise my position as Bukharinist, when I specifically lumped Stalin and Bukharin together in my earlier comments. I think Bukharin has an instincive appeal to many intellectuals because he was urbane and charming unlike Stalin or Trotsky (though Stalin’s intellectual abilities are underestimated). However, I have no sympathy with those like Stephen Cohen or Mike Haynes who have sought to present Bukharin as an historical option.

In particular Bukharin was responsible for the disastrous policy in China. Now the trots like to present the options as:
i) Bukharin and Stalin’s policy of subordination to the Koumintang
ii) Trotsky and Zinoviev’s policy of supporting autonomus workers’ parties and soviets.

BUt in fact, the third position never mentioned by the Trots was the one that prevailed in the Politburo after the diaster of Shanghai in 1927, the position of Chicherin that the USSR shouldn’t meddle in China at all, becasue its ability to influence events in China itself was neglible, but its policy there was causing enormous damage to its trade realtionship with Britain.

You see the problem with the traditional Trotskyist account of this period is that it continues to reproduce Trotsky’s own misjudgement of the time. That Stalin represented the centre of the party and Bukharin represented the right wing, and that the moderates were allies of Bukharin. This is largely becasue Trots tend to treat trotsky’s writings about the period as more reliable than the historical scholarship that has assessed the soviet and other records. (For example Michael Reiman’s research used both the Politburo, ECCI and CCC minutes, about also the extensive diplomatic reports from the Germany embassy.

In fact Stalin and Bukharin were the bigger danger, and the moderates could have ousted Stalin with the support of the United Left opposition, had the Trots saw them as the bigger danger.

But why were they the bigger danger? Becasue they wanted to rule the USSR in a pragmatic way, playing for time, and generally being a progressive voice, without seeking to precipitate conficls they couldn’t win. The alternative that the moderates probably represented was the USSR acting like Castro’s Cuba.

But more to the point, can you argue that the left opposition really did have a polituically and economically viable option?

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47. Mickhall - August 17, 2007

I for one am not suggesting Trotskyist parties are Stalinist or whatever, indeed Trotskyists have a heroic record of opposing Stalinism. However they are in the mould of Leninism and its organization methodology i.e. D/C. What this means in reality is that they often try and solve political and social problems by administrative means. Indeed Lenin himself warned his party of Trotskys faults as far as solving problems by administrative means was concerned.

As far as using administrative means is concerned little has changed, for example in England the SWP unhappy with the pace of the Socialist Alliance decided to abandon it over-night and create Respect. There was no logical reason for this as far as the class struggle was concerned, as those ethnic groups Respect has since targeted could have equally been targeted by the SA. But no the SWP tops wanted an automatic MP, thus the only way Galloway would link up with the SWP was in a new party which he would leader, as the membership of the SA would no have stood for George as SA leader. The end result being the SWP are no farther forward than they were when the SA was active, and they have left a host of disillusioned left activists in their wake, many of whom will never work with Trotskyists again.

One of the reasons a left partyt is so difficult to bring into being within the UK is that the Trots are a major faction of the left, thus they wish to maintain their vanguard party status within any new organization, which in reality means they will always give their allegiance to their Trotskyist organization first and their actions within it will be based on what is best for them. Not the new organization and the Working Classes.

If you want to see an example of the stagnation that DC infects an organization with then you need look no farther than Gerry Adams SF. Whilst the shinners would deny it, SF is a DC party in all but name, decisions are made as they are in the SP, [sorry mark] on a top down, need to know bases. If you go back to the 1980s SF was a hive of political activity, debate, argument and publishing. Once Adams took full control after 86 this was gradually shut down to such a degree that today there are few leftists left within the party.
Indeed far from being a radical new kind of party democracy, DC is as old as the hills and as bourgeois as you can get, it is all about internal control.

By the way if anyone believes Andropov, the butcher of the Hungarian working classes could be a harbinger of democracy, they must set their bar pretty low.

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